European Radicalisation Monitor: December 2008
European Radicalisation Monitor
EFD's European Radicalisation Monitor (ERM) provides an overview of ongoing terrorist and radicalisation activities, counter-terrorism measures and broad terrorism-related political debates throughout Europe. With the ERM we aim to provide an objective overview of how terrorist ideologies are spreading in Europe, and of the different forms they are taking. It is imperative that Europeans become aware of the threat of such movements to open societies and to universal human rights. The ERM is based on media sources from across Europe, and publications by non-governmental organisations, national governments and international institutions. Links to original sources and news articles are provided and are available by clicking on the underlined text of the articles below.
Lately, there has been significant terrorist activity across Europe. Serious attempts have been made in Britain, France and Belgium, where fourteen suspects, including a woman, were arrested prior to the EU Summit. In the UK, counter-terrorism authorities foiled a terrorist plan aimed at carrying out a Mumbai-style attack in London. Shortly after, the French police deactivated explosives at a popular department store complex in Paris. Violence in Europe has mounted also against Jewish targets, with incidents being reported across Northern Europe, following an appeal by al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri to strike Israeli, Jewish and Western targets around the world in response to the conflict in Gaza. Equally troubling is the terrorists’ use of modern technology including Facebook and YouTube to recruit terrorists and disseminate terrorist propaganda.
Under these conditions, national governments are taking proactive and reactive actions to tackle the terrorism threat. Britain has laid out a plan to give access to classified information to town halls, to allow them to fight radicalisation locally. Italy is considering the option of halting the building of new mosques in an attempt to prevent future attacks as mosques are often used to recruit terrorists and raise funds for terrorism. Yet, a combination of traditional and new strategies need to be implemented swiftly to counter the new and growing phenomenon of women becoming actively involved in the Jihadist network and the use of technology for terrorist purposes. In addition, new ways should be found to engage and empower reformer Muslims denounce and fight fundamentalism.
Moderate Islam ineffective in the fight against radicalisation – 8 December 2008
According to the UK-based Islamic Foundation, moderate Muslims are not sufficiently committed to counter the rise of extremism and radicalisation, especially amongst the youth. More precisely, Muslim communities are blamed for having failed to "create adequate religious institutions or leadership that could connect with young people and educate them in an idiom they would understand." Such critical remarks have been expounded in a special report titled “Faith in the Nation”, which encompasses essays by leading figures from the five largest religious communities in Britain, with a foreword by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
France concerned about growing number of women embracing radical Islam – 11 December 2008
The engagement of Muslim women in anti-Western propagandist activities increasingly worries French authorities. An alarming example is that of Auxerre, a small city in Bourgogne, where a group of integrally veiled women, belonging to the fundamentalist movement of the Tabligh, is daily involved in proselytizing activities, spreading anti-Western sentiments and Jihadist ideologies. Worryingly, radical groups such as the Tabligh appear to be most successful amongst young Muslim women. According to sociologists, young Muslim women who embrace extremist ideologies do so as a form of rebellion against both French society and the traditional vision of Islam advocated by their parents.
Violence against Jews in Europe mounts following the conflict in Gaza – 6 January 2009
Attacks against Jewish targets, including synagogues have been reported in France, Britain, Belgium, Sweden and Denmark after the start of the conflict in Gaza. Indeed, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri called Muslims to strike Israeli and Western targets around the world over Israel's raids in Gaza. European authorities have condemned the assaults, yet the violence continues to spread.
INTERNET & TERRORISM
YouTube becomes part of al-Qaeda’s propagandistic arsenal – 4 December 2008
Al-Qaeda has upgraded its media strategy and started using video-sharing website YouTube as tool of terrorist propaganda. Recently, some of the most active jihadist websites have been permanently closed down by counter-terrorism authorities. As a consequence, the terrorist network has been forced to look for alternative recruitment instruments through the internet. Since 2007, around 2,000 al-Qaeda videos have been uploaded to YouTube. These videos include messages from al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama Bin Laden, and images of terrorist attacks carried out in Iraq against Coalition soldiers.
