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Terrorist cells all across the EU are likely stockpiling explosives for future attacks, warned Manuel Navarrete Paniagua, Head of the European Counter Terrorism Center at Europol. The agency has foiled 211 terror plots, according to released statistics, but cautions that the threat of attacks similar in scale to the November 2015 Paris assaults remains not insignificant.
Terrorists are likely collecting “large clandestine stockpiles of explosives,” Paniagua told members of the European Parliament, reports the EUObserver. “We have some information reported by the member states that terrorists groups are trying to establish large clandestine stockpiles of explosives in the European Union to be used eventually in large scale home attacks.”
Europol has identified more than 4,000 foreign fighters, who have been entered into the dedicated tracking database. “Using the terrorist financial tracking program, we provided last year more than 2,700 leads regarding foreign terrorist fighters to the member states,” Paniagua said.
Jihadist terrorism remains a top priority for European security agencies, due to the nature of the threat. Their use of explosives and firearms, and indications of increasingly sophisticated coordination and communication between cells, poses a rapidly evolving threat, Paniagua said.
Paniagua addressed the concerns regarding the flow of jihadist fighters into Europe disguised among refugees.
“We found no evidence of the systematic use of this flow to infiltrate terrorists into the European Union. But they do, they use it, we have some cases, some of the people that perpetrated the Paris attacks were eventually disguised in this immigration flow,” said Paniagua.
To tackle this issue, Europol announced in May that it will be deploying some 200 counter-terrorism officers at refugee centres across Europe, in particular in heavily trafficked countries such as Italy and Greece.