Muslim Immigrants and the Threat of Jihadist Terrorism


October 16, 2013 – San Francisco, CA – - Syrian refugees no longer flee to neighboring countries. Instead, there is now a substantial increase in the flow of refugees from Syria who seek refuge in Europe. Although there is no legal obligation by European states to grant asylum to all these people, these states are under increasing pressure to allow ever more refugees from Syria. This will not at all solve the problems in Syria itself and it will cause undesirable side effects in the receiving countries.

Western intelligence and security services are warning their governments that there are terrorists and Muslim extremists among those refugees. The same happened during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989 when Al-Qaeda was founded in neighboring Pakistan. During the 1980s jihadists in Afghanistan developed a world wide recruitment and support network with the aid of Muslim communities in the West and elsewhere. Al-Qaeda was founded by Osama bin Laden in 1988.

Prior to the 9/11 attacks in the United States, Al-Qaeda jihadists and operatives were active in the Bosnia, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium (notably the Tunisian immigrant Tarek Maaroufi), Britain and Chechnya. Hundreds of Muslim jihadists, some of whom had committed brutal war crimes, were granted asylum in Europe, Evan F. Kohlmann, a well informed American terrorism consultant, writes. “Dozens of suspects were arrested in Spain, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom,” Ed Blanche writes in Jane’s Intelligence Review in August 2001, just one month before the 9/11 attacks. They “were all part of a European network that the authorities have linked to Bin Laden. This was in turn linked to another group of Islamists on trial in the USA on charges of plotting a series of bomb attacks.” “Islamic terrorism in Europe is a deeply rooted phenomenon. Every investigation takes away only a small part of the members and weapons of each cell. Islamic terrorism in Europe regenerates itself contiuously.”

Al-Qaeda’s Syrian terror network in Europe prior to the 9/11 attacks

In Spain and Germany important Al-Qaeda operatives and supporters turned out to be Syrian immigrants. The head of the Al-Qaeda network in Spain was the Syrian born Spanish national Eddin Barakat Yarkas (“Abu Dahdah”). He was close to the outlawed Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and was directly involved in the preparations of the 9/11 attacks. He was in touch with lead hijacker Mohammed Atta. Barakat Yarkas obtained Spanish citizenship by marrying a Spanish woman named Marisa Martín, a convert to Islam.

Another important Al-Qaeda operative in Spain was Mustafa Setmarian Nasar (“Abu Musab Al-Suri”) born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1958. He, too, married a Spanish woman who converted to Islam.

Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi (“Abu Talha”), a Syrian “businessman” in Spain, was among Abu Dahdah’s main financiers, and was convicted in Spain on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization. He transferred vast amounts of money to radical Muslims in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Jordan. The Hamburg based terror cell of Mohammed Atta also received money from him.

Another close associate of Abu Dahdah was a Syrian immigrant named Moutaz Almallah Dabas. Moutaz Almallah and his brother Mohannah were arrested in Madrid in March 2005 on suspicion of involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings – an Al-Qaeda operation. Mohannah Almallah Dabas was a close friend of Basel Galyoun, a Syrian immigrant from Homs, who was equally linked to the same bombings. The latter’s apartment served for the terrorist group meetings prior to the coward attacks on Spanish commuter trains on March 11, 2004. “Basel Ghalyoun was a key figure in planning the attack and recruiting some of the participants in the plot.”

Syrian-born Taysir Allouni, the famous Al-Jazeera journalist who lived in Granada, Spain, was arrested in September 2004 on charges that he cooperated with Al-Qaeda. Spanish authorities claimed that “Allouni nurtured close contacts with Abu Dahdah and several other members of the latter’s network.” Allouni moved to Kabul in 2000 as Al-Jazeera’s correspondent in Afghanistan. One month after 9/11 he was granted an interview with Osama bin Laden himself. Allouni obsequiously addressed the Al-Qaeda leader, a mass murderer, as “Sheikh.” Only Bin Laden’s followers and admirers do so.

