The British Foreign Fighter Contingent in Syria
May 29, 2014
In mid-April 2014, the British government released its latest annual report on CONTEST, the British counterterrorism strategy. Focusing on the persistent threat from international terrorism faced by the United Kingdom, the document highlighted how the British government is “concerned about the threat to the UK from Syria based groups and the threat from foreign fighters returning to this country.” Officials spoke of 33-50% of security service casework having a Syria component to it.
The threat of returning fighters from Syria is one that British security officials already believe they have seen and disrupted, specifically in the form of a “Mumbai-style” plot targeting the United Kingdom in October 2013 that reportedly had links to Syria. On the ground in Syria, British fighters continue to die and broadcast their activities through a variety of social media platforms, while publicly denying the accusation of wanting to launch attacks in the United Kingdom. The community of Britons in Syria, however, reveals a group with strong links to criminal networks in the United Kingdom, as well as a growing willingness to publicize violent activity that might constitute war crimes.
Taken alongside the fact that Britons appear to be fighting with a multiplicity of groups (many British fighters who announce their affiliation claim to be members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, although others appear in images fighting alongside groups connected to Jabhat al-Nusra or even other smaller units), it seems that the threat to the United Kingdom is growing. The actual number of British fighters in Syria is an imprecise science, with French President Francois Hollande saying in January 2014 that some 700 Britons were fighting in Syria, a figure downplayed by the British government who stood by 350 fighters. The International Center for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) estimated in December 2013 that there were somewhere between 43-366 British fighters who had traveled to Syria. A more recent figure was offered by Helen Ball, the senior national coordinator for counterterrorism in the Metropolitan Police, who admitted that as many as 700 Britons might be fighting in Syria.
This article offers a brief background on the alleged Mumbai-style plot that was disrupted in October 2013, and then looks more specifically at the community of British fighters in Syria. It finds that while most British foreign fighters in Syria may not pose a domestic threat to the United Kingdom, it appears likely that some might, especially in light of the recent Mumbai-style plot that reportedly had connections to the Syrian battlefield.
On the evening of October 14, 2013, police staged a dramatic series of arrests across London. Four men, all allegedly long-term investigative suspects, were picked up in the sweep after authorities believed the group might have had access to firearms. Two individuals were arrested in a “hard stop” involving shotgun rounds used to blow out the wheels of the car they were driving, a third at his home in Peckham and a final suspect outside an Iranian restaurant in Westbourne Grove.
The identities of the four men were not confirmed beyond their ethnicities and ages: all were British nationals, but one each of Algerian, Azerbaijani, Pakistani and Turkish ethnicity. Ultimately, charges were only brought against the Algerian and Turkish individuals, who were both charged with “making record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism or possessing a document or record containing information of that kind.” The Turkish individual was also accused of “preparing a terrorist act,” while the Algerian was accused of “possession with a false document.” It is believed the other two were released.
There has been a tight hold on further information allowed in the public domain, although the understanding is that the men were believed to be planning a “Mumbai-style” shooting spree attack and the plot was one which had connections to Syria. One report suggested the men may have met in Syria. Information around the case has been limited with the names of the charged men kept out of the public domain. The case is due to go to trial later in the year.
British Fighters Increasingly Bold in Syria
Syria continues to have connections to Britain’s longstanding Islamist community, and the police have moved to clamp down heavily on the foreign fighter phenomenon at home. In the first three months of 2014, authorities made more than 40 arrests connected to Syria-related activity. At the same time, the groups in Syria have become more bold, with British fighters communicating with the media to discuss their intentions and even going so far as to establish their own media outlet and group in December 2013 known as Rayat al-Tawhid.
The Rayat al-Tawhid branding has become an increasingly prominent feature of reporting in the United Kingdom around Syria, with the group publishing a series of videos and pictures through YouTube, Instagram and Twitter accounts that offer insights into personal experiences on the battlefield. The videos have glorified the fighting, calling on people to leave “the gangster life behind and join the life of jihad.” Other more recent videos have shown the background of their lives near the battlefield, characterizing it as “Five Star Jihad”—a likely ironic reference to earlier images that emerged off the battlefield in which Britons described the luxurious lives they were leading with sweets from home and abandoned mansions with swimming pools in which to live. Rayat al-Tawhid videos reflect a harder life on the battlefield, illustrating the basic living conditions, while also using the videos to solicit funding from the United Kingdom. The group has also posted images of members involved in the apparent execution of an individual identified as a rapist, and in another image one of them is seen with a bag of heads that are apparently from a group of regime soldiers.
