First Published: 2017-10-19

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online
G7 interior ministers to be joined by Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter in bid to fight extremism online, where ‘over 80 percent of radicalisation’ happens.
Middle East Online

Meeting comes days after US-backed forces took full control of Raqa

ISCHIA - The threat of fresh attacks on the West by foreign fighters fleeing the fallen Islamic State stronghold of Raqa is set to dominate a G7 meeting of interior ministers in Italy.

The two-day gathering, which kicks off Thursday on the Italian island of Ischia, comes just days after US-backed forces took full control of the jihadists' de facto Syrian capital.

Anti-G7 protesters waving placards reading "Infernal Ministers" marched down the quayside as police helicopters thundererd overhead, calling for an end to wars and accusing the West of failing to protect its citizens.

Most foreign fighters are believed to have fled over the past few months. Experts say those who stayed are now likely to head for Turkey in the hope of travelling on to Europe to seek revenge for the destruction of the "caliphate".

Tens of thousands of citizens from Western countries travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the group between 2014 and 2016, including extremists who then returned home and staged attacks that claimed dozens of lives.

While border crossings have since tightened making it more difficult for fighters to return, security experts have warned of renewed possibilities of strikes as the pressure on IS intensifies.

"With an Islamic military defeat in Iraq and Syria we could find ourselves facing a return diaspora of foreign fighters," Italy's Interior Minister Marco Minniti told a parliamentary committee last week.

"There are an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 foreign fighters from 100 countries. Some of them have been killed of course, but... it's possible some of the others will try to return home, to northern Africa and Europe," he said.

- Boats to Europe -

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said a group of 130-150 foreign fighters, including Europeans, had turned themselves in before the end of the battle in Raqa.

Other reports suggested a convoy of foreign fighters had been able to escape the city towards IS-held territory, a claim denied categorically by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) officials.

The SDF is expected to contact the home countries of any foreign fighters it holds, to discuss the possibility of turning them over to face prosecution.

But captured fighters could prove a legal headache, with questions raised over what evidence, collected by whom, would be used in a domestic court. Jihadists also become security risks in jails for their potential to radicalise.

"We need to set up a large de-radicalization project, we'll talk about it in Ischia," Minniti said.

French European lawmaker Arnaud Danjean said Wednesday there would be "negotiations with the countries concerned" over what to do with returnees.

Minniti warned fighters could take advantage of the confusion and "use the human trafficking routes" to return home -- raising the spectre of extremists embarking on the migrant boats which regularly head to Italy.

"Before, they wouldn't have risked a precious assest, a trained fighter cell, ending up on a sinking boat in the Mediterranean. Now that they're on that run that's changed," he said.

It meant controversial efforts currently spearheaded by Italy to close the land and sea trafficking routes which cross Africa into Libya and on across the central Mediterranean sea to Europe were "essential", he added.

- Terrorism online -

The Group of Seven --- from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States -- will also tackle the hot issue of terrorism online, with analysts warning IS's loss of territory will turn street-to-street fighting into an intelligence war.

In a G7 first, representatives from Internet giants Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter will also be taking part as the interior ministers want the tech giants to go further and faster in identifying extremism..

"The internet plays a decisive role in radicalization. Over 80 percent of conversations and radicalisation happen online," said Minniti.

The interior ministers were due to arrive Thursday afternoon at a medieval castle on the volcanic island off Naples, before retiring for an informal dinner and knuckling down to working sessions on Friday.

They are to be joined by the EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos, European safety commissioner Julian King, and Juergen Stock, secretary general of the international police body Interpol.

 

UN Security Council lenient to Turkey’s Syria offensive

Washington probes Hezbollah ‘narcoterrorism’

Tillerson to present US strategy on Syria to European, Arab allies

Russia pension funds may invest in Aramco IPO

Iranian woman skydiver looks to break down stereotypes

Qaeda leader calls on Muslims to attack Jews, Americans over Jerusalem

Palestinians in occupied West Bank get 3G

Turkish army clashes with Kurdish militia amid US alarm

Turkey arrests dozens accused of ‘terror propaganda’

Three French female jihadists face possible death penalty in Iraq

Women journalists protest separation during Pence visit to Jerusalem

Egypt military accuses presidential hopeful of committing crimes

Israeli minister calls to ban author praising Palestinian teen

Qatar supports Turkey’s offensive against Kurds

World powers meet on Syria chemical attacks

Morocco's king appoints five new ministers

Pence pledges US embassy move by end of 2019 on Jerusalem trip

Russia calls for diplomatic solution to Yemen conflict

Russia invites Kurds to join Syria peace process

Turkey shells Kurdish targets in northern Syria

Closer look at pro-Ankara rebels amassing around Afrin

Pence set for Palestinian snub

Abbas to ask EU to recognise Palestinian state

Saudi-led coalition to give $1.5 bln in Yemen aid

Mattis: Turkey gave US advance warning on Syria operation

Yemen releases budget for first time in three years

Saudi calls for cooperation between OPEC, non-OPEC countries

France presses Turkey to end offensive against Kurds

The changing faces of al-Qaeda in Syria

Kurdish militia fire rockets at Turkish town

Moroccans wary depreciation of dirham could raise cost of living, despite benefits

Deserted streets, terrified civilians after Turkey attacks Afrin

Iraqi, Kurdish leaders hold talks on bitter regional dispute

Russia-led Syria peace congress to be held January 30

Turkey launches new strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria

Egypt's Sisi says will stand for re-election

Pence heads to Mideast despite Muslim, Christian anger

Assad regime says Syria a 'tourist' destination

Journalists arrested while reporting Sudan protests

Aid for millions of Palestinians hostage to politics

Lebanon thwarts holiday attacks using IS informant

Mortar fire wounds 14 in Syria mental hospital

Turkish military fires on Kurdish forces in Syria's Afrin

More than 32,000 Yemenis displaced in intensified fighting

UN warns of "lost generation" in South Sudan's grinding conflict