EU focuses on monitoring local jihadists

February 12, 2014

 

Side meetings and consultations are no longer enough to contain the phenomenon of foreign fighters in Syria. Thus, the EU counterterrorism department held a first-of-its-kind meeting for European security officers with their counterparts in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, in addition to states involved in the issue, including countries in the Arab Maghreb.

Due to the meeting’s security nature, the Europeans didn’t announce it or mention any details about the issues discussed. But a source in the EU counterterrorism department confirmed to As-Safir that the meeting did take place, explaining that the meeting of security experts was the first step for establishing a permanent platform for cooperation among countries concerned with the phenomenon of foreign jihadists. The meeting was attended by three Lebanese officers from various security agencies.

According to what a high-level diplomatic official told As-Safir, the meeting, although it was the first one, explored ways for security coordination, which the Europeans are seeking to contain the threat. Since the security agencies of Syria’s neighbors have experience with this phenomenon, the Europeans hope to benefit from their experience in identifying and monitoring potential jihadists before they travel, in addition to the possibility of launching a kind of “early warning system” to identify young Western suspects before Western agencies issue memos about their disappearance. The Europeans are now testing that alarm system in security cooperation with Turkey, especially since the chaos on Turkey’s border made that country the main gateway for fighters.

The West is increasingly afraid of jihadists returning. At first, the West showed signs of anxiety and restlessness. Then Europeans announced that the issue was a major threat to the security of European countries. Estimates vary about the number of European jihadists, with the latest number exceeding 2,000 fighters.

The security experts meeting in Brussels came in the context of those growing fears. The meeting was chaired by EU Counterterrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, who started preparing for this meeting a few months ago. A source close to him said the meeting is just the beginning, explaining, “We will try to invest all areas of cooperation with these countries. And we will continue to work on high-level meetings.”

European efforts to meet the challenge of returning jihadists became public in June 2013, when de Kerchove presented his first proposals report to European interior ministers. Last month, the European Commission issued recommendations for European countries on how to deal with the phenomenon. Among the key recommendations was to strengthen cooperation with the countries of the “other party,” i.e., states through which the jihadists pass.

Observers of European counterterrorism efforts assert that there have been many undeclared communications. In this context, a Lebanese security official met with European security officials in Brussels last October. They discussed how to coordinate about the phenomenon of Western jihadists. Other than that, there are lower-level meetings that come in the framework of the usual coordination between security agencies.

That issue will soon be part of the big meetings and their official speeches. A meeting on the foreign fighters phenomenon will fill the seats of an international conference in The Hague at the end of this month. The meeting will have large international participation. As the world pays more and more attention to this issue, Syria is approaching formal accession to the states that export terrorism.

This month saw a significant shift in US discourse on this issue. It came with unprecedented warnings launched by US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. He said there’s evidence of training camps in Syria to “train people to to go back to their countries and conduct terrorist acts [there].” According to Clapper, the party behind that is the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra.

Before that, there were warnings about only the possibility of jihadists returning, but not about specific plans to send fighters back to their countries as terrorists.

This shift was followed by similar warnings. After Clapper’s testimony, US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said that the threat posed by returning jihadists has made the Syrian war an issue affecting US internal security.

There are no accurate numbers on foreign jihadists in Syria, but US intelligence estimated there were at least 7,500 foreign fighters of 50 nationalities.

 

Al-Monitor: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2014/02/europe-foreign-jihadists-syria-local-threat.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=c0581bafdc-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-c0581bafdc-93074789#

U.S. Issues Terrorism Alert for Travel to Europe

On Oct 3rd, the U.S. State Department issued an alert urging Americans traveling to Europe to be vigilant about possible terrorist attacks. The British government, meanwhile, raised the threat of terrorism to “high” from “general” for Britons in France and Germany.

“Current information suggests that Al Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks. European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack,” according to the State Department statement.

The advisory says Americans should be aware that terrorists often target popular tourist attractions and public transportation such as subways and rail systems. It doesn’t warn Americans not to travel to the region.

CAIR Travel Advisory Warns U.S. Muslims of ‘Forced Exile’

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today issued a travel advisory to American Muslims warning of the risk of “forced exile” when traveling overseas or attempting to return to the United States. CAIR is also urging Muslim travelers to know their legal rights if they are placed on the so-called “no-fly list.”

