A high ranking UN official on Tuesday warned of the increasing risk of terror attacks around the world by nearly 30,000 “foreign terrorist fighters” currently in Syria and Iraq.
Jean-Paul Laborde, the UN’s assistant secretary general and head of its Counter-Terrorism Committee warned of the possibility of staggering attacks by foreign fighters returning to their home countries.
“The number of foreign terrorist fighters is very high” in war-ravaged Syria and neighboring Iraq, said Laborde.
“There are nearly 30,000, and now that the territory held by Daesh (the Islamic State group) is shrinking in Iraq, we are seeing them return, not only to Europe but to all of their countries of origin, like Tunisia, Morocco,” he told reporters in Geneva.
“The terrorist attacks in those countries of origin risk getting bigger and bigger to counter-balance the pressure on them” on the ground in Syria and Iraq, he said.
The former French judge also stressed that the international community had the judicial tools to fight against terrorism, but warned that “the adaptability and flexibility of terrorist organizations are much faster than ours.”
To compensate for the slowness of judicial systems, he called for more cooperation with internet giants like Google, Twitter and Microsoft to help keep tabs on potential terrorists online.
He insisted though that this needed to be done without “violating freedom of expression.”
Laborde also called on states to share more information faster.
“If we don’t do that, we will continue to see a growing number of terrorist acts,” he said.
In the past few days, IS-linked militants carried out brutal attacks on three separate Saudi cities, including one outside the Prophet’s mosque in Medina, a busy shopping street in Baghdad, and a restaurant in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, killing close to 300 people.
Three suicide bombers also attacked Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport last week, killing 45 people.
The Counter-Terrorism Committee, made up of representatives of the UN Security Council member states, was created in New York following the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.