Jihadis responsible for more than half of terrorism deaths last year
Although they represent only a sixth of all attacks in the EU, jihadi terrorists were responsible for more than half of the deaths across the continent last year.
According to the 2021 Europol report on the Terrorism situation in the EU, there were 57 terrorist attempts in the EU in 2020 (that includes successful, failed and foiled attempts), compared to 55 in 2019. Of those, 10 were jihadist terrorist attacks in Austria, France and Germany.
The European Parliament has said that Jihadist terrorism remains the greatest threat to the EU. In 2020 the number of completed jihadist terrorist attacks was more than double that of foiled plots.
According to Europol, lone actors were behind all of the jihadist attacks, with four of the ten successful attacks carried out by EU citizens. Some of the lone actors displayed a combination of extreme ideologies and mental health issues, with social isolation and increased stress as a result of the pandemic suspected to have played a role in some cases.
Statistics show that the total number of fatalities and injuries in the EU doubled from 10 deaths and 27 injuries in 2019 to 21 deaths and 54 injuries in 2020.
A total of 14 ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorist attacks took place in France and Spain, while 24 attacks were carried out by left-wing or anarchist terrorist organisations or individuals, all in Italy. In most cases, these attacks targeted private and public property such as financial institutions and government buildings.
In 2020, three EU countries - Germany, Belgium and France - experienced four terrorist attempts motivated by right-wing extremism. Only one of them, however, was completed.
Data also shows that a total of 449 arrests on suspicion of terrorist offences were reported to Europol in 2020. This number was significantly lower than in 2019 (1,004). It is unclear whether this drop is due to reduced terrorist activity or is a result of diminished operational capacities of law enforcement due to the pandemic.
While the number of terrorist attacks in the EU remained stable in 2020, extremists exploited the pandemic to spread propaganda. Following efforts by messaging apps, such as Telegram, to block terrorist groups, jihadist propaganda became more dispersed across multiple, often smaller online platforms, and right-wing extremists, particularly young people, increasingly used video games and gaming platforms to propagate their ideology.
Both jihadi and right-wing extremists tried to exploit the pandemic for propaganda purposes, while left-wing and anarchist extremists incorporated criticism of government measures to combat the pandemic into their narratives.