Poland taking terrorist threat seriously

30-07-2004

The Arab terrorist group which has made threats against Poland and Bulgaria may be described as small and marginal, but the Polish government is taking the matter very seriously. With Warsaw and other Polish cities nearly deserted, because of the holiday season, terrorist attacks seem a remote possibility. But what does the man in the street think about the threats? And what is the Polish government doing to make Poles feel safe?

WarsawWarsaw Polish citizen: " I don't think the threat is so huge, really, so why should I bother, I don't think about it "

A fairly typical reaction here in Warsaw to the latest terrorist threat. Not from politicians naturally... Hours after a group calling itself the Al Qaeda Organization in Europe, threatened Bulgaria and Poland with attack unless they withdrew their troops from Iraq the governmental committee of the special services met in Warsaw. The prime minister chaired the meeting and informed all top-ranking politicians, including the speaker of the senate Longin Pastusiak.

"I'm informed that this group did not find any signs of immediate threat to Poland from the terrorists group. Of course, this is a real threat and a real danger in a sense that terrorism is a problem which many countries are facing around the world and particularly those who are involved in the Iraqi operation, and Poland is one of those countries. So, we have to treat those warnings seriously. There is never too much caution and too much attention given to the potential threats."

Even though the authenticity of the website statement cannot be verified the matter should be treated seriously. Professor Janusz Danecki of Warsaw University's Arabic Studies Department.

"Rhetoric of this appeal, or whatever it is, is very symbolic. It's typically Muslim, and this Muslim characteristic of it gives it a trustworthy aims of those who hide behind these words."

Retired army general Stanislaw Koziej agrees:

"I think that threats are serious. But I think that the government should not yield to terrorist demands."

Poland has six and a half thousand strong international force in south central Iraq. It includes 470 soldiers from Bulgaria and 2 thousand and 400 from Poland. Senate speaker, Longin Pastusiak believes that the decision of the Manila government to withdraw its troops has created a new situation in the war on terror.

"Well I think the decision by the Philippines government is very unfortunate because there is nothing worse than to surrender to the demands of terrorists. And such a decision like the Philippine decision could create a feeling on the part of the terrorists that they can win. We should be much more stubborn, so to say, and resist any pressure to surrender to the demands of terrorists."

"Withdraw your troops from Iraq or we'll make you hear the sound of explosions". According to all observers in Warsaw these words by the terrorists, have to be taken seriously in a country which is one of Washington's strongest supporters in the Iraq war. Prof. Janusz Danecki again:

"Poland is on the front line in Iraq and therefore this threat is real to our citizens, especially in Iraq. We cannot neglect any, any such signs, signals which are coming from different organizations. We have to treat them seriously."

Polish troops are to remain in Iraq until the end of 2005 but the size of the contingent will be most probably reduced next year by half.

30-07-2004