The 9/11 attacks were partially prepared in the German city of Hamburg where three of the four 9/11 suicide pilots were stuying. All of them visited the radical Al-Quds mosque near the railway station. (where calls were made to "kill all the Jews.") Mohammed Atta befriended a Syrian immigrant named Mahmoun Darkazanli, classified by the United States Treasury as Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Darkazanli was born in the Syrian city of Aleppo. It was probably Darkazanli who convinced Atta to visit Aleppo.

An important Al-Qaeda operative in Hamburg was Mohammed Haydar Zammar. He was born in Syria but his family moved to Hamburg in 1971. He was on close terms with Darkazanli and later with Mohammed Atta. He organized flights for radical militants to Afghanistan. He was also cooperating with Abu Dahdah in Spain.

Latin America as a new base for Muslim terrorists

It is not only in Europe that Syrian and other Muslim immigrants are involved in terrorist causes. The late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez even encouraged the arrival of many radical Muslims from the Middle East and Iran. One of his instruments was Tarek El Aissami (or Tarek El Aysami), a second-generation Syrian immigrant in Venezuela. Aissami’s father, Carlos Aissami, once openly heaped praise on “the great Mujahideen, Sheikh Osama bin Laden.” As Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami gave temporary visas to members of Hezbollah, Hamas and Al-Qaeda. He reportedly helped to set up terrorist training camps in Venezuela and cooperated with Ghazi Nasr Al-Din, a Venezuelan diplomat in Beirut who was born in Lebanon. When he was in Venezuela, Nasr Al-Din collected money on behalf of Hezbollah. The U.S. Treasury Department added Nasr Al-Din and his friend Fawzi Mustafa Kanan, another Venezuelan citizen born in Lebanon who collected money on behalf of Hezbollah, to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

Matthew Levitt from the Washington Institute of Near East Policy recently wrote an interesting article in the Journal of International Security Affairs. He points out that “Latin America is significant for Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations as well: the region provides an ideal point of infiltration into the United States. In at least one instance, a highly trained Hezbollah operative, Mahmoud Youssef Kourani, succeeded in sneaking across the border into the U.S. through Mexico in the trunk of a car. Kourani paid the owner of a Lebanese café in Tijuana $4,000 to smuggle him across the border in February 2001. The café owner, Salim Boughader Mucharrafille, admitted to assisting more than 300 Lebanese sneak into the U.S. in similar fashion over a three-year period.”

The New York Times reported last May that a businessman linked to Hezbollah was arrested in Brazil in a fraud scheme. “Officials with Brazil’s Civil Police said the suspect, Hamzi Ahmad Barakat, 50, a Lebanese citizen with ties to the Triple Frontier region of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, was arrested Thursday in the city of Curitiba in southern Brazil in connection with creating a network of front companies to defraud Lebanese immigrants who had recently arrived in Brazil.” “In 2006,” The New York Times continues, “the Treasury Department designated Mr. Barakat as a member of Hezbollah and said he owned and managed a store in Paraguay that ‘served as a source of funding’ for the group, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.”

That same month, in May 2013, that is, The New York Times reported that Mansour Arbabsiar, an Iranian-American used-car salesman from Texas, had been sentenced in a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador. He had been accused “of plotting to hire assassins from a Mexican drug cartel” to murder the ambassador. “The plan, according to government officials, involved Mr. Arbabsiar’s paying a member of the Los Zetas drug cartel $1.5 million to plant a bomb at a Washinton restaurant while the Saudi ambassador, Adel Al-Juberi, dined.”

This is only the tip of the iceberg. A relatively high number Muslim immigrants in Europe, North and South America also hate the Jews and espouse anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Furthermore, not so few Muslim immigrants harrass women or force them to convert of Islam. That is why Australia does not want to allow too many immigrants from the Muslim world. In years past a number of immigrants from the Middle East and Asia harrassed women or were involved in preparing terrorist attacks. The Australian government has been criticized for deporting economic migrants to a small island, but there is hardly an alternative to this policy. It would be irresponsible and dangerous if Western states would completely open their borders and allow ever more immigrants from risk countries located in Africa, the Middle and Asia.

