Puneet Varma

Terrorism in Europe

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Terrorism in Europe

There is a long history of terrorism in Europe. This has often been linked to nationalist and separatist movements, while other acts have been related to political extremism (including anarchism, far-right and far-left extremism) or religious extremism.



European cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism include the European Police Office (Europol), an EU agency, and Interpol. TREVI was an early example of EU cooperation in this field.

The main transnational activity to combat terrorism in recent years has been through Europol. They have categorised acts of terrorism that have either failed, been foiled or been successfully executed within the European Union (EU) as either pertaining to religious issues, right wing, left wing or separatist movements. The field is subject to considerable cooperation among national authorities.

Individual countries

In July 2014 the Government of France introduced legislation to combat terrorism by toughening surveillance, making it lawful to detain individuals linked to radical so called "Islamist" groups, and to block Internet sites that incite anti-Semitism, terrorism and hatred. The country's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealed 600 French nationals were in Syria at the time or planned to go there. The bill includes a ban on foreign travel for up to six months for those believed to hold terrorist sympathies, provides for the confiscation and invalidation of passports, and prohibits airlines from allowing such individuals to fly.

From 2005, the United Kingdom government introduced the CONTEST strategy, which seeks to improve co-operation between security services, and other public and private organisations. This includes four strands, namely Pursue, (seeking to apprehend potential terrorists), Prevent, (seeking to reduce risks of 'radicalisation', deter potential terrorists and share information), Protect, (seeking to ensure the security of potential targets and organisations is optimised), and Prepare, (seeking to ensure an effective response in the immediate aftermath of any attack). Similar strategies have been adopted by other countries across the European Union, and there have been increases in co-operation between nations and security forces.


There is an overlap between terrorism and various other forms of conflict and violent action, including civil wars or non-international armed conflicts. This is the case with several significant non-international conflicts in Europe, where there thus can be dispute as to what counts as terrorism: examples include the Irish War of Independence (1919–21), the breakup of Yugoslavia and subsequent conflicts, the First (1994-6) and Second Chechen Wars (1999-2009), and the War of Dagestan (1999).


Terrorism in Europe around the beginning of the twentieth century was often associated with anarchism.

Terrorism within the European Communities since 1951 has often been linked to separatist movements, notably the Irish Republican Army within the United Kingdom, and Euskadi Ta Askatasuna within Spain. Other perpetrators have been linked to far-right and far-left extremism, environmental extremism and anarchism. Since 2001, there has been an increase in attacks linked to extremist Islamist groups, particularly in France. The internationally co-ordinated element has seen increasing attempts by governments to seek to weaken extremist ideology, particularly Islamist extremism.

It remains the case that the majority of deaths from terrorism do not occur in the "West". When the Al Qaeda attacks against the United States in 2001 are excluded, only 0.5% of all deaths from terrorism have occurred in Western countries – European nations, United States, Canada and Australia – in the past fifteen years. However, there have been recent increases in the number of high-fatality attacks. There had been a decrease in the number of overall fatalities from terrorist attacks between 1990 and 2015, compared to those between 1970 and 1990. Prior to 1990, on average 150 people died each year from terrorist attacks; this figure would be even higher if the large number of people who died in 1988 from the Pan Am 2013 bombing were included. From 1990, an average of a little under 50 people died each year. However, this figure has begun to increase again from 2011, with the attacks by far-right extremist Anders Breivik in Norway, and Islamist extremist attacks in France in 2015 and 2016.

Europol has published an annual trend report on terrorist attacks (including failed, foiled, and completed attacks) and terrorist related arrests in the EU since 2006. The reports identify that perpetrators' known or suspected affiliations have been disparate in nature. Europol break these down into five categories: jihadist terrorism (previously termed "religiously-inspired terrorism"); ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism; left-wing and anarchist terrorism; right-wing terrorism; and single-issue terrorism. Europol's reports do not provide a breakdown of the proportion of attacks that have been completed or the type of damage inflicted. According to these data the vast majority of terrorist attacks in the EU between 2006 and 2013 are affiliated with ethno-national or separatist motives, followed by left-wing attacks and those that are registered as 'unspecified'. A significant number of terror attacks are motivated religiously or associated with right-wing groups. However, among those arrested on terror-related crimes most are religiously motivated and form the largest group, followed by separatist related terror suspects.

In 2015, a total of 211 completed, failed, or foiled terrorist attacks were reported by EU states, resulting in 151 fatalities (of which 148 were in France, with 130 of them occurring during the November 2015 Paris attacks.) and over 360 people injured. As in previous years, separatist attacks accounted for the largest proportion (65), followed by jihadist attacks (17). The latter, however, caused the largest number of fatalities (150) and injuries (250). The United Kingdom reported the largest number of attacks (103), but did not provide statistics on suspected affiliation. Tackling jihadist terrorism threats has become an over-riding priority for security services, although many commentators express concerns that the risk of far-right terrorism is currently being underestimated.

  • Statistics from 2006 to 2013 by affiliation
  • Lists of incidents

    The following is a list of terrorist incidents in Europe which resulted in at least ten deaths. It lists attacks on civilians by non-state actors that are widely referred to as terrorism. It excludes transcontinental countries such as Turkey and Russia, which have most of their landmass in another continent. For incidents in Russia, see Terrorism in Russia and for incidents in Istanbul, see Terror attacks in Istanbul.

    Key: motivation

      Nationalist/Separatist   Islamist   Right-wing   Left-wing   Other

    Incidents by country and region

  • Terrorist incidents in Denmark
  • Terrorist incidents in France
  • Terrorist incidents in Germany
  • Terrorist incidents in Greece
  • Terrorist incidents in Serbia
  • Terrorist incidents in the United Kingdom
  • List of terrorist incidents in Great Britain; in London
  • Timeline of the Northern Ireland conflict
  • Terrorist incidents in Yugoslavia
  • Years of Lead (Italy)
  • References

    Terrorism in Europe Wikipedia

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