Conflict & Justice

Anti-Terror Chief in Europe Warns that Volunteers in Syria Could Come Home as Terrorists

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Credit: REUTERS

Free Syrian Army fighters get prepared ahead of an infiltration operation in Aleppo's neighbourhood of Salaheddine April 21, 2013. Picture taken April 21, 2013. REUTERS/Malek Al Shemali (SYRIA - Tags: CONFLICT POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTXYVNX

Growing numbers of foreigners are going to Syria to fight alongside the rebels.

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Western intelligence officials, like the European Union's counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, are concerned that at least some of them will come back as terrorists.

"Most of them are going to join the more conservative Islamist elements," says Shiraz Maher.

Maher is senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization at King's College, London, which recently published a study on the phenomenon.

"If not al-Qaeda, then certainly at the top end of the spectrum, in the more religious sphere," he says.

"These fighters will be heavily indoctrinated with religious zeal, but they're also going to be brutalized by a conflict that is one of the worst we've seen in a long, long time," adds Maher.

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