LONDON Ñ European intelligence and security agencies are concerned
that Al Qaida has been recruiting Western youth to fight against the U.S.-led
coalition in Iraq.
European officials said security agencies in countries such as Britain,
France and Germany have detected signals of Al Qaida recruitment of
volunteers to fight the U.S. military in Iraq. The officials said the
recruitment effort targets both young Muslims as well as those as those who
oppose the U.S. presence in Iraq.
"There is a sort of daily understanding of the evolution of a movement
that is extremely complicated and difficult to understand," said Jean-Louis Bruguiere, France's leading counter-insurgency judge.
Bruguiere told France's France-Inter Radio that security services were
watching for the flow of Europeans to Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. But he said authorities have
been struggling to keeptrack of Al Qaida recruiters.
Denmark and France were said to be particularly vulnerable to Al Qaida
recruitment, officials said. Anti-U.S. sentiment has been high and there are
an estimated 100,000 French converts to Islam, some of whom were believed to
have been targeted by Islamic insurgents.
"What we see now is that Iraq seems to attract people with terror
activities, also from Europe," Lars Findsen, director of the Danish Security
Intelligence Service, who appeared at a recent counter-insurgency conference
near Copenhagen, said.
So far, information on the Al Qaida recruitment has been sketchy,
officials said. But they said Iraq could become the magnet for Western
young people and a focus for Islamic discontent.
"It's incontestable that Iraq has become a factor of crisis, like other
zones," Bruguiere said. "In the long term, an Islamic movement that may try to head to a land
where there are clashes between Muslims and non-Muslims."