Urban Radicalism in Europe & Terrorism

Posted in Terrorism | 12-Jan-09 | Author: Ioannis Michaletos

Demonstrators run away as a tear gas explodes near them during clash with police in central Athens on Friday, Jan. 9. 2009.

Urban radicalism in Europe as portrayed by the recent riots in Athens is a constant worry of the European security services, since there is ample evidence of wider connections between radicals and terrorists.

There are two major themes to be looked upon. Firstly the relationship between the extreme-leftist terrorist groups that operate in the so-called "Mediterranean axis" - France, Italy, Greece and Spain - and secondly, the connection of these groups to Islamic extremists.

The radical - anarchist movement in Europe is pretty strong and well organized with thousands of loyal supporters. Back in 2005, the riots in Paris proved that the radicals and second-generation Muslim immigrants in France were able to form the political agenda of that time, although they were not successful in preventing Sarkozy’s ascendance to power 18 months later.

In June 2008, the French authorities and in particular the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (French Directorate-General for External Security or DGSE) announced that French anarchists were behind the attempted sabotage of the TGV railway, that if successful could have killed hundreds of people. It was also revealed that the anarchist group labeled "The Invisible Cell" was in contact with other Italian and Greek groups over the previous period.

The French paper "Journal Du Dimanche" in a recent article entitled "Towards an International Ultra-Left in Europe," described a pan-European radical network strongly rooted in the European Mediterranean countries. Also, one of the French anarchists that had been arrested in connection with the railway incident was also apprehended by the Greek police in 2007 when he participated in violent clashes in the city of Thessaloniki.

In Italy, the local press revealed in 2006 that the remains of the Red Brigades were forming a strategy of collaboration with Islamists in order to create a common front against Western capitalism. The information came after the Italian intelligence services tapped the phones of the Italian terrorist group shortly before the group was about to launch new attacks.

In the same country, popular youth radical magazines such as "Voce" propagate with great enthusiasm the works of Hizballah and Hamas. It is also public knowledge that radical NGOs across continental Europe support illegal immigration into Europe and express a great interest in attacking any traditional aspects of contemporary Western civilization and culture.

Lorenzo Vidino, an Italian writer and security analyst describes a "flirt between the radical Left and the Islamists in Europe that tends to become an open cooperation in the streets of every main European metropolis."

In Greece, the radical groups were able to stage bombing attacks against the former public order minister in 2005 and attack the US Embassy in early 2007 with a RPG rocket launcher. During that attack, the perpetrators issued a proclamation where they described their support for Hizballah, a reminder of the recent August 2006 war in Lebanon.

The issue gets more complicated when one takes a closer look at some other details. In 2007, the "Transnational Threats" edition, written by a number of leading American analysts, mentioned the existence of a Hizballah cell operating in Athens and raising capital through contraband trade of cigarettes. Moreover, there are countless occasions where Islamic charities conducted operations in many European countries and extracted support or even abetted into proselytizing local populations. This phenomenon is especially seen in the Western Balkans.

Lastly, Greece in particular was inflicted by a series of bomb attacks between 2005 and 2008 that no group has claimed responsibility for, but contributed to creating an anxiety climate between the police and radical groups.

The latest reports from France revealed the placement of explosives in the Printemps shopping center in Paris on December 14, 2008. An obscure Afghan group claimed responsibility for the act, but French officials have noted that the writing was similar to other statements made by radicals rather than Islamists. During the same period and in parallel with the riots in Athens, a group of Moroccans and Afghans were arrested in Brussels as they were planning attacks. In Athens, more than 350 people were arrested, half of them foreigners and at least 25% from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Furthermore, the majority of the rioters were under the influence of narcotics and it was also revealed that immigrants participated in the riots after they were informed by group leaders calling them to join the fight and in some unverified cases offered small amounts of money. It is of interest to note that the mayor of Athens revealed that 170 mostly Muslim immigrants abandoned the social programs of the city (free meals-accommodation) during the riots and simply disappeared, presumably found shelter and support elsewhere in exchange for providing their services.

The creation of extremist networks

The riots in Athens as in most cases over the past few years were organized via the use of new technologies and especially the Internet. A mass of people within the urban surrounding communicates and organizes itself through Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging and other tools that can create an event in a space of just a few minutes, provided that a "rioting mechanism" is already established.

The majority of the hardliners in the radical groups is characterized as having a mixture of ideological tendencies and also use narcotic substances, especially cocaine. At the same time they associate themselves with countless NGOs that have mushroomed across the world. These individuals do not appear to have a stable salary or occupation. Thus the mechanism must be able to provide them with compensation, travel expenses due to their frequent "riot trips" and provide them with safe houses and the equipment needed for rioting and so on.

Moreover, there is an abundance of propaganda spread through Internet websites by radicals worldwide and coordinated through radical networks. In a nutshell, the security authorities are looking for the individuals who finance such endeavors and most importantly what their future aims will be - apart from creating street riots, which may lead to the second level of mass terrorism as demonstrated by the Red Brigade in the mid-1970s.

In Italy (2003), the US (2000 and in 2004) and in the UK (2005), the authorities banned for a period of time the use of the Indymedia websites within their territory, due to Indymedia’s connections to extremist rhetoric and a call for the support of terrorism in Iraq and in Western countries.

It is certain that the coming years will reveal more of the hidden substance of these radical networks that are considered to be a security threat within the very heart of urban society.