Jihadi websites have posted online an undated photograph of a Moroccan family of five, including a father and his sons, purportedly fighting in Syria.
Since the uprising in Syria began in 2011, large numbers of Muslims have travelled to the country to fight with the rebels.
The Syrian conflict began as a secular revolt against autocracy. Yet as the conflict protracts, a radical Islamist dynamic has emerged within the opposition. There is a small but growing jihadist presence inside Syria. This presence within the opposition galvanizes Assad’s support base and complicates U.S. involvement in the conflict, according to ISW, Institute for the Study of War.
Internally, President Bashar Assad has used the threat of jihadists within the opposition to build support for the regime among the Alawite and Christian communities. It has also served to discourage middle and upper class Sunnis from joining the opposition.
Externally, Russian and Iranian leadership have consistently pointed to the presence of radical Islamists as a critical rationale for their support of the Assad regime, the study said.
Compared to uprisings in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, the opposition in Syria faces a much greater threat of jihadist infiltration, ISW reported. Many jihadi elements now operating in Syria are already familiar with the terrain, having been sponsored by the Assad regime for over three decades. These jihadi elements turned against their former regime allies in 2011 and are now cooperating with local jihadists.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer