Al Qaida Iraq War veterans filtering back into Europe 'to organize new cells'
Al Qaida fighters in Iraq are returning to Europe in what could result in major strikes on the continent.
Hundreds of Europeans who fought the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq are expected to return home over the next few months. The Al Qaida recruits came from Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain and were trained to organize operational cells and plan major suicide strikes.
Intelligence sources said Al Qaida has ordered home at least 200 foreign fighters, most of them from Europe. The sources said the Al Qaida leadership along the Afghan-Pakistani border has concluded that the fighters were vulnerable to exposure and capture or death amid the successful U.S. recruitment of the Iraqi Sunni community.
"The order was given by [Al Qaida No. 2] Ayman Zawahiri for Western recruits to get out of Iraq and return to their countries to organize new cells," an intelligence source said. "There is already an exit flow."
The Al Qaida order has sent European Union intelligence agencies scrambling. The agencies are trying to determine the identities of the Al Qaida fighters and the routes they will use to return home.
Some EU countries, particularly Britain, France and Spain, have sent agents to Iraq to determine the scope of the Al Qaida blowback. They have been helped by the U.S. intelligence community, which has sought to maintain EU support of the Western presence in Iraq.
1) Al Qaida Iraq War veterans filtering back into Europe 'to organize new cells'