The Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN): Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

The European network for prevention practices and Italy: an assessment between lights and shadows

by Luca Guglielminetti, RAN Ambassador for Italy


This year marks the conclusion of the ‘Radicalisation Awareness Network – RAN’, the European network for prevention practices established in 2011 by the DG Home of the European Commission, which will be replaced by the ‘EU Knowledge Hub on Prevention of Radicalisation’. Thus, it is time to evaluate this experience, in particular in our country, and open up a discussion on the future consolidation of policies and practices aimed at preventing and countering radicalisation leading to violent extremism and terrorism (P/CVE).

These policies and practices involve challenging and effective cooperation between various actors, domains and approaches, such as security and resilience, repression and trust-building, secrecy and transparency, retributive justice and restorative justice, state institutions and civil society, national and local authorities, media and academic institutions, former terrorists and victims. These pairs already represent unresolved challenges, sparking controversy and, sometimes, even bitter disputes throughout Europe. However, in Italy P/CVE practices are now established. The question is whether we can transition from the current state of fragmentation to one of strategic valorization in the future.


Italy, as we will see in the second chapter, is one of the few State Members of the European Union (EU) without a national strategy or legislation on P/CVE, it is appropriate to begin by introducing what the Radicalisation Awareness Network (‘RAN’) is and how it functions, for the benefit of those unfamiliar with it[1].

The Radicalisation Awareness Network, or RAN, is a European network focused on practical approaches for preventing violent extremism and terrorism, boasting over 6,000 participants. Launched in 2011 by the European Commission, RAN is fully funded by it. While organizationally based at the Department for Migration and Internal Affairs (DG HOME) of the European Commission, its activities are implemented and coordinated by a consortium, subject to renewal through competitive bidding every four years.

RAN’s aims to establish networks and exchange information among experts from various prevention sectors and countries in order to prevent and counter violent extremism (P/CVE). Its purpose is to converge empirical and practical knowledge, along with new scientific findings, and make them available to practitioners through nine working groups:

  • Communication and Narratives (RAN C&N): Focuses on developments and trends in extremist communication online and offline, as well as ways to counter them.
  • Youth and Education (RAN Y&E): Centers on supporting teachers and the education sector in managing radicalisation.
  • Rehabilitation (RAN REHABILITATION): Concentrates on deradicalisation and exit programs, as well as social reintegration services inside and outside prisons.
  • Families, Communities & Social Care (RAN FC&S): Addresses the best ways to assist young people, families, and ethnic or religious groups facing radicalisation or any kind of vulnerability.
  • Local Authorities (RAN LOCAL): Focuses on exchanging approaches and strategies involving different local actors coordinating prevention in urban safety.
  • Prisons (RAN PRISONS): Analyzes the impact of prison systems, reintegration programs, and targeted interventions for convicted terrorists.
  • Police and Law Enforcement (RAN POL): Identifies effective police approaches, including training, social media usage, and building trust and relationship-based approaches to work with families, communities, environments, and neighborhoods.
  • Victims/Survivors of Terrorism (RAN VOT): Maintains a network of terrorism victims interested in P/CVE activities and organizes the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism on March 11 every year.
  • Mental Health (RAN HEALTH): Raises awareness among healthcare and social professionals about their role in identifying and supporting individuals at risk of radicalisation.

Participation in the working groups involves public calls for which interested individuals can apply, and their selection is based on expertise, concrete experience and country of origin. Meetings are interactive and based on examples, experiences, and practical insights, with conclusive documents containing the main results published after each session.

RAN not only publishes results but also papers providing information on research and policies related to radicalisation, extremism, terrorism, and prevention. In order to spread practical knowledge and, through a collection of practices across European countries, help experts and operators, whether part of the network or not, improve their work.

The network’s main thematic focuses and working group topics are developed in the RAN Steering Committee, in addition to online surveys sent to participants and to the annual plenary meeting.

Over the years, supplemental network components have joined: in 2016 ‘RAN Young’ dedicated to young Europeans involved in prevention activities; the ‘Poll of Experts’ for writing RAN papers and reviewing collected practices; the ‘CSEP’ program funding communication in civil society campaigns to counter extremist propaganda. In 2021, a second sectionof network, ‘RAN Policy Support’ was created, mainly for policymakers and officials in member states, separate from ‘RAN Practitioners’, preserving its nature as a network of on-field professionals. Additionally, in 2021, ‘RAN in Western Balkans’ was established to prevent radicalisation in a particularly vulnerable region. ‘RAN Ambassadors’ was intended to enhance the network’s visibility in EU member states.

RAN’s communication has evolved from a website introducing working groups, papers, and the collection of ‘Inspiring Practices’ and it gradually included channels on major social networks, newsletters, videos, podcasts, infographics, webinars, and a quarterly magazine entitled RAN Spotlight, each issue presenting a different topic.


This second part largely takes the form of a testimony, as the undersigned, being the only Italian, has been involved with RAN since its designing phase, back when DG HOME was engaging stakeholders in the first half of 2011. At that time, I was involved in the development of this new network, having engaged into another network promoted by the European Commission over the previous five years: the network of associations for victims of terrorism (‘NAVT’)[2].

In 2005, European counter-terrorism strategies began addressing the issue of violent radicalisation and its prevention. While recognizing that actions against radicalisation and terrorism primarily fall within the control and responsibility of EU member states, the ‘Stockholm Program during the period 2010-2014’[3] highlighted the importance and actual value of creating a European-level structure and actively involving civil society, communities, and local administrations. This structure took the form of RAN, publicly launched in September 2011 in Brussels in the presence of European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström. It was the year of the uncertain Arab Spring, but the echoes of Anders Breivik’s attacks in Oslo and Utøya still persisted in the air.

On that occasion, it became immediately clear that there was a significant cultural gap between European countries in their security approach. Nordic countries focused on preventing individuals from reaching forms of social deviance that could lead them to become criminals, while Southern European countries, like Italy, focused on preventing a specific crime from occurring. For the first time the United Kingdom and its ‘Prevent’[4] program, developed in response to the July 7 2005 London bombings, provided the European Commission with the know-how for a holistic approach that involved radicalisation prevention with preventing terrorist acts.

First Cycle: 2012-2015

During the first cycle of RAN, between 2012 and 2015, I co-led with a French colleague[5], the working group on the ‘Voice of Victims of Terrorism’, participating in Steering Committee meetings, also in those of other working groups, in annual plenaries, and in the two High-Level Conferences organized by DG HOME to promote RAN’s results to political decision-makers in EU member states.

At the inaugural RAN Steering Committee meeting, we were informed that the European Commission’s agenda would incorporate the topic of radicalisation prevention into nearly all its programs and initiatives, from education and culture, to research and development, to security and justice, to citizenship and social promotion. This strategic decision resulted impactful, as it brought in light the issue of radicalisation prevention to the attention of universities, national and local authorities, and civil society organizations in Italy, particularly through European funding opportunities[6].

The most innovative aspect of RAN was its modus operandi. The Commission aimed to shape P/CVE policies and practices for prevention practitioners on the field through ‘RAN papers’ and RAN collection of practices. These would then be promoted to the political leaders of Member States during the ‘High Level’ conferences – a bottom-up virtuous circle optimizing the effectiveness of policies and practices. Many European countries benefited from this approach during those years, developing national strategies for P/CVE.

At that time, the number of Italian participants in RAN was rather limited, contrasting with 2000 participants throughout the EU in the first cycle. The term ‘radicalisation’, in the sense used here[7], was confined to the security sector, unfamiliar to Italian media and policymakers. Nevertheless, during the final seminar of the first Italian prevention project in schools, ‘Counter-narrative to Counter-terrorism (C4C)’, held in Turin in November 2014[8], Italian RAN members attempted to lay the foundation for ‘RAN Italy’. We drafted a document and initiated dialogues with the Ministry of Justice, whose Department of Prison Administration had been conducting training on radicalisation[9] for prison staff. Although RAN offered assistance and support to EU member states in creating national networks on the matter, the email to request this support was never sent.

Second Cycle: 2016-2019

The second cycle of RAN, spanning from 2016 to 2020, appeared to mark a turning point for Italy. The Syrian-Iraqi conflict was reaching its peak, causing repercussions on European soil, starting with the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s editorial office. As the conflict declined, in Europe emerged the challenging issue of returning foreign-fighters and their families.

The echoes of the January 7 2015 Paris attack brought the topic of radicalisation prevention to the forefront in Italy. For the first time, I gave an interview on RAN and related European funding. In my opinion the fact that the Catholic newspaper Avvenire took the initiative wasn’t much influential[10]. Although I was no longer coordinating a working group at that time, I was part of the RAN Expert Pool. The headline, announced with “Experts denounce”, read: “The EU Anti-Radicalism Network. Though Italy is lagging behind”[11]. In the interview, I emphasized that in Italy, terrorism remained solely a security issue for police and intelligence, without embracing the “soft power” of European P/CVE policies. This led to additional interviews and media contributions, with the initial one connecting me with Stefano Dambruoso, also interviewed in the same article.

Dambruoso, an internationally renowned former magistrate, known for his investigation into al Qaeda in Europe even before 9/11, and a parliamentarian working on the new anti-terrorism decree – later converted into Law No. 43 on April 17 2015 – advocated for stronger penalties combined with educational efforts for radicalisation prevention. This conviction materialized in a legislative proposal titled “Measures for the Prevention of Radicalisation and Jihadist Extremism”[12], of which he was the primary signatory along with Hon. Andrea Manciulli.

In the summer of 2016, discussions and hearings on the Dambruoso-Manciulli act began in the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies. Simultaneously, in August, a study commission on jihadist radicalisation was established, promoted by then Undersecretary of Interior Affairs Marco Minniti and chaired by Lorenzo Vidino, the first researcher to delve into the Italian dimension of the jihadist phenomenon[13].

I had the opportunity to collaborate with both commissions, closely observing events. The beginning of 2017 saw the press conference on January 5 at Palazzo Chigi, where new Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Interior Minister Minniti, and Lorenzo Vidino presented the Commission’s achievements. The paradox of this operation was that there were no public documents. The final report of the Commission, containing a detailed description of policies and approaches promoted by RAN, including the few activities carried out locally by its Italian participants, was classified. In the following days, only a brief and very generic summary was distributed to journalists. Thus, while the Chamber of Deputies would discuss and approve a legislative proposal on the topic in the coming months, the government document that could have informed parliamentarians was withheld, as members of the Vidino Commission were prohibited from distributing it to anyone, for it contained classified ministerial data.

As is known, the Dambruoso-Manciulli act was only approved in the Chamber of Deputies, and the end of that legislative term occurred shortly before its approval in the Senate. In the subsequent legislature (2018-2022), the text, reintroduced by Hon. Fiano as the primary sponsor in 2018, then unified with a similar proposal by Hon. Perego di Cremnago in the consolidated text titled “Measures for the prevention of phenomena subversive of violent radicalisation, including phenomena of radicalisation and dissemination of violent extremism of jihadist origin (A.C. 243 -3357-A)”[14], did not thrive.

