Posts Tagged ‘Yemen’

A new piece for HS Today, this one looking in some greater detail at the alleged Mumbai-style attack that had agencies in a great worry. Unsure this one is all over yet, and the information might ultimately have come out for just this reason. Am also going to try to do some more digging on the British end of it, which I think might be more precarious than this might suggest.

Europe in the Crosshairs

by Raff Pantucci

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Plots aimed at Mumbai styled assaults in Europe.

And the beat goes on…

Weeks have passed since Europe’s threat tempo was ratcheted up as security forces across the continent went into full alert in expectation of a possible terrorist attack. While nothing has actually happened from that particular threat with attention focused on the parcels out of Yemen, information has slowly started to leak out about the specific threat on the minds of security planners. Hatched in Pakistan’s badlands, the alleged plot (or plots) aimed to conduct a Mumbai-style assault on a European city (or cities) in which a team of terrorists would wage open war on the streets killing in the name of God.

It is not entirely clear where the thread that unravelled this series of plots came from – an obfuscation in part no doubt due to security concerns about terrorists figuring out how their networks have been penetrated – but it seems as though France, Germany and the UK were all being targeted. The actual potential plots appear to have been on a variety of trajectories, but most had an address which could be tracked back to Pakistan’s badlands. This came as the head of Britain’s Security Service MI5 recently highlighted that half of the plots his service was watching were “linked to Al Qaeda in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where Al Qaeda senior leadership is still based.” While down on previous statements that stated that three quarters of the plots targeting the UK had links to Pakistan, Evans emphasized that “this does not mean that the overall threat has reduced, but that it has diversified.”

For the UK, the specifics of the latest threat appear to focus around a British-Pakistani militant from the Jhelum province of Punjab named Abdul Jabbar. Allegedly killed during a drone strike in Waziristan which also killed top Al Qaeda leader Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, Jabbar had apparently been put forwards in July as the leader of a group dubbed “Islamic Army of Great Britain” that was tasked with planning a Mumbai-style attack in the United Kingdom. While British officials were keen to downplay the state of readiness of the plot (and some Pakistani officials rubbished Jabbar’s existence), the BBC’s flagship Newsnight program claimed that “senior security sources” in Pakistan had revealed to them that Jabbar was a long-time jihadist who had featured in previous investigations.

Jabbar, according to the BBC, was named in a document provided to security sources by Mohammed Junaid Babar, the American-Pakistani “supergrass” who was arrested in April 2004 and who provided detailed testimony about a broad network of British plotters. Babar’s testimony revealed that Jabbar was from East London and that around the time of September 11, 2001, he and his brother had gone to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban. Following the fall of Kabul, the two men moved to Pakistan where they connected with infamous British jihadist Omar Saeed Sheikh who helped them get to training camps in Kashmir. Sheikh is currently on Pakistani death row having been found guilty of the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Jabbar was also believed to be close to Omar Khyam, the leader of a cell of British Muslims who were convicted for plotting to carry out a large explosion using a fertilizer based bomb. This is the second time in recent months that this cell has been in the news: in July, following the discovery of an Al Qaeda connected cell in Oslo, recent passport photographs were discovered of Adam Ibrahim, the brother of another of the men convicted for the fertilizer bomb plot. Another associate of this cell, Kazi Rahman, is currently incarcerated having attempted to buy Uzi submachine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers off undercover agents in the UK.

It is not entirely clear, however, that this is the same Jabbar. While Babar’s testimony indicates that Jabbar is from East London, reports in the Times newspaper suggested that he was in fact from northwest England. Another report from a Pakistani official cited in the Guardian newspaper suggested that Jabbar had only arrived in Waziristan in 2009 with his brother and was being monitored by British sigint intelligence agency GCHQ. Details remain unclear, but nevertheless, there has been a noticeable increase in training and preparation in the UK for the eventuality of an armed assault on a British city. British police have taken to training alongside the Special Air Service (SAS), the UK’s elite commando unit, and are being given heavier weaponry. The threat, as former Security Minister Lord West put it to the BBC, is that “these people like the Mumbai terrorists are a bit like soldiers, they do fire and support, move forward, all they want to do is kill as many people as possible.”

