Jihadists attempting to launch terror attacks in Europe are trending younger and more of them are women than ever before, Europe’s top law enforcement agency said in a new report released Thursday.
Last year in Europe, police arrested 718 alleged jihadist terrorists representing a near two-fold increase over the 395 jihadists arrested in 2014. Of those arrested, almost one third were under the age of 25, and about one in four were women, according to the report.
Those jihadists returning from battlefields in Syria and Iraq are another leading threat to the European Union, as authorities fear they will replicate the use of drone explosives seen in those countries in Europe.
In order to combat the rising threat of jihadist violence in Europe, EU leaders say cross-border information sharing will become increasingly important in the years to come.
“Fighting terrorism will remain at the top of our common political priorities for the time to come, not just in Europe but globally,” said EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. “For the safety of our citizens, and for the cohesion of our societies, we need to step up our information exchange and our cross-border cooperation at all levels.”
The Europol report says jihadist groups have become more sophisticated in their use of social networks to spread their messages and recruit followers. The Islamic State has lowered the frequency of its video production as it struggles to maintain control over its self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
Jihadists on the move
According to the report, fewer jihadists are traveling to fight in Syria as IS loses control of land it once held, which may sound like a positive development, but also represents an increased threat from those jihadists returning to Europe and those who weren’t allowed to Syria.
“The number of returnees is expected to rise, if IS, as seems likely, is defeated militarily or collapses. An increasing number of returnees will likely strengthen domestic jihadist movements and consequently magnify the threat they pose to the EU,” the report reads.