Police arrested three alleged ISIS members on Thursday in Europe, thwarting a Paris-style terror attack in the heart of the Rhineland. The Wall Street Journal reports:
At least one of the three suspects came to Germany as a refugee, officials said. He was taken into custody at a small-town migrant shelter near the Polish border in a morning raid by heavily armed police commandos.
That suspect, identified as Hamza C., joined Islamic State in early 2014 along with a man named Saleh A., according to the prosecutor’s statement on the arrests.
The German prosecutor’s allegations indicate that Islamic State has been seeking to strike the West for years. Shortly after the two men joined, the organization’s leadership ordered them to carry out an attack in the bustling central pedestrian zone of Düsseldorf, the prosecutor’s office said. The two plotted to attack one of the main streets with two suicide bombings and “to kill as many passersby as possible with guns and further explosives,” the prosecutor said.
The plot ran aground after Saleh A. turned himself in to French authorities on Feb. 1, according to the prosecutor. Hamza C. and two alleged accomplices in western Germany were arrested Thursday. Prosecutors didn’t say why Thursday’s arrests came more than four months later.
Presumably, that was to further police and/or intelligence efforts—and it would appear a round of congratulations are due to the German and other European police and intelligence forces involved here.
The German prosecutor’s press conference detailed how an ISIS infiltration of Europe plays out:
After receiving the orders to attack Germany, Hamza C. and Saleh A. left for Turkey and then traveled separately to Germany via Greece in March and July 2015, the prosecutor said. The sea-and-land route from Turkey to Greece to Germany was used by hundreds of thousands of migrants from Syria and elsewhere last year.
Saleh A. and Hamza C. recruited another Syrian national, Mahood B., to take part in the attack, while a fourth Syrian, Abd Arahman A. K., had already traveled to Germany in October 2014 to participate in the attack on orders from Islamic State leadership, according to the prosecutor.
Abd Arahman A. K. was charged with producing explosive vests, a job he had already done in Syria in 2013 for the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, the prosecutor said.
Hamza C. arrived at a migrant shelter in the small eastern German town of Bliesdorf on Sept. 11, 2015, the county’s migration commissioner, Thomas Berendt, said in an interview. A soccer field-size meadow overgrown with tall grass separates the four-story gabled building, which once housed a training center for construction apprentices, from a small neighborhood of single-family houses.
Hamza C. was absent for five months and missed his benefit payouts, Mr. Berendt said. But on Wednesday, Hamza C. arrived to collect his payment. He was arrested Thursday morning by masked police commandos and taken away by helicopter, locals said.
It will be pointed out—and is true—that only a tiny fraction of Europe’s migrant population represent this kind of threat. But with machine guns and bombs, just a few bad actors can kill hundreds. If there is another attack like Paris, European public opinion will not coldly calculate the statistical relationship between refugees and terrorists. Unlike their elites, who derive a psychic benefit from seeing their countries be so generous, the European public sees this not as the “cost” of an otherwise-desirable “refugees welcome” policy, but an added downside to a situation that increasingly they deplore to begin with.
Europe’s elite has an unspoken but increasingly clear plan for dealing with all of this: give the security services wide latitude (often much wider than their counterparts have in the U.S.) to chase down the bad guys, don’t say anything more than is absolutely necessary to the public that suggests that immigrants or Islam might have anything to do with it, police the public square and keep the far-right down (including online), and pray it all passes quietly. The main focus is to prevent a backlash against Muslims and/or immigrants on the one hand, while preventing terror on the other—two concerns seen as balanced poles to be avoided.
But there’s a problem—or rather two. Firstly, as long as Europe doesn’t have answers either to the root of the refugee problem—Syria and Libya—or to the enforcement situation at its borders (other than “pray Erdogan doesn’t alter the deal any further), then the elites have no real idea how long this will persist, while the strain wears away on the fabric of European politics. And the second is that, as an older generation of terrorists once said, “[R]emember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.”