Friday, July 16, 2004

Summer Tourorism

This was in the news yesterday, but didn't get around to posting on it. Spanish anti-terrorism judge Baltasár Garzon claims that there are about 100 Al Qaeda Cells inside Moroccan territory:

Madrid - Morocco - home to most of the suspects in the Madrid train bombing - is teeming with some 100 al-Qaeda-linked cells that are capable of suicide attacks and pose Europe's biggest terrorist threat, Spain's leading anti-terrorism judge testified on Thursday.

Each cell has five to 10 members, "so we are talking about 900 to 1 000 people who could be sought by police now in Morocco," Judge Baltasar Garzon told lawmakers investigating the March 11 attacks, which killed 190 people. Garzon quoted police and intelligence data.

"In my opinion it is the gravest problem Europe faces today with this kind of terrorism," Garzon said, noting that many of those groups are in northern Morocco, with members who speak perfect Spanish and are able to slip easily in and out of Spain.
Garzon has little positive to say about the EU's attempts to fight islamic terrorism:
He also complained that European law enforcement bodies, intelligence services and courts lack a clearly defined strategy for fighting Islamic terrorism.

"At least I don't know of one yet, despite all the efforts that are being made," Garzon said.
Of course, this isn't news, but it is reason for concern. The EU is more and more becoming like an example of cat herding, in my opinion. All good when you're dealing with the size of bananas and fiscal harmonization, but the threat of terrorism looming over Europe is too important to fight by concensus, which always brings out the lowest common denominator, and usually two years late.

On the same note, Spain's Southern Coast is the main transit point for Moroccans living throughout Europe, returning to their motherland for the summer vacation. Referred to in Spanish as Operación Paso de Estrecho (Operation Crossing of the Straight), between July and August every day more than fifty-thousand (50,000) Moroccans cross the Straight, with peaks to going over 100,000 a day. On this page (in Spanish) on the left side there is a pull down menu with which you can show the daily flow of cars, passengers etc. making the crossing. Operation Paso is renowned for its efficiency in getting as many across in as little time possible.

In 2003, more than 2,5 million Moroccans and more than 600,000 cars made the crossing by ferry, going to Morocco and coming back one month later. For this year, they're expecting more than 2,8 millian Magreb-born immigrants to make the crossing.

Spain's police forces have warned (link in Spanish) that the crossing may be taken advantage of to get terrorists across and into Europe. A total of 7,000 combined police forces have been allocated to oversee the crossings.

Which means that this summer, if Al Qaeda would like to smuggle in say, ten cells into Europe, each consisting of ten terrorists, making 100 terrorists, they can hide them between 2,5 million Moroccan tourists, which are watched over by 7,000 police officers along the entire southern coast of Spain.

Odds, anyone?