Most Foreign Jihadists Fighting in Syria Are Britons

Monday, 26 May 2014 08:52 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The majority of the foreigners fighting in Syria to establish an Islamic caliphate are British Muslims, The Times reported.

The figure is based on an assessment by Brig. Gen. Abdulellah Basheer, a senior commander with the comparatively moderate Free Syrian Army fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Basheer said it was the extremists of the al-Qaida-aligned Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham that had carried out crucifixions and beheadings in Syria.

"They are not freedom fighters. They are terrorists," he said.

These Sunni extremists could return home to "continue on their pernicious path of destruction," Basheer warned in a letter to the Times.

That risk was taken up by a senior member of the Liberal Party — part of the Conservative-led British coalition government — Menzies Campbell. He said parliament needed to discuss the dangers posed by the jihadists once they are back in Britain.

Military analysts say that perhaps one in nine of the fighters pose a threat once they're back, the Times reported. Islamist extremists who return to Britain face arrest on terrorism charges.

Besides Britain, the majority of foreigners fighting with the extremists in Syria come from the surrounding Arab countries as well as from France, Germany, and Belgium.

Of the 500 Britons estimated to have gone to Syria to battle Assad, about 12 have been killed. Assad belongs to the minority Alawite sect, considered heretical by al-Qaida.

Basheer has been lobbying for Britain and the United States to supply his group with weapons. London provides only non-lethal aid while Washington limits its lethal aid to make sure the weapons do not fall into the hands of the jihadist opposition.

When the Obama administration proposed intervention to stop Assad from using chemical weapons against his opponents, the British parliament voted no. Though he was and remains against arming the opposition, Menzies thinks the House of Commons should debate the situation in Syria anew.

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