After Obama’s air strike threat, ISIS wins new recruits in Syria
BEIRUT: Islamic State has won new recruits in Syria
since President Barack Obama signalled last week that air strikes against the
group will be expanded from Iraq to its strongholds in northern and eastern
Syria, a group monitoring the war said on Wednesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 162
people had joined Islamic State training camps in Aleppo province since Sept
10, when Obama said he would not hesitate to strike Islamic State in Syria.
The new recruits do not represent a big increase in
the size of IS, which is estimated by intelligence agencies at 20,000 to 30,000
fighters in Syria and Iraq. But they do illustrate the risk that US-led efforts
to crush Islamic State will end up winning it more followers.
Islamic State’s main Syrian bases are in the northern
and eastern provinces of Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, which borders Iraq. The group
moved west into Aleppo in August, seizing territory from other insurgents and
occupying strategic hilltops, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory.
The Islamic State's new recruits joined two of its training camps in the area.
Abdulrahman, whose organization gathers information
from all sides in the Syrian conflict, estimates the group now has more than
50,000 fighters in Syria alone.
Four of the new recruits were Australian nationals and
15 of them non-Syrian Arabs who crossed from Turkey, the Observatory said. The
rest were Syrians, most of them formerly fighters with the Nusra Front, al
Qaeda's official affiliate in the Syrian war and a rival of Islamic State.
Obama declared his plans to establish a broad
coalition against Islamic State last week. World powers meeting in Paris on
Monday gave public backing to military action to fight the group in Iraq.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al Qaeda in the
Islamic Maghreb have both urged rival Islamist groups in Iraq and Syria to stop
fighting each other and unite against the U.S.-led alliance preparing to