Europe: knife attacks continue – by Sara Brzuszkiewicz

In one day – on January 25 – two knife attacks took place in Europe.

In Germany, a knife-wielding man – allegedly of Palestinian origin – has fatally stabbed two people and injured seven others on a train in northern Germany before being grabbed by passengers and arrested by police. The event occurred shortly before a regional train traveling from Kiel to Hamburg arrived at the Brokstedt station. While Germany has not mentioned the word terrorism yet, the case of Spain seems to be slightly clearer.

Spanish authorities are investigating what they called a possible terrorist incident after a man attacked several people with a machete at two churches in the southern port city of Algeciras, killing at least one person. The man attacked clergymen at two different churches – San Isidro and Nuestra Senora de La Palma, and a source at Madrid’s High Court said the incident was being investigated as terrorism. Although police have not released details of the attacker’s name or nationality, local media said he was a 25-year-old Moroccan.

Between December 31, 2022 and January 25, 2023, five attacks took place in Europe.

While being cautious and not rushing to talk about terrorism is completely understandable, the characteristics of many of these attacks are similar – and similarly alarming. The two most recent events alone, in Germany and Spain, bring to the fore some of the most crucial issues terrorism experts are now called to address.

First, the democratization of the threat, which is intensifying thanks to the increased ease of communication and reciprocal, continuous influencing among radicalized individuals.

Second, the expansion of copycat mechanisms that do not require any sort of structured interaction between perpetrators and prospective attackers: plain imitation is enough.

Third – as a consequence of the first two points – the absolute unpredictability of terrorism in 2023. This year, as of now, seems to be the climax of the so-called leaderless jihad.

We simply cannot afford missing these trends now.