Experts Say Indigenous Terror Threat Real

By Jeremiah Marquez LOS ANGELES — An alleged plot targeting military facilities, synagogues and other Los Angeles-area sites has highlighted what experts say is a novel terrorist threat: homegrown American militants operating with little or no help from Islamic extremists abroad. Four suspects were charged last week with conspiring to wage war against the U.S. government through terrorism. Named in the federal indictment were Levar Haley Washington, 25; Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21; Hammad Riaz Samana, 21; and Kevin James, 29. All but Samana, a Pakistani national, are American-born and Muslim converts. Counterterrorism officials have found no evidence directly connecting the group–described as the cell of a California prison gang of radical Muslims–to Al Qaeda or other foreign terrorist networks. Law-enforcement officials and terrorism experts said it could represent one of the first Islamic terrorism cases involving U.S. natives without those connections. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes, an international dragnet has broken up training camps, disrupted finances and sent terrorist leaders underground, making it all the more difficult for Al Qaeda to mount attacks. Yet despite tougher border control, a radical ideology shared by the terrorist network continues to seep into the United States through propaganda distributed via the Internet, books, pamphlets, DVDs and the media–a “passive recruiting strategy,” according to terrorism experts. That has helped transform Al Qaeda into a movement with disciples acting without funding, expertise or guidance from foreign handlers. “Al Qaeda can’t get their militants to the places they want to hit, so they rely on an ideology to gain converts who do it for them,” said professor Brian Levin, a terrorism researcher at California State University, San Bernardino. In the Southern California case, prosecutors say cell members largely supported themselves. Washington, Patterson and Samana allegedly robbed gas stations to finance their plans to target military sites, synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and the El Al airport counter in the Los Angeles area. Patterson purchased a .223-caliber rifle. Samana underwent “firearms training and physical training” at a local park, according to the indictment. They even conducted Internet research on potential targets and Jewish holidays–dates for which they allegedly planned the assaults to “maximize the number of casualties,” prosecutors said. Samana’s lawyer, Timothy Lannen, described his client in a statement as a “peace-loving, law-abiding member of our community” and said “he did not intend at any time to commit violence against anyone.” An attorney in Washington’s state robbery case had not reviewed the federal indictment and had no immediate comment. Patterson’s lawyer has said his client asked him not to comment. The plot’s suspected mastermind was James, a California State Prison, Sacramento, inmate who founded the radical group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, authorities said. Washington converted to Islam while imprisoned there for a previous robbery conviction. Self-made groups in the United States can be more difficult to root out because they’re smaller and have fewer financial resources to track, experts said. “They’re adopting the Al Qaeda agenda and philosophy and carrying out their own jihad,” said Oliver “Buck” Revell, a former FBI associate deputy director and counterterrorism chief. “Unfortunately, they may be successful because they’re extremely hard to detect.”

