Tag Archives: militant attacks

Far-right groups to continue successful radicalization and recruitment campaigns in 2021; raising the potential for attacks and unrest

Executive Summary:

  • While successful far-right militant attacks have decreased in 2020, Europe continues to see significant levels of radicalization.
  • A number of arrests and investigations have been made among law enforcement and security forces, as far-right extremists continue to attempt to gain access to training, weapons, and highly trained recruits.
  • Far-right extremists are capitalizing on COVID-19-related grievances, infiltrating anti-lockdown protests and rallies in an attempt to become more visible and push their agenda.
  • Radicalization among children and youth has seen a significant increase during COVID-19, as far-right groups target vulnerable individuals, both online and through physical events.
  • The development of transnational links among far-right groups across the region has heightened the risk of far-right militant attacks.
  • While extremist groups are increasingly likely to attempt large scale coordinated attacks and campaigns, radicalized lone wolf attackers are still more likely to succeed due to lesser surveillance.
  • Travel to Europe may continue while maintaining vigilance for militant-related activity.

Current situation

Notable Far-right Incidents in Europe

  • Europe has witnessed a number of notable incidents linked to the far-right in 2020:
  • On December 12, Austrian authorities seized dozens of weapons, explosives, and 100,000 rounds of ammunition that were intended to be used to set up an armed far-right extremist militia in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria. Five suspects were arrested in Austria and two in Bavaria.
  • On December 10, two individuals were arrested in Andalusia and Navarre in Spain for selling drugs to buy weapons to instigate a “future race war,” a focal point in white supremacist ideology.
  • On October 4, a Jewish student was seriously injured in an attack outside a synagogue in Hamburg. The assailant wore military-style clothing, similar to that of the German army. A note with a swastika was found in the suspect’s possession.
  • On February 19, eleven people were killed and five injured in a far-right attack at two shisha bars in HanauGermany. The perpetrator, Tobias Rathjen, published his manifesto online, purporting right-wing extremist views and expressing hatred for migrants.

Far-Right Radicalization in 2020

  • Far-right radicalization in Europe in 2020 has seen a shift in trends as a result of the COVID-19 pandemicSuch reports have found that far-right extremists are using the COVID-19 pandemic to purport conspiracy theories and disinformation on social media. Major theories have included the claim that COVID-19 is a bioweapon, that the pandemic was orchestrated to influence US politics, and that COVID-19 was created by Big Pharma to push a mass vaccination program. Central figures targeted by these theories have included George Soros and Bill Gates.  Moreover, the pandemic is being used to repurpose pre-existing extremist tropes as an opportunity to attack a range of minority communities. In addition to theories claiming that the virus was created by the “Jewish elite,” others claim that migrants brought COVID-19 to Europe, exacerbating existing anti-migrant sentiments.
  • In October, Germany released its first nationwide report on right-wing extremism in the security services, revealing hundreds of related incidents across the police and military. In total, there were 1,064 cases among military personnel and 370 incidents among police and intelligence officers between January 2017 and March 2020. On December 9, German intelligence agents in Baden-Wuerttemberg put the Querdenken 711 group, which has organized and participated in anti-lockdown protests, on a watch-list due to its links to far-right extremism and growing concerns regarding radicalization.
  • On December 5, Spain’s Defense Minister Margarita Robles called on the Prosecutor’s Office to open an investigation on an online chat group in which retired military officials appeared to be disseminating far-right content, including support for military uprisings and mass executions
  • In December 2020, the UK released a report stating that a total of 17 under 18-year-olds have been arrested for militancy related charges between January and the end of September 2020, compared to 11 in 2019. The number of referrals of right-wing extremist content rose by 43 percent between 2019 and 2020. Nearly 1,500 children aged 15 and under have been identified as being at risk of radicalization. A total of 682 children were referred to the government’s counter-terrorism program over concerns about their involvement with the far-right in 2017-2018. The figure shows a five-fold increase since 2014-15. Of the 682 children, 24 were under the age of ten. In total, the government recorded 1,404 referrals related to right-wing radicalization, 62 percent of which were related to individuals under the age of 20.
  • In May, the Council of the European Union issued a report on far-right extremist groups exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to radicalize, recruit, and fundraise for their cause. Similar reports were issued by the United Nations in April.

