Germany says more than a hundred militants, who had been fighting in Iraq and Syria, have now returned to the country, but among them only dozens are being investigated for possible terror links.
German Interior Ministry said in a statement on Friday that they know of 124 people, who were part of at least 249 people who had traveled from Germany to Iraq and Syria. Twenty-one of them were killed, Press TV reported
The Foreign Ministry released the information in response to the Left Party, which has criticized investigating the returning militants, whom it claims had voluntarily been supporting Syria-based Kurdish militants in northern Syria.
One of the party politicians Ulla Jelpke, has recently denounced questioning the militants as “grotesque".
She was referring to the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is considered by Turkey as the Syrian branch of the PKK militant group that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.
Extremists from across Europe joined ISIS in droves in 2014, when the Takfiri terror group launched its campaign of bloodshed and destruction in Iraq and Syria.
Back then, many European leaders ignored repeated warnings that militants could return home one day and that they would be a security challenge for years to come across the continent.
Earlier this month, Russia warned that ISIS was expanding its presence in the Syrian regions controlled by Washington and its allied Kurdish militants, revealing that the Takfiri terror outfit has managed to take hundreds of people hostage in those areas.
According to EU's Counter-terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, from some 5,000 Europeans who joined Daesh, hundreds have returned to their home nations across the continent this year.
Europol's annual EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT) also warned earlier this year that a particularly strong security threat is posed by militants, who have received military training in the use of weapons and explosives, or have gained combat experience during their stay in Iraq and Syria.
A report entitled the United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering Terrorism, said Last year’s horrific attacks on London and Manchester served as a stark reminder of the continued threat that terrorism poses, both to our people and to our way of life.
Whether inspired by Islamist extremism, the far right, or the situation in Northern Ireland, the overarching goal of individual terrorists and the groups that support them is the same – to inflict harm, to inspire fear and, in so doing, look to undermine the very fabric of our society, the report added.
The report, published in June, further added that terrorists cannot and will not be allowed to succeed.
“Following the Government’s publication of its last Counter Terrorism Strategy in 2011, we have taken comprehensive action to address risks both in the UK and abroad. With its help, the police and security services have foiled 25 Islamist plots since June 2013, and four extreme right wing terror plots in the past year alone.
“For all its successes, in the years since the Strategy was implemented the threat we face from terrorism has not stood still. The war in Syria, which was in its infancy when the last Strategy was published, has created both a haven and a training ground for British and foreign terrorists. UK citizens have been targeted in attacks overseas, for example in Sousse in 2015.”
Even the nature of attacks has changed, with vehicles increasingly used as weapons with which to kill and maim innocent people, according to the report.
The report further warned that the existence of a broadly consistent set of ideas and narratives is an important factor in motivating terrorist groups of all kinds, including ISIS, Al Qa’ida and extreme right-wing organizations.
“Their propaganda also inspires individuals who maintain no formal affiliation with a particular group. Although individuals may also be attracted to terrorist groups for social, cultural, material, psychological and other reasons, ideology remains a strong driver,” the report said.
The attacks across Europe since 2015 and the series of attacks in the UK in 2017 have used highly accessible, simple methodologies. These may have inspired and mobilised some who had believed previously that an attack would be beyond their capabilities or resources.
The first mass casualty attack using a vehicle as a weapon in Europe took place in July 2016 in Nice, France, killing 86 people and injuring more than 200. Since then, further significant vehicle attacks have also been carried out in the UK, Germany, Sweden, Spain and France.
Vehicle or bladed weapon attacks (including a combination of the two) remain the most likely methods for attacks in the UK.