The Al-Qaeda Threat From Africa

Out of Africa: illegal immigrants, crime, terrorism, aids and polygamy


May 18, 2010 - San Francisco, CA - - Each year, more than 240,000 illegal African immigrants are entering Europe. Behind these huge operations of migrant trafficking are powerful criminal African and North African organizations which bribe the police, customs officials and other local officials as well as (African) government ministers. Each illegal immigant has to pay up to 3000 euros to the trafficking organizations. These mafia organizations receive some 300 million dollars (237 million euros) annually for their clandestine services (bribing of officials, document forgery, etc.), according to a United Nations report. Many of these organizations are run by Nigerians, the report says.[1]

Nigeria and Somalia are significant source countries of criminals and terrorists who operate on an international scale. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerian and Somali immigrants have entered Europe and North America in recent years, posing great strains on Western societies. Western intelligence and security services are monitoring radicalized African Muslim males who enthousiastically endorse jihadist ideologies linked to Al-Qaeda. An increasing number of them even wants to join the jihad against the West and die as a suicide bomber or so-called “martyr.”

The origins of Al-Qaeda lie both in Afghanistan/Pakistan and Africa. After taking part in the jihad against the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan and founding Al-Qaeda in 1988, Osama bin Laden set up base in Sudan (1992). Four years later, though, he returned to Afghanistan establishing more training camps and expanding Al-Qaeda into a truly global terror network, in close cooperation with his Egyptian friend Ayman Al-Zawahiri. The first time I heard about bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri was in 1996.

In Sudan bin Laden established a terrorist training camp (referred to as “a farm”) and funded terrorist groups in the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Malaysia and the Phillipines. He also established a media organization and a printing house in London, the beginning of his manifold activities in Britain and other European countries.[2] “The Times” (London) reported in September 2005 that bin Laden even tried to move to Britain having transferred some of his considerable personal fortune to London for his followers to establish terror cells in London and accross Europe.[3]

Al-Qaeda’s involvement in Somalia

Bin Laden really loves countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sudan, but the lawless country of Somalia is also very dear to the Al-Qaeda leader’s heart. In an interview with the daily newspaper “Pakistan” bin Laden boasted of being in Somalia during the United Nations mission to feed Somalis left starving by feuding warlords.[4] Bin Laden sided with Somali warlord general Farah Aideed, who in his view was battling “neo-colonialist forces” trying to establish their authority over Somali Muslims. In June 2006, a pro-Al-Qaeda militia, the “Islamic Courts Union” (ICJ) chased the warlords out of the capital of Mogadishu and established a Taliban like regime. Music and movies were banned, sharia law was enforced by sharia courts. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, one of the more radical leaders of the Islamic Courts Union, was an admirer of bin Laden. He also justified Al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center.{C}[5] Various leaders of his militia were trained in Afghanistan and assisted Al-Qaeda terrorists who attacked a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002.

From his hideout in the tribal areas of Pakistan bin Laden heaped praise on the new Somali leaders urging Somalis to support them. “You have no other means for salvation unless you commit to Islam, put your hands in the hands of the Islamic Courts to build an Islamic state in Somalia,” he said. He lashed out at the president of Somalia’s secular but powerless interim government, Abdullah Yusuf Ahmed, calling him a “traitor” and a “renegade.” He told other countries not to get involved in the conflict. If that were to happen “we will fight your soldiers on the land of Somalia and we will fight you on your own land if you dispatch troops to Somalia.”[6]

On August 23, 2006, the new rulers opened a training camp in Hilweyne, north of Mogadishu, for 600 members of Islamic militias. The instructors came from Eritrea, Afghanistan and Pakistan.{C}[7] These Pakistani and Afghan instructors and ideologues, no doubt, intended to transform this terrorist facility into a real Al-Qaeda camp.

Somalia is Al-Qaeda’s new operational base in Africa. In December 2008, Abdullah Yusuf resigned as president of Somalia. His successor, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, was a former “commander in chief” of the Islamic Courts Union. The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) formed an alliance with the Islamic Courts Union. Meanwhile, a new and much more radical Islamist movement called “Harakat Al-Shabaab Mujahideen” (“Movement of Warrior Youth”), an offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union, had started a successful guerrilla war against the Somali leadership. Al-Shabaab is now one of Al-Qaeda’s most powerful instruments in Africa. Al-Shabaab began releasing videos portraying Somalia’s struggle as part of a global movement to defend Islam and restore its rule. Foreign recruits were promised “victory or martyrdom” for enlisting.

Several Somalis in America returned to join jihad with Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab, the “New York Times” reported in July 2009.[8] At least one of them even carried out a spectacular suicide attack.

The Netherlands Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) informed the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) in January 2009 that five young American Somali males posed a threat to national security. After their jihadist training in a Somali training camp, they planned to return to the US via the Netherlands.{C}[9]{C} Since early 2009, the Dutch Security Service is inceasingly focussing on Africa where “many countries are vulnerable to the terrorist threat and violent coups as well as to the threat posed by criminals who operate on an international scale (drugs) and corruption.”{C}[10]

The problem of Somali asylum seekers

In November 2009, an American Somali named Mohamud Said Omar was arrested in the Dutch asylum seekers center of Dronten. The AIVD was instrumental in his arrest as Omar was also deemed a serious security risk. U.S. authorities suspect Omar of bankrolling the purchase of weapons for Islamic extemists and helping Somalis to travel to Somalia in 2007 and 2009. The affidavit states that six American Somalis traveled to Somalia in December 2007. Omar gave travel money to some of them. In January 2008 Omar traveled to Somalia himself and stayed at an Al-Shabaab safehouse for several days and provided money to purchase AK-47 assault rifles, the affidavit says. In August Omar accompanied two men bound for Somalia to the airport and that November hosted a gathering that included several young men who left for Somalia to join Al-Shabaab{C}[11]{C} Omar has a U.S. green card and is believed to have been involved in recruiting youths in Minneapolis – a city with a very large Somali immigrant community. At least 20 young Somali Muslim immigrants left the Minneapolis area between December 2007 and December 2009 with a view to joining the violent jihad. The FBI claims Omar was one of the three Al-Shabaab recruiters active in Minneapolis. Although two terrorists suspects implicated him, Omar denies all these allegations.{C}[12]

The case of Omar shows that asylum seekers from countries like Somalia may pose a serious security risk – apart from the wide cultural gap that exists between Somali and Western culture (Female Genital Mutilation, oppression of women, polygamy, etc.) The number of refugees and asylum seekers from backward Muslim countries such as Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan has risen dramatically in recent years. Immigration fraud is very common. The U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have uncovered massive immigration fraud by Somalis. The State Department has admitted that 80 percent of Somali family reunification cases involve fraud.[13]

Massive fraud also exists in the Netherlands where more than 60 percent of all refugees and asylum seekers are from Muslim countries: Somalia 32 percent, Iraq 21 percent and Afghanistan 9 percent. When the government tries to stem the flow of immigration, Somalis and the powerful immigration lobby hire expensive lawyers and go to the courts or even to the “European Court of Human Rights” which usually rule in their favor. This occurred, for example, in July 2007, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of Shalah Sheekh, a Somali asylum seeker in Holland. When the Dutch government tried to tackle the problem of massive benefit fraud in the Somali community, a court in the city of Haarlem lamely ruled that “singling out Somalis for benefit fraud investigations amounted to discrimination.”[14] The Dutch Council of State (“Raad van State”) ruled in January 2010 that Somali asylum seekers are entitled to “categorical (or group) protection,” thus nullifying previous measures by the Dutch government to curb the massive influx of Somali asylum seekers and the many abuses connected with it.[15]

The Dutch newspaper “NRC Handelsblad” reported in 2009 that “asylum seekers are supposed to apply for asylum in the country of first arrival, but some people prefer to travel to another European country if they think they have a better chance of being accepted there, or after having been turned down in the first country.” Somalis have recently taken to filing off their finger tips to escape registration.[16] Aslyum fraud and lying are so common that the government is simply unable to tackle this problem.

