onsdag, november 24, 2010

Sverige som fristad

Al Qaidas strateg, det globala heliga krigets arkitekt – så kallas Abu Musab al-Suri. Självklart finns det kopplingar till Sverige. På 1990-talet ansåg han att Sverige var en utmärkt fristad för terroristceller.

Professor Brynjar Lia, terrorismforskningsledare vid det vitala norska FFI, har skrivit den magnifika biografin Architect of global jihad: the life of al-Qaida strategist Abu Musʻab al-Suri. Det är ett mäktigt verk, som till stor del baserar sig på al-Suris egna utsagor. Ja, boken är så fyllig att den även hyllas av jihadisterna...

För svensk del börjar historien när Sovjet dragit sig tillbaks ur Afghanistan, och de tillresta jihadisterna börjar pressas ut ur området av lokala förmågor som inte var lika intresserade av revolution.

In the early 1990s al-Suri felt increasingly that the jihadis' battlefield 'was about to close' and that he wanted to 'fulfill his mission' in Afghanistan and move on. Al-Suri had also grown disillusioned with his own role as a military instructor, given the lack of support for the revolutionary cause among the broader Islamist movement in Peshawar:

'I am not prepared to train [people] in shooting practices because I think they will fire back at us justifying this by the fatwas of the Muslim Brothers and the Azhar clerics [...] People come to us with empty heads [...] They have done nothing for islam. This is because they have not recieved any ideological or doctrinal training.'

A more immediate reason for al-Suri's departure from Afghanistan was the infighting between warlords. Furthermore, the 'forebodings of a scurity storm' in Peshawar had become stronger. The Pakistani authorities had begun arresting and deporting wanted fugitives in Peshawar and elsewhere, and many Arab-Afghans were leaving. Al-Suri also departed, returning again to Granada, which he liked to call 'the last Muslim stronghold in Andalucia'.

While most of the Arab-Afghan veterans from the Gulf and Jordan were able to return home, a significant number of them were still on the wanted list in their respective countries and were unable to go back, especially the Egyptian, Syrian, and Libyan jihadis, and to a lesser extent the North African veterans. Many of those who were unable to return either remained in Pakistan or migrated elsewhere; some left for a new war in Tajikistan, later Chechnya and Bosnia, and another contingent relocated to Sudan with the al-Qaida leadership. Many of them eventually settled in Europe during the 1990s, especially in London. Al-Suri was among the few jihadis who held a European passport and hence was able to return to Europe from Peshawar.

The Arab-Afghan community was now being dispersed, and al-Suri later dubbed the period 1991-6 as 'the phase of diaspora and temporary safe havens'. The wanted fugitives among them went to several safe havens, which were still available in the early 1990s, at least till 1995-6 when the US-led anti-terrorist campaign specifically began focusing on the elimination of safe havens for the Arab-Afghan jihadis and other Islamic militants. According to al-Suri, the most important refuges for the Arab-Afghans in the early and mid 1990s were:

* Europe, especially Britain, and Scandinavia, but also Canada and Australia;
* Sudan /.../;
* Other Muslim countries that had no security restrictions on wanted jihadi fugitives /.../;
* Chechnya and Bosnia /.../

This period was also characterized, according to al-Suri, by the dissemination of jihadi ideology, especially from Britain and the Scandinavian countries, 'where they, at least for the time being, were able to exploit the relatively relaxed security conditions and the welfare conditions'. Publications, research papers and news bulletins were printed and distributed, lecture series, seminars, forums and conferences were held, audio-recorded and distributed globally. In al-Suri's opinion, the flourishing of the jihadi message in the West may even have surpassed the efforts of their counterparts in the Arab Islamic World.

The early 1990s also witnessed new emerging arenas of jihad, among which Algeria gradually came to figure very prominently, alongside Bosnia and Chechnya. Hundreds, if not thousands of Algerians returned from Afghanistan to Algeria during these years, and many of them became the backbone of the most radical factions in the Islamist opposition. 'Jihad in Algeria' also became al-Suri's main objective after he returned to Europe.
Här kan man alltså konstatera att den globala jihadiströrelsen när den uppstod medvetet lokaliserade sig till stater med lågt säkerhetstänkande, där man kunde utnyttja välfärdssystem, och där man inte behövde oroa sig för polisiära ingripanden. Som inte hade problem med att inhysa veteraner från Afghanistan som var efterlysta i sina hemländer. Som Sverige.

I efterföljande kapitel – Behind enemy lines – ges exempel på vilken roll Skandinavien spelade för dåtidens blodigaste terrorrörelse GIA. Abu Musab al-Suri reste runt i Europa och hamnade flera gånger i London.
These visits appear to have become a starting point for al-Suri's direct involvement in the Algerian conflict and a closer relationship between himself and the Algerian jihadi community in Europe. They were also an important part of al-Suri's efforts at building a network of contacts throughout Europe from among the Algerian-Afghan veterans whom al-Suri had come to know back in Afghanistan:

'I arrived in London and got to know some brothers, and discovered that several of the brothers who supported the jihad in Algeria, and who had been with us in Afghanistan, were now present in a number of European countries. I went to see them on many visits in a number of regions.'

Al-Suri provides few details of his European-wide network of contacts.His intimate knowledge of this community probably contributed to elevating him to a position of prominence in the European-based jihadi groups in general and among GIA supporters in particular. It is likely that al-Suri kept in close contact with leading GIA supporters in Europe, such as Abd al-Karim Deneche in Sweden and Said Mansour in Denmark, both of whom were distributors of GIA's newsletter Nashrat al-Ansar (lit. The Bulletin of the Prohet's Partisans, hereafter the al-Ansar Newsletter), for which al-Suri was an editor, and the Ahmed Zaoui network in Belgium, as well as many others.

