PBS Frontline: Terror in Europe

In this article are the important points that I gathered from watching "PBS Frontline: Terror in Europe".

"As Europe reels from a terror onslaught, top security officials describe their struggle to contain the unprecedented threat revealed by attacks in France and Belgium."

For years, Europeans always thought that terrorism was something that happened somewhere else. But since the Charlie Hebdo attacks, it has become all to familiar to Europe.

6:00 - many of the attackers were on the radar of European security. They had been known to have traveled to Syria, Yemen, etc. and come back to Europe.

7:00 - Cherif Kouachi was known as a problem since 2003. In 2005, as he was about to board a plane for Iraq, he was arrested and sent to prison.  In prison, he had unfettered access to several other radicalized Muslims.  When the US invaded Iraq, Kouachi become further radicalized.  He was one of the main.

9:30 - Even though radical individuals were leaving France to fight in the Middle East, and then returning, because there had been no attacks on European soil, police thought that everything was fine and under control.  They were tried as similar to drug dealers, and although they were convicted in some cases of recruiting jihadists for the Middle East, they received short prison sentences, such as 3 years.  When they emerged from prison, they were even more angry and radicalized.

10:45 - The kinds of things they were convicted of would have resulted in"far in excess of 15 years" sentences in the United States.  For a twenty-something young man who is radicalized, these much longer sentences defers them to a point in their lives where they are much less likely to carry out terrorist attacks.

11:45 - Many of the future terrorists were given lenient sentences in hopes that they would reintegrate with society when they emerged from prison. The French admit to having underestimated the danger of these disenfranchised young men, especially regarding how much angrier and revenge-minded they were when they got out of prison.

13:00 - Kouachi used his brother's passport to get through lax European border security to go to Yemen to joined al Qaeda.

14:00 - In the US, there is a single, integrated terrorist watchlist, which has been in use since about 2002.  In Europe there is no such thing as an integrated list, which could have prevented  a convicted terrorist of traveling to militant areas in the Middle East.  European legislators have traditionally been worried about the violation of liberties that such a list might cause.

15:15 - The privacy concern stems from what happened to European citizens at the hands of Adolf Hitler during his reign of terror.

16:10 - Cherif Kouachi and Peter Cherif were both able to leave France, and they met up at an al Qaeda training base in Yemen.

16:30 - al Qaeda in the Middle East realized that fighters coming from having lived in Europe or elsewhere were gold mines of potential terrorist destruction, so they did their best work in both training and radicalizing such people, realizing that they could much more easily re-infiltrate their host countries.  They gave them thousands of dollars to carry out their assignments.

17:00 - During their Middle Eastern radicalization, they seized upon the idea of stirring up other Muslims to fierce anger against those who had published cartoon caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

17:30 - US intelligence discovered that Kouachi had gone to Yemen and back, so they notified the French.  The French authorities began to monitor them, but found nothing untoward about them, perhaps because security forces were already stretched thin.

18:00 - In 2012, ISIS began to form, and quickly distinguished itself from al Qaeda by its barbarous acts.  This caused the number of terrorism investigations through out Europe to climb.

19:00 - ISIS issued the call to go to Syria.  And for disenfranchised Muslims in Europe, it was romantic, and it was cheap and easy to get their and become integrated into the ISIS forces.

19:45 - Whereas recruits to al Qaeda were devout Muslims, ISIS recruits usually knew very little about Islam. It was very easy for crazies and criminals to become involved.  Even unradicalized youth went to Syria, because it was considered cool and got them away from their boredom.

20:30 - Belgium provided the highest per capita occurrence of ISIS fighters of any European country.

21:30 - Abbaoud became enamoured by being a ringleader, and he had many friends that followed his lead, because they had gone to high school together, and because they lived in Molenbeek, a very economically depressed part of Brussels.

22:45 - One of Abbaoud's followers had wounded a police officer with an AK-47, but only served 4 years for that conviction.

24:00 - Angry radicalization skyrocketed in 2014 when US and some other western powers began to bomb ISIS strongholds in Syria.  As the bombings intensified, so did ISIS ability to sell the concept of revenge to disenfranchised young Muslim people.

24:40 - ISIS began to develop plans for terrorists to launch attacks in their own countries.  Europe had no good way to determine who was leaving to become trained and who came back with attack plans.  They estimate 5,000 to have left, and 1/3 of them to have returned.

25:45 - Even with the EU, different European countries are wary of sharing intelligence with each other, in part because they want to protect their sources and there investigation methods.

27:00 - Because of the growing ISIS thread, French authorities completely stopped surveilling the Kouachi brothers, just at the time that their friend Coulibaly came out of prison.

28:30 - Nonetheless, the Charlie Hebdo attacks came as almost a complete surprise, because something like this hadn't happened before.  But it should not have been a surprise, because the Kouachi's perpetrated it.

30:00 - Coulibaly carried out a different attack at about the same time.  Later, his testimonial video surprised French authorities, because it declared allegiance to ISIS, rather than to al Qaeda, who he had been involved with.

32:00 - People who want to die are not afraid to die, and are not afraid to kill.

32:30 - Abbaoud was tracked and nearly captured several times, but managed to escape back to Syria.

35:00 - A captured terrorist named Reda Hame told authorities that his assignment was to shoot people in a crowd, such as at a rock concert.  He was told to go back to France and await further instructions.

36:00 - A week later, on August 21, 2015, Ayoub al Khazzani opened fire on a high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris, but was overpowered by 3 American tourists.  Spanish authorities had warned the French about Khazzani.

37:00 - Abbaoud had actually made it back into Europe, probably with the help of smugglers. Border policing is taken care of by the individual nations of Europe, often with meager budgets for such things.

38:30 - Even in a state of emergency, it is almost as though there is no border security in Europe.  Europe is not an island, so it can be easily infiltrated.

39:00 - Germany announced that it would take any and all Syrian refugees, so those refugees began to swarm into Europe.  There was no comprehensive system to vet them.  No other European country agreed to this.  Terrorists could easily exploit the confusion.  There was no coordinated security, and the spike in refugees uncovered just how inept the European security plan was.


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