New study tracks Swedish extremists fighting in Syria, Iraq

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-15 01:23:25|Editor: Mu Xuequan
Video PlayerClose

STOCKHOLM, June 14 (Xinhua) -- A total 267 people traveled from Sweden to join extremist groups in Syria and Iraq between mid-2012 and 2016, according to a new study from the Swedish Defence University.

The study, published Wednesday, is based on information provided by the Swedish Security Service and shows that almost all of the nearly 300 foreign fighters, who are or have been Swedish residents, joined the Islamic State (IS). Some also joined al-Qaeda affiliated groups.

"For the first time we have exact figures -- not estimates -- about Swedish citizens who have left for Syria and Iraq since 2012 to join jihadist terror groups. We can say with confidence where they come from, how old they are and the proportion of men, women and children," said Dr. Magnus Ranstorp, research director at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish Defence University, in a statement published on the university's website.

A vast majority of the Swedish foreign fighters (76 percent) are men. Their average age is 26, while 18 percent of the travellers are 19 years old or younger.

Another stand-put factor is that a majority of the foreign fighters come from just four out of Sweden's 21 counties and more than 70 percent have lived in areas in Sweden that are marked by social exclusion.

While around a third of the foreign fighters have returned to Sweden after spending an average 16 months in Syria or Iraq, at least 49 have been killed in the conflicts there.

Also, while only 24 percent of the travellers are female, the number of women joining extremist networks has gone up from "just a few" in 2012 to 40 percent of the total number of travellers in 2015.

The women also tend to spend a longer time abroad than the men. However, the overall interest among Swedish nationals in joining IS seems to be dwindling. In 2013, a total 98 individuals went from Sweden to Syria or Iraq for the first time. Last year, that figure was five.

According to the study, there is a risk of the returning extremists carrying out attacks in Sweden, using the knowledge attained abroad. However, it is not likely, the report said. "Their focus is primarily on the conflicts in Syra and Iraq," according to authors of the report.