The challenge of returning foreign fighters affects the whole of Europe. France adopted a clear-cut unofficial policy of outsourcing, asking Iraq to prosecute French fighters to keep them away from Europe. In fact, the issue of returnees cannot be swept under the carpet and needs a proper strategy that combines prosecution and de-radicalization.
“Would you like some nice ISIS fighters?”, US president Donald Trump asked French president Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the NATO leaders meeting in London this month. “I can give them to you”. Macron didn´t think it was funny. “Come on, let’s be serious”, he replied. The awkward exchange between the two leaders was emblematic of the wider question at hand; should countries take back their foreign terrorist fighters? And if so, what would that mean for their national security?
For a few years, the return of experienced jihadi fighters from the Levant was perceived as the main threat to Belgium. With hindsight, the 2016 Brussels attacks were the last operation prepared and staged by the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Europe, involving returnees. With the disintegration of IS’s caliphate, the threat posed by the group has evolved significantly. Returnees are no longer the sole – or even main – concern of security services.
The conflict in Syria and Iraq has left a strong mark on jihadist milieus throughout Europe. This impact has been particularly striking in Finland. The Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) has estimated that over 80 adults and about 30 minors have left from Finland to the conflict zone. While the size of the Finnish mobilisation is relatively small compared to many countries in the region, this is a high number for a country of 5.5 million inhabitants which has a small muslim population and no significant history of jihadist activism.
The internet offers tremendous opportunities for violent extremists across the ideological spectrum and at a global level. In addition to propaganda, digital technologies have transformed the dynamics of radical mobilisation, recruitment and participation. Even though the jihadist threat has seemingly declined in the West, the danger exists of the internet being an environment where radical messages can survive and even prosper.
The North Caucasus has a notorious reputation of being Russia's volatile frontier and what security experts have come to call an “arc of instability”. The region’s rich conflict potential and troubled socio-economic dynamics constantly keep Moscow on its toes.
Foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) associated with the unrest in Syria and Iraq, comprise over 40,000 individuals from 110 countries, spurring the international community to call upon these countries of origin to act. All Central Asian (CA) states are affected by problems related to their FTFs.
On Tuesday 17 September 2019, at around 10:45am, in the square in front of Milan’s Central Station, a young man attacked from behind an Italian soldier on duty for a “Safe Streets” service in the city.
In recent years, the evolution of instability scenarios in Mali and the ongoing regionalization of the jihadist-armed groups’ threat gave impulse to activating security cooperation dynamics among Sahelian states. In February 2014, the governments of Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad – which are characterized by comparable levels of development, the presence of similar elements of structural fragility and a significant geographical, geopolitical and cultural coherence – announced the constitution of the G5 Sahel.
Western Sahel represents one of the most unstable areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Seven years after the outbreak of the conflict in Mali, violent extremism has spread across the region, together with community conflicts over the access to natural resources and inter-ethnic violence. Trans-border activities of non-state armed actors – insurgents, jihadist groups and ethnic-based militias – as well as illicit trafficking networks feed the regional insecurity.