Giorgos Protopapas: Islamic terrorism is casting a heavy shadow over Europe
The ongoing Islamic terrorist attacks in France highlight the dimensions of the penetration of Islamic fundamentalism in the Muslim communities of Europe and are a typical example of young Muslims who advocate the ideology of hatred and disrespect for human life.
Al Qaeda in the beginning and later the Islamic State. created the conditions for thousands of European Muslims to turn against Western interests and fight on foreign battlefields. Europe is threatened by two categories of Islamist extremists, young Muslims and European jihadists who have returned to their home countries, fighting on the side of the Islamic State against international military coalitions. They have the training and knowledge to plan high-level terrorist attacks.
The latest report of the European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend report (TE-SAT) 2020, is indicative of the Islamic radicalization of young European Muslims. Most jihadists who carried out attacks in 2019 (almost 70%) were between 20 and 28 years old. The youngest of the perpetrators was between 16 and 17 years old.
The majority of Islamist terrorists were men (85%), but there were also eight women who served in the jihad. In terms of citizenship, almost 60% of the jihadists were citizens of the European country that was attacked. The majority of EU member states stated that in 2019, there were terrorist incidents related to jihadism and that the necessary arrests were made.
The charges that led to the arrests, regardless of gender, were involvement in terrorist groups, conspiracies as well as facilitating terrorist acts. More specifically, only male suspects were involved in planning and preparing terrorist attacks. As for the age of terrorism suspects, men and women, it was between 21 and 38 years.
The jihadists in Europe are mainly connected through loose networks, which are integrated into a wider social environment, which can serve as a recruiting point. The networks are largely local and organizationally unrelated to Islamic terrorist organizations. In addition, some individuals or small groups have embraced the principles of Islamic extremism through the Internet without coming into contact with Islamic terrorist networks.
Lone “wolves” and cells
Lone “wolves” and small Islamic terrorist cells have limited economic requirements. They do not need to have infrastructure and their operating costs are low. Especially if they are limited to modus operandi, such as stabbing or running over people with vehicles, to carry out attacks.
Belgian security authorities have observed that small Islamic extremist cells in Europe are funded through criminal activities, such as petty theft, shoplifting, and extortion. Some jihadist preachers have legalized such illegal actions in order to finance jihad in European countries.
Internet use has significantly increased communication between Islamist extremists, as it gives them the opportunity to interact with like-minded people around the world. Arabic is the language of communication that has high prestige and in which basic theses and instructions are written. Many of them are translated into the national languages of the jihadists, who believe that they are part of their armed struggle.
Islamic fundamentalism has long since penetrated Europe and has become an asymmetric threat. EU Member States must adopt a collective effective deterrent strategy. The EU, for its part, is facing coordination problems as different national interests prevail here as well:
European intelligence services
First, the unwillingness of national intelligence and security services to share information. Second, the lack of trust between national intelligence services. The Commission has already noted the need to build trust between the European intelligence community. Thirdly in the different organizational structures of the national intelligence services of the EU Member States.
In addition, another goal of the EU strategy, in addition to protecting its citizens, must be that of its vital infrastructure. Strengthen security measures at borders, airports, ports, transport security, and communications networks.
Europe’s conflict with jihad has now begun with the war declared by Emmanuel Macron against Islamic terrorism in France. If there are similar terrorist attacks in other European countries, then Europe will face a clash of civilizations, as Huntington had predicted in his famous book.
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