Source Pakistan Daily Times
Europe faces ‘jihadist’ threat
* Experts believe al Qaeda’s new strategy is to stop acting like network
BERLIN: With France’s deadly attacks, terrorism has apparently struck once more in the heart of Europe – and authorities say there’s a dangerous twist: the emergence of homegrown extremists operating independent of any known networks, making them hard to track and stop.
“We have a different kind of jihadist threat emerging and it’s getting stronger,” Europol chief Rob Wainwright told The Associated Press in an exclusive telephone interview from The Hague. “It is much more decentralised and harder to track.”
France’s motorcycle gunman traumatised a nation heading into presidential elections and spread fears across the continent that the specter of al Qaeda was once again threatening daily life.
Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, sowed his terror over the course of a week, killing paratroopers, Jewish children and a rabbi. He died on Thursday in a shootout after police raided the Toulouse apartment where he had been holed up.
Wainwright warned that Europe faces a tough challenge ahead.
Other European terror authorities echoed that view, saying that apprehending suspicious individuals with no clear connections to terrorist networks is legally problematic.
German officials expressed the same frustration in the case of Arid Uka, a Kosovo Albanian who gunned down two American airmen and wounded two others last year at the Frankfurt airport before being captured. Aside from illegally acquiring a handgun, the 22-year-old, who was convicted last month, had committed no crime until he shot his first victim in the back of the head.
Some experts believe that al Qaeda’s new strategy is, in fact, to stop acting like a network.
Encouraging individuals to carry out terrorist attacks, without organising them in cells, has become integral to the terrorist organisation’s modus operandi, said Noman Benotman, a former extremist with links to al Qaeda and who now works for the London-based Quilliam Foundation.
“They are part of the overall al Qaeda strategy, and they are part of the instructions – or suggestions, if you will – for groups and individuals seeking guidance or inspiration,” he said.
A British security official said the key to targeting this brand of individualised terror was figuring out whether people were simply thinking extremist thoughts or would truly turn violent.
Authorities are trying to determine whether Merah’s 29-year-old brother, Abdelkader, was involved, and are searching for accomplices who might have encouraged Merah to kill or furnished the means to do so.
Merah told negotiators he killed to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and to protest the French army’s involvement in Afghanistan as well as France ‘law against the burqa.
French authorities have acknowledged that Merah had been under surveillance for years and that his travels to Afghanistan and Pakistan were known to French intelligence, raising the question of whether security services might have been able to act against him before he was able to carry out his attacks .
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told German media that there were striking similarities between the Uka and Merah attacks, and that it drives home the need for a “security partnership” between intelligence services and extremist groups and communities.