Coronavirus: IS could exploit COVID-19 pandemic to carry out terror attacks, EU warns

Terrorists could exploit the coronavirus pandemic to carry out attacks, a European Union official has warned.

Counter-terrorism co-ordinator Gilles de Kerchove believes right-wing extremists and Islamic militants “could view attacks on medical personnel and facilities as highly effective, because they would generate a massive shock in society”.

In a confidential briefing to EU member states obtained by the AP news agency, he said past experience shows “terrorists and violent extremists, aiming to change societies and governmental systems through violence, seek to exploit major crises to achieve their objectives”.

Although there hasn’t been an uptick in violence so far, de Kerchove warned Islamic State has “incited its supporters in the West to take advantage of the current crisis to stage attacks”.

Groups such as IS are also ramping up their propaganda efforts, with the coronavirus lockdown meaning many people are spending more time online than they usually would.

“To increase their support base, violent extremists use people’s insecurities, vulnerabilities and grievances, creating a simple narrative which ‘explains’ problems by blaming outsiders,” de Kerchove wrote.

Back in March, the FBI shot and killed a white supremacist while trying to arrest him for plotting to blow up a hospital treating COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, Norway’s top military official in Iraq said this week that attacks by IS in the Middle East are on the rise as the region grapples with the pandemic.

Lt Col Stein Grongstad said that IS militants are hiding out in sparsely populated farmlands in Iraq and staging attacks on Iraqi forces who are trying to curb the spread of the virus across the country.

The militants “reside in agricultural areas and are thus not particularly susceptible to the virus infection”, he told Norway’s VG newspaper.

He said they have been targeting Iraqi forces “that are not currently co-ordinated to the same extent as before the virus struck”.

Lt Col Grongstad described the situation as a “paradox” as IS attacks are on the rise in the midst of a global pandemic.

“The Islamic State group has been moving the fighting from Syria to Iraq… [and] is strengthening, both financially and militarily,” he added.

Iraq has reported over 2,700 cases of coronavirus infections and 109 deaths.

Source: Read Full Article