Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Gaza: How to Stop the Spiral? Israel Readies For Ground Offensive (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: How to Stop the Spiral? Israel Readies For Ground Offensive

Read more

FOCUS

Ireland's missing babies casting light on a dark history...

Read more

WEB NEWS

World Cup 2014: Germany-Brazil inspires the Web

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Boutros-Ghali: 'I wanted to reform the UN'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

57 000 little problems

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

The Sarkozy 'threat'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Budget challenge for India's new government

Read more

DEBATE

Africa's Newest Failed State: How to Stop Civil War and Famine in South Sudan? (part 2)

Read more

  • French companies will have to accept anonymous CVs

    Read more

  • Germany asks US intelligence station chief to leave country

    Read more

  • Death toll rises in Gaza as militants target Israeli cities

    Read more

  • Video: Muslims in China confront obstacles to Ramadan fasting

    Read more

  • Tour de France passes WWI Chemin des Dames battlefield

    Read more

  • Senegalese man awarded French visa in gay marriage debate

    Read more

  • Israel steps up airstrikes as diplomacy gets under way

    Read more

  • Argentina beat Netherlands on penalties to reach World Cup final

    Read more

  • Foiled French jihadist ‘targeted Louvre and Eiffel Tower’

    Read more

  • Obama in Texas to urge congressional action on child migrant crisis

    Read more

  • Iraq’s heritage 'in danger' from ISIS militants

    Read more

  • Froome crashes out of Tour de France

    Read more

  • South Sudan independence heroes ‘have lost their way’

    Read more

  • 100 years on, the Tour de France returns to the Western Front

    Read more

  • Dozens of blindfolded bodies found south of Baghdad

    Read more

Europe

Terror alert linked to Mumbai-style ‘swarm’ attack

©

Text by Apoorva PRASAD

Latest update : 2010-10-04

The travel alerts issued by the US, UK and Japan are vague on details, but intelligence reports and analysts agree that there is a clear possibility of a Mumbai-style “swarm” attack on soft targets in a European city. (Photo: France's GIGN)

The US, UK and Japan have all issued travel advisories in the last few days to their citizens, warning against the possibility of a terrorist attack in Europe.

The US state department’s alert reminds citizens of the “potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructures”.

According to reports, electronic surveillance by one of the UK’s intelligence services, GCHQ, has located British citizens training in Pakistan to carry out a Mumbai-style “swarm” attack.

A terrorist attack of this nature in the West would not only be physically devastating, but also psychologically. In fact, Western governments have feared exactly such an event ever since the Mumbai attacks in November 2008.

Mumbai-style swarm attacks

This “swarm” attack model in Mumbai saw highly trained gunmen from Pakistan using small arms and grenades to “swarm” hotels, a hospital and a railway station all at the same time, killing and taking hostages.

This is different from the kind of terrorist bombings Europe has faced in the past, such as in London or Madrid. The swarm model ties up police and security forces for hours or even days. In Mumbai, it took a specialised counter-terrorist force several days to kill all the attackers; meanwhile the casualties piled up.

Analysts believe the Mumbai attack impressed al Qaeda, which is why it intends to now use it in Europe. “It was a slow motion 9/11… 7/7 (the 2005 terrorist attack in London) was over in seconds,” says Shiraz Maher, terrorism expert at ICSR/King’s College, London.

“If you have a gang of ruthless well armed, well trained terrorists going into a city in an open society, they can do terrible harm to people, armed with machine guns and grenades. And it would be difficult for the local police, in any city, in the west as well as in Asia and Africa, to deal with that type of attack” argues Paul Wilkinson, Chairman of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence.

Increase in drone strikes

The US has increased its drone strikes in Pakistan over the past few days, something that experts argue points to an immediate danger in Europe.

“If you remember, a few days before the Christmas day bomber – the underpants bomber – there were increased drone attacks in Yemen. So a surge in drone attacks in Pakistan does reveal the US received credible intelligence [of a threat in Europe],” says Maher.

But issuing an alert could have two very opposite effects. The alert could either “precipitate events,” says Maher. Or “it may have thwarted this kind of attack,” feels Wilkinson.

A threat to Europe vs a threat to the US

Europe is higher on the threat list than the US for two reasons. Firstly, European countries contribute troops to ISAF, the international contingent fighting the Taliban and extremists in Afghanistan. Furthermore, Maher points out that France was specifically threatened in an al Qaeda video because “of the headscarf issue”.

Secondly, is the “supply issue”, says Stephen Tankel, Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “There are people going [to train in Pakistan] from Britain, from Germany – there’s even a ‘little Germany’ section there”.

“Getting these people into the EU is easier than into the US. It’s easier to re-infiltrate [EU citizens] back into Europe. The US is one self-contained country, whereas in the EU you can move around”, says Tankel.

One issue that seems clear, however, is that Western governments need to prepare for a very different type of terrorism.

“One of the features of the Mumbai assault was the seizure of hostages at a number of sites”, says Wilkinson. “The Indian authorities were overwhelmed by the scale of the attack on Mumbai… it was specially trained commandos who brought the sieges to an end and took control of the buildings”.

As Maher notes, the “next few weeks will be crucial”.

Date created : 2010-10-05

  • TERRORISM

    Japan, Sweden latest countries to issue travel alerts for Europe

    Read more

  • TERRORISM

    Attacks on European targets foiled by spy agencies, reports say

    Read more

  • INDIA

    Security fears linger on one year after Mumbai attacks

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)