Syria: A training ground for European jihadists
25 March 2013
Jyllands-Posten, De Morgen, De Standaard
When armed rebellion began in Syria two years ago, there were fears that European Muslims interested in jihad would go there to train to fight a holy war. If the headline in Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, "Youthful gang members are going to war in the name of Islam," is to be believed, that time has come.
According to the Danish Secret Services —
… several members of the most violent gangs of immigrants in Copenhagen are currently in Syria where they have gone in order to participate in jihad. This may turn hardened criminals into hardline fundamentalists. "This is a new trend. These people are already potentially dangerous and when they return home, they have access to arms and explosives. It is very worrisome to see these types of ties forming between Islam and criminals," says the head of the Danish Secret Services.
If the Danes are concerned, the Belgians also have their share of woes. In Europe, Belgium has become the "primary supplier" of youth going to Syria for the jihad, reports Belgian daily De Morgen. The paper cites a terrorism expert who says that "in Belgium, there is still a great potential for finding combatants" but "most will return disillusioned" —
… they have heroic visions in their heads and expect to become warriors but most of them will not even have weapons. They will be deployed either to build barricades or to man an observation post or as cannon fodder.
According to another Belgian daily De Standaard, the Sharia4Belgium group, which was officially disbanded at the end of 2012, plays an important role in the recruitment of young jihadists in Belgium for the Syrian rebellion.