Daesh terrorists are entering Europe disguised as migrants, a senior British army commander has warned.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach said jihadi militants are taking advantage of the refugee crisis to sneak into European countries as the terrorist group’s so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria crumbles.
In his first major speech since becoming chief of the defence staff in July, Sir Stuart warned that battle-hardened extremists are tearing up their identity documents before making the illegal journey across the Mediterranean.
During an address at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, Sir Stuart said: “I worry about the global reach of Daesh as an idea – copycat, using the internet – more than the internet – using social media, popping up all over the world.
“[Daesh is] losing territory rapidly, foreign fighters are being killed and displaced. But they are moving in migrant flows, hiding in plain sight.
“One of the obvious deductions, and I think it does bear more scrutiny from the younger and the analytical community, is how we manage identity in a world where people are deliberately trying to destroy their identity documents and/or they move in migrant flows.”
A recent EU report warned that as many as 1,500 Daesh foreign fighters have returned to Europe, some of whom have been given orders to wait for instructions to launch terror attacks.
Previous estimates suggest that up to 5,000 Islamist fanatics have travelled from their homes in Europe to fight with the jihadi group in the Middle East and North Africa. Around a fifth of them are believed to have died in battle, while up to 35% have been sent back to conduct “specific missions”, according to the report.
“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 said.
“[F]rom a criminal justice and a threat perspective, disillusionment with Daesh in Syria and Iraq does not equal distance from the Daesh ideology nor disengagement from the jihadi cause at home. A decision to commit acts of terrorism may be well thought through or taken on the spur of the moment, based on the environment and contacts at home.”
Earlier this week, the Times [paywall] reported that a gang of people traffickers has smuggled Daesh terrorists into the UK using fake passports. In January last year, a Daesh operative told BuzzFeed News that the terrorist group had managed to sneak scores of its members into EU nations hidden among refugees and migrants, and that those who made the journey were waiting to carry out the organisation’s threat to launch terror attacks on western targets.