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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora