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The overall terrorist threat to the security of the EU remains acute.
The main concern of Member States is jihadist terrorism and the closely related phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters who travel to and from conflict zones.
Recent attacks in the EU demonstrate the intent and capability of jihadist terrorists to inflict mass casualties on urban populations in an effort to induce a high state of well-publicised terror.
The carefully planned attacks continue to demonstrate the elevated threat to the EU from an extremist minority, operationally based in the Middle East, combined with a network of people born and raised in the EU, often radicalised within a short space of time, who have proven willing and able to act as facilitators and active accomplices in terrorism.
Europol’s counter-terrorism efforts are coordinated by the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) which officially started operations on 1 January 2016. The ECTC seeks to enhanced cross-border cooperation between relevant counter-terrorist authorities.
Even before it was launched, Europol was already connecting its information-exchange and -analysis capabilities to support investigations into the November 2015 Paris attacks. Europol’s Emergency Response Team (EMRT) was immediately activated to support the investigations in France and Belgium on a 24/7 basis. This support included the deployment of analysts and specialists to Paris, to Interpol in Lyon, and to Brussels.
This EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT), which Europol has produced each year since 2007, provides an overview of the failed, foiled and completed attacks in the EU, as well as of terrorism-related arrests, convictions and penalties.
The report addresses terrorism in all its forms, namely:
- Jihadist terrorism
- Ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism
- Left-wing and anarchist terrorism
- Right-wing terrorism
- Single-issue terrorism.
According to the most recent TE-SAT, in the EU in 2017:
- 68 people died and over 844 were injured as a result of terrorist attacks;
- There were 205 failed, foiled or completed terrorist attacks in nine Member States;
- Explosives were used in 30% of the attacks;
- 975 individuals were arrested for terrorism-related offences;
- Courts issued 569 verdicts to 565 individuals tried on terrorism charges;
- The ECTC supported?439 counter terrorism investigations.
Of the 12 trends identified in the latest TE-SAT, most related to jihadist terrorism. While there was a large number of terrorist attacks not connected with jihadism, the latter accounts for the most serious forms of terrorist activity as nearly all reported fatalities and most of the casualties were the result of jihadist terrorist attacks.
The attacks in Manchester (with explosives) and Barcelona (with vehicles), which intended to randomly kill and wound as many people as possible, again demonstrated the harm jihadist militants are able and willing to inflict upon EU citizens, legitimised by the interpretation they adopted of selectively sampled religious texts.
Jihadist terrorists can be both directed by the Islamic State (IS) or merely inspired by IS ideology and rhetoric. Jihadist terrorists have been found to use a range of weapons to include bladed weapons, automatic rifles, explosives and vehicles, and are expected to continue to do so.
Jihadist attacks can be both carefully prepared and carried out spontaneously. Terrorists acting in the name of IS have proven to be able to plan relatively complex attacks – including those on multiple targets – quickly and effectively.
In terms of right-wing terrorism, the report notes that politicians, public figures, political parties, civic action groups and media that take a critical view of right-wing extremism, or advocate pro-migration policies, have to be considered as potential targets of right-wing extremist agitation, given the incidences of attacks and physical assaults on them.
Anarchist and left-wing extremists, on the other hand, take advantage of peaceful demonstrations to carry out attacks on government property and law enforcement personnel, the report finds.