File - Men pray outside their shops beside flags belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Raqqa April 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Stringer)
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The security officials estimated that several thousand foreign nationals are active in the two countries.Most are with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), an ultra-conservative militant group reconstituted from an earlier incarnation of Al-Qaeda and is active in Syria and Iraq and with Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliate which is one of the most powerful rebel forces in Syria.In Syria, the conflict took on a regional dimension and attracted foreign fighters soon after it began with an outbreak of a mostly Sunni popular uprising in 2011 against President Bashar Assad.Foreign Sunni fighters have converged on Syria to fight alongside Sunni rebel forces, while Shiites from Iraq and Lebanon have joined Assad's forces.With Assad using his full firepower against rebels who lack sophisticated arms, the military balance tipped against the rebels last year, driving foreign fighters to carry out suicide attacks to make up for losses on the battleground.British security sources estimate that at least 400 British nationals have moved in and out of the Syrian conflict, with as many as 250 Britons on the battlefield at any one time.
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