The European front in the War on Terror
The Guardian‘s Sunday Observer had an extremely disturbing story two days ago on the renaissance of Muslim terrorist cells across the continent. The highlights: An investigation by The Observer has revealed the extent of the new networks that Islamic militants have been able to build in Europe since 11 September – despite the massive effort ...
The Guardian's Sunday Observer had an extremely disturbing story two days ago on the renaissance of Muslim terrorist cells across the continent. The highlights:
The Guardian‘s Sunday Observer had an extremely disturbing story two days ago on the renaissance of Muslim terrorist cells across the continent. The highlights:
An investigation by The Observer has revealed the extent of the new networks that Islamic militants have been able to build in Europe since 11 September – despite the massive effort against them. The militants’ operations go far beyond the few individuals’ activities that sparked massive security alerts over Christmas and the new year. Interviews with senior counter-intelligence officials, secret recordings of conversations between militants and classified intelligence briefings have shown that militants have been able to reconstitute, and even enlarge, their operations in Europe in the past two years…. · Britain is still playing a central logistical role for the militants, with extremists, including the alleged mastermind of last year’s bombings in Morocco, and a leader of an al-Qaeda cell, regularly using the UK as a place to hide. Other radical activists are using Britain for fundraising, massive credit card fraud, the manufacture of false documents and planning. Recruitment is also continuing. In one bugged conversation, a senior militant describes London as ‘the nerve centre’ and says that his group has ‘Albanians, Swiss [and] British’ recruits. He needs people who are ‘intelligent and highly educated’, he says and implies that the UK can, and does, supply them. · Islamic terror cells are spreading eastwards into Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic for the first time, prompting fears of a new battleground in countries with weak authorities, powerful criminal gangs and endemic corruption in the years to come. · Austria has become a central communications hub for Muslim extremists; France has become a key recruiting ground for fighters in Chechnya; and German groups, who often have extensive international links, are developing contacts with Balkan mafia gangs to acquire weapons. The investigation has also revealed that, despite moves by the government there to crack down, Saudi Arabia remains the key source of funds for al-Qaeda and related militant groups. Investigators stress that most of the European cells are autonomous, coming together on an ad hoc basis to complete specific tasks. To describe them as ‘al-Qaeda’ is simplistic. Instead, sources say, the man most of these new Islamic terror networks look to for direction is Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian Islamic militant who some analysts believe was behind the recent Istanbul suicide bombings against British targets and synagogues. Though he follows a similar agenda to Osama bin Laden, the 37-year-old Zarqawi has always maintained his independence from the Saudi-born fugitive. Last week, his developing stature in global Islamic militancy was reinforced when he issued his first-ever public statement, an audiotape calling on God to ‘kill the Arab and the foreign tyrants, one after another’. Zarqawi is believed to be in Iran or Iraq.
This matches what the London Times (subscription required) reported earlier this month:
London’s key role as a command and control centre for Al-Qaeda’s European network since the September 11 terrorist attacks is revealed in leaked police transcripts. The documents, which form part a court case in Milan, detail bugged discussions between Al-Qaeda members on how to recruit and train new contingents of terrorists in Europe. The papers, translated and released by a branch of the American State Department, are the result of an 18-month investigation into Al-Qaeda’s overhaul of its European arm in the wake of September 11…. The court documents, part of the trial of seven Al-Qaeda suspects, reveal that after September 11 the network began to train a new army of suicide units, codenamed Force 9. Investigators say more than 200 terrorists were recruited. The man said to be the strategic brain behind the European network is Abu Musab Zarqawi, an Al-Qaeda leader who is believed to be based in Iran and is thought to have masterminded the suicide attacks in Turkey in November. According to one bugged conversation, the new recruits were mostly north Africans but also included middle-class Europeans. Some were described as “highly cultured foreigners” -non-Arabs.
Developing… in a very disturbing way.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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