Increase in European foreigners joining Isis

December 10, 2015 6:02 am

Report says fighters looking for a new beginning, not revenge, and international response doesn’t reflect that.

Australian citizen Mohamed Elomar fighting for in . Photo / Supplied

The number of foreign fighters who have travelled to Syria and Iraq
to join militant groups such as Isis (Islamic State) has more than
doubled and could stand at 31,000, according to a study.
figures show the extent to which a jihadist movement that grew out of
Iraq’s insurgency and Syria’s civil war has become a global terror hub.
to the Soufan research group and its vice-president, the former MI6
head of counter-terrorism Richard Barrett, the number of fighters has
grown hugely since the beginning of the United States-led bombing raids
against Isis last year.
In June of that year, when Isis surged
across western Iraq, Soufan calculated it had 12,000 foreign fighters.
Now the New York-based group believes that between 27,000 and 31,000
foreigners have joined up.
The number of countries from which
they have come has increased from 81 to 86, while Soufan also gives a
figure for a “rate of return” – fighters coming back to Western
and elsewhere. This, it says, stands at 20-30 per cent.

Most of the jihadists who have flocked to Syria have been from
the and Gulf countries (8240) or North Africa (8000).
However, 5000 are thought to have come from Western Europe, around
double the number 18 months ago.
The fastest growing group comes
from Russia and other former Soviet bloc countries. Russian nationals –
including many Chechens – number 2400, similar to Saudi Arabia (2500)
but well behind Tunisia, which has sent the most at 6000-7000.
rise in numbers suggests that the atrocities carried out by Isis in the
last 18 months have only added to the group’s appeal and that the loss
of territory to the Kurds in the north has failed to damage morale. That
suggests motives for joining up may be personal rather than political,
the report said.
“The majority of [Isis’] video production
appeals to those who seek a new beginning rather than revenge for past
acts,” the report says. “A search for belonging, purpose, adventure and
friendship appear to remain the main reasons for people to join the
Islamic State, just as they remain the least addressed issues in the
international fight against terrorism.”
The numbers travelling
from Central Asia are also rising fast, showing Isis’ ability to foster
new recruiting grounds. Around 300 are said to have come from China. It
has long been accused of driving its Uighur Muslim minority into the
arms of jihadists.
A new video uploaded to the Isis media arm,
Al-Hayat Media Centre, contained a chant in Mandarin, suggesting China
is a recruitment target.
China has avoided intervening in the
Middle East and has opposed foreign military action in Syria. But
President Xi Jinping has called for closer co-operation on terrorism.
Attacks claimed by Isis have prompted intensified air strikes on the militants by a US-led coalition.
Barrett said the appeal of Isis could not be resolved with bombs alone.
have to find better ways to address the Isis appeal,” Barrett said by
email. “This is not about murder and mayhem and more war, it is about
the way we see each other.”
He also referred to the riposte by a
London bystander who shouted “You ain’t no Muslim, bruv” at a suspected
knife attacker as he was detained by police officers at an underground
train station.
“The Leytonstone rebuke ‘You ain’t no Muslim,
bruv’ does far more to undermine Isis than dropping bombs on Raqqa,”
said Barrett, who between 2004 and 2013 headed the United Nations team
that monitored al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

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