How the war on terror made the world a more terrifying place
- How the war on terror made the world a more terrifying
New figures show dramatic rise in terror attacks
worldwide since the invasion of Iraq
By Kim Sengupta and Patrick Cockburn
Published: 28 February 2007
Innocent people across the world are now paying the
price of the "Iraq effect", with the loss of hundreds
of lives directly linked to the invasion and
occupation by American and British forces.
An authoritative US study of terrorist attacks after
the invasion in 2003 contradicts the repeated denials
of George Bush and Tony Blair that the war is not to
blame for an upsurge in fundamentalist violence
worldwide. The research is said to be the first to
attempt to measure the "Iraq effect" on global
terrorism. It found that the number killed in jihadist
attacks around the world has risen dramatically since
the Iraq war began in March 2003. The study compared
the period between 11 September 2001 and the invasion
of Iraq with the period since the invasion. The count
- excluding the Arab-Israel conflict - shows the
number of deaths due to terrorism rose from 729 to
5,420. As well as strikes in Europe, attacks have also
increased in Chechnya and Kashmir since the invasion.
The research was carried out by the Centre on Law and
Security at the NYU Foundation for Mother Jones
Iraq was the catalyst for a ferocious fundamentalist
backlash, according to the study, which says that the
number of those killed by Islamists within Iraq rose
from seven to 3,122. Afghanistan, invaded by US and
British forces in direct response to the September 11
attacks, saw a rise from very few before 2003 to 802
since then. In the Chechen conflict, the toll rose
from 234 to 497. In the Kashmir region, as well as
India and Pakistan, the total rose from 182 to 489,
and in Europe from none to 297.
Two years after declaring "mission accomplished" in
Iraq President Bush insisted: "If we were not fighting
and destroying the enemy in Iraq, they would not be
idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans
across the world and within our borders. By fighting
these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are
defeating a direct threat to the American people."
Mr Blair has also maintained that the Iraq war has not
been responsible for Muslim fundamentalist attacks
such as the 7/7 London bombings which killed 52
people. "Iraq, the region and the wider world is a
safer place without Saddam [Hussein]," Mr Blair
declared in July 2004. Announcing the deployment of
1,400 extra troops to Afghanistan earlier this week -
raising the British force level in the country above
that in Iraq - the Prime Minister steadfastly denied
accusations by MPs that there was any link between the
Iraq war an unravelling of security elsewhere.
Last month John Negroponte, the Director of National
Intelligence in Washington, said he was "not certain"
that the Iraq war had been a recruiting factor for
al-Qa'ida and insisted: "I wouldn't say that there has
been a widespread growth in Islamic extremism beyond
Iraq, I really wouldn't."
Yet the report points out that the US administration's
own National Intelligence Estimate on "Trends in
Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States"
- partially declassified last October - stated that "
the Iraq war has become the 'cause célèbre' for
jihadists ... and is shaping a new generation of
terrorist leaders and operatives."
The new study, by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank,
argues that, on the contrary, "the Iraq conflict has
greatly increased the spread of al-Qa'ida ideological
virus, as shown by a rising number of terrorist
attacks in the past three years from London to Kabul,
and from Madrid to the Red Sea.
"Our study shows that the Iraq war has generated a
stunning increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist
attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional
terrorist attacks and civilian lives lost. Even when
terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal
attacks in the rest of the world have increased by
more than one third."
In trying to gauge the "Iraq effect", the authors had
focused on the rate of terrorist attacks in two
periods - from September 2001 to 30 March 2003 (the
day of the Iraq invasion) and 21 March 2003 to 30
September 2006. The research has been based on the
MIPT-RAND Terrorism database.
The report's assertion that the Iraq invasion has had
a far greater impact in radicalising Muslims is widely
backed security personnel in the UK. Senior
anti-terrorist officials told The Independent that the
attack on Iraq, and the now-discredited claims by the
US and British governments about Saddam Hussein's
weapons of mass destruction, had led to far more young
Muslims engaging in extremist activity than the
invasion of Afghanistan two years previously.
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of the Secret
Service (MI5) said recently: "In Iraq attacks are
regularly videoed and the footage is downloaded into
"Chillingly, we see the results here. Young teenagers
are being groomed to be suicide bombers. The threat is
serious, is growing and will, I believe, be with us
for a generation."
In Afghanistan the most active of the Taliban
commanders, Mullah Dadullah, acknowledged how the Iraq
war has influenced the struggle in Afghanistan.
"We give and take with the mujahedin in Afghanistan",
he said. The most striking example of this has been
the dramatic rise in suicide bombings in Afghanistan,
a phenomenon not seen through the 10 years of war with
the Russians in the 1980s.
The effect of Iraq on various jihadist conflicts has
been influenced according to a number of factors, said
the report. Countries with troops in Iraq,
geographical proximity to the country, the empathy
felt for the Iraqis and the exchange of information
between Islamist groups. "This may explain why
jihadist groups in Europe, Arab countries, and
Afghanistan were more affected by the Iraq war than
other regions", it said.
