“We have to be vigilant, since the threat posed by the so-called Islamic State (IS) and returning foreign fighters is likely to persist in the coming years. These people are trained to use explosives and firearms and they have been indoctrinated by the jihadist ideology.”
Gilles de Kerchove
One year ago, EUROPOL has warned that militants from Islamic State (IS) will aim to step up attacks on European targets, as they face defeat in the Middle East.
Let us look at the terror attacks attributed to ISIS over the last 12 months in Europe.
The United Kingdom and France both saw four major attacks carried out. Other targets in Europe have included Belgium, Germany, Russia, and Spain and Sweden. The transcontinental city of Istanbul also saw both bombings and shootings.
Attacks have occurred in countries participating in “Operation Inherent Resolve” — the military intervention against ISIL.
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Here are the main findings of the report:
“From an IS perspective, the terrorist attacks carried out in Belgium and France in 2015 and 2016 were successful and effective. Given this fact and a general assumption that IS retains both the will and the capability to strike again, further attacks in the EU, both by lone actors and groups, are likely to take place in the near future.”
“Further attacks in the EU, both by lone actors and groups, are likely to be attempted. Estimates from some intelligence services indicate several dozen people directed by IS may be currently present in Europe with a capability to commit terrorist attacks.”
“In addition to France and Belgium, all other EU Member States that are part of the US-led coalition against IS may be targeted by terrorists led or inspired by IS.
The most probable scenario is the use of the same modus operandi, including the same types of weapons, used in earlier attacks.
If IS is defeated or severely weakened in Syria/Iraq by the coalition forces, there may be an increased rate in the return of foreign fighters and their families from the region to the EU or to other conflict areas.”
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“Counter-terrorism experts expect that IS will start planning and dispatching attacks from Libya.”
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“Modi operandi employed in Syria and Iraq, such as the use of car bombs, extortion and kidnappings may be employed as methods of attack in the EU.
The apparent preference for soft targets means that attacking critical infrastructure such as power grids and nuclear facilities is currently not a priority for IS.
Elements of the Syrian refugee diaspora may be vulnerable to radicalisation once in Europe and may be targeted by extremist recruiters. Given that it is in the interests of IS to inflame the migration crisis to polarise the EU population and turn sections of it against those seeking asylum, some infiltration of refugee camps and other refugee/migrant groups is likely.
Contacts between terrorists and career criminals are generally of a very pragmatic and opportunistic character, and for very specific purposes only. However, the relative incidence of such cases in which there are connections appears to have increased. Typically this is because terrorists are known for previous criminal activity and/or because they make use of organised crime networks in the preparation of attacks, e.g. to obtain false identity documents and/or firearms.”
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What should not be overlooked is that IS is not the only terrorist organisation with the intent and capability to carry out attacks against the West, or to inspire individuals and groups residing in EU Member States to do so.
Al Qaeda and / or Al-Nusra affiliated or inspired groups and individuals continue to pose a serious threat to Member States of the EU and to Western interests in general.
ISIS attacks in Europe — Dec 2016 – Dec 2017
Dec 19 — Berlin Christmas market attack
Jan 1 — 2017 Istanbul nightclub shooting
March 18 — March 2017 Île-de-France attacks
March 22 — 2017 Westminster attack
April 3 — Saint Petersburg Metro bombing
April 7 — Stockholm truck attack
April 20 — April 2017 Champs-Élysées attack
May 22 — Manchester Arena bombing
June 3 — June 2017 London Bridge attack
June 6 — 2017 Notre Dame attack
June 20 — 2017 Brussels attack
Aug 9 — Levallois-Perret attack
Aug 17 — 2017 Barcelona attacks
Sept 15 — 2017 Parsons Green bombing
Europol – number of jihadist suspects arrested in EU countries 2012-2016
IS group to step up attacks on Europe – BBC 02 Dec 2016
EUROPOL: Islamic State to step up attacks on European targets