Signs point to reduced terrorism risk

Threat against Denmark may be decreasing as terrorists turn local, but homegrown terrorists remain a potential threat and the Mohammed cartoons are still a red flag

Recent intelligence information suggests that the threat of terrorism in Denmark may begin to drop in a few years. The country has been on the alert for terrorist activity for more than a decade, and although defence intelligence agency FE says Denmark remains a high priority among terrorists, the weakening of the terrorist network al-Qaeda may reduce potential threats.

“There is no doubt that al-Qaeda's senior leadership in Pakistan is under extreme pressure and that the group is not as effective as it was even a few years ago,' said FE director Thomas Ahrenkiel.

“Our assessment is that al-Qaeda will become less centralised and attacks will mainly occur in locally in places like Somalia and Yemen. As al-Qaeda becomes even less focused, the threat against Denmark will lessen.”

Ahrenkiel suggested that the development could take as long as five years, but that he would not be surprised if Denmark was able to reduce its terror alert status sooner.

He warned though that other factors could keep the threat of terror in Denmark high. For example, home grown terrorists – people born or raised in the country they target – could develop extreme views and decide to carry out attacks.

After the 9/11 attacks brought the potential for terrorism on Western soil into full view, Denmark found itself a target during the dispute over the publication of the Mohammed cartoons in 2005, and even more with their republication in 2008. For that reason, according to FE, the danger of terrorist activity against the newspaper could remain high, even if the general threat level falls.

"Some point to the Danish forces in Afghanistan as the cause of the threat to Denmark, but the most  important explanation is the Mohammed cartoons,” said Ahrenkiel . “The publication of the cartoons holds great symbolic value for terrorists: the West isn't just repressive, it also mocks and ridicules religion.”

Ahrenkiel suggested that if overall threat levels in the West drop, the threat against Denmark was likely to fall as well.

Terrorism researcher Lars Erslev Andersen expressed surprise that threat levels hadn't already been reduced.

"Al-Qaeda is on the run, and the Arab Spring sent the signal that it is easier to achieve change through political means rather than terrorism,” said Andersen.

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