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Who Stands Behind Terrorist Attacks in the West? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A truck forced itself into the Christmas market near Breitscheidplatz, a popular tourist destination in western Berlin, a bit after 8 PM. On December 20, 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski)

London- In the first detailed analysis of terrorist operations against European countries and the United States over the past years, a new report by international terrorism experts presents an overview of terrorists led by extremist ideologies and their affiliations.

The report also reviews the various aspects of terrorist attacks, including their locations, the way they occurred and the number of casualties.

It also outlines the identity of the extremists, their nationalities, the degree to which the authorities were aware of their past activities, and, finally, their association with extremist organizations such as ISIS.

The report, entitled, “Fear Thy Neighbor. Radicalization and Jihadist Attacks in the West”, was prepared by a group of researchers led by Dr. Lorenzo Vidino, the director of the Program on Extremism at the George Washington University and of the Program on Radicalization and International Terrorism at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) in Milan.

The research is part of a report by ISPI, George Washington’s Program on Extremism and the International Centre for Counter-terrorism in The Hague, conducted by Dr. Vidino, along with Dr. Francesco Marone and Eva Entenmann.

The first chapter of the book, “From Syria with Hate”, speaks of the origins of the current wave of terrorism. The second chapter describes an analysis of three years of attacks. Chapter Three presents a classification of attacks, while the fourth and final chapter examines the role played by the centers of extremism.

The report identified 63 attacks between September 2014 and late August 2017 that were considered to be acts of jihadist terrorism.

A relatively limited number of countries were affected: nine in Europe, plus Denmark and Sweden – along with the US and Canada.

“Although the vast majority of Islamist attacks are elsewhere in the world, an unprecedented number has taken place in Europe and North America since the declaration of a “caliphate” by the so-called ISIS, in June 2014,” the report said.

The report noted that regardless of country, most attacks were in large towns and cities – including Barcelona, London, Manchester, Paris, Nice, Berlin, Brussels, Stockholm and Orlando.

A few attacks hit iconic targets, such as the Champs-Elysees and the Louvre museum in Paris, Westminster in London and Las Ramblas in Barcelona, the report added.

In total, the 63 attacks caused 424 deaths and left almost 1,800 people injured, according to the research.

Pointing out that the average age of attackers was 27.5, the report said that the two youngest were 15 – an unnamed boy who attacked a Jewish teacher with a machete in Marseille, and Safia S, a girl who stabbed a police officer at a Hannover train station.

The oldest suspect, Mohamed H Khalid, was 54 when he was accused of stabbing to death an elderly couple in the Austrian city of Linz.

The report also highlighted the fact that 74 percent of attackers were known to the authorities before the attack, while 50% had a criminal background.

It also revealed that the number of attackers, who were illegally in a country or who arrived as refugees, is small.

As for the affiliation with ISIS, the report noted that two of the four most lethal attacks – those in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels in 2016 – are believed to be well orchestrated multiple attacks directed by ISIS.

It added that although it was difficult to tell whether the attack was plotted by ISIS or not, the influence of the terrorist group could be clearly seen in most of the attacks.