It is not clear who is behind Rayat al-Tawhid, although their activities and publicity are reminiscent of longstanding British extremist groups. They speak with British accents, and their references to gang culture suggest at least a working knowledge of that life. What is somewhat disturbing about the group is their ease with the extreme violence and brutality of the battlefield in Syria, including involvement in battlefield executions, beheadings and possibly torture. The men all seem eager to maintain their anonymity and only appear in videos with their faces covered, which suggests that they want to protect their families back home from the attention of the authorities, or that they might plan to eventually return to the United Kingdom. This latter prospect is of great concern to British authorities, given their brutalization and apparent ability to manufacture explosives (a skillset suggested in images in which they show homemade bombs).
Kataib al-Muhajirin/Kataib al-Kawthar
This is not the first time that Britons have emerged in such a public way on the Syrian battlefield. In early 2013, a group called Kataib al-Kawthar began to produce tweets under the handle @KAlKawthar and established a Facebook page that on March 31, 2013, released a video entitled Commander Abu Musab’s Weekly Address, purporting to be “the first weekly address of Abu Musab, a western Mujaahid commander who is currently leading his forces against the oppressive regime of al-Assad.” Delivered in fluent, but accented, English, the blurb promised regular weekly updates, although it is not clear if any more statements emerged. At around the same time as the video’s publication, Kataib al-Kawthar released a hagiographical video of Abu Kamal al-Swedee in both English and Arabic, with the English language delivered in native sounding English. Abu Kamal was identified as a Finnish-born Swede with a convert Finnish mother and Swedish father.
The video about Abu Kamal appeared to be produced by a parallel or sister group to Kataib al-Kawthar called Kataib al-Muhajirin, a grouping composed of foreign fighters in Syria apparently led by the Georgian Omar al-Shishani. The divisions between the group are unclear, with Abu Musab being referred to in a video released by Kataib al-Muhajirin as one of Omar al-Shishani’s commanders. The Abu Musab in the second video speaks only in Arabic, although prominent in the video are also Sayfullah al-Shishani and Ibrahim al-Mazwagi, a Libyan-Brit who was the first confirmed Briton killed in Syria. A prominent figure who shows up repeatedly in Kataib al-Muhajirin videos, al-Mazwagi (also known as Abu Fidaa) fought previously in Libya and appeared to have enjoyed being filmed fighting in Syria. Subsequent to his death, for example, a mini-film emerged showing his activities on the battlefield, joking around with fellow foreign fighters and marrying a Swedish woman who had come to the front. In the Abu Kamal video, Abu Fidaa is referred to alongside suspected British national Abu Qudamah as carrying their fallen Swedish comrade’s body back to an ambulance. Abu Qudamah seems to be the battlefield name of another British man from London who was later killed and who features prominently in images released by Kataib al-Muhajirin.
Abu Qudamah and Ibrahim al-Mazwagi feature in a number of images together, as well as with other individuals. Al-Mazwagi is later photographed alongside Omar al-Shishani, while Abu Qudamah is instead featured in a montage set of images published on Facebook by a now closed account in which a group of individuals were heralded as “Green Birds.” What is particularly striking about this collection of images is that alongside Abu Qudamah, the montages feature Mohammed el-Araj, Bilal al-Berjawi and Mohammed Sakr. Al-Berjawi and Sakr were two Britons who came from west London and were killed in Somalia fighting alongside al-Shabab. Mohammed el-Araj, on the other hand, was a Briton of Palestinian descent from Ladbroke Grove in west London who was killed in Syria in August 2013. El-Araj was an engineering student who was arrested in January 2009 at a protest outside the Israeli Embassy. Also arrested at the protest were Mohammed Sakr and Walla Rehman, although both received far lighter punishments than el-Araj—Sakr and Rehman were charged with affray under the public order act, while el-Araj was charged with handling stolen goods. Rehman’s significance within this context comes from the fact that he was identified as being involved in the same network as al-Berjawi and Sakr in East Africa.
