• Thursday, Oct 06, 2022
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

Islamic State: What happened to all the foreign fighters?

  • Published at 04:46 am December 16th, 2017
Islamic State: What happened to all the foreign fighters?
An estimated 40,000 people travelled from around the world to take up arms for the Islamic State group as it occupied territory in Syria and Iraq and declared a caliphate in 2014. A few hundred are believed to still be fighting as IS struggles to survive, having lost most of its territory to campaigns by Western-backed Syrian and Iraqi coalition armies. But what happened to the rest? Many thousands were certainly killed in the intense fighting, but US experts believe many have survived, posing a formidable threat going ahead. "The issue is: how many have died? How many are still there and willing to fight? How many have gone elsewhere to fight?" said Seth Jones, director of the International Security and Defence Policy Centre at the Rand Corporation. "How many have given up? I don't think we have a good answer." International counterterror groups are putting huge efforts into answering those questions, working hard to name, count and track IS foreign fighters. In France, officials say, around 1,700 people went to Iraq and Syria since 2013 to join IS. Of those, 400 to 450 have been killed, and 250 returned to France. Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on December 8 that about 500 are still in the Iraq-Syria theatre, and for them it is now very hard to return to France. But that leaves another 500 whose whereabouts are unknown, many of them with the skills of war, wielding weapons and making bombs.

'One-way ticket'

Terrorism specialist Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University estimated during a conference Wednesday that "thousands" have escaped the war zone. "Today, some of them are most likely in the Balkans, lying low for the time being, waiting for the opportunity to infiltrate themselves to the rest of Europe," he said. Some have travelled to other jihadist fronts, according to Thomas Sanderson, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies' Transnational Threats Project. For example, he said, at least 80 IS fighters from Morocco, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have joined since May the IS-allied Abu Sayyaf insurgents battling government forces in the southern Philippines. Local people in the northern Afghanistan province of Jowzjan have told AFP that French-speaking IS veterans -- from France or northern African countries -- have recently set up camp there. And they also have the option of other conflict zones in northern Africa, like Libya, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere where jihadist groups akin to IS are conducting violent insurgencies. The defeat of IS on the battlefield in Syria in Iraq did not close off escape routes. IS fighters were able to blend in with civilian refugees or bribe their way to sneak into Turkey. Many don't have much choice but to continue to fight: they never had a plan to return to their home countries, where they face imprisonment in most cases, according to Jones. "For many, it was a one-way trip. They wanted to live in the caliphate, permanently. So we don't see a major move back."
50
Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail