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Terrorism

Enemy at the Gates

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Although terrorism has never been isolated to one continent, one country or one ideology, before September 11th 2001, terrorism was not a high priority security issue that dominated government policies across the globe. However, since its birth, India has witnessed terrorist activity swiftly encroach and continually penetrate its borders.

In the case of Kashmir and in India, the direct exportation of state sponsored terrorism from Pakistan was viewed more as a complication and obstacle in the India-Pakistani relationship than a formidable and dangerous threat. Until 9/11, no serious commitment was made by India’s allies in the West to challenge the assistance, encouragement and infiltration of extremism within the subcontinent.

The most suitable example includes the disregard of India’s accusations toward Pakistan’s state sponsored terror policy, with no grievous event taken seriously until the United States experienced an attack on her own soil.

Only four years after 9/11, the United Kingdom experienced its worst terrorist incident since the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. No stranger to domestic terrorism with the Real IRA bombings failing to cease after three decades, the 7/7 bombings marked the first Islamist suicide attack in the country.

These incidents forced the West to reconsider their current stance on terrorism, leaning their ears towards countries that had been heavily afflicted by terrorist activity. After correcting previous policies, redrafting laws and creating counter-terrorism acts, the impact of these changes in national security inevitably rippled into international relations. For example, Pakistan enjoyed a beneficial bilateral relationship with the United States until 9/11 and the consequent intervention in Afghanistan. However the relationship between the two nations continues to deteriorate under the strain of each others criticism of the War on Terror, along with several high profile incidents that fuelled already high levels of mistrust. In addition to this, members within the U.S congress have passed an amendment that seeks to restrict aid to Pakistan because of its close relations with the terrorist organisations. These restrictive tactics by the United States continue to fail in thwarting Pakistan’s objectives, with China now using Pakistan to gain geopolitical leverage and counter India’s growing influence in the region.

Terrorism has three formats.

First, state sponsored. An example of this includes the United States facilitating arms shipments and financial aid to the insurgent group “the Mujahideen” during the Cold War. With the help of Pakistani government contacts, the objective was to restrict Soviet forces in Afghanistan. However, the repercussion of this action has a regional ripple effect that continues for decades, particularly in the case of Pakistan, where terrorism has been given a breeding ground.

Second, the growth of non-state actors world wide, namely ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Hezbollah. Identified as an entity that participates and wields power and/or influence in international relations without belonging to an established state, these non-state actors thrive because of their ability to shift their operations and activity. This means that any terror activity carried out by these actors are quickly claimed as a way of establishing, recognising and legitimising their presence. For example, September 11th in New York, the 2008 Mumbai terror attack and the 2014 attack on the Peshawar military school in Pakistan were all taken responsibility for by the concerned non-state terror outfits.

And third, terrorism completely based on ideology. This is one of the deadliest virus’ the present time has witnessed, with anyone vulnerable to being radicalised by an ideology. Unlike non-state actors, ideological based terror is more reluctant and sometimes unable to fully claim for their activity. We can see this pattern emerging in some recent cases, where terrorist groups are not ready or informed enough to take responsibility for atrocities. This is evident in the rise of lone wolf attacks and small, but organised factions across Europe claiming allegiance to Islamic State without IS having full knowledge or participation in the recruitment and radicalisation. By urging followers to carry out acts of terrorism without official planning, instruction or material contribution from senior leaders, IS manages to remain an infectious and deadly enigma in which global leaders still remain uncertain on how to effectively tackle and defeat.

The shift from non-state actor terrorism to ideological based terrorist activity is extremely alarming. It does not require traditional leadership or direction, and it can penetrate borders without a passport or visa. The recent attacks in Paris, Nice, Brussels, Kabul, Bangkok, and Dhaka and in US cities demonstrate this. Post-9/11, the entire concept of terrorism has drastically changed, domestically and globally. A cowardly attack against innocent civilians continues today without any hard policy restrictions from the international community. Western countries in particular have strong condemnations but are restrict their acts of responding to terror, leaving their societies fearful, shaken and heartbroken.

