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The Basque and Corsican menace

Pool/Getty Images Think separatist violence in Europe is a thing of the past? Think again. Europol, the police arm of the European Union, today released its first Terrorism Situation and Trend Report. It makes for interesting reading. The 44-page report reviews and analyzes terrorist attacks and terrorism-related arrests in 2006 within EU member states. Nearly ...

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Pool/Getty Images

Think separatist violence in Europe is a thing of the past? Think again.

Europol, the police arm of the European Union, today released its first Terrorism Situation and Trend Report. It makes for interesting reading. The 44-page report reviews and analyzes terrorist attacks and terrorism-related arrests in 2006 within EU member states. Nearly 500 attacks took place in the EU in 2006, most of them small incidents with limited damage. Of these, the vast majority—424 attacks—were carried out by Basque and Corsican separatist movements in France and Spain. Another 55 attacks were pulled off by left-wing and anarchist terrorists, whose focus was Greece, Italy, Spain, and Germany.

As the report observes, however, it’s Islamist terror that really scares the authorities due to its focus on mass casualties. Only one Islamist attack was attempted in Europe last year, the so-called suitcase bomb plot that failed to blow up two German commuter trains in July. But that doesn’t mean the threat isn’t real: 257 of the 706 terrorism-related arrests in the 15 member states that provided data were of Islamists, most of them North Africans. UK officials did not fork over their data, but the report notes that public information would put the UK right up there with France, which arrested 139 Islamist terrorist suspects in 2006.

What I want to know is: What explains the differences in strategy between the separatists—”whose attacks resulted only in material damage and were not intended to kill,” according to the report—and the Islamists, whose aim is clearly to kill as many civilians as possible? Is it due to the inherent differences in the causes themselves? Differences in ideology? The particular evolution of the various groups involved? Why haven’t Basque and Corsican separatists decided that mass murder is the way to go? Or would the Islamists garner more sympathy by focusing on small, mostly symbolic attacks?

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