Britons are not the only European’s of concern who are running around Waziristan. German security services continue to monitor regular flows of individuals back and forth from Pakistan, with a recent senior security source stating that in the past 10 months some 40-50 individuals have gone to train, and overall at least 70 fighters had done this for sure. Approximately a third of this (25 or so) were currently back in Germany part of a larger pool of some 1,000 individuals of concern. The current threat appears to have emanated from a cell linked to a group of some 11 young men and women from Hamburg who used to frequent the now-closed Taiba Mosque – previously the spiritual home to some of the September 11 plotters. In early 2009, something appears to have driven the community from talk into action and in various groups they started to make their way to Waziristan.

Not all of them made it, and some were amongst the 26 “potentially violent Islamists” that German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) head Jörg Ziercke stated his forces had prevented from leaving the country to fight since early 2009. Others instead ended up being killed by Predator strikes, likely in part as a result of information obtained from captured members Rami Makanesi and Ahmed Sidiqui. A German-Syrian in his late 30s, Makanesi was captured by Pakistani forces while attempting to reach a hospital dressed in a burka. He is apparently now back in Germany providing information in exchange for a lightened sentence. Ahmed Sidiqui, a German-Afghan, was instead caught in July by American forces in Kabul who have been quizzing him in detention.

It is from these men that it is believed much of the information about the current Mumbai-style attack has come. According to reports in the press, Ahmed Sidiqui claimed that during a “fireside chat” with top Al Qaeda commander Ilyas Kashmiri, the Al Qaeda leader boasted of already having advance cells in place in Britain and Germany. Other reports suggested it was in fact al-Quso who was talking about this plot. Supplementing its own information with details garnered from the captured Germans and sigint from Britain’s GCHQ, the U.S. launched a sustained series of Predator strikes in September and early October this year which appear to have staved on any imminent attack.

British and German authorities have remained calm in reaction to this elevated threat level – something that stands in contrast to their French counterparts who have repeatedly spoken of their concerns on public airwaves. In early September both the Interior Minister, Brice Hortefeux, and domestic intelligence head, Bernard Squarcini, separately spoke of the “all the red lights” flashing. The threat was believed to be coming from North Africa with intelligence passed along from Algerian sources that a female suicide bomber was apparently on her way to Paris. She never materialized, but at the same time, French forces asked their Italian counterparts to pick up Ryad Hannouni, a 28 year-old French-Algerian veteran of the Afghan conflict believed to be involved in a network sending fighters to South Asia and whom they had heard was returning to Europe via Italy.

Assessing he was not an immediate threat, Italian security followed Hannouni for a few days before arresting him in Naples on September 3rd. Once arrested, they discovered a kit to make explosives, as well as an address book and mobile phone. This wealth of information led, a month later, to a series of twelve arrests in Marseille and Avignon in France which turned up ammunition, an AK-47 machine gun and a pump action shotgun. Hannouni is currently awaiting extradition to France.

Even with these arrests, however, the immediate threat to France does not seem to have gone away. On October 18th, Interior Minister Hortefeux went on the airwaves to announce that “a few hours, a few days ago, [we received] a new message, from the Saudi [intelligence] services, indicating to us that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was certainly active.” The threat was apparently directed at “the European continent and France in particular.” It seems likely that this information came from the same source that provided the Saudi’s with detailed knowledge of the parcel bombs en route to Chicago from Yemen.

Ten days after Hortefeux launched this alert, a new recording emerged on the forums and Al Jazeera in which Osama bin Laden threatened France in particular, highlighting France’s involvement in Afghanistan and criticizing the decision to ban the veil in public places. As he put it, “If you deemed it right to ban women from wearing the hijab, then should it not be our right to expel your invading men by striking their necks?” He also seemed to provide a direct link between France’s actions and the move by North African affiliate Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to kidnap a group of French citizens in Niger. All of which highlighted the very real threat from France’s former colonial backyard that continues to be high on the list of threat for French policymakers.

The drumbeat of terror in Europe goes on: while in the United States, Ashburn, VA citizen Farooque Ahmed was casing metrorail stations in the Washington area for individuals he believed to be Al Qaeda, the actual network continues to keep Europe firmly in its crosshairs.

 

A new post for Free Rad!cals returning to the European terrorism theme. This one opening up a bit more on the threat that is apparently plaguing France at the moment. Multifaceted and complex, it will be interesting to see if it finally develops into an actual attack or not.

