The threat of terrorist attacks in the European Union remains high, the head of the bloc's law-enforcement agency said Tuesday, warning of the dangers posed by the Islamic State extremist militia and the al-Qaeda terrorist group.
Brussels (dpa) - "Both of these retain the capability and the resources to carry out terrorist attacks in the EU," Europol Director Rob Wainwright told the European Parliament‘s civil liberties committee in Brussels. "We think the overall threat to EU security will remain high."
The threat of terrorist attacks in the European Union remains high, the head of the blocs law-enforcement agency, Rob Wainwright, said Tuesday, warning of the dangers posed by the Islamic State extremist militia and the al-Qaeda terrorist group.
"The al-Qaeda-affiliated groups retain a particularly high capability, we think, for carrying out even large-scale spectacular attacks in Europe," he added.
The continent has already had to contend with terrorist killings in Paris and Copenhagen this year, while investigators in Belgium foiled a terrorist plot to attack police officers.
Wainwright pointed in particular to the threat posed by "travelling jihadists." Europeans who go to fight alongside extremist groups in Syria or Iraq and return radicalized have long been a concern, and played a role in the Paris and Belgium incidents.
Wainwright said he believes there have been 5,000 to 6,000 of such foreign fighters, but warned that there is no definite data.
"The number of fighters that return to Europe ... [has] increased according to our information, and these returnees of course may perpetrate terrorist attacks," he noted.
Radicalization on the Internet has also posed a problem. Europol estimates that there are some 50,000 Twitter accounts used by Islamic State supporters and "as many as 100,000 tweets every day issued in support of Islamic State sentiments," Wainwright said.
Overall in 2014, Europol recorded just over 200 terrorist attacks in the EU, up from 152 the year before, according to Wainwright. A total of 774 people were arrested for terrorism-related offences, up from 535 in 2013.
"The largest proportion of suspects arrested for terrorism ... was linked to what we call religiously inspired terrorism," he said, noting that in the first three months of this year another 154 individuals have been detained for the same reason.
A "significant" increase in anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic incidents involving right-wing extremists was recorded last year, he said.
Conflicts in Libya and Ukraine are also playing a role, with Wainwright noting that the latter could produce "increased quantities of military-grade firearms and explosives."
"We know that terrorism remains one of the pressing security threats to the EU. We know we need to do more," Wainwright said, calling among other things for Europol to receive more resources for the fight against terrorism.
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