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17th Oct 2021

More jihadi attacks likely in Europe, Europol says

  • Bombs struck the airport in the EU capital, Brussels, in March (Photo: Reuters)

New terror attacks from Islamic State in the EU, with France a prime target, are likely, says a report by Europol on Friday (1 December).

The European joint police agency said the so-called Islamic State (IS) remained the main terrorist group currently threatening the EU.

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Impressions from intelligence services in the EU suggested that the terrorist group had "several dozen people" capable of carrying out attacks in Europe.

IS could also inspire further "lone wolves" to carry out operations in its name.

The group has a wide array of means at their disposal, but automatic firearms would likely remain its weapons of choice, because of their "relative ease of access, use and effectiveness", Europol said.

But IS could also take on new methods, such as the use of car bombs, extortion and kidnappings, as it was already doing in Syria and Iraq.

"Exploring new modi operandi is regarded as a hallmark of IS," the report said.

Europol also noted a shift in attacks from symbolic targets, like police officers and military personnel, to indiscriminate attacks on ordinary people.

Onslaughts on so-called soft targets were more effective because they profoundly terrorised the general public.

"In the case of Zaventem airport in particular, the attacks were carried out in a venue of international character, causing a multiplier effect aimed at generating worldwide media attention. Relatively complex, these attacks were not particularly expensive to organise … but nevertheless highly effective and carried out in easily repeatable modi operandi," the report said.

"The attack with a truck on civilians celebrating 14 July in Nice, leaving 85 dead and several hundred wounded, showed the devastating potential of a lone-actor attack… This attack was carried out with even simpler means and was even more difficult to predict or foresee, let alone prevent."

The focus on civilians by IS meant that attacking critical infrastructure, like power grids and nuclear facilities, was "currently not a priority."

The same applied to cyber-attacks, because of the relatively low impact on the general public such attacks would generate.

The EU police agency said most of the attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State (IS) were taking place outside of Europe: in Syria and Iraq.

But France was a high on the target list, for a variety of reasons.

It is considered a symbol of Western culture, but bans on religious apparel are seen by many as specifically targeting Muslims.

It regularly enters into conflict with jihadist groups, through its economic and military interventions to defend its national interests in Africa and the Near East.

Marginalised youth, especially those with mental health problems and criminal records, could fall prey to recruitment by violent jihadist groups.

Europol also pointed to Belgium and Germany as potential targets.

Just like France, Belgium - and Brussels in particular - has pockets of poor and unemployed Muslim populations.

Germany, meanwhile, could become a target because it contradicted the promise of the Caliphate as an Islamic utopia by welcoming Syrian refugees. Europol said it was likely recruiters tried to infiltrate refugee reception centres.

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