Muslim police ‘are in short supply’ – survey

Muslims are in short supply in the police force, particularly in specialist units like counter-terrorism, a survey by the National Association of Muslim Police (NAMP) and Demos has revealed. Of the 2374 officers working in counter-terrorism, just 27 are Muslims. And of the 4,630 inspectors and chief inspectors, just 30 are Muslims. The survey pointed out that while 3.3 per cent of the UK population are Muslims, they only make up 0.75 per cent of the police service. “Muslim officers are primarily concentrated in lower ranks, mainly constable. In specialist departments Muslim officers are largely absent. The obvious point is the lack of Muslim officers involved in countering terrorism, given the threat at the present time from violent extremist Islamist groups linked to al-Qaida,” NAMP said.
While acknowledging that it was not only Muslims that could understand terrorist activity, NAMP added that “officers with a cultural, religious or linguistic understanding of the individuals most likely to be involved in these groups could be an invaluable head start”. Recruiting more Muslim officers in this sector was “a matter of priority”.

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UK’s top policeman resigns amid shooting inquest

The resignation of Britain’s top policeman has stunned the family of an innocent man shot dead by police officers who mistook him for an Islamic terrorist: Although the controversy surrounding Sir Ian Blair – who quit as commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London at the end of last week – remained focused yesterday on claims of political interference, there have long been doubts that he could have survived in his job after an inquest into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. The inquest into the death of the 27-year-old Brazilian, who was working in London as an electrician when he was shot eight times as he sat on a tube train after being mistakenly identified as a suicide bomber, began just over a fortnight ago and is expected to end in the next three to four weeks. Immediately after the July 22, 2005 shooting, which occurred two weeks after four young Muslim extremists had detonated suicide bombs on London’s transport system killing 52 commuters, Mr Blair said during a press conference that Menezes was “directly linked” to a second group that had tried, but failed, to cause other explosions on buses the day before. In fact, as The Times, of London, pointed out last week, “everyone in Scotland Yard seemed to know that they had shot the wrong man – everyone, that is, except the man at the top”. David Sapsted reports.

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German Terror Arrests: From the Rhine River to the Jihad

The arrest of two Muslim extremists at the Cologne-Bonn airport last week shows that German converts continue to volunteer for the jihad. Investigators fear that some are on their way back now that they’ve received training. It was Friday morning, shortly before 7:00 a.m., and all passengers had boarded KLM flight 1804 at the Cologne-Bonn airport. The small Fokker 50 was ready for takeoff. This particular Friday was a special day for devout Muslims, being one of the last days of the holy month of Ramadan. According to the literature distributed by radical Islamists, anyone who completes his journey to Jihad during Ramadan will go straight to paradise. At least two of the passengers — Abdirazak B., 24, and Omar D., 23, both Germans with Somali backgrounds — were aware of this.

But they weren’t the only ones. Criminal investigators from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia had been trailing the two men — and when officials found a letter from a relative of Omar D. in the physics student’s luggage indicating that he had decided to join the “holy war,” they decided to strike. The plane was prevented from taking off and the pair’s path to Jihad came to an end on the Cologne-Bonn runway. The arrest of the duo was the result of an ongoing covert operation run by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. Investigators have long been keeping tabs on Islamists from Germany as they head for the Hindu Kush to train for the Jihad. For a number of weeks now, agents have maintained surveillance on a group of young fanatics in the Bonn region who are closely linked to the two detained German-Somalis. All these men are preparing to leave their lives in Germany behind them. Some have already given notice for their apartments, others have said farewell to friends. Abdirazak B. and Omar D. were more or less the vanguard of this group. At times the investigating agencies had even considered confiscating their passports. The suspects wanted to travel to Entebbe in Uganda, and investigators have reason to believe that they planned to continue from there to Pakistan. There was even talk of a possible attack against one of Uganda’s many well known Jewish institutions, a development that led German officials to alert the US government and the Israelis.

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Italian lawyers seek Condoleezza Rice testimony

The lawyers for a former Italian chief of intelligence want to call US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a witness in the trial of 26 Americans charged in the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric. Defense lawyer Nicola Madia, who said that Rice’s testimony is significant, considering that she was in charge of the CIA’s rendition program, filed the request. Italian judge Oscar Magi is expected to make a decision on the request in October.

