100 Nationalities Fighting for IS

100 Nationalities  Fighting for IS100 Nationalities  Fighting for IS

Citizens from more than 100 countries are currently fighting among the ranks of the Islamic State militant group and the terrorist organization has taken the upper hand in propaganda, often stumping the West, Russian Federal Security Service FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov said on Wednesday.

“According to our figures, there are currently citizens from more than 100 countries fighting in IS ranks,” Bortnikov said during an opening speech at a security and law enforcement directors meeting in Yaroslavl northeast of Moscow, Sputnik reported.

Bortnikov noted the geographical spread of IS recruits is continuing to expand and the number of IS fighters from various ethnic and social backgrounds is growing due primarily to their use of propaganda.

He stressed that the West often lags behind in its response to the terrorist activities used by the extremist group.

“IS has taken the initiative and is aggressively operating on the propaganda front and basically imposes their own ‘agenda,’” Bortnikov said, adding that the West is often late in addressing the threats.

“Using this, the militants, who have dug their heels into the Middle East and in Northern Africa, are targeting Europe and Asia. The criminals have moved from targeted strikes to conducting large-scale armed operations and military actions using heavy artillery.”

IS seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq last year and militant organizations in Libya, Egypt and Nigeria, among other countries, have pledged allegiance to the group.

According to US intelligence agencies, IS actively recruits foreign fighters through social media. Last month, the FBI identified thousands of IS propagandists who disseminate information about the group on Twitter.

 Flow of Foreign Fighters

An estimated 25,000 foreign fighters from more than 100 countries had traveled to join the IS ranks in Iraq and Syria, including more than 4,500 from western countries, the office of the US Director of National Intelligence said this month.

Both numbers are up from the previous estimates, released in March, when intelligence officials said there were more than 22,000 foreign fighters, including at least 3,700 from the West.

The foreign loyalists can expect to join fighting battalions or even take up positions in the extremist group’s extensive bureaucracy, which has declared a “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria and harvests taxes across its territory.

Officials point out that while the number of Americans looking to take part in the conflict in Syria has also risen, up to more than 250, the estimate includes people who were stopped from making the journey or who are being monitored after having returned to the US.

Around 700 British residents, according to statistics from the British police, suspected of fighting alongside IS are now reportedly back in the UK.

The latest US intelligence estimates also suggest the group is perhaps starting to have difficulty maintaining the size of its fighting force, with attrition, a US-led coalition air campaign and some success on the ground by Kurdish forces and others starting to make a dent.

“We assess the IS can muster between 20,000 to 30,000 fighters across Iraq and Syria,” an ODNI spokesperson said.

Harleen Gambhir, a counterterrorism analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, says “the flow is still there,” adding the IS recruits are even coming from places that until now have not been a fertile source of foreign fighters for the terror group, such as Uganda and Sudan.

She also warned that efforts to stop foreign fighters from reaching the battlefields in Iraq and Syria could backfire.

“IS has adapted ... by telling its fighters that it is legitimate for them to travel to other places where IS and its affiliates are fighting, like Libya and Afghanistan and now the Caucasus.”