In regards to analysis, we do not have any correct perception of these attacks. We are not ready to analyse the real issue behind this new enemy. Many agree that terrorism has ushered an ambiguous form of war into the modern era, and into parts of the world where it was previously unknown or unrecognisable. Moreover, it has support from all radicalised groups. Glorifying death by killing others allures many young, misguided minds across the globe. It is worth noting, those involved in ideological based terror acts all are rarely from poor socio-economic backgrounds. For example, the Dhaka attackers were well-educated individuals from middle class families.

All our security and intelligence operations are based on old, outdated perceptions and information. Now we are forced to deviate from traditional security perspectives and review alternative, contemporary outlooks. However, there is currently no consensus on how to target and destroy an enemy based on ideology. The former secretary of state Hillary Clinton endorses this point. Following the attack on the city of Nice in France, she said that the enemy was “an ideology and not a nation state”.

The state sponsored enemy can be at least identified and action can be taken to handle them. Negotiations can be organised with the state who has sponsored or who is behind the attacks, targets can be identified, preparations can be made to hinder breeding grounds and/or plans can be formulated for an offensive retaliation.

But the ideological based enemy flourishes with fear, by spreading insecurities and apprehension among the public when gathering in cities, organising group events or celebrating anything in a common place. It is tough to predict who would succumb to radicalisation and inflict destruction and death upon innocent civilians, and it is extremely difficult to adequately prepare for such sporadic and unpredictable events. In addition, these enemies have deadly weapons available, which are no longer restricted to guns and/or suicide bombs. The recent attacks in the city of Nice in France in which the radicalised driver, motivated by his ideology, used his 19-tonne lorry as a weapon to kill more than 80 people and injure hundreds. The target remains largely in-discriminatory, with the goal being to kill the maximum number of people as possible. The attacker is no longer a known, identifiable enemy we share a border with, or is perhaps a sea, mountain range or land mass away. The attacker is the ’enemy at the gates’, and waits patiently at the gate of every country to unleash its wrath.

But the ideology based enemy is really panicking anyone to gather in the cities or to organize any group events or to celebrate anything in a common place. It is tough to predict who would turn toward the radical way and become a attacker. They simply occupying by the evil mind passionate in killing the innocence people for their ideology. It is extremely difficult to predict and act on it. These enemies are using the available deadly weapons. Not restricted with guns or suicide bombs. The recent attacks in the city of Nice in France the radicalized driver motivated by his ideology used his lorry as a weapon to smash the 80 plus lives. Their targets are just to kill the maximum number of human. You cannot say the attack is on our neighbor we are nothing to do with that. It indicates that the ‘enemy at the gates’ of everyone. It is on every state gate to breath its wrath.

What would be the best policy solution?

First, the UN protocol on terrorism should be adopted. The earliest should be the 71st session of the UN General Assembly by September this year (2016). The international community should coordinate the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT). If the CCIT is adopted at the UNGA, this would enable a huge leap forward to counter this ideological enemy, particularly in regard to cooperating with other states for joint action efforts and shared communication.

Second, everyone agree with the statement of Clinton: “We’re at war against radical jihadists who use Islam to recruit and radicalise others in order to pursue their evil agenda”. This recruitment drive is accelerated through social media, used largely by youthful members of society. In addition to ease of access, the monitoring of social media is difficult, especially with legal challenges. However, it is the responsibility of each state to contribute counter greater efforts in combating radicalisation online.

Third, society should encourage and promote a united voice in opposing those who follow this ideology. This would effectively give a strong stance and warning to those who are vulnerable to accepting and acting on this ideology. Parents should closely observe their children while they are abroad for their higher education or for employment, frequent communication between family members, and between families and religious figures in some cases, would dismantle the idea if they are already poisoned.

