Terrorism Alerts Reflect Evolving Threat

U.S. and British alerts about possible attacks in Europe highlight concern that growing numbers of militants are going from the West to remote war zones for training in answer to al Qaeda's online call for violence. The immediate trigger for Sunday's travel alerts was intelligence about a plot against European targets reportedly originating with a group of individuals in mountainous northern Pakistan, some of them believed to be European citizens. Few details of the conspiracy are known. But the plot appears to be of the kind that Western officials believe poses the most significant danger today -- the use of so-called self-radicalized militants with no previous record of extremism. Al Qaeda's leadership, increasingly restrained by missile strikes from U.S. drones in northwest Pakistan, prizes such "home-grown" recruits as they have Western passports and can travel overseas easily, experts say. Some experts suspect the flows to countries like Pakistan and Yemen of would-be militants have risen especially in the past two years, despite stepped-up efforts by some Western governments to counter Islamist radicalization among Muslim minority communities. "It's a serious phenomenon in Europe, especially in Britain and Germany," said Edwin Bakker, a security and conflict expert at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations. "The motivation is not always simply Islamist extremism, sometimes individuals also go to find a sense of purpose for themselves, or for excitement." Pakistani intelligence officials said a suspected U.S. drone strike killed eight militants of German nationality in northwest Pakistan on Monday. Two missiles from a suspected CIA pilotless aircraft struck a mosque in Mirali in North Waziristan.