Europeans who have fought on behalf of the Islamic State group have not flooded back in large numbers since losing strongholds in Syria and Iraq, Europe’s police agency said on Wednesday but they’ve inspired a growing number of home-grown attacks.
Manuel Navarrete, head of Europol’s Counter Terrorism Centre, told a press conference at its Hague headquarters that a big influx of returning fighters had not materialised.
“The main threat is coming from foreign terrorist fighters even though the numbers … that are returning are quite low,” he said, referring to outsiders who travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside militants there.
The number of attacks in Europe, including foiled and failed plots, nearly doubled last year to 205, and led to the deaths of 62 people, according to Europol’s 2018 Terrorism Situation and Trend report released Wednesday. The figure compared with 13 reported attacks in 2016, of which 10 were successful leading to 135 deaths.
The agency stated that the risk of more unsophisticated attacks by the so-called Islamic State group”remains acute” adding that “the increase in the number of jihadist terrorist attacks in 2017 ran parallel to a decrease in in sophistication in their preparation and execution”.
This included the attack on London’s Westminster Bridge on March 22 last year and a similar attack on London Bridge two months later, when attackers drove vehicles into pedestrians and stabbed bystanders with knives, killing 13 people in total and wounding some 98 others.
Islamic jihadists who carried out such attacks in the EU in 2017 were mainly home-grown, “meaning that they were radicalised in their country of residence without having travelled to join a terrorist group abroad,” said Navarette.
He added that in many cases “it becomes a form of personal retaliation against the country that they failed to integrate with.”93% of French think prisons fail at preventing Islamic radicalization