Interpol: Use biometric data to find extremist fighters

November 22, 2016 by Edith M. Lederer

Interpol urged all countries on Tuesday to obtain biometric data from fighters for the Islamic State and other extremist groups to help law enforcement track them down, especially when they return home.

Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock said in an interview with The Associated Press that the international police organization only has —fingerprints, DNA, iris scans and the like—for about 10 percent of the 9,000 "foreign terrorist " in its database.

Stock said Interpol is helping countries to develop biometric technology not only to identify fighters from extremist groups but criminals as well.

He cited the case of "a terrorist" who attacked a police station in France last year who had traveled across Europe using 20 different identities—something that could have been thwarted with biometric data.

Stock said there are an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 "foreign terrorist fighters" from almost all over the world—and about 15,000 from over 100 countries remain mainly in Syria and Iraq.

With 9,000 names in the Interpol database, this means that about 6,000 of the extremist fighters are not on an international register where they could be tracked, which Stock said is a "serious gap."

But he said the database has grown rapidly when it started in 2013 with just 12 files, and will hopefully continue to add names and biometric data.

The Interpol chief came to the United Nations from the organization's headquarters in Lyon, France to speak to the General Assembly which adopted a resolution expanding the organizations cooperation with the U.N.

Stock called the Internet "a virtual university of terrorism," where extremist groups attract and radicalize would-be fighters, and where information on building or buying bombs and explosives is readily available.

"The threat level with regard to international terrorism is unprecedented," he said, with international "terrorists" moving to short-term actions using simpler methods such as knives, axes and in the deadly attack in Nice, France on July 15 a truck.

"We are fighting a terrorist network or an organized crime network with a law enforcement network," he said.

But Stock said it's "not easy" because of legal issues which differ in various countries, including on sharing information, and the difficulties in ensuring that relevant data gets to police, border guards and other officials who need it.

He said the increasing use of encrypted websites by extremist groups is also posing "a huge challenge to " authorities trying to conduct surveillance or track fighters and potential "terrorists."

The "dark net" has also become a major trading place for weapons and explosives used by "terrorists," Stock said.

"Investigations into the dark net are not impossible, of course," he said. "We are developing our tools, but it creates a challenge."

Stock also said Interpol is cooperating with industry on new tools "to make sure that there's no safe haven for terrorists or criminals."

Explore further: Interpol pledges war on environmental crime

Related Stories

Interpol pledges war on environmental crime

November 8, 2010

Interpol on Monday adopted a resolution unanimously pledging support to back the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and to fight environmental crime.

Recommended for you

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.

Revealing the rules behind virus scaffold construction

March 19, 2019

A team of researchers including Northwestern Engineering faculty has expanded the understanding of how virus shells self-assemble, an important step toward developing techniques that use viruses as vehicles to deliver targeted ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.