Filed under: Europe, Radicalisation, Terrorism

All of Europe is at an elevated terrorism alert level. Aside from ongoing separatist threats from traditional ETA and IRA groups, Greek left-wingers and various other small-time dissident groups, the biggest threat has been a spike in threats emanating from al-Qaeda or affiliated networks. Most European governments have chosen to respond to this threat with something of a moderated tone – the British government continues to quietly counter terrorism, while the Germans have admitted the problem is serious, but nonetheless have maintained a moderated tone. The exception to this would be the French, whose Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux (whose name appropriately enough contains the word “fires”) has repeatedly taken to the airwaves to shout about the imminent threat to the French mainland.

There is no doubt that the French Minister has good reason to be concerned: Osama bin Laden picked France out for particular vitriol in his last cassette; AQIM has been actively kidnapping Frenchmen wandering around North Africa; and friendly intelligence services like the Saudis and the Algerians have been passing on alarming bits of intelligence pointing to direct threats to the country.

The French have responded to this with an active clamp down on networks in their country. In September, flares went up when Algerian intelligence told them a female suicide bomber was heading their way leading to a substantial beefing up of security at major tourist attractions. In October, they asked the Italians to pick up Riad Hannouni, a returnee from the Afghan conflict who was found in Naples with bomb making information on him. Tracking phone numbers and information on his laptop, a group of 12 were arrested in Avignon, Bordeaux and Marseille. It was not clear if they all were linked to Hannouni, but among their belongings were found a pump action shotgun, an AK-47 and ammunition.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week a new group of five was picked up in central Paris and at Roissy airport. Two men were arriving from Egypt had apparently come directly from the Afghan-Pakistan region. According to a press conference given by the Interior Minister, at least one of the men (apparently a woman was also amongst those picked up) was involved in a plot to kill the head of the Paris main mosque, Dalil Boubakeur. One of them was also prepared to die in the conduct of his action.

In a hint as to why the French are quite so alarmed by this, Mr. Hortefeux said, the plot to kill the Imam was “taken all the more seriously because the wave of attacks that hit our country in 1995 began with the killing of imam Saraoui from the mosque on the rue Myrrha.”

This statement is particularly worth noting as it shows the level of concern in France remains elevated. It also suggests that their previously overconfident attitude regarding the effectiveness of their counter-terror strategy was perhaps premature.

France was known for watching networks and threatening them quietly if they stepped over the line. They would try some “Prevent” type measures, but broadly they saw that a more robust approach was the more effective answer. I recall a friend telling me about a high level French participant to a conference on Prevent sneering at the whole experience, saying something along the lines of: “Prevent is for p****s.”

The French approach has been oddly progressive and draconian in similar measure: on the one hand Sarkozy pushes affirmative action, while on the other he bans the veil. When it comes to countering terrorism, they warn people off if they think they are veering down the wrong path, presumably to save them the trouble of having to chase them later, while on the other hand they come down hard onAdelene Hicheur, the Algerian-French scientist who a year later has yet to be charged. The evidence against Hicheur was always a bit odd – he appears to have been in contact with AQIM online and may have been passing them money, but at the same time he did not seem to have actually done any terrorist planning. A year later he is still in jail under French legislation that allows judges to hold people without charges for some time, while colleagues on the outside continue to plead his innocence.

But having said all this, the French have had a very successful counter-terror experience more broadly. It has been since 1996 with the GIA campaign that they have managed to keep Islamist terrorism away from the homeland. Maybe shouting and clamping down does work.

Another new post over at Free Rad!cals again looking at the parcel/ink bomb scare, this time taking a slightly more historical view. Hat tip to James B for his tips on the Al Hayat case. It also occurs to me that I should have also included some mention of the series of bombs currently emanating from Greece. Oh well.

Filed under: Terrorism, Yemen

The weekend news was filled with stories of the failed attempt to deliver a series of bombs from Yemen to the United States using the international postal service (including a good early summary here by Shiraz Maher). Apparently, the plot was disrupted thanks to an intelligence tip off of from Saudi Arabia, and the blame has been almost universally ascribed to the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). But the most curious thing is the fact that it has taken these groups so long to get to the point of trying to use this delivery vehicle for their explosives.

As James B pointed out to me on Friday in an alarmingly foresighted manner, back in 1997 a wave of letter bombs were apparently sent out of Egypt seemingly targeting the offices of the Al Hayat newspaper in London, New York and Washington, and Leavenworth prison in Kansas. Initial suspicions fell on Libya (ruled by our then-enemy Muhammar Ghaddaffi) and Egyptian extremists, in particular ones who it was believed were avenging the incarceration of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Rahman – Leavenworth held one of the men convicted alongside him for the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. He contacted Al Hayat through his lawyers denying he knew anything about it and blaming it instead on the FBI and Mossad.

