A report by the United Nations shows new terrorist groups including the Islamic State have attracted over 15,000 foreign fighters, drawing large numbers of recruits from a broader base than ever before, including 80 nations worldwide.
The figure is significantly more than Al-Qaeda managed at its zenith and shows the remarkable pull of the new generation of groups with their sophisticated propaganda operations can achieve. The declaration of a new Caliphate, the first since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the last century, is also thought to have significantly boosted numbers, as believers flock to become part of what they hope will become an Islamic super state.
The United Nations (UN) report said the recruits’ home nations were the for first time “including a tail of countries that have not previously faced challenges relating to al-Qaida”, indicating the reach of ISIS far exceeds that of previous groups.
The report notes the sheer volume of people involved, reports the Guardian who leaked the paper: “Numbers since 2010 are now many times the size of the cumulative numbers of foreign terrorist fighters between 1990 and 2010 – and are growing… 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 document goes some way to explain the success of ISIS over its cousin Al-Qaeda, citing its enthusiastic use of social media including Twitter and Snapchat, even sharing mujahideen kitten photos. This stands in contrast to Al-Qaeda, who issue “long and turgid messaging” which can run to tens of thousands of words.
Clearly impressed with the quality of ISIS propaganda, Al-Qaeda have recently taken a leaf from their book by imitating the style of the Islamic State’s glossy recruitment magazine. Featuring dramatic photographs, thoughtful articles and even humour and jokes, the title of Al-Qaeda’s new magazine, Resurgence, tells its own story.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria now controls great swathes of the near-east, having made significant gains against government forces and other rebel groups over the past year. The brutality of the Caliphate in dealing with captured civilians and fighters has been near unprecedented as fighters take young girls into sexual slavery and indiscriminately kill hundreds, execution-style. One mass grave of Sunni tribesmen summarily executed for resisting the advance of the Islamic State this week is believed to hold 200 dead.