A rising number of radicalized young Muslims with Western passports are traveling to Syria to fight with the armed terrorist groups, raising fears among American and European intelligence officials of a new terrorist threat when the fighters return home, according to an article recently published in the New York Times.
The American newspaper quoted Matthew G. Olsen, the director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, as saying at a security conference in Aspen, Colorado this month that "Syria has become really the predominant jihadist battlefield in the world."
"The concern, going forward from a threat perspective, is there are individuals traveling to Syria, becoming further radicalized, becoming trained and then returning as part of really a global jihadist movement to Western Europe and, potentially, to the United States," Olsen added.
According to the article, classified estimates from Western intelligence services and unclassified assessments from government and independent experts put the number of fighters from Europe, North America and Australia who have entered Syria since 2011 at more than 600.
"That represents about 10 percent of the roughly 6,000 foreign fighters who have poured into Syria by way of the Middle East and North Africa," Olsen said.
In the same context, Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s counterterrorism coordinator said at the conference in Aspen "The scale of this is completely different from what we've experienced in the past."
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer