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COMMENT: A Russian official has alleged that recent wildfires that struck Europe may well have been set by Al Qaeda or other jihadists elements. In FTR #723 , we speculated about