Overnight, French, German and Belgian authorities executed more anti-terror raids against suspected militants believed to be linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
In France and Germany, 14 people with ties to ISIS were detained while another 13 were arrested in Belgium in a massive anti-terror sweep by European authorities. Some of the suspected militants were Western citizens who had recently returned from Syrian battlefields with what authorities believe were under orders by ISIS commanders to execute attacks on European targets.
“Guns, munitions and explosives, as well as police uniforms and a large amount of money, were seized during the overnight raids, [Belgium] prosecution spokesman Thierry Werts told reporters,” the BBC reported. Some officials believe that those uniforms were to be worn by militants so as to get closer to the police in order for them to kill as many as possible.
This fight against Islamic militants in Europe is only just beginning. “There could be as many as 20 sleeper cells of between 120 and 180 people ready to strike in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, a Western intelligence source has told CNN,” read an exclusive CNN report.
The European counterterrorism official told [CNN reporter Paul] Cruickshank that there were indications that ISIS leadership had directed returnees from Iraq and Syria to launch attacks on European soil in revenge for airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.
“That would be a game changer because ISIS up to this point has not orchestrated any terrorist plots in the West,” Cruickshank said. “There have been some ISIS fighters who have come back, but they have launched plots on their own steam.”
The official cited France, the United Kingdom and Belgium as countries facing a particular threat and said counterterrorism agencies in Germany are also on high alert.
If you thought ISIS was shifting tactics to focus on bringing the fight to Europe because their advances in Syria and Iraq were stalled, you’d be wrong.
“ISIS continues to gain substantial ground in Syria, despite nearly 800 airstrikes in the American-led campaign to break its grip there,” The Daily Beast reported on Thursday. “At least one-third of the country’s territory is now under ISIS influence, with recent gains in rural areas that can serve as a conduit to major cities that the so-called Islamic State hopes to eventually claim as part of its caliphate. Meanwhile, the Islamic extremist group does not appear to have suffered any major ground losses since the strikes began.”
The war in the Iraqi theater is going no better for coalition forces, which routinely come under enemy fire as ISIS continues its offensives. “So passive-aggressive is the president’s war on ISIS that Iraqis are beginning to suggest that ‘ISIS is a U.S. creation,’” The Washington Free Beacon’s Matthew Continetti observed. “One Iraqi told the Wall Street Journal: ‘The international coalition against ISIS is a comedy act. America can destroy ISIS in one day only, but it does not do it.’”
In Belgium, France, Australia, and Canada, Western authorities and jihadist militants are now engaged in gunfights in the streets with police. In America and Britain, Islamist sympathizers have embraced ISIS’s grotesque calling card and are severing heads. This is hardly the image of a war that authorities and the public alike believed was largely won only a handful of years ago.
If American officials remain consumed with frivolous debates over what to call Islamist terror rather than with dismantling their ideological and operational capabilities, how long will it be before American police are caught up in gunfights with Islamist radicals? If the front line of the fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda has already shifted westward to Europe, it will not be long before the front crosses the Atlantic.