It is of course impossible to know the extent or importance of these connections, although it is notable that the men all come from a relatively similar part of London. It is possible that the young men all knew each other and the grouping behind them is one that has previously helped fighters reach Somalia and is now directing people toward Syria. What is certainly concerning about this grouping is that it has clearly pledged allegiance and fought alongside Omar al-Shishani, a man who was the leader of foreign fighters in Syria and has now moved over to be a sub-commander to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—one of the most violent groups in Syria. The other Chechen visible in the aforementioned video featuring Omar and Abu Musab, Sayfullah al-Shishani, appears to have broken away from Omar to set up a more independent faction fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra. He was killed in early February 2014 in an attack on Aleppo prison where the first recorded British suicide bomber, Abdul Waheed Majid, killed himself. A long-term activist himself, Abdul Waheed Majid had featured on the periphery of serious terrorist investigations in the United Kingdom for some time, including the large 2004 plot called Crevice that intended to target a shopping mall outside London with a large fertilizer-based explosive device.
Historical and Criminal Networks
The war in Syria also has connections to longstanding members of the jihadist community in the United Kingdom. British foreign fighter Abdel Majed Abdel Bary, for example, is the son of Adel Abdel Bary, who was extradited to the United States in 2012 after spending years in British custody. He stands accused of being the leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad’s cell in London in the 1990s and of providing support to Usama bin Ladin by helping to run a media outpost for al-Qa`ida. He is also accused of involvement in the 1998 East Africa U.S. Embassy bombings. The younger Bary, a former grime music rapper from west London, seems to have had a radical damascene moment in mid-2013, and in July declared on his Facebook page that “the unknown mixtape with my bro tabanacle will be the last music I’m ever releasing. I have left everything for the sake of Allah.” In October 2013, he used his Twitter feed to ask “for everyone that still asks me about where my videos have gone, like I said a while back I quit music & I took all the vids I can down….& if you own a channel that has any of my music up can you take it down also, appreciated. Bless.”
In other moments, the younger Bary referred to his missing father, pushed back against those who defamed the ISIL, and repeatedly denied accusations that he was in some way connected to prominent British extremist preacher Anjem Choudary. Mentioned in an early profile that exposed him publicly as fighting in Syria, Bary seemed offended by the prospect, stating at one point “why linking me to anjem choudary again though, I dont know the man and we aint on the same wave lol hes on that microphone jihad.” In another post, he reported how he and a fellow Briton were “kidnapped/tortured by FSA/IF scum they stole our ak’s and a 7mm, my vehicle & our phones and cash.” Highlighting the circles in which he operated back in the United Kingdom, in mid-March 2014 he declared that “my lil brother ahmed got sentenced to life…26 years minimum….love lil bro see you in the afterlife inshallah #kasper.” He appears to be referring to Ahmed Kasper Mikhaimar, a convicted burglar who in January 2014 was sentenced to 26 years incarceration for the murder of a teenager on London’s streets.
This link to serious criminality can be found elsewhere among Britain’s community of fighters in Syria. Choukri Ellekhlifi, a Briton of Moroccan descent from Paddington west London who used the name Abu Hujama, was killed in August 2013 alongside his brother-in-arms Mohammed el-Araj. Prior to coming to Syria, Ellekhlifi had been arrested with Mohammed Elyasse Taleouine and Mohammed Ibrahim in August 2012 after a series of brutal robberies in London’s affluent Belgravia district where masked men on bicycles attacked people walking the streets, threatening them with a taser while they stole their possessions. In two cases, they used the taser on their victims. The men were released on bail, and it appears that at this point Ellekhlifi fled the country and traveled to Syria where he joined the fighting. Taleouine was re-arrested on January 10, 2013, when counterterrorism officers undertook an “intelligence-led operation” into “alleged facilitation of travel overseas for terrorism.” Searching Taleouine’s property, police discovered a converted 9mm MAC-10 submachine gun, and he ultimately pleaded guilty to firearms offenses and robbery charges. Taleouine was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Abdel Majed Abdel Bary also provides a connection to another relation of a prominent British individual previously accused of involvement with radical circles. On April 18, 2014, Bary tweeted “Subhanallah just seen the brother less than 2 weeks ago, may Allah accept his shahada, Abdullah Deghayas, martyr inshallah.” This was a reference to Abdullah Deghayes, an 18-year-old Briton of Libyan descent who was killed fighting in Kassab, Latakia. The nephew of former Guantanamo detainee Omar Deghayes, Abdullah is the middle child of three brothers who have left their homes in Brighton to fight alongside a Libyan unit in Syria called al-Battar. His older brother Amer was shot in the stomach during the same clash, while his younger brother Jaffer is the youngest publicly confirmed Briton fighting in Syria at 16 years of age. Their father has since pleaded for his two remaining sons to return home, although it seems uncertain whether this will be possible.
