The European Union has for the first time published a report on terrorism trends in Europe, detailing the worrying situation of jihadi groups infiltrating member states and radicalising the youth. The governments of European countries contend they face a high threat from the jihadis who, intent on finding new bases, are looking at Europe as an alternative.
The European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 20200 says in all 119 completed, failed and foiled terrorist attacks were reported in the last one year by 13 EU member states.
The primary concern in EU is radicalisation. The report says: Prisons in EU Member States reported that individuals imprisoned for terrorist offences and prisoners who radicalise in prison pose a threat both during their imprisonment and after release. In 2019, the failed attack on March 5 in a French prison, the thwarted July 23 attack on prison guards in France and the November 29 attack in London by a recently released prisoner, are indicative of the threat.
France is the most worried country in the EU. There are more than 500 terrorist convicts in various French prisons and it is estimated that they have radicalised nearly 900 individuals by now. As a result, incidents of violence and communal clashes in prisons are becoming common. Between mid-2018 and the end of 2019, a total of four attacks in French prisons were foiled. Five inmates who formed a jihadist cell among prisoners in two Spanish prisons were indicted in February 2019 for indoctrination and terrorist recruitment. In Belgium, just over 200 people were being formally monitored in prison in 2019 on account of their radicalisation.
The EU report says a number of radicalised individuals will soon be released, thereby increasing the security threat. It points to new trends: Belgium observed that some prisoners prefer to serve their entire sentence without request for early release an no conditions or probation measures can be imposed after their release. The Netherlands is concerned that jihadists in prison have the potential to create new networks which may strengthen the jihadist community following their release or give rise to jihadist networks abroad that pose a threat to the Netherlands. In Spain, a high percentage of incarcerated non-terrorist offenders were radicalised by jihadist ideology.
Denmark is concerned that radicalised inmates in contact with people from organised crime circles may pose an increasing risk of jihadists gaining access to weapons.
Significantly, security forces in EU states are at a high state of alert and have achieved a 100 per cent success in containing terror threats. Public places and military or law enforcement personnel continued to be among the most frequent targets for jihadism- inspired attacks. Whereas all bombing plots failed or were thwarted by authorities, stabbing and shooting attacks resulted in deaths and/or injuries.
The jihadi groups are targeting youth, even teenagers, and women for their radicalisation programs. The report reveals the details: Most jihadism-inspired attackers and would-be attackers (almost 70 %) were between 20 and 28 years old.
The youngest perpetrators were 16 and 17 years old. Although the majority of jihadist terrorists were male (85 %), eight female perpetrators were also reported by EU Member States
Secondly, the terror groups are training Olocals to carry out the attacks in order to keep their hands clean and remain anonymous. Nearly 60 % of jihadist attackers were citizens of the country in which the attack or plot took place.A significant proportion of the overall arrests were related to jihadist terrorism. Membership of a terrorist group and terrorist conspiracy, terrorism financing and facilitation were the most frequent offences leading to arrests, irrespective of gender.
The EU investigations led the authorities to believe that the terrorist groups, instead of setting up their own networks in Europe, are radicalising the local population and encouraging them to set up their own networks. These local groups are proliferating on their own at present. Networks are largely home-grown and without organisational links to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State (IS). In addition, some individuals or small groups have been seen to self-radicalise, principally on the internet, without being part of wider networks.
The report also assesses how the terror conflicts primarily in West Asia are impacting on Europe. Hundreds of European citizens with links to IS and their family members, who may not be Europeans but might want to claim European citizenship remained in Iraq and Syria. The terrorist group continues to pose a threat, despite the death of its leader in October 2019. A1-Qaeda again dispiayed its intent and ambition to strike Western targets.
Ethnic roots of terror are also being assessed in the EIJ. For instance, the report says, the situation in Kurdish-populated areas in Turkey, Iraq and Syria had a strong impact on communities in the EIJO. It gives the example of the Turkish military intervention in northern Syria, which started in October 2019 and caused an increase in protests by Kurds across Europe.
It also exacerbated the tensions between Turkish and Kurdish communities in a number of European countries. Clashes between Kurds and Turkish nationalists during protests and counter-protests. Such incidents were reported by Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, for example. Germany also reported that in this context a number of facilities related to Turkey such as associations, mosques and shops were vandalised.
The participation of EU members in UN military missions to check terror activities in Syria or north Africa or Afghanistan is resulting in the jihadi groups targeting them. EU Member States foreign engagements, including participation in military missions coordinated by the United Nations or the EU or within the Global Coalition Against Daesh, make them targets for jihadist terrorist groups. Despite suffering military defeat in Syria and the death of IS leader Abubakr al-Baghdadi, the threat posed by IS-directed attacks in Europe has not entirely disappeared.
The report concludes with a caution that the terrorist groups still aim to attack the West, via their own networks or networks of sympathisers, and they remain capable of mobilising members of the global jihadist movement. It, however, notes that the threat exists even though their ability to coordinate large-scale attacks in the West has been on the decline for some timeo Several EU Members States, assessed that the change in leadership (of some terror groups) was unlikely to alter the threat posed by IS to Europe and other Western countries in the short term, as the group was highly likely to be robust and adaptable
enough to successfully navigate the immediate consequences of the loss.