Fourth, the government should take stringent action against radicalised preachers. Even a small intelligence warning should be carefully analysed and action should be taken to uproot their existing presence and influence. Their financial foundation should be demolished and any supportive infrastructure should be completely shutdown.

Fifth, the government cannot give protection for all events or gatherings. However, organisers should carefully supervise entrances and scrutinise entry passes. Festivals, large gatherings, celebrations, rallies should be strictly monitored, with local governments and police informed prior. Moreover, airports and bus stations are always a prominent target. Security arrangements should always be motivated to be vigilant, with intermittent drills and training exercises for various security breaches, eliminating any potential for would-be attackers. Small harbours and/or coastal areas should be given added surveillance which are fitted with mechanisms that connect local police stations.

And finally, the governments and the ruling elites should speak for everyone in the society. They should comfort marginalised and minority groups whilst standing with them as they all, side by side as one society, face and deplore violent harassment. The enemy is waiting and watching at the gates, and will radicalise anyone that falls to their hands.

Currently in the United States, the Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to advance the opposite of these ideas, preying on domestic fears for political gains. In India too, Prime Minister Narandera Modi’s speeches are carried out to polarise voters for domestic political gains. Ultimately, this enables the enemy and their agenda by escalating xenophobia and isolating already susceptible individuals, which in turn aids their recruitment, strengthens their devotees and encourages unrestrained, bloody action.

Whether you like it or not, the barbarians are at the gates. It is up to society and their state leaders, do we destroy them or let them destroy us.

Antony Clement is a Senior Editor (Asia-Pacific), Modern Diplomacy an online journal. He is a researcher in Indian Foreign Policy. He consults on academic development and he is currently working on two books - “Discover your Talents” and “Diplomacy in Tough Times”. His research centres on India’s diplomacy & foreign policy and extends to domestic politics, economic policy, security issues, and international security matters, including India’s relations with the US, the BRICS nations, the EU and Australia.

Terrorism

Balancing Counter-Terrorism Measures with International Human Rights

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In his statement at a special meeting of the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee on 6 March 2003, the Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan has noted:

 “….Our responses to terrorism, as well as our efforts to thwart it and prevent it, should uphold the human rights that terrorists aim to destroy. Respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law are essential tools in the effort to combat terrorism – not privileges to be sacrificed at a time of tension.”

Acts of terrorism are one of the gravest forms of human rights violations that can potentially shake up the spirit of society. People acquire a hateful approach towards the terrorists and those involved in terrorist activities. Moreover, governments do not hesitate to take all possible hardest actions against terrorism to secure their citizens and nation. It can be understood that any counter-terrorist measure taken to satisfy this sentiment of society will more likely be appreciated rather than being criticized. In the wake of this situation, it becomes crucial for the state and its agencies to observe the human rights laws while enacting and exercising the anti-terrorist measures (OHCHR 2008). It has been found that there exists a continuous struggle between national security interests and the protection of the human rights of individuals. In numerous cases, European and American Courts have preferred human rights over the draconian legislative provisions to curb terrorism. When one is dealing with terrorism, measures taken for counter-terrorism shall give high regard to human rights. If States fail to achieve this balance, they will ultimately defeat the success of their counter-actions. Thus, it is to be remembered that one should not become a demon that they are fighting.

Understanding International Human Rights

Human rights are the core universal values available to every individual and group being a human. It provides fundamental freedoms to individuals and protects them from the arbitrary use of power by the state (OHCHR 2008). International human rights are the rights reflected under various core international human rights treaties and customary international law. It includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and others. Moreover, the prohibition of genocide, torture, and slavery is widely recognized as peremptory norms from which no derogation is possible. All the concerned state parties are under an obligation to protect human rights enshrined under these instruments. They shall not take any action in the breach of their commitments.