The final connection to longstanding members of the UK jihadist scene is the case of Moazzam Begg, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee and founder of the Azzam Publications bookshop in Birmingham. UK authorities arrested Begg on February 25, 2014, and charged him with providing terrorist training as well as funding terrorism overseas. Arrested alongside him were Gerrie and Mouloud Tahari, a mother and son who are also charged with supporting terrorism overseas. Begg’s arrest elicited substantial public outcry and his trial later in the year is likely to prove a major spectacle as he fights against perceived persecution.
Portsmouth’s Bangladeshi Bad Boys
Another cluster of Britons drawn to Syria can be found in Portsmouth where a group that seems to in part echo a local da`wa (propagation) community has gone to fight in Syria alongside the ISIL. The Portsmouth Da`wa Team continues to carry out its peaceful activities in the city center, and there has been no evidence presented that it is connected to terrorism. A number of former members, however, have gone to fight in Syria. Most prominently, Iftekar Jaman, a former call center employee and son of fast food restaurant owners, became something of a celebrity jihadist through his online media profile. In November 2013, he achieved particular notoriety when he was interviewed by the BBC’s flagship Newsnight program. He was also responsible for helping to facilitate travel to Syria for two other Britons who used the pseudonyms Abu Qaqa and Abu Layth al-Khorasani. Abu Layth was later revealed to be a Manchester-born student at Liverpool University and part-time amateur boxer called Anil Khalil Raoufi. Both Raoufi and Iftekar Jaman have since been killed fighting.
Others from the Portsmouth cluster who are still fighting in Syria include former private schoolboy and fitness fanatic Muhammad Hassan. Hassan, another participant in the Portsmouth da`wa group, is a regular on social media and promotes the ISIL’s cause. In mid-November 2013, another Portsmouth man, Muhammad Hamidur Rahman, a manager at a local retail clothing store, told his family he was heading to Syria as part of an aid convoy only to reemerge weeks later as a fighter alongside the ISIL. Both men are believed to still be fighting in Syria.
In contrast, Mashudur Choudhury, who recently became the first Briton to be convicted of terrorism charges related to the conflict in Syria, was arrested upon his return to the United Kingdom on October 26, 2013. He had left for Syria on October 8 with four other Portsmouth men on a commercial flight to Turkey (including Muhammad Hamidur Rahman and Muhammad Hassan) after long conversations via various social media and online communication methods, including Skype, with Iftekar Jaman. In one of these messages, Choudhury suggested that the group he was traveling with should call themselves the “Britani brigade Bangladeshi bad boys,” which elicited a “lol sounds long” from Jaman. Choudhury was also revealed to have argued about his activity with his wife who saw him as a fantasist and who finally told him in a July text message to “go die in battlefield. Go die, I really mean it just go. I’ll be relieved. At last. At last.”
The flow of foreign fighters to Syria from the United Kingdom continues, although the scale is difficult to determine. The trends are worrisome, with the preponderance of longstanding networks of individuals involved in radical activity, the continued featuring of British nationals fighting alongside the ISIL, and the fact that a number of these nationals are connected to serious criminal networks in the United Kingdom. These factors highlight a trend that is likely to develop into future threats. The twin incidents of the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich by longstanding activist Michael Adebolajo and the suicide bombing in Aleppo by Abdul Waheed Majid, a man with almost two decades of radical activity, serve to highlight the persistent and long-term threat that such radicalized individuals can pose.
