Wed, Dec 7, 2016 | updated 02:05 PM IST

Europe faces threats of 2008 Mumbai-style terror attacks

Updated: Nov 25, 2016 08:20 IST

Geneva [Switzerland] Nov. 25 (ANI): European nations are vulnerable to the 2008 Mumbai-style terror attacks by Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), whose tentacles were found spread in the continent by security agencies, especially after last year's deadly Paris terror attacks at multiple locations that claimed 130 lives.

Eight years ago, 10 terrorists of the Pakistan-based LeT attacked multiple public places in Mumbai from November 26-28, 2008, killing more than 160 civilians, many of them foreigners. Except for the death of some European tourists, the general notion in Europe was that the shocking terror incident had taken place far from their home shores, with close to no threat of such attacks being replicated in the West.

However, the situation has changed after eight years, say European security experts. With the Paris terror attacks of November 13, 2015, when terrorists struck at six different places in the city killing 130 persons, the European security agencies were faced with the reality of Mumbai-style attacks in their own backyard.

In Europe, security agencies in countries like France, Austria and Italy are increasingly unearthing the presence of LeT members - the same group that carried out the Mumbai attacks. LeT's international footprints have grown and the terror group, whose presence in the West was earlier largely noticed for fund collection, logistics, transit and recruitment purposes, today has managed to infiltrate its members into Europe, many in the garb of asylum seekers, says experts.

One such example is the arrest, in April 2016, of Pakistani national Muhammad Ghani Usman, an LeT operative and a bomb maker, who as per security agencies landed in the Greek island of Leros in October 2015 on the same boat as the two suicide bombers involved in the Paris attacks of November 2015. As per details divulged by the Greek police, all three were carrying Syrian passports.

Usman, along with the two Paris bombers, despite being initially arrested by the Greek police on suspicion, were released and managed to move to their respective destinations. Usman would have probably remained undetected and continued his operations in the safety of a refugee shelter in Austria, if he did not come to adverse notice, along with two other asylum seekers, after the Paris attacks. He and the other two persons, arrested in Austria, were found to have spoken to some of the Paris bombers over phone. Security agencies fear that Usman was planning more attacks in Europe, along with other team members, who had also entered Europe posing as asylum seekers.

Many European nations are realising the potential threat to their national security from the rising number of Pakistanis, recruited by terrorist groups based in Pakistan and then illegally sent to Europe, say experts.

Groups like LeT and its front organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which carry out their activities unhindered in Pakistan, instruct Muslim youth in extremist ideology to carry out jihad against the West, says experts, adding that these youth are then illegally pushed into different countries to take forward the objectives of the group to radicalise European Muslims and use them for terror attacks.

In 2015, the Italian police arrested more than 18 foreign nationals, many of whom were Pakistanis, on the charge of involvement in jihadi activities in the country. Some of those arrested were also found to be linked to LeT.

It is also learnt that the Greek government, which has been grappling with large inflow of refugees from countries like Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, has recently sent a strong message to the Pakistani government, warning if it failed to take back all illegal Pakistani nationals residing in Greece, it could be faced with the prospect of being declared an "exporter of terrorism".

Such a warning coming from Greece, currently enjoying close ties with Pakistan's all-weather friend China, is reflective of the heightened concerns of terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

Till now, there have been at least 12 terrorist attacks in Europe in 2016. The attacks with the highest casualties were the March 22 suicide attacks at the Brussels airport and subway killing of 32 people, and the Bastille Day attack in Nice in July, with no less than 84 deaths.

Investigations have revealed links between those who carried out attacks in Paris and Brussels.

Security experts feel that there is an urgent need for the European Union members to respond to this threat jointly by de-radicalisation programmes, enhancing security cooperation and intelligence sharing. Further, EU members need to quickly put together a common policy on dealing with illegal immigration from countries like Pakistan, where with the tacit support of the government, extremist ideology is being promoted and freely disseminated by radical Islamic and terror groups. (ANI)