Central Europe has not experienced the furore that Western Europe has on the question of returning jihadists. This is not to say there has been no problem, only that it has been at a much lower scale than in the West.
As Stanisław Żaryn, speaker for Special Services Coordinator told European Eye on Radicalization in a statement, “the threat is marginal to Poland”, because number of foreign fighters travelling from Poland was relatively low.
Similar opinions were obtained from experts in other Central and Eastern European countries. Dr. Kacper Rękawek, the head of the Defence and Security Program at Globsec in Bratislava, Slovakia, said: “This problem is very limited in Central Eastern Europe countries because there are no veterans and no terrorist networks”. Radko Hokovský, head of the Internal Security Program in European Values think tank also regards the problem of returnees as “marginal to Czech Republic and of little concern to government”. Nonetheless his organization, with other experts, prepared policy paper, “Full-scale framework for countering Islamic extremism in liberal democracies”. Again, there is a problem, but it is of much less significance than for Western European societies and governments
Poland provides an illustrative case study. It is believed that between 15 and 40 people from Poland joined terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq. They can be divided in three categories: Polish migrants radicalized abroad; refugees and migrants from other countries living in Poland, notably Chechens; and Poles radicalized at home.
A classic instance of a Pole who moved to another European Union country after the borders were dismantled and became radicalized there is Jacek S., who migrated to Germany in 2005. He converted in 2014 and soon joined the Islamic State (ISIS). In 2015, he died in suicide attack on Iraq’s Baiji refinery. From previous rounds of jihadi migration, one could also mention Christian Ganczarski (Abu Ibrahim), from Gliwice in southern Poland, who went to Germany with his parents in the 1970s and was naturalized there. Ganczarski was co-responsible for the attack on the synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba in 2002, which massacred 21 people. He was caught in France and is currently in prison there, serving an 18-year sentence.
Dawid Ł. (Abu Hanifa) is an archetype of the radicalized migrant. He lived in Norway, where he had settled as a youth with his family. He probably converted to Islam, and was radicalized, while in Scandinavia, though some accounts say he married a Polish Muslim woman in a Warsaw mosque and was radicalized after that. In either case, he travelled to Syria in 2014 and allegedly joined Harakat Fajr al-Sham al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Movement Dawn of Syria). He was arrested by Norwegian security services upon return to the country in 2015. Subsequently he was transferred to Poland for prosecution, though he was released after three years of legal process, in December 2018. However, Dawid Ł. was closely monitored by the Internal Security Agency (ABW) and he was arrested again in March 2019 on the suspicion of preparing terrorist attack in Poland.
Another example of foreign residents in Poland being radicalized is Kyuri A., a refugee from Chechnya, who “wanted to match his ancestors by fighting against Russians”. In 2016, he joined Jamaat Tarkhan, an extremist insurgent group in Syria fighting against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The next year he was detained in Poland by ABW and is being prosecuted on terrorism charges. Another Poland-based Chechen accused of participation in terrorist organizations is Alvi A., arrested by ABW in 2018. There are also proceedings against him for preparing illegal migration routes, raising concerns that other Chechen foreign fighters will be able to infiltrate Poland using these logistics networks.
In dealing with the foreigners radicalized in Poland who have joined or conspired with terrorist groups, Chechens in particular, Żaryn says that “if credible information will be gained that specific person can be a threat to RP’s (Republic of Poland) security, there can be undertaken actions leading to canceling of his/her protected status on RP’s territory”. In other words, they can be deported to Russia. And there have already been such cases, such as that of Azamat Bajdujev who was, according to evidence gathered by security services, an ISIS foreign fighter. In December 2018, he was forcibly returned to the Russian Federation. The complication in these cases relate to concerns about the human rights of those returned to Russia, who could be persecuted or tortured—and not just by Moscow. Ramzan Kadyrov’s Chechen regime is notoriously brutal with opponents. Żaryn says that such concerns about Bajdujew proved unjustified.
