Call for a new intelligence centre to be set up
01 March 2004
Spanish intelligence knew that the government's "support of the military intervention in Iraq by the United States and its Allies constitutes without doubt a further risk factor for Spain"
The Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt, has called for the EU to set up a new "intelligence centre" in the wake of the Madrid bombings. This would, he suggests, play a coordinating role by bringing together member state police, security, intelligence agencies and Europol and by sharing intelligence make an analysis of the terrorist threat. The Netherlands and Austrian governments are said to back the idea.
Mr Verhofstadt is quoted as saying that Europol has not succeeded in providing a "coherent" anti-terrorist policy (eupolitix.com). According to the Financial Times an internal report published just before the Madrid bombings, prepared by Mr Solana's team wrote:
"A number of instruments exist already within the Union to improve operational co-operation and co-ordination. They are however badly used, ratification of conventions is slow and the instruments are poorly used and/or poorly understood by law enforcement and judicial authorities in some member states."
This argument appears to carry some weight as Europol has had responsibility for terrorism since July 1999 when it became "operational". All member states supplied experts on terrorism. In 2000 Europol opened a "Analysis work file" on "extremist Islamic terrorism" in the EU. After the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001 EU Justice Ministers agreed on the creation of "a team of counter-terrorist specialists in Europol with member states appointing liaison officers from their police and intelligence services" (Europol itself already had seven counter-terrorist officers).
On 3 December 2003 Europol published a "Non-confidential report on terrorist activity in the European Union from October 2002 to October 2003, full-text: 15877/2/02
(pdf). The assessment provided by Spanish police and intelligence to the Europol report on "Islamic extremist terrorism"
reads as follows:
The various terrorist groups comprising the so-called “Islamic World Front” (under the leadership of al Qaeda, as well as the advocates of internationalisation of Jihad on a global scale, continue to pose the greatest threat to our interests as well as to the interests of the other EU Member States. The Spanish Government’s support of the military intervention in Iraq by the United States and its Allies constitutes without doubt a further risk factor for Spain, even though it might not be the most decisive or dangerous one.
In this sense, the attack targeting the Spanish Cultural Institute Casa de España in Casablanca (Morocco) could possibly be related not only to the armed conflict in Iraq, but also to other factors, notably the campaign carried out in the course of the last few months by radical Islamist groups (including Assirat Al Moustaquim and other currents connected to Salafia Jihadiya), targeting the western life style and moral decay and reverting to violent actions against persons who are considered to have strayed from the “righteous path“ and places such as entertainment centres or places where alcohol is being sold.
On the other hand, the detention of two Moroccan citizens involved in the Casablanca suicide attack emphasizes the growing presence of radical Muslim elements in particular mosques, Koran centres etc., using these locations as clandestine centres for developing various activities, mainly logistic and financial tasks related to radical Islamism professing international Jihad (procurement, accommodation, obtaining economic resources, propaganda, diffusion of extremist ideas...) At the same time, it has to be pointed out that the amount of travelling and mutual visits throughout various European countries gives evidenc