Six Irish passport holders thought to still be operating for ISIS in Syria
An estimated half-a-dozen Irish passport holders are believed to be still operating on behalf of ISIL in Syria.
Senior Garda security and intelligence officers reckon that many of the 30 suspects, who left here to join foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, are now dead.
Others are missing and some may have headed to other “theatres of war” such as in the Philippines, the horn of Africa and north Africa.
Irish passport holder Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev was captured by Kurdish fighters in December.
Bekmirzaev was held by members of Kurd-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who have rounded up foreign fighters as they push, with United States support, to eliminate Isil from their remaining strongholds in Syria.
Not all of those who flew to Syria and Iraq from Ireland fought for Isil, with a number siding with factions opposed to them, such as the Kurds.
The dangers resulting from the return of foreign fighters, who hold Irish passports, have reduced considerably since 2015 with the near defeat of Isil forcing them to move to other battlefields, either through force or voluntarily.
The main international threat here now comes from the lone wolf, somebody who has been radicalised either by an associate or through the internet.
Senior gardaí say the families of foreign fighters, who had witnessed atrocities in Syria and Iraq, presented a bigger challenge for the authorities here on their return.
They believe this will become more a social welfare and educational problem than a security challenge as efforts are being made to integrate them back into the community.
There are also concerns about a “blurring of lines” between terrorism and organised crime, with evidence showing some of the terror attacks in recent years in Belgium, Paris and London Bridge, being facilitated by people with criminal records.
Gardaí work closely with the Defence Forces and international agencies in monitoring the activities of a top tier of between 20 and 30 sympathisers, who are providing logistical support here like producing false documentation and identity papers and fund raising, while making contact with suspected terror activists in Europe.