(ANSA) - BELGRADE, 12 AUG - The Western Balkans is the region with the highest concentration of returning foreign terrorist fighters in Europe, according to the new study "Western Balkans Foreign Fighters and Homegrown Jihadis: Trends and Implications," published by the "CTC Sentinel", an academic magazine of the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point. The study was prepared by Adrian Shtuni, CEO of Shtuni Consulting LLC and one of the main experts on terrorism and violent extremism in the Balkans. Out of over 1,000 foreign fighters, including men, women, and minors from Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, and Montenegro, who since 2012 spent time in Syria and Iraq, around 500 from the region are still there, including children born in war theatre, at least 260 died in combat, while some 460 others have gradually returned home or were repatriated, the report said. The number of people with Balkan origin who spent time in Syria and Iraq grew to approximately 1.225 considering the births of children of foreign fighters. "The "children of the Caliphate," including those from the Western Balkans, will likely represent a long-term challenge with national security implications," the study says. Kosovo contributed the most to the Balkan foreign fighters contingent, with the largest number of men departed to Syria and Iraq (256), while Bosnia and Herzegovina contributed the highest number of women (61) and children (81). According to official data quoted by the report, in the previous years about 460 individuals from the region have returned home from Syria and Iraq, 242 only to Kosovo. "By comparison, the countries of the European Union, with a cumulative population size of 500 million, have received about 1,500 returnees," the study reads. The returns to the Balkans pose a "a long-term security challenge compounded by inadequate resources and the threat posed by homegrown jihadi militants," the report notes. (ANSA).

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