EU re­port high­lights on­go­ing IS threat

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in The Hague, Nether­lands

The Is­lamic State 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 on Fri­day.

“Es­ti­mates from some in­tel­li­gence ser­vices in­di­cate sev­eral dozen peo­ple di­rected by IS group 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 IS lead­ers for at­tacks.

But the group is also 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 the 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 IS can ef­fec­tively plan com­plex at­tacks.

Europol also notes a shift in at­tacks from sym­bolic tar­gets such as 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:

Sev­eral dozen peo­ple di­rected by IS group may be cur­rently present in Europe ...” EU po­lice agency Europol said in a re­port on Fri­day

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”.

Cy­ber war­fare

Europol also said that the con­sen­sus among in­tel­li­gence agen­cies in EU mem­ber states is that “the cy­ber ca­pa­bil­i­ties of ter­ror­ist groups are still rel­a­tively low”, but added 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 an IS 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”.

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