In England’s Ghettoes, Bin Laden Beckons

By Stanley Reed Ever since bombs on three London Underground trains and a bus killed 56 people including the four suspected bombers on July 7, Britain has been on an emotional roller coaster. No sooner had the police identified the suspects in those attacks than four more would-be bombers struck on July 21.Fortunately, that wave fizzled when the bombs proved duds. The police moved remarkably quickly to corral the suspects in the new case, arresting four alleged bomb carriers on July 29, including one nabbed by the Italian authorities in Rome. Despite this “best day ever” for Britain’s security services, unease still lingers in the nation’s capital. The arrests, which continue on an almost daily basis, still leave many questions that need to be answered before anyone can pronounce this particular run of horror over. EAGER PAWNS. For instance, were the two attacks linked and thus part of a wider conspiracy that may include other cells? According to press reports, Hamdi Isaac (also known as Hussain Osman), the suspect held in Rome, has told the Italian authorities that his group, composed of refugees from the troubled Horn of Africa, had no ties to the July 7 group, which consisted of three British-born men of Pakistani descent and one man of Jamaican origin. But Osman, who said the July 21 attempts were intended merely to protest British policy in Iraq rather than to kill, may not have been made privy to the ties between the groups, or to the wider world of Islamic radicalism. If those dead and in jail represent mere pawns in the game of veteran masterminds, then Britain and perhaps all of Europe could be in for a long siege. What the attacks have revealed or perhaps underlined again is that there exists in Britain and elsewhere in Europe a pool of young Muslims sufficiently alienated to make them easy prey for the recruiters of radical groups who lurk in Muslim communities. The reasons for the alienation vary. According to national statistics, British Muslims, who mostly come from the Asian subcontinent, fall at the bottom of society in measures such as unemployment and educational qualifications. “THE ISLAMIC THING.” Joblessness among British Muslims, for instance, hovers at 15% to 22% for youths, vs. around 5% for the overall population. Many of those who do work are stuck in low-level jobs. “The number in catering is just staggering,” says Steven Vertovec, a professor of social anthropology at Oxford University. “We are not seeing much intergenerational social mobility.” Many of those born in Britain often grow up in inner-city ghettos, where they attend schools populated by people mostly like themselves. Members of the Muslim community say that some youths have difficulty coping with the clash between the traditional mores of Pakistan or Bangladesh and Britain’s liberal sexual attitudes. “I feel sorry for the youngsters,” says Amjad Pervez, 47, who owns a food-services business in Bradford, a small city near Leeds, the home of three of the July 7 suspects. Pervez, who emigrated from Pakistan in 1969, says, “I think it’s a grind children are going through — they’ve got cultural baggage, they’ve got the Islamic thing. In every aspect of their lives they see conflict, conflict, conflict. Some of the youngsters can’t take it.” “CHALLENGER TO AMERICA.” Yet economic and social alienation are far from enough to lead young men to bomb commuter trains. The latest wave of bombings should be seen as the response of a small but lethal minority of Muslims in Britain and elsewhere to what they consider the humiliation of the world Muslim community by the West and its surrogates in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian areas, and elsewhere. Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader, serves as a role model that these young men admire. As Saad al-Fagih, a London-based Saudi dissident and expert on radical Islamic groups, explains: “An angry Muslim does not know how to translate his anger into sophisticated action with a strategy. All he knows is a man called bin Laden is acknowledged as the real challenger to America. “Only a person with this (bin Laden’s) group can satisfy his ambitions and let him feel he had done something for the umma (community) of Islam. He looks for some means to contact this group. At the same time, the group has its own recruitment people who can reach him. Once they meet, it’s all over. They will tell him what to do — a plan with a specific action, with a specific place, and a specific time.” HOW MANY MORE? Al Fagih thinks a senior figure in Al Qaeda gave the order for the London attacks, though the details were left up to the cells. Al Qaeda-linked groups have taken responsibility, but the authenticity of the Web messages cannot be verified. What’s certain is that no matter how direct their connection to the attacks, bin Laden and al Qaeda provided the inspiration for these two groups of young Muslims. It is hard to think that there aren’t others like them thinking along similar lines.

