The Islamic terrorist group Al Qaeda continues to be the most serious terrorism threat to Europe, the bloc's new anti-terrorism chief told EU lawmakers.
European nationals affiliated with al Qaeda especially concern the EU
"An attack perpetrated by local or international networks remains likely," Gilles de Kerchove, appointed in September to coordinate counter-terrorism efforts among EU member states, told the European Parliament.
He called on EU states to be more active in combating radicalism and emphasized the importance of Internet surveillance.
The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan had "a considerable impact on radicalization of extremists in Europe," added de Kerchove.
Terrorists close to home
Authorities are worried about the international nature of the al Qaeda movement
European converts to radical Islam have had a hand in several recent terrorism plots on European soil, including a foiled attack in Germany in September.
Germany authorities now know of up to 50 Islamic militants linked to the three men suspected of planning the attack, the head of Germany's federal police, Jörg Ziercke, said in an interview in the Tuesday edition of the Cologne daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.
Two German citizens and one Turkish national have been arrested in connection with the plot. They allegedly trained in terrorism camps in Pakistan before founding the domestic cell of an al Qaeda affiliate in Germany.
"We believe there are still members of this network in Pakistani training camps," Ziercke said. "Whoever comes back to Germany so radicalized is for us extremely dangerous."
The next generation of terror
Britain's intelligence chief Jonathan Evans also spoke out against domestic radicalism Monday, saying that the number of individuals in Britain with suspected terrorist links has risen to at least 2,000 this year, compared with 1,600 last year.
"As I speak, terrorists are methodically and intentionally targeting young people and children in this country," he said in a speech to the Society of Editors Conference in Manchester. "They are radicalizing, indoctrinating and grooming young, vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism."
Call for jihad in the Maghreb
Ayman Zawahri called for Jihad in the Maghreb via an audio message
Some EU member states see growing Islamic extremism in North Africa as a particular threat, especially those countries that have large immigrant populations from the Maghreb.
An existing Islamic Maghreb terror group aligned itself with al Qaeda earlier this year, winning the support of terror boss bin Laden.
Al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al Zawahiri called over the weekend for a holy war against the leaders of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco due to their support for the US-led war on terror.
"The fact that [the Maghreb] has embraced al Qaeda's international terrorism, and [its] geographical proximity to Europe brings terrorism closer to the borders of Europe," said EU anti-terror chief de Kerchove.