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Europe faces long-term challenges in fighting terrorism

Security is on high alert once again across Europe following a series of terrorist attacks in Spain and Finland last week. The consistent presence of terrorism reflected an increasingly serious and complex situation haunting Europe.

The double attacks in Spain's Catalonia that claimed 15 lives and injured over 120 others, and the knife attack Finland's Turku were the latest to rub salt into the EU's wound, as France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and the United Kingdom still struggle to recover from a number of bloody attacks since 2015.

This year, although European countries continued to strengthen the fight against-terrorism, the momentum of terror attacks in Europe has not diminished, but even showed a high trend. Britain, France, Belgium, and even relatively quiet Nordic and southern Europe have suffered waves of terrorism.

"At the moment, there's an attack every four to six weeks in Europe," Frederic Gallois, the former chief of a French security force, told local media. He added that the international terror groups such as Al-Qaida and Islamic State (IS) deliberately targeted "soft targets" in Europe, or public space with large concentrations of people, as part of their strategy.

Experts said attacks against "soft targets" with high civilian losses can create panic that magnifies the terrorist groups' "cause".

Even if security measures are tightened to prevent a possible attack in symbolic sites around cities, experts warned that citizens' safety cannot be guaranteed 100 percent. "Any gathering of people is a soft target and there are crowds everywhere, " Gallois said.

According to Europol's Terrorism Situation and Trend Report published in June this year, the EU is facing a range of terrorist threats and attacks of a violent jihadist nature, from both networked groups and lone actors.

The report pointed out that jihadist actors can be both directed by IS or merely inspired by IS ideology and rhetoric. Jihadist terrorists have been found to use a range of weapons to include bladed weapons, automatic rifles, explosives and vehicles, and are expected to continue to do so.

Perpetrators of terrorist attacks in the EU include both foreigners, of whom a number may have resided in the EU for a long time, and nationals who have grown up in the countries they attacked, it further stated.

As for the police, it is an impossible task to monitor thousands of potential suspects who might be terrorism-inspired.

At present, Europe's fight against terror seems to fall into the dilemma. Due to its participation in the U.S. interventions in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, Europe becomes the target of terrorist groups' crazy revenge.

EU security commissioner Julian King has warned the returning of extremist foreign fighters from conflict zone as IS lost territory there, saying this poses a very serious threat to European states.

The spreading of online terrorist ideology is another major concern for European policymakers. In France, the IS recruited hundreds of French fighters through online propaganda, and more than 200 died in terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice in 2015 and 2016, according to reports.

Moreover, hard immigrant integration, border-free passage and poor intelligence cooperation remain some of the shackles and deficiencies in Europe's counter-terrorism cooperation.

Alexander Ritzmann, an expert on terrorism at the European Foundation for Democracy wrote one year after the Brussels attacks that such as better education, more social workers and integration programs, and bigger police, intelligence and surveillance, all these policy fields are important for policymakers in Europe under severe pressure to tackle the challenge in a long run.

[Source: By Zhou Jun, Xinhua, Brussels, 23Aug17]

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small logoThis document has been published on 24Aug17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.