Islamic State Revival in COVID Era: Is EU Losing Control Over Returning Fighters?

Written by | Thursday, May 28th, 2020

A third of Islamic State fighters who left Germany for Syria have since returned, the country‘s authorities have warned. Germany, which is taking a “holistic approach” in dealing with ex-jihadi fighters, including deradicalization and reintegration, has seen over 100 members of the terrorist group returning to the country following the jihadi networks failed incursions in Iraq and Syria, the country‘s Interior Ministry said on Sunday (24 May), adding that “these people remain under police and judicial investigation.” Several suspected Islamic State members, citizens or residents of Germany, are believed to be in custody in Iraq, Syria or Turkey.
A new report from an EU-backed genocide investigation body says adding war crimes and genocide to terrorism charges for Islamic State fighters returning to Europe from conflicts in Iraq and Syria will lead to tougher sentences and “more justice” for victims. According to the EU-backed “Genocide Network”, many so-called returning foreign terrorist fighters affiliated with the Islamic State only face charges under domestic terrorism laws in their EU home countries, which come with a statute of limitations that sets a time limit to prosecution. However, “core international crimes,” like genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, can be prosecuted without a statute of limitations and be added to domestic terrorism charges. Culminating charges can lead to stiffer sentencing, the report said, adding that “therefore, its members and foreign terrorist fighters could be responsible for committing war crimes and other core international crimes.”
Meanwhile, this news comes at a time when the infamous terrorist group has launched a new series of attacks in Syria and Iraq after, as experts warn, the jihadists have learned how to exploit the coronavirus outbreak – and conflicts in the region. In Northern Iraq, thick columns of smoke have been seen rising over wheat fields and it was none else than Islamic State jihadists who set fire to them to intimidate the local population to convey a clear message: This is what happens when you collaborate with state forces. The militia’s attacks have now been on the rise for several weeks: a suicide bomber blew himself up at the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in the city of Kirkuk on 28 April, followed by a coordinated advance against members of the Iraqi state-supported Popular Mobilization Units north of Baghdad on 1 May. These complex and coordinated attacks are indications of an “organization that is winning back real power,” according to Sam Heller, advisor to the NGO Crisis Group.

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