Assessments & Forecast

Far-right groups are using COVID-19 to repurpose existing narratives and enter the mainstream 

  1. That far-right extremists are infiltrating anti-lockdown protests and rallies throughout Western Europe, as evidenced by extremists attending protests in Germany, Spain, and the UK, indicates such groups are taking advantage of COVID-19 related anxieties and grievances in the public to become more visible and push their agenda. This is evident by far-right groups criticizing COVID-19 restrictions, particularly reimposed lockdowns during the second wave of the pandemic, as well as concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccines, to undermine government officials.
  2. Considering that anti-lockdown protests have witnessed unrest, including clashes, these demonstrations present a threat to bystanders. Most notably, these anti-lockdown protests hold a high potential for radicalization. This was evident in the German region of Baden-Wuerttemberg’s decision to put the Querdenken 711 group under surveillance due to its ties to the far-right and increasing risk of radicalization.
  3. The dissemination of COVID-19-related conspiracy theories and disinformation online reiterates the continued use of online platforms by far-right extremists to purport their ideologies. That discussions of far-right conspiracy theories related to COVID-19 have surged, with one major social media platform seeing posts increase by 815 percent and another by 750 in March alone, further suggests far-right groups are capitalizing on public concerns. Given that many of these posts do not appear to be overtly far-right in nature, with a significant number focusing on lockdown measures and anti-government sentiments, the pandemic has allowed far-right extremists to increase their public base as well as their exposure, with the content being increasingly shared and normalized online. Further, far-right extremists globally are utilizing similar COVID-19-related conspiracy theories, allowing movements to form transnational links and share strategies.
  4. FORECAST: As lockdowns are eased, and countries begin to roll out mass vaccination programs, it is likely that far-right extremists will increase discourse on vaccinations, with disinformation and protests related to COVID-19 vaccines expected to increase. Governments are likely to increase surveillance among groups and forums sharing such information in the near term, as well as potentially restrict related protests and rallies, due to the potential for being hotbeds of radicalization.


Far-right extremist groups to increase membership base by appealing to vulnerable groups both online and through physical events 

  1. Reports by law enforcement agencies regarding increased radicalization among children and youth indicate that far-right extremists are utilizing various strategies aimed at recruiting children. In particular, online strategies, such as first-person shooting video games, videos, and online forums, are providing vulnerable individuals with a sense of belonging. Given that the pandemic has exacerbated grievances and led to an increase in internet usage, the risk for radicalization among vulnerable segments of the population has risen.
  2. The widespread use of remote teaching since March has resulted in less monitoring, both with regard to online activity and changes in behavior among youth. With that, the pandemic has not only increased the potential for radicalization but also the ability to monitor such activity. In the UK, the closures of schools and reductions in social care and mental health provision have led to a decrease in referrals to police about possible radicalization for the country’s PREVENT counter-terrorism program.
  3. In addition to online tactics, far-right extremist groups continue to focus on violent sports, particularly mixed martial arts (MMA), as well as music and music festivals. Given MMA’s general popularity, the far-right’s use of the sport offers an ideal recruitment tactic, with MMA events serving as fundraising and propaganda dissemination opportunities.
  4. Considering that these events, such as the white supremacist Shield and Sword MMA festival held in Ostritz, Germany, as well as music festivals regionwide, are often attended by individuals from multiple countries, they provide far-right groups with the possibility of forming transnational links.
  5. FORECAST: As COVID-19 related restrictions and concerns continue, far-right extremists are expected to focus primarily on online methods of radicalization, given the potential for events, such as MMA and music festivals, being canceled. Moreover, considering that remote learning is liable to continue for an extended period, it is likely that far-right groups will primarily focus on vulnerable youth.
  6. FORECAST: Additionally, far-right extremists are likely to utilize recent Islamist militant attacks in Austria and France as a way to increase anti-Islam and anti-Migrant sentiments, potentially attracting new members.

Radicalization in law enforcement and security forces likely to continue throughout Europe

  1. The instances of far-right activity within law enforcement and security forces, most notably in Germany, where security services recorded more than 1,400 cases of suspected far-right extremism in the three years as of March 2020, suggest far-right groups are attempting to infiltrate these forces.
  2. Reports indicate that individuals with far-right and nationalist views are often attracted to joining the police and armed forces, as they often see themselves as individuals able to “defend their communities”. Furthermore, many of the concepts common among far-right ideologies overlap with those often found within military structures, such as strong national identity and physical “superiority”. Consequently, the potential for radicalization is considerably higher among armed forces and security forces, given the presence that groups are able to recruit trained people. As such, it is possible that law enforcement screening for far-right sentiments is lacking.
  3. Additionally, it is likely that far-right extremists are infiltrating security forces in an attempt to gain access to tactical training and weapons. As such, the infiltration and radicalization within security forces present a significant threat, given the potential access to weapons.
  4. FORECAST: Instances related to far-right activity among security forces are likely to surface in the near term. Consequently, Western European countries are liable to increase surveillance among their law enforcement and security forces in an attempt to stifle concerns among the public. Potential raids and arrests, particularly in Austria and Germany, in suspected cases of far-right activity are likely.

