Europe Terror Attacks Summary for the Year 2020

The PDF version of the Summary can be downloaded here

For the year 2020, we have identified 24 terrorist attacks within Europe, 20 of which have been classified as Islamist, 2 as perpetrated by Extreme Right supporters, and 2 more that have no clear motivation.

As to countries involved, 10 attacks have been perpetrated in France, 5 in Germany, four in the United Kingdom, and 1 respectively in Austria, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland. [1] [2]

The first quarter of 2020 has been the one with the higher number of attacks (10), followed by the fourth quarter (6), while the second and third quarters both registered 4 attacks. During the months of May and July, no attacks were recorded.

In 6 out of the 24 attacks, the targets were law enforcers or private security, while the rest were civilian targets.

The total number of deceased victims is 24; the deceased terrorists are 6, while the others have been apprehended.


The weapon most commonly used is once again the cold steel weapon (may it be a kitchen knife, an all-purpose knife, or a machete), in some cases combined with a vehicle utilized as a “ram” against pedestrian targets. A common modus operandi known as “vehicle-ramming”, used on plenty of occasions in Europe by terrorists such as Anis Amri in Berlin (December 19th, 2016) and Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel in Nice (July 14th, 2016), as already exposed by Stratfor Global Intelligence. [3]

This technique had already been utilized by terrorists at least since 2006, when Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar, a University of North Carolina graduate, drove an SUV against a popular campus gathering spot, injuring nine people. [4]

Ramming attacks had also been suggested in the fall of 2010 issue on al-Qaeda’s English-language online magazine Inspire, specifying how easy it is to find a vehicle and drive it at high speed against a crowd; a technique that can maximize the number of victims without much preparation. [5] [6]

Another interesting observation can be made in relation to the weapons used in the Vienna terrorist attack on the night of November 2nd. As already exposed to Sec-Ter by an Italian weapon expert, the AK-47 and the Tokarev pistol used by Kujtim Fejzulai (see photo below) are a classic of the black market, and largely available in the Balkans, where the terrorist was originally from.

Researcher Asya Metodieva from the Institute of International Relations Prague indicated that there is an understanding among experts who follow jihadism in Europe that Vienna has been utilized by jihadists as a strategic hub in terms of logistics and networks, due to the fact that Vienna is a connector between Western Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East. Following this important observation by Metodieva, it is therefore legitimate to go beyond the jihadist issue and consider the connections between Austria and the Balkans in relation to the weapons black market, which could be crucial in this case.

France’s role in fighting Islamists

As initially exposed, ten out of the twenty attacks classified as “Islamists” targeted France. This can be attributed to France’s strong effort in fighting Islamist extremism both domestically and on an international level. It is essential to recall how Paris has been active in the Sahel region since July 2014 with Operation “Barkhane”, with the objective of fighting jihadist groups active in the area, such as Jamat Nusrat al-Islam, Aqim, al-Mourabitoun and Ansar Dine. In November, French troops in Mali eliminated Ba Ag Moussa, leader of the al-Qaeda aligned group Gsim (Group to Support Islam and Muslims). [7] [8]

It is also interesting to notice how attacks against France have once again increased in September after a new satirical publication by magazine Charlie Hebdo depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammed. One of these attacks targeted the magazine’s former headquarter on September 25th. Two other attacks that took place on October 16th and 29th respectively in Paris and Nice included two beheadings.

Overall, between September and December, France was targeted by five attacks, with three concentrated in October.

A few further considerations

It is also interesting to notice the similarity between the February 2nd attack in London’s Streatham High Road and the one that occurred on April 4th in Romans-sur-Isere.

In both cases, the attackers stole a knife from a shop and then attacked pedestrians while yelling Islamist slogans. However, while London attacker Sudesh Amman was well known to British authorities, with a long radicalization path that had begun in 2018, very little is known about the Sudanese asylum-seeker Abdallah Ahmed Usman, who hit in Romans-sur-Isere.

Amman had also been wearing a fake suicide vest during the attack, which indicates two factors: 1- the will to be shot and consequently die as a martyr; 2- the preparation of the attack.

Ahmed Usman’s attack might instead have very limited preparation, if not none. This could raise a question: was the Romans-sur-Isere attack an emulation of the London terror attack? Did Usman inspire himself from Amman’s action?

One additional element that emerged from the London attack is how the UK’s prevention programs once again failed in rehabilitating an extremist, just like in the case of Usman Khan, as already exposed by the BBC. [9]

Sudesh Amman had been sentenced in December 2018 to three years and four months of prison, on terror charges, and he had also been subjected to some de-radicalization initiatives while in custody; however, he was released early, on January 23rd, shortly before perpetrating the attack. [10]

[1] The December 1st car-ramming in Trier has not been included in the list as the motivation has been linked exclusively to the consumption of alcohol and drugs, combined with mental issues, that most likely have caused the action

[2] The Hackney terror attack that occurred in June has been classified by authorities as a hate crime, but not terror-related









The possible motivation behind the Vienna terrorist attack

On the night of November 2nd in Vienna, an individual of ethnic Albanian origin with dual Austrian and North Macedonian citizenship, identified as 20-year-old Kujtim Fejzullai, opened fire in the streets of Vienna’s historical center and against the Stadttempel synagogue. In the attack, four people were killed and 23 injured.

The perpetrator, was heavily armed with an AK-47 rifle, a Tokarev handgun, a machete, and a fake suicide vest; this could indicate that he would have continued to kill if he hadn’t been taken down by police 9 minutes after the attack had begun.

The shooting took place four hours before the midnight start of a nationwide lockdown as new COVID-19 restrictions came into force in Austria, including a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am.

The following day, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack and released a video of Fejzullai pledging allegiance to the jihadist Organization with the “nom de guerre” Abu Dujana al-Albani.

The individual had been sentenced to 22 months of prison in April 2019, after he had tried to cross the Turkish border into Syria to join ISIS; however, he was paroled in December 2019, eight months into the sentence. Fejzullai had also taken part in a deradicalization program managed by the DERAD association and which obviously did not succeed. (For further information on the attacker and a risk assessment perspective, we invite you to read Jorg Peschak’s article for the Italian Team for Security, Terroristic Issues and Managing Emergencies).

On November 13th a spokeswoman for the Vienna prosecutor’s office, Nina Bussek, stated that 21 people between the ages of 16 and 28 were under investigation, with 10 of them in custody. Following the attack, Austrian authorities shut down the Tewhid Mosque and the Melit Ibrahim Association, both apparently attended by the 20-year-old terrorist.

Investigations revealed that in July 2020, Fejzulai had tried to buy ammunition in Slovakia, and had also met with known Islamists from Germany and Switzerland that same month in Vienna.

Shooting instructor and weapon expert Giacomo Tisi, contacted by Sec-Ter, indicated how the AK-47 and the Tokarev pistol used by Fejzulai are “a classic of the black market”; an observation which raises a further question: when, where and how did the terrorist manage to obtain these firearms?

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz claimed that the Austrian authorities were ready to outlaw political Islam in order to intervene against those who are not necessarily terrorists but who are active in creating fertile ground for them by fueling Islamist ideology that consequently leads to terror attacks.

As a consequence, mosques and Islamic centers that spread Islamist ideology will be closed while authorities will also be cutting financial channels that bring in funds to such groups. In the following days, several places linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood were also raided by Austria police.

The weapons used in the attack

Why Austria?

Researcher Asya Metodieva from the Institute of International Relations Prague is correct when she explains that since the rise of the Islamic State, Austria has never been a target of a major terror attack. She also indicates that there is an understanding among experts who follow jihadism in Europe that Vienna has been utilized by jihadists as a strategic hub in terms of logistics and networks, due to the fact that Vienna is a connector between Western Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East.

Metodieva also points out that there are legitimate doubts about the fact that the attack was a response to Charlie Hebdo’s new publication of satirical cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad, considering that Fejzulai had been preparing for the attack months before.

Then why Vienna? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to scroll back to the summer of 2018, when Austrian authorities had taken strong measures against seven mosques belonging to the Turkish-Austrian Islamic Union (Atib) and expelled forty imams. The move came after the website “Clarion Project” had published an article by the title “Erdogan grooming child martyrs”, exposing shocking images published by the AKP watch Twitter account, taken inside Turkish mosques on Austrian soil, that portrayed minors in military clothes who improvised themselves as martyrs with Turkish flags.

Such horrifying images came after Turkish president Erdogan had glorified child-martyrs and told a six-year-old girl how she would have been covered in a Turkish flag if she had died as a martyr, as reported by the New York Times.

Erdogan had defined the measures taken by the Austrian government as “racist and Islamophobic”, exactly as he did in response to the new measures taken by the Austrian government. Additionally, it is important to notice how Austrian authorities explained that the raids on sites linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood were not linked to the November 2nd attack as investigations had been ongoing for more than a year.

It is therefore possible to suppose that the terror attack in Vienna could be a retaliation to the stronger measures taken by Austrian authorities against Islamism.

Additionally, the first target hit by Fejzulai was the Stadttempel synagogue, already hit on August 29th ,1981 by two terrorists belonging to the Abu Nidal organization. [1]

This could be linked to the September normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, a move that enraged the Islamist world. Of course, this is only speculation, but at this stage all elements must be kept into consideration.

[1] In the attack, which occurred during a Bar Mitzvah, two people were killed and eighteen wounded.

Who is Aymen Abidi? The story of the funambulist (and fundamentalist?) who embarrassed the Italian Penitentiary Police

On the morning of September 18th, Tunisian detainee Aymen Abidi (25) managed to escape while being transferred to Sollicciano prison from Florence’s courthouse in viale Guidoni.

According to the reconstruction provided by Florence’s local newspaper “La Nazione”, Abidi was about to board a Penitentiary Police truck in the courthouse’s parking lot when he managed to slip out of his handcuffs, hit the escorting agent in the face and neck with the handcuff, push him on the ground, jump over a tall fence that delimits the parking perimeter and flee through the nearby San Donato park. The Penitentiary agent remained injured and received medical treatment and a prognosis of 10 days.

According to newspaper “Il Giornale”, Abidi’s last traces lead to the S.M.N. train station, a location that he should have reached onboard tram T2, that connects the airport to Piazza Unità.

