Terrorism still represents a real and present danger for the European Union, according to the executive director of the European police agency Europol, Catherine De Bolle. She was speaking as the agency released its 2022 Terrorism Situation and Trends Report (TE-SAT). Covered are jihadist, right-wing, left-wing and anarchist terrorism, and “ethno-nationalist and separatist” terrorism.
She said: “Although our joint work to disrupt and prevent attacks appears to be having a positive effect, lone actors associated with violent jihadist and right-wing extremism remain a concern for EU Member States and Europol. At a time of geopolitical upheaval, the EU must continue its counter-terrorism measures more than ever. Europol will continue to work closely with its partners to meet the challenges ahead.”
As for the covid pandemic, she said the societal impact will stay with us for some time and explained how the coronavirus is shaping extremist narratives. “This has made some people more vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment into terrorism and extremism. Social isolation and increased time spent online have exacerbated the risks posed by violent extremist propaganda and terrorist content, especially among young people and minors.
The report highlighted violent anti-vaccine and anti-government extremism, unaffiliated with mainstream violent extremism and terrorism, that has emerged in some EU states and non-EU countries. EU. Online threats and physical violence targeted politicians, government officials, police, health authorities involved in crisis management or staff at testing and vaccination centers.
About 15 completed, foiled and failed terrorist attacks were recorded in the EU in 2021. The four completed attacks were classified as three jihadist and one leftist. Lone actors remain the main perpetrators of terrorist and violent extremist attacks. However, attack plots involving multiple actors were also disrupted in 2021. The report emphasized “online community building”; in terms of propaganda, educational material and opportunities for the purchase of weapons precursors and explosives. For example, a woman arrested in France in April 2021 was a member of a Telegram chat group where instructions on making explosives and suicide vests were shared. A man arrested in Hungary in June 2021 declared his allegiance to IS on social media and communicated (in English) in password-protected online groups. He had procured equipment to make pipe bombs and declared his intention to attack last summer’s Euro football tournament, either with bombs or with a “vehicle as a weapon”.
Many terrorism-related arrests in 2021 were made following investigations into jihadist terrorism in France, Spain and Austria (96, 39 and 23 individuals respectively). Of a total of 388 arrests of terrorism suspects, the most in one country was 140 in France; 14 were in the Republic of Ireland. The report did not cover the UK.
Echoing police findings in the UK, minors have been implicated in terrorism-related actions according to Europol. A 16-year-old Syrian national was arrested in September 2021 for planning and preparing an attack on a synagogue in Germany.
You can download the 96-page report from Europol’s website.