Germany revealed that nearly 700 of its citizens had traveled abroad as of March to join Islamic extremist forces, Deutsche Welle (DW) reports.
“Around 680 Germans had left the country to join jihadi forces abroad as of March, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) revealed on Wednesday,” according to the DW article. “In 2014, the number of people leaving to fight with jihadis was estimated to be around 550.”
The BfV is the domestic intelligence agency in Germany.
“Departures to war zones show no signs of abating,” reportedly said BfV President Hans-Georg Maassen.
At the beginning of this month, a U.N. report revealed that the number of foreigners who leave their home country to join jihadist groups abroad had reached a record level, exceeding 25,000 from over 100 countries.
Most of the foreigners have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join radical Islamist forces there, such as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and al-Qaeda.
Many European countries are concerned about those citizens who return from the war zones, battle-hardened and radicalized.
“One third of the 680 people who had traveled abroad had returned to Germany while 85 had died in Syria or Iraq,” reportedly said the president of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.
“Many of those returning to Germany had gained experience in warfare and were being seen as a potential threat to domestic security,” notes DW.
Most of the Germans who left were part of their country’s growing Sunni Salafist scene, the BfV president told reporters.
“The government estimates the number of Salafist supporters in Germany at around 7,300,” reports DW. “That’s about twice as many as in 2011.”
Salafist supporters in some German states want to “establish an Islamic caliphate in Germany,” according to data from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.
“The Islamist scene is growing without a pause,” said the agency’s president, adding that “the breeding ground for jihadis is consequently getting larger.”
Such a scene is also going on in the Netherlands where the Dutch security agency AIVD said there are “thousands” of jihad sympathizers and “several hundred” jihadis, according to DW.
AIVD estimates that 180 Dutch nationals have traveled to join Islamic terrorist groups abroad. About 20 are believed to still be in the war zone while 35 are believed to have returned.
Follow Edwin Mora on Twitter: @EdwinMora83.