Extremists are leveraging recent military gains in Iraq and Syria to seek new recruits from Western countries and elsewhere, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria last week used social media to launch its first English-language enlistment campaign, the newspaper reported on Wednesday. In footage that the group distributed over its first Twitter accounts maintained in English, German and Russian, armed men implore viewers to join their rapidly spreading Middle Eastern offensive.
According to personnel in Western and Arab nations, the jihadist group’s military momentum has helped to build its reputation among potential overseas recruits. Officials in the United States and Europe have aired fears that the regional battlefield could provide Westerners with training and ideological preparation to carry out strikes after returning home.
“The recent developments have raised hopes of jihadists all over the world to establish the state they’ve aspired to create for a long time,” one Egyptian envoy told the Journal. “We worry that more Egyptians are going to Syria and Iraq now, particularly from [the Sinai Peninsula].”
According to a physician in Mosul, Iraq, soldiers from a variety of European and Middle Eastern nations now belong to the militant group that took over his city earlier this month.
Meanwhile, locals in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa reported arrivals of ISIS recruits from North Africa and Asia. The city appears to have emerged as the organization’s command center, the Journal quoted government sources as saying.
“New foreign fighters are coming in and some of them are bringing their families with them. They occupied all the hotels in Raqqa and they inhabit al-Thukna, the most beautiful neighborhood in the city,” said one person in Raqqa. “ISIS is calling on Raqqa’s people to open their empty houses for the immigrants.”