Wednesday, 12 November 2008 00:00

November 2008

 

European Radicalisation Monitor
November 2008

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 around the world, 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.

ANALYSIS

In November, radical activities have continued to take place throughout Europe. A striking example is that of UK-based terrorists planning to employ former NHS ambulances and police cars bought online to launch suicide bomb attacks across Britain. Equally worrying is the issue of terrorism financing. The UN blacklisting system to stop terrorism funding has been increasingly challenged by European judicial institutions, which have denounced it as a violation of fundamental rights. Although controversial and inconsistently enforced, the blacklisting system has proved fairly effective. According to official figures, around $85 million in al-Qaida and Taliban assets has been frozen worldwide.

 

The seriousness of the terrorist threat in many European countries remains alarming. Islamist extremism continues to be on the rise in the UK. According to a secret intelligence report, Britain will remain "a high-priority target" for al-Qaeda for the foreseeable future. Denmark and France are also under threat.  Since the reprinting of the contested cartoon of Muhammad earlier this year, terrorists in the Muslim world have sharpened their focus on Danes and Danish interests abroad. As for France, Taliban leaders have threatened that terrorist attacks will be carried out in Paris unless the French government decides to pull its troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible.

 

Responses to these growing concerns are coming from both old and new member states. Bulgaria has just launched its new National Action Plan against Terrorism, while both France and Germany have approved legislation meant to reinforce the powers of security agencies in the fight against terrorism. The adoption of these security measures has triggered intense national debates on what should be the right balance between security concerns and civil liberties. Such a complex issue was also discussed in a conference organised by the Council of Europe and titled “Anti-terrorism legislation in Europe since 2001 and its impact on freedom of expression and information”. The respect of fundamental freedoms is paramount but so is the protection of citizens.

 

For a cross section of radical activities in Europe, cyber-terrorism, the present threat, and anti-terrorism responses from across Europe, please continue reading. To read the original articles in full, please click on the underlined text.

 

RADICALISATION

A nine-year-old wants to kill George W. Bush–18th November

Radicalisation of young people is a very sensitive issue in a multicultural country like the UK.  Under the PREVENT initiative, British government has founded several projects and NGOs working hard to counter the lure of those who are intent upon recruiting vulnerable young people to violent extremism. It may be surprising and yet true, that there are 9-year-old boys in the UK who loath the US president and want to kill him.


INTERNET & TERRORISM 

19-year-old allegedly connected to internet threat to kill British PM– 4th November

A young man has been taken into custody under the Terrorism Act in the UK. The arrest is the culmination of a wider counter-terrorism operation to investigate threats made on the internet to kill the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Five men have been arrested and charged with terrorist offences this year as part of the same investigation.

TERRORIST PLANS AND RADICAL ACTIVITY

Terrorist suspects wanted in Italy extradited from Britain. – 2nd November

Three Tunisian nationals have been extradited from the UK to Italy, where they are going on trial for recruiting young men to join the jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq. Arrested in 2007 on a European Arrest Warrant issued by Italian authorities, the three men are also suspected of aiding the entry of illegal immigrants into the EU, a criminal activity closely linked to their recruitment and indoctrination tasks. Moreover, one of the suspects is accused of belonging to al-Qaeda in North Africa, a banned radical group, which earlier this year claimed responsibility for the 2007 Algiers bombings, where dozens of people were killed.  

 

Three Turkish nationals charged with terrorist offences in Germany – 6th November

A woman and two men have been arrested on suspicion of being members of the terrorist wing of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), whose aim is to replace the Turkish government with a Marxist one. The three suspects are also accused of raising money, smuggling weapons and recruiting new members for the DHKP-C.

 

Jihadists convicted for recruiting combatants in France – 6th November

Four French citizens of North African origin were convicted for taking part in a network that recruited Islamists in southern France to join the war in Iraq. Their jail terms ranged between 2 and 6 years.

 

Terrorist suspect charged over homemade bombs – 7th November

A 43-year-old man in the UK was charged with terrorist offences after being arrested at a railway station in East Anglia. The suspect was found to be carrying two homemade bombs, seven timers, four containers of weed killer and a Nazi-themed handbook, an instruction manual for the Waffen SS. The man was due to face a preliminary hearing on November 28.

