The strategy of Jihad attacks in Europe 

Jihad attacks made and prevented by security authorities

Stefan Goertz

According to the Austrian Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the most severe terrorist threat for Austria unalteredly comes from Islamistic terrorism. Although less Jihad travellers (Foreign Terrorist Fighters) than expected have returned to Austria so far, this group of Jihad “returnees” represent a considerable and hardly calculable danger potential for the inner security of Austria. Nevertheless, Jihad minute groups or single offenders (“lone wolves”) with strike-, thrust- and firearms as well as with vehicles are also a considerable danger potential. By the end of 2018, the Austrian Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution knew of 320 persons coming from Austria, who actively take or have taken part in the Jihad of Syria and Iraq.

Out of those, 58 Austrians lost their lives in the Syria/Iraq region, and 93 persons have returned to Austria. The threat for Western democracies originating in the international conflict between the Islamistic size organisations Al Qaida and the “Islamic State (IS)” as non-governmental actors, is determined by the principle of asymmetric strategy of Islamistic terrorism. Following the categories means, objective and purpose by Clausewitz, Islamistic terrorism can be defined as a situation in which a non-governmental actor specifically applies manifested violence against civilians (means) in order to spread fear and horror (purpose) and to force a state to change its politics (objective). International Jihadism as a special asymmetric violence strategy applies both terrorism as a tactical means – where neither women nor children are excluded from the objective logic – and guerrilla warfare as well as propaganda and technological means of the Internet.

The totalitarian ideology and strategy of international Jihadism - based on dehumanizing “friend versus foe”-dichotomies – lead to a violence willingness, which is interminable. Nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, too, represent potential effective means for Islamistic terrorists, which has been proved by the attack with Rizin in June 2018 and which was impeded by the German security authorities in Cologne. The use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons would create a threat scenario in terms of both quality and quantity, which the police organisations of European states cannot tackle without the deployment of innumerable soldiers, and in terms of strategy, this would require a much closer cooperation of armed forces and the police.

The Jihadist attacks impeded by the security authorities of European states illustrate the risk of future attacks in Europe. After the police access to the Iraq terrorist cell in the rural district of Dithmarschen/Germany in January 2019, the German Federal Home Minister Horst Seehofer pointed out that “the security situation remains tense. A terrorist attack may happen any time.” At the moment, and in future as well, two relevant threat scenarios for the Western world come from Jihadism: On the one hand, large scale attacks and multiple tactical scenarios by international Jihadist organisations such as the “Islamic State (IS)” and Al Qaida, and on the other hand, low-level attacks by Jihadist “lone wolves”.