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Foreign Fighter Data
A recent study by the Soufan Group estimates that between 27,000 and 31,000 people from at least 86 countries have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL and other extremist groups. Of the 5,000 fighters from Western Europe, 3,700 came from just four countries: France, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom.
The same study in the summer of 2014 pegged the number of foreign fighters at around 12,000.
The number from North America has been “relatively flat,” but there has been a big jump in the numbers from Russia and Central Asia, up 300% since June 2014, the report says.
Researchers also analyzed neighborhoods with the highest concentration of foreign fighters, so-called “hotbeds of recruitment.” The Molenbeek suburb in Brussels has been in the spotlight, post-Paris attacks, though the report describes it as a “relative newcomer to the production of foreign fighters.” Two Tunisian towns – Bizerte and Ben Gardane – along with Derna in Libya, have a long history of sending scores to terrorists.
Number of foreign fighters:
The Middle East 8,200
The Maghreb 8,000
Western Europe 5,000
Former Soviet Republic 4,700
Southeast Asia 900
The Balkans 875
North America 289
Top by fighter nationalities:
Saudi Arabia 2,500
Source: Soufan Group; Aamna Mohdin / Defense One
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