Analysis: Islamist terror back in Europe

Islamist terrorism is back in Europe after Spain arrested a group of terror suspects and Germany warned its Jewish community of concrete attack plans. Spanish authorities over the weekend arrested 14 terror suspects and searched several buildings in Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest city. Police said the group, which included 12 Pakistanis, an Indian and a Bangladeshi, was planning a terror attack in Barcelona. Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, Spain’s interior minister, said the detainees belonged to a “well-organized group that had gone a step beyond radicalization.” Authorities confiscated explosives and four timing devices, Rubalcaba said. “When someone has timers in their home, you have no option but to think violent acts are being planned,” he said. Spanish authorities got tips from foreign intelligence services, the interior minister said, and Spanish newspapers have since reported it was a hint from Pakistan that triggered the raids. The arrests come less than two months before Spain faces its general elections on March 9. Stefan Nicola repots.

Spain Arrests 14 in Plotting Attack on Barcelona

Fourteen suspected Islamic militants were arrested in Spain on January 19th, and may have been planning a terrorist act in Barcelona, according to interior minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba. Rubalcaba said more arrests were expected, and the country was on high security alert. Searches of the suspects’ homes uncovered suspicious material, including four timers. Those arrested include 12 Pakistani nationals and two persons from India. Civil guard officers made the arrests as part of raids planned in connection to the National Intelligence Center.

Muslim Reaction To Police Raid

LONDON- Muslim groups in south-east London and beyond say that there is fear and concern in their communities after the police raid on a domestic house in Forest Gate on Friday 2 June 2006. Over 240 police officers were involved in the operation, which took place under the Terrorism Act and involved the firing of one shot – wounding one of the two men subsequently arrested. The raid has been linked to intelligence information about possible chemical attacks on civilians, and the shooting aspect is being investigated by the Independent Police Complains Commission. In contrast to the tragic circumstances surrounding the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station last year, the IPCC was given immediate access to the site, and the police sent community liaison officers out to try to reassure local people. Meanwhile the Muslim Safety Forum (MSF) said it was believed that the person concerned was seriously but not fatally wounded and would be requesting “full and prompt disclosure of information of the operation to ally community fears…The public view armed anti-terror raids with much apprehension and suspicion” Following the incident, the MSF met with the Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson and raised its concerns directly. But spokesperson Azad Ali, speaking on Channel 4 News, said that while Muslims might be anxious they recognized the need to root out criminal activity and condemned it wholeheartedly. There are also believed to have been confidential meetings with representatives of faith and community groups in the aftermath of the raid. Today some local people were praising the police for improved liaison, but others were complaining about alleged heavy handedness and questioning the use of arms. Police are still hunting for a chemical device amid widespread speculation about what it might be. Some fear that a chemical weapon could be used in an attack with similarities to the 7/7 2005 suicide bombings on the London underground and a bus, and the failed attack later that month. The two brothers accused of being involved in the chemical plot which police say sparked the raid are vigorously protesting their innocence, according to their solicitors. It has also been claimed that Mohammed Abdul Kahar, aged 23, was shot without warning in Friday’s assault on the house. We hope that the lessons of Stockwell will have been learned and that the police will work more robustly in disseminating factual information, Muslim Safety Committee chair Azad Ali declared. He also warned against Islamophobia and requested that any attacks against Muslims in the area should be reported and dealt with as soon as possible. Christian leaders have offered their support and prayers for all involved in the incident, and have expressed sympathy and concern fo the fears of their Muslim neighbours. The militant Muslim Public Affairs Committee ominously declared: We can only hope the sleeping Muslims of East London will wake up and rise against the tyranny being perpetrated against our youth in the name of combating terrorism. But other Islamic leaders say that this is unnecessary and alarmist talk. Meawhile, in a sweeping raid, police arrested about a dozen men in the Toronto area on terrorism-related charges on Friday night, the reports CTV Canada. Intelligence sources have alleged that the men were part of a terrorist cell, close to carrying out attacks on one or more Canadian targets. Police seized chemicals used to make explosives and weapons. The suspects are said to be either second-generation Canadians or persons recently migrated to Canada with their families. The Malaysian authorities seized a dozen terror suspects last week, along with firearms and documents. Observers say that the three raids appear to be part of a coordinated international plan.

