The European Union (EU) Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT) 2023 is a situational overview, presenting figures, major developments and trends in the terrorism landscape in the EU in 2022.
Terrorism continued to pose a serious threat to EU Member States in 2022. 28 completed, failed or foiled attacks were recorded in the EU. 16 attacks were completed, of which the majority were attributed to left-wing and anarchist terrorism, two to jihadist terrorism, and one to right-wing terrorism.
Four fatalities were recorded in 2022, two resulting from jihadist terrorist attacks and two from a right-wing terrorist attack. The total number of attacks increased compared to 2021, but remained lower than in 2020, potentially due to the varying categorisation of left-wing terrorist attacks by reporting countries over the past few years.
380 individuals were arrested by EU Member States’ law enforcement authorities in 2022 for terrorism-related offences.
Most of the arrests were carried out following investigations into jihadist terrorism, in France, Spain, Germany and Belgium.
Court proceedings in 2022 resulted in 427 convictions and acquittals for terrorist offences.
All court proceedings concerning right-wing and left-wing terrorism resulted in convictions, while the conviction rate for jihadist terrorism was 84 % and for separatist terrorism 68 %.
Most left-wing terrorist attacks were perpetrated utilising improvised incendiary devices (IIDs), fire accelerators and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The three fatal attacks reported in 2022 were carried out using a bladed weapon and strangulation by jihadist terrorists, and a firearm by a rightwing terrorist.
In the EU, affiliation to particular groups, such as IS and al-Qaeda, is becoming less prominent among supporters of jihadism.
In 2022, several Member States reported that jihadist suspects were collecting and disseminating propaganda material originating from both IS and al-Qaeda, including some pre-dating the separation between the two terrorist organisations.
Right-wing terrorists and extremists propagate a plethora of narratives, mainly online.
There is little consensus on themes and ideologies, which are always mixed and often contradictory. Contemporary offline developments that resonate with their own grievances drive the online discourse.
Police personnel were a key target of violent attacks by left-wing and anarchist extremist actors in 2022.
Violence amounted to premeditated and targeted attacks against law enforcement, both during service and off-duty, including attacks on private vehicles and homes.
The internet and technology remained pivotal enablers of propaganda, as well as radicalisation and recruitment of vulnerable individuals into terrorism and violent extremism.
In addition to social media platforms, openly available messaging applications, online forums and video gaming platforms, decentralised platforms appear to have gained popularity in terrorist and violent extremist circles, significantly undermining law enforcement monitoring and investigations.
Although rooted in different ideologies and backgrounds, terrorists and violent extremists have common interests and practices.
Examples include exploiting the same topics, using the same digital environments and adopting similar techniques for content dissemination.
The most visible reactions to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine emerged in the first months of the war, largely in the rightwing extremist milieu, materialising in online posts and a limited number of right-wing extremist affiliates travelling to join the battlefield.
Although the interest in the war in this milieu appears to have gradually dimmed throughout the remainder of 2022, disinformation and distorted narratives related to the conflict might still fuel terrorist and violent extremist narratives, regardless of the ideology propagated.
Terrorism remains a significant threat to the internal security of the European Union. Terrorists operate across borders, leveraging new technologies and modi operandi to target innocent people. EU law enforcement authorities, in particular the counter-terrorism community, remain vigilant and united in countering the threat. The EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT) 2023 contributes to this effort, by presenting prevalent terrorism trends in the EU.
Terrorism constitutes an attack on our society intending to create fear and chaos among EU citizens. In 2022, 16 terrorist attacks took place in the EU and an additional 12 attacks failed or were foiled. While the attacks directly affected seven Member States, more Member States arrested suspects in terrorism-related cases. Tragically, four people were killed in terrorist attacks in the EU, two resulting from jihadist attacks and two from a right-wing terrorist attack. We honour the memory of all those lost to terrorism in 2022 and in previous years.
Member States continue to view jihadist terrorism as the most prominent terrorist threat to the EU despite the fact that the number of jihadist attacks has decreased compared to 2021 and 2020. The threat from right-wing terrorist lone actors, radicalised online, remains significant. Left-wing and anarchist terrorists and violent extremists continue to pose a threat to public safety and security in the EU.
Additionally, the spread of propaganda online and its potential for radicalisation remains a key concern. Social isolation and the lack of a solid support system remain key vulnerabilities which terrorists take advantage of in order to propagate their messages and to recruit new followers. This is particularly worrying with the increasing number of young people, including minors, exposed to online terrorist propaganda. Furthermore, the terrorist and violent extremist environment is becoming more decentralised and volatile. Diffuse actors connect and inspire one another, uniting behind grievances beyond ideology or group affiliation. This context is ripe for self-radicalisation and for lone actors to begin engaging in attack planning, and poses significant challenges for preventing and combating terrorism and violent extremism in the EU.
The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine also brings with it potential ramifications in the terrorist and extremist environment in the EU. Europol reacted immediately to the challenges and threats posed by the war and launched a number of coordinated actions to monitor counter-terrorism developments, to support the countries directly affected and to mitigate the threats for EU’s security. Initially, the war sparked reactions among violent extremist actors, especially on the right-wing spectrum. While a number of foreign fighters have joined the battleground, terrorist or extremist affiliations remain tenuous. Disinformation and propaganda have proliferated widely with the Russian invasion, fuelling all kinds of conspiracy theories. The law enforcement community must remain alert to any groups or individuals who use the context of the war to orchestrate terror attacks in the EU.
Both law enforcement and judicial authorities in Member States have continued to invest significant efforts in preventing and combating terrorism in the EU. This is visible in the number of foiled attacks, the arrests and the high conviction rates for offences related to terrorism over the past year. The entire security ecosystem in the EU, whether operating at national or international level, continues to prioritise investigations into terrorism. I would like to commend all the women and men from law enforcement and other dedicated services who strive to prevent any future attacks.
Fighting terrorism remains a priority for Europol and for the EU. We will continue to work closely with all our partners in order to mitigate terrorist threats to the community by denying terrorists the means and limiting their space to plan, to finance and carry out attacks, by countering radicalisation and by enhancing information exchange and police cooperation. With the TE-SAT 2023, I am pleased to reemphasise our commitment to these efforts as we continue towards our joint goal of Making Europe Safer.
June 14, 2023 Published by EUROPOL. (Download PDF Report)