European counterterrorism networks warned that the battleground losses of the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) could lead to suicide bombers taking revenge by attacking targets in Europe, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on Friday.
An Interpol list, dated May 27, said there could be more than 173 IS operatives who “have been trained to build and position improvised explosive devices in order to cause serious deaths and injuries. It is believed that they can travel internationally to participate in terrorist activities.”
There was no evidence that any of the people on the list had already entered Europe, but a European counterterrorism officer told the Guardian that one of the reasons for circulating the list in Europe was to identify those on it who were possibly born and raised in European countries.
In 2015 the United Nations said there were 20,000 foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria — about 4,000 of whom had come from Europe.
The list was originally compiled by the US intelligence community and was reportedly based on information gathered during operations on IS headquarters in Syria and Iraq.
The data was passed on to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) before being handed over to Interpol. US intelligence services appeared to be confident about the reliability of the sources used to compile the list.
The list highlights various details, including the suspects’ names, when they were recruited, their last address of residence, their mother’s name, the name of the mosque at which they had been praying while fighting, and any photographs.
A note attached to the Interpol list circulated in Italy said that those in the list “may have manifested willingness to commit a suicidal attack or martyrdom to support Islam.”
Interpol launched an appeal to its national partners to contribute any information they might have about the names featured on the list, hoping to gather additional information about the suspects that might make it easier to track them down, such as passport numbers, border crossings and criminal records.
Counterterrorism units say, however, that tracking down potential attacked remains an elusive pursuit, as they tend to have access to false documents and fake passports.
Whether IS fighters will attempt to reach Europe largely depends on how things go for the terror organization in coming weeks and months, terrorism experts believe. With the recent liberation of Mosul in Iraq and the impending fall of Raqqa in Syria to the US-led coalition, IS could regroup and form a new base in either Syria or Iraq, or closer to the border region with Turkey.