Monday

19th Aug 2019

EU nationals fighting for IS drop by half

  • The war in Syria has displaced millions (Photo: Chaoyue 超越 PAN 潘)

Around half of the people who left to fight alongside the Islamic State in Iraq or Syria have either died or left, according to a leaked document written by the EU's anti-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove.

The 16-page document, dated 29 November, to be discussed among interior ministers on Friday (13 December), notes around 50 percent of the estimated 5,000 EU nationals are still in Syria or Iraq.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Up to 20 percent have died and up to 35 percent have already returned to Europe, according to figures collected by EU's counter-terrorism coordinator.

"Those having already returned could pose a threat to security, though their motivation to travel to Syria in the first wave may have been more to protect Muslims than to join Daesh," notes the paper.

An Iraq-led military campaign launched in October, with air and ground support from the United States, has seen the territory controlled by so-called Islamic State reduce dramatically. Fears are mounting that some EU nationals may flee the assault and instead launch attacks in Europe.

But the paper says any immediate massive return is regarded "as unlikely" and that the extremist fighters are instead more likely to remain and form resistance pockets.

"FTFs [foreign terrorist fighters] will also continue to die in Syria and Iraq, especially in the context of the battles in Raqqa and Mosul," notes the paper.

The paper also notes that some foreign fighters and their families still in Iraq or Syria want to return but are unable to do so because they are viewed as defectors by the Islamic State.

EU states are mulling ideas on what to do with those, like women and children, who may been dragged along to join the extremists.

Hundreds of children are also thought to have been born or raised in the Caliphate and are likely to either have been victims of violence or been traumatized after witnessing violence. Some women are also likely to be victims of sexual abuse.

At the same time, fewer and fewer people are travelling to take up arms in Syria and Iraq given the military operations and, possibly, an loss of appeal towards IS.

A source in contact with intelligence services also recently told EUobserver that with the evolving situation on the ground, foreign fighters are finding it increasingly difficult to cross the Syrian border from Turkey, cutting one of their main routes to join IS.

EU terror law risks making protest a crime

An anti-terror bill is likely to sail through the EU parliament in December, despite serious concerns raised by rights groups over its broad understanding of what constitutes terrorism.

Feature

Mechelen: the Belgian city with no foreign fighters

The picturesque, multicultural city north of Brussels believes it has the right policy mix to prevent Islamist extremism. It wants the rest of Belgium to follow its example.

Investigation

EU may extend 'passenger name records' to rail and sea

Documents reveal that EU states are considering broadening requirements on keeping passenger records, currently only applicable to air carriers, to providers of other modes of transport.

UK taking 'steps' after illegal copying of EU Schengen data

According to a classified report, the UK made illegal copies of EU security data, and its disregard for EU rules on handling such data was a "serious and immediate risk". The Commission now says "practical steps" have since been taken.

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU ends silence on Hong Kong protests
  2. Is Salvini closing just harbours or also the rule of law?
  3. No-deal Brexit would seriously harm UK, leaked paper says
  4. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  5. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  6. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  7. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals
  8. Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us