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Five European countries accidentally paid welfare benefits to ISIS fighters


Five countries in western Europe accidentally paid taxpayer-funded benefits, such as unemployment funds, disability pensions and housing allowances, to ISIS militants, who redirected the funds to the fight in Iraq and Syria, USA Today reported.

The countries that paid benefits to the ISIS fighters are Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, France and Britain.

“It is a huge scandal that we are paying out money from the welfare funds in Denmark to people who are going to Syria and elsewhere in the world to undermine democracy that we have been fighting for for hundreds of years,” said Troels Lund Poulsen, Denmark's minister of labor.

Since last year, according to officials, Danish state and local authorities have been trying to collect roughly $95,000 in welfare benefits that were inadvertently paid to 29 Danish citizens who fought for ISIS. But national regulations have obstructed the process, even if the recipient had been identified by intelligence agencies as an ISIS fighter. 

If someone is deemed to be a risk for state security by intelligence services while staying abroad, they wouldn't get a dime.
Brent Nielson, Danish welfare official

Under proposed legislation, however, any citizen who poses a national security risk after traveling abroad to join the ISIS would have his or her benefits immediately revoked, said Bent Nielson, an official who oversees the welfare process.

In Belgium, authorities concluded that several people involved in the Brussels and Paris terror attacks were partly financed by the government's social welfare system. 

And in Sweden, it took authorities eight months to realize that they paid a citizen who joined a terror group in Raqqa more than $5,000.

In France -- a European hotspot for breeding ISIS fighters -- the government has revoked the social-welfare benefits of several hundred citizens who pledged allegiance to the group.

"In an increasing number of cases, people are taking money provided to them by their national governments and using it for other than what it's intended for," said Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

In December, a local government in Birmingham admitted that it accidentally paid about $7,000 in housing benefits to a man who then used the money to fund his trip to join ISIS.

"Britain is just not up to speed with this," warned Anthony Glees, who runs the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham. "One can assume that people who want to blow us up are entirely relaxed about taking as much money as they can from the British government."

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