Aymen Abidi is wanted by the German police for attempted murder. He is indicated as responsible for a shooting incident that occurred in the city of Leipzig on April 9th, 2020.

On July 10th, the German police tracked him down while hiding in a flat on the 4th floor of an apartment complex in Delitzsch, but Abidi managed to flee barefoot from the balcony and reach Florence, Italy, where he had friends.

The Italian police detected the fugitive on a bike and arrested him on July 23rd in the center of the city, after a long chase. However, Abidi managed to escape once again and this time in a very adventurous way.

At this point in time, many questions spontaneously arise, first of all, how is it possible that Abidi managed to slip out of his handcuffs? This isn’t exactly an easy task, unless you are Houdini…

Secondly, due to his particularly athletic conditions and the fact that he is considered extremely dangerous and violent (as indicated on Abidi’s profile posted by the German police), why was the detainee not being escorted by enough police personnel and with proper security measures? How did he have the time to run and jump over the tall fence delimiting the parking lot of the courthouse without anyone stopping him? Didn’t the personnel guarding the structure’s perimeter have enough time to intervene?

Is Ayman Abidi a Jihadist?

The local Italian newspaper “La Nazione” described Ayman Abidi as “a terrorist” and “a jihadist”. However, no correlations between the fugitive and terrorist activities have so far been found on the international media, nor has this element been indicated in the German police’s profile outline.

Abidi’s Facebook profile, which is under examination by Sec-Ter personnel, so far shows no elements that can link him to any sort of terrorist or jihadist activity. The photos posted in his profile show Abidi’s presence in Leipzig, Florence, and Tunisia.

It is yet unclear what Abidi’s relation to jihadism is. It is indeed possible that precise information linking the fugitive to such an activity haven’t been released to the public: was the April 9th shooting in Leipzig terror-related? Was Abidi attending extremist milieu in Germany? Did the German police find sensitive elements during the flat raid in Delitzsch? So far it is impossible to find any type of reliable confirmation.

Is he a dangerous criminal? Yes, and undoubtedly an athletic funambulist who finds no difficulties in fleeing barefoot from a balcony located on the 4th floor, in slipping out of handcuffs, and in jumping over security fences. A characteristic that makes many wonder why he was not being safely escorted out of Florence’s courthouse.

The fence outside the Courthouse of Florence, Italy

Police intervention in Milan’s Duomo: an example of what should always be avoided

On August 12th, 2020, a 26 years-old Egyptian immigrant who is legally resident on Italian soil was spotted while sitting on the stairs of Milan’s central Duomo cathedral by private security operators and police; the man attracted attention after behaving nervously and suspiciously. As the officers approached him for a check, the individual pulled out a knife and rushed towards the entrance of the Duomo, chased by a private security officer. It is yet unclear what really occurred when the officer reached him, but the situation unfolded with the individual holding a knife against the guard who appeared wounded and who was made kneel-down inside the church. As more police agents reached the scene, the attacker went on for over 20 minutes threatening to behead the guard, and this is where the whole drama begins, accompanied by a dangerous improvisation by agents.

The full viewed can be viewed below

Preventive screening failure

One first sign that indicates the failure of a security apparatus that is supposed to detect potentially dangerous individuals and intervene before they can put at stake lives (specifically in one of the most notorious touristic sites in Italy), is not much in the fact that the assailant was able to reach the site armed with a knife, but rather in how he easily managed to pull out the weapon and run inside the church while being approached by the Police. The intervening officers should have considered a potentially violent and sudden reaction of the individual, and they should have taken proper measures to prevent it, something that they did not do.

According to Italian news reports, the attacker was chased inside the Duomo by a private security guard in service at the site and once inside he was outpowered by the armed assailant who had him kneel down while threatening to stab or behead him.

A long, unprofessional, and improvised negotiation

What follows inside the Duomo is a second sign of a major security failure, this time through an absurd dialogue (calling it negotiation would be very generous) between the attacker and several agents, in an uncoordinated way and often overlapping each other, while aiming their guns at him.

While pointing firearms, the officers try to calm down the attacker by saying “put the knife down, nothing will happen to you”. At some point, one of the officers even removes his gun belt and gun, like if it was some sort of police TV series broadcasted on Netflix. An unnecessary delay accompanied by a dramatization that could and should have been avoided.

The assailant could have easily severely wounded or even killed the victim before any of the agents would have been able to fire a single shot at him and it is only due to a huge stroke of luck that the situation did not unfold into a tragedy.

At the end of the action, while several agents progressively approach the attacker, one of them jumps on him and almost end up being slashed as the blade dangerously reaches his left ear and neck areas. No attempt to grab the arm with the knife is made by the intervening officer.

The police did not fire

Previous similar cases in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany, the United States and Israel (just to cite some) ended up with the police shooting the knifeman to prevent him from stabbing. However, this rarely occurs in Italy, as confirmed once again by yesterday’s case. The Italian police decided not to fire their guns at the attacker who was threatening a wounded victim.

According to some local opinions, not shooting the attacker was a positive decision as it demonstrated that things can be achieved without violence, but is it really so? This point of view is based exclusively on the fact that the attacker did not slash or stab the victim in these long 20 minutes of negotiation, but it was most likely up to him rather than to the officers rushed to the scene. Who was really in control of the situation? Most likely the knifeman, and this is not acceptable when there is a life at stake.

