After spending two years in Saudi prison for fighting in Iraq, Khalid al-Suwid graduated in 2012, a free man, from the kingdom’s well-regarded rehabilitation program for religious extremists, Saudi officials said. Mr. Suwid was a government-certified ex-jihadist.
Mr. Suwid turned up again in a photo released in mid-March, smiling, holding an assault rifle and wearing what appeared to be a bomb vest. It was a so-called martyrdom notice, announcing his death in Syria.
Mr. Suwid “killed a large number of Christians before his acceptance by God,” said the notice, which appeared on a Facebook page —”Foreigners in the Syrian Revolution”—that anonymously records and lauds foreigners killed fighting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
The battle by Syria’s Sunni majority against the Shiite-linked Assad regime has drawn more men from Saudi Arabia to Syria than any country except Libya and Tunisia, said analyst Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute, a think tank. […]
Mr. Zelin, of the Washington Institute, recorded the deaths of Mr. Suwid and 34 other Saudis killed in Syria as of mid-March, at least 27 of them in the preceding six months. Jihadist websites have since reported several more Saudi deaths in Syria.
There are as many as 330 Saudis among more than 2,000 foreign fighters in Syria, said the analyst, who tracks jihadist websites, Facebook pages and other sources.
Syrian rebels say fighters from Saudi Arabia work with the Jabhat al-Nusra group of extremists, which is allied with al Qaeda; with Salafist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham;and in an independent group of 20 Saudi fighters working on its own in northern Latakia province and Aleppo.