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EU police agency: Extremists sought to use COVID to spread hate

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Extremists sought to use the global pandemic to “spread hate propaganda and exacerbate mistrust in public institutions” in 2020, the European Union’s police agency says in its annual report on terrorism in the 27-nation bloc.

COVID-19 and the economic crisis and social unrest it spawned “have contributed to polarization in society, causing attitudes to harden and increasing acceptance of intimidation, including calls to commit violent acts,” the report says.

It cites the arrest in the Netherlands of a man who allegedly called for “citizen’s arrests” of lawmakers and public health workers. It says violence by opponents of the Dutch government’s lockdown measures included hurling stones and fireworks at one city hall and vandalizing COVID-19 test locations.

Such violence has increased this year, with a mob torching a test location in a Dutch fishing village and a blast that damaged the glass façade of a testing center north of Amsterdam in March.

“The latest report from Europol on the EU terrorism situation illustrates that in the year of the COVID pandemic, the risk of online radicalization has increased. This is particularly true for right-wing terrorism,” EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson says.

She discusses the issue today at a meeting in Lisbon with US Secretary for Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

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