News / Middle East

Britons Among Foreign Jihadists Fighting in Syria

Henry Ridgwell
BIRMINGHAM, Britain — Despite Syrian rebels’ insistence to the contrary, there is evidence to support Syrian government contentions that more foreign fighters are heading to Syria to fight a "holy war" against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

British photojournalist John Cantlie was crossing into Syria from Turkey with a guide and Dutch colleague two months ago when he was captured by jihadist fighters - some of them were fellow Britons.

According to Cantlie, they had stumbled across a camp full of armed opposition fighters. But they were not the Free Syrian Army. Cantlie realized he had found a training camp for "jihadist" foreign fighters.

“I knew within 10 seconds that we were in trouble," he said. "Within a minute… they were all speaking English, first of all. They were Chechen, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, British... I’d estimate between 10 to 15 of them were either British or of British origin… We talked with them a great deal, especially the British guys. One of them, an NHS [British National Health Service] doctor, kind of became our friend, he gave us intel [intelligence],” said Cantlie.

The group held the three men captive. Many of the British jihadists had distinct accents suggesting they were from the city of Birmingham, Cantlie said.

The city of a million people in central Britain has a large Muslim population. Among them - Syrian journalist Malik al-Abdeh, who confirmed John Cantlie’s account.

“I’m aware of around just under 10 young men from the Birmingham area going to Syria to fight with the Free Syrian Army, he said. "They are drawn to Syria out of partly humanitarian reasons, to help out their fellow brothers in Islam who are being killed and victimized in Syria, but also because they genuinely have a jihadist zeal. Before it was Afghanistan, it was Chechnya, Bosnia, and so on, so Syria is just one in a sort of tour of campaigns against those who are oppressing Muslims.”

The jihadists are not always welcomed by the Free Syrian Army, Abdeh added.

“They are wary of what they call the ‘Takfiri’ trend within the jihadist movement. The more extreme elements that don’t view the struggle in Syria as a struggle for democracy and freedom, but rather as a struggle to bring about an Islamic state.”

The Member of Parliament for Birmingham has raised concerns with the government about British nationals going to fight in Syria, warning that they could return as extremists.

Cantlie assumed he would be ransomed and likely killed. They tried to escape, but were shot and recaptured. Cantlie has the real Free Syrian Army to thank for his freedom.

“A week later, because our guide had raised the alarm, the Free Syrian Army - four of them - came in when the camp was very empty and rescued us,” he said.

Cantlie is planning to return to Syria to document the conflict.

He and other witnesses say Britons and other foreigners are heading there to fight 'jihad’ - coming from the streets of cities like Birmingham to the battlefields of Syria to join an increasingly complex opposition force.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs