By Nahla Abdelmoneim
Italian authorities have arrested two individuals believed to have ties to ISIS, following growing concerns about the resurgence of lone wolf attacks in Europe in the aftermath of the Brussels attack that claimed the lives of Swedish citizens.
Italian authorities announced the arrest of two individuals on October 17th, suspecting them of being recruited by ISIS to promote its ideology on social media platforms and to enlist new members. Daniel Calinda, head of the special police investigations unit, stated that security concerns are currently escalating in the region due to the activities of lone wolves.
Authorities identified propaganda disseminated by the accused on social media platforms, with one of them pledging allegiance to ISIS on Facebook. Both individuals participated in communication groups within the organization through WhatsApp to exchange private messages.
The authorities did not disclose their names but noted that they are 49 and 44 years old, residing in Italy since 2001 and 2008, respectively. They had previously been questioned in a terrorism-related investigation. Giuseppe Petronzi, the chief of police in Milan, revealed that Italian security agencies decided to apprehend them due to their increased activities in recent times and concerns about a repeat of the Brussels attack.
Lone Wolves Pose a Threat to Europe
There is increasing concern about new attacks targeting European countries, either carried out by individuals who have been radicalized due to ideological and emotional influences or executed under direct orders from the terrorist organization. In mid-October, an undocumented Tunisian immigrant opened fire near Saint-Gilles Square in northern Brussels, near the King Baudouin Stadium, before a match between Belgium and Sweden in the 2024 UEFA European Football Championship qualifiers. The attack resulted in the deaths of two Swedes and the cancellation of the match.
Arab media reported that the attacker posted a video in Arabic, claiming responsibility for the attack, citing his allegiance to ISIS-inspired ideas before being killed by law enforcement during a pursuit to apprehend him.
Europe Fears Rising Waves of Extremists
Extremist groups remain the primary security concern for European countries. French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, during his visit to the United States on May 20, 2023, stated that terrorism generated by extremist organizations poses the main threat to France and all Europeans. He called on the U.S. government to enhance intelligence cooperation with European countries on this issue.
Darmanin also expressed concerns about the resurgence of terrorist groups in some Middle Eastern regions, as well as in the African Sahel and Afghanistan, followed by attacks against Western interests. He emphasized the necessity of cooperation between Europe and the United States to undermine the activities of terrorists.
In June 2023, the European law enforcement agency, Europol, announced enhanced security measures to counter terrorism financing, highlighting increased scrutiny of suspicious funding for violent activities, money collection, and donations. In 2022, security agencies arrested 380 individuals, including 14 accused of terrorism financing, particularly channeling funds to ISIS elements in Libya through a suspicious cell in Spain.