The terrorist threat to the EU continues to be high

The new report on the situation and evolution of terrorism in the EU, describes terrorist incidents and activities at a European level.

In 2017, 68 victims lost their lives as a consequence of terrorist attacks in the European Union (UE). Although the number of casualties went down last year compared with 2016, the number of attacks in Europe increased. The 2018 Europol report on the situation and terrorist trends (TE-SAT) provides a general vision of the nature of the terrorist threat faced by the EU in 2017.

New EU member states informed of a total of 205 thwarted, failed and successful attacks in 2017 (2016: 142). This means an increase of 45% compared with 2016 and a change to a downward trend that began in 2014.

These attacks killed 68 victims and left 844 wounded. Almost all the mortal casualties (62) were due to Jihadist attacks. The number of Jihadist attacks grew from 13 in 2016 to 33 in 2017.

975 individuals were arrested in the EU for crimes related to terrorism (2016: 1 002). Most of these arrests were related to Jihadist terrorism, suspected of having participated in some terrorist group activities; planning and preparing attacks; and facilitating activities like the dissemination of propaganda, recruitment and financing terrorism.

The report stresses some of the main trends:

Recent attacks by Jihadist terrorist have involved the following three formats:

  • They prefer to attack people, as opposed to other objectives, to provoke an emotional response from the general public (Paris, May 2018, Barcelona, ​​August 2017);
  • Attacks against symbols of authority (Liege, May 2018; Trèbes, March 2018);
  • Attacks against Western lifestyle symbols (Manchester, May 2017).
  • The new attacks in the EU by Jihadist terrorists that follow some of these patterns, or a combination of these, are more probable.
  • Apart from the increase in Jihadist attacks, their preparation and execution have become less sophisticated.
  • Jihadist terrorists often act alone, as the preparation could be self-directed or facilitated by their immediate social context.
  • Nevertheless, online propaganda and the creation of nodes via social networks are still essential mediums for recruiting, radicalising and raising money. Often rudimentary knowledge of Islam makes potential attackers vulnerable to influence and manipulation.
  • Recent jihadist attacks were mainly committed by domestic terrorists, radicalised without having travelled to join a terrorist group abroad. Among the wide variety of attackers, some were known to the police, but not because of terrorist activities, and most had no direct connection with any Jihadist organisation.
  • The degradation of the so-called organisational structures of Islamic State (IS) does not amount to a reduction in the Jihadist terrorist threat. Terrorist activities in the UE ordered, guided and inspired by IS, al-Qaeda and other Jihadist organisations continue to be a real possibility.

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