All this, of course, is a financial strain in a time when financial resources are really scarce. Each asylum application costs the Dutch government more than 7000 euros and this does not include the huge costs of housing, legal appeals, etc.[17]

The same applies to widespread abuses concerning “the right of family reunification.” A court in the southern Dutch city of Roermond lamely ruled that it is illegal to restrict the number of “import brides” or “import bridegrooms.” Such Dutch government measures are against the “right to family reunification,” the court said.[18] Import brides are usually poor and ill-educated and originate from backward societies. To integrate these tens of thousands of new immigrants into Dutch society puts an additional financial strain on ever so scarce financial resources. (This is also a very serious problem in Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy and Britain, by the way.)

In Britain, young Somalis who claim to be “refugees” applied for asylum claiming it was too dangerous for them to return to their home country. Yet, once their asylum claim had been accepted, a lot of them did indeed make a return trip to Somalia. Many Somali women accompanied their young daughter whom they wanted to be “circumsized” in their home country. Somali men traveled to Somalia to join the jihad. “Somali immigrants with jihad training pose terrorist risk,” the London “Times” reported in May 2009. “For Britain, the evidence of spreading Al-Qaeda training camps is particularly alarming because of the large Somali community in the UK.”[19] A Somali immigrant living in Ealing returned to Somalia and subsequently blew himself up in a suicide attack that killed more than 20 soldiers.

By far most Somalis in Britain entered the country as asylum seekers within the past 20 years, “The Times” reported. “They include Yasin Omar and Ramzi Mohammed, two of the four men convicted of the botched bombing of the London Underground on July 21, 2005.”[20]

While enjoying welfare payments, many young Somali youths in Britain are involved in knife crime and gang violence. Quite a lot of them admire Osama bin Laden. They now feel they are entitled to join groups like Al-Shabaab. This trend is one of the greatest concerns of the British Security Service MI5 which reported in September 2009 that Somalia now serves as a haven and training ground for extremist Muslims from Western countries. The number of young Britons traveling to Somalia to join the jihad or train in terror training camps has even quadupled to at least 100 since 2004. A Somali religious leader in Kentish Town, north London, said in September 2009 that he had heard from families of sons traveling to Somalia. “I’m hearing it from parents,” he said. “They say they (their children) are joining the jihad. This is a big problem facing our community.”[21]

Just like Britain tolerant Scandinavian countries welcomed many Muslim militants who entered these countries in large numbers in the 1980s and 1990s as so-called refugees or asylum seekers. Most of them came from Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa. One of them was Mullah Krekar, a terrorist from North Iraq who successfully applied for asylum in Norway. He later returned to Iraq to head the Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group “Ansar Al-Islam.” “Suicide is the biggest jihad for Islam,” Krekar told a British TV reporter in 2003. He also praised Osama bin Laden on more than one occasion.[22]

Another example is Mohammed, a Somali immigrant in Sweden who left the peaceful city of Göteborg in 2007 to join the jihadist terrorists in Somalia. He was killed in a U.S. bombing raid.[23] Mohammed was a member of the so-called Göteborg Group. “These individuals are part of a steady trickle of volunteers traveling from Scandinavia to fight in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia,” Michael Johnson and Christopher Berglund write in “Jane’s Intelligence Review.”[24]

In Denmark, a Somali immigrant named Muhudin M. Geele tried to kill Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard who created the cartoon of the Muslim prophet Mohammed wearing a bomb in his turban. “We will get our revenge! Blood!”, Geele, who has a Danish residence permit, shouted. Police shot him in the hand and knee and subsequently arrested him. The Danish security service found out that Geele stayed in close touch with Al-Shabaab militants in Sweden, Denmark and Somalia. In Göteborg, Sweden, he was known as a Muslim hate preacher propagating jihad. He also knew Abdi Rahman Mohammed, a Somali immigrant in Sweden who returned to Somalia and killed three Somali ministers in a spectacular suicide attack in Mogadishu (early December 2010).[25]

Militant Muslims joining the jihad in Somalia is also a growing security concern in Holland. In July 2009, four young Dutch Muslims were arrested in Kenya. Two of them were Dutch Somalis, the other two were Dutch Moroccans. The Dutch Security and Intelligence Service reported that the four men expressed an intention to join the violent jihad in Somalia.[26] One of them had previously attempted to join the Islamic jihad in Chechnya.

Australia is another country where Muslim militants pose a serious security threat. On August 4, 2009, Australian police arrested four Muslim extremists – two Australian Somalis and two Australian Lebanese. They planned a suicide attack on Holsworthy Barracks, an army training area near Sydney. (Australian troops are deployed in Afghanistan.) A fifth man was charged in the following days. The prosecution claims that they had been trained by Al-Shabaab. A prominent U.S. Somali leader was quoted in the Australian “The Daily Telegraph.” He said “extremist elements had been dispatching Al-Shabaab members from Minneapolis on regular fundraising and lecturing trips to Australia.” “Australian Al-Shabaab members were among the most prominent in the group.” Police concluded from intercepted phone calls and text messages that the attack was imminent.”

One of the terror suspects, Nayef El Sayed (Lebanese), refused to stand when asked by magistrate Peter Reardon. He would stand for no man – only for Allah. Another terror suspect Saney Edow Aweys (Somali) said he hated Australia and thanked Allah for Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires that killed 117 people. “Thanks be to Allah, we say. Allah bring them fitna (trouble), Allah bring them calamity.[27]

In March 2010, Kenyan immigration officials arrested Hussein Hashi Farah, an Australian citizen of Somali descent who was on an international terrorism watchlist. However, he escaped from police custody hours after he had been arrested and his wherabouts are now unknown. Kenyan and Australian police believe Mr. Farah is an Al-Shabaab operative who was involved in planning a terrorist attack on the Holsworthy Barracks in Australia.[28]

Al-Qaeda’s involvement in Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar

With 1.2 million Somali immigrants and hundreds of thousands of restive Somali refugees, many Kenyans now fear that the bloody conflict in neighboring Somalia could spill over to their country. Kenya shares a 420-mile porous border with Somalia. In the past Islamic radicals crossed the border undetected. About 11 percent of the Kenyan population is Muslim, most of them are moderates, but there are Islamic courts (or Kadhi’s courts) and these are recognized by the government. Abdulkarim Jimale, a Somali journalist in Eastleigh, Kenya, told Dutch “NRC Handelsblad” correspondent Kurt Lindijer in January 2010 “that wounded Al-Shabaab fighters travel to Kenya to be treated in Kenyan hospitals. They recruit Somali youths in northeast Kenya and Al-Shabaab seeks to pursuade preachers to disseminate their (Al-Shabaab’s) radical message in mosques.”[29]

Kenya expelled radical Jamaican cleric Abdullah Al-Faisal in January 2010. Al-Faisal had tried to recruit Kenyan citizens for Al-Shabaab as he was preaching in mosques in Mombasa. He was first detained and his detention led to demonstrations by Somali youths in Nairobi who were waving Al-Shabaab banners and were firing at the police. Shortly after Al-Faisal’s expulsion by the Kenyan authorities, Al-Shabaab issued a statement declaring war on that country.{C}[30]

Al-Qaeda has always shown a preference for East African countries and was successful in recruiting a number of local muslims. Al-Qaeda began establishing cells in East Africa during the early and mid-1990s.[31] There were Al-Qaeda cells in Nairobi, the coastal city of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. These cells were responsible for the suicide attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August 1998. After the bombings it was found out that some Kenyan Muslims had visited Al-Qaeda training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.{C}[32]{C} One of the Kenyans who played an important role in the Nairobi bombings was Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, born in Mombasa. A few days before the bombings he left for Pakistan and he was on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorists” list. (He was killed in Pakistan on January 1, 2010, in an American drone missile strike.) Swedan visited Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, in June 2001, when Liberia’s dictator Charles Taylor was selling diamonds to Al-Qaeda.{C}[33] He is a high level Al-Qaeda operative.

Another Nairobi plotter on the FBI list is Abu Anas-Al-Lib(b)y, a Libyan who once claimed asylum in Britain and lived in Manchester before 2000. Another Al-Qaeda conspirator in the embassy bombings is Mohammed Sadiq Odeh, a Palestinian born in Saudi Arabia who joined the jihadists in Afghanistan. He arrived in Kenya in 1994 and worked as a fisherman in Mombasa marrying a Kenyan woman and having children. He was known as “Mohammed the Fisherman” – indeed, a perfect cover for a terrorist. More than 200 people died, more than 5000 were wounded in the twin blasts – most of the victims were Kenyan and Tanzanian nationals.

