Islamic State Attacks in Europe: New Tactics in Terrorism

The European Union’s First Response Network (FRN) recently convened to discuss the evolving methods of Islamic State (IS) terrorists in Europe.  Comprised of counter-terrorism experts from every EU member state, the FRN met in response to the series of coordinated attacks that took place on November 13, 2015 in Paris and to analyze scenarios of possible future attacks in the region.  Europol published the group’s conclusions in a report entitled “Changes in Modus Operandi of Islamic State Terrorist Attacks”, which including several major findings:

Future Attacks: The FRN cautioned that there are likely to be more attacks in the EU and France in particular, carried out by groups and lone actors alike. The group surmised that attacks might be carried out by IS as well as Al-Qaeda affiliates against soft (civilian) targets rather than against military targets or critical infrastructure.

Radicalization: EU counter-terrorism officers assessed that mental illness and criminal tendencies often factor into radicalization.  Rather than martyrdom, they estimated that many violent extremists aspire to be seen as heroes.  Youth and members of the Muslim diaspora appear to be more susceptible to radicalization.  It is important to note, however, that “there is no concrete evidence that terrorist travellers systematically use the flow of refugees to enter Europe unnoticed.”

Islamic State’s Global Reach: Thanks to Internet and social media, IS has access to a global audience of potential sympathizers and recruits. Attacks need not be centrally coordinated by leadership in Syria or Iraq, and it is increasingly possible that IS recruits may have never traveled to the region. Terrorist cells throughout the EU and the so-called “lone wolves” that self-radicalize pose a constant, unpredictable threat.

For more resources on Domestic Terrorism, Lone Wolf Terrorism, or Immigration, please visit the Homeland Security Digital Library (some links may require log-in).

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