Terrorism in Europe
There is a long history of terrorism in Europe. This has often been linked to nationalist and separatist movements (separating countries), while other acts have been related to politics (including anarchism, far-right and far-left extremism), religious extremism, or organized crime. Terrorism in the European sections of the intercontinental countries of Turkey and Russia are not included in this list.
Defining terrorism is difficult, and there are more than one hundred definitions of it in scholarly literature. The term is used in polemical contexts, thus it can become a move in a campaign rather than an aid to thought. A simple definition would be "use of force against innocent people for political purposes". Some scholars argue that there is no true or correct definition due to terrorism being an abstract concept without a real presence. Legal definitions contain internal contradictions and might be misused. 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).
In the Middle Ages, maritime nations in Europe sponsored pirates and privateering against rivals, which can be compared to terrorism. The term "terror" is used about the reign of terror in France, carried out by the Jacobins in 1792-4.
Terrorism within the European Communities since 1951 has often been linked to separatist movements, including 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. Many separatist terrorist activities also have a religious angle, as, for example, with Chechen separatism in Russia. The internationally co-ordinated element has seen increasing attempts by governments to seek to weaken extremist ideology, particularly Islamic 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 years 2000-14. 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. There was an increase of fatalities 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 were affiliated with ethnonational or separatist motives, followed by left-wing and anarchist attacks, and those that are registered as 'unspecified'. A significant number of terror attacks were motivated religiously or associated with right-wing groups. Among those arrested on terror-related crimes, most were 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). Jihadist attacks 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.
In 2017, British intelligence MI5 said that Northern Ireland is the most concentrated area of terrorist activity "probably anywhere in Europe", with weekly threats from dissident Irish republicans.
Europol report all deaths from terrorist activity in 2018 were caused by jihadist terrorism. As of 2019, Europol reported that left-wing terrorist groups in the EU had appeared to have ceased their operational activities.
European states were at the fore of plans for an international criminal court under the League of Nations in the 1930s, working through the Committee for the Repression of Terrorism (CRT). The CRT sought to define terrorism and get nation's domestic policies to support anti-terrorism activities. Opposition by Britain and tensions over fascism in Germany and Italy limited the final proposals.
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.
In July 2014 the Government of France introduced legislation to combat terrorism by toughening surveillance, making it lawful to detain individuals linked to radical "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.
One year after Albanian government sacked Iran’s Ambassador to Tirana in December 2018, in the 2nd week of January 2020, this country expelled two other Iranian diplomats. The two were said to be members of Quds Force which up to recently was commanded by Qassem Soleimani.
The following is a list of terrorist incidents in Europe which resulted in at least ten civilian deaths. It lists attacks on civilians by non-state actors that are widely referred to as terrorism. It excludes attacks that took place in transcontinental countries such as Turkey and Russia. For incidents in Russia, see Terrorism in Russia and for incidents in Turkey, see Terrorism in Turkey.
- Key: motivation
|24 Apr 1993||UK||1993 Bishopsgate bombing||$2 billion||Provisional IRA|
|15 Jun 1996||UK||1996 Manchester bombing||$996 million||Provisional IRA|
|10 Apr 1992||UK||Baltic Exchange bombing||$897 million||Provisional IRA|
Terrorism by country and region
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