Islamic State (IS) is a terrorist organisation that has created a major impact globally.
They have taken the challenge to China, Russia, the US and more recently Turkey where Al-Qaeda never came close to committing attacks.
By targeting Turkey, IS is trying to create the “second caliphate”, the previous one being the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century.
IS attempts to project its political influence, theological legitimacy and military powers globally and has international support from various jihadist groups. IS claims to spread the “light” across the globe as portrayed in its video released last year October. The message is clear: “the caliphate is inevitable and unstoppable."
The current wave of attacks within Europe paves the way to a 911 type of a major attack to come. The recent attacks are clear evidence that the targets are becoming more ambitious. The rise of extremism and Foreign Fighters (FF) retuning to Europe is also escalating and fuelling the threats. Although many FF will return to Europe, only less than one per cent will carry out an attack after their return. The threat is real and Europe is not prepared for a large scale attack.
European cities need to be vigilant as IS is unpredictable in its actions for their cause for justice against the “infidels”. A new form of 911 will be imminent, but on what scale will depend on the European authorities intelligence and ability to detect and prevent.
From analysis of their current wave of attacks IS will determine its preferred modus operandi or use similar coordinated attacks across Europe to spread fear. An IS video released the early quarter of this year shows a similar 9-11 attack to take place. Where this attack is to be, only IS will be able to answer it.
The Paris attacks recently and earlier in 2015 were a test for IS. IS will continue to target European cities as they are most vulnerable in their security preparedness.
IS “test” will assess its ability to launch small, randomised and coordinated attacks in Europe. In all the attacks that have taken place since the emergence of IS, they have succeeded in their “test” and will carry out more attacks in other major European cities which will now be its targets. The planning for the second wave of attacks in Paris started right after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, which was a testing platform.
A “star hub” methodology is being carefully planned by IS, having established a number of “conduit” safe European cities to operate from. Germany, Belgium and Sweden seem to be the most ideal conduit for IS to operate within the region.
The three countries have seen many cells being identified and many terrorist operatives living without strict monitoring. Many jihadist operatives living in Belgium within the community are undetected and the intelligence agencies are failing to address the threat. Europe’s intelligence community is being tested and by far the law enforcement agencies sharing of information in Europe does not produce the results they need in order to contain the evolving threats.
Telegram, a software application that originated from Russia, is how IS has taken the advantage to communicate and fund its operations globally.
Although IS has been using Telegram to communicate since the launch of the app, the authorities have failed to identify the communication process of IS. The current wave of attacks in Europe, Middle East and Africa are all coordinated by “cells” through Telegram. The Paris attacks were coordinated by mobile phones with Telegram software installed by the terrorist operatives in Paris. IS’ capabilities of using technological applications will continue to grow and law enforcement agencies will have harder times ahead of them.
Current threats in Europe will focus on cities identified as “soft targets”. The Scandinavian region will see a new form of attacks taking place. Countries such as Finland, Denmark, and Norway will not be spared as the growing number of sentiments against Muslims is rising. France, Italy, Spain and the UK will also encounter further threats from IS and returning FFs. The threat of “anarchy terrorism” evolving in Europe is steadily growing as well. Neo-Nazi groups in Germany and white supremacy groups have escalated within some European nations.
Most Islamic Jihadists, be it Shiites or Sunnis, have a “soft” approach towards Germany due to its past historical holocaust against the Jews during World War II .The rise of Neo-Nazi groups in Germany, is a clear indication that Germanys’ support for Muslim refugees is seen as a political tool for the administration championing the cause of humanitarian support in Europe. This will eventually backfire and create a greater threat in Europe.
Currently the Schengen privileges are being revoked and IS is crippling the European Union’s freedom of movement. The European Union is losing ground on countering the current threats of radicalisation, extremism and failing in integrating Muslims within its communities. IS, will continue to cripple the very foundation of the European Union by creating fear within European communities. The European Union will need to restructure its security architecture to provide better security to its citizens and form better integration policies to sustain a peaceful society.
The writer is the Southeast Asia Regional Director and a counter terrorism specialist at the International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals-Centre for Security Studies, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.