"We have a different kind of jihadist threat emerging and it's getting stronger," Europol chief Rob Wainwright told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from The Hague. "It is much more decentralized and harder to track."
France's motorcycle gunman traumatized a nation heading into presidential elections and spread fear across the continent that the specter of al-Qaida was once again threatening daily life.
Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, sowed his terror over the course of nine days, killing paratroopers, Jewish children and a rabbi. He died Thursday in a shootout after police raided the Toulouse apartment where he had been holed up.
Merah traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and had claimed to have trained with al-Qaida there, but French authorities said Thursday they had no evidence that he had any contact with terrorist groups or that al-Qaida had ordered the killings.
Wainwright warned that Europe faces a tough challenge ahead.
Combating individuals acting in apparent isolation, he said, will take smarter measures in monitoring the Internet, better intelligence and international cooperation in counterterrorism efforts.
And he conceded there were limits to what law enforcement officials can do. "We can't police the Internet," he said.
Other European terror authorities echoed that view, saying that apprehending suspicious individuals with no clear connections to terrorist networks is legally problematic.
"We have one law for war, one law for peace, but we don't have a law for the current situation," said Alain Chouet, a former intelligence director at France's DGSE spy agency.
"If we stopped (Merah) three weeks ago, what would people have said? 'Why are you stopping him? What did he do?'"More...