London: The "Shoe Bomber Factory" again?
By Walid Phares
Quick reaction: The British security reports about a plot to destroy airliners traveling from London to the US and the decision by UK authorities to ban passengers hand bags on board brings back the whole question of the "factory" again, an issue I have been tiredly raising with legislators and officials on both sides of the Atlantic: From shoes to hand bags the Jihadists are not letting go of their morbid fantasy: bleeding the skies over the Atlantic.

While most investigation will direct itself on the "hand bag" weapon in the next few hours and probably days, the larger question on the mind of Jihadism analysts will certainly be: where do these Jihadists come from and how come there are more of them?

For, bypassing the security threat these potential perpetrators have created, with all the public, managerial, intelligence and logistical consequences, the questions I would raise immediately for global reflection are as follows:
1) Who made the decision among the Terrorists to begin the use of hand bags instead of shoe bombs to bring down airliners over the Atlantic? Are the two related? Are there other decisions to come?
2) Did the Jihadi-Terrorists study the possibilities of hand bags use and analyze the current state of security of the flights between the UK and the US? Have they been taking these flights back and forth and thus determine that it is feasible? So are there Terrorists flying with us and exploring the holes in the system?
3) Are there Jihadi Terrorists who are already inside the system (including the security structure) and have determined that attacks via explosives hidden in hand bags are possible? How did the design of the types of components that could be carried in these hand bags came to exist, and under whose expertise?
4) Why the insistence on striking a London US bound plane? What are the Jihadists trying to score on these air corridors? Why not London Pakistan and Venezuela lines?
5) What Jihadi command, organization, group are in charge of these operations, and where do they operate from? Is it London again? Is London's Jihad hub still operational, how large is it and who is recruiting for it?
6) Many have claimed that there are no Jihadi Terrorists in London during the past months arrests in Britain and "these are only Government conspiracies to single out specific communities, etc." If today's reports are verified, the latter question should be investigated as follow: Who is attempting to transform every lead against the Terrorists into a crisis with entire communities? Who in the UK and elsewhere is obstructing the full fledge war on Terrorism by protecting future Jihadi improvisation through accusing Governments (in the large sense of the word) of "political measures" while real Terror attempts are ongoing?
7) Is there a "Jihadi factory" in the UK which is targeting domestic and Transatlantic transportation; a factory that produces suicide bombers heading towards the Middle East, London subways and passengers flights towards the US? Who is ordering these strikes and are they located inside the British isles?
8) Are they British citizens? Who indoctrinates them and how and who forms these cells? Have they penetrated the technological and security systems of the Kingdom and are they receiving advice and help from the inside.
These and endless other questions are not only warranted after this plot but need to be taken to a higher dimension: looking at the "factory." For as long as there are Jihadi minds out there, improvisation from shoes to hand bags is only a process of mutation. In my book Future Jihad I called it just that: "Mutant Jihad"
**Dr Walid Phares is the author of forthcoming Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against the West, Senior Fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Visiting Fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy.
August 10, 2006