Americans among 12,000 Foreign Militants in Syria: US
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The US State Department acknowledged that thousands of foreign militants, including some Americans, have traveled to Syria to fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
"We think that there are approximately 12,000 fighters from at least 50 countries in Syria – foreign fighters – including a small number of Americans that may have traveled to Syria since the beginning of the conflict" more than three years ago, US State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Thursday.
"They may all not still be there," she added without revealing an estimated number of Americans.
Meanwhile, another US official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said more than 100 US citizens have traveled or tried to travel to Syria to fight the country’s government, Press TV reported.
A day earlier, FBI Director James Comey said uprooting homegrown terrorists is the FBI's number one priority. He added that Americans who have tried to join the insurgency in Syria pose a serious security threat to the US homeland.
They have travelled to join terrorist groups including ISIL which is controlling vast swaths of land straddling the border between Syria and Iraq.
The brutal beheading of American journalist James Foley by a Briton fighting in the ranks of ISIL is the latest and most shocking example of foreign militants threatening western interests.
A grisly video posted online Tuesday and later confirmed as "authentic" by the White House shows an ISIL militant decapitating Foley in Syria in retaliation for US airstrikes against the terrorist group in northern Iraq. The group has threatened to kill another American hostage if its demands are not met.
The ISIL militant in the video, speaking in British accent, addresses US President Barack Obama directly, saying any attempt to “deny the rights of living in safety” under ISIL rule will result in “the bloodshed of your people.”
In his August 12 visit to Sydney, Secretary of State John Kerry said the US and Australia agreed to take concerns about the threat posed by foreign militants in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere to the United Nations.
Western countries fear the returning of radicalized militants to their home countries.
This is while the United States has been actively funding and training the militants to fight the Syrian government.
Since November 2012, CIA operatives and US special operations forces have been secretly providing the militants with training on the use of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons in a secret base in Jordan, according to several reports.
A UK-based NGO, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that the number of ISIL Takfiri militants fighting against the Syrian government amounts to more than 50,000. Terrorists have managed to recruit 6,000 militants in the past month alone.
The observatory’s director, Rami Abdel Rahman, said there were at least 20,000 non-Syrians among the terrorists.