The UN report says the jihadists come from some 80 countries. Photo: AP.
LONDON - The United Nations has warned that 15,000 foreign jihadists from 80 countries have travelled to fight in Iraq and Syria, raising the number of foreign militants to an “unprecedented scale.”
The UN Security Council report, obtained by The Guardian daily in London, also said that the Islamic State (ISIS) treasury has up to $45 million in funds from kidnappings for ransom, besides its revenues from oil smuggling, estimated at $1 million daily.
The newspaper quoted the report as saying that the jihadists have arrived from countries that had not previously contributed to global terrorism, and have joined the ranks of ISIS and other extremist groups.
Although it did not list all the 80 countries they come from, the report said “there are instances of foreign terrorist fighters from France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland operating together.”
The report, produced by a committee that monitors al-Qaeda jihadists, said the “numbers since 2010 are now many times the size of the cumulative numbers of foreign terrorist fighters between 1990 and 2010 – and are growing.”
It noted that more nations than ever will face the challenge of experienced fighters returning home from the conflict in Iraq and Syria.
Dozens of people have been arrested around the world on their way to ISIS jihads or for helping the group, which controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria. Many countries in Europe are passing anti-terrorist laws.
The new UN figure raises previous US intelligence estimates of foreign jihadists, placing the number at 7,000 in March and 12,000 in July.
The Guardian said the UN report concluded that ISIS has taken the place of al-Qaeda and this has yielded an explosion of jihadist enthusiasm for the Islamic State.
“Al-Qaida core and ISISL pursue similar strategic goals, albeit with tactical differences regarding sequencing and substantive differences about personal leadership,” the UN report said, using a different acronym for ISIS.
It noted that while ISIS has a “cosmopolitan” embrace of social media platforms and internet culture, al-Qaeda has a “long and turgid messaging.”
A “lack of social media message discipline” in ISIS points to a leadership “that recognizes the terror and recruitment value of multichannel, multi-language social and other media messaging,” reflecting a younger and “more international” membership than al-Qaeda’s various affiliates, said the Guardian, quoting the report.
The ranks of ISIS are attracting many teenage boys and girls and even converts to Islam from Western countries. Three American girls between 15 and 17 from a Muslim background were caught in Germany recently as they were trying to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria.