A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Swedish Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq: An Analysis of Open-Source Intelligence and Statistical Data


The conflict in Syria and Iraq has resulted in an increase in the number of violent Islamist extremists in Sweden, and a significant increase of people from Sweden travelling to join terrorist groups abroad. Since 2012 it is estimated that about 300 people from Sweden have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (IS) and, to a lesser extent, al-Qaeda affiliated groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra. Even though the foreign fighter issue has been on the political agenda for several years and received considerable media attention, very little is known about the Swedish contingent.

The purpose of this study is to examine a set of variables of the foreign fighters that have travelled from Sweden to join jihadi terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq in the period of June 2012 to September 2016. Much of the statistical data analysed have been declassified and provided by the Swedish Security Service. The variables examined are: time of travel; age; gender; geographical concentration in Sweden; citizenship and country of origin; average time spent in the conflict area; numbers of individuals killed; number of returnees; number of fighters remaining in the conflict area; social media activities; and the financing of foreign fighters. The analysis includes 267 people that are or have been residents of Sweden.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Gustafsson, Linus and Magnus Ranstorp. 2017. "Swedish Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq: An Analysis of Open-Source Intelligence and Statistical Data." Swedish Defence University. http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A1110355&dswid=771

START Author(s):