EUROPE has become the main recruiting ground for Islamic State as it seeks to become a “super al-Qaeda”, with a focus on carrying out terror attacks rather than forming a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS has lost vast swathes of its territory and the population under its brutal command has drastically declined since its height in 2014.
But that has not weakened the extremist group’s aims of spreading fear in the name of radical Islam, Mathieu Guidere, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and expert in radicalisation, said.
He told Express.co.uk that recent attacks in Paris and Nice have marked a crucial “psychological turning point”, demonstrating to ISIS sympathisers in Western cities that an attack was possible without weapons training or logistical support.
In a chilling assessment of the security situation in Europe, Mr Guidere warned that ISIS was capable of carrying out attacks as ferocious and deadly as those seen in Iraq, which is rocked by daily suicide bombings.
He said: “ISIS has been saying in its propaganda on radio, TV and magazines that if the West does not accept that ISIS becomes a state, it will be worse than al-Qaeda.
“It will be worse than al-Qaeda because al-Qaeda doesn’t have the network, al-Qaeda hasn’t got enough supporters.
“Al-Qaeda was a network of fighters who met in Afghanistan, but ISIS has a bigger network, many more sympathisers in the West, more people following us in Western countries.”
He said ISIS’ message to countries like Britain was: “If al-Qaeda was your enemy, we will be your nightmare.”
Speaking from France, which is still reeling form Thursday’s devastating truck attack in Nice which left 84 dead and dozens more critically wounded, he added that a crucial turning point had been reached in the psychology of ISIS sympathisers.
The Nice massacre was claimed by ISIS on Saturday – the first such attack by a jihadi sympathiser to use a truck rather than conventional weapons to cause mass casualties.
Mr Guidere said people in the suburbs of Nice now “know they can kill a lot of people without any weapons”.
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