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Senior Kurdish Leader Claims Islamic State Army Numbers 200,000

Sputnik News

18:15 16.11.2014(updated 18:15 16.11.2014)

The Islamic State, a radical Sunni group controlling large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, numbers as many as 200,000 fighters, far exceeding CIA estimates, according to Fuad Hussein, the Kurdish president's chief of staff.

MOSCOW, November 16 (Sputnik) — The Islamic State army numbers as many as 200,000 fighters, far exceeding all previous estimates, claims Fuad Hussein, the Kurdish president's chief of staff, according to the Independent.

If verified, it would mean that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has seriously underestimated the number of IS militants. In September, the CIA spokesman told CNN the radical Sunni group "can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria." It was previously believe that IS numbered 10,000 fighters. The difference in estimates could be explained by the fact that the CIA could have referred to "core" fighters, Hussein asserted, stressing the real number of militants is higher.

The CIA was conservative in their estimates. In August, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said the IS army in Syria had already surpassed 50,000, al-Jazeera said, citing Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the UK-based NGO. An anonymous source linked to the IS confirmed that information adding the group had approximately 30,000 fighters in Iraq, the news channel added.

Although the exact number of IS fighters is hard to verify, the Islamic State controls a territory populated by 10 – 12 million people, meaning extremists have a large pool of potential fighters. "I am talking about hundreds of thousands of fighters because they are able to mobilise Arab young men in the territory they have taken," Hussein told the Independent.

The Islamic State, which shocked the world in June after capturing large swathes of Iraq in a blitz offensive, claims it has established a caliphate on the territory it controls, preparing the ones it considers citizens to fight for the new state. "We are talking about a state that has a military and ideological basis," the chief of staff of the Kurdish President Massoud Barzani told the Independent. "So that means they want everyone to learn how to use a rifle, but they also want everybody to have training in their ideology, in other words brainwashing."

Iraqi security forces assisted by Shia militias, the Kurdish peshmerga and a US-led international coalition have managed to bring the IS offensive to a halt. Moreover, this week, government forces have recaptured the town of Baiji, the largest oil refinery in the country and the Adhaim Dam in the eastern province of Diyala. In Syria, the Islamic State has been unable to seize the besieged town of Kobani.

However, the radical group is still far from being destroyed. It continues to launch attacks in numerous places, sometimes far removed from each other. The Kurdish leader insists several thousand people are unable to do that. "In Kurdistan last month they were attacking in seven different places as well as in Ramadi [capital of Anbar province west of Baghdad] and Jalawla [an Arab-Kurdish town close to Iranian border]. It is impossible to talk of 20,000 men or so," Hussein maintains.

The Kurdish leader also stressed that Islamic State militants are a highly-skilled formidable foe. "They will fight until death, and are dangerous because they are so well-trained," Hussein said, as quoted by the Independent. "For instance, they have the best snipers, but to be a good sniper you need not only training on how to shoot, but discipline in staying put for up to five hours so you can hit your target," he explained.


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