At this point, many will ponder why the police did not shoot, even if they could have simply wounded the attacker, due to the very close range. Is it for fear of a potential judicial trial, as it often happens in Italy when a police agent tries to properly do his job and injures a criminal?

After all, in December 2016 two police officers in Sesto San Giovanni (a municipality just outside of Milan) shot and killed jihadist Anis Amri and a few hours later the Minister of Interior Affairs at that time, Marco Minniti, publicly mentioned names and last names of the two police officers who fatally shot the terrorist; an illogic, senseless and reckless move that caused serious concern for the officers’ safety. Hence, can police officers be blamed for not wanting to shoot? Probably not.

Going back to similar cases that share some similarities with yesterday’s episode in Milan’s Duomo square, it is worth mentioning the one occurred in September 2019 in the square in front of Milan’s Central Train Station, when a Yemeni refugee stabbed a soldier and threatened several others before being taken down on the ground by a 52 years-old Senegalese man who happened to be passing by.

The message being passed out by this “non-modus operandi” is not positive at all because it encourages potential assailants to carry out attacks, especially against the security forces, because they simply cannot use the required force to neutralize them. Indeed, this is not an invitation to use excessive force, but rather a just one when the situation requires it, in order to protect the lives of officers and civilians.

From the scenes seen yesterday, it is also undeniable how the Italian police needs proper training and the Institutions in charge are required to provide it, because in certain situation it is just not possible to improvise. Next time a potential attacker might not be willing to put the knife down so easily or there might not be a 52 years-old Senegalese man willing to put his life at risk to save those who are supposed to be there to protect him.

It will take time for Italy to solve such issues, as their roots are mainly political and reside in the institutional upper floors and higher police ranks. In the meantime, the lives of police officers on the street and the ones of civilians are at stake on a daily base.

Is Europe’s security at stake?

In mid-June 2020, the French city of Dijon became a fighting ground for gangs of Chechens and North-Africans that faced each other with sticks, broken bottles, blades, axes, hand-guns, and assault rifles, all caught on video.

For three consecutive nights, the city became a real warzone, with security cameras “deactivated” with gunshots, blazes in the middle of the street to block any access to the area, knocked down street signals, destroyed cars.

According to reconstructions, it all began after a 16 years-old Chechen was approached in the street and beaten by a group of North-Africans in the Gresilles neighborhood.

The Chechens consequently took the streets in vast numbers to look for the attackers. However, this was only the beginning; in fact, authorities in Dijon explained that gangs issued a social media call for revenge, urging Chechens to travel from Belgium and around France to join the reprisal. 

It is clear that, no matter how strong the tribal sense of belonging might be within the Chechen society, it is quite hard to believe that hundreds of individuals, fully armed with semi-automatic weapons, can quickly be gathered from different parts of France and Belgium just to react to the beating of a 16 years-old boy, which in this case seems more as a “casus-belli”. As a matter of fact, it is fair to ask ourselves how did these groups manage to have access to such an arsenal; after all, Europe is not Texas.

The dynamics of the clashes tend to indicate something far more serious, such as territorial control over areas that were once under the hegemony of North-African groups and that are now being “threatened” by the Chechens.

Inter-ethnic battles are not a peculiarity of France, as on June 24th clashes broke out after Turks pestered a Kurdish gathering in Vienna, with stones, glass bottles, and fire-crackers being thrown at each other. Some Turkish demonstrators were using a hand gesture used by the Grey Wolves, an ultranationalist militant group affiliated with Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), according to the Austrian police.

Other clashes between Turks and Kurds had also taken place in Germany in 2019, over the Turkish offensive in north-eastern Syria. Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer is very right when he claims that “it is completely unacceptable for Turkish conflicts to be carried out on Austrian territory” and that is exactly the point, because as different ethnic communities move into Europe, the risk is that the respective tensions and hatred between groups will be transferred from their areas of origin to the heart of the “Old Continent”.

Back in 2011 clashes broke out in different parts of Spain between Gypsies and African immigrants in the Galician city of Ferrol as well as in Palma de Mallorca.

In February 2010 major violence broke out in Milan’s multi-ethnic “via Padova” street after an Egyptian immigrant was stabbed to death by a Dominican belonging to a local street gang. The North-Africans consequently took the streets of the neighborhood, attacking shops and destroying cars.


Sometimes the cause of violence can be related to old grudges and resentment, while in other cases it can be the consequence of dispute over territory (as it very likely occurred in Dijon), with ethnic gangs feeling (and being) threatened by the arrival of other groups that tend to strengthen throughout time as the diaspora increases in numbers. In other cases, a single and random incident can degenerate into massive violence opposing different groups.

These facts indicate that Europe is heading towards an era of inter-ethnic and cultural clashes, and the situation can only deteriorate as massive immigration to the “Old Continent” from the Eastern and the Southern route do not stop.

European institutions so far seem unable to face the issue as shown in France and the declaration made to Reuters by the regional secretary of the National Alliance Police Union, Stephan Ragonneau, says it all:

“It would have been dangerous to intervene (earlier)…If it had kicked off, there would have been shooting everywhere. There would certainly have been injuries, deaths.”

