Jihadist terrorist activities in Europe, which far outnumber those in the United States, are now mostly run by independent local groups, though the more serious plots appear to have connections to groups in North Africa or the Middle East, according to a new Rand Corp. study.
The study, conducted for the Pentagon, was released last week. While Americans generally just think of jihadist terrorists as threatening the United States, “on average European authorities arrest some 200 individuals and thwart a handful of plots of jihadist inspiration every year,” according to the study, “Radicalisation, Linkage and Diversity: Current Trends in Terrorism in Europe.”
Al Qaeda recruitment in Europe, which was never great, has all but vanished.
“Some mosques still play an important role in the radicalisation process and in the formation of spontaneous clusters of like-minded individuals. However, most of the activities that normally follow such initial steps no longer take place in mosques but are instead conducted in small private circles outside of the mosques,” the study says.
“Scores of European jihadists have indeed received their first exposure to jihadist ideology in front of a computer, in a jail cell, or by interacting with members of nonviolent Islamist organisations,” it says.
There are cases of radical preachers and those who have fought in various places working to radicalise Europeans, but they are fewer since the police and security-force crackdowns after September 11, 2001. “Arrests were particularly numerous in Europe, where authorities often moved against networks they had been monitoring for years,” according to the study.
The study says that “dozens of German jihad enthusiasts” travel to Pakistan to train with a splinter group of Uzbek jihadists who have camps in the tribal areas of that country. Second-generation Somalis, many from Sweden, are returning to that country for training. So are a few from the US.
Experienced Europeans these days consider it more useful to keep known jihadists “on the street,” monitoring their activities to see their contacts and gain insights into their networks. “This policy has led to some remarkable successes but is also highly risky, as there is always the possibility that authorities might not be able to monitor all activities,” the study says.