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Europol: Islamist terror cells still active in Europe

Published on 17/04/2009

Brussels — Islamist terror cells remain active in the European Union, although authorities managed to foil many planned attacks last year, the EU’s Europol police agency said on Thursday.

Europol deputy director Mariano Simancas said that only one attack attributable to Islamist militants took place in Europe 2008 — a bomb in a restaurant in Britain that went off too early, "causing only one victim, the terrorist."

"But many plans were foiled," he said, citing in particular examples in Germany and Italy and 187 arrests in Britain, France and Spain.

"Most are men organised in small autonomous, independent cells that can move easily, which is very worrying," he said. "We’re talking about home-made terrorism."

He said that such cells were financed by siphoning money off of charitable associations and were adept at using the Internet for communication and propaganda.

"Only seven European countries notified that they were targeted in 2008, but we’re all feeling the threat," he said.

Although Islamist terror attacks are a major concern, the most common attacks in Europe are carried out by separatist movements.

Of the total 515 attacks or planned attacks tallied in the European Union last year, 397 were by separatists’ movements — 97 percent of which were in Spain and France.

In a statement Thursday from its headquarters in The Hague, Europol reported a 23 percent drop in the number of "terrorist attacks" in the 27-nation European Union in 2008, compared with the previous year.

"For 2008, seven member states reported a total of 515 failed, foiled or successfully perpetrated terrorist attacks," it said. "Thirteen member states arrested a total of 1,009 individuals for terrorism."

While noting that there had been no successful attacks in 2008 by what it called "Islamist terrorists," Europol said: "To the EU, the threat from Islamist as well as ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism, remains high."