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Europol report Gardai probing Jihadi terror groups arrested 18 men and women last year

The majority of the suspects were detained on suspicion of fund-raising for terror organisations

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Gardaí investigating Jihadi-terror groups arrested 18 men and women in Ireland last year.

The majority of the suspects were detained on suspicion of fund-raising for terror organisations by sending money to countries including Turkey and Afghanistan.

Those arrested included Irish citizens, foreign nationals, and people with dual citizenship.

A foreign terrorist fighter (FTF) who was involved in combat in Syria is also under investigation as he might return to Ireland, it has emerged.

The investigations into suspected jihadists in Ireland are detailed in Europol’s latest report on terrorism.

A total of 449 arrests were made in EU members states last year relating to terror crimes.

The report says that in Europe funds are raised for these groups through legal sources such as donations, as well as illegal means including drug trafficking.

Europol says that Ireland “reported 17 arrests in 2020 in connection with financing of jihadist terrorism”.

One further arrest was made as part of investigations into religious extremist groups, although the nature of this detention is not disclosed.

The report adds that “several ongoing investigations targeted lone individuals and groups, including male and female suspects with Irish nationality, dual nationalities, and foreign nationalities.

“They used legal and illegal sources of revenue to generate funds, which were transferred through money service businesses to other countries in Europe, including Turkey, and also to Afghanistan”.

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Irish authorities also informed Europol, the EU’s police agency, that a “small number of returnees” who fought with or against the Islamic State were present in the country.

“In addition, at the time of writing, one FTF in Syria who might return to Ireland remained under investigation,” Europol states.

There were 57 completed, failed or foiled terror attacks in the EU last year, which claimed 21 lives.

Only four other EU countries- Austria (30), France (99), Germany (27) and Spain (37)- reported more jihadi-terror related arrests than Ireland last year.

The 18 arrests related to religious extremist groups in Ireland has more than tripled from the five suspects detained in 2019.

This included alleged IS bride Lisa Smith (39), a former Defence Force soldier, who is due to stand trial before the Special Criminal Court next year.

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Lisa Smith

Lisa Smith

Lisa Smith

She was detained in December 2019 and is facing charges of membership of IS and financing the terror group, which she denies.

Europol has also warned that the risk of online radicalisation has increased during the pandemic.

Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, said: “The latest report from Europol on the EU terrorism situation illustrates that in the year of the COVID pandemic, the risk of online radicalisation has increased.

“This is particularly true for right-wing terrorism. I discussed this trend in Lisbon today with US Secretary for Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas at the EU-US JHA. We are committed to tackling this growing threat.”

While the al-Qaeda network continued to maintain a sustained propaganda presence online in 2020, the quality and quantity of IS propaganda has “decreased considerably”.

There were also six arrests related to dissident republican (DR) terrorism in Ireland last year.

The report found that the “majority of DR support originates in Ireland and Northern Ireland, although it is believed that some material support is also provided by persons outside of these jurisdictions predominantly related to financing and/or sourcing weaponry”.

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