Islamic State has sent at least 1,500 jihadi terrorists back to Europe from Middle East warzones with instructions to “carry out attacks”, according to a new European Union report to be delivered today.
Experts believe up to 5,000 Islamic fundamentalists have left Europe for Iraq and Syria in recent years.
While 1 in 5 have been killed between 30 and 35 per cent have been ordered to return to Europe to carry out “specific missions”.
The other 2,500 or so have apparently stayed in the Middle East.
According to the report, which will be delivered by Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator, there are two kinds of “foreign terrorist fighters” returning to Europe.
The report states: “There are largely two categories of returnees: those in the majority who will drift back and those who will be sent back on specific missions, which are of most concern.”
The report says returnees are keeping in touch with ISIS in the Middle East via social media platforms like Twitter and encrypted one-to-one messaging service Telegram.
It adds: “There is also a significant foreign terrorist fighter contingent with Daesh in Libya which might attempt to use their nationality or family connections to return to Europe.”
Earlier this month de Kerchove said it is impossible to be certain how many militants were already in Europe but he indicated that the internet now represents a considerable threat to security – what he called the “virtual calpiphate”.
Under the worst case scenario, nuclear power stations and air traffic control systems could be attacked.
De Kerchove said: “We have to be prepared because some of them will come to Europe. They may try to come back home and we don’t want to repeat the mistake we made in the late 80s when the Russians left Afghanistan and we left these mujahideen in the wild…The physical caliphate… is collapsing but we still have the virtual caliphate and this allows the organisation to direct attacks. So far the terrorist organisations have not used the internet as a weapon, to mount an attack through the internet…It has not happened so far… but I don’t exclude that before five years we will be confronted by this.”