More Than 3,000 Europeans Are Now Fighting for ISIS

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Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

EU anti-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove says around 3,000 Europeans have joined the terrorist group ISIS, while CIA numbers put the total membership as high as 31,000 — three times greater than some early estimates. The declaration of the caliphate may be one of the factors drawing in more foreign fighters to ISIS than to other extremist groups.

While ISIS is largely focused on furthering its territorial gains in Iraq and Syria and developing an Islamic state in the regions it already controls, the presence of large numbers of foreign fighters leads some experts to worry about potential terror threats if those fighters return home. An alleged plot foiled recently by Australian police involved ISIS members grabbing members of the Australian public and beheading them. On Friday, Spanish and Moroccan forces busted another cell in Morocco, arresting its Spanish leader and eight Moroccans suspected of recruiting people to join ISIS.

Yesterday, the FBI said it had identified the militant suspected in the video executions of two American hostages and one British hostage. Known as “Jihadi John,” the killer was previously thought to be London rapper Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, who is similar in height and build and is known to be fighting in Syria. FBI director James B. Comey denied Bary is the man in question, but declined to name the new suspect. Authorities are still looking for him.

Meanwhile, Western forces have continued air strikes targeting ISIS and other potential threats in the region. The U.K.’s parliament is expected to decide whether the country will join air strikes in Iraq and Syria on Friday.