The Tanzanian Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, born in Zanzibar, played a key role in the Dar es Salaam bombings. Arrested in Pakistan on July 25, 2004, “Ahmed the Tanzanian” was a high-level Al-Qaeda operative. Originally a moderate Tabligh Muslim preacher he quickly radicalized during a visit to Pakistan. He joined Al-Qaeda and was trained in bomb making and the use of explosives, probably in an Afghan Al-Qaeda camp. In Pakistan or Afghanistan he married an Uzbeki woman. In 1998 Ghailani was sent by bin Laden’s deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri to Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. He purchased a truck and obtained the necessary bomb components. Six days before the bombings Ghailani checked into Nairobi’s Hilltop Hilton used for meetings by the bombers. On August 6, 1998 – one day before the bombings – he left for Karachi, Pakistan and from there he traveled to Afghanistan. In March 1999 Ghailani and Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, another East Africa bomber, traveled to Liberia. They were assigned high-level tasks, probably by Osama bin Laden himself.

Their mission was to buy diamonds from Liberia’s president Charles Taylor, one of Africa’s most brutal dictators. They handed Taylor a leather pouch containing US $ 500,000 in cash, the standard amount for doing diamond deals in Liberia, writes Douglas Farah in his book “Blood for Diamonds.” Enjoying the protection of Taylor, the two Al-Qaeda operatives stayed in Liberia in 2000 and 2001 and also made a tour to the daimond fields in Sierra Leone. They left in June 2001, a few months before the 9/11 attacks in America.{C}[34] There are rumors that the two Al-Qaeda operatives could not quite resist the temptation of alcohol and women.

The planning for the Embassy bombings started in 1993 when bin Laden was still in Sudan. At the end of 1993, an Al-Qaeda surveillance team was sent to Nairobi, writes Johathan Randal in his book “Osama. The Making of a Terrorist” (2004). These men thoroughly cased the U.S. embassy. “Photographs were later shown to Osama bin Laden in Khartoum. Bin Laden looked at the picture of the American embassy and pointed to where a truck could go as a suicide bomber. Less than five years later an Al-Qaeda team did just that.”[35] The surveillance team consisted of Abu Mohammed Al-Amriki (Ali Mohammed) and Anas Al-Lib(b)y who carried a camera on Moi Avenue.{C}[36]{C} The August 1998 attacks had been planned by Mohammed Atef, a former Egyptian police officer who assumed military command of Al-Qaeda in May 1996, says former CIA officer Gary Berntsen in his book “Jawbreaker.” ‘He had traveled to Somalia in 1992 and 1993 to train clans opposing U.S. forces.’{C}[37]

Al Qaida continued to operate in Kenya and Tanzania after 1998. At the end of November 2002, the Paradise Hotel near Mombasa, a resort owned by an Israeli and popular with Israeli tourists, was car bombed. Sixteen people died, including three Israelis and the three car bombers. Almost simultaneously SA-7 missiles were launched shortly after an Israeli charter plane had taken off from Mombasa airport. They missed. SA-7 surface-to-air shoulder launched missiles are popular with Al-Qaeda and Somali militias. The missiles were problably smuggled accross the Somali-Kenyan border. Behind the attacks was the Somali-based group “Al-Itihaad Al-Islamiya,” which was linked to Al-Qaeda. They received money from Osama bin Laden and many of its members were trained in Afghanistan.[38] It did not take long for Al-Qaeda to claim responsibility for the Mombasa attacks: “The brothers gave them a gift for Ramadan in Mombasa, and the gift for the holiday (‘Id Al-Fitr,’ at the end of Ramadan) is on its way.”[39] (The latter is a reference to a future attack but nothing happened.)

In his article on “Al Qaida Recruitment Trends in Kenya and Tanzania,” William Rosenau (Rand Corporation) discusses the possibility “that Nairobi- and Mombasa based remnants were responsible for the November 2002 attacks on Israeli tourists.” “Fazul Abdallah Mohamed, the Comoros-born mastermind of the embassy bombings, is widely considered responsible for the Mombasa attacks. Like his fellow Mombasa and Nairobi co-conspirator, Ahmed Salim Swedan, Fazul was a product of Al Qaeda training in Afghanistan.” Fazul lived quietly in the coastal town of Lamu near the Somali border, married a local woman, taught at a madrassa.

The planning for the November 2002 attacks, though, was protracted and meticulous: “Fazul assembled a team along the coast, and established a small-scale lobster fishing business to provide cover for the group’s activities. A year before the attacks, some members of the group gathered in Mogadishu, Somalia, where they received ideological and weapons training, with locally purchased weapons. Later, a number of terrorists returned to the Mombasa region, where they were joined by other elements from the network, and by the following April, the group had identified its targets and was conducting surveillance. Before the attacks, the group divided into four subgroups, with one staying in Mogadishu, a second carrying out the suicide bombing of the hotel near Mombasa, a third in Lamu preparing a boat for escape to Somalia, and a fourth, under Fazul’s command, carrying out the failed missile attack on the airliner. The surviving members of the organization fled to Lamu and on to Mogadishu, although a number later returned to Kenya. In August 2003, a suspect in the attacks, Feisal Ali Nassor, killed himself and a police officer when he detonated a grenade as he was being taken into custody. A subsequent raid on a Mombasa house yielded a weapons cache and ammunition, and confirmed to authorities that terrorist cells were still active in Kenya.”[40]

Terrorists and Muslim extremists are also active in Tanzania and Zanzibar. In Tanzania about 45 percent of the population are Muslims. Most of them are moderate and peaceful, but there are worries about outside fundamentalist Wahhabist influences from Sudan and Saudi Arabia. Saudi, Sudanese and Gulf charities and businesses are active in Tanzania which may serve as a cover for terrorist operations and financing. There are also indications that Al-Qaeda and other extremists (“Pakistani missionaries” and the like) are stepping up their recruitment efforts in Tanzania and Zanzibar. There have been violent incidents including armed takeovers of moderate mosques in Dar es Salaam. According to “Time Magazine” (September 2003) fundamentalists have taken over 30 of the 487 mosques in the capital and have begun bombing bars and beating up women who go out without being fully covered.{C}[41] Mosques are packed on Fridays and the sermons are increasingly hostile to the West and supportive of the holy war in Iraq and Palestine. “We get our funds from Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” says Mohammed Madi, a fundamentalist activist. “Officially the money is used to buy medicine, but in reality the money is given to us to support our work and buy guns.”

At least three Al-Qaeda operatives have been identified as originating from Zanzibar: Khalfan Khamis Muhammed, one of those convicted in connection with the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings, Qaed Sanyan Al-Harithi, a suspected East African point man for bin Laden who was killed in Yemen last year by a CIA drone, and Ahmed Khalfan Ghalaini.[42] Disillusionment with democracy and corruption in Zanzibar and Tanzania has led to more converts to Islam in recent years. Saudi Arabia financed clerics present Islam as a morally and politically superior model.

Quite worrying is the fact that since 2004 a growing number of African jihadists have traveled to Iraq. Close to a quarter of foreign fighters in Iraq come from Northern Africa. General Thomas Csrnko, head of the U.S. special operations command in Europe (EUCOM), whose security oversight includes North and West Africa, says: “Many veterans could return to Northern Africa to use insurgent tactics developed in Iraq, from bomb-making to strategic planning, against their governments.”[43] Al-Qaeda in Iraq issued a statement on its website congratulating the “Mujahedeen who are fighting the converters in Mauritania.” (This – the converters – refers to a U.S special forces training program in Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Senegal, Morocco, Niger, Tunisia and Algeria.)

The case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi

Immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are targeted by Al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks. These young men visit mosques in France, Italy, Germany or Britain, visit internet-cafés and some of them become radicalized. Not always are they marginalized. Take Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a young man from Mauritania who went to Germany to study Electronics at Duisburg University.{C}[44] When he arrived in Germany, he was not radical at all. But this changed after he began to surf the net and met friends who visited the radical “Al-Taqwa” mosque, a favorate place for terrorist recruiters. There were some interesting websites on the war in Chechnya, there was a website linked to Al-Qaeda, and there was a nice offer for a free trip to Afghanistan. It did not take long for the young and promising African student to be recruited by Al-Qaeda. He finished his studies and set up company in Duisburg. This company served as a cover for Al-Qaeda’s financial transactions. He married a Mauritanian woman named Sina Bint Seif Al-Din, the sister of Khalid Al-Shantiqi alias Abu Hafs the Mauritanian. This man happened to be a friend of Osama bin Laden’s. Abu Hafs the Mauritanian was directly involved in the attacks on the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. In 1999, Osama bin Laden personally asked Ould Slahi to go to Canada. There, he was to meet an Al-Qaeda operative named Ahmed Ressam. Ould Slahi had to pass on money and instructions to Ressam in view of a planned ‘Millennium’ terrorist attack in the United States. But US customs found the explosives in Ressam’s car and he was arrested.

