Wednesday’s brutal killing of a British soldier in London is proving once again the dangers of the European shariah movement — as I wrote today in Belgium’s largest daily newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws‘. That movement was longtime considered as an annoying but basically harmless phenomenon within the islamist scene. As it was operating fully in the spotlights, nobody thought it ever would be the continent’s main recruiting ground for violent jihad. But now it is.
Michael ‘Mujahid’ Adebolajo (28), one of the two perpetrators from Nigerian descent who nearly decapitated and savagely killed Drummer Lee Rigby (25) on a Woolwich street, was a disciple of Anjem Choudary. No doubt — Choudary did confirm that the guy was one of his followers in the movement Al Muhajiroun, and the BBC unearthed video footage showing both men in one single frame during an islamist manifestation in April, 2007.
On top of that, I discovered that Abu Baraa — ‘nom the guerre’ of Mizanur Rahman, another British hate preacher — told about his own relation with Adebolajo on his Facebook account. “I remember Mujahid was protesting outside the court when I went to prison back in 2006”, he wrote shortly after the Woolwich attack. “He was arrested that day defending Muslims too. He always had the concerns of Muslims at heart.”
Both Choudary and Rahman are proponents of the European shariah movement with direct links to the Belgian chapter. Choudary was the mentor of Shariah4Belgium’s founder Fouad Belkacem and it is a public secret that Choudary pushed Belkacem to launch the organization in the city of Antwerp and thus expand the British born movement to the European continent. He did visit Shariah4Belgium in person for lectures, as did Rahman.
Rahman was four years imprisoned in Britain for inciting to murder — but freely traveled to Antwerp in June 2012 in order to initiate Shariah4Belgium’s members in “Military Tactics”, as his lecture published on YouTube was titled (the video has been removed, but I have it in my archives — see a screenshot here). Nowadays, one of Rahman’s Facebook friends is Fakkul Aseer — campaigner in Dutch to “Free Abu Imran”, a reference to Belkacem’s second arrest in short time — and another is the Antwerp neighborhood Borgerhout’s resident who changed his name as I was writing from ‘Ansaar Antwerpen’ to ‘Soufian Soufian’, and is clearly a member of the same scene.
There is not the slightest proof yet that the Woolwich murderer Adebolajo had significant contacts abroad. But he clearly did belong to an international orientated part of the British islamist scene. Last example: Abdulrahman Al-Mujahir, a Facebook friend of Abu Baraa, Fakkul Aseer and Soufian Soufian. He too knows Adebolajo rather well, as he wrote: “He is a very polite, courteous and caring brother from my experience with him.”
The Woolwich attack is a new example of the small scale terrorism that Al Qaeda is promoting nowadays, with perpetrators not necessarily belonging to a well organized network. But they are not as lonely as the often used expression ‘lone wolves’ seems to implicate. They do find encouragement and practical help on the internet — in the notorious magazine ‘Inspire’ for example, that already explicitly called for attacks against soldiers in western countries.
‘Lone wolves’ often find their inspiration in real life too. In groups that cannot be pinpointed as terrorist organizations, though they are not far from that and do facilitate the way towards the real jihad. Such as Shariah4Belgium, with it’s knife wielding follower attacking two police officers in Brussels last year — a case which easily could have been as serious as the Woolwich one. It surely is remarkable how often groups related to and sharing the same dna as Shariah4Belgium, appear to be the circles were lone wolves do come from.
That was the case with Mohamed Merah, the French muslim who killed seven people last year — clearly targeting soldiers too. He was at least loosely associated with Forsane Alizza, the French equivalent with personal links towards Shariah4Belgium. It was also the case with Arid Uka, the guy who killed two American soldiers in Frankfurt, and is said to be inspired by ‘Millatu Ibrahim‘, the German sister organization. And now the same can be told about the London attack.
For European security services, this new reality is a nightmare. Apart from the difficulties to detect a terrorist plot that is not that organized — as often is highlighted when speaking about the characteristics of ‘lone wolf attacks’ — with this kind of recruiting ground it is also terribly hard to distinguish were bluff and provocations end and real threats start.