02:28 GMT +323 January 2020
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    Radio Sputnik discussed the reasons why car-ramming attacks keep happening in Europe with Peter Williams, Policing & Terrorism Expert at Liverpool John Moores University.

    The Civil Guard police reported that a car has hit people close to a pedestrian crossing near Bar Avenida in Zaragoza, Spain. The incident occurred just hours after Spanish police shot and killed an Algerian man as he attempted to attack them with a knife at a police station.

    Sputnik: The incident comes less than a week after the Westminster attack. Why do acts similar to these keep happening across Europe? Can’t intelligence services or the police do to prevent them?

    Peter Williams: The first reason that this is still happening is, I think, what are being referred to as low-tempo attacks. There’s very little preparation involved prior to the actual committing of the attack. The advantage of that for the perpetrators is that it minimizes, almost to nil, the opportunity for the security services to be able to intervene and prevent the attacks. When you look at the UK, for example, we’ve been informed in the last week or so in the aftermath of the Westminster attack that there’ve been about 17 attacks, which have been prevented in relation to Islamic extremism since March of last year. These are attacks that would have been very involved in relation to the planning; that gives the opportunity for the security and the intelligence services to pick up the intelligence and realize what’s happening and do something about it. This attack with vehicles is not like that, and that’s the reason why they are still happening. The second part of the question is that there have been some successes in relation to the prevention of these attacks by enhancing anti-terrorism measures. For example, there would have been far more injuries and fatalities from the attack in Westminster last week if preventative measures hadn't been implemented since the attack in March of last year. In that regard, the measures were successful; but the issue is, of course, can we do that in all city centers and in all buildings that are likely to be targeted?

    Sputnik: That’s a very difficult one, especially alluding to what you were saying that these ones with little planning are very difficult for intelligence services to actually get a handle on. The incident also comes roughly after the deadly bus loner attacks; has the security across Europe significantly improved since? What’s your knowledge of the improvement of the security processes and intelligence moving forward from last year? Have significant steps to move forward taken place now do you think?

    Peter Williams: In relation to the United Kingdom I think we can point to the recommendations in the Anderson report of 2017, which was a review of the attacks in London and in Manchester last year. Anderson has made seven recommendations, particularly concerning the sharing of intelligence, which if implemented, should have a positive effect in relation to how the agencies work together and share intelligence. That’s a very interesting question, particularly here, in the UK, in relation to its potential post-Brexit. In relation to Europe specifically, Europol is the go-to place for intelligence. It's based in The Hague in the Netherlands; and it’s specifically for the EU-28 member-states, because the UK is likely to exit at the end of March next year. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks in November 2015, Europol from January 2016 set up its own Counterterrorism Center, which is an intelligence center very much based on JTAG of MI5, based in London. That is being seen as a great move forward; it’s certainly something which the UK does value, but it will be interesting to see what happens when the UK does exit the EU and if our access to that intelligence will be downgraded. But the general point you’re making here is that there’s far more integration across Europe in relation to the sharing of intelligence because of the fact that Europol has implemented these measures with the European Counterterrorism Center. The idea is obviously to enhance the sharing of intelligence across the member-states.

    Sputnik: If we just look at the specific strategy of these individuals; the attacks for the past couple of years were quite often lone-wolf attacks; how could this phenomenon be accounted for? What makes them commit these crimes? Obviously, this goes back to the ideology of the individuals and maybe the fact that many of these young men are disillusioned with the current situation within life or in religion; or a number of manifestations that have been brought together to make them disillusioned or follow their ideology. What’s your particular take on that?

    Peter Williams: If you look at the last week’s attack in Westminster, the prosecution is saying that it is terrorism, but the individual is charged not with terrorism offences but with two counts of attempted murder. What they will be looking at is why this person hasn't come to notice, and they will be looking at if there have been opportunities where the information could have been folded and given to the intelligence services or the police which would have indicated that this person was possibly at risk of radicalization. What you must remember is that not all people who become radicalized go on to commit terrorist attacks. We know from last week in the United Kingdom that there’re about 670 live terrorist inquiries at the moment; so we see that the security services are very much stretched. But I think the general context here is simply: how can we prevent them in the future; and the way we prevent them in the future is by engaging with all parts of our community, having the confidence both ways to share information with the police, with the security services and all the agencies more locally on the ground. One of the problems the British police services have at the moment is the demise of neighborhood policing where the police are not visible on the ground. Anderson identified this as being one of the drawbacks, probably due to the range of the austerity and the budget cuts which have affected the police. It’s a bigger issue than what you think here; it is very much a work in progress as you can probably gleam from that answer.

    The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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