 

Spain rejects asylum bid by Osama bin Laden's son –8th November

Spanish authorities have rejected a political asylum bid by one of Osama Bin Laden's sons, due to "insufficient evidence of danger or threat to his life". A couple of months earlier, Omar bin Laden – who publicly called on his father to abandon terrorism–, was also refused a UK visa on the grounds that his presence in the country would not be "conducive to the public good". Bin Laden’s son and his British wife argued they wanted to move to Europe as their condemnation of al-Qaeda has repeatedly put their lives in danger in the Middle-East.

 

Bin Laden's right hand in Europe arrested for a second time in the UK – 10th November

A Jordanian radical cleric- once described as Osama bin Laden's ambassador to Europe- has been arrested for a second time by British authorities. The man is charged with breaching his bail conditions. Arrested in June, the preacher was then released from jail on extremely strict bail conditions, after judges said he could not be deported to his home country. Mr. Qatada’s bail conditions included a 22-hour home curfew, ban him from access to mobile phones or the internet and also ban him from meeting a long list of al-Qaeda members, including Osama Bin Laden.

 

Lebanese bomber standing trial in Germany – 14th November

A Lebanese man will appear before a German court accused of plotting to bomb two commuter trains. The explosions, which could have caused the death of up to 75 innocent passengers, did not detonate because of a providential technical fault. Prosecutors are asking for a life sentence for the plaintiff, while his defence lawyer has demanded his acquittal, despite the existence of compelling video evidence. In fact, the man and his accomplice were caught on security cameras putting the baggage on the trains, a scene played on heavy rotation on television channels in Germany.

 

Al-Qaeda planning UK attacks with ambulances bought on eBay – 15th November

British intelligence warned that terrorists may be planning to launch suicide bomb attacks in Britain using former NHS ambulances and police cars bought on auction website eBay. Counter-terrorism officials at the Home Office contacted eBay, asking it to stop selling emergency service vehicles, equipment and uniforms. However, eBay replied it cannot stop the auctions unless a new law is passed. The Association of Chief Police Officers urged the approval of such legislation, amid fears that extremists may import a tactic already used by terrorists in the Middle East. As highlighted by report from the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, ambulances have been employed in recent attacks by Al-Qaeda both in Iraq and Israel, including one in February in which a suicide bomber drove a stolen ambulance packed with explosives into an Iraqi police station.

 

TERRORISM FINANCING 

U.N. blacklist of terrorism financiers challenged by Europe – 2nd November

The global blacklisting system for financiers of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups has been increasingly challenged by European judicial institutions and undermined by waning political support within many countries and international organisations. In September, the European Court of Justice put the legitimacy of the UN's sanctions program into question, declaring that the blacklist violated the "fundamental rights" of those targeted. British and French courts have also questioned the blacklisting system and pointed at the lack of due process and the potential for political abuse. Furthermore, the Council of Europe condemned the U.N. blacklist by arguing that it was "totally arbitrary and have no credibility whatsoever”. The controversial blacklisting system is meant to prevent al-Qaida supporters from raising or transferring money. All U.N. members are required to impose a travel ban and asset freeze against the 503 individuals, businesses and groups on the list. Although enforcement is not consistent, official figures indicates that around $85 million in al-Qaida and Taliban assets is frozen worldwide.

 

Support announced for new study on how terrorism is financed – 13th November

Switzerland and Liechtenstein will provide $42.000 each to fund a study that will investigate channels through which terrorist organisations, such as al-Qaida, are financed. The World Bank will also provide significant financial support. The study by the Watson Institute for International Studies was prompted by a request put forward by a UN team monitoring movements by al-Qaida and the Taliban.

PRESENT THREAT

Terrorists posing as postgraduate students to infiltrate UK’s top laboratories – 2nd November

According to an unnamed spokesman in the UK Foreign Office, in the past year, dozens of students from countries like Iran and Pakistan have tried to infiltrate Britain’s top laboratories in order to acquire expertise needed to develop weapons of mass destruction. The British government said its security services had intercepted up to 100 people posing as graduate students who are suspected of getting into labs to gain the materials and learn how to create chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons.

