Tuesday

14th Aug 2018

Up to 5,000 Europeans joined jihad, Europol chief says

  • Police officers in Paris in 2013. Last week's attacks in the French capital have raised question about whether all terror suspects can be monitored at all times. (Photo: David McKelvey)

Europe is facing the largest terrorist threat since 2001, with between 3,000 and 5,000 Europeans in jihadist ranks, the director of European police agency Europol said on Tuesday (13 January).

Europol head Rob Wainwright answered questions in a committee of the British House of Commons. He told MPs that “about 3 to 5,000 EU nationals” have left Europe to fight in Syria, Iraq and other conflict zones.

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

“We are dealing with a large body of mainly young men that have the potential to come back, and have the intent, if not the capability, to carry out attacks that we have seen in Paris last week”, said Wainwright.

Europol has collected “about 2,500 names of suspects”.

Wainwright stressed that Syria and Iraq are not the only places where European foreign fighters radicalise.

“The problem that we are dealing with these days is not just about Syria and Iraq. It's also about other conflict zones … in Africa, in the Arab peninsula.”

On Wednesday (14 January) Al Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility in a video message for last week's murders at the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

“While quite rightly security services around Europe have indeed been prioritising their work in dealing with the foreign fighters that return from Syria and Iraq, what the events in Paris last week show, is that there are also a threat clearly from sleeping networks," said Wainwright.

The two attackers in Paris were on a US no-fly list, yet were able to carry out their attack, prompting one MP to ask Wainwright Tuesday whether it is possible to follow every suspect ever flagged.

“It is exceptionally difficult, given the scale of the problem … for the security authorities to monitor all potential threats. That's the very painful reality that the attacks in Paris have shown,” said Wainwright.

European countries each have their own indicators to express the threat level. When asked to paint a picture of what the threat looks like across Europe, Wainwright said the threat level is higher than ever since the 2001 attacks on the United States.

“To put it in to context, it is certainly the most serious terrorist threat Europe has faced since 9/11 for example.”

The Europol chief said the current threat is “more diffuse in nature, operating in a very decentralised way”, making counter-terrorism “more difficult, much more complex than dealing with … a core leadership of Al Qaeda ten or fifteen years ago.”

Internet area

One problem Wainwright noted is that the new generation of potential terrorist use the internet “much more aggressively, much more imaginatively”.

“The dark net area of the internet, which is home to so much of this criminal and terrorist activity ... is a huge endeavour to monitor. There has been little appreciation about the scale and difficulty involved.”

After the Paris attacks, calls for stricter control of online communications have increased in Europe.

French prime minister Manuel Valls announced on Tuesday France will tighten surveillance of the internet for jihadist communication, a day after his British colleague David Cameron said Britain's intelligence agencies should have the legal power to break into encrypted communication.

Belgian justice minister Koen Geens also wants to give agencies more power to tap online communications, Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws reported on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove called on the European Parliament to implement the EU passenger name records legislation, a law giving authorities access to the personal details of air passengers.

EU passport-free travel at risk, Tusk warns

The president of the EU council warned border free travel in the EU could be undermined should lawmakers decide against stepping up security policies.

US pledges to extend EU visa perks

The EU and US have pledged to improve EU nationals’ access to America despite Washington’s concerns on European jihadists.

News in Brief

  1. Malta to allow Aquarius migrants to disembark
  2. Juncker sends condolences over Genoa bridge collapse
  3. EU pledges €500,000 more for Indonesian earthquake island
  4. EU commission in talks with states on new Aquarius migrants
  5. Man held after car crashes into UK parliament security barrier
  6. Brexit delays better readability of medicines' instructions
  7. Masked youths set dozens of cars alight in Sweden
  8. Spain and Italy refuse new Aquarius-rescued migrants

UK poll suggests Brits would now vote Remain

Most UK voters in a YouGov survey said they would remain part of the European Union should a second referendum be held now. The poll follows reports the EU is willing to make a concession on British exit demands.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. EU commission steps up legal case against Poland
  2. Separation of powers instead of 'Spitzenkandidat' process
  3. Revealed: ExxonMobil's private dinner with Cyprus' top EU brass
  4. What Salvini teaches us about Operation Sophia
  5. 14 lobbyist meetings with Oettinger and Canete went unminuted
  6. UK poll suggests Brits would now vote Remain
  7. Some EU states face delays in 5G preparation
  8. Nordic and Baltic farmers urgently need EU support

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us