The Islamic State is operating a vast and well-supported network of terrorists in Europe that are ready to launch attacks at any given moment, according to documents obtained by CNN.
The cable network received a massive trove of documents from European investigators that detailed ISIS’s network of terrorists across the European continent. A portion of the documents revealed that the perpetrators of the deadly Paris attacks in November 2015 had planned to engage in several additional follow up attacks by recruiting more operatives. Additionally, documents show that the ISIS network is still active and could engage in further attacks in the near future.
“ISIS is increasing its international attack planning,” Paul Cruickshank, the editor of the CTC Sentinel, a West Point Combating Terrorism Center publication, told CNN. “It’s increasingly sophisticated in the way it does this. It’s set up an intricate, logistical support system for these terrorists … to launch these terrorist attacks.”
Investigators have obtained intelligence that they believe shows the terrorist group’s next target is the U.K. An official told CNN that there is strong evidence suggesting ISIS operatives have increased their infiltration of the U.K in recent months.
In addition to revealing new aspects of the terror group’s European operations, the papers confirm other aspects regarding its logistical support system, especially regarding communications. Investigators have confirmed that the use of encrypted messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp have been the key to ISIS’s terror attack plans.
“Encrypted messaging groups have the potential to revolutionize terror plot planning by allowing entire cells to coordinate in real time without compromising themselves,” noted Cruickshank.
One of ISIS’s favorite apps allows a user to pick their own phone number, effectively disguising the location of their calls. Investigators have also discovered that ISIS cells operate independently, with handlers only giving operatives limited information and funding for each phase of an operation. Additionally, the operatives will often share tips with each other based on what has worked for more experienced recruits in the past.
The documents show that despite losing territory in Syria and Iraq, ISIS has a complicated and capable network of terrorists operating abroad. Various experts and policymakers have expressed concern for some time that as the group loses its so-called caliphate, it may revert to its traditional terrorist roots and increase its number of attacks abroad.