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Examining trends in European terror 

Last year saw several large-scale and highly publicized terrorist plots in Europe. There was the failed attempt to set off car bombs in London, including outside a busy nightclub on June 29; an attack on the Glasgow airport that ended in a nasty fire and a roundup of several suspects, most of whom worked in the U.K. in the medical profession; and arrests in Germany of young suspects who had been to Pakistan recently, allegedly for terrorist training, accused of plotting to attack U.S. interests.

These three cases attracted global attention, but would you believe that there were actually 583 failed, foiled or successfully executed terrorist attacks in the EU last year alone? That is about a 25 percent jump over 2006, according to the latest EU report on terrorism, released earlier this month.

More than simply a list of numbers and dates – its contents, compiled by Europol, are intriguing.   

It paints a picture of suspected terrorist activities and trends in Europe.  And what happens there is significant to the rest of the world.  We've seen Europe become a first stop, in the exportation of terror from suspected training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

It is the closest "West" for terrorists to target.  Where cells have taken root and where homegrown recruits have been a problem. 

But don't assume that all, or even most, of those 583 terrorist plots were by suspected Islamic terrorists – only four of them were so categorized  – less than one percent.

The majority – 517 – were attributed to separatist groups in Spain and France. 

More, by the numbers:

  • There were 1,044 arrests for terrorist activities, a nearly 50 percent increase over the prior year. In the U.K., the vast majority of its 203 arrests last year were of suspected Islamic extremists.
  • The majority of arrests were EU citizens.
  • There were 34 arrests of women.
  •  There were 331 convictions.
  • England now identifies more than 2,000 people as terror suspects. In 2001, there were 250.

And there are a few new trends at work, that were identified in the past year as well.  The lengthy report is full of specific information, but here are some points we don't always see:

  •  Most arrests were in France, Italy and Spain.
  •  The threat of Islamic attack in Europe remains high.
  • There has been an increase in what is considered home-grown terror.
  •   There is a new category of Islamic terror: spreading propaganda.
  •   Iraq attracted the highest number of terror recruits coming from EU states and   venturing there to fight.
  • Somalia has become a new destination for jihad.
  • Pakistan remains the hotbed for command, control, and planning of Islamic extremist attacks.

On the subject of spreading propaganda, England has been cracking down, making arrests for recruitment and posting information on Web sites in the U.K. Some groundbreaking cases have resulted. 

And European authorities have reported that in the last year there was an enormous increase in the amount of Islamic "propaganda" available on European Web sites; a cause for concern, though obviously still a big grey area. There has been much debate over where the line exists between free speech, and spreading propaganda.

Click here and you can browse through the full report, which happens to be very user-friendly.