Thursday, 13 August 2009 00:00

Issue 7/2009

 

 

European Radicalisation Monitor

Issue 7/2009

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.
 
OVERVIEW
 
There were a few positive developments in European security. The terrorism threat in the UK was officially downgraded from “severe” to “substantial”, the lowest level since May 2005. Several terrorist plots were uncovered by intelligence and security services throughout Europe. In addition, reformist Muslims increased their activities to persuade radicals to move away from extremism.
 
Although these developments are encouraging, law enforcement agencies must continue to keep close watch: ETA launched several bombings in Spain, terrorist plots were uncovered in the UK, Belgium, and France, and a recent report issued by the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Committee (UK) suggests that London’s transport network remains “extremely vulnerable” to terrorist attack. Furthermore, the number of hate websites disseminating terrorist propaganda has increased by a third in the past year, according to a Los Angeles-based human rights organisation. Lastly, Germany has increased security measures prior to its general election in September, while schoolchildren were arrested for planning terrorist attacks in Britain.
 
It is crucial that Europe continues to strive to adopt a common policy in the field of the counter-terrorism. In this spirit, EU Ministers of Internal Affairs meeting in Stockholm discussed the new five-year action plan, the “Stockholm Programme”, to enhance cooperation in the areas of freedom, security, and justice.  In addition, the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator underlined the necessity to respect human rights and the rule of law in the fight against terrorism; as such violations by Western governments play into the hands of al-Qaeda in its efforts to recruit terrorists. He thus called on Europe and America to work together to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. Spain has already responded by agreeing to take in five detainees. However, while countering terrorism, Europe should work on preventing radicalisation, by working on a community level with schools, places of worship, etc. Only a combined approach can bear real results.
 
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.
 
 
RADICALISATION
 
 
Dutch authorities would like to stop the phenomenon of “imported imams”, clerics who come mainly from Morocco and Turkey, because they cannot speak Dutch and often preach radical ideologies. However, mosques have objected to this suggestion, claiming that they do not have enough financial resources to pay Dutch-trained imams, and their donors do not trust them.
 
 
Dutch social workers and immigration organisations in the Netherlands warn that when they travel to their countries of origin, many Muslim youth, mainly 18-year-old girls, are married off against their will and do not return home. Closer analysis suggests that they travel to their parents’ native country and are left behind with the new spouse. Following the UK example, the Dutch Ministry of Justice has started an information campaign to make people aware of the risk.
 
 
INTERNET & TERRORISM 
 
 
According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based Jewish human rights organisation, the number of hate and terrorist websites has increased by a third in the past year. Social network sites enable all kinds of messages to spread quickly, and are done under the pretext of defending freedom of expression and objecting censorship.
 
 
TERRORIST FINANCING
 
 
A German-Pakistani diamond trader has been jailed for eight years for actively supporting al-Qaeda in Germany. The 47-year-old man was a key figure for a Germany-based cell, raising funds, distributing propaganda, and recruiting new members.
 
 
TERRORIST PLOTS AND RADICAL ACTIVITY
 
 
Despite the recent arrests of senior military leaders, the Spanish terrorist organisation ETA detonated a car bomb in the tourism centre of Mallorca. The attack, which occurred just prior to the organisation’s 50th anniversary, killed two policemen, injured several bystanders, and took place just two days before the arrival of the royal family in the nearby Balearic Islands. It was the third terrorist attack perpetrated by ETA in July: on 10 July, ETA targeted the Socialist Party’s office in Durango; and, on 29 July, it injured 40 people after detonating a car bomb in front of a police barrack in Burgos.
 
 
A Moroccan-born Belgian citizen has been jailed for life in Morocco. The man, arrested in February 2008, was charged with leading an Islamist militant group, procuring weapons for terrorists in Morocco in an effort to overthrow the monarchy, and murdering six people in Belgium.
 
 
A former schoolboy, estranged from his family after becoming a heroin addict, has been jailed for planning a suicide attack in a crowded shopping centre in the UK. Isa Ibrahim converted to Islam in 2007.
 
 
A Belgian imam and a French computer scientist have been jailed for four and a half years in Italy. The defendants were charged with participating in terrorist activities, including a bombing attempt at a Paris airport.
 
 
Three radical Muslims were jailed for four and a half years in Britain. They have been charged with attempting to set fire to Gibson Square Books after learning that the company was planning to publish The Jewel of Medina, a controversial book about Prophet Mohammed and his young wife, Aisha.
 
 
Thirty-two extreme right wing individuals have been questioned by UK police on suspicion of planning a bombing campaign against mosques throughout the country. More than 300 weapons and 80 bombs were captured in England’s largest seizure of a suspected terrorist arsenal in the last 20 years.
 
 
PRESENT THREAT
 
 
The threat of a terrorist attack in the UK has been officially downgraded from “severe” to “substantial”. This is the lowest risk level in the country since May 2005.
 
 
According to a recent report issued by the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Committee (UK), the transport network in London remains “extremely vulnerable” to terrorist attack. This is of particular concern given that London will host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.  
 
 
German authorities have raised the level of the terrorism alert in the run-up to the general election on 27 September. Security has been strengthened throughout the country, including at airports and borders. Although no concrete plan to attack Germany has been uncovered, the escalation of extremist activity in general has alarmed authorities.
 
 
EUROPE’S RESPONSE
 
 
The head of the UK branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Rafiq Hayat, has urged Muslims to conform to British law during his speech at Britain’s biggest annual Islamic Convention in late July. According to Hayat, Muslims should contribute to the well-being of the society, abstain from creating an alternative authority, and should not send their children to Islamic schools.
 
 
The Metropolitan Police has published a booklet to advise the public on the general rules regarding the use of cameras to counter terrorist threats.
 
 
During his official visit to Mali, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the Spanish Minister of Interior, announced Spain’s commitment to help the country fight al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Cooperation between the two countries will be increased, mainly in the area of intelligence.
 
 
The EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, has re-affirmed the EU’s commitment in fighting the Taliban in Pakistan, and supporting refugees and asylum seekers. At the EU-Pakistan Summit, held in June 2009, the EU pledged 124 million Euros to stabilise the country and fight terrorism.
 
 
Twenty men convicted of terrorism charges have been freed from prison following the completion of their jail terms. They are now allowed to live in bail hostels, normally used to accommodate burglars, robbers, and sex offenders. There are about 100 such hostels throughout the UK, which can accommodate up to 2,500 people. Authorities believe that they still represent a potential threat. Therefore, the ex-convicts will be constantly supervised by two probation officers.
 
 
Meeting in Stockholm on 16 July for the informal Justice and Home Affairs Council, EU Ministers of Interior and Justice discussed the third five-year plan concerning the establishment of an area of freedom, security, and justice, laying out the basis for better cooperation across the EU. The so-called “Stockholm Programme” will replace the “Hague Programme”, due to expire in December 2009, and aims to find a balance between the need for security for Member States and the respect of fundamental human rights for their citizens.
 
 
During the 2009 G8 Summit, held in L’Aquila, Italy, the G8 countries re-affirmed that international terrorism constitutes one of the greatest challenges to peace, security, and stability around the world. This phenomenon and all its manifestations must be firmly condemned. They stated that collaboration among countries is indispensable, particularly in the field of information-sharing.
 
 
The Metropolitan Police’s head of counter-terrorism announced that the command’s budget faces cuts for the first time since the 7 July 2005 London bombings. The cuts, brought on by the effects of the recession, would come into place one year before the Olympic Games, a time when the terrorist threat is likely to increase.
 
 
On the anniversary of the 7 July 2005 terrorist attacks in London, Prince Charles unveiled a memorial comprised of 52 steel pillars, one for every victim of the bombings. The victims’ relatives said the memorial was a “fitting tribute”.
 
 
EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove has underlined the need for the EU and the US to work together to fight the Islamist terrorism threat and to prevent radicalisation. According to de Kerchove, this will be achieved by respecting human rights and applying the rule of law. He welcomed the Obama Administration’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, as it has become a symbol that paradoxically helps al-Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause.
 
 
Spain has agreed to take five Guantanamo detainees, four Tunisians and a Yemeni. The Yemeni case does not pose a particular security challenge to Spanish authorities. However, the Tunisians could potentially be a risk due to the geographic proximity of the two countries and the large Tunisian immigrant community in Spain.
 
 
GENERAL ISSUES
 
 
Only four years ago, the fear of Islamism in Europe reached its peak following the terrorist attacks in Madrid and London, the murder of Theo Van Gogh in Amsterdam, and the demonstrations against the publication of the satirical cartoons about Prophet Mohammed in Denmark. According to a recent poll conducted by Gallup, the fear for the “Islamisation of Europe” has started to decrease.
 
 
The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal, a body with legal legitimacy under the Arbitration Act of 1996, revealed that around 5% of its cases involved non-Muslims. More non-Muslim Britons chose Sharia courts to resolve civil matters as they consider them less formal and cumbersome in comparison to the British legal system. This trend is worrying anti-Sharia campaigners who oppose the creation of a parallel legal system that does not guarantee the same fundamental rights.