Thousands of inmates set to be freed from European prisons at the end of their terms may have been radicalised as Islamist militants while in jail, EU security chief warns
- Julian King said there were more than 1,000 people being held on terror charges
- Others locked up for unrelated crimes may also have been radicalised, he said
- ISIS fighters returning to Europe from Syria are also a concern, he warned today
Thousands of inmates who are soon to be freed from European prisons may have been radicalised while in jail, the EU’s security chief warned today.
Julian King said there were ‘thousands of such individuals’ who were coming to the end of their prison terms.
Around 1,100 people are being held on terrorism charges, King said, while others who were jailed for unrelated crimes may also have been radicalised.
Returning fighters from Syria are also a concern, the commissioner told a news conference today.
Warning: EU security commissioner Julian King (pictured in Brussels) has warned that thousands of soon-to-be-freed prisoners may have been radicalised while in jail
Security forces in Europe have arrested hundreds of militants amid a wave of deadly attacks since 2015.
‘The jihadi threat has not gone away. There is no way we can lower our guard,’ King said on Wednesday.
‘We face a challenge from those who have been prosecuted and locked up in prison for terrorist offences over recent years coming to the end of their term and being released.
‘There are some thousands of such individuals in our prisons across Europe.’
In addition, around 500 European fighters were detained in Syria after ISIS lost its last patch of territory earlier this year, he said.
He added that up to 1,400 children with at least one EU parent were also in Syria, of whom half are in prison.
Turkey this month launched a military offensive on Syria’s Kurdish-controlled north-east region, where most ISIS militants are locked up.
Some of the militants are currently being repatriated by EU states, but legal challenges have for long delayed operations.
‘Obviously the events in Syria at the moment do not make that any easier,’ King said.
Locked up: The fate of ISIS prisoners in Syria – some of whom are seen in a cell last week – is also a concern for European security forces
The fate of captured ISIS fighters has been highly controversial in Europe since the terror group’s supposed ‘caliphate’ crumbled to nothing earlier this year.
Security experts have warned it may be difficult to prove criminal charges against hundreds of fighters, meaning dozens or even hundreds of ISIS supporters would walk free in Europe.
Last month the European Union set up a common counter-terrorism register in the hope of making convictions easier.
The new tool could also help prevent new attacks in Europe, as prosecutors will have access to more information on suspects, officials hope.
French jihadists made up the largest contingent of European ISIS recruits, it is believed.
An ISIS cell of French and Belgian fighters previously crossed from Syria into Turkey and launched deadly attacks on Paris and Brussels in 2015 and 2016.
Donald Trump has threatened to ‘drop’ jihadist fighters at the UK border if Britain does not take back its imprisoned terrorists.
The President called his European allies a ‘tremendous disappointment’ in a furious attack just moments after he announced the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Sunday.
The U.S. would not pay for hundreds of jihadists to be held at Guantanamo Bay ‘for the next 50 years,’ Trump warned.