This sounds like a total surrender to ethnic gang violence and at a very high cost for European society. Considering that the massive immigration towards Europe will unlikely be blocked in the short-medium term, it is worth pondering if and how the EU institutions will be able to face such a growing threat. If not, the role of private security could become essential in contrasting the phenomenon, as already occurred in certain areas of South Africa and South America. This would indeed be a sign of “third-worldization” of Europe, as public institutions would no longer be able to manage the security situation by itself.

Additionally, this situation could also lead to a further fragmentation of the European Union, as some State-members could decide to step aside and defend its borders, if the EU is no longer able to do it.

Khairi Saadallah, the Reading knifeman

The June 20th knife attack in Reading

At approximately 7 pm on June 20th, an individual armed with a 5 inches-long knife attacked groups of people in Forbury Gardens, a park near the center of Reading, about 40 miles west of London. The attacker, who was also heard shouting incomprehensible words, managed to kill three people and injure three more before being tackled to the ground by a police officer and arrested. The incident was treated by British authorities as “terror-related”.

On 27 June 2020, the suspect was charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder and appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 29 June 2020.

The identity of the attacker

The attacker, identified as 25 years-old Libyan refugee Khairi Saadallah, had fled the North-African country in 2012 and had a remarkable criminal background in the UK as he was arrested six times for 15 crimes between 2015 and 2019. Saadallah was also diagnosed with PSTD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and paranoid-schizophrenia. It is also interesting to notice how, in a photo of Saaldallah published by the Daily Mail, a forearm shows what seem to be self-inflicted blade wounds.

He had caught the attention of the MI5 over information that he was thinking about heading for Libya or Syria to join the jihadists, but the story was not considered credible.

Khairi Saadallah had been sentenced, in October 2019, to 28 months of prison for breaching a suspended jail term after being charged with assault and knife possession but was released early, just two weeks before the Reading attack (just like Sudesh Mamoor, the Streatham High Road attacker). Saadallah had been involved in the government’s Prevent deradicalization program, just like the Westminster bridge attacker Usman Khan (2019), Parson’s Green bomber Ahmed Hassan (2017) and the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi (2017).

One of Saadallah’s neighbors claimed that a close relative of Khairi had fought in the Libyan civil war against former President Muhammar Ghedafi and according to acquaintances, Khairi had also bragged about having fought against the former regime.

The following day, the AS-Source News Twitter account posted the image of an old “February 17th Revolutionary Brigade” card with the photo of a young individual looking very much like Khairi Saadallah and by the name Khairi Jamal Mohamed.

The “February 17th Revolutionary Brigade” is known as a former Islamist militia that had also joined the ranks of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, before being dismantled. Some of its men had also fought in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

The Antifa blacklisting: not an issue of ideology or cause, but rather of method

The US President, Donald Trump, indicated that Antifa will soon be formally designated as a terrorist group, following the riots that took place in different US cities after George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.

Antifa’s roots in America can be traced back as early as the 1970s and the group is often described as “far-left” with extremist anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist views that can embrace anarchism, communism, and socialism.

Antifa activists have recently attracted public attention for their provocations and violent attacks at political rallies and demonstrations.

Leaving aside Antifa’s history and ideology, it is worth focusing on what the peculiarities of the group are, because blacklisting it as a terrorist organization might not be as easy as it seems. It must also be noted that the Department of Homeland Security formally classified Antifa’s activities as “domestic terrorist violence” back in 2016 when its activists began to attract attention for attacks against Trump supporters and police officers.

President Trump’s statements regarding the blacklisting of the Antifa movement have been followed by opinions of experts and officials pointing out how Antifa is not an organization, but rather an ideology. As FBI Director, Cristopher Wray , explained:

“For us, Antifa we view as more of an ideology than an organization…We have quite a number though, I should tell you, of properly predicated investigations of what we categorize as ‘anarchist extremists,’ people who are trying to commit violent, criminal activity that violates federal law, and some of those people do subscribe to what we would describe as — to what we would refer to as kind of an Antifa-like ideology.”

If we try to isolate some characteristics of the Antifa group we will come up with some interesting elements:

Antifa is far from a traditional terrorist organization (such as the IRA, al-Qaeda, or FARC) as it presents no hierarchical leadership structure and no chain of command and control.

Antifa could be seen as a “movement” composed of different groups and individuals acting autonomously while spontaneously sharing information.

The affiliation of its members can often be indicated as “loose” and mainly focused on informal relations and exchange of information.

A “loose” membership implies that an activist or a sympathizer might simply join a demonstration, perpetrate violence and then go back to a normal life routine without even being in touch with any of the more coordinated groups. Would this be sufficient to classify an individual as “a member of a terrorist organization”?

Additionally, those who share the Antifa ideology but do not promote violence can be classified as terrorists? Is the Antifa ideology intrinsically violent? This is another tough question because, unlike the jihadist ideology with its specific violent traits, Antifa has a wide range of ideologies and views (not necessarily violent) within its movement, and as a consequence, it is very hard to define.

