Western countries are currently facing two main terrorist threats. First, the “returnee issue” – foreign terrorist fighters trained in Syria who are able to carry out complex attacks when they come home. Second, the influence and radicalization capability of self-styled Islamic State (IS) and other Salafi jihadist groups among large numbers of young people, some of whom may go on to carry out lone wolf attacks.
Despite the continuous loss of territories and assets by IS and the current “quiet underground” rebranding and adaptation of al-Qaeda, the global jihadist strategy aims at shifting the West’s focus from the Middle East to their own countries. In fact, contemporary jihadist propaganda calls on sympathizers to carry out attacks in their own countries when they cannot perform hijra (migration).
In this context, the possibility that a jihadist group might carry out a terrorist attack using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) agents remains one of the gravest threats to homeland security in the world. It is definitely not a new phenomenon, given that in the past terrorist organizations tried to purchase and weaponize CBRN materials to exploit the mass casualties and the psychological and sociological impacts linked to this type of terrorist incident.