Europe at risk from Daesh fighters returning from Mideast: Report

Federal Criminal Police chief Holger Muench speaks to open the European Police Congress on February 6, 2018 in Berlin. (AFP)
Updated 14 February 2018
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Europe at risk from Daesh fighters returning from Mideast: Report

LONDON: European countries could face an increased terror risk in 2018 as Daesh fighters return home with training and expertise gained in Syria and Iraq.
Of particular concern is the use of weaponized drones, high-tech car bombs, and other new technologies, although low-tech terror is likely to be prominent, according to a report.
Extremists will remain the primary threat in Europe in 2018, with international operations becoming increasingly important for Daesh, as it seeks to maintain its global relevance.
The report issued by Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre (JTIC) said that returning foreign fighters will inject “capability, ideological rigor and added extremism” to existing radical networks across Europe.
“In the five to 10-year outlook, European countries will face an elevated terrorism threat posed by radicalized convicts, returned foreign fighters and other returnees who have direct ties to the legacy of Daesh,” said Otso Iho, a senior analyst at JTIC by IHS Markit.
“Low-capability” attacks, including the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), attacks using rented or stolen trucks and vans, knife and small-arms attacks are likely to continue, the report claims.
“Foreign fighters returning to Europe will provide critical skills that will help an increasing number of operational (extremist) networks conduct more complex attacks,” Iho said.
“These skills include the construction of viable IEDs... expertise in assault weapons, and the use of new weapons types or technologies such as drones,” he added.
“If such weapons are used in Europe it would mark a notable increase in the threat level.”
According to JTIC, there are indicators that some cells have already attempted to adopt these methods, including the perpetrators of the August 2017 attack in Barcelona. However, the threat is not just from fighters unleashing attacks on their return from the Middle East. The report reveals that the growing number of extremists in European jails is likely to exacerbate the risk of radicalization across the prison population.
Additionally, many of those imprisoned for providing support to groups like Daesh over the past two years are likely to be released between 2019 and 2023, according to data analyzed by JTIC.
It is predicted that European security services will struggle to adequately monitor a combination of returning militants, an increased number of radicalized terror networks across Europe, and the radicalization risks associated with rising extremism in prisons.


Afghan Taliban reject talks with US in Pakistan

Updated 1 min 14 sec ago
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Afghan Taliban reject talks with US in Pakistan

  • Senior Taliban leaders said that regional powers including Pakistan had approached them and wanted them to meet the US delegation in Islamabad
  • ‘We wanted to make it clear that we will not hold any meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad’
PESHAWAR, Pakistan: The Afghan Taliban rejected reports in the Pakistani media that they were prepared to resume meetings with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad and repeated their refusal to deal directly with the Afghan government.
Pakistani newspapers and television stations reported that a meeting in Islamabad was in prospect following discussions between Khalilzad and Pakistani officials including Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday.
Senior Taliban leaders said that regional powers including Pakistan had approached them and wanted them to meet the US delegation in Islamabad and also include the Afghan government in the peace process but that the approaches had been rejected.
“We wanted to make it clear that we will not hold any meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a statement.
Talks between the two sides have stalled after the Taliban accused Khalilzad of straying from the agreed agenda and there is no clarity on when they may resume.
“We have made it clear again and again that we would never hold any meeting with the Afghan government as we know that they are not capable of addressing our demands,” said one senior Taliban leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The US says any settlement in Afghanistan must be between the internationally recognized Afghan government and the Taliban, who have so far refused to talk to an administration they describe as an illegitimate puppet regime.
The Taliban leader said peace talks with the US delegation could resume if they were assured that only three issues would be discussed — a US withdrawal from Afghanistan, an exchange of prisoners and lifting a ban on the movement of Taliban leaders.
Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Thursday and met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and other officials.
“The two sides reviewed developments post Abu Dhabi, in order to take the Afghan peace process forward,” a foreign office statement said. An Afghan Taliban delegation had a round of talks last month with US officials in Abu Dhabi.
The statement didn’t give any further details on the talks, but several local TV channels reported that Pakistan agreed to host the next round of talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US in Islamabad.
Khalilzad, an Afghan-born veteran US diplomat who served as George W. Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, was named by the Trump administration four months ago as a special envoy to negotiate peace.
Washington has long been pushing Islamabad to lean on Taliban leaders, who it says are based in Pakistan, to bring them to the negotiating table.
It often accuses the south Asian nation of covertly sheltering Taliban leaders, an accusation Islamabad vehemently denies.
The US, which had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at its peak during the first term of former President Barack Obama, withdrew most of them in 2014 but still keeps around 14,000 there.