Italy in EU 'action plan' against young jihadists

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EU counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said an "action plan" to tackle the growing national security threat posed by jihadists has been adopted. Photo: Georges Gobet/AFP
08:00 CEST+02:00
European interior ministers, including Italy's Angelo Alfano, have adopted an "action plan" to tackle the growing national security threat posed by jihadists returning home from Syria.

EU counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said on Tuesday that a series of measures were approved during a meeting in Milan late on Monday of the interior ministers of Italy, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany,  The Netherlands, Spain and Sweden, according to Kerchove.

"The details of the action plan remain confidential," Kerchove said, adding that they would be submitted to other European countries at the next meeting of interior ministers in October.

"Recent developments in Iraq increase the need to act immediately," he said, adding that the Islamic republic's creation of a pan-Islamic state was likely to prove a potent attraction for would-be European jihadists.

The EU warned earlier this year that the number of young European Muslims going to fight alongside extremist groups in Syria and countries such as Somalia and Sudan was growing fast.

The fear is that they will return home radicalised and well versed in the use of weapons and guerrilla tactics, posing a security risk. The new plan would aim to identify those ready to sign up to fight with extremists and alert other EU countries - making it more difficult for suspects to leave and easier for authorities to follow them on their return and apprehend them if necessary.

Among the measures on the table is a bid to improve the exchange of information through the Schengen Information System (SIS), with non-members Britain and Ireland joining up to the database.

Kerchove said the EU would be walking a delicate line between enforcing security and breaching civil liberties, and problems could arise in defining the offences under which trainee jihadists could be stopped and charged.

France's interior minister is expected on Wednesday to unveil a bill aimed at beefing up anti-terrorism laws and preventing aspiring jihadists from fighting abroad through passport confiscation, bans on foreign travel and international arrest warrants.

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The Dutch authorities have already said they will confiscate the passports of citizens they believe are wanting to go to the Middle East to fight. Global attention was focused on the risks linked to the radicalisation of Europeans in May after a Frenchman was arrested on suspicion of shooting dead four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum after spending a year fighting in Syria.

More than 2,000 Europeans are believed to have left for Syria or be planning to travel there to fight, with some of them returning.

"That does not mean all of them intend to carry out attacks, but some of them will," Kerchove said.

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