Greece, Turkey and Italy were the main transit countries in 2015 through which European-born Islamists traveled to and from Syria and Iraq, according to an annual report published on Wednesday by Europol, the intergovernmental agency fighting organized crime, trafficking and terrorism, which said last year saw a record number of attacks across the European Union.
An estimated 5,000 European citizens have journeyed to Syria and Iraq to take part in Jihad, the report said. Most reached territories under the control of the so-called Islamic State (IS) via Turkey, the so-called Balkan axis and the sea route through Greece and Italy.
The agency said that since the declaration of its “Caliphate” in June 2014 and until December 2015, IS has launched or inspired 50 attacks in 18 countries, killing 1,1,00 people and injuring 1,700. Most of the attacks were in the Middle East and North Africa, while Al Qaeda terror cells still remain active in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.
The report also raised alarm over the major risk of “lone wolf” terror attacks in Europe.
In 2015, the EU was hit by 17 attacks orchestrated by Islamist terrorists – compared to four in 2014 – resulting in the death of 151 people and more than 350 injured.
Moreover, out of the 1,077 terror-related arrests last year, 687 were linked to Islamic terror groups. Most of the arrests in 2015 were made in France (441).
The Hague-based organization also noted a strong female presence among IS terrorists and highlighted the example of the Netherlands where 40 percent of radical Islamists were known to be women.
The agency noted that there is not enough evidence to suggest that Islamist radicals take systematic advantage of migrant and refugee flows to enter Europe – even though it said that two of the suicide bombers involved in the Paris attacks last November entered the EU through Greece.
Furthermore, the agency referred to many case whereby terrorists tried to enter Europe using forged travel documents.
Europol also said that far-right groups launched nine attacks in Europe, including one in Greece, in 2015. Most were carried out in France, the report said.