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European anti-terrorist arms likely "not winning" their struggle


As the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) published its annual report for 2003, its Director General, Sybrand van Hulst, commented that the Netherlands can expect to live with the threat of Islamic terrorism for years to come, and that while 'some successes have been achieved in preventing attacks and disrupting terrorist networks, "those fighting terrorism are not winning. There is not even a prospect of winning."

Shortly thereafter, French authorities were furiously attempting to locate 1,100 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that had been stolen over the Easter weekend from the port of Honfleur near the mouth of the Seine river "where large quantities of the fertilizer were stored at the port without any particular security measures."

"Sales of ammonium nitrate are strictly regulated in the European Union, where rules require that the fertilizer be produced with large, dense granules to prevent it from absorbing oil and being transformed into bomb material. But the granules can easily be broken up with commercial grinders."

So much for intent. Mixed with fuel oil, it produces the explosive power of the 1995 Oklahoma City and 2003 Istanbul bombings. In March 2004, British police seized more than 1,000 pounds of the same fertilizer in West London while raiding suspected Islamic terrorists.

Returning to the AIVD and Hulst, its 2002 and 2003 reports note that there is a constantly changing group of 150 people in the Netherlands with links to terrorist networks, but they are harder to catch. "The networks in question are becoming increasingly more autonomous, regional or even local in nature. Their members have already spent years living in the West. These networks are linked by an array of international and undefined relationships."

The AIVD is surveilling mosques of imams preaching a radical agenda as well as a larger group of imams who track to "old-style Islamic laws and stood aloof from the values of Western society in their teachings." On its face, it sounds like the situation facing British authorities who are having to deal with their imam extremists.

Back to France, authorities expelled its fifth cleric in 2004, having kicked out kicked out dozens since 2001. Across Europe there is a lack of domestically trained clerics to lead European-born Muslim congregations of Muslims, thus mosques have to rely on imported imams holding fundamentalist beliefs.

""The problem is that we have 1,500 imams, but the great majority of them don't have any knowledge of the land," said Azzedine Gaci, who heads the Muslim Council in the Rhône-Alps region."

While there is an attempt to protect civil liberties, perhaps stronger than in the US, it is difficult to see how the actions of authorities coupled with the fears of the non-Muslim majority will not result in increasing polarization. The French have the largest Muslim minority and is already at odds with it over cultural and religious symbols.

For the Dutch at least, terrorism is its top priority, pushing out traditional espionage. Van Hulst warned that terror groups had turned their attention to easily accessible soft targets. Like those in proximity to a thousand pounds of ammonium nitrate, or ten pounds of Semtex.  Controlled failure is not an enticing prospect.

Dutch security chief´s warning
by our Security and Defence editor Hans de Vreij, 28 April 2004
Radio Netherlands

Muslim terrorism will be around for years, says Dutch spy chief
27 April 2004

France Struggles to Curb Extremist Muslim Clerics
April 30, 2004
New York Times

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  Terrorism Public  


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