Conflict & Justice

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


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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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

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.