Nearly half of Syria’s rebels are now aligned with jihadist or radical Islamist groups, according to a new analysis by IHS Jane’s.
Of the roughly 100,000 fighters, about 10,000 are jihadists, the defense consultancy reported. Another 30,000 to 35,000 are hard-line Islamists who share much of the outlook of the jihadists but focus primarily on Syria rather than a global jihad, according to The Telegraph.
Another 30,000 rebel fighters belong to groups that are moderately Islamic, meaning only a small minority belong to secular groups.
“The insurgency is now dominated by groups which have at least an Islamist viewpoint on the conflict,” said Charles Lister, author of the study, to be published later this week. “The idea that it is mostly secular groups leading the opposition is just not borne out.”
“Because of the Islamist makeup of such a large proportion of the opposition, the fear is that if the West doesn’t play its cards right, it will end up pushing these people away from the people we are backing,” he added. “If the West looks as though it is not interested in removing Assad, moderate Islamists are also likely to be pushed further towards extremists.”
The study is based on intelligence estimates and interviews with activists and militants, The Telegraph reported.
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• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at email@example.com.
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