Thursday, December 20, 2007

Saudis biggest group of al Qaeda Iraq fighters: study

Kristin Roberts, Eric Beech, Reuters (UK)

Most al Qaeda fighters in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia and Libya and many are university-aged students, said a study released on Wednesday by researchers at the U.S. Army's West Point military academy. The study was based on 606 personnel records collected by al Qaeda in Iraq and captured by coalition troops in October. It includes data on fighters who entered Iraq, largely through Syria, between August 2006 and August 2007. The researchers at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center found that 41% of the fighters were Saudi nationals. Libyan nationals accounted for the second largest group entering Iraq in that time period with about 19% of the total ... "The apparent surge in Libyan recruits traveling to Iraq may be linked (to) the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group's increasingly cooperative relationship with al-Qa'ida, which culminated in the LIFG officially joining al-Qa'ida on November 3, 2007," wrote authors Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman ... "The incitement of a new generation of jihadis to join the fight in Iraq, or plan operations elsewhere, is one of the most worrisome aspects of the ongoing fight in Iraq," they wrote. "The United States should not confuse gains against al-Qa'ida's Iraqi franchises as fundamental blows against the organization outside of Iraq. So long as al-Qa'ida is able to attract hundreds of young men to join its ranks, it will remain a serious threat to global security."

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