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Obama to chair UN meet on threat posed by foreign fighters

August 28, 2014 12:05 IST

United States President Barack Obama will convene a meeting of the UN Security Council next month on the threat posed by foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, the White House has said, amidst reports that another American jihadi has died in Syria fighting for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

It is estimated that foreign fighters from about 50 countries, including from India and about 100 from the US are fighting for the ISIL, the terrorist outfit that has gained control over a large part of Syria and Iraq in the last couple of months.

“US President, Barack Obama, is going to convene a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the threat that’s posed by foreign fighters,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Wednesday.

“That will be an important opportunity for the President to discuss with the leaders of the world what can be done cooperatively to try to counter the threat that those individuals with Western passports might pose to Western governments,” he said.

There are thousands of foreign fighters from up to 50 countries who have travelled to Syria to take up arms alongside ISIL, he said.

“We are very concerned about the risk that those individuals pose to the 50 countries from which they travelled. In many cases, these are individuals that have Western passports. They have some freedom of movement in our modern transportation system,” he noted.

He said the US was working with Interpol and other law enforcement agencies as well as the homeland security agencies in the West and in the region to try to monitor the movements of the ISIL militants to mitigate the threat.

“These are individuals who have been radicalised. These are individuals who’ve received some military training. In some cases, they’re battle tested, and they’ve demonstrated, as McCain did, a willingness to die for their cause,” he said.

Mainstream US media reported that a coalition of Syrian opposition, Nahrawan of Syria, announced that its forces had killed another unnamed American.

“We’re aware of media reporting and social media activity indicating that a second American citizen associated with ISIL has been killed in Syria,” said Caitlin Hayden, Spokesperson of the National Security Council at the White House.

“At this point, we are not in a position to confirm those reports. Should that change, we will provide an update,” Hayden said.

A day earlier, the US confirmed the death in Syria of US citizen Douglas McAuthur McCain. “We previously were aware of his presence in Syria and his affiliation with ISIL. Without getting into too many more specifics, we of course use every tool we have to disrupt and dissuade individuals from travelling abroad for violent jihad and to track and engage those who return,” State department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

He said this was a reminder of the growing concern that the US and many countries in the world have about the thousands of foreign fighters engaged in Syria. According to Pentagon, there could be about 100 American passport holders in Syria fighting for ISIL.

“I don’t know that we have a precise number. I certainly have seen a number of upward of 100. Certainly, we believe several dozens are involved in this kind of activity. And, frankly, there could be more. These kinds of people with these kinds of intentions, they’re not going to make them well-known,” Pentagon Press Secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby, told CNN.

“It is the foreign fighter threat that is something that definitely concerns us here in the Pentagon. And when we talk about the immediacy of the threat that ISIL poses, this is one of the factors that we’re talking about,” he said.

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