News / Middle East

Surge in Syria Jihadist Arrests Prompts Security Fears in Europe

Surge In Syria Jihadist Arrests Prompts Security Fears in Europei
X
February 25, 2014 4:10 AM
There’s been a surge in the number of arrests of British citizens accused of returning from the battlefields of Syria to take part in jihad or holy war. British authorities fear the increasing numbers pose a domestic security threat. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Surge In Syria Jihadist Arrests Prompts Security Fears in Europe
Henry Ridgwell
There’s been a surge in the number of arrests of British citizens accused of returning from the battlefields of Syria to take part in jihad, or holy war. British authorities fear the increasing numbers pose a domestic security threat. The threat is being taken seriously across the continent, with thousands of Europeans thought to be fighting in Syria.
 
Among the many thousands of amateur videos that have emerged from the Syrian conflict, one has stirred growing concerns among British security services.
 
It purports to show British citizen Abdul Waheed Majeed outside Aleppo, Syria earlier this month. He is surrounded by fighters from the Islamist rebel group Al Nusra Front - affiliated with al-Qaida.
 
When asked questions by Arabic-speaking fellow rebels, Majeed responds in a clear British accent.
 
"I can't speak. Everyone asks me. I'm not a very good speaker. My tongue got like a knot in it. I can't speak. It should come from the heart. I can't do it," said Majeed.
 
Majeed is then seen driving an armor-plated truck packed with explosives up to the walls of Aleppo prison.
 
Majeed and scores of others are killed; Syrian rebels reported that several prisoners escaped.
 
“The suicide bombing suggests a level of zealotry that is quite unprecedented. They are fighters, and they are on the ground to do two things: one is to remove Assad, but also to achieve martyrdom,” said Shiraz Maher, from the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at Kings College London.
 
Maher estimates there are between 200 and 366 British citizens fighting in Syria - more than went out to fight Jihad in Iraq or Afghanistan.
 
“Given the narrative of the Western world that our own governments regard Assad as a tyrant and someone who should be removed from power, it isn’t so morally ambiguous,” said Maher.
 
The British government is cracking down. In January alone, 16 Britons were arrested on their return home, suspected of taking part in the fighting or of attempting to travel there. For the whole of 2013, there were 24 arrests.
 
Past experience suggests the British jihadists pose twin security risks, said Rafaello Pantucci of the Royal United Services Institute.
 
“In Afghanistan and Pakistan, where we saw young Britons who were drawn out there to fight in some of the Jihad conflicts, ended up being directed by al-Qaida core to come back and launch attacks in the UK. In other examples like in Iraq, that young Britons were drawn out there, some of whom came back… and decided that it was their duty to try to do something in the United Kingdom,” said Pantucci.
 
The problem isn’t confined to Britain. Another suicide attack in December was reported to have been carried out by Nicholas Bons, a French jihadist fighting with the group the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
 
It’s estimated that up to 700 French citizens have travelled to Syria. French anti-terror judge Marc Trevidic said there needs to be more engagement with Muslim communities at home.
 
“So far, we have only relied on anti-terrorist justice, this means on crackdown only, and that's a failure,” said Trevidic.
 
Anti-terror experts say social media allows would-be foreign jihadists to watch the Syrian conflict unfold in real time - and easily connect with fighters on the ground to plan their journey.

You May Like

Amnesty: EU Failing Migrants, Refugees

Rights group says migrants, refugees subject to detention, extortion, beatings More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deali
X
July 07, 2015 12:02 PM
If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs