Returning foreign fighters and home-grown terrorists continue to pose a threat

About 275 foreign terrorist fighters (FTF) from Belgium are currently in conflict zones in Iraq and Syria according to figures provided by the cabinet of the Interior Minister Jan Jambon.

This total includes 220 men and 55 women. The figures come from the FTF database, which is managed by the Threat Analysis Coordination Body (OCAM).

To date, there is no information on jihadists sympathizing with the Islamic State (EI) on their way to Syria or Iraq. On the other hand, according to this database, 85 people, including 22 women, tried to leave Belgium but were prevented from doing it.

“There are also serious indications of 117 other people living in Belgian intending to move to a jihadi conflict zone,” the cabinet said.

The number of foreign fighters returning to Belgium has been estimated to 123, including 98 men and 25 women.

According to figures presented at a conference yesterday (16 October) by the Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels on the evolution of radicalization and terrorism in Europe about half of the Belgian fighters are from the Brussels area.

Some sources indicate than there could be 50,000 Islamist radicals across Europe, a number of which could pose a threat to society.

Despite the weakening and near defeat of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq there is a risk of terrorist acts in Europe. There is no mass return of fighters to Europe but speakers at the conference warned about the increasing risk of home grown terrorists nourished by a virtual connection with planners from the Islamic State.

“Both categories of terrorists feed each-other and meet in prisons in Belgium,” said Thomas Renard, Senior Research Fellow at the Egmont Institute. “Returning fighters play a role in setting up networks in their home countries. We can expect more attacks.”

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