Thus far, only one domestic terrorist plot in the United Kingdom has been reported as having a connection to Syria, but there is an expectation that more will emerge. While most fighters who return from Syria may not pose a threat, it is likely that some will. British fighters state that they have no intention of carrying out attacks in the United Kingdom, but the indicators from across Europe (including the recently foiled Mumbai-style plot) suggest that future domestic threats connected to the war in Syria are likely to emerge.
Raffaello Pantucci is a Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) and is grateful for the support of the Airey Neave Trust in his work on foreign fighters.
 “CONTEST: The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering Terrorism, Annual Report,” UK Home Office, April 9, 2014.
 Duncan Gardham, “Police Foil ‘Mumbai-Style’ Terrorist Plot in London, Say Security Sources,” Guardian, October 14, 2013.
 “British Fighters in Syria ‘Not Planning UK Attacks,’” ITV News, April 8, 2014.
 Tom Whitehead, “700 Britons Fighting in Syria Terror Groups, Warns Hollande,” Telegraph, January 31, 2014.
 “Up to 11,000 Foreign Fighters in Syria; Steep Rise Among Western Europeans,” The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, December 17, 2013.
 Tom Whitehead, “Up to 700 Britons Feared to be in Syria,” Telegraph, April 24, 2014.
 Sean O’Neill and David Brown, “Syria Link to Terror Arrests in London Raids,” Times, October 15, 2014.
 Justin Davenport, “Police Foil ‘Major Islamist Terror Plot’ After Armed Raids Across London,” Evening Standard, October 14, 2013.
 “Two Men Charged with Terrorism Offences,” Press Association, October 20, 2013.
 Gardham, “Police Foil ‘Mumbai-Style’ Terrorist Plot in London, Say Security Sources”; Justin Davenport, “Islamist Terror Suspects Could Have Met During Syria Conflict,” Evening Standard, October 15, 2013; Amanda Williams, “Hundreds of British Jihadis Returning From Fight in Syria Spark Terror Alert After Police and MI5 Thwart Mumbai-Style Attack on London,” Mail Online, February 16, 2014.
 Tom Whitehead, “Syria-Related Arrests Soar as Police Urge Mothers and Wives to Stop Would-be Jihadis,” Telegraph, April 24, 2014.
 Steve Swann, “British Man Recruits for Syria Jihad,” BBC, December 20, 2013.
 Aris Roussinos, “Jihad Selfies: These British Extremists in Syria Love Social Media,” Vice, December 5, 2013.
 Know Your Role, Rayat al-Tawhid, April 25, 2014, available on Instagram.
 The image of the severed heads was posted on Instagram. The execution video was made public through the reporting of Tom Rayner, “British Fighters Filmed in Syria ‘War Crime,’” Sky News, May 2, 2014.
 Commander Abu Musab’s Weekly Address, Kataib al-Kawthar, March 30, 2013, available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wE0VWLgQnA.
 Shaheed Abu Kamal English Version, Kataib al Muhajirin, March 13, 2013, available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=vn_8Ul4K_Gc.
 Per Gudmundson, “The Swedish Foreign Fighter Contingent in Syria,” CTC Sentinel 6:9 (2013).
 Richard Kerbaj and Malik al-Abdeh, “Dead at 21: Britain’s Veteran Jihadist,” Sunday Times, March 3, 2013.
 Inigo Gilmore, “Britons Fighting with Syria’s Jihadi ‘Band of Brothers,’” Channel 4 News, June 14, 2013.
 Shaheed Abu Kamal English Version.
 For a more complete story about al-Berjawi’s and Sakr’s adventures in Somalia, see Raffaello Pantucci, “Bilal al-Berjawi and the Shifting Fortunes of Foreign Fighters in Somalia,” CTC Sentinel 6:9 (2013).
 Shiv Malik and Haroon Siddique, “Briton Killed Fighting in Syria Civil War,” Guardian, November 20, 2013.
 J1 v. The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Royal Courts of Justice, 2013.
 It is possible that there is a similar structure at play in Belgium in a case currently working its way through the system in which fighters were being sent to both Somalia and Syria. See “L’epouse de Rachid Benomari lui envoyait de l’argent en Somalie,” La Libre, March 10, 2014.
