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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Report: Al Qaeda recruited Norwegian Muslim to attack West

From AP:
A Norwegian man has received terrorist training from al-Qaida's offshoot in Yemen and is awaiting orders to carry out an attack on the West, officials from three European security agencies told The Associated Press on Monday.

Western intelligence officials have long feared such a scenario — a convert to Islam who is trained in terrorist methods and can blend in easily in Europe and the United States, traveling without visa restrictions.

Officials from three European security agencies confirmed Monday the man is "operational," meaning he has completed his training and is about to receive a target. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly. They declined to name the man, who has not been accused of a crime.

"We believe he is operational and he is probably about to get his target," one security official said. "And that target is probably in the West."

A security official in a second European country confirmed the information, adding: "From what I understand, a specific target has not been established."

European security services, including in Norway, have warned in recent years of homegrown, radicalized Muslims traveling to terror training camps in conflict zones. Many of the known cases involve young men with family roots in Muslim countries.

But the latest case involves a man in his 30s with no immigrant background, the officials said. After converting to Islam in 2008, he quickly became radicalized and traveled to Yemen to receive terror training, one of the officials said. The man spent "some months" in Yemen and is still believed to be there, he said.

The official said the man has no criminal record, which would also make him an ideal recruit for al-Qaida.

"Not even a parking ticket," he said. "He's completely clean and he can travel anywhere."

The official would not specify what preventive measures were being taken but said "there is a well-established relationship between Western security services, and they share the information needed to prevent terrorism."

The officials declined to specify what makes them think the man is operational.

The man has not been accused of a crime in Norway, where traveling abroad to attend terror training camps is not a crime per se. In many European countries, suspects are not named unless they have been formally charged with a crime.

Yemeni military officials said they had information on Europeans training with al-Qaida in the southern part of the country but that they weren't aware of a Norwegian being among them. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

CIA and FBI officials in the U.S. declined to comment on the AP report.

(h/t Yoel)