Despite a decline in fatalities, European security officials must be aware of emerging terror threats in faraway hotspots and the new inflammatory dynamic between far-right and Islamist extremists that is increasing uncertainty on home soil.
The 2018 Global Terrorism Index (GTI), recently released by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), showed that Europe had the biggest year-on-year percentage improvement, with total deaths falling by 75%.
According to the report, increased counter-terrorism spending and security measures have reduced the lethality of attacks. Despite the fall in deaths, the number of incidents rose in Western Europe.
Speaking at an event hosted by IEP and Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, security expert and associate professor Dr Alastair Reed, reminded governments that the threat of contemporary terrorism remains despite IEP’s positive findings.
“One of the legacies of the rise of the Islamic State terrorism and foreign fighter phenomenon in recent years, is that it has brought home to governments that terrorism is an interconnected global phenomenon, which can’t be compartmentalised and ignored as long as it is in a different part of the world.” Dr Reed said.
“Now that ISIS has been significantly reduced and the Syrian conflict has reached its end stages, it is important that we don’t forget this, and we continue work to address the terrorist threat abroad as well as at home.”
Dr Reed said the European Union cannot be complacent about the many terrorism hotspots around the world and noted that both Africa and South Asia have operational Al-Qa’ida and ISIS affiliates.
“The big question is will these regional affiliates remain focused on their local struggles, or will any of them be the next “Al-Qa’ida of the Arabian Peninsula,” and develop the intent and capability to plan and carry out attacks in the west,” Dr Reed said.
Findings from the GTI show that in the Maghreb and Sahel regions of North Africa, there has been a resurgence of terrorist activity in the past two years, most notably of Al-Qa’ida.
As of March 2018, there were more than 9,000 members of terrorist groups active in the region, mostly concentrated in Libya and Algeria.
Elsewhere in Africa, the largest increases in deaths from terrorism occurred in Egypt and Somalia, with deaths increasing by 123% and 93% respectively.
The latest data for South Asia shows that Afghanistan had more deaths from terrorism than any other country in 2017, overtaking Iraq.
Far-right terrorism in Europe is also a growing threat. In Western Europe, there were 12 attacks in the United Kingdom, six in Sweden, and two in both Greece and France, according to the GTI.
Dr Reed said the issue of “Reciprocal Radicalisation,” when extremist groups become more violent in response to each other’s activity, should remain of great concern to European officials.
The public event on ‘Data-Driven Analysis on Trends in Terrorism’ was held at Europol headquarters in The Hague and arranged by IEP. More than 120 people attended the presentation including diplomats, security and terrorism experts, and members of the public.
The opinions expressed throughout this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Vision of Humanity or the Institute for Economics & Peace.