Europol has revealed that far-right extremists discussed using COVID-19 as a biological weapon. According to the law enforcement group, the topic made up a “considerable part” of discussions amongst the far right. It was also highlighted that extremists have attempted to use the pandemic “to create chaos”.
In April the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) issued similar warnings about the far right weaponising COVID-19.
Europol disclosed the information in a report it published yesterday. How COVID-19-Related Crime Infected Europe During 2020 states that far-right extremists had discussed using the virus as a biological weapon. According to the report “a considerable part of online extremist discussion focused on the use of COVID-19 as a weapon”.
In spite of this, Europol pointed out that it is not known “how realistic or feasible” the idea is. Much of the debate about the tactic took place in March and April. Since then discussion of the topic has “dropped off” in extremist circles.
An assessment published by the ISD in April also had similar warnings. It cautioned that white supremacist communities suggested using fellow extremists infected with COVID-19 as “bioweapons”. The supposed targets of such attacks were “political enemies” of the far right.
Using the pandemic
Also noted by Europol is that European extremists have sought to use the pandemic to further their agenda. In particular, the far right has used COVID-19 “to agitate against minorities and political rivals”. The report also states that some far-right groups attacked minorities and property in order “to create chaos”. This has apparently been done in the hopes of starting “(racial) civil wars”.
Groups linked to “violent extremists” have been “increasingly active” in recent months as well. These groups, according to Europol’s report, “adapted some of their rhetoric to the COVID-19 context”. One of their tactics has been “agitating against quarantine and lockdown measures instituted by governments”.
The ISD also came to similar conclusions in its April report. It stated that the pandemic became “an increasingly important topic” for extremists. They used it as a “wedge issue” to recruit new members and attack minorities.
As previously reported by The Beacon, Irish extremists have also used COVID-19 to recruit as well as target minorities and left-wing activists. Anti-lockdown rallies have been organised by and attracted far-right groups and individuals.
Gardaí recently made multiple arrests after a large anti-lockdown rally attempted to march up Grafton Street in Dublin. Left-wing activists were also assaulted at similar anti-lockdown rallies in August and September.
Europol argued that while the pandemic is a “global health crisis” its effects on security are also pressing. Looking ahead, the law enforcement agency declared that the pandemic will have “a significant and potentially long-lasting impact” on crime and terrorism in Europe.
Featured image via Pixabay – Pete Linforth