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Europe’s 9/11...Drawing Near?

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Europe’s 9/11...Drawing Near?

How might an undivided, singularly focused Europe react if Islamic extremists unleashed a terror attack on a scale matching—or surpassing—that of September 11, 2001?

Learn the why behind the headlines.

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London—bullets whiz by, glass shatters and pedestrians scream, ducking for cover as terrorist commandos fire assault weapons into unsuspecting crowds. Paris—bystanders helplessly watch the world-famous Eiffel Tower crumple into shapeless pieces of metal, engulfed by multiple explosions. Berlin—blood and body parts splatter German streets in a brutal, almost surreal, scene of mayhem triggered by Islamic terrorists seeking to create fear, panic and chaos.

Three cities. Three simultaneous attacks. One possible terror scenario. All carefully orchestrated by religious extremists bent on bringing the West to its knees.

While individual European countries have felt the deadly sting of terrorist attacks specifically targeted against their citizens and governments, Europe as a whole has not been singled out for assaults rivaling America’s infamous “September 11” attack.

At least not yet.

In early October 2010, the United States government warned Europe of a plot involving a series of potential terrorist attacks, based on information obtained from a naturalized German citizen caught in Pakistan. Though lacking details of when and how, the threat was deemed credible enough to put the United Kingdom, France and Germany on high alert.

This begs the questions: How might Europe react—as an undivided, singularly determined government entity moving in one mind, one purpose, marching toward one goal—if Islamic terrorists were to unleash a nightmarish attack on a scale similar to that of September 11, 2001? Would the speed and ease of execution, number of casualties, and subsequent financial and emotional toll of such a dramatic event galvanize the European Union into action, as it did America?

Plot Uncovered

In July 2010, U.S. forces in the tribal regions of Pakistan captured terror suspect Ahmed Sidiqi, a 36-year-old naturalized German citizen who was about to return to Europe.

During interrogations at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, Mr. Sidiqi said he belonged to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a terror organization that has gained several recruits from Germany, and that he and his brother frequented the former al-Quds Mosque in Hamburg, Germany—the same religious center where Mohammed Atta and other terrorist conspirators met for prayer before moving to America to carry out the September 11 attacks. (The mosque had to be shut down because it attracted a growing number of followers who were intrigued by its notorious history.)

The German national claimed to know of several terror attacks planned for Germany, Britain and France—plans that were financed by 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. Mr. Sidiqi told U.S. interrogators that teams of passport-carrying European nationals, who had received terrorism training in Waziristan and Pakistan, had already arrived in Britain and Germany to implement their scheme: commando-style jihadist terrorists would attack “soft targets” (e.g., popular tourist attractions) in Berlin (such as Hotel Adlon near Brandenburg Gate, Central Station, Alexanderplatz television tower), and Paris (the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral). The multicity assault would be styled after the 2008 three-day shooting spree in Mumbai, India, which left 166 people dead.

Credible Information?

While the claims lacked specific details—they could be true, a mixture of facts and falsehoods, or consist of lies of omission—U.S. authorities faced a problem: (1) warn Europe, and be accused of “crying wolf” if the plot turned out to be false—or (2) say nothing, and be blamed for holding back sensitive information that could have saved lives if the plot turned out to be true.

They considered several factors, such as the Central Intelligence Agency having used unmanned drones in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan to kill five insurgents (four Germans and one Briton) who were involved in the plot.

EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove spoke of the rising concern over al-Qaeda-trained Europeans mounting terror attacks in Europe. He said, “They hold passports of member states…they are not known by law enforcement and more difficult to detect” (Reuters).

“We know some Somalis in Denmark and Sweden went to Somalia and went back to Denmark to mount attacks,” he continued. “The French arrested several French who went to Afghanistan” (ibid.).

Another consideration was the onslaught of bomb threats in France, which received nine in September alone; the Eiffel Tower was evacuated and shut down twice in two weeks. (The threats, however, were thought to be from al-Qaeda in North Africa, not Pakistan.)

