In line with the bloody operation in Nice, ISIS’s weekly magazine “al-Naba” published an editorial entitled “Crusaders- Illusions in Caliphate’s Era”, in which it urged from the change that will occur around the world after the announcement of Caliphate’s return, and that crusaders (Christians) and their apostate followers will never be able to undermine the Islamic State by expanding their military operations, in which France currently participates.
The increasing pressures imposed by France, USA, and Britain on ISIS have dismantled the organization’s strongholds and led it to lose 45% of territories which were under its control in Iraq with 20% in Syria. The organization was thrown out of important regions like Fallujah and it is almost losing Menbj in Syria.
Consequently, today countries that fight ISIS are facing a classic threat from the organization’s militants. Fundamentalist militants who went to fight in Syria and Iraq have reached 30,000 where foreign militants come from at least 86 countries, according to a study published in March by Soufan Group.
Britain has estimated that around 760,000 of its natives went to Syria and Iraq and that half of them have returned to their country while 50 died. According to Der Spiegel newspaper, around 400 German militants have also left Syria and Iraq and returned to Germany; yet, the number of Asian militants was the highest and reached 14,000.
During an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Rodger Shanahan, research fellow at the Lowy Institute said that it’s difficult to determine the exact number of militants who have returned to their countries but France is currently witnessing the biggest flow of returners.
According to the French Ministry of Interior, around 1,853 people are involved in fundamental networks in the country, 900 out of them have went to fight with extremist organizations like ISIS and Nusra Front.
Shanahan continued that it’s also hard to know the biggest source of militants among the Arabic countries, yet Saudi Arabia and Jordan may top the list. A fundamentalist Lebanese source who has asked to remain anonymous told Asharq Al-Awsat that many Lebanese militants who have split from ISIS because of religious issues have stood in Turkey or escaped to Europe as refugees. According to the same source, the arrest of many militants who returned to Lebanon has prevented others from returning.
Der Spiegle reported that many reasons push militants to come back to their countries including familial and medical matters, while some may return to implement an individual mission with terroristic goals.
Over the past few months, ISIS’s networks have been linked to Paris attacks in November which killed 130 people and to Brussels attacks in March which killed 31 people and wounded 200 others.
Following these operations, the Belgian and French intelligence authorities have detected a network of inter-linked cells including members who have been involved in the Syrian war. Along with ISIS’s increasing losses of its control areas, many of those fighters preferred to return to their countries trying to benefit from the weakness gaps in the European intelligence systems. The aforementioned attacks have confirmed the “returners” threat, as apparently Turkey urged the Belgian and French authorities from militants like Ibrahim, Salah Abdul Salam, and the suicide bomber Omar Mustapha who were involved in Brussels and Paris attacks.
The European authorities are currently chasing militants who joined terrorist organizations like the German General Prosecution who is currently pursuing around 130 related cases.
According to Shanahan, while the United Nations seeks to unify the legislative approaches against the returners, procedures have been taken against only one third of them. Therefore, the researcher considers that the terrorist threat is linked to the efficiency of intelligence and censure systems, pointing that the weakness of intelligence capacities and legislations will help in magnifying the terroristic threat.