It’s clear that ISIS has declared war on Europe. The question is, what is Europe going to do to fight back and protect its citizens?
The Islamic State group has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe in deadly waves of attacks, deploying interlocking terror cells like the ones that struck Brussels and Paris with orders to choose the time, place and method for maximum carnage, officials have told The Associated Press.
The network of agile and semiautonomous cells shows the reach of the extremist group in Europe even as it loses ground in Syria and Iraq. The officials, including European and Iraqi intelligence officials and a French lawmaker who follows the jihadi networks, described camps in Syria, Iraq and possibly the former Soviet bloc where attackers are trained to attack the West. Before being killed in a police raid, the ringleader of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks claimed he had entered Europe in a multinational group of 90 fighters, who scattered “more or less everywhere.”
But the biggest break yet in the Paris attacks investigation — the arrest on Friday of fugitive Salah Abdeslam— did not thwart the multipronged attack just four days later on the Belgian capital’s airport and metro that left 31 people dead and an estimated 270 wounded. Three suicide bombers also died.
At least 5,000 individuals have radicalized and left Europe for Syria. ISIS training programs have reportedly expanded, with a focus on self-operating terror cells (meaning they do not have to answer to a central command to launch a “lone wolf” terror attack).
However, ISIS has also reportedly lost over 1/5 of its territory in Iraq and Syria in the past 15 months. This latest flurry of attacks could be a desperate attempt to distract the world from the group’s dwindling momentum. Either way, ISIS needs to answer for its attacks. And it needs to be swift and merciless.