European Press Review: Who′s Behind the Letter Bombs? | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 06.01.2004
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European Press Review: Who's Behind the Letter Bombs?

European papers on Tuesday muse on the spate of letter bombs sent to European members of parliament, the increased security precautions in the U.S. and the dawn of a new era of improved ties between India and Pakistan.

Here in Germany the Tagesspiegel newspaper asked whether the Islamist terror acts have had a stimulating effect on other extremists triggering the latest spate of letter bombs. The paper asked whether globalization and social cutbacks have created so much aggression and frustration and thus spawned a new kind of terrorism from the left and the right? The paper concluded that a closer examination of the causes of domestic terrorism is required.

The Spanish newspaper ABC was almost at a loss to explain the phenomenon but also focused on a terrorism closer to home, speculating that the series of letter bombs sent to members of European parliament signal the rebirth of anarchist terrorism in Europe.

The fact that no serious damage has been done so far is purely a matter of luck, remarked the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung in Halle. The eastern German paper’s editors were also puzzled by the fact that no one has claimed responsibility. Other than the fact that all the devices were posted in Bologna, there are no concrete leads or indications of the motive behind the attacks, it wrote. So what can be the reason? You can be for or against Europe, wrote the paper, but economic and political realities can only be shaped through politics, not with bombs.

Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper weighed in on the debate on United States airport security arrangements and disagreed with those who feel the administration of President George W. Bush is going too far. Given the amount of intelligence being generated by security authorities, the paper wrote, it’s almost inevitable that some of that information will be incorrect. For air passengers the resulting delays and inconveniences are annoying, but, the paper opined, it is better to accept a further cancellation than risking a disaster and having to answer the question whether everything was done to prevent it.

Britain’s Independent offered a different perspective on the matter, arguing that the war on terror in the skies will be won on the ground. It said that x-ray machines, immigration checks and armed sky marshals are the last resort in the battle against terrorism. The first line of defense, the paper argued, is and will remain the gathering of intelligence material on suspected terrorists. The paper opined that this is where authorities are failing to do their job. Even worse the paper found, governments have failed to make it their priority. A fraction of the amount spent by the U.S. and British governments on their campaign in Iraq could have been put to good use in tracking potential bombers and hijackers, the paper concluded.

Other European editorials examined the summit meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan. The French newspaper Le Figaro commented that it is designed first and foremost to help Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to polish up his international image in light of past associations with the Taliban and possible nuclear links to Iran.

The Swiss newspaper Berner Zeitung opined that Musharraf has come a long way since 1999 when relations with India were at their lowest point after Pakistani troops occupied positions along the common Himalayan border previously held by India. Today, even India’s prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, has found some common ground to work on with Musharraf.