A historically unprecedented number of foreign fighters have gone to Syria. Some have joined extremist factions. EU counter-terrorism co-ordinator Gilles de Kerchove estimates that over 2,000 Europeans have gone to Syria to fight, mainly from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. Many are now returning home posing an increased threat to Western countries. Norwegian academic Thomas Hegghammer found on average one in nine foreign fighters returned home to take part in a domestic terror plot.
A dark side is evidence that some of the foreign fighters in Syria have been involved in brutal atrocities. A highly graphic video was released in 2013, a prisoner is shown being beheaded with a knife, some of the perpetrators speak Dutch (Flemish) and French.
In March, French counter-terrorism police arrested 23-year-old Ibrahim B., a returning fighter from Syria, who was preparing to strike in the southern French region of Côte d’Azur. Some 900 kilos of explosives were found in the suspect’s temporary apartment near Cannes.
The Long War Journal lists a sampling of the terrorist activity outside Syria from returning fighters, fighters from over 70 countries are now fighting in Syria.
Why are so many foreign fighters streaming to Syria?