Two security guards were maimed when the bombs blew up in London, and New Scotland Yard dispatched a team to Egypt to investigate. The United States similarly launched an investigation trying to track down the return addresses. But both failed and I believe that a $5 million bounty still awaits collection for whoever solves that crime.

Then in 2001 in the chaotic wake of the 9/11 attack, letters started showing up at a variety of locations in the United States containing anthrax and badly spelt messages hinting they were from someone linked to the attacks on New York and Washington. Five people died. After a protracted investigation, the FBI believes they solved the case, but no-one was actually ever convicted of the crime.

The point is that the criminals/terrorists behind them mostly got away with it. Unabomber Ted Kaczynski got away with sending bombs in the post for 17 years. Of course, others have actually been caught for doing such things, but in the larger scope of ways of delivering bombs it seems a pretty effective and danger free way of doing it. What is really quite surprising about this wave of bombs supposedly out of Yemen is that it has taken AQAP (or in fact any of the AQ affiliates) so long to cotton on to the notion of trying to use the international parcel delivery service as a way to send explosives around the world.

Two other remaining loose ends intrigue me about this plot: first, why the synagogues in Chicago? It seems a rather precise and unambitious target, even if the intention was, as David Cameron has said, to actually bring the planes down rather that deliver the packages. And second, was this the same warning that the French Interior Minister said that his nation had received from Saudi last week? Any thoughts or pointers on either are welcome

A new reaction piece to the recent parcel/ink bomb plot out of Yemen for HSToday. Lots more interesting information on this one still to come.

Parcel Plot Exposes Softness in UK Security

by Raff Pantucci

Tuesday, 02 November 2010

UK rushes to tighten up cargo security processes.

Weekend revelations by British Prime Minister David Cameron that the bombs being delivered from Yemen to the United States using the international postal service were meant to blow up in the air have added a further dimension to the already confusing flow of information emerging from the Yemen cargo parcel bomb incident.

The details of how the plot was uncovered are still filtering into the public domain. One report in the British press which was independently corroborated, suggested that one of the first streams for the plot came from a message picked up by GCHQ (Britain’s answer to the National Security Agency), which seemed to suggest that something was afoot. In parallel to this, information reached American and British forces from Saudi Arabia which pointed more specifically to a threat from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). According to the BBC, the Saudi’s intelligence came from information obtained from Jabr al-Faifi, a Saudi Guantanamo returnee who had been through the Saudi de-radicalisation program, returned to the battlefield alongside AQAP, before once again changing his mind and surrendering to Saudi authorities. Information from al-Faifi appears to have also been behind an earlier statement by the French Interior Minister in mid-October that his nation had received a threat warning from the Saudi’s about AQAP targeting “the European continent and France in particular.”

The combination of information from al-Faifi and GCHQ (and doubtless other sources) appears to have provided a rich picture to security forces to go and check a specific package which was tracked down to Dubai airport. It also sent a warning to British police in Leicestershire to go and check the cargo in an airplane at East Midlands Airport outside Nottingham. British police rushed to the scene with sniffer dogs and explosives experts, but were initially unable to find anything until they received specific information about what had been discovered in the Emirates. At this point, they went looking in a more targeted manner and were able to uncover a package which had originated in Yemen and passed through Germany prior to the UK. Similar to its Emirati partner, the parcel was headed for a Jewish institution in Chicago.

The devices, fabricated from PETN and carefully concealed inside printer cartridges, were undetectable by current technology. But it is uncertain when they were primed to go off: initial suspicions were that the target was the Chicago synagogues they were addressed to. The Prime Minister and John Brennan’s comments over the weekend were backed on Monday in Parliament when the Home Secretary Theresa May announced, “the devices were probably intended to detonate mid-air and to destroy the cargo aircraft on which they were being transported.” Disturbingly for security services, it now seems as though the packages may have spent some time on planes filled with passengers as well as freight – meaning a disaster was barely avoided.

While on the one hand British services deserve congratulation, it seems equally clear that there were some flaws in the system which allowed the package onto a plane in the United Kingdom and secondly that police were unable in the first instance to discover the device. As the former police head of counter-terrorism Andy Hayman characterized it to the BBC, “there was some indecision, first the cordons were on, then they were off, then they were on.”

