May 15, 2016

Terrorism Blow Back in Europe

Yohannan Chemarapally

THE coordinated terror attacks in Brussels, the capital of Belgium is yet another sign that committed jihadists holding European citizenship can strike almost at will on the continent. The headquarters of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic treaty Organisation (NATO) are located in Brussels. In the attacks on the busy Zavantem international airport terminal and the Maelbeek Metro station located in the city center on March 22, more than 31 people were killed and 300 wounded. Since the beginning of the so called “War on Terror” started by the West 15 years ago, terror attack in Europe and around the world have dramatically escalated. In Europe, almost all the high profile attacks that have taken place in the last four years, were carried out by European nationals returning from the battlefield in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The attacks have dramatically increased since the goal of regime change in Syria started fading. Many of the European jihadists were tacitly encouraged by the European governments to fight in Syria. Most of the fighters, including the ones involved in the Paris and Brussels terror attacks had criminal records and should have been under routine police surveillance. Instead they were allowed to make multiple trips to rebel held areas in Syria and Iraq. In the case of the latest terror attacks in Brussels, it now seems like a foretold one. It has now come to light that the Belgian authorities were forewarned about the inevitability of the attack. Turkish and Israeli intelligence agencies had given precise information about the individuals who were involved in the attacks and the probable targets. “The Belgian security services, as well as other western intelligence agencies had advance and precise intelligence warnings regarding the terrorist attacks in Brussels. The security services knew with a high degree of certainty that attacks were planned in the very near future for the airport and apparently for the subway as well”, the Israeli newspaper, Ha'retz reported after the attacks happened. The Turkish president, Recep Erdogan, has said that one of the attackers of the airport, Ibrahim el-Bakroui was twice deported from Turkey to the Netherlands after he was caught trying to sneak into Syria. His brother, Khalid, was also involved in the suicide terror attacks in Brussels. Ibrahim blew himself up at the airport while Khaled was one of those responsible for the attack on the metro station in Brussels. In the recent incidents of terror attacks on the European continent and other parts of the world, siblings seem to be acting in tandem. In the Boston marathon bombing two years ago, the Tsarnaev brothers influenced by the Daesh ideology carried out the attacks. It is only recently that the Turkish government has clamped down on fighters from western countries going to Syria and Iraq to wage jihad. The Russian president Vladimir Putin had accused Ankara of being “accomplices of terrorists” after a Russian plane was shot down last year by the Turkish air force. Ibrahim's brother Khaled el-Bakroui was involved in the attack on the Maelbeek Metro station. There was an international arrest warrant against Bakraoui as he was alleged to be intimately involved in the terror attacks in Paris in November last year. The Belgian interior minister, Jan Jambon and the justice minister, Koen Greens, have admitted to the lapses and offered their resignations. The Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel has rejected the offer. Erdogan also said that the Turkish authorities had tipped off the Belgians on another individual involved in the terror attacks in Brussels. He said that one of the perpetrators of the attack was detained in June 2015 and deported to Belgium. “We informed the Belgian embassy in Brussels of the deportation process of the attacker”, Erdogan said. “However the Belgians released the attacker despite his deportation”. Turkish officials have now gone a step further and accused European agencies of trying to export their Islamist extremist problem to Syria. Turkish officials told British Guardian newspaper that European citizens who were on the Interpol “wanted” list used to land in Turkey with suitcases full of weapons. Belgium, despite being a small country, has been the source of the most number of fighters for radical jihadist groups like the Daesh (IS) and the Jabhat al Nusra. Western intelligence agencies had initially connived in the recruitment of the fighters for the forces that they were supporting in Syria. Belgium and France with a large pool of unemployed young Muslim men was an ideal recruiting ground. Even a passport was not needed to fly into Turkey for the citizens of these countries. Just the national ID card sufficed. The movement into Syria was facilitated by the intelligence operatives of various western countries, Turkey and Gulf monarchies. There are an estimated 8000 -10,000 fighters from France and Belgium in the Syrian battlefield. There are reports that many of those involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks had in fact gone to Syria even before the Daesh announced the creation of an “Islamic Caliphate”. One of the Brussels bombers, Najum Laachraoui had gone to Syria in 2013, before the Daesh had captured the city of Raqqa. It is only after the Daesh gained territory and started masquerading as a state, that the West started militarily targeting the group, albeit selectively. More than a thousand fighters, among them the bombers in Paris and