EU anti-terror chief urges rehab for returning fighters

BRUSSELS – The European Union’s anti-terror chief urged EU member states on Wednesday not to imprison returning foreign fighters with "no blood on their hands."

EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove told members at the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, ‘‘It would be a major mistake to send most of the returnees [foreign fighters] from Iraq and Syria to prison.''

De Kerchove said those with ''no blood on their hands'' should be rehabilitated instead because they become radicalized in prisons.

Officials say around 5,000 Europeans have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with extremist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Many return to Europe militarily trained and ideologically brainwashed. 

EU officials are calling for an increase in anti-terrorism measures and the implementation of the Passenger Name Record, which forces airlines to share passenger data with governments within the bloc.

EU leaders will discuss plans to combat terrorism at a summit in Brussels on Feb. 12 following the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Jan. 7 and anti-terror raids across Belgium earlier this month.

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