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Europol’s Annual Terrorism Report Shows Decrease in Number of Attacks in 2021

Europol has published its annual terrorism trends report. TE-SAT 2022 is based on quantitative data provided to Europol by EU Member States on terrorist attacks, arrests and court decisions issued for terrorist offenses. Europol’s partners also provided valuable qualitative information and assessments that enrich the findings of the report. 

Europol’s Executive Director, Catherine De Bolle, said the findings of the TE-SAT 2022 confirm that terrorism still poses a real and present danger to the EU. The June 25, 2022 attacks which targeted LGBTQ+ venues in Oslo underscore the need to remain vigilant. The suspect killed two people and injured more than 20, in the attack that police described as an act of terrorism.

“While our joint work to disrupt and prevent attacks seems to be having a positive effect, lone actors associated with jihadist and right-wing violent extremism are still a concern for EU Member States and Europol,” De Bolle said. “In a time of geopolitical shifts, the EU needs to continue more than ever its counterterrorist measures. Europol will continue to work closely with its partners to meet the challenges ahead.”

The report notes that 15 completed, foiled and failed terrorist attacks were recorded in the EU in 2021. This is a decrease from 2020 (57 attacks) and 2019 (55 attacks). Of the four completed attacks in 2021 three were jihadist terrorist attacks that were carried out in France, Spain and Germany and one was a left-wing terrorist attack in Germany.

EU law enforcement authorities arrested 388 suspects for terrorism-related offenses in 2021. Of these, more than two thirds (260) were carried out following investigations into jihadist terrorism offences in Austria, France and Spain. Court proceedings concluded in 2021 resulted in 423 convictions for terrorist offenses.

Lone actors remain the primary perpetrators of terrorist and violent extremist attacks in Europe. However, attack plots involving several actors were also disrupted in 2021. Individuals carrying out attacks alone have been associated mainly with jihadist terrorism and right-wing terrorism and violent extremism. 

In 2021, weaponry was used in the completed terrorist attacks that is relatively easy to source and does not require extensive skills for assemblage or use. Weapons used in attacks in the EU in 2021 included bladed weapons, vehicles (in ramming attacks) and improvised incendiary devices. 

The report states that terrorist propaganda disseminated online in 2021 has continued to reflect themes related to COVID-19. The increased amount of time spent online due to COVID-19 restrictions, amongst other reasons, constitutes a risk factor in vulnerable individuals’ potential pathway to extremism.

Violent anti-COVID-19 and anti-government extremism, which is not affiliated with traditional violent extremist and terrorist activities, emerged in some Member States and non-EU countries. Such forms of violent extremism materialized in open threats, hateful messages spread online and, in some cases, the use of violence.

Europol says geopolitical developments in key regions outside of the EU influence terrorist narratives and propaganda spread in Member States. The current terrorist threat for Member States appears not to have been directly affected by the Taliban’s takeover of power in Afghanistan. However, it increased global attention on religiously motivated insurgencies and, thereby, provided jihadists affiliated with both al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) terrorist group opportunities to promote their own narratives. 

The TE-SAT elaborates in-depth on jihadist terrorism, right-wing terrorism, left-wing and anarchist terrorism, ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism and other types of terrorism.

Read the full report at Europol

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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