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 a factual overview of how terrorist ideologies are spreading in Europe, and 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 around the world, and on publications by non-governmental organisations, national governments, and international bodies.
The threat of Islamist terrorism once again took centre stage following the failed attempt by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to detonate explosives aboard a Christmas Day transatlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. There are many lessons to generate from the attack. Among them is the ability of terrorists to find new ways to evade existing security practices and technologies. In response to the attack, many countries are increasing security measures at airports and introducing full-body scanners, which would have caught the explosives Abdulmutallab was carrying on his body. A debate has already developed over the use of this technology and it will certainly intensify over the coming months.
Another valuable lesson from the Christmas Day incident is the emerging role of Yemen as centre for radicalisation and terrorist operations. As has long been evident, the threat of terrorism at home extends beyond national borders. While the focus has primarily been placed on Afghanistan and Pakistan since the attacks of 11 September 2001, it is important the Europe and its allies be aware of emerging havens and combat the threats before they truly establish themselves. Like Yemen, Somalia is also becoming a centre for terrorist activities with links to Europe. This month, a man raised in Denmark carried out a suicide attack on a medical school graduation ceremony in Mogadishu.
Identifying and counter radicalisation remains a key to making Europe more secure. Civil servants, security officials and community leaders must work together to prevent the radicalisation of young and impressionable Europeans. It is the responsibility of all.
For a cross section of radical activities in Europe, cyber-terrorism, the present threat, counter-terrorism responses from across Europe, and other general issues, please continue reading. To read the original articles in full, please click on the appropriate item headings.
Counter-terrorism officers have begun visiting nurseries in West Midlands, UK to investigate for signs of radicalisation. The tactic is premised on the fact that, according to one officer, “evidence suggests that radicalisation can take place from the age of four.” Indicators include children stating their belief in an Islamic state, expressing hatred for other religions and drawing pictures of bombs. Politicians on both the left and the right have questioned whether the programme will actually provide any benefits, or simply alienate people.
The EU will soon require all member states to grant the CIA “broad access” to bank accounts in terrorism related cases. The agreement, which will come into effect in February, stipulates that countries will have to pass along records to the CIA “as a matter of urgency,” which will then be stored in a database for five years. Critics in the UK have called the agreement “lopsided” since British authorities do not have similar levels of access to US bank accounts. Civil liberty groups has also noted that the measure have been imposed without debate.
TERRORIST PLOTS AND RADICAL ACTIVITY
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been charged with attempting to blow up a Christmas Day transatlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit he was carrying on his body. He failed to properly detonate the explosive device, which he was carrying on his body; though it did catch fire leaving his legs severely burned. The 23 year-old Nigerian, who studied engineering in London in 2008, passed through Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport in transit from his flight from Lagos. US authorities did not place Abdulmutallab on a no-fly list despite his father’s warning six month earlier that his son had expressed “extreme religious views.” According to the Wall Street Journal, the Nigerian told investigators that he had received the device from al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen.
Four men were arrested “under laws dealing with the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism” following inquiries by Dorset Police. The four, including a 16-year-old boy, were initially detained with two others on suspicion of illegally being in the UK. According to a Police spokesman, “While the investigation is continuing there is currently no identified threat of any risk or harm to the people of Dorset or the United Kingdom.”
Adam Khatib, 23, was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison after a London court found him guilty of conspiring with Abdulla Ahmed Ali, one of the ringleaders of the transatlantic bomb plot. According to evidence presented during the trial, Khatib travelled with Ali to Pakistan and researched chemicals for the production of liquid explosives. His fingerprints were found on items in the East London facility where the bombs were assembled. John McDowall, head of Britain’s Counter Terrorist Command, argued that “Adam Khatib may not have known the full extent of the plan being hatched by his co-conspirators, but he certainly knew that they had murder in mind.”
Officials believe that the suicide bomber who attacked a medical school graduation in Mogadishu, Somalia on 3 December, killing at least 22, was raised in Denmark. The Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) confirmed the bomber was “a Somali citizen who had residence in Denmark.” PET further noted in a statement to the Copenhagen Post that “there are people with ties to Denmark who have gone through militant Islamic training and radicalisation and who are involved in terror-related activities in several countries, including in Somalia.” Reports suggest that the bomber left Somalia early in his childhood and only returned last year after 20 years in Denmark.
Following the Christmas Day bombing attempt, UK counter-terrorism officials have stated that Yemen is becoming the next ‘haven’ for a new generation of al-Qaeda inspired terrorist fighters and that a number of Britons have travelled there to receive training. According to a UK security source, “There is a steady stream of people travelling to Yemen, and travel to Yemen is something that is of concern to us." Pakistan and Afghanistan remain the primary focus of UK counter-terrorism activities abroad, though Yemen is becoming increasingly more prominent.
Dutch Interior Minister Guusje Ter Horst said that, while normal detectors were unable to identify the explosives that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab carried onto the plane, full-body scanners would have caught them. She also noted that the US had blocked Dutch attempts to install full body scanners for flights to the US prior to Christmas Day attack. The US, which preferred to wait until the scanners were to be used for all flights, has now agreed to the security measure for passengers flying to America. The scanners are expected to be introduced in January.
British Ministers have been given a guide list of words they should not use when publicly discussing terrorism. They are encouraged to used more generic terms like “terrorism” and “violent extremism” instead of the more specific “Muslim extremism” or “jihadism” in order to “avoid implying that specific communities are to blame.” According to the Home Office, “This is about using appropriate language to have counter-terrorism impact. It would be foolish to do anything else.”
John Denham, the Secratery of State for Communities, visited London’s East End to mark the first anniversary of the government’s programme to tackle violent extremism and radicalisation among young Muslims. The programme has drawn criticism from community organisations, who believe it isolates Muslims. Ed Husain, co-director of the London-based think tank the Quilliam Foundation, argues that “Muslims are British citizens just like everyone else ... But the way money is currently being channelled reinforces the Muslim identity, defining people through their faith and making them more inward looking.”