This has led to a tightening of measures announced by the Home Secretary:

• A review of all aspects of air freight security;

• Updating of information given to airport personnel which includes the new relevant information;

• From midnight Monday the suspension of all “unaccompanied” air freight from Yemen and Somalia, and the suspension of printer toner cartridges larger than 500g in hand luggage;

• Finally, the prohibition of “air cargo into, via or from the UK unless they originate from a known consignor – a regular shipper with security arrangements approved by the Department for Transport.”

For Britain this plot exposed some weaknesses in the security blanket, while at the same time highlighting the impressive and effective work that counter-terrorist’s undertake. Nevertheless, the reality remains that the plot was effectively underway when the security services latched onto it. As the Home Secretary put it to the house, “at this stage we have no information to suggest that another attack of a similar type by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is imminent. But this organisation is very active.” It remains to be seen when they are next able to be effective.

 

Another post for Free Rad!cals, this time looking at Anwar al Awlaki. Admittedly, not amongst the most in-depth pieces around about the man, but it is striking to consider the size and diversity of the community over which his ideas appear to have sway. This would certainly be worth a more in-depth study.

Anwar Al Awlaki’s Global Reach

Filed under: Radicalisation, Terrorism

Yemeni-American preacher Anwar al Awlaki has becoming something of an international boogeyman, with traces and connections to him being found amongst an ever expanding array of terrorist plots around the world. According to the U.S., he has gone beyond being a nuisance preacher to being actively involved in terrorist plotting – his connections to underpants bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab have earned him a place on the U.S. Predator hit-list.

But in many ways, more interesting than his apparently growing role as a preacher moving up the ladder to training individuals, is his ability to reach out through cyberspace to an ever-expanding and diverse community of people. Two recent cases highlight this in particular:

Paul “Bilal” Rockwood and his wife Nadia in Alaska, and on the other side of the world in Singapore, Muhammad Fadil Abdul Hamid.

Awlaki is the common thread between the two. According to court documents, Rockwood was a long-term follower, having converted in “late 2001 or early 2002” while he was living in Virginia. He rapidly became a “strict adherent to the violent Jihad-promoting ideology of cleric Anwar al-Awlaki….This included a personal conviction that it was his (Rockwood’s) religious responsibility to exact revenge by death on anyone who desecrated Islam.” While his timings appear to correlate with when Awlaki was also in Virginia it is unclear from information in the public domain whether they actually met.

Having been radicalized, over the next eight years Rockwood, who when he was arrested was a 35 year-old weatherman in the charmingly named King Salmon, Alaska, identified a list of possible targets through “visiting websites on the internet that professed to identify individuals, including American servicemen, who were alleged by the websites to have committed crimes of violence against Muslim civilians.” He further researched how to execute them “including discussing the use of mail bombs and the possibility of killing targets by gunshot to the head.” He narrowed his list down to 15 possible targets and planned on sharing this list, through his knowing wife, with a third person whom he believed shared his beliefs. From here it got to the Feds, certainly suggesting that this third party was not all that he or she seemed.

On the other hand, it seems highly unlikely that Muhammad Fadil Abdul Hamid ever had opportunity to meet the preacher. A 20-year old national serviceman in Singapore, he self-radicalized online and attempted to make contact with Awlaki through the net claiming to want to fight alongside him in Yemen. He was also in contact with a suspected Al Qaeda recruiter who urged him to go fight in Afghanistan and he produced at least one “self-made video glorifying martyrdom and justifying suicide bombing.” According to information released after his detainment under the Internal Security Act, his main influences appear to have been Anwar al-Awlaki and Australian-Lebanese former boxer Feiz Muhammed.

At around the same time as they detained Hamid, Singaporean police also place

Muhammad Anwar Jailani, 44, and Muhammad Thahir Shaik Dawood, 27 on two-year “restriction orders.” Jailani was apparently distributing Awlaki material, while Dawood went so far as to try to join the preacher in Yemen, though he was unable to connect with him and was instead rather disillusioned by what he did find there.

