EU seeks to widen terror surveillance to 'lone wolves'
(BRUSSELS) - Norway's "near impossible to prevent" bloodbath underlines the need to sharpen counter-terror surveillance against "lone wolves" and all the forms of extremism, EU terror experts said Thursday.
"As the Oslo attacks have shown once again, terrorism has nothing to do with any particular religion or belief," said European Union anti-terrorism officials at an extraordinary meeting called to discuss the carnage in Norway.
Poland, which holds the rotating EU presidency, called the talks to start "drawing the lessons of this tragedy" by looking at existing tools against terrorism, and mulling new ones.
But EU officials said after being briefed by Norwegian counterparts that Anders Behring Breivik's self-confessed rampage "to save the Western world from a Muslim invasion", would have been hard to prevent.
"This was a very difficult if not impossible event to have stopped," said Tim Jones, advisor to EU counter-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove. "He went to very great lengths."
Behring Breivik's deadly solo crusade focused attention at the talks on "the triggers that make people turn to terrorist violence, whatever the ideology behind it", he said.
Likewise the threat of "lone-wolf terrorists" -- who have no known links to groups and draw their ideas through the Internet -- "seems to require increasing attention", the experts said in statement.
More work was needed to dig deeper into the Internet while strengthening information sharing and speeding up emergency response through the European police office Europol, officials said.
Meanwhile the EU will press ahead with plans to curb sales of arms as well chemical substances such as those in the fertiliser used in the Oslo bombing.
In September last year, the EU executive proposed to limit access to chemicals easily available in supermarkets and pharmacies that can be used to make bombs, such as hydrogen peroxide, the active substance in hair bleach used in the London bombings of 2005.
The idea is to ensure the same level of control of such chemicals across the 27-nation bloc to "prevent terrorists and criminals taking advantage of differences in security regimes among EU member states."
But European states too needed to place more focus on understanding the psychological trigger to terrorism. "Lots of people have extreme ideas but few translate them into action," Jones said.
To that effect, the EU in September is to launch a radicalisation awareness network bringing together youth leaders, police officers and social workers to exchange information about how to spot potential terrorists.
"If there were an understanding of the trigger, perhaps we could spot things before they can happen," Jones said.
To date, work on radicalisation has largely focused on Islamist radicals and in its latest annual report on terrorism in the EU, Europol listed 249 terrorist attacks in 2010 but none attributed to the far right.
"The overall threat from rightwing extremism appears to be on the wane", the report said.
But the far-right's increasing activity in online social networking "is adding a new dimension to the threat rightwing extremism may present in the future," Europol said.
It also warned that increasing migration to Europe following the Arab Spring could give rightwing extremists "a new lease of life".
"It's not a question of focusing on one sort of terrorism rather than another," said Jones. "We have to focus on terrorism in general."
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