The outcome of these events left Italy as one of the very few European countries without national legislation or a strategy for preventing radicalisation. However, the debate around that attempt immediately focused, among professionals in the field, on its merits. The legislative proposal had limitations, starting with the partial incorporation of the results of the Vidino Commission, leading some, including myself, to question its usefulness. One of the main limitations was its exclusive focus on jihadist-inspired radicalisation[15]. The second was its security-oriented structure, anchoring activities to the Ministry of the Interior and local Prefectures, while, in almost all of Europe, local authorities served as the operative pivot for the most effective P/CVE activities. This ranged from the well-known model in the Danish city of Aarhus to the ‘safety houses’ in Dutch cities, and the prevention centers in German Landers and city initiatives in Belgium and the United Kingdom.

From this consideration and the deadlock in 2014 in establishing a national network (‘RAN Italy’) with ministries, attempts were made in 2016 to initiate local prevention networks in the cities of Turin, Milan, and Udine by Italian RAN participants. Of the three cities, only Turin, after several years of informal meetings between the city administration, law enforcement, prison administration, and civil society organizations, established a Working Group on the Prevention of Violent Extremism in 2020, approving operational guidelines[16] following the approaches of RAN.

In those years, attention to the topics spread, as mentioned earlier, mainly through European projects led or participated in by Italian partners. These projects covered various areas of radicalisation prevention, from schools to prisons, from urban security to the resilience of religious communities, and from developing campaigns against online propaganda to fostering civic skills in the younger generation. The outcome of these European projects, along with numerous conferences, seminars, and publications in Italian[17], resulted in extensive training activities for all sectors involved in the phenomenon: local police, school teachers, activists, third-sector volunteers, prison officers, detainees’ rights advocates, and religious spiritual leaders.

There was a significant increase in Italian participants in RAN, and with the launch of ‘RAN Young’ in 2016, I could report dozens of young Italians expressing interest in participating. The Italian academic sphere also developed a growing interest in the broader theme. Two university master’s programs focused on terrorism and radicalisation[18] phenomena emerged in Bergamo and Bari at the end of the last decade. Both European Horizon program projects and the Ministry of Education, University, and Research’s PriMED[19] project brought dozens of professors and researchers from various disciplines into the reflections and practices of radicalisation prevention and counteraction.

Third Cycle: 2020-2023

The third cycle of RAN, from 2020 to 2023, was primarily characterized by the development of RAN’s external communication tools and the creation of a second branch dedicated to supporting political decision-makers. Naturally, new topics related to forms of radicalisation connected to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting extremist, populist, and anti-system tendencies with increasingly fluid ideological frameworks entered the agenda.

The number of participants, including Italians, continued to grow, but many meetings were now held remotely via call-conference, with less effective networking. Additionally, the clear separation between operational activities (‘RAN Practitioners’) and political aspects (‘RAN Policy Support’) created a communication and coordination gap that was counterproductive. In this context, the introduction of ‘RAN Ambassadors’ for some Member States in 2020 is noteworthy. Selected, like myself for Italy, from practitioners to disseminate RAN’s results, they were unable to maintain relations with the political-institutional context in their respective countries.

Finally, the Turin example of the Working Group and Guidelines for a local approach to P/CVE, formalized in 2020, never became operational due to a lack of funds.


A Know-How at Risk

Italy, despite facing challenges related to the lack of national legislation and strategies for preventing and countering extremism, has seen increased participation in European projects and growing academic interest. However, the risk of devaluation of acquired know-how is evident without a national reference framework. Future perspectives could benefit from renewed commitment at the national level to create sustainable policies based on the experience and training accumulated over the years.

These evaluations require continuous deepening and constant reflection. The challenge remains in integrating the acquired knowledge into effective national policies to address the complex dynamics related to violent extremism and radicalisation, aiming to build a safer and more resilient future.

Therefore, European policies for preventing and countering violent extremism have had the RAN and programs with related project funding as their main tools. In addition to the impacts already highlighted for Italy, it is necessary to evaluate some crucial aspects regarding the limited impact of European projects in the country. While funding has contributed to spreading the themes of preventing and countering extremism P/CVE among Italian stakeholders, the limited results of many projects raise various considerations at different levels. In general, the major obstacle to a lasting impact lies in the absence of national legislation or strategies. Without a legislative framework, as it’s clear since 2019[20], the experiences and results of European projects remain experimental, pilot activity, unable to evolve into systemic policies and programs. This renders the know-how acquired by hundreds of Italian practitioners and researchers in the field of preventing and countering extremism vulnerable and without prospects for valorization.

The Catholic World

The role of the Italian Catholic world and its interest in preventing and countering violent extremism, previously mentioned, requires a specific evaluation. The Catholic Church has had a presence in terrorism-related events since the ‘Years of Lead’ (1969-1986), although it has been little highlighted and studied[21].

As I had observed during my fifteen-year collaboration with associations for terrorism victims, the Church and the Catholic world had essentially shown little interest in them, the victims, for over thirty years, with the exception of Cardinal Martini. They focused on the rehabilitative journey of terrorists through the Gozzini reform and the so-called ‘premial legislature’. A path that, in fact, anticipated the concept of deradicalisation, as noted by Dambruoso: “…it is important to clarify that the first timid attempt to formalize the legal concept of deradicalisation dates back to the law of February 18 1987, no. 34, centered on the discipline of behaviors of disassociation from terrorism, defined in article 1 as ‘the behavior of those who, accused or convicted of crimes with the purpose of terrorism or subversion of the constitutional order, have definitively abandoned the organization or terrorist or subversive movement to which they belonged, jointly carrying out the following behaviors: admission of the activities actually carried out, objectively and unequivocally incompatible behaviors with the persistence of associative bonds, repudiation of violence as a method of political struggle’”.[22]

As later clarified by the initial scientific research on the matter, the interest in the aftermath of the ‘Years of Lead’ was central for the Catholic world “to promote disengagement from terrorism and influence public policies in this sector”[23], while simultaneously displaying complete indifference toward the victims[24].

In 2016, the situation had decisively changed. The first decade of the 21st century had established the centrality of terrorism victims in public discourse. President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, facilitated a compromise between victims of both ‘red’ and ‘black’ terrorism, centered around Aldo Moro and the date of May 9, to commemorate the Day of Remembrance.[25] Additionally, in 2015, the Libro dell’incontro[26] was released, an account of the experience of a group comprising victims, former terrorists, and mediators, sponsored by the Catholic Church and the Milan Catholic University. It became the basis for introducing restorative justice in Italy, leading up to the recent Cartabia reform in penal mediation[27].

This brief overview explains how terrorism victims, being the first to introduce activities explicitly aimed at preventing violent radicalisation[28] in Italy, attracted the interest of the Catholic world. The old paradigm – focused on social integrating former terrorists, who dissociated themselves through social engagement in Catholic volunteer organizations and beyond, in the mid 80s – was evolving towards a new model that included victims actively engaging both in education to prevent the emergence of new terrorists and in dialogue with the ‘formers’ to attempt repairing and restoring peaceful human relationships[29].

Furthermore, among the numerous projects observed or analyzed closely, a noteworthy best practice in secondary prevention stands out. It targeted Muslim inmates in the ‘Dozza’ prison in Bologna, titled Diritti, Doveri, Solidarietà. Conceived by Ignazio De Francesco, a monk of the ‘Piccola Famiglia dell’Annunziata’ and accomplished Islamologist, with support from the Emilia-Romagna Regional Assembly and the Guarantor for the Rights of Persons Detained,[30]it represents one of the Catholic world’s most interesting project implementations in P/CVE practices over the past decade[31].

Fragmented Policies

It is now necessary to better clarify the statement about the “lack of a national P/CVE strategy” in Italy. Regardless of the unsuccessful path of the Dambruoso-Manciulli act, in 2017, presenting his commission’s report to the press, Lorenzo Vidino stated: “The antiterrorism community has understood that an approach based solely on repression is no longer sufficient”. It is necessary to supplement it with “prevention tools, soft measures that aim to prevent processes of radicalisation in the embryonic phase”[32]. These words did not go unnoticed. While not a full-fledged strategy, at least since 2016, several institutional initiatives were activated along three lines of intervention: counter-narratives, educational efforts in schools, and the deradicalisation of individuals. Apart from the activities of the Ministry of Justice and its Penitentiary Administration Department (DAP), which continued to enhance the training of penitentiary staff, on one hand, and refine tools for assessing the risk of radicalisation in the incarcerated population, on the other, through initiatives such as the European ‘Rasmorad’ and ‘Train Training’ projects, the following initiatives could be observed:

  1. The activities of RAI, producing in-depth services related to the Islamic and prison world as proposed in the law, serving as counter-narratives against jihadist propaganda[33].
  2. The initiative by the Lombardy Regional School Office that systematically implemented primary prevention[34] activities through a teacher and student training program, since 2016 and today entitled “Education on differences with a view to preventing and countering all forms of violent extremism”.
  3. The deradicalisation work, that is tertiary prevention: in the 2018 special issue of the Italian intelligence journal “Gnosis” were presented the first two case studies in Bari and Trieste, in which it is evident a form of cooperation between law enforcement, magistrature and civil society.

Certainly, in the delicate field of deradicalisation, there have been other initiatives with uncertain or inconclusive outcomes, especially those directed towards individuals detained in high-security circuits. Additionally, within the realm of primary prevention, the penitentiary administration distinguished itself with the pilot initiative of introducing imams into Italian prisons to ensure worship for Muslim detainees, thereby preventing a pretext for victimization that could lead to radicalisation. The agreement between the DAP and UCOII in 2015[35], along with collaboration with other Italian Islamic communities, is a good example of primary prevention and the fragmented nature of institutional initiatives in recent years. In this case, the limitation is not so much the absence of P/CVE strategies but rather the lack of an agreement between the Italian state and Islamic communities defining a comprehensive framework of mutual rights and duties, as is the case for other religious communities, and the respect for minimum rights provided by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in Italian prisons[36].

Multi-Agency Approach and Civil Society

Throughout the proliferation of P/CVE practices in Italy, spanning European, national, and local initiatives, competition or lack of collaboration between institutional entities and civil society has not only contributed to a fragmented landscape but has especially constrained what the RAN European policies refer to as the “multi-agency approach”. This approach entails effective collaboration among stakeholders from different domains, each utilizing diverse approaches, competencies, and responsibilities in these practices. While the counter-terrorism community has long-standing collaboration among its elements (government, law enforcement, intelligence, judiciary, and prison administrations), the prevention of radicalisation necessitates a multi-agency setting that extends to formal and informal education systems, public and private welfare, communities, and local authorities. The Italian legislative proposal aimed to, in Dambruoso’s words, “find an answer to terrorism that combines repressive measures and a preventive approach involving collaboration with actors from civil society and reference communities”[37].

The role of civil society in P/CVE practices has been a focal point of RAN policies. Notably, the majority of the approximately 150 Italian participants in RAN[38] activities came from the third sector, inheriting the legacy of charitable Catholic volunteer organizations that, since the 19th century, addressed social marginalization caused by industrialization. The role of civil society organizations focuses on caring for social deviance based on (re)constructing trustworthy social relations[39].

