The European Union’s police agency said Wednesday that home-grown terror attacks are on the rise.
According to Manuel Navarrete, head of Europol’s Counter Terrorism Centre, although jihadists who traveled from Europe to fight in Syria and Iraq have not yet returned in massive numbers, terrorist groups including ISIS continue to inspire sympathizers back home to carry out attacks.
“The main threat is coming from foreign terrorist fighters even though the numbers… that are returning are quite low,” Navarrete said.
ISIS-inspired “lone wolf” attacks relying on simple items like knifes and vehicles, Navarrete added, have risen across Europe while more sophisticated terror attacks from veteran jihadists are down.
“Even though we suffer more attacks, they were less sophisticated,” Navarrete said.
As noted by Reuters, Europol’s report states the number of attacks and foiled plots have more than doubled in the last year to 205 – leaving 62 dead in total.
“Of more than 5,000 Europeans – most from Britain, France, Germany and Belgium – who joined the ranks of fighters in Syria and Iraq, some 1,500 have returned and 1,000 were killed…” Reuters said.
Other jihadists are said to have fled to countries such as Turkey, Malaysia, Libya and the Philippines.
Navarrete alleged that nations in the EU arrested a total of 700 people connected to terrorist activity in 2017.
With ISIS’s territory shrinking in Iraq and Syria, the potential for a wave of jihadists coming into Europe remains high.
Navarrete added that Europol is increasingly relying on content posted to social media in order to track terrorists.
“You have to be very, very close to a person in order to take action on the police level to prevent this,” Navarrete said. “And the closest you can be to a person right now is not going to the front door, it is going to Facebook, to Twitter.”