Despite suffering major defeats in Syria and Iraq, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) continues to plan more complex, mass-casualty attacks in the West, particularly in Europe, the EU’s main police agency, Europol, warned in its 2017 Terrorism Situation and Trend Report.
“IS 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 Islamist propaganda.
The Europol report said 135 people were killed in 13 jihadist terrorist attacks in France, Belgium, and Germany in 2016. Additionally, a total of 718 people were arrested on suspicion of offences related to jihadist terrorism, with the number of arrests especially high in France.
The police agency noted that women and children play “increasingly operational roles in committing terrorist activities in the EU independently,” as female jihadists have “fewer obstacles” in the West than men. The organization worries that, whether successful or not, such terrorist attacks committed by women in Western countries may become an inspiration to others.
Europol, which serves as an umbrella agency for the 28 EU member states, said it was particularly alarming to observe the “transfer of terrorist tactics, techniques and procedures from the current conflict zones,” as well as “illicit spread of bomb-making knowledge and instructions.”
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have become the prime weapon for most terrorist attacks. The report noted that the availability of explosive materials has made it easier to manufacture low-tech, inexpensive bombs.