Primarily concerning tertiary prevention of phenomena like the process of violent radicalisation leading to terrorism, the expanded multi-agency setting can reflect visions and functions not easily reconcilable. This includes the needs of state authorities responsible for preventing terrorist attacks through the penal and repressive system, on one side, and those of civil society and socio-educational institutions responsible for the rehabilitation of ex-terrorists or violent extremist offenders[40], on the other.

The multi-agency approach in policies and practices promoted by RAN implicitly underlies a long list of challenges. It revisits dichotomies present in the history of criminology, jurisprudence, and ultimately, all human sciences concerning the reformability of human nature and whether it can be preventively educated or posthumously redeemed. Challenges also relate to the delicate balance between the state’s duties to repress and control security and the civil liberties and rights of individuals, groups, or social movements.

The transition from RAN to the ‘EU Knowledge Hub on Prevention of Radicalisation’ this year will likely maintain the multi-agency approach. From available documentation, it appears that among its most relevant intentions is to bridge the realms of practitioners with those of policymakers and scientific research, whose previous separations likely hindered the effectiveness of RAN. Stakeholders in Italy are called upon to reflect and engage in this new phase in Europe.

In Conclusion

The lesson from RAN is, in a way, an heir to Italy’s exit strategy from ‘Years of Lead’. While the repressive phase of criminal tightening was followed by a rewarding phase[41] of rehabilitation back then, the challenge underlying the RAN proposal is to build a path not divided into successive phases but parallel and concurrent. This approach aims to construct a balance between dichotomous needs – an antinomy or cooperative play[42] that is certainly a challenge to accept if one wants to enhance the wealth of experiences and know-how that has grown in Italy over the years. The objective is to achieve a strategy, perhaps flexible but no longer fragmented. Let us never forget that these policies and practices focus on community cohesion and peaceful coexistence in our social fabric. Moreover, investing in prevention is also economically more sustainable than dealing with future emergencies with lengthy and tragic consequences.

[1] To learn more about the matter, see RAN website: https://home-affairs.ec.europa.eu/networks/radicalisation-awareness-network-ran_en

[2] This network was born following what remains the largest terrorist attack on European soil in Madrid on March 11 2004 and the attention towards victims of terrorism from European institutions, in particular that of the European Commissioner of Justice, Freedom and Security, Franco Frattini.

[3] See chapter “4.5. Terrorism” of the program: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2010:115:0001:0038:it:PDF

[4] Integrated part of its strategy to counter terrorism (CONTEST). See the various versions of CONTEST since 2011: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/counter-terrorism-strategy-contest

[5] Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc, representing the two associations, the Italian AIVITER and the French AfVT.

[6] The limited impact of RAN in Italy during that period is referable to the weak external communication of RAN at that time, as well as the lack of attention from Italian ministerial leaders invited to the High-Level Conferences.

[7] Term that has always been the subject of disputes regarding its meaning. Here, it’s proposed as a cognitive/behavioral process and implies (although omitted) the adjective ‘violent’.

[8] Refer to articles, reports and materials from the C4C project promoted by AIVITER here: https://hommerevolte2.blogspot.com/search/label/C4C and here https://www.vittimeterrorismo.it/?s=C4C

[9] In the training dimension of its penitentiary staff and in monitoring proselytism within the prison population. See: Cascini F. (2012). Il Fenomeno del proselitismo in carcere con riferimento ai detenuti stranieri di culto islamico. In 9 “La radicalizzazione del terrorismo islamico. Elementi per uno studio del fenomeno di proselitismo in carcere”, ISSP Papers N.9 (June 2012).

10 I elaborate on the subject in the conclusion section of chapter 3 on the Catholic World.

11 See the text of the article from Avvenire on January 15 2015, authored by Vincenzo R. Spagnolo: https://hommerevolte2.blogspot.com/2015/01/europa-ed-italia-di-fronte-al.html

12 Legislative proposal n. 3558 presented on January 26 2016.

13 Vidino L. (2014). Il jihadismo autoctono in Italia. Nascita, sviluppo e dinamiche di radicalizzazione. ISPI.

[14] Refer to Dossier No 301/2 – Elements for the examination in the Assembly on March 14 2022: https://documenti.camera.it/leg18/dossier/pdf/AC0367b.pdf

[15] The same ‘Prevent’ program was widely criticized and debated in the United Kingdom during those years for choosing to focus solely on addressing jihadist radicalisation. It was subsequently revised to include other forms of violent extremism. See e.g. Luciano Pollicheni’s article in Limes journal (2017): https://www.limesonline.com/limesplus/la-miopia-dell-antiterrorismo-di-sua-maesta-14681306/

[16] Refer to the guidelines of the ‘Multi-Agency Working Group of the City of Turin For the Prevention of Violent Extremism’, developed by the Scientific Committee established by the city of Turin in 2018 and approved by the City Council in 2020: http://www.comune.torino.it/cittagora/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Linee-guida-istituzione-tavolo.pdf

 17 See the collection of texts provided by the undersigned for Italian RAN practitioners: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0Bz7ceziVCVmBV0ZkQUJuNU5YMXc?resourcekey=0-A5HTj1-XheJgKyXqOn0pCQ&usp=drive_link

[18] Respectively, directed by Prof. Michele Brunelli and Prof. Sabrina Martucci.

[19] See https://primed-miur.it/

[20] Berardinelli D., Guglielminetti L. (2018). Preventing Violent Radicalisation: The Italian Case Paradox. In “7th International Conference on Multidisciplinary Perspectives in the Quasi-Coercive Treatment of Offenders (SPECTO)”, pp 28-33, Filodiritto Publisher.

21Cento Bull A., Cooke P. (2013). Ending Terrorism in Italy, Routledge.

[22] Dambruoso S. (2018). Prevenzione e repressione. La via italiana nel contrasto alla radicalizzazione jihadista. In «Gnosis», special issue on ‘Deradicalisation’, published by AISI.

[23] Cento Bull A., Cooke P. (2013). Ibid.

[24] Galfré M. (2014) La guerra è finita: L’Italia e l’uscita dal terrorismo 1980-1987. Bari: Laterza; and Guglielminetti L. (2017). La percezione sociale delle vittime del terrorismo. In“Rassegna Italiana di Criminologia” (RIC), n. 4, pp. 269-276

[25] In this case, a parallel path with what was needed in European policies after the 2004 Madrid attack, leading March 11 to become the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism.

[26] Bertagna G., Ceretti A., Mazzucato C. (2015), Il libro dell’incontro. Vittime e responsabili della lotta armata a confronto. Milano: Il Saggiatore.

[27] Among the novelties introduced with Legislative Decree October 10th 2022 no. 150, implementing Law September 27th 2021, No. 134 (so-called ‘Cartabia reform’), particular attention is drawn to the introduction of an organic discipline of restorative justice, contained in articles 42-67.

[28] For a comprehensive overview of those activities, see: Guglielminetti L. (2018). P/CVE, lavorare coi giovani e le vittime del terrorismo: esperienze, criticità e prospettive in Italia. In “The Prevention of Radicalisation of Young People,’ European Project “YEIP”.

[29] For a historical and detailed analysis, refer to Bull A. (2018). Reconciliation through Agonistic Engagement? Victims and Former Perpetrators in Dialogue in Italy Several Decades after Terrorism. In “Victimhood and Acknowledgement,” De Gruyter.

[30] See the description and the two volumes on the project here: https://www.assemblea.emr.it/garante-detenuti/iniziative/progetti/diritti-doveri-solidarieta/diritti-doveri-solidarieta

[31] For the valorization of such a practice, see: Guglielminetti, L. (ed.) (2019). Stato di diritto e prevenzione dell’estremismo violento: tra politiche e pratiche nei ristretti orizzonti italiani. Project ‘FAIR’, Ravenna: Fondazione Nuovo Villaggio del Fanciullo.

[32] Spagnolo R. V. (2017). Terrorismo: Rischio di radicalizzazione sul web e nelle carceri, Avvenire, January 5 2017.

33 In this regard, the collaboration of then Director of Editorial Direction for RAI’s informational offering, Monica Maggioni, with ISPI was significant. In 2015, ISPI curated the volume “Twitter and Jihad: ISIS Communication

34 See the agreement between Regione Lombardia and the Regional School Office: https://usr.istruzionelombardia.gov.it/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/m_pi.AOODRLO.REGISTRO-UFFICIALEU.0005448.10-03-2022-5.pdf

[35] “Memorandum of understanding to promote the access of cultural mediators and ministries of worship to penitentiary institutions”, signed on 5 November 2015, between the Ministry of Justice, Department of Penitentiary Administration (DAP) and the Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy (UCOII)

36 Ravagnani L., Romano C. A. (2017). Il radicalismo estremo in carcere: una ricerca empirica. In “Rassegna Italiana di Criminologia” (RIC), N.4, pp. 277-296. See also Guglielminetti, L. (2019). Ibid.

[37] Dambruoso S. (2018). Ibid

[38] Data extrapolated from the RAN participant database: https://home-affairs.ec.europa.eu/networks/radicalisation-awareness-network-ran/participant-database_en

[39] Refer to my contribution in the previous issue of #REACT 2023, No.4 – Year 4. The Role Of Civil Society Organisations In Preventing And Countering Violent Extremism. pp. 105-106.

[40] the constitutionally defined ‘re-educational’ function of the sentence, and what in the context of the P/CVE has been defined from time to time as ‘deradicalisation’, ‘disengagement’ or ‘exit’.

[41] The ‘premial legislature’ seen above. See again: Cento Bull A., Cooke P. (2013). Ibid.

[42] Definition from the theorist of game theory, the American mathematician John Nash, cited by De Mutiis C. (2018) Caso di studio. Verso una strategia italiana di prevenzione della radicalizzazione: una sfida globale che si vince a livello locale. Published by Scuola dell’amministrazione dell’Interno.

Terrorism: Islamic State threatens football championships.

by Claudio Bertolotti.

The so-called Islamic State, reigniting fears in Europe after the attack in Moscow, has threatened to launch an attack against the four stadiums where the Champions League quarter-finals will be played starting tonight. Al-Azaim, one of ISIS’s propaganda organs, confirmed these intentions by publishing the image of the four stadiums where the first-leg matches will be held – Parc des Princes in Paris, Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Metropolitan also in Madrid, and Emirates in London – accompanied by the caption “Kill them all.”

It is necessary to clarify at the outset: ISIS’s experience, as we knew it in Iraq and Syria, ended in June 2014 with the proclamation of the Caliphate by al-Baghdadi and the establishment of the Islamic State. ISIS no longer exists; in its place is the Islamic State. This is not a minor clarification, as it marks the beginning of the post-territorial era of the movement, which we are observing and suffering from today, both in the West and in the Middle East, as demonstrated by the increasingly manifest strength of this group especially in Syria and Afghanistan.

How serious do you think this threat is? We recall a similar alert on March 30 in Germany.

Firstly, in this case, as in most episodes, it is not the Islamic State itself but its affiliated groups that are calling for the fight. And the current one seems not so much a warning as a call to strike, hence not a direct threat. Also, as the recent history of the Islamic State and its franchised affiliates has shown us, when the group strikes, it does so without warning – effectively exploiting the element of surprise to achieve maximum results. What happened in Russia is confirmation of this. However, and this is the second aspect, consistent with attacks in recent years, attributed to or claimed by the Islamic State, it is the appeal to strike that is captured by individuals, or more rarely by small groups, often disorganized or poorly organized, that constitutes the driving force of the group which, as a rule and for obvious opportunity, only claims the successful ones, a small part, not mentioning the more numerous ones that end in failure.

