February 10, 2014 | Quote
British Jihadists Torture Syrian Rebel
The biggest looming security threat for many Western countries, including the United States, will come from hundreds of jihadists returning home after cutting their teeth fighting in the Syrian civil war, say European officials and terrorism experts, who point to a suicide bombing carried out in Aleppo last week by a British volunteer as a disturbing new development.
Another departure sending shock waves through the British government came last night when Britain’s Sky News broadcast social media footage from a British Facebook account showing British jihadists allegedly engaging in the torture of a moderate rebel, who was beaten so mercilessly that his tormentors broke a metal rod in half. The moderate fighter was accused of insulting Allah and pleaded to his captors that he, too, was a Muslim.
“We have heard about Americans, Canadians and others, too. I really couldn’t put a number on it. And I don’t know anyone who can—credibly, that is,” says Jonathan Schanzer, a Mideast expert with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington DC-based think tank.
He adds: “The threat of returnees is a big one. We learned that after the mujahedeen phenomenon in the 1980s. Fighters came back to their countries of origin and created new al-Qaeda affiliate groups. These were smaller jihad groups with local aims but which shared the global vision of al-Qaeda. Many of them are still around today—or their descendants are.”
EU interior ministers agreed at a recent meeting in Athens to explore ways of preventing young Europeans from leaving for Syria and to monitor the returnees. Last week, nearly 200 terrorism experts and official representatives from two dozen European cities met with EU authorities at The Hague to discuss strategies to counteract jihadist propaganda and develop de-radicalization programs.
In December, Turkish authorities claimed to European ambassadors in Ankara that they had it had deported 1,100 European citizens who travelled to Turkey to join al-Qaeda groups in Syria. The claim was made in response to European criticism that Turkey wasn’t doing enough to help the stem the stream of would-be European jihadists. The Turkish foreign minister insisted there are limits to what Turkey can do, asking mockingly, “Are we meant to stop anyone with a beard?”
Says Schanzer, “Turkey has not traditionally been a country that sets off alarm bells at U.S. immigration. But now it will. This is one of the consequences of Turkey’s lax border policies, not to mention its rather open support for salafi and jihad groups fighting across the border.”