Foreign Terrorist Fighters Come from More than 100 UN Member States

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May 26, 2015 – More than half of the UN’s 193 member states are generating fighters for Al Qaeda and the Islamic State with some 25,000 recruits joining the terrorist groups from countries as diverse as Trinidad and Tajikistan, according to a new report from a United Nations expert group.

The report, from the Security Council team monitoring sanctions on individuals associated with Al Qaeda, says that six UN member states have generated more than 1,000 foreign fighters each while another 42 have generated more than 100 such fighters each.

“Open-source analysis by the team indicates an increase of 71 per cent in reported foreign terrorist fighters worldwide between the middle of 2014 and March 2015, in part owing to more comprehensive internal reporting by Member States and greater open-source data,” the authors state. “There has also been a sharp increase (from 70 to 733 per cent) in fighters from a number of European and Asian Member States.”

The destination countries for the majority of foreign fighters are Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, with smaller numbers present in Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, the Sahel countries, Somalia and the Philippines, according to the report while origin countries for large number of foreign fighters include Russia, Tunisia, Morocco and France. Smaller numbers are coming from countries that have no previous association with terrorism including Finland, the Maldives and Trinidad.

There is no standard profile for those that leave their home country to join terrorists groups, according to the report, other than they tend to be males between the ages of 15 and 35, though some are older veterans who fought in Chechnya and Afghanistan and returned home.

For some countries such as France, those joining terrorist groups often have a record of petty crime while in Britain, there are clusters of recruitment associated with certain towns and schools. In other cases, criminal networks, such as ethnic Chechens in Austria, are associated with recruitment.

Libya has become a major training ground for foreign fighters, the report says.

The Security Council is set to discuss the findings on Friday.

The full report is below.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UNSC Expert Panel on Al Qaeda Sanctions