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EU police warn that more attacks by IS militants are likely

PARIS – Europe's top police agency issued a stark warning this week: Islamic State extremists will keep attempting lethal attacks on soft targets in Europe as the militant group increasingly goes global.


January 26, 2016
By The Associated Press

Some 2-1/2 months after suicide bombers and gunmen killed 130 people in Paris, the Europol agency said, “there is every reason to expect that IS, IS-inspired terrorists or another religiously inspired terrorist group will undertake a terrorist attack somewhere in Europe again, but particularly in France, intended to cause mass casualties among the civilian population.”

The sobering conclusions reached by experts from the European Union’s chief agency for law enforcement co-operation and EU member states make clear that many, perhaps virtually all in Europe, may be at risk.

“Without reliable intelligence on the intentions, activities and contacts and travels of known terrorists it is nearly impossible to exactly predict when and where the next terrorist attack will take place, and what form it will take,” the Europol report said.

Hours before the report was issued, a new video was released by the Islamic State group celebrating the killers who carried out the Nov. 13 attacks in the French capital – while also threatening fresh bloodshed.

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The grisly recording ends with one militant holding a severed head, footage of British Prime Minister David Cameron giving a speech, and an IS warning that whoever stands with the unbelievers “will be a target for our swords.”

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday’s Europol report did not go markedly beyond previous warnings and was not intended to sow fear but “to look lucidly at reality.”

Expert reviews conducted by Europol on Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 concluded that the Islamic State “is preparing more terrorist attacks,” including copycats of the so-called Mumbai method of co-ordinated bombings and shootings by multiple teams of assailants that claimed 164 lives in India’s financial capital in November 2008.

“The attacks will be primarily directed at soft targets, because of the impact it generates,” the Europol report said. “Both the November Paris attacks and the October 2015 bombing of a Russian airliner suggest a shift in IS strategy toward going global.”

Numerous independent analysts have conjectured that as Islamic State has increasingly lost ground in Iraq and Syria, including to a U.S.-led international coalition and the Russian military, it has lashed out at its foes abroad.

IS commanders are given tactical freedom depending on local circumstances, making it much harder to detect plots, the report said. That degree of liberty, it said, makes it harder for law enforcement “to detect such plans and identifying the people involved at an early stage.”

Calling the danger of extremist violence “the most significant in over 10 years,” Europol on Jan. 25 officially opened a new European Counter Terrorism Center at its headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. Europol director Rob Wainwright said the new unit will have 40-50 experts in counterterrorism and deal in intelligence-sharing, tracking foreign fighters and sources of illegal financing and firearms, and assisting EU countries in counterterrorism actions and investigations.

Wainwright told a news conference in Amsterdam that more than 5,000 EU nationals have been radicalized by fighting with Muslim extremists in Iraq and Syria, and that many have returned home to present a clear and present danger to public safety.

“The current threat demands a strong and ambitious response from the EU,” Europol’s chief said, referring to the experts’ warnings of IS plans for “large-scale attacks on a global stage with a particular focus on targeting Europe.”