According to the historian and Islam specialist Pieter Van Ostaeyen, 481 Belgians tried to leave or have left to fight in Syria or Iraq. 55 of them have been killed, the Het Laaste Nieuws reported on Tuesday. Authorities claim there are less, but admit that 2 Belgians still leave every week. Pieter Van Ostaeyen’s figures include all Belgians that are in Syria and Iraq, but also those who didn’t manage to get there. According to his analysis, 90% are men, aged 25 on average. The capital is still the town most of the young people leave from, with at least 83 departures. It is followed by Antwerp (66) and Vilvorde (28).
Pieter Van Ostaeyer estimates that at least 88 of them are fighting in the ranks of the Islamic State, and 15 joined the Al-Nosra Front, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaida.
The Foreign Affairs office does not have the same figures. According to the Minister, the number of Belgians who left or tried to leave for jihad is around 380, 200 of whom are still in Syria or Iraq. Around 50 have been killed, and around 100 have returned to Belgium. Around 40 Belgians were stopped at the border between Turkey and Syria.