'It is no longer easy for anyone to travel from crisis regions to Europe,' says Gilles de Kerchove
The European Union’s anti-terror chief has praised Turkey’s strict controls on the border with Syria, and said that contrary to widespread fears, the Mosul operation in Iraq did not lead to a large number of Daesh militants returning to Europe.
“By now Turkey has controlled its borders in a very good way, and it is no longer easy for anyone to travel from crisis regions to Europe,” Gilles de Kerchove told German daily Die Welt on Tuesday.
*After the fall of the Daesh stronghold Mosul, not so many fighters returned to Europe. Our worries were not confirmed. I don’t think that in the future many more Daesh fighters will return to Europe,” he said.
According to the estimates of EU’s anti-terror chief, the terrorist group used to have 5,000 foreign fighters who traveled from various European countries to Iraq and Syria in the past few years.
"Among them, 1,500 people returned, and around 1,000 fighters have been killed earlier. Among the 2,500 European fighters who stayed in Iraq and Syria, many died during the recent fighting, or were killed by Daesh as the organization has no tolerance against those who want to leave,” he said.
De Kerchove added that some of the European fighters of Daesh had traveled to other crisis regions like Somalia, Libya or Yemen.
While stressing that Daesh had suffered a major blow from the recent military operations in Mosul and Raqqah, de Kerchove also warned against underestimating the continued threat posed by the terrorist group, which he said had changed its strategy and tactics.
“The terrorist organization is not calling on its sympathizers anymore to travel from Europe to Syria or Iraq to join the fighting, but rather it is telling them to carry out attacks where they live,” he said.
“The more Daesh will come under pressure in Iraq and Syria, the more it will call for terror attacks in Europe,” he warned.
De Kerchove also underlined that Daesh was now focusing on less detailed, less complex terrorist attacks, which could be carried out by “lone wolves”, individuals radicalized through the Internet and influenced to carry out attacks within a couple of weeks.
In July, the Iraqi army -- with U.S. coalition air support -- recaptured Mosul from Daesh following a nine-month campaign that featured frequent bombardments of residential parts of the city.
In Raqqah, the U.S.-led coalition launched a military campaign early June aimed at retaking the city, the capital of Daesh’s self-proclaimed “caliphate”.