Wednesday, April 16, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Europeans hoping to fight in Syria raise new fears

PARIS — European governments have been among the most vocal supporters of Syria’s rebels – to a point: Last week, Muslims in Britain and France accused of trying to join the fight against the regime were detained.

For security officials, the fear is that extremists with European passports who are alienated and newly trained to wage war will ultimately take skills learned in Syria and use them back home. In France, where an Islamic extremist trained in Pakistan attacked a Jewish school and a group of soldiers earlier this year, the fear is particularly acute.

French officials have jailed eight people, including one over the weekend, describing the group as a network of French-born radical Islamists bent on targeting Jewish groups at home and fighting holy war abroad. They said the cell attacked a kosher grocery with a grenade and had a structure in place to send Muslims to fight in Syria alongside the rebels.

“The enemies within will require vigilance and great determination,” France’s top security official, Interior Minister Manuel Valls, said Friday. “We know that there could be some who were not apprehended, who perhaps went abroad to fight.”

Security officials worldwide have watched the aftermath of the Arab Spring with caution, particularly concerned that citizens who join the fight could return home more radicalized and with a new ability to carry out guerilla warfare. European officials have a particular concern: It’s a short flight from the Mideast and the borders within the European Union are open for anyone with an EU passport or national ID, making undetected travel a simple matter.

“We have been keeping a close eye on who is going to Syria, but unlike Libya, there are multiple ways into the country and it’s not as easy to track,” said a European security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the media. “Still, we’re particularly concerned that people returning will come back with new skills that could present a threat to our security.”

It’s a sensitive and complex issue, say European intelligence officials. There’s evidence that foreigners are joining the fight against Syrian President Bashar Assad, but their numbers – especially those from Europe – are believed to be small. But what is a minor issue in Syria could become a big issue in Europe, where many Muslims, even the native born, feel increasingly marginalized.

Syrian rebels are downplaying the newcomers’ impact on the struggle to dislodge Assad. George Sabra, spokesman for the Syrian National Council, insisted last week that the foreign fighters presented no long-term problem for Syria: “They say they’ve come to help the Syrian people and they’ll return home again.”

That’s precisely what many security officials are afraid of. Noman Benotman, a former jihadist fighter who now works for the London-based Quillium Foundation, offers an even more sobering view. He said it’s not the warfare skills that security officials should fear but rather the sense of anger and lack of fear.

“There is an impression amongst some fighters in Syria that the West has abandoned them,” said Benotman, who now works as an analyst for the anti-radicalization think tank. “After you’re engaged in such a battle, you lose all sense of fear. This is exactly what al-Qaida recruiters look to as their dream opportunity for recruits.”

He said fighters who return to Europe and elsewhere will have come back prepared for war – but without any obvious outlet.

“The radicalization process has already started” in Syria, he said. “If al-Qaida elements don’t capitalize on this in Syria, they will do it anywhere they can. We’ve seen this before with Chechnya and other places.”

Before Syria, it was the Iraq war which drew foreign radicals, including five Frenchmen of North African origin who were convicted of running a network to funnel French Muslims to fight against American forces.

The foreign mujahedeen who fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan are the classic example. Osama bin Laden is the most notorious among them, but others include the first leader of the Islamist Abu Sayyaf separatist movement in the Philippines, and some of the first recruits for Jemaah Islamiyah, the terror group that ultimately carried out the Bali bombings in 2002, killing 202 people.

Britain is home to a large Muslim population and suffered a devastating 2005 terrorist attack perpetrated by British-born Islamists. Fears there that British Muslims might be slipping into Syria to join al-Qaida extremists were heightened in August when freelance photographer John Cantlie claimed he had been held hostage in July by a group of extremists including a man he identified as having a London accent.

On Tuesday, British police charged Shajul Islam, 26, in the kidnapping of Cantlie and fellow photographer Jeroen Oerlemans, and said Islam will appear in court on Wednesday. He was arrested Oct. 9 at London’s Heathrow Airport. A 26-year-old woman who had been detained with him was released without charge Tuesday.

