A new study by a London - based institute says hundreds of Europeans have traveled to Syria to join militants fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al - Assad.
A report by the International Center of for the Study of Radicalization(ICRS) says up to 5,500 foreign fighters have traveled to Syria since the beginning of the crisis in the Arab country in March 2011. The estimate - based on more than 450 Arab and Western media sources and death announcements - also shows that up to 11 percent of the militants come from Europe, mostly holding UK passports. " Between 140 and 600 Europeans have gone to Syria since early 2011, " researcher Aaron Y. Zelin says. Britain accounts for the biggest number of arrivals, with up to 134 people, followed by the Netherlands with up to 107, France with up to 92, Belgium with up to 85 and Denmark with up to 78.
" Based on the conflict totals, we estimate that 70 to 441 Europeans are still currently present in Syria, " ICSR states in its report. " This suggests that most of the Europeans who have travelled to Syria are still on the battlefield. "
Data collected from online death notices of fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda militants indicates that out of 249 such notices, about three percent originate from European countries of Albania, Britain, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Kosovo, Spain and Sweden. The report says this trend has raised fears in European countries, where the fundamentalist militants are likely to carry out terror operations after returning home as fully trained terrorists. In late March, US Army veteran Eric Harroun, 30, was arrested by the FBI for fighting along with the notorious al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front in Syria since January. Harroun's father, however, says his patriotic son had not joined militants, but had been serving the CIA and reporting back to the spying agency from the country. Analysts believe that European powers are dragging more Muslims into a deadly sectarian conflict they have been fueling in Syria through Saudi Arabia and Qatar, under the false pretext of establishing democracy in the Arab country.