Counter-Terrorism: Tracking Islamic Terrorists In The West


August 6, 2015: British counter-terrorism analysts believe about 700 British Moslems have gone to join ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in Syria so far and about ten percent have died there. Many are coming back with a bad attitude and Britain is having a hard time keeping track of their Islamic terrorist activities (if any) in Britain. The problem is worse in France, where over 2,000 French Moslems have gone to Syria so far. Again about ten percent have died and many who return want to terrorize the people of France. Germany has sent fewer, largely because so many of their Moslem citizens are Turks who have been in Germany longer. Note that 4.6 percent of 81 million Germans, five percent of 64 million Britons and 7.5 percent of the 66 million French are Moslems. While the ISIL recruiting is a problem a larger issue is the degree to which the Moslems of Europe are supportive of Islamic terrorism against the countries they are living in.

European police and intelligence agencies continue to have a difficult time agreeing on how many of their Moslem citizens have been radicalized by Islamic terrorist groups, particularly ISIL. Police in the EU (European Union) believe at least 6,000 of their citizens have been radicalized. That’s about 1.2 Islamic terrorists per 100,000 people in the EU. If you take just Moslems, that’s 30 per 100,000 EU Moslems. The problem is that intel agencies that monitor Syria and Iraq believe that are over 3,000 European Moslems in the area with ISIL or other Islamic terrorist groups. The problem is that while the EU police are counting people they know exist and who have demonstrated clear evidence of interest or participation in Islamic terrorism, the intel estimates of the number of European Moslems actually operating in Syria and Iraq are estimates based on fragmentary information.

The police back home have to identify those radicalized and arrest or monitor and the most dangerous European Islamic terrorists returning from Syria and Iraq. These men try to hide their activities when they return home. The intel agencies, including those not from the EU (like the CIA) share information with the EU police and try to identify as many Islamic terrorists, dead or alive, as possible. Still, it appears that there are fewer European Moslems actually going off to fight and risk getting killed than is popularly thought. This is not a big comfort to the police who know even one major (causing dozens of casualties) attack in the EU would cause a political and media firestorm and lots of pressure on the police to “do something.”

There is no denying the fact that there is  cause for all this angst as European nations face a growing problem with young Moslem men being recruited by radical Islamic clergy to go fight alongside (and often against) the Syrian rebels. European intelligence officials believe that whatever the actual number is it is growing. More than ten percent have returned as hardened jihad veterans who often seek out new recruits. These jihadis are very effective at attracting new volunteers, although so far only about 30 per 100,000 Moslems have been radicalized and only a minority of those have been persuaded to go. As small as that portion is, a far larger percentage (over ten percent) of European Moslems will admit to admiring the goals and methods of Islamic terrorists. Most of those who did go to Syria are now more radicalized than when they left and police fear they may contribute to more Islamic terrorism in Europe. You can’t do much to these men in Europe unless they actually commit a crime in Europe although in a growing number of countries it is possible to prosecute them for belonging to for an Islamic terrorist organization. But you have to prove it in court and that is often difficult. Nevertheless such prosecutions are underway and most countries monitor returning jihadis, ready to make arrests if any local laws are broken. Europeans are now changing their laws to make it illegal to have any contact or sympathies for groups like ISIL.

The United States (and Canada) have far fewer problems with radicalized young Moslem men living among them. In North America fewer than five per 100,000 Moslems are radicalized. This is not much help for the Europeans as it has long been accepted that the North American nations have always been more hospitable to migrants and that goes a long way towards diminishing (but never completely eliminating) interest in terrorists for some cause back in the old country.





Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close