An intelligence report prepared for the State Department by Idriss’s colleagues paints a frightening picture of the growth of ISIS. According to this document, the group now includes about 5,500 foreign fighters, who “form the main backbone of ISIS in its sensitive operations.”
These foreign jihadists are recruited from their home countries by a network headed by a fighter known as Abu Ahmad al-Iraqi. Once they reach Syria, “the fighters are constantly fitted with explosive vests and threaten all who dare to confront them,” according to the intelligence report. The “most dangerous and barbaric” of these al-Qaeda fighters are about 250 Chechens, based in the suburbs of Aleppo and coordinated by an operative known as Abu Omar al-Chechani, the report says.
Joining this core group of foreign fighters are about 2,000 young ideological recruits, drawn mostly from northern Syria. Another 15,000 fighters support the group “out of fear or greed.” These include fighters from 14 Sunni tribes in the Raqqah area and eight tribes from Deir al-Zour, both in the northeast.