Breaking News Stories
These are news stories breaking after the publishing of this Word
– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
Acts of terror increasing throughout
Europe’s nightmare: Islamist terror
threats large and small
by Gregory Katz
Western society now facing violence by radicalized Muslims that can
erupt at any time
London (AP) — The military-style attack in Paris has made clear that
Europe faces an evolving, ever-more complex terror threat no longer
dominated by a few big players.
It’s not just al-Qaida, or Islamic State. It’s not just the disciples of
some fiery, hate-filled preachers.
Instead, security experts say, it’s now an Internet-driven, generalized
rage against Western society felt by radicalized Muslims that can burst
into the open at any time — with a slaughter in Paris, an attack on a
Jewish Museum in Belgium, or the slaying of a soldier in the streets of
This evolving hydra-headed beast bedevils security chiefs, who have to
deal not only with al-Qaida planners looking for another 9/11-style hit
but also with, as in Paris, well-trained, well-armed killers intent on
avenging perceived insults to their religion by gunning down
In a rare public speech, Andrew Parker, director of the domestic British
security service MI5, said Thursday that thwarting terrorist attacks has
become more difficult as the threat becomes more diffuse.
It is harder, he said, for agents to disrupt plans of small groups or
“lone wolves” who act spontaneously, with minimal planning but deadly
“We believe that since October 2013 there have been more than 20
terrorist plots either directed or provoked by extremist groups,” he
said, citing deadly attacks in Europe, Canada and Australia. He said
security services have stopped three potentially lethal terrorist plots
inside Britain alone in recent months.
“The number of crude but potentially deadly plots has gone up,” he said,
warning that small-scale plots carried out by volatile individuals are
“inherently harder for intelligence agencies to detect.”
The individuals are not part of disciplined, sophisticated networks, he
said, and often act with little or no warning.
Already some 600 Britons have gone to Syria to join extremists there,
with most embracing Islamic State, Parker said. Some 550 Germans have
done the same, with about 180 known to have returned, including a hard
core of about 30 who are judged to be extremely dangerous, according to
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere. About 1,200 French citizens
have left for Syria, including about 400 still in the war zone and 200
on their way, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said last
Parker said they have learned how to hate and how to kill.
Concentrating solely on these volatile individuals wouldn’t work, he
said, because at the same time rival al-Qaida and Islamic State groups
inside Syria are trying to orchestrate broader attacks in Britain and
Open societies everywhere have difficulty protecting against terrorism,
whose perpetrators are aided by the very freedoms and openness that they
often despise. But in Europe, several factors further complicate the
The main one is a large Muslim population in many countries — France
first among them, but also Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Britain, and even
Spain and Italy. The size of these communities enables the radicals
among them to better hide.
The issue is compounded by the fact — only recently the source of angst
in Europe — that many immigrants are not well-assimilated into Western
society. While most immigrants are law-abiding and non-hostile, it seems
that many have not absorbed its liberal values, including freedom of
expression up to and including satire of religious figures. This creates
an atmosphere in which radicalism can survive and sometimes thrive.
Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism specialist with the Swedish National
Defense College, said a new generation of Muslim youths has grown up in
Europe’s cities in the post 9/11 era and has to a degree embraced the
al-Qaida view that the West is at war with Islam — first in Afghanistan,
then Iraq and now in Syria as well.
At the same time, he said, the Islamic State’s brazen proclamation of a
caliphate has caught the imagination of many young European Muslims, who
want to go to Syria to join the battle and then bring it back home.
“The sectarian tensions in the Middle East are mirrored in our cities in
Europe,” he said. “There is more strident activism in Muslim
He said many Muslims feel segregated in disadvantaged communities on the
fringes of major cities and are willing to fight back.
“There is a much sharper polarization of society,” he said, citing the
corresponding rise of right-wing, anti-immigration political parties
opposed to the growth of Islam in Europe. “The people carrying out the
violence work in small groups but they all join up and know what
direction they are traveling in. They are very clear on the goal. The
caliphate provides that common purpose, that unity, that momentum.”
The law-enforcement challenge is exacerbated by the free movement of
people that is a cherished ideal of the European integration project. It
is an item of faith that open borders will spur trade, job creation and
But it also makes it much easier for anyone with criminal intent and an
EU passport to cross borders to carry out an attack — as happened in May
when a Frenchman linked to the Islamic State group in Syria crossed into
Belgium and killed four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the House intelligence committee,
said U.S. officials are making a strong effort to track Americans who
have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq. But the challenge for European
officials is much more daunting, he said.
“It’s tough though, particularly when we don’t have great intelligence
in places like Syria to identify what’s happened to Americans who have
gone overseas to fight,” he said. “Very opaque and difficult to track.
That problem is magnified a hundred times in Europe, where people can
travel freely with a passport.”
Britain took unilateral steps Thursday to tighten up its border checks
at seaports and train stations, and Spain raised its terror threat
level, not because of a specific plot, but because of a general sense
that all of Europe — not just France — was at heightened risk since the
attack in Paris on the newsroom of the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo,
that left a dozen people dead.
Spain also stepped up security Thursday at transportation hubs like
airports and train stations, nuclear power plants, energy networks and
“The current international scenario means we can talk about a generic
threat that is shared by all Western countries in general,” said
Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz.
He said the rivalry between the two main terror organizations— which are
vying for primacy in Syria and elsewhere — is being felt in Europe.
“There is a clear battle between al-Qaida and the Islamic State to
become terror leaders. And this increases the risk of attacks,” he said.
Pointedly refusing to use Islamic State’s chosen name in his address
Thursday, Parker said the group’s effective social media strategy has
allowed it to spread its “message of hate directly into homes across the
He said the group poses a three-pronged threat: It has murdered innocent
Britons inside Syria, it is using Syria as a base for directing
terrorist attacks against Britain, and it is using its sophisticated
propaganda to provoke Britons to carry out attacks at home.
The brothers suspected in the Charlie Hebdo killings were known to
France’s intelligence service and were on the U.S. no-fly list, yet
authorities were unable to prevent the attack, in part because the
planning group involved may have been quite small and operating under
the intelligence radar. The same was true of the two al-Qaida-inspired
British extremists who hacked to death soldier Lee Rigby on a busy
London street in May 2013.
Peter Neumann, director of the International Center for the Study of
Radicalization at King’s College London, said the smaller attacks seen
of late reflect a change of strategy among jihadi groups, who have
previously harbored ambitions to create incidents as big as the Sept. 11
attacks on the United States or the subway bombing attacks on Britain in
July 7, 2005.
“Now what has happened since last year is that everyone has realized
that you can cause as much terror if you do very small attacks that do
not require you to build a bomb,” Neumann said. “They’ve been incredibly
He said there will be other similar attacks in the future.