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EU Plans to Put Together Expert Team to Fight Islamist Propaganda: Reports

© AP Photo / Militant Website, FileIslamic State fighters in Syria
Islamic State fighters in Syria - Sputnik International
The European Union is reportedly planning to set up a team of up to six experts, who will advise government officials from the EU member states on how to tackle Islamist propaganda. The pilot project will be headquartered in Belgium.

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MOSCOW, January 3 (Sputnik) – The European Union intends to put together a team of experts, who will assist government officials from the EU member states with tackling Islamist propaganda, Agence France-Presse reports, citing an EU official.

"The idea is for Belgium to welcome a cell of experts who can offer European countries immediate responses to a very serious communications problem," Gilles de Kerchove, EU counter-terrorism chief since 2007, told Le Soir newspaper, as quoted by AFP.

In recent years, Islamists have stepped up propaganda efforts, mainly using social media to target prospective recruits. The Islamic State, possibly the most brutal militant group in the Middle East, has been notorious for using social networks to appeal to young people in the region and globally through engaging images, catchy slogans and professionally edited videos.

"Social media such as Twitter or Facebook are highly effective in spreading a violent extremist ideology. They play a significant role in the recruitment and fundraising efforts of extremist groups such as ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra," Richard Barrett, senior vice president of the Soufan Group, said in a report, issued in June 2014.

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The pilot project aims at creating "counter-narratives", de Kerchove said. One of his recommendations includes distributing interviews of disillusioned foreign fighters, who have returned from Syria. Some of them say that they were shocked by "sick people who take pleasure in the violence". Others decided to quit when they understood that they were no longer fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but were instead involved in infighting among militant groups.

The European Commission will reportedly provide €1 million for the project, according to AFP. The team, consisting of 5–6 experts, will work inside Belgium’s Minister of the Interior, according to Le Soir newspaper.

"We will see if it leads to something," de Kerchove said, as quoted by AFP. "If it works well, without doubt some states will develop a certain capacity and would like to continue it with their own means. The idea is to advise; the state then does what it wants," he added.

As of September 2014, over 3,000 Europeans were fighting in Syria and Iraq, according to the BBC.

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