Growing jihadist threat in Europe from European Muslims returning from fighting in Syria

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According to Israeli journalist Yossi Melman from daily newspaper Ma’ariv, who is specialized in security issues, Western security services are well aware of the possibility that European Muslims who have gone to fight with Islamist anti-Assad rebels in Syria might return home radicalized and ready to perpetrate out terrorist attacks.

In an editorial on the arrest by French police of Mehdi Nemmouche on suspicion of perpetrating the May 24 murders at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, the journalist, who is a security analyst, suggests that reports to the effect that Nemmouche “was arrested during a routine security check on suspicion that passengers on his bus from Amsterdam were smuggling drugs,” are “a cover story designed not to expose intelligence information on the true circumstances of his arrest,” and adds that “lone wolves” like him are a “very real danger.”

Nemmouche, 29, is a French citizen who fought with jihadists in Syria, according to Paris prosecutor Frederic Molins. He had served five jail sentences since 2004, including one for armed robbery, and travelled to Syria after his release at the end of 2012.

Two of the four victims of the Jewish Museum attack were a couple of Israeli tourists, Mira and Emanuel Riva. There had been some speculation in the Israeli media that the couple has been targeted personally, when it emerged that they had worked as book keepers in various Israeli government ministries and agencies, but the arrest of Nemmouche is regarded in Israel as finally disproving this theory.

The apparent carelessness of the attacker in allowing himself to be caught with his weapons, points to a anti-Semitic motive, rather than a professional targeted killing.

The shootings, the first terror attack by a European returning from fighting in Syria, highlights growing concerns in European capitals about the threat posed by hundreds of European Muslims who travelled to Syria to fight with jihadist groups.

Israeli security officials will also be concerned of the threat to Jewish and Israeli targets in Europe, and the threat is likely to prompt increasing intelligence cooperation.