by Florian Flade
„There are circumstances that point in the direction of an unsuccessful terror attack“
– the Statement of Jakob Scharf, head of the Danish intelligence agency PET, indicates that on Friday evening, Denmark possible escaped it´s first suicide bombing. The nationwide terror alert level has been raised on Saturday.
What happened? Still very little is known about the bombing incident that occurred in the Danish capital Copenhagen late afternoon on Friday, the eve of the 9/11 Anniversary and also the end of this year´s Ramadan holidays.
An explosion was set off inside the men restrooms of the Jørgensen Hotel in Copenhagen. The blast did not lead to any casualties – no person was killed or injured. A bomb-disposal unit of the Danish police killed in and investigators began their work at the sight.
Several hours after the explosives went off, Danish police searched the nearby area and also went into the Orsted Park, where they engaged a man who was carrying a suspicious bag. The male person was bleeding on his head as well as on one arm, indicating that he had been wounded.
Officers caught the suspect and handcuffed him at the scene. A bystander recorded a video showing an approximately 40 year-old male suspect of either North African or Middle Eastern background lying handcuffed on the ground. The injured man was taken to a hospital where doctors treated his wounds.
Danish police says the unknown male person is very likely the person who set off the explosives inside Jørgensen Hotel. He was ordered to be held in custody until October 4th.
Yesterday security officials were not able or willing to say whether they suspect the incident to be terror-related. Today Police Chief inspector Joran Aabye said the arrested man chose not to co-operate with police although he is said to speak „excellent English“. The identity of the suspect is still unknown. Unconfirmed Media reports say he is not a Danish citizen and was not living in Denmark. Earlier it was reported the man came from Belgium or Luxembourg.
Inside the bag, the suspect was carrying when arrested, police found cut pliers and – also unconfirmed – a gun.
Meanwhile Danish interior security services are following all hints and information on when the man entered the city, if he was a guest at the hotel or just a visitor using the restrooms in the basement.
Several circumstances and information on yesterday´s bombing incident lead me to suspect that indeed Denmark was the target of an amateurish would-be suicide bomber or at least somebody willing to carry out a deadly attack in the heart of a European capital.
1. Explosives went off – What are bombs used for?
The alleged bomber was in possession of explosives- some of which detonated maybe prematurely while he was building the bomb – and bomb making tools.
2. Target Denmark – Retaliation for Insulting the Prophet
Since the publication of the „Muhammad-Cartoons“ in the Danish newspaper „Jyllands Posten“ in September (!) 2005, Denmark is a high-value target for Islamic terrorists. Al-Qaeda has put a bounty on the head of Cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who was awarded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week, and called numerous times for the killing of the artist. A Somali man attacked Westergaard in his house in January, ready to kill the cartoonist with an axe.
Cartoonist Westergaard awarded by Angela Merkel
Other Jihadi groups around the world have sworn revenge to Denmark for insulting of their prophet Muhammad. Danish products were boycotted in some Arab countries, embassies (and of course flags) were burned and a Saudi suicide bomber attacked the Danish consulate in Pakistan.
Four years after the violent protests against the Muhammad Cartoons, anger is still growing within fundamentalist Muslim communities. Single individuals as well as organized networks are perfectly able and willing to carry out attacks in Denmark – be it against buildings of „Jyllands Posten“ (as the Pakistani group Lashkar e-Toiba planned) or against Danish government institutions or civilians.
3. The Date
Yesterday was the eve of the 9/11 Anniversary, a very symbolic date of those who sympathize with al-Qaeda and its goals. An successful attack on a declared enemy and target like Denmark on the day of or close to September 11th would be celebrated as a huge victory against those who insult or attack Islam and its Prophet (also: don´t forget Eid ul-Fitr).
4. A Terrorist´s Profile
The man who allegedly planned to carry out the bomb attack in Copenhagen fits the profile of a Jihad-driven terrorist.
My first thought was: Somali. As Denmark has one of the largest Somali communities in Europe and in the past experiences militant extremists coming out of these circles, the threat of terror connection in the face of home-grown Somalis is very real and present.
In January a Danish-Somali man carried out a bloody suicide bombing in Mogadishu, Somali. His attack was the result of successful recruitment of young man from the Danish Somali communities by Somali al-Qaeda wing Al-Shabaab. A unknown number of Somali immigrants from Denmark have joined the Al Shabaab group, some died fighting, others returned to Europe as trained terrorists.
5. The Location – Israel Square, Train Station, Airport
Hotel Jørgensen, where the bomb suspect some how detonated his explosives in a public toilet, is not a very symbolic target for a terror attack. I would not regard it as a luxury hotel as the ones targeted in 2008 in Mumbai, India. But what is very interesting is the area around the hotel.
The Online self-description reads:
„Hotel Jørgensen is a cosy in-expensive hotel, situated in the heart of Copenhagen on Israels Square, 2 minute’s walk from Nørreport Station – direct connection from Copenhagen Airport to Nørreport Station.“
So the building is…
a) at a square called „Israels Plad“ (as you can see on Google Maps if you turn around 180° and take a close look at the street sign) – the Jewish state being the Jihadi´s first (and endless) choice in lines of enemies
b) situated in the „heart of Copenhagen“ – centre of a Capital is always very symbolic and meaningful („heart of…“)
c) two minute´s walk from one of the most frequented train and subway stations (Nørreport Station) in Copenhagen – crowds of people mean high number of casualties, means huge blow to Denmark, meaning victory for terror
d) there is a direct connection from Copenhagen Airport to a Station (and of course in the other direction as well) very close to the hotel – if you are not planning a suicide bombing, wouldn´t you try to leave the country at the time the bombs are set off or even prior to it? (see Faisal Shahzad case)
These indicators make me believe Danish security is dealing with a Jihadi terrorist, wanting to take revenge on Denmark. Because of the very few confirmed information on the suspect it is far to early to tell wether the man acted as a lone wolf or had the order and support of an organization like al-Qaeda or Al-Shabaab behind him.
Danish intelligence PET is very keen on not giving out too much information too early as the investigation will take weeks if not months.
The fact that the bomb suspect is not talking to police about his motives or even his identity and background could mean it is not just a freaked-out psycho who likes to detonate bombs. Those people normally love to talk about the crazy things and thoughts running through their minds.
In the coming days there will be more information released or revealed about what could have been Denmark´s 9/11.