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France largest source of ‘EU fighters in Syria’
April 02, 2016
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AMSTERDAM: French, Germans and Britons make up the highest number of foreign fighters in the Syrian rebel ranks from European countries, but Belgium is the largest contributor in proportion to its population, a Dutch study shows.

France was the largest source country for fighters who had left to fight alongside Daesh.

Europeans fighting alongside militant groups in Syria and Iraq have been high on the agenda of European security concerns for several years. Returned volunteers have been involved in attacks in Paris and Brussels over the past 18 months, including last month’s bomb blasts in the Belgian capital.

The study, prepared by the Hague-based International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, said European Union countries should not be complacent about their citizens leaving to fight in the Middle East, even those that have seen little such movement.

“Many terrorist organisations aim to undermine tolerant and pluriform, rule-of-law based societies,” the researchers wrote.

“Recognition of this risk and proper policies to counter it seem to be lacking.”

In total, up to 4,294 Europeans had gone to fight in Syria, of whom 30 per cent had since returned and 14 per cent were confirmed dead.

About 17 per cent of them were female and 23 per cent were converts. Most came from urban areas or peripheral suburbs of the continent’s cities.

The totals showed big differences across Europe, with Belgium, home to the attackers in both last year’s Paris shootings and last month’s Brussels bombings, sending 41 fighters per million population. Not only did Belgium contribute the most fighters compared to its population, but only 18 per cent of them had returned, compared to 50 per cent of those who had left from Denmark. Austria and Sweden followed in per capita terms.

The study counted more than 900 of them. Germany and Britain also contributed large numbers.

Meanwhile, the United States and its allies staged 17 strikes against Daesh on Thursday in their latest round of daily attacks in Iraq and Syria against the militant group, the coalition leading the operations said.

In Iraq, a dozen strikes near eight cities, hit six tactical units and destroyed several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and an IED factory as well as seven vehicles and six assembly areas, the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement on Friday.


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