The Battle For German Muslim Minds

Police raids on Islamic schools may shake up fundamentalist cells, but officials agree that the right teachers are the best way to root out radical Islamic leanings among Germany’s Muslim youth. Weeks separated news of a police raid on an Islamic school in Frankfurt and the announcement that the University of M_nster had set up a department dedicated to educating Islamic teachers. But the two items reveal the two-pronged approach taken in Germany on what is becoming an increasingly important front in the country’s fight against terrorism: the battle for young Muslim minds. After being tipped off by a 9-year-old student, police in Frankfurt seized Jihadist literature and videos, among them one showing a beheading, from the school hosted in a Moroccan cultural center. The news follows efforts by officials in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia to shut down a private Saudi-financed school after fundamentalist leanings were detected in the textbooks. “The state has absolutely no authority in these schools, they can do what they want and that is very troubling,” Lutz Irrgang, who heads the Hesse State Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told DW-WORLD. Educating The Next Generation Of Islam Teachers Officials know that raids alone can’t root out radicalism in pockets of Germany’s 3.2 million-strong Muslim community. One of the best hopes remains ending the monopoly on Islamic teachings held by dubious Imams and teachers in courtyard mosques, and bringing Muslim children back into the educational mainstream. This week, the University of M_nster took a step in that direction when it announced the appointment of Mohammed Sven Kalisch, a Muslim theologian who converted to Islam as a teen, to head the university’s new department dedicated to educating future generations of Islamic teachers. The department, the first of its kind in Germany, is designed to bridge the mistrust between German educational authorities and the country’s myriad Muslim organizations. Kalisch, a favorite of both German educators and Muslim leaders, said he is fully aware of the way fundamentalist Imams use the Koran to send the wrong message. “By educating Islamic teachers we, of course, hope to work against extremist tendencies,” Kalisch said. Problems Begin After School School authorities in Berlin, Bremen, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia have already added Islam religion classes as an option to similar course offerings in Judaism and Catholicism. Lower Saxony recently announced similar plans to test out Islam religion courses. The classes, taught by teachers who are practicing Muslims, offer Germany’s estimated 800,000 Muslim students the possibility of learning about their religion in a way that officials can keep tabs on. “It’s like our classes on Catholicism and Protestantism,” said spokeswoman Nina Schmidt. “By doing it in our school we can make sure that it’s taught from an academic point of view, that no fundamentalist teachings slip in.” The problems begin after school is over for the day, when many parents send their children to private Koran lessons. It is at these schools that the seeds of fundamentalism are planted, say law enforcement officials. Raids by police across Germany routinely turn up the type of videos and literature found at the Frankfurt school. Jihadis “rely more on indirect communication nowadays, like videos and tapes,” said Kai Hirschmann, co-director of the Essen-based Institute for Terrorism Research and Policy. “That communication often takes place through the Koran schools. Holy War At The School’s Friday Prayers But not only there. School officials in North-Rhine Westphalia were appalled at the material found in textbooks seized at the King Fahd Academy in Bonn. The academy, funded by the Saudi Arabian government, caters to the sons and daughters of diplomats, Arabic families who stay in Germany for long periods as well as children with German citizenship or permanent resident status. More than 300 textbooks were confiscated as part of a police investigation into the school’s fundamentalist tendencies in October 2003. The academy (photo), which opened in the quiet Bonn neighborhood of Bad Godesberg in 1995, had already suspended one teacher after he had allegedly called for Holy War against the West in Friday prayers. Bonn school officials reviewing the teaching material found in a study that students were taught that “the Muslim people’s existence has been threatened by Jews and Christians since the crusades and it is the first duty of every Muslim to prepare to fight against these enemies.” Though powerless to close the school, school officials were able to force at least 53 children with German citizenship or permanent residency status to leave the academy based on what they study. The cooperation between law enforcement and school authorities is by no means typical, but can sometimes be useful. Still, investigators say that the best methods are not frequent raids but education. “One of the best tools,” said Irrgang, “remains enlightenment.”

Mosques In Appeal To Help Police

A number of mosques across the UK have appealed to worshippers at Friday prayers to co-operate with the police in the fight against terrorism. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) urged imams to make the appeal but some are thought to be angry their religion has been linked with terrorism. Meanwhile, police are questioning a ninth man following anti-terror raids in the South East. Tony Blair welcomed the appeal and said new anti-terror laws could be drawn up. At Regent’s Park Mosque, the largest in the country, spokesman Abdesselam Daoud said although the MCB’s letter would not be read out in full, its sentiments and concerns would be reflected in the day’s sermon. “It’s not practical to read a letter to a large audience but the sermon will focus on concerns of brotherhood and security of the community,” he said. But as several thousand prayer-goers left the London mosque, fringe radical group Al Muhajiroun staged a protest and burning of the union flag. The overwhelming majority ignored the protest, while some of the prayer-goers shouted abuse at the radicals. Others complained that the media at the scene were hyping the situation. During his Downing Street briefing to press on Thursday, Mr Blair indicated identity cards would be brought in soon and further anti-terrorist legislation was being drawn up. The MCB drew up a letter to mosques in the wake of the Madrid bombings, although news of its unprecedented step came at the same time as the raids in the South East, which led to the seizure of half a ton of fertiliser used in bombings. Police have until Saturday to question the first eight men – thought to be Britons of Pakistani descent – arrested over an alleged bomb plot. The latest man to be arrested was a 27-year-old Briton held in Crawley, West Sussex – the fourth in the town. He was held on Thursday evening on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. A man has also been detained by police in Canada in connection with alleged terrorist offences in London, although police have not indicated whether the arrest is linked to the British raids. Mohammed Momin Khawaja is due to appear via video link before a court in Ottawa on Friday. ‘Major crisis’ The Muslim Council of Britain said there had been an “overwhelmingly positive” reaction to its calls for mosques to help in the fight against terror. And it dismissed the comments of Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, a cleric who on Thursday said the MCB was being unfair and advised Muslims not to co-operate. MCB general secretary Iqbal Sacranie said: “The message that is going out is not in any way associating mosques with terrorism.” Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, he said: “Mosques are an important institution in the country. “The imams and chairmen and secretaries are playing a very important role in society. “We are facing a major crisis in the country and world over. We have to exercise our duty, an Islamic duty, which is to convey the message to the community that they have responsibilities as well.” As well as Friday’s sermons, booklets are being printed that will remind Muslims of their obligation to help safeguard Britain’s security.