Posted tagged ‘Islamic terrorists returning to Europe’

Returning ISIS Jihadists Pose Long, Uncharted Challenge

October 16, 2017

Returning ISIS Jihadists Pose Long, Uncharted Challenge, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Abigail R. Esman, October 16, 2017

For months now, Western counterterrorism experts have sounded the alarm: as ISIS loses ground, foreign fighters from America and Europe may try returning home. When they do, the experts cautioned, they will carry the terror threat with them, ready and willing to strike. Law enforcement needs to be prepared.

Now, with the fall of the Iraqi city of Harija, the Islamic State’s last major stronghold, and the impending collapse of its Syrian capital, Raqqa, the time has finally come. But is law enforcement prepared?

Not really.

An estimated 5,000 Europeans joined ISIS and other terrorist groups since fighting first broke out in Syria. While some surviving members may choose to remain in the region, or travel to other conflict areas like Afghanistan, a few thousand others are likely to try to make their way back home. In countries such as France, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands, most of them are at the border, where they will be taken into custody and ultimately tried for terror-related offenses.

But that covers only those who re-enter through legal means. Most will try clandestine paths. And porous borders make such under the radar re-entry disturbingly simple, as smuggling of refugees has already made abundantly clear.

An ongoing lack of coordination of intelligence and security agencies among European countries further enables terrorists to slip in unnoticed. That’s what happened with Mehdi Nemmouche, who shot and killed four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in 2014. Reda Kriket travelled twice to Syria before being arrested in March 2016 on suspicion of plotting “at least one” attack in France. And Brussels-Zaventem Airport bomber Ibraham El Bakraoui had been previously arrested by Turkish officials as he attempted to reach the Islamic State.

“Despite improvements since 9/11, foreign partners are still sharing information about terrorist suspects in a manner which is ad hoc, intermittent, and often incomplete,” a 2015 report of the Task Force in Combating Terrorist And Foreign Fighter Travel said.

In a typical example of European intelligence failures, though Dutch authorities learned of that arrest through the FBI weeks before the attacks, that information was never turned over to Belgium.

Such critical intelligence slips do not pose risks only to Europe. “The larger concern is that some European extremists might be able to make it to the United States undetected once they have left the battlefield,” state the report’s authors.

With visa-free entry into the U.S. for European citizens, such fears are not unfounded, and compound the threats posed by returning U.S. nationals.

Even so, some U.S. officials caution against over-reacting to the threat American returnees may cause. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper arguesthat most of the 40 Americans who have returned from the Islamic State did so for reasons “that don’t relate to plotting” – such as homesickness and family matters. Others, like analysts at the New America Foundation put a greater emphasis on the danger from jihadists who never actually left the U.S., but were radicalized locally or online.

But not everyone agrees.

“Whether or not returning fighters carry out attacks, they return with the prestige of warriors and credibility on the street,” a 2014 RAND report observed. “They are able to recruit other fighters to go to the Middle East and they can gather like-minded groups around them.” RAND political scientist and International Center for Counterterrorism fellow Colin Clarke agrees, writing in the Atlantic that some returnees, both in the U.S. and in Europe, may “attempt to resuscitate dormant networks, recruit new members, or conduct lone-wolf style attacks,” as some Europeans have already done.

Tackling the threat, U.S. and European officials agree, depends heavily on European authorities’ ability to improve their intelligence capabilities – a daunting task at a time when rising crime rates, concerns about existing terror threats, logistically complex bureaucratic systems, and international rivalries continue to draw on their reserves. Moreover, not all European states agree on the best way to handle returnees. While most are jailed and tried on terror charges, returnees to Denmark, for instance, are placed in rehab programs that offer schooling, job training, and housing, among other benefits – the hope being that they will rejoin society and reform.

Moreover, the EU Radicalisation Awareness Network put forth a series of recommendations in July for all member states. Countries should:

· Create “re-socialization” programs for detainees even pre-trial.

· Provide religious guidance through “trustworthy chaplains.”

· Employ mental health experts to work with those who may suffer PTSD or “disillusionment.”

· “[B]e aware that many returnees – even if not engaged in criminal behavior – may still strongly support ideologies opposing apostates, other religions, so-called infidels, women’s rights and even EU societies as such. Most have been subject to severe indoctrination. Consider dialogue, mentoring and other techniques for returnees with such strong beliefs.”

In part, this careful handling reflects the reluctance of countries like Denmark to treat returnees as criminals. But as RAND points out, it also comes as a result of difficulties in assessing “which returnees pose a terrorist threat and which do not.” These uncertainties could require monitoring all returnees for indefinite periods, raising civil rights questions as well as economic and other practical concerns.

Whether such careful handling will effectively thwart radicals remains to be seen. Meantime, U.S. officials are taking a different, more punitive approach. Sentences are longer – and can include the death penalty, which is banned in Europe. Moreover, EU laws can be vague regarding which potentially terror-related activities constitute a crime. By contrast, RAND says, American courts are better prepared for the challenges of convicting returnees, thanks in part to the fact that in the United States, “providing material support to a terrorist organization, which includes joining or attempting to join a terrorist group, is already a crime.”

