Islamist terror threatens Europe, Israel - Germany
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's intelligence chief said on Thursday that the success of Germany and other countries in hunting down terrorists has done little to reduce the threat "Islamic terrorism" poses to Europe and Israel.
In a rare public appearance, Ernst Uhrlau, head of Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency, said Europe had been transformed from an Islamist recruitment and financing centre into a target of Islamist extremism.
"In spite of numerous successful hunts for terrorists, the terrorist threat situation has eased only superficially. The bomb attacks in Madrid and London are clear evidence that Europe is no longer just a recruitment and financing area but has become a target of Islamic terrorism," Uhrlau told a conference on Islamic extremism organised by the American Jewish Congress.
"In the foreseable future international terrorism will remain one of the most serious threats to our society. More than ever before Israel and Europe as a single risk area are caught in the crosshairs of international terrorism," he said.
Unlike the foreign-born members of al Qaeda seen responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, "the terrorists in Europe are homegrown and homemade," he said.
A Hamburg-based al Qaeda cell has been blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks. Since then, Germany has cracked down on Muslim militants living in the country and has had a number of high-profile trials of radical Islamists.
Uhrlau also said that both Israel and Europe now faced less of a threat from non-religious militant organisations than from trans-national militant Islamist organisations.
"Terrorist groupings of a secular character and with only a regional sphere of activity have largely been pushed into the background," Uhrlau said. "Only a few of the secular groupings still pose a serious threat."
He did not name any of the groups. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) has essentially disarmed and the Basque separatist group ETA declared a ceasefire earlier this week.
Uhrlau said the recent crisis sparked by a Danish newspaper's decision to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad showed there may be irreconcilable differences between Islamic and Western cultures.
"The recent controversy over Mohammad cartoons has raised the question of compatibility in principle between basic elements of Western and Muslim standards of culture. In this case, freedom of the press versus religious values.
"The fact is that such antagonism may emerge time and again in sensitive areas of identity on either side," he said.
The caricatures, later reprinted elsewhere, provoked a storm of protests among Muslims, who believe it is blasphemous to depict the Prophet Mohammad. At least 50 people were killed in protests in the Middle East and Asia, three Danish embassies were attacked and many Muslims boycotted Danish goods.
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