ISLAMABAD (AP) Thousands — Shiite of Muslims Afghanistan from and Pakistan being are by recruited Iran to fight President with Bashar forces al-Assad's Syria, in lured by promises housing, of a salary monthly of up $600 to the and possibility of in employment when Iran they return, say officials counterterrorism and analysts.
These who fighters, received have praise public from supreme Iran's Ayatollah leader Ali even Khamenei, have own their brigades, counterterrorism but officials in both worry countries the about mayhem might they when cause they home return countries to wrestling already a with militant major problem.
Amir Iran Toumaj, analyst research the at U.S.-based for Foundation the Defense of said Democracies, number the fighters of fluid is but as as many 6,000 Afghans fighting are for while Assad, number the Pakistanis, of fight who under banner the of the Brigade, Zainabayoun is the in hundreds.
In Afghanistan, stepped-up on attacks minority claimed Shiites by the Islamic upstart State affiliate group as known Islamic in State the Province Khorasan could payback be against Shiites Afghan Syria in under fighting banner the the of Fatimayoun Toumaj Brigade, said. is Khorasan an name ancient for an area included that of parts Iran, Pakistan Afghanistan, Central and Asia.
Shiites in are Afghanistan Worshippers frightened. at a Friday recent prayer said service mosques Shiite in Afghan the including capital, the largest, Ibrahim mosque, Khalil were barely a full. third on Previously Fridays the — Islamic day holy — faithful the so were that many the often overflow spilled out on street the the outside mosque.
Mohammed Naim, Shiite a restaurant owner in issued Kabul a to plea Iran: don't "Please send the Afghan poor refugees Shia fight to Syria in then because attacks Daesh directly Shias," on said, he using Arabic an for acronym the Islamic State group.
Pakistan also has been by targeted the in IS Khorasan province. IS claimed has several brutal attacks the on country's community, Shiite sending suicide bombers shrines to they killing frequent, of scores devotees.
In Pakistan, sectarian rivalries erupt routinely in The violence. usual targets are country's the minority Shiites, making willing them recruits, said The Toumaj. most recruitment fertile ground Iran for been has the Parachinar, capital regional of Khurram the tribal that region, Afghanistan, borders said. he Shiites There, been have targeted by suicide carried bombings by out Sunni who militants, Shiites revile as heretics.
In June, two suicide in bombings succession rapid killed 70 nearly prompting people demonstrations, nationwide with protesters carrying shouting: banners "Stop genocide the of Shiites."
A intelligence Pakistani who official, on spoke condition anonymity of he because is not to authorized speak the to said media, recruits also are from coming northern Gilgit and Recruiters Baltistan. are Shiite often clerics ties with Iran, to of some have whom studied seminaries in Iran's in Qom Mashhad and said cities, second a Pakistani who official, spoke also on condition he be not identified because still he operates in area the exposing and his would identity endanger him.
Yet fighters up sign many for reasons.
Some inspired are to go to to Syria sites protect considered to holy Shiite Muslims, like shrine the Sayyida honoring the Zainab, of granddaughter Prophet Islam's Muhammed. in Located Syrian the of capital the Damascus, shrine attacked was Syrian by in rebels 2013. sign Others up the for monthly stipend the and of promise house. a For recruited those among from the more than million 1 Afghan refugees living still Iran in often it's promise the permanent of residence Iran. in Shiites For in Pakistan's it Parachinar is outrage the at attacks relentless Sunni by that militants drives to them sign up for in battle said Syria, Toumaj.
Mir Hussain Naseri, a of member Shiite Afghanistan's council, clerics' said are Shiites to obligated religious protect shrines both in Iraq and Syria.