BERLIN – France’s intelligence service reported a significant spike in the number of jihadists who travelled to Syria to fight against President Bashar Assad’s regime, according to a report in the daily Le Monde.

John R. Schindler, a professor of national security affairs at the US Naval War College, analyzed the report on his blog The XX Committee, saying “A detailed new report in the Parisian daily Le Monde, based on sources inside France’s foreign intelligence service, paints a dire portrait of the rising number of Westerners going to wage jihad in Syria.”

The report on Wednesday stated that jihadists from Western and Caucasus countries vastly increased the number of entry points into to Syria since the summer. It said that the civil war represents a “power of attraction” for radical Islamists.

“Nothing like it has ever been seen before, even for Afghanistan,” said a senior French intelligence official.

Schindler, a leading US expert on counterterrorism, wrote based on Le Monde’s report, “France is a major source, with the number of French nationals in Syria having doubled just since May, with some 400 in various forms of transit and over 200 actually in Syria as of the beginning of October.”

Fresh groups of jihadists are travelling from Chechnya to Syria. Two transit points have been identified in Europe.

Austria’s capital, Vienna, has served as a major transit hub for Caucasus jihadists who work their way from the central European country to Turkey and into Syria. According to French intelligence, Chechen Islamists are using Nice, where there is a Chechen community of more than 10,000 in southern France to travel to Turkey and into Syria.

The Jerusalem Post learned of an al-Qaida member affiliated with the ISIS group from Iraq who used the Turkish city of Gaziantep in late September as an entry point into Syria.

Le Monde reported that radical Islamists from Australia and Canada have left for Syria.

Smaller numbers of jihadists have departed from Italy and Luxembourg.

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French intelligence said there is a demographic change in the age brackets of the fighters. Lately, fighters between 20 and 35 are streaming into Syria in contrast to the spring when there were large numbers of teenagers and middle aged men in their fifties.

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