Europol has revealed that last June gardaí arrested a 40-year-old British far-right extremist for “firearms offences”. The news comes from a new report Europol published last week about the state of terrorism in the EU. It’s warned that so-called lone wolves associated with the far right and jihadism continue to be “the biggest threat associated with potential terrorist and violent extremist attacks in the EU”. The security organisation highlighted that the pandemic has helped shape “extremist narratives” as well as making some individuals “more vulnerable to radicalisation” as a result.
Europol also drew attention to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, advising that the war “will have a lasting impact on the EU’s security for years to come” as the conflict has attracted “radicalised individuals”.
An EU-wide issue
Europol published the latest European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2022 (TE-SAT) on 13 July. An annual report, Europol uses it to underscore security issues that have emerged around terrorism in the previous 12 months and draw attention to possible solutions.
In its discussion of right-wing terrorism Europol highlights Irish authorities arrest of a British man in connection with “firearms offences” in June 2021. It’s written that the man allegedly imported materials “with the intention of manufacturing firearms using a 3D printer”. The man, who’s been charged and currently awaiting trial, “sympathised with right-wing extremism and had an interest in previous atrocities committed by right-wing extremists”. But there are also no known links between the suspect and any groups. In its 2020 TE-SAT Report Europol warned of a “strong international network involving right-wing extremists from Ireland, other European countries, and the USA”.
The TE-SAT Report also notes that terrorism in general “remains a key threat” to the EU, with 15 terrorist attacks having been recorded in 2021, with four completed. Of this, three were jihadist in origin and one was documented as “left-wing”. Out of the 15 attacks, which includes those that were completed, failed, or foiled, three were noted as “right-wing terrorist attacks”. During the 12 months of 2021 authorities also arrested 388 people in relation for terrorism offences. Out of this 64 were reported as right wing — a sharp increase from 34 arrests in 2020— and 19 as left wing and anarchist. The vast majority of arrests occurred in France with Europol noting 140 there with Spain coming second with 47 arrests.
Looking at the three foiled right-wing terrorist attacks Europol revealed that they took place in Austria, Belgium, and Sweden. In all cases the suspects had links to established far-right extremist groups such as the Identitäre Bewegung Österreichs (IBÖ) in Austria and the Nordiska Motståndsrörelsen (NMR) in Sweden. Authorities also made a number of arrests of individuals “for the planning or preparation of a terrorist attack”. In one case Finnish police arrested a cell of five men between the ages of 23 and 26 in December 2021 who’d been planning an attack since 2019. The men were apparently influenced by accelerationist ideology and “hoped to foment chaos in society in order to accelerate the collapse of western societies” as well as being linked to the satanic and and extremist Order of Nine Angels (ONA).This is also in keeping with Europol’s other findings that evidence from right-wing and jihadist attacks shows “the intent and capabilities of terrorists to conduct attacks employing explosives”.
Europol also pointed to the ages of those suspected of right-wing violence and those involved in similar online communities as having “continued to decrease”. One reason it offers for this is the pandemic and the fact that people have spent more time online than usual. Similarly, online gaming platforms and associated communication methods have been “used for spreading right-wing terrorist and extremist propaganda”.
The law enforcement agency also wrote of the change in how far-right networks function today. Compared to the past in which the “extremist scene was historically dominated by hierarchical neo-Nazi groups”, that recently changed as a “transnational scene” has appeared. Europol contended that these “loose online networks” of mostly young men have “emerged and progressively expanded in the last few years”. Members of these groups tend to adhere to what’s known as SIEGE, a tactic favoured and promoted by US neo-Nazi James Mason which encourages so-called lone wolf attacks.
Compared to traditional hierarchical groups, members of these loose networks, Europol argued, “are generally less likely to join traditional offline right-wing extremist organisations”. Europol warned that they’re “likely to strike out of their cover in small cells or as lone actors”. And this makes them “especially dangerous as they are mostly unknown to law enforcement authorities”.
Unsurprisingly COVID-19 and the pandemic were “the most important propaganda topic” for far-right extremists in 2021. They attempted to use the pandemic to “exploit the crisis and the subsequent discontent of large sections of the population, for example by trying to influence or recruit” new adherents. The TE-SAT report reveals there “was a clear consensus” across far-right networks “to oppose” anti-COVID measures various states introduced to combat the virus. This included resistance to vaccine passports and the vaccine itself as well as the wearing of face masks. The Beacon has previously reported on attempts by the Irish far right to use the pandemic to recruit new members.
And last week The Beacon revealed that gardaí are aware of comments made by a known Irish far-right agitator to “take over” Dublin Airport “with a rucksack”.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – OSeveno