It may seem like something that would take place in Baghdad, but it is happening in London — British-born Muslim men burning the flag and threatening the government.
One protester yelled: “Pull your troops out of Iraq. And if you do not pull your troops out, you will get bloodshed on the streets of London.”
It is part of a small, but experts fear growing, group of young men in Europe who believe they don’t need to go Afghanistan and Iraq to wage war — they can do it on their own doorstep.
“To such people it is the duty to further jihad — to recruit people to an extremist cause,” said counterterrorist expert Charles Shoebridge.
France arrested one radical cleric in April. Dozens of other religious leaders have been kicked out. Italy has done the same. And Germany has banned several groups that preached hate and violence. They are the high-profile faces of extremism. But now there is a new threat from recruiters that is emerging.
What worries security officials now is a new, insidious tactic — low-profile recruiting that’s taking place in small mosques, cafes and even private homes, by radicals too savvy to risk being caught on camera. Finding them requires undercover work.
“Tonight with Trevor McDonald,” a show on Britain’s Grenada TV, spent months using a hidden camera on an alleged recruiter, who described who he goes after. He said, “They’re definitely hotheads. But they’re all educated guys. Students, computer engineers, that type of thing.”
What kind of training does he offer? “First, simple armed weapon training,” the alleged recruiter said. “Light weaponry, which is the AK-47. From there they’re going to go on to interrogation tactics, assassination tactics.”
Professor Tahir Abbas said they prey on young Muslims who feel like outsiders in their own country. “It’s the sense of belonging," said Abbas. "Perhaps young people are feeling, well, we’re not really British. We’re not made to feel British. Nobody really wants us here.”
Adults who work with youths in Birmingham, England, caution not to assume all young Muslims are extremists — far from it. But they say events, especially in Iraq, are inflaming even the moderates.
One young woman said, “When we see our Muslim brothers and sisters in other countries being persecuted, being killed, of course we feel for them.”
A man added, “This is what young people can’t understand. Is the West against Muslims?”
British officials say it’s not a matter of if, but when, this country is attacked — and the greatest threat could be from the enemy within.