If Isis has broken the traditional structural rules of jihadis organizations by permitting individual self-claimed affiliation, often manifested after an attack through a video recording or a letter, Antifa is even further from that as it provides no clear organizational structure or ideology.

The main issue regards the use of violence, theoretical or practical, because an incitement to violence will very likely find someone willing to carry it out. For instance, a call for jihad is as dangerous as its practical application and it is in fact the first step to a potential attack.

Hence, it is not a problem of ideology or cause, but rather of method and for this purpose, it is worth mentioning the definition of “terrorism” proposed by Dr. Boaz Ganor, director of the Israel-based International Institute for Counter-Terrorism:

“Terrorism is the intentional use of, or threat to use violence against civilians or against civilian targets, in order to attain political aims”.

This definition includes three main factors that are all essential:

  1. The core of the activity, the modus operandi: VIOLENCE – if it does not involve violence or a threat of violence, then it cannot be classified as “terrorist”;
  2. The objective or motivation: POLITICAL – The political objective defines the action as “terrorist”. In the absence of this, the incident can be classified as “criminal”;
  3. The target of the attack: CIVILIAN – The violence is directed at civilian targets. As indicated by Ganor: “Terrorism exploits the relative vulnerability of the civilian “underbelly”—the tremendous anxiety, and the intense media reaction evoked by attacks against civilian targets”.

If we are in the presence of these three factors, then we can consider the incident as a terrorist attack. As a consequence, an organization, a group or a simple violent action should be examined on the basis of its action, rather than on its ideology or cause. This approach could somehow simplify the Antifa dilemma, even if we are still far from a solution.

Ambiguous information: the reconstruction of the Colombes terror attack

On April 27th 2020 a black Bmw Class 1 driven by 29 years-old French citizen Youssef Tihlah rammed against two police motor-bikers while they were checking a Peugeot 508 on Boulevard de Valmy near the intersection with Avenue Clementine (a small dead-end road) in Paris commune of Colombes . The two agents were seriously injured as one of their motorbikes was smashed against the police car behind and the other one was bounced in the middle of the street.

The attacker stated to have conducted the terror attack in the name of Isis after seeing a video on Palestine and that he wanted to die after killing police agents. The police found a knife in the glove compartment of his vehicle and a letter slipped into the sun visor where the author indicates his Islamist motivation.[1] [2]

Youssef Tihlah is accused of “Attempted assassinations of persons holding public authority in connection with a terrorist enterprise” since, according to sources, the attacker was animated by an “anti-Western ideology”.[3] [4]

Tihlah was not known by authorities as a radicalized individual but he as known by friends and relatives as a pro-Palestinian.[5]

As reported by Le Figaro, Youssef Tihlah displayed behavioral problems, at least according to a medical file that was provided to the investigators; however, a psychiatric examination conducted Tuesday morning concluded that there was no absence or alteration of judgment on behalf of the attacker. Further investigations have indicated that Youssef Tihlah turned out to be extremely political, with a strong knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and with a strong interest in Mali, Somalia and other areas where French forces have conducted anti-jihadist operations.[6]

The confusing reconstructions

While the dynamics of the ramming that severely injured the two officers are quite clear, it is not possible to say the same about what occurred before the attack. In fact, reconstructions available throughout the media point out how there is an interesting chronology that must be taken into account, so let’s start from the beginning.[7]

Sometime earlier in the afternoon (no specific time has been indicated), an individual riding a T-Max scooter was being chased by the police on A86 autoruote, no more than 300 meters away from the site where the ramming occurred.

At a certain point the T-Max rider abandoned the vehicle and jumped inside a black Peugeot 508 with a driver waiting inside. As the car took off, it was immediately reported to other police patrols. At this point it becomes unclear if a proper chase took place, or if the car was spotted sometime later in the afternoon and that is due to the lack of information regarding the time of the initial chase with the T-Max. However, the same Peugeot was then spotted at the intersection between Boulevard de Valmy and Avenue Clementine, where the attack took place. The heavy presence of police at the site (4 motorbikes and two cars according to witnesses) and the proximity to A86 make the chase very plausible.

In any case, approximately after ten minutes (according to witnesses), while the police officers were conducting the check on the Peugeot, the black Bmw driven by Tihlah jumped into the scene and rams against the police.

One element that makes the whole picture further unclear is the fact that the driver of the Peugeot, a 23 years-old with previous convictions for narcotics, was found alone on board. The presence in the car of a second individual was later confirmed when a 22 years-old spontaneously turned himself in to the police. However, it is still not clear if he is the same man who was driving the T-Max.

Photo 1
Photo 2

Photos taken from the scene of the attack show a first moment when the passenger door is found open and a second image with the door closed, taken later as police and medics reached the secen. Who initially opened the door? Was it the driver in order to get off the car? If yes, Why? Or was there another passenger that quickly got off the car, leaving it open?

One witness who saw the whole scene from the window of his flat claimed that the Peugeot initially tried to turn right, but it had to stop as the road shows a dead-end signal; at that point a young individual got off the car and rushed away. The police immediately reached the car and after approximately 10 minutes, while the agents were checking vehicle and driver, the Bmw rammed into the officers.

