COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) # Terrorists may look to Europe for new targets, seeking revenge for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, a terrorism expert said Monday. “The security of Europe will be problematic in the next years due to Iraq,” said Rohan Gunaratna of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland.
Speaking at a two-day international terrorism conference organized by the Danish Security Intelligence Service, Gunaratna said some of the estimated 70,000 people who passed through Afghan terror training camps between 1979-2001, are living in Europe. He didn’t say how many.
“Many of those who live in Europe will be part of the new wave,” the author of “Inside al-Qaida” said, citing his personal research.
While many European countries, including France, Germany and Russia, opposed the war in Iraq, others, including Denmark and neighboring Norway, supported it.
Because of that, and Europe’s proximity to the Middle East and its sometimes welcoming stance on immigration in other countries, the region may be endangered.
“They desperately need a new theater of combat,” Gunaratna said, adding that security in the United States has been stepped in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
European countries have increased their own vigilance, and are working with each other, sharing information and have managed to stop attacks before they occur.
“Gone are the days when terrorism was something that usually took place in far away countries,” said Danish Justice Minister Lene Espersen.
Looking at the recent attacks on U.S. forces and humanitarian organizations in Iraq, Gunaratna said the United States “must develop its intelligence gathering in Iraq.”
While the United States could rely on intelligence from neighboring Pakistan and India during the war on terror in Afghanistan, they are isolated in Iraq, he said.
“In Iraq, there are two neighboring countries that are not supportive of the United States” – Iran and Syria, Gunaratna said. “At the present time, there is little the United States can do in Iraq to improve the situation.”
Lars Findsen, director of Denmark’s domestic intelligence agency, said that there are people in the Scandinavian country of 5.3 million that have sympathies for radical Islamic groups but stressed that there was “a low risk” of attacks in Denmark
“Although intelligence is 100 percent at the center of our defense, it can not be a guarantee that we will not be targeted,” he said.
Held at the Danish intelligence agency new headquarters in suburban Copenhagen, the conference was attended by intelligence officials from the Nordic countries, terrorism and security experts and scholars from the United States and Europe.