European, American, Russian fighters join both sides of Syrian war
November 22, 2013 5 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Nearly three years into the Syrian Civil War, it is becoming increasingly clear that the opposition forces are far more fragmented than the government side. Many of the rebel factions are now largely concerned with fighting each other for control of territory and other key assets, including oil installations and cross-border trade routes. Amidst the chaos, thousands of foreign fighters are flooding into the country, motivated by ideology or money. It is estimated that between 6,000 and 11,000 foreign fighters have entered Syria since the war, causing United States intelligence officials to speak of “a growing presence of foreigners” in the ranks of armed factions. At least 300 British citizens are estimated to have traveled to Syria with the intent of joining the Civil War, according to The Times of London. Most of them are young Islamist radicals who are intent on helping topple the administration of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to the paper. Another British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, reported recently that four British citizens —all London residents— died recently in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, while fighting alongside government troops in support of President Assad. They were fighting against the al-Nusra Front, an opposition group with strong links to al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, The New York Times said on Wednesday that “dozens of Americans” have entered or tried to enter Syria to join various rebel factions in their fight against the government. The paper cited unnamed “American intelligence officials” in alleging that the Americans are a “small subset” of a larger group of “roughly 600” Western-born Islamists who have entered Syria from Western Europe, North America and Australia since 2011. The ongoing conflict has also attracted hundreds of Russian fighters, according to reports. Foreign Policy magazine notes the “rising flow” of radical Islamists from the Russian Federation to Syria in recent months. Altogether it is estimated that between 300 and 400 fighters, mostly from Russia’s North Caucasus region, have joined a variety of Syrian rebel groups. However, there are also Russians fighting in support of the Syrian government. The magazine states that hundreds of “Russian mercenaries” seem to have enlisted in the Syrian Army and are regularly seen fighting against rebel forces. Many appear to be connected to the Moran Security Group, a private military company based in Russian capital Moscow, as well as to Slavonic Corps Ltd., which is based in Hong Kong. The Foreign Policy report suggests that there are over 250 Slavonic Corps mercenaries in the Syrian government’s armed forces, while there is an “expectation that the total force [of Russians] will grow to 2,000 over time”.