Undercover stings can help combat Syrian threat

2014-07-08 20:42
(File, AP Photo)

(File, AP Photo)

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Washington - US Attorney General Eric Holder urged countries in Europe and elsewhere on Tuesday to do more to keep their own citizens from travelling to Syria to fight, saying the world cannot allow Syria to become a training ground for extremists to return and launch attacks.

In a speech in Norway, Holder said other countries could learn from US efforts to conduct undercover sting operations and use laws against preparing to commit attacks, tactics he said have helped confront the threat in the US.

Speaking at the US ambassador's residence in Oslo, Holder also urged Europeans to share information about travellers to Syria with the US, which does not require visas for travellers from European Union countries.

"We have a mutual and compelling interest in developing shared strategies for confronting the influx of US and European-born violent extremists into Syria," Holder said, according to prepared remarks.

Investigating US citizens

The suggestions come as Islamic State militants have taken control of most of eastern Syria and built on the momentum of their advance through Sunni Muslim provinces of neighbouring Iraq.

US intelligence agencies estimate around 7 000 of the 23 000 violent extremists operating in Syria are foreign fighters, including dozens of Americans, Holder said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Holder told reporters that federal prosecutors had opened fewer than 100 investigations into American citizens who may have travelled to Syria or Iraq to fight.

A Denver woman accused of trying to fly to Syria to support insurgents there was arrested last week, and two men in central Texas were arrested on similar charges last month.

One of the Texas men was charged with "attempting to provide material support to terrorists," a law that Holder urged other countries to copy as vital to counter-terrorism efforts.

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