“There are a couple hundred [European jihadis] where we don’t know where they are, and they could come back at any moment,” said Laurent Muschel.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
The European Union’s top-ranking security official said that Europe is contending with a “more diverse landscape” of terror groups than ever before, citing Islamists and right-wing extremists as the biggest security threat facing the region.
Laurent Muschel, Director of Security for the European Commission, outlined the security challenges posed by various groups during a conference held by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University.
Although ISIS has mostly been contained, radical Islamists and wannabe jihadis inspired by Islamist ideology still pose a major challenge for Europe.
“We believe this threat will potentially increase with [European jihadi] returnees from Syria and Iraq…There are a couple hundred where we don’t know where they are, and they could come back at any moment,” said Muschel.
During the peak of ISIS’s takeover of territory in Iraq and Syria during 2015, thousands of European citizens are believed to have joined terror groups in the Middle East.
Some were killed in the fighting abroad, while others languish to this day as prisoners of war in Kurdish-run internment camps.
But some European jihadis, Muschel said, remain unaccounted for, and could theoretically re-enter Europe and commit terror attacks.
Referring to European citizens who had been preemptively convicted of terror offenses and incarcerated, which prevented them from leaving the continent to fight overseas he said that “prison leavers” are also a huge risk.
Many are soon to be released from European correctional facilities, and “they’ve been further radicalized” during their time in prison, he added.
Muschel said that right-wing extremists pose a large risk to European security. Fears over the “end of Western civilization” and the concept of “replacement theory,” in which governments are said to be allowing uncontrolled immigration in order to replace the native population of a country, have become more mainstream.
Islamists and right-wing extremists, said Muschel, have a lot in common, like “anti-Semitism, misogyny, hate of LGBT communities, and anti-globalization views.”
Extreme right-wing groups were celebrating the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on Telegram, Muschel claimed, as a victory over globalization.