• Spain's news in English

More than 6,000 have left Europe for Isis jihad: EU

AFP/The Local · 13 Apr 2015, 11:30

Published: 13 Apr 2015 11:30 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The EU justice commissioner spoke of the number of jihadists being recruited in Europe on the eve of a Barcelona meeting of European and North African foreign ministers.

Representatives from 36 countries will meet in the Catalan capital to discuss ways to fight terrorism.

"At the European level, we estimate that 5,000 to 6,000 individuals have left for Syria," Věra Jourová told Le Figaro in an interview, adding that the true number was likely to be far higher due to the difficulty of tracking foreign fighters in the conflict.

"At the time of the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, we decided not to allow ourselves to be guided by fear," she said, referring to January's twin Islamist attacks in the French capital and the subsequent deadly shootings on a cultural centre in Denmark.

Focusing on those seeking to leave for Syria to wage jihad, or those returning from the conflict, meant intervening "too late", she said.

Jourová said the EU instead wanted to promote prevention as a means of curtailing the steady flow of European nationals, looking at the diverse reasons of why people joined jihadist groups beyond simply religion.

Her comments came just days after police arrested a cell in Catalonia that was poised to carry out an attack.

The 11 suspected terrorists arrested last week across the northeastern region planned to carry out kidnappings and a public execution, as well as attacks on Jewish businesses, according to a judge who questioned them.

British research had identified "a desire for adventure, boredom, dissatisfaction with their situation in life or a lack of prospects," in those who had opted to leave their families behind and head for Syria, the commissioner said.

Another focus for the EU was speeding up the exchange of information between the police forces and court systems of member states, she said, with more intelligence sharing required.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State, which rules a swathe of territory in Syria and Iraq it has deemed an Islamic "caliphate", has attracted thousands of foreign fighters, many from the West.

Authorities have reported that about 100 Spaniards have travelled to join jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

Still, this number is relatively low compared to Spain's western European counterparts, according to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR).

Story continues below…

The ICSR's most recent estimates showed that while France, Germany and the United Kingdom have seen the highest number of residents and citizens leaving to join fighters in Syria and Iraq, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden have been most affected per capita.

Spain has stepped up anti-terrorism efforts in recent months, conducting a series of raids on suspected jihadist cells, though most of those arrested have been accused of recruiting militants for Isis fighters rather than actually planning attacks themselves.

Catalonia police arrested 11 people with suspected links to Isis last week for allegedly planning an attack in the region.

More than 215,000 people have been killed in Syria's four-year war, which is increasingly dominated by jihadist groups.

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.es)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Tough road ahead, Spain PM warns before return to power
Rajoy will try and form a government this week. Photo: AFP

Spain's acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warned on Wednesday of a tough road ahead as he prepares to take power again at the head of a minority government with little support.

Russia withdraws request to refuel warships in Ceuta
The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov was due to dock in Ceuta

Russia has withdrawn a request for its aircraft carrier group to be refuelled at the Spanish port of Ceuta, authorities confirmed.

Bulls replace guard dogs at scrap yard in Valencia
Two bulls will be patrolling the scrap yard in eastern Spain. Archive photo: AFP

Guard dogs were not proving enough of a deterrent to thieves at a car breakers yard in eastern Spain so the owner has brought in a pair of fighting bulls.

Two-headed shark born in Spanish laboratory
Scientists are studying the rare find. Photo: IBIMA / University of Malaga

Scientists at the University of Malaga found the embryo of a shark with two heads and just one body.

Spain under pressure to stop refuel of Russian warships
Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is due to arrive in Ceuta. Photo: Mil Ru / Wikimedia

Spain is facing international pressure to refuse permission for a Russian warship flotilla to refuel in Ceuta en route to continuing airstrikes against the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Most wanted: Fugitive rapist arrested in Tenerife
Mohammed Jahangir Alam was arrested n Tenerife. Photo: Crimestoppers.

Mohammed Jahangir Alam, one of Britain's most wanted fugitives, who fled the country in 2008 after allegedly raping a woman, was found working in Tenerife.

Spain's Rajoy says king has tasked him with forming govt
Photo: AFP

Spain's king on Tuesday tasked Mariano Rajoy with forming a government, taking the acting conservative prime minister a step closer to power again after a 10-month political deadlock.

Two imams arrested in Ibiza resort over 'Isis support'
The men were arrested in the resort of Sant Antoni de Portmany. Photo: Jose A / Flickr

Two Moroccan imams at a mosque on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of backing the Islamic State group and inciting jihad.

Balearic Islands choose to keep summertime forever
The islands will have longer evenings during winter. Photo: AFP

The Balearic Islands want to keep summertime when the rest of Spain turns the clocks back on Sunday.

  Brazilian had 'uncontrollable desire to kill': Spain police
Francois Patrick Nogueira Gouveia has been charged with murdering his uncle, his wife and their two children. Photo: Guardia Civil.

A Brazilian teenager accused of dismembering his uncle and aunt and killing their two young sons in a grisly crime that shocked Spain had an "uncontrollable desire to kill", police said on Monday.

Analysis & Opinion
Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
jobs available