The prominent newspaper editor, Abdel Bari Atwan, who met with al-Suri repeatedly, recalls that the latter travelled extensively in Europe and beyond when he stayed in London between 1994 and 1997. Having a spanish passport and a Western appearence, he faced fewer hurdles than many of his Syrian countrymen when crossing international borders. Al-Suri frequently went back and forth to Spain, where his family lived until mid-1995 and which also hosted one of the most important al-Qaida networks in Europe at the time (that of Abu Dahdah, see below). He also went to France, Germany, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Belgium several times, in particular Brussels, where he reportedly met with GIA supporters and others. In the Netherlands, he met with Usama Rushdi, then an active member and spokesman for the Egyptian Islamic Group (JI, al-jama'ah al-islamiyyah) apparently in order to persuade him to drop his and JI's criticism of the GIA. Al-Suri also paid visits to one or several Scandinavian countries. It is not known for certain with whom he met, but he recalls that during this period, he had ideological discussions with Abu Talal in the JI, most probably referring to Tal'at Fu'ad Qasim, who resided in Denmark in the first half of the 1990s. Denmark, Norway and Sweden all hosted jihadi militants at that time, including many GIA activists. In fact, for several years, the Al Ansar Newsletter's official address was reportedly a postbox address in Haninge in Sweden. In the mid-1990s, al-Suri had even recommended to Al-Ansar Newsletter staff in London that they transfer all their activities to one of the Scandinavian countries.
De svenska kopplingarna som nämns ovan har behandlats tidigare här på bloggen. Deneche, som distribuerade Al Ansar, var vid tiden föremål både för misstankar och nyhetsartiklar, bland annat av en förstående Jan Guillou. Att Al Ansar hade sin adress i Haninge förklaras med att Mohamed Moumou, sedermera dödad när han var andreman för Al Qaida i Irak (under namnet Abu Qaswara), hade sin lägenhetsmoské där. Hans danske motsvarighet Said Mansour lyckades danskarna fängsla. Hur Al Ansars material samlades in och spreds har också beskrivits, via utdrag ur Omar Nasiris Inside the Jihad.

Men här ger Brynjar Lia ytterligare kött på benen i fotnoterna. "A study from Oct. 1995 claims that al-Suri 'travel[ed] regularly between Sweden and London." Även Danmark var ett bra land att verka i. "A prominent Syrian Muslim Brotherhood veteran, whom Spanish authorities subsequently linked to al-Suri, lived in the Danish city of Aarhus. Umar Abd al-Rahman, the so-called 'blind shaykh', who was the JI's spiritual leader, and perhaps the most prominent jihadi cleric at the time, also visited Copenhagen and held conferences there in the early 1990's."

Men vad var det då som lockade, i såväl London som de skandinaviska länderna?
Compared to Spain, which al-Suri described as 'closed' in terms of possibiities of 'Islamic activity', London was a totally different place:
'It has 75 daily newspapers, weekly and monthly magazines, that are published in Arabic, it has huge libraries. As an imperialist state, it has lived together with the Islamic world. Political opposition movements of all shades and colours are there. All iterary schools, in poetry and prose, are present in London. [...] Among the Islamists, you will find everyone from Shaykh Muhammad Surur to the jihadis, and lately it has become a refuge for everyone. [...] I found that being in London during that period would place you at the centre of the events.'

Al-Suri was greatly attracted to everything that the United Kingdom, and London in particular, had to offer a jihadi intellectual, especially its large Muslim diaspora and the significant presence of jihadi organizations, including groups and individuals whom he already knew from Afghanistan, such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), the Egyptian Islamic Jihad Group (EIJ), the Egyptian Islamic Group (JI), the Algerian GIA, Moroccan jihadis, Osama bin Laden's supporters, etc. The extent of their activities in the United Kingdom was so conspicious that al-Suri thought that:

'London must have acted according to a well-studied and well-known international plan and opened its doors to the Islamists and the jihadis; not only the UK, but also other European states, like the Scandinavian countries. Consequently, there was a concentration [of jihadis] there, and I found that there was an opportunity to resume my contribution [to jihad], and my participation, in writing, by staying in London.'
Det var alltså, skriver han, som om Skandinavien och Storbritannien verkligen ville ha jihadister verksamma där. Så tillåtande var miljön.

Men Storbritannien tröttnade till slut. I London samarbetade Abu Musaab al-Suri med en palestinsk predikant som kallas Abu Qatadah, som blev chefredaktör för Al Ansar i mitten av 1990-talet. Han var redan då efterlyst av Jordanien (långt senare, direkt efter elfte september 2001, satte FN upp honom på terroristsanktionslistan som medlem i al Qaida.), varför brittiska myndigheter gjorde tillslag.
When the headquarters of the al-Ansar Newsletter was raided by the British police in 1995, al-Suri called upon Abu Qutadah and his followers to see this as a wake-up call. After all, they were behind enemy lines and should start applyning guerilla warfare tactics to their media work:

'I made them understand that we were in a hit and run war. I presented to them a plan for how to continue: work on the publication of a new journal, change the place of issuing it to one of the Scandinavian countries, and spread the activities to more than one place. I warned them that 'the security storm' was coming, and that we were forced to deal with it in a manner of a guerilla war of hit and run, even in the field of our media activities.'
Återigen syns mönstret. När säkerhetstjänsterna gör tillslag på en plats, flyttar man till en annan mer tillåtande – även denna gång nämns Skandinavien.

En relaterad fråga är förstås om man tror att det fungerar annorlunda idag, och om Sverige fortfarande betraktas som en fristad.

Förresten. Missa inte norrbaggarnas blogg jihadica.