Islamic State likely to attempt European attacks ‘in near future’
Europol’s new European Counter Terrorism Centre says threat has not diminished
Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks, in a video released by the jihadist media arm Al-Hayat Media Centre on Sunday: some 30 Europol experts are working to support the Franco-Belgian investigation into the Paris attack. Photograph: Al-Hayat Media Centre/AFP
Islamic State and other militants are very likely to attempt major new attacks in Europe following those in Paris, the EU’s police agency said on Monday, echoing previous warnings by senior security officials.
The assessment was based on discussions concluded eight weeks ago by security agencies from EU states. The eight-page public report said further attacks could take place soon.
The events in Paris “appear to indicate a shift towards a broader strategy of [Islamic State] going global, of them specifically attacking France, but also the possibility of attacks against other member states of the EU in the near future”, it said.
There was “every reason to expect” an attack, by Islamic State or “[Islamic State]-inspired terrorists or another religiously inspired terrorist group”. “This is in addition to the threat of lone actor attacks, which has not diminished,” it said.
At a news conference to mark the launch of a new European Counter Terrorism Centre within Europol, based in The Hague, its director Rob Wainwright said Islamic State, also known as Isis, “has the willingness and capability to carry out further attacks in Europe”.
Since immediately after the Paris attacks on November 13th, in which Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people, Mr Wainwright, a senior British police officer, has said further similar attacks are likely in Europe and that “lone wolf” militants are no longer the prime threat.
The Europol report said Islamic State may have established an “external action command trained for special forces-style attacks in the international environment” and noted that, as the Paris attacks showed, the group was largely active in Europe through radicalised European citizens, not foreigners.
The report also warned of a risk of cyber attacks but said there was no evidence of Islamist militants trying to use chemical, biological or nuclear material as a weapon in Europe.
Mr Wainwright welcomed what he called a “considerable improvement” in the level of intelligence information that EU governments were now willing to share with each other through Europol following the attacks on Paris, which have concentrated minds on a need for co-operation against Islamist threats.
Currently, some 30 Europol experts are working to support the Franco-Belgian investigation into the Paris attack, Mr Wainwright said, helping track movements of money, weapons, fake documents and other elements of the plot.