But for both Europe and America, RAND suggests another alternative: encouraging returnees to cooperate with intelligence agencies in exchange for lighter sentences, thereby becoming valuable resources in the battle against jihadism in the homeland, helping to locate and convict other terrorists returning from abroad, especially those who have entered illegally. These are the hardest to find and pose the greatest danger.

But even without cooperation from within, there may be other strategies. Rand’s Colin Clarke calculates that approximately half of all Islamist terrorists involved in attacks in Europe had criminal pasts. In contrast, others put the figure closer to 22 percent. “Many foreign fighters began as criminals,” Clarke writes on Lawfare, “and many might turn to crime on their return.” Indeed, those seeking to finance attacks are likely to look to criminal activity – such as drug trafficking – to secure it.

Hence, he notes, “To root out returning foreign fighters, authorities should first look to the underworld from which the fighters originally emerged. Criminals inevitably return to what they know best.”

Clarke’s approach for Europe applies equally to America. Yet for all its practicality, the criminal element also points to an additional danger: as Canadian counterterrorism analyst Mubin Shaikh has noted, “prisons are a factory for radicalization. The jihadis themselves say prison is the university of jihad.” Should those trained in militant jihad find their way back into the criminal circuit, that situation could only worsen.

Ultimately, the problem of returning jihadists promises to be a complicated one across the West, likely for years to come. In the face of an unprecedented terror threat, we have no map to travel by. But in the words of Swiss author Ella Maillart, “the sooner we learn to be jointly responsible, the easier the sailing will be.”

The terrorist diaspora: After the fall of the caliphate

July 14, 2017

The terrorist diaspora: After the fall of the caliphate, Long War Journal, July 13, 2017

The cult of martyrdom has grown. A disturbingly large number of people are willing to kill themselves for the Islamic State’s cause. The number of suicide bombings claimed by the so-called caliphate dwarfs all other jihadist groups, including al Qaeda. In 2016, for instance, the Islamic State claimed 1,112 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq and Syria alone. Through the first six months of 2017, the organization claimed another 527 such bombings (nearly three-fourths of them using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs) in those two countries. These figures do not include suicide attacks in other nations where Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists are known to operate.

To put the Islamic State’s current “martyrdom operations” in perspective, consider data published by the Washington Post in 2008. According to the Post, there were just 54 suicide attacks in all of 2001, when al Qaeda’s “martyrs” launched the most devastating terrorist airline hijackings in history. The Islamic State currently eclipses that figure every month in Iraq and Syria, averaging 93 suicide bombings per month in 2016 and 88 per month so far in 2017. Many of these operations are carried out by foreign fighters.

[I]t is reasonable to conclude that the number of people willing to die for the sake of the so-called caliphate is disturbingly high – much higher than the number of willing martyrs in 2001 or even much more recently. Even though most of these people have been deployed in war zones, it is possible that more will be used outside of Iraq and Syria if they survive the fight and are able to travel to other countries. The Islamic State has already had some success in instigating would-be recruits to die for its cause in the West after they failed to emigrate to the lands of the caliphate. It is certainly possible that more will be sent into Europe or the U.S. in the future.

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[Editor’s Note: Below is Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee’s Task Force on Denying Terrorists Entry into the United States. The hearing is titled, “The Terrorist Diaspora: After the Fall of the Caliphate.” A version with footnotes will also be posted.]

Chairman Gallagher, Ranking Member Watson Coleman, and other distinguished Committee Members, thank you for inviting me to testify today concerning foreign fighters and the threat some of them pose to the U.S. and Europe.

The fall of Mosul and the likely fall of Raqqa won’t be the end of the Islamic State. The group has already reverted to its insurgent roots in some of the areas that have been lost. It also still controls some territory. The Islamic State will continue to function as a guerrilla army, despite suffering significant losses. In May, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) assessed that even though it was losing significant ground, the Islamic State “will likely have enough resources and fighters to sustain insurgency operations and plan terrorists [sic] attacks in the region and internationally” going forward. Unfortunately, I think ODNI’s assessment is accurate for a number of reasons, some of which I outline below. I also discuss some hypothetical scenarios, especially with respect to returning foreign fighters or other supporters already living in Europe or the U.S.

Recent history. The Islamic State’s predecessor quickly recovered from its losses during the American-led “surge,” capitalizing on the war in Syria and a politically poisonous environment in Iraq to rebound. Indeed, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s organization grew into an international phenomenon by the end of 2014, just three years after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq was completed. Baghdadi’s men did this while defying al Qaeda’s leaders and competing with rival jihadist groups. This recent history should give us pause any time we hear rhetoric that sounds too optimistic about the end of the Islamic State’s caliphate. The enterprise has had enough resources at its disposal to challenge multiple actors for more than three years. There is no question that the Islamic State’s finances, senior personnel, and other assets have been hit hard. But it is premature to say its losses amount to a deathblow.