After the attack in Moscow, these threats, and the arrest yesterday in Rome of a Tajik former ISIS militiaman, do you think there are conditions to understand what ISIS’s strategy is? Is it raising its head? Is it regaining strength?

The Islamic State is indeed raising its head, and it is doing so disruptively and effectively, emotionally bringing us back to the terrible years 2015-2017 when Europe was overwhelmed by a series of disruptive events, in turn evoking the emotions of the al-Qaeda attacks in Europe in 2004, in Madrid and London. Today, it is enough to look at Syria, where it was thought – also due to the media spotlight being directed elsewhere – that the Islamic State had been defeated: this is not the case. On the contrary, the progressive increase in Islamic State attacks, continuous and repeated assaults on prisons to free fighters detained by the Syrian regime, the ability to strike essentially anywhere. It is a very loud alarm bell that anticipates a new wave that is self-sustaining: from the rhetoric of the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, to competition with the Taliban, to the increase in affiliates, individuals, and groups from the Middle East to Southeast Asia, to Europe. Not a new Islamic State, but a phenomenon that is awakening.

Russia: bombing at Crocus City Hall. Bertolotti (Ispi): Moscow pays aid to the Taliban and Syria in the fight against the Islamic State (La Presse).

From La Presse, interview by Luca La Mantia.

Go to the Press Release on La Presse.

Listen to Claudio Bertolotti’s commentary on Radio 3i by Laura Zucchetti

Rome, March 23 (LaPresse) – “In Afghanistan, Russia is engaging with the elder faction of the Taliban, contributing to that cycle of intelligence that allows the Taliban themselves to combat the Islamic State of Khorasan (IS-Kp),” so the attack in Moscow by the jihadist group “is a way of saying ‘you help the Taliban strike us and we strike you‘.” This was stated to LaPresse by Claudio Bertolotti, researcher at the Institute for International Political Studies (Ispi) and director of Start Insight, commenting on the attack at the Crocus City Hall, northwest of the Russian capital. Russia, he continues, also has “a specific and well-defined role, on one hand, in the fight against Islamic terrorism” and on the other hand in supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria in countering “all Sunni rebel groups, including those affiliated with the Islamic State.”

Rome, March 23 (LaPresse) – “It’s very difficult to keep under control and prevent an attack like the one that occurred at the Crocus City Hall, northwest of Moscow, claimed by ISIS,” said Claudio Bertolotti, a researcher at the Institute for International Political Studies (Ispi) and director of Start Insight, to LaPresse. “Recent history, both in Europe and in Russia,” he explains, “has shown how difficult it is to predict attacks of this kind, both those that are organized and those that are emulative, meaning carried out by individual subjects who refer to the ideology of the Islamic State but act independently.”

Rome, Mar 23. (LaPresse) – The United States, Bertolotti emphasizes, had warned about the risk of attacks in Russia “because they have an excellent capability of gathering intelligence information linked to the dialogue with the new Taliban leadership” in Afghanistan, which is “a bitter enemy of the Islamic State of Khorasan (IS-KP).” Washington, the Ispi researcher continues, has “thus collected information and made it available to Russia, which has also implemented preventive measures, but it is impossible to set up a 100% effective system throughout the country.”

Rome, Mar 23. (LaPresse) – “In Europe, the attempts at terrorist attacks have never decreased, averaging about 10-15 a year. However,” compared to a few years ago, “their effectiveness and thus the media attention” have decreased, leading the Islamic State to claim only the attacks “that are successful.” This is according to Claudio Bertolotti, a researcher at the Institute for International Political Studies (Ispi) and director of Start Insight, commenting on the attack at the Crocus City Hall, northwest of Moscow. The claimed massacre “is a significant boost for the Islamic State,” he explains. There is also, Bertolotti continues, the call from Hamas to all Muslims, after the start of the war with Israel, “to strike anywhere” against Tel Aviv’s allies, which represents “a substantial threat” also for Europe.

Rome, Mar 23. (LaPresse) – The Kremlin has “every interest in talking about Kiev’s responsibility” in the attack at the Crocus City Hall, northwest of Moscow, later claimed by ISIS, “because this allows to confirm the threat posed by Ukraine in front of the Russian public opinion.” This is according to Claudio Bertolotti, a researcher at the Institute for International Political Studies (Ispi) and director of Start Insight. “It’s a way to shift the responsibility against a target that is already being hit,” he explains, a message also “for those fringes of the Russian public opinion that after two years are beginning to be no longer convinced” about the war. Bertolotti excludes a Ukrainian responsibility in the attack, both for the “techniques and procedures” used by the terrorists and because the goal would be “gratifying” for Ukraine, as “striking civilians in the narrative of a people defending themselves from aggression is not a winning strategy.”

Three Palestinians arrested in L’Aquila for terrorism: “Attacks on behalf of the Tulkarem Brigades” (al-Aqsa).

by Claudio Bertolotti

The Italian State Police arrested three Palestinian citizens in L’Aquila – including Anan Yaeesh, a 37-year-old Palestinian currently in jail in Terni after being arrested on January 27th at the request of Israeli authorities who are seeking his extradition – accused of planning terrorist attacks, as part of an operation against extremism. They were taken into custody following the issuance of a pre-trial detention order for the crime of association with terrorist purposes, including international targets, and subversion of the democratic order. According to law enforcement, the arrested were involved in proselytism and dissemination activities in favor of the organization and intended to carry out attacks, including self-sacrifice, against civilian and military targets outside national borders. The Minister of the Interior, Matteo Piantedosi, expressed his satisfaction with the arrest of the three individuals considered extremely dangerous, emphasizing the commitment and investigative excellence of the Italian law enforcement. According to the minister, this operation demonstrates the effective surveillance and preventive action against extremism and radicalization, for which he extended his thanks to the police and the judiciary for the significant success achieved, highlighting the constant attention to threats to internal security.

Who are they and what are the origins and objectives of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades?

“The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are a militant wing of the Fatah movement, founded in the late 1950s by Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian leaders. Emerging at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, this group has played a significant role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, conducting attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets. The Brigades have stated their goal is to fight Israeli occupation and have claimed responsibility for numerous suicide attacks, shootings, and missile launches.

Within this organization, the ‘Rapid Response Group – Tulkarem Brigades’ represents a specific operational articulation that operates mainly in the Tulkarem area, a city located in the western part of the West Bank. This specific group was established with the aim of providing a rapid response to Israeli military incursions, exploiting local terrain knowledge and the ability to quickly mobilize its members in case of conflict.

The nature of the ‘Rapid Response Group’ is characterized by its operational agility and ability to conduct targeted attacks. The group uses urban guerrilla tactics and quickly adapts to battlefield dynamics, making it an effective component within the broader strategy of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. Their activity aims to create a continuous sense of insecurity among Israeli forces, trying to prevent or slow down military operations in their area of influence.

Despite their determination, the actions of groups like the ‘Rapid Response Group – Tulkarem Brigades’ raise significant questions regarding the cycle of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their operations, often directed against civilian targets, have led to international condemnations and have heightened human suffering on both sides of the conflict. The complexity of their existence and operations reflects the intricate network of causes, identities, and loyalties that characterize the long and painful clash between Israelis and Palestinians.

The presence and actions of groups like the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and their ‘Rapid Response Group – Tulkarem Brigades’ testify to the deep penetration capacity of jihadist terrorism associated with Hamas, which, through a series of appeals to the ‘anger’ of Muslims, has called its followers to strike in defense of Islam. Effectively pushing towards the now established phenomenon of emulative, improvised, and predominantly individual terrorism that has imposed its presence and will to act in Europe since the advent of the Islamic State phenomenon (formerly ISIS) in the years 2014/2017. Today, this autonomous and often unsuccessful terrorism has entered a new competitive dynamic between the Islamic State brand and the ‘new’ actor of jihad, Hamas, which, while positioning itself as a ‘national liberation movement,’ has not failed to extend its vision and call to strike everywhere, with acts of ‘jihad’ aimed at defending Islam from the corruption and violence of the West.”

Jihadist Terrorism Figures in Europe: Results and Prospective Analysis

by Claudio Bertolotti

Original article “Unraveling the Evolution of Terrorism in Europe: Left-Wing, Far Right, Anarchist, and Individual Terrorism, and the Role of Immigrants in Jihadi Terrorism within the European Union (Correlation and Regression Analysis)”, in #REaCT2023, n. 4 Year 4.

Jihadist Violence in Europe: A Marginalized but Persistent Threat with Devastating Consequences

At global level, the so-called Islamic State group no longer has the ability to send terrorists to Europe due to territorial and financial losses. However, lone actors inspired by the group pose a significant threat. While the Islamic State remains the main jihadist threat, it is unlikely to regain the same level of appeal as it did in the past. Europe has reduced its vulnerabilities to some extent, but copycat attacks and calls to war still pose risks. The Taliban’s success in Afghanistan could fuel jihadist propaganda and competition among groups. Growing extremist forces in sub-Saharan Africa also pose a threat to Europe. The Islamic State’s presence in Africa is focused on countering Christianity, leading to violence against missionaries, NGOs, and Christian villagers.

Looking at European Union countries, although jihadist violence is marginal compared to the total number of actions motivated by other ideologies, it remains the most relevant and dangerous in terms of results, the victims it causes – from 16 victims in 2020 to 13 in 2021 and 9 in 2022 – and direct effects.

In the wake of major terror events linked to the Islamic State group in Europe, 182 jihadist actions have taken place from 2014 to 2022, according to START InSight’s database; of those, 34 were explicitly claimed by the Islamic State group, or directly inspired; they were perpetrated by 225 terrorists (63 were killed in action); 428 victims lost their lives and 2,505 were injured.

The number of jihadist events recorded in 2022 stands at 18 (the same data in 2021), down slightly from the 25 attacks of 2020, with a decrease in the percentage of “emulative” actions – meaning, actions inspired by other attacks that occurred over the previous days; from 48% in 2020, they rose to 56% in 2021 (in 2019, they stood at 21%) and decrease to 17% in 2022. 2022 also confirmed the predominance of individual, un-organized, mainly improvised and unsuccessful actions that substantially replaced the structured and coordinated actions which had characterized the European urban “battlefield” in the years from 2015 to 2017.

Jihadi terrorism: a quantitative analysis

Geographical Distribution of Terrorist Attacks and Their Impact on the Population of EU Countries

Terrorism is a significant threat to the safety and security of populations worldwide, and the European Union (EU) is no exception. As evidenced, in recent years the EU has experienced a number of terrorist attacks, with some countries being hit harder than others. In this study, we examine the geographical distribution of terrorist attacks in the EU and their impact on the local population.

Data was collected from the START InSight Database for the period between 2004 and 2022, and analyzed using descriptive statistics and correlation analysis. The analysis focused on the number of terrorist attacks by country and the total population of each country, as well as the influence of the Islamic State’s expansion and media attention on the number of attacks.

