New-style IS targeting Europe

Emergency services near the Bataclan, 13 NovemberImage copyright

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The Paris attacks in November highlighted the need for more information sharing

Self-styled Islamic State has developed a new style of combat to target Europe in particular, the director of the EU’s law enforcement agency says.

Rob Wainwright was speaking as Europol opened its new counter-terrorism centre in The Hague.

The centre will seek to improve information exchange and identify the links between terrorism and other criminal sectors.

The need was highlighted by the Paris attacks in November that killed 130.

On Sunday, the Islamic State group posted a video apparently showing nine of the suspected Paris gunmen before they carried out the attacks.

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Drugs sector

The opening of the Europol centre coincided with its new report on the IS group.

Mr Wainwright said the group had “developed a new combat style capability to carry out a campaign of large-scale terrorist attacks on the global stage, with a particular focus on targeting Europe”.

Europe’s leaders, he said, had decided to establish “for the first time a dedicated pan-European operational centre to combat terrorism”.

The Europol report says: “IS is preparing more terrorist attacks, including more ‘Mumbai-style’ attacks, to be executed in member states of the EU, and in France in particular.

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Europol said the downing of a Russian plane over Egypt suggested a shift in IS strategy

“The attacks will be primarily directed at soft targets, because of the impact it generates.”

The 13 November attacks in Paris and the downing of a Russian airliner over Egypt last October “suggest a shift in IS strategy towards going global”, it says.

Mr Wainwright said more than 5,000 EU nationals had been radicalised fighting abroad and many had returned home.

He said the centre’s priority would be to improve information exchange between EU members.

It will also focus on links to other criminal sectors.

Mr Wainwright said: “We know that many terrorist suspects, such as those responsible for the terrible attacks in Paris, have a criminal background, are linked with the drugs sector, firearms and other criminal sectors.

“Critical to Europol, therefore, functioning as the EU’s information hub on countering crime and terrorism will be to uncover those links.”

The new unit will have between 40 and 50 experts in counterterrorism.

Europol has in total about 800 staff at its headquarters in The Hague. They work with law enforcement agencies in the 27 member states and in other non-EU partner nations to combat serious crime.

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