Holder warns of Syrian terror threat to West

 

Attorney General Eric Holder urged nations to take stronger steps to limit the terror threat from thousands of foreign fighters in Syria.

During a speech in Oslo, Holder said the international community could not passively sit back and allow Syria’s civil war to provide a training ground for extremist fighters with western passports who could return to their home countries.

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"The Syrian conflict has turned that region into a cradle of violent extremism," Holder said in prepared remarks. "But the world cannot simply sit back and let it become a training ground from which our nationals can return and launch attacks. And we will not."

Holder called on governments to adopt a four-step approach to combat the threat of terrorism, including outlawing the planning and preparation of attacks, increasing legal undercover operations, sharing more travel information between countries, and more open legal assistance for extradition between countries.

Holder also urged increased law enforcement engagement with communities. 

"We must seek to stop individuals from becoming radicalized in the first place by putting in place strong programs to counter violent extremism in its earliest stages," he said.

"If we wait for our nations’ citizens to travel to Syria or Iraq, to become radicalized, and to return home, it may be too late to adequately protect our national security," Holder added. 

There are more than 7,000 extremist foreign fighters in Syria right now, Holder said, including "dozens" of Americans.

The United States has become increasingly concerned about the threat posed by extremist fighters with western passports who could more easily enter the United States or other European countries. 

The Department of Homeland Security has directed the Transportation Security Administration to take a number of extra precautions with passengers bordering international flights to the United States. 

"Because our citizens can freely travel, visa-free, from the U.S. to Norway and other European states — and vice versa — the problem of fighters in Syria returning to any of our countries is a problem for all of our countries," Holder said. 

Holder spoke after meetings with Norway's prime minister and minister of justice. He is slated to travel to London later this week to meet with a group of attorneys general from five other countries to discuss the problem.