A Country Outlook: Islam in Greece

A very interesting article was featured on the International Analyst Network by Ioannis Michaletos on the Islamic community in Greece. In this post I have only taken a small part of the total analysis, but I propose that after reading this you check the website and read this indepth analysis, it is indeed quite remarkably revealing.
According to him, there seems to be an activity within radical Islamic elements, as well as, gradual projection of Islamic political entities through the use of Greek nationals in Greece right now.
He says that a revelation by the infamous Wiki Leaks US Dept of State telegrams, showed that, the ex-Ambassador of US in Athens, Daniel Speckhard, has noted the danger of  the nexus between Greek domestic terrorist groups and Islamic groups, including those from Iran, as he was informed by the then Greek Minister of public Order, Mr. Chrysohoidis.

Furthermore, 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.

According to Michaletos’ article, Mahmoud Issa 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, says Michaletos, that were in possession of radical groups in Lebanon, Michaletos  said that 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, stated 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.

French intelligence sources dating back to the pre-9/11 period claimed that organized networks of radical Arab groups that have operated in Greece in the past have been used by al-Qaeda affiliates and other fundamentalist networks, Michaletos adds.

According to a pre-9/11 French intelligence report, American interests in Greece and Cyprus were considered by Osama bin Laden’s network as targets. Citing a DGSE document, the newspaper “To Vima”, reported that members of the bin Laden network in cooperation with Taliban officials and other armed groups were planning to hijack airplanes between March and September 2000, yet it was never carried out due to various logistical and operational disagreements, Michaletos notes.

In another notable case, in September 2005, the Moroccan Anwar Mazrar was arrested on the Greek-Turkey border while attempting to travel to Greece on the Istanbul-Thessalonica bus service . Mazrar, according to Michaletos’ article, had been accused of being a leading member of terrorist groups in Morocco and also of having ties with al-Qaeda. He said that European intelligence agencies have also reported that around 20 Arab fundamentalists have been arrested in Britain, Italy, Portugal, France and the Netherlands for having in their possession forged Greek passports.

Various intelligence sources conclude that the Greek immigration policy has deterred many radical Islamist networks from establishing permanent ties in the country. A security brief issued during the 2004 Olympic Games noted, “The legal environment was for many years an obstacle for the growth and development of organized networks that could operate overtly or covertly using religious and cultural organizations and NGOs as legitimate fronts.” This policy, however, unintentionally leads many groups to go underground, according to Michaletos.

He adds that the Greek secret service has mapped a transnational network of radicals that has been developing in Greece over the years. Field informants indicate that this semi-legal web spreads across five different communities, including:

  • Mosques and local Muslim communities
  • Humanitarian organizations and NGOs
  • Islamic cultural centres in Europe
  • Foreign political, economic and religious elites
  • International Islamist terrorist organizations
The key members of this network, according to Michaletos, are (referred to as “The Union of Mosques” or “The Union of Imams”) and have military training and combat experience and are well connected with terrorist groups, foreign governments and the Muslim Diaspora in Europe (mainly in Britain, Italy and France). They use criminal activities to finance and facilitate their ideological objectives. The most noticeable illegal activities they conduct are passport forging, arms trafficking, people smuggling and drug trafficking. Finally, according to the same sources, the network has developed an internal structure to support fundraising, recruitment and counter intelligence activities.

Greece’s rather recent encounter with domestic radical activities is getting stronger, as the data show regarding the spread of Islamic-driven NGO’s and charity groups, the analyst adds in the article.

Michaletos says that Al Jabbar, is a Islamic charity NGO active in Greece over the past five years. According to information of high value, the organization possesses funds in excess of 400,000 Euros and it is actively launching campaign for the raise of another 150,000 Euros in the near term. Furthermore, it has spent 550,000 Euros, in 2008 in order to buy a buiding in the Aeschilus Street, number 37 in the centre of Athens. In the nearby streets, over the past 24 months, there has been a notable increase of houses being bought by Pakistani nationals who pay in cash, although they tend not to reside there or open up businesses. Further, an undisclosed amount of capital, which is estimated at over 2 million Euros was invested between 2007-2009 for the construction of a “Islamic cultural centre” in the district of Moschato in Athens, by Al Jabbar, although details are in flux regarding the actual involvement. A Saudi financier was also involved into assisting this project. The organization claims unofficially to have as much as 45,000 members, although reliable information point out that the actual membership is a few hundred people. The vast majority of its members is illegally residing in Greece and is of Pakistani descent, although the top members come from the Arab countries. There are no data, if there has been a thorough vetting process by the authorities regarding the transfer of these funds or if they derive from legal and taxed charity work. By taking into account the present state of affairs in the Islamic communities in Athens, there are strong indications that the capital was transferred from Arab countries. The Al Jabbar NGO is highly secretive; its members take measures as not to appear in public or have any kind of pubic contact with governmental authorities or the media (13).

Lastly, said Michaletos, a case of interest was the arrest in 2009 of the Iraqi citizen named Abu Sanjad. In this case he was arrested in Athens in July 2009, and he was subsequently sent to Irbil-Iraq, when his identity as a wanted terrorist by the Iraqi government was established. He entered the country, as an illegal immigrant (14).

Read more: www.analyst-network.com


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