Syria: EU eyes potential threat from volunteer fighters

Risk of repercussions after return, anti-terrorism coordinator

19 June, 11:43

    Giuliano Ibrahim Delnevo, an Italian who was killed in Syria fighting alongside rebel combatants Giuliano Ibrahim Delnevo, an Italian who was killed in Syria fighting alongside rebel combatants

    (ANSAmed) - BRUSSELS - A growing number of Europeans going to Syria to fight with fundamentalist groups has raised concern that they may later come back indoctrinated and trained to carry out terrorist attacks. ''This is a serious problem,'' said EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles De Kerckhove. At least 800 fighters have left from European soil to Syria since the beginning of the conflict, including approximately 45-50 from Italy, according to different sources. This number is ''of concern'', most especially for the threats and risks connected with when they come back after fighting with fundamentalist groups. Many have taken up arms with groups such as Jabhat An Nusra, linked with the Al Qaeda leader who has taken the place of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri.

    In presenting the Eurpol 2013 report, director Rob Wainwright said that on their return these fighters "could incite other volunteers to join the armed struggle", noting that they could use their training, combat experience, knowledge and contacts to conduct terrorist activities within the EU. So far, however, no proof has been found of any plans to do so. The issue is considered in need of urgent attention, and was discussed at the last EU Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg, which sought a ''comprehensive approach'' encompassing all the aspects of the phenomenon. De Kerckhove said at the Luxembourg meeting that it was necessary to work to better understand recruitment and how to stop fundamentalism sooner rather than later by stepping up monitoring. What should be done when these people return also needs to be addressed. Among the measures being weighed are increased intelligence exchange and information gathering on the passengers on flights arriving in Europe in order to keep tabs on suspicious travel. Most of the time, the foreign fighters seem to be young Muslims from city outskirts, the children or grandchildren of immigrants who take up the jihadist doctrine or ideology, many times in complete solitude through social networks. Facebook, Twitter and Youtube seem to play a key role in recruitment. They leave with the idea that they are going to do the right thing: free their brethren from the oppression inflicted on them by Syrian president Bashar Al Assad. The news of atrocities, the images of the mass killings by government forces induce them to take action. In the EU, the Netherlands are in first place as concerns the number of departures, followed by Great Britain, Belgium and France. Most of them disappear once over the Turkish border: a few hundreds euros are enough to arrive at their destination and get swept up in the war.(ANSAmed).

    © Copyright ANSA - All rights reserved