Terror groups at an ‘unprecedented scale’

A UN report says the world is facing a challenge of foreign fighters in terror groups on an "unprecedented scale", with about 15,000 in Syria and Iraq alone.

The report by a panel of experts monitoring al Qaeda and the Taliban has been submitted to the UN Security Council.

“Numbers since 2010 are now many times the size of the cumulative numbers of foreign terrorist fighters between 1990 and 2010 — and are growing,” the report says.

The panel says fighters from more than 80 countries working with al Qaeda associates in Syria and Iraq “form the core of a new diaspora that may seed the threat for years to come”, and that domestic terrorism could rise as fighters return to their home countries.

The report adds that the increasingly sophisticated use of social media is giving the Islamic State a “cosmopolitan” appearance.

However, the report says it is not clear whether the group will rise through divisions in the wider al Qaeda network to claim dominance of the movement.

The Islamic State has alarmed the international community with its recent, sweeping gains in Syria and north-western Iraq and with a series of videos of beheadings of foreigners.

The US has been especially concerned, sponsoring a Security Council resolution in September to battle the growing threat of foreign fighters in terror groups.

The panel behind the report was set up to support the council’s al Qaeda sanctions committee.

“There are instances of foreign terrorist fighters from France, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland operating together,” the report says.

Last week, Britain’s top police officer, Bernard Hogan-Howe, estimated about five people a week were leaving the country to fight with Islamic State. Security officials estimate that there are around 500 British nationals fighting in Syria and Iraq.

The UN warned that more nations than ever face the problem of dealing with fighters returning from the battle zone.

US president Barack Obama has vowed he will not order a large force into combat in Iraq or Syria, relying instead on air power and local forces.

However, his “no boots on the ground” pledge is coming under pressure amid growing calls for advisers and forward air controllers to deploy with Iraqi or Kurdish soldiers to help direct air raids and plan operations.

Meanwhile, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he believes the coalition combating Islamic State militants was focusing too much on the Syrian town of Kobani near the Turkish border and should turn its attention to other areas

“Why Kobani and not otherwise towns like Idlib, Hama, or Homs... while Iraqi territory is 40% controlled by the Islamic State?” Erdogan said in Paris after talks with French president François Hollande.

“There are only 2,000 fighters in Kobani, it is difficult to understand this approach. Why has the coalition not acted in other zones,” Erdogan asked.


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