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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

1/11/2004

Report from the Front

Mahdjoub's arrest was a minor victory in a major war being fought, bitterly and secretly, in cities from London to Warsaw, from Madrid to Oslo. It pits the best investigative officers in Europe against a fanatical network of men dedicated to the prosecution of jihad both in Europe and overseas. It is a war security officials know they cannot afford to lose - and that they know they will be fighting for the foreseeable future.

Previously seen as a relative backwater in the war on terror, Europe is now in the frontline. 'It's trench warfare,' said one security expert. 'We keep taking them out. They keep coming at us. And every time they are coming at us harder.'
the guardian
A long article on the secret war being waged against the jihadis throughout Europe. It is not, frankly, encouraging.
'We act when we can,' said one police source. 'But we are stretched enough going after the clear and immediate threats, let alone their back-up.'
The fear is that there will be a major attack in a European city fairly soon. Then what?

After 9/11 the Americans had clear targets and took them out. The issue now is more difficult. Especially in Europe. There are substantial and unassimilated Muslim populations in France, England, Holland, Germany and many other European nations. These populations are, for the most part, peace loving. But even a tiny fraction of a large number can be more than enough to provide the infrastructure for a terrorist campaign.

Add to that the European's commitment to civil and human rights and the rule of law and the situation may become desperate. Pinpointing terrorists before they strike requires brilliant intelligence and the ability to penetrate the targets. Where those targets are hidden behind the walls of mosques, in Islamic schools and in legitimate organizations, monitoring and penetrating the targets becomes all the more difficult.

At the moment the Europeans are relying on steady police and intelligence work to contain the threat; but if a series of conventional bombs rip through EU cities? Again, the question, "And then what?" becomes troubling. We are in the early stages of something which could quickly escalate to all out war. The British fought such a war in Northern Ireland. They kept the two sides apart but at the cost of most of the civil liberties of each side being ignored. And still the bombers and the gunmen continued.

Worst case would be if, rather than conventional bombs, the jihadi used chemical or biological weapons. Because now, instead of dozens of casualties and a call for more intensive policing, there would be thousands or tens of thousands and the calls would be for massive detention and deportation. If the threat of the jihadis is essentially local, a measured, local response is likely; but if the jihadis are able to cause mass casualties it is more than likely that the Europeans will act against their Muslim populations as a whole. It would not be the first time Europe has been engulfed by religious and ethnic warfare.

UpDate: The Guardian is reporting:
The French police are convinced that their country has escaped a planned chemical or biological attack by an Islamist cell linked to al-Qaida.
An interior ministry official said evidence from Islamist militants arrested in the Lyon area last week made it "very plain" that an attack with the deadly botulism or ricin toxins was being actively prepared.
guardian

UpDate II Wretchard at Belmont Club is thinking and linking along the same lines: "The challenge will be not simply to reform Islamic society, but to avoid destroying it in order to save it."