Officials Fear Iraq's Lure for Muslims in Europe

(New York Times) Craig S. Smith and Don Van Natta Jr -. France's antiterrorist police on Friday identified a young Frenchman killed fighting the U.S. in Iraq, the first confirmed case of what is believed to be a growing stream of Muslims heading from Europe to fight what they regard as a new holy war. Hundreds of young militant Muslim men have left Europe to fight in Iraq, according to senior counterterrorism officials in four European countries. They have been recruited through mosques, Muslim centers, and militant Web sites. Intelligence officials fear that for a new generation of disaffected European Muslims, Iraq could become what Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya were for European Islamic militants in past decades: a galvanizing cause that sends idealistic young men abroad, trains them, and puts them in touch with a more radical global network of terrorists. In the past, many young Europeans who fought in those wars came back to Europe to plot terrorist attacks at home. Virtually all of the major terrorists arrested in Europe in the past three years spent time in Bosnia, Afghanistan, or Chechnya. A network of recruiters for Iraq first appeared in Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Norway within months of the U.S.-led invasion, and the recruitment effort has now spread to other countries in Europe, including Belgium and Switzerland. One senior European intelligence official said there was evidence that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has established a sophisticated network that has helped recruit nearly 1,000 young men from the Middle East and Europe. "They easily cross the borders of Syria or Turkey, and they go directly to Falluja," the official said. A French official said many people en route to Iraq were passing through Britain, or through Saudi Arabia, using the cover of a pilgrimage to Mecca to enter the Saudi kingdom before making their way across the border

2004-10-25 00:00:00

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