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EU, 17 states sign foreign terrorist fighter agreement

The EU and seventeen members of the Council of Europe have signed an agreement seeking to thwart foreign terrorist fighters. Up to 25,000 foreign fighters have joined groups such as the "Islamic State" and al-Qaeda.

The Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, signed on Thursday, will criminalize participating in a group for the purpose of terrorism, receiving terrorism training, travelling abroad for terrorism,

funding travel abroad for terrorism

and facilitating travel abroad to engage in terrorism.

"For the first time in international law, we have an instrument that criminalizes early preparations for acts of terror," said the Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland on Thursday. "It is the vital, missing piece of the jigsaw."

The agreement implements UN Security Council Resolution 2178 on foreign terrorist fighters, which was drawn up last year amid

mounting concern over foreign fighters

travelling to Syria and Iraq to join groups like the so-called "Islamic State" and al-Qaeda.

According to UN estimates, at least 25,000 fighters have joined the "Islamic State" or al-Qaeda, while Europol estimates that between 3,000 and 5,000 EU citizens have joined the terrorist organizations.

These numbers have prompted concerns that they could return to Europe to engage in terrorist attacks or motivate through propaganda

"lone wolf" attacks

on the continent.

Among the signatories of protocol were Britain, France, Germany and Turkey. Six of the signatories' parliaments must ratify the protocol for its provision to go into effect.

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