CATF Reports Dec. 5, 2016, 2:41pm

A new report released on Friday, December 2, by Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) sheds light on the evolving nature of the terrorist threat, targets, and methods of ISIS cells and lone wolves disseminated across Europe. The study, titled “Changes in Modus Operandi of IS Revisited,” suggests that ISIS’ ability to inspire and launch terrorist attacks of various natures in Europe remains unchallenged, and thereby poses an enduring threat especially to all those states who have joined the anti-ISIS coalition in Syria. New rounds of attacks are expected to be unleashed primarily against soft targets and planned and/or launched from Libya, although several dozen ISIS affiliates and directed individuals and groups are estimated to be currently active on European soil.

U.S. authorities, as well, continue to keep their guard up against a Europe-centered ISIS threat. On Tuesday, November 22, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of State issued a new round of sanctions against ISIS operatives targeting Europe. French-Moroccan citizen Abdelilah Himich, better known as Abu Sulayman al-Faransi, “the Frenchman”, was designated as a terrorist individual for his role as senior ISIS affiliate specialized in external operations and primarily targeting Europe. In August 2016, Himich was identified as a mastermind and coordinator of both the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks in his functions as member of Emni, ISIS’ intelligence apparatus.

According to Europol, ISIS recruiters will likely direct their attention to Syrian refugees resettled in Europe and try to infiltrate refugee camps and migrant groups by leveraging the migration crisis and its polarizing impact over the EU population. However, the report warns that ISIS should not be regarded as the sole terrorist organization directly targeting Western countries and symbols: al-Qaeda, too, remains a major actor in the universe of jihadi terrorism determined to hit Europe.

From the Europol report:

“There is no firm evidence that terrorist travellers systematically use the flow of refugees to enter Europe unnoticed, but it is indisputable that some have entered the EU posing as refugees. The jihadists using the migration flows may only be ‘expendable’ footmen, while highly trained and expert operatives may be provided with genuine or false travel documents and use more sophisticated routes. […]

Given that it is in the interests of IS to inflame the migration crisis to polarise the EU population and turn sections of it against those seeking asylum, there is a risk of some infiltration of refugee camps and other groups. The extent of this is unknown, however, making the subject susceptible to exaggeration and exploitation especially by populist factions and (extreme) right-wing parties. A real and imminent danger is the possibility of elements of the (Sunni Muslim) Syrian refugee diaspora becoming vulnerable to radicalisation once in Europe and being specifically targeted by Islamic extremist recruiters. It is believed that a number of jihadists are travelling through Europe for this purpose. According to unconfirmed information, German authorities were aware of around 300 recorded attempts made by jihadists to recruit refugees who were trying to enter Europe by April 2016.”

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