Latest News Syria: German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich

Syria.German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich .jpgGerman Official: Up to 700 Europeans Fighting with Terrorists in Syria 

May 17, 2013

Up to 700 Europeans are fighting with the armed terrorist groups in Syria, mainly as militant Islamists, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said, warning that the militants could return as "homegrown terrorists".

The British the Guardian newspaper quoted Friedrich as calling for a controversial new policy that would temporarily prevent those persons from re-entering Europe.

The paper said that in the first disclosures of western intelligence from an EU government about Europeans fighting in Syria, senior German officials said they knew of up to 40 people who had left Germany for fighting since last summer. Most of them had German passports.

While German security services monitor the situation closely, the German interior ministry has banned three Salafist organizations in the past year, the fighters could not be stopped from leaving Germany because it could not be proved that they were going to Syria, the officials said.

The paper added that the interior ministry is worried that the fighters will return to Germany where they could operate as "homegrown terrorists" and is pushing for pan-European action to diminish that risk. The chances of success, however, look limited.

According to the paper, Friedrich intends to raise the issue at a meeting of EU governments next month, he will ask for a two-year re-entry ban to the EU for the suspected Islamists. However, it may be difficult legally to keep them out as most of them carry passports from EU countries, many will often have families in the countries concerned and may have had jobs and entitlements in the EU.

A year-long survey by King's College London of more than 200 jihadist-linked websites and hundreds of Arab and western press reports found last month that up to 600 individuals from 14 countries including the UK, Austria, Spain, Sweden and Germany had taken part in the conflict since it began more than two years ago.

The largest contingent, the study found, came from the UK, with estimates of fighters running between 28 and 134. Based on their populations, the figures for Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland –with about 200 fighters between them.