Following the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Syria and Iraq, the heads of the UN Security Council (UNSC) have warned of the dangers of foreign terrorist fighters (FTF) spreading terrorism as they return home or scatter around…writes ARUL LOUIS
Council President Dian Triansyah Djani, who heads two terrorism-related committees, and Counter-Terrorism Committee chair Gustavo Meza-Cuadra issued the warning on Monday while briefing the Council.
Their warnings have a resonance for India from where several people have been reported to have travelled to Syria to join the now-defeated IS jihadis. The danger hit close to home in Sri Lanka where a returning FTF was involved in the April 21 Easter Sunday bombings that killed more than 250 people, according to officials.
“Returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters pose a potential threat and require tailored prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration measures, which are consistent with international law and take into account gender and age considerations,” said Djani, who chairs the committee dealing with Al Qaeda and IS and the committee on preventing weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists.
Despite its defeat, the IS “remains a global organization with centralized leadership”, he added.
Counter-Terrorism Committee chair Gustavo Meza-Cuadra said: “Our major concerns are exacerbated further not only by the activities of FTFs who remain in the conflict zones, but also returning and relocating FTFs and their family members, and the potential risks posed by the forthcoming release of imprisoned FTFs, including ‘frustrated travellers’ who did not get a chance to join the IS-led fighting.”
Meza-Cuadra, who is Peru’s Permanent Representative, said there was another layer of threat with terrorist groups “tending to shift their focus towards more localized narratives, marked by a greater focus on local or national issues”.
The IS, its fellow-travellers and lone actors “have consistently demonstrated their intent and ability to exploit new technologies”, he added.
Djani, who is also the Indonesian Permanent Representative, said that according to its monitoring team, there is a possibility that FTFs who had been with IS will choose to join Al Qaeda affiliates “in regions where they are the dominant brand”.
The trend and its potential threat to India was noticed when a US-based recruiter for the Al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) diverted an aspiring IS jihadi to his group.
Michael Kyle Sewell, who admitted in a Texas federal court to recruiting a man to the LeT, advised him that “he should not join the IS because it had no territory”, and instead he suggested the “LeT and the Taliban” as “worth joining”, according to transcripts of their communications.
Emphasising the duty of nations to prevent terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Djani said: “The readiness of non-state groups and individuals with extreme or apocalyptic views to use extreme violence in various parts of the world remains a matter of serious concern.”