Nine arrested in Europe for terrorism offences related to Islamic State Khorasan Province

Jul 17, 2023 | Islamist Terrorism, Threat Analysis

Author: Becca Stewart ASyI, 
Threat Analyst 

Read Time: 3 minutes 

On Thursday 6 July, nine individuals were arrested in a joint anti-terrorist operation by German, Dutch, and Belgian police. Seven individuals were arrested in Germany accused of founding a “domestic terrorist group” and supporting Islamic State (IS). Two others were arrested in the Netherlands on suspicion of “committing preparatory acts for terrorism offences”.[1] The group allegedly have links to Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), the regional IS affiliate group based in Afghanistan. It is alleged that they had attempted to acquire weapons to conduct attacks in Germany, but were yet to develop any concrete plans.[2] Several members of the group had also allegedly been collecting funds to send to ISKP since April 2022. It is alleged that the seven individuals arrested in Germany had travelled into the country from Ukraine shortly after the Russian invasion began in February 2022, with a German state minister, Herbert Reul, referring to them as “black sheep among the enormously large number of people fleeing war and seeking shelter ”.[3]

Event Assessment

    • Whilst the terrorism threat landscape is formed of a diverse range of threats and ideologies, it is highly likely that Islamist terrorism will continue to pose the greatest threat in the medium term.
    • It is highly likely that terrorist actors would seek to exploit refugee crises and displacement in order to enter Western countries, such as Germany, without being identified. Between 2015 and 2020, there were nine Islamist terrorist attacks or thwarted plots in Germany where at least one perpetrator had entered the country as a purported asylum seeker.[4]
    • It is highly likely that a recent increase in the number of refugees in Germany has led to a consequent increase in the popularity of right-wing populism in Germany. This has almost certainly exacerbated the terrorism threat in the country.
    • In January 2023, German police stated that they had foiled an Islamist terrorist plot in which two individuals planned to acquire the deadly poisons ricin and cyanide to kill “an unspecified number of people”.[5] A further plot was foiled in April 2023, in which an individual was attempting to acquire materials to construct an explosive belt. The high number of foiled plots indicates the intensified efforts of Germany’s security infrastructure to identify and disrupt terrorist plots in the country.[6]

    Terrorism Threat to the European Mainland

      • It is almost certain that Islamist terrorist actors operating in the Middle East and Central Asia maintain the intent to conduct major terrorist attacks on the European mainland using a range of high and low sophistication methodologies.
        • At this time, it remains unlikely that groups such as ISKP would have the capability to project a major directed terrorist threat towards the UK and other Western countries. It is highly likely that individuals inspired, but not directed, by groups such as ISKP would have the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist attack in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK.
          • It is highly likely that ISKP and other terrorist networks operating across the Middle East and Central Asia are primarily focused on accessible regional western targets. A recent US military report covering the period 1 January 2023 to 31 March 2023 claimed that ISKP could have the capability to conduct attacks on Western assets abroad in the next 6 months if they prioritised such attacks.[7]

          Terrorism Threat to the UK

            • It is almost certain that Islamist terrorism continues to pose the greatest terrorist threat towards the UK.
              • It is highly likely that the predominant threat posed by global Islamist terrorist actors, such as ISKP, continues to be from online radicalisation of vulnerable UK-based individuals with the intent to inspire low-sophistication attacks in the UK. On 10 July 2023, two individuals in the UK pleaded guilty to plotting to join ISKP to fight in Afghanistan after being radicalised in 2022, completing applications to join the terrorist group, and promoting terrorist violence online.[8] This demonstrates the continued ability of the Afghanistan-based group to inspire individuals based in the UK.
                • It is almost certain that the issue of legal and illegal migration to the UK will continue to be closely related to UK terrorism threat. This will predominantly be from UK and globally based Islamist extremist and terrorist groups seeking to use migration networks for recruitment, radicalisation, and the enablement of attacks, and, extreme right wing terrorist actors targeting individual migrants, migrant sites, and migrant communities.

                Intelligence Cut-Off Date: 17 July 2023

                  PHIA Scale

                  The “Probability Yardstick” (below) is a standardised instrument used to provide professional intelligence assessments. Judgements made using the yardstick are relative and reflect the analyst’s confidence in their findings and assessments.

                    • Almost Certain: An event is assessed to have a greater than 90% chance of occurring.
                    • Highly Likely: An event is assessed to have a 76% to 90% chance of occurring.
                    • Likely: An event is assessed to have a 55% to 75% chance of occurring.
                    • Realistic Possibility: An event is assessed to have a 40% to 54% chance of occurring.
                    • Unlikely: An event is assessed to have a 25% to 39% chance of occurring.
                    • Highly Unlikely: An event is assessed to have an 10% to 24% chance of occurring.
                    • Remote Chance: An event is assessed to have a less than 10% chance of occurring.

                    Time Spans

                      • Short Term: 0 – 6 Months.
                      • In the next 12 months.
                      • Medium Term: 12 months – 5 Years.
                      • Long Term: 5+ Years.

                  Author: Becca Stewart ASyI,
                  Threat Analyst

                  Read Time: 3 minutes

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