The immense importance of human rights raises a few considerations before the state. Whether human rights can be compromised in the name of national security? How should states deal with a situation where human rights fall between their national security or other interests? This short note will try to reflect on these essential issues.

What Is Terrorism?

There exists no universal definition of the term ‘terrorism’ (Acharya 2009); however, General Assembly has tried to define it as “criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them” (UNGA 1995). This term finds its mention under International Humanitarian Law that prohibits ‘terrorism’ and ‘acts of terrorism’ committed during an armed attack (Kaponyi 2007). During peacetime, such acts are dealt with under national laws, international criminal law, and human rights laws. Terrorism has been observed as a criminal act rather than an act of war (Acharya 2009); however, this definition is still evolving.

Terrorism is a controversial term, and its meaning differs from context to context and time to time. A person or group who acts as a terrorist for some might be a hero for others. However, it should be presumed that all such violence and destruction that constitutes terrorism and terrorist activities are done in the breach of human rights. These activities cause severe injury to the life and liberty of the individuals and the unity and integrity of the nation (Kaponyi 2007). In the interest of humanity, the state needs to adopt counter-terrorism measures in its legislation and enforcement actions to prevent and suppress terrorist activities while observing the rule of law.

Interaction Between Counter-Terrorism Measures And International Human Rights

There exists an unavoidable link between counter-terrorism measures and international human rights (Kielsgard 2013). Acts of terrorism provide legal justification to the threatened state to take actions that can cause severe human rights abuses. The interplay between these two concepts aims to address three dimensions of human rights: concerning the victims of the terrorist attacks, concerning the suspected terrorists, and concerning the people subjected to terrorism (Kaponyi 2007). The first category requires the right to life and dignity and the right to justice. The second category talks about the right to life, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the right to a fair trial, freedom from arbitrary detention, torture and degrading treatment, and the right to asylum. The third category talks about the right to life, right to information, freedom of association, strike, and expression. It is to be noted that the list of these rights are not exclusive and may include other related rights. Therefore, the state’s actions must not defy its international human rights commitments in the guise of national security. There have been instances when courts have curtailed unnecessary and vague security measures found in infringement of human rights.

In Hamdan v Rumsfeld US Supreme Court held that the structure and procedures of the Military Commissions been set up to try detainees of Guantanamo Bay violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Common Article 3 of Four Geneva Conventions, 1949. It was a landmark case that restrained the Presidential power vis-à-vis the treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners (Philips 2006). In Hamdi v Rumsfeld Supreme Court rules, US citizens detained as enemy combatants have the right to due process and the ability to challenge their enemy combatant status. However, in Rasul v Bush Supreme Court provided that it has jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions foreign nationals detained at Guantanamo Bay. This case attracted several petitions from foreign citizens challenging the basis of their detention. To prevent a large number of petitions from detainees, the US government came up with Military Commission Act in 2006 that bars foreign nationals from challenging their detention that was ultimately held unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in the case of Boumediene v Bush. It can be observed that the Supreme Court has generally prioritized human rights over its national security issues (Wald 2010).

Similarly, the Court of Appeal in Miranda v Secretary of State for the Home Department found arbitrary ‘stop powers used against journalistic information’ contained under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, 2000 of the UK to violate freedom of expression provided under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. In another case of Gillan and Quinton v United Kingdom European Court of Human Rights held blanket power to stop and search under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, 2000 to violate the right to respect for private life that later got repealed and replaced by the legislature.

Counter-terrorism measures provide incentives to the government authorities to reinterpret their law justifying interrogation, detention, and ‘targeted killing’ (Sanders 2017). It provides immunity and legitimacy to their acts of human rights abuses with the least accountability. Under its ‘War on Terror’ against the Taliban Government in Afghanistan, the US has denied applying human rights and humanitarian law to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay and termed them as “enemy combatant” (Duffy 2005). However, from the International Humanitarian Law perspective, it can be counter-argued that the US is detaining combatants by creating a category based on a weak claim supported by reliable facts. They are arrested for an indefinite period without providing them the rights of prisoners. From the International Human Rights approach, a State is obliged to fulfill its international commitments over the persons who are present under its authority and control. This global outreach of the subject founds its applicability even in the areas beyond national jurisdiction, thus holding the US responsible for Guantanamo Bay that lies outside US territory.

