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IMMINENT WARNING: ISIS THREATENS UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUARTER-FINALS;  HEIGHTENED SECURITY IN LARGE GATHERINGS AMID TERROR ALERT

April 9, 2024

Janthe Van Schaik, Lewis Li, Mario López Ausín, Martina Elena Nitti, Mihai Marian Calinoiu, Mrinmoy Routh, Nicholas Novak, Prim Thanchanok Kanlayanarak, Wissal Mabrouk, Zara Price

Jessica Wilson, Editor; Evan Beachler, Elena Alice Rossetti, Senior Editor


UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals[1]


Event: On April 8, 2024, ISIS threatened to carry out attacks during the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals in England, France, and Spain. The group posted an image of London's Emirates Stadium, Paris's Parc des Princes, Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu, and Cívitas Metropolitano arenas, alongside a message calling for violent attacks on civilians.[2] Security measures have increased at all stadiums for the upcoming matches.[3] The scheduled matches are as follows:


April 9, 2024:

  • 2000 local time at Emirates Stadium, London, England

  • 2100 local time at Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain

April 10, 2024:

  • 2100 local time at Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain

  • 2100 local time at Parc des Princes, Paris, France[4]


Significance: The timing of the quarter-finals coinciding with Eid al-Fitr on April 10 and the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict will likely intensify grievances among ISIS sympathizers in Europe. They will likely seek to exploit large gatherings to escalate their activities. The issuance of threats by a pro-ISIS media channel against UEFA Champions League venues establishes a likely imminent threat scenario, based on the historical targeting of high-profile events. There is likely a heightened risk of lone actors conducting the attack due to the Israel/Hamas conflict. This threat very likely aims to instill fear among attendees, almost certainly leveraging the impact that the recent Crocus City Hall attack in Russia had on social media. Considering the warnings issued by news services and the rising awareness of the threats, it is very likely that any potential attack will involve the use of concealable or assemblable weapons. Since ISIS targeted sporting events, like the Stade de France in 2015, using suicide bombers coordinated with shootings in other parts of the city, perpetrators will likely use suicide bombers and perform simultaneous attacks across different targets. For stadiums, it is very likely necessary to understand the threat to implement heightened security measures and ensure the safety of participants and attendees. For security agencies and law enforcement, the timing and nature of these threats very likely suggest a need to enhance readiness and surveillance, considering such terrorist groups’ past patterns of behavior. Local law enforcement agencies will almost certainly require these behavioral patterns to adequately support security operations and ensure public safety. Law enforcement agencies almost certainly need to be aware of the threat to allocate resources, adjust security postures, and coordinate response plans effectively.


Recommendations

  • The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends that all attendees to the mentioned events keep high alert about their surroundings and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.

  • Attendees and law enforcement should always be aware of the environment and crowd when entering and exiting the venues.

  • All attendees should collaborate with stadium personnel and law enforcement to perform security checks in order and expect possible delays when entering the venues.

  • The venues hosting the matches should increase the presence of security personnel trained in threat detection and response to identify and mitigate potential risks or suspicious behavior. Stadium personnel should review and implement thorough security screening protocols at entrances, including bag checks, metal detectors, and enhanced surveillance measures.

  • Local law enforcement agencies should place their emergency response teams on high alert and establish a unified command center for the duration of the matches to facilitate real-time information sharing and decision-making.

  • Football clubs in high-risk areas should engage with fan groups and disseminate information about safety protocols through social media to encourage their cooperation with security measures.

  • CTG recommends increasing security around venues, strategically deploying counter-terrorism units, and conducting rigorous checks. To ensure perimeter security, consider temporary restrictions in certain areas.

  • Civilians driving to the venues should park vehicles in the allocated spaces to favor the evacuation of people and the arrival of emergency management deployments in case of need.

  • Local authorities should increase security checks and measures in transport hubs, including airports and bus stations in response to the influx of foreign football fans traveling to attend the matches.

  • Pertinent authorities should increase security measures across the target cities, especially locations where the match will be broadcast, including concert halls, restaurants, and bars.

  • Civilians in the target cities should avoid large crowds, stay vigilant for potential threats, and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.

  • If there is any additional and or critical information please contact us at The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) by Telephone 202-643-2848 or email info@counterterrorismgroup.com


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[1] UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, generated by a third party image Canva (created by AI)

[2] CTG Threat Hunter via foreign terrorist organization website

[3] Security raised for Champions League ties after threat, BBC, January 2024

[4] UEFA Champions League Schedule, ESPN, April 2024, https://www.espn.com/soccer/schedule/_/league/uefa.champions

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