In Germany, Ould Slahi befriended a native German citizen named Christian Ganczarski who also traveled to Afghanistan where he met Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden needed Ganczarski because of his German passport. He became an Al-Qaeda courier. In 2002, Ganczarski would play an important role in the Al-Qaeda suicide attack on the synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba. He gave the suicide bomber his blessing.

Ould Slahi was instrumental in recruiting the Hamburg based future 9/11 hijackers. Initially, Mohammed Atta, Ramzi Binalshibh, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah wanted to fight the Russians in Chechnyia. But in late 1999 Binalshibh and Al-Shehhi met an individual named Khalid Al-Masri on a train. They talked about jihad in Chechnya. Al-Masri told them to contact “Abu Musab” in Duisburg, who turned out to be Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Binalshibh, Al-Shehhi and Jarrah visited Ould Slahi who explained it was difficult to get to Chechnya. Why not go to Afghanistan instead? Although Atta did not attend the meeting, he joined in the plan with the other three. Following Ould Slahi’s instructions, Atta, Jarrah, Al-Shehhi and Binalshibh first traveled to Karachi, Pakistan, then went to the Taliban office in Quetta from where they were escorted to Kandahar, Afghanistan. There they met Osama bin Laden and his close associate Mohammed Atef (Abu Hafs Al-Masri) who were impressed by the promising new recruits from Germany. The “9/11 Commision Report” finds: “The new recruits from Germany possessed an ideal combination of technical skill and knowledge that the original 9/11 operatives, veteran fighters though they were, lacked. Bin Laden and Atef wasted no time in assigning the Hamburg group to the most ambitious operation yet planned by Al-Qaeda.”[45] Eventually, Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni, could not get a visa for the United States, and he had to be replaced by Hani Hanjour from Saudi Arabia – the fourth 9/11 suicide pilot.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi was captured in his home country of Mauritania in November 2001 and subsequently transferred to Jordan. He arrived in the extrajudicial detention center at the United States Naval Base Guantanamo Bay (‘Gitmo’), Cuba, in August 2002. However, in March 2010, Judge James Robertson of the U.S. District Court of Columbia granted Mr. Slahi’s petition for “habeas corpus” (a legal safeguard against arbitrary state action). The federal judge argued that the government lacked legal grounds to hold Ould Slahi who was then ordered released by the judge on Monday 22, 2010. The government once called Mr. Ould Slahi “the highest value detainee” and “the key orchestrator of the Al-Qaeda cell in Europe.”[46] Unfortunately, Mr. Ould Slahi had unwisely been subjected in Guantanamo to “a special interrogation plan” involving physical and mental torment.

Yet, to comply with the federal judge’s order to release him might be highly risky, regardless of what his defense lawyer argues. Not so few Al-Qaeda Gitmo detainees from Yemen, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan decided to return to terrorism shortly after their release – breaking solemn promises that they never would. (Many jailed Islamists and Muslim terrorists have previously been instructed to deceive their enemy.) One of them, Abdul Qayum Zakir, became a Taliban commander. Abdullah Mehsud, also an ex Gitmo inmate, directed an attack that killed 31 people in Pakistan. (He got a U.S. $ 75,000 prosthetic leg before leaving U.S. custody.) A former detainee named Omar Khadr returned to Afghanistan. A video showed him building roadside bombs in Afghanistan with several reputed Al-Qaeda operatives. And Al-Qaeda leader Said Ali Al-Shihri, a Saudi, masterminded the U.S. Embassy bombing in Yemen after being released. His is now the deputy leader of “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (AQAP).[47]

Al-Qaeda’s involvement in Nigeria

Osama bin Laden said in February 2003 that “the areas most in need of liberation are Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.”{C}[48] It is interesting to note that Nigeria was the only sub-Saharan African country selected by bin Laden as “an area most in need of liberation.” The reason was obvious. This multi-ethnic nation has witnessed serious clashes between Muslims and Christians since early 2000, after Saudi Wahhabism (conservative Sunni Islam) had made inroads in Nigeria. These clashes began in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna in February 2000 – after Sharia (= Muslim fundamentalist) law had been introduced there. In the neighboring northern state of Zamfara militant Muslims reportedly put on their dancing shoes and took to the streets to celebrate the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

In January 2004, Nigerian soldiers crushed an uprising by Islamic militants in the northern Yobe state. The militants wanted to establish a Taliban-style Islamic government. In the southern Anambra state as well as in the north more than 1000 people were killed after protests against the Danish cartoons satirising the Muslim prophet Mohammed.[49]

Militant Muslims want to turn all of Nigeria into an Islamic state modelled after the Taliban. One of the most militant groups is known as the “Nigerian Taliban” or the “Hijrah movement.” Most members of the Nigerian Taliban are young university graduates from influential families. They openly show their admiration for former Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. They are heavily armed and trigger happy and attacked several police stations to confiscate weapons and “to kill unbelievers in uniform.” They are fanatics willing to die as martyrs in the jihad. Their aim is to establish an Islamic state in the northeastern Nigerian states of Yobe and Borno (bordering on Niger and Chad). They call on Muslims in Nigeria to rise up in jihad.{C}[50]

Nigerian jihdists receive support from Al-Qaeda affiliates in Mauritania, Mali, Sudan, the Maghreb, Yemen and Pakistan.

In February 2007, Nigerian prosecutors wanted a man accused of plotting attacks on Americans in Nigeria with the help from Al-Qaeda to be tried in secret for security reasons. The judges rejected their request, though. Mohammed Ashafa stood accused of receiving U.S. $ 1,500 from an Al-Qaeda cell in Pakistan – two Al-Qaeda operatives in Lahore – and was charged with receiving decoding messages from this Al-Qaeda cell and passing them to the Nigerian Taliban with a view to attacking Americans. Pakistani authorities decided to deport Ashafa. According to the charges, he had undergone terrorist training in Mauritania. He was also accused of sponsoring 21 members of the Nigerian Taliban to receive combat training and indoctrination at camp Agwan in Niger run by the Algeria based “Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat” (GSPC), since January 2007 known as “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQIM). Ashafa denied the charges.[51]

Five Islamic militants were arrested in Northern Nigeria in November 2007. Three of them were charged with training in Algeria with GSPC/AQIM between 2005 and August 2007. Nigeria expert Bestman Wellington made following observation in June 2008: “In Nigeria, particularly in the Muslim north, there are various armed Islamist formations with agendas similar to that of Osama bin Laden.[52]

Nigerian “Underwear Bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Those who are recruited by Al-Qaeda are usually not marginalized poor Africans. Al-Qaeda and its regional affiliates have a preference for university graduates, intellectuals and people with a military background, people without a conspicuous terrorist track record. People like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, son of Alhaji Umaru Abdul Mutallab, former Nigerian government minister and former chairman of First Bank of Nigeria – described as being one of the richest men in Africa.

Abdulmutallab’s polygamous father is from the Muslim north and has two wives and 16 children, but he is not a militant Muslim. Abdulmutallab visited the U.S. for the first time in 2004. He subsequently studied in Yemen, possibly his first encounter with radical Islam. Not only did he study Arabic at the Sana’a Institute of Arabic language, also did he attend lectures at Al-Iman university near Yemen’s capital Sana’a. It was there that met his favorite teacher, Al-Iman’s American-born firebrand cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, a high level Al-Qaeda operative. Awlaki’s father was a former Yemeni minister who studied in the United States.

