A former al-Qaeda bombmaker turned MI6 agent has warned that a senior Isis commander is plotting a Christmas terror campaign in European countries, like reported by inews.co.uk
Aimen Dean, who spent eight years spying on the Islamist group before his cover was blown by a US intelligence leak, said plots were being hatched in ungoverned areas of northern Syria and Libya to launch attacks in revenge for the re-publication in France of cartoons of Mohamed.
The alleged plan to try to send attackers via Turkey and across the Mediterranean from North Africa is being masterminded by Abu Omar al-Shishani, a Georgian Isis commander who was believed to have been killed in an American air strike in 2016 but is now believed to have survived his injuries.
Mr Dean said it was his understanding that extremists had decided to try and use the lifting of lockdown restrictions during the Christmas period to launch attacks in Europe, in particular against the UK, France and Germany.
Britain last month moved up to its second highest terror threat level of “severe”, meaning an attack is believed to be highly likely while there is no specific intelligence pointing to a particular target. The change followed a recent spate of attacks in France and Austria, where an Isis sympathiser killed four people during a gun rampage in Vienna.
Speaking to a policing and security audience at the online International Security Week conference in London, Mr Dean said Shishani, who is thought to be based in northern Syria, was planning to infiltrate attackers from the remaining outposts of Islamic State activity following the recent re-publication of Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohamed. A French teacher, Samuel Paty, was murdered in October after showing the cartoons to his class.
Mr Dean said: “The worry is that, according to people who know him, [Shishani] is planning to avenge the Prophet Mohamed cartoons in places like Germany, UK, France and all around Christmas time.
“I’m afraid I’m not bearing good news but we need to be worried about the wave of terror that is coming from northern Syria and Libya for Christmas this year.”
Since the collapse of Isis’ so-called caliphate in Syria, nearly all Islamist attacks in western Europe have been carried out by individual assailants who appear to have been inspired by the online propaganda of established groups rather than had their actions directly co-ordinated by extremist commanders
However, the remnants of Isis retain the ambition of launching co-ordinated attacks and, according to Mr Dean, have squirrelled away as much as $450m (£334m) in criminal funds secured at the height of their power.
The French authorities are still investigating whether Brahim Aouissaou, the Tunisian-born man who murdered three people in a church in Nice in October, had direct links with Islamist groups. The 21-year-old killer, who was shot eight times by police, had crossed the Mediterranean just three weeks before the attack and was found to have Islamic State images on his phone along with an audio message describing France as a “country of unbelievers”.
Mr Dean, who now works as a consultant on terrorism and Middle Eastern affairs, said: “This promise of no lockdown at Christmas has made it a more attractive timeframe for targeting. Already they have been thinking about it, already they have been looking at it and I feel this will be the next target.”