Hundreds of Islamic State fighters may seek a return to Europe following the campaign to retake Mosul from the terror group.
An estimated 2,500 ISIS fighters from European Union countries remain on the battlefields in Syria and Iraq. If the operation to recapture Mosul — ISIS’s last major stronghold in Iraq — is successful, foreign fighters may attempt to return to their home countries.
“The Mosul attack may inspire radical people to act or eventually return more fighters to Europe,” a U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal.
Julian King, the EU commissioner for the Security Union, said Europe must boost its border defense and “increase our resilience to the threat of terrorism.”
“This is a very serious threat that we have to be prepared [for],” King said in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt.
King added that a “mass exodus of ISIS fighters to Europe” is unlikely at the moment.
Turkey has already taken steps to stop foreign fighters from entering the country on their way north. Mehmet Fatih Ceylan, Turkey’s ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said the country is taking “all the necessary measures” to keep them out.
“Foreign fighters are … a big threat to Turkey, we ourselves have suffered tremendously by terrorist acts perpetrated by them,” Ceylan told WSJ. “We will take all the necessary measures to keep them at bay.”
Europol Director Rob Wainwright has previously warned that the return of jihadis will become a “long, long struggle” for European countries.
“That’s going to be a long, long struggle for us to deal with the numbers involved and how we can get them back into society, plus sort out which among them pose the biggest security threat,” Wainwright told the Evening Standard in an August interview.
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