29 Apr 2009
From the World Security Network Foundation
The previous twenty years have been marked by a multitude of geopolitical and socio-economic changes affecting amongst other, the structure of the terrorism and extremism networks in Europe. Many groups were dismantled by the police, whilst new patterns have emerged illustrating a mutating extremist movement in Europe as opposed to the traditional ones.
"Traditional" terrorist groups
From the late 60's up to the early 21st century, the main objective of the authorities in European countries was the arrest of members of terrorist organizations inspired by a continuing trend of confrontation with the existing political system that went on murderous actions and diverse violent attacks, mainly against state officials.
Some of the following organizations can be described as traditional as opposed to the younger generation. They held a closed and limited number of members and acted strictly by observing the rules of conspiracy, in parallel with their cooperation with agencies of the Soviet bloc and with Palestinians terrorists and Arab regimes
German Red Army Faction (Rote Armee Fraktion - RAF),
Movement 2nd June (Bewegung 2. Juni),
Revolutionary Cells (Revolutionäre Zellen - RZ)
Red Zora (Rote Zora - RZ)
Italian Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse - BR)
French group Direct Action (Action Directe - AD)
Communist Combatant Cells (Cellules communistes combattantes - CCC)
November 17th (17 N)
Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ΕΛΑ)
Spanish First of October Antifascist Resistance Group (Grupos de Resistencia Antifascista Primero de Octubre - GRAPO)
British Angry Brigade (AB)
It is very important to mention that without the support of the intelligence services of East Germany (Stasi), Soviet Union (KGB) and Czechoslovakia (StB), the dismantling of these groups would have occurred earlier and therefore terrorism must always be and analyzed in light of state relations and international confrontation.
The fall of the Iron Curtain and the 9/11 attack radically changed the scene and brought disband of all those organizations, of which only remains of them survive, with very little political influence.
A characteristic approach of the above was the handling by the President of the Czech Republic of dossier containing information for the "Red Brigade" group to the Italian authorities a few years ago, that signaled the end of traditional terrorism in Italy in most respects.
The mutating anti-globalization movement
During most of the 90s, a youth movement spread in many parts of the world assisted by the development of telecommunications and transport, as well as, the social dynamics created by the same trends that facilitated the globalization process.
There were many groups that were negative towards the evolving social reality, some of which formed the core of the new terrorism as we experience today through the violent attacks of armed extremists in countries such as Greece, France, Spain, Italy and others. The security authorities, judging by the results, showed that they were not aware of the problem until it became significantly strengthened.
At this point it is useful to note that modern terrorist & extremist networks in Europe maintain contacts with various extremist cells from the so-called Third World, and non-European societies.
Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Kurds and Latin-Americans along with members of organized crime gangs, cooperate on various levels with the European extremists. Basically this is another mutation of the relations between the traditional groups with the Palestinian terrorists a generation ago.
The difference now is that there is no fixed and immutable political purpose, albeit only tactical moves that are essentially amorphous to facilitate the long-term continuation of the phenomenon. Moreover it cannot be excluded that the new radical groups may have already be infiltrated by various secret agencies based in the Middle East or further afield.
A sample of modern extremist groups in Europe
The Black Bloc derives from the German anarchists of the early '80s in Berlin, known as "Autonomous". They are characterized by a multidimensional violent activism and continuous recruitment of new members. The average member age is estimated at 22-25 years with a large number of students in social science classes involved.
The Black Bloc is a cluster of many different groups that identify themselves by wearing black clothing and hoods in public events and acting in small cells committing acts against public companies, shops, and banks.
Another characteristic of this group is the existence of a substantial number of young women as well as internationalized structure and methodology. In this way, members often move from one country to another and commit crimes or are involved in international protest events.
The «Black» groups are primary social hubs, from which possible recruitment of terrorists in Europe is being evolved, in a sense a first level introduction into low intension urban guerilla warfare.
Another group of extremists in Europe are named Antifa. They mainly derive from Germany and the extreme anarchist scene in London where members grouped themselves in universities over the previous years.
They tend to use techniques such as propaganda, attacks against alleged nationalists or perceived racists, and are heavily involved into promoting illegal immigration from Asia and Africa into Europe.
In contrast to the black bloc that has a broader political agenda, the Antifa are focused on dismantling the nation state and are the heads of the so-called "No Border Network", an international network of activists that in essence promotes illegal immigration from Asia and Africa to the European states.
A typical example is the severe disturbances on 20/12/08 in the city of Malmö Sweden where extremists (Antifa basically) demonstrated violently about the closure of the local Islamic center. The youth who were Muslim immigrants and the Antifa, attacked the local police, a development which further demonstrates the interplay between anti-Islamic movements and throughout Europe. In the same city, serious clashes occurred also in March, when an Israeli athletic team played in a local stadium.
Because of their intense networking with NGOs, they have significant international dimension and also a dynamic presence on the Internet.
It is highly likely that from this group terrorist elements may spring, especially when relating to international terrorists with a focus in promoting interests of Asian countries into Europe.
Eco-terrorism is a novel manifestation of the new force set up by individuals guided by eco-extremist zeal. Their European coordination center and basis of their theoretical indoctrination is assumed to be the UK and around the world countless acts of violence have taken place because of their actions.
Their main objective is to attack companies and scientists that are engaged in animal research and they are also against the public infrastructure that according to their own views is not ecosystem-friendly.
They seem to form a decentralized structure and lack hierarchy. Another characteristic is the existence of young science and medical students, and the relatively large number of people from the upper socio-economic stratum. It can be safely estimated that they will increase their strength in the future perhaps even merging with other violent groups.
Currently most European urban centers are in danger of becoming targets of unrest by the aforementioned groups and others that have not been included in this article.
The momentum of the global financial crisis, coupled with the easiness of travel and reallocation within the Schengen zone, provides ample opportunities for radical groups seeking to gain in expense of the society or simply proceed into applying theoretical doctrines of theirs into street action.
Moreover the re-emergence of far-Left terrorism in Greece, the re-appearance of fringe IRA groups in N. Ireland and the continuous incidents or urban youth violence in France, Sweden, Hungary and Spain, reveals a worrying trend and a great challenge for the European security services.