Detained terror cell in Denmark and Holland spark fears of homegrown attackers with ISIS links
The man known only by the initials FA had reportedly never been to Syria or Iraq. He was a mild-mannered lecturer, speaking to a few of his students at the Copenhagen business academy where he worked on Wednesday morning. That’s when five Danish police officers and counter-terrorism personnel stormed in, grabbed him and hauled him away.
He and another man, known by the initials CS and arrested at a bicycle repair shop where he was working, were charged on Thursday morning with “participating in attempts at terrorism”. Among the accusations were those of trying to send cash and drones from Denmark to Isis.
Security experts have long worried the 5,000 or so suspected Europeans who fought for Isis in Syria or Iraq would attempt to return home after losing territory there.
But the Danish arrests, part of a fresh wave of security operations targeting alleged jihadi militants in two northern European countries this week, renewed concerns that Isis and possibly other jihadi factions were sprouting fresh roots in the West even as security forces prevent foreign fighters from returning.
A day after the Copenhagen arrests, Dutch security forces arrested seven men in the towns of Arnhem and Weert suspected of plotting a large-scale terrorist attack at a public event. They were accused of attempting to procure assault rifles, grenades and bomb-making material, and training in the use of suicide vests. The famously tight-lipped Dutch services disclosed no details about their intended targets, but observers said the Dutch security forces had marshalled significant resources in dismantling the cell.
“This is one of the biggest operations I have ever seen,” said Pieter Van Ostaeyen, a Belgian expert on fighters returning from battlefields in the Middle East to Europe. “They must have been following that network for some months before they were able to set up an operation of that size.”
It appears none of those arrested in Denmark or the Netherlands had ever fought in Syria or Iraq; but many appeared to have family or other ties to Isis and the former Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Three of the Dutch suspects, including the alleged ringleader, had previously been charged with attempting to travel abroad to join extremist groups, prosecutors said.