As ISIS loses ground in the Middle East, it has mounted attacks in Europe to convince the world of its strength, experts say.
But ISIS activity in Europe hasn’t all been recent — the terrorist group (also known as the Islamic State and ISIL) has long had its sights set on Europe as a recruiting ground and target of attacks.
A new map from the Institute for the Study of War tracks where ISIS has hit, where its plots have been thwarted, where its supporters have been arrested, and where the group has targeted recruits.
The ISW notes that ISIS is “executing a campaign to terrorize and polarize Europe” and that the group has “inspired, resourced, and directed attempted and successful attacks in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Turkey since January 2014.”
“ISIS aims to punish countries acting against it in Iraq and Syria,” ISW notes. “It also seeks to polarize the West by inspiring state and social backlash against European Muslim communities. ISIS believes increased cultural strife will destabilize Europe and encourage Muslims to join it in Iraq and Syria.”
ISIS has an extensive network of recruiters and supporters throughout Europe. These recruiters operate on social media and through in-person meetings to convince Westerners to migrate to ISIS territory in Iraq and Syria. ISIS also releases propaganda aimed at Western audiences to encourage supporters to attack Europe and the US even without any communication with core ISIS leaders. These calls to action have resulted in several successful attacks.
Here’s a look at the map, which notes ISIS-coordinated attacks, ISIS-inspired attacks, ISIS targets, ISIS-linked arrests, heightened threat levels, and sources of foreign fighters who move to ISIS territory:
The map shows that ISIS has been particularly active with attacks in France and Turkey. France, Russia, Germany, and the UK serve as major sources of foreign fighters.
“ISIS will likely expand its efforts to direct and resource sophisticated terror attacks in Europe,” the ISW notes.
“ISIS used its high-ranking Belgian-Moroccan military commander Abdelhamid Abouaad to coordinate multiple attack attempts in Belgium and France. ISIS may send similarly skilled individuals back to plan terror attacks there or in other historic European jihadist systems, including Spain and Morocco, Italy and the Balkans, or the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden. Interconnected human networks in each of these systems may capitalise on inadequate intelligence sharing across European borders in order to plan and conduct attacks.”
Authorities have thwarted several alleged attack plots in the UK, France, Germany, and Turkey. France, in particular, has been on high alert lately after ISIS-affiliated attackers killed 130 people and injured hundreds more as they took hostages, detonated suicide vests, and shot dozens across Paris last month.
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