Europol: new assessment of the terrorist threat from jihadist organisations

Europol has published the third edition of its Annual Report on the most prominent online jihadist propaganda in 2020.

Focusing on Islamic State and Al-Qaida, together with their various branches, the report traces the continuing development of these groups and how they have reacted to changing situations and attempted to overcome difficulties.

Prepared by the European Union Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) run by the European Counter-Terrorism Centre, this assessment of the threats is based on primary sources, including the publications, videos and recorded statements of the groups concerned, gathered by the EU IRU during the course of 2020.

The Report shows that 2020 was a critical period in the evolution of Islamic State and Al-Qaida. Both jihadist terrorist groups suffered major setbacks and were forced to adapt to fast-changing realities in order to survive and to continue to appear relevant. The risk that online jihadist propaganda may lead to continuous violence is still very high, given that both groups’ propaganda continues to call for attacks by isolated individuals who have no physical connection with either of the two groups. Among the main conclusions are the following:

Islamic State (IS)

• Under new leadership, IS is involved in increasing insurgency activity in its traditional strongholds and continues to exert global influence.

• One year after IS’s military defeat, the group’s media production capacities remain limited, due to its loss of infrastructure and personnel. As a result, IS official propaganda remained diminished in 2020.

• Today the group is focused on attempting resurgence in Iraq and expanding its international presence so as to encourage even more its global network of affiliates.

Al-Qaida (AQ)

• During the course of 2020, AQ underwent a series of major setbacks and lost some of its most prominent leaders.

• AQ continues to take advantage of current events to put forward its ideological tenets, which are presented as being “less extreme” than those of IS.

• Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) wishes to show that it is still capable of setting up external operations, even if events seem to suggest a reduction of its capacity in the field.

European Union Internet Referral Unit

Interpol’s EU IRU detects and investigates malicious content on the Internet and on the social networks. EU IRU’s work not only produces strategic information about jihadist terrorism, but also provides evidence to be used in criminal investigations.

This Unit is made up of a team of over forty specialists with a wide variety of skills and expertise, ranging from experts in terrorism inspired by religious motivations, to developers of information and communication technology and police officers specialising in counter-terrorism.


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