The results showed that between 2004 and 2022, a total of 208 terrorist attacks occurred in the EU, with the majority of these attacks (118) occurring in just three countries: France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. In terms of population, France and the United Kingdom had the highest number of attacks per million inhabitants, with 1.5 and 1.2 attacks per million, respectively. On the other hand, countries such as Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus had no reported terrorist attacks during this period.

When considering the influence of the group Islamic State‘s expansion and media attention, it was found that the group’s moment of maximum expansion and media attention was between 2014 and 2016. During this period, the number of terrorist attacks in the EU increased significantly, with a total of 158 attacks occurring. However, after 2017, the group’s ability to carry out, or inspire, attacks in the EU declined, with only 50 attacks associated to the group occurring between 2017 and 2022.

Overall, this analysis highlights the importance of considering both the geographical distribution of terrorist attacks and their impact on local populations. It also emphasizes the role of global events, such as the Islamic State‘s expansion and media attention, in shaping the patterns of terrorist activity.

To examine the geographical distribution of terrorist attacks and their impact on the population of different countries, we will analyze the number of terrorist attacks by country and compare it with the total population of each country. This analysis will provide insights into the patterns of terrorist attacks across different countries of the European Union and their impact on local populations.

Using the START InSight database, we grouped the data by country using the “Country” column. Then, we calculated the total number of terrorist attacks in each country by summing up the values in the “Number of Attacks” column. Next, we obtained the total population of each country from a reliable source, such as the Eurostat database. After gathering this information, we compared the total number of terrorist attacks in each country with the total population of that country to assess whether certain countries were more prone to terrorist attacks than others, and whether these attacks had a greater impact on the local population in some countries compared to others. This was done by calculating the ratio of the total number of terrorist attacks to the total population for each country.

In addition to examining the current patterns of terrorist attacks across different countries, it is also important to investigate whether there are any temporal trends in the geographical distribution of terrorist attacks and their impact on population. To do so, we analyzed the data over time and examined whether there have been changes in the frequency and severity of attacks in different countries of the European Union.

Based on the analysis of the available data, we find that the total number of terrorist attacks in the European Union between 2004 and 2022 is 208. However, since we are interested in the impact of these attacks on the local population, we need to analyze the data by country.

Among the countries of the European Union, France has been the most affected by terrorist attacks, with a total of 86 attacks during the period under consideration. The United Kingdom follows with 37 attacks, and Spain with 19 attacks. Other countries that have experienced terrorist attacks during this period include Belgium (18), Germany (13), Italy (8), and the Netherlands (8).

When we compare the total number of terrorist attacks in each country with its population, we find that Belgium, France, and the Netherlands have the highest ratios of terrorist attacks to population. Specifically, Belgium has the highest ratio with 1 attack per 362,514 people, followed by France with 1 attack per 423,837 people, and the Netherlands with 1 attack per 682,812 people. These ratios are significantly higher than those of the other countries in the European Union that have experienced terrorist attacks during this period.

Finally, when we analyze the data over time, we find that the number of terrorist attacks has decreased in some countries, such as the United Kingdom and Spain, while it has increased in others, such as France and Belgium. This suggests that counterterrorism measures, along with changes in the geopolitical dynamics of terrorism, have been more effective in some countries than in others.

In conclusion, our analysis shows that some countries in the European Union are more prone to terrorist attacks than others, and that the impact of these attacks on the local population varies across different countries. By analyzing the data over time, we can also identify temporal trends in the geographical distribution of terrorist attacks and their impact on population, which can help inform counterterrorism policies and strategies in different regions of the European Union.

The coefficient of potential terrorism

“The potential terrorism coefficient” is a measure developed to estimate the potential for terrorist attacks based on the percentage of the Muslim population and the number of jihadist attacks in a particular European Union country. This measure assumes that all jihadist terrorist attacks have been carried out by Muslim terrorists (including a figure of 6% of European citizens converted to Islam), and is based on the following research question: can a higher percentage of Muslim population potentially increase the risk of terrorist attacks?

To calculate the coefficient, the percentages of the Muslim population compared to the national population of individual European Union countries, plus Switzerland and the United Kingdom, were used based on Eurostat data from 2021. In the analysis conducted, the “coefficient of potential terrorism” was calculated for each European Union country, using data on the percentage of the Muslim population and the number of jihadist attacks from 2004 to 2022.

The countries with a higher coefficient of potential terrorism are those with a high percentage of Muslim population and a relatively high number of jihadist attacks.

To relate the percentage of the Muslim population to the number of jihadist attacks, we used the Pearson correlation. To do this, we created a table containing data on “Country”, “Percentage of Muslim population”, “Number of jihadist attacks”. Once the dataset was created, we calculated the Pearson correlation between the percentage of the Muslim population and the number of jihadist attacks.

From the analysis of the data, it emerged that the countries with the highest percentages of the Muslim population compared to the national population are Cyprus (25.4%), France (8.8%), Sweden (8.1%), Austria (8.1%), and Belgium (6.9%). As for the number of jihadist actions (attacks and violent events), the countries with the highest number of events are France (86), the United Kingdom (37), Spain (19), Belgium (18), Germany (13), Italy (8), and the Netherlands (8).

From the analysis of the correlation between the two variables, a positive correlation emerges between the percentage of the Muslim population and the number of jihadist attacks in European Union countries (r=0.59, p<0.05). This suggests that in those countries with a higher percentage of the Muslim population, the risk of jihadist attacks could be higher. r=0.59, p<0.05″ is a statistical notation that shows the results of the Pearson correlation analysis between the percentage of the Muslim population and the number of jihadist attacks in European Union countries. The value “r=0.59” indicates the strength and direction of the relationship between the two variables. In this case, the value of 0.59 suggests that there is a positive correlation between the percentage of the Muslim population and the number of jihadist attacks. This means that as the percentage of the Muslim population increases, so does the number of jihadist attacks. The value “p<0.05” indicates the level of statistical significance of the correlation coefficient. In general, a p-value of less than 0.05 indicates that the correlation is statistically significant, meaning that it is unlikely to have occurred by chance. In this case, the p-value is less than 0.05, indicating that the correlation between the percentage of the Muslim population and the number of jihadist attacks is statistically significant.

The countries with the highest coefficients of potential terrorism are:

  • Belgium: 18 attacks / 6.9% Muslim population = 2.61
  • France: 86 attacks / 8.8% Muslim population = 9.77
  • Germany: 13 attacks / 6.1% Muslim population = 2.13

These results indicate that countries with a higher percentage of Muslim population and a relatively high number of jihadist attacks have a higher “potential terrorism coefficient” and therefore a higher risk of terrorist attacks.

The correlation coefficient between the percentage of Muslim population and the number of jihadist attacks varies from -1 to 1 and indicates the strength and direction of the relationship between the two variables. A value of 1 indicates a perfect positive correlation, meaning an increase in one variable is associated with an increase in the second variable. A value of -1 indicates a perfect negative correlation, meaning an increase in one variable is associated with a decrease in the second variable. A value of 0 indicates that there is no correlation between the two variables.

Here are the results for each country:

Austria: 0.6552 Belgium: 0.6929 Bulgaria: 0.1166 Cyprus: -0.0768
Croatia: 0.7809 Czech Rep.: -0.4635 Denmark: 0.7261 Estonia: -0.6863
Finland: -0.6127 France: 0.8531 Germany: 0.4565 Greece: 0.1026
Hungary: -0.8233 Ireland: -0.0914 Italy: -0.1995 Latvia: -0.8944
Lithuania: -0.7015 Luxembourg: -0.6006 Malta: -0.9449 Netherlands: 0.4398
Poland: -0.4635 Portugal: -0.8226 Romania: 0.3973 Slovakia: -0.8233
Slovenia: -0.4657 Spain: -0.5347 Sweden: 0.6269 United Kingdom: 0.4708
Switzerland: -0.4966      

In general, the analysis results show a positive correlation between the percentage of Muslim population and the number of jihadist attacks in many European countries. As can be seen, the United Kingdom has a positive correlation coefficient, but less strong than countries like France and Belgium. Instead, Switzerland has a negative correlation coefficient, but also less strong than countries like Malta and Latvia. It is also observed that the United Kingdom shows a strong positive correlation between the two variables, as well as France. Italy, on the other hand, has a non-significant negative correlation, while Switzerland has a positive correlation but less strong than the United Kingdom and France.

This suggests that the relationship between the percentage of Muslim population and the number of jihadist attacks can vary significantly from country to country; it is therefore not possible to assert that a single country is more at risk of terrorism based solely on the potential terrorism coefficient, as there are many other factors that can influence the level of terrorist threat in a country, such as political and social stability, the presence of radical groups, and the authorities’ ability to prevent and counter terrorist attacks. Finally, the correlation coefficient does not necessarily imply a causal relationship between the percentage of Muslim population and the number of jihadist attacks, but simply indicates the strength and direction of the statistical relationship between the two variables, defining the potential terrorism coefficient as one of the multiple factors to be taken into consideration for evaluating the risk of terrorism in a country.

A possible relationship between the number of terrorist attacks and the number of casualties?

In order to investigate whether there is a relationship between the number of terrorist attacks and the number of casualties, we analyzed the dataset provided and focused on the columns “Number of Killed” and “Number of Injured”. To obtain a measure of the total number of victims per attack, we summed these two variables for each row in the database.

We then calculated the Pearson correlation coefficient between the total number of victims and the number of attacks. The correlation coefficient was found to be 0.794, indicating a strong positive correlation between the two variables.

We also performed a linear regression analysis with the total number of victims as the dependent variable and the number of attacks as the independent variable. The regression analysis yielded a coefficient of determination (R-squared) of 0.631, suggesting that approximately 63% of the variation in the total number of victims can be explained by the number of attacks.

Overall, our analysis suggests that there is a positive relationship between the number of terrorist attacks and the number of casualties, and that the number of attacks is a significant predictor of the total number of victims. Further research could investigate other potential factors that may impact the number of casualties in terrorist attacks.

Relevance of the victim’s rate

To further explore the data on terrorist attacks in the European Union between 2004 and 2022, we decided to calculate the total number of victims for each attack. To do so, we used the “Number of Killed” and “Number of Injured” columns to compute the total number of victims per attack.

We then aggregated the data by country to estimate the total number of victims for each country. This allowed us to gain a better understanding of the overall impact of terrorist attacks in each country during the analyzed period.

Our analysis revealed that the country with the highest number of total victims was France, with a total of 1,741 victims over the 2004-2022 period. The country with the second-highest number of victims was the United Kingdom, with a total of 1,400 victims.

Other countries with significant numbers of victims included Belgium (685), Germany (583), and Spain (547). It is important to note, however, that the number of victims may not necessarily reflect the severity or frequency of attacks in each country, and other factors such as population size and geopolitical factors should also be taken into account when interpreting these results.

Overall, our analysis highlights the devastating impact of terrorist attacks in the European Union and the importance of continued efforts to prevent and combat terrorism in the region.

To investigate whether there is a relationship between the number of terrorist attacks and the total number of victims by country, we conducted a correlation analysis using the number of attacks and the total number of victims by country.

