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London Warning: A New Step in Terror By: Dr. Walid Phares
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Last Thursday a security report from the UK may have been a low level announcer of a new benchmark in Jihadi terrorism. British Police said it arrested nine, including an Amjad Mahmoud, for “allegedly plotting” what authorities called “Iraq-style kidnapping.” Counterterrorism units arrested the men for planning on “kidnapping a British Muslim soldier and post his beheading on internet.” According to the reports the serviceman, in his 20s, has served in Afghanistan. The suspects, per the reports are of Pakistani origin wanted to act a la Zarqawi. They had been monitored for six months by Scotland Yard before the arrests would take place. Besides, the city of their “plot” had witnessed a previous sweep. Last summer, raids foiled a plot involving suspects from Birmingham, London and other British cities who had planned to blow up ten trans-Atlantic flights. Last week's arrests, conducted in Birmingham, would be a crossing of a new benchmark in the Jihadi war against Britain, perhaps even in Europe. Here is why:

1) “A factory”: The repetitive arrest in this important city, if anything, tells us that a hub is producing successive waves of Jihadists, ready to strike within Great Britain. If over a period of time, one particular location is producing more than one plot, aimed at the same global target and inspired by the same ideology this logically leads observers to conclude that a “factory” is in place. In other words, there are ideologues who seem to be convincing more individuals, from the same doctrinal pool, to devise and launch repetitive terror operations.

2) “Urban pocket:” The concentration of Jihadi terror activities in this one city (along with other possible sites) could mean that the militants have formed an “urban pocket” out of which they can coordinate activities, and in which they have established one or more safe havens. I have mentioned this potential mutation in my book Future Jihad as well as in several presentations to U.S. and European, including British, audiences in the past few years.

3) “Urban Battlefield”: The decision to conduct a kidnapping operation against a British soldier, to behead him and to post the criminal scene online presumes that the British Jihadists have chosen the option of “Urban battlefield.” They seem to be confident in several matters:

  • One, that they have the necessary numbers to wage successive operations.
  • Two, that they have established a “feeder,” that is a continuous flow of new recruits.
  • Three, that they can engage against open targets, and stretch the operation for hours, maybe a day or more.

This means that the cells, networks and their “strategic thinkers” inside Britain believe they have reached urban survival: They can project a variety of operations, focusing on the nerve systems of the enemy: In this case soldiers, particularly Muslim ones. Four and probably most importantly, to carry out such types of complex and horrific plans, assumes that the ideologues wanted to trigger wider waves among greater pools. If one cell assassinates a serviceman, other cells will emulate them and more military will be targeted later. That is very indicative of a specimen of operations which –if multiplied on a wider scale in the future- would create the objective conditions for the “Urban Jihad” I have warned from.

4) “Seizing the community”: One of the most dangerous terrorist tactics is to apply violence within a particular community, so that the terrorist leadership would break the ties between the group and the general society. A very risky choice, but from a Jihadi thinking process, it is unstoppable. Comparing to the Algerian model, note how the Salafists have waged a savage war against Muslims who oppose them in the 1990s: Thousands of policemen, women, children and elderly were killed. In Iraq, Jihadists have also conducted notorious murders against Iraqi civilian and military claimed they were “purifying” their midst from “traitors.” But seizing a community through fear and Terror "within" the West will have unique consequences. In the mind of the Jihadists, eliminating moderate Muslims, starting with the ones who work with Government, particularly in defense and security matters, will spread terror in the hearts of the community, further isolating it. And by doing so, the Jihadists will seize power within the social group, while the ideologues would seize its political message.

Thus, the Birmingham Jihadi plot is not just “another” terrorist happening. It is a crossing of a line, a benchmark. Somewhere in a British city, a war room has decided to create an enclave of terror. The arrests are certainly important, but what the terrorists wanted to achieve is even more important. It is one of these signals, that in Britain and probably in many European cities, a new phase has begun.

Dr Walid Phares is the author of the newly released book Future Jihad. He is also a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington DC.

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