Alleged Chechen terror recruiters detained in Europe

At least 26 people have been arrested in Europe on terrorism charges, and allegedly have links with Chechen militants, Belgian authorities have announced.

Earlier on Tuesday it was reported that 11 people were detained in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. A recent report says 15 more people have been arrested in Brussels, bringing the total number seized to 26.

Investigators in Belgium say they are part of an international terror network that was preparing a bloody Christmas campaign across the continent.

They were also said to be hiring people and seeking funds to finance terrorists in Russia's republic of Chechnya.

Among them are nationals of the Netherlands, Belgium, Morocco and Russia.

According to RIA Novosti political analyst Dmitry Babich, terrorists perceive Russia as part of the western world.

”The ideology of jihadist terrorists, I think it is the best name for them, is actually directed against the West in general and against Russia as a part of the West,” he said.

“EU officials and the US officials may not consider Russia a European country or a western country, for jihaidists Russia is a western country and they are ready to strike at Russia as a part of the western world,” Babich added.

“In that sense we are in the same boat with the EU and with the United states, whether the United States of America wants it or not."

­Dr. Edwin Bakker, a research fellow from the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, says the group arrested today is part of the global terror network which is trying to expand itself as far as possible.

“They are part of this global Jihad, of which Al Qaeda is the main icon… They are not only recruiting Chechens to go back to fight in Chechnya. They are also recruiting other people, in this case possibly people with a Dutch-Moroccan background. In that sense, they are not only part of the local struggle, they are part of global Jihad, and Chechnya is the focus for some of these groups which have roots in Europe, which have nothing to do with Chechnya, but the conflict in Chechnya is attracting other groups to fight in this area, as well. So it’s more international and these foreign supporters want these groups very much to make it as international as possible,” Bakker said.

­Peter Power, a security analyst in the UK, says European cooperation regarding foreign terrorist suspects is traditionally very complicated for a number of reasons, but the Tuesday operation demonstrates a quality change: we can see cooperation and actual intelligence sharing.

“In Europe you have the European Convention on Human Rights, which is a very powerful piece of legislation. You’ve also got the presumption of innocence… Also, if you are going to extradite anybody, it has to be a crime in the country where that person is, as well as where they wanted to go back too… It is very difficult. Terrorism, freedom fighter, soldier, criminal – it depends on where you are. Even the United Nations cannot truly define what terrorism is,” Power said.

“But now what we’ve seen in the last few hours is something which does link Chechen efforts, Russia, Europe, America, and quite frankly, just about all non-Muslim states,” he said.

Mark Dechesne, a senior researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Counterterrorism, says the terrorist threat is growing more and more defused, and there may not necessarily be a connection between terrorist networks in Europe and Chechnya.

“I am not sure these current arrests in Europe —in the Netherlands, in Belgium — can be directly related to the situation in Chechnya or international terrorism,” he said. “There may have been a Chechen person involved, but that doesn’t mean that these people who are arrested in the Netherlands are directly associated with the struggle going on in Chechnya.”

At the same time, he stressed that “Chechnya has always been pointed out as one of the places where Al Qaeda has been involved, and it has a role in fighting terrorism.”