UK Fatwa To Call Bombers Unbelievers, If Proved Muslims

Britain’s top Muslim scholars are drafting a fatwa stripping those behind the grisly London blasts, if proved Muslims, from the right to call themselves Muslims, a leading British newspaper said Sunday, July 10. Signed by dozens of prominent Muslim bodies, mosques, Islamic scholars and community groups, the religious edict will brand the attacks as a breach of the most basic tenets of Islam, reported The Independent. “If these bombers are found to be Muslims, we will make it clear we utterly dissociate ourselves from them – even if they claim to be Muslims or are acting under the mantle of the Islamic faith. We reject that utterly,” said the official spokesman of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). Two different groups purporting to be Al-Qaeda affiliated claimed responsibility for the bloody blasts which killed at least 49 people and wounded 700 others. The Independent said police and intelligence agents are investigating the theory that a gang of white “mercenary terrorists” was hired by Al-Qaeda to carry out the attacks. Commander Brian Paddick of the London Metropolitan Police told reporters Sunday no arrests have been made yet and that they were not focusing on any specific suspects. The fatwa will also make clear that Muslims have a moral duty to help the police catch the perpetrators. The move follows a decision taken Friday, July 8, at an emergency meeting attended by about 100 of the country’s most prominent Muslim leaders, held in private at East London Mosque, said the daily. Imams across Britain were united in condemning the attacks in their weekly Friday sermons, encouraging Muslims to offer all possible assistance to the victims and authorities. Enemies Of Islam Senior minority leaders believe they must undermine the religious basis of the terrorists’ actions, said the British daily. “Those behind this atrocity aren’t just enemies of humanity but enemies of Islam and Muslims”, said Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary general of the MCB, the main representative Muslim body in Britain. “The people at the receiving end of this, both as some of the victims of the bombing and victims of the backlash, are Muslims,” he stressed. Murad Qureshi, the only Muslim member of the Greater London Assembly and a former Labour councilor in Westminster, backs such a fatwa. “It is about time we put clear distance between ourselves and so-called Muslim leaders like Osama bin Laden, who has been able to dictate the whole agenda with his video nasties,” he said. “We’re not talking about Muslims here. We’re talking about a bunch of nutters. The time has come to debunk the idea they are sanctioned by Islam.” The London blasts have drawn immediate condemnation from prominent scholars across the Muslim world, who said that such black actions run in the face of Islam which strictly forbids killing civilians. Dividing Line Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said there should be a “dividing line” between terrorists and Muslims. “There’s not a dividing line between Muslims and Londoners. The dividing line is between those who commit these acts and those who don’t,” he said. While saying that the perpetrators acted “in the name of Islam,” Prime Minister Tony Blair maintained that “the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims here and abroad are decent and law abiding people who abhor terrorism every bit as much as we do.” He also admitted there can be no security solution to terrorist attacks, urging the world to address the underlying causes of terrorism. David Clark, a former Labour government adviser, wrote in the Guardian Saturday there can be no hope of defeating terrorism until the world community is ready to take legitimate Arab grievances seriously.

31,800 Islamist Radicals In Germany: Schily

BERLIN – The number of mainly Turkish Islamist extremists based in Germany increased slightly last year, Interior Minister Otto Schily said on Tuesday at a news conference releasing the 2004 report by the country’s domestic security agency. There were 31,800 Islamist radicals resident in Germany at the end of 2004, up from 30,950 in 2003, said the report, which stressed that this was a mere one percent of the three million Muslims living in the country. Police and prosecutors are currently investigating 171 cases linked to Islamist terrorism, he said. The biggest group in Germany is the Turkish Islamic Community Milli Goerues, with 26,500 members, which wants to create an Islamic republic in Turkey. Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network is present in Germany but the report admitted there were no concrete figures on the number of Al- Qaeda sleepers still present in the country. Several of the extremists responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington lived in Germany disguised as students before travelling to the US. The report said about 850 members of the radical Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah are based in Germany, as well as 1,300 members of the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood and 350 member of various Algerian Islamist groups. Schily also reported that neo-Nazi crime in Germany increased last year, but that the overall number of rightists declined. There were 12,051 rightist crimes reported in 2004, up from 10,792 in 2003. Violent neo-Nazi crime was up slightly with 776 reported cases in 2004, compared to 759 cases in 2003. The biggest increase was in propaganda offences, such as display of banned Nazi symbols and giving the Nazi salute, which is prohibited under German law. There were 8,337 such offences last year, up from 7,551 in 2003. Germany’s leading right-wing extremist party, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), is recruiting from the skinhead and neo-Nazi movement, said Schily. The NPD grew to 5,300 members, up from 5,000 in 2003, the report said. This, however, is still less than its previous high of 6,100 members in 2002. An attempt by Schily to ban the NPD was struck down by Germany’s highest court in 2003 – to the minister’s great anger. “The (NPD) party leader describes the super-criminal Hitler as a great statesman,” said Schily with a dismissive wave of his hand. Schily expressed alarm over growth of the neo-Nazi and skinhead movements. While the number remains small – 3,800 people – this is a 25 percent increase over the previous year. Overall, there was a decline in the number of Germans in right-wing extremist parties and movements. At the end of 2004 there was 40,700 people in such groups, down from 41,500 in 2003, the report said. Schily also expressed anger on Tuesday over repeated linking of his policies with those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler by a Turkish newspaper. “I think it’s a scandal,” said Schily, who called on the Turkish government to take action against the radical Islamist newspaper, Vakit, adding that if Ankara lacked legal means to do so, it should consider creating them. Vakit was banned in Germany by Schily earlier this year owing to its anti-Semitic content. Since then, the paper has featured Schily and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on its front page in photomontages with a swastika armband or a Nazi flag.