Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria now have about 20,000 to 31,500 fighters on the ground, the Central Intelligence Agency has said, much higher than a previous estimate of 10,000.

Among those in Syria are 15,000 foreign fighters including 2,000 Westerners, some of whom have joined Isil, a US intelligence official told AFP.

The figures were revealed one day after President Barack Obama vowed to expand an offensive against Isil extremists, a plan which foresees new air strikes against Isil in Syria, expanded attacks in Iraq and new support for Iraqi government forces.

“CIA assesses the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria, based on a new review of all-source intelligence reports from May to August,” CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said in a statement.

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