Russian intelligence reports are claiming that the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) terror group has amassed 80,000 soldiers in Iraq and Syria for its drive towards the goal of a global caliphate.
A senior Russian official told state-run TASS news agency that 30,000 ISIS jihadis are currently stationed in Iraq, and another 50,000 are fighting the jihad in Syria. Some 7,000 militants are originally from states that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, according to the report.
“According to reports, militants now control around 40 percent of Iraqi territory and 50 percent of Syrian territory,” said Yevgeny Sysoyev, the deputy leader of Russia’s FSB security services, which was formerly the infamous KGB during the soviet-era.
“Among members of the group are citizens of 80 countries, including France, Great Britain, Germany, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, the US, Canada, as well as Russia and other [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries. Among them are about 30,000 foreign terrorists. Most of them come from the Middle East and North Africa,” Sysoyev added from a conference in Sochi, Russia.
The estimates did not account for the members of ISIS affiliates throughout the region. The group now sustains terror cells of significant stature in Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Gaza, and in other countries and territories.
Russian forces are engaged in a campaign to support Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad against all forces that oppose his rule, including ISIS. Russian air power has also heavily-targeted rebel areas where ISIS does not retain a significant presence. Moscow’s military has also worked side-by-side in Syria with forces from the Iranian regime and its proxy, the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.
Russia denies that its forces have targeted groups besides ISIS. But the Pentagon has claimed that over 90% of Russian strikes in Syria have not targeted the Islamic State.
On late Tuesday, Assad-backed forces broke a two-year ISIS siege on Kwairis military airport, which is located near the hotly-contested city of Aleppo.
Assad’s troops killed “hundreds of ISIS terrorists and destroyed their dens and cells with all weapons inside,” Syria’s state-controlled SANA news reported.
“The regime has been fighting since the end of September to break the siege,” Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told CNN. “Taking this airport back from siege means they can advance to ISIS areas. They can use it to shell areas around Aleppo.”