Terror attacks

'Fewer than 25% of foreign fighters' on Interpol radar

Shi'ite fighters in al-Fatha, north-east of Baiji, on Oct 18, 2015.
Shi'ite fighters in al-Fatha, north-east of Baiji, on Oct 18, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID • Interpol has identified only 5,800 foreign fighters of the roughly 25,000 believed to have joined militant groups in conflict zones like Syria and Iraq, the head of the global police body said.

He was speaking at an anti-terrorism conference in Seville in Spain just days after the Paris terror attacks that killed 129 people and a bomb threat in Germany that led to the cancellation of a football match between Germany and the Netherlands.

"The organisation currently holds records of some 5,800 suspected foreign terrorist fighters contributed by more than 50 countries," Mr Juergen Stock said in an address on Wednesday.

"But with some estimates putting the number of foreign terrorist fighters at more than 25,000, clearly a significant gap still exists between the number of foreign terrorist fighters we have identified and those estimated to have reached conflict zones."

Mr Stock said there had to be more information sharing between nations and improved access to the data they have for organisations like Interpol.

SIGNIFICANT GAP IN KNOWLEDGE

With some estimates putting the number of foreign terrorist fighters at more than 25,000, clearly a significant gap still exists between the number of foreign terrorist fighters we have identified and those estimated to have reached conflict zones.

MR JUERGEN STOCK, Interpol chief

Law enforcement and counter- terrorism officials from around the world have gathered in Seville for a three-day conference to address ways to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and other extremist groups.

"The so-called Islamic State has sent a clear signal that it is bringing its fight to our doorsteps and to our capitals," said Mr Stock.

"We need to send an equally strong message that we are united in our efforts to protect citizens and combat this threat," he added.

A United Nations report this year showed an increase in the number of foreign fighters from last year, with more than 25,000 foreign militants from over 100 countries now involved in armed conflicts.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2015, with the headline ''Fewer than 25% of foreign fighters' on Interpol radar'. Print Edition | Subscribe