See full-text articles:

International Herald Tribune

Associated Press

United Press International

Youth can become addicted to extremism

Islamic extremism should be regarded as a potential addiction for vulnerable young people in the same way as alcohol, drugs or gambling, according to Scotland’s counter-terrorism co-ordinator. Allan Burnett wants to introduce rehabilitative measures similar to addiction support to prevent youngsters from becoming radicalised by fundamentalists, instead of sending them to prison. Speaking on the eve of the first anniversary of the Glasgow airport attack, Mr Burnett told The Herald that he wants to develop restorative justice and early intervention initiatives for young people as part of the strategy to stop future attacks. The Assistant Chief Constable of Fife is clear that there will be no leniency for those committing acts of serious violence. However, for young people susceptible to being led astray by extremist propaganda, he believes the emphasis should be on prevention. For that to work, he wants to build the trust of parents and the wider community so that if they come forward with concerns, their children will not be automatically penalised. “One of the things we are trying to do is early intervention, which we would use in other areas of behaviour to put a stop to it,” he said. “Just like any other perversion, the primary people who will stop (radicalisation) are parents. It happens with people concerned about their kids drinking, taking drugs or gambling. It happens right across the board and we shouldn’t be surprised that sometimes parents don’t have the knowledge or the skill to intervene in a positive way.

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Muslim Integration: Challenging Conventional Wisdom in Europe and the United States

As part of its ongoing Transatlantic Dialogue on Terrorism, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC dedicated its seventh meeting in the series to Muslim integration and assimilation. In partnership with the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in Berlin, Germany, CSIS hosted a two-day event entitled, “The Transatlantic Dialogue on Muslims in Europe: Dealing with, and Looking Beyond, the Terrorist Threat ” to question and explore many of the conclusions Europeans and Americans have drawn about Muslim communities in their own countries.

As a summary to the meeting, CSIS commissioned six papers by U.S. and European experts on immigration, demographics, and integration policy, in order to further explore the situation facing Muslim communities on both sides of the Atlantic. Many of the papers reveal the sometimes shaky foundations upon which European and U.S. policymakers are crafting integration policies. More importantly, the report also shows that despite efforts to improve the West’s collective understating of Islam and Muslim integration in American and European societies, many countries remain ill-equipped to fully incorporate these growing groups into society at large in terms of economic advancement, social mobility, and political participation. As such, the report highlights some of these shortcomings, puts forth a more accurate picture of European and U.S. Muslim communities, and presents recommendations for improving the status quo.

Radicalization in the West

The NYPD’s understanding of the threat from Islamic-based terrorism to New York City has evolved since September 11, 2001. While the threat from overseas remains, terrorist attacks or thwarted plots against cities in Europe, Australia and Canada since 2001 fit a different paradigm. Rather than being directed from al-Qaeda abroad, these plots have been conceptualized and planned by “unremarkable” local residents/citizens who sought to attack their country of residence, utilizing al-Qaeda as their inspiration and ideological reference point.

Some of these cases include:

  • Madrid’s March 2004 attack
  • Amsterdam’s Hofstad Group
  • London’s July 2005 attack
  • Australia’s Operation Pendennis (which thwarted an attack(s) in November 2005)
  • The Toronto 18 Case (which thwarted an attack in June 2006)

Where once we would have defined the initial indicator of the threat at the point where a terrorist or group of terrorists would actually plan an attack, we have now shifted our focus to a much earlier point-a point where we believe the potential terrorist or group of terrorists begin and progress through a process of radicalization. The culmination of this process is a terrorist attack.

Understanding this trend and the radicalization process in the West that drives “unremarkable” people to become terrorists is vital for developing effective counter- strategies and has special importance for the NYPD and the City of New York. As one of the country’s iconic symbols and the target of numerous terrorist plots since the 1990’s, New York City continues to be among the top targets of terrorists worldwide.

In order to test whether the same framework for understanding radicalization abroad applied within the United States, we analyzed three U.S. homegrown terrorism cases and two New York City based cases:

  • • Lackawana, New York
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Northern Virginia
  • New York City – Herald Square Subway
  • New York City – The Al Muhajiroun Two

The same radicalization framework was applied to a study of the origins of the Hamburg cluster of individuals, who led the September 11 hijackers. This assessment, almost six years after 2001, provides some new insights, previously not fully-grasped by the law enforcement and intelligence community, into the origins of this devastating attack.