Posts Tagged ‘denmark’

A new journal article lands at last in African Security, written in conjunction with Lorenzo and Evan, looking at al Shabaab and their internationalization. The article offers something of an overview of the phenomenon with particular focus on the various nations where fighters have come from in the West. This is a topic I have written a bit about before, and about which I have more things coming. Unfortunately, it is behind a firewall, but if you drop me a note through the contact page I can probably help out. In the meantime, here is the abstract:

Bringing Global Jihad to the Horn of Africa: al Shabaab, Western Fighters, and the Sacralization of the Somali Conflict

Sacralization of conflict is the process through which religion, or, in most cases, a militant interpretation of it, evolves from being an irrelevant or secondary factor at the onset of a conflict to shaping the views, actions, and aims of one or more of the conflict’s key actors. The article outlines how this phenomenon has taken place in Somalia over the past twenty years by looking at two related phenomena: (1) the rise to prominence of al Shabaab, a group that, unlike its predecessors, follows a global jihadist ideology, and (2) the arrival of foreign fighters, particularly from Western countries, attracted more by global jihadist ideology than ethnic ties or nationalist sentiments.

Keywords: al Shabaab; Somalia; sacralization; radicalization; foreign fighters; al Qaeda; diaspora

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A new post for HSToday, a bit delayed as I have been traveling somewhere even more remote than usual. My computer has also come crashing down which has set me up with some serious problems. More on this plot to come.

Europe on High Alert

by Raffaello Pantucci

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Recent string of incidents have elevated level of concern across the European continent

Across Europe there has been a noticeable up-tick in threat tempo. From a series of intelligence-led operations across the continent, to high level statements by the French Interior Minister and US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano – those paid to protect us are very concerned about something.

It is unclear at which point this specific set of alarm bells went off, but they have been ringing for some time. In the United Kingdom, in the wake of a series of arrests back in July in Oslo it was revealed that a British jihadist who had disappeared off radars for a few years had re-emerged in the form of a series of passport photographs found in the possession of the alleged leader of a cell of plotters that was planning an unspecified campaign at the orders of possibly dead Al Qaeda leader Saleh al Somali. The pictures showed the British-Algerian Ibrahim Adam in a variety of different haircuts and had apparently been obtained by the cell leader, Uighur-Norwegian Mikael Davud, from a contact in Turkey in September 2009. The discovery caused a spike in concern for British counter-terrorists, leading them to suspect that Adam, whose brother Anthony Garcia (the family all changed their names to integrate better) was incarcerated as part of the Al Qaeda directed plot to explode a large fertilizer bomb at a British mall, may be on his way back to Europe to conduct operations.

Nothing materialized, until, concurrent with the first day of the Pope’s visit to the United Kingdom on September 16th; police raided a series of properties in London arresting a group of six men working for a city garbage disposal company. One of the men was described as being “of North African appearance” and the BBC has since revealed that at least five of them were “thought to be Algerian.” The men were questioned by police but ultimately released as it was revealed that the intelligence that had led to the arrest had been only picked up recently and was not part of a long-term operation. Unconfirmed reports suggested that the intelligence had been garnered by the police from someone who had overheard the men talking in a staff canteen.

However, the police reaction to the threat showed the elevated concern around the current threat level. The day before the arrests, the head of the Security Service (MI5) had warned that “the main effort for the Security Service remains international terrorism, particularly from Al Qaeda, its affiliates and those inspired by its ideology.” He highlighted the particular growth in the threat from Somalia, stating “there are a significant number of UK residents training in Al Shabaab camps” and highlighting that the threat from the tribal areas of Pakistan now only accounted for about 50% of the “priority plots and leads” coming into the Service.

The evening before the men supposedly behind the threat to the Pope were released, British intelligence passed on information to their Dutch counterparts about an individual on a flight from Liverpool transiting through Amsterdam on his way to Entebbe, Uganda. The man, described by a Dutch spokesman as “a British man of Somali origin,” was pulled off a KLM plane which was about to depart on suspicion of “possible involvement in a terrorist organization.” He was also released a few days later cleared of any charges and it is unclear where he has since gone. This was the second time in less than a month that individuals going through Schipol airport had been picked up as a result of terrorist concerns. At the end of August two Yemeni men were pulled off a flight landing in the airport from Chicago after a tip-off from U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This also did not result in any charges being made.

