A new generation of jihad seekers
Terrorism experts say young radicals working in Al Qaeda's shadow are an emerging threat.
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"I'd be very surprised if senior leaders of [Al Qaeda] weren't involved, there's lots of talk on how amorphous these organizations are and that's true, but things like this – an effort to rival 9/11 – I find it hard to believe if no one senior at [Al Qaeda] wasn't informed," he says.Skip to next paragraph
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On Wednesday, the AP quoted an unnamed Pakistani intelligence officer as saying the planned attack was "probably" approved by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's No. 2, who is believed to be in hiding near the Afghan-Pakistan border.
The link, if in fact it exists, would have been made through Rashid Rauf, a Briton of Pakistani decent who moved to Pakistan after the 2002 murder of his uncle in England. He was arrested in Pakistan two weeks ago and officials there have identified him as a key mover in the alleged plot.
The US government insists that major gains have been made against global terrorism in recent years, but also agrees that the day when civilians aren't menaced by terror tactics is far off. Earlier this week, Bush said the country's war on terrorism will last "for years to come."
The open-ended nature of this war, and feelings of public vulnerability generated by reports of plans like the one emanating from London, are creating great skepticism among US allies about the effectiveness of its tactics.
The populations of America's Arab allies, like Egypt and Jordan, are largely against US foreign policy and more inclined to blame America for the violence in the region than the terrorists who carry out attacks.
Michael Radu, who helps lead the counterterrorism center at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, agrees with the assessments above that the radicalization of Muslim communities has continued apace, but strongly disagrees with assertions that US policies have contributed to the problem.
Indeed, terror tactics has been used by Islamist groups for decades, over a host of grievances.
"These persistent images in the media, both by satellite TV in the Muslim world and among Muslims more generally portraying Muslim kids being killed all over the place plays a role, obviously," he says. "But we have to understand that the re-Islamicization of European Muslims started to happen a long time ago. Before 2001 we had British citizens conducting attacks in Kashmir, we had British citizens blowing themselves up in Israel. These things had nothing to do with Iraq or current events in Lebanon."
He largely blames a culture of denial among British and other Muslim communities themselves, and what he sees as a tendency of community leaders to ascribe blame for potential plots in the wrong places.
"The so-called Muslim leaders in Britain ... they paid for a [recent] ad that said the so-called root cause of this is the foreign policy of Britain," he says.
"They said the problem is Lebanon, it's Iraq, it's Afghanistan, in other words any action by the British government to counter Islamic terrorism ... is considered to be illegitimate and therefore an explanation, if not an excuse, for terrorism," he says.