debkafile's counter-terror sources specializing in al Qaeda are increasingly uncomfortable with and skeptical of the comprehensive, imprecise American terror alert embracing all of Europe that was issued Oct. 3 by the US State Department. Our European and Middle East intelligence agencies anti anti-terror organs commented Tuesday, Oct. 5, that the blanket US call for US travelers to watch out for terrorist attacks in public places and tourist sites has little relation to their own data on existing terrorist threats.
Even the countries which have raised their level of terror alert, such as France, Japan and Sweden, have not received specific data from Washington confirming reports of an imminent attack. For instance, the "Kilowatt Group" for international cooperation among intelligence services on counterterrorism, which has the biggest data base on al Qaeda and international terrorist organizations, has not received any fresh updates on the US-sourced alert.
Furthermore, debkafile's sources stress, Israel's counter-terror center in Jerusalem has not issued advisories about travel to Europe, threats to Jewish centers or danger in the continent's transport systems and airports which are frequented by Israeli tourists. Israel authorities, normally hypersensitive to any hint of terrorism, have not advised Israeli or Jewish institutions in Europe to raise their alert level like the Americans and the British.
Our intelligence sources, furthermore, cannot confirm that the suspected terrorists cited in the last few days as sources of information for imminent attacks are actually in possession of this information or have any relevance to them.
From Sunday, Oct. 3, German intelligence and security services alone have made their doubts clear, after consulting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Monday, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said thatGerman police and intelligence services have no concrete evidence that a terror attack is imminent."
Similar reservations have been heard in other European capitals. They find contradictions in the various reports from London, which maintained that Mumbai-style multiple terror attacks planned in Pakistan threatened the UK, France and Germany and other reports from Washington that the terrorists plan to strike simultaneously at five major European airports.
One high-placed source commented dryly to debkafile that these contradictions were another factor undermining the credibility of the American alert. He pointed out that if as was claimed the attackers had already arrived in Europe and were close to their targets, there was no point in intensifying US drone and helicopter strikes on terrorist bases in Pakistan's North Waziristan. Jihad groups don't operate like regular armies, he said. Once a network is launched against a target it can't be turned around and if fellow terrorists come to harm, they become more determined than ever to go through with their mission.
The only country which does face imminent terrorist action is France, but this has nothing to do with the alert issued by the State Department for the European continent at large or with the US offensive against al Qaeda and Taliban havens in northwest Pakistan.
French special forces and air units have for some weeks been fighting Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – AQIM, whose tentacles have gripped Algeria, Morocco and countries of the Sahel and Sahara deserts. AQIM is trying to hit back on French soil by using Islamists of North African origin living in Europe.
Overnight Monday, Oct. 4, French anti-terror police swooped on Muslims suspected of being part of an Islamist cell in the southern towns of Marseille, Aubagne, Marignane and Bordeaux. Among the weapons they captured were automatic rifles and a quantity of explosives. Some of the cell members had undergone training on the Afghan-Pakistan border.
The arrests followed the detention on Saturday of a 28-year-old Algerian man, wanted by French police, at a train station in Naples, southern Italy. He was allegedly carrying a bomb-making kit and is suspected of being the head of the terror cell. France has filed for his extradition.