Immigrants from Jordan, Pakistan and North Africa

Europe has already received far too many immigrants from the Middle East, Nigeria, North Africa, Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their integration into Western society is often very problematic. Some of these Muslim immigrants posed or are still posing a serious security risk, and it is virtually impossible to deport them. There is, for example, the case of Omar Mahmoud Othman, better known as “Abu Qatada the Palestinian.” This Palestinian radical from Jordan fled to Britain in 1993 where he successfully applied for asylum. The firebrand cleric from Jordan subsequently became a leading figure in the European Al-Qaeda network. The London mayor Boris Johnson wrote in February 2012 that this man “has cost at least 500,000 British pounds in benefits and other payments.” This does not include substantial legal costs as Abu Qatada legally applied against attempts to deport him. Boris Johnson writes about Abu Qatada’s hate speech: “He has called for the murder of any Algerian who converts from Islam – including their wives and children. He used one of his Finsbury Mosque sermons to propose the killing of all Jews, and followed this up by suggesting that his admirers should not kill only Americans, but British people as well.”

Last July, Abu Qatada could finally be deported from Britain. Liberal British and European judges had prevented his deportation for too long.

The perpetrators of the London 7/7 suicide bomb attacks on the London underground and a double-decker bus were three Pakistani immigrants and one Jamaican Muslim convert named Germaine Lindsay. This was an Al-Qaeda operation.

The perpetrators of the terror attacks in Madrid on March 11, 2004, were North African immigrants. One of them was a Tunisian man named Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet (“El Tunicino”), the others were Moroccans. Fakhet had received terrorist training in an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. An Algerian Muslim named Allekema Lamari is regarded as “the emir” (leader) of the Madrid bombings.

Also before the 9/11 attacks did some Tunisian immigrants play a nefarious role in Europe. In Belgium, for example, a man named Tarek Maaroufi assisted in a successful Al-Qaeda operation to kill Ahmed Shah Masood just two days before the 9/11 attacks. Masood was the leader of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, one of the most important Afghan opponents of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Osama bin Laden reportedly convinced the Taliban to approve this Al-Qaeda operation. The two men who killed Ahmed Shah Masood were Tunisian immigrants in Belgium who posed as TV-reporters. They belonged to a terrorist cell led by Maaroufi.

In Italy, a Tunisian immigrant named Sami bin Khamis bin Salih Essid (Essid Sami Ben Khemais) turned out to be an Al-Qaeda operative who led a terror cell near the North Italian city of Milan. It was referred to by the Italian police as “the Varese Network.” Ben Khemais planned, among other things, attacks using chemical weapons. The Italian counter-terrorism police DIGOS monitored the conversations in his apartment in Varese (near Milan) and was able to thwart all terror attacks. (I myself had access to the texts of these conversations and quoted from them in my 2005 book on Al-Qaeda – DIGOS translated these texts into Italian.)

It should be noted that Ben Khemais entered Italy as an illegal immigrant in 1994, yet he was allowed by the lenient Italian authorities to set up his own company, as a cover to assist illegal immigrants and to launder money. He also frequented a radical mosque in Milan and traveled to Afghanistan in 1998 where he was trained in an Al-Qaeda training camp. It was there that he met an Algerian man named Ahmed Ressam – the so-called “Millennium Bomber.” Ben Khemais also paid a visit Spain to contact Al-Qaeda operatives there. Moreover, he met Tarek Maaroufi in the autumn of 2000 when the latter traveled to Milan.

In April 2002, the ancient El Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba was attacked by the Tunisian suicide bomber Nizar Nawar. Nawar originally lived with his mother in France, but he later moved to Canada. In February 2002, he traveled to Tunisia to prepare for the attack. This, too, was an Al-Qaeda operation. It had been planned by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Osama bin Laden’s trusted man who had also organized the 9/11 attacks.