Finally, there is a very limited issue with homegrown terrorism in Poland. One the most notorious cases was Jakub Jakus. As the media later reported, Jakus was visiting a local mosque in Lublin, in eastern Poland, and had been radicalized before he left the country, first to Norway and from there to ISIS’s “caliphate”, where he died (in Syria) in 2017. A more recent case of a homegrown terrorist is the “ISIS bride” interviewed by reporter Sarah El-Deeb, close to the last ISIS stronghold in Baghuz in eastern Syria. She is a Pole married to Chechen with whom she travelled to Syria. She will leave Syria only when she will be allowed to “come back to her mother’s house” — i.e. Poland.
So far, Poland has been able to adopt a very individualized approach to dealing with its jihadism issues because of the low scale.
In the other countries of the region, the problem has been even more limited. In the Czech Republic, for example, just 11 citizens joined terrorists in Syria. A state like Hungary was afflicted with a solitary major incident requiring action from the security services. On March 24th, Hungarian courts ordered the arrest of Syrian citizen Hassan F., suspected of taking part in the beheading of ISIS captives. He holds refugee status from Greece. Prior to the arrest decision he was to be expelled from Hungary because of a suspended sentence for human trafficking.
 J. Stehlik, Full-Scale Framework for Countering Islamic Extremism in Liberal Democracies, European Values 2018, https://www.homeaffairs.cz/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/FULL-SCALE-FRAMEWORK-FOR-COUNTERING-ISLAMIC-EXTREMISM-IN-LIBERAL-DEMOCRACIES.pdf
 R. Machnikowski, A. Legieć, “The Favored Conflicts of Foreign Fighters From Central Europe”, Jamestown Foundation, 12.10.2017, https://jamestown.org/program/favored-conflicts-foreign-fighters-central-europe/
 M. Stevens, “Man Said to Have Ties to Al Qaeda Is Charged With Conspiring to Kill Americans” , The New York Times, 17.01.2018 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/nyregion/christian-ganczarski-al-qaeda-charged.html
 The circumstances of his conversions are not clear. R. Machnikowski claims it took place in Poland, other sources say that he lived since his youth in Norway and because of falling in love with a Muslim girl, he converted to Islam. All of them however agree that he radicalized being in Norway. R. Machnikowski, A. Legieć, op. cit. compare B. Żurawic, Z Radomia do Syrii ‘bo źle się zakochał, TVN, https://www.tvn24.pl/magazyn-tvn24/z-radomia-do-syrii-bo-zle-sie-zakochal,124,2222
 “Planował zamach w Polsce. Wcześniej był oskarżony o terroryzm, ale… wyszedł z aresztu”, Radio Zet, 04.03.2019 https://wiadomosci.radiozet.pl/Polska/Dawid-L.-podejrzany-o-planowanie-zamachu-w-Polsce-niedawno-wyszedl-z-aresztu
 “Walczył w czeczeńskim oddziale w Syrii. W Warszawie ruszył proces Kyuriego A., RMF, https://www.rmf24.pl/fakty/polska/news-walczyl-w-czeczenskim-oddziale-w-syrii-w-warszawie-ruszyl-pr,nId,2448467
 “Czeczen zatrzymany przez ABW za związki z Państwem Islamskim, “TVP Info”, 13.12.2018, https://www.tvp.info/40406446/czeczen-zatrzymany-przez-abw-za-zwiazki-z-panstwem-islamskim
 M. Mieśnik, “‘Deportowany Czeczen walczył w szeregach Państwa Islamskiego’. Polska ujawnia powody deportacji”, Wirtualna Polska, 03.10.2018 https://wiadomosci.wp.pl/deportowany-czeczen-walczyl-w-szeregach-panstwa-islamskiego-polska-ujawnia-powody-deportacji-6301980027611265a
 R. Machnikowski, A. Legieć, op. cit.
 “Media: z ostatniego bastionu ISIS uciekają najwierniejsi zwolennicy. Wsród nich są Polacy”, Polsat News, 225.02.2019, http://www.polsatnews.pl/wiadomosc/2019-02-25/media-z-ostatnego-bastionu-isis-uciekaja-najwierniejsi-zwolennicy-wsrod-nich-sa-polacy/
 “Annual Report of the Security Information Service for 2017”, Security Information Service Czech Republic,
 “Hungary detains Syrian Islamic State member accused of killings”, Reuters, 24.03.2019 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hungary-isis/hungary-detains-syrian-islamic-state-member-accused-of-killings-idUSKCN1R31PQ
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