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Travel to Europe

When traveling to locations like Europe, Asia, or the Caribbean, safe travel is always a top priority.  How you define safe travel is derived from a number of factors based on your own thoughts and concerns. Whether your concern is the rising threat from Islamic extremists traveling to Europe, the threat of Homegrown Violent Extremists, or crime, one should consider each of these when planning your next vacation or business trip. Over the next four weeks we will cover the many dangers one could face when traveling to Europe. We will also discuss some recommendations to consider when trying to decrease each of those dangers.

Foreign-born Fighters

One of the biggest anxieties when traveling to Europe is the concern of being caught in the middle of a terrorist attack. The recent spike in attacks validate those concerns. While there is a troubling trend with many of the recent attackers being “homegrown”, there is a real threat of fighters traveling from Syria and Iraq. It’s estimated that 30,000 fighters have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State. ISIS in recent months has begun to lose its grip on its strongholds in Raqqa and Mosul.  As this continues, more and more of its fighters will likely become demoralized and seek to leave the fight.

Obviously not all the fighters will continue to fight. Some will stay and set up new homes in Iraq and Syria.  Many others are dead and some will return with no desire to conduct more attacks; however, the chances of a fighter traveling to Europe undetected to conduct an attack, is high.  Europe’s security services likely know many of the individuals who left Europe for the fight but probably know very few of the foreign fighters. A very likely scenario is a fighter, from a country outside of Europe, traveling undetected to conduct an attack.

Skills Learned

As for the fighters who return to Europe from war-torn countries, many have trained at terrorist training camps.  They have learned a range of skills such as bomb-making, weapons handling, information security, operational security, as well as developed a network of contacts. These fighters likely have been more radicalized by fighting alongside other ISIS supporters.  These skills will be passed on to new recruits and future generations. With skills to conduct attacks, and know-how to keep their plans secret from authorities, their influence on others could wreak havoc in Europe for decades.

Immigration Concerns

The immigration crisis in Europe is of growing concern as well. In 2016, Britain voted to leave the European Union. That outcome was largely due to Britons wanting to take back control of its borders.  In Italy, over 85,000 people have arrived this year alone. With Italian elections set for early 2018 it will be interesting if worries over immigration play a part in the outcome. Open immigration is no doubt a tool that Islamic terrorist groups use. ISIS and Al-Qaeda both would like to use immigration to spread their ideology. They know they can’t defeat Europe in a conflict. They simply hope to spread their views and create a movement. The children of the refugees will be raised as Sunni Muslims in a predominately Christian Europe.  They will likely find they have more in common with other foreign-born Muslims than they do with the locals.

Cultural Differences

Differences between the culture of many Muslims migrating from war-torn countries and their new host country is also a real concern. The following are examples in the differences between the European Muslim mindset and that of their European non-Muslim counterparts. After the 2015 Charlie Hedbo attack, the BBC conducted a poll of British Muslims. The poll showed that 27 percent supported violence against the cartoonists, with another 8 percent refusing to comment. ICM Unlimited, a British public opinion researcher, found in a 2014 poll that 16 percent of French Muslims had a “favorable view” of ISIS among those aged 18-24.

ICM also conducted a 2016 poll of British Muslims that found that two-thirds wouldn’t report a terror plot to authorities. The same poll found that more than half of British Muslims think homosexuality should be illegal.  Additionally, 39 percent believe that wives should obey their husbands. That way of thinking, combined with the influx of radicalized fighters, is a dangerous mixture that could potentially lead to future attacks. 

Europe’s Future Terrorism Issues

While there are parts of the world less safe than Europe, terror attacks have increased in recent years. Since 2015 there have been 8 attacks in Europe which resulted in 10 or more deaths. Also, according to EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2017, in 2016 there was a total of 142 failed, foiled or completed terrorist attacks. According to the report, “Homegrown” extremists conducted these attacks.  The report stated “both foreigners, of whom a number may have resided in the EU for a long time, and nationals who have grown up in the countries they attacked” carried out the attacks.

As Counter Threat Group, LLC  wrote about on July 9 of this year, outside of the Middle East, England, France, and Germany represent some of the most dangerous countries regarding terrorism.  They have seen a rash of terrorist incidents over the past few months. Expect foreign-born extremists to continue to challenge Europe’s security.  Lack of border security allows extremists the freedom of travel needed to conduct attacks.

Next Article

In our next article we will discuss the threat that “Domestic Terrorists” pose to Europe. In later articles we will look at the disturbing trends, and at some suggestions to stay safe while traveling throughout Europe.

Next Article:  Travel Threats in Europe: Domestic Terrorism