Europol warns virus lockdown could fuel terrorist radicalization
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Europol warns virus lockdown could fuel terrorist radicalization

EU’s police agency says both right-wing and left-wing violence are on the rise, with discontent and fear-mongering escalating

Police officers stand guard near the residential homes of the employees of Toennies abatoir, in Verl, western Germany on June 23, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. (FASSBENDER/AFP)
Police officers stand guard near the residential homes of the employees of Toennies abatoir, in Verl, western Germany on June 23, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. (FASSBENDER/AFP)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Coronavirus lockdowns could radicalize more terror suspects, the EU’s police agency warned Tuesday, saying both right-wing and left-wing violence were on the rise.

Europol director Catherine De Bolle said as she unveiled the organisation’s latest terrorism trends report that the pandemic’s worldwide economic and social impacts could escalate existing discontent.

“These developments have the potential to further fuel the radicalization of some individuals, regardless of their ideological persuasion,” De Bolle said in the report.

“Activists both on the extreme left and right and those involved in jihadist terrorism attempt to seize the opportunity the pandemic has created to further propagate their aims.”

The report said Islamist terror attacks in Europe had decreased, mainly due to better law enforcement, with only seven “completed or failed” jihadist attacks in 2019.

However, Europol warned of an increase in attacks by right-wing extremists, partly inspired by attacks such as the 2019 attack in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Policemen arrest a supporter of the Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident) movement during a demonstration in Calais, northern France on February 6, 2016. (Philippe Huguen/AFP)

“While many right-wing extremist groups across the EU have not resorted to violence, they contribute to a climate of fear and animosity against minority groups,” De Bolle said.

“Such a climate, built on xenophobia, hatred for Jews and Muslims and anti-immigration sentiments, may lower the threshold for some radicalized individuals to use violence against people.”

Last year three EU member states reported a total of six right-wing attacks, of which one was completed, as opposed to only one the year before.

Hundreds of people gathered around a memorial for those killed in a synagogue shooting in Halle, Germany, on October 11, 2019. (Yaakov Schwartz/ Times of Israel)

One of the worst attacks was the shooting at a synagogue in the German city of Halle last October, in which two people were killed

There were 26 left-wing and anarchist attacks in Europe in 2019, mainly in Italy, Greece and Spain — a similar number to 2017, after a drop in 2018.

But the number of arrests on suspicion of left-wing or anarchist terrorist offences more than tripled compared to previous years, Europol added, with the majority linked to violent demonstrations and confrontations with Italian police.

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