Friday, June 11, 2004

Terrorism Ticks Up

Despite the earlier blundering effort of our government to persuade its befuddled citizens that our hapless President had turned the tide of terrorism, it turns out that they got the figures wrong. Terrorism is, after all, on the increase. As the BBC reports:

Global terror attacks are on the rise, says the US State Department, admitting an earlier report - which had claimed attacks were tailing off - was wrong.

The State Department reported in April that there were fewer terror attacks in 2003 than in any year since 1969.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said data in that report was misleading - but said this was an "honest" error.

Bush administration officials had cited the April report as proof that the US was winning its "war on terror".....

Opposition lawmakers had claimed the report downplayed the terror threat to suit the political needs of US President George W Bush, who faces an election this year and wants to show the public his anti-terror strategy is a success.

Democrat Congress member, Henry Waxman, accused the government earlier this week of distorting the initial report.

Mr Boucher said Mr Waxman's allegation was being addressed.

He added that errors in the report had begun to become apparent in May.

He said a revised report was being prepared and it would show a steep rise in the number of attacks compared to the original analysis.

Given the mounting dangers that we all face, it is rather surprising that the US and British press has paid so little attention to the arrest in Italy this week of Rabei Osman El Sayed ("Mohammed the Egyptian") who was the mastermind of the March 11 attacks on Atocha Station (Madrid). There are at least five important points--all taken from today's EL Pais (unfortunately not available without a subscription)-- to learn from this arrest:

1. The attacks on Spain were planned well before September 11 2001. They had nothing to do with Spain's involvement in the Iraq War.

2. "Mohammed" who had trained in explosives in the Egyptian army and who, in turn, had trained terrorists in camps in Afghanistan, was planning attacks throughout Europe including Britain, Germany, Holland, and France. Indeed, a plan to bomb the Paris Metro was in an advanced stage of planning.

3. "Mohammed" was heard on his tapped phone bragging of the number of female martyrs he had lined up to carry out future suicide attacks.

4. Mohammed had managed to recruit a number of Richard Reid ("the Shoebomber") types to carry out further attacks. These were, for the most part, a bunch of low level street criminals (Morrocans for the most part) who had become converts to a radical form of Islam while in prison.

5. Contrary to the claims of some of my more blinkered right-wing compatriots, the European police (including the Italian and Spanish police forces) appear to be arresting genuine terrorists rather than the hapless innocents the FBI keeps picking up.

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