Thursday 14 December 2017

Isil may use battlefield tactics in more attacks on 'soft' Europe targets

An Isil fighter holds a flag while standing on an armoured vehicle in Mosul
An Isil fighter holds a flag while standing on an armoured vehicle in Mosul

Raf Sanchez iin Beirut

Isil is believed to have "several dozen" operatives in Europe and may soon try to bring car bombs and other tactics from the battlefields of the Middle East to its cities, the European Union's police agency has warned.

Europol issued a new report saying that Isil was changing its tactics as it loses ground in Syria and Iraq but remains determined to strike against European countries taking part in the anti-Isil coalition.

The agency said Isil would most likely stick with the methods that had worked successfully in its attacks in Paris and Belgium, where squads of fighters armed with suicide vests and automatic weapons were able to inflict mass casualties, but it warned the group may also try to import tactics from Syria and Iraq.

"Modus operandi employed in Syria and Iraq, such as the use of car bombs, extortion and kidnappings, may be employed as methods of attack in the EU," the report said.

The agency said that European jihadists may begin trying to return to their home countries in large numbers as Isil loses territory in the Middle East.

"Those who manage to enter the EU will pose a potential security risk for the union.

"Given the high numbers involved, this represents a significant and long-term security challenge," it said.

It also noted Libya may become a more important "springboard" for planning terror attacks against Europe as Isil comes under more and more pressure in the Middle East.

"Since mid-2015, Libya has become a major destination for Isil fighters in its own right and is believed to [have] become a hub for EU foreign terrorist fighters who, on returning to Europe, plan further terrorist attacks," the report said.

Isil appears to be on the verge of losing the city of Sirte, which is its stronghold in Libya, but the vast north African country could still provide ample space for training and planning activities.

The report also warned of Isil trying to recruit Syrian refugees into jihadism.

"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," it said.

The report cited unconfirmed information that German police were aware of about 300 attempts by jihadists to try and recruit Syrian refugees to their cause.

Europol said that Isil appeared to remain focused on "soft targets" - lightly guarded places where there were large numbers of civilians to kill, rather than more difficult targets such as power grids or nuclear facilities.

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