ISIS focusing on EU, threat of imminent terror attack – Europol

© Yves Herman
Islamic State is expanding its activities to a global level, with a focus on the European Union, which should prepare for more frequent acts of terror similar to the recent Paris attacks, the chief of EU police agency Europol said.

“The so-called Islamic State has developed a new combat-style capability to carry out a campaign of large-scale terrorist attacks on a global stage — with a particular focus in Europe,” Europol director Rob Wainwright told media at a news conference at the organization's headquarters in The Hague on Monday.

Director of Europol Rob Wainwright © Jerry Lampen

Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) has “a willingness and a capability to carry out further attacks in Europe, and of course all national authorities are working to prevent that from happening,” Wainwright said.

The news conference was dedicated to the presentation of Europol’s report on changes in operational tactics by the jihadist group.

“Both the November Paris attacks and the October 2015 bombing of a Russian airliner suggest a shift in IS strategy towards going global,” the report said.

The publication of the Europol report coincided with the release of a new terrorist propaganda video from Islamic State, featuring the Paris attackers apparently participating in gruesome murders in an undisclosed desert location before they infiltrated the EU and subsequently conducted attacks in the French capital.

The video depicting the nine terrorists who participated in the November 13 Paris attacks that left 130 people dead threatens the countries of the US-led anti-IS coalition.

“IS is preparing more terrorist attacks, including more 'Mumbai-style' attacks, to be executed in member states of the EU, and in France in particular," the Europol report says, specifying that the attacks will be primarily aimed at “soft targets,” i.e. vulnerable installations and civilians, because of the “impact it generates.”

To implement those plans for terror on an international level, IS has developed an “external action command” capable of staging “special forces-style attacks,” the report says.

Europol downplayed the fears that Islamic State is using the influx of refugees coming to Europe to infiltrate the EU, stressing there is no “concrete evidence” that terrorists are using the migrant influx “systematically.”

However, the report notes, newcomers to Europe remain highly vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment to the terrorist group. The agency reports that there is evidence that jihadist recruiters are particularly interested in operating in refugee centers.

The spike in terrorist activities in Europe has become Europol’s primary interest for quite some time, with the agency having just launched its new counterterrorism center in The Hague.

According to Europol’s chief, Europeans who have joined the jihad in the Middle East remain in the spotlight of the agency, which is collecting information on them.

“We already have details on 3,700 fighters actively engaged in the conflict zone, but that's not the full picture and it's something we will be addressing through priority work by the new center," Wainwright said, estimating the total number of EU citizens that have joined terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria at 5,000.