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Which country in Europe has the most jihadists in Syria and Iraq?

Which country in Europe has the most jihadists in Syria and Iraq?
By Chris Harris
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This table shows how many citizens left European countries to fight in Syria and Iraq, as at December 2013 and November 2014, together with the percentage increase.

Dec 2013**Nov 2014% change**France412700+ 69.9UK366500+ 36.6Germany240400+ 66.7Belgium296300+ 1.4Netherlands152150- 1.3Denmark84100+ 19Spain95100+ 5.3Sweden87100+ 14.9Austria6060Italy5050Norway4050+ 25Finland2030+ 50Ireland2630+ 15.4Switzerland110+ 900

Source: Quilliam Foundation/The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence.

Germany, France and Britain are failing to plug the flow of radicalised Islamists heading to fight in Iraq and Syria, according to new data.

The figures, contained in a report on Islamic State by Quilliam Foundation, suggest the number of fighters heading to the region from Europe has risen from 1,929 to 2,580 in less than a year.

France has seen an estimated 700 citizens leave to fight, a 69.9 percent increase on figures from December 2013.

Germany, over the same period, had a 66.7 percent increase, to a total of 400 people.

Britain, meanwhile, has seen 500 citizens leave its borders to fight, up from 366 last December.

The Quilliam report, which claims there is more than 16,000 foreign fighters in the region, comes after the UN said foreign jihadists were “flocking to Iraq and Syria on an unprecedented scale”.

Social media

The report says ISIL is using the internet to attract new recruits and that its online messaging was “unprecedented” and “‘the gold standard for propaganda in terms of its quality and quantity”.

It says: “The new frontline of the crisis, the internet, needs to be better defended. Censoring unwanted extremist content and propaganda materials is not only ineffective, but often counter-productive. It attacks a symptom rather than its cause. The online space needs to be better contested; community-led counter-speech initiatives and critical engagement strategies need to be developed.”

It comes as Robert Hannigan, the new head of Britain’s eavesdropping agency GCHQ, said Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp were the “command and control networks of choice for terrorists”.

He called on US technology giants to give security services greater access to help them foil attacks.

“The challenge to governments and their intelligence agencies is huge — and it can only be met with greater co-operation from technology companies,” Hannigan wrote in the Financial Times newspaper.


“If they are to meet this challenge, it means coming up with better arrangements for facilitating lawful investigation by security and law enforcement agencies than we have now.”

Female network

ISIL is also using social media to recruit women, with 200 European females thought to have travelled to Syria and Iraq, according to Quilliam.

It says: “Many of them claim to have travelled to become the wives of jihadists, and are radicalised by the very same narratives that allure young men.”


In September five people, including a brother and a sister, were arrested near Lyon suspected of belonging to a group involved in recruiting young French women to the Islamists’ cause.

In Austria two teenage friends, Samra Kesinovic, 16, and Sabina Selimovic, 15, left their homes in Vienna to join jihadis in Syria.

The report adds: “Some women from western Europe, that are residing in IS territories, have embraced their role, further radicalising and proselytising off and online, calling for more women to join the ‘caliphate’.

“Reports of abuse and violence against women at the hands of jihadist husbands in the region are widespread. Unfortunately, many young recruits have not been exposed to counter-narratives which discuss the many negative aspects to the role they might play.”


Britain’s security minister James Brokenshire said in a statement to euronews: “The UK advises against all travel to Syria and parts of Iraq. Anyone who does travel to these areas, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger. We do not tolerate the existence of online terrorist and extremist propaganda which directly influences people vulnerable to radicalisation.

“We already liaise with the large internet companies to remove terrorist material hosted in the UK or overseas and are establishing relationships with newer platforms to do the same. Since February 2010, the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit has secured the removal of more than 53,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content which encourages or glorifies acts of terrorism. Over 34,000 of these have been removed since the Extremism Task Force concluded in December.”


Hover over a country to see its figures, including the percentage rise since December 2013.


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