The Islamic State (ISIS) is believed to have created a training unit for international attacks and is eying “large-scale terrorist attacks” on a global stage, but particularly in Europe, the EU police agency Europol says.
Rob Wainwright, the agency’s director, said at a news conference on Monday that ISIS has a particular interest in Europe, and specifically in France, which was rocked by a series of co-ordinated attacks last year, killing more than 130 people and injuring many more.
Europol, in a report on the changing modus operandi of the Islamic State, said the group is believed to have developed an “external action command” in which militants are trained for special forces-style attacks in the international environment.
But although ISIS appears to have a specific interest in France, where many of its foreign fighters have originated from, the group also continues to plan terrorist attacks against other EU member states, and ISIS cells currently operating in the EU are largely domestic or locally based, Europol said.
“The nature and structure of IS training apparently enables its operatives to execute terrorist acts in an emotionally detached manner, as demonstrated in the shootings in Paris,” the police agency said. “In selecting what to attack, where, when and how, IS shows its capacity to strike at will, at any time and at almost any chosen target.”
The Europol report also noted a change in what motivates people to join the Islamic State, and claimed that “a significant portion” of the Islamic State’s foreign fighters were previously diagnosed with mental problems. It added that many also have criminal records, varying from petty crimes to more serious offenses.
“For foreign fighters, the religious component in recruitment and radicalization is being replaced by more social elements such as peer pressure and role modeling,” it said. “Additionally, the romantic prospect of being part of an important and exciting development, apart from more private considerations, may play a role. Suicide bombers see themselves more as heroes than as religious martyrs.”
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