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Journey to Jihad

ٍٍSource: The New York Times – KUALA KETIL, Malaysia — A year ago, Mohd Lotfi Ariffin bid his family goodbye and headed for Syria, where he intended to fulfill what he saw as his religious duty fighting President Bashar al-Assad. He left behind his wife, their six children and his job as a religious school teacher here to fight with his fellow Sunnis more than 4,000 miles away.

Mr. Lotfi, 46, was one of a few dozen Malaysians who officials in this moderate Muslim majority country say have traveled to Syria to join militant rebel groups, including the Islamic State, the Nusra Front and Ajnad al-Sham. Security experts estimate that there are more than 18,000 foreign fighters involved in the conflict.

“It’s easy and it’s more organized there,” said Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, the chief of Malaysia’s counterterrorism task force. “You can join any group that you want there.”

Some Malaysians, like Mr. Lofti, document their journey on social media — posting photographs and videos from Syria, some lighthearted travelogues and other posts depicting the gruesomeness of the war there.

Mr. Lotfi’s Facebook fan pages, since taken down, included many such posts, and they received hundreds and sometimes thousands of “likes.”

A New York Times video follows Mr. Lofti’s path, as documented on Facebook, from his village in northern Malaysia, where he was a schoolteacher, husband and father, to Syria, where he sought martyrdom.

Watch the video:

Readers who have more information about this subject can contact the reporter at p.teng@nytimes.com.

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