Europe at risk from Daesh fighters returning from Mideast: Report

Holger Muench
Holger Muench

Holger Muench

:: European countries could face an increased terror risk in 2018 as Daesh fighters return home with training and expertise gained in Syria and Iraq.

Of particular concern is the use of weaponized drones, high-tech car bombs, and other new technologies, although low-tech terror is likely to be prominent, according to a report.

Extremists will remain the primary threat in Europe in 2018, with international operations becoming increasingly important for Daesh, as it seeks to maintain its global relevance.

The report issued by Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre (JTIC) said that returning foreign fighters will inject “capability, ideological rigor and added extremism” to existing radical networks across Europe.

“In the five to 10-year outlook, European countries will face an elevated terrorism threat posed by radicalized convicts, returned foreign fighters and other returnees who have direct ties to the legacy of Daesh,” said Otso Iho, a senior analyst at JTIC by IHS Markit.

“Low-capability” attacks, including the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), attacks using rented or stolen trucks and vans, knife and small-arms attacks are likely to continue, the report claims.

“Foreign fighters returning to Europe will provide critical skills that will help an increasing number of operational (extremist) networks conduct more complex attacks,” Iho said.

“These skills include the construction of viable IEDs… expertise in assault weapons, and the use of new weapons types or technologies such as drones,” he added.

“If such weapons are used in Europe it would mark a notable increase in the threat level.”

According to JTIC, there are indicators that some cells have already attempted to adopt these methods, including the perpetrators of the August 2017 attack in Barcelona. However, the threat is not just from fighters unleashing attacks on their return from the Middle East. The report reveals that the growing number of extremists in European jails is likely to exacerbate the risk of radicalization across the prison population.

Additionally, many of those imprisoned for providing support to groups like Daesh over the past two years are likely to be released between 2019 and 2023, according to data analyzed by JTIC.

It is predicted that European security services will struggle to adequately monitor a combination of returning militants, an increased number of radicalized terror networks across Europe, and the radicalization risks associated with rising extremism in prisons.

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