Europe faces 'future of increased threats'

German police patrolling the Central Railway Station in Munich yesterday. The city was partially evacuated following a terrorist threat on New Year's Eve.
German police patrolling the Central Railway Station in Munich yesterday. The city was partially evacuated following a terrorist threat on New Year's Eve.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Heightened security fears the new normal, reflecting the reach of ISIS, warn experts

LONDON • Europe faces a future of increased threats from terrorists, greater disruptions to major events and more intensive security operations, terrorism experts say.

They say Europe faces a "new normal" of heightened security fears, reflecting the reach of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, which appears to have the intention and capability to hit European targets in professionally planned and executed attacks.

Analysts say British and European security services are coming to terms with the increased threat, following last November's Paris attacks and recent terror alerts in Germany, Belgium and elsewhere, The Guardian reported last Friday.

Munich was partially evacuated following a terrorist threat on New Year's Eve, and events in other European cities were either cancelled or scaled down because of security concerns.

Ms Margaret Gilmore, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said more disruptions are likely.

"For the last 15 years, there have been terrorist organisations who have wanted to carry out attacks in crowded places so, in that sense, this is nothing new. And since the attack in 2008 in Mumbai, we have been aware of the possibility of the marauding multi-site gun attacks," said Ms Gilmore. "But what is new now is that ISIS has proved it is capable, after Paris, of carrying out terrible attacks beyond its traditional arena of the Middle East."

The Paris attacks, involving multiple sites and multiple suicide bombers, underline how quickly the group has grown. She said the knowledge that ISIS has the capability to carry out large-scale attacks will mean more security - and potentially more cancellations of high-profile events.

"It is clear from what we saw in Paris that they are capable of controlling the process - able to train, plan and execute these attacks - and that is something that the security services across Europe will be taking very seriously indeed."

ISIS's appeal means Europe is entering a new era, The Guardian quoted Professor Rik Coolsaet, a terrorism expert at Ghent University in Belgium, as saying.

He said ISIS has become the "object of all kinds of fantasies for all kinds of individuals, from thrill-seekers to the mentally unstable", and that makes the security services' jobs much harder.

Prof Coolsaet also warned that there is a danger of people conflating Europe's refugee crisis with the growing terrorist threat.

"What I do fear is the combination of these two things into something near hysteria. We must not confuse these two separate issues and we must be wary of any politicians who try and do that for their own ends, to the detriment of the very fabric of our society."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 03, 2016, with the headline 'Europe faces 'future of increased threats''. Print Edition | Subscribe