Transnational links throughout the region to increase the potential for militant attacks

  1. The arrests in Austria and Bavaria highlight increasing transnational links among far-right groups. Considering that multiple far-right groups, including the Nordic Resistance Movement, have shared an interest in coordinating and focusing efforts on establishing transnational links, networks between far-right extremists are likely being developed. The fact that Austrian authorities seized large quantities of weapons and ammunition highlights how this increasing cooperation raises the risk of far-right militant attacks across the continent, particularly in Austria and Germany.
  2. The arrests of two German and one British national in Malaga, Spain in connection to an international arms ring reiterates ties between criminal and militant groups, as well as transnational links. Such links heighten the threat level for potential militant attacks, given that extremist groups have access to firearms and explosives necessary for staging attacks across the region.
  3. Additionally, the presence of youth gangs in various urban areas, including London and Berlin, has increased the prevalence of knives, guns, and grenades. As a result, these weapons are becoming more available for radicalized individuals, particularly youth.
  4. FORECAST: Given the potential for transnational links, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, far-right groups are expected to increase coordination throughout Western Europe. While fragmentation among far-right extremists is expected to continue, the threat posed by the far-right is liable to increase in the coming months. Considering the growing focus on creating a so-called “race war,” far-right militant groups are likely to attempt large scale coordinated attacks and campaigns in an attempt to bring this goal into fruition.
  5. FORECAST: Based on recent developments, militant groups are expected to attempt a series of attacks throughout Western Europe. While these groups pose a threat, attacks carried out by radicalized lone wolf attackers are still more likely to succeed due to lesser surveillance. Given that the risk for far-right radicalization has risen due to the pandemic, it is possible that lone wolf attacks are likely to increase as well. Such attacks are expected to target Muslim and Jewish individuals, as well as political opponents and migrants. While extremist groups may plot attacks, these are less likely to come to fruition due to increased surveillance by law enforcement.


  1. Travel to Europe may continue while maintaining vigilance for militant-related activity.
  2. Security plans should be updated to reflect the relevant threats associated with far-right militancy, particularly with regard to online radicalization among vulnerable groups. Pay attention to differing threats from organized cells and lone-wolf individuals.
  3. Public, private, and third sector organizations are advised to increase their awareness of threats on social media through the use of threat monitoring services, including among fringe groups with potential ties to far-right extremists. Increased awareness of an organization’s political footprint and perceptions from fringe online groups can help uncover potential violent actors and plots before they occur.
  4. Alert authorities immediately upon witnessing suspicious items or behavior.

MAX Analysis Egypt: January attack by militant group Wilayat Sinai underscores increased capabilities February 24, 2015

Executive Summary

  • The January 29 coordinated and simultaneous attack against multiple targets in northern Sinai, by the militant organization Wilayat Sinai, highlights an ongoing shift in militant tactics, as well as an upgrading of their capabilities and the potential for additional attacks.
  • Meanwhile, renewed accusations that the Muslim Brotherhood was involved in the attack and subsequent crackdowns on the group will likely continue to create a divide in the organization over the use of violence to “retaliate” against alleged police and military brutality.
  • This divide will likely perpetuate near-daily militant attacks across Egypt, while carrying with it the risk of further expanding the operational areas of “Wilayat Sinai” to Muslim Brotherhood strongholds and other regions across the country.
  • We advise against nonessential travel to Cairo and Alexandria at the time due to the persistent risk of militant attacks and civil unrest in major cities. Consult with us for itinerary-based travel recommendations.

Current Events in Egypt
On January 29, the Islamic State (IS) affiliate in Sinai, Wilayat Sinai (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis), carried out multiple coordinated attacks on several targets in Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah, and al-Arish, with the main attack carried out in the latter. In al-Arish, reports indicate that militants attacked the Egyptian Armed Forces’ 101 Battalion headquarters, as well as multiple other targets, including a local hotel, various checkpoints, and the security directorate. Militants used multiple car bombs, in addition to mortars and gunfire to overwhelm local security forces. Reports indicate that at least 32 people were killed and 100 injured. Wilayat Sinai claimed to have used more 100 fighters in the attack, as well as three explosives-laden vehicles, while claiming to have staged the attack during the night hours so as to “minimize” civilian casualties.

