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Saturday 21 October 2017

Irishman who fought in Syria: 'I can see why some men would become radicalised'

Jennifer McShane

New anti-terrorism laws are to be introduced in Ireland in a bid to reduce the threat from foreign fighters coming home radicalised.

Figures complied by British broadcaster Sky News show more than three times as many Irish Muslims have been to Syria, compared to British Muslims.

The same figures also show that one in every 1,500 Irish Muslims have travelled to Syria, compared to the UK, where it is one in every 5,000.

Irish-Libyan Housam ‘Irish Sam’ Najjar has recently returned to Dublin, following fighting in the civil war in Syria, and has spoken about his experiences there.

In an interview with Sky News broadcast earlier today, he said he had not been radicalised, but could easily see how other men could become so.

"Basically, when a young man arrives and he feels very vulnerable at the checkpoint, he's going into what would basically look like a horror movie of ruins and gunfire,” he explained.

"So these radical elements would approach them, offer them a weapon, offer them a kind of brotherhood and this unsuspecting person, in his vulnerable state, would probably accept that offer," he said.

He also said his mission in the war was to "topple the dictatorship".

"My journey to Syria was on a mission. It wasn’t to a religious war of any sorts.

"But the mission in general was to topple the dictatorship. And our mission in particular was to help the Syrians themselves: train them how to protect themselves, how to maintain their weapons to topple the regime," he said.

"After we passed on what knowledge we had, I returned," he added.

Last month, it emerged the Department of Justice was planning rolling out a raft of new measures to prevent Ireland becoming a hub for international terrorists planning attacks on Britain and the rest of Europe.

The move follows concerns Ireland was seen as "soft touch" for Muslim fundamentalists such as those who carried out the savage attacks in Paris earlier this month.

The Irish Independent previously revealed Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald's plan to crack down on extremists using the internet to spread hate messages and attract young Muslim men into terrorism.

It is part of the Department of Justice's multi-pronged approach to countering the radicalisation of young Irish Muslims by terror groups such as the so-called Islamic State, or Isil.

One of the crucial elements of the plan is to target Irish Muslims who travelled to conflict zones in Syria or Iraq but returned to Ireland disillusioned by the jihadist war.

Gardai will seek to speak to these mostly young men in an attempt to understand how extremists lured them to conflict zones to take part in a brutal war.

They will also speak to the families of loved ones who died fighting with radical Islamic groups in the Middle East.

It is estimated at least 30 Irish citizens travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside Sunni Muslims trying to take control of the region.

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