Russian strikes may drive fighters back to EU

2015-10-19 18:07


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Brussels (dpa) - Russia's airstrikes in Syria may lead European foreign fighters to leave the Middle Eastern country and return home, the European Union's top anti-terrorism official warned on Monday.

Europeans who go to fight alongside extremist groups in Syria or Iraq and return radicalised have long been a concern. They played a role this year in terrorist killings in Paris and a foiled terrorist plot to attack police officers in Belgium.

"We now have more than 5 000 Europeans in Syria and Iraq," EU counterterrorism co-ordinator Gilles de Kerchove said at a Brussels conference on the response to radicalisation.

"My fear is to see a massive return.

"We now have a Russian military intervention...airstrikes - we may see some massive return coming sooner than expected," he said.

More Europeans may be preparing to leave to Syria too.

Austrian Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstetter said at the conference that his prosecutors have seen a new phenomenon: Austrians of Chechen origin or Chechen asylum seekers in Austria who now want to go and fight Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - and thus indirectly one of his main allies, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia has struggled with a militant Islamist insurgency in Chechnya for decades.

The conference focused on how the EU can prevent radicalisation, notably in its prisons.

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira said that based on data collected by her country, there is a 15% risk of prisoners getting radicalised.

The bloc's executive has also been working with internet providers on how to curb online radicalisation.

Read more on:    belgium  |  russia  |  syria

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