The Terror Globetrotters

 Annie Machon is a former intel­li­gence officer for MI5, the UK Secur­ity Ser­vice, who resigned in the late 1990s to blow the whistle on the spies’ incom­pet­ence and crimes with her ex-partner, David Shayler. Draw­ing on her var­ied exper­i­ences, she is now a pub­lic speaker, writer, media pun­dit, polit­ical cam­paigner, and  PR con­sult­ant. She is also now the Dir­ector of  LEAP  , Europe. 

Annie Machon is a former intel­li­gence officer for MI5, the UK Secur­ity Ser­vice, who resigned in the late 1990s to blow the whistle on the spies’ incom­pet­ence and crimes with her ex-partner, David Shayler. Draw­ing on her var­ied exper­i­ences, she is now a pub­lic speaker, writer, media pun­dit, polit­ical cam­paigner, and PR con­sult­ant. She is also now the Dir­ector of LEAP, Europe. 

Mrs. Machon, the world was shocked by the terrorist attack against civilians in a shopping mall in Kenya´s capital Nairobi. At least 39 people were killed and more than 150 were injured, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said. The militant Islamist group “Al-Shabab”, based in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter, saying it was in retaliation “for the lives of innocent Muslims” killed by Kenyan forces leading an African Union offensive against Al-Shabab.

Machon: This is a very obvious case of a “blow back”. We shouldn´t forget the fact that last year Kenya had a large military operation in its neighbor country Somalia with the support of the West – the “Operation Linda Nchi” (“Protect the country”). The Al-Shabab group was the main target of the operation. This was of course a military operation against a sovereign state. President of Somalia Sharif Ahmed stated very clear that he welcomed Kenyan logistical support, but he was against the Kenyan military presence in Somalia.

Somalia is not known as a stable state at all...

Machon: Somalia is a magnet for international jihadists and the country has become a type of “finishing school” for international terrorism. The Western intelligence agencies confirm that. The head of the British MI5 went on the record in 2010 and said that there are about 100 UK citizens fighting in Somalia as jihadists. It is interesting that the MI5 corrected now the number to around 50. This is not because the interest is down; it is because most of the international jihadists are heading to Syria now. So we see that the western backed Kenya attack against Somalia brought its violent blow back now to the Nairobi shopping mall.

Even the Al-Shabab group which attacked Nairobi is giving the impression to be multinational: Maybe the most interesting figure is the so called “white widow”, a female British terrorist...

Machon: She is a good example: She has been radicalized and came to public awareness when she was widowed by Germaine Lindsay, who was one of the four alleged bombers involved in the July 7 attacks in London in 2005. He was her husband. She was questioned by the police after the terrorist attack in 2005 but she denied having any knowledge about the terrorist structures and plans. Then she resurfaced in British media several years later when she was fundraising and coordinating cash towards eastern Africa. She grew up as a normal white English school girl and ended up as a violent militant somewhere in Africa. Her story tells a lot about the process of radicalization in Western countries. She was on the radar of intelligence agencies for many years in the UK. It is interesting that especially in that week when the Nairobi attack took place the UK intelligence put out a red alert in order to capture her; she was already wanted in many countries for alleged earlier attacks. Maybe the British intelligence didn´t take her serious enough previously because she indeed is an ordinary white British woman.

We speak often about the terrorist danger brought into the West by radical Middle Eastern or African migrants – but now it is about the other direction: Europeans migrate to Syria or Somalia to fight there as Islamist militants. Do we witness the globalization of terror?

Machon: Absolutly. This is a trend we see now for a decade. Western people, most of them Muslim converts, go to other countries attacked by the West to join the jihad there. We see it in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan. Many Western citizens getting radicalized and leaving their homeland to fight. We shouldn´t forget that this is not a one-way-ticket of terror. They might come back to their home countries as well trained and skilled militants. This is a big concern for everybody: For the countries where they go to fight and for their home countries when they come back.

Somalia was almost forgotten in Western media. They reported about the situation in Mali or Syria, bot Somalia seemed to be in the dead angle of attention...

Machon: The development in Somalia is really interesting. The war started there as an ordinary civil war, when the Al-Shabab militia tried to topple the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu in 2006. In the early days it wasn´t particularly hard lined by religion however in the last years due to the global travel of jihadists this war has become much more radicalized; it became much more fundamentalist. This war started as a local or regional conflict and has been internationalized by international Islamic extremists. The Western intelligence and law enforcement didn´t do a lot to stop their citizens to travel to those violent hot spots.

In the Nairobi attack Israel offered its help to end the terrorist action in the shopping mall. Why does Kenya need the help of Israel for reinstalling order in the capital – and what role does Israel generally play on Western influence in that region?

Machon: It is not just Israel. Washington sent for example Special Forces and CIA to Kenya, London sent Special Forces and MI6 officers. We witness quite often Western countries intervening in foreign unstable states. They offer help there, support local groups. But later they get a push back. We witness the same in Syria for example. We know for sure that there are Special Forces on the ground supporting the so called “armed opposition”. They offer training and help to the rebels. This is a very dangerous move for any Western country because you create a situation where you back groups that will fight you later on.

When we know that, why do Western governments support those groups and interfere in those hot spots?

Machon: This is a good question. Maybe the Western governments really believe that they do something good there. But perhaps they are aware about the fact that after Western military interventions failed states are created as Libya, Iraq or Afghanistan. Then they have the benefit of paralyzed countries to exploit the natural resources and to have big business with security companies there.

You mentioned the support of Western intelligence and Special Forces for radical militants especially in Syria but also in Libya or Afghanistan during the time of Soviet occupation. How big is the chance today that a CIA agent meets during an operation one of his old buddies on the other side of the front line?

Machon: (laughs) This is absolutely possible. You mentioned one of the best examples, the Afghan war. CIA agents trained and helped today´s Al Queda fighters back then. I am pretty sure that those situations happen. By the way, there was a James Bond movie back in the 1980s; it´s title was “The Living Daylights”. It is one of those James Bond movies that are not really repeated so often on TV because Bond goes to Afghanistan to free a Mujahedeen commander from a Soviet prison. So you see, it even entered the pop culture back then.

 Manuel Ochsenreiter and Annie Machon in Berlin

Manuel Ochsenreiter and Annie Machon in Berlin

Sometimes there seems to be no clear line between “terrorists” and “agents”. It seems to be a bit as in the international football, where the players easily change the clubs...

Machon: I am not really an expert about football. But indeed, especially Washington and London have a long history in interfering across the planet by supporting these or those groups. It also takes place in the so called “War on Terror” or in the “War on Drugs”. They fund dangerous groups, give them military and financial support. We witness this now increasingly in the Middle East. Surely there are very bright people in those Western agencies who see that they create more long term problems than solving the present problems. The question has to be: Why do they continue doing that? Is it maybe just Einstein´s definition of insanity, when you repeat the same mistake over and over again because you expect another result? Or is it to ensure that those international conflicts don´t end so you have benefit from the instability there and create a type of surveillance and police state at home.

What “benefit” do you mean?

Machon: This situation puts a lot of money in the hands of huge security companies. It is very good for business. And many Western politicians get funded by the security company lobby or are involved in that business themselves.

Has “security” become a new sort of global currency?

Machon: Yes it is. In the unstable countries Western companies earn a lot of money with their “service”. It is a way of social control in the West as well. Just look at the USA or the UK where so many laws passed to “protect the citizens”. And thanks to Edward Snowdon we all know today that we live under a type of global “Big Brother Regime”, of course to “provide security” to the Western countries.


Copyright by Manuel Ochsenreiter 2013 / All rights reserved