Europe, very much on al-Qaida’s radar

At a recent security conference in Munich, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told European nations that they were under direct threat from Islamist extremists and that this phenomenon would not go away. Gates tied European security to NATO success in Afghanistan. In fact, Western intelligence services have recently established operational links between al-Qaida in Afghanistan and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) whose goals include striking at the heart of Europe. Al-Qaida has not made any secrets of its eagerness to target Europe. Indeed, al-Qaida’s number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has repeatedly threatened Europe. In 2007, numerous al-Qaida-linked plots were foiled in Europe and several cells were dismantled in France, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, Germany and the UK. This led Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s anti-terror chief, to say last November that al-Qaida was the biggest threat to Europe. Olivier Guitta reports.