Former Al Qaeda bomb maker warns of Christmas terror campaign in Europe

Terrorist-turned-spy says end of lockdown will be attractive to extremist plotters

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Lajos Soos/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10165402x)
Former agent of Britain's security and intelligence service MI6 Aimen Dean delivers his speech during the MCC Budapest Summit on Migration titled 'The Biggest Challenge of Our Time?' organized by the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC) in Varkert Bazaar in Budapest, Hungary, 24 March 2019. Hungary hosts the global migration conference attended by many experts, decision-makers and diplomats in the field from around the world from March 22 to 24.
MCC Budapest Summit on Migration, Hungary - 24 Mar 2019

A former Al Qaeda bomb maker-turned-spy says extremists are plotting a Christmas bombing campaign in Europe to exploit the end of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Aimen Dean, who became an MI6 agent at the heart of the terrorist group, said senior ISIS officials in Syria were plotting revenge in European countries after the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in France.

Extremists killed 12 people after attacking the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris five years ago after it printed the cartoons, creating deep divisions in multicultural France.

Schoolteacher Samuel Paty was knifed to death in October in Paris after showing the cartoons to his class. The killing sparked a diplomatic furore between Paris and Ankara as French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to root out Islamist extremism.

Mr Dean told the online International Security Week conference in the UK that plots were being hatched in ungoverned areas of Libya and northern Syria where extremism is able to flourish.

He said he had heard about a former ISIS chief – previously reported as being killed – who was alive and plotting attacks from northern Syria.

“The worry is that he is planning, according to people who know him, to avenge the Prophet Mohammed cartoons in places like Germany, UK and France, all around Christmas time,” he told the conference.

“So I’m afraid that I’m not bearing good news. We need to be worried about the wave of terror coming from Libya and Syria at Christmas this year.”

He said governments’ promises to ease lockdown arrangements around Christmas had made northern Europe a more attractive target for terrorists with potentially more people out celebrating.

“Already they have been thinking about it and looking into it. I feel this could be the next target, I fear,” he said.

Mr Dean cited the ease with which a terrorist was able to travel to Europe from North Africa via the Italian island of Lampedusa before launching a murderous attack at a church in Nice in October.

The alleged terrorist, Brahim Aouissaoui, was shot and critically wounded by police after killing three people.

Mr Dean said that the “highly irresponsible” policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had led to extremists moving to Libya and Azerbaijan, allowing them to edge “closer and closer to the gates of Europe”.

He said that extremists had used the lockdown to talk with a bored captive audience online to spread propaganda and secure new recruits.

Mr Dean, who grew up in Saudi Arabia, joined extremists fighting in Bosnia in 1994 before linking up with Al Qaeda three years later, where he took part in developing chemical weapons for the group.

He joined MI6 secretly after the 1998 terrorist attacks on US embassies in east Africa and worked undercover for eight years to foil Al Qaeda plots.

His cover was blown in a 2006 book published in the US and Mr Dean now works as a consultant on terrorism, financing and Middle East affairs. He wrote a book – Nine Lives – about his time inside the terrorist group.

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