Terrorist training in Mideast a growing fear

ATHENS — European Union and Arab League countries agreed Wednesday to cooperate against the terror threat posed by home-grown radicals who return home from conflicts in the Middle East, following a deadly attack on a Jewish site in Belgium by a suspected jihadi.

Foreign ministers from the two regional bodies, meeting in Athens, said in a joint statement that their efforts would also address radicalization, recruitment, and travel of foreign fighters — and ‘‘dealing with’’ those who return home.

Many European authorities fear that home-grown jihadists who travel to Syria and other conflict zones will come back with skills and the will to carry out terrorism. Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders described returning foreign fighters as a ‘‘huge challenge.’’


‘‘They have become very dangerous for our societies,’’ he told reporters. ‘‘There is a risk of terrorist attack in our countries.’’

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Last month, a gunman killed four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. A French suspect arrested over the attack had allegedly spent about a year in Syria after joining an extremist Islamist group fighting to topple President Bashar Assad.

Reynders said the shootings were ‘‘probably the first terrorist attack perpetrated by a foreign fighter’’ returning from Syria. He said 2,000 Europeans are believed to have joined extremist Muslim groups fighting the government.

‘‘They have established networks and acquired experience in the use of weapons and explosive devices,’’ said Reynders. ‘‘It’s highly probable that the threat from those returnees will persist well beyond the end of the Syrian conflict.’’