American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh was also a student at Al-Iman University. Lindh was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001 by Afghan Northern Alliance forces and subsequently handed over to CIA interrogators. Al-Iman university, a private institution, is headed by Sheikh Abdel-Majid Al-Zindani, named by the U.S. as a “specially designated global terrorist, the London “Daily Telegraph” reported.[53]

Abdulmutallab’s father, though, wanted his son to study at a serious foreign university. So Abdulmutallab went to London in September 2005 to study Engineering and Business Finance at University College London (UCL). He was nineteen years old then. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering in June 2008. In 2006, he became president of the university’s “Islamic Society,” a militant student group which invited jihadist preachers. One of those preachers reportedly said: “Dying while fighting jihad is one of the surest ways to paradise.”[54] Abdulmutallab also visited London’s “Finsbury Park Mosque,” where young militant Muslims were recruited for the jihad. While in London, Abdulmutallab’s mind was further poisoned by hate preachers and he evolved into a sexually frustrated angry young male. Meanwhile, he was living in a three million British pounds flat in London.

Although Abdulmutallab’s favorite hate cleric Al-Awlaki was banned from entering the United Kingdom in 2006, he did gave a number of videolink lectures to mosques and Islamic student associations. Awlaki is believed to have had links to the London “7/7” (July 7, 2005) suicide bombers and other terrorist plots in Britain.

It was probably Awlaki who encouraged Abdulmutallab to return to Yemen in the summer of 2009. Abdulmutallab’s father was flatly opposed. Why did his son go back to Yemen, instead of pursuing a master’s degree in cosmopolitan Dubai? The father was deeply concerned about his son’s inexplicable radicalization. He had every reason to be worried, although he could not know at the time that his son would be trained by Awlaki’s “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” with a view to playing a central role in a major terrorist plot. He didn’t even know his son’s whereabouts in Yemen.

It was late August 2009 when the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted Al-Qaeda transmissions in Yemen relating to an unidentified Nigerian being involved in a possible plot, “The Sunday Times” reported. “It was the first small piece in a puzzle that could have prevented Abdulmutallab from boarding the Detroit-bound plane.”[55] A U.S. intelligence official who was quoted by the “Los Angeles Times” said “communications intercepted by the NSA indicated that Al-Awlaki was meeting with ‘a Nigerian’ in preparation for some kind of operation.”[56] However, the intelligence was too sketchy to link it directly to Abdulmutallab himself. But in November new intelligence emerged when Abdulmutallab’s distressed father met Nigerian security agencies and CIA officers a the U.S. embassy in Abuja warning them that Abdulmutallab was a security threat. “Look at the texts he is sending.” He then sought their assistance to find and return him home. “We provided them with all the information required of us to enable them to do this,” Abdulmutallab’s family said in a statement issued shortly after Christmas 2009. “We were hopeful that they would find him and return him home.”[57]

These warnings did not sufficiently alarm U.S. security and intelligence officials, though. Abdulmutallab’s name was added to the U.S. 550,000 name “Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment,” a database of the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC), but he was not put on the no fly list.[58] His multiple-entry visa to the U.S., granted in June 2008, was not revoked either. Information on him was not shared with the FBI. So he was not put on any watchlist.

On December 16, 2010, Abdulmutallab traveled to Accra, the capital of Ghana, to buy a return ticket for U.S. $ 2,831 in cash from Lagos to Detriot, via Amsterdam, Holland. On Christmas Day he traveled to Amsterdam, carrying only hand luggage. At Amsterdam Schiphol Airport he boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253 en route to Detroit. Nearly 300 people were on board. His seat was 19A, near the fuel tank. David Learmont, an aviation expert, was quoted in “The Sunday Times” as follows: “It was pretty much the best possible seat in the plane to have the highest chance of bringing it down.”[59]

Shortly before landing Abdulmutallab spent about 20 minutes in the bathroom to prepare the PETN explosive device, a 15 cm packet which was sewn into his underwear. PETN or “pentaerythritol” is hard to detect, but you have to mix it with a liquid to trigger an explosion. For this purpose Abdulmutallab used a small syringe but the bomb itself failed to detonate. There was only smoke and fire. Dutch Film director Jasper Schuringa later said: “Suddenly we heard a bang. It sounded like a firecracker. Everybody panicked. Someone screamed: Fire! Fire!” “I saw smoke rising from a seat. I didn’t hesitate. I just jumped on him.” He put out the fire with his hands and members of the flight crew appeared with fire extinguishers. Another passenger described the man’s behavior during the incident. She said: “He stood up. He was belligerent. He was yelling, swearing. He was screeming about Afghanistan. He was fighting with the wonderful stewards that we had.”[60]

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the failed attack. It was “a response to American backed airstrikes on the group in Yemen.” Abdulmutallab himself told FBI agents “that he was one of many suicide bombers being groomed by the Yemeni Al-Qaeda affiliate to attack American-bound aricraft.”[61] British police believe 25 British born Muslims are currently in Yemen being trained in the art of bombing planes.[62] A video was disseminated by the same Al-Qaeda affiliate in April 2010. It showed Abdulmutallab and others in his training class firing weapons at a desert camp. The tape includes a martyrdom statement in Arabic from the 23-year old Nigerian justifying his actions against “the Jews and the Christians and their agents. He read several passages from the Koran and adds: “God said if you do not fight back, He will punish and replace you.”[63]

The Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) traced messages in “Sada Al-Malahim” (“The Echo of Epic Battles”), AQAP’s magazine. In the October 2009 issue, the group began moving away from Saudi and Yemeni government targets that it has pursued for years. AQAP leader Nasser Al-Wuhayshi recommended that individual jihadists expand their attacks on the West using any possible means, including household items and knives, and target the “airports of the Western crusader countries... or in their aircaft, residential compounds or in the train tunnels, etc.”{C}[64]

A Pew Global Attitudes Survey found in 2009 “that 43 percent of Nigerian Muslims believed suicide bombings were sometimes justified.”[65]

Al-Qaeda targeting North African immigrants in Europe

Al-Qaeda also recruited a number of Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan immigrants in Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium and Britain. Terrorist cells planned and carried out attacks, like the one in Madrid in March 2004 (most perpetrators were Moroccans). In 2002, a Tunisian cell in northern Italy experimented with nerve gas and planned a terrorist attack in France. They were linked to at least one Al-Qaeda operative in Belgium. Fortunately, the Tunisian cell in Milan was dismantled by the Italian police just in time.

In January 2007, the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) adopted a new name and is now known as “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQIM). The group is active in Algeria, northern Mali, eastern Mauritania, northern Mali, northern Niger and northern Chad (to create safehavens outside Algeria). The group has also created a base in the Sahara itself. Sources of income are drugs, crime and taking Western hostages.[66] “Militant groups like the GSPC can encamp in these regions and go undetected for long periods of time. They promise the poor that Islamic government or a return to Sharia will alleviate their misery.”[67] They may also have ties with some African trafficking organizations and are involved in migrant trafficking and document forgery operations themselves. In February 2003 a group of tourists, among whom the Dutchman Arjan Hilbers, was taken hostage near Tamanraset in southern Algeria. The kidnappers were GSPC members. In August 2003, the hostages, including Hilbers, were released.[68]

Libya’s leader Muammar Ghadaffi, who restored relations with the West in recent years, is very concerned about the threat posed by these “Pan-Saharan Salafis.” He is equally worried about the prospect of jihadists returning to Libya from Iraq. A number of Libyan jihadists have joined the insurgency in Iraq, three Libyans from Benghazi blew themselves up in Baghdad, and their families in Benghazi held a special “wedding” celebration for these “martyrs.” What Ghadaffi does not want is a repetition of what happened in the 1990s when Arab Afghan veterans returned from Afghanistan and continued to wage jihad, but this time against the leaders of their home countries.{C}[69]

The GSPC/AQIM is furthermore active in Europe (Belgium, France, Spain, Britain, the Netherlands). In April and June 2002, intensive investigations by the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) into recruiting activities in the Netherlands resulted in the arrest of a group of persons that had formed itself around an Algerian man named Rodoin Daoud who was affiliated with the GSPC.{C}[70] After that not much was heard about GSPC activities in Holland.

In November and December 2005, Spanish authorities arrested 18 Algerians on suspicion of giving logistical support to the GSPC through criminal activities (theft, document forgery).[71] In September 2006 Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, announced the “blessed union” with the GSPC. From now on, the GSPC officially was an integral part of Al-Qaeda, even though GSPC-leaders had previously sworn allegiance Al-Qaeda.[72] Al-Zawahiri announced that France would be targeted. Algerian terrorists were behind a number of previous terrorist attacks and killings as well as one hijacking operation. Al-Qaeda strongly critized the sending of French troops to Lebanon as part of the United Nations force in the south.

