Al-Qaeda’s European Terror Plot

by THE EDITOR September 29, 2010
Britain, France and Germany
 
Western Europe has been on edge recently, with fears of terror attacks. On September 17 this month Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, announced that it was “only a matter of time" before a terror attack was carried out in Britain by UK subjects. He suggested that people who had gone from Britain to Somalia to attend Al Shabaab training camps would be the assailants. He also spoke of the possibility of Northern Ireland potentially being subjected to a terror attack. This would be made by members of the “Real IRA.”
 
Shortly after Evans’ warning, a British terror suspect, with apparent ties to Al Shabaab, was arrested at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport by the Netherlands’ Royal Marechaussee military police. The man, of Somali origin, had intended to board a plane bound for Entebbe in Uganda. He had taken a linking flight from Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport in Britain. His arrest had followed a tip-off from U.K. counter-terrorism officials.
 
Yesterday, the Eiffel Tower in Paris was evacuated for the second time in two weeks. The first warning had come on September 14. The warning on Tuesday evening had come from a message sent from a pay-to-use public phone. On both occasions, the landmark was swept for evidence of bombs, and nothing was found. There have been four bomb warnings in the same number of weeks in Paris and, on each occasion, security has taken the threat seriously.
 
On September 5, 2009, Jörg Ziercke, the president ofBundeskriminalamtes, (BKA) Germany’s Federal Criminal office, told the newspaper Tagesspiegel (link in German, translation here) that there were at least 400 serious Islamists in Germany. Of these, Ziercke claimed that 131 were regarded as potentialy likely to carry out an attack.
 
A week later, just before the anniversary of 9/11, the US Air Force base at Spangdahlem, near Trier in Germany, was given a telephoned warning of an attack. The base was placed under guard by US military police, working in conjunction with Germany’s GSG9, a police anti-terror unit.
 
Shortly after the threat of an attack put the base on high alert, a video appeared on the internet on Friday September 17. This video was fronted by a clean-shaven young man with greasy hair, wearing a suit.
 
 
The man in the video is Bekkay Harrach, who originally came from Bonn but is now thought to be residing in Waziristan, Pakistan where he moved in 2007. He warned that Al Qaeda would mount terror attacks in Germany if there was no sign of the nation reducing its military involvement in Afghanistan prior to the German Bundestag election. The election took place on Monday (September 27) and no terror attack took place.
 
However, that does not mean that Al Qaeda’s intentions were not real. Harrach, aged in his early 30s, has previously acted as the German-speaking spokesman for Al Qaeda, going under the sobriquet “Abu Talha the German.” In early 2009, posing with a hand-held rocket launcher, he warned in a video:
 
“I asked the German people what do the German secret services really know and do they believe that they can really protect the German people?”
 
The authorities in Britain, Germany and France apparently have had reason to be on the alert for the threat of terror attacks. An Al Qaeda plot to stage attacks in Britain, France and Germany, very similar to those that took place in Mumbai from November 26, 2008 onwards, has been foiled, news sources in Europe and America are reporting. The Mumbai attacks saw more than 170 people killed, and a Jewish couple who were targeted for murder had their bodies ritually mutilated.
 
The plot is said to have been averted, but the truth appears more worrying. The proposed attack seems interrupted, delayed, rather than foiled outright.
 
Someone leaked the story to the press while the plot was still in its early stages. As a result of the story being broken before the plot had reached a more concrete level of development, it is unlikely that the main people who were supposed to carry out the attacks will be arrested. They will remain free, and potentially could carry out the plot.
 
The Plot
 
The origins of the plot have come from Waziristan in Pakistan’s border regions, near the Durand Line that divides Pakistan from Afghanistan. The proposed perpetrators of the plot are said to be from North Africa and Pakistan, and are thought to have been trained in the tribal regions of Pakistan’s borderlands.
 
Eight Algerians have so far been arrested in connection with the plot, a US official has told Fox News. According to the Wall Street Journal, the US drone attacks in Waziristan have escalated in an attempt to thwart the plot. There has been a record number of CIA-led drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal regions. This month there have been at least 20 such attacks, twice the monthly average. An attack yesterday at the village of Zeba near Wana in South Waziristan, in which four people were killed, brings this month’s tally to 21.
 
On Saturday (September 25) Sheikh Fateh, aka Abdul Razzaq, who was Al Qaeda’s operational chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was killed in North Waziristan.
 
A US official, quoted in the Washington Post, has said of the drone attacks, that U.S. intelligence agencies need
 
“to work backwards, with your starting point being individuals you believe are involved in plotting, even when you don't have the full outlines of the plot itself. That's why we have been striking - with precision - people and facilities that are part of these conspiracies.”
 
James R. Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, made a statement on Tuesday (which has not yet appeared on the Office of the DNI website), in which he said:
 
“We know al-Qaeda wants to attack Europe and the United States. We continue to work closely with our European allies on the threat from international terrorism, including al-Qaeda.”
 
So far, most of the evidence points to Europe being the main target. Whether this is because it is easier to mount an Islamist terror attack in Europe, where many of the cities have high Muslim populations, or if news of a potential American-based plot has been strategically suppressed is not known. Politically, substantiated news of a planned major al-Qaeda attack on American soil could be used to discredit the administration’s Muslim outreach programs and have an influence on the midterm polls.
 
According to CNN:
 
One possible source of information on terrorists' plans is a German citizen of Afghan descent who is thought to be held in Afghanistan by U.S. forces. German intelligence officials confirm the man -- known only as Ahmad S. -- was detained in July, but they have not had access to him. They say he and several other Germans traveled from Hamburg to the Afghan/Pakistan border area in 2009, where he joined the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an extremist group allied with al Qaeda.
 
Ahmad S., aged 36, is a German of Afghan descent, married to an Indonesian wife, who had lived in Hamburg. It is believed he left Germany in March and originally went to Peshawar in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province. Peshawar is the nearest Pakistani city to the tribal regions (FATA) which include Waziristan. Ahmad S. is a friend of the family of convicted 9/11 plotter Mounir el Motassadeq, and used to drive Motassadeq’s father to the jail to see his terrorist son.  He has been interrogated in Baghram by American officials, but German authorities have said that they have not been granted permission to interview the suspect.
 
Ahmad S. is said to be the main source of information on the plot, but one man’s testimony would not be enough to lead to a doubling airstrikes by unmanned Predator or Reaper drones. An unidentified American official told Associated Press that the Pakistan drone missions are
 
“a product of precise intelligence and precise weapons. We've been hitting targets that pose a threat to our troops in Afghanistan and terrorists plotting attacks in South Asia and beyond.”
 
The actual details of the plot are sketchy. Basically, the plan had been to simultaneously kidnap people in European locations, and then to murder the hostages. The aim would have been to gain maximum horror and fear on the ground and worldwide media coverage, as happened in Mumbai.
 
Even though authorities in Britain and Germany have been on high alert this month, neither country has opted to raise its terror level higher. A British official has said:
 
“There have been a succession of terror operations we've been dealing with over recent weeks but one to two that have preoccupied us. Still, it hasn't been to the degree that we have raised the threat level.”
 
France’s national police chief, Frederic Pechenard, gave a warning last week that “friendly” intelligence sources had put France into a state of high alert. Pechenard said that there was “serious evidence coming from reliable intelligence sources telling us that there is a risk of a major attack.”
 
In July, I wrote of arrests that had taken place in Norway and Germany, of three people who usually resided in Norway. Their arrests appeared to be linked with al-Qaeda cells in Europe, Britain and America, whose activities were controlled ultimately from Pakistan. One of those individuals who was arrested, a 36-year old Iraqi Kurd called Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak, has confessed, states Siv Alsen of the Norwegian Police Security Service. The three men, according to Bujak’s confession, had planned to attack the offices of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. On September 30, 2005, this newspaper had reproduced 12 cartoons which had led to global protests in February 2006, in which more than 50 people were killed by Muslim fanatics.
 
On September 10, a one-legged Chechen boxer was arrested in Denmark, after he blew himself up in his hotel room. He had caused the small explosion while apparently preparing a letter bomb to be sent to the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. The bomb contained triacetone triperoxide (TATP) which had been used in the London subway bombings of July 7, 2005.
 
The interconnectedness of Al Qaeda networks in diverse global locations is something that everyone must take on board. It is too easy to assume that Islamists are only a problem if they are nearby. Islamists are organized, and whether they are connected to the global Muslim Brotherhood or to Al Qaeda inspired networks, those groups have an international reach. The defeat of terrorism can happen openly when a global response is taken.
 
In Europe, where there is no border control for individuals who manage to gain citizenship of a European country, there is already a large Al Qaeda European network. Fortunately for American citizens, since 9/11, U.S. intelligence has been exhaustive in its study of global terror networks.
 
The current terror plot, though it appears to have been huge in scale, will probably soon be forgotten by the media. There were few arrests, there are few tangible events or situations to refer back to. Leftists and denialists will probably try to diminish the plot as a product of “scare-mongering.”
 
It seems certain that a major event was averted, but it was exposed too soon. Potential plotters remain free. Once prepared to make an attack, it is unlikely that a jihadist will change his or her intention, unless there is some form of intervention. The people who were expected to carry out the plans to kidnap and murder civilians will remain free to redirect their murderous intent.
 
Adrian Morgan
 
 

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