According to the latest news, the two individuals are not being investigated for the terror attack perpetrated by Tihlah, which means that the authorities do not believe that the ramming was the last phase of a coordinated attack in order to attract agents into a trap. [8] [9] Authorities have not released the identities of the two.










Technology against Coronavirus

If properly used, technology can be a very important ally to face local and global problems. The war against Covid-19 is clearly one of those problems and many countries, especially in Asia, are putting in place technological solutions to overcome it and to ensure national security

In the following analysis we will examine some of the technological answers to the Covid-19 pandemic in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Israel.


China’s government asked for the support of tech giants. On messaging and payment apps (WeChat and Alipay) they made it possible for users to insert the place they visited in the previous days, their ID, as well as if they have been in contact with anyone hospitalized[1]. It is very likely that, since those apps already registered social and consuming habits of users, the government used big data analysis to gain as much information as possible on its citizens[2]. The apps compare the location data of the user with the health status of people who travelled across the same areas. Depending on the probability that the subject had contact with people tested positive for COVID-19, he will eventually receive a QR code based on a three-level security system: “red” requires the individual to stay in quarantine for a period of 14 days; conversely, “yellow” and “green” means that the individual must exhibit the QR code on his mobile to have partial or total access to public areas.

China is also using specific hardware to contain the infection. For example, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen deployed contactless temperature checking tools in schools, subway stations and community centers; these tools alert authorities when people with abnormal body temperature are detected[3]. A Chinese AI firm worked to improve those tools in order to enable them to identify citizens who are not wearing masks. In the city of Chengtu, the capital of Sichuan, officials are using smart helmets to measure people’s temperature within 5 meters.

The Chinese police is using CCTVs and drones to complete its surveillance apparatus. The government pointed cameras at the apartment doors of those under quarantine and it is also using drones integrated with speakers to monitor and provide people with directives[4]. Some videos show drones telling citizens to keep proper distance, walk faster and wear masks; in addition, they even recommended old people to go home[5]. In some cases, people complained that new cameras were installed right in front of their homes.

The other example of technology used to avoid any form of contact with isolated subjects is showed in a Hangzhou hotel where robot-waiters were used to deliver meals to quarantined travellers[6].

The methodology implemented in China, a highly technological country, as well as the first one undertaking the fight against the coronavirus, has been looked at by other countries as a model to follow.

Hong Kong

One peculiarity of the special administrative region of Hong Kong is the use of an electronic bracelet. Because most of the contagion cases are imported from abroad, all travellers reaching the city from overseas are obliged to wear the wristband, download an app, StayHomeSafe[7], and scan the unique QR code printed on the bracelet[8]. Once the subject reaches his accommodation, he has to walk around the apartment so that the wrist tracker can detect the perimeter[9]. This geofencing technology allows authorities to be alerted when someone wearing a bracelet goes out of the digital fence. 

South Korea

The South Korean government also used big data such as: credit card transactions, videos from CCTV cameras and smartphone localization (from both GPS and transceivers)[10][11]. When the authorities spot a potential COVID-19 case, they conduct a verbal investigation asking questions on symptoms and personal contacts with others. The final result is the coronamap[12]available on the internet, which informs the citizens when and if a place was visited by a subject detected as positive to COVID-19[13].


The city-state also developed an app, TraceTogether[14], which uses a technique which is different from the ones used by the other countries[15]: it doesn’t track data from the GPS but uses Bluetooth signals to detect if users have been near one another and for how long. In other words, this system doesn’t focus on the locations but rather on interactions. This data, mixed with health ministry information on infected citizens, allows the detection of people who may have been in contact with COVID-19 positive subjects and consequently be contacted by an operator who will ask to map their movements and interactions[16].


The Middle-East state applied the anti-terrorism monitoring methodology and technology to track down where people have been by using phone location data[17]. In the past few years, the Shin Bet (the internal security service) has already been collecting the movements of citizens for counter-terrorism purposes and now a government decree has allowed the secret service to use these data for the Covid-19 emergency[18]. Additionally, Israel is encouraging the population to download an app, המגן – the Shield[19], which compares the locations data on the smartphone with the Health Ministry database[20]. In this way, the user receives an alert if he has potentially been in contact with a COVID-19 positive individual[21][22]


Technologies are always beneficial if correctly used and that is the enormous critical point. All over the world technological solutions raise social and privacy concerns[23]. In times of crisis like the ones we are now facing, it seems necessary to renegotiate the balance between security and freedom. Countries have the moral duty to commensurate their response to the emergency with proportionate measures. Many citizens are not worried so much by the eventual power achieved by governments during the crisis, but rather by the fact that governments might maintain such measures after the crisis.

The ultimate problem relies in the fact that “the right thing to do”, in relation to ethics, proportion and correctness of measures, will only be confirmed or refuted by the results and the impacts that will emerge in the future.
























The twenty most brutal attacks by Latin-American gangs in Milan

Copyright ©  Sec-Ter – A street gang graffiti in Milan’s Trotter park

In the last twelve years, the northern Italian city of Milan has been constantly dealing with the issue of Latin-American street-gangs. The phenomenon brought the city on various international news websites, such as in June 2015, when The Independent published an article with a more than meaningful title: “Milan struggles to cope as Latin American gang violence starts afflicting general public”. The problem even caught the attention of the Salvadoran press, with two articles written by news reporter Roberto Valencia for El Faro and Internazionale (this second one with the title “Milan, the European capital of Salvadoran gangs”).