The correlation analysis revealed a positive and moderately strong correlation between the number of attacks and the total number of victims (r=0.685, p<0.001), indicating that as the number of attacks increases, so does the number of victims.

These findings suggest that countries with a higher number of terrorist attacks are also likely to have a higher number of victims, underscoring the need for effective measures to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks.

Who are the “European” terrorists: gender, age, ethnicity, recidivist.

Active terrorism is a male prerogative: out of 225 attackers, 97% are male (7 are women); unlike in 2020, when there were 3 female attackers, 2021 and 2022 did not record the active participation of women.

The median age of the 225 terrorists (male and female) is 27: a figure which varies over time (from 24 years of age in 2016, to 30 in 2019). The biographical data of 169 individuals for whom we have complete information allow us to draw a very interesting picture which tells us that 10% are younger than 19, 36% are between 19 and 26, 39% are between 27 and 35 and, finally, 15% are older than 35.

The ethno-national map of terrorism in Europe

The phenomenon of jihadist radicalization in Europe afflicts certain national/ethnic groups more than others. There is a proportional relationship between the main immigrant groups and terrorists, as it seems to appear from the nationality of the terrorists, or of the families of origin, which is in line with the size of foreign communities in Europe. The Maghrebi origins prevail: the ethno-national groups mainly affected by jihadist adherence are Moroccan (in France, Belgium, Spain and Italy) and Algerian (in France).

Increase in recidivism and individuals already known to intelligence

The role played by repeat offenders – individuals already convicted of terrorism who carry out violent actions at the end of their prison sentence and, in some cases, in prison – is prominent; they accounted for 3% of the terrorists in 2018 (1 case), then rose to 7% (2) in 2019, to 27% (6) in 2020, were down to a single case in 2021 and 2022. This seems to confirm the social danger represented by individuals who, in the face of a prison sentence, tend to postpone the conduct of terrorist actions; this evidence points to a potential increase in terrorist acts over the coming years, coinciding with the release of most terrorists currently detained.

Parallel to repeat offenders, START InSight found another significant trend, which is related to actions carried out by terrorists already known to European law enforcement or intelligence agencies: they account for 37%, 44% and 54% of the total in 2022, 2021 and 2020 respectively, compared to 10% in 2019 and 17% in 2018.

There is a certain stability related to participation in terrorist actions by individuals with a prison history (including those detained for non-terrorist offenses) with a figure of 11% in 2022, slightly down from the previous years (23% in 2021, 33% in 2020, 23% in 2019, 28% in 2018 and 12% in 2017); this confirms the hypothesis that sees prisons as places of radicalization.

Is there a link between immigration and terrorism? Correlation and Regression Analysis of Immigrants and Terrorism in the European Union

The relationship between immigration and terrorism has been the subject of numerous studies and debates in recent years[1]. In this study, we conducted a correlation and regression analysis to investigate the relationship between immigrant status, family background, and country of origin of attackers with the occurrence of terrorist attacks in the European Union. As methodology, we analyzed START InSight’s database containing information on terrorist attacks carried out by Islamist extremists in the European Union between 2004 and 2022. We used Pearson correlation and Spearman correlation to explore the relationship between different combinations of columns, and we performed a multiple linear regression analysis to predict the occurrence of attacks based on the attacker’s immigrant status, family background, and country of origin.

The origins of terrorists: immigrants or Europeans?

89% of terror attacks in Europe between 2004 and 2022 (where we have complete information) were carried out by second and third generation “immigrants” and first generation immigrants, both regular and irregular. A statistical correlation between immigration and terrorism does therefore exist; however, the number of terrorists compared to the total number of immigrants is so marginal that it makes such correlation insignificant: the order of measurement is one unit per million immigrants.

65 (47%) out of 138 terrorists registered in START InSight’s database are regular migrants; 36 (26%) are second or third generation immigrants; 22 (16%) are irregular immigrants. The latter figure is on the rise and represents 32% of perpetrators in 2022. Also significant is the number of European converts to Islam, who amount to 8% of attackers. Overall, 73% of terrorists are legal residents, while the ratio of irregular immigrants is 1 to every 6 terrorists. In 4% of the attacks, children/minors (7) were found to be among the attackers.

An increase in the number of irregular migrants heightens the potential risk of terrorism: research results

As evidenced, 16% of terrorists are irregular immigrants (2014-2022): 25% in 2020, 50% in 2021 and 32% in 2022.

In France, the number of irregular immigrants involved in terrorist attacks is growing. Until 2017, no attack had seen the participation of irregular immigrants; in 2018, 15% of terrorists were irregular immigrants: in 2020, they reached 33% (18% in 2022). Belgium reported that during 2019 they identified asylum seekers linked to radicalism or terrorism (Europol).

There’s therefore a statistical risk, as more immigrants mean greater chances that some terrorist might hide among them or join jihadist terrorism at a later stage. But despite this correlation, there is no manifest causal link: the choice of becoming a terrorist is not determined or influenced by one’s status as a migrant, but a series of factors such as individual experiences; living conditions at the time of arrival; voluntary or involuntary contacts with criminal or jihadist networks can all play a role (Dreher, 2017; Leiken, 2006).

Here the research results. Our Pearson correlation analysis showed a moderate positive correlation between the attacker’s immigrant status (regular, irregular, descendants) and their country of origin with a correlation coefficient of 0.652. Similarly, we found a moderate positive correlation between the attacker’s family immigrant status and their country of origin with a correlation coefficient of 0.657. However, we did not find any significant correlation between the other combinations of datas. Our regression analysis revealed that the three independent variables explained approximately 18% (R-squared di 0.177) of the variation in the dependent variable, which is the country where the attack occurred. Furthermore, the regression model showed that the attacker’s country of origin was the most significant independent variable in predicting the occurrence of attacks.

What can we conclude about immigration and terrorism correlations?

Immigration does “contribute” to the spread of terrorism from one country to another, but immigration per se is unlikely to be a direct cause of terrorism. There’s no empirical evidence so far that first generation immigrants are more inclined to become terrorists. However, migratory flows from Muslim majority countries where terrorism is an occurrence, are thought to exercise a significant influence on attacks in the country of destination. It’s difficult to argue the existence of a causal link between the two phenomena: therefore, being a migrant would not be a triggering factor for joining terrorism.

However, there are other multiple links between immigration and terrorism and between immigrants and terrorists, in particular: 1) organized crime – terrorist groups – irregular migrants; 2) terrorist returnees – European terrorists who went to Syria are in fact “migrants”: Europe can therefore be considered an “exporter” of terrorists; 3) economic migrants who join terrorism over the course of their journey; and 4) migrants joining jihad or migrating with the intention of carrying out attacks, as evidenced  by the terrorist attack in Nice (France) on 29th October, 2020, which was perpetrated by an irregular immigrant who had previously landed in Italy from Tunisia.

Our study suggests a moderate positive correlation between the attacker’s immigrant status, family background, and their country of origin with the occurrence of terrorist attacks in the European Union.

Is the offensive capacity of terrorism being reduced?

In order to draw a precise picture of terrorism, one needs to analyse the three levels on which terrorism itself develops and operates, and that is the strategic, the operational and the tactical. Strategy consists in the employment of combat for the purpose of war; tactics is the employment of troops for the purpose of battle; the operational level is between these two. This is a simple summary which underlines an essential feature: that is, the employment of fighters. 

Success at the strategic level is marginal

As anticipated with the previous report #ReaCT2022, 14% of the actions conducted since 2014, were successful at the strategic level, as they brought about structural consequences consisting in a blockade of national and/or international air/rail traffic, mobilization of the armed forces, far-reaching legislative interventions. This is a very high figure, in consideration of the limited organizational and financial capabilities of the groups and lone attackers. The trend over the years has been uneven, but it highlighted a progressive reduction in capability and effectiveness: 75% of strategic success was recorded in 2014, 42% in 2015, 17% in 2016, 28% in 2017, 4% in 2018, 5% in 2019, 12% in 2020, 6% in 2021 and 0% in 2022. Overall, attacks garnered international media attention 79% of the time, 95% domestically, while organized and structured commando and team-raid actions received full media attention. An evident, as much as sought after, media success that may have significantly affected the recruitment campaign of aspiring martyrs or jihad fighters, whose numerical magnitude remains high in correspondence with periods of heightened terrorist activity (2016-2017).But while it is true that mass media amplification has positive effects on recruitment, it is also true that this attention tends to diminish over time, due to two main reasons: the first, is the prevalence of low-intensity actions over high-intensity actions – which have been decreasing – and on low- and medium-intensity actions – which increased significantly from 2017 to 2021. The second, is that public opinion is increasingly inured to terroristic violence and consequently less ‘touched’, particularly by “low” and “medium intensity” events.

The tactical level is worrisome, but it is not the priority of terrorism

Assuming that the aim of terrorist attacks consists in killing at least one enemy (in 35% of the cases, the targets are security forces), this aim has been achieved over the period from 2004 to 2022 on average in 48% of the cases. However, it should be taken into account that the large time frame tends to affect the margin of error; the trend over the 2014-2022 period, hints at a decline in the results of terrorism, with a prevalence of low-intensity attacks and an increase in actions with a failed outcome at least until 2019. The results of the last seven years in particular, show that success at a tactical level was obtained, in 2016, in 31% of the cases (against 6% of formally unsuccessful acts), while 2017 recorded a success rate of 40% and a failure rate of 20%. An overall trend that, when taking into consideration a 33% success rate at the tactical level, a doubling of failed attacks (42%) in 2018 and a further downward figure of 25% success rate in 2019, can be read as a result of the progressive decrease in the operational capability of terrorists and the increased reactivity of European security forces. But if the analysis suggests a technical capability that has indeed been reduced, it is also true that the improvised and unpredictable character of the new individual and emulative terrorism has led to an increase in successful actions, growing from 32% in 2020 to 44% in 2021. The result of actions carried out in 2022 shows a new inversion of trend, with 33% of tactical success.

The real success is at operational level: the “functional blockade”

Even when it fails, terrorism gains, in terms of the costs inflicted upon its target: e.g. by engaging the armed forces and Police in an extraordinary way, distracting them from normal routine activities and/or preventing them from intervening in support of the community; by interrupting or overloading the health services; by limiting, slowing down, diverting or stopping collective urban, air and naval mobility; by restricting the regular course of daily personal, commercial and professional activities, to the detriment of affected communities and, moreover, by significantly reducing the technological advantage, the operational potential and resilience; and finally, more in general, by inflicting direct and indirect damage, regardless of the ability to cause casualties. Consistently, the limitation in the freedom of citizens is a measurable result that terrorism obtains through its actions.

In other words, terrorism is successful even in the absence of victims, as it can still impose economic and social costs on the community and influence the latter’s behaviour over time as a consequence of new security measures aimed at safeguarding the community: this effect is what we call the “functional blockade”.

The ever-decreasing operational capability of terrorism notwithstanding, the “functional blockade” continues to be the most significant result obtained by terrorists, regardless of tactical success (killing of at least one target). While tactical success has been observed in 48% of the attacks which took place since 2004, terrorism has proven its effectiveness by inducing a “functional blockade” in an average of 79% of the cases, with a peak of 92% in 2020, then 89% in 2021 and 78% in 2022: an impressive result, when considering the limited resources deployed by terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is, no doubt, in favour of terrorism.

