Western intelligence officials have uncovered an international terror plot targeting cities in Germany, France and the U.K. According to reports, the attacks were hatched in Pakistan and modeled after the commando-style raid that killed over 166 people in Mumbai in 2008. A Pakistani intelligence official tells the Associated Press that two Brits and eight Germans devised the attack; one of the British suspects was recently killed in a CIA missile strike. The militants are believed to have ties to Al Qaeda. Here's what we know about the planned attacks and the U.S. military's involvement in thwarting them:
Background from U.S. Officials Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy cites sources from inside the government:
The attacks were planned for late November and allied intelligence agencies are employing all resources at their disposal to round up the rest of the perpetrators, with the understanding that the threat has not yet been neutralized.
"Unless you have killed or captured all 24 to 36 operatives, how can you be sure the plot is foiled?" the source said.
According to the source briefed on the Panetta-Pasha meeting, there were no targets inside the United States for the plot, but the high-value European targets that were reportedly on the list of sites to be attacked could very well have American citizens present.
Europe Rattled by Potential Attack, write Bill Roggio and Lisa Lundquist at Long War Journal: "The revelation of this latest terror plot shakes an already edgy Europe, which has recently seen the Eiffel Tower evacuated twice in the past two weeks due to anonymous bomb threats, the arrest in Norway of several operatives planning another attack on the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and specific threats to the French public transportation systems. At present, the terror alert level in France is high, as it is in England."
This Is Why We Must Keep Fighting, writes Conn Carroll at the conservative Heritage Foundation: "This is a reminder of why finishing the job in Afghanistan, and thereby Pakistan, is so vital... The best way to protect American is to thwart terrorist plots before they start. If terrorist have sanctuaries, they will find ways to plan, organize, and execute plans against the west. If the U.S. did not have boots on the ground in that theater, it would not have the means and intelligence to take effective action. Establishing an Afghanistan that can defend and govern itself is key to ensuring that sanctuaries are not reestablished and that al-Qaeda is humiliated and defeated."
Attacks Were in Early Planning Stages The Wall Street Journal's Siobhan Gorman speaks with PBS's News Hour:
Al-Qaeda Now Prefers Mumbai Style Attacks, reports CNN, citing a number of security analysts: "With al Qaeda struggling to replicate attacks on the scale of the devastation witnessed on September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington, security experts believe the Mumbai attack, which gained worldwide publicity, may provide the template for its future operations... The cells are being spotted and it's harder to keep undercover when you're making bombs. Even buying the material to make bombs is getting harder, so many analysts believe al Qaeda would be unable to mount a 9/11-style attack in the current climate."