"There is a real terrorist menace in France and Europe," French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux told European media this week.
Hortefeux had just announced the arrest of a group of Islamist militants operating in southern France. The arrests followed numerous reports that intelligence agencies in several nations had detected a plot, likely planned by al-Qaida operatives, to launch "Mumbai-style" terrorist commando attacks in major European cities. The reports mentioned Paris and Berlin as specific targets.
The November 2008 Mumbai, India, assault was a massacre-by-gunfire attack left 166 people dead and over 300 wounded. Pakistani Islamist terrorists arrived by boat. They shot up hotels, going room-to-room looking for American and British citizens. They hit a railroad station, a Jewish community center and even a hospital. The terror team may have received orders via cell phone from senior commanders who were watching live TV coverage. Terrorists always seek media magnification, but Mumbai may be an example of terrorists using live media reports as a tactical intelligence tool.
The Mumbai attack had a huge strategic goal: to ignite a major war between India and Pakistan. Pakistan's fall 2008 army offensive against the Pakistani Taliban threatened terrorist sanctuaries. Beginning in mid-2008, Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strikes on al-Qaida and Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan had been increasingly effective.
Mumbai was a political and media gamble. The terrorists got a media pay-off but failed to ignite an Indo-Pakistani war that would have led to a Pakistani Army withdrawal from the pro-Taliban tribal areas.
Today, Pakistan remains in turmoil, but its army continues to press the Taliban. Moreover, Predator attacks on Taliban and al-Qaida sanctuaries have increased dramatically. The longwarjournal.org has done a splendid job of graphically documenting the increases and estimating Taliban and al-Qaida casualties. The Predator offensive is -- literally and figuratively -- killing them.
Which leads, unfortunately, to Europe, and terror war in Europe.
Al-Qaida regards Europe as a weak link in its war with the civilized world. It has what it regards as a good reason for this conclusion: The March 11, 2004, attack on Spain's capital, Madrid, gave the terror organization it greatest victory in this long struggle.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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