Mosul offensive may send ISIS fighters back to Europe

Onlookers watch the devastation wrought by ISIS and international forces during the siege of Kobanî, Syria. [Shutterstock]

Security Commissioner Julian King told Die Welt (18 October) that the anti-ISIS offensive created an increased risk of attacks in Europe. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière quickly refuted King’s claim, saying the threat was already high. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The current situation in Mosul, where Iraqi and international forces have besieged the ISIS stronghold, has made it likely that “dangerous ISIS fighters” will return to their European homelands if the terrorist group are expelled from the city.

It is a “serious threat” that Europe has to be prepared to deal with, King said.

Following talks in Berlin, De Maizière moved to contradict the Commissioner. The CDU politician insisted that the danger posed by ISIS fighters has already reached Europe, as recent attacks and violent incidents across Europe have shown.

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The Mosul offensive is considered by observers to be the defining moment in the fight against the terrorist militia. The oil-rich city in the north of Iraq is the group’s last remaining stronghold in the country.

On Sunday evening (16 October), Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi officially ordered the beginning of the operation, which is being undertaken by 25,000 army personnel. In addition to Iraqi troops, the Kurdish peshmerga, elite US forces and German reconnaissance planes, Turkey has also provided soldiers and Shi’ite militiamen are also taking part.

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Around 2,500 ISIS fighters from the EU are thought to be in Mosul and its surrounding area. Whether many of them will decide to return to their home countries in order to carry out further attacks is unpredictable and hinges on what strategy the terror group decides to implement when defending Mosul.

So far, analysis of ISIS’ defence plans is wide ranging. On the one hand, activists from ‘Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently’ reported that an entire convoy of fighters from the group fled the city and high-tailed it to the Syrian border.

Other reports say that the jihadists continue to govern the city with an iron fist, threatening anyone thinking about leaving Mosul with death.

A few days ago, Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker spoke about “terrorist loopholes” that could potentially allow jihadists to enter the EU. In order to close off these methods of entry, the executive is once again banging the drum of its European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

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The Juncker Commission wants to present a first draft of the project in November. However, a spokesperson from the German interior ministry told that the purpose of ETIAS is not necessarily compatible with Juncker’s quest to close the loopholes.

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