Europe Is the United Jihadists’ Next Target
On Sept. 14, al Qaeda announced a “blessed union” with the ultra-radical Algerian Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC) with the object of working together against the enemy, France.
The announcement was made by Osama bin Laden‘s Number 2, Ayman Zawahiri on videotape. “Our brothers,” he said, “will be a thorn in the necks of the American and French crusaders and their allies, and a dagger in the hearts of the French traitors and apostates.”
The French government took the threat seriously enough to leave on the highest terror alert its main cities, airports, harbors, trains and powers stations until the present.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s al Qaeda watchers report that this high alert level remains in force also in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. They all have ex-Algerian communities and cells of the GSPC, which has been responsible for wholesale massacres in Algeria and is one of the most violent Islamic terror groups on earth.
Most European intelligence services assume that although Zawahiri singled out France in his September tape, he may well mention other European countries as targets in future clips.
Most have therefore taken the precaution of carrying out preventive arrests of suspected GSPC adherents. Six suspects are known to have been arrested in Milan and Switzerland in the last week of September and October 2, because they were announced by the respective authorities, who said the detainees were suspected of fundraising and recruitment for GSPC operations in Algeria.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources disclose the suspects were in fact cell members caught plotting local terrorist attacks.
Germany, Holland and Spain refrained from going public on their counter-terror detentions.
Our al Qaeda experts note that the al Qaeda-GSPC merger is a triumph for Zawahiri in his leadership contest with Osama bin Laden. Zawahiri never came to terms with the top al Qaeda leader’s backing for Abu Musab al Zarqawi and his Iraq operations from 2003, against his own wishes. European security officials fear that, having gained control of a major terrorist arm in North Africa with cells in Europe, al Qaeda’s No. 2, may decide to show his mettle by executing a series of spectacular attacks in European countries that will catapult him to the top of al Qaeda’s leadership ladder.
Neither do Western intelligence agencies rule out GSPC deploying its networks in Libya, Morocco and Mauritania for stepping up terrorist operations in northern Africa, especially against US military targets.
The Algerian group’s union with Al Qaeda was engineered chiefly by three GSPC heads, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, who has led the organization from June 2004, Abdel Madijid Dichou, its chief operations officer, and Mukhtar Bel Mukhtar, the Algerian movement’s senior ideologue and religious authority, who established the connection with Zuwahiri.