The European Union’s counter-terror chief estimates that the bloc is now host to ‘more than 50,000’ radical Islamists.
Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator, revealed the startling new figures in an interview with El Mundo.
“The United Kingdom has identified 20,000 to 35,000 radicals,” said the Belgian official — although he later clarified that he meant to put the upper end of that estimate at 25,000.
“Of these, 3,000 are worrying for MI5, and of those 500 are under constant and special attention.
“France has 17,000. Spain many less, but more than 5,000, I suppose. In Belgium, almost 500 have been to Syria, and there are around 2,000 radicals or more.
“I wouldn’t like to put a concrete figure on it, but [in Europe] tens of thousands, more than 50,000.
“We must select those who are really worrying and the most dangerous, and they should be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
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De Kerchove told the Spanish newspaper in no uncertain terms that “we are going to suffer more attacks”, and indicated that European cities would have to erect more physical barriers to ramming attacks — such as bollards — and effect a “redesign of pedestrian streets” to diminish threats.
“Three years ago it was easy to identify someone radicalised. Now, most fanatics disguise their convictions,” he pointed out, highlighting the “increasing use of taqiyya … to go unnoticed”.
Taqiyya is a form of religiously sanctioned deception or dissimulation about one’s true beliefs in Islam, crafted so devotees can avoid “persecution” without fear of being punished for denying their faith in the hereafter.
For example, Algerian jihadist Farid Ikken, who attacked French police officers with a hammer outside Notre Dame in June 2017, had previously been awarded a National Journalist Prize Against Discrimination by the European Commission for a report he wrote whilst working in Sweden, and colleagues did not suspect his Islamist beliefs.
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De Kerchove confirmed that the number of jihadists in Europe is now so large that monitoring all of them “is impossible and would not be useful”.
The terror estimate of 25,000 Islamists in the United Kingdom is a rise on the 23,000 figure confessed by the British government in May, weeks after a terror attack outside the Palace of Westminster. This number itself was a radical departure from the previous official total, which the government had insisted stood at just 3,000 in the whole country.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a former COBRA committee members and commander of British forces in Helmand, Afghanistan, has argued that all foreign nationals on the terror watch list should be deported or interned, and that British nationals volunteering with Islamist groups overseas should not be allowed to return home, to reduce the threat to more manageable levels.
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