Extremist groups linked to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network are very active in European Union states, using them as a recruiting ground and a base, a report from the EU’s police agency Europol has concluded.
The report on “Terrorist Activity in the European Union,” based on intelligence from EU states, also said the groups regarded Europe as a potential target for attacks.
Al-Qaida, blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, has also been linked by investigators to attacks in Asia, notably the Bali bombings and is suspected of supporting anti-U.S. insurgents in Iraq.
“While the (EU) has not been a victim of Islamic extremist attacks within its boundaries (in the last year), attacks overseas, notably in Morocco, were obviously targeting its citizens and interests, confirming if necessary the previous threats from Osama bin Laden,” said the report, seen by Reuters.
“The fact that no Islamic extremist attack has been committed in the European Union (since October 2002) should not be considered as a diminution or an absence of threat,” said the report, based on data for the period October 2002-October 2003.
Groups most active in big EU states
Groups with links to al-Qaida seem to be most active in the big EU states such as Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain, where police have cracked down on groups and people suspected of links to the group and in some cases averting planned attacks.
In March a German court convicted four men of conspiracy to murder for planning an attack on a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, using a home-made bomb.
French authorities have arrested 71 suspects since May 2002, of whom 38 remain in custody.
Britain, which the report said was considered by bin Laden and al-Qaida to be a “priority target,” also had intensive investigations of possible terror activity, leading to the arrests of more than a dozen people.
“The main focus is still on Islamic (extremist) groups close to al-Qaida which are very active in the European Union, which they consider both as a potential target, a recruiting ground and a logistical base,” the report said.
The Europol study is expected to be approved formally by EU governments on Monday and will be published once it has been sent to the European Parliament.