Counter-terrorism measures are abused on the pretext of discrimination (Kaponyi 2007). General Assembly Resolution and UN Council on Human Rights Resolution prohibit discrimination that treats people from one ethnic or racial origin, religion or belief, disability different from the others. The creation of plausible legality of human rights violations by the state establishes a requirement to promote human rights (Sanders 2017). Where the UN General Assembly and Security Council have taken several counter-terrorism measures to combat terrorism, UN bodies also aim to respect human rights even in emergency cases. Law is undoubtedly evident that counter-terrorism measures cannot be fulfilled without considering human rights (Kielsgard 2013). States should respect human rights along with its counter-terrorism and security measures.

Conclusion

The real issue lies in determining the legality of counter-terrorist measures that occasionally fall short of the state’s international commitments under its human rights regime. It has been observed that the absence of any definition of terrorism provides ample scope for the state to interpret the term ‘terrorism’ with a political bias favoring its interest (Kaponyi 2007). Further, a State can easily justify its actions in the name of national security that denies human rights to the individual and ultimately raises questions on the rule of law (Duffy 2005). Under the case laws, judges have shown an inclination to respect the international commitments on human rights regime. However, this cannot be said affirmatively for the legislature and enforcing authorities.  It is not the counter-terrorism measures, but their abuse is problematic. Arbitrary and poorly-implemented counter-terrorism measures have their consequences. Co-lateral damage must be proportional. Since both counter-terrorism measures and human rights are important issues for a country; thus, it is essential that a balance be struck between them. It should be noted that fight against terror and the observance of human rights must go hand in hand. The State’s responsibility is to respect human rights and not use counter-terrorism measures as a justification for their violation.

REFERENCES

  • Acharya, Upendra D. (2009): “War on Terror or Terror Wars: The Problem in Defining Terrorism,” Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Vol 37, pp 653.
  • Boumediene v Bush (2008): 553 U.S. 723
  • Duffy, Helen (2005): The “War on Terror” and the Framework of International Law, Cambridge University Press
  • General Assembly, Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, A/RES/58/187 (2003)
  • General Assembly Resolution, U.N. Doc. A/RES/49/60 (Feb. 17, 1995)
  • Gillan and Quinton v United Kingdom (2010): ECHR 28 (2010)
  • Hamdan v Rumsfeld (2006): 548 U.S. 557 (2006)
  • Hamdi v Rumsfeld (2004): 542 U.S. 507
  • Kaponyi, Elisabeth K. (2007): “Upholding Human Rights in the fight against terrorism,” Society and Economy, Vol 29, pp 1.
  • Kielsgard, Mark D. (2013): “Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights: Uneasy Marriage, Uncertain Future,”Journal Jurisprudence, Vol 19, pp 163.
  • Miranda v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2014): EWHC 255 (2014);
  • Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2008): “Human Rights, Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism” <https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/Factsheet32EN.pdf>
  • Philips, Dennis (2006): “Hamdan v Rumsfeld: The Bush Administration and ‘The Rule of Law’,” Australian Journal of American Studies Vol 25, pp 40.
  • Rasul v Bush (2004): 542 U.S. 466
  • Sanders, Rebecca (2017): “Human rights abuses at the limits of the law: Legal instabilities and vulnerabilities in the ‘Global War on Terror’,” Review of International Studies Vol 44, pp 2.
  • UN Commission on Human Rights, Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2003/68: Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, E/CN.4/RES/2003/68 (2003)
  • Wald, Patricia (2010): “National Security versus Human Rights: An uneven playing field,” American Society of International Law, Vol 104, pp 458.

