TerrorismTerrorists Tried to Take Advantage of the Pandemic: EUROPOL’s Report

Published 23 June 2021

Terrorists – Jihadists, right-wing, and left-wing — use any opportunity to erode democratic structures, spread fear, and polarize society. In 2020, terrorist organizations attempted to take advantage of the global pandemic to spread hate propaganda and exacerbate mistrust in public institutions. Terrorist groups made use of simple weaponry, easy-to-make explosive devices – and the internet.

Terrorists use any opportunity to erode democratic structures, spread fear and polarize society. In 2020, terrorist organizations attempted to take advantage of the global pandemic to spread hate propaganda and exacerbate mistrust in public institutions. The New EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2021 outlines the features, facts, figures and trends concerning terrorist attacks and arrests in the European Union in 2020.

2020 Main Figures 

·  57 completed, failed and foiled terrorist attacks in the European Union (reported by Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Spain); 

·  21 people died because of terrorist attacks in the European Union;

·  449 individuals were arrested on suspicion of terrorism-related offences in 17 EU Member States, a decrease of one-third compared with previous years.

 The COVID-19 Ramifications
Terrorists exploit polarization in society to pollute the social climate with violent ideologies. In recent years, polarization of the political discourse has increased in the European Union. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated this development. There has been a notable increase in intolerance of political opponents, while the number of individuals conducting verbal or physical violence is also increasing. Mental health remains an issue in relation to terrorism and violent extremism. The situation created by the pandemic might be an additional stress factor, potentially encouraging vulnerable individuals to turn to violence. Extremists and terrorists have found new opportunities in the increased time spent online during the COVID-19 pandemic. With a large amount of disinformation actively disseminated online, extremists and terrorists have exploited social dissatisfaction to reach out and propagate their ideologies.

Jihadist Terrorism: Lone Actors Behind All Deadly Attacks
Jihadist terrorism remains the greatest threat to the European Union and is still influenced by developments abroad. The so-called Islamic State (IS), still active in Iraq and Syria, reaches out to supporters in Europe to incite them to perpetrate attacks. Global affiliates serve to uphold the group’s image of success – particularly those in Africa, which expanded in 2020. While hundreds of individuals are still held in detention camps in Syria, very few have returned to Europe during the past year.

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