Europe facing fresh terror threats, says Europol report

Europe facing fresh terror threats, says Europol report
Al-Andalus, a ‘special group’ established by Daesh, had planned to stage a series of terrorist attacks in Spain. (AP)
Updated 03 December 2016

Europe facing fresh terror threats, says Europol report

Europe facing fresh terror threats, says Europol report

THE HAGUE: The Daesh group is likely to carry out new attacks in the European Union in the near future, probably targeting countries that are members of the US-led coalition fighting the extremist organization in Syria and Iraq, EU police agency Europol said in a report published Friday.
Terror networks, including Daesh, are evolving their tactics to attack soft targets in Europe, which could see the use of deadly car bombs, Europol warned.
“Estimates from some intelligence services indicate several dozen people directed by IS (Daesh) may be currently present in Europe with a capability to commit terrorist attacks,” according to the report, which draws on counterterrorism intelligence from around Europe and also cites media reports and previously publicized calls by Daesh leaders for attacks.
But Daesh also is adept at inspiring marginalized youths, some of whom may have mental health problems, and inciting them to carry out attacks.
The report also warns that tactics the group uses in Iraq and Syria — such as the use of car bombs — could also be deployed in Europe. It also said that past attacks such as those in France and Belgium over the last two years show that extremists acting in the name of Daesh can effectively plan complex attacks.
Europol also notes a shift in attacks from symbolic targets like police officers and military personnel to indiscriminate attacks on soft targets, such as the Paris attacks in 2015.
“Indiscriminate attacks have a very powerful effect on the public in general, which is one of the main goals of terrorism: to seriously intimidate a population,” the report says, adding that the focus on so-called soft targets means that attacking critical infrastructure like power grids and nuclear facilities is “currently not a priority.”
Europol also says that the consensus among intelligence agencies in EU member states is that “the cyber capabilities of terrorist groups are still relatively low,” but adds that “the possibility of terrorist-affiliated cyber groups engaging in cyber warfare sponsored by Nation States — those with capacities to engage in this type of attacks — should not be discounted.”
Meanwhile, a police raid in Morocco in February may have thwarted a possible attack by a Daesh cell using chemical or biological weapons, raising the specter that such weapons also could be used in Europe, though the report says automatic firearms, knives and vehicles are more easily available and that: “The effectiveness, ease of use and access of these weapons will continue to be relevant.”
Militant attacks on EU member states have not yet involved “the use of home-made, commercial or military explosives in vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices” as in Syria or Iraq, it said in a report issued in The Hague.
But “given the fact that the modi operandi used in Middle Eastern countries tend to be copied by terrorists operating in Europe... it is conceivable that militant groups will use this means at some stage,” the continent’s policing agency said.
The group responsible for attacks in Paris a year ago and in Brussels in March wanted to deploy such devices until police actions forced them to change their plans, the report said.
Militants massacred 130 people in November 2015 in attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, a handful of bars and restaurants in eastern Paris, and France’s national stadium.
In Belgium, suicide bombers struck Brussels airport and a metro station near the European Union (EU) headquarters on March 22, killing 32 people.
The 14-page report, an update on methods and tactics used by Daesh, also said counter-terror experts were concerned that strife-torn Libya could develop into a “second springboard for Daesh, after Syria, for attacks in the EU and North Africa.”
Since the armed revolt five years ago that overthrew dictator Muammar Qaddafi, the North African country has been plagued by violence and political instability.
“Experts expect that Daesh will start planning and dispatching attacks from Libya if the current phase, in which they are primarily focused on taking territory and dispatching of local enemies, comes to an end.”
Europe’s security forces arrested 667 suspects for suspected militant activities in 2015, the report added.