Uncertainty regarding size of total membership. While it is no longer at the peak of its power, the Islamic State likely still has thousands of dedicated members. We don’t even really know how many members it has Iraq and Syria, let alone around the globe. Previous U.S. estimates almost certainly undercounted the group’s ranks. In September 2014, at the beginning of the US-led air campaign, the CIA reportedly estimated that the Islamic State could “muster” between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters. This figure was “more than three times the previous estimates,” CNN noted. By December 2016, the U.S. military was estimating that 50,000 Islamic State fighters had been killed. By February 2017, U.S. Special Operations command concluded that more than 60,000 jihadists had perished. Two months later, in April 2017, the Pentagon reportedly estimated that 70,000 Islamic State fighters had been killed.

Taken at face value, these figures (beginning with the September 2014 approximation) would suggest that Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s enterprise was able to replace its entire force structure more than two times over, while fighting multiple enemies on numerous fronts. This is, of course, highly unlikely. Even with its prolific recruiting campaign, it would be impossible for any cohesive fighting organization, let alone one under the sustained pressure faced by the Islamic State, to train, equip and deploy fighters this quickly. It is far more likely that the U.S. never had a good handle on how many jihadists are in its ranks and the casualty figures are guesstimates. The purpose of citing these figures is not to re-litigate the past, but instead to sound a cautionary alarm regarding the near-future: We likely do not even know how many members the Islamic State has in Iraq and Syria today.

The Islamic State is an international organization. Since November 2014, when Abu Bakr al Baghdadi first announced the establishment of “provinces” around the globe, the Islamic State’s membership grew outside of Iraq and Syria. This further complicates any effort to estimate its overall size. Some of these “provinces” were nothing more than small terror networks, while others evolved into capable insurgency organizations in their own right. The Libyan branch of the caliphate temporarily controlled the city of Sirte. Although the jihadists were ejected from their Mediterranean abode by the end of 2016, they still have some forces inside the country. Similarly, Wilayah Khorasan (or Khorasan province), which represents the “caliphate” in Afghanistan and Pakistan, seized upwards of ten districts in Afghanistan as of early 2016, but has since lost ground. More recently, jihadists in the Philippines seized much of Marawi, hoisting the Islamic State’s black banner over the city. Wilayah Sinai controls at least some turf, and is able launch spectacular attacks on security forces. It was responsible for downing a Russian airliner in October 2015. Other “provinces” exist in East Africa, West Africa, Yemen and elsewhere.

In May, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) reported that the so-called caliphate “is seeking to foster interconnectedness among its global branches and networks, align their efforts to ISIS’s strategy, and withstand counter-ISIS efforts.” Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, has said that Wilayah Khorasan went through an “application process” and the Islamic State mothership provided it with “advice,” “publicity,” and “some financial support.” Although it is impossible to judge the extent of the Islamic State’s cohesion, as much of the data is not available, there is at least some connectivity between the group’s leadership and its “provinces” elsewhere. This is best seen on the media side, as the organization is particularly adept at disseminating messages from around the globe in multiple languages, despite some recent hiccups in this regard.

While their fortunes may rise or fall at any given time, this global network of Islamic State “provinces” will remain a formidable problem for the foreseeable future. Not only are they capable of killing large numbers of people in the countries they operate in, this structure also makes tracking international terrorist travel more difficult. For instance, counterterrorism officials have tied plots in Europe to operatives in Libya. This indicates that some of the Islamic State’s “external plotters,” who are responsible for targeting the West, are not stationed in Iraq and Syria. The U.S.-led air campaign has disrupted the Islamic State’s “external operations” capacity by killing a number of jihadists in this wing of the organization. But others live.

The cult of martyrdom has grown. A disturbingly large number of people are willing to kill themselves for the Islamic State’s cause. The number of suicide bombings claimed by the so-called caliphate dwarfs all other jihadist groups, including al Qaeda. In 2016, for instance, the Islamic State claimed 1,112 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq and Syria alone. Through the first six months of 2017, the organization claimed another 527 such bombings (nearly three-fourths of them using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs) in those two countries. These figures do not include suicide attacks in other nations where Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists are known to operate.

To put the Islamic State’s current “martyrdom operations” in perspective, consider data published by the Washington Post in 2008. According to the Post, there were just 54 suicide attacks in all of 2001, when al Qaeda’s “martyrs” launched the most devastating terrorist airline hijackings in history. The Islamic State currently eclipses that figure every month in Iraq and Syria, averaging 93 suicide bombings per month in 2016 and 88 per month so far in 2017. Many of these operations are carried out by foreign fighters.

These suicide bombers have been mainly used to defend Islamic State positions, including the city of Mosul, which was one of the self-declared caliphate’s two capitals. For instance, half of the “martyrdom operations” carried out in Iraq and Syria this year (265 of the 527 claimed) took place in the Nineveh province, which is home to Mosul. The “martyrs” were dispatched with increasing frequency after the campaign to retake the city began in October 2016, with 501 claimed suicide bombings in and around Mosul between then and the end of June 2017.

Some caveats are in order. It is impossible to verify the Islamic State’s figures with any precision. The fog of war makes all reporting spotty and not every suicide bombing attempt is recorded in published accounts. Some of the claimed “martyrdom operations” likely failed to hit their targets, but were counted by the Islamic State as attacks anyway. The U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi forces have routinely taken out VBIEDs before drivers could reach their mark. Not all “martyrs” are truly willing recruits. For instance, the Islamic State’s figures include numerous children who were pressed into service by Baghdadi’s goons.

