Secretary general Jurgen Stock said Ireland was a “strong contributor” to the police organisation’s global network against terrorism and serious crime.
Interpol, which boasts 192 member countries, assists in the analysis and sharing of information, intelligence and expertise in the areas of terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime.
Mr Stock described Ireland as “one of the safest countries in the world” but said that Europe “continues to be the target of terrorists”, citing the most recent attack in Paris where a suspected jihadist fatally stabbed one person and slashed four others last weekend.
Speaking to the media at Interpol’s European Regional Conference in Dublin, Mr Stock said the threat to Europe was still at a high level and it was not going to change in the coming years.
With IS’s defeat in Syria and Iraq, he said some foreign fighters, including some from Europe, may return home with their families, posing a challenge to the home countries in terms of both bringing prosecutions and reintegrating them back into society.
Asked to comment on previous claims Ireland was a “soft touch” or a “weak link” in its response to dealing with terrorism, Mr Stock said: “There is no reason to see Ireland as a weak link.
It’s a complex global landscape and we have to understand we have to develop a global network against terrorist activity and also organised crime groups and cybercrime and, again, Ireland, I’m very grateful for them, is a strong contributor into this global network and helps us a lot in our daily work.
In relation to the terror threat in Europe, he said: “It’s still at a high level. I’m afraid to say this is not going to change in the next couple of years.”
He said IS, or Daesh, had been forced out of around 90% of the territory it had in Syria and Iraq. Around 40,000 foreign fighters had travelled there from over 100 countries to fight.
“Some have been killed, some remain in the region, some have left and are returning to their home countries which creates the problem of the so-called returnees, in some cases better trained, brutalised, radicalised fighters.” Mr Stock said some would be bringing their families with them.
For many countries in the European region, how do you deal with this issue in terms of prosecution but also in terms of reintegrating these people into societies.
He said some would go to other theatres of war to fight: “That’s the most problematic part, that this terrorist network is getting more international, more complex, more connected. We see links between different regions, terrorist groups acting in Asia, in Africa, in the northern part of Africa, the Middle East and Europe.”
In his address, acting garda commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin said the threat level here remained “moderate”. He said a multi-faceted approach was needed to prevent terrorism. Policing must be complemented by stronger, longer-term methods to tackle social exclusion and polarisation and extremism.