European police organizations and security services are worried about the growing number of Europe-based AQIM cells. According to an Europol study radicalized individuals may now offer to act on behalf of AQIM to attack European targets.[73] “A group that had limited its terrorist activities to Algeria is now part of the global jihad movement,” Bernard Squarcini, chief of France’s domestic police and intelligence service, was quoted in “The New York Times.”[74] France is also vulnerable since there are large African and North African immigrant communities on its territory which makes it easier for Al-Qaeda jihadists to operate there without being detected immediately.

Some AQIM communiqués and statements made by Laden’s deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri specifically focus on France and Spain, former colonial powers in the Maghreb. Al-Qaeda repeatedly announced that not only would it liberate the Spanish enclaves in northern Morocco – Ceuta and Melilla – but also “Al-Andalus” or Spain proper.[75] A large part of Spanish territory was once occupied by Muslim armies and then known as “Al-Andalus.”

Spain, with its large North African immigrant community, is indeed very vulnerable to an attack by Al-Qaeda. Spain has the largest Algerian immigrant community after France. (More than 30,000 Algerian immigrants are living in Alicante alone.) About one-third of the imprisoned Muslim Islamists and jihadists in Spain are of Algerian origin whereas nearly forty percent are of Moroccan descend.[76]

Between March 2004 and June 2007, at least 325 Islamists had been arrested in Spain alone. Most of them were Moroccans or Algerians. About thirty of them belonged to the GSPC/AQIM network. Both the Spanish intelligence service CNI and the police are alarmed by AQIM’s increased activity. For example, in June 2007, three GSPC/AQIM operatives were arrested in Barcelona. Mohammed Laksir, Mohammed Akazim and Moulay Lahoucine Miftah were involved in a terrorist operation to send young Muslim radicals to small Al-Qaeda training camps in the African Sahel.

It was no coincidence that these terrorists operated from Barcelona: this city is an important base for AQIM and other Islamist terrorists and Salafists.[77]

In January 2006, a Moroccan named Omar Naksha was arrested in Spain, accused of recruiting jihadists for Iraq and assisting the Madrid bombing suspects. Spanish authorities linked him to both the GSPC and the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM).[78]

In Febuary 2007, Spanish police arrested a high level AQIM operative named Mbar El Jaafari, a Moroccan. Police discovered that Jaafari had sent 35 jihadists to Iraq. He had also sent a number of militant Muslims to new AQIM training camps in the Sahel where the AQIM organization allied itself with local Tuaregs.{C}[79] So far, Spanish police and security services managed to prevent a major AQIM inspired attack on Spanish terrority. (These terrorists did make several attempts.)

AQIM has also stepped up its presence and activities in Alicante and southern Spain. There exists an AQIM criminal and terrorist infrastructure consisting of secret cells in Alicante. These Algerian terrorists send money to Algeria, either by special courier or through the so-called “Hawala-system” (Islamic banking). Money is obtained through criminal activities (robberies, etc.), so-called phone centers (or “locutorios”) and is being collected from Islamic shop owners. With less than 6000 euros a car bomb can be made. With the same amount of money friendly Tuaregs in the Sahara desert can be supplied with kalashnikovs. Money from Spain has already been used to finance terrorist attacks not just in North Africa but also in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Chechnya.

To evade tax controls, money has even been transferred via the Bahamas after an Algerian citizen living in Spain opened a business account there. Payments were made after receiving fake bills sent from Holland and Germany.[80]

In Europe’s big cities radical North African and Arab Muslims seek to introduce sharia law in neighborhoods and subsurbs where Muslims form a majority. In Brussels-Molenbeek, for example, Salafist Muslims want to establish an Islamic caliphate, others propagate jihad, the holy war against the infidels. Hind Fraihi, a young Muslim women in Brussels, just published a shocking book on her conversations with fellow Muslims in Brussels-Molenbeek and Brussels-Schaarbeek. Fifteen year old Moroccan boys talked about terrorist attacks and suicide bombings as if they were a normal thing. Young men in Brussels are recruited for the jihad and sent to terrorist training camps, she was told by various sources. She was in a mosque in Schaarbeek where a firebrand cleric was calling on the mosque visitors to sacrifice their money and lives in the jihad.[81]

In the summer of 2005 there were two terrorist attacks on the public transport system in London, those on July 7 were successful, the ones on July 21 tried to imitate the July 7 bombings but failed. The 7/7 attacks were carried out by three Pakistanis (well integrated, not poor) and one Jamaican immigrant. At least two of the Pakistanis had previously received training in a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

There are strong indications that Al-Qaeda was involved in the 7/7 bombings. The July 21 “copycat” attacks were probably not linked to Al-Qaeda. But attention should be focussed on another interesting aspect. Three of the suspects of the failed London bombings were born in Africa, they became jihadists after their arrival in London. Osman Hussain (real name: Hamdi Isaac) and Yasin Hassan Omar were born in Somalia and arrived in Britain in 1992. Mukhtar Said Ibrahim arrived from Eritrea in 1992, and moved in with Omar in 1995/96. He was convicted in 1996 for gang robberies and spent some time in juvenile prisons. After the failed attack on July 21, Osman Hussain fled to Italy where he was arrested (together with his brother who lived in Italy). Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said “Hussain counted on an extensive network from the Horn of Africa in Italy to protect him in his flight from London, through Paris and to Rome.”[82] (Members of Somali clans usually protect each other.) Osman lamely claimed he was not a terrorist, he had no intention to kill anyone, but he had just been “upset” by the presence of British and American troops in Iraq.

Radicalized young black people: an important target for jihadist recruiters

There are terrorists and militant Arab, Pakistani or North African “missionaries” who seek to convert and recruit young African and Jamaican males who feel lost, disoriented, lonely and marginalized in Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Milan, Paris, Marseille, Brussels, Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg, Birmingham or London. Al-Qaeda, too, successfully targeted frustrated and angry African and Jamaican immigrants in Europe. One of them was Richard Reed, the so-called “shoe bomber,” whose father was a Jamaican career criminal in Britain. Another was Tunisian-born Nizar Trabelsi, a former professional soccer player in Germany who became addicted to cocaine and got involved in petty crime. A desillusioned and frustrated man, he moved to Brussels, traveled to London where he visited radical mosques and was subsequently recruited by extremists. He traveled to Afghanistan, even met Osama bin Laden himself and was later convicted in Brussels for his role in a major terrorist plot.

Another example is Feroz Abbasi from Croydon, England. He was born in Uganda and moved to Britain with his mother and family when he was eight. He was brought up a moderate Muslim, was well behaved and well adjusted in school, in short, he was a promising pupil. He took a two year computing course but dropped out of the course halfway through his first year. After a mugging experience in Switzerland he felt frustrated and angry. He now began to search for answers in Islam. In the spring of 2000 he joined London’s radical Finsbury Park mosque where he met the mosque’s preacher Abu Hamza Al-Masri, a follower of Osama bin Laden. The young and enthousiastic Abbasi helped set up a website for a militant Islamic group and then left for Afghanistan. He joined Al-Qaeda and met Abu Hafs Al-Masri (Mohammed Atef), one of Osama bin Laden’s closest aides. Abu Hafs asked him if he would like to take actions against Americans and Jews. Abbasi said yes, and Abu Hafs then said: “Okay, we’ll see about getting you some special training.”[83] Abbasi reveived his training in the Ubaida and Al-Farooq camps, both near Kandahar. Shortly before September 11, 2001, he heard Osama bin Laden speak to his future fighters. He strongly admired bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar and liked the “martyrdom operation” against Massoud.[84] (Massoud was killed by Al-Qaeda operatives on September 9, 2001, as a prelude to the 9/11 attacks.) After the Americans and British invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 Abbasi joined the Taliban fighters and was captured in Kunduz, the last Taliban stronghold. In January 2002 the Americans transferred Abbasi, whom they described as an “enemy combatant,” to Guantanamo Bay, the US naval base in Cuba. In January 2005 Abbasi and four other British detainees were transferred into UK custody and subsequently released. After his release he claimed to have been tortured by the Americans.

