EU Policing Agency Warns of Increased Risk of ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorist Attacks

Over 150 people killed by terrorist attacks across Europe in 2015

Nice terror attack
Police stand by as medical personnel attend a person on the ground on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France / AP
July 20, 2016

Europe is facing an increasing risk of "lone wolf" terrorist attacks that have become a "favored tactic" for jihadist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, the continent’s policing agency warned in a report Wednesday.

Europol said the recent attacks in France and Germany have highlighted how difficult it is for authorities to detect and disrupt lone actor attacks.

Both the terrorist who used a truck to kill 84 people in Nice, France, on Bastille Day last week and the 17-year-old who attacked five people with an axe on a German train Tuesday appeared to have acted alone.

Though ISIS claimed responsibility for both attacks, Europol said that neither seem "to have been planned, logistically supported, or executed directly by" the terrorist group. The Hague-based policing agency added that ISIS’ "actual involvement … cannot be established."

Europol noted that ISIS and al Qaeda have repeatedly urged Muslims living in the West to carry out lone wolf attacks where they are living.

"[ISIS] leadership has defined that there are two options for Muslims living in the West: either migrate to Islamic State territory or carry out a terrorist attack in their places of residence," the report says, noting that al Qaeda considers lone attacks "a strategic tool at their disposal."

In 2015, 151 people died and over 360 people were injured by terrorist attacks in the EU, the report found. Those numbers do not include the recent wave of attacks in recent weeks. Nearly 1,100 people were arrested across the EU on terrorism-related charges last year.

Europol said the report underscores concerning developments, including a notable number of foreign fighters who have returned to European Union member states and expanding xenophobic sentiments across the West.