France, Syria’s one-time colonial ruler and a strong supporter of the rebellion, was the first to recognize the opposition Syrian National Council, whose leaders again returned to Paris last week looking for backing. The administration has given millions in aid and non-lethal supplies, but President Francois Hollande has drawn the line at weapons, saying in a televised interview last week “when you supply arms, you never know where they’re going to end up.”

The same might be said of fighters: The French government is on the verge of passing a law that would bar citizens from training for terrorism abroad. The law stemmed from the March attacks in Toulouse by a radical Islamist born in France who received paramilitary training in Pakistan. The attacker, Mohammed Merah, killed seven people before dying in a shootout with police.

Valls, the French interior minister, has spoken out strongly, especially last week in the aftermath of the French arrests: “The terrorist menace is mutating.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Supervisor candidates file conflict-of-interest forms

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1

 
Vacaville set to usher in new chapter for Police Department

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Solano Jews gather for start of Passover

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Suisun council debates train depot renovation

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
 
Trial begins for teacher accused of abusing children

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

Suisun police ID shooting victim

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
County discusses consolidated dispatch

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

Miner Slough Bridge to see repairs

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

 
Easter hunt set for Mare Island

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
‘Heaven is for Real’ opens Wednesday

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B5

 
 
Fiesta Days pageant organizers seek contestants

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

Coakley joins Solano fair board

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6

 
Crews make quick work of vehicle fire

By Glen Faison | From Page: A6, 6 Comments | Gallery

 
Paper Clover Campaign supports Solano County 4-H

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6

 
Hundreds flock to Krispy Kreme as it opens doors

By Susan Winlow | From Page: B9 | Gallery

 
County to honor Solano educators

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A14

.

US / World

Officials: Huge San Francisco blaze was accidental

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
‘Shrimp Boy’ pleads not guilty in corruption case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Solemn tributes mark Boston Marathon bombing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Immigration activists urge Obama to act boldly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

First women move into Army platoon artillery jobs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Final deadline arrives for health exchange sign-up

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

New LA newspaper embraces print in digital world

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Congress is giving states the transportation blues

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Police: Suspects in killings wore GPS devices

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

 
DNA alternative to Pap smear sparks medical debate

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Robot sub returns to water after 1st try cut short

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Supremacist faces murder charges in Kansas deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Ukraine: Military secures airport from attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Democrats have outside money advantage – for now

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Hamas praises deadly West Bank shooting

By The Associated Press | From Page: A15

 
2 dead after ferry sinks off SKorean coast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A15

.

Opinion

Oh, for the days of Dr. Welby

By Dan K. Thomasson | From Page: A13, 11 Comments

 
Poor Judgement in Flight 370 column

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13

 
Senseless babble that hurts

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13

Expand Red Top Road

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13

 
Editorial cartoons for April 16, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A13

State Senate must do more to restore trust

By Thomas Elias | From Page: A13

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 16, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 16, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

What love gives you

By Barton Goldsmith | From Page: A2

 
Saving carrots from their usual sugary Easter fate

By Sara Moulton | From Page: B6

Sweet pairings for grown-up Easter treats

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
A matzo ball soup fit for a weeknight dinner

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

My husband still pays his 45-year-old unemployed son’s bills

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

 
Horoscopes for April 16, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

Boston Globe wins Pulitzer for bombing coverage

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Lindsay Lohan’s mom pleads guilty to DWI in NY

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Strahan’s ‘GMA’ side job confirmed with his visit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

.

Sports

Cal hires Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin as coach

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Warriors trying to move on without Andrew Bogut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Sharks’ Torres uncertain for playoff opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Indians shut out Mustangs

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Ex-Minnesota State, Mankato coach returning to job

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Panthers jump Sabres to win NHL draft lottery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

More former players sue NHL regarding concussions

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
49ers sign WR Brandon Lloyd to 1-year deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

MLB marks 67th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Business

Twitter buys data analytics partner Gnip

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Yellen signals more aggressive stance toward banks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

.

Obituaries

Carolyn McClelland

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Evonne Medina

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7