The most recent example of a radicalized African male in London is Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. His sincere and rich Nigerian father sent him to London to study business and finance. It was in London that young and impressionable Abdulmutallab began to visit radical mosques and meet militant Muslims. This tragic example of radicalization and terrorist recruitment has already been discussed above. Whether Abdulmutallab was actually recruited by Al-Qaeda in London, is uncertain. His was probably recruited in Yemen by his Yemeni friend Anwar Al-Awlaki. But his friendship with militant Muslims in London surely paved the way.

The problem is that the British government issues too many student visas to young people from high risk countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Kenya and Nigeria. Al-Qaeda recruiters and the Iranian intelligence service are quite aware of this. “In the 12 months to March 2009 , the government issued 236,470 student visas, a threefold increase on the numbers issued in 1998,” the British “Sunday Express” recently reported. Many of these students don’t even study or they enroll for bogus courses. “For every 110,000 students granted visas for 12 months only 10,000 return home annually.” “Intelligence officers warn the system is a major security loophole.”[85] It is indeed. Thanks to decades of the British displaying “fairness,” tolerant British “multiculturalism” and lax British immigration policies, Britain is now the place to be for jihadist recruiters whose victims all too often are young African or Caribbean students and immigrants.

Islamist terrorism is now by far the greatest threat to national security and two-thirds of the Security Service (MI5) resources are dovoted to countering this threat, a recent British study on the history of MI5 concludes. Between July 2005 and February 2008, MI5 disrupted 6 plots to undertake terrorism in Britain. In one of those disrupted Islamist terrorist plots the plotters “had planned to bomb seven flights leaving Heathrow for North American cities during a three-hour period. Suicide bombers were to detonate explosives conceiled in soft-drink bottles, using the flash units on disposable cameras. As well as causing massive loss of life on the scale of 9/11 (even greater if the planes had exploded over cities), the plot would have caused major disruption to transatlantic air travel.”[86]

Emerson Vermaat, M.A. (law), is an investigative reporter specialized in terrorism and crime. Already in March 1997 he wrote about Osama bin Laden’s role in international terrorism. He is the author of the books “Het Criminele Web: De Globalisering van de Misdaad” (The Crime Web: The Globalization of Crime, March 2000, with a preface by Ernst Hirsch Ballin, former Minister of Justice; in September 2006 Hirsch Ballin became Justice Minister again), “Misdaad, Migratie en Cultuur” (Crime, Migration and Culture, October 2004), “De Dodelijke Planning van Al-Qaeda” (Al-Qaeda’s Deadly Planning,”April 2005) and of two books on the “Hofstad Group,” a Dutch terrorist network (October 2005, September 2006). As a reporter for Dutch television he traveled widely, making television reports in war zones and crisis areas (Middle East, Africa, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Albania, Latin America, Asia and the former Soviet Union).

{C}[1] El País, 28 July 2006, p. 19 (“La ONU Revela que las Mafias Ganan 230 Milliones al Año por Pasar a 240.000 Africanos a Europa”).

{C}[2] Rose El Youssef, 15 May 1995 (an Egyptian weekly).

{C}[3] The Times, 29 September 2005, p. 3 (“The Day When Osama bin Laden Applied for Asylum – in Britain”). Based on information from Michael Howard, who was then Home Secretary.

[4] Pakistan, 11 February 1997 (a Pakistani daily newspaper).

{C}[5] Newsweek (European edition), 31 July 2006, p. 38, 39 (“Africa’s Taliban”).

{C}[6] Osama bin Laden, As-Sahab (internet message), 1 July 2006.

{C}[7] El País, 24 August 2006, p. 8 (“Los Islamistas de Somalia Abren un Campo de Entrenamiento Internacional”).

{C}[8] New York Times, July 12, 2009 (“Somalis in America return to join jihad with Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab”).

{C}[9] Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst (AIVD), Jaarverslag 2009 (The Hague: AIVD, 2010), p. 13.

{C}[10] Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst, Jaarverslag 2009 (The Hague: AIVD, April 2010), p. 32.

{C}[11] News on New York Crime and New York Crime Statistics/AP News, November 25, 2009 (“New details emerge in Somali terror probe”).

{C}[12] De Volkskrant (Amsterdam), March 3, 2010, p. 2 (“Lever Mohamud O. niet uit aan de VS”); News on New York Crime and New York Crime Statistics/AP News, November 13, 2009 (“Report: Somali terror suspect had US residency”).

{C}[13] Jerry Gordon, Food soldiers of Islam. Delivered to the New English Review Symposium, May 30, 2009, p. 10.

{C}[14] Algemeen Dagblad (Rotterdam), May 24, 2007, p. 5 (“Rutte: Negeer uitspraak Hof over Somaliërs”); NRC Handelslad (Rotterdam/Amsterdam), May 24, 2007, p. 3 (“Hof Europa dwingt ander asielbeleid af”); NRC Handelsblad May 21, 2007, p. 3 (“Rutte zet aan tot discriminatie”).

{C}[15] De Volkskrant (Amsterdam), January 28, 2010, p. 2 (“Somaliërs terugsturen wordt nu knap lastig”).

{C}[16] NRC Handelsblad, April 16, 2009, Internet edition, English text (“Netherlands gets tough with Somali Asylum seekers”); Nova (Dutch TV), April 3, 2009; De Telegraaf (Amsterdam), April 4, 2009, p. 3 (“Massaal misbruik bij asielzoekers Somalië”).

{C}[17] De Telegraaf (Amsterdam), May 14, 2010, p. 11 (“Asiel kost staat duizenden euro’s”).

{C}[18] De Volkskrant (Amsterdam), July 23, 2008, p. 5 (“Barstjes in het immigratiebeleid”). “Rechter in Roermond verwerpt inkomensnorm voor ‘import’ van buitenlandse partners.”

{C}[19] The Times (London), May 23, 2009 (“Somali Britons with jihad training pose terrorist risk”).

{C}[20] Channel 4 News (British TV), February 16, 2009; The Times (London), February 16, 2009, p. 1 (“New terror network”).

{C}[21] The Independent on Sunday, September 13, 2009 (“Jihad: The Somalia connection”).

{C}[22] Insight News TV (London), February 10, 2003; Twee Vandaag (Dutch TV), February 20, 2003; author’s file on Mullah Krekar.

{C}[23] New York Times, October 15, 2007 (“Swedish documentary follows ‘regular’ Europeans who turn to jihad”).

{C}[24] Michael Johnson and Christopher Berglund, Safe haven? Radical Islam’s Scandinavian links, in: Jane’s Intelligence Review, March 2009, p. 22.

{C}[25] Der Spiegel (Germany), January 18, 2010, p. 75 (“Spur nach Göteborg”).

{C}[26] Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst (AIVD), Jaarverslag 2009, p. 11.

{C}[27] The Daily Telegraph (Australia), October 27, 2009 (“Accused terrorist Saney Edow Aweys thanked Allah for Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires that killed 117 people”); The Daily Telegraph, August 5, 2009 (“Terror suspects ‘sought holy approval’”); NRC Handelsblad, August 4, 2009, p. 5 (“Australië pakt verdachten van terreur op”); De Morgen (Belgium), August 5, 2009, p. 12 (“Australië pakt terreurverdachten met link naar Somalië op”).

{C}[28] ABC News, March 24, 2010 (“Kenyan terrorist suspect ‘planned attack in Australia’”’); The Standard (Nairobi), March 23, 2010 (“Officers sent packing over terror suspect’s escape”); The Standard, March 25, 2010 (“Terror suspect also wanted in Australia”).

{C}[29] NRC Handelsblad, February 1, 2010, p. 4 (“Kenianen vrezen hun Somalische landgenoten”). “Bevolking is bang dat het toenemende radicalisme in Somalië ook Kenia zal ontwrichten.”

{C}[30] NRC Handelsblad, January 22, 2010, p. 5 (“‘Oorlogsverklaring’ Al Shabaab aan Kenia na uitzetten militante moslim”).

{C}[31] William Rosenau, Al Qaida Recruitment Trends in Kenya and Tanzania, in: Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 2005 (28), p. 3.

{C}[32] M.J. Gohel, Terrorism Returns to Kenya, APF Analysis, 28 November 2002, p. 2 (London: Asia-Pacific Foundation).

{C}[33] Douglas Farah, Blood from Stones. The Secret Financial Network of Terror (New York: Broadway Books, 2004), p. 88, 89.

[34] Ibid., p. 74, 74, 76, 82, 83.

{C}[35] Jonathan Randal, Osama. The Making of a Terrorist (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), p. 150, 151.

