Security agency warns countries need to develop effective strategies to assess and address the threat of returning terrorists.

By Joe McDonough


Posted on October 25, 2017

A report released overnight by an American security agency, says Islamic State (IS) will spread and survive despite foreign fighters fleeing Syria and Iraq.

The Soufan Group’s report — titled Beyond The Caliphate: Foreign Fighters and the Threat of Returnees, indicates at least 5600 people from 33 countries around the world have returned home after spending time in territories of Syria and Iraq that were controlled by IS.

It warns that “all returnees, whatever their reason for going home, will continue to pose some degree of risk”.

“As the so-called Islamic State (IS) loses territorial control of its caliphate, there is little doubt that the group or something similar will survive the worldwide campaign against it so long as the conditions that promoted its growth remain.

There is little doubt that the group or something similar will survive the worldwide campaign against it

“Its appeal will outlast its demise, and while it will be hard to assess the specific threat posed by foreign fighters and returnees, they will present a challenge to many countries for years to come.”

Worryingly, it also notes that many of these foreign fighters are lost in the system upon arrival.

“States have not found a way to address the problem of returnees. Most are imprisoned, or disappear from view. There will be a need for more research and information
sharing to develop effective strategies to assess and address the threat,” the report states.

“To what extent the dispersed veterans of the war in Iraq and Syria will wish to regroup, resurge, recruit and recreate what they have lost, is as yet unknown.”

It says more than 40,000 foreigners flocked to join Islamic State from more than 110 countries, both before and after the extremists declared a caliphate in June 2014.

That number includes more than 8,700 from the former Soviet Union, 5,718 from western Europe, 439 from North America, and more than 165 from Australia.

A number of IS fighters have already gone on to join militant groups in the Philippines, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Afghanistan, and Libya, according to the report.