Report from Israel - "Is the Terror coming back?"

The last attempts of terror organizations and the Islamic Global Jihad to execute terror attacks in American civilian flights returns us to the early 1970s, an era along which Palestinian terror organizations have committed a series of terror attacks and hijackings in the aerial realm and especially within Europe and the Middle East.

What we deal with here is not an exception phenomenon but rather a long process that has lately accelerated due to various reasons. The last attempt to commit a terror attack in a "North West" airplane on the 25th of December 2009 by a single suicide terrorist is a harsh reminder for the renewed trend spotted for a long time. This trend indicates the efforts of Al-Qaida and its counterparts to act against the United States within its own territories and the territories of its allies around the world.

This last terror attack resembles two previous attempts of Al-Qaida to blow up American civilian airplanes using its international terror infrastructure abroad. At the end of the year 2001, a short time after the September 11th attack Al-Qaida sent two of its people with explosives hidden inside their shoes. The first, Richard Colvin Rid ("The Shoe Bomber") has tried to blow up an American Airlines airplane flying from Paris to Miami (December 2001); the second one was Sajid Badat, who regretted and was arrested in Britain (November 2003).

The last attack in Detroit joins a series of arrests of American citizens and immigrants, mostly from Muslim origin or individuals who converted to Islam, that have occurred in the last year and a half within the United States as well as beyond its borders, and revealed organized terror groups of individuals and small "cells" acting in the cause of executing terror attacks against the western world and mainly the United States. Those, who were involved in the different cases, have embraced the militant ideology of the Global Jihad and at a certain stage volunteered to take part in training and semi-military courses given by terror groups that are affiliated with Al-Qaida or act as part of Al-Qaida, mainly in the area of Afghanistan or Pakistan. Part of the activists were preparing themselves for executing terror attacks within the United States, and part or them were aiming to commit terror attack in various places around the globe.

The last incident before the attempt to blow up an airplane was discovered in December 2009 with the arrest of Daud Sayed Gilani, 49 years old, born in the U.S.A. to a Pakistani father and American mother. Gilani was involved in collecting information, which was used by the Pakistani organization Lashkar A-Toyba to commit the horrifying murderous attack in the central hotels of Mombai, India, an attack that caused the death of more than 160 people and the injury of hundreds more. In addition, Gilani an his American-Pakistani partner have been guided by senior commanders in an organization closely related to Al-Qaida, to plan and execute another terror attack in Denmark, as a revenge against the Danish newspaper that published the caricatures of Mohamed, the prophet and were perceived as offending Islam. Gilani himself has been accused with criminal charges and was arrested for trying to smuggle Heroin drugs from Pakistan. He has been released from jail by the DEA, the American unit struggling against drugs, and was sent to Pakistan as an undercover agent of the unit in order to follow local drug networks. Along his stay in Pakistan he might have contacted activists identified with radical Islam and eventually was trained and recruited to assist them in executing terror attacks.

Another affair that shatters light on the modus operandi of the Al-Qaida terror attacks was discovered with the arrest of Nagibullah Zani in September 2009. Zani, 24 years old, born in Pakistan, deported with his family to the United States and lived in New York since the age of 14. It was found that following his travel to Pakistan for the purpose of marrying his cousin, he joined to radical activists that convinced him to join the lines of Islamic Jihad. He volunteered to go through training in Al-Qaida Camp in the area of Pashvar, Pakistan and in 2009 returned to the United States. Following the orders of his operators he moved to Denver, Colorado, where he accumulated materials for preparation of provisory explosives (TATP), probably in order to execute a terror attack in New York City. He was arrested after being suspected for collecting information on several potential targets as sport stadiums and large traffic centers within the city.

A different affair that was known a few months ago involved an American Islamic citizen from Palestinian origin, who in November 2009 committed a series of murders. Major Nidal Malik-Hasan, Psychiatrist in the U.S. Army, killed 13 soldiers and wounded 30 civilians and soldiers in Prot Hod, Texas. According to the information released by the army authorities and the American media, the attack was conducted by Malik-Hasan as a revenge for the killings committed by the United States against innocent Muslims around the world. After the murders and as a result of intensive investigation of the FBI and other investigation authorities, it was revealed that Malik-Hasan had deep connections with Anuar Al-Awalki, an extreme Muslim religious leader from Yemen origin, who lived in the United States for a few years and returned to Yemen, where it was reported that the local security organizations tried to assassin him.

After the last attempts to commit terror attacks happened during the last years countries in the Persian Gulf, and mainly Saudi Arabia, had significant achievements in their fight against terror organizations. About 330 Al-Qaida activists had been charged, mainly got out with only "light" punishments, but yet in the first time in the history of the Kingdom a new court was formed as part of the struggle against terrorism. In addition, the prison system of the Kingdom was adjusted and enhanced including the opening of 5 new prisons, and the upgrade of Counter-Terrorism units. Those last changes provide better "tools" and improve the ability to fight against terrorism, however it is not yet clear to what extent will the Saudi security forces efficiently execute their job. It is not a secret that their loyalty is questioned and that some of them even support the ideas expressed by Al-Qaida.

All of the events mentioned earlier indicate that law enforcement organizations are putting more and more effort to prevent terrorism within the United States. In addition, this supports in understanding President Obama's decision to significantly strengthen the American forces in the fight within Afghanistan and in Pakistan, against Al-Qaida and its counterparts. Having said that, we can also understand President Obama's insistence to tighten the cooperation with United States' allies in fighting terrorism, as shows the examples of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the Western countries and other countries, out of the understanding that this struggle is a central part of building a defensive shield for American citizens from the threat of terror and their personal security in their homeland, as well as for the transportation to and from the United States, mainly in civilian airlines.

The aspiration of leading the continuing and uncompromised struggle of the United States against phenomena of terror and terror waves hitting the western world one after the other bring into security cooperation with United States' allies, to stand firm in front of Al-Qaida and its counterparts insistence to continue in conducting international murderous terror attacks in the future.

As for the question opening this paper, the terror does not return. The terror was here all the time. It has only changed his form, sometimes changed his modus operandi, as well as the organizations, who execute the attacks. Those, who carry the message of organized terror, are no more identified in their character, passport or their country of origin. They are being recruited everywhere and in any age. The profile of the terrorist is no more a taboo, and the suspicious signs that characterized the method of security organizations for identifying suspects has changed dramatically, together with the method of operation for security systems in secured facilities. All of this together oblige those who work in security professions to learn and to know the method of operation and the changes going on global terror, to study and acquire knowledge and experience, and to integrate personal and organizational knowledge with advanced technologies in the purpose of minimizing the damages of global terrorism.

Dr. Zeev Gefen
Chairman of the IBSSA Executive Committee
President of the Israeli College for Security and Investigations