The following text was translated from the Milan Corriere della Sera (Internet Version-WWW) in Italian on 19 August 2004:
The Abu Hafs Brigades have handed over their pen and their threats to a new signature: the Black Flags of the land of the Ribats. This is the latest to have launched an umpteenth media warning against Italy. Its title is: “Communique to Europe and, in particular, to black-flagged Rome.”
As the communique on the Internet recited: “From the land of outposts (Ribat) to those who have no scruples of conscience: the time has come and the zero hour is nigh. Now it will become obvious what it is we expect and we will not be stopped by anything, with God’s permission and strength. We have prepared your death shrouds, say goodbye to your lives. We have done our duty by warning you, the threat has reached you with God’s permission, and you must expect it [to be enacted] very soon in your streets, your clubs, your stores, everywhere.”
The tone of the message, which appeared in the usual online forum Islamic Minbar, is no different from the tone of those that came previously. The author dryly hints at the imminence of an attack against Italian targets following the passing of the 15 August deadline. But, the text does not contain any information capable of confirming whether it is genuine. It could be a terrorist, but also someone “having fun” playing with the terrorist psychosis, an imitator of the Abu Hafs Brigades.
The new element is the signature. The Black Flags — we have no way of knowing whether they are the same thing — appeared in Iraq to claim responsibility for the kidnapping of some truck drivers who were then released. At the time, the intelligence services had suspected the involvement of the network of Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. A black banner with a golden sun is, in fact, the group’s symbol. The other interesting term is “Ribat,” an Arabic word for the fortress-monasteries that used to exist all over North Africa, Arab Andalusia, and Sicily. A large number of them were built in Morocco. These small forts were used to protect lands conquered by Islam and to aid in the proselytizing effort. Therefore, this clue could lead one to think that the author is a North African transplanted to a Western city, an outpost of the Ribat.
According to intelligence services experts, the most dangerous network is the one represented by the men of the Moroccan Combatant Group. One of their cells acted in Madrid and it is the followers of this faction who represent the spearhead in Southern Europe. In a sort of division of areas, the Moroccan cells are acting in Italy, France, Spain, and Belgium, while Asian elements (Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis) are operating in the United Kingdom.
The North Africans are also said to have made an alliance with militants of Syrian origin: a pact that was blessed by the extremist ideologue Mustafa Setmariam Naser. A Syrian who became a neutralized Spaniard, he knows Europe well for having lived here for many years and is considered to be one of the inspirers of the Madrid massacre; he is also said to be moving between Iran and Iraq. Also known as Abu Musan al-Suri; the extremist has endeavored to link terrorist actions in Europe with the Iraqi crisis: the attacks represent a retaliation for the dispatch of troops to Baghdad. Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland are all in the same position, and all of these countries have been mentioned in recent messages by Bin Ladin’s (real and presumed) sympathizers. Only yesterday, the Polish police arrested an Algerian surprised while taking photographs of at-risk targets: he may have been on reconnaissance with a view to an attack.