Still, even taking into account these caveats, it is reasonable to conclude that the number of people willing to die for the sake of the so-called caliphate is disturbingly high – much higher than the number of willing martyrs in 2001 or even much more recently. Even though most of these people have been deployed in war zones, it is possible that more will be used outside of Iraq and Syria if they survive the fight and are able to travel to other countries. The Islamic State has already had some success in instigating would-be recruits to die for its cause in the West after they failed to emigrate to the lands of the caliphate. It is certainly possible that more will be sent into Europe or the U.S. in the future.

Children used in suicide attacks, executions and other operations. The Islamic State has a robust program, named “Cubs of the Caliphate,” for indoctrinating children. It is one of the most disturbing aspects of the organization’s operations. Not only does the Islamic State’s propaganda frequently feature children attending classes, its videos have proudly displayed the jihadists’ use of children as executioners.

Earlier this month, for instance, the group’s Wilayah Jazirah disseminated a video entitled, “They Left Their Beds Empty.” Four children are shown beheading Islamic State captives. The same production is laced with footage of the terrorists responsible for the November 2015 Paris attacks, as well as other plots in Europe. Indeed, the children are made to reenact some of the same execution scenes that the Paris attackers carried out before being deployed. The Islamic State’s message is clear: A new generation of jihadists is being raised to replace those who have fallen, including those who have already struck inside Europe.

The “Cubs of the Caliphate” program is not confined to Iraq and Syria, but also operates in Afghanistan and elsewhere. This means that numerous children who have been indoctrinated in the Islamic State’s ways will pose a disturbing challenge for authorities going forward. As I noted above, some have already been used in “martyrdom operations” in Iraq and Syria. It is possible that others could be used in a similar fashion outside of the group’s battlefields, in Europe or the U.S. One purpose behind making children or adults commit heinous acts is to shock their conscience into thinking there is no way back, that they have crossed a threshold and there is no return. There are no easy answers for how to best deal with this problem.

Diversity of terrorist plots. There are legitimate concerns about the possibility of well-trained fighters leaving Iraq and Syria for the West now that the Islamic State is losing its grip on some of its most important locales. We saw the damage that a team of Islamic State operatives can do in November 2015, when multiple locations in Paris were assaulted. Trained operatives have had a hand in other plots as well. This concern was succinctly expressed by EUROPOL in a recent report. “The number of returnees is expected to rise, if IS [Islamic State], as seems likely, is defeated militarily or collapses. An increasing number of returnees will likely strengthen domestic jihadist movements and consequently magnify the threat they pose to the EU.” While a true military defeat will be elusive, the central point stated here has merit, even though the number of arrests of returnees across Europe has recently declined. According to EUROPOL, “[a]rrests for travelling to conflict zones for terrorist purposes…decreased: from 141 in 2015 to 77 in 2016.” And there was a similar “decrease in numbers of arrests of people returning from the conflict zones in Syria and Iraq: from 41 in 2015 to 22 in 2016.”

However, the overall number of arrests “related to jihadist terrorism” rose from 687 in 2015 to 718 in 2015, meaning that most of these terror-related arrests do not involve returnees.

Still, returnees and the logistical support networks that facilitate travel to Iraq and Syria were prominently represented in court cases tried by EUROPOL member states. “As evidenced in the past couple of years, the majority of the verdicts for jihadist terrorism concerned offences related to the conflict in Syria and Iraq,” EUROPOL reported in its statistical review for 2016. “They involved persons who had prepared to leave for or have returned from the conflict zone, as well as persons who have recruited, indoctrinated, financed or facilitated others to travel to Syria and/or Iraq to join the terrorist groups fighting there.” In addition, “[i]ndividuals and cells preparing attacks in Europe and beyond were also brought before courts.”

These data show that while the threat posed by returnees is real, it is just one part of the overall threat picture. The Islamic State has encouraged supporters in the West to lash out in their home countries instead of traveling abroad, directed plots via “remote-control” guides, and otherwise inspired individuals to act on their own. These tactics often don’t require professional terrorists to be dispatched from abroad. The Islamic State has also lowered the bar for what is considered a successful attack, amplifying concepts first espoused by others, especially al Qaeda. A crude knife or machete attack that kills few people is trumpeted as the work of an Islamic State “soldier” or “fighter.” On Bastille Day in Nice, France last year, an Islamic State supporter killed more than 80 people simply by running them over with a lorry. Other Islamic State supporters have utilized this simple technique, repeatedly advocated by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s propagandists, as well.

However, I would urge caution. While the amateurs or individual actors have become more lethal over time, the risk of professionally-trained jihadists carrying out a mass casualty attack remains distinct. On average, the professionals can still do more damage than their amateur counterparts – if they are not stopped beforehand. The threat to aviation demonstrates the point. In October 2015, the Islamic State’s Wilayah Sinai downed a Russian airliner, killing all 224 people on board. Although the jihadists claim to have used a crude improvised explosive device, the plot required that well-placed personnel implant it at an optimal location within the aircraft. U.S. officials are attempting to stop even more sophisticated devices, built by either the Islamic State or al Qaeda, from being placed on board flights bound for Europe or America. Other professionally-planned attacks could involve bombing commuter trains, Mumbai-style sieges, or multi-pronged assaults. Therefore, if the professionals are able to evade security measures, they could easily kill more people than the average amateur.

