More than a year of international efforts to stem the flow of armed mercenaries fighting in Syria and Iraq have fallen short, with the number of militants taking up arms for the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) takfiri organization and other extremist groups more than doubling in that time frame, a report by an intelligence consultancy said Tuesday, highlighting the global dimension of the conflict.
The figures, compiled by The Soufan Group, indicate that after more than a year of efforts made by countries around the world to stem the flow of foreign mercenaries to fight Iraq and Syria appear to have made little impact, as well as efforts to blunt the appeal of violent organizations such as the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) takfiri group.
“The foreign fighter phenomenon in Iraq and Syria is truly global,” the New York-based organization’s report said, noting that ISIL group “has seen success beyond the dreams of other terrorist groups that now appear conventional… This has energized tens of thousands of people to join it, and inspired many more to support it,” the report justified.
In all, between 27,000 and 31,000 armed mercenaries from 86 countries have travelled to Iraq and Syria, The Soufan Group said, compared to a figure of around 12,000 foreign fighters in Syria when it last published a similar study in June 2014.
The largest number travelled to the two countries, across which ISIL controls a swathe of territory, from the Middle East and the Maghreb, with around 8,000 foreign fighters each.
Around 5,000 made their way from Europe, with a further 4,700 from former Soviet republics.
The Soufan Group added that between 20 and 30 percent of foreign fighters were returning to their home countries, creating major challenges for domestic security agencies as ISIL in particular looks to carry out an increasing number of attacks overseas.
The terrorist group claimed responsibility for a massive attack in Paris last month that left 130 dead, and its armed mercenaries have been held responsible for violence in a litany of countries ranging from Iraq to Bangladesh.