EU anti-terror chief warns about left-wing extremism


European governments need to be more vigilant about emerging security threats such as left-wing extremism or new incarnations of al Qaeda through better sharing of intelligence, the European Union’s counter-terrorism coordinator said on Tuesday.

In a report prepared for a meeting of home affairs ministers of EU member states in Brussels, Gilles de Kerchove warned the bloc that the economic crisis in Europe and the Arab Spring gave rise to new threats.

Left-wing violence was a particular concern at a time of fiscal austerity throughout Europe to counter mounting debt problems, he said.

“We now need to be alive to the possibility that adverse economic conditions within Europe itself could... start to produce conditions conducive to the spread of violent left-wing or anarchist ideologies,” Kerchove said in the report, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

Security experts see Greece as a top target in Europe for such violence, given its history of anarchist militancy, and the threat of extremist action in Europe linked to the economic situation.

A spate of immigrant murders and the discovery of a neo-Nazi group in Germany has already focused attention on right-wing extremism in Europe, as economic difficulties fuel protectionist attitudes and hostility to foreigners.

Kerchove said EU governments need to be more aware of the diversity of security threats and should improve how they pool intelligence from government and police sources, as well as information from the private sector, to identify risks.

“Recent events in Germany have again brought home the fact that the threat of terrorism does not come from a single source,” he added.

Addressing the Arab Spring, Kerchove said that although al Qaeda was now “a shadow” of the organization that launched the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, its branches have shown “great imagination” to exploit security gaps.

He said the North African wing of the organization, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was openly seeking to build up its power base through an alliance with Boko Haram, a Nigerian Islamist sect.

Algerian government officials flagged this alliance last month, citing intelligence reports.

Boko Haram has killed dozens of people in Nigeria, an OPEC producer, and Western security experts say any link-up with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) could make it a more potent threat, especially to Nigeria’s energy sector.