World, Middle East

‘Camps in NE Syria mean ticking bomb for Europe’: EU counter-terrorism chief

Ilkka Salmi warns of radicalization of former members of Daesh/ISIS terror group, unknown future of evacuated Afghans

Agnes Szucs   | 30.11.2021
‘Camps in NE Syria mean ticking bomb for Europe’: EU counter-terrorism chief

BRUSSELS

Former members of the Daesh/ISIS terror group and their families in camps and prisons of northeastern Syria mean "a ticking bomb" for European security, the EU’s new counter-terrorism chief said on Tuesday.

Speaking for the first time at the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defense, Ilkka Salmi, the recently appointed EU counter-terrorism coordinator, gave an analysis on the most pressing challenges for European security.

Salmi warned that the bloc had to provide humanitarian aid and support to reduce the radicalization of former Daesh/ISIS fighters and their families who are held in camps and prisons in northeast Syria.

“They're a ticking time bomb for European security if you ask me,” he pointed out.

He also noted that to improve the humanitarian situation, the bloc has to support the reintegration of Syrian and Iraqi camp residents into their local communities.

Salmi, who has just returned from the Balkans where he studied the situation of evacuated Afghans, promised to visit those Syrian camps next spring.

Talking about the consequences of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, he reminded that the EU had to prevent the infiltration of terrorists “through the development of a common procedure for systematic and timely security checks of biographical data, for instance, against all the relevant EU and internal databases.”

He also warned that they “might have a not insignificant number of Afghans” evacuated by the US and waiting now in Kosovo who could pose security concerns for the EU.

In total, there are 430 Afghans in Kosovo processed by NATO and another 2,500 Afghans in Albania who were assisted by US NGOs, he explained.

According to Salmi, it is unclear if the US would grant international protection for all these people or they would leave the Balkans and move forwards to the EU.

In addition to the terrorism threat posed by the camps in northeastern Syria and the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, Salmi mentioned the spread of violent extremist ideologies and the disruptive technologies as key security challenges for the EU.

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