Counterterrorism services in Europe and the U.S. have stopped a number of professional plots through the years. Some of those foiled in the past year may have been more serious than realized at the time. However, there is a risk that as counterterrorism authorities deal with a large number of individual or amateur plots, the professional terrorists will be able to find another window of opportunity. The various threats posed by the Islamic State have placed great strains on our defenses.

The Islamic State could seek to exploit refugee flows once again. “The influx of refugees and migrants to Europe from existing and new conflict zones is expected to continue,” EUROPOL reported in its review of 2016. The Islamic State “has already exploited the flow of refugees and migrants to send individuals to Europe to commit acts of terrorism, which became evident in the 2015 Paris attacks.” The so-called caliphate and “possibly other jihadist terrorist organizations may continue to do so.” While the overwhelming majority of migrants are seeking to better their lives, some will continue to pose a terrorist threat. European nations are dealing with this, in part, by deploying more “investigators” to “migration hotspots in Greece and soon also to Italy.” These “guest officers” will rotate “at key points on the external borders of the EU to strengthen security checks on the inward flows of migrants, in order to identify suspected terrorists and criminals, establishing a second line of defense.”

This makes it imperative that U.S. authorities share intelligence with their European counterparts and receive information in return to better track potential threats. The U.S. has led efforts to disrupt the Islamic State’s “external attack” arm and probably has the best intelligence available on its activities. But European nations have vital intelligence as well, and only by combining data can officials get a better sense of the overall picture. Recent setbacks with respect to this intelligence sharing, after details of British investigations were leaked in the American press, are troubling. But we can hope that these relationships have been repaired, or will be soon.

It should be noted that would-be jihadists who are already citizens of European countries could have an easier route into the U.S. than migrants fleeing the battlefields. It is much easier for a British citizen to get on a plane headed for the U.S. than for an Islamic State operative posing as a Syrian refugee to enter the U.S. clandestinely through Europe. Given recent events in the UK, and the overall scale of the jihadist threat inside Britain, this makes intelligence sharing on potential terrorists all the more crucial. British officials have said that they are investigating 500 possible plots involving 3,000 people on the “top list” of suspects at any given time. In addition, 20,000 people have been on the counterterrorism radar for one reason or another and are still considered potentially problematic.

Exporting terror know-how. It is possible that more of the Islamic State’s terrorist inventions will be exported from abroad into Europe or the U.S. As the self-declared caliphate sought to defend its lands, it devised all sorts of new means for waging war. It modified drones with small explosives and built its own small arms, rockets, bombs and the like. Al Qaeda first started to publish ideas for backpack bombs and other IEDs in its online manuals. The Islamic State has done this as well, but we shouldn’t be surprised if some of its other inventions migrate out of the war zones. The group could do this by publishing technical details in its propaganda, or in-person, with experienced operatives carrying this knowledge with them.

Returning ISIS fighters given ‘protected identities’

June 28, 2017

Returning ISIS fighters given ‘protected identities’, Israel National News, Mordechai Jones, June 28, 2017

Artist’s conception of Swedish Muslim policyiStock

Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke has suggested that Swedes who left to fight for radical Islamist groups in the Middle East should be welcomed back and helped to integrate into society.

The minister added she and the government had no idea how many of the returnees were still radicalised versus how many left because they had become disillusioned with Islamist beliefs.

Pamela Geller comments, “This is the very definition of civilizational suicide. These ISIS fighters are part of a group that has vowed to destroy Europe. They should never have been allowed back, and if they had to be, then they should have been immediately jailed. Instead, they’re protected. Madness.”

Last week, another damning report showed the Swedish government had still been paying many Islamists through the generous Swedish welfare system whilst they were fighting in Iraq and Syria, reported Breitbart.

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Hundreds of Swedish residents who went to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have now returned to Europe and the Swedish government has given several of them “protected identities” to keep locals from finding out who they are, reported Breitbart.

The vast majority of the returning jihadist fighters keep a very low profile upon returning to Sweden as many have committed terrorist offences while in the Middle East. 27-year-old Walad Ali Yousef is one returnee that the government has given a special status protecting his identity, normally given to people under serious threat, Swedish Expressen reports. The magazine claims to have tracked 150 such ISIS terrorists who have quietly returned to Sweden.

Yousef, originally from the heavily migrant-populated city of Malmo, spoke to the newspaper complaining he had difficulty finding a job. “I am looking for many jobs but can not get one because my pictures are out there,” he said.

Yousef joined the Islamic State in 2014, travelling to the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria. Formerly a small-time criminal, Yousef sent pictures of himself in Syria posing with Kalashnikov rifles to encourage his friends in Sweden to join the terror group.

39-year-old Bherlin Dequilla Gildo, also from Malmo, is now back in Sweden living under an entirely new identity. In 2012 he posted images of himself posing with dead bodies who he called “Assad’s dogs”, and participated directly in killings of Syrian regime soldiers.

The remaining 100 or so Swedes still in the Middle East fighting for the Islamic state are assumed to be the most radical. Some fear that as Kurdish troops push further into Raqqa, those Swedes will attempt to return home.

Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke has suggested that Swedes who left to fight for radical Islamist groups in the Middle East should be welcomed back and helped to integrate into society.

Ms. Kuhnke made the comments Sunday evening on the television program Agenda which is transmitted by the Swedish state broadcaster SVT, Breitbart reported. The program focused on the fact that some 300 Islamic radicals from Sweden had gone to the Middle East to fight for groups like Islamic State and around half of them had returned to Sweden.

“They need to be channeled back into our democratic society,” Kuhnke said. The minister added she and the government had no idea how many of the returnees were still radicalised versus how many left because they had become disillusioned with Islamist beliefs.

Terror expert Magnus Ranstorp said, “the really dangerous ones have not come back yet,” and added, “The vast majority may not do anything, but they are still a danger to the authorities and it must be managed. It is important for the police to be able to prioritise this area so that they do not become dangerous to society.”

While several of those returning are free, many others like Sultan Al-Amin, 31, and Hassan Al-Mandlawi, 33, have been sentenced to life in prison for their crimes committed in the city of Aleppo.

Swedish authorities have been heavily criticized for welcoming Islamic State fighters returning from the Middle East and claiming to be able to integrate them back into Swedish society.

Pamela Geller comments, “This is the very definition of civilizational suicide. These ISIS fighters are part of a group that has vowed to destroy Europe. They should never have been allowed back, and if they had to be, then they should have been immediately jailed. Instead, they’re protected. Madness.”

The Swedish attitude toward returning jihadists is seen as cowardly by many, as several municipalities have gone above and beyond to cater to returning fighters. In the medieval city of Lund, the government is considering a range of measures including debt forgiveness, driving lessons, and free housing in the name of integrating returning extremists.

Last week, another damning report showed the Swedish government had still been paying many Islamists through the generous Swedish welfare system whilst they were fighting in Iraq and Syria, reported Breitbart.

One Year After Paris, What The West Still Needs To Learn About Islamic Terror

November 25, 2016

One Year After Paris, What The West Still Needs To Learn About Islamic Terror, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Abigail R. Esman

(Please see also, Europe: Let’s Self-destruct! — DM)

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In fact, many European counter-terrorism experts expect that savagery to worsen as growing numbers of European Muslims now living in the so-called “Islamic State” start making their way back home. Many are disillusioned by what they found there. But their hatred of the West is as deep as it was when they first left, if not deeper – and now they are trained in warfare. Meanwhile, the potential collapse of the Caliphate is likely to add to their fury and desire to take revenge on Western targets.

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On Nov. 13, one year after Islamist terrorists killed 130 people and injured 368 others in a series of attacks across Paris, music legend Sting performed at the city’s Bataclan theater. It was at this popular haunt that three gunmen opened fire during an Eagles of Death Metal concert that fateful night.  Sting’s appearance, which coincided with the theater’s reopening, was meant not only to memorialize the 90 lives lost there, but to mark a new beginning, a return to life.

Yet just six days later, in the hours between Nov. 19-20, police across France apprehended seven men said to be plotting yet another attack. The suspects, said to be French, Moroccan, and Afghan, may be connected to others arrested just prior to the European Cup games in June. Their capture brings to 418 the number of terror-related arrests made so far this year, 43 of them in November alone.

France has suffered a disproportionate and disturbing number of terror attacks in the past two years, from the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket massacres in January 2015, to the November Paris attacks and the 87 killed while enjoying Bastille Day festivities in Nice on July 14. There also have been smaller attacks, including when militants in Normandy forced 85-year-old priest Jacques Hamel to kneel before slitting his throat in front of his parishioners in July.

But with over 400 would-be terrorists off the streets, is France at least safer than it was a year ago?

In many ways, yes. It would have to be. Along with those arrests, French authorities have seized 600 firearms and closed down dozens of illegal Muslim prayer halls, Europe1 reported. Soldiers patrol Paris’ streets and transportation centers, and an ongoing state of emergency has allowed the government to increase its levels of surveillance.

But few experts feel that this is really ameliorating the threat. After all, those expanded surveillance regulations were in effect when Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhel plowed his truck through the crowds along the Nice Promenade.

The fact is, the number of arrests is dwarfed by the numbers on the other side of the fight. Somewhere between 900 and 1,500 French citizens are believed to have joined ISIS, according to International Centre for Counterterrorism reports.  In September, Prime Minister Manuel Valls noted that, while plots are being foiled “every day,” 15,000 French Muslim youth are still radicalizing.  Consequently, France’s national police spokesman Christophe Crépin  told Time, “We have the means now, but it is not sure that [there] won’t be further attacks. There is a savagery that is very, very strong now.”

In fact, many European counter-terrorism experts expect that savagery to worsen as growing numbers of European Muslims now living in the so-called “Islamic State” start making their way back home. Many are disillusioned by what they found there. But their hatred of the West is as deep as it was when they first left, if not deeper – and now they are trained in warfare. Meanwhile, the potential collapse of the Caliphate is likely to add to their fury and desire to take revenge on Western targets.

