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Australia could have up to 250 fighters in Syria and Iraq

THERE could be up to 250 Australians fighting with or against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, despite government estimates showing only 90 directly involved.

The latest global figures on foreign fighters involved in the conflict put the total at up to 20,730 people from all over the world who left their homes to take up arms.

Figures from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence released Tuesday showed Australia likely had between 100 and 250 foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.

While the data may overestimate the total because of possible deaths and those who may have since left the conflict zone, it represents one of the top global estimates.

Up to 11,000 of those were from other Middle Eastern countries and 3000 were from former nations of the Soviet Union.

But the figures conflict with the latest estimates from Australia's intelligence agencies, with Attorney-General George Brandis saying last week only 90 Australians were directly involved.

Senator Brandis said almost all of those were fighting on behalf of IS and there was a rising trend of young women joining the male-dominated ranks of foreign fighters in the conflict.

The ICSRPV estimates showed the conflict was now the biggest involving foreign fighters in Muslim-majority nations since 1945, and the biggest involving all foreign fighters since the 1980s Afghanistan conflicts.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General's department said intelligence agencies also knew of a further 100 people living in Australia who were supporting terrorist organisations through "funding and facilitation".

Topics:  iraq isis syria


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