{C}[36] United States District Court, Southern District of New York, United States v. Usama Bin Laden, et. al., Defendants, Day 21, 1215, 3173 (February 2001).

[37] Gary Berntsen, Jawbreaker (New York: Crown Publishers, 2005), p. 206.

{C}[38] M.J. Gohel, Al-Ittihad Al-Islamiya, Al-Qaeda and the Horn of Africa, AFP Analysis, 1 December 2002, p. 1-5 (London: Asia Pacific Foundation). See also: Newsweek (European edition), December 9, 2002, p. 28-32 (“Open Season”).

{C}[39] MEMRI, 4 December, 2002 (“Al-Qaeda Affiliated Web Site Warns of Attack During Id Al-Fitr”).

[40] William Rosenau, op. cit., p. 3.

[41] Time, 15 September 2003 (“Inside the Kingdom”). Internet edition.

{C}[42] Terrorism Monitor, Vol. 1, Issue 5 (November 7, 2003), Tanzania: Al Qaeda’s East African Beachhead? (Washington: The Jamestown Foundation).

{C}[43] The Washington Times, June 25, 2005 (“Terrorists in Iraq seen from Africa”).

{C}[44] Emerson Vermaat, De Dodelijke Planning van Al-Qaeda (“Al-Qaeda’s Deadly Planning”) (Soesterberg, Netherlands: Aspekt Publishers, 2005), p. 196-198.

{C}[45] The 9/11 Commission Report (New York/London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004), p. 165-167 (meeting Ould Slahi; going to Afghanistan). See also: Der Spiegel (Germany), October 27, 2003, p. 130-133 (“Operation Heiliger Dienstag”).

{C}[46] Wall Street Journal/Fox News, March 22, 2010 (“Judge orders release of Gitmo detainee with ties to 9/11 attacks”), Wall Street Journal (online edition), March 23, 2010 (“Gitmo detainee ordered released”).

{C}[47] CNN, March 24, 2010 (“U.S. officials: Ex Gitmo inmate becomes Taliban commander”); Washington Post, April 30 2010 (“Video shows Guantanamo detainee building bombs in Afghanistan”); Corruption Chronicles, March 29, 2010 (“More Gitmo prisoners return to terrorism”); Fox News, March 29, 2010 (“More Guantanamo detainees are returning to terror upon release”).

{C}[48] Bruce Lawrence, Messages to the World. The statements of Osama bin Laden (Londen/New York: Verso, 2005), p. 183.

{C}[49]{C} Neil Ford, Nigeria’s future stability rests on its democratic success, in: Jane’s Intelligence Review, May 2006, p. 23; Samuel Bayo Arowojalu, The “Talibans” of Northern Nigeria in:, October 2001 (Zamfara).

{C}[50] Abdullah Bego, “Taliban” of Nigeria. Who are they?, in: Damaturu Maiduguru (Nigerian newspaper), January 3, 2004.

{C}[51], February 23, 2007 (“Nigeria wants secret trial for Al-Qaeda suspect”); United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2007 – Nigeria, April 30, 2008.

[52] Bestman Wellington, Nigeria and the Threat of Al-Qaeda Terrorism, in: Terrorism Monitor (Jamestown Foundation), June 12, 2008 (vol. 6 number 12).

{C}[53] The Sunday Times (London), January 3, 2010 (“Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab: one boy’s journey to jihad”); The Daily Telegraph (London), December 29, 2009, p. 5 (“Britain aids Yemen in fight against Al-Qaeda terrorists”).

{C}[54] The Sunday Times (London), January 3, 2010 (“Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab: one boy’s journey to jihad”).

{C}[55] Ibid.

{C}[56] Los Angeles Times, December 31, 2009 (“U.S-born cleric linked to airline bombing plot”).

{C}[57] The Sunday Times, op. cit.; The Daily Telegraph (London), December 29, 2009, p. 4 (“We warned US agents two months ago”).

{C}[58] Fox News, December 26, 2009 (“Father of terrorist suspect reportedly warned U.S. about son”).

{C}[59] The Sunday Times, op. cit.

{C}[60] Sunday Express, December 27, 2009, -p. 3 (“I did not hesitate... I just jumped on him”).

{C}[61] The Times (London), December 29, 2009, p. 3 (“I’m the first of many, warns airline ‘bomber’”).

{C}[62] The Daily Telegraph (London), December 2009, p. B7 (Editorial: “A murderous ideology tolerated for too long”).

{C}[63] ABC News, April 26, 2010 (“Underwear Bomber: New video of training, martyrdom statements”).

{C}[64] IPT News, May 7, 2010 (“Concern grow over shifting terror targets”).

{C}[65] The Daily Telegraph (London), December 29, p. 4 (“Hardline fears over northern Muslims”).

{C}[66] El País (Madrid), January 3, 2010, p. 1-3 (“Al Qaeda se hace fuerte en el Sahel”). Page 2: “Al Qaeda levanta un bastión en el Sahara.” Page 3: “...los secuestrados... “los flujos de drogas illicitas – la heroina y la cocaina.” See also: El País, December 29, 2009, p. 23 (“El Sahel, nuevo escenario de Al Qaeda”).

{C}[67] Ricardo Laremont and Hrach Gregorian, Political Islam in West Africa and the Sahel, in: Military Review, January-February 2006, p. 27.

{C}[68] Annual Report 2003 General Intelligence and Security Service (Leidschendam, the Netherlands: AIVD, 2004), p. 18.

{C}[69] Alison Pargeter, Militant Groups Pose Security Challenge for Libyan Regime, in: Jane’s Intelligence Review, August 2005, p. 16, 17.

{C}[70] Annual Report 2002 General Intelligence and Security Service (Leidschendam: AIVD, 2003), p. 19; author’s sources.

{C}[71] Alison Pargeter and Ahmed Al-Baddawy, North Africa’s Radical Diaspora in Europe Shift Focus to Iraq War, in: Jane’s Intelligence Review, April 2006, p. 12.

{C}[72] Le Figaro, 14 September, 2006, p. 1, 8 (“Al-Qaeda Désigne la France Comme Cible”); International Herald Tribune, 15 September 2006, p. 13 (“Al Qaeda Allies With Algerian Insurgent Group”).

{C}[73] Europol Te-Sat 2008, EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (Europol: 2008), p. 26; Andrew Hansen and Lauren Vriens, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) Formerly Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (Council of Foreign Relations, July 31, 2008).

{C}[74] The New York Times, July 1, 2008 (“Ragtag insurgency gains a lifeline from Al-Qaeda”).

{C}[75] El País, December 1, 2009, p. 10 (“El Gobierno teme que Al Qaeda extreme sus exigencias por tratarse de españolas”).

{C}[76] El País, April 15, 2007 (“El Sueño de Andalus”); HCSS (The Hague), Radicalisering en identiteitsvraagstukken (The Hague: Haags Centrum voor Strategische Studies, 2009), p. 38.

{C}[77] El País, June 27, 2007, p. 21 (“Tres detenidos en Barcelona por el envio de radicales a campos de Al Qaeda en el Sahel”).

[78] Alison Pargeter and Ahmed Al-Baddawy, op.cit., p. 13.

{C}[79] El País, April 22, 2007, p. 18 (“El CNI y la policía alertan de la creciente actividad de los nuevos aliados de Al Qaeda”).

{C}[80] El País, May 1, 2007, p. 1 (“Células durmientes financian desde España a Al Qaeda en el Magreb”), p. 18 (“Dinero recaudada en España financia armanento de los aliados de Al Qaeda”).

{C}[81] Hind Fraihi, Undercover in Klein-Marokko. Achter de gesloten deuren van de radicale Islam (Leuven, Belgium: Uitgeverij Van Halewyck, 2006), p. 43-45, 82, 83, 86, 87.

{C}[82] Press, 31 July 2005 (“Man Admits Role in Failed London Attack”).

{C}[83] Peter L. Bergen, The Osama bin Laden I Know. An Oral History of Al Qaeda’s Leader (New York: Free Press, 2006), p. 274, 275 (from Abbasi’s prison memoir).

[84] Ibid., p. 299.

{C}[85] Sunday Express, December 27, 2009, p. 4 (“Student visas let thousands into UK without proper ID checks”).

{C}[86] Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm. The authorized history of MI5 (London: Allen Lane, 2009), p. 826, 827.