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FSA rebels cleaning their AK47s, Aleppo, Syria, Oct. 19, 2012 (photo via Wikimedia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license).

Growing Threat of European Fighters in Syria Highlights Need for EU Cooperation

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Almost all European Union member states have seen some of their young citizens, often Muslims between the ages of 18-29, leave their countries to join the jihad against the Assad regime in Syria. The issue of foreign fighters is not new: The conflicts in Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan had already seen young European Muslims join the fight. However, the threat appears more public and pronounced with Syria, partly because many foreign fighters document their journey on social media outlets.

At least 12,000 foreigners have fought in Syria over the first three years of its civil war, including 300-700 French nationals, 200-250 Belgians, 100-120 Dutch, 300-500 Britons, approximately 300 Germans, over 800 Russians and many others from an estimated 70-80 countries. The number of European fighters in Syria at least quadrupled between April 2013 and April 2014. Turkey has been particularly affected both as a country of origin—approximately 400 jihadi fighters—and as a transit point for those coming from other European countries. According to various sources, at least 30 Frenchmen, 28 Britons, 13 Dutch, 15 Spaniards and 100 Turks have died in the conflict. ...

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