  • Additionally Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made a public statement regarding the January 29 attacks and unrest, vowing to defend Egypt’s Sinai against “terror” and stating, “I have said it before and I will say it again, we are fighting the strongest secret organization of the last two centuries,” likely referring to the Muslim Brotherhood. Reports indicate that al-Sisi also created a new military entity to combat militancy in Sinai, following a meeting held by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Al-Sisi reportedly named General Osama Roshdy, the current head of the Third Army, as the head of the entity and promoted him to Lieutenant-General.
  • Meanwhile, following the attack in Sinai, the Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement in English declaring, “We unequivocally condemn all acts of violence” and reaffirming the group’s “commitment to peaceful and political civil resistance”. However, the group also released an article on January 27, quoting Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, urging its supporters to “prepare” for a new phase where “we summon all our strength and evoke the meaning of Jihad”. The statement also refers to the Secret Apparatus, a paramilitary operation created by al-Banna to fight the British mandate in the 1920s. The Muslim Brotherhood distanced itself from the organization on several occasions, and the existence of the organization remains subject to controversy. The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a document using the statement to show the Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged “double speak”.
  • A Turkish-based television channel, affiliated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement, aired a statement coming from the “Revolutionary Youth” issuing an ultimatum to all foreign nationals in Egypt during the morning hours of January 31. According to the ultimatum, all foreign citizens should leave Egypt by February 11, all foreign companies operating in Egypt should close down by February 20, and all foreign diplomats should leave and close down their embassies by February 28. In addition, the warning was extended to all tourists planning to visit Egypt, saying they should cancel their plans as they are not welcome. According to the broadcast, whoever chooses to ignore the warning will be targeted.
  • The statement was then condemned by the Muslim Brotherhood in English; however, no such condemnation was issued in Arabic. The Egyptian authorities have reportedly requested that Turkey halt broadcasting the channel; however, unconfirmed reports suggest that no official complaint was lodged in Turkey at this time.

Assessments: Attack in al-Arish underscores heightened militant capabilities, while highlighting possibility for additional attacks in coming months

  • While attacks in the Sinai Peninsula have been carried out on a near-daily basis, the recent attack in al-Arish is notable as it underscores militants’ increased capabilities despite ongoing military operations and the deployment of troops in the Sinai Peninsula. A similar attack was carried out in Sheikh Zuweid on October 24, with militants detonating a car bomb at a heavily protected checkpoint near the city, placing roadside bombs near the site to prevent reinforcements from arriving and then storming the checkpoint with several vehicles and simultaneously firing rocket propelled grenades (RPG). Such attacks underscore militants’ ability to gather intelligence, predict Egyptian military tactics, and carry out multi-stage attacks meant to overwhelm the main military strongholds in the peninsula.
  • In this context, the October 24 and January 29 attacks underscore a shift in militant tactics. Militants had thus far used “hit-and-run” attacks against the Egyptian military, using either car bombs, roadside bombs, localized mortar or rocket attacks, or RPG and shooting attacks. However, the October 24 and January 29 attacks demonstrate  militants’ ability to efficiently use a combination of all of these techniques to maximize casualties. Furthermore, the attack on January 29 underscores militants’ ability to drag the Egyptian military into hours-long ground clashes, as well as their willingness to directly confront the military. Such tactics, which are also riskier for militants, are likely a direct result of the increased militarization of northern Sinai, as militants need to use heavier firepower to attack highly defended military positions. Furthermore, it is possible, in light of the group’s allegiance to IS, that several tactics developed and used in Syria and Iraq were learned by Wilayat Sinai from IS.
  • Despite statements from the military promising a harsh response and claiming the attack was the result of military successes in Sinai, the multi-layered attack likely raised doubts over the efficiency of the Egyptian military’s counterinsurgency campaign in Sinai. In this context, the attack followed a January announcement of the extension of the three-month long state of emergency in Sinai, which was initially declared in the aftermath of the October 24 attack, for an additional three months, as well the launching of the “second phase” in the establishment of a buffer zone with Gaza. With this in mind, the timing of the attack highlights the possibility that militants sought to demonstrate the failure of such measures, while further capitalizing on discontent among locals stemming from these measures. Finally, in light of the main target of the attack, the 101 Battalion headquarters, considered to be one of the most secured and fortified military bases in Sinai, the militants may have sought to “shame” the Egyptian military, and thus heighten the chances for a disproportionate crackdown on the peninsula, and on Islamists in general in the country. Such a crackdown is further likely, in turn, to alienate the local population and legitimize further attacks.
  • Overall, we assess that the militancy threat will likely remain elevated in northern Sinai, in light of the persistent clashes reported after the attack. However, heavy military deployments in this specific area of the Sinai Peninsula, may also encourage militants to relocate and stage attacks in other locations of the peninsula and, to a lesser extent, of the country. In this context, while the positioning of militants in the triangle between al-Arish, Rafah, and Sheikh Zuweid was likely strategic for the group in light of the smuggling of weapons to and from the Gaza Strip, increased military pressure on smuggling activities likely have prompted the group to develop other tactics.
  • These may include, for instance, the use of boats to smuggle weapons and militants, given that despite the maritime blockade on the peninsula, the Egyptian navy’s capacities remain limited when compared to its ground counterpart. The group may thus attempt to develop ties with Bedouin tribes in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, while previous upticks in military activities in northern Sinai have also resulted in militants fleeing to other parts of the country. As a result, we assess that in addition to the militancy threat in northern Sinai, the coming months may see an uptick in Wilayat’s Sinai activity in southern Sinai, as well as in the Nile Delta and potentially at the border with Libya.

