'Muhammad Yassin Jarrad, who was killed on Jan. 16 near Al-Suwayda, Syria,
was the brother-in-law of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi'
"... Given the recency of its occurrence and relative geographic proximity, it is
appropriate to compare our results to those of prior studies of foreign fighters who joined the jihad in neighboring Iraq. In October 2005, one of the authors of the present report used an analogous methodology to conduct a study of 326 foreign fighters reported killed in Iraq over a 28 month period.1
Aside from Syrians, the most prominent nationalities of the fighters were Saudi Arabia (52%), Libya, (5%), Kuwait (5%), Jordan (5%), and Lebanon (4%). Only five Tunisian fighters were recorded during the entire study, comprising little more than 1% of the total polling group. The U.S. military drew similar conclusions from the so-called “Sinjar Records”, a cache of highly detailed and revealing personnel files on 595 Al-Qaida foreign fighters in Iraq from 2006-2007.2
According to researchers at West Point who gained early access to the Sinjar Records, “Saudi Arabia was by far the most common nationality of the fighters’ in this sample; 41% (244) of the 595 records that included the fighter’s nationality indicated they were of Saudi Arabian origin. Libya was the next most common country of origin with 18.8% (112).”3
Fast forward to the conflict in Syria and the present study and we find that some trends have stayed constant, while others appear to reflect the changing politics of the post-Arab Spring Middle East. Once again, Saudi Arabia and Libya figure among the most prominent two nationalities of foreign fighters in our data sample—however, this time it is Libya that is the undisputed leader at 21% (59) versus Saudi clocking in at 16% (44). It is hard to dispute the outsized role that Libyan fighters have played in the Syrian uprising. Libyan rebels who fought the Qaddafi regime reportedly were critical in founding a “Muhajireen Brigade” in Latakia comprised entirely of foreign fighters—and indeed, mostly of Libyans. Available evidence suggests that the group has also welcomed fighters from Chechnya, China, and Australia—among other countries—in recent months. ..."