En av Frankrikes fremste terroreksperter, dommer Jean-Louis Bruguiere, mener at terrorfaren i Europa øker hele tiden.
Under et besøk i New York tirsdag henledet Bruguiere oppmerksomheten mot den nylig inngåtte alliansen mellom Al-Qaida og den nordafrikanske gruppen GSPC.
– The risk of terror attacks in Europe is high and is increasing, France’s leading anti-terrorism judge said, warning that a recent alliance between al-Qaida and a North African terrorist group poses a grave threat.
The Salafist Group for Call and Combat, known by its French initials GSPC, staged seven nearly simultaneous attacks in Algeria on Tuesday, targeting police in several towns east of Algiers, killing six and injuring around 30, according to officials, police and hospital staff.
Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa, the new name for the GSPC, claimed responsibility for the strikes.
«The GSPC wants to carry out attacks in Europe, especially in France, Italy and Spain, and destabilize North Africa,» Jean-Louis Bruguiere told The Associated Press on Tuesday night in New York.
French counterterrorism police arrested 11 suspects as part of efforts aimed at dismantling an alleged al-Qaida-linked recruiting network to send radical Islamic fighters to Iraq, police officials said Wednesday.
Nine suspects were detained in and near the southern city of Toulouse before dawn Wednesday, following the arrest of two others late Tuesday at Paris’ Orly airport, police said. The two had been sent home by Syrian authorities, investigators said.
Bruguiere said the threat to Europe is «pretty high.» France rates four on a scale of one to five, he said
He linked the increased threat level to the U.S.-led war on Iraq.
«Actors of jihad have become radicalized and have tried to demonstrate that their means have not been diminished since September 11,» he said.
As Western countries have developed new measures to fight attacks by Islamic radicals, the terrorists have also come up with a strategy to fight globally, he said.
Despite the growing danger of further Islamist strikes in Europe, there have also been successes in anti-terrorism efforts. An attempted attack by GSPC in France was foiled by domestic counterterrorism groups, and the French government is cautiously monitoring the group’s activities, Bruguiere said.
European countries are working closely together to prevent further attacks and international cooperation. He said that cooperation with the United States in particular has improved significantly in recent years.
Bruguiere, who spoke at the French-American Foundation in New York, has been instrumental in rounding up hundreds of suspected militants in France over 20 years and more recently earned a global reputation as having a key role in the fight against al-Qaida.
Some of the operations that Bruguiere and his colleagues have foiled over the years include: the storming of the hijacked Air France airliner by Algerian militants who planned to blow it up over the Eiffel Tower in 1994 and the plot to bomb the eastern French town of Strasbourg on New Year’s Eve 2000.