Recent reports on foreign fighter presence in Syria have given estimates of numbers and nationalities:
The Algerian press in a misleadingly titled article, state that there are 200-250 Algerian foreign fighters in Syria. Closer reading of the article suggests that the French external intelligence service – the DGSE – estimate that there are 200-250 foreign fighters in total in Syria. The veracity of this particular report is difficult, if not, impossible to determine.
Zelin’s analysis of open source reporting found that foreign fighter presence may range from 4 to 7% of combatants; a number which is consistent with previous presence in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechyna and Iraq.
The Sunday Times ran a piece, “Jihadists involved in Syrian carnage; Foreign fighters are adding to the slaughter that has forced the UN to suspend its peace mission” on 17 June. Unfortunately the article is behind a pay-wall. The article mentions hundreds of foreign fighters stating “[that] As well as the Lebanese contingent, Tunisians, Algerians, Libyans, Saudis, Iraqis, Egyptians, Jordanians and Kuwaitis have swollen the ranks of the jihadists. Dozens have been killed, including two British men of Algerian origin.”
A series of articles in the Spanish press have given some details here, here, here and here – about a group of 4 Spanish nationals/residents of Moroccan origin who are reported to have travelled to Syria. The processes described in the article are reminiscent of Elliot’s New York Times article, Where Boys Grow Up to Be Jihadis, that described the travel of a group of Moroccans from Tetaoun to Iraq. The emerging details about Ceuta based group are similar; a small group of friends leave their lives to go and fight, then one day there is a telephone call from the combat zone saying that someone is dead.
Al-Arabiyya had another piece on the Tunisians who have been reported as traveling to Syria. A Tunisian government spokesperson is quoted as saying,
“Our youth have good intentions, but it is possible they fell into the hands of manipulators.” This is about the only recent piece of reporting that hints at the issue of facilitators: individuals who provide contacts and support that allow travelers to enter an active combat zone. Facilitators vouch for or provide the bona fides for would-be travelers. El Pais write that Spanish officials are looking at who may have supported the individuals who traveled from Spain while 20 Minutos suggest that the Spanish travelers were invited by Syrians residing in Spain. Perhaps some of the Iraq-era facilitators who were active in Spain, are now out of prison?