1.) SPAIN. February 1, 2005
MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Spanish police have arrested four Moroccans who are they believe are "directly linked" to the Madrid train bombings last March that killed 191 people.
The four -- from the same family -- were arrested between 6 a.m. and 7:35 a.m. (midnight to 1:35 a.m. ET) in Leganes, a southern Madrid suburb where seven of the most-wanted suspects in the train bombings blew themselves up April 3 as police closed in on their apartment hideout. The four are suspected of helping two other suspects in the train bombings -- Mohamed Afalah and Abdelmagid Bouchar -- flee from Leganes last April around the time of the apartment explosion, the Interior Ministry said.
The four Moussaten family members arrested Tuesday are allegedly linked to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, a terrorist group whom authorities have blamed for a role in the train bombings. The four were linked to leaders of the combatant group who were arrested last year in Belgium, France and Spain.
The arrests of Combatant Group operatives in Belgium in March 2004 included a Moroccan suspect, Youssef Belhadj, age 28. Spanish investigators believe he may be the same person as a man called Abu Dujanah -- a suspected al Qaeda spokesman in Europe -- in whose name a claim of responsibility for the train bombings was issued last year.
The Moussaten family members arrested Tuesday had a link to Belhadj, the Interior Ministry statement said, and Spanish authorities on Tuesday issued an arrest warrant for Belhadj. Despite his arrest last year in Belgium, he currently is not in jail there, the statement said.
2.) FRANCE, GERMANY. January 25, 2005
Terror recruitment on the rise in Europe.
January 25, 2005. In France, Tuesday, security agents detained seven people suspected of helping funnel Islamic militants into Iraq. In Mainz, Germany, this weekend, police arrested an alleged al-Qaida operative who is also accused of recruiting for Iraq. He is alleged to be a key al-Qaida recruiter who was living in an apartment building on a quiet street. Also arrested: a Palestinian allegedly headed to fight in Iraq. U.S. officials tell NBC News that the recruiter, Ibrahim Mohammed Khalil, is an al-Qaida facilitator who trained in camps in Afghanistan, fought there after 9/11 and was sent back to Germany. There, both U.S. and German intelligence monitored him.
"He also had contact to the leadership of al-Qaida, including Osama bin Laden," says Kay Nehm, the German federal prosecutor working the case.
Experts say the arrest underscores al-Qaida's interest in the war in Iraq.
"It demonstrates that Europe is the central recruitment ground for al-Qaida when it comes to finding jihadists to fight in Iraq," says NBC terror analyst Roger Cressey.
Three men from a mosque in the Paris suburbs that was raided by French police died fighting in Iraq in recent months. One was a suicide bomber.
"They began by dozens, now there are hundreds," says Antoine Sfeir, an Islamic expert in France. "Not only French. Europeans from Germany, from Belgium, from Netherlands."
Even in the tiny town of Cremona, Italy, suspected terror cells provide money, fake documents and safe passage. Last year, Italian police charged five men with allegedly plotting to blow up the Milan subway and recruiting suicide bombers for Iraq.
3.) ITALY. January 26, 2005
ROME — An Italian judge's ruling that five North Africans accused of sending suicide bombers to Iraq were "guerrillas" and not "terrorists" has ignited outrage here and given rise to a debate over the definition of militancy in times of war.
Politicians across the ideological spectrum excoriated the judge Tuesday, as did some of her colleagues in the judiciary and leading newspaper editorialists. Several of the defendants in the case had been linked by investigators to violent extremists.
Expressing "rage and disbelief," Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said the ruling represented "a shameless distortion of a reality before the eyes of the entire world." Another senior member of the right-wing governing coalition, Fabrizio Cicchitto, called the decision "a major blow to the fight against terrorism."
The judge, Clementina Forleo, dropped international terrorism charges against the defendants, two Moroccans and three Tunisians, after deciding that their alleged actions did not appear to "exceed guerrilla activity."
In issuing the judgment Monday night, Forleo accepted prosecution claims that the men were members of Islamic fundamentalist cells in the northern city of Milan and nearby Cremona, and were raising money for "paramilitary structures" in Iraq.
But, citing the United Nations' 1999 convention on terrorism, she said guerrilla activities in war zones did not become terrorism unless they broke international humanitarian law or were designed to create terror among civilians. There was no evidence the defendants' activities crossed this line, she said.
She sentenced three of the men to jail terms of up to three years for lesser crimes, including the trafficking of fraudulent identification papers, and remanded the other two defendants to another court for a related prosecution.
Forleo defended her thinking Tuesday.
"It was a difficult decision, but I observed the law and followed my conscience," she told reporters in Milan. "My conscience is clear."
4.) GERMANY. February 2, 2005
Bonn Koran school under renewed pressure.
BONN - A Koran school in the German city of Bonn has come under renewed official pressure with the revelation that a staff member's son-in-law supported al-Qaeda and was planning to blow himself up in a terrorist attack in Iraq.
The infants-to-teens King Fahd Academy narrowly escaped closure last year after education officials discovered teachers were calling for a holy war against Christendom at school assemblies and the children spent more time in indoctrination than on the three Rs.
Though reading, writing and arithmetic were well behind the standard at German state schools, hardline Islamists from around Germany were moving their families to Bonn to enroll their children at the school. Juergen Roters, chief of regional government in Cologne, demanded that the Riyadh-funded school dissociate itself from anybody supporting terrorism after police established that a terror suspect arrested in Bonn last month was married to the teacher's daughter.
