Attacks down, but terrorism still threat in EU: Europol

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Attacks are down but terrorism remains a threat to the European Union due to the war in Ukraine and a rise in propaganda during the pandemic, Europol said Wednesday.

The total number of successful, thwarted and failed attacks was 15 in 2021 -- significantly lower than 57 the year before, Europol said in its annual report.

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This is due to a notable drop in the number of left-wing attacks, said the agency based in The Hague.

But the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic represent a security threat for the years to come, added the document.

“The report’s conclusions confirm that terrorism remains a real and present danger to the EU,” Europol chief Catherine De Bolle said in a statement.

“At a time of geopolitical turmoil, the EU must maintain its counter-terrorism measures more than ever,” she added.

“There is no doubt that the geopolitical changes and fallout from Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine will have a lasting impact on EU security,” she was quoted as saying in the report.

The war has already attracted several radicalized individuals from the member states who have joined the fight on both sides, she said.

She said the conflict is likely to trigger violent extremist reactions and grooming, especially on the internet.

De Bolle said European nations needed to learn the lessons of the past when foreign fighters returned from the battlefields in the Middle East.

The Covid-19 pandemic had separately made young people and minors especially vulnerable to radicalization because of social isolation and time spent online, Europol said.

Certain member states had seen anti-Covid-19 and anti-government extremism emerge in the form of open threats, online hate speech and the use of violence.

In 2021, 388 suspects were detained in the EU for terrorism-related offences.

More than two-thirds, 260 of the arrests, were made following investigations into violations linked to jihadist terrorism in Austria, France and Spain, Europol said.

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