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Islamic State Has Gained 6,300 Recruits In Syria Since July, Report Says

Wed, 20th Aug 2014 06:39

Beirut (Alliance News) - Some 6,300 fighters have joined the Islamic State (IS) jihadist militants since last month in the northern Syrian provinces of Aleppo and al-Raqqa, a monitoring group said Tuesday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the new recruits included 5,000 Syrians, 800 of them experienced fighters who switched allegiances from various rebel groups or from the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front.

The remaining 1,300 were foreigners, most of whom had entered Syria across its northern border with Turkey, said the group, which compiles its reports based on updates from a network of activists across Syria.

The extremist group now counts more than 50,000 fighters, compared to only 15,000 a year ago, Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman told dpa.

IS has pushed rival rebel forces out of north-eastern and eastern Syria over the last year, and is engaged in a long-running war with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) who are the other main force in the north-east.

Syria's more moderate rebel forces, caught between IS and advances by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, now hold little ground outside the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib and Deraa province in the far south.

The Observatory meanwhile reported that IS had captured a village near the strategic Yarubiyeh/Rabia border crossing with Iraq from the YPG.

The YPG, in a statement reported by Kurdish news site Welati, said that the jihadists had attacked the safe corridor it opened across the border to evacuate members of Iraq's Yezidi minority trapped on Mount Sinjar after Islamic State advances.

The Kurdish force says it has rescued tens of thousands of Yezidis from the mountain, where their plight gained international attention.

On Monday, the US Federal Aviation Administration issued an absolute ban on US operators flying over Syria, due to the anti-aircraft guns held by extremist groups.

The FAA previously only had a strong advisory against overflights that required pilots to inform the agency beforehand.

The "lack of any requests from operators" to do so, combined with an updated risk assessment, prompted the ban, it said.

"Opposition groups have successfully shot down Syrian military aircraft using these anti-aircraft weapon systems during the course of the conflict," the FAA noted.

The move followed the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine that killed 298 people on board.

Copyright dpa

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