Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Up to 11,000 Foreign Fighters in Syria; Steep Rise Among Western Europeans

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013   No comments

The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation offers its latest assessment of how many foreigners are fighting in Syria's civil war, which countries they hail from, and other key data.

Since ICSR published its first estimate in April, the issue of foreign fighters in Syria has become a major concern for Western governments. More reports have emerged since, though few have accurately gauged the full extent and evolution of the phenomenon.

This ICSR Insight provides an update of our April estimate, offering the most comprehensive and richly resourced account of the Syrian foreign fighter phenomenon from open sources. Based on more than 1,500 sources, we estimate that up to 11,000 individuals from 74 nations have become opposition fighters in Syria -- nearly double our previous estimate. Among Western Europeans, the number has more than tripled from (up to) 600 in April to 1,900 now.

We estimate that -- from late 2011 to 10 December 2013 -- between 3,300 and 11,000 individuals have gone to Syria to fight against the Assad government. These figures include those who are currently present as well as those who have since returned home, been arrested or killed.

Based on the credibility of various sources, our own judgement, and the feedback we have received since publishing our April estimate, we believe the "true" figure to be above 8,500. This would mean that the numbers have nearly doubled since April, with a particularly steep increase among non-Arabs, especially Westerners.

While Arabs and Europeans continue to represent the bulk of foreign fighters (up to 80 per cent), we have identified individuals from Southeast Asia, North America, Australia, and (non-Arab) Africa. Overall, we believe that residents and citizens from at least 74 countries have joined militant opposition groups in Syria.

(For a more detailed explanation on sources and limitations, see further below.)

ISR Weekly

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