DAMASCUS: Syrian President Bashar Assad said Wednesday terrorism will strike back against the West and other countries that “supported” attacks in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, as the U.K. and Germany warned of the threat of returning jihadis.
Ever since a revolt broke out in March 2011, Assad has blamed all violence in Syria on a foreign-backed “terrorist” plot.
“The West and countries that support extremism and terrorism in Syria and the region ... must realize that this growing threat will strike the whole world, especially the countries that support terrorism and that allowed it to grow,” Assad told a North Korean delegation visiting Damascus.
Assad has frequently blamed the West, Turkey and Gulf countries who back rebels seeking his overthrow for violence in Syria.
British premier David Cameron warned that militants making advances in Iraq and fighting in Syria were planning to attack Britain.
“I’d disagree with those people who think this is nothing to do with us and if they want to have some sort of extreme Islamist regime in the middle of Iraq that won’t affect us – it will,” Cameron told the House of Commons.
“The people in that regime, as well as trying to take territory, are also planning to attack us here at home in the United Kingdom.”
He was speaking before chairing a meeting of the government’s National Security Council on the militant offensive in Iraq, which is being spearheaded by jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).
At a news conference Tuesday following talks with Chinese premier Li Keqiang, Cameron said that ISIS in Syria and now Iraq “is the most serious threat to Britain’s security that there is today.”
The main concern is that British citizens fighting there may return to attack their homeland, and Cameron said Wednesday that Britain’s security, intelligence and policing resources were focused on the Middle East.
Cameron told Parliament: “The estimates are now that this is a greater threat to the U.K. than the return of foreign jihadists or fighters from the Afghanistan or Pakistan region.” He said that “we’ve already stopped a number of people traveling, we’ve taken away passports,” although he did not give any further details.
Around 400 Britons are believed to have gone to fight in Syria over the last two years, authorities believe, and around 20 have died.
Jihadists returning from Syria are no longer an “abstract threat” but a “deadly danger” to Europe, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Wednesday.
“We had feared that those returning from the Syrian conflict might plan attacks here. We now know those fears were well-founded. An abstract danger ... has turned into a concrete, deadly danger in Europe,” de Maiziere said.