Europol has published the European Union (EU) Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2022 (TE-SAT), providing comprehensive intelligence on terrorism in the EU. This report has been developed from quantitative data, provided by EU Member States, on terrorist attacks and arrests and the court decisions in such cases. Highlights from this report are shared below.
In 2021, the EU faced at least 15 completed, foiled or failed terrorist attacks. Three of the four completed terrorist attacks were jihadist in nature, while the fourth was a left-wing attack. Authorities made 388 arrests for terrorist activities in 2021, 260 of them in Austria, France and Spain for jihadist offenses. Further, 2021 saw 423 convictions for terrorist offenses.
Europol’s report suggests that it is primarily lone actors who carry out terrorist and violent extremist attacks in Europe. In 2021, such lone attackers were primarily associated with jihadist terrorism, right-wing terrorism and violent extremism. Moreover, terrorist attacks in 2021 used weapons that are easy to source and do not require specific skills to use. Examples include bladed instruments, vehicles, and improvised incendiary devices.
It has emerged that COVID-19 restrictions increased the time individuals spent online in 2021. This also increased people’s exposure to terrorist propaganda spread online. This has been a major risk factor in vulnerable individuals choosing an extremist path. Some EU Member States even saw violent anti-COVID-19 and anti-government extremism in 2021, including threatening online messages and violence.
In its report, Europol has also highlighted the impact of extra-EU geopolitical developments on the spread of terrorist propaganda in the EU. For example, the Taliban’s takeover of power in Afghanistan fueled the spread of jihadist propaganda by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.