Fears emerge across Europe and the Blakan countries as around 30 percent of European foreign fighters who had joined the lines of the so-called Islamic State have returned to the continent and seem to come back home to roost.
According to a newly published report, the U.S. Department of State annual country report on terrorism revealed the information, saying that experts have sounded alarm that some of the returning foreign fighters will pursue domestic terror plots in their home countries, or even use their passports to travel elsewhere in the West.
However, the State Department noted that “the overall number of departed foreign terrorist fighters originating from Western European and Balkan countries declined significantly in 2016 from the previous year.”
Even though there is no exact information on the number of European fighters who traveled to fight for the extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, but it has been estimated that their numbers range in the thousands.
The Soufan Group (TSG), a US based security intelligence advisory firm, estimated that approximately 5,000 Western European fighters traveled to Iraq and Syria to join Daesh or notorious ISIS in 2015 alone. The firm also noted that 4,700 fighters were estimated to come from the former Soviet republics.
In April 2016, the Europe based International Center for Counter-Terrorism noted that, while some foreign fighters returning to Europe may be disillusioned with the terrorist group, “others may return with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks, with reports suggesting that the extremist Wahhabi groups may systematically export terror cells to Europe.”
The November 2015 Paris attacks and the March 2016 Brussels attacks both featured fighters that had traveled to the Syrian battlefield for instruction and returned to carry out terror acts.
Europe is particularly vulnerable to foreign fighter plots because of the freedom of movement within the EU for member state citizens. Also, since the terrorist groups started losing the battles in Syria and Iraq, the pattern of its recent terrorist attacks in Europe suggests that it has already adopted new tactics to attack the West.