On 28 October, Europol supported the CGI of the Spanish National Police (Comisaría General de Información de la Policía Nacional) in arresting three suspects linked to a terrorist cell actively recruiting and indoctrinating young people. The individuals, among which feature the alleged leaders of the cell, were arrested as a result of house searches carried out in San Sebastian and Pasaia in northern Spain. They are believed to have created the terrorist structure to carry out jihadist terrorism in support of the so-called Islamic State.
10,000 followers on social media networks
This terrorist cell was very active online, disseminating a large amount of jihadist propaganda with the purpose of recruiting and indoctrinating young people. The content included a variety of violent visuals displaying minors involved in Islamic State jihadist combats and promoting them as role models. The suspects used social media accounts to disseminate propaganda. They created multiple profiles on social media networks, which counted numerous followers. Two of the accounts created accumulated over 10,000 followers.
Physical training and mental conditioning of minors
During planned meetings, the youngest members received physical training and mental conditioning to carry out jihadist terrorism. The terrorist cell enabled the regular practice of contact sports and provided handbooks on the use and handling of weapons such as knives and firearms.
Investigators identified the existence of a hierarchy within the organization structuring the relationship between its members. The suspects used various measures to conceal from the police the criminal activities taking place online and in physical environments.
The arrests of the primary suspects of this terrorist cell was a result of a two–year-long investigation and an exhaustive analysis of information gathered throughout multiple operations conducted in the Spanish province of Guipuzcoa.
Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) supported the investigation by providing long-term analytical and operational support. During the action day, ECTC experts enabled real-time information exchange and analysis.
To ensure an effective response to the challenges posed by the terrorist threat, Europol created in 2016 the European Counter Terrorism Centre, an operations centre and hub of expertise that reflects the growing need for the EU to strengthen its response to terror.
Designed as a central hub in the EU in the fight against terrorism, the ECTC focuses on operational support to member states in terrorist investigations. It cross-checks live operational data against the data Europol already has, quickly bringing financial leads to light, and analyses all available investigative details to assist in compiling a structured picture of the terrorist network.
Fighting terrorist content online: President von der Leyen to deliver video message at Christchurch Call summit on Friday
This Friday (14 May), President von der Leyen will deliver a video message at the Christchurch Call summit. Hosted by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, and the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, the meeting will gather Heads of State or Government and tech sector leaders with the objective of stepping up cooperation on addressing terrorist and violent extremist content online. The Christchurch Call is a commitment by governments and tech companies to eliminate such content online, following the livestreamed terrorist attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019. The Commission is a founding supporter of the Christchurch Call. Discussions at this year's summit will focus on crisis response, with a view to ensuring timely, consistent and well-coordinated action when responding to crisis situations involving the spread of terrorist and violent extremist content online. Participants will also discuss transparency reporting, necessary to measure the extent of the threat posed by terrorist content online and monitor compliance of measures taken with fundamental rights.
They will then reflect on the need to better understand algorithms that promote content online, to evaluate the risks they could pose in terms of radicalization. In line with the commitments taken under the Christchurch Call, the Commission has acted to fight terrorist and violent extremist content online. The Commission launched the EU Internet Forum to facilitate co-operation with tech companies on addressing terrorist content online. In 2019, EU Internet Forum participants committed to an EU Crisis Protocol, allowing governments and online platforms to respond rapidly and in a coordinated manner to the dissemination of terrorist content online in the event of a terrorist attack.
The Commission is also working at the global level with tech companies under the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. Beyond this voluntary approach, the EU has also agreed binding legislation. New EU rules adopted last month will oblige online platforms to remove terrorist content referred by member states' authorities within one hour while providing for strong safeguards to ensure the full respect of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and information.
Biden to join eastern European NATO states summit, focus seen on Ukraine
US President Joe Biden (pictured) joined a virtual summit of eastern European NATO states held in the Romanian capital Bucharest on Monday (10 May), Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said, with a focus on security in the Black Sea region and Ukraine.
The summit of the Bucharest Nine, a group of European countries on the eastern edge of NATO, will be jointly hosted by Iohannis and Poland's President Andrzej Duda and aims at coordinating the security positions of countries in the region.
"Glad to welcome Joe Biden to the Bucharest9 Summit which I host in Bucharest today," Iohannis said on his Twitter account.
"Together with President Andrzej Duda we'll also welcome ... Jens Stoltenberg in preparation of NATO Summit, focusing on Transatlantic ties, NATO 2030, defence and deterrence on the eastern flank."
Biden, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and the presidents of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia will video-conference into the gathering.
"In ... the statement that the nine will publish after the meeting there will be the issue of security in the Black Sea region and the related security issues in Ukraine," the head of Poland's National Security Bureau, Pawel Soloch, told reporters.
Earlier this month, Washington said it could increase security help for Kyiv after Russia moved troops near its border with Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops are in conflict with Moscow-backed separatists.
Commission makes €11 million available to strengthen cybersecurity capabilities and co-operation
The European Commission will make €11 million of funding available for 22 new projects seeking to strengthen the European Union's capacity to deter and mitigate cyber-threats and incidents, by employing the latest technologies. The projects, which have been selected following a recent call for proposals under the Connecting Europe Facility programme, will support various cybersecurity organisations in 18 Member States. The beneficiaries of the funding include Computer Security Incident Response teams, operators of essential services in the health, energy, transport and other sectors, as well as bodies dealing with the cybersecurity certification and testing, as defined in the EU Cybersecurity Act. They will start working after the summer on tools and skills necessary to comply with the requirements set by the NIS Directive and the Cybersecurity Act, while at the same time they will engage in activities aimed to enhance cooperation at the EU level. So far the EU has funded almost €47.5m to reinforce EU cybersecurity between 2014 and 2020, through the Connecting Europe Facility programme. Furthermore, more than €1 billion under the Digital Europe Programme will be directed towards the areas of focus of the new EU Cybersecurity Strategy. More information is available here. More information about Europe's actions to strengthen cybersecurity capacities is available here and EU-funded cybersecurity projects can be found here.
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