What this means is that Europe – and especially France – can expect the return of several hundred trained jihadists, all part of a wider international network. Some will be arrested at the borders. But others will slip in, unnoticed as security agencies already are overtaxed.

Moreover, France also must rely on the counterterrorism measures and border protection of its neighbors, especially Belgium, which was home to many of the Nov 13 attackers. Yet Belgium is still stumbling in its own counter-terrorism efforts, despite two attacks there this year.

Meantime, there are those 15,000 out there already radicalizing within France, many of whom spend time communicating on social media with soldiers still living in the Caliphate. European intelligence officials agree that as ISIS loses ground at home, it is increasing its call to radicalized Muslims still living in the West to execute attacks in their own cities and towns.

In the face of this, France is now putting much of its hope into controversial de-radicalization programs, aiming to enroll 3,600 Muslim youth in such systems in two years, according to a France Local report.

But even if such programs work – and it isn’t yet clear they do, they remain part of an ongoing game of cat-and-mouse, unsustainable over the long-term. Should the Islamic State fall, other groups will inevitably rise up in its place. The ideologies that drive radical Islam have endured for centuries. And the revolutionary methods adopted by ISIS leaders, particularly with social media, continue to pose challenges to the West.

All of which suggests that France24 journalist Wassim Nasr, speaking to the Huffington Post, had it right when he observed, “There is much to be done; it’s a long run.”

What is clear is that if the West – and France especially – is going to protect itself from Islamic jihad in the future, it will have to find new ways to approach its Muslim youth before they radicalize, not after.

But so far, no one seems even to be trying.

Europe: Let’s Self-destruct!

November 25, 2016

Europe: Let’s Self-destruct!, Gatestone InstituteJudith Bergman, November 25, 2016

A reasonable question that many Europeans might ask would be whether it is not perhaps time to review priorities?

Perhaps the time has come to look at whether it remains worth it, in terms of the potential loss of human life, to remain party to the 1961 Convention, which would prohibit a country from stripping a returning ISIS fighter of his citizenship in order to prevent him from entering the country?

The terrorist as poor, traumatized victim who needs help seems to be a recurring theme among European politicians. But what about the rights of the poor, traumatized citizens who elected these politicians?

 

Roughly 30,000 foreign and European Islamic State fighters from around 100 different countries, who have gone to Syria, Iraq and Libya, could spread across the continent once the terror group is crushed in its Iraqi stronghold, warned Karin von Hippel, director-general of the UK military think tank, Royal United Services Institute, speaking to the Express on October 26:

“I think once they lose territory in Iraq and Syria and probably Libya… they will likely go back to a more insurgent style operation versus a terrorist group that wants to try and hold onto territory… There has been about 30,000 foreign fighters that have gone in from about 100 countries to join. Not all of them have joined ISIS, some have joined al-Qaeda, Kurds, and other groups, but the vast majority have gone to join ISIS. These people will disperse. Some of them have already been captured or killed but many will disperse and they’ll go to European countries…They may not go back to where they came from and that is definitely keeping security forces up at night in many, many countries”.

Perhaps these scenarios are really keeping security forces up at night in many countries. Judging by the continued influx of predominantly young, male migrants of fighting age into Europe, however, one might be excused for thinking that European politicians themselves are not losing any sleep over potential new terrorist attacks.

According to a report by Radio Sweden, for example:

“Around 140 Swedes have so far returned after having joined the violent groups in Syria and Iraq. Now several municipalities are preparing to work with those who want to defect. This could include offering practical support to defectors.”

The municipality of Lund has dealt with this issue, and Malmö, Borlänge and Örebro have similar views. As Radio Sweden reports:

“Lund’s conclusion is that defectors from violent extremist groups should be handled like defectors from other environments, such as organized crime. After an investigation of the person’s needs, the municipality can help with housing, employment or livelihood.”

According to Sweden’s “national coordinator against violent extremism,” Christoffer Carlsson:

“…You need to be able to reintegrate into the job market, you may need a driver’s license, debt settlement and shelter. When people leave, they want to leave for something else, but they do not have the resources for it, so it is difficult for them to realize their plan. If they do not receive support, the risk is great that they will be unable to leave the extremist environment, but instead fall back into it.”

Anna Sjöstrand, Lund’s municipal coordinator against violent extremism, says that people who have served their penalty should all have support. Last year, the Municipality of Örebro received criticism for offering an internship to a young man who returned after having been in Syria.

“There may be such criticism, but for me it is difficult to think along those lines. They get the same help as others who seek help from us. We cannot say that because you made a wrong choice, you have no right to come back and live in our society,” says Anna Sjöstrand.

According to Sweden Radio, several of the municipalities stress that people who commit crimes should be sentenced and serve their penalties before they can receive support. According to Amir Rostami, who works with the national coordinator against violent extremism:

“If you are suspected of a crime, the investigation of the crime always comes first. But as long as there is no suspicion of a crime, then it is in our own interest to help those that come out of this extremist environment. The consequences for society are quite large if you do not.”

So, in Sjöstrand’s words, travelling to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, a bestial Islamic terrorist organization with its sexual enslavement of women and children, rapes, brutal murders of Christians, Yazidis, and other Muslims is just “a wrong choice.” You know, similar to embezzling money or getting into a drunken brawl at a bar, just ordinary garden-variety crime, which should not intervene with your “right to come back and live in our society”. In other words, it seems to support the standard European idea that the terrorist is the victim, not the innocent people he is out to maim, rape, and kill.

