Terrorist threats will be the new trend in Europe, say experts
Terrorism experts believe Europe faces a “new normal” of more threats and disruption to major events as security fears remain high in the months ahead.
Following the attacks in Paris, analysts in the UK and Europe say security services are coming to terms with the fact that Islamic State appears to have the intention and capability to hit European targets in professionally planned and executed attacks.
Munich was partially evacuated following a terror threat on New Year’s Eve, and events in other European cities were either cancelled or scaled down because of security concerns.
Margaret Gilmore, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said more disruption was likely.
“For the last 15 years there have been terrorist organisations who have wanted to carry out attacks in crowded places, so in that sense this is nothing new. And since the attack in 2008 in Mumbai we have been aware of the possibility of the marauding multi-site gun attacks.
“But what is new now is that Isis has proved they are capable, after Paris, of carrying out terrible attacks beyond its traditional arena of the Middle East.”
She said the attack on the French capital had underlined how quickly the group had grown. She said security services in each country would still have to judge each threat on its merits, but the knowledge that Isis has the capability to carry out large-scale attacks would mean more security – and potentially more cancellations of high-profile events.
“It is clear from what we saw in Paris that they are capable of controlling the process – able to train, plan and execute these attacks – and that is something that the security services across Europe will be taking very seriously indeed.”
Prof Rik Coolsaet, a terrorism expert at Ghent University in Belgium, said that although there was nothing new in terrorist groups wanting to attack high-profile public gatherings such as New Year’s Eve, Isis’s appeal meant Europe was entering a new era.
He said the group had become the “object of all kinds of fantasies for all kinds of individuals, from thrill-seekers to the mentally unstable”, who wanted to be part of the Isis, and that made the security services’ job much harder.
“In the months ahead we are going to be facing a new normal,” Coolsaet said. “One day the hype surrounding Isis will have vanished, but until that happens I fear there will be more threats, more disruption, more houses raided and more arrests as countries come to terms with the scale of this group and its intentions … It is something we will have to get used to.”
He also warned there was a danger of people conflating Europe’s refugee crisis with the growing terror threat.
“What I do fear is the combination of these two things into something near hysteria. We must not confuse these two separate issues and we must be wary of any politicians who try and do that for their own ends, to the detriment of the very fabric of our society.”