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European Press Review: Targeting the Mind

European newspaper editorials on Monday commented on the threat of international terrorism following Saturday's police stakeout in Spain that killed the alleged mastermind of last month's train bombings in Madrid.

The primary target of any terrorist incident is the psyche of the population, said The Independent in London. The paper explained that the mind is the battleground where this new conflict is being fought. But governments are desperately hoping that people will not focus on this aspect of the war on terror, the daily continued. When it comes to the battle of the mind, the terrorists are carrying all before them. This, the paper believed, applies whether or not bombs are found before they detonate.

Norway’s Aftenposten remarked that the dramatic incidents over the past weeks in Spain have shown everyone the most evident conclusion of terrorist activities: It takes only a small number of terrorists to change the psychological and political climate of an entire country. Terrorists seem to have almost dictatorial powers, which stand in no relation to their numbers or the population’s sympathies, the paper concluded.

Der Standard in Vienna believed the fight against international terrorism will lead to a massive intrusion into people’s lives. When people can’t find a waste paper basket in the London or Paris metro because they have been sealed or dismantled as a security measure and when travelers have to endure body searches at the airport in socks, stripped of coat and belt – that is only a taste of what will determine our daily lives in the future, the paper wrote.

The Berner Zeitung in Switzerland noted that almost daily, police break up an Islamist terrorist cell somewhere in Europe, and almost always do the terrorists have final attack plans hidden away in a drawer, and good contacts to neighboring countries. The paper believed the Madrid massacre could have happened in any major European city. But despite worries about rising tensions, there is also a positive aspect, the paper remarked: It is to the credit of European security authorities that most of the terrorist plans we know about failed. This is encouraging, the paper concluded, adding that the globalization of terror can only be countered by the globalization of the fight against terror.

Germany’s Die Welt also praised precise police work, which it said has proven to be a good measure against Islamist terrorism without having to declare a state of emergency or other restrictions to civilian freedom. But the paper said the decisiveness the perpetrators of the Madrid attacks showed even in their downfall is alarming. Even when police work is successful, the threat of death and destruction remains, the daily concluded.