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Europe’s problem with jihad: The foreign fighters who tore families apart

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By Anelise Borges
Dominique Bons’s son Nicolas was one of the thousands of Europeans to flock to fight for extremist groups in Syria
Dominique Bons’s son Nicolas was one of the thousands of Europeans to flock to fight for extremist groups in Syria   -   Copyright  Euronews   -  

This week, Euronews features a series of exclusive reports on "Europe’s Children of ISIS": the victims — and heirs — of one of the most brutal terrorist organizations the world has ever seen. We will ask "What the future holds for these kids? And what this quandary says about Europe?"

As the so-called Islamic State group built its caliphate in Syria and Iraq, it was boosted with the recruitment of armies of foreign fighters.

Thousands of these came from Europe, causing untold misery on battlefields in the Middle East, and tearing apart families back home.

Dominique Bons’s son Nicolas was one of among the more than 5,000 European nationals who, according to the EU, joined a terrorist organization between 2011 and 2016.

She told Euronews that when he left home to go travelling to Thailand, it was in fact only a pretense - he was heading to join a terror group in Syria.

Following his death in that country in 2013, Dominique decided to fight back, setting up an association, which worked to warn the authorities of what was happening to young men and women across the country.

"I know a mother who says my daughter is 18 and is no longer my daughter…I don’t recognize her anymore,” Dominique tells us.

“We’re in 2019. So it does continue. What do we do about it? Nothing.”

Read more: Europe's children of the so-called Islamic State

Read more: Euronews speaks to European children of IS being held in Syrian camps

And a new generation of children of foreign fighters growing up in brutal conditions in detention camps will only add to the problem facing European governments.

In squalid camps in Syria, thousands of children are at risk of becoming radicalised, as governments struggle to decide what should be done with them.

Dominique has a stark warning for the authorities, regarding these children.

“We should perhaps think harder. And quickly. Because the more time passes, the bigger the children get...and live horrible things.

“Now it’s famine, sickness and all the rest of it. Before it was the war, bombs...

“There are traumatized children. Things will get worse because when they grow up they will hate everyone. Their country of origin but also the country where they find themselves. These will be mass killers.”

Europe’s problem with jihad, and the shocking aftermath of the mass recruitment of European’s to ISIS, is far from solved.