Europe’s Latest Terrorism Threat Report

Violent jihadists who killed and plotted in 2020 illegally crossed borders first; distant terror-travel warning bells for an out-of-control U.S. border

By Todd Bensman on August 16, 2021

Skeptics who deny that violent Islamic jihadist immigrants would or could ever illegally cross land borders and attack western nations in the midst of mass-migration crises will surely want to run and hide from Europol’s latest European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2021 (TESAT).

The just-published annual TESAT report documents that perpetrators of five completed terrorist mainland attacks (out of 10) during 2020 had “entered the EU as asylum seekers or irregular migrants”. Other immigrant border-crossing terrorist infiltrators struck the United Kingdom after smuggling in through the Channel Tunnel or across the North Atlantic last year.

Still more violent Islamist jihadists who used the long-haul illegal immigration routes over European borders got caught just before they could kill or with unknown intentions. Some tried to hide their illegal foreign terrorist group activities and wartime atrocity resumes under cover afforded by Europe’s asylum system, the TESAT report said.

Obviously, not all jihadists who attacked and plotted last year in Europe first crossed the border; quite a few were EU citizens, the sons and daughters of legal immigrants, or converts to Islam who fell under the sway of online terrorism propaganda.

But to the extent that border-crossing terrorists who used the tactic did kill, maim, and threaten, Europe serves as a valuable living laboratory of transferrable lessons and pre-warning for American citizens and homeland security authorities contending with a mass-migration crisis that is fast collapsing control of the American southern border.

Normal management control systems along significant sections of the U.S.-Mexico border, especially in South Texas, have collapsed under the weight of hundreds of thousands of immigrant entries a month, many induced to come by President Joe Biden’s open-turnstile policies for family units and unaccompanied minors or decisions to end almost all interior deportation operations.

A fast-expanding percentage (26 percent) of the 200,000 migrants per month that have overrun U.S. Border Patrol capabilities are not from Mexico or the Northern Triangle countries of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), but from a hundred other countries, as I recently reported from the migrant trail through Nicaragua and Costa Rica. In addition to my own reporting, fresh Bloomberg News and Associated Press dispatches reveal record numbers of long-haul migrants from around the world. AP reports that a record 50,000 will cross through Panama this year alone, a five-fold increase over any highest previous year.

What’s happening in Europe should matter to U.S. border security because many who are reaching Texas, California, and Arizona hail from the same jihadist-plagued nations from which Europe’s terrorist-immigrants departed, including Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan, not to mention Yemenis on the FBI’s terrorism watch list. Most apply for U.S. asylum relief from deportation, as did most of Europe’s terrorist immigrants.

The “Greatest Terrorism Threat in the EU”

The TESAT reports assess terrorism threats against the European Union and the United Kingdom on an annual basis. The 2021 report’s 112 pages contain much worth reading about right-wing, left-wing, and separatist terrorist activity on the continent during 2020, as well as collective prognoses by EU security agencies about what to expect going forward (Hint: not good now that Covid-19 restrictions are lifting and making travel easier).

However, in sharp contrast to U.S. pronouncements that “white supremacy” poses the greatest domestic terror threat on this side of the pond, Europol believes jihadist terrorism ranks as the “greatest terrorist threat in the EU” and reserved the longest sections of its TESAT report for that.

In all, completed and foiled jihadist attacks totaled 29 for the year, with European law enforcement arresting 254 people for “jihadism-related offenses”.

Broken out, jihadists completed 15 jihad attacks in the EU, UK, and Switzerland that killed 12 people and injured some 47. Austria, France, and Germany suffered 10, the UK suffered three, and Switzerland suffered two.

The toll would have been much worse had anti-terrorism authorities not foiled 14 more jihadist terrorist plots in the UK and EU, such as one advanced plot by five Tajik immigrants to kill American soldiers on a base in Germany.

Ticking Human Time Bombs Who Breached Strained Borders Got the Luxury of Time

The new terrorist travel tactic of breaching borders when they are especially vulnerable dates to the November 2015 Paris and 2016 Brussels terror attacks, which were conducted by ISIS operatives who were purposefully infiltrated as fake Syrian war refugees during a mass migration crisis at the time involving millions from troubled Muslim-majority nations.

In 2019, a Center for Immigration Studies report, “Data: Terrorist Migration Over European Borders (2014-2018)”, documented and quantified the extent to which jihadist terrorists and plotters used a mass migration crisis that almost certainly weakened European security vetting to get through with their predispositions to eventual radicalization, entrenched hatreds, and diabolical plans. A chief finding was that these border-crossers lodged asylum and refugee status claims in a detection-weak system that allowed the luxury of time inside Europe to radicalize and plot for months or years.

The year 2020 reinforced that finding of ticking human time bombs.

In four of the five successful mainland attacks enabled by border penetrations, the TESAT said, the immigrant attackers embedded themselves via asylum and refugee claims before they struck. The mass migration at the U.S. southern border has only exacerbated already severe backlogs in the U.S. asylum system, creating average wait times for case decisions of nearly three years.

Speaking to the delay between initial border crossing and attack or plot, the TESAT report cites the horrific October 2020 beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty by refugee Abdullakh Anzorov for showing satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his students. Anzorov, a Chechen Muslim from Russia, came in with his parents as a minor and obtained refugee status, according to media reports. He was 18 and long-since radicalized when the call went out in online jihadist communities for someone to murder the teacher for the cartoon depictions. He was the one who answered.

