In 2016, a total of 142 failed, foiled and completed attacks were reported by eight EU member states. More than half (76) of them were reported by the United Kingdom. France reported 23 attacks, Italy 17, Spain 10, Greece 6, Germany 5, Belgium 4, and the Netherlands 1 attack. 142 victims died in terrorist attacks, and 379 were injured in the EU. Although there was a large number of terrorist attacks not connected with jihadism, the latter accounts for the most serious forms of terrorist activity as nearly all reported fatalities and most of the casualties were the result of jihadist terrorist attacks. Explosives were used in 40 percent of the attacks and women and young adults, and even children, are playing increasingly operational roles in committing terrorist activities independently in the EU. Most arrests were related to jihadist terrorism, for which the number rose for the third consecutive year. Also, the European Counter Terrorism Centre at Europol supported 127 counter terrorism investigations in 2016, which shows a clear indication of the growing range of jihadist activity.
These are some of the key findings of the 10th edition of the yearly EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE–SAT), which Europol has produced since 2007. Europol says that the TE–SAT, published last week, provides a concise overview of the nature of terrorism that the EU faced in 2016 and looks in detail at terrorist attacks that occurred: the largest number of attacks in which a terrorist affiliation could be identified were carried out by ethno-nationalist and separatist extremists (99). Attacks carried out by left-wing violent extremists have been on the rise since 2014; they reached a total of 27 in 2016, of which most (16) were reported by Italy. Although the total number of jihadist terrorist attacks decreased from 17 in 2015 to 13 attacks in 2016, of which 6 were linked to the so-called Islamic State (IS), 135 of the 142 victims of terrorist attacks in 2016 were killed in the 13 jihadist attacks.
Rob Wainwright, Europol executive director, said:”Never before has the need for information sharing become more evident as it has in the past two years, with the unprecedented form of jihadist terrorist attacks across Europe that led to 135 victims. In contrast to ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism, and most manifestations of both right-wing and left-wing violent extremism, jihadist terrorism has an international character and therefore needs an international answer from cross-border law enforcement.”
Some of the findings reported in the TE–SAT 2017:
— Arrests: 1002 persons were arrested for terrorist offences in 2016. Most arrests were related to jihadist terrorism, for which the number rose for the third consecutive year: 395 in 2014, 687 in 2015, and 718 in 2016.
— Victims: Of the 142 victims that died in terrorist attacks, 135 people were killed in jihadist terrorist attacks.
— Age of terrorists: Almost one-third of the total number of arrestees (291 of 1002) were 25 years old or younger.
— Explosives: Explosives were used in 40 percent of the attacks. Even though terrorists use a wide range of readily available weapons, explosive devices continue to be used in terrorist attacks, due to their high impact and symbolic power.
— Technical trend: Regarding the potential use of alternative and more sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the current trend in using weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as a drone, in the Syria/Iraq conflict zone might also inspire other jihadist supporters and increase the use of this kind of tactic.
— Terrorism financing: 40 percent of terrorist plots in Europe are believed to be at least partly financed through crime, especially drug dealing, theft, robberies, the sale of counterfeit goods, loan fraud, and burglaries.
— Women and children: Women have increasingly assumed more operational roles in jihadist terrorism activities, as have minors and young adults. One in four (26 percent) of the arrestees in 2016 were women, a significant increase compared to 2015 (18 percent). In addition, the United Kingdom reported an increase in the number of women, families and minors engaging in the conflict in Syria/Iraq, and the Netherlands reported that more 40 children (age 0-12 years) have travelled to Syria and Iraq.
— Ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism: 99 foiled, failed and completed attacks carried out were labelled as ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism. Dissident Republican groups in Northern Ireland were involved in 76 attacks.
— Left-wing and anarchist terrorism: The numbers of attacks of left-wing and anarchist terrorists increased in 2016 compared to 2015. 27 attacks were carried out and EU Member State authorities arrested 31 people. Italy, Greece and Spain were the only EU member states to experience left-wing and anarchist terrorist attacks.
— Online propaganda: The quantity of Islamic State propaganda decreased in 2016 due to lower production rates and the containment of dissemination. After a peak in mid-2015, the number of new videos produced by the Islamic State slowly decreased. In the second half of 2016, the frequency of new releases dropped even further. As the volume of Islamic State propaganda diminished, al-Qaeda and its affiliates attempted to take advantage of the situation and increased their efforts to reach new audiences.
— Social networks: Jihadist groups have demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of how social networks operate and have launched well-organized, concerted social media campaigns to recruit followers and to promote or glorify acts of terrorism and violent extremism. The success in restricting terrorist activity online shows the impact of collaborative efforts between law enforcement, such as Europol’s Internet Referral Unit (IRU) and the private sector.
Download the report here.