EU security chiefs brace for more Islamist attacks

French police secure the area after a man was shot dead at a police station in the 18th district in Paris, France January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau (Reuters)

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Islamic State and other militants are very likely to attempt big new attacks in Europe following those in Paris, the EU's police agency said on Monday, echoing previous warnings by senior security officials. The assessment was based on discussions concluded eight weeks ago by security agencies from EU states. The 8-page public report said further attacks could even take place quite soon. The events in Paris "appear to indicate a shift toward a broader strategy of IS going global, of them specifically attacking France, but also the possibility of attacks against other member states of the EU in the near future", it said. There was "every reason to expect" an attack, by Islamic State or "IS-inspired terrorists or another religiously inspired terrorist group". "This is in addition to the threat of lone actor attacks, which has not diminished," it said. At a news conference to mark the launch of a new European Counter Terrorism Centre within Europol, based in The Hague, its director Rob Wainwright said Islamic State "has the willingness and capability to carry out further attacks in Europe". Since immediately after the Paris attacks on Nov. 13, in which Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people, Wainwright, a senior British police officer, has said further similar attacks are likely in Europe and that "lone wolf" militants are no longer the prime threat. The Europol report said Islamic State may have established an "external action command trained for special forces-style attacks in the international environment" and noted that, as the Paris attacks showed, the group was largely active in Europe through radicalized European citizens, not foreigners. The report also warned of a risk of cyber attacks but said there was no evidence of Islamist militants trying to use chemical, biological or nuclear material as a weapon in Europe. Wainwright welcomed what he called a "considerable improvement" in the level of intelligence information that EU governments were now willing to share with each other through Europol following the attacks on Paris, which have concentrated minds on a need for cooperation against Islamist threats. Currently, some 30 Europol experts are working to support the Franco-Belgian investigation into the Paris attack, Wainwright said, helping track movements of money, weapons, fake documents and other elements of the plot. (Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Tom Heneghan)