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Reports of credible terrorist threats against the United States are at their lowest level since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001
But these successes underscore the threat to Spain and all of Europe as law enforcement scrambles to adapt to a new form of terrorism that appears to be growing here. "The threat from al-Qaeda is the same in Europe as it was on March 11," says Franco Frattini, commissioner for security for the 25-nation European Union.
"We thought we were out of the threat, that we had no threat coming from these groups," he says. "Now, we realize this is a police problem. ... It's more than a police problem, it's a social problem; it's a clash of civilizations."
After the 3/11 attacks, the investigation conducted by Spanish intelligence and law enforcement produced considerable detail about the composition and activities of this terrorist network. The cell that carried out the bombing was supported by a larger group of approximately thirty individuals, who provided logistical and other practical support. Moroccans dominated the group because of the country’s proximity to Spain, with other members coming from Syria, Algeria, and Lebanon. Al Qaeda views North Africans as prime candidates to carry out missions in Europe. All were males (ranging from 20-40 years in age) who lived in the same neighborhood in Madrid and were first-generation immigrants. (This last characteristic is in contrast to Britain and France where recruits to Islamic extremist groups have included second-generation family members.) Some in the group were radicalized in Morocco under the influence of Wahabbi clerics from Saudi Arabia; others were recruited in prison, a worrisome increasing trend.
Why was Spain the victim of the 3/11 attacks? According to public opinion polls, 60% of Spaniards believe they were directly linked to the country’s involvement in the Iraq war as part of the United States’ “coalition of the willing.” More detailed questions reveal a deeper social perception: 60% believe the current era of terrorism arises from Islamic fanaticism; 20% attribute it to U.S. foreign policy (including support for Israel), while the final 20% view terrorism as an outgrowth of poverty.
Professor Reinares argued that the assertion of a direct causal link between Iraq and 3/11 is “a great simplification.” Spain may be the first European country where Islamic extremists were successful in conducting a mass-casualty attack, but it is not the first where Al Qaeda planned a massacre (e.g., Al Qaeda’s mega-terrorism plan in France in 2000). Nor has its plans been confined to countries that participated in the Iraq war. The actual decision to target Spain’s trains was made in late 2003, but the 3/11 group formed in late 2001 after the Spanish authorities had dismantled the previous Al Qaeda network in the aftermath of 9/11. The Egyptian ringleader of the 3/11 network was arrested in Italy and confessed that the train bombings had taken two-and-a-half years to organize. Spain’s participation in the Iraq war created a propitious political environment for carrying out bombings that had been long in the works. In short, the war was the occasion not the cause of the bombing.
Friday, 20 December, 2002, 12:46 GMT
France says arrested men 'planned attack'
The French interior ministry has said four suspected Islamic militants arrested on Monday were "without doubt" planning at least one attack.
The ministry said all four had declared their support for a holy war and that two had admitted undergoing training with Chechen rebels in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge.
The arrests were made in a northern Paris suburb on Monday.
Police seized chemicals and suspected detonator components from one of the apartments raided, as well as a suit to protect against nuclear, chemical and biological attack.
Chemical attack planned for France
The Italian anti-terrorist police foiled a plan to test a toxic chemical in France this week.
The Italian anti-terrorist police eavesdropping telephone conversations foiled a plot by Moslem extremists to launch a chemical attack in France. The suspects have been caught and were imprisoned on Wednesday. The terrorists, situated in Milan, were planning to test a ?flask of liquid¦ in France, according to the intercepted calls.
A key excerpt from the conversation:
?Is this better than the other product?¦
?Yes it is better because it-s more efficient. It suffocates people as soon as you open it."
The product was sealed in cans of tomatoes and from the description, could be Sarin or Mustard Gas.
Brigitte planned Australian terror attack, associate claims
November 22, 2003 - 9:10AM
French terror suspect Willie Brigitte spoke of plotting a terror attack in Australia before he was arrested and sent back to France, a suspected French Islamic militant has told investigators.
Willie Virgile Brigitte was deported to France in October. In a subsequent operation this week in France, police tracked down one of his acquaintances, Ibrahim Keita, who is accused of providing logistical support to Islamic militants.
Keita, a 37-year-old French convert to Islam, was placed under investigation - a step short of formal charges - for suspected links to terrorist groups, judicial officials said yesterday, on condition of anonymity.
Strasbourg cathedral bombing plot
The Strasbourg cathedral bombing plot was a plan to blow up a cathedral in Strasbourg, France by members of Al-Qaida.
In December 2000, German police uncovered the plot in Frankfurt and raided an apartment building, where they found arms and explosives. In London, England, United Kingdom, an Islamist preacher named Abu Qatada was arrested for the attack, but was released on a lack of evidence.
Italian police said that they wiretapped a telephone call related to the failure of the plot. This is the transcript.
Sami Ben Khemais: "There is danger. Members of the bin Laden cell in Frankfurt have been captured. I am warning you that they got half the group in Germany."
Tarek Maaroufi: "No!"
Khemais: "Yes. Did you understand me? They arrested our brothers in Germany and they found the arms warehouse in Germany, Frankfurt. You need a cover."
Maaroufi: "What do you mean? God be with you."
Khemais: "Did you understand me? You need a cover. You know how."