News / Middle East

Few Americans Among Foreigners Fighting With Syrian Rebels

A rocket fired by Syrian rebels at  Mannagh air base in Aleppo province, Syria, May 13, 2013 (Ugarit News)A rocket fired by Syrian rebels at Mannagh air base in Aleppo province, Syria, May 13, 2013 (Ugarit News)
x
A rocket fired by Syrian rebels at  Mannagh air base in Aleppo province, Syria, May 13, 2013 (Ugarit News)
A rocket fired by Syrian rebels at Mannagh air base in Aleppo province, Syria, May 13, 2013 (Ugarit News)
Reuters
Despite media attention surrounding the death of an American woman in Syria, only a few U.S. citizens have joined the ranks of foreigners fighting there to oust President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. government officials and private experts monitoring the conflict say.
 
Nicole Mansfield of Flint, Michigan, a convert to Islam, was killed last week in the company of Syrian rebels in Idlib province, Syrian state media said.
 
Former U.S. soldier Eric Harroun was arrested on his return to the United States in March and charged with conspiring to use a rocket-propelled grenade in Syria. Investigators said he acknowledged fighting with Syrian rebels, including the Nusra Front, which Washington says is a branch of al Qaeda.
 
U.S. officials and experts say there is little hard information on other Americans who have gone to Syria to fight.
 
By contrast, foreign fighters from other countries are flocking to join the rebels in Syria, which experts say has become a pilgrimage destination for Sunni Muslim militants in the same way the Spanish Civil War was a destination for leftist activists in the 1930s.
 
At most, said one expert who monitors U.S. militant activities and websites, up to 20 Americans may have gone to Syria. Other experts put the number at half that many.
 
A U.S. security official said there was no formal U.S. government tally of how many Americans had gone to Syria to fight Assad but that the best current estimate was “a handful.”
 
According to a new study about foreign fighters reported killed in the Syrian conflict, the largest contingents of foreigners participating in the conflict come from nearby countries riven by conflict as a result of the “Arab Spring.”
 
The study, a collaboration between experts at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Flashpoint Global Partners who monitor extremist Internet sites, analyzes the national origins of 280 foreign fighters reported to have died fighting with rebels in Syria between July 2012 and May this year.
 
Arab Spring impact

 
The study found that among the 280 dead fighters whose cases were examined, the largest single contingent - 60 - came from Libya, and the second-largest group - 47 - came from Tunisia, countries where authoritarian governments were toppled by popular uprisings during the Arab Spring.
 
The third largest group of nationals among the dead foreign fighters in Syria consisted of 44 Saudis, followed by 32 Jordanians, 27 Egyptians, 20 Lebanese, seven Russians, five Kuwaitis, five Chechens, and three Iraqis.
 
The study said the death toll also included single foreign fighters from countries including Denmark, France, Uzbekistan, Ireland, Morocco, Algeria, Kosovo, Turkey, Bulgaria, Britain and the United States, as well as three from Dagestan, three from the United Arab Emirates and two Australians.
 
The study authors also stated that the “lion's share” of foreign fighters who died in Syria did so while fighting with “the most hardline organization involved in the uprising,” namely the Nusra Front, known in Arabic as Jabhat al-Nusra.
 
“Even if not all of those coming from outside Syria to assist the rebel cause arrive with an immediate malicious jihadi intent, if these recruits are then subject to sectarian indoctrination by the likes of Jabhat al-Nusra and the rigors of urban combat with a foe like the Assad regime and its Hezbollah allies, it is fair to say that all bets are off,” the study says.
 
Security officials in the United States and Europe say  recent official reporting on the current involvement of foreign fighters in Syria indicates that the death toll underestimates the involvement in the conflict of British citizens.
 
European security officials have estimated that between 70 and 100 Britons are currently in Syria, most of them fighting with the Nusra Front or other Islamist groups. European and U.S. officials have also said there has been a recent surge in fighters going to Syria from Chechnya and Dagestan in Russia.
 
U.S. and European officials said they saw few signs that well-organized networks recruited foreign fighters for Syria and arranged for their travel and contacts inside Syria. Instead, said the officials, most foreigners seeking to join anti-Assad forces traveled on their own to Turkey or Lebanon and then made their own way through loosely guarded border posts.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid