Al-Qaeda activities in Europe

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A flag used by Al-Qaeda.

The international activities of Al-Qaeda includes involvements in Europe, where members of the group have been involved in militant and terrorist activities in several countries. Al-Qaeda has been responsible for or involved in attacks in Western Europe and Russia, including the 2004 Madrid train bombings,[1] 2010 Moscow Metro bombings,[2] 2011 Domodedovo International Airport bombing,[3] and the January 2015 Île-de-France attacks.[4]

Eastern Europe[edit]

North Caucasus[edit]

Al-Qaeda linked militants organized around the Caucasus Emirate have been involved in the Second Chechen War and the Insurgency in the North Caucasus. In August 2009 it was reported that during a raid the Russian police had killed an Algerian-born militant in Dagestan who according to the Federal Security Service, was "the Al-Qaeda co-ordinator in Dagestan". The militant was an Algerian national known as "Doctor Mohammed" and was thought to be a member of the 'Jamaat Shariat of Dagestan'[5][6]

In 2010, Russian police shot and killed a militant in the Russian republic of Dagestan. The man was later determined to be one of the co-founders of the North Caucasus branch of al-Qaeda. The man’s name was Mohamed Shaaban.[7]

Northern Europe[edit]


On 11 December 2010, a man linked to Al-Qaeda exploded a car bomb and a suicide bomb in Stockholm, killing only himself and injuring two others. He was later revealed to be Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, an Iraqi man.[8] Before the attacks, he sent an email threat to TT referring to Sweden's involvement in the War in Afghanistan and Swedish artist Lars Vilks' drawings of Muhammad as a roundabout dog.[citation needed]

United Kingdom[edit]

In 2003 Tony Blair sent armoured vehicles and hundreds of troops to London Heathrow Airport because the UK security services claimed there was a planned Al-Qaeda attack.[9] MI5 said they received detailed intelligence in February 2003 about a plot to hijack planes flying from Eastern Europe and to fly them into Heathrow, to punish the United Kingdom for supporting the Iraq War.[9]

The men behind the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot reportedly had links to al-Qaeda.[10] In September 2009, Tanvir Hussain, Assad Sarwar and Ahmed Abdullah Ali were convicted of conspiring to activate bombs disguised as drinks on aircraft leaving from London and going to North America.[11][12][13] British and US security officials said the plan – unlike many recent homegrown European terrorist plots – was directly linked to al-Qaeda and guided by senior Islamist militants in Pakistan.[14][15][16][17][18]

Southern Europe[edit]

Bosnian War[edit]

During the Bosnian War in the early 1990s, al-Qaeda is considered to have been involved with organising volunteers for the Bosnian mujahideen.[19][20] Al-Qaeda leaders including Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are thought to have visited camps in Bosnia during the war.[21]


In May 2009 two French nationals were detained by Italian police due to suspected immigration offences however they are now suspected of being key Al-Qaeda figures. It is thought that they had planned to attack Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France. Italian police stated that they are "two leading men for the communication of al-Qaeda in Europe".[22]

In 2012, a pentito of the Camorra stated that, the criminal organisation was in contact with members of Al-Qaeda and aware of incoming terrorist attacks. The organisation was informed that "something involving airplanes would have happened" and that Al-Qaeda was planning a train bombing in Spain.[23]

In 2015, the Vatican was listed as a possible target for an attack by people associated with al-Qaeda.[24]

Kosovo War[edit]

Islamist elements in the Kosovo Liberation Army during the Kosovo War from Western Europe of ethnic Albanian, Turkish, and North African origin, were organised by Islamic leaders in Western Europe allied to Bin Laden and Zawahiri.[25]

SHISH's head Fatos Klosi had said that Osama was running a terror network in Albania to take part in the war under the guise of a humanitarian organisation reportedly started in 1994. Claude Kader who was a member testified its existence during his trial.[26]


The 11 March 2004 train bombings in Madrid killed 191 people and wounded more than 2,000. The terror cell had links to al-Qaeda and the affiliated Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM). It was the worst Islamist attack in European history.[27][28][29]

On 2 August 2012 three members of al-Qaeda were arrested in Ciudad Real and Cadiz, suspected of wanting attacks in Spain or other European countries. Intended attempt at a mall in Cadiz with teleridigidas aircraft loaded with explosives. At the time of the arrest of one of the jihadists opposed a "huge resistance, using their military training" and had to be reduced by the police.[30]

Western Europe[edit]

A Europe-wide terror plot against the 1998 FIFA World Cup had the backing of bin Laden and al-Qaeda.[31] In December 2000, the "Frankfurt Group", an al-Qaeda cell consisting of more than ten terrorists from Germany, France and the United Kingdom led by bin Laden deputy Mohammed Bensakhria was rounded up by law enforcement. The group had planned to bomb the Strasbourg Cathedral on New Year's Eve.[32][33]


In October 2009 a physicist of Algerian descent working for CERN was arrested due to his links with Al-Qaeda.[34] Officials said he had been in contact with people linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and planned attacks.[34] He later admitted to corresponding with Al-Qaeda members located in North Africa over the Internet.[35]

In January 2015, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was responsible for coordinated attacks in Paris, including the Charlie Hebdo shooting, killing several people.[4]


In September 2009 security measures were heightened in response to a direct threat against Germany, through an Al-Qaeda video, the threat came about due to German participation in the Afghanistan war[36][37] Osama Bin Laden stated:

It is shameful to be part of an alliance whose leader does not care about spilling the blood of human beings by bombing villages intentionally.