It was last August that the German newspaper Die Welt reported that four Tunisian terrorists had been arrested in the summer of 2012. They were planning a series of terrorist attacks in Europe. This Tunisian “terror commando” had been trained in Pakistan’s restive tribal area of Waziristan. The leader of the operation, Die Welt reported, was Abdullah Al-Adam a.k.a. Abu Ubaida Al-Maqdisi, a Palestinian who grew up in Saudi Arabia and belonged to the leadership of Al-Qaeda. He was killed in a U.S. drone attack in April this year. (Certainly not all drone attacks are wrong.) Some of the Muslim militants Al-Maqdisi had selected for this mission had previously lived in Europe and spoke several European languages. Western intelligence services intercepted the Tunisian jihadists in the Turkish-Iranian border area and subsequently deported them to Tunisia. The Tunisian authorities then lamely decided to release these men who have disappeared since.

Migrant trafficking and “terrorist pipelines”

Africa is today’s hotbed for international terrorism, migrant trafficking and cocaine trade. There is a so-called “terrorist pipeline” between Minneapolis and Somalia, Time (European edition) reported recently. “Minneapolis is home to the largest Somali population in the U.S., and in the past six years it has lost an estimated 25 to 40 young men to Al-Shabab, the Al-Qaeda linked group that claimed responsibility for the September 21 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi.”

Hundreds of radicalized young Muslims in Europe, Muslim converts among them, have now joined jihadist groups in Syria – just another unwelcome terrorist pipeline.

Millions of Africans, Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis now seek to enter Europe, come what may. Last September, three to four hundred sub-Saharan Africans attacked the tall fence that separates Morocco from the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. The Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that the violent assailants used a lot of force as they entered the enclave of Melilla. They even attacked Spanish policemen wounding six of them.

Recently, hundreds of African and other migrants died when their small boats sank in the Mediterranian Sea. They were on their way to the Italian islands of Lampedusa and Sicily. Most of them came from Somalia and Eritrea, but there were also drowned victims from Syria.

This is a very big tragedy indeed, but it would be entirely wrong to lay the blame on European governments and their border policies. What does not help at all is giving a “state funeral” and giving Italian “honorary” citizenship to the drowned victims whose bodies could be recovered. Such silly gestures will only encourage the migrant traffickers to continue their criminal activities. Indeed, they are the very ones who should be blamed primarily. It is they who force hundreds of economic and other migrants into small boats which are not seaworthy. Morever, these migrants are also taking huge risks themselves, and they know this quite well. So they are responsible, too.

The London weekly The Economist rightly points out: “The humanitarian impulse to save lives clashes with the political need to curb illegal immigration. The fear is that making sea crossings safer may just lure more people.”

There is another problem. Most illegal immigrants from Africa and Syria do not want to stay in Italy. This country is not good enough for them. They want to travel further north, notably to Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway or Britain. That is why they, upon arrival in Italy, refuse to give their fingerprints to the police. These fingerprints are registered in a European database in order to curb illegal immigration. European migration law requires that the country where the migrants arrive first takes care of them. NRC Handelsblad, a leading newspaper in the Netherlands, recently reported that the lenient Italian police often simply complies with the wishes of those who refuse to give their fingerprints. Most of the refusers are Syrians who are not satisfied with the they way they are treated in Italy. Syrian migrant Taleb Hammed (from Homs) told NRC Handelsblad that he paid $3,500 to a migrant trafficker in Alexandia, Egypt. He arrived in Italy together with his brother who also had to pay $3,500 to this criminal.

The experience with African and Muslim migrants and asylum seekers in Europe has shown that they settle in Europe’s big cities where they often pose a serious problem to law enforcement. Too many of these Muslims are also anti-Semites who hate the Jews.

Nigerian and West African criminal networks are now being regarded as posing a substantial threat in Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. These Nigerians cooperate with Latin American and African drug criminals and are making huge additional profits from fraud, prostitution and marriage scams.

Daniel Pipes, an American expert on Islam, terrorism and the Middle East, made an important plea to let refugees remain in their own culture zone. The West cannot solve the Syrian refugee problem, he writes. Moreover, “many in Western countries (especially European ones such as the Netherlands and Switzerland) have wearied of taking in Muslim peoples who do not assimilate but instead seek to replace Western mores with the Islamic law code, the Sharia. Both German chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron have deemed multiculturalism, with its insistence on the equal value of all civilizations, a failure. Worse, fascist movements such as Golden Dawn in Greece are growing.”

