Europe a ‘launching pad’ for ISIS attack in U.S., former CIA official says

by WorldTribune Staff, February 2, 2017

Ineffective intelligence-sharing has allowed Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists to infiltrate Europe and establish a “launching pad” for attacks in the United States, a former CIA official said.

The absence of a cohesive information-sharing strategy among European intelligence agencies exposes the U.S. to a greater risk of terrorist attacks, former acting CIA director John McLaughlin told the Washington Free Beacon on Feb. 1.

Ex-intel officials say the lack of coordination in Europe could pose threats to U.S national security.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, McLaughlin said the Trump administration must establish a strong intelligence-sharing platform with its European allies.

McLaughlin warned that jihadists returning to Europe from fighting in Syria and Iraq could have a spillover effect in the United States as Europe’s security services are already “stretched to the limit.” The influx is concerning because European passport holders are subjected to less scrutiny than others during entry into the United States, he said.

“If we have terrorists in Europe with passports that don’t require the same sort of attention as visas, they can come here,” McLaughlin testified.

U.S. defense officials estimate that 1,900 of the roughly 7,000 foreign fighters who left the West to fight for ISIS already have filtered back into Europe. That number is expected to climb due to Iraq’s offensive to retake Mosul and the U.S.-led offensive to drive ISIS from its de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria.

“We have to recognize that as [ISIS is] defeated in Iraq and Syria, if they’re not killed and if they don’t melt into the population in those areas and retire from a life of extremism, they will go home and they will go home to European services,” former CIA director David Petraeus said in congressional testimony.

Passport-free movement is permitted across most of the 26-member European Union. Khalid el-Bakraoui, one of the suicide bombers in the March 2016 attacks on Brussels that killed 32 civilians, was wanted by French authorities in connection to the terrorist attacks in Paris four months prior. He was able to enter Belgium after traveling to Greece via Italy.

German police thwarted a new terror attack plot on Feb. 1 after mass police raids resulted in the arrest of a Tunisian ISIS recruiter.

Police stormed 54 homes, mosques and businesses in the state of Hesse in the early hours of the morning. The unnamed suspect allegedly established a network of supporters “with the aim, among other things, of committing a terrorist attack in Germany,” officials said.

The suspect was present in Germany from 2003 to 2013, then returned during the refugee crisis of 2015 posing as an asylum seeker, officials said.

“According to evidence gathered so far, attack plans were still in an early phase and had not selected a specific target,” said a spokesperson for the Hesse state criminal investigation office.

German authorities said the man was freed from prison in September, and because Tunisia had not submitted the required extradition documents, he had to be released from temporary custody in November after the maximum period allowed under German law.

He is one of 16 suspected ISIS supporters targeted in the four-month investigation in Hesse.

In a separate case, prosecutors in Berlin said that they arrested three people on Jan. 31 who were suspected of planning to travel to Syria or Iraq to undergo explosives and weapons training with ISIS.

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