Interpol Chief Jürgen Stock said yesterday that of an estimated 25,000 terrorist combatants thought to be operating across the globe, just under a quarter of them have actually been identified by law enforcement agencies.
Mr Stock, the Secretary General of the International Criminal Police Organization, conveyed the warning by a teleconference message shown at the opening of the sixth gathering of Interpol’s Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group yesterday in Seville. He said only about 5,600 terrorists have been identified by the countries that share intelligence information, reports El Pais.
The majority of those terrorists who have been identified are fighters based in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr Stock told the Working Group they need to “close that gap” between the known and unknown terrorists. He added:
“We need to send a united message to the Islamic State to defeat its own message of unity. Information is key to the police battle, we need to work together, and we all know that this is a global threat.”
The Working Group of 120 members from 39 countries aims to focus on “the issue of foreign terrorist fighters who travel to and from the conflict zones in Syria and Iraq, and the developing conflict zone in Libya.” Its main objective is “to contribute to the disruption of the activities of foreign terrorist fighters, including recruitment and travel networks.”
Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz told those present that approximately 650 terrorist suspects have been arrested in the past decade, but this year has seen an acceleration of activity. Spain’s law enforcement agencies have made 90 arrests in 36 different operations over the last year – twice as many as the year before. Mr Diaz said:
“We are not being reactive to events, but rather proactive in the fight against terrorism.”
The Spanish have also identified 139 people linked to Jihadist terrorism – 25 or so of which have returned from fighting in countries such as Syria – but the majority of them are already in prison.
There have also been arrests of Spanish-based “lone wolves”, those individual terrorists who are often radicalised alone, mostly on the Internet, before going on to commit crimes without being part of a larger network.