In France in the meantime, the Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux joined the head of the domestic intelligence agency, Bernard Squarcini, in highlighting the level of threat the country faced. On September 16th, visiting the Eiffel Tower after the latest in a number of bomb scares on the site had further stepped up the security presence, Mr. Hortefeux said, “these last days and hours, a number of events have reminded us that we find ourselves in a period which calls for an elevated level of attention in the particular face of terrorist threats.” This echoed earlier statements the week before by Mr. Squarcini who said that the “all the red lights were flashing” and a story that surfaced in the French press which revealed that, “a female suicide bomber was plotting to commit a terrorist act in a busy part of Paris.” The information was allegedly passed on from Algerian intelligence and resulted in mobile anti-terror units being mobilized across the city searching for the woman. This comes in the wake of a series of kidnappings in Niger of French citizens by the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the North African Al Qaeda affiliate.

French authorities have apparently attempted to reach out to the group in North Africa to get their citizens back, but little more is known about the alleged female bomber. The threat echoes an alert from earlier in the year published by British newspaper the Daily Telegraph which suggested that security services were concerned that a team of female suicide bombers were being dispatched by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) targeting the United States. In that case too, nothing ultimately emerged but it set the tone for a year which has been plagued with repeated alerts.

But amidst this sea of unrealized threats, on the eve of the anniversary of September 11, Danish police leapt into action when a bomb went off in a hotel toilet in central Copenhagen. The responsible individual was rapidly caught in a nearby park, but refused to provide his identity leaving Danish police with a puzzle to establish who the one-legged multi-lingual individual was. He was eventually identified as a Chechen former boxer who for unspecified reasons was apparently trying to send a bomb to the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten (infamous for publishing the Muhammad cartoons in 2006). Picked up with a gun, a very rudimentary explosive and a number of false identities, the initial fear was that Lors Dukayev, who maintained his anonymity for some time while under arrest and was only identified after someone saw his picture in the press, was possibly more than he initially seemed. Currently, however, he appears to have been a “Lone Wolf” with no connections.

And then on the morning of September 21st, Italian police intercepted a container-load of explosives at the port of Goia Tauro. Hidden amongst powdered milk were 7 tons of military grade RDX explosive, a massive amount which resulted in the Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini calling his American counterpart Hilary Clinton to discuss the matter directly. Believed to be en route from Iran to Syria, the cargo had in transit when Italian forces acted on intelligence believed to have been passed on by Israel.

The year has already seen a number of plots dispatched by Al Qaeda affiliates or fellow travelers reach fairly advanced stages (Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Faisal Shahzad to name but two), showing the capacity exists for such attack planning. Whether this new wave of concern from Europe’s services is going to translate into a similar attack remains to be seen, but it seems as though intelligence services across the continent are operating at full tilt.

Raffaello Pantucci is Homeland Security Today’s London correspondent.

 

My latest for Free Rad!cals, looking at an odd case in Denmark. One thing that occurred to me while writing this is that I am unsure how exactly one refers to people from Copenhagen? Copenhagers?

Something Rotten in the State of Denmark

Filed under: Europe, Radicalisation

Last Friday Danes were inconvenienced once again by the specter of incompetent terrorism. Following a “small explosion” in the bathroom of the low-cost Hotel Joergensen near to Copenhagen’s busiest train station, police chased a suspect to a nearby park where they cut off his belt using a set of remote controlled pliers.

At this point the story gets confusing. The man, slightly injured by the blast, is now in custody, but has yet to be officially identified. Charged with attempting to detonate a bomb and firearms possession, his age has been placed at either 20s or 40s and he has been described as being of either European or North African extraction. He has been refusing to cooperate with investigators though he apparently speaks “excellent English,” German and used a French interpreter in court.

