‘Vanished’ ISIS Killers Threaten Europe

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‘Vanished’ ISIS Killers Threaten Europe

Hundreds of ISIS killers have gone to ground in Britain and other EU countries. The authorities often have no idea where they are, even though counter-terror experts are warning that they pose a deadly danger to the people of their host countries. 

Swedish Television surveyed officials in the five Swedish municipalities — Gothenburg, Stockholm, Örebro, Malmö and Borås — that are home to most of the 150 IS returnees and found that those municipalities combined only have knowledge of the whereabouts of a maximum of 16 adults and 10 children. “The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial… The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them…” — U.S. President Donald Trump, Twitter, February 16, 2019.

The Wall Street Journal, in a recent editorial, “The West’s Foreign Fighter Problem,” noted that European governments face a “Catch-22” situation: either repatriate and prosecute their jihadis, or risk that they disappear off the radar and carry out new attacks in Europe.

“[I]t is particularly worrying that the [German] federal government appears to have taken no further measures to prevent the uncontrolled re-entry of underground IS [Islamic State] fighters,” says Linda Teuteberg, Secretary General of Germany’s Free Democratic Party. She added that the government “still has no concept for dealing with former IS fighters from Germany,” including “Germans detained in the war zone as well as the more than 200 former IS supporters who are now back in Germany.” (Image source: Olaf Kosinsky / CC BY-SA 3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons)

The German government has lost track of scores of Germans who travelled to Iraq and Syria in recent years to join the Islamic State (IS). The revelation comes amid growing fears that some of these fighters are returning to Germany undetected by authorities.

The German Interior Ministry, in response to a question from the Secretary General of the classical liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), Linda Teuteberg, revealed that German authorities lack information on the whereabouts of at least 160 Germans who left to fight with the IS, according to Welt am Sonntag. The ministry said that while some had probably been killed in combat, others have gone into hiding and may be trying to resettle in Germany.

“In view of the very fragmented protection of the EU’s external borders, it is particularly worrying that the federal government appears to have taken no further measures to prevent the uncontrolled re-entry of underground IS fighters,” Teuteberg told Welt am Sonntag. She added that the government “still has no concept” for dealing with former IS fighters from Germany, including “Germans detained in the war zone as well as the more than 200 former IS supporters who are now back in Germany.”

Teuteberg said that the Interior Ministry should come up with a plan for how to deal with IS returnees and how to hold them accountable, by, for example, strengthening the legal capacity to investigate and prosecute war crimes abroad.

Of the estimated 1,050 Germans who travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight in recent years, approximately one-third (350) have returned to Germany. Another 220 are believed to have been killed on the battlefield. According to government sources cited by the German television program Tagesschau, approximately 120 are being detained in Iraq and Syria. In addition, at least 138 children of German IS fighters are being held Iraq and Syria. The whereabouts of the others are unknown.

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