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‘Frontline’ and WGBH-TV, Boston: ‘Al Qaeda’s New Front’

Jan 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

“Frontline’s” January 2005 documentary “Al Qaeda’s New Front” revealed the threat posed by al Qaeda agents operating in Europe, detailing risks in a region that’s not often thought of for this theater of war.

Correspondent Lowell Bergman spearheaded the work. “It was more about bringing the disparate facts and stories together and showing the overall phenomena for the first time to a U.S. audience,” he said.

The one-hour piece painted a picture of how al Qaeda operatives work in Western Europe, where their presence is more fractured than in the Middle East.

“This threat is not similar to something like a top-down organization, like the Irish Republic Army,” Mr. Bergman said. “It’s not centrally organized. There are franchises in different communities-small groups getting together to do things and sometimes communicating with others to get directions and support.”

The story arose because the genesis and the planning of the 9/11 attacks occurred in both Western Europe and Afghanistan, he said. “What you found out is the largest minority group in Europe is Muslims and [they are] the fastest-growing ethnic minority group in Western Europe … so that’s where we began. From there it became apparent that Europe has a problem.

“It’s analogous to our problem with immigration across the Rio Grande River. In their case it’s the Mediterranean. In large cases, people are coming in legally and illegally across the Mediterranean because of the expansion of the European Union. You can go anywhere. That was the context for trying to do the story.”

The team interviewed families in Europe whose sons died in jihad activities, as well as counterterrorism officials in Europe. “You came away that there is a radical brand of Islam and within that there is an extremist group in which they travel and operate with great facility and ease within Muslim communities of the world, particularly in Western Europe,” he said.