An increasing number of fighters from Europe and the United States are heading for Syria to join militants in the fight for the overthrow of Syrian government, says director of the US government’s National Counterterrorism Center.
“Syria has become really the predominant jihadist battlefield in the world,” Matthew Olsen said at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, on Friday, Bloomberg reported.
“We see foreign fighters going from Western Europe and, in a small number of cases, from the United States to Syria to fight for the opposition.”
Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s counter-terrorism coordinator, another speaker at the forum, said that about 600 fighters have gone to Syria from Europe, adding that the number will grow to thousands if the ones from the Balkans and North Africa are counted.
“The scale of this is completely different from what we’ve experienced in the past with Afghanistan, Pakistan, with Yemen and Somalia,” de Kerchove said.
Olsen had earlier warned that these fighters will finally return to the US and Europe to pose a great threat in the West.
“The concern going forward from a threat perspective is there are individuals traveling to Syria, becoming further radicalized, becoming trained and then returning as part of really a global jihadist movement to Western Europe and, potentially, to the United States,” Olsen said on July 18.