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25th Feb 2024

EU police warn of new-model jihad threat

The EU's joint police body, Europol has noted there were no succesful Islamist attacks in Europe last year, while warning about future Toulouse-type 'lone wolves.'

Its report, out on Wednesday (25April), highlighted that "member states have not reported a single al-Qaeda affiliated or inspired terrorist attack actually carried out in 2011."

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  • Online Islamist publications, such as the now-defunct Inspire magazine are seen as an important factor (Photo: Wikipedia)

The development comes not for want of trying. "The al-Qaeda-affiliated or inspired threat towards Scandinavia and Germany rose steadily during 2011, whilst other member states, such as France, Spain and the UK, remained constant targets and centres for radical activities," it added.

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Romania also registered jihadist activity.

Police forces arrested 17 people for planning Islamist attacks, down from 89 in 2010. One man tried to bomb Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllandsposten, which published cartoons making fun of Mohammed in 2005. Another man tried to poison water supplies in Spain to avenge Osama bin Laden.

More than 60 arrests concerned suspected membership of groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or the Somalia-based al-Shabab. Another 40-or-so related to "terrorist propaganda," illicit financing or possession of arms and explosives.

The Europol survey came out one month after a man in Toulouse, France shot dead two French soldiers, three Jewish children and a Jewish schoolteacher. It also coincided with the trial of Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people in Norway last year in the name of "counter-jihad."

It made no mention of Toulouse, but it warned that an important new threat is "lone actors" inspired by jihadist websites, even though most loners are "largely amateur" and "impulsive" in their methods.

Other trends include kidnapping of EU citizens in Afghanistan-Pakistan, Bosnia, Lebanon, Nigeria and Morocco, as well as link-ups between jihadist groups and organised crime in eastern Europe.

It noted that US targetted assassination of prominent jihadists last year - such as Anwar al-Awlaki, Osama bin Laden and Samir Khan - "was a substantial blow" against al-Qaeda but "has not removed the threat."

Eurupol made little attempt to analyse the motives behind the crimes and no statement on the legality of the CIA assassination programme.

It noted that most of the perpetrators were non-EU-national young men who were "religiously-inspired" or "driven and sustained by geopolitical developments and changes in the Middle East, the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa." But some operations - such as the kidnapping for ransom of seven Estonians in Lebanon last year - "blurred the distinction between pure criminality and terrorism."

Europol director Robert Wainwright in his foreword defined terrorism as "the attempt to achieve political goals with the use or the threat of violence."

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