In its 2017 Terrorism Situation and Trend Report EU’s main police agency, Europol, warned that ISIS has no lack of volunteers, who are often literate and increasingly include women and children ready to carry out attacks in the West, where 10 of 13 terrorist plots successfully hit their targets in 2016.
The report notes that, despite suffering major defeats in Syria and Iraq, ISIS continues to plan more complex, mass-casualty attacks in the West, particularly in Europe.
“ISIS is training operatives in Syria/Iraq to carry out terrorist acts in the West and has no shortage of volunteers to be part of teams to be sent abroad for this purpose,” it said.
Terrorist plots are being organized by both “remotely directed individuals” who are able to operate alone or in small groups, and non-directed lone-wolf terrorists inspired by Takfiri propaganda.
The Europol report said 135 people were killed in 13 Takfiri terrorist attacks in France, Belgium, and Germany in 2016. Additionally, a total of 718 people were arrested on suspicion of offences related to terrorism, with the number of arrests especially high in France.
Women, Children used by terrorists
The police agency noted that women and children play “increasingly operational roles in committing terrorist activities in the EU independently,” as female terrorists have “fewer obstacles” in the West than men. “Women have increasingly assumed more operational roles in jihadist terrorism activities, as have minors and young adults. One in four (26%) of the arrestees in 2016 were women, a significant increase compared to 2015 (18%). 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.”
On the technical aspect of terrorist attacks, the report notes that 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 Takfiri supporters and increase the use of this kind of tactic.
Regarding the financing of terrorist attacks, the report points out that 40% 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.
“These financial services and applications, including financial low transfer apps, are fluid, encrypted and partially anonymized, allowing a desirable financial conduit for terrorists who seek a borderless, reliable and shielded financial mechanism, optimized and readily accessible for real-time small value transfers,” the report said.
Over 5,000 Europeans joined terrorist groups
According to Europol, more than 5,000 individuals emanating from the EU are believed to have travelled to conflict areas in Syria and Iraq joining Takfiri terrorist groups especially ISIS.
As was observed in 2015, individuals from Belgium, France, Germany and the UK account for the majority of this total.
Efforts to prevent terrorism
Meanwhile, the UN Secretary General has said that efforts and policies to prevent extremism must encompass all segments of the society, in particular those who have suffered structural discrimination and marginalization. Antonio Guterres made the remarks on June 13 at a high-level dialogue in Turkmenistan's capital city, Ashgabat, aimed at implementing a UN Global Counter-Terrorism strategy in Central Asia.
He warned that measures which fail to do so could end up effectively “driving” people into the hands of terrorists. He said that the threat from terrorism and violent extremism has gotten worse with terrorist organizations becoming increasingly transnational, enabling and inspiring attacks and radicalizing individuals, particularly youth, outside of conflict zones.
The UN chief further called on the countries to continue to work together on issues such as countering the financing of terrorism, enhancing border security, nurturing dialogue with religious institutions and leaders, as well as highlighting the role of the media in addressing terrorism and violent extremism.