If you had seen [the mass killings] of your American allies and their helpers in northern Afghanistan ... then you would understand the bloody events in Madrid and London,[38]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Al Qaeda in Europe: The New Battleground of International Jihad, by Steven Emerson (Foreword), Lorenzo Vidino (Author). ISBN 978-1-59102-433-0.[39]
  • Al-Qaida's Jihad in Europe: The Afghan-Bosnian Network, by Evan F. Kohlmann. ISBN 978-1-85973-807-8.[40]


  1. ^ "Full text: 'Al-Qaeda' Madrid claim". BBC News. 14 March 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  2. ^ "Chechen rebel claims Metro blasts". BBC News. 31 March 2010. Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  3. ^ Steve Rosenberg (8 February 2011). "Chechen warlord Doku Umarov admits Moscow airport bomb". BBC News.
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ "Russia 'kills al-Qaeda operative'". BBC News. 31 August 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  6. ^ "Al-Qaeda seeks foothold in North Caucasus". Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  7. ^ Sputnik. "Russian police kill al-Qaeda's 'sword of Islam'". Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  8. ^ Paige, Jonathan (12 December 2010). "Stockholm suicide bomber: Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly profile". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  9. ^ a b "The Times – Al-Qaeda's Heathrow jet plot revealed". The Times. UK. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  10. ^ "Security chief: Airline terror plot 'close to execution'". CNN. Archived from the original on 25 August 2010.
  11. ^ "Three Britons found guilty of transatlantic jet bombing plot". Archived from the original on 24 September 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  12. ^ "UK | Three guilty of airline bomb plot". BBC News. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  13. ^ "Al Qaeda podría intentar otro atentado con aviones comerciales en Occidente" (in Spanish). 9 September 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  14. ^ Press, Associated (7 September 2009). "UK court convicts 3 of plot to blow up airliners International | Jerusalem Post". Archived from the original on 12 May 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  15. ^ Sandford, Daniel (7 September 2009). "UK | Airline plot: Al-Qaeda connection". BBC News. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  16. ^ Do G1, com agências internacionais. "Três britânicos são condenados por ter planejado explodir aviões em 2006" (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on 13 September 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  17. ^ "Plano para atacar aviões teria elo com Al-Qaeda paquistanesa" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  18. ^ "Beramers vliegtuigaanslagen veroordeeld" (in Dutch). 29 December 2011. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  19. ^ Shrader, Charles R. (2003). The Muslim-Croat Civil War in Central Bosnia: A Military History, 1992-1994. Texas A&M University Press. p. 52. ISBN 9781585442614.
  20. ^ PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer, A New Constitution for Bosnia, 22 November 2005
  21. ^ Atwan, Abdel Bari (2012). The Secret History of al Qaeda. Saqi. p. 155. ISBN 9780863568435.
  22. ^ "Italy arrests 'al-Qaeda plotters'". BBC News. 12 May 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  23. ^ ""11 settembre, camorra informata in anticipo dell'attentato" Leggi il racconto choc del pentito". (in Italian). Naples, Italy: Caltagirone Editore. Archived from the original on 13 June 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  24. ^ CNN, Greg Botelho, Don Melvin and Hada Messia. "Italy: Suspects discussed Vatican attack". CNN. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  25. ^ Yossef Bodansky (4 May 2011). Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America. Crown Publishing Group. pp. 398–403. ISBN 978-0-307-79772-8.
  26. ^
  27. ^ Judgment of the attacks. El país, 2008.
  28. ^ Al Qaeda claimed the attacks in Madrid. 20 minutos, 2007.
  29. ^ "Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group". Stanford University. 6 August 2012.
  30. ^ [1]. BBC News, 2012.
  31. ^ Cull, Nicholas J. (2003). "Osama bin Laden". In Cull, Nicholas John; Culbert, David Holbrook; Welch, David (eds.). Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present. ABC-CLIO. p. 222. ISBN 9781576078204.
  32. ^ "Five Linked to Al Qaeda Face Trial in Germany". Washington Post. 15 April 2002.
  33. ^ "Chronology: The Plots". PBS Frontline. 25 January 2005.
  34. ^ a b "Scientist on French terror charge". BBC News. 12 October 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  35. ^ Press, Associated. "JPost – French physicist admits to emailing al-Qaida". Retrieved 4 January 2012.[permanent dead link]
  36. ^ "Germany on edge after fourth consecutive al-Qaeda bomb attack warning". The Times. UK. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  37. ^ Gardner, Frank (22 September 2009). "Europe | Al-Qaeda video threat to Germany". BBC News. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  38. ^ "South Asia | 'Bin Laden' urges Afghan pull-out". BBC News. 25 September 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  39. ^ Al Qaeda in Europe: The New Battleground of International Jihad. ASIN 1591024331.
  40. ^ Hafez, Mohammed (3 December 2004). Al-Qaida's Jihad in Europe: The Afghan-Bosnian Network. ISBN 1859738079.