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Germans Warn of European Shift in Terror War

January 26, 2003

With recent anti-terror raids across Britain, Spain and Italy, news from the German Foreign Intelligence agency that a group of "terror commandos" are headed for Europe is set to raise fears of an imminent attack.

Vigilant Europe tightens the screw - but is it enough?Image: AP

Speculation is growing that Osama bin Laden has dispatched al Qaeda operatives on a European mission of mayhem after Germany's popular daily Bild Zeitung reported that the Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) has warned that a group of Afghan extremists, travelling on false Pakistani passports, were on their way to Europe.

The newspaper cited intelligence sources as saying that at least 20 "terror commandos" had set out for the continent via Bahrain as part of an all-out effort to attack targets in Germany, Britain, France and the Czech Republic.

Afghan extremists follow suspected Bin Laden ally

Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden.Image: AP

The source quoted in the newspaper could not say whether the group had any specific plans but intelligence reports stated that the extremists are followers of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has repeatedly denied reports that he is allied with the al Qaeda leadership.

The BND foreign intelligence agency has warned in recent months that it was concerned Germany might become the target of Islamist attacks because of Berlin's support for the US-led war on terror. Other countries signed up to President Bush's campaign have also been on high alert.

Spain smashes alleged chemical network

Steps to unpick the network of terrorist cells that are believed to be spread throughout Europe have brought about dramatic and disturbing results lately. Spanish anti-terror forces arrested 16 suspected extremists last week, claiming the men had links to al Qaeda and were allegedly preparing to launch chemical attacks.

El Kaida Prozeß in Frankfurt
European security is on high alert.Image: AP

In pre-dawn raids, police raided 12 homes in the northeastern Catalonia region surrounding Barcelona and discovered explosives, bomb components and radio-transmission equipment which the suspects are believed to have used to communicate with Islamic extremists in Algeria and Chechnya, according to Spain's Interior Minister, Angel Acebes. The searches in Spain turned up containers of suspicious resins, fuels and other chemicals that were being analyzed, as well as electronic components, detonators and remote controls that could be used in the manufacture of bombs.

Plans for suspected NATO attack found by Italians

Within days of the Spanish operation, Italian police swooped on the homes of three Muslims in the northern city of Rovigo, 50 kilometres south-west of Venice, after discovering explosives and maps marking the route to a NATO installation and a detailed plan of central London in a separate raid earlier in the week. Five Moroccans were detained after a kilogram of explosives was found in the building where the men were staying

Poison ring investigated by UK terror police

The heightened level of activity follows numerous raids in Britain after the discovery of the chemical ricin in a house in North London. Subsequent linked raids in cities on the south coast of the country resulted in a number of North African immigrants being detained while an anti-terrior operation in Manchester resulted in the fatal stabbing of a police officer.