A Brussels-based think tank is sounding the alarm about 50,000 jihadists from some 100 countries who pose a risk to the European Union and beyond, after Islamic State’s so-called Caliphate in Syria and Iraq was destroyed.
Without their sharia-statelet in Mesopotamia, foreign fighters who joined their ranks have dispersed back to their home countries in North Africa and throughout the EU, according to The Egmont Institute for International Relation’s report.
But the Brussels-based institute delves deeper and tracks a pattern that emerged following the U.S. led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq whereby a pipeline of jihadi commuters perpetrated vicious attacks upon their return, in Madrid and Casablanca in 2003 and 2004.
It draws attention to transit routes and threads of associated trans-national violence, and warns the risk to the EU and Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia is even greater following Islamic State’s rise and fall.
“The jihadi mobilization is possibly larger than any previous ones, including that for the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s,” say analysts for Egmont and German foundation Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung who contributed to the report.
Earlier this month, David Vigneault, director of CSIS, told the Senate’s national security committee that Islamic terrorist groups remain the central threat for the agency to manage, having “caused the most significant deaths recently.”
Canada’s top spy also told senators that CSIS was working with RCMP and others to track 300 Canadians believed to have left to fight not just for ISIS, but other Islamic terror groups including Hezbollah and Al Shabaab. Approximately 90 of whom are believed to be back in the country.
While Vigneault noted “ultra-right-wing extremists” occupy “more and more” of agency resources, even these nascent terror threats were employing techniques associated with recent Islamist attacks in Europe: “which is to use a vehicle to kill as many people as you can.”
Though the threat magnitude to Canada by its ISIS brigade is less compared to Europe and North Africa, it nevertheless remains.
As far back as February 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted during an Edmonton town hall that approximately 60 ISIS fighters from Canada had returned from Syria and Iraq and “those folks are being monitored and watched and accounted for by our intelligence agencies and our security agencies.”
Adding to concern is what the government plans to do with dozens of Canadians held overseas, some by a U.S.-backed Kurdish group fighting ISIS. Responding to the issue following a recent G7 meeting in France, Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale said he “resolved to strengthen our collective intelligence … and work to lay charges to hold them accountable.”
However, authorities have struggled to bring any charges. Last year, Canadian Abu Huzaifa made headlines after giving the New York Times podcast Caliphate detailed accounts of execution-style killings he carried out while a member of ISIS in Syria.