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Threat of Islamist terrorism in Europe is growing

Threat of Islamist terrorism in Europe is growing

The period of relative peace in Europe, when Islamist attacks were comparatively rare, is coming to an end as the threat of Islamist terrorism is growing. In 2023, the number of people arrested for planning terrorist attacks has increased. Islamist propaganda, which has intensified in response to the Quran burnings and the renewed conflict between Israel and Hamas, contributes to the increased probability of terrorist attacks. In response to these trends, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Austria, Slovenia, Belgium, and other EU countries have raised their terrorist threat levels.

The Islamist terrorist organisations Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, along with their affiliated terrorist groups, are still planning and aspiring to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe. However, they are facing difficulties in rebuilding necessary capabilities for coordinated attacks. Terrorist organisations disseminate propaganda to radicalise Muslims in the West and incite them to carry out terrorist attacks. The most effective propaganda narratives focus on the events that resonate within Muslim communities. For example, propaganda messages that exploit Quran burnings to indoctrinate the audience into believing that Western societies humiliate Islam and persecute Muslims. Propaganda about the conflict between Israel and Hamas aims at mobilising Muslims to act against Israel and its Western allies. Muslims who have failed or have no intension of integrating into Western societies are particularly susceptible to such propaganda narratives, and some may be motivated to carry out terrorist attacks. In 2023, four attacks in Spain, France, and Belgium were carried out by radicalised lone wolves.

The situation in the Middle East has had a significant impact on heightened tensions in European societies, where confrontations between Muslim communities, leftwing Palestine supporters and right-wing anti-immigration activists are on the rise. Pro-Palestinian protests in some European countries have led to anti-Semitic attacks and increased public support for Hamas. Supporters of Palestine in Lithuania protested peacefully and showed no violence or public support for Hamas.

The terrorist threat in Europe is likely to increase in the near term. The main risk comes from lone radicalised individuals motivated not only by traditional Islamist narratives on the persecution of Muslims but also the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East. Islamist extremists likely will target large crowds, individuals, police officers. The Jewish community and sites related to Jewish culture, history, education, religion, and business are also likely to be targeted because of the Israel and Hamas conflict. Lone extremists do not typically have direct contact with terrorist organisations, nor do they receive financial support or training from them, and are likely to use easily available means, such as knives, cars, or firearms.

Although radicalisation of Muslim community in Lithuania remains low, some foreign nationals from third countries residing in Lithuania have been identified as holding radical views. Although they currently have no intention of using violence, they do not accept democratic values and express anti-Western and anti-Semitic views. There are currently no foreign Muslim organisations, movements, or support groups operating in Lithuania that could spread Islamist ideology in Lithuania. However, the presence of such propaganda online and the continued tension in the Middle East possibly will increase the risk of individual radicalisation and potential terror attacks in Lithuania.

Most European countries have strengthened security around synagogues and other Jewish institutions in response to increased threats Ap / Scanpix
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