Sunday, July 08, 2012

8-Jul-12: Terrorist games, high stakes

The London Olympics: unparalleled showcase for more than one cause [Image Source]

About the London Olympic Games and their usefulness to terrorists, there's no need for any of us to overexert our imaginations. The massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 happened not because the Palestinian Arab jihadists hate athletes or athletics but because the once-in-four-year event is an unparalleled opportunity to get attention. The price hardly matters.

As of this morning, the London games are nineteen days away. They will run between July 27 and August 12, and will be protected by "the largest peacetime security operation ever seen in Britain" [source]. Those security measures are not being taken in a vacuumNo fewer than 14 terror-related arrests occurred across Britain in the past week, including one the British press calls "a white Muslim convert detained over an alleged plan to carry out a major terrorist attack". 

Nine individuals have been issued with orders under Britain's Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM), meaning their movements and computer use are restricted, and the police need to know and approve the people whom they meet. One of the nine is described in a major report in yesterday's (Saturday), UK Telegraph newspaper. It is quite a story, revealing much about Britain’s passive/aggressive approach to Islamist terrorism.

CF’s background is terrorism-rich. Now 24, and a member of "a large family of Somali origin from north London", he was intercepted by British authorities in 2008 and prevented from traveling to Afghanistan to become a jihadist and "to take part in suicide operations" according to a published Home Office report. He jumped bail in June 2009 and fled to Somalia before his trial started. Despite his absence, British justice managed to acquit him of any crime. He used his ill-gotten freedom well, taking part in terrorist training, recruiting other Brits, and becoming a fighter with the al-Shabaab group, generally regarded as affiliated with al-Qaeda. Five other Brits underwent the same training program which ended when their instructor, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, was permanently eliminated by a US Navy SEAL force in 2009.

CF is said to have married a Somali woman in Mogadishu in 2010. He was then arrested in Burao, Somaliland, in January 2011 and extradicted back to Britain. Two months later, despite the history of  terrorist charges against him, he was released and placed under the control order we mentioned above. Court papers [source] filed by the UK government state the obvious: that, but for the restrictions imposed on his freedom of movement and assembly, CF would be actively engaged in terrorism today.
“As CF has previously re-engaged in Islamist extremist activity, despite being on bail, previous disruptive action has not been enough to dissuade him from his involvement in Islamist extremism… His previous conduct has demonstrated a level of commitment to Islamist extremism, and CF is therefore determined to continue to adhere to his Islamist extremist agenda.”
Last month, CF was arrested again and remains held now by the police. (Evidently well aware of the opportunities, he is bringing an administrative appeal against the banning before the UK's High Court tomorrow, Monday). This is because he wears an electronic GPS tag that alerts police when he comes too close to sensitive places. And yet despite the tag, and jumped bail, this man on five separate occasions in April and May 2012 traveled (with the tag affixed to his body) by train through Olympic Park, and to the Stratford station beside the Westfield shopping centre that is a major gateway for visitors to Olympic Park. Britain's security services and police treat these as "among the most significant targets for terrorists". They are heavily patrolled and surveyed. The Telegraph's report leads with this line: "A suspected terrorist who MI5 believe is a would-be suicide bomber was found repeatedly near the Olympic Games venue." 

The lethal brazenness of CF and the other still-unconvicted Brits arrested in the past few days ought to remind us of the challenge open/democratic societies face when confronted with malevolents who play by very different rules - but who nevertheless continue to have substantial backing in the community. London's most painful experience till now of what the Islamist terrorists wish it came seven years ago in the co-ordinated killing attacks on its buses and underground trains. Those 2005 terrorist outrages, known today as 7/7, caused the deaths of 52 innocent people plus the murderers. They occurred one day after London was awarded the 2012 Games, but according to one thoughtful observerthose attacks are "almost forgotten 7 years on". 

UK police have said this weekend that no similar terrorist attack is "imminent". In fact, that's what MI5 officials have been saying throughout the past months in the wake of a series of terrorism-related arrests (23 suspects, most of them British citizens). We assume they understand fully the price of being wrong on something as serious as this. We don't envy the British the challenges they face in these coming weeks. 

No comments: