September 15, 2007

The Trans-Atlantic Militant Connection

Source: Stratfor
Stratfor's Free Intelligence Reports
September 14, 2007 18 44 GMT


Authorities on both sides of the Atlantic arrested a total of four people Sept. 12 in connection with a plot to stage jihadist attacks against Austria and Germany. Earlier in the month, Danish authorities arrested eight people on suspicion of plotting attacks in Denmark, and a day later German authorities arrested three people on suspicion of plotting to attack U.S. and Uzbek targets in Germany. Counterterrorism officials in Europe and the United States believe the plots in Germany and Denmark are related.

This latest wave of arrests demonstrates the interconnection between militant cells in Europe and North America -- and serves as a warning on the increasing militant activity on European soil.

On Sept. 12, two men and a woman were arrested in Vienna, Austria, for allegedly posting a video on an Islamist Web site threatening attacks against Germany and Austria because of those countries' support for the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The three allegedly are associated with the Global Islamic Media Front, a media outlet known for spreading al Qaeda messages on the Internet. The outlet also reportedly has links to the Army of Islam, the militant group linked to the kidnapping of British reporter Alan Johnston in Gaza in March.

Working with Austrian authorities, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested Said Namouh, a Moroccan, in connection with the alleged plot and charged him with conspiring to detonate an explosive device. Canadian authorities said the plot was not directed at targets inside Canada, but that it was linked to the Austrian plot. The Global Islamic Media Front reportedly has other members in Canada, indicating that more arrests could follow after Canadian and Austrian investigators examine evidence found at Namouh's apartment. Namouh, who was taken into custody near Montreal, allegedly had communicated with the suspected militants in Austria over the Internet.




On Sept. 4, Danish counterterrorism forces in Copenhagen arrested eight people -- six Danish citizens and two foreigners with Danish residence permits -- on suspicion of plotting militant attacks against targets in Denmark. Less than a day later, German authorities raided several locations in Germany and arrested three people, including two Germans who had converted to Islam, on suspicion of plotting to attack U.S. and Uzbek military, civilian and diplomatic targets in Germany.

This spike in activity -- three cells arrested within 10 days -- highlights Europe's increasingly precarious security situation. Every year since 2004 there has been a major attack, failed attack or thwarted plot targeting a European city. Countries such as Spain, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom have had frequent incidents of militant activity, but other countries are feeling the heat as well. Although there have been militant elements present in Germany, Denmark and Austria, overall they had not been actively engaged in plotting serious attacks.

Germany, in particular, has seen an increase in the danger, beginning in summer 2006 when an attack targeting passenger trains failed in western Germany due to poorly constructed bombs. Although the plot that was thwarted Sept. 7 probably would have failed anyway, it was much larger in scope than past attempts, indicating that Germany's local cells are getting more ambitious.

The jihadists despise Europe as much as, if not more than, they do the United States, and they have made it clear that they intend to stage an attack on European soil. In addition to the threat from the Muslim immigrant community, the German example demonstrates the ongoing threat from within -- in the form of disassociated Europeans or longtime residents who convert to Islam and end up in one of these cells. The jihadists' poor tradecraft could be Europe's saving grace at the moment, as this failing appears to be one of the major reasons Europe has not experienced a major attack since the London bombings of 2005.

The arrest in Canada is another example of how grassroots jihadist cells in Europe can be linked to cells across the Atlantic. In June 2006, U.S., British and Canadian authorities uncovered a plot to attack targets in the United States and Canada. In addition to a European link, both the Canadian and U.S. cells had links to militant communities in South Asia.

By taking advantage of the well-developed communication links across the Atlantic, the relative ease of travel between Europe and North America, and contacts between immigrant communities on both continents as well as in the Middle East and South Asia, Europe's jihadist problem could easily become North America's problem, too

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