Saturday, March 5, 2011

Radical Islamic subversion in Greece by Ioannis Michaletos

A well known hypothesis in the European and American security circles is that the region of Southeastern Europe, including the Eurozone country Greece, is on the verge of a full-scale radical Islamic subversion process which is being facilitated by myriad Islamic-originating groups aiming to gain a strong foothold in Europe.

A recent revelation by the infamous Wiki leaks US Dept of State telegrams, showed that already since 2009, the ex-Ambassador of US in Athens, Mr. Daniel Speckhard, has noted the danger of the creation of extremist Islamic cells in Greece and the use of the country as a traverse point of terrorists from the Middle East to other European countries. In a special report by the French daily “Le Figaro”, on the 21st of December 2010, the case of the route of Islamic terrorists from Lebanon to Europe was noted with significant details.

The article titled “Liban-une filiere djihadiste vers l’Europe”, clearly illustrated the perils involved for Greece as well. More specifically, the Lebanese Army Cornell Mahmoud Issa noted to the French journalists that since November 2010, some 20 extremists managed to escape from a camp where they were kept in Lebanon and found their way to the EU.

He stated that already the authorities were notified in an international level, although he admitted that this is a difficult task. From their part, the French security authorities believe that this is the case of a new Jihad mission heading towards European metropolises.

In classified documents that were in possession of radical groups in Lebanon, it was noted, that the individuals named: Karoum Imad Youssef, Ahmad Kayed and Sidawa, managed to leave the camp previously and through Syria and Turkey ventured up to Greece and Bulgaria with the assistance of illegal immigrant transport networks managed by Turks.

Moreover they managed to acquire fake ID’s and they were finally caught by a common operation of the Bulgarian and Greek authorities. That case according to many reliable sources was closely monitored by the British and French intelligence, due to the fact that these two countries was the ultimate destination of the Lebanese group. Mahmoud Issa, states that more cases are to be found that evade the authorities so far. In the article Greece is mentioned as a traverse region from where potential terrorists travel on their way to other EU countries.

At the same time the rising illegal immigrant wave into Greece from nationals of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Algeria and Sudan has alarmed both Greek and international authorities. Already the country has announced the creation of a fence in order to curb the movement and mass arrests of illegal immigrants is happening on a daily basis. Around 100 of those are arrested daily over the past few months, but not all deported due to a variety of bureaucratic and political reasons.

Leftist sectarian groups and NGO’s with obvious Islamic links, are assisting into perpetuating the situation by providing a local cover for the incoming illegal immigrants, despite the fact that their identity cannot be established, and it is more than sure that amongst their numbers there are quite a few radicals and potential terrorists.

The role of the emerging Islamic power of Turkey into managing the en mass movement from Islamic countries into the EU has been highlighted numerously over the past few months and it is of interest to make a note of the fact that regular flights are being organized between Rabat in Morocco and Algiers in Algeria to Istanbul so as to bring a sizeable number of nationals from those countries to Turkey and transport them thereafter to Greece-Bulgaria, en route to the EU.

The Islamic governance in Turkey has lifted travel regulations and visas with those countries, whilst it has no visa with Iran, thus promoting in effect the movement of Afghans and Pakistanis, as well as, Iranians into Europe.

The issue is of concern for Greece, regarding radical Islam, is inexorably related to Turkey’s ability or capability to either control its domestic rising radical Islamist tendency, or whether it will pursue a full-blown Islamists policy with multiple consequences for the region between Southeastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, which is due to be destabilized because of the Egyptian developments and the possible domino-effect in neighbouring countries.

In Athens-Greece, it can be safely assumed that first of all, there is activity within radical circles. This is the estimation by local security circles, that assume around the presence of cells directed by various groups such as Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood, and various networks of individuals related to the Somalian Al Shahab, Palestinian radicals, Pakistani and Afghani Islamists. Due to the fact that the majority of the Islamic population in Greece and especially the radicalized part of them are mainly interested into travelling to Northern Europe, the situation is deemed as controllable by the local authorities, something that cannot be guaranteed on a permanent basis.

Since late 2008, there have been three major cases that show the tendency of creating a rising network of a quasi-radical Islamic element in the Greek society. The first was in the December 2008 riots, were approximately 50% of the people arrested were Pakistanis and Afghanis arrested, some of them claiming to the authorities that were paid in order to participate in the violent demonstrations.

The second development was the May 2009 so-called “Koran demonstrations”, when a multicultural group of various Islamic communities in Athens took to the street allegedly claiming that the Police desecrated the Koran during a routine search in the pockets of a Syria street vendor. It was later revealed that this particular individual was lying to the authorities and the press and was involved in various illegal actions including robberies. What was also proven, was that a network of NGO’s were able to coordinate and finance the mobilization of the illegal Muslim community in Athens and claims have been made that they are financed by the organized crime which employs the desperate masses of Muslims in the country in conjunction with the intelligence apparatus of Islamic countries in Greece.

A third phase was the mass prayer of some 10,000 Muslims in the centre of Athens in October 2010, without attaining the necessary state permission for that. Amongst the organizers they were individuals associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and an Imam was brought by Egypt to commemorate the ending of the Ramadan.

Small-scale riots started the next few days when they were again false allegations for Koran desecration by the Greek police in the centre of the city. It was again proved to be false, but it is more than obvious that a “street mechanism” is being established in the country that facilitates the mobilization of a few hundred “angry Muslims”, and the spread of these kind of news to the media through the use of Greek intermediates along with the umbrella of NGO’s that operate by spending considerable amounts of capital.

Currently it is estimated that there are 3,000 Muslims in Athens alone being coordinated by specific NGO’s in order to facilitate the inclusion in the public agenda of “Islam”, not just as a religion, but also as a political movement. Furthermore, it can be safely estimated that there are at least 5,000 radicalized Islamist in Athens that are composed by several subgroups:

1) Those directed by foreign intelligence services, for national purposes

2) Those controlled by international extremist networks

3) Fragmented groups with no leadership but radicalized in nature

Also, Greece faces a significant security challenge regarding contraband arms trade, especially with light weapons imported into the country. The two main axes are the Kosovo-Albania-FYROM-Greece one and the second is the Lebanon-Cyprus-Greece one. There is a possibility of the country being used for the ultimate convergence of the interests of the Balkan originating organized crime groups along with the radical Islamic networks of the Middle East, through the facilitation of corrupted Greek business and security circles, although there are no tangible data. Nevertheless, there is a real concern for an eventual convergence of those with Athens as an epicentre for such a “union” of interests.

In overall, the current report aims to pin point several present day developments regarding the real peril of the subversion of radical Islam in Greece. In addition with the overall situation in the wider Southeastern region and the process of Islamization in neighbouring Turkey, more developments of such nature should be expected in the mid-term. The latest dramatic shift of balance in Egypt which will likely witness the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood as the dominant force in the Egyptian politics and the tremors that this will entail, surely rises up the stakes for counter-terrorism policy both in Europe and in the Middle East and in the case of Greece it has increased the alert level of the local authorities.