Wednesday, November 18, 2015

European Security, Islamist Terrorism, and Returning Fighters

"On November 13, 2015, coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris left at least 129 people dead and over 350 injured at six locations throughout the city. French President Fran├žois Hollande attributed the attacks to the Islamic State terrorist organization (which subsequently claimed responsibility), and asserted that France's response would be "merciless."
The attacks were the worst-ever terrorist incident on French soil, and the latest in a number of examples of Islamist terrorism in France and Europe over the past year and a half. (Also see CRS Insight IN10301, France: Efforts to Counter Islamist Terrorism and Radicalization.)
These attacks have reinforced European concerns about European citizens training and fighting with extremist groups in foreign conflicts (especially in Syria and Iraq) and heightened fears that terrorists could slip into Europe as part of an ongoing influx of migrants and refugees. News reports indicate that one of the seven assailants killed during the attacks may have entered Europe through Greece in early October with a Syrian passport as part of the refugee flows (authorities have not conclusively made this link); at least two suspects—both French nationals—may have traveled to Syria. While evidence suggests that the Islamic State was directly involved in planning and carrying out these attacks, worries also persist about "homegrown" extremists inspired by Islamist propaganda to commit violence at home without ever traveling abroad. Other recent terrorist incidents in Europe include:

The May 2014 killing of four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium; the suspect is a French Muslim who reportedly spent a year with Islamist fighters in Syria.

The January 2015 attacks in Paris in which gunmen killed 17 people in three related incidents that targeted the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, police officers, and a kosher supermarket. The perpetrators of the attacks were French-born Muslims, with possible ties to Al Qaeda in Yemen or the Islamic State.

The February 2015 shootings in Copenhagen, Denmark, in which a self-radicalized Danish-born citizen of Palestinian descent murdered two individuals—one at a cafe that had been hosting a free speech debate, another at a synagogue—and wounded five police officers.

The attempted August 2015 attack on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris that was thwarted by six passengers, including three Americans; the suspect is a Moroccan man who may have traveled to Syria..."
Islamist terrorism

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