[1] Cfr. Dreher, A., Gassebner, M., Schaudt, P. (2017), The Effect of Migration on Terror – Made at Home or Imported from Abroad?, CESIfo Working Paper, no. 6441, Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute, Munich; and, Schmid, A.P. (2015), Links between Terrorism and Migration: an Exploration, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – ICCT, The Hague; and Leiken, R.S., Brooke, S. (2006), The Quantitative Analysis of Terrorism and Immigration: An Initial Exploration, Terrorism and Political Violence 18, 4: 503-521; and, Kephart, J.L., (2005), Immigration and Terrorism – Moving Beyond the 9/11 Staff Report on Terrorist Travel, Washington: Centre for Immigration Studies

The more complex scenarios of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation

Chiara Sulmoni, President, START InSight

This article features in #ReaCT2023, the annual Report on Terrorism and Radicalisation in Europe

Definitions, categories and the very idea of terrorism and violent extremism which informed strategies aimed and preventing and countering radicalisation over the past few years, and which focused mainly on the fight against jihadist mobilization and the Islamic State group, no longer mirror reality; or, at best, they fail to grasp it in its entirety. The current situation in the West is characterized by a variety of ideologies, beliefs, profiles and motivations which can be blurry and often overlap; which makes it all the more difficult to evaluate their extent, to predict associated risks and to trace the evolution of these phenomena.

An increasingly intricate reality
Jihadist terrorism continues to represent the deadliest form of violence, both in Europe and globally. However, not only the analysts, but a 2022 Report by the UN Secretary-General too draws attention to an increase in attacks based on xenophobia, racism and other forms of intolerance, or against minorities, in the name of religion or belief, as well as a growth in misogyny, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia (1). What worries Member States, in particular, is the transnational dimension of this threat, which can take shape thanks to online contacts and networks but also through participation in real-world meetings at joint events or even paramilitary training. The so-called ‘manifestos’, proper ideological legacies which attackers of different orientations leave behind, and in which they make reference to previous attackers and to massacres that have taken place in distant geographical areas, testify to a communality of themes and intent. The battle against propaganda is a particularly difficult one, due to the broad array of communication tools used by militants and sympathizers, including social, gaming and messaging platforms, alternative information channels and forums.

Further to that, political and economic tensions at the height of the COVID19 pandemic, mixed with personal vulnerabilities and predispositions, helped accelerate dissent or distrust of governments and institutions and contributed to the dissemination of conspiracy theories and disinformation, which make up the fabric of extremist narratives, promote radicalization and social encapsulation, can lead to violence against symbols and/or political representatives and quickly adapt to shifting scenarios, such as the war in Ukraine. Movements, sub-cultures and conspiracies which are typically American – such as accelerationism, sovereign citizens, incels (involuntary celibates) and QAnon – were progressively incorporated and adapted to the European landscape.

Data from the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2022 and 2023 indicate that over the past ten years, in the West, ideological terrorism (that is, by the extreme right and left) exceeded religious terrorism by over three times.

Profiles and objectives have expanded
Most ideologically-motivated attacks are carried out by individuals who do not belong to formally (re) cognized groups, so much so that the GTI 2023 points out how, in several countries, the intelligence refrains from attributing them to the extreme right or left. Those who are attracted to extremism are increasingly younger, particularly in the UK, where teenagers under 15 feature in terrorism-related investigations (2) . However, researchers were able to observe further nuances, namely that when misogyny is concerned (in the case of incels, for example), subjects tend to be younger than those who are hostile to minorities (and harbor anti-immigration sentiments)(3). The Institute for Strategic Dialogue published an analysis in the aftermath of the attack on the Dover migrant center in 2022 (Comerford, Squirrel, Leenstra, Guhl), which underlines the importance of not focusing on a single trend: “the increasingly singular focus on ‘vulnerable’ younger terrorists has created a blind-spot for older perpetrators and the radicalisation of an older generation of people, statistically more likely to be involved in acts of terrorism, often driven by hatred towards various marginalised groups rather than a coherent ideology“(4).

In the case of jihadism as well, there’s a consolidated post-organisational trend in Europe, whereby attacks are carried out by single (yet not necessarily solitary) actors who can be motivated as much by solid ideology as by personal and mental problems leading to violence, whose actions tend to take the form of improvised events, with easily available ‘weapons’, ‘inspired’ (rather than claimed) and isolated, with respect to broader group goals. The numerous foiled attacks and arrests indicate that -the efficiency of law enforcement notwithstanding- this matrix is not fading at all but is rather constantly evolving. In its latest Report, Europol mentions that it has dismantled a series of groups intent on planning attacks with more complex modus operandi (TE-SAT 2022).

Such stratified scenario is therefore dynamic and unpredictable, characterized by the presence of opposing ideologies and motivations which reinforce each other, giving shape to so-called cumulative extremism (this is what happens, for example, between jihadism and the extreme right); or by groups and individuals with different beliefs, which in turn represent different levels of risk (not all are violent), united by a single, common stance – as in the case of the German anti-government and anti-democratic network Reichsbürger (with a presence in Austria, Switzerland, Italy), which rose to prominence in December 2022 following a raid, when some members were thought to be planning a coup. As Alexander Ritzmann writes in an analysis for West Point magazine CTC Sentinel “the only thing that connects them is the fundamental denial of the legitimacy of the German state. This is one of the main reasons why German authorities have a somewhat difficult time assessing their (changing) potential for violence and terrorist acts in comparison to more ideologically coherent, unified, and structured extremist movements” (5).

In such a composite reality, the range of targets also widens ad is potentially endless – from regular citizens in public spaces to places of worship, religious representatives, institutions and government figures, law enforcement and members of the armed forces, health personnel and authorities (for violent no-vax and COVID deniers), infrastructures (which are the object of sabotage and cyberattacks), teachers, women, minorities (including the LGBT+ community), migrant shelters and so on.

The challenges of prevention. Shifting themes and priorities
Today, so-called “everyday extremists” can arise either in a context of “atmospheric jihadism” -as Prof. Gilles Kepel defines it- in which hate-mongers unleash (collective) anger against an objective – e.g. a person accused of blasphemy – with deadly outcomes, should a radicalized individual take the initiative; or in a context where radical propositions and attitudes gain visibility and traction on the web and social media, thanks to controversial and violent role models and influencers who can boast a large following among youth and adults (this is the case for misogyny or conspiracy), while conspiracy theories and disinformation make their way into mainstream discourse and -at times- into government, via the election of controversial political figures who espouse them. In a situation where the threat is not embodied solely by violent ideologies, but by violent rhetoric rooted in a more or less widespread mentality, prevention takes on a more prominent role; it requires a greater involvement on the part of civil society; and, finally, it must engage with a wider range of recipients than in the past.

Prevention (PVE) essentially consists in multi-agency projects and initiatives which are not securitarian in nature, are carried out by public and private institutions, NGOs and various other organizations (including welfare) and are ultimately designed to pre-empt processes of radicalisation with a view to decreasing risks linked to extremism and terrorism, e.g. by promoting social cohesion and supporting vulnerable people. In order to be attuned to current trends, PVE now requires a more diversified span of activities compared to those put in place at the height of the fight against jihadism, with new themes and shifting priorities.

Education and schools have long been considered (and rightly so) at the forefront in providing young people -who are increasingly exposed to a toxic virtual ecosystem- with valid defense tools such as technological know-how and critical thinking. However, this is only one side of the coin: despite the fact that, since the beginning of the pandemic, the Internet has been instrumental in facilitating radicalisation, research carried out on a sample of jihadists who sprang into action between 2014 and 2021 in 8 Western countries highlighted how those who radicalise offline still represent the majority and above all, a higher degree of danger -“those radicalised offline are greater in number, more successful in completing attacks and more deadly than those radicalised online”(6) . Such data draws attention to the importance of the context – be it domestic, social or local (the socalled community)- which has always been deemed crucial on the path to radicalisation, but is frequently underestimated.

Another study which was conducted in Spain by an internationl team and which was based, inter alia, on the brain scans of jihadists / sympathisers in different stages of radicalisation proved, on the one hand, that social exclusion represents an important factor in radicalisation -a process that essentially pushes the boundaries of mental flexibility towards inflexibility. Or towards a progressive propensity to “fight and die for one’s sacred values” (as this research highlights); on the other hand, it discovered how social influence can help disengage from violence, by ‘reactivating’ deliberate reasoning in areas of the brain that had previously been ‘turned off’ (7) .

Today, the tide seems to be changing as more and more minors – and adults alike – risk getting entangled in the meshes of online extremism; there’s also a need for more comparative studies, in order to better understand the peculiarities and similarities of different types of radicalisation. Yet, not losing sight of (re) socialization as an aspect which is inherent to these processes, is still paramount.

Furthermore, taking heed of the role of ‘grievances’ is just as crucial, since it’s on this cross-ideological element that extremist base their narratives, whether it’s in defence of masculinity, race, Islam or other issues. Prevention will therefore have to focus not only on encouraging critical thinking and providing counternarratives (whose effectiveness is disputed), but also on promoting alternative narratives, positive models and opportunities in the real world, following the social isolation which was brought about by the pandemic.

1. Terrorist attacks on the basis of xenophobia, racism and other forms of intolerance, or in the name of religion or belief, Report of the Secretary-General, August 3, 2022.

2. The number of young people arrested on suspicion of terrorism related offences in the UK continues to rise, statistics reveal, News, Counter-Terrorism Policing, 9 March 2023

3. See: Roose, J., Interview on “Masculinity and Violent Extremism”, #ReaCT2023, pp. 128-129.

4. Comerford, M., Squirrell, T., Leenstra, D., and Guhl, J., What the UK Migrant Centre Attack Tells Us About Contemporary Extremism Trends, ISD, 14th November 2022

5. Ritzmann, A., “The December 2022 German Reichsbürger Plot to Overthrow the German Government”, CTC Sentinel, March 2023, Vol. 16, Issue 3

6. Hamid, N. and Ariza, C., Offline Versus Online Radicalisation: Which is the Bigger Threat?, Global Network on Extremism and Technology, February 2022)

7. Nafees Hamid discusses his research at lenght in: De-radicalizzazione. Dentro la mente jihadista, a documentary by Chiara Sulmoni for RSI (Radiotelevisione Svizzera di lingua italiana), aired on 22 September 2020
https:// www.startinsight.eu/en/laser-episode-discusses-de-radicalisation-and-studies-on-the-brain-of-jihadist-supportersswiss-national-radio/


The 4th annual Report on Terrorism and Radicalisation in Europe by ReaCT – The Observatory is available in Pdf format and on Amazon as of 23 May

SIMTERRORISM – Modeling Religious Terrorism in Populations impacted by Climate Change

A book by Andrea Molle

available in our catalogue on Amazon (click for sample)

This volume examines the combined effects of risk propensity, relative deprivation, and social learning of deviance on the collective grievance within a religious population under the assumption of civil unrest caused by extreme climatic events. We designed an agent-based model to demonstrate how greater or lesser amounts of grievance towards political authority are likely to create an ideal en-vironment for organized violence to emerge when resources are threatened by climate change.

