Syria has become home to some 50,000 Islamic State (IS) fighters, including more than 6,000 members who joined the organisation in July, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday.
The jihadist organisation announced in June the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in the areas it controls in eastern and northern Syria and in western and northern Iraq.
In an interview with AFP, Rami Abdulrahman, the Observatory co-founder and director, said: “The number of Islamic State fighters in Syria has exceeded 50,000 elements, including more than 20,000 non-Syrians.”
He said: “The largest number of elements to join the organisation since its inception in Syria in the spring of 2013 was recorded in July.”
“Not less than 5,000 Syrian fighters joined the Islamic State in Raqqa and Aleppo in July” noting that among these “nearly 800 fighters were members of others battalions while the rest did not carry arms before.”
Further, the organisation attracted “nearly 1,100 foreign elements including Chechens, Arabs, Europeans, Asians and Muslims from China”, Abdulrahman explained. “The vast majority of them entered through the Turkish territory.”
“Nearly 200 foreign elements were present in Syria, but they were fighting with Al-Qaeda arm in Syria, Jabhat Al-Nusra and other battalions.”
It was not possible to verify these numbers from other sources.
The jihadist organisation expanded its influence in Syria after its sweeping offensive in Iraq to almost entirely control the provinces of Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa before it advanced at the expense of opposition fighters north of Aleppo.
Meanwhile, the Syrian regime intensified its aerial bombardment of the organisation’s strongholds, particularly in Raqqa.
The Observatory pointed out that the raids on Raqqa which amounted to 50 on Sunday and Monday led to the killing of at least 43 ISIS elements as well as eight civilians.
The jihadist organisation controls the majority of the province, with the exception of the regime’s military airport.
Seven people were killed yesterday, including three children, during aerial bombardments launched by the regime’s air force on areas in Eastern Goutha, one of the main strongholds of the opposition near Damascus, according to the Observatory.
The Syrian conflict has led to the killing of more than 170,000 people.