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20th Aug 2017

Women playing greater role in terror, says EU police agency

  • There were 13 jihadist terror attacks last year, down from 17 in 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Daniel Dikson)

The operational role of women and minors in carrying out jihadist terror attacks in Europe appears to be on the rise, according to the EU's police agency Europol.

The Hague-based agency on Thursday (15 June) released its annual EU terrorism situation and trend report ahead of an EU summit next week where leaders will discuss anti-radicalisation efforts.

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Europol chief Rob Wainwright on Thursday said the figures indicated that more women and children were being used to commit attacks than before.

"Women and young adults, and even children, are playing increasingly operational roles in committing terrorist activities independently in the EU," noted the report.

One in four people arrested in 2016 were women, compared to around 18 percent in 2015. Although fewer jihadist attacks were committed last year, when compared to 2015, Wainwright noted that their actions remained by the far the the most deadly.

Some 135 people out of a total 142 victims had died to terrorism linked to radical jihadism. Bombings in Brussels last year ended the lives of 32 people. Another 86 were when a 19-tonne truck ploughed through the crowds during the 14 July festivities in Nice.

While explosions were often linked to the killings, the report notes that some terrorists may explore using weaponised drones to also carry attacks in the future.

Salman Abedi, the 22-year old suicide bomber in Manchester in May, is said to have received expert instruction on how to make the explosive device.

The issues, among others, will also be discussed in Luxembourg next Monday during a meeting of foreign affairs ministers.

Ministers will aim to reinforce counter-terrorism measures throughout EU-led operations and missions in north Africa, Turkey, the Balkans, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel.

"Our fight against terrorism is both at home and abroad. And our response can only be common and united," said EU home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, in a statement on the Europol report.

Heads of state and government at a summit at the end of next week in Brussels will also be pushing to get social media giants to remove online content deemed to incite terrorism.

However, the Europol report also found that the quantity of Islamic State propaganda has declined in 2016.

Jihadist terrorist attacks in the EU are also on the decline, amid a sharp increase in arrested jihadist suspects, when compared to previous years.

There were 13 jihadists attacks in the EU last year, down from 17 in 2015. Six of the 13 attacks were linked to the so-called Islamic State.

The report also found that over 1,000 people were arrested for terrorist-related offences in 2016, most of which were linked to jihadism.

Some 142 terrorist plots had also been foiled in eight EU states last year. Over 70 were stopped in the UK alone, followed by 23 in France, 17 in Italy, and 10 in Spain, among others.

Security and defence to top EU summit

Pressure is mounting for social media platforms to remove any online content deemed to incite terrorism. Draft conclusions, seen by EUobserver, have made the issue a top priority in leaders' talks next week.

EU steps up global counter-terrorism drive

EU foreign ministers vowed to increase the number of projects and financial support in different parts of the world ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, where leaders will focus on security and defence.

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