“Al Qaeda seeks high impact from Western recruits,” from Reuters:
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is stepping up counter-terrorism cooperation with
countries in South Asia and Africa to thwart al Qaeda attempts to train Britons overseas and send them back home to commit attacks, a senior official said.
The aim is to counter a perceived al Qaeda preference for deploying Western
volunteers on their home soil, even when they have trained abroad or volunteered for foreign theatres such as Pakistan, Somalia or Iraq.
The source said British authorities are now working with a number of countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh to keep tabs on suspected militants
planning to pick up training abroad and then apply it back home.
One hopes this undertaking might implement some lessons learned from recent American data-sharing with Pakistan.
While officials refuse to name the African countries involved, analysts and media reports have cited South Africa as a popular transit point between Britain and South Asia.
Security analyst Kurt Shillinger said the country’s liberal laws, sizeable Muslim minority, English-language Islamic seminaries and strong communications and transport links made it an attractive location where militants could lie low while raising funds or obtaining false passports for onward travel.
“It’s easy to get in here, it’s easy to find receptive communities,” said Shillinger, who heads the security and terrorism research project at the South African Institute of International Affairs.
“Pakistan is probably always going to feature most strongly as a destination, certainly for as long as core al Qaeda appear to be situated in the tribal areas of Pakistan and, for historical reasons, we have a large British Pakistani population and every year there’s perfectly legitimate travel to Pakistan by thousands and thousands of people,” said one security source.
But other countries are also of concern, the source added, citing Somalia as
one where militants have issued an “open invitation” to Muslims to come and gain jihadist experience.
And British sources say they are also worried about the possible training of recruits in camps run by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the network’s new North African
British and other European officials increasingly believe that Westerners who train abroad and volunteer to fight in foreign conflict zones are being encouraged instead to return home to plan attacks, instead of blowing themselves up in “just another suicide bombing” in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“For al Qaeda it makes little sense to waste European passport-holders in the Iraqi terror arena” when they could use Arab volunteers instead, a European intelligence source said.
“It certainly makes more sense in al Qaeda’s eyes, when it has second- or third-generation immigrants with the right to live in Europe, to deploy them there rather than burn them up in attacks in Iraq.”