Irish jihadis at 'mosque' under Garda surveillance
Irish-based jihadis who fund terrorists face 20-year sentences under new laws
Gardai are monitoring the activities of a group of radical young Muslims in Dublin, the Sunday Independent has learned.
The group has no official links to any of the mainstream mosques or the main Muslim sects in Ireland.
They have been monitored gathering at an address in Dublin, which they have used as an informal mosque.
Members of the Muslim community in Dublin last night said they are concerned that young men have come under the influence of the same kind of extreme Wahhabi Islamism associated with the jihadists behind the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris.
The young Irish Muslim radicals have eschewed 'Western' practices including listening to any music, according to sources in the Muslim community.
The revelation comes amid fears that Islamic extremists have started using Ireland as a base and transit zone after tough new European laws have limited their movements in the EU, and that the country is seen as being soft on jihadism.
The Taoiseach yesterday said the situation was being closely watched. "I'm happy to note that this matter is being monitored properly. I've spoke to the Minister for Justice and the Gardai, so any movements are being monitored very carefully"
However, the Sunday Independent has learned that Ireland-based jihadists face up to 20 years in prison for channelling funds to extremist groups in the Middle East under tough anti-terrorism laws.
Last week, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced that the Criminal Assets Bureau could be asked to "follow the money" raised by suspected Islamic terrorists living in Ireland.
The Department of Justice is also introducing new legislation aimed at stamping out the growing threat of terrorists being trained here to carry out attacks similar to those that devastated France three weeks ago. Under the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 it is illegal to collect or raise money which could be used to fund terrorism. And a person convicted of the offence can face a 20-year prison sentence and/or an unlimited fine.
The Department of Justice said gardai are alert to the need to follow the money trail in relation to certain types of offences, including Islamic fundamentalists raising funds for terror attacks. "Where funds are considered to have been illegally obtained or are deemed to be the proceeds of criminal activity, then the CAB can use its considerable powers to pursue those funds and the individuals involved," a spokesperson told the Sunday Independent.
A Europe-wide operation targeting jihadists led to the arrest of 20 suspected terrorists last week. It followed a spate of terrorism atrocities carried out in Paris by extremists linked to Al-Qaeda in Yemen, which left 17 people dead including staff from satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Between 25-30 people are known to have travelled from Ireland to conflict zones in the Middle East where the so-called Islamic State has been waging a jihadi war.
Garda and Muslim community figures say there is very little sympathy or support here for jihadism and virtually no support for the most extreme forms being practised by ISIL in the Middle East.
However, there has been some support among more radical elements of the Muslim Brotherhood here for Al-Qaeda, who are rivals of ISIL and who claimed responsibility for the Paris murders.
The only "significant" potential targets here are the Israeli and US embassies and possibly the US Air Force flights through Shannon.
However, Garda sources yesterday said Ireland is "at the bottom" of the risk league in Europe for Islamist terrorism. Gardai are working closely with their counterparts in the UK and other European countries on identifying potential terrorist suspects.
Last year the Counter Terrorism International (CTI) unit was established in the Garda Crime and Security section to specifically target Islamic terror support groups.
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald also denied reports that Ireland is being used as a jihadist base.
"There is no particular information to suggest there is an immediate threat to Ireland from fighters returning from the Middle East," she said