EU: Far-Right Terrorism Network Busted, 2 Minors Investigated

Published: 16 November 2023

3D Printed Weapons EuropolPolice say members of a far-right organization shared knowledge on how to print weapons using 3D printers. (Photo: Europol, License)

By Erika Di Benedetto

European law enforcement arrested five individuals and investigated seven others, including two minors, suspected of involvement in far-right terrorism across Europe, as stated by authorities on Nov. 10.

Eurojust, Europol, and law enforcement agencies in Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Lithuania, Romania, and Italy collaborated in the action. The investigation began in July 2023 following a request from Belgian authorities and soon spread to other countries.

Among those investigated were two minors from Turin and Salerno in Italy, who were active online in promoting hate speech, disseminating antisemitism as well as xenophobic and neo-Nazi materials, and engaging in discussions.

Italian authorities said the minors also used a Telegram group chat to disseminate their extremist ideology. From the pair, police seized computers, phones, some “airsoft” or non-lethal guns, and a dagger with neo-Nazi and law enforcement symbols.

Elsewhere, European authorities seized data storage devices and weapons, which were believed to be linked to the activities of the far-right group.

The suspects allegedly used an online platform to conduct terrorist-related activities, including disseminating violent extremist propaganda, recruiting new members, and sharing instructional manuals on constructing untraceable weapons using 3D printers.

Gerda van Leeuwen, Chief Constable at the Dutch National Police, spoke to an international conference in May 2022 on the dangers posed by printed firearms. “The development of 3D printing of firearms is a current and future threat. International cooperation therefore is crucial to be able to counter [it]. This conference will focus not only on the current state of play, but also on building a strong network of specialists on this topic, creating intervention techniques and sharing best practices.”

Some members of the alleged terrorist group were suspected of having written a manifesto and having access to weapons.

Europol reported that despite the relatively young age of some suspects,evidenceshowed that those individuals might have taken action soon.

Italian authorities noted that within private chats, “the group published manuals for attacking and sabotaging critical infrastructure as well as instructions for making weapons and explosives … and was ready at any time to commit violent acts against Jews, Muslims and anyone considered to be of ‘inferior race’."

Police said members of the group admired supremacist factions that had carried out significant terrorist attacks in the past, such as the 2011 Utøya shooting massacre in Norway, and the 2019 Christchurch shooting massacre, in New Zealand, both acts of far-right extremism.

Experts around the world have expressed concerns about how easily disaffected people can be turned into terrorists. According to the Devon Safeguarding Children's Partnership" (DSCP) organization, “anyone can be radicalized” but minors and children are particularly at risk.

As stated by a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, “social media platforms, including email, chat rooms, e-groups, message boards, video recordings and applications are especially popular recruitment tools that can also facilitate tailored approaches”.

One of the methods mentioned in the report is the “grooming” method, where the perpetrator learns about the victim’s interests in order to build a relationship of trust.

Additionally, perpetrators have been found to track online behavior of users online in order to identify which individuals might be more weak to their narrative and propaganda, a method similar to the one of “targeted ads”.