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While the number of terrorism casualties in the European Union (EU) fell last year, the number of attacks on European soil did not. Jihadist-inspired attacks more than doubled. That’s according to the EU policing agency Europol’s 2018 EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT); as an overview of the nature of the terrorist threat the EU faced in 2017.
Europol’s new Executive Director Catherine De Bolle said: “The numbers in this report are not just statistics. We must never forget that behind every number, there is an innocent victim. It therefore goes without saying that supporting member states to combat terrorism will remain a top priority for Europol. To fight terrorism, it is essential to have optimal information exchange and accurate data.”
The 68-page report noted that online propaganda continues to be an essential part of jihadist terrorist attempts to reach out to EU audiences for recruitment, radicalisation and fund-raising. The report said: “In 2017 it became increasingly difficult to locate terrorist content in English on major social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. This is both because English content was taken down more quickly and less material was produced in the English language. Arabic content, by contrast, as well as emotive chants (anashid) and non-visual content, was still widely available and accessible on Facebook and YouTube. This may be because social media companies have, in general, been quicker to respond to videos containing extreme violence than to speeches or ideological treatises produced by terrorist groups but which feature no explicit calls to violence.”
According to the report, recent attacks by jihadist terrorists have followed three trends:
the preference for attacking people, rather than other targets, to provoke an emotional response from the general public (Paris, May 2018; Barcelona, August 2017);
attacks on symbols of authority (Liège, May 2018; Trèbes, March 2018); and
attacks on symbols of Western lifestyle (Manchester, May 2017).
The degradation of the so-called Islamic State’s (IS) organisational structures does not imply a reduction of the threat of jihadist terrorism. Terrorist activities in the EU ordered, guided or inspired by IS, al-Qaeda or other jihadist organisations remain a real possibility, the report warns. It also covers right-wing extremist terror.
Julian King, European Commissioner for the Security Union, said: “As this latest EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report shows, Europe continues to be a target for terrorism – we need to keep our collective eye on the ball, and strengthen our efforts at EU level to deny terrorists the means they need to carry out attacks including arms, explosives and funding; work on evolving areas such as CBRN threats; and continue to tackle radicalisation and all types of violent extremism.”