A report released two weeks ago by Interpol publicized identifying information of 173 Islamic State operatives suspected to be headed towards — or already in — Europe. The report warns that it’s easier for non-European operatives to slip into the continent than for European citizens of the terror group.
Today, a new report from Belgian media outlet HLN provides additional details on these ISIS operatives, and on one known Belgian operative in particular:
Belgian Islamic State terrorist on his way to Europe
On the list of 173 IS terrorists who would be on their way to Europe to commit suicide bombings there is also a Belgian. He is a 24-year-old with Moroccan roots who is called “Abu Omar Al-Belgiki.” The Belgian with dual nationality remained until recently in Mosul, the Iraqi bulwark where IS has recently been expelled. He never appeared in public before.
His nickname appears to be a tribute to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Molenbeek commander of the Paris terror attack who used the same alias. Where the Belgian is currently is not known. But of the other Europeans for whom Interpol expressly warns in a document we have obtained, one could certainly escape the siege of Mosul and now try to get from Syria to the West through neighboring countries.
Most on the list are Iraqis, but that does not make the threat any less dangerous. It is feared that IS is again trying to get terrorists through the refugee stream into Europe — and people without any history on our continent have better chances of success entering than European IS operatives.
Particularly worrying is the high number of minors on the terrorist list. They are even easier to slip through the mesh of the grid, while they have sometimes been trained for suicide attacks for a few years. “In the Interpol document, there are certainly three names of teenagers who received such training and have already left the IS area,” says a reliable source in Mosul. “They are currently in Turkey, if they have not already traveled further to Europe.”
That Abu Omar Al-Belgiki is using the same alias as the ISIS emir who coordinated the November 2015 suicide attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and injured 368 is an ominous sign. Abdelhamid Abaaoud had been a senior member of ISIS operating in eastern Syria, but he was able to travel with refugees through Greece to return to Europe and plan the Paris attacks.
Abaaoud had previously been featured in ISIS’s Dabiq magazine:
A profile of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks killed in a police raid https://t.co/9MfAHKXVrL
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) November 19, 2015
Traveling along the refugee routes through Turkey into Europe appears to be the strategy his new namesake has in mind, based on the HLN report. The author of the HLN article provided additional details on the Interpol list on Twitter earlier today:
PT – High number of Iraqis would mean that IS is trying again to abuse the refugee stream – worrying how many minors on list (5/7)
— Guy Van Vlierden (@GuyVanVlierden) August 1, 2017
PT – Source has recognized three names on list as minors who are in Turkey already. “If not further West by now”, he adds (7/7)
— Guy Van Vlierden (@GuyVanVlierden) August 1, 2017
Last week, I reported here at PJ Media on comments made by presidential envoy Brett McGurk, who told the New Yorker that U.S. intelligence is circulating to coalition partners a list of 19,000 known ISIS fighters on the loose:
— Patrick Poole (@pspoole) July 27, 2017
Two weeks ago, The Guardian reported that Interpol has provided a list to European countries of 173 ISIS operatives who may be planning on targeting Western countries:
Interpol has circulated a list of 173 Islamic State fighters it believes could have been trained to mount suicide attacks in Europe in revenge for the group’s military defeats in the Middle East.
The global crime fighting agency’s list was drawn up by US intelligence from information captured during the assault on Isis territories in Syria and Iraq.
European counter-terror networks are concerned that as the Isis “caliphate” collapses, there is an increasing risk of determined suicide bombers seeking to come to Europe, probably operating alone.
One of the main issues has been the hundreds, if not thousands, of former ISIS fighters from European countries now beginning to return home:
— AFP news agency (@AFP) June 16, 2017
Radicalization among immigrants and refugees already in these countries has escalated, too. At this time last year, the German interior minister warned that his country had 59 active terror investigations involving refugees. That admission came after four separate attacks in less than a week in Germany, including a suicide bombing by a Syrian refugee in Ansbach.
But as I reported here over the weekend, there have been a dozen terror incidents in Germany since January 2016 involving suspects with refugee/immigration backgrounds:
— Patrick Poole (@pspoole) July 29, 2017
The U.S. is not immune from the problem. Officials have admitted that dozens of jihadists who fought in Syria and Iraq have returned to the U.S., and yet prosecutions of returning foreign terrorist fighters have so far been scarce. Nearly two years ago, reports indicated that the FBI had more than 1,000 active ISIS-related investigations ongoing in all 50 states:
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) November 14, 2015
— Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) August 29, 2015
How large that number has grown since then is unknown, but as I reported here last week, the arrest of a Bay Area ISIS supporter who vowed to “redefine terror” and kill 10,000 Americans represented the 130th ISIS-related arrest in the U.S. since March 2014.
Trained ISIS operatives conducting terror attacks on the scale of the November 2015 triple suicide attacks in Paris or the March 2016 Brussels bombings may be the new normal if even a fraction of this reported 173-member terror team succeeds in reaching Europe.
Further, as the HLN report makes clear, these ISIS operatives whom Interpol is warning about may be even harder to detect than the terror cells responsible for those previous Paris and Brussels attacks.