"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Terrorists Seen Turning to Campuses for Skills

Whether it's flight school, skills in laboratories for the production of biological agents, engineering, or even economics, and other technologies, the ultimate irony for the West is that we are educating agents of our own destruction.

A cell of Moroccan students "accused of studying electronics, computer technology and telecommunications in the service of North African terrorist group allied with Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. "They oriented their scientific studies to learn terrorist techniques," a senior French anti-terrorism official said. "As people like this acquire knowledge and advance in the scientific community, they could become very hard for the police to detect. It was all quite sophisticated."

A number of top figures in Al Qaeda have academic backgrounds in the sciences. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, is an engineering graduate, as were Mohamed Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell that produced pilots for the attacks. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the convicted ringleader of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, is another engineer-turned-militant.

In a recent book titled "The Next Attack," two former National Security Council experts say that militants remain obsessed with developing technological capacity. The book describes bomb makers using Internet forums to reach out to academics for advice about electronics and chemistry.

The "responses suggest jihadists are able to draw on a wide range of highly skilled experts and that a significant number of Muslim scientists are prepared to help," Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon write.

Certainly large numbers of Muslim academics have been found to be conspiring with the Islamist movement.

There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that Muslims believe that they should be "in control over the affairs of men."

Friends of the suspects here question some of the evidence against them, including their alleged level of technical expertise. Nonetheless, the friends agree that extremist activity has grown at the University of Montpellier, where the approximately 1,100 Moroccan students are the biggest contingent of foreigners.

"There is no question there is recruitment, especially at the science faculty," said a Moroccan student leader who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I think it's because the science students are more naive. And at the same time, they are useful."

The suspect students arrived in Montpellier in 2002 to find an immigrant community that is warm, welcoming and relaxed about class distinctions. Investigators say the students befriended Moroccan laborers involved in hard-core radicalism. At soccer games, prayers and traditional meals, the group coalesced around a key figure: Hamza Safi, a 21-year-old house painter and agricultural worker.

Three of the students were Hakil Chraibi, 23, son of a French-Dutch mother and a Moroccan doctor who had also studied here; Reda Barrazouk, 24, from an upper-middle-class Casablanca family; and Youcef Bouzzag, 21, also of Casablanca, whose father works for an international oil company.

A study has shown that on the whole, terrorists are better educated than their peers and better educated than most of their adversaries.

In fact, many seem an unlikely candidate to be an agent of mass murder. (Via:

Are they moles or sleeper cells? No. According to a Stratfor Analysis (requires a subscription), a sleeper cell is a small group of agents operating under a very deep cover, sometimes waiting years or decades before activating operations against their host country that attacks strategically, often upon a prearranged signal, requiring "great vision, sophisticated planning and deep reservoirs of patience. The kinds of cells most often encountered are really "grassroots" groups that are part of the Islamist movement that is sweeping across the world.


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