Friday

19th Oct 2018

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.

Russian activist warning on 'fake news' as EU backs action

In 2015, internet activist Lyudmila Savchuk went under cover to expose a troll factory in St Petersburg. As the EU summit endorses anti-disinformation action, she told EUobserver the Russian government is bankrolling many more.

News in Brief

  1. Rutte: summit was 'not the moment' for higher climate ambition
  2. Legal text for Brexit relocation EU agencies agreed
  3. Greek foreign minister resigns over Macedonia deal
  4. No Brexit backstop means no approval, says EU parliament
  5. Poland questions supremacy of EU court
  6. Medvedev to meet Juncker and Merkel in Brussels
  7. Italians and Czechs least favourable to remaining in EU
  8. Facebook hack set to be first major test of EU data rules

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  2. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa
  3. EU leaders worried about Italy's budget
  4. Russian activist warning on 'fake news' as EU backs action
  5. Kaczynski: No question of Polish EU exit
  6. EU summit to accept urgency of climate action – but no measures planned
  7. MEPs demand more from EU on human rights in Asia
  8. EU migration solutions are on the table - let's adopt them

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us