|Terrorist Links to Child Porn Networks Uncovered
By Richard Kerbaj and Dominic Kennedy
October 18, 2008
A link between terrorism plots and hardcore child pornography is becoming clear after a string of police raids in Britain and across the Europe.
An investigation has discovered images of child abuse during Scotland Yard anti-terrorism swoops and in big inquiries in Italy and Spain.
Secret coded messages are being embedded into child pornographic images, and paedophile websites are being exploited as a secure way of passing information between terrorists.
British security services are also aware of the trend and believe that it requires further investigation to improve understanding of terrorists' methods and mindsets.
Concerns within the Metropolitan Police led to a plan to run a pilot research project exploring the nature of the link.
One source familiar with the proposal said that this could eventually lead to the training of child welfare experts to identify signs of terrorist involvement as they monitor pornographic sites.
Concerns have already been expressed at British cabinet level about the risk of vulnerable Muslim youths being exploited by older men.
Officers have noted that child sex abuse images have been found during investigations into some of the most advanced suspected plots.
However, it is understood that the proposed research project was never implemented because the anti-terrorism branch was overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases it was having to deal with.
It is not clear whether the terrorists were more interested in the material for personal gratification or were drawn to child porn networks as a secure means of sending messages.
In one case fewer than a dozen images were found, in another, 40,000.
British security sources confirmed that such a link had been discovered in several cases. They noted the contradiction between people supposedly devoted to theocracy and Islamic fundamentalism and their use of child pornography.
"It shows that these people are very confused," a source said. "Here they are hating Western decadence but actually making use of it and finding that they enjoy this stuff."
The first British suspicions of a link between child sex abuse and jihadis emerged in London in 2006 when anti-terrorism police in two unrelated investigations were shocked to find computerised images of hardcore child pornography.
A criminal investigation also found child pornography on computers after a raid in 2001 at a mosque run by an al-Qai'da recruiter in Milan.
Italian police believe that the images were encoded with messages.
At a forthcoming terrorism trial in Spain, the alleged mastermind of a Muslim cell has also been accused of downloading hundreds of child sex abuse pictures and videos.
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