Virus lockdown could fuel radicalisation, Europol warns

Special intervention units from different countries give a demonstration in The Hague, Netherlands, 10 October 2018. [EPA-EFE/FREEK VAN DEN BERGH]

Coronavirus lockdowns could radicalise more terror suspects, the EU’s police agency warned Tuesday (23 June), saying both right and leftwing violence were on the rise.

The pandemic’s worldwide economic and social impacts could escalate existing discontents, Europol director Catherine De Bolle said as she unveiled the organisation’s latest terrorism trends report.

“These developments have the potential to further fuel the radicalisation of some individuals, regardless of their ideological persuasion,” De Bolle said in the report.

“Activists both on the extreme left and right and those involved in jihadist terrorism attempt to seize the opportunity the pandemic has created to further propagate their aims.”

The report said Islamist terror attacks in Europe had decreased, mainly due to better law enforcement, with only seven “completed or failed” jihadist attacks in 2019.

However Europol warned of an increase in attacks by right-wing extremists, partly inspired by attacks such as the 2019 attack in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“While many right-wing extremist groups across the EU have not resorted to violence, they contribute to a climate of fear and animosity against minority groups,” De Bolle said.

“Such a climate, built on xenophobia, hatred for Jews and Muslims and anti-immigration sentiments, may lower the threshold for some radicalised individuals to use violence against people”.

Last year three EU member states reported a total of six right-wing attacks of which one was completed, as opposed to only one the year before.

One of the worst attacks was the shooting at a synagogue in the Germany city of Halle last October in which two people were killed

There were 26 leftwing and anarchist attacks in Europe, mainly in Italy, Greece and Spain – a similar number to two years ago after a drop in 2018.

But the number of arrests on suspicion of leftwing or anarchist terrorist offences more than tripled, compared to previous years, Europol added, with the majority linked to violent demonstrations and confrontations with Italian police.

Anti-lockdown protests in Germany infiltrated by far-right extremists

Many people are looking for explanations since lockdown measures were introduced to contain the coronavirus outbreak. In Germany, right-wing extremists are trying to take advantage of this. EURACTIV Germany reports.

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