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As the world's attention turned to ISIS advancing from their staging ground in Syria through to Iraq, CNN International correspondent Atika Shubert and her team focused on the phenomenon of European jihadists joining their ranks. They are primarily young Muslims, who are drawn to fight in Syria -- often leaving solid middle-class homes and relatively comfortable lives to participate in “jihad” – holy war, alongside members of ISIS, al Qaeda and other groups. It is a phenomenon that keeps western intelligence agents up at night, and as this description is being written, Atika is in Paris reporting for CNN while French authorities are on a massive man-hunt for terrorists who may have done just that – gone to fight in Syria and come back to bring their extreme beliefs and its attendant violence back home. Through their reporting, Atika and her team have tried to understand the phenomenon – even interviewing British jihadists in Idlib, Syria via Skype to find out why they are there.
Kaplan sheds light on the underground jihad movement in America. The story reveals that up to 2,000 Americans have fought in holy wars around the world - Afghanistan, the Balkans, Kashmir and Chechnya - since the early 1990s. "Most of the jihadists are Arab Americans, but other are as diverse as America itself, and include native-born whites, blacks, and at least one Puerto-Rican," according to the contest questionnaire.