Russia, like the US, has used the language of the "war
on terror" in its actions in Chechnya, and al-Qa'ida
and their associates have entrenched themselves in the
border areas of Pakistan from where they have mounted
attacks in Kashmir, Pakistan and India.
Statistics for the Arab-Israel conflict also show an
increase, but the methodology is disputed in the case
of Palestinian attacks in the occupied territories and
settler attacks on Palestinians.
* The US is joining the Iraqi government in a
diplomatic initiative inviting Iran and Syria to a
"neighbours meeting" on stabilising Iraq, the
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday.
The move reflects a change of approach by the Bush
administration, which previously had resisted calls to
include Iran and Syria in such talks.
A nightmare without end
Shahajan Janjua's story is a glimpse of what the war
on terror means for young British Asian men
Thursday March 1, 2007
How does a young man from west London find himself
landed in a Kenyan police station, hanging from his
wrists, his feet tied to buckets of freezing water?
How does he find himself, soon after, being dined by
MI5 officers at a Nairobi hotel one moment, then
imprisoned underground in the desert the next?
The story of Shahajan Janjua, a British Asian, is a
little window into the "war on terror". As with the
cases of the three young men from Tipton who ended up
in Guantánamo Bay, MI5 officials in this case showed
themselves apparently incapable of making a judgment
of young British Asian men's likely links to
terrorism. So, another has come back from an innocent
overseas trip traumatised. Would it have happened if
he had been white and middle-class?
The backstory is to be found across Kenya's eastern
border, in Somalia. That country's state weakness,
acute poverty, and strategic position on the Red Sea
made it a handy client for both sides in the cold war.
In 1993, 18 US soldiers were killed there in an
ill-advised UN mission. Subsequent years of warlordism
and state collapse were ignored abroad. Then, last
year, came six months of peace under the Union of
Islamic Courts. The US responded recklessly,
instigating - and aiding with spy satellites and a
special operations unit - an Ethiopian attack that
involved airpower and 15,000 troops. The Islamic
government was brought down in days. Needless to say,
it was all cast as a war against terrorism.
On Christmas Day, Janjua was in Mogadishu for the
wedding of a childhood friend to a Somali woman. He
was the only guest from London. Janjua, a young man
who had put a troubled inner-city past behind him,
planned to leave the country on December 31, stopping
over in Dubai to see friends before returning to
London to celebrate his 22nd birthday in January.
But he fainted at the wedding on Christmas Day, and
was admitted to hospital with malaria. Mogadishu was
under bombardment, and his passport was stolen. Within
days he was taken from the hospital, still linked to
his drip, and put in a van with cans of tuna, a
gravely wounded Zimbabwean on a stretcher, another
wounded Somali, and foreign fighters. It was a grim
two-day trip to the southern port city of Kismayo,
where the Islamic Courts were still in control and the
streets seethed with men carrying AK-47s.
When Janjua was offered the chance to head for the
Kenyan border, he leapt at it, desperate as he was to
find a British consulate. Still weak from malaria, he
was put in one of two crowded vans along with the two
The border was closed and they split into three groups
to walk. As an argument broke out about carrying the
stretcher case, the Zimbabwean took a direct hit from
Ethiopian troops. Janjua saw a Tunisian and Swede
dead, too. Everyone ran. Janjua's group of 13 then
began a two-week walk with no food and only muddy
water to drink. After two days, during which time he
heard them speak nothing but Arabic, he discovered
that three were British.
They were arrested by the Kenyan military after
villagers turned them in. Janjua was smashed in the
face with a rifle and his nose fractured. In police
cells in Nairobi those in authority assaulted and
interrogated him. Next he was taken to expensive
hotels and quizzed by six different British MI5
officials. They showed him pictures of British men he
mostly did not recognise, and asked him repeatedly:
"Who sent you? Who funded you? Who are your friends?
Which mosque did you go to?"
His lucky break came when he persuaded a Kenyan
policewoman to lend him her phone and alerted lawyers
in London. Kenyan lawyers then tried to visit the
prison, but were not allowed in. MI5 had ample time to
confirm his account of his visit to Somalia, but on
February 2, police in London were telling his family
that he had been caught on the Kenyan/Somali border
Janjua and three other British men were flown back to
Somalia and held for three days in an underground
desert cell. Then he was flown back to Kenya, and on
to London, where he was questioned by police, but not
charged. It should all be over, but he has nightmares
and headaches, and is haunted by the men he left in
Kenyan or Somali jails. He, and they, are yet more
casualties in a mindless, misbegotten "war on terror"
which the US and Britain cannot win militarily.
· Victoria Brittain is the co-author, with Moazzam
Begg, of Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim's Journey
to Guantánamo and Back.