‘European Muslims joining Iraqi rebels’
BRUSSELS: Young Muslims from Europe are going to Iraq to train with insurgents, the European Union’s top terrorism official said on Thursday.
The trend is worrying counter-terrorism officials, both because of the potential for increased violence in Iraq, and because they fear militants who gain experience there will return to pose a threat in Europe. “There are cases of young Muslims from Western Europe going to Iraq to receive military training and that is an unfortunate and negative trend,” Gijs de Vries, EU counter-terrorism coordinator, told Reuters in an interview.
“It is one of the reasons why it is very important to help Iraq stabilise so that peace can return and these (training) camps can be dismantled,” the Dutch politician added. De Vries said a mix of motives ranging from “the belief that this is what religion wants from you to a sheer sense of seeking adventure” was driving young Muslims from Europe to go to Iraq.
Security sources say fighters have travelled to Iraq from a number of European countries to join the insurgency against US and other foreign troops backing the new interim government.
De Vries condemned what he called a “cycle of revenge attacks” in his home country and stressed the need for dialogue. “What is critically important is a dialogue between the people of across religious divides. There is no war between Christianity and Islam. That is what Mr [Osama] Bin Laden is trying to make people believe,” he said.
“The real clash is within Islam between murderous radicals, who misrepresent Islam, and the broad majority of people in Islam who do not want this kind of violence,” de Vries added. He said the threat to Europe had not disappeared even though Qaeda, attacks on US cities, had been dealt a significant blow.
“It is unfortunately inspiring individuals and groups elsewhere in the world to act according to what they think is Al Qaeda’s message, so the threat, I am afraid, has not disappeared,” he said.
“What we must do now is act on the commitments ministers have taken to crack down on financing, to protect our passports against fraud, to exchange information and, for example, to improve our defences against biological, chemical, radiological or nuclear weapons being used,” he said. reuters