Top stories of 2005 | Al-Qaeda affiliates attack

Issue: "News of the year," Dec. 31, 2005

"Think Globally, Act Locally" looks like the motto adopted by jihadists in 2005. Major terrorist attacks-in London, Amman, Bali, and Sharm el-Sheikh-reveal a remarkable geographic spread and show a growing global following of al-Qaeda's ideology, according to terrorism expert Walid Phares.

In jihadist chatrooms and websites, radicals are taking their cues from al-Qaeda and its deputy chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. "It's like the 'Prime Minister Zawahiri's' note comes first, and then the local leader has his note," said Mr. Phares, author of the just-released Future Jihad.

Subway bomb blasts in London on July 7, for example, show coordination between a British jihadist organization and al-Qaeda. In Indonesia, terrorists struck restaurants on the tourist island of Bali three years after they first bombed its nightclubs. Al-Qaeda has the capability to attack anywhere in Indonesia, Mr. Phares notes, but Western-oriented Bali has a particular symbolic value.

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With fearless attacks, world leaders are less apprehensive to name the ideology behind jihadist terrorism. President Bush began calling terrorism "Islamic radicalism," while British Prime Minister Tony Blair described "a religious ideology, a strain within the world-wide religion of Islam." After hotel bombings killed 59 in Amman, Jordan, on Nov. 9, King Abdullah said Takfiris, who advocate attacking all perceived infidels, including apostate Muslims, "have no place among us."

Authorities won important convictions of would-be terrorists. In Madrid, Syrian-born Imad Eddin Barakhat Yarkas became only the second person in the world convicted of a 9/11-related crime, sentenced in September to 27 years in prison. He was one of 18 men convicted of membership in or collaboration with al-Qaeda.

In Virginia, the Saudi-trained Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was caught in plots to assassinate President George W. Bush using snipers or a suicide bomb and of planning to launch a 9/11-style airplane attack. In New York, two Yemeni citizens earned prison terms for financially supporting terrorist groups. One of the men, Mohammed Ali Hasan al-Moayad, bragged he had channeled $20 million to Osama bin Laden and millions to Hamas.

The stirrings of democracy are also challenging the jihadists, Mr. Phares said, as successful elections took place in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Lebanon's Cedar Revolution ended Syria's occupation. Terrorists, in turn, are focusing on soft targets. Witness simultaneous bombings on London's subway system and in Amman's hotel ballroom. "In the case of the jihadists, the more you kill civilians, the more, in their minds, discontent [grows] with public powers."


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