While not delving into the detail of the plots (which are not quite on the scale of 9/11), the running theme is Anwar al-Awlaki and his ability to provide some sort of indirect ideological guidance to people through the internet. While he may have had some contact with Rockwood early on, it still took Rockwood about five years before he started his research, and another three years before he moved into action. For the Singaporean’s, no contact appears to have taken place, but (like many others) the men appear to have sought out Awlaki as a guide to carrying out contemporary jihad. It would seem in many ways as though Awlaki, rather than Osama or even Abu Musab al Suri, is actually proving to be the globalized voice of jihad. His cry for personalized jihad in English appears to resonate amongst the global community of disenfranchised individuals across racial, national, and generational lines (I have not seen any evidence of gender yet, but women in jihad remains a marginal feature).

What is not clear if this is anything particularly new, or whether he is simply the latest in a long line of radical clerics whose charisma is able to draw people to him and it his ability to use the internet that has given him a global reach. Whatever the case, it is clear that his online presence is also what will guarantee him longevity beyond if the Predator’s do ever catch him.

Another post over at FreeRad!cals, this time drawn from a good article I read on a plane. It particularly struck me as it sparked off a long conversation about these issues with someone who really usually is not engaged in them – so it reached out. In retrospect it feels a little unfinished at the end, but oh well.

Bruce Hoffman in the National Interest

Filed under: Terrorism

Counter-terrorism sage Bruce Hoffman has an article in the latest issue of the National Interest which I would recommend as a sanguine assessment of the threat that the U.S. faces from domestic Islamist terrorists.

The article opens with a cold-eyed assessment based on insider conversations of the intelligence disaster that took place around Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to bring down an airliner in December 2009. Highlighting a number of missed connections that were likely in part for Admiral Denny Blair’s resignation recently, the main point appears to be that the dots were simply not put together in time to stop Abdulmutallab getting on the plane in Amsterdam. Apparently, preparations had been built around the assumption that AQAP was about to launch an attack on a U.S. target abroad, not that an attack was about to be launched on the homeland.

The broader point of the article, however, is the lack of imagination which has led the U.S. to treat a tactic as a strategy (Predator strikes) and a mistaken belief that America was somehow immune to the sort of domestic radicalization which has become the primary preoccupation of many European planners. A list of events, plots, and groups is provided showing how short-sighted this analysis has been, showing how links to various AQ affiliates can be found in a long list of plots, as well as a larger pool of low-level attempts all carried out by American citizens. A lack of imagination which is also found in the inability to recognize that AQ is a multifaceted organization with many different locations and iterations, rather than a monolith which can be focused on in an organized fashion in one location at a time, “we rivet our attention on only one trouble spot at a time, forgetting that Al Qaeda has always been a networked transnational movement.”

This is coupled with an ongoing failure to admit that the Predator strategy which is regularly trumpeted as crippling Al Qaeda’s ability to carry out attacks has done nothing to stem the flow of foreigners going to train in the camps in Pakistan (he cites a figure of about 100 who have graduated from the camps and now returned home). Something that is only a tactic appears to have become the only show in town when it comes to strategic planning in addressing the threat from Al Qaeda in Pakistan. As has been repeatedly said by numerous experts, it is unlikely that you will be able to kill your way of this problem. As Hoffman puts it: “until we dissemble the demand side….we will never be able to staunch the supply side.”

So simply hammering AQ or its affiliates in local insurgencies abroad is not going to get rid of the problem, especially as the ideology continues to appear to have deep resonance amongst a community of individuals living in the West. Management is key, and making sure that we are able to contain the problem from exploding as it did in the case of Abdulmutallab or some of the other plots that have managed to come to fruition in the U.S., is likely the best we can do in terms of stopping AQ or the ideology it inspires. This is not going to eradicate the problem in the immediate term, but neither is the current approach. But admitting to this will hopefully open doors which maybe lead in a better direction.

There was one point in the article which bothered me, which was when he refers to Abdulmutallab’s profile as defying “conventional wisdom about the stereotypical suicide terrorist being poor, uneducated and provincial.” My question would be: whose conventional wisdom is this still? Given the laundry list of well-educated and assimilated terrorists, who out there still sees simpletons from the provinces as the main incubator of radicalization in the West? I do not actually disagree with what Professor Hoffman says, but it bothers me that there might still be those out there looking for such a profile.

One final point which struck me as interesting is the assertion that Lone Wolves might be part of a strategy by AQ to “flood already-stressed intelligence systems with ‘noise’.” The suggestion, if I am reading it correctly, is that low-tech attacks by “lone wolves and other jihadi hangers-on,” are more coordinated than one might think and are in fact an effort to keep security planners busy and distracted from focusing on serious directed plots from abroad.

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.

(more…)