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US Strengthens Ties with EU to Combat Foreign Fighters

FILE- This undated image posted by the Raqqa Media Center, a Syrian opposition group, on June 30, 2014, which has been verified by AP, shows fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State group during a parade in Raqqa, Syria.

The United States and the European Union are strengthening ties in an effort to crack down on foreign fighters returning from Syria intent on carrying out terrorist attacks in their home countries.

After two days of talks in Washington, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced stronger cooperation with European Union ministers aimed at identifying and stopping foreign fighters from carrying out acts of terrorism.

“The Department of Justice has detailed federal prosecutors and senior law enforcement advisers to reside in key regions, including the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa, to work with countries seeking to increase their capacity to investigate and to prosecute foreign terrorist fighters,” Holder said.

A U.N. report estimated 15,000 fighters from around the world have left their home countries to join extremist groups operating in Syria and Iraq. U.S. officials have said about 100 of the foreign fighters are from the United States.

Holder said U.S. legal officials may also offer some countries specific advice on changes to their laws that may make it easier to pursue and stop foreign fighters seeking to go to Syria or who wish to engage in acts of terrorism when they return to their home countries.

“Our goal in all of these efforts is to build the capacity to fight foreign terrorist fighters within the rule of law so we can stop the flow of fighters into conflict regions, stem the tide of violence and aggressively combat violent extremism,” he said.

Among those taking part in the talks was the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos.

“It is another concrete example of how together we can be more effective in upholding and defending our common values," Avramopoulos said. "All these measures to be taken should not become obstacles for the free movement between Europe and the United States of America.”

Holder said the meeting also sought to strengthen cooperation between the United States and the European Union on other common threats including transnational organized crime and stopping cyber-criminals.

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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

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