According to investigator Svend Foldager, the man “has done everything to hide his identity” and when arrested was found to be in possession of three different ID’s (in the names Raoul Foltz, David Francois de Vicq de Cumptich and Hans Veller) from Luxembourg and two “Central European countries.” One report in the Belgian press claimed one of these was Belgian, a detail which was supposedly supported by the fact that he had purchased a bus ticket to Brussels a few days prior to his bombing. But none of this is corroborated or clear and he had no credit cards, mobile phones or other identifying objects in his possession at arrest. He has further apparently scratched off the serial number on a prosthetic leg he uses and while in custody has asked for a Bible and a Koran and declared himself a vegetarian. All part, no doubt, of an effort to further baffle investigators.

This being Copenhagen, early speculation around the incident suggested he might be attempting a bombing at the offices of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper which famously published the Muhammad cartoons a few years ago. Tabloid Ekstra Bladet claimed that a source close to the investigation had said that the man was captured in possession of a map of Copenhagen with the Jyllands-Posten address highlighted. Police responded cryptically that “The information Ekstra Bladet has put forward is not correct. We base our work on the thesis that Jyllands-Posten may be a target, but those are two different things.”

All of which merely highlights how little Danish police seem to know about this entire case. They have now published pictures or him, his fake leg and a tool set he bought recently in the hope that someone might be able to help them figure out who he is. One report hinted he might be a “lone wolf” though as we have seen from earlier in the year, “lone wolf” Islamists with connections have been drawn to attempt to avenge the cartoons. Similarly, Colleen LaRose, aka ‘Jihad Jane,’ was planning on going to neighboring Sweden to kill a cartoonist who had offended the prophet.

Whether there are any sort of links is of course speculation at this point. But the fact he has so many fake ID’s and has managed so thoroughly to eradicate his identity seems to suggest that he is not without some capabilities. At the same time, you would have thought that if this was some politically motivated attempt, he might have spoken about it more loudly or some further evidence of his motivations might have been found. Instead he sits mum in his cell in Copenhagen leaving harried local forces with a riddle to puzzle over.

New piece for Jamestown covering the proscription of the Shabaab in the UK and Canada. I am working on a much larger piece about this topic, but it is likely to be a while before that lands. Any tips in the meantime of course appreciated.

http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=36175

Al-Shabaab Proscribed in Canada and the United Kingdom

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 11

By: Raffaello Pantucci

In the first week of March, the British and Canadian governments both added the Somali al-Shabaab group to their respective list of proscribed terror groups. [1] The decisions mean that it will now be illegal to fundraise or support al-Shabaab in both nations, while Canadian Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews specified, “The Government is taking this step to help protect Canadian families from the activities of this organization. The Government received reports from the Somali community that al-Shabaab has attempted to radicalize and recruit young Canadians. The listing of al-Shabaab will help the Government of Canada to better support the Somali community of Canada.” [2]

The respective decisions follow previous proscriptions in Australia, Norway, Sweden and the United States. They reflect a growing trepidation amongst Western governments regarding the growing threat from the Somali group – in particular their ability to attract young men with local passports to their cause and the movement’s growing regional assertiveness. Furthermore, reports indicate that the group appears to be increasingly attracting fighters from the Somali diaspora and other sources in the West (Independent on Sunday, September 13, 2009; see Terrorism Monitor, January 14).

For Canada and the United Kingdom in particular, the decision to proscribe follows a series of stories indicating that steady streams of young men are going abroad to fight in East Africa. In autumn 2009, a group of six young Somalis disappeared from their local community in Toronto, with reports suggesting they had ended up fighting in Somalia (National Post, December 12, 2009). A report from earlier in the year in the U.K. indicated that most recently “almost a dozen” British Muslims had left the U.K. to join the Shabaab in Somalia, including some students from the prestigious London School of Economics and King’s College London (Sunday Times, January 24).

Furthermore, plots have emerged from the Somali diaspora community in both nations; at least two of the attempted bombers and a substantial number of the support network involved in the July 21, 2005 plot to attack London’s public transport system were of Somali extraction. In Canada, two Somalis were among the 18 suspects arrested for planning a series of bombings and assassinations in Toronto and Ottawa (National Post [Toronto], June 5, 2006; September 21, 2009; see also Terrorism Focus, June 6, 2006). [3] However, in neither case was the al-Shabaab group implicated in any way, nor was Somalia a feature on the broad canvas offered by each plot. Rather, individuals from the diaspora were drawn into plots fostered by local networks to prepare for large-scale domestic attacks.

