European intelligence agencies are worried that European Muslims fighting in Syria will return to carry out terrorist attacks because of their contacts built with al-Qaida, the BBC reported on Wednesday.
The UK, Ireland and France are the Western countries believed to have the most fighters in Syria, according to the report, which quotes EU anti-terror chief Gilles de Kerchove as saying that about 500 Muslims from Europe are fighting with the rebels.
However, according to Soeren Kern, a senior fellow for the New York-based Gatestone Institute, and a longtime observer of Islam in Europe, more than 1,000 European Muslims are fighting in Syria. In an article for Gatestone in March titled “European Jihadists: The Latest Export,” he wrote that Syria “has replaced Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia as the main destination for militant Islamists seeking to obtain immediate combat experience with little or no official scrutiny.”
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, Kern related to the debate: “Although there is no consensus among analysts on the exact number of European jihadists fighting in Syria, I believe the number 1,000 is about right based on a compilation of intelligence estimates and media reports from across Europe.”
He added that “it is relatively easy for Europeans to travel to Turkey and then cross over the border into Syria undetected, making it difficult to determine the true number, which could presumably be even higher than 1,000.”
Kern finds the figure of 500 mentioned by the EU to be too low and believes that it “may be an effort not to alarm the public.”…