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Terrorism

Pakistan’s fight against terrorism inside its borders

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When Pakistan first appeared on the map, it had little to no idea how its neighbors would harness its land. It came quite clear after the separation of East Pakistan that the land of the pure would require more foresight in dealing with those around it. They might even need to fight to maintain peace on its soil.

Since the birth of Pakistan, it has been subjected to different fights to maintain its status. With all its struggles, finding peace for the valley, and balancing its economy, the country has faced many turbulences. It has proven itself against all sorts of malicious endeavors. Some that had the potential to harm its name in the international society.

It was 9/11 that not only shook the whole world but this nook of the Asian continent as it plunged into instability. It seems like someone was busy hiding a terrorist network in Pakistan. From terrorism attacks on the APS school to the attack on the five-star PC in Gwadar. The country has been struggling to keep its face clear even though it has suffered from Islamophobia in the international community.

Pakistan and its army have been heading strong and determined to keep the citizens of Pakistan safe along with protecting the people on the globe who accept the hostility of the country to open its land for tourism. Since 2010 the country has been busy weeding out terrorist organizations. Many casualties have been taken as the roots of terrorism were attacked. The blood of martyrs has colored the land, but success has come in bits and pieces. The country was not facing armed militia but organized troops funded by the neighbors.

The terrorist funding trail reveals India’s involvement. These are no more allegations, and evidence of 22 billion PKR expenditure for the nourishment of such networks in Pakistan are available. This is quite a question, especially when keeping in mind the economy of the country. Besides, Narendra Modi’s support for extremism is simply a dot that needs to be connected.

The attack on APS was the boiling point for the whole nation. When every eye cried. Investigations were made to let the world know that Pakistan will not tolerate terrorism of any sort. Peace will be kept, and any intention against it will be answered with unpleasant outcomes. It has been, and the number of terrorism incidents has remarkably gone down.

As per the UN charter, the intrusive involvement by patronizing any country’s domestic issues is a clear violation. With ISIS contributing their share to terrorism in further Asia, it has been investigated that Indian intelligence agencies are trying to knit a scarf of deception by linking ISIS by creating “Daesh-e-Pakistan.”Adding firmness to their plan, they have already admitted 30 Indian militants in this organization and relocated them to camps along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Two Indian agency representatives were responsible for handing over these militants to Daesh commander Sheikh Abdul Rahim.

The geographical advantage that Pakistan holds brought a ray of sunshine with the CPEC project. But as the country started working on its economy’s progress, the state has witnessed countable heart-wrenching fights against terrorist groups. While Pakistan struggles to keep global security and safety and fights against incendiary of this terrorism, Indian state policy has internalized terrorism as an instrument. With Modi’s incumbency, the Kashmir valley has burned, but Muslims in Delhi face their wrath.

Hence, the policy was not a joke, it was a serious mission, and satisfactory amounts were sent to sub-nationals through humanitarian assistance to cause unrest in Balochistan. With Peshawar police attack on 11 May 2020 to target killing and eventually linking with a suicide attack on Mardan Judicial Complex in 2016. Pakistan has been highly receptive to all intelligence gathered to averting a colossal attack on 14 August 2020. Maj Fermin Das, an official from Indian intelligence, was found to be the mastermind behind the planning of this attack. This person was operating from Afghanistan, which failed obviously!

It’s been no secret to everyone with Indian involvement in creating instability in Jammu Kashmir. Gilgit Baltistan is not far from it, sharing the same boundaries. Out of 60 implanted IEDs, 22 were successfully diffused, but 38 exploded and took 13 civilian lives and 48 military personnel. The explosives used in those IEDs have been traced back to, you guessed it, India.

