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Terror review

Europe faces a shifting and increasing range of threats emanating from jihadist groups and individuals. The so-called Islamic State has demonstrated its ability to strike at will, at multiple times and at a diverse range of targets. It has shown its prominence within the “global jihad”, while the threat posed by other jihadist militant groups has not diminished. The overall threat is reinforced by the substantial numbers of returned foreign terrorist fighters that many EU countries now have on their soil, perhaps as many as a third of those who had travelled to conflict zones, some of whom could be instrumental in terrorist attacks.

Among domestic terrorists there is a change from a long radicalisation process towards rapid recruitment; in selecting targets, IS appears to have a preference for soft
targets because they are more effective than attacks on critical infrastructure, the military, police and other hard targets and because the former instil more fear in the public. In 2015, 151 people died and over 360 were injured as a result of terrorist attacks in the European Union (EU). Six EU countries faced 211 failed, foiled and completed terrorist attacks. Some 1077 individuals were arrested in the EU for terrorism-related offences, of which 424 in France only. That’s all according to the EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT) 2016, which Europol, the EU’s policing agency based in the Netherlands, has released.

Europol released a brief assessment of recent terrorist incidents that it says highlights the operational difficulties in the detection and disruption of lone actor attacks. In the TE-SAT 2016, Europol stresses that such attacks remained a favoured tactic by the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, and both groups have repeatedly called on Muslims living in Western countries to perpetrate lone actor attacks in their countries of residence.

Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol, said: “In 2015 the European Union experienced a massive number of casualties caused by terrorist attacks. In this context, Europol made use of its unique capabilities to focus on supporting operational investigations to prevent terrorist attacks and identify and disrupt terrorists. The increased cooperation resulted in a much richer strategic intelligence picture, strengthening the 2016 TE-SAT report and Europol’s ability to advise political leaders and legislators and inform national authorities in the setting of threat levels.”

According to Europol, there is no concrete evidence to date that terrorist travellers systematically use the flow of refugees to enter Europe unnoticed. The investigations into the November 13, 2015 Paris attacks did reveal that two of the attackers had entered the EU through Greece as part of the large influx of refugees from Syria. Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) officially started its work in January 2016.

For the 60-page report in full visit the Europol website: https://www.europol.europa.eu/latest_publications/37.

Lone actor attacks

Europol has also said that recent academic research has shown that around 35pc of the perpetrators of lone actor attacks that occurred between 2000 and 2015 suffered from some sort of mental health disorder. Europol’s report on the changes in the Modus Operandi of the IS also mentions that a significant portion of foreign fighters have been diagnosed with mental health problems prior to joining IS.


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