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Faisal Shahzad, French terror arrests, and drone strikes: evidence of a working strategy?

Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber, was sentenced today as French police arrested alleged militants. Policing and intelligence-sharing has improved dramatically since 9/11.

By Staff writer / October 5, 2010

A soldier walks near tourists Tuesday as he patrols near the Eiffel Tower in Paris as France continues its high alert. Anti-terrorist police arrested 11 people in several parts of France early Tuesday in swoops on suspected Islamic extremists, a police source said.

Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

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In New York today, a smirking Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life in prison for trying to bomb Times Square, while across the Atlantic in France, a counterterrorism operation resulted in the arrests of 12 men.

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That followed a US drone strike in Pakistan yesterday that killed eight German citizens, all Muslims allegedly hoping to return to Europe and murder civilians in the name of their faith.

Those men, in turn, were connected to a British national and alleged co-conspirator killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan in September. Their plan, which appeared more aspirational than likely, given that all of the alleged plotters identified so far were thousands of miles from Europe at the time of their deaths, was allegedly to roam the streets of a major European city with small arms, similar to the attack in Mumbai two years ago that left 168 people dead.

Reason for fear, or optimism?

All of this and more has once again put a spotlight on fears that Al Qaeda is successfully reaching out to Muslims resident in the West, training them in Pakistan, and sending them home to carry out terrorist attacks. The US and European governments have fretted for years that so-called homegrown terrorists, with passports and language skills that make it easier for them to get around, could be behind the next major terrorist attack in a New York or London.

Those concerns are reasonable, since the last major attack in the West – the bombing of the London subway system in July 2005 – was carried out by British Muslims who'd received training in Al Qaeda-connected camps in Pakistan's lawless border region.

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