WASHINGTON - More than 7,000 foreign militants are fighting for the rebels in Syria's civil war and some are being trained to return home and conduct attacks, US spy chiefs told lawmakers on Wednesday.

The estimate, given at a Senate intelligence hearing, was much higher than earlier figures of 3,000 to 4,000 foreign fighters in Syria, and came after news emerged this week that Congress had secretly approved more funding to send weapons to "moderate" rebels.

"We estimate, at this point, an excess of 7,000 foreign fighters have been attracted from some 50 countries, many of them in Europe and the Mideast," James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, told the hearing.

"And this is of great concern not only to us, but to those countries," he said at the Senate Intelligence Committee's annual hearing on global security threats.


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