As the chief of the European Union’s counter-terrorism task force has announced the number of European citizens fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has reached a new high of 3,000, security services and police forces across the continent report child extremists as young as 13 are travelling to Syria and Iraq.
Gilles de Kerchove, the Brussels bureaucrat who now runs the EU agency said the declaration of a Caliphate in June may have boosted recruitment for European jihadists from 2,000 a couple of months ago to 3,000 today. This figure does not include those fighters who have gone and since returned. De Kerchove remarked the pool of nations ISIS draws its members from has grown from the original core of France, Britain and Germany.
Speaking yesterday, de Kerchove said: “I think even a country like Austria has foreign fighters now, which I was not aware of before”. The Local reports that Jihadists are now drawn from a diverse range of other nations including Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Italy, and Ireland. It is also thought Canadian, Australian and Canadian citizens have gone to ISIS in past months.
One defining feature of the new wave of radicalised foreign fighters leaving Europe for the Levant is their age, as several security agencies have expressed concern about the number of children going to fight. Breitbart News reported this week that a considerable number of ‘preadolescent children’ had left Germany, with four young girls amongst them. In the words of the German security services Director Hans-Georg Maaben, these girls had gone with a “romantic ideal of marrying a jihadist”, and “The vast majority are from migration backgrounds”.
Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste, the Norwegian Security Service announced yesterday that the same trends seen in Germany of minors going to fight, or children going for ‘sexual jihad’, are now being observed in Norway as well. In a statement they said: “[The Security Services] have examples of young children having travelled or who have tried travelling to Syria. One cannot exclude that there are some down there we do not know about”.
The homes of seven people were raided by counter-terror police in Germany last night to prevent a “serious subversive act of violence” by individuals linked to ISIS. Security sources claim the raid was based on intelligence about an ambulance that had been retrofitted with a machine gun and turned into a makeshift troop carrier for an unspecified attack.