No matter how many times Pakistan will try to keep out the pest from its soil, they seem to be crawling back inside. Safety is not just the issue of Pakistan but is the issue of the whole world.  Countries funding their neighbors to keep unrest in the continent requires global attention, and determined action should be taken.

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Terrorism

Jihadist terrorism in the EU since 2015

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Security patrol activity to prevent terrorism. Photo by Manu Sanchez on Unsplash

Europe has experienced a series of terror attacks since 2015. Who are the terrorists? Why and how do they act?

Jihadist terrorism is not new in the EU, but there has been a new wave of islamist attacks since 2015. What do jihadist terrorists want? Who are they? How do they attack?

What is jihadist terrorism?

The goal of jihadist groups is to create an Islamic state governed only by Islamic law – Sharia. They reject democracy and elected parliaments because in their opinion God is the sole lawgiver.

Europol defines Jihadism as “a violent ideology exploiting traditional Islamic concepts. Jihadists legitimise the use of violence with a reference to the classical Islamic doctrine on jihad, a term which literally means ‘striving’ or ‘exertion’, but in Islamic law is treated as religiously sanctioned warfare”.

The al-Qaeda network and the so-called Islamic state are major representatives of jihadist groups. Jihadism is a sub-set of Salafism, a revivalist Sunni movement.

Who are the jihadi terrorists?

According to Europol, jihadist attacks in 2018 were carried out primarily by terrorists who grew up and were radicalised in their home country, not by so-called foreign fighters (individuals that travelled abroad to join a terrorist group).

In 2019, nearly 60% of jihadi attackers had the citizenship of the country in which the attack or plot took place.

Radicalisation of home-grown terrorists has speeded up as lone wolves are radicalised by online propaganda, while their attacks are inspired rather than ordered by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda or IS.

Europol explains that these terrorists may not necessarily be very religious: they may not read the Quran or regularly attend mosque and they often have a rudimentary and fragmented knowledge of Islam.

In 2016, a significant number of the individuals reported to Europol for terrorism were low-level criminals, suggesting people with a criminal history or socialised in a criminal environment may be more susceptible to radicalisation and recruitment.

Europol draws the conclusion that “religion may thus not be the initial or primary driver of the radicalisation process, but merely offer a ‘window of opportunity’ to overcome personal issues. They may perceive that a decision to commit an attack in their own country may transform them from ‘zero’ to ‘hero’.”

The 2020 Europol report shows that most jihadi terrorists were young adults. Almost 70% of them were aged 20 to 28 years old and 85% were male.

How do jihadi terrorists attack?

Since 2015, jihadist attacks have been committed by lone actors and groups. Lone wolves use mainly knives, vans and guns. Their attacks are simpler and rather unstructured. Groups use automatic rifles and explosives in complex and well-coordinated attacks.

In 2019, almost all completed or failed attacks were by lone actors, while most foiled plots involved multiple suspects.
There has been a tendency for jihadist terrorists to favour attacks against people, rather than buildings or institutional targets, in order to trigger an emotional response from the public.

Terrorists do not discriminate between Muslim and non-Muslim and attacks have aimed for the maximum of casualties, such as in London, Paris, Nice, Stockholm, Manchester, Barcelona and Cambrils.

The EU’s fight against terrorism

EU measures to prevent new attacks are wide-ranging and thorough. They span from cutting the financing of terrorism, tackling organised crime, and strengthening border controls to addressing radicalisation and improving police and judicial cooperation on tracing suspects and pursuing perpetrators.

For example, MEPs adopted new rules to make the use of guns and the creation of home-made bombs more difficult for terrorists.

Europol, the EU’s police agency, has been given additional powers. It can set up specialised units more easily, such as the European Counter Terrorism Centre created in January 2016. It can also exchange information with private companies in some cases and ask social media to remove pages runs by IS.

In July 2017, the European Parliament created a special committee on terrorism to evaluate how to better fight terrorism at EU level. MEPs produced a report with concrete measures they want the European Commission to include in new legislation.

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