An estimated 25,000 foreign terrorist combatants are thought to be operating across the globe, but only about 5,600 have been identified by law enforcement agencies, Interpol’s chief said on Wednesday.
Jürgen Stock, the secretary general of the international police organization, said that one out of five terrorists has been identified by countries that share intelligence information, with the majority of the fighters based in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Spain, security forces have identified around 139 people with links to jihadist terrorism
“We need to close that gap,” Stock said during a teleconference message that was shown at the opening of the sixth gathering of Interpol’s Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group meeting in Seville.
“We need to send a united message to the Islamic State to defeat its own message of unity. Information is key to the police battle, we need to work together, and we all know that this is a global threat.”
In Spain, security forces have identified around 139 people with links to jihadist terrorism, with the majority of them already in prison. Of that number, about 25 have come back from fighting in countries such as Syria.
Speaking at the conference, Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz said that approximately 650 arrests had been made over the past decade. But this year has been particularly busy for Spain’s law enforcement agencies, which made 90 arrests in 36 different operations – twice as many as last year.
Among those arrested are people suspected of having links with terrorist groups and those who have been willing to fight in other countries. Spanish authorities have also arrested “lone wolves” who carry out attacks on their own.
“We are not being reactive to events, but rather proactive in the fight against terrorism,” said Fernández Díaz.
When asked about the raids without court orders now taking place in France, the minister said: “I don’t want to assess them, but we must support France in the tough times and in the good times.”
Fernández Díaz also said that the government has no information concerning any threat that would warrant canceling Saturday’s soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the former’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium. “As of now, we are not planning to ask for the match to be canceled,” he said.
A total of 120 members from 39 countries, including China, Azerbaijan and the Philippines, are in Seville for the three-day conference to share strategies against foreign terrorist fighters.
English version by Martin Delfín.