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Latvian Citizen Reportedly Fighting Alongside Islamic State

A Latvian citizen is fighting alongside the Islamic State (IS) militant group, according to a February 26 report by Latvia's state-owned television company LTV.

According to Latvian news reports on February 27, the source of the LTV story was a report in the Finnish media, which said that a Finnish man had joined the Islamic State group together with his friend from Latvia.

The report is the first known case of a Latvian national fighting with Islamic State militants in Syria. However, according to LTV, the presence of a Latvian national in the Islamic State group has been known to the country's security police for some time.

The Finnish man reportedly said that he met the Latvian man when playing games on the Internet, and afterwards the two met in person in the Finnish capital, Helsinki. The two men later contacted Islamic State militants via Twitter and then traveled to Syria together.

No other details of the Latvian man were given.

However, Professor Leon Tajvans of the University of Latvia told LTV that the case of the Latvian man joining the Islamic State group was "typical" and said that it had been because the young man had "become acquainted with" militant Islamism.

Tajvans said that there were "two Islams" at large today. The first, he said, is peaceful and professed by "regular people who profess their faith and their traditions that are associated with it and do no harm to anyone," while the second is "militant Islamism."

"This movement is constructing various theories, a very important part of which is a reconstruction of early Islam, the era when military operations were carried out and the Prophet Muhammad won positions and created the first Islamic state in Medina, a caliphate," Tajvans said, adding that the Islamic State group was proclaiming this militaristic way of life as being the true path of the Prophet Muhammad.

While this is the first time that a Latvian has been reported to be fighting with the IS group, there is ample evidence that citizens of Finland and Sweden have joined the militants.

The Finnish security service, Supo, has estimated that there are about 30 Finns currently fighting with the Islamic State group in Syria, while more than 60 individuals in total are known to have left Finland to join the fighting. Between eight and 11 Finnish citizens have died so far in Syria.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena