The European police agency will create a new unit to discover and dismantle social media accounts used by Islamist radicals
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    The European police agency will create a new unit to discover and dismantle social media accounts used by Islamist radicals

    The EU´s counter terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove has himself become a victim of crime.

    The top official, whose job is to spearhead Europe´s fight against Islamic terrorism, revealed that thieves smashed into his parked car in Brussels and stole a brief case containing his diplomatic passport and two I-Pads.

    But he says his biggest relief was when police told him later that the briefcase had been recovered in the Bois le Cambre, park minus the I-Pads and passport but containing the “most valuable item” – his notebook.

    The break in happened after he had left his car in a Brussels street to attend an event nearby.

    He told this website, “They smashed the  car window and took the briefcase. Luckily, the most valuable item, my notebook, was still there when the case was later recovered.  That was quite a relief, I can tell you.”

    He was speaking after revealing that Europol, the European police agency based in The Hague, will create a new unit next month to discover and dismantle social media accounts used by Islamist radicals to spread their message and recruit foreigners.

    The unit will have about 15 officers of Europol and national police forces at first, and will be gradually enlarged over the next year.

    The task is to scour the Internet for accounts set up by radicals, including those from the Islamic State, for propaganda and recruitment.

    The so called European Union Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) will grow in number and capability reaching full maturity by July 2016,

    The number of Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts connected to the Islamic State is estimated to be in the tens of thousands, the agency said, and the Twitter accounts send out as many as 100,000 posts a day.

    In March, the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union mandated that Europol establish such a unit to reduce the level and impact of terrorist and violent extremist propaganda on the Internet.

    De Kerchove said that the EU IRU will respond to the terrorist groups which “challenge our security.”

    “We have also built a constructive new partnership with relevant social media and other private companies,” he said.

     “Together we will deliver a determined response to this problem affecting the safety and liberty of the internet.”

    Member states like Britain, France, Belgium and Germany have been especially concerned by recruitment efforts that entice young Muslims to slip away from their families and travel to Syria or Iraq to join the Islamic State, as either fighters or wives.

    “Jihadist groups, in particular, have demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of how social networks operate. They have launched well-organized, concerted social media campaigns to recruit followers and to promote or glorify acts of terrorism or violent extremism,” Europol said.

    According to the agency, the EU IRU will cooperate with law enforcement authorities particularly across the EU, with the private sector and the onsite Europol Liaison Officers’ network.

    National governments have expressed concern that some of those Westerners who go to the Middle East to fight will return home to carry out violent attacks in the name of jihad.

    Just last week in both France and Tunisia, young men proclaiming allegiance to the Islamic State carried out terrorist attacks that attracted huge publicity.

    By Martin Banks