Sunday, March 21, 2010
INTERVIEW: Terror risk still high, EU anti-terrorism chief warns
Brussels - European Union citizens should not assume that the terrorist threat to Europe has receded just because there have been no major attacks in recent years, EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles De Kerchove warned Sunday.De Kerchove's job is to oversee and boost cooperation between member states and the EU's central organs on terrorism issues."If Europe has not been the target of an attack, it does not mean that there is no threat. This impression does not reflect the reality," De Kerchove told the German Press Agency dpa."There are still reasons for being concerned," including the activity of terrorist recruiters in Europe and the growth of radicalization in areas as diverse as North Africa, Afghanistan, Yemen and Bangladesh, De Kerchove said.The position of EU anti-terrorism coordinator was created in 2004, shortly after Islamist terrorists killed 191 people in a bomb attack on the Madrid underground. De Kerchove took over the role in 2007.And though there has not been a major attack on the European mainland since then, he warned that there is no room for complacency, with terrorist recruiters playing a more and more active role in Europe, and especially Germany."The number of people leaving Germany to go to a training camp is not insignificant. You have a growing number of (Muslim) converts getting to a high level of jihadism and radicalization. This in itself requires that we have to work on it," De Kerchove said.At the same time, terrorists are becoming more organized and aggressive in many parts of the world, such as Afghanistan, the Sahel, Pakistan and Somalia, he said.And the EU should pay special attention to developments in Yemen and Bangladesh, where local conditions are proving fertile ground for terrorist recruiters, he said.Yemen shot up the international agenda at Christmas after it emerged that a would-be bomber on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit had been trained as a terrorist in the country."We should Yemen keep high on the agenda of the international community because you have a booming demography, you will soon have a water shortage, there is a rebellion in the north, secession in the south, and the oil production is declining."Meanwhile, some young people in religious schools in Bangladesh "are only learning the Koran in Arabic: that does not give you any job afterwards. We should help Bangladesh more, we should help in Afghanistan," De Kerchove said.But the only way for the EU to respond to those threats will be to help the countries themselves offer their citizens a better way of life, so that they do not turn to radical terrorism instead."We have to help them to address the problem. That means developing policy in terms of prevention of radicalization and programmes of de-radicalization. We have to develop the countries where there is radicalization," De Kerchove said.