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EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Says Many ISIS Militants Back From Conflict Zones

EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Says Many ISIS Militants Back From Conflict Zones

Saturday, 14 September, 2019 - 10:15
EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles De Kerchove (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Many ISIS members have actually returned to Europe, said EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles De Kerchove.


He added that some have been killed in fighting areas and others’ fate is unknown as they might have gone to Libya or Afghanistan.


In his statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, De Kerchove warned of ISIS activities elsewhere, following their defeat in Syria and Iraq, with the continued activity of their leaders there so far.


The European official pointed to the terrorist group’s activities in other parts of the world.


His remarks were made on the sidelines of launching the first European anti-terrorism judicial record under the supervision of the European Justice Agency (Eurojust).


Responding to a question on the importance of this judicial record, De Kerchove said it aims at linking parts of the case together in order to have access to its details.


Intelligence and security agencies exchange information and this is what we need to do for judicial information, he explained.


Such record allows concerned parties to know about the ongoing trials and verdicts, which facilitates linking figures and organizations and finding the relationship between terrorism and organized crime, he further noted.


Regarding the return of European foreign fighters from conflict zones, he said “there is no unified decision on the European fighters detained in Syria and Iraq.”


“European countries want to pursue their cases, and we are working to collect information that allows their prosecution.”


“We are also considering the possibility of their return, but, so far, there is no final decision at the level of the European Union on dealing with the European ISIS militants,” he stressed.


De Kerchove pointed out that this case also has a humanitarian dimension, which is represented in ISIS militants’ widows and children and the difficult circumstances in which they live within camps opened to receive them.


Regarding the possibility of prosecuting European fighters, he said: “we can help, and we will have a role.”


“We have shown willingness to cooperate, and we have already made several contacts,” the EU official said.


“It is important that in case these people returned, we have a judicial record including all the information about them.”


Concerning fears of ISIS re-emergence in another country after its defeat in the border area between Syria and Iraq, he said ISIS already still exists through its influence on people in different parts of the world.


He gave as an example the attack targeting a church in Sri Lanka, which killed a great number of civilians.


“ISIS leaders are still active in several areas in Syria and Iraq and are developing terrorist schemes. So, it is not easy for anyone to say that ISIS is over.”


It is noteworthy that a number of European capitals, including Brussels, The Hague, London, Paris, and others, have been facing great controversy for some time now on the issue of the return of ISIS militants’ widows and children.


This controversy began to intensify after US President Donald Trump had called on European countries to receive 800 foreign fighters holding European nationality and were detained in Kurdish-controlled camps in northeastern Syria.


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