Assessments:  Sinai attack, resulting crackdowns on Brotherhood likely to perpetuate divide in organization

  • In light of the declarations made by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as well as past attacks in Egypt since the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi, the crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood will likely be widened following the attack in Sinai, as has previously been witnessed. In this context, while this trend is not new, the continuing accusation and crackdown has likely created a divide inside the organization between those who continue to advocate for peaceful protests to denounce the regime and those who advocate “self-defense” in light of the security forces’ use of violence to disperse the protesters.
  • In addition, to increase pressure for the group to legitimize “self-defense”, several elements, namely the mass arrest of most of the Brotherhood’s leadership in Egypt, its relocation outside the country, and changes inside the organization, have further intensified this divide. This is further underscored by unconfirmed reports that the Brotherhood held two-month worldwide elections that led to leaders of the youth movement as well as reformist movements assuming a broader role, suggesting that new leaders are seeking to reform the group.
  • Should the group’s leadership in Turkey or in other countries maintain its policy of nonviolence, it bears the risk of being increasingly sidelined and losing its remaining influence over the group’s supporters on the ground. On the other hand, should it  decide to shift its stance and overtly promote violent actions, even those deemed to be “self-defense”, the group will likely face increased pressure both inside and outside Egypt, as the military-backed regime will likely use such statements against it. This likely explains the current ambiguity of the Brotherhood’s statements, and the fact that condemnations of violence have been made in English but not in Arabic. The recent statement on the Brotherhood-affiliated channel as well as the article advocating violence likely stem from this divide. Such a divide may further increase the chances that members of the group will leave if they do not agree with the group’s line, or that they will feel that attacks are justified, in light of recent aforementioned statements.

Assessments: Near-daily militant attacks likely to continue, while IS-affiliated group may take advantage of internal Brotherhood divide to further expand operational areas

  • Overall, we assess the attack in al-Arish will likely prompt an uptick in violence in Egypt, both in Sinai and across the country, as a result of the likely impending crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, and, as aforementioned, in light of precedent. Such violence will likely continue to materialize in continued IED attacks against the country’s security forces, infrastructure, and transportation system. However, as indicated by an uptick in attacks and threats against foreign companies, such attacks may increasingly expand to civilian targets deemed to be legitimate if they are deemed as “collaborating” with the regime.
  • Moreover, we assess that low-level militant groups may increasingly serve as a gateway for disenchanted and former members of the organization to join the other more radicalized groups. While prior to the ouster of Mohammed Morsi, the ideological gap between the Muslim Brotherhood and militants groups, such as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis at the time, was significant, disillusioned members of the organization can now gradually radicalize by passing from group to another, given the wide variety of groups using violence, including local Popular Resistance Committees that often claim IED attacks against security forces, the Ajnad Misr militant group, and finally Wilayat Sinai.
  • Furthermore, as several elements of the Brotherhood may leave it and become increasingly radicalized, the operational areas of Wilayat Sinai in Egypt may expand to officially include a group in mainland Egypt. Regardless, the recruitment of disillusioned former members of the Brotherhood, as well as the fact that several members of the group may flee from Sinai to the Nile Delta, the border with Libya, or Libya itself, may increase the potential for sophisticated attacks to be witnessed in these areas other the coming months, as well as in major cities such as Cairo and Alexandria.