herald

Saturday 20 October 2018

30 irish jihad fighters travelling to middle east from Dublin base

Thirty jihadi fighters are using Ireland as a base while travelling regularly to conflict zones in Syria and Iraq, according to Garda intelligence.

The group is being kept under close surveillance by gardai here and is also under watch abroad by international police agencies.

But senior officers admit they cannot assess the extent of the jihaidists' involvement in the fighting when they enter the strife-stricken countries.

Gardai have now stepped up their surveillance efforts as part of an EU-wide move to track the group's movements and identify associates as fears grow over the radicalisation and security risks they pose when they return from the conflicts.

Officers are also forging closer links with the Muslim community here to uncover any signs that the fighters are trying to influence the radicalisation of a new generation.

conflict

Three of those known to have travelled to the conflict zones have been killed, including a 16-year-old boy.

Garda and other agencies have also revised the current strategy to tackle international terrorism as it was felt it did not take account of what were described as "lone wolf" terrorists and foreign fighters.

The new strategy provides wider options for the Government to consider in addressing the threats of radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism, both domestically and in a wider context, according to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

But so far there is no indication that recruitment in this country is on the scale seen elsewhere in the EU. And the overall assessment is that the threat to Ireland from international terrorism remains low.

An estimated 2,000 European citizens have travelled to fight in foreign conflicts, particularly to Syria, and there is no evidence internationally of a slowdown in the numbers heading there.

And while the 30 known to be based here (some of whom have legitimate Irish passports) are top of the police watch list, they comprise a small percentage of the 50,000-strong Muslim community in this country.

execution

Details of the additional steps being taken emerged as the world expressed its revulsion at the execution of journalist, James Foley by jihadist militants.

Surveillance of terror suspects here is carried out under the supervision of the Garda Special Branch Middle Eastern desk and military intelligence.

Most of those under surveillance in the past couple of decades were regarded as sympathisers or were involved in providing logistical support for active terror cells based elsewhere.

This support included fundraising, supplying forged documentation such as passports and identity cards and establishing safe havens for terrorists on the run from other countries.

Most of those live in the greater Dublin area and two of those kept under watch are regarded by international agencies as key logistic figures.

hnews@herald.ie

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