More recently, however, there has been a greater law-enforcement focus on Shabaab. Aside from the Toronto cells, the RCMP and FBI ramped up their efforts after an informant told overseas U.S. embassy staff that a group of Somalis had crossed the border from Canada with the intention of launching an attack on President Obama’s inauguration ceremony. The information proved to be a hoax, but it highlighted the reality of security concerns (CanWest News Service, February 4). [4] In the U.K., on the other hand, the government attempted to shut down what it believed was an al-Shabaab fundraising and support network last year, though the case against the two Somali-Britons did not stand up in court (Press Association, July 28, 2009).

Beyond this, there is a clear sense of growing trepidation surrounding Somalia’s al-Shabaab; its decision to formalize the connection to the Ras Kamboni group, the declaration of allegiance to al-Qaeda and its connection to al-Qaeda operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan (killed by a U.S. Special Forces raid in September 2009 while helping train Shabaab fighters), all point to a strengthening network (for Ras Kamboni, see Shabelle Media Network, February 1; Garowe Online, February 2; Terrorism Monitor, February 10). Its influence can increasingly be seen abroad; examples include an alleged plot to target Secretary of State Hilary Clinton when she was visiting neighboring Kenya in August 2009, the recruitment of Somali youths in Minneapolis, the attempted assassination of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and an alleged plot to attack a military base in Melbourne (see Terrorism Monitor, January 14; Terrorism Monitor, September 10, 2009).

Reaction from Somalia to the terrorist designations was swift; al-Shabaab spokesman Ahmad Dayib Mursal held a press conference in Mogadishu to announce the group was “saddened” by the British decision (Holy Koran Radio [Mogadishu], March 2). Senior al-Shabaab spokesman Shaykh Ali Mahmud Raage (a.k.a. Shaykh Ali Dheere) condemned the Canadian and British designations, claiming some Western nations were trying to find ways of looting the properties of Somali Muslims living in their countries (Radio Simba [Mogadishu], March 8). More favorable reaction came from the deputy prime minister of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, Professor Abdirahman Haji Adan Ibi, who welcomed the British decision (Shabelle Media Network, March 4).

As of yet, no major plots appear to have been hatched in the West drawing specifically on this network and direction from Somalia. However, given previous experiences of threats emerging from radicals with Western passports associated with groups fighting abroad, as well as the rather abrupt shift from the near enemy to the far enemy by the previously regionally-focused al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Shabaab is clearly a threat that needs to be watched with some care. The respective proscriptions give British and Canadian authorities further legislative tools to deal with this threat.

Notes:

1. For the complete British order effective from March 4, 2010, please see:www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2010/uksi_20100611_en_1; and the Canadian announcement, effective March 5:www.publicsafety.gc.ca/media/nr/2010/nr20100307-eng.aspx

2. “The Government of Canada lists Al-Shabaab as a terrorist organization,” Ministry of Public Safety Press Release, March 7, 2010, www.publicsafety.gc.ca/media/nr/2010/nr20100307-eng.aspx

3. Of the “Toronto 18,” seven suspects have pled guilty or been convicted, seven have had their charges stayed and three remain to be tried.

4. The alleged plot was first described in Martha Joynt Kumar, “The 2008-2009 presidential transitions through the voices of its participants,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 39(4), December 1, 2009

More about the Western-Somali connection for Jamestown, this time exploring the Denmark-Somalia connection in some detail. I have touched upon this briefly before, and more generally on Shabaab’s internationalization for ASPI and a couple for Jamestown (the Melbourne group, Operation Neath; and the Minneapolis group). Separately, am working on something with some friends trying to understand the phenomenon globally, so would welcome any other thoughts or stories people come across on this topic. (oh and to those who don’t know it, Esther’s blog is an excellent resource for translated material).

http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=35909

East African Terrorism Comes to Scandinavia

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 2
January 14, 2010 02:09 PM Age: 3 hrs
Category: Terrorism Monitor, Global Terrorism Analysis, Home Page, Terrorism, Africa, Europe
The Somali man who attacked Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard is carried to court on a stretcher.

