Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In the last period the number of foreign militants arriving in Syria via Turkey to join the jihad has increased at an "unprecedented" rate. Worldwide more than 20 thousand people have joined the ranks of the Islamic State or other extremist groups. According to US intelligence the volunteers of the holy war come from more than 90 nations and, of these, at least 3,400 from Western states (150 Americans).
The report released by the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC), headquartered in Virginia, states that foreign fighters prefer to enlist among the militias of the Islamic State, seen today as more attractive than other extremist and terrorist movements. Experts have updated the estimates published in January, according to which about 19 thousand jihadists arrived in Syria. There is no reliable data, but according to NCTC director Nicholas Rasmussen, the " the trend lines are clear and concerning".
To underpin the dimensions of the phenomenon, the intelligence expert explains that "the number of direct foreign fighters in Syria is unprecedented" and "exceeds" that of those who have gone to "Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia or other areas in the last 20 years". The type of foreign jihadist going to the Middle East, "do not fit into any stereotype" and come from a range of backgrounds.
For some time Western governments have been warning about the growing number of citizens who leave for Syria and Iraq, to fight in the ranks of the Islamist groups. A phenomenon that has grown even more in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, which caused 17 deaths and panic in the heart of Europe.
According to the NCTC Director Islamic State militias attract such a large number of fighters thanks to the optimal use of propaganda on the internet and social media; videos and films, made in different languages and well produced, seem to appeal to thrill seeking young Westerners. Besides images of beheadings and violence, the group has figured out how to reach and indoctrinate thousands of boys and girls; they oppose a "bucolic" and fascinating image of life in the territories occupied by the "Caliphate" to a "alienated" and hopeless life. "Al Qaeda and its various branches in the Middle East and Africa - said Nicholas Rasmussen - have never displayed such an acumen with propaganda".