Although Saudi Arabia is the Arab country putting the most effort into raising awareness of the threat of the Islamic State (ISIS) and fighting the group, Saudi citizens are the most responsive to joining ISIS, as indicated by new semi-official statistics, which show that the number of Saudi fighters in ISIS reached 7,000.
Foreign fighters joining ISIS:
- Saudis: 7,000
- Tunisians: 5,000
- Jordanians: 2,500
The statistics also show that the number of foreign fighters joining ISIS' ranks have been rapidly growing after the organisation took control of Mosul, Ar-Raqqah, and Deir ez-Zor, after taking over most of Anbar and Salahuddin. It also suggests that the number of foreign ISIS fighters has reached over 15,000 from all over the Muslim world, as well as many European countries, noting that the true number of fighters is well over 15,000.
According to the American website Daily Paul, which specialises in security affairs, the second highest number of non-Syrian or Iraqi ISIS fighters come from Tunisia, which are estimated at 5,000 fighters, followed by Jordan, with 2,500 fighters. Meanwhile, Palestinian-Israelis amount to about 20 fighters.
Although most Western statistics confirm that the Saudi fighters make up the largest share of foreign fighters, Saudi Arabia considers this to be a false exaggeration aimed to "distort the image of Saudi Arabia and label its citizens as terrorists," according to Abdul Moneim Al-Mushawwah, the director of the Sakina Campaign, concerned with combatting extremist and violent ideology in Saudi Arabia. In his statement to Al-Arabiya net, he added: "Yes there are Saudi fighters that have joined the ranks of ISIS, just as there are fighters from most other countries, but the Saudis make up the least number of fighters."
A previous study showed that no less than 24 of every 26 ISIS members are from foreign countries. The study published by Long War says that ISIS fighters come from Africa, Asia, Europe, America, Tunisia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Chechnya, France, Germany and the US. Statistics show that 65 per cent of the foreign fighters are Saudi, 20 per cent are Libyan and Tunisian and 15 per cent are from various other nationalities, and that 44 per cent of ISIS' causalities are Saudi fighters.
In recent estimations published by the CIA, there are between 20,000 and 31,500 ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria.
CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said that these estimations are based on a review of intelligence reports from May to August 2014.
Trapani attributed the increase of 10,000 fighters to the organisation's stronger recruitment since June following battlefield successes and the group's declaration of a caliphate.
Daily Paul published a new map showing the number of Arab and Western fighters who joined ISIS. This map showed that the Gulf states and Jordan are ranked number one in terms of the number of fighters coming from those countries, followed by Africa and then Europe.
In terms of Europeans, Britain is ranked first with the largest number of fighters, followed by France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. Britain's the Independent newspaper revealed that the British fighters make up a quarter of the European foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.
The newspaper also estimated that the number of British citizens fighting with ISIS range between 200 and 2,000.
Total number of women
While the CIA refuses to provide any information or statistics regarding American or foreign girls or women who have joined the ranks of ISIS, information from Europe, Canada, and Australia indicates that "women make up about 10 per cent of the total number of ISIS fighters". In France, this number is drastically higher, reaching 25 per cent of the total number of those fighting in Syria and Iraq.
After a number of its journalists carried out an extensive investigation into the phenomenon of the disappearance of Muslim girls from their homes in Western countries only to be found in Iraq and Syria, the Guardian revealed the extent of concern within security agencies in Western countries.
For example, British security sources confirm that nearly 50 girls and women from Britain joined the ranks of ISIS in Syria. The Guardian also quoted German security sources saying that "nearly 40 girls from Germany joined the jihadists in Syria and Iraq".