Thursday, September 06, 2007

Al Qaeda Vipers Seized In Germany And Denmark

With the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington close at hand, anti-terror police in Germany and Denmark have seized several operatives believed affiliated with Al Qaeda and charged them with having obtained chemical explosives for attacks on Americans and others.

The largest disrupted plot was in Germany, where two converts to Islam, and a member of Germany's Turkish community were arrested in possession of 1,500 pounds of explosives that allegedly would have been used "imminently" for attacks on the big American Ramstein air base, the Frankfurt Airport and other sites, such as restaurants and discotecques frequented by Americans. This morning, the New York Times is reporting that 10 other suspects are also being sought in this plot. One policeman was shot in the hand by one of the suspects during the arrests on Wednesday.

German police reportedly had been tracing the suspects for months, even having released one from an earlier arrest so that he could be tailed. It is also reported that the German authorities were able to substitute a less harmful chemical for the hydrogen peroxide the terrorists were planning to use to construct bombs.

The day before 600 German police conducted raids at 41 locations in that country, Danish police arrested an Afghan and a Pakistani alleged to have gathered chemical explosives for attacks in Denmark. This plot too was said to involve imminent action and affiliates of Al Qaeda.

Some of those arrested in the two countries were said to have traveled to Pakistan for training by Al Qaeda in a compound it operates in that country. This would be consistent with what happened in the London subway and bus bombings of 2005 that killed 52 persons and wounded hundreds of others.

German authorities said that had the plot there been consummated, the death toll could have exceeded those in London and in the 2004 attacks on trains in Madrid, which killed 191.

Analyzes in both the New York Times and L.A. Times today say that Al Qaeda recruitment in the Muslim communities of Western Europe has reached alarming proportions and that anti-terror units throughout Europe are on high alert. Other reported terrorist plots have recently been disrupted in Britain, the Czech Republic and Italy.

Al Qaeda has repeated threatened in video statements by its leaders to commit attacks against Americans in a number of countries in Europe and elsewhere.

But the proximity of the Sept. 11 anniversary is a particularly worry some time, because other attacks, such as the one in Spain, have occurred on the 11th of other months.

It may be the case that Al Qaeda, which is under strain from the U.S. military "surge" in Iraq, and is under some army pressure in the Pakistani borderlands where it and its allies in the Taliban are for the moment dominant, believes this would be a good juncture to extend the war into Western Europe, as it has also tried to do in North Africa. Many European countries have joined NATO forces in Afghanistan that are helping U.S. and indigenous Afghan forces to try to contain terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, including Germany, France, Britain, and the Netherlands. (Canadian units also are fighting, and, like the others, have taken casualties in Afghanistan).

Danish armed forces, in small numbers, have been operating in support of the Americans and British fighting in Iraq.

The training of terrorist operatives from Western Europe in the Pakistani borderlands demonstrates how important it is that everything be done to facilitate efforts to fight the terrorists in Pakistan, where the regime of dictator Pervez Musharraf seems to be faltering.

So far, except for a few forays, such as an alleged attempt by two Egyptians to carry out attacks recently in South Carolina, and alleged plots to bomb Fort Dix, N.J. and the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, there have not, thankfully, been terror attacks in the U.S. that would follow up on 9-11. But these too could occur.

This is a time, particularly this week, where a high degree of vigilance is in order on both sides of the Atlantic, and the big newspapers and networks are giving the would-be German and Danish plots heavy attention, as they should.


The L.A. Times has been giving good coverage this week to persistent power outages in Southern California due to a heat wave that has now faded. Nonethelsss, thousands of customers (but less than one-half of 1% of the total) have been without power for three days, due largely to obsolete transformers unable to carry the power load.

Steve Lopez, the Times columnist, was one of those whose home and family suffered such a failure, and he wrote with his usual eloquence yesterday of just how miserable it was. Adding to the frustration of victims was the customary poor information provided by officials of the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power, and Edison.

This is yet another infrastructure problem parallel to what we have seen with highways and bridges of late.



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