Emerson Vermaat is an investigative reporter in the Netherlands specialized in European history, crime and terrorism. In 2000 and 2004 he published two Dutch books on crime among non-Western immigrants as well as a Dutch study on Al-Qaeda terror networks in 2005. He also made a number of TV reports on crime, terrorism and Al-Qaeda (between 1996 and 2004).

Website: Emerson Vermaat


Evan F. Kohlmann, The Afghan-Bosnian Mujahideen Network in Europe (Swedish National Defence College, 2006,, p. 4.

Ed Blanche, Worldwide arrests, in: Jane’s Intelligence Review (London), August 2001, p. 49, 50.

Emerson Vermaat, De Dodelijke Planning van Al-Qaida (Soesterberg, the Netherlands, 2005), p. 101-103 (Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli), p. 141-143 (Serhane Fakhet and Allekema Lamari), p. 151-156 (The Abu Dahdah network in Spain), p. 190-196 (Al-Qaeda’s role in the bombing of the El Ghriba synagogue in Tunisia), p. 201-211 (Tarek Maaroufi and Essid Sami Ben Khemais).

Brynjar Lia, Architect of Global Jihad. The Life of Al-Qaida Strategist Abu Musab Al-Suri (London: Hurst & Company, 2007), p. 192-194 (on Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi and Taysir Allouni).

Casimiro García-Abadillo, 11-M: La Venganza (Madrid: La Esfera de los Libros, 2004), p. 111 (Abu Musa Al-Suri), p. 180 (Basel Ghalyoun nacido en 1980 en Homs, Syria), p. 181 (Mutaz Almallah), p. 226 (Moutaz Almallah, “mano derecha de Abu Dahdah”; Basel Ghalyoun, an immigrant from Homs, Syria).

El Pais digital (Spain), March 18, 2005 (“Detinido un sirio en el marco de la investigación por atentados de Madrid”); (Chile), March 18, 2005 (“Detinido un sirio en investigación por atentados de Madrid”).

Basel Ghalyoun, (“…a key figure in planning the attack…”).

Bruce Lawrence (Ed.), Messages to the World. The Statements of Osama Bin Laden (London/New York: Verso, 2005). p. 106-129 (Al-Jazeera interview with Osama bin Laden).

Profile: Mohammed Haydar Zammar, History Commons, .

Nicole M. Ferrand, Quién es Tarek El Aissami?, in: Soberanía (Venezuela), March 4, 2009; Die Welt (Germany), June 20, 2008, p. 7 (“Hisbollah’s Freunde in Südamerika”); Anna Mahjar-Barducci, Venezuelan Minister Hangs Out With Hezbollah,

Boris Johnson, On top of everything else, Abu Qatada costs us a small fortune, The Daily Telegraph (London), February 13, 2012.

Die Welt (Germany), August 12, 2013, p. 6 (“Al-Qaidas zweites Leben: Die Terrorgruppe bleibt gefährlich, das zeigen neue Informationen über Anschlagsplan für Europa im Jahr 2012”).

Time (European edition), October 14, 2013, p. 8 (“The Home Front: Authorities struggle to stop a terrorist ‘pipeline’”).

NRC Handelsblad (Weekend), October 12, 2013, p. 20, 21 (“De pijn zit bij de vingerafdruk”). Many migrants refuse to give their fingerprints to the Italian police. They don’t like Italy and want to travel to Northern Europe. European migration law requires the migrants however, to give their fingerprints to the police in the country of first arrival. The Italian authorities lamely tend to violate these essential rules – an obvious encouragement to the migrant traffickers and their victims.

El País (Madrid), September 18, 2013, p. 18 (“Dos oleadas de inmigrantes logran cruzar las fronteras de Ceuta y Melilla”). This was also reported on television on September 17, 2013. I saw this TV report myself.

The Economist (London), October 12, 2013, p. 28 (“Adrift about boat people”).

Daniel Pipes, Let Refugees Remain in Their Culture Zones, in: The Washington Times, September 24, 2013.


©2013 Emerson Vermaat. All rights reserved.