BEIRUT, Lebanon, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Nearly half the rebels fighting to topple the Iranian-backed Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad are either diehard al-Qaida jihadists or hardline Islamists primarily focused on setting up a strict Islamic state, a report by the defense consultancy IHS Jane's says.
The London-based global defense consultancy said about 10,000 of the estimate 100,000 insurgent fighters are linked to al-Qaida, mainly Iraqis but with large numbers of foreigners, and 30,000 to 35,000 belonging to "powerful factions" that are fighting for an Islamic state within a larger Middle East caliphate stretching from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.
In addition, the study, reported on by the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph Monday and slated for release later this week, says here are "at least a further 30,000 moderates belonging to groups that have an Islamic character."
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