The latest attempted terror campaign in Europe involved eight German and two British recruits planning Mumbai-style attacks in France, the United Kingdom and Germany on orders from Osama Bin Laden. The plot may have been foiled, but the threat hasn’t subsided. Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups are looking upon the radicalism in the European-Muslim communities with glee and stand ready to dispatch more European recruits to bring jihad to the West.
The information about Al-Qaeda’s latest terror plots came from a German terrorist who was captured on his way to Europe. He told his interrogators that Osama Bin Laden had green-lighted the sending of operatives from Pakistan with European passports. Bin Laden has ordered his network to shift to attacks on soft targets, modeled after the shooting rampages in Mumbai, India in November 2008. The State Department has issued a travel advisory for Americans in Europe due to concerns that cells are already in Europe and have completed their surveillance in preparation for striking targets like airports and tourist hotspots.
Two other recent incidents may be connected. Shortly before the news about this terror campaign broke, a female suicide bombing in Paris was prevented and seven tons of Iranian explosives were seized in Italy, believed to be on their way to Syria. “The threat-reporting stream today is like what we were seeing in the summer of 2001,” one former senior U.S. intelligence official said.
There was a similar campaign planned by Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban last year. In the spring of 2009, the British authorities arrested a dozen people suspected of being involved in plans to attack shopping centers around Easter as well as other targets in Spain, Germany, France and Portugal. The plot was broken up after an informant revealed the suspects had been trained in Pakistan and met a top Taliban commander in Waziristan.
President Obama was told when he first came into office that radical Muslims in the United Kingdom of Pakistani origin posed the biggest threat, and with good reason. At least 2,000 terrorism suspects are being monitored in the community, and reportedly 40 percent of the CIA’s operations aimed at preventing attacks on the U.S. are carried out in the United Kingdom. The British police have intervened to stop the possible radicalization of 200 youth, including some only 13 years old and radical Muslims gangs whose members openly aspire to become suicide bombers have formed, such as the Bang Bang Taliban. And these recruits are going to places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia for training and returning home. In June 2007, a Taliban videotape celebrated the graduation of British nationals from their terrorist education that pledged to carry out suicide attacks in their country.
Radical Islamic forces are taking advantage of weaknesses in the British justice system. The Quilliam Foundation, a moderate Muslim organization, has released a report disclosing how the preachers of extremism are able to secretly send messages, issue public statements and even appear on television from prison. Extremist texts litter prison libraries and in some cases, radical religious leaders are allowed to lead prayer services and act as teachers for the inmates.
The report concluded that the radicalized prisoners become violent about five to seven years after being released on average, so the terrorists of 2015 are being bred in British prisons right now. The head of the Royal United Services Institute estimates that about 800 radicalized prisoners will be released from British prisons over the next 10 years. British judges have also shown a tremendous weakness towards punishing terrorists, often significantly reducing their sentences. Activist judges have decided to release 30 high-level terrorists early because “If sentences were imposed which were more severe than the circumstances of the particular case warranted, that would be likely to inflame rather than deter extremism.”
The United Kingdom also has had difficulty in dealing with radical Islamic groups that preach violence but cannot be proven to directly engage in terrorism and non-violent extremists. One such example is Anjem Choudary, an extremist preacher who openly mocks British soldiers, vocally supports terrorism and advocates the establishment of Shariah law, saying it “may come peacefully. But it may come through a holy war that will see rivers of blood on the streets.” Shockingly, he receives about 25,000 British pounds annually in state benefits.
The effect of extremist activists and preachers like Choudary in the U.K. is frightening. A Centre for Social Cohesion study found that nearly one-third of Muslim students in British universities say killing in the name of religion can be justified and nearly one-fourth say God doesn’t view men and women equally. One-third support the establishment of Shariah law.
Germany has its own problems with homegrown extremism and terrorists have shown off their German recruits for awhile. The recruits actually had their own “village” in Waziristan in Pakistan. In April 2009, four German recruits were put on trial for planning car bombings on behalf of the Islamic Jihad Union, an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan that works with Al-Qaeda. Several videos by the group have showcased their German unit and their spokesman, Bekkay Harrach, who came to Pakistan in 2007 via Iran. He is believed to be protected by the Haqqani network of North Waziristan.
The Federal Criminal Agency of Germany has noticed how their country has become a special focus of terrorist groups. “After the U.S., Germany is only the second country whose population is being addressed so directly and in the national language,” a confidential report reads. It is believed that about 140 German residents have gone for terrorist training overseas, with 60 to 80 having returned. Dr. August Hanning, the former director of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, says there are about 300 “potentially dangerous Islamists” in Germany, as well as at least 100 classified as being a danger, for a total “circle of around 1,000 people.”
All of Western Europe faces a rising homegrown jihad threat, not just the U.K. and Germany. The U.S. is likewise experiencing a rise in the threat, with the Obama Administration privately concluding that radicalization is increasing. The next generation of terrorists is being raised right in our own backyards.