G7 to focus on foreign fighter fallout from rout of Daesh

Above, a general view of the Aragonese Castle of Ischia, an island off Naples, where delegations from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, UK and US would meet to discuss threat of fresh attacks on the West from retreating Daesh fighters. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2017
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G7 to focus on foreign fighter fallout from rout of Daesh

ISCHIA, Italy: The threat of fresh attacks on the West by foreign fighters fleeing the fallen Daesh stronghold of Raqqa is set to dominate a G7 meeting of interior ministers in Italy.
The two-day gathering, which kicks off Thursday on the Italian island of Ischia, comes just days after US-backed forces took full control of the terrorists’ de facto Syrian capital.
Most foreign fighters are believed to have fled over the past few months. Experts say those who stayed are now likely to head for Turkey in the hope of traveling on to Europe to seek revenge for the destruction of the “caliphate.”
Tens of thousands of citizens from Western countries traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the group between 2014 and 2016, including extremists who then returned home and staged attacks that claimed dozens of lives.
France, whose some 1,000 nationals were among the biggest contingent of overseas recruits to join Daesh, stated frankly this weekend that it would be “for the best” if terrorists die fighting.
While border crossings have since tightened making it more difficult for fighters to return, security experts have warned of renewed possibilities of strikes as the pressure on Daesh intensifies.
“With an Islamic military defeat in Iraq and Syria we could find ourselves facing a return diaspora of foreign fighters,” Italy’s Interior Minister Marco Minniti told a parliamentary committee last week.
“There are an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 foreign fighters from 100 countries. Some of them have been killed of course, but... it’s possible some of the others will try to return home, to northern Africa and Europe,” he said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said a group of 130-150 foreign fighters, including Europeans, had turned themselves in before the end of the battle in Raqqa.
Other reports suggested a convoy of foreign fighters had been able to escape the city toward Daesh-held territory, a claim denied categorically by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) officials.
The SDF is expected to contact the home countries of any foreign fighters it holds, to discuss the possibility of turning them over to face prosecution.
But captured fighters could prove a legal headache, with questions raised over what evidence, collected by whom, would be used in a domestic court. Terrorists also become security risks in jails for their potential to radicalize.
French European lawmaker Arnaud Danjean said Wednesday there would be “negotiations with the countries concerned” over what to do with returners.
Minniti warned fighters could take advantage of the confusion and “use the human trafficking routes” to return home — raising the specter of extremists embarking on the migrant boats which regularly head to Italy.
It meant controversial efforts currently spearheaded by Italy to close the land and sea trafficking routes which cross Africa into Libya and on across the central Mediterranean sea to Europe were “essential,” he added.
The Seven, from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US, will also tackle the hot issue of terrorism online, with analysts warning Daesh’s loss of territory will turn street-to-street fighting into an intelligence war.
The ministers are due to arrive Thursday afternoon at a medieval castle on the volcanic island off Naples, before retiring for an informal dinner and knuckling down to working sessions on Friday.
They are set to be joined by the EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos, European safety commissioner Julian King, and Juergen Stock, secretary general of the international police body Interpol.
In a G7 first, representatives from Internet giants Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter will also be taking part.


NATO will show unity despite differences: Stoltenberg

Updated 20 June 2018
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NATO will show unity despite differences: Stoltenberg

  • Stoltenberg said NATO hopes to start accession talks with Macedonia at the summit, which will be held in Brussels on July 11 and 12
  • The US leader has also complained that the transatlantic defense alliance is more useful for Europe than it is for the United States

BRUSSELS: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg voiced confidence Tuesday that Alliance members will demonstrate unity at a summit next month despite “important differences” between the United States and European members of the transatlantic Alliance. US President Donald Trump has called on fellow members to shoulder a bigger share of the NATO budget. The US leader has also complained that the transatlantic defense alliance is more useful for Europe than it is for the United States. However Stoltenberg remained decidedly upbeat on Tuesday, while acknowledging the differences. “I’m absolutely confident that the NATO summit will demonstrate the transatlantic unity, that Europe and the United States stand together despite important differences on important issues like trade, the Paris (climate) agreement or the Iran nuclear deal,” the NATO leader told the France 24 television channel. “I met president Donald Trump recently in the White House and he reconfirmed his strong personal commitment to NATO and he also recognized that European allies are investing more in defense.” Trump caused dismay in Europe during his presidential campaign when he said that NATO was “obsolete” and failing to meet the challenge posed by Daesh terror groups. “He has a strong message about the need to do more (on defense spending) and I agree with him and the European allies also agree with him,” said Stoltenberg. Stoltenberg also said NATO hopes to start accession talks with Macedonia at the summit, which will be held in Brussels on July 11 and 12, after the small Balkan nation reached a deal with Greece to be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia.