In Al Qaeda in Europe, Vidino, a counterterrorism expert at the Investigative Project on Terrorism, catalogues many of the high-profile jihadists, along with their foot soldiers, who have stalked Europe over the past decade. He provides helpful snapshots of their lives and linkages, often adding tantalizing details unknown or unreported in English. He ably explores and usefully organizes his data on the European jihad. For example, he provides the most comprehensive summary of the Madrid bombings in English by exploiting a wide range of materials in multiple languages—including court documents, government reports, and news media. The depiction of Algerian and Moroccan networks, the review of major terrorist incidents, and much more make Al Qaeda in Europe a timely and useful work.
Though the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan (much as the Finsbury Park Mosque) pops up in many of Europe's most notorious terror cases, it has not been subject to a thorough examination. Vidino's extensive Italian sources make this chapter essential for anyone exploring jihad networks in Europe, as he examines the institute's evolution from a tiny "garage-turned-mosque" to a center for counterfeiting, forgery, and identity fraud, to a meeting point for all manner of jihadists, an improbable embryo of European jihadism.
Vidino draws some important distinctions, usefully breaking down the provenance of European jihadists into "imports," the "home brewed," and the "home grown." As to the latter two categories, Vidino claims, "British authorities estimate that no fewer than 3,000 British-born or British-based have passed through Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Any one of them could enter the United States with no visa and no security check." Yes, but MI-5, the British internal intelligence agency, is far more worried about the over two hundred jihadist cells whose Al-Qaeda training is less likely in Afghanistan than in Pakistan. Moreover, not every "British-based" Al-Qaeda trainee can reach the United States without a visa; that privilege extends only to those born in Britain.
It is also misleading to suggest that "[e]very other European country finds itself in the same predicament" as the U.K. The British case is far and away the most serious by virtue of a large, radicalized Pakistani and Bangladeshi youth population with close ties to Pakistan, the new hub of jihad. Also, the sceptered isle has been the chief haven for terrorist "imports"; Vidino rattles off a list of shocking grants of political asylum in Britain to members of jihadist groups. But he overreaches at times, including the Muslim Brotherhood in Aachen and its elderly Syrian leader Issam el-Attar among the jihadists. This reflects a problem in dating. Vidino backdates the influx of "imports" to the 1950s when members of the Muslim Brotherhood fled repression in Egypt. But the influx of jihadis took place in the 1990s as terrorist revolts failed in the Middle East.