A June 20, 2020, attack in a Reading, England, park left three people dead and others seriously wounded. The TESAT report put it this way:

The perpetrator was a male refugee, who had arrived in the UK from Libya in 2012. He had reportedly been involved with militias fighting the regime of Muammar al Gaddafi. In the UK, he was repeatedly arrested and convicted of offences including theft and assault. During a prison stay in 2017, he associated with known terrorism convicts. He was released from prison two weeks prior to the attack.

Then there was the 33-year-old Sudanese who’d been granted refugee status a couple of years earlier in France. In April 2020, he went on a stabbing spree that killed two people and injured five others in a Romans-sur-Isere tobacco and butcher’s shop. Police arrested him while praying a while later. Handwritten documents found later at his home described France as a land of “unbelief”.

In August 2020, a 30-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker let in by Germany and cited in the TESAT report with less detail than press reports “purposefully hunted” motorcyclists in an Opel Astra sedan in August 2020, severely injuring three passengers in a car and injuring three other people while shouting “Allahu Akbar!” Police soon found him afterward praying on a prayer rug he’d laid out on the street.

The TESAT report cites the April 2020 incident when German anti-terrorism police rounded up five Tajik asylum seekers, ranging in age from 22 to 32, as they allegedly were about to attack two U.S. Air Force bases. The five apparently "all entered the country earlier as refugees" and had been on intelligence radars for some time. All still had plenty of time to form a cell and stockpile automatic weapons, ammunition, and the components for anti-personnel explosives to kill U.S. soldiers. Police reportedly rolled them up in the nick of time.

The border-crossing immigrant attackers did not always have to exploit the American-style generosity of time provided by Europe’s legal asylum and refugee status, of course.

In one completed mainland attack mentioned in the TESAT report, the border-crosser came with a specific jihadist mission — revenge against the French for re-running cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

The 21-year-old Tunisian Brahim Aioussaoi only waited about a month after he crossed the Mediterranean Sea in October 2020 aboard a rickety boat filled with illegal immigrants and got off on an Italian beach to a warm, enabling embrace. The Italian Red Cross issued him a legal permit that enabled Aioussaoi to board a train to Nice, France.

He stepped off that train and walked directly to the city’s Notre Dame Cathedral with a long knife and began slashing. He severely wounded a man at the church entrance and went on to nearly behead a woman, stab to death two more people, and wound a fourth before police shot and wounded him.

Others who came in with regular border-breaching immigrants were hiding pasts of ISIS atrocities and unknown intentions, among them some returning European citizens who fought with ISIS or other terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere, the TESAT report said.

Continuing Fear of Busy Immigrant Routes Among European Nations

The TESAT report says that southern EU states like Spain and Italy feel especially concerned about terrorist border infiltration on the routes to and from Morocco, Libya, and Tunisia, but also noted that interior nations like The Netherlands are just as worried.

“The Netherlands have investigated suspected terrorists who have returned not only from Syria, but also from Yemen and Somalia,” the TESAT report states. “Additionally, they have charged a number of refugees on suspicion of having been military commanders in a terrorist organization.”

Italy, too, fears that a reorganized ISIS will “dispatch individuals to Europe, in particular members with combat experience gained in Syria, Iraq, and Libya ... reaching Europe via the central Mediterranean irregular migration routes.

“For Italy, the major risk comes from the route via Tunisia, with transfers aided by migrant smugglers,” the TESAT states. “There is also a threat from potential sleeper cells of IS’s external operations unit, or operatives of al-Qaeda and its affiliates such as AQIM [Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb].”

Such concerns are well-grounded. For instance, Spain reported a “significant case” in April 2020, when three ISIS members of Egyptian, Egyptian-British, and Algerian citizenship were arrested. Two of them had fought in Syria and had entered through Almería by boat via an irregular migration route from North Africa.

Although the TESAT report does not provide details, media reports say one was one of Europe’s most wanted jihadists, the so-called “ISIS Rapper”, who once infamously posted a photo of himself holding a severed head in Syria. He was the Egypt-born British subject Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, whose father was known for having helped bomb American embassies in Africa in 1998.

Bary posed as an asylum-seeking migrant and, after a circuitous overland travel route from Syria to North Africa, hired a smuggler in Algeria who ferried him to the Spanish coast, along with other migrants, on a wooden "patera" boat. He was in Spain for five days before Spain's Policia Nacional bagged him with the two other immigrant-jihadists in an apartment. It’s unclear what they planned.

He and the others “had intended either to stay in Spain permanently, or to get local support in order to proceed to other countries in Europe,” the report stated.

In North Macedonia, authorities disrupted a terrorist plot by an 11-member cell of individuals who had fought for ISIS in Syria for four years and then somehow managed to get themselves as far as the Balkans, the report noted.

All this concern among Europe’s leadership and professional security class stands in sharp contrast to Biden administration officials, who seem impervious to European experience as they open the southern border gates to unscreened multitudes of strangers from around the world who also cannot really be vetted.

The new TRSAT document and other reporting amply demonstrate that Europe’s leadership and security class, in openly expressing deep fear of unmitigated illegal immigration from the Islamic world, are not exactly wearing tin-foil hats.

With the benefit of hindsight and terrible experience, the Europeans and their TESAT report might just have something to say worth hearing about American border security.