Thursday, July 7, 2005

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Al Qaeda in Europe

CNN reports on the group claiming responsibility for the London transport bombings:

A previously unknown group calling itself the "Secret Organization group al Qaeda Organization in Europe" released a statement Thursday claiming responsibility for the subway and bus bombings in London earlier in the day...

CNN could not confirm the authenticity of the statement, which was posted on a Web site connected to Islamic radicals....

The claim of responsibility from the group said it had repeatedly warned Britain.

"The mujahedeen heroes have launched a blessed attack in London," the statement said.

"Here is Britain burning now out of fear and horror in its north, south east and west. We have often and repeatedly warned the British government and people."

The statement said the group had carried out the attack after exerting "strenuous efforts ... over a long period of time to guarantee" its success.

"We still warn the governments of Denmark and Italy and all the crusader governments that they will receive the same punishment if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan," it said. "We gave the warning, so we should not be blamed."

Click here for dueling translations of the short statement..

The clumsy-sounding name (at least in English) of this group makes me wonder if this is another of Al Qaeda's local subcontractees.

UPDATE: Stephen Flynn has some thoughts at the Council on Foreign Relations home page that sound this theme as well. Some highlights:

[This attack] tells us that al Qaeda is increasingly more of a movement than it is an organization. There are splinter groups and it would appear, in this instance, that many of these groups are homegrown--that is, they're made up of U.K. citizens rather than foreign fighters who have arrived on British soil....

I don't have a lot of detail, obviously--but what I've picked up from the web and the bit of reporting I've heard from Scotland Yard indicates that is likely the case. Many of the folks who are setting up these [Qaeda-affiliated] organizations carry a European Union passport. In some instances, they are first generation. Others are established citizens living in the cities, as opposed to Saudis who come in to carry out these attacks. Of course, that was the case with [the March 2004 al Qaeda bombings of commuter trains in] Madrid as well....

[I]n the aftermath of the London attacks, it's likely that very quickly you'll see law enforcement identify the responsible parties and to start to roll up their organization. In Madrid, the group responsible for the attacks was rolled up relatively quickly. Terrorist groups have to be careful about carrying out attacks. They have to be successful, because they put their organization at high risk whenever they carry out an attack. It's impossible not to leave bread crumbs. The scale of the forensic evidence for this kind of coordinated, large-scale attack endangers an organization. It suggests that attacks, when they happen, are more likely to be of this sophisticated, coordinated nature, not a single event.

Read the whole thing.

LAST UPDATE: Steve Coll and Susan B. Glasser make a similar point to Flynn's in the Washington Post:

Now more a brand than a tight-knit group, al Qaeda has responded to four years of intense pressure from the United States and its allies by dispersing its surviving operatives, distributing its ideology and techniques for mass-casualty attacks to a wide audience on the Internet, and encouraging new adherents to act spontaneously in its name.

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, terrorism experts in and out of government have warned that the movement has appeared to gain ground, particularly in Europe, where a large, mobile, technology-savvy and well-educated Muslim population includes some angry and alienated young people attracted to the call of holy war against the West.

The simultaneous bombings of four rush-hour commuter trains in Madrid on March 11, 2004, the shooting death of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh last November and recent preemptive arrests made by European police suggest a less top-down, more grass-roots-driven al Qaeda. The movement's ability to carry off sophisticated, border-crossing attacks such as those Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants mounted against New York and the Pentagon almost four years ago appears diminished, some experts say.

Yet al Qaeda's chief ideologues -- bin Laden, his lieutenant Ayman Zawahiri, and more recently, the Internet-fluent Abu Musab Zarqawi, have been able to communicate freely to their followers, even while in hiding. In the past 18 months, they have persuaded dozens of like-minded young men, operating independently of the core al Qaeda leadership, to assemble and deliver suicide or conventional bombs in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Spain, Egypt and now apparently London.

posted by Dan on 07.07.05 at 01:15 PM


Frightening stuff - you seem far more informed than I am.

posted by: Illegally blonde on 07.07.05 at 01:15 PM [permalink]

I was thinking the exact same thing: Al Qaeada has not really been able to mount multiple attacks in most countries (except Afghanistan, Iraq, and to a lesser extent Pakistan and Saudi Arabia). In Turkey, Indonesia, Morocco, Spain etc. their whole organization was captured after their deadly attacks. That is the silver lining for this cloud.

posted by: erg on 07.07.05 at 01:15 PM [permalink]

London getting hit was not unexpected. They have
been hit by the IRA for years and years. London
is also an open western city. But it is also
one of the most security minded places in the
world. They have cameras everywhere it seems.
And yet the attackers were able to pull the
attack off. They got the explosives in. There
are holes in the British defenses that need
to be found and plugged. That will be tough to
do. Not impossible, but tough. The Brits can
do it. They have seen and been though worst.

This attack does point out one huge problem
for people. Iraq war let Al Qaeda reform into
something else. New type of monster comming.

Reminds me of the Imperial Japanese letting
the Americans reform and rebuild their Pearl
Harbor fleet, or even Nazi Germany of letting
the British army escape at Dunkirk. Real bad
idea to let the enemy escape and not concentrate
on them. Finish them off once and for all.

I think I could kill everyone in Iraq and not hurt
Al Qaeda at all now.

Someone needs to come up with a new center on war
against terrorism. Iraq ain't it. Never was...

posted by: James on 07.07.05 at 01:15 PM [permalink]

It is an axiom in intelligence that direct actions --sabotage, bombing, assassinations,etc -- are in inherent conflict with (a) political
activity and (b) intelligence gathering.

During WWII, for example, the UK's MI6 was bitterly opposed to the Special Operations Executive (SOE) sabotage campaigns (done in alliance with the French resistance.) WHenever direct action occurs,
the enemy throws enormous resources into internal security -- which tends to unearth spies (intel gatherers) who probably would otherwise have gone unnoticed. The argument of MI6 was that direct action is largely pinpricks --of far less value than intel gathering.

The transfer of the atomic bomb's design to Russia by the Rosenberg/Cohen spy rings is one example that supports the MI6 argument.

Direct action proponents like SOE, on the other hand, argued that even a few attacks forces the enemy to divert enormous resources into internal security-- i.e, forces him onto the defensive. And direct action can be more than pinpricks: During the Normandy invasion, a crack --and critically needed -- German panzer division was delayed from reinforcing the beachhead for two weeks because the railroad cars carrying their tanks ground to a halt a few miles after leaving their base area. This event was achieved by two young French girls who were ignored by railyard sentries and who managed to insert abrasive grease into the gear boxes of the rail cars.

In another incident, a French saboteur was able to knock an aluminum plant out for five months by
sabotaging an electrical substation on the mountaintop above the aluminum foundry. (Aluminum was key material for airplane production. Electric furnaces in aluminum foundry use large amounts of electricity. )

Today's bombing in London obviously ruins any political activity --e.g., any political attempt by non-terrorist Islamic organizations to influence British voters /government into changing Blair's support for Bush's actions in the Middle East.

In one regard, Sept 11 and today's bombings don't make sense: they were pinpricks causing limited damage that simply prod a complacent but powerful enemy to gear up for a fight.

That is, they were pinpricks which also forestalled far more effective attack options (by crippling intelligence gathering needed to make far more effective attacks on the US or UK).

It's hard to see what Al Qaeda is accomplishing other than rallying supporters/potential recruits in the Middle East -- and maybe revealing to the major powers the real nature of the US government.

posted by: Don the Greater on 07.07.05 at 01:15 PM [permalink]

It's hard to see what Al Qaeda is accomplishing...

Yup. I suspect the original organization is basically neutralized as far as operations are concerned. Attacks attributed to al Qaeda seem to be carried out by local 'franchises' of their own initiative, with no significant coordination with, or support from, the original group.

The original group had the resources to send ~20 people to the US and pay for flight school and living expenses while they were here. The later groups seem to be limited to leaving backpacks full of explosives in trains and busses- much less sophisticated, much less resource-intensive... and much less effective.

To the western mind, you fight a war by attacking the other side's strategy. If you do so successfully, the other side will eventually realize their objectives can not be achieved, and they will either change strategies, or try to negotiate a peace.

If the other side doesn't have an overall strategy, it becomes much more difficult to make it impossible to achieve their objectives, as they don't really have an objective beyond killing people and blowing stuff up and hoping we get tired of it and eventually give up.

posted by: rosignol on 07.07.05 at 01:15 PM [permalink]

Secret Organization group al Qaeda Organization in Europe is a dopey name.

posted by: Boomhauer on 07.07.05 at 01:15 PM [permalink]

"[I]n the aftermath of the London attacks, it's likely that very quickly you'll see law enforcement identify the responsible parties and to start to roll up their organization."

It will make no difference. Our involvement in the region has only swollen the ranks of the terrorists. Why can't we just leave these people alone? They never did a thing to us until we first did it to them!

This does not mean I support the tragedy that occurred in London. I feel for those people and their families.

posted by: extenze on 07.07.05 at 01:15 PM [permalink]

You right honorable ladies and gents are just clueless. The terror of OK City, the terror of 09/11/2001 was all staged with cooperation from the West. Almost certainly 7/7/2005 was as well.

posted by: bg on 07.07.05 at 01:15 PM [permalink]

Secret Organization group al Qaeda Organization in Europe is a dopey name.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front has 'em beat. How do you top a group called MILF for having a stupid name?

(if you don't get the joke, google the acronym. Not safe for work).

posted by: rosignol on 07.07.05 at 01:15 PM [permalink]

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