Europe’s Security Commissioner Julian King Tuesday warned that the European Union must brace itself for an influx of radical jihadists if Iraqi forces wrest back Mosul, a stronghold of the so-called Islamic State.
“The retaking of the IS northern Iraq stronghold, Mosul, may lead to the return to Europe of violent IS fighters,” King told Die Welt in remarks published Tuesday.
Even the return of a relatively small number of jihadists would pose a “serious threat that we must prepare ourselves for,” he said.
At the front line of Europe’s refugee crisis, it is unclear how much of the relative burden Greece would bear in the event of an influx of jihadists.
Iraqi forces aim to topple IS’s so-called “caliphate” in a US-led offensive.
Lise Grande, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said that up to a million civilians could flee the city in the worst-case scenario, with 700,000 requiring shelter, 10 times the capacity of emergency sites.
“Our capacity to support 700,000 people in the short term, we couldn’t do it,” she said. “And certainly if we had to mount a response over the intermediate term, if they couldn’t go back to Mosul quickly, if there was too much damage in the city, then it would test us to the breaking point.”
US President Barack Obama said a top priority is safety and humanitarian aid for some 1 million people who live in Mosul and could suffer during the fighting.
The operation to reclaim Mosul will be “a difficult fight,” Obama said.