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Report: Eleven leave Czechia to fight in Syria in 2017

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Prague, May 18 (CTK) – Eleven people left the country to fight in Syria in 2017, including two Czechs, and the foreign fighters tried to return to the EU via the Czech Republic after the Islamic State was defeated in Syria and Iraq, according to a report on the Czech security situation available to CTK on Friday.

The Interior Ministry is yet to submit the report to the government.

The two Czech citizens are the first Czechs among foreign fighters in Syria.

It seems that these two are relatives of former Prague imam Samer Shehadeh, his brother Omar Shehadeh and the brother’s wife Fatima (formerly Kristyna Hudkova), about whose case daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) reported in January. They have been prosecuted as fugitives.

The brother and his wife were accused of terrorism and joining a terrorist group. He joined the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham group, a successor to Al Nusra, MfD wrote. The Shehadeh brothers are of Palestinian origin.

Czech security forces considered returns of IS fighters a security risk for a long time. They said the fighters may get radical or plan terrorist attacks in Europe.

The report says there was no massive influx of the returning fighters.

BIS counter-intelligence spokesman Ladislav Sticha told CTK that he cannot comment on the information because the government has not approved the report yet.

Generally speaking, it is crucial that the Czech Republic is not a target country for radicals but rather a stopover on their way, Sticha said.

He said the BIS works hard to identify terrorists or radicals among the people who enter the country or make a stop on their way in it. “We also try to have control over possible movement of Czech citizens towards the risk regions if these citizens might be prone to getting radical,” Sticha said.

The Czech police dealt with several cases of people who were suspected of joining a terrorist group and then trying to enter the European Union. They also checked several cases of financial and logistic support for terrorist groups based abroad and monitored people who tried to secure training, medical care or other support for terrorists in the Czech Republic, the report said.

The BIS monitored risk persons from abroad last year, some of whom contributed to the spreading of Islamism in the EU, developing networks of personal and virtual contacts.

Islamists from Middle Asia and the Caucasus took part in spreading Islamist ideologies also in the Czech Republic, the report says.

However, the Czech Muslim community generally continues to maintain its moderate character.

“The BIS focused only on a few individuals who expressed radical views in close circles of friends, but it were rather harmless declarations without any response. We keep assessing such risk phenomena,” Sticha said.

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