A record number of foreign fighters from more than half of the world’s countries are joining Islamist and Al-Qaeda linked groups, claims the UN. A new report from the UN says that they are mainly going to Syria and Iraq, although Libya is also increasingly a prime destination, AFP has revealed.
According to the UN, more than 25,000 foreign fighters are now involved in armed conflicts; they originate from over 100 countries. “The rate of flow is higher than it has ever been historically,” say the UN’s panel of experts. The report pointed to a 71 per cent increase in the number of foreign fighters worldwide between the middle of 2014 to March 2015; European and Asian countries report sharp increases. The latest figures cast a pall over UN efforts to stem the flow of foreign extremists which the report described as an “urgent global security problem”.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in September that called on governments to make it a serious crime for their nationals to enlist as a foreign fighter in such groups. Nevertheless, large numbers of foreign fighters are traveling from Tunisia, Morocco, France and Russia, and the UN says that there are new trails of jihadists leaving the Maldives, Finland, Trinidad and Tobago as well as from some sub-Saharan Africa countries.
“The strategic threat is even greater in 2015 and in the years that stretch ahead,” the experts said. Syria and Iraq have become a “veritable finishing school” for jihadists, as was the case in Afghanistan during the 1990s. While Syria and Iraq have by far the largest numbers of foreign jihadists, Afghanistan is the battleground for 6,500 and others are found in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and Libya.
The experts called for effective policies to counter violent extremism with “counter-messaging” to young people, and said that intelligence-sharing is key to addressing the threat from returning foreign fighters. The UN Security Council is due to discuss the role of youth in countering violent extremist during a special debate on 23 April.