UN: New EU, Arab extremist networks emerging in Mideast

A Syrian woman comforts her children after their house targeted by violence caused by foreign backed extremists groups in the Sahour neighborhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
A Syrian woman comforts her children after their house targeted by violence caused by foreign backed extremists groups in the Sahour neighborhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

New extremist networks in Europe and the Middle East Arab countries may emerge from the war in Syria as thousands of foreigners fight alongside local militants, the UN Security Council heard Wednesday.

A report from the UN’s Al-Qaeda sanctions committee raised specific fears of large numbers of Al-Qaeda affiliated foreign militants teaming up with Syria’s branch of Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front.

“Ties are established that the monitoring team predicts could lead to new pan-Arab and pan-European networks of extremists,” said the head of the committee, Gary Quinlan.

“Furthermore, the return of these battle hardened foreign militants to their countries of origin, or to third countries, with new ideas and skills is a cause for concern,” said Quinlan.

He told the Security Council that Al-Qaeda is getting younger, with men in their 30s and 40s taking up leadership positions, increasingly shaped by contemporary events rather than the 1990s.

For example, a new generation in Nigeria’s Boko Haram are more disposed towards violence and less tolerant of local religious leaders, said Quinlan, also Australia’s ambassador to the UN.

Mid-level commanders in Al-Qaeda affiliates in Africa and Asia bring “technological knowledge and a focus on innovative attack planning,” he said.

Younger leaders are also more adept at connecting with the next generation of recruits through “sophisticated use of social media,” he added.

If Al-Qaeda is organizationally more splintered, a more diverse and localized recruitment makes it more durable, Quinlan said.

He described improvised-explosive devices as Al-Qaeda’s weapon of choice and said affiliates disseminated step-by-step guides “in a deliberate attempt to arm ‘lone-wolf’ terrorists.”

The UN Al-Qaeda sanctions committee last week blacklisted and imposed sanctions on Boko Haram, a month after it claimed the mass kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls.

NJF/NJF