MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti) - Around 12,000 foreigners, some of them the US citizens, have joined the extremists fighting against government forces in Syria since the start of the conflict, the US Department of State said.
“We think that there are approximately 12,000 fighters from at least 50 countries in Syria – foreign fighters – including a small number of Americans that may have traveled to Syria since the beginning of the conflict,” Marie Harf, a deputy spokesperson for the US Department of State said Thursday at a press briefing.
“They may all not still be there,” Harf added, without disclosing the exact number of US citizens fighting in Syria.
The United States is in talks with all countries neighboring Syria on introducing stricter border controls to prevent foreign fighters from coming to Syria, Harf added.
On Thursday, an unnamed US official told Agence France Press (AFP) that more than 100 Americans have tried to go to Syria in order to take part in the conflict.
White House estimates correspond to the numbers in the “Foreign Fighters in Syria” report, released in June by New York-based Soufan Group, which specializes in strategic consultancy.
“Over 12,000 foreign fighters have gone to Syria since the three-year conflict began, more than traveled to Afghanistan during its ten-year war and violent aftermath,” the paper states. The report also claims that approximately 3,000 fighters are from Western countries. The Islamic State (IS) group, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS or ISIL), was named among the main recruiters of foreign jihadists.
On Tuesday, the IS released a video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley. The execution was performed by a man who called himself “John” and was speaking English with southern British accent. “John” is believed to be the leader of a group of British jihadists in the IS.
The IS is an extremist group that has been fighting against the Syrian government since 2012. In 2014, the IS launched offensive on northern Iraq, seizing vast areas and declaring an Islamic caliphate.
On August 12, US Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to Australia that the two nations were planning to put the issue of foreign fighters in Syria up for discussion in the United Nations.