Chemical plants are becoming a “target of choice” for terrorists who may also try to contaminate water supplies or infiltrate nuclear sites, according to Europe’s law enforcement agency.
The threat posed by Islamic State will get only worse, Europol warned, as it revealed the number of jihadist attacks across the continent had more than quadrupled in a year.
The agency’s annual terrorism trends report said Syrian asylum-seekers could be targets for swift radicalisation by Islamic State recruiters and that a new generation of fighters was being raised in the so-called caliphate.
Europol director Rob Wainwright said the threat was “reinforced” by European Islamic State fighters who have returned.
Chemical plants are becoming a “target of choice by terrorist groups”, the report said, and biological toxins such as abrin and ricin had been bought using bitcoin on the dark web.
“The phenomenon of individuals travelling for terrorist purposes to conflict zones increases the risk that expertise in the use of chemical weapons can be transferred to the EU by returning foreign terrorist fighters,” the report said.
“Both Syria and Iraq have had chemical weapon programs in the past, as well as production facilities and stockpiles which may not have been completely destroyed.”
More than 5000 Europeans are believed to have travelled to conflict areas in Syria and Iraq.