News / Middle East

Monitor: Islamic State Recruits at Record Pace in Syria

Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province, Syria, June 30, 2014.
Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province, Syria, June 30, 2014.
Reuters

Thousands of new fighters joined Islamic State in Syria last month in its fastest expansion to date, a body monitoring the war said on Tuesday.

Now in control of roughly a third of Syria and large areas of Iraq, Islamic State has been seizing territory from rival Islamist groups in a belt of territory north of Aleppo, threatening rebel supply lines into the city where President Bashar al-Assad's forces are seeking to encircle the insurgents.

Islamic State recruited at least 6,300 men in July, Rami Abdelrahman, founder of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Reuters - a big expansion from early estimates suggesting the group numbered around 15,000. Around a thousand of the new fighters were foreign, and the rest Syrian, he said.

The surge followed Islamic State's rapid advance in northern Iraq in June, where its capture of the city of Mosul furnished it with new weaponry and resources, some of which were diverted to Syria. The group, now the target of U.S. air strikes in Iraq, has declared an Islamic caliphate in areas under its control.

Much of the recruitment has taken place in Islamic State's stronghold of Raqqa. The city on the Euphrates river in northeast Syria has been the target of dozens of air raids by government war planes in recent days.

Anecdotal accounts have also suggested a rapid increase in the group's numbers.

“I can tell it's not far fetched that Islamic State gained thousands of new supporters recently with its operations in Deir al-Zor,” one Raqqa resident, an activist opposed to both the Syrian government and the Islamic State, told Reuters by Skype.

Deir al-Zor province is southeast of Raqqa and another area of Islamic State control on the Euphrates river.

Islamic State last week staged an advance westwards in an area of territory it is seeking to control alongside the Turkish border. It seized several villages and towns north of Aleppo from rival Islamist groups in what observers believe is a push towards the border town of Azaz.

The Observatory said Syrian war planes mounted air strikes on Islamic State positions in the town of Akhtarin on Tuesday, one of the areas its fighters seized in last week's advance. There were no reports of further air strikes on Raqqa.

Rebel brigades from insurgent-held territory in the northwest province of Idlib are now redeploying to meet Islamic State's advance towards Azaz, according to activists familiar with rebel movements.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid