Coronavirus lockdowns could fuel radicalisation: Europol

Customers queue to enter a shop in London's Oxford Street, June 15, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

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

Europol director Catherine De Bolle said as she unveiled the organisation's latest terrorism trends report that the pandemic's worldwide economic and social impacts could escalate existing discontent.

"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" militant 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.

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