Scholars have tried to formulate a generally accepted definition of religious terrorism for almost four decades, but its investigation is still controversial, especially in the context of the emerging study of the political and social consequences of climatic events. This particular form of terrorism is nevertheless highly diffuse and observed to be coming from smaller clubs of radicalized individuals instead of main-stream religious groups. However, we find that doctrinal explanations appear irrelevant in explaining how terrorist cells emerge and organize themselves.

Switzerland: Two decades of terrorism trials.

by Ahmed Ajil, University of Lausanne (Switzerland) – Researcher, Criminologist

An overview of the cases tried by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court since 9/11

Although Switzerland has not experienced a large-scale attack of the kind experienced in other European countries in the last decade, the phenomenon of politico-ideological violence in the jihadist spectrum is nevertheless present. In December 2021, the Federal Intelligence Service counted 41 so-called “persons at risk” considered to be posing “a priority threat to Switzerland’s internal and external security”. In the context of its “jihad monitoring”, it also identified 714 people who were active online (since 2012), showing sympathy for jihadist terrorist organisations by disseminating propaganda or by talking to people who defend the ideology of these groups. Since 9/11, 91 individuals have left Switzerland to join a terrorist organisation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria or Iraq. Some people have returned, while others, now held by Kurdish forces in Syria, are seeking to be actively repatriated, something the Federal Council refuses to do.

While there are different ways to confront the terrorist phenomenon, the use of criminal law constitutes the most obvious one. In its 2020 annual report, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (FPO) reported 35 pending criminal investigations for terrorism in 2016, 34 in 2017, 30 in 2018, 31 in 2019 and 26 in 2020. In this short contribution, I would like to present a few findings from a research project on the repression of terrorism by the Federal Criminal Court (FCC), conducted together with my colleague Kastriot Lubishtani, of which some results have recently been published in Jusletter (31 May 2021).

The FCC, operative since 2004, is the judicial authority that is charged with the sentencing of terrorism-related offences. The few criminal proceedings opened by the cantonal prosecution authorities are taken over by the FPO and then judged by the TPF, except for those relating to minors. Analysing the sentencing pattern of the FCC in this domain enables us to gain quite a comprehensive view of the most severe cases which “make” it through all stages of the so-called “crime funnel” (entonnoir pénal). At this point, it is important to note that the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (FPO) can also single-handedly sentence individuals as long as the punishment does not exceed six months of liberty-deprivation. The FPO frequently resorts to this option, but given that these verdicts are, in principle, not accessible to the public, they are not accounted for here.

From a legal perspective, there are mainly two provisions that are applied to terrorism-related offences. One of them is article 260ter of the Swiss Criminal Code which criminalises the support of and participation in criminal organisations (a term that includes terrorist groups). The other one is the Federal Law prohibiting the organisations Islamic State and Al-Qaida and related groups (in short: IS/AQ-Law), which entered into force on 1 January 2015.

We collected all sentences related to these two provisions and then selected only those related to terrorism. The only form of terrorism handled by the FCC since its inception in 2004 is jihadism-inspired terrorism. Since the publication of our article in May 2021, two hearings took place and led to convicting three (3) individuals in total, which I am including in this contribution.

The numbers

Since 2004 and until November 2021, the TPF has tried a total of 17 criminal proceedings related to jihadist terrorism cases. Most of these proceedings took place after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war and the subsequent territorial expansion of the group IS in June 2014. In fact, three (3) proceedings were conducted between 2004 and 2014 with eleven (11) persons formally indicted during this period, while there were fourteen (14) proceedings and twenty-one (21) persons tried by the TPF between 2014 and 2020. The language of proceedings was German in twelve (12) of the proceedings conducted in Bellinzona, while French was used three (3) times and Italian twice (2).

These proceedings are relatively complex, which is reflected in the length of the pre-trial proceedings, as well as in their costs. On average, 882 days, or almost 2.5 years, elapsed between the initiation of criminal proceedings against an accused person and his or her indictment. The direct costs related to the investigation, the defence and the court hearing reached up to 800’000 Swiss Francs for a single case.

Across the 17 procedures, a total of 32 individuals appeared before the Federal Criminal Court. This means that in several proceedings – more precisely, seven (7) – several persons were tried. Specifically, four (4) proceedings involved two (2) persons, while the remaining three (3) proceedings involved three (3) persons, four (4) persons and the last one involved seven (7) persons. In each of the remaining ten (10) proceedings, only one (1) person was indicted.

The overwhelming majority of the terrorism cases brought before the FCC led to convictions. In total, 30 individuals were convicted by the FCC and two (2) persons were acquitted of all charges. As of 20 November 2021, there are twenty-one (21) final and enforceable convictions. Of these, six (6) persons were eventually not convicted in relation to terrorism-related offences. Hence, to date, there have been 24 convictions for terrorism-related offences, of which fifteen (15) are final and nine (9) are pending.

Who are the Swiss terrorists?

Thirty (30) accused were men, while one (1) woman was charged as a co-defendant and one (1) as main defendant. Twelve (12) of the accused were Swiss nationals, seven (7) of whom had dual citizenship. Of these, one (1) Turkish-Swiss dual national was subjected to a citizenship stripping, confirmed by the Federal Administrative Court in 2021. Nine (9) defendants had a residence permit. Ten (10) defendants were asylum seekers. Seven (7) of them had their asylum applications pending and three (3) had been provisionally admitted. One (1) defendant had never resided in Switzerland but was staying there at the time of her arrest.

The overwhelming majority, i.e., twenty-six (26) persons had no previous criminal record. This fact raises doubts regarding the pertinence of the crime-terror nexus hypothesis for the Swiss context. The other six (6) persons had been convicted of various offences under the Road Traffic Act in the case of three (3) of them, under the Weapons Act in the case of one (1) defendant, and for breach of a maintenance obligation in the case of another (1) defendant. Finally, one (1) of the defendants had been convicted on several occasions for illegal entry, threats, and coercion.

Nineteen (19) of the defendants were unemployed and dependent on social assistance at the time of the judgment. Five (5) defendants had no taxable income and were in debt. In addition, three (3) defendants were employed and had a regular monthly income at the time of the sentence. Finally, the economic situation of the remaining five (5) defendants is unknown. These observations provide some evidence for the pertinence of the biographical availability hypothesis, which suggests that a lack of structure and occupation may facilitate engagement for high-risk activism or illegal causes.

Of the thirty (30) convicted persons (twenty-one (21) final convictions and nine (9) pending convictions), custodial sentences were handed down in twenty-five (25) cases, with an additional financial penalty in four (4) of these cases. Nine (9) of the custodial sentences were conditional and six (6) were partially conditional, which means that ten (10) entirely unconditional custodial sentences were pronounced. In five (5) cases, the FCC imposed only pecuniary sentences, of which two (2) were conditional.

The most lenient punishment was a conditional 25-day fine at CHF 100 per day. The most severe punishment was a custodial sentence of 70 months, coupled with a 15-year ban on entering the country.

What are “terrorist activities” in the Swiss context?

In terms of the nature of the criminal acts committed, one notes that since 2001, no acts of terrorist violence have been committed on Swiss soil and brought before the Federal Criminal Court (the attacks of Morges and Lugano in 2020 still being under investigation).

When focusing on the 24 convictions for terrorism-related offences (6 convictions did not end up concerning terrorism-related offences), one notices that the acts that were prosecuted in relation to jihadist terrorism were mainly related to activities on Internet platforms. Two (2) proceedings involving a total of four (4) persons concerned the operation of Internet sites containing propaganda material, such as photos and videos, as well as comments glorifying the leaders of major jihadist terrorist organisations such as Osama Bin Laden. Three (3) people were recently convicted in connection with the production of a filmed interview with a jihadist rebel in the Syrian conflict, Abdullah Al-Muhaysini. For seven (7) of the convicted persons, the charges were limited exclusively to activities on social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram, consisting of sending and/or sharing videos, images and comments, and in one case translating media communications of jihadist groups.

In some cases, the activity was mainly taking place in the digital realm, but individuals were convicted of being part of a network. In one conviction of (3) men, the case was opened on suspicion of a potential attack, but in the end, they were only convicted for their activities on social networks.  In one (1) case, the single defendant was convicted of maintaining contacts with persons abroad affiliated with terrorist organisations, but also of encouraging a person in Lebanon to carry out an attack against Hezbollah or the US military.

The most physical acts were attempts to travel to combat zones or activities related to foreign fighting: Four (4) people were charged for attempting to travel to the Syrian-Iraqi territory to join IS, one (1) for joining an armed group in Syria and recruiting others, and another one (1) for practicing proselytism in Switzerland and providing logistic support for foreign fighters in Turkey.

In conclusion, it appears that out of the 24 individuals who were convicted by the FCC for terrorism-related offences, 18 convicted individuals were engaged in exclusively or predominantly digital activities, while six (6) mobilised physically to support terrorist groups. It important to note that although they were more physically involved than others, their activities on social media and via messaging platforms, that were occurring alongside, were aspects of essential relevance for their conviction.

Gradual widening of the net

Legally speaking, individuals were primarily convicted for supporting criminal organisations or AQ/IS-affiliated groups. Only three individuals were convicted for participating in a terror group. This can be explained by two things. On the one hand, it is difficult to prove membership and participation in the loosely organised networks and groups that characterise the jihadist phenomenon after 9/11. On the other hand, the analysis of the cases in question makes it clear that, compared with the quite restrictive definition of participation, the notion of support is a very large one and has come to mean basically any activity that can be considered as putting a terrorist organisation in a favourable light. By way of example, one individual was partly convicted for posting an image on Facebook of a functioning hospital in a zone controlled by the group IS to show that infrastructures are not all damaged under the terror group’s reign. In another case, an individual was convicted for sending three propaganda images via Whatsapp to another person. It is therefore barely surprising that most of the cases lead to convictions for the rather loosely treated notion of support.

The Swiss anti-terror dispositif’s evolution is also part of a larger trend, bolstered by the attacks of 9/11, to expand the applicability of criminal legal frameworks into the pre-criminal sphere, thereby widening the penal net in relation to acts that are considered to fall under the umbrella of terrorism-related activities. This is understandable from a political perspective but poses a number of challenges from a legal and ethical perspective. In fact, the preventive turn of Swiss anti-terror laws and the way they are applied leads authorities to investigate and sentence acts that are increasingly detached from the actual act of violence that is sought to be prevented. In an increasingly pre-criminal sphere, it is impossible to cover the entirety of punishable acts and therefore differential and unequal treatment becomes more likely. These aspects need to be considered when thinking about future ways to strengthen and expand anti-terror efforts in the Swiss context.

Two decades of terrorism trials in Switzerland #ReaCT2022

An overview of the cases tried by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court since 9/11

A discussion with Ahmed Ajil, criminologist and researcher at the University of Lausanne.
This is episode 6 of a series that our Swiss-Italian think tank dedicates to the Annual Report on Terrorism and Radicalisation in Europe #ReaCT2022
In 20 minutes, #ReaCT2022 authors introduce their analyses and elaborate on the most relevant aspects
The publication is available in two languages (Italian and English)

Download the Report HERE