According to the Swedish view, burning Christians and Yazidis alive, gang-raping and murdering women and children, and other such “wrong choices” should not get into the way of one’s “rights.” It also seems to ignore the rights of members of the peaceful society who are vulnerable to being attacked. It would be logical to posit that traveling for the express purpose of joining a terrorist organization such as ISIS, which has as its explicit goal the destruction of Western nations such as Sweden, should actually lead to the forfeiture of the “right to come back and live in our society” — especially as those former ISIS fighters evidently do not consider Swedish society “their society.”

Another word that comes to mind is treason. But not for Sweden, such logical moral and political choices. Better to have another go at politically correct policies, doomed to failure, at the expense of the security (and taxpayer money) of law-abiding Swedish citizens, whose rights to live without fear of violent assault, rape and terrorism clearly ceased to matter to Swedish authorities a long time ago.

This hapless attitude towards ISIS increasingly resembles criminal negligence on the part of Swedish authorities. It was recently reported that Swedish police received a complaint of incitement to racial hatred, after an unnamed Syrian-born 23-year-old used a picture of the ISIS flag as a profile picture on social media. Prosecutor Gisela Sjövall decided not to pursue legal action against the man. The reason, according to Sjövall?

“IS expresses every kind of disrespect; it is against everyone except those who belong to IS itself. There is the dilemma, it [offends] too big a group… You could say that merely waving a flag of IS in the current situation cannot be considered hate speech. It is not an expression of disrespect towards any [particular] ethnic group. It has been said there could possibly be some form of incitement, that IS urges others to commit criminal acts such as murder, but that is not the case.”

Since ISIS hates absolutely everybody, according to Swedish law they can apparently engage in as much hate speech as their hearts desire. The terrorists, who are vying for a world-dominating caliphate, must be laughing their heads off.

Sjövall added that because the Nazi swastika is intrinsically linked to inciting anti-Semitism, this contravenes Swedish laws, and that maybe the ISIS flag would be considered as contravening Swedish law in 10 years.

At the rate that Swedish society is self-destructing, there may not even be much of Sweden to speak of 10 years from now.

1752On June 7, 2016, it was reported that British citizen Grace “Khadija” Dare had brought her 4-year-old son, Isa Dare, to live in Sweden, in order to benefit from free health care. In February, the boy was featured in an ISIS video, blowing up four prisoners in a car (pictured above). The boy’s father, a jihadist with Swedish citizenship, was killed fighting for ISIS.

In neighboring Denmark, in March 2015, a Danish MP for the Social Democrats, Trine Bramsen, said about returning ISIS fighters:

“Some constitute a danger or can become dangerous. Others need help. We have actually seen that many of those who come home have experienced such horrors that they need psychological help”.

The terrorist as poor, traumatized victim who needs help seems to be a recurring theme among European politicians. But what about the rights of the poor, traumatized citizens who elected these politicians?

Denmark happens to be the European country with the most ISIS fighters returning from Syria, according to a report released in April by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague. The report shows that 50% of the people who left Denmark to fight with ISIS in Syria have returned to Denmark. The UK is second, with 48%, and then come Germany (33%), Sweden (29%), France (27%), and Austria (26%).

In Denmark, four Syrian ISIS fighters were arrested in April when they returned from Syria.

The head of the Strategic Institute of the Defense Academy in Denmark, Anja Dalgaard-Nielsen, told a Danish newspaper in April that there are not enough resources to monitor all returning ISIS fighters and thereby ensure their arrest, adding:

“But then again, not all [ISIS fighters] are identical. Some will come home and be a threat to society, whereas others will return disillusioned. If we treat everyone in the same manner, we risk pushing some of those who are in doubt even further in. If someone returns and it cannot be proven that he has committed crimes and if he, besides that, is disillusioned, then he should get help to get out.”

How do you determine with certainty that someone is “disillusioned,” when he could in fact be a ticking bomb waiting to commit terror?

In Denmark, the authorities decided on a prohibition to travel to Syria to join ISIS. That, however, does not solve the problem of what to do with the returning ISIS fighters. It also does not do much to prevent those potential ISIS fighters who have been frustrated in their efforts to join ISIS, from unleashing their terror on European soil instead — as ISIS has in fact commanded them to do.

Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, have considered revoking the citizenship of returning ISIS fighters, thereby preventing them from returning. This is certainly feasible in those cases where the person in question has dual citizenship. Political obstacles aside, however, one of the main legal obstacles to countries taking this path is the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which prohibits governments from revoking a person’s nationality if it leaves them stateless.

A reasonable question that many Europeans might ask would be whether it is not perhaps time to review priorities? Perhaps the time has come to look at whether it remains worth it, in terms of the potential loss of human life, to remain party to the 1961 Convention, which would prohibit a country from stripping a returning ISIS fighter of his citizenship in order to prevent him from entering the country?

Presumably, the European people care more about staying alive than the intricacies of international law. When will European leaders mobilize the political will to act?