Monday, October 21, 2013

Foreign jihadists surpass Afghan-Soviet war, storm Syria in record numbers

    Monday, October 21, 2013   No comments

Foreigners fueled by Islamic fury are rushing to Syria to fight President Bashar Assad at a faster rate than the flow of rebels into Afghanistan in the war against a Soviet-backed regime in the 1980s, analysts say.

An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 foreign fighters have come to Syria since the outbreak of the uprising in March 2011.

“This is probably one of the biggest foreign-fighter mobilizations since it became a phenomenon in the 1980s with the Afghan jihad against the Soviets,” said Aaron Y. Zelin, a Washington Institute researcher who studies al Qaeda and Syria.

The number of foreigners in Syria has not reached the level in Afghanistan three decades ago, but that civil war lasted nine years, while the Syrian rebellion is 2 years old.
Mr. Zelin said the rate of foreign recruits streaming into Syria is “unlike anything else.”
The foreign fighters — called jihadists, or holy warriors — come from at least 60 nations. Most are Arabs from Saudi Arabia, Libya and Tunisia, but a few dozen are from Western Europe, particularly Britain, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, Mr. Zelin said. Ten to 20 fighters have come from the United States, he said.
Analysts say fighters join the rebellion out of a sense of religious duty to help fellow Sunni Muslims, but they become radicalized because the most powerful rebel groups are affiliated with al Qaeda.
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