2013-09-17 13:25:00

UN Syria commission member Del Ponte agrees that half of Syria's opposition fighters are radical Islamists

Geneva, September 17, Interfax - Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, says she sees no reason to question the findings of a recent study showing that about half of the militants fighting in Syria against the government forces are radical Islamists.

Speaking during an interview with Swiss television, Del Ponte called these findings trustworthy and suggested that there might be even more Islamists in Syria.

Del Ponte also said that the more radical extremists in Syria, the likelier it was that the opposition would commit grave crimes, although she acknowledged that both parties to the conflict have committed such crimes.

Daily Telegraph reported on Monday with reference to findings by IHS Jane's, a defense consultancy, that nearly half of the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's forces are jihadists or hardline Islamists. Jane's found that the "opposition forces battling Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria now number around 100,000 fighters, but after more than two years of fighting they are fragmented into as many as 1,000 bands."

The study has found that "there are around 10,000 jihadists - who would include foreign fighters - fighting for powerful factions linked to al-Qaeda."

Up to 35,000 others are "hardline Islamists who share much of the outlook of the jihadists, but are focused purely on the Syrian war rather than a wider international struggle," it said.

Another 30,000 fighters have been described in the study as "moderates belonging to groups that have an Islamic character, meaning only a small minority of the rebels are linked to secular or purely nationalist groups."

Hence, the authors of the study conclude that the number of Syrian insurgents "palatable" to the UK make up less than one third of the opposition forces. Moreover, they say "American envoys put the figure even lower."