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Moscow Terror Suspects Plotted Other Massacres in Europe

Yulia Morozova/Reuters
Yulia Morozova/Reuters

The suspects accused of plotting the mass shooting in Moscow last week belong to an ISIS branch that has attempted multiple terrorist attacks inside France, according to the French government.

“This particular group made several attempts on our own soil,” French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday during a visit to French Guyana, referring to the Afghan branch of ISIS, Islamic State Khorasan or ISIS-K, according to Le Monde.

France has stopped two attempted attacks just this year, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said, according to Reuters. The group has also planned attacks against other European countries, Attal said.

The comments come just days after ISIS claimed responsibility for the concert hall shooting in Moscow that left 133 dead and 147 injured, Russian authorities said, according to TASS.

France has since raised its terror alert level to its highest level, the “emergency attack” level, and has alerted the public that it will be boosting security at sensitive sites like schools, houses of worship, religious gatherings, and in transportation services. France has also offered to increase its coordination with Russia to hunt down the culprits.

Moscow Attack Death Toll Rises to 133, Victims Include Former Beauty Queen

France, which has suffered numerous ISIS-linked terrorist attacks—including the Bataclan concert attack in 2015 and the ramming attack on Bastille Day in Nice in 2016—had already instituted a high-security level in advance of the Paris Olympics slated to take place this summer.

Italian officials discussed the Moscow attack during a national security council meeting Monday, announcing more robust security checks and surveillance as well. Serbian President Alexander Vucic announced that police officers will be monitoring sports events and malls, according to the AP.

Germany, which is planning to host the European Championship later this year, has so far said the threat "remains acute" but has not updated its security stance, according to DW.

ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks around the globe in recent years. In January, it claimed it was behind a bombing attack on a memorial for Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian commander the United States killed in 2020. In 2021, while the Biden administration withdrew from Afghanistan, the group launched a suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. soldiers and civilians.

Western allies have grown alarmed in recent months that the ISIS-K threat is surging. The U.K. has been warning about ISIS-K too, and last year organized a forum to discuss the ISIS-K threat, Bloomberg reported. Since the United States withdrew from Afghanistan, ISIS has found fertile breeding ground, planning attacks throughout Europe and Asia against embassies, churches, and the FIFA World Cup tournament, according to a leak from the Pentagon.

The Taliban has since “struggled” to dismantle ISIS-K’s clandestine cells and prevent attacks, according to the State Department.

“The Taliban have made progress combating ISIS-K, but they have struggled to dismantle ISIS-K’s clandestine urban cells and prevent attacks on soft targets,” Deputy Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Ian McCary said in remarks last Thursday.

ISIS Is Back and Threatens to Be Deadlier Than Ever

Last year, Germany and the Netherlands arrested an ISIS-K network of Tajik, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz people plotting an attack in Germany.

Although ISIS lost its base in Iraq and Syria years ago, it has increasingly relied upon regional branches, such as ISIS-K, to plot attacks against the West and Western interests, according to U.S. officials. An American intelligence community report from earlier this month assessed that ISIS’ “regional affiliates will continue to expand.”

Although the U.S. intelligence community does not currently see a “credible threat” from ISIS to the U.S., it is still monitoring ISIS closely, John Kirby, the White House National Security Council’s Communications Adviser, told reporters in a call on Monday.

“With respect to ISIS writ large, and even ISIS-K specifically, we are very vigilant in monitoring this group's activities and their planning as best we can,” Kirby said. “We’re watching it very, very closely.”

The increased vigilance around the globe comes after the Biden administration warned earlier this month of possible “imminent” extremist attacks on crowds in Moscow, urging Americans to avoid large gatherings. Russian President Vladimir Putin had brushed off the warning, accusing the West of trying to cause chaos in Russia.

Moscow has accused the terror suspects of having ties to Ukraine in an attempt to cast blame on Kyiv, which has raised alarm bells that Russia may seek to use the shooting attack as a pretext to escalate the war in Ukraine. Ukraine has denied involvement.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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