Jewish sites are a “soft target” for Muslim extremist groups vying for influence in the radicalized Muslim world, Nick Kaderbhai, a research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London told the Jewish Chronicle on Thursday.
“Jews are an obvious target, a soft target. An Islamist could call for an attack on a piece of infrastructure but in the end it’s easier to go and firebomb a shul,” he said.
Peter Neumann, the director at the ICSR said Jewish institutions would suffer the turf and ideological war between Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, both Sunni extremist groups that are engaged in conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and elsewhere.
Their comments underline concerns among Jewish communities in Europe that feel especially vulnerable after deadly terrorist attacks in France and Denmark earlier this year, and Belgium last year.
In March, a European anti-terrorism official warned that Al Qaeda could launch terrorist attacks on the continent to prove it had not lost the leadership of global jihad.
“There is a fierce competition between Al Qaeda and Daesh,” said EU counterterrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
For now the competition is largely unfolding in the Middle East. In Yemen, for example, terrorists linked to the Islamic State are attacking Shia Houthi rebels, which themselves are engaged in combat with an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which questions the dominance of the massive Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
And in Egypt this week, a group that once pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda under the moniker Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, but switched its affiliation to the Islamic State and changed its name to Wilayat Sina, or Sinai Province, carried out a series of simultaneous attacks against Egyptian security forces in Sinai on Wednesday in what Egypt said was the largest attack against its army since the 1973 Yom Kippur war with Israel.
What is clear is that the Islamic State has shown its ability to strike targets worldwide: just last week the group claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in Kuwait, France and Tunisia, the latter at a beach in the North African country in which a lone gunman slaughtered 39 foreign tourists including 30 British nationals before he was killed by Tunisian police.