Yasser Abu-Shaweesh, a 31-year-old Bonn medical student, is alleged to have volunteered to perform a suicide bombing in Iraq. He was recruited by a German-based Iraqi militant, who reportedly trained in a Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and is also under arrest.
Police say that recently married Abu-Shaweesh was born in Libya but is stateless and carries Egyptian travel documents.
His wife and father in law are both Syrian born.
"Police intelligence gives me grounds for concern that there are links between the Islamist clientele of the King Fahd Academy and the school itself," said Roters. He demanded the 300-pupil school sack any teachers with pro-terrorism associations.
German intelligence agencies have closely scrutinized the school and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder been to Riyadh to complain to Saudi leaders about it. Government officials only let the school continue so as to avoid a foreign-relations crisis.
5.) GERMANY. February 2, 2005
Razzias in Germany nab terror suspects.
Unter der Leitung der Staatsanwaltschaft München durchsuchen rund 200 Polizeibeamte 37 Objekte in mehreren Bundesländern, wie das Polizeipräsidium Oberbayern am Mittwoch erklärte. Die Aktion richte sich gegen „eine Gruppierung von ausländischen, islamischen Staaten angehörigen Personen wegen des Verdachts der Bildung einer kriminellen Vereinigung”. Die Durchsuchung von 33 Wohnungen und vier Geschäften richte sich gegen 24 Mitglieder eines Netzwerkes, die sich nach den Feststellungen der Ermittler vermutlich zum Zwecke der Finanzierung radikal-extremistischer Aktionen im Ausland zusammengeschlossen haben. Der Schwerpunkt der Durchsuchungsaktion liegt laut Polizei in den Regierungsbezirken Ober- und Niederbayern sowie im Großraum München.
Under the aegis of the Muenchen Prosecutor's Office around 200 Police Officers searched 37 locations in several Laender, as Police HQ Oberbayern declared to the press on Wednesday. The search operation was directed against "a group of foreign nationals from Islamic states" on the grounds of the alleged belonging to a criminal group. In 33 of the locations, the focus lay on 24 members of a network who were probably cooperating to finance radical-extremist actions in foreign countries. The bulk of the search actions took place in Oberbayern and Niederbayern as well as in the greater area around Muenchen.
(Police Scheme of Islamist Terror Network in Germany)
Am 12. Januar fand bereits in mehreren Städten eine Razzia gegen ein in ganz Deutschland agierendes islamistisches Netzwerk statt. Sie wurde ebenfalls aus München gesteuert. Schwerpunkt der Durchsuchungen waren Ulm und Neu-Ulm, insbesondere das dortige „Multikulturhaus”. Nach Angaben des bayerischen Landeskriminalamtes bestand der Verdacht, Mitglieder eines "islamistisch-extremistischen Netzwerks" hätten gewerbsmäßig mit Ausweispapieren gehandelt, Dokumente gefälscht und illegal in Deutschland befindliche Gesinnungsfreunde versteckt.
On January 12th, in several cities another Razzia took already place against an Islamic network operating throughout the whole of Germany. This network, too, was coordianted from Muenchen. Focus of the search operations were Ulm and Neu-Ulm, especially the "Multicultural House" there. According to the Bayern Criminal Court members of the network had repeatedly fabricated fake identity papers, falsificatd documents and hidden illegal immigrants.
5.) THE NETHERLANDS. February 1, 2005
Prime Minister Balkenende already in 2003 on Death List.
Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende and Finance Minister Zalm were in 2003 already on the death list of 19-year old terror suspect Jason Walters, a convert to Islam. Walters was arrested in December 2004 in The Hague and was a member of the so-called "Hofstad Group" with which Mohammed Bouyeri, murderer of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, had contacts. The new information comes from chat sessions found on Walters computer. In the chat sessions, Walters says he had obtained authorization to carry out the murders from Imam Abdul-Jabbar Van de Ven, also a Dutch convert. Van De Ven is the Imam who, during a talkshow on TV in November, publicly made a death wish against Dutch rightwing MP Geert Wilders.
In the chat sessions, Jason Walters brags about training in a Pakistani camp for terrorists where he would have received basic jihadist training.
5.) BELGIUM. February 2, 2005
Belgian Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinckx (Parti Socialiste) has publicly admitted, responding to a query from Christian Democratic MP Tony Van Parijs, that alleged plans to blow up a High Speed Train Tunnel in Antwerp during the Open Tunnel Event in Antwerp in 2004 were considered serious enough to start an enquiry using an Investigating Officer. The Officer found out that the prime suspects were an Antwerp Imam and his three sons. Due to lack of evidence they could however not be prosecuted. Interesting to note is that the investigation was stopped after a short while, on October 21, 2004.
However, massive resources are still being employed to find the person who leaked info prepared about the attack, during a police and justice meeting. Via the leak the news of the attack landed on the desk of a journalist with newspaper De Morgen, who first reported on the story. The enquiry is focussing on former Antwerp Police Chief Bart De Bie, who for his no-nonsense, zero-tolerance style against Moroccan gangs in Antwerp was sacked and thereafter joined the Vlaams Blok, now Vlaams Belang.
You read me well. No effort is too much to "prove" that it was Mr. De Bie who leaked the info about an imminent attack on a High Speed Train Tunnel to the newspaper. Meanwhile, the investigation to find the planners of the attack is in limbo since October 2004.