There is a long history of terrorism in Europe. This has often been linked to nationalist and separatist movements, while other acts have been related to political extremism (including anarchism, far-right and far-left extremism) or religious extremism.
There is an overlap between terrorism and various other forms of conflict and violent action, including civil wars or non-international armed conflicts. This is the case with several significant non-international conflicts in Europe, where there thus can be dispute as to what counts as terrorism: examples include the Irish War of Independence (1919–21), the breakup of Yugoslavia and subsequent conflicts, the First (1994-6) and Second Chechen Wars (1999-2009), and the War of Dagestan (1999).
In the Middle Ages, maritime nations in Europe sponsored pirates and privateering against rivals. The term "terror" is used about the reign of terror in France, carried out by the Jacobins, 1792-4.
Terrorism within the European Communities since 1951 has often been linked to separatist movements, including the Irish Republican Army within the United Kingdom, and Euskadi Ta Askatasuna within Spain. Other perpetrators have been linked to far-right and far-left extremism, environmental extremism and anarchism. Since 2001, there has been an increase in attacks linked to extremist Islamist groups, particularly in France. Many separatist terrorist activities also have a religious angle, as, for example, with Chechen separatism in Russia. The internationally co-ordinated element has seen increasing attempts by governments to seek to weaken extremist ideology, particularly Islamic extremism.
When the Al Qaeda attacks against the United States in 2001 are excluded, only 0.5% of all deaths from terrorism have occurred in Western countries – European nations, United States, Canada and Australia – in the past fifteen years. However, there have been recent increases in the number of high-fatality attacks. There had been a decrease in the number of overall fatalities from terrorist attacks between 1990 and 2015, compared to those between 1970 and 1990. Prior to 1990, on average 150 people died each year from terrorist attacks; this figure would be even higher if the large number of people who died in 1988 from the Pan Am 2013 bombing were included. From 1990, an average of a little under 50 people died each year. However, this figure has begun to increase again from 2011, with the attacks by far-right extremist Anders Breivik in Norway, and Islamist extremist attacks in France in 2015 and 2016.
Europol has published an annual trend report on terrorist attacks (including failed, foiled, and completed attacks) and terrorist related arrests in the EU since 2006. The reports identify that perpetrators' known or suspected affiliations have been disparate in nature. Europol break these down into five categories: jihadist terrorism (previously termed "religiously-inspired terrorism"); ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism; left-wing and anarchist terrorism; right-wing terrorism; and single-issue terrorism. Europol's reports do not provide a breakdown of the proportion of attacks that have been completed or the type of damage inflicted. According to these data the vast majority of terrorist attacks in the EU between 2006 and 2013 are affiliated with ethno-national or separatist motives, followed by left-wing attacks and those that are registered as 'unspecified'. A significant number of terror attacks are motivated religiously or associated with right-wing groups. However, among those arrested on terror-related crimes most are religiously motivated and form the largest group, followed by separatist related terror suspects.
In 2015, a total of 211 completed, failed, or foiled terrorist attacks were reported by EU states, resulting in 151 fatalities (of which 148 were in France, with 130 of them occurring during the November 2015 Paris attacks) and over 360 people injured. As in previous years, separatist attacks accounted for the largest proportion (65), followed by jihadist attacks (17). The latter, however, caused the largest number of fatalities (150) and injuries (250). The United Kingdom reported the largest number of attacks (103), but did not provide statistics on suspected affiliation. Tackling jihadist terrorism threats has become an over-riding priority for security services, although many commentators express concerns that the risk of far-right terrorism is currently being underestimated.
European states were at the fore of plans for an international criminal court under the League of Nations in the 1930s, working through the Committee for the Repression of Terrorism (CRT). The CRT sought to define terrorism and get nation's domestic policies to support anti-terrorism activities. Opposition by Britain and tensions over fascism in Germany and Italy limited the final proposals.
The main transnational activity to combat terrorism in recent years has been through Europol. They have categorised acts of terrorism that have either failed, been foiled or been successfully executed within the European Union (EU) as either pertaining to religious issues, right wing, left wing or separatist movements. The field is subject to considerable cooperation among national authorities.
In July 2014 the Government of France introduced legislation to combat terrorism by toughening surveillance, making it lawful to detain individuals linked to radical "Islamist" groups, and to block Internet sites that incite anti-Semitism, terrorism and hatred. The country's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealed 600 French nationals were in Syria at the time or planned to go there. The bill includes a ban on foreign travel for up to six months for those believed to hold terrorist sympathies, provides for the confiscation and invalidation of passports, and prohibits airlines from allowing such individuals to fly.
From 2005, the United Kingdom government introduced the CONTEST strategy, which seeks to improve co-operation between security services, and other public and private organisations. This includes four strands, namely Pursue, (seeking to apprehend potential terrorists), Prevent, (seeking to reduce risks of 'radicalisation', deter potential terrorists and share information), Protect, (seeking to ensure the security of potential targets and organisations is optimised), and Prepare, (seeking to ensure an effective response in the immediate aftermath of any attack). Similar strategies have been adopted by other countries across the European Union, and there have been increases in co-operation between nations and security forces.
The following is a list of terrorist incidents in Europe which resulted in at least ten deaths. It lists attacks on civilians by non-state actors that are widely referred to as terrorism. It excludes transcontinental countries such as Turkey and Russia, which have most of their landmass in another continent. For incidents in Russia, see Terrorism in Russia and for incidents in Istanbul, see Terror attacks in Istanbul.
|13 Dec 1867||UK||Clerkenwell explosion||12 killed, 120 injured||Irish Republican Brotherhood|
|7 Nov 1893||Spain||Gran Teatre del Liceu bombing||20+ killed, 40+ injured||Santiago Salvador Franch|
|7 Jun 1896||Spain||Barcelona Corpus Christi procession bombing||12 killed, 44 injured||Anarchists (disputed)|
|28 Apr 1903||Ottoman Empire||Thessaloniki bombings of 1903||16 killed (inc. 6 perp.), 16 injured||Boatmen of Thessaloniki|
|31 May 1906||Spain||Botched assassination of Alfonso XIII||30 killed, 100 injured||Mateo Morral Rocca|
|15 Aug 1906||Poland||Bloody Wednesday||200-100 killed, 100 injured||Combat Organization of the Polish Socialist Party|
|13 Dec 1921||Romania||Bolgrad palace bombing||100 killed||Bessarabian Separatists|
|16 Apr 1925||Bulgaria||St Nedelya Church bombing||150 killed, 500+ injured||Bulgarian Communist Party|
|1 May 1947||Italy||Portella della Ginestra massacre||11 killed, 33 wounded||Salvatore Giuliano & band of Sicilian separatists|
|18 Jun 1961||France||Vitry-Le-François train bombing||28 killed, 100+ injured||Organisation Armée Secrète|
|12 Oct 1967||Cyprus||Cyprus Airways Flight 284 bombing||66 killed||Unknown|
|12 Dec 1969||Italy||Piazza Fontana bombing||17 killed, 88 injured||Ordine Nuovo|
|21 Feb 1970||Switzerland||Swissair Flight 330 bombing||47 killed||PFLP-GC|
|4 Dec 1971||UK||McGurk's Bar bombing||15 killed, 17 injured||Ulster Volunteer Force|
|26 Jan 1972||Czechoslovakia||JAT Flight 367 bombing||27 killed||Ustaše (alleged)|
|5 Sep 1972||Germany||Munich massacre||17 killed||Black September|
|17 Dec 1973||Italy||Rome airport attacks||34 killed, 22 injured||Black September|
|4 Feb 1974||UK||M62 coach bombing||12 killed, 38 injured||Provisional IRA|
|17 May 1974||Ireland||Dublin and Monaghan bombings||34 killed, 300 injured||Ulster Volunteer Force|
|4 Aug 1974||Italy||Italicus Express bombing||12 killed, 48 injured||Ordine Nero|
|8 Sep 1974||Greece||TWA Flight 841 bombing||88 killed||Abu Nidal Organization|
|13 Sep 1974||Spain||Cafetería Rolando bombing||13 killed, 71 injured||ETA|
|21 Nov 1974||UK||Birmingham pub bombings||21 killed, 182 injured||Provisional IRA|
|5 Jan 1976||UK||Kingsmill massacre||10 killed, 1 injured||South Armagh Republican Action Force|
|17 Feb 1978||UK||La Mon restaurant bombing||12 killed, 30 injured||Provisional IRA|
