Western security officials believe that the biggest fear the world now faces when it comes to terrorism is not the Islamic State sneaking terrorists into countries to carry out attacks, but rather the radicalization and “weaponizing” of refugees who have already crossed into western countries, VOA News reported.
Fears once centered on IS using migrant and refugee flows to sneak in highly trained operatives bent on carrying out attacks. Now they have expanded to include an equally dangerous possibility.
A growing number of officials now warn that the terror group may be looking to essentially weaponize refugees and other vulnerable immigrant populations after they have successfully crossed Western borders and passed through what look to be ever-tougher vetting processes.
“We have to be ready,” said Fabrice Leggeri, executive director of Frontex, the European border and coast guard agency.
“Some people might get radicalized or manipulated or used or utilized by terrorist groups after they enter the EU,” he said. “This is something where I don’t have clear indications.”
A report published in November by Europol, the European Union (EU) police agency, confirms this growing fear:
“A real and imminent danger is the possibility of elements of the [Sunni Muslim] Syrian refugee diaspora becoming vulnerable to radicalization once in Europe and being specifically targeted by Islamic extremist recruiters.”
“It is believed that a number of jihadists are traveling through Europe for this purpose.”
Also cited in the Europol report was separate German reports that show as of April 2016, there have been over 300 cases where jihadists have tried recruiting refugees trying to enter Europe.
“As long as the Islamic State, as long as [al-Qaida] have an external operations capability, have access to the internet, we have to be concerned,” said U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. “I think there is little doubt we need to build these bridges to communities in which [IS] is trying to recruit.”
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