The following is a list of episodes, retrieved through open source search, that includes murders and violent attacks perpetrated with machetes, knives, picks or broken bottles in a timeline that goes from 2007 to 2019 within the province of Milan.

In March 2007, an 18 years-old Ecuadorian national and Latin Kings Chicago member was stabbed to death by a fellow countryman belonging to the rival “Comando” street gang. The murder occurred outside a disco located in eastern Milan. [1] [2] [3] [4]

In July 2008, an 18th Street gang member was attacked by a group of MS13 members; in the fight, the individual lost an eye as a consequence of wounds inflicted with a machete. The episode occurred in south Milan during a Salvadoran festival. [5] [6] [7] [8]

In June 2009, an Ecuadorian citizen and leader of the Latin Kings NY street gang was stabbed to death by rival gang members outside a disco club in south Milan. [9] [10] [11] [12]

In September 2010, four members of the gangs Latin Kings NY and MS13 were arrested for the beating and stabbing of a Latin Kings Chicago gang member outside “Cobà” disco in Milan. [13] [14]

In February 2010, an Egyptian citizen was stabbed to death by a Dominican citizen who was riding a bus with two friends in Milan’s via Padova. The Dominicans turned out to be close to the Trinitario gang, even if there have been no confirmations about their full membership. [15] [16] [17] [18]

In January 2011, an Ecuadoran citizen member of the gang Trinitario was stabbed to death by a group of Peruvian citizens belonging to the “Comando” street gang in Cinisello. [19] [20] [21] [22]

In September 2011, a gang member is attacked and wounded with belts and a knife inside a bus near Milan’s Piazzale Lodi. [23]

In October 2011, a Trebol gang member is severely wounded with a knife outside the disco “Secreto” in via Boncompagni. [24] [25]

In November 2011, an MS13 gang member was attacked and wounded by rival gang members armed with a machete; the raid occurred inside a store in central Milan, not far from the notorious Duomo square. [26] [27] [28] [29]

In January 2012, a Latin American young individual is beaten, stabbed and robbed by a group of MS13 and Latin Kings NY members inside the Missori subway station. [30] [31]

In January 2014, a Latin King Luzbel member is wounded with a knife by rival gang members inside the subway in Sesto Rondò. [32] [33]

In February 2014, two Comando gang members are wounded with a knife in Milan’s De Angeli subway stop. [34] [35]

In June 2015, a train inspector checking tickets inside a convoy was attacked with a machete by a group of MS13 gang members and his arm was almost amputated in the attack. The episode took place in the Villapizzone train station. [36] [37] [38] [39]

In May 2016, a 20 years-old Ecuadorian citizen known as “el Loko” and linked to the Latin Kings NY attacked and robbed a Nieta gang member in Porto di Mare’s subway station. [40] [41] [42]

In July 2016, an 18 years-old Albanian citizen who had nothing to do with street gangs was attacked and stabbed to death by a group of MS13 members while boarding a tram in Milan’s Porta Lodovica area. [43] [44] [45] [46]

In November 2016, a Dominican drug pusher was shot and stabbed to death in central “Piazzale Loreto” as a consequence of a drug deal gone wrong. The two killers, two Dominican citizens considered close to the Trinitario gang, were soon identified and while one was arrested a few weeks later, the second one is still at large. [47] [48] [49]

In June 2018, four MS13 members attacked and severely wounded with a screwdriver a young Salvadoran outside a well-known disco in south Milan. [50] [51] [52]

In February 2019, a Salvadoran citizen and MS13 member was murdered by three other members of his own gang in San Giuliano Milanese. The individual had taken part in the attack against the 18th Street gang member in July 2008. [53] [54] [55] [56]

In June 2019, a Peruvian citizen was mugged, beaten and thrown inside a river in Milan’s “Lambro” park by two Salvadoran citizens and members of the 18th Street gang. The victim’s dead body was recovered by the police 5 days later. The attackers were identified and arrested shortly after. [57] [58] [59] [60]

In December 2019, a Salvadoran citizen claiming to be a member of the MS13 gang, severely wounded to the neck a fellow country-man with a broken bottle outside a disco in Milan’s Rovereto area and then fled the scene. The attacker was arrested a few weeks later after robbing a supermarket in south Milan. [61] [62] [63] [64]

The Latin-American street gang phenomenon in Milan is characterized by an extreme violence that caused 8 deaths in a period of time that goes from 2007 to 2019.  While these numbers might not impress cities as New York or Los Angeles, where the street-gang phenomenon has ancient history, they are considered quite alarming in a city of less than 2 million people such as Milan, where the phenomenon is very recent. In addition to the murders, one peculiarity that clearly struck the public opinion is its brutality of such cases, with frequent use of machetes to maim and kill.

Unlike in the US or in Latin America, these groups have no control over the territory in Italy and their violence is mostly oriented against each other, just for the sake of it and defined as “mirror violence” by Italian gang expert Massimo Conte from “Codici Ricerca“. However, there have been some cases of attacks against “outsiders”, people not involved in gangs and street issues.

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