|12 Jul 1979||Spain||Hotel Corona de Aragón fire||80+ killed||ETA (suspected)|
|2 Aug 1980||Italy||Bologna massacre||85 killed, 200+ injured||Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari|
|26 Sep 1980||West Germany||Oktoberfest bombing||13 killed (inc. 1 perp.), 211 injured||Gundolf Köhler|
|20 Jul 1982||UK||Hyde Park and Regent's Park bombings||11 killed, 50 injured||Provisional IRA|
|6 Dec 1982||UK||Droppin Well bombing||17 killed, 30 injured||Irish National Liberation Army|
|23 Dec 1984||Italy||Train 904 bombing||16 killed, 267 injured||Sicilian Mafia|
|12 Apr 1985||Spain||El Descanso bombing||18 killed, 82 injured||Unknown|
|23 Jun 1985||Atlantic Ocean in Irish airspace||Air India Flight 182 bombing||329 killed||Babbar Khalsa|
|23 Nov 1985||Malta||EgyptAir Flight 648 hijacking||60 killed (inc. 2 perps.)||Abu Nidal Organization|
|27 Dec 1985|| Italy
|Rome and Vienna airport attacks||23 killed (inc. 4 perps.), 139 injured||Abu Nidal Organization|
|14 Jul 1986||Spain||Plaza República Dominicana bombing||12 killed, 32 injured||ETA|
|19 Jun 1987||Spain||Hipercor bombing||21 killed, 45 injured||ETA|
|8 Nov 1987||UK||Remembrance Day bombing||12 killed, 63 injured||Provisional IRA|
|11 Dec 1987||Spain||Zaragoza Barracks bombing||11 killed, 88 injured||ETA|
|11 Jul 1988||Greece||City of Poros ship attack||11 killed (inc. 1 perp.), 98 injured||Abu Nidal Organization|
|21 Dec 1988||UK||Pan Am Flight 103 bombing||270 killed||Abdelbaset al-Megrahi|
|22 Sep 1989||UK||Deal barracks bombing||11 killed, 21 injured||Provisional IRA|
|23 Oct 1993||UK||Shankill Road bombing||10 killed (inc. 1 perp.), 57 injured||Provisional IRA|
|15 Aug 1998||UK||Omagh bombing||29 killed, 300+ injured||Real IRA|
|16 Feb 2001||FR Yugoslavia||Podujevo bus bombing||12 killed, 40 injured ||Kosovo Albanian Militants (suspected)|
|11 Mar 2004||Spain||Madrid train bombings||192 killed, 2,050 injured||Al-Qaeda|
|7 Jul 2005||UK||2005 London bombings||56 killed, (inc. 4 perps.), 784 injured||Al-Qaeda|
|11 Apr 2011||Belarus||Minsk Metro bombing||15 killed, 204 injured||Dzimitry Kanavalau and Vlad Kavalyou|
|22 Jul 2011||Norway||Norway attacks||77 killed, 319 injured||Anders Behring Breivik|
|7–9 Jan 2015||France||January 2015 Île-de-France attacks||20 killed (inc. 3 perps.), 22 injured||Al-Qaeda|
|13 Jan 2015||Ukraine||Volnovakha bus attack||12 killed, 18 injured||Donetsk People's Republic|
|9 May 2015||Republic of Macedonia||Kumanovo clashes||22 killed (inc. 14 perps.), 37 injured||National Liberation Army|
|13 Nov 2015||France||November 2015 Paris attacks||137 killed (inc. 7 perps.), 368 injured||Islamic State|
|22 Mar 2016||Belgium||Brussels bombings||35 killed (inc. 3 perps.), 340 injured||Islamic State|
|14 Jul 2016||France||Nice truck attack||87 killed (inc. 1 perp.), 434 injured||Islamic State|
|19 Dec 2016||Germany||Berlin Christmas market attack||12 killed, 56 injured||Islamic State|
|22 May 2017||UK||Manchester Arena bombing||23 killed (inc. 1 perp.), 250 injured||Islamic State|
|3 Jun 2017||UK||June 2017 London Bridge attack||11 killed (inc. 3 perps.), 48 injured||Islamic State|
|17–18 Aug 2017||Spain||2017 Barcelona attacks||24 killed (inc. 8 perps.), 152 injured||Islamic State (suspected)|
|24 Apr 1993||UK||1993 Bishopsgate bombing||$1.212 billion||Provisional IRA|
|15 Jun 1996||UK||1996 Manchester bombing||$996 million||Provisional IRA|
|4 Oct 1992||UK||Baltic Exchange bombing||$897 million||Provisional IRA|