Saturday, July 23, 2005

Carbon copies or copy cats?

Who exactly are the Abu Hafs Al Masri Brigades, and should Poles be afraid of them?

Since Poland has been mentioned in a statement by a group claiming to be responsible for the 7/7 attacks in London, and the Madrid bombings last year, people have got a little more anxious here.

It is long been felt that getting involved in the war in Iraq – where Poles control the south-central area of Babylon – could bring terrorism to Poland. But should they take the word of what could be a lone nutter able to write a bit of HTML, seriously?

Abu Hafs Al Masri Brigades have made threats and claimed responsibility for many events before.

In July 2004 they issued a statement: “This message is directed to the European governments… Today we declare the start of a bloody war on you, and we will not stop the attacks on you until you return to the correct path…And we have started with the warning to the Italian government and its cruel leader Berlusconi… and his submission to the rule of America. Wait for us Berlusconi, and your other allies as well, wait for our promise which we have already revealed to you and are now revealing to Europe. O’ leaders and peoples of Europe, remove your murderous forces from Iraq… before you begin to taste the bitterness of your own blood.”

This statement - very similar to the one released recently claiming the London bombings - came towards the end of a three month ‘cease fire’, proclaimed, apparently, by none other than our favourite bearded cave dweller himself, Osama bin Laden, and giving time for the allied forces to get out of Iraq.

In mid July, 2004, the Abu Hafs Al Masri Brigades made another statement: “This is the last warning to the Italian nation. Either you get rid of the Berlusconi or else we will burn Italy down.”

In August 2004, they popped up again on the Internet claiming that they planted the bombs in Istanbul, near a British bank.

In 2003 they claimed that they were behind attacks on two Synagogues in Istanbul.

But they have also claimed connections to events they could not possibly have had anything to do with. Remember when New York and other areas of northeast United States had a black out when the electricity grid went down? Well, the ‘Brigades’ claimed that they had something to do with that, too.

In fact, the Abu Hafs Al Masri Brigades modus operandi seems to be to make threats and claim responsibility for events they could not have any connection with. More statements come form this group than any other.

The "Brigades" publishes their statements on the Internet or by way of notices sent to the press, especially to the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

Analysis by the Norwegian researchers at the Middle East (MEMRI) casts serious doubts regarding the very existence of a terrorist organization by the name of the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades, its affiliation to Al-Qa'ida, and the scope of activities alleged in the statements.

MEMRI says that, “Those behind the publications are interested in undermining the coalition in Iraq. However they seem to be nationalistic in their orientation rather than Islamist, while pretending to be affiliated with Al-Qa'ida only to gain more credibility to their threats.”

Should Poles be worried?
According to another document obtained by Norwegian intelligence, al-Qaeda has instructed its militants not to attack the United States but its allies, and primarily Britain, Spain and Poland, in order to split the coalition.

The document – which was found on the Internet last year, and which pre-dates the 2004 Spanish elections – analyses what effect attacks on the population of allied countries – particularly Britain, Spain and Poland - would be. The document concludes that Spain was the weakest link in the coalition and that attacks on Spanish forces would weaken support for the war in Iraq.

Britain would be easy to force out of Iraq, because the popular opposition to the war and the occupation is so high. However, the author estimates that Britain will only withdraw from Iraq if Britain suffers significant human casualties in Iraq.

But Poland, apparently, is unlikely to withdraw from the coalition because there is political consensus on foreign policy, and the country has ‘a very high tolerance for human casualties.’

Oh really?

Whoever wrote that report – which CNN at the time attributed to al-Qaeda, but, as usual, it could have been written by anyone – is simply regurgitating long held prejudices about Slavs and nations in central and eastern Europe. Because, goes this gibberish, Poland suffered so much during WWII this has inoculated them do mass deaths. Unfortunately for this theory, there has been no outside attacks on Poland in over two generations. Poles have not suffered from any terrorism attacks in Poland – though three did die on 7/7.

In fact, the reverse is true. Poland would be absolutely devastated if terror came to Warsaw. They would not be showing the stiff upper lip of the British. There would be outrage and panic.

Whether they will be targets is impossible to say. But it will be much harder to launch an attack here than it would be in London. The Muslim population is small in Poland. Those that are here – basically, a few Syrians and Turks - are being watched closely, and probably harassed as well by the authorities.

A British born Pakistani was detained in the city of Lodz three days after the London bombings. Nothing came of this, but it does show the British police had connected Pakistanis, or Britons with Pakistani backgrounds, at the very start of their investigations.

Though Poland maybe is on the nihilists list, and there is a growing alarm at the possibility of an attack here, I would be much more fearful if I was living in Milan or Rome.

Read on:
See Assessing the Credibility of the 'Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades'Threats , by the Jihad Research Group