EU official warns of extremists exploiting virus outbreak – CityNews Edmonton

Posted By on May 14, 2020

BERLIN The European Unions counterterrorism official is warning that the coronavirus pandemic is being used by extremists as an opportunity to spread their message and could be exploited to carry out attacks.

In a confidential briefing to member nations obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove cautioned that right-wing extremists and Islamic militants could view attacks on medical personnel and facilities as highly effective, because these would generate a massive shock in society.

He noted that in the U.S., the FBI in March shot and killed a white supremacist while trying to arrest him for plotting to blow up a hospital treating COVID-19 patients, after initially considering an attack on an African-American school, mosque or synagogue.

From past experience, he said its known that terrorists and violent extremists, aiming to change societies and governmental systems through violence, seek to exploit major crises to achieve their objectives.

De Kerchove noted that the Islamic State group, for example, emerged after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and then gained strength during the Arab Spring uprisings.

In Europe, left-wing extremists are paying extensive attention to the pandemic, blaming governments and the capitalist system as a whole for it, saying politicians have underfunded health care services, de Kerchove wrote in the analysis provided to EU member nations on May 7 and first reported Wednesday by Germanys Die Zeit newspapers online edition.

IS has incited its supporters in the West to take advantage of the current crisis to stage attacks, but so far there has been no uptick in any violence, he said.

Currently, most extremists seem to be using the crisis for propaganda purposes, taking advantage of the fact that with lockdown measures people are spending more time online than usual.

To increase their support base, violent extremists use peoples insecurities, vulnerabilities and grievances, creating a simple narrative which explains problems by blaming outsiders, de Kerchove wrote.

Infidels or apostates serve as scapegoats for jihadists, members of ethnic and religious minority groups for right-wing extremists, and class enemies and capitalists for left-wing extremists.

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Frank Jordans contributed to this report.

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Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

David Rising, The Associated Press

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EU official warns of extremists exploiting virus outbreak - CityNews Edmonton

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