 “An In-Depth Look At Chechen Fighters in Syria – Part I: Sayfullah Al-Shishani and His Circle,” Middle East Media Research Institute, December 6, 2013.
 “UK ‘Suicide Bomber’ Abdul Waheed Majid Video Posted Online,” BBC, February 14, 2014.
 Raffaello Pantucci, “Syria’s First British Suicide Bomber: The UK Jihadist Backdrop,” Royal United Services Institute, February 14, 2014.
 Chris Greenwood, “Fighting Jihad in Syria, The British ‘Grime’ Rapper from £1m Home in Maida Vale, West London, Who is the Son of a Suspected Al Qaeda Mastermind,” Daily Mail, December 31, 2013.
 “Fact Sheet on Extradition of 5 Terrorism Suspects to US: Information on Charges,” U.S. Embassy London, October 5, 2012.
 This post, dated July 1, 2013, is available at www.facebook.com/LyricistJinn/posts/634492946562118.
 Twitter feed @ItsLJinny, October 9, 2013.
 Twitter feed @ItsLJinny, March 9, 2014.
 “The Scum Stole our Cash,” Daily Mail, March 9, 2014.
 Twitter feed @ItsLJinny, March 13, 2014.
 William Turvill, “Five Thugs who Killed a Schoolboy Stabbing Him with Swords and Meat Cleavers in one of Britain’s Wealthiest Postcodes are Jailed for 131 Years,” Daily Mail, January 31, 2014.
 Amie Keeley, “Four Britons ‘Killed Fighting in Syrian Civil War With Al Qaeda Rebels,’” Mail Online, November 20, 2013.
 Duncan Gardham, ‘The Al Qaeda Fanatic from Britain who Funded Jihad Trip to Syria by Mugging Londoners with a Taser,” Mail on Sunday, November 30, 2013.
 Metropolitan Police statement, undated, available at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.538475426199901.1073741856.423306314383480&type=3.
 Twitter feed @ItsLJinny, April 18, 2014.
 “Father Scared for Sons in Syria,” Press Association, April 21, 2014.
 Conal Urquhart and Shiv Malik, “Teenager From Brighton Killed Within Weeks of Joining Syrian Conflict,” Guardian, April 18, 2014.
 Urquhart and Malik.
 Shiv Malik, “Father of UK Teenager Killed in Syria Implores his Other Sons to Return,” Guardian, April 20, 2014.
 “UK Ex-Guantanamo Detainee Moazzam Begg Remanded in Custody,” BBC, March 1, 2014.
 “Mouloud Tahari: Briton, 20, Charged over Funding Syria Terrorism,” Independent, March 4, 2014.
 Edward Malnick and Richard Spencer, “British ‘Celebrity Jihadi’ and Chef Dies in Syria,” Telegraph, December 17, 2013.
 Richard Watson, “Briton ‘Doing his Duty’ by Fighting with Group Linked to al Qaeda in Syria,” BBC, November 21, 2013.
 Tam Hussein, “Social Media Jihadi: The Inside Story of a Briton who Died Fighting for ISIS,” Huffington Post, February 6, 2014.
 Yakub Qureshi, “Anil Khalil Raoufi, 20, Killed Fighting in Syria Thought War was ‘Like Star Wars,’” Manchester Evening News, February 13, 2014.
 Dipesh Gadher, David Leppard, Hala Jaber, Toby Harnden and Laura Molyneaux, “‘We Need to Start Taking Heads Off’: The YouTube Jihadists who Pose a Risk to Britain,” Sunday Times, January 12, 2014.
 Dipesh Gadher and Laura Molyneaux, “Portsmouth’s Primark Jihadist Surfaces in Syria,” Sunday Times, December 1, 2013.
 Dominic Casciani, “Mashudur Choudhury: Serial Liar and Jihadist,” BBC, May 20, 2014.
 Tom Whitehead, “Man Travelled to Syrian Terror Training Camp After Angry Wife Said ‘Go Die on Battlefield,’ Court Told,” Telegraph, May 7, 2014.
 O’Neill and Brown.
 Raffaello Pantucci, “Thick as Thieves: European Criminals Take to Syria’s Battlefield,” Royal United Services Institute, March 31, 2014.