Brussels have come back to carry on the fight against their own governments. Groups like the Daesh and the al Nusra are extremely angry with western governments for not ordering direct military action against the government in Damascus in the initial years of the war and instead turning their weapons against them. As the Paris and Brussels attacks show, the Daesh now has a large clandestine base of support. The draconian emergency laws that have been imposed in France and Belgium since the Paris attacks have not been able to deter the jihadi groups intent on causing mayhem. French and Belgian investigators have concluded that the Paris attack was planned in Brussels. At least three or four people involved in the Brussels attack also apparently played a role in the Paris attack. One of the suspects, whose face is shown on the Brussels airport video footage is still unaccounted for and is said to be on the run. The terror attack in Brussels was no doubt precipitated by the capture of Salah Abdesalam by the Belgian counter-terrorism force in the third week of March. He was wanted for his pivotal role in the November 13 terror attacks in Paris. He had been on the run since, successfully evading the security dragnet in France and Belgium despite being Europe's most wanted man. The sophisticated underground jihadi network in western Europe coupled with the sheer incompetence of the counter-terrorism outfits in France and Belgium, allowed Abdesalam to lie low and probably plan more terror attacks. Abdesalam first came on the police radar when the Turkish authorities arrested him in January, 2015, while attempting to cross into Syria. The Turkish authorities had notified their counterparts in Belgium. Like Abdesalam, many of those involved in the Paris and Brussels terror attacks were second generation Belgian citizens. Nadim Laachraoui, one of the terrorist involved in the Brussels airport attack is said to be the man who assembled suicide vests for the Paris attacks. In France and Belgium, the poor immigrants and their descendants, mainly from former Francophone colonies like Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, have become marginalised citizens. Many of the youth, like Abdesalam started their careers as petty criminals who became radicalised either in prison or through the social media. Despite his past record, Abdesalam was allowed to travel freely all over Europe where he met with other jihadis, some of whom had come along with the wave of refugees that flooded Greece and Central Europe last year. According to reports in the Belgian media, Abdeslam's radicalisation along with that of his brother was known to the Belgian authorities as early as 2014. Abdesalam's brother died in the suicide bombing in Paris. Abdesalam's capture and interrogation could have set alarm bell ringing among his close circle of conspirators. As el Bakraoiu in a confessional note found near the site of one of the targets of the recent attack in Brussels, said that he “was acting in a hurry” as he “did not know what to do” pursued as he was by a host of security agencies after the capture of Abdesalam. European states are using their botched response to the terrorist threat as an excuse to further tighten the draconian surveillance laws that are already on the books in many leading western states. France has been under emergency rule since the Paris attacks. The German interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere said that after the Brussels carnage, privacy and data protection rights should be put on the back burner. The Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi has called for the setting up of “a unitary European security structure” that would coordinate with the police and security agencies of all the EU countries. The reaction in the United States, now in the throes of residential primaries, dominated by hate mongers, was over the top. Ted Cruz, who is running behind the front runner, Donald Trump, has advocated the patrolling and securing of Muslim neighbourhoods by law enforcement authorities. Trump called for the: closing up of the America's borders and the reintroduction of “water boarding” and other forms of torture. Hillary Clinton called on Silicon valley to provide the expertise for “an intelligence surge” to help monitor online activity. The victims of terror attack around the world meanwhile have not got the kind of sympathy and understanding those in Brussels and Paris have elicited from the western media and governments. In the month of March itself, from Nigeria to Iraq, hundreds of innocents have fallen victim to terror attacks. In Yemen, hospitals and markets have been bombed by Saudi Arabian air force. In the latest attacks in the third week of March, more than 120 people, many of them children were killed when a Saudi plane bombed a market in the north of the country. The planes and weapons for the Saudis are supplied by the US. The Boko Haram in Nigeria is continuing with its killing spree. In the second week of March, a suicide bomber struck at a mosque in Maiduguri in the northeast of the country killing 22 people. In Nigeria, women are being increasingly used as suicide bombers. Turkey has been hit by two suicide bombings in the month of March. And in Iraq, hundreds have been killed in terror attacks in March alone. In the latest attack on March 25, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb at a crowded soccer match. 31 people were killed and more than 80 wounded. But for the western governments and the media, Asian and African lives apparently don't matter all that much.