Senior gardaí concerned over return to Ireland of Syria fighters

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Senior gardaí are concerned at the potential threat posed by Irish fighters returning from Syria and Iraq as the assault on Islamic State (IS) intensifies.

The concern is part of a fear across the European Union, with reports from top EU terrorism officials of an increase in returning fighters in recent months, one that is expected to accelerate with the offensives against Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

“There is certainly a fear,” said one Irish security source, “it’s a fear right across Europe, for all police and security forces.”

The concerns follow the reported death last Friday week of well-known Irish radical Khalid Kelly, who was blown up by Iraqi forces as he was attempting to carry out a suicide bombing mission near Mosul.

His is the first known death of an Irish citizen in the region recent years and he is thought to be the first Irish suicide bomber for IS, who referred to him as Abu Usama al-Irlandi.

Security sources here said they were still trying to confirm whether or not Kelly, a 50-year-old convert to Islam, is actually dead.

The investigation comes at a time when European authorities and security experts have predicted the return of foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq given the assaults on IS territory.

The director of EU’s police agency Europol said last month that flows of returning fighters had “slightly increased” in recent months.

Rob Wainwright said they were “not yet in high numbers” but added that “maybe Mosul and Raqqa will change that”.

More than 5,000 EU citizens have travelled there since 2011, including around 30 Irish people. The Irish figure includes those involved in humanitarian work in the region.

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