In a scene right out of the cinema, a young Somali man armed with an axe and a knife came crashing through the door of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard’s Aarhus house late on January 1. Hitting a panic button specially installed in the house, Mr Westergaard was barely able to scramble with his five-year old granddaughter to his safe room while security services raced to the scene. Hearing police arrive, the young man turned to confront them, bellowing “I’ll be back” in broken Danish before being shot in the arm and leg by police.

This is the first time that Islamists seeking revenge for the infamous “Muhammad cartoons” have been able to take revenge in the West. Previous bombing plots were broken up in Denmark in September 2006 and September 2007, with convictions resulting in both cases, and prosecutors claiming that the cartoons were definitely the motivation for the plotters in the second of the two cases (AP, August 11, 2008). In July 2008, two Tunisian men were picked up by Danish police in Aarhus as part of an alleged plot targeting Westergaard, though charges did not stick. In the end, one man was deported and the other released (AP, January 2). Late last year, the FBI arrested David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana on charges (amongst others) that they were planning a terror attack on the “facilities and employees of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten.” [1] Jyllands-Posten was the newspaper that first published the cartoons while Kurt Westergaard is the most prominent of a group of 12 cartoonists who accepted the editor’s challenge to depict images they associated with the Prophet Muhammad. In hiding until last year, Mr Westergaard announced that he was emerging from seclusion as he was “too old to be afraid” and he wanted to play his part in defending “democratic values” (BBC, April 5, 2009).
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Another busy day – though in reality these have been percolating over the holiday period. This one instead for Comment is Free at the Guardian which is consequently already attracting some charming comments which appear to show evidence of having willfully ignored the article at hand and chosen instead to use the opportunity to vent off. Anyway, this is not the first time I have cited al Suri’s work – though it as ever remains hard to know how much people are actually using it as a guide. Any thoughts or pointers on this very welcome.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/04/terrorism-al-qaida-detroit-attack

Extremism’s lone warriors

From Detroit to Denmark, terrorist strikes are increasingly the preserve of lone attackers inspired by jihadist groups
Raffaello Pantucci

guardian.co.uk, Monday 4 January 2010 20.00 GMT

The year has begun with a jihadist splash. Aside from massacres in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, just before New Year, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to bring down an airliner over Detroit. Now a young Somali resident of Copenhagen appears to have attempted to take vengeance on Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist behind 2006’s infamous Muhammad cartoons. While information on the two attacks is far from complete, the signs increasingly point to lone attackers with links to regional jihadist groups.

This is not entirely surprising – terrorist groups have long targeted aircraft, and extremist Islamists have repeatedly demonstrated that they are determined to seek revenge for perceived slights by artists to their religion. Salman Rushdie, Theo van Gogh and Sherry Jones, author of the Jewel of Medina, have all been targeted, and this is merely the latest plot against those associated with the Danish cartoons. In late 2009 FBI agents arrested plotters planning to mount an assault on the headquarters of Jyllands Posten, the newspaper that first ran the cartoons.

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My latest for FreeRadicals about Shabaab its European recruits. The links at the end don’t work, but you can find the articles referred to elsewhere on this blog. Am planning more on this topic in the near future, so watch this space…

http://icsr.info/blog/Somalias-foreign-legions

Somalia’s foreign legions

Filed under: Radicalisation, Somalia, al-Shabaab

Another week passes and more stories of young Westerners showing up on Somalia’s battlefields. Two distinct tales jump out this time – first, the recent bombing in Mogadishu was the work of a Danish-Somali suicide bomber; and second, an 18 year old Italian-Somali handed himself over to government forces claiming that he was sent over to fight by his father.

The first case appears to be what can increasingly be described to be the traditional model of recruitment for al-Shabaab. Drawn by a combination of religious zeal and nationalism, 25 year old Abdulrahman Ahmed Haji moved back to Somalia from his adopted home just outside Copenhagen with his pregnant wife, about 18 months ago. Friends described him as a gregarious young man who used to party and play football, but that recently he had started to withdraw into himself. A local leader in Copenhagen claimed that the young man had increasingly turned to religion.
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