RESEARCHERS IN LONDON have found that 26 Irish people are believed to have fought in Syria’s brutal civil war over the past two years.
In a major study looking at the number of people from other countries who have fought in Syria, researchers at King’s College London estimated that between 2,000 and 5,500 foreign fighters – including up to 600 Europeans – have so far joined rebel forces to fight against the Assad regime.
The number of people from Ireland who joined the fighting was higher than the number from Finland (13), Spain (6), Sweden (5), and Albania, Austria, Bulgaria and Kosovo, which all recorded just one person each.
Between 28 and 134 people from Britain are believed to have joined the opposition forces, as well as up to 107 people from the Netherlands and between 30 and 92 people from France.
Researchers said that the figures at the lower end of the scale are either conservative estimates or fully confirmed individuals, while the higher numbers take into account estimates provided by government and media which have not yet been verified.
Researchers said they believed most of the Europeans who travelled to Syria are still on the battlefield.
The study by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation used more than 450 sources in the Western and Arab media, as well as martyrdom notices posted in jihadist online forums to reach its figures.
Researchers noted that as with other conflicts, “the picture is far from complete and will probably remain so for years to come” as there is no fully accurate census of foreign fighters and “publicly available sources are inevitable incomplete”.
At least two Irish citizens have been killed since the fighting broke out in Syria. Shamseddin Gaidan was just 16 when he was believed to have been killed in February. The teenager’s family had moved from Libya to Meath in 2001. Separately, Hudhaifa ElSayed, a 22-year-old who was born in Egypt but moved to Drogheda in Louth as a child, was reported to have been killed last December after he left Ireland to join the rebels.