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Europol warns of threat posed by IS as deaths linked to extremism increase

Published 20/07/2016

The Bastille Day attack in Nice exposed the real threat posed across Europe by extremists
The Bastille Day attack in Nice exposed the real threat posed across Europe by extremists

The number of people killed in attacks by extremists throughout Europe rose in 2015, the EU policing agency said as it warned Islamic State may "put more emphasis on operations abroad" as a Western military alliance puts it under pressure in Syria and Iraq.

The Europol report paints a worrying picture of an EU assailed by Islamic extremist threats that are unlikely to recede any time soon.

It warned that Syrian asylum seekers could be targeted and swiftly radicalised by IS recruiters, while a new generation of fighters is being raised in IS territory in Syria and Iraq.

Compiling data from EU member states, Europol said that in 2015, 151 people died - up from four the previous year - and more than 360 were injured as a result of terrorist attacks in the bloc. All but one of the fatalities was the result of Jihadi attacks.

Six EU member states faced a total of 211 failed, foiled or completed terrorist attacks from Jihad groups and other extremists. Law enforcement officials arrested 1,077 people for terrorism-related offences.

The report also stated that IS appears to favour attacks against soft targets because they "instil more fear in the general public".

That threat was horrifically underscored by the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, France, that left 84 people dead.

In a move that showed the swiftly evolving nature of the extremist threat, Europol also issued a separate statement on recent attacks in Nice, Germany and the United States, saying they "highlight the operational difficulties in detecting and disrupting lone actor attacks".

The report was published on the day that senior government officials from the international coalition against IS are due to meet in Washington to discuss their campaign.

It warned of a potential new wave of fanatics as a result of children of "foreign terrorist fighters living with their parents in IS-held territory".

The report added: "IS has often shown that they train these minors to become the next generation of foreign terrorist fighters, which may pose a future security threat."

While Europol said there was no concrete evidence of foreign fighters systematically sneaking into Europe among the huge flow of refugees in 2015, there is a "real and imminent danger" that members of the Sunni Muslim refugee community will "become vulnerable to radicalisation once in Europe, and... be specifically targeted by Islamist extremist recruiters".

The Hague-based police agency also reported that extremists are increasingly adept at using the internet and social media to spread propaganda, raise funds, potentially carry out cyber-attacks and finance their operations by soliciting donations in closed forums and websites and even exploiting crowd-funding sites.

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