Up to 5,000 jihadis could be at large in Europe after returning from Islamic State training camps in the Middle East, the head of Europe’s police agency has warned.
Europol head Rob Wainwright said that between 3,000 and 5,000 jihadis could have re-entered the continent after training with the terror group in Syria and Iraq.
Speaking to German paper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, Mr Wainwright said the risk of a terror attack on the continent was now the highest for many years.
“Europe is currently facing the highest terror threat in more than ten years,” he said. “We can expect Isil or other religious terror groups to stage an attack somewhere in Europe with the aim of achieving mass casualties among the civilian population.”
Mr Wainwright, who previously served as head of Britain’s National Crime Intelligence Service (NCIS) and Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), added that the growing number of militants in Europe “presents EU member states with completely new challenges”.
Breitbart London reported in November how sources close to a Belgian investigation had claimed that “dozens, if not hundreds” of terrorists had arrived in Europe by posing as refugees in the migrant crisis.
Islamic State members such as Palestinian bombers Ahmad Mouhamad El Amin and Bilal Badr are believed to have reached Belgium after infiltrating Europe by hiding in a Libyan refugee boat.
Several of the attackers linked to November’s Paris terror attacks were revealed to have entered the continent via Greece, posing as refugees, however UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres suggested that fake Syrian passports had been deliberately placed at the scene of the attacks to “set Europeans against refugees”.
“The passport was left to be seen, which means that the Daesh also has, as a strategy, to put the refugees in the spotlight … this is also designed to try to force Europe to close its borders,” he said.
Three more men who posed as refugees in order to plan attacks on the French capital are currently on trial in the Austrian city of Salzburg.
The men were arrested at a migrant centre near the city after being prevented from travelling any further due to forged documents.