Europol voices concern over ‘worrying’ rise in violence and propaganda by right-wing extremists

The warning comes in a report by the EU agency which was presented to members of Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee on Tuesday.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

24 Jun 2020

Publication of the report comes after a stabbing incident in the English town of Reading that left three people dead on Saturday, which police say is being investigated as a terrorist attack.

Manuel Navarrete, head of the European Counter Terrorism Centre of Europol, also expressed concern about suspects not being prosecuted for alleged terrorism offences.

British police continue to question suspect Khairi Saadallah, who travelled to the UK from Libya in 2012. He was arrested under the Terrorism Act.


Navarrete told the Civil Liberties Committee that the threat from “right-wing violence and extremism” was increasing but that there had been relatively few arrests of offenders.

“The aim of these people is to instigate hatred and call on members to take action and incite violence in their so-called race war.”

Via a video link from Europol’s headquarters in Lisbon, he also said that “online right-wing extremism” has increased.

Left-wing and “anarchist” terrorism is also highlighted in the exhaustive report, which says that Greece, Italy and Spain continued to be the epicentre for attacks carried out by left-wing and anarchist terrorists.

The total number of reported attacks increased compared to 2018 and returned to levels recorded in 2016 and 2017.

Another problem, again outlined in the report, is that in 2019 in several Member States, extremists carried out violent attacks but were not prosecuted as terrorism under national law.

“The aim of these people is to instigate hatred and call on members to take action and incite violence in their so-called race war” Manuel Navarrete, Europol

This includes two attacks on mosques in France.

The report says, “Other Member States reported violent right-wing activities directed at immigrants and anti-Jewish violence was seen in many countries.”

Other examples cited are the assassination of a German politician in June and the attack on a synagogue in Halle in October 2019.

In both cases, the perpetrators were indicted with murder under German law, which defines terrorism exclusively “as group-based violence.”

The German Federal Prosecutor-General’s Office stated on 27 June 2019 that there lacked sufficient evidence that the three suspects arrested had formed a right-wing terrorist organisation.

For the attack in Halle, the same German authorities stated on 10 October 2019 that there was insufficient evidence showing that the perpetrator was a member of or linked to a right-wing terrorist organisation.

The report says all Member States face similar challenges in defining the line between violent behaviour and terrorism.

This, it adds, also applies to the role of mental conditions or the role of incitement of lone actor terrorism.

The suspect in the Reading attack is said to have mental health issues.

The total number of jihadism-related incidents in the EU decreased slightly (21 in 2019 compared with 24 in 2018) but continued to be geographically widespread.

Eight Member States suffered completed, failed or foiled jihadist terrorist attacks, the same number as in 2018.

Ten people died as a result of terrorist attacks in the EU and 27 people were injured in the last year.

The report says that all deaths and the injuries of 26 people were the result of jihadist attacks and one person was injured in a right-wing terrorist attack.

In addition to these terrorist attacks, Germany reported two major violent extremist attacks that killed three people and injured several others. Outside the EU, 17 civilians from EU Member States died in a terrorist attack.

Navarrete said that the number of attacks had fallen but added, “The fact that numbers are down must not detract from the immense suffering caused by terrorists.”

“Despite the fall in the number of attacks and victims, the threat level remains quite high. The biggest threat comes from homegrown terrorists with links to jihadist groups.”

Another issue cited is the threat from “lone wolf” attacks, the most recent example being at Reading last weekend, where the culprit is thought to have acted alone.

The report says, “The right-wing extremist doctrine of the ‘leaderless resistance’ provides justification for violent actors to perpetrate attacks without direction from a group.”

Navarrete told MEPs that more was needed to combat radicalisation and the prominent role played by propaganda.

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