On October 3, the U.S. State Department warned the French, British and German governments of the terror plot, adding that it may include simultaneous attacks on five airports in Europe. The State Department also issued a travel warning to American citizens traveling to the European continent. In Germany, Ramstein Air Base, headquarters for the United States Air Forces in Europe, heightened security and implemented a curfew, telling service members not to wear their uniforms off base.

Reaction to Warning

Leaving its terror alert level at “severe,” the UK government warned its citizens traveling to France and Germany and tightened security for the British royal family. British Home Secretary Theresa May assured the public, “The first and most important duty of this government is the protection and security of the British people and visitors to the UK” (Telegraph). She urged citizens to report any suspicious activity.

Scotland Yard and MI5 officials are concerned that terrorists might carry out their plan by acquiring assault weapons from criminal elements.

Reacting to Britain, France issued a warning to French citizens traveling to the United Kingdom. At the moment, however, the government is less concerned with Pakistan-backed terror plots than with AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), which seeks to overthrow Algeria’s government. The group allegedly kidnapped five French citizens and two Africans in a Nigerian mining town, killed five soldiers in a truck bombing, and uses the Internet and rhetoric-driven sermons to draw recruits. So far, at least six AQIM terrorist cells have been shut down across Europe.

The Associated Press summed up the terror organization’s background of violence: “Today, AQIM is believed to have about 400 fighters active from Niger to Mali and Mauritania, conducts dozens of bombings or ambushes each month in Algeria, holds hostages and has increasingly bonded with drug traffickers, intelligence officials say.”

Sweden, though not specifically mentioned as a terror target, raised its threat alert to the highest level for the first time.

Elsewhere, Japan’s foreign ministry issued a travel alert for its citizens, urging them to take caution in Europe. “An official at the ministry in Japan said the highly unusual warning was not prompted by any specific intelligence but by the previous British and American alerts” (Telegraph).

Meanwhile, security tightened at European airports, train stations and tourist attractions, though neither France nor Germany raised their national threat levels.

In fact, German authorities played down the terror warnings as “alarmist.” Still, the chairman of Germany’s main police union said that more than 100 dangerous Islamic extremists are in Germany, with about 40 trained in explosives, and some having battle experience in Afghanistan. “This is very dangerous for us,” he added (Reuters).

The nation’s interior ministry urged Europeans to remain realistic about the terror risk and not to go overboard.

German news magazine Der Spiegel said the U.S. news media broadcasting “allegedly concrete warnings is negligent,” and called the substance of the warnings “ridiculous.”

Likewise, left-leaning German newspaper Die Tageszeitung stated, “Terror is the same as fear, which can come without any attacks. We shouldn’t take part in this.”

A center-left German news publication warned, “Terrorism thrives on the spreading of fear, and level-headedness can be a weapon against the scaremongers.”

Die Welt addressed the dilemma U.S. officials faced: “Cry wolf one too many times and you are in the wrong. Don’t cry wolf enough and you are also in the wrong. The same goes for terrorism and terrorist alarms. Terrorism is a fight by a weaker group against a stronger one and one of the terrorists’ intentions is the spread of fear, thereby tearing apart the fabric of everyday life—that is, civilization.”

About two weeks after America’s warning, Saudi Arabia cautioned that France should expect an impending terrorist attack from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—from the radical Islamic group responsible for sending the “Christmas-day bomber,” a young Nigerian man who tried to detonate an explosive while on board a plane from Amsterdam to Detroit on December 25, 2009.

What Islamic Terrorists Want

The United States has long been accused of siding with Israel over Arab and Muslim interests in the Middle East. This (according to politically correct thinking) is reason enough for deadly hostility from radical Islamic believers.

Consider excerpts from a sermon by Muhammad Badi, supreme guide in the Muslim Brotherhood, an extremist organization, as translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

First, the sermon chastises Arab and Muslim regimes for not doing enough: “Moreover, they are disregarding Allah’s commandment to wage jihad for His sake with [their] money and [their] lives, so that Allah’s word will reign supreme and infidels’ word will be inferior…”

Next, it broadens the meaning of “jihad” beyond the commonly accepted definition of “internal, individual, spiritual struggle toward self-improvement”: “They [Muslims] crucially need to understand that the improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life” (emphasis added).

The sermon calls for Muslims to unite by centering their lives on one goal and purpose: “Resistance is the only solution against the Zio-American arrogance and tyranny, and all we need is for the Arab Muslim peoples to stand behind it and support it.”

Then, perhaps “smelling blood in the water” regarding America’s national decline, the sermon continues: “…the factors that will lead to the collapse of the U.S. are much more powerful than those that led to the collapse of the Soviet empire—for a nation that does not champion moral and human values cannot lead humanity…The U.S. is now experiencing the beginning of its end, and is heading towards its demise…”

But what about Europe? Why would Islamic extremists conspire to launch deadly orchestrated terror attacks in at least three EU member nations?

Consider excerpts from an October 2010 article—“Why Do Radical Muslims Want to Kill Europeans?”—by Khaled Abu Toameh:

  • “The Europeans are being targeted for the same reason the Americans are: for being ‘infidels’ and enemies of Islam and for the Western values they present. They are being targeted because of their failure to transform into Islamic countries.”
  • “Al-Qaeda was established with one goal in mind: to defeat all the non-believers, including the US and its Arab, Muslim and Western allies. Bin Laden and his friends want to kill Europeans not because of settlement construction in the West Bank, or the blockade on the Gaza Strip; they want to kill Europeans because Europeans are not Muslims and have different values.”
  • “The only connection between the Muslim terrorists and the Middle East conflict is their dreams of destroying Israel. They want to destroy Israel not because they love the Palestinians, but because they regard Jews as ‘infidels.’ They want to destroy Israel because they believe that all of Palestine is Muslim-owned land that belongs only to Muslims.”

In the mindset of Muslim extremists, Europe is a continent of unbelievers. It’s as simple as that. They believe that those who do not bow to Allah have no rights—except the “right” to not exist! In fact, this can be said of virtually any group of religious extremists, regardless of the deity they worship.

Again, what might Europe do if—or when—it suffers its own “9/11”?

The European Union is currently a collection of 27 member-states, with each country seeking to retain its sovereignty and unique national identity, culture and language. Largely a secular-driven government bureaucracy, it is slowly, but surely, striving to become a considerable counterweight to American, Russian and Chinese interests on the world stage.

Yet, as history has shown, just one traumatic event can change the course of a nation overnight. Just look at the United States.

The day after: Newspapers across the nation marked the day America received a monumental, life-changing wake-up call.

After two hijacked jetliners brought down New York’s twin towers, and another jetliner purposely crashed into the Pentagon, and yet another (perhaps bound for the White House) crashed into a remote Pennsylvania field, America changed. For a few short weeks, people stopped and considered. The public’s general animosity toward police officers, firefighters and other uniformed authority figures changed for the better.

Sadly, this was temporary.

In the post-September 11 age of today, Washington has waged an unprecedented “war on terror,” sending troops to fight in Afghanistan—toppling a totalitarian government in Iraq and exporting democracy and the concept of equal rights and freedoms to a culture that has known only brutal regimes and secret police—expanding the executive powers of the Oval Office far beyond the limits the Founding Fathers originally intended—all in the name of “keeping America safe.”

Why assume that an undivided Europe would not do the same—or even more? Men’s governments have a tendency to justify the means if these achieve the desired ends. This is a tendency as old as ancient Rome itself.

After removing the yoke of successive kings, Rome declared itself a republic. Anyone who even appeared to be positioning himself as the next king met a particularly nasty death. Yet in times of crisis—when the republic seemed to stagger on the brink of destruction—Rome installed certain men into the office of dictator, to swiftly and effectively accomplish what democratic bureaucracy could not. The office was meant to be temporary…but it eventually became permanent.

What happened to the ancient Europeans then appears likely to repeat with modern Europe today. Could a crisis or perhaps a series of crises of unprecedented peril trigger certain key events into sequence?

Following the historical pattern, a single secular leader, receiving the reins of executive power, will unite Europe into a socio-politico-economic-military power, which will dwarf previous superpowers. This “New Europe” will do whatever it takes to protect itself from religious terrorists—or from anyone else it deems a threat to its interests.

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