How many fighters from the so-called Islamic State are trained and trained to come to Europe? With each new attack that question becomes ever more pertinent. According to experts and intelligence officials from Europe and Iraq there are at least 400.
Among them was Brahim El Bakraoui one of the suicide bombers at Brussels airport. Suspected to be a jihadist he was arrested in Turkey in June 2015 and deported to Europe.
“We reported the deportation to the Belgian authorities on July 14 with a deportation notice,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
A notice which, according to Dr. Serhat Güvenç International relations analyst from Kadir Has University, has often been issued by Turkey.
“The numbers we have is that nearly 5,000 people were under suspicion and screened. Between 1,800 and 2,000 of them were deported to their relative countries. But that has not affected the result. It has shown us that despite the communication mechanisms which more or less work, bombings and terrorist acts continue. It also shows us that the information has not been evaluated very well,” he told euronews.
The man was in fact deported to the Netherlands, not to Belgium. While the Netherlands acknowledged he was sent there it claims Turkey did not respect procedures and did not explain the reasons for his deportation.
So who is right and where are the gaps? The one certainty is that Europeans are there among the ranks of the jihadists. We know by their propaganda videos and in particular we know their motivation.
Do fault lines in trust or a difference of opinion explain why some can evade the net despite the exchange of information?
“There is a great gap between the Turkish definition of terrorism and the European definition. Because of that we should accept that when Turkey deports people to Europe saying they are potential terrorists, we should accept that the European countries may make a different decision about them.
“‘We understand they don’t have the same language on the issue and neither do they share common ground. When Turkey screens and sifts people and labels them potential terrorists, Europe does not recognise Turkey’s criteria. They may even not consider them as being suspicious. That can be a reflection on the different security cultures. That is important,” explained Dr. Serhat Güvenç.
The recent discovery of thousands of documents that belonged to jihadists fighters with names and details may help to identify the members of the so-called Islamic State who return to Europe to organise terrorist cells.
Even so the events of recent months have highlighted the difficulties Europe faces dealing with this threat on its own soil.