Fears rise in Europe over ji­hadist in­flux

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BERLIN: Europe faces a new in­flux of Is­lamic State ji­hadists if Iraqi forces re­take the group’s strong­hold Mo­sul, of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts warned yes­ter­day, adding to fears on a con­ti­nent bat­tered by a string of Is­lamist at­tacks. Thou­sands of Euro­peans have left for Iraq and Syria over the last two years to wage ji­had, but after the IS suf­fered a string of ter­ri­to­rial de­feats this year in both coun­tries, some of its fight­ers have be­gun re­turn­ing to the con­ti­nent.

As Iraqi forces press their of­fen­sive in Mo­sul, the “caliphate” de­clared two years ago by the IS, ex­perts urged Europe to pre­pare it­self for more bat­tle-hard­ened ji­hadists ready to launch at­tacks back home. “The re­tak­ing of the IS’ north­ern Iraq strong­hold, Mo­sul, may lead to the re­turn to Europe of vi­o­lent IS fight­ers,” the EU’s com­mis­sioner for se­cu­rity Ju­lian King told Ger­man daily Die Welt. King thought it was un­likely that there would be a mass ex­o­dus of IS fight­ers from Mo­sul to Europe but he stressed that even a hand­ful of ji­hadists re­turn­ing would pose a “se­ri­ous threat that we must pre­pare our­selves for”. Around 2,500 Euro­pean fight­ers are still in the con­flict zones, said King.

‘Guer­rilla at­tacks’

The IS may be­come less ap­peal­ing to po­ten­tial re­cruits if its Iraqi strong­hold were to crum­ble, but fight­ers left with­out a “home” would pose dan­gers for the West, said Raf­faello Pan­tucci, Direc­tor of In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity Stud­ies at the Royal United Ser­vices In­sti­tute. “Rud­der­less but with­out a sense of rev­o­lu­tion­ary pur­pose, they will present a men­ace to se­cu­rity of­fi­cials around the world for years to come,” he wrote in the Daily Tele­graph. The IS group “has shown a ca­pac­ity to send fight­ers back hid­den among the refugees com­ing to Europe. If it is threat­ened in Iraq and Syria it may step up the num­ber of those ‘re­turnees’ to es­tab­lish net­works or even launch at­tacks,” he warned. —AFP

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