 

Terrorist activities on the rise in the UK– 9th November

In Britain, Islamist extremism is deemed to be on the rise. According to a secret intelligence report, the UK will remain "a high-priority target" for al-Qaeda for the foreseeable future. Although it admits that judging the exact number of militants is rather difficult, the report warns that there are "some thousands of extremists in the UK committed to supporting jihadi activities, either in the UK or abroad".  The head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, stated that the number of people who poses a threat to national security because of their support for terrorism has substantially risen over the last year. The report highlights that the majority of militants operative in the UK are composed of British nationals of south Asian origin, male and in the 18-30 age range. Extremist cells are believed to be predominantly located in London, Birmingham, and Luton, and chiefly engaged in “spreading their extremist message, training, fund-raising, procuring non-lethal military equipment to support the jihads in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, and sending recruits to the conflicts".

 

Muslim reformers victims of intimidation by extremists – 10th November

A recently published report urges European governments to further safeguard freedom of speech for Muslim reformers facing threats from extremists. Pointing at numerous concrete examples, the London-based think tank ‘Centre for Social Cohesion’ stressed how Muslims who intend to criticise some elements of their faith or culture are increasingly overcome by fear of reprisal. Amongst the victims of violence and intimidation listed was Sir Salman Rushdie, the well-know author of “The Satanic Verses”, who had to live in hiding for nine years after Ayatollah Khomeini imposed a fatwa on him in 1989, following to the publication of his allegedly blasphemous novel.

 

Denmark still targeted by Islamic extremists – 13th November

According to the national intelligence services, Danes and Danish interests abroad are still considerably menaced by militant extremists, especially in North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The bomb attack to the Danish Embassy in Islamabad in June is just an example of the recrudescence of the terrorist threat against Denmark in Muslim countries.  The Scandinavian state has become a terrorist target because of its military involvement in Afghanistan and the controversy about the well-know prophet drawing. The reprinting of the contested cartoon in February has led to "a sharpened focus" on Denmark. Indeed, al-Qaida has consistently employed the reprint for propagandistic purposes.

 

C.I.A. warns al-Qaida’s strength is growing in Europe and North Africa – 14th November

C.I.A. Director Michael V. Hayden has warned that al-Qaida is attempting to build closer ties to regional militant groups to establish new bases and launch attacks in Africa and Europe and on the Arabian Peninsula. From a European perspective, Al-Qaida’s desire to boost its influence in North Africa is raising particular concern considering its proximity to Europe.

 

The Taliban threatens France – 18th November

In a video broadcasted by Al-Arabiya television, a Taliban military leader threatened that terrorist attacks will be carried out in Paris unless the French government decides to pull its troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. At present, France deploys around 2600 soldiers within the framework of both the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom.  The Taliban combatant also claimed responsibility for an operation in August in which 10 French soldiers were killed and 21 wounded.

EUROPE’S RESPONSE

Bulgaria’s National Action Plan against Terrorism – 13th November

On 13 November the Bulgarian government approved a National Action Plan against Terrorism. The plan introduces plenty of new measures, ranging from the prevention of radicalisation to the enhancement of co-operation with the European Union, NATO and other allies from the anti-terrorism coalition.  The newly-designed plan aims at preventing terrorist threats on the national territory as well as against Bulgarian nationals, sites, representatives and missions abroad. It also seeks to counter the dissemination of radical ideas amid small groups and communities in Bulgaria.

 

German Parliament moves to extend police anti-terrorism powers – 13th November

After months of heated debate, Germany's lower house of parliament passed an anti-terrorism legislation granting federal police the capacity to spy on a suspect's computer or hard drive, tap their telephone conversations and watch and eavesdrop on their homes. The new measures, which are expected to be shortly approved by the upper house and take effect before the end of the year, have been sharply criticized since they are deemed to infringe upon the privacy rights guaranteed by the German constitution.

 

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