Terrorist Recruits Pose Threat to U.S.

Dec. 22, 2006 — -- Awaiting trial for supporting terrorists in the deadly 2004 Madrid train bombing, Nasreddine Boussbaa has now been accused of making fake documents for Iraq-based terrorists trying to make their way back to Europe.

"Iraq is generating an exodus of terrorists," says ABC News consultant Tony Cordesman. "It is creating a training center, in effect, the worst kind of training center, because people learn through practice, not theory."

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A new report issued by the State Department and obtained by ABC News says that foreign fighters in Iraq include Islamic radicals "from France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom."

The report calls them "Iraq war alumni" and concludes that "radicalization is a high risk to U.S. interests."

"The foreign fighters that go into Iraq, most of the foreign fighters are going to die there, but those that do return are going to be more energized, more fanatical, more dedicated to the cause," says Dennis Pluchinsky, former senior State Department official.

Fertile Recruiting Ground

One of the major concerns is that those radicals will return from Iraq as heroes and find fertile recruiting ground in Europe.

An assessment by the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center estimates that as many as "150,000 [European Muslims] could be open to recruitment into terrorism or become supporters."

A senior European official recently told the Iraq Study Group that "failure in Iraq could incite terrorist attacks within his country."

European terrorists and their recruits could pose a unique threat to the United States.

"They may be able to slip through any type of surveillance screens that the European police and intelligence agencies set up," Pluchinsky says. "There is a good possibility they could slip into the U.S."

Intelligence officials warn that not only Iraq but the recent strife in Lebanon and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict are converging to create a dangerous moment for the West.

"We can't quantify the number of terrorists," Cordesman explains, "but there is an almost universal consensus among intelligence experts that the number is far higher today than in 2001."

The European threat assessment concludes that the "global terrorist threat … has doubled over the last 24 months."

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