Pakistani Links To Jihadist Terrorism In Europe: Unveiling A Multifaceted Menace

Pakistani Links To Jihadist Terrorism In Europe: Unveiling A Multifaceted Menace


The extensive involvement of individuals of Pakistani origin in jihadist activities across Europe is underscored by recent events in Spain. The dismantling of a suspected jihadist network led to 14 arrests associated with Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). This incident aligns with a recurring pattern observed in earlier cases across Europe, from Italy to Norway and the UK, highlighting a pervasive trend of radicalization. The research emphasizes the dual threat posed by arrested terrorists and influential preachers, like Anjem Choudhary, who propagate extremism. Pakistan is identified not just as a breeding ground for terrorists but also as a source of global radical ideologies, necessitates urgent attention to address these multifaceted challenges.

Spanish security authorities busted a suspected jihadist network based in several provinces of Spain in country-wide Counter Terror operations arresting a total of 14 individuals of Pakistani origin, as reported on November 07, 2023. The operation took place in several Spanish cities, with seven accused were arrested from Barcelona; one each from Logroño, Lleida, Malaga; and two each from Valencia and Gipuzkoa. David Atherton, a journalist at The European Conservative, shared on the social media app X that these 14 Pakistani jihadists are allegedly associated with Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), an Islamic extremist political party in Pakistan. As of now, Spain’s terrorist alert level stands at four, which is one level below the highest level of five.[1] 

According to Euro Weekly News, Spain’s national police conducted a similar anti-terror operation in which they arrested four suspected jihadists last month.[2] The four suspects were detained for ‘proselytism and jihadist recruiting’ in the Granada town of Huetor-Tajar, Cubelles near Barcelona, and Madrid, quoted Spanish Weekly. A man nicknamed the ‘Caliph’ was among those arrested. According to the authorities, he was the: ‘creator and administrator of several groups in which he tried to indoctrinate young people in the jihadist creed.’ Two of those detained in the operation were a married couple who had apparently been brought together after joining one of these online social media groups. The fourth was said to have been an ‘indoctrinated’ individual.

Earlier, on February 21, 2023, the National Police of Spain arrested five Pakistani citizens for encouraging their compatriots through social media networks to assassinate those who raise their voice against radical Islam. Police arrested the five in Barcelona, Gerona, Granada, and Ubeda (Jaen). The detainees, all in their twenties, were rather the radical Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP).[3]

Spain alone has more than 300 lone wolves under surveillance. Not only Spain, but lately, Europe is experiencing a spate of Islamist terror incidents in several countries. Islamist terrorism remains the biggest terror threat in Western Europe and lone actors are expected to continue to execute most of the terrorist attacks in the EU. In October, 2023, two lone wolf Islamist attacks took place in France and Belgium, with another in northeast France coming just before the Brussels shooting. Since then, Europol has confirmed that it is monitoring events on a daily basis and taking precautionary measures following the escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.[4] According to the data provided by Council of the EU and the European Council, in between 2010-2021, there have been 4,466 Jihadi arrests across EU member countries. Moreover, between 2019 and 2021, 29 jihadist or extreme right-wing plots were foiled in the EU.[5]

However, the above terror cases involving Pakistani origin people in Spain are not in isolation. Few past instances are as follows:

  • On June 7, 2022, Italy’s anti-terrorism police and Europol arrested Pakistanis suspected of links to the man who attacked two people near the former offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in 2020.[6]
  • In September, 2017, the Interior Ministry of Spain said that the Police have arrested a 25 year old Pakistani man suspected of “promoting terrorism and militant propaganda” on social media networks. He was part of a cell partially dismantled with the arrest of three Pakistani brothers in Lleida in 2016.[7]
  • In October 2016, an Oslo court sentenced a Pakistani-origin man Hasan Ahmed, to six years in prison for joining the Islamic State. Ahmed, a Norwegian citizen of Pakistani origin, was found guilty of vowing allegiance to Islamic State and taking part in ISIS training programmes. Ahmed’s son Ishaq was also sentenced to eight years in prison by a Norway court 2015 for joining the jihadist group.[8]
  • In July 2015, Italian police arrested two people, including a Pakistani and a Tunisian, suspected of being behind a Twitter account that carried threats in the name of Islamic State against some of the country’s most famed monuments.[9]
  • In May, 2012, four Pakistani-Britons were charged with taking inspiration from al Qaida magazine ‘Inspire’, and plotting to use a toy car to attack a base of the Territorial Army in Luton town of Britain. The plot was thwarted. Zahid Iqbal is accused of leading the terror network. He was joined by Mohammed Sarfaraz Ahmed, Syed Farhan Hussain, and Umar Arshad. The gang is accused of working to recruit others for jihad and raising funds. The accused were arrested at their homes in Luton.[10]

Apart from these direct incidents, Europe has also experienced the hate speech of religious preachers of Pakistani origin.

Syed Muzaffar Shah Qadri raised controversy in 2016, when he was invited to speak at Falkirk Central Mosque in Scotland. Interestingly, Qadri was labelled a “firebrand” by the authorities in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and barred from preaching his incendiary sermons.[11] Also, an important radical speaker, pressing for Sharia in the UK and having Islamist terror connection is Anjem Choudhary, of Pakistani descent. In July, 2023, he was charged with three terrorism offences after being arrested in London. Choudary, 56, has been charged with membership of a proscribed organisation, directing a terrorist outfit and addressing meetings to encourage support for a proscribed organisation. Once Britain’s most high profile Islamist preacher, Choudary was imprisoned in Britain in 2016 for encouraging support for Islamic State before being released in 2018 after serving half of his five-and-a-half year sentence. He is also the former head of the now banned organization al-Muhajiroun. He came into limelight for praising the men responsible for the 9/11 attacks and saying he wanted to convert Buckingham Palace into a mosque.[12]

Pirzada Muhammad Raza Saqib Mustafai, a Pakistani missionary, religious preacher, and scholar of Islam, is also the founder of Idara-tul-Mustafa. In 2017, he was banned from entering Denmark and was subsequently added to the extremist list due to his anti-Semitic messages. Previously, for similar reasons his tour of Australia was canceled and he was ordered to go home.[13]

The above instances, demonstrate the widespread percolation of radical Islamist thinking, within the society of European countries. Not only the terrorists getting arrested and subsequently indicted are threat to Europe, but such ‘benign’ religious preachers also spread hatred and extremism towards non-Muslim people, with their hate speeches and religious sermons. Pakistan is not only breeding terrorists within its territory, but also importing radicals in other countries of the world.

In conclusion, the documented cases of individuals of Pakistani origin involved in terrorist and jihadist activities across Europe reveal a concerning and recurring pattern. The recent dismantling of a jihadist network in Spain and the arrests associated with Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) underscore the urgent need for comprehensive action. The dual threat posed by arrested terrorists and influential preachers emphasizes the complex nature of the issue. The broader context of rising Islamist terror incidents in Europe, lone wolf activities, and hate speech from religious preachers heightens the gravity of the situation. It is evident that Pakistan not only faces internal challenges but also contributes to the global dissemination of radical ideologies, necessitating immediate and concerted efforts to address and mitigate these variegated threats.

* Dr. Jalis Akhtar Nasiri is a leading scholar and journalist who regularly contributes on issues of utmost importance for humanity.














Fadia Jiffry

Fadia Jiffry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *