September 7, 2007 3:28 am

Knowledge of ‘home-grown’ terror increases

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The foiled alleged bomb plot exposed in Germany this week was new evidence of the worrying evolution of the Islamist terrorist threat, according to senior security experts and politicians.

Comments by Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, immediately after the three arrests – that the terrorist “danger is not just abstract, but real” – were echoed by others on Thursday.

Richard Boucher, US assistant secretary of state for south and central Asia, said on a visit to Berlin: “The plots are out there and we have to deal with that. They’ve hit the World Trade Center [in New York on September 11 2001], London and Madrid and now this plot has been uncovered in Germany.”

European intelligence officials said the German case did not necessarily increase the risk of further international terror attacks because the threat level was already high – pointing to Islamist propaganda on the internet and elsewhere regarding US and other foreign troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They added that the evidence from Germany underlined the need to cut links between Islamist terror cells in Europe and terror training camps in Pakistan, via, for instance, legal measures and increased pressure on the Pakistani government.

Perhaps most important, the evidence from Germany would add to a growing body of knowledge in the international security community on the rapid spread of “home-grown” Islamist terrorism in Europe and elsewhere. Two of the three alleged plotters this week were German nationals.

A report released in August by the New York Police Department, for instance, focused on what Raymond Kelly, the city’s police commissioner, called the “emerging threat” of terrorism conceptualised and planned by local citizens.

It studied 11 attacks or plots in Europe, Canada, Australia and the US. “The majority of these individuals had ‘unremarkable’ jobs, ‘unremarkable’ lives and little, if any, criminal history,” Mr Kelly said in an introduction to the report.

The report identified four phases of radicalisation: pre-radicalisation, the “unremarkable” phase of life before exposure to jihadi ideology; self-identification, where individuals gravitate to other like-minded individuals, the triggers for which could include losing a job or a death in the family; indoctrination, where an individual intensifies his belief, often with others in a group; and jihadisation, the last phase, in which group members finally identify themselves as “holy warriors”.

In each of the 11 cases, there was a “spiritual sanctioner”, providing the essential justification for the suicide bomber, and an “operational leader”, charged with organisation and keeping the group focused.

The German case this week shows some evidence of fitting with the phases of radicalisation listed in the report. The two Germans became radical Islamists after converting to Islam in their late teens.

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