RETURNING TERRORISTS WORRY EUROPE
A State Department security report is warning that large numbers of Europeans who traveled to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State terror group are set to return to their home countries, posing an increased terrorism threat.
“Over the past five years, an unprecedented number of Europeans have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight or train with terrorist groups operating in the conflict zone,” the Dec. 22 report said. “However, since many remain in the theater their eventual return may prolong the heightened risk environment which has come to be known as Western Europe’s ‘new normal.’”
A total of 21 of the 50 Islamist attacks in Western Europe since 1994 involved Europeans who received terror training abroad.
“The 21 attacks include most of the high-profile, mass-casualty Islamist terrorist attacks that Western Europe has experienced since Islamist terrorism first emerged in the region approximately two decades ago, including the 2004 bombings in Madrid (191 killed); the 2005 bombings in London (52 killed); the 2015 attack against Charlie Hebdo in Paris (12 killed); the November 2015 attacks in Paris (132 killed); and the March 2016 attacks in Brussels (32 killed).”
The truck attack in Nice, France in July that killed 86 was carried out by an Islamist with no foreign training or fighting experience.
Foreign training “suggests that combat and military training received overseas may increase the lethality of perpetrators,” the report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council said.
Syria and Iraq were the main foreign terrorist training grounds with up to 7,000 Europeans traveling there since 2014.
The report said European governments are concerned that progress in attacking the Islamic State in its Syrian and Iraqi bases will force more European terrorists back to the continent. Some 2,100 European fighters already have returned home, and to date three attacks were linked to these returning Islamic State terrorists.
European authorities have claimed that asylum seekers from the Middle East have not been not used for infiltration by terrorists. But the State Department said “there is evidence that some have, including members of the cell behind the November 13 attacks in Paris.”
Asylum seekers in Germany also conducted terrorist attacks, including a July 18 ax attack in Wurzburg, a July 24 suicide bombing in Ansbach, and the December 19 truck ramming of a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin.
The danger of attacks in Europe will require increased security vigilance “as the heightened ‘new normal’ risk is expected to persist for the time being,” the report concluded.