The world at a glance ... Europe



Teeming with terrorists: Britain’s intelligence chief said that aggressive recruitment of teenagers by Islamic militants has boosted the number of suspected terrorists in Britain to an estimated 4,000. Islamic extremists are radicalizing, indoctrinating, and grooming young, vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism, said MI-5 chief Jonathan Evans, in his first public speech since taking charge of the agency last spring. Evans complained that because the number of Russian spies in Britain had barely dropped since the days of the Cold War, his agency was forced to divert precious resources to watching the Russians instead of tracking Islamic militants. Some British commentators suggested that the government was hyping the terrorist threat to gain support for a proposal to give police new powers to detain and question suspects.


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Touring the empire: Morocco recalled its ambassador from Spain this week after the Spanish king visited two Spanish cities in Africa in an assertion of Spanish sovereignty. King Juan Carlos toured Ceuta and Melilla, cities completely surrounded by Moroccan territory that have been Spanish holdings for 400 years—which is longer than Morocco has been an independent country. Morocco has long resented the Spanish enclaves, and thousands of Moroccans protested at the walls of the Spanish cities. Spain downplayed the dispute. I believe the situation will return to normal very quickly, said Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba.


Islamic extremists arrested: A Europe-wide anti-terror sweep this week netted 20 suspected Islamic militants from cells based in northern Italy. The suspects, mostly Tunisians, were arrested in Italy, Britain, France, and Portugal on charges of recruiting and training suicide bombers for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of the men possessed al-Qaida manuals on how to make bombs and poisons. Phone records indicated the group had been operating out of Italy since before 9/11. The central role of Milan and Lombardy in the panorama of Islamic militants has been confirmed, said Italy’s military police.


A European no-fly list? Europe should compile profiles of all air passengers, just as the U.S. does, the E.U.’s top justice official said this week. Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini released a plan to collect and store data—including names, addresses, and payment information—on anyone entering or leaving the E.U. by air. Terrorists will strike whenever, wherever, and with whatever means to make the most impact, Frattini said. We cannot be complacent. European leftists said they would urge their governments to reject the proposal, which they said could lead to abuses. Already today, the reality in the United States is that political activities like opposing the Iraq war lead to people getting on no-fly lists, said Silke Stokar, a member of parliament for Germany’s Greens.

Palermo, Italy

Mafia boss nabbed: The Sicilian Mafia has lost its top don for the second time in a year. Italian police this week arrested Salvatore Lo Piccolo and his son, Sandro, in a town outside Palermo as the elder Lo Piccolo was presiding over a summit meeting of Mafia dons. Lo Piccolo, 65, took over as capo last year after longtime chief Bernardo Provenzano was arrested. We are delighted with the arrest, said Palermo’s chief prosecutor, Francesco Messineo. It will be a severe blow to the Mafia and its grip on the city of Palermo. Many analysts went even further. Who is the head of the Mafia now? There is none, said Rome’s La Repubblica. Nobody has enough influence at the moment to become everyone’s boss.


Who needs a prime minister? Belgium broke a national record this week for the longest time it has existed without a government. Five months after parliamentary elections, the two parties that took the largest shares of votes still have not worked out a coalition agreement. Neither the Christian Democrats nor the Liberals have enough seats to govern alone, and both are internally divided between their Flemish-speaking and French-speaking wings. A key issue dividing the two parties involves the rights of French speakers in the Flemish suburbs of Brussels. The previous record for Belgium’s having no government was set in 1988, when then–Prime Minister Wilfried Martens took 148 days to form a coalition.

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