EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Fewer than 300 acts of terrorism were registered in Europe last year and only one was an attack from an Islamist group, with most of them committed by separatist organisations in Spain and France, EU’s police agency Europol reports.
A total of 294 terrorist acts were reported in EU member states in 2009, representing a 33 percent drop compared to the previous year and half the number of attacks registered in 2007, Europol said Wednesday (28 April).
“While the number of terrorist incidents is declining in Europe, terrorism remains a significant security threat to our society and citizens. Despite the overall trend, we should not drop our guard in the fight against terrorism,” Europol director Rob Wainwright said in a statement.
Europol defines a terrorist offence as any act, planned or executed, that may seriously damage a country or an international organisation if committed to intimidate a population, put pressure on a government or destabilise political, constitutional, economic or social structures.
The statistics do not include the United Kingdom, however, because its record-keeping differs with that of the other member states. An additional 124 attacks carried out by the IRA were reported in Northern Ireland.
Most of the attacks in mainland Europe were committed by separatist groups such as Basque separatists ETA in Spain and the Corsican National Liberation Front (FLNC) in France.
“Islamist terrorism is still perceived as the biggest threat to most member states, despite the fact that only one Islamist terrorist attack – a bomb attack in Italy – took place in the EU in 2009,” Europol said.
One Libyan national tried to detonate a home-made explosive device when entering a military compound in Milan. He slightly wounded one of the guards and suffered severe burns himself.
The agency also mentions the Nigerian bomber who boarded a US flight in Amsterdam and failed his explosive device on 25 December 2009.
“The attack on the US airliner showed how the EU can be used as a platform for launching attacks on the US, and demonstrated the ability of terrorist groups to employ explosives that are not detected by conventional scanning equipment,” the report notes.
In a separate case, two men were arrested in the US in October 2009 and charged with preparing attacks against the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as other targets in Denmark. “They are an illustration of terrorists from abroad focusing on Member States of the EU,” Europol says.
Tracking international bank data is relevant in the fight against terrorism, as “substantial amounts of money are transferred, using a variety of means, from Europe to conflict areas in which terrorist groups are active,” the police agency argues.
Besides Islamist and separatist attacks, left-wing extremism is on the rise in EU, with 40 attacks carried out, representing a 43 pecent increase compared to 2008.
In Greece, Epanastatikos Agonas continued its violent actions and claimed responsibility for an attack on police officers, which caused serious injuries to one officer. Sekta Epanastaton, a newly–active organisation in Greece, claimed another attack which killed a police officer.
The far right meanwhile has intensified its terrorist attacks, especially in Hungary, where four such incidents were reported.
So-called single-issue terrorism, on behalf of animal rights, are also mentioned in the report. “Some violent Animal Rights Extremism attacks in 2009 used modi operandi similar to those used by terrorists, such as improvised explosive devices and improvised incendiary devices.”