ISLAMABAD - Dozens of Muslim militants with European citizenship are believed to be hiding out in the lawless tribal area of northwestern Pakistan, Pakistani and Western intelligence officials say, training for missions that could include terror attacks in European capitals.
Officials have used phone intercepts and voice tracking software to locate militants with ties to Britain and other European countries in areas along the Afghan border. Al-Qaida would be likely to turn to such extremists for European plots because they can move freely in and out of Western cities.
A senior official of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, told AP that there are believed to be "several dozen" people with European citizenship - many of Pakistani origin - among the Islamic extremists operating in the lawless border area. The official said foreigners in the area also include Chechens, Uzbeks, Arabs and Turks, one of whom was a former F-16 pilot in the Turkish air force.
Britain's communications monitoring agency, the Government Communications Headquarters, estimates there are as many as 20 British-born militants in the border area, especially in the North Waziristan district that has been the focus of recent missile strikes carried out by unmanned aircraft operated by the CIA. Mobile phone communications have been tracked from the border area to points in Britain, according to a British government official.
According to officials, one plot apparently called for several gunmen to fan out across Germany, Britain and France - in small teams with automatic rifles, grenade launchers and suicide vests - to strike simultaneously at several targets in a city and cause as much havoc as possible.