Deep concern: E.U. Official Sees Much Lower Risk From Qaeda

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E.U. is well known for its weakcounter terrorism policy and also for the lack of unity in command of counter terrorism, overruled by each member country’s own CT policy. Concerning news come from EU officials. BRUSSELS — A decade after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Al Qaeda cannot pose any similar threat, Europe’s top anti-terrorism official said Monday while warning that the uprisings in the Arab world had brought risks as well as benefits to the fight against terrorism. The official, Gilles de Kerchove, who has been the European Union’s counterterrorism coordinator since 2007, said Al Qaeda’s leadership had been severely weakened during the past decade, though its followers remained a danger. “We still face a threat which is much more diversified than it was 10 years ago, but an attack of the scale and sophistication of the kind we had on Sept. 11 is not really possible,” Mr. de Kerchove said at a news conference in Brussels. Increased sharing of intelligence and successes in degrading Al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan have made the world a safer place, he said. The improvement in cooperation between European police and intelligence agencies during the past decade has been “amazing,” Mr. de Kerchove said. As one example, he cited the introduction of the European arrest warrant, which allows those suspected of serious crimes to be extradited swiftly between nations. Yet with a more dispersed, looser, structure, jihadist terrorists remain difficult to track and can still pose a real and unpredictable threat, he said. “We may be confronted with more opportunistic, small scale attacks” in contrast to more sophisticated terrorist operations like those of September 2001 in the United States, he said. Mr. de Kerchove, a Belgian academic and former government official, pointed to the recent Arab uprisings as evidence that extreme jihadist ideology had little impact on the general population of the Middle East and North Africa. He added, however, that the changes sweeping the Arab world posed risks, too. These include the availability of looted weaponry in countries like Libya that could fall into the hands of extremist groups. Prisoners released in some countries might include jihadist fighters, he said, and the dismantling of security services in former dictatorships could create a vacuum. If the political aftermath of the Arab Spring fails to live up to expectations, Mr. de Kerchove warned, that could provide another opportunity for Al Qaeda to increase its ideological reach. “Democracy doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “Let’s hope that it won’t lead to some disappointment where Al Qaeda rhetoric might be attractive again.” He also spoke of European concerns about the failure of Washington close the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. A better approach to dealing with terrorism suspects is to try them as criminals, he said, citing trials in Spain after the attacks in Madrid in 2004. These deprived the perpetrators of victim status, he said. But areas in which progress has been limited in Europe include the battle to prevent radicalization of young Muslims, he continued. Mr. de Kerchove’s job involves coordinating the counterterrorism work of E.U. governments, monitoring the application of the European Union’s anti-terrorism strategy and fostering communication between the European Union and countries including the United States.

source: The New York Times

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