Jihadists to invade the virtual realm of Facebook – 11 December 2008
According to the SITE Intelligence Group, a US-based monitoring service, the founders of an Islamic jihadist forum have called on the virtual community of Jihad supporters to counter the offensive launched on Jihadist media, forums and websites through the use of Facebook. The popular social network was described by the group of extremists as "a podium to reach millions of people." They encouraged their supporters to join the website and post on their personal profiles Islamist and jihadist publications, articles and pictures. Although Facebook's terms of service explicitly prohibit "organisations or groups that promote or glorify hatred, violence, intolerance, racism or discrimination," careful and constant monitoring will be required in order to tackle this new virtual threat.
TERRORIST PLANS AND RADICAL ACTIVITY
UK authorities order top terrorist suspect back to jail – 2 December 2008
Abu Qatada, a radical Islamic preacher often described as “Bin Laden’s right-hand in Europe,” was ordered back to jail by a Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which oversees cases involving suspects awaiting deportation. The Jordanian cleric had already been arrested twice by the British authorities, but was then released from jail on extremely strict bail conditions. Appeal Court judges ruled he would have not faced a fair trial in his homeland, if extradited.
Two terrorism suspects arrested in Italy – 3 December 2008
Italian counter-terrorism authorities arrested two Moroccan immigrants suspected of involvement in a plot to bomb several police stations, a military base and other civilian targets in an industrial area north of Milan. The counter-terrorism division of the police launched the raid after surveillance revealed the suspects were researching explosives techniques and discussing bomb attacks. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni described the situation as “new and worrying.” This was the first time that a terrorist cell inspired by Al Qaeda's ideology planned to strike in Italy.
Terrorist linked to the 2004 Madrid bombings convicted in Morocco – 5 December 2008
A Moroccan court has convicted one of the men involved in the plotting of the Madrid bombings and sentenced him to ten years in prison. The man, a Moroccan citizen, was member of a local terrorist group and his fingerprints were found on cars used by the terrorists who conducted simultaneous bombings on four Spanish commuter trains on 11 March 2004.
Mumbai-style attack foiled by British intelligence – 6 December 2008
British counter-terrorism authorities believe an Islamic terrorist was planning to arm a gang of associates in order to carry out a Mumbai-style attack in London. The arrest was timely: it occurred as the plotter was trying to buy various weapons and ammunitions. Investigators said he was linked to the same terrorist group accused of the Indian massacre where almost 200 innocent people were killed.
Terrorist sentenced to life in prison by German court – 9 December 2008
One of the two Lebanese terrorists, who plotted an unsuccessful terrorist attack on commuter trains in Cologne in 2006, has received a life sentence from a German court. The man was convicted on multiple counts of attempted murder for leaving two suitcase bombs on the trains, which failed to explode only because of a construction error in building the detonation devices. According to an investigator in the case, the two men were partly motivated by anger over the publication of the controversial cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark.
Al-Qaeda suspects charged in Belgium – 12 December 2008
A few hours before the Summit of European Union government leaders was scheduled to open in Brussels, six people were charged with belonging to a terrorist organization. According to the then Belgian PM Yves Leterme security authorities even considered calling off the summit. Overnight, Belgian police conducted dozen of searches throughout the country, targeting members of jihadist cells allegedly linked to al-Qaeda. One of the six persons arrested was said to be on the verge of carrying out a suicide attack. Amongst the suspects, there was also a woman, Malika El Aroud, widow of the suicide bomber that killed the anti-Taliban leader Ahmed Shah Massoud in 2001. The target selected by the group of terrorists remains uncertain. Federal Prosecutor Johan Delmulle said the suspects could have been targeting Pakistan or Afghanistan, but it couldn't “be ruled out that Belgium or Europe could have been the target."
Man linked to Afghan jihadist cell arrested in France – 15 December 2008
French authorities arrested a 29-year-old suspect terrorist accused of participating in a recruitment ring for fighters to be sent to Afghanistan. French counter-terrorism authorities issued preliminary charges against the alleged terrorist for "criminal association with a terrorist enterprise" and ordered cautionary detention. The man was arrested in the south-eastern city of Grenoble on suspicion of links to a Belgian internet site aimed at recruiting jihadists. Interestingly, the suspect and his criminal activities appear to be connected to the same Afghan terrorist cell dismantled by Belgian police the previous day.
Explosives found at Paris department store – 16 December 2008
French police found a package of explosives at the popular ‘Printemps’ department store complex in central Paris. Acting on a tip received from a French news agency, they discovered five sticks of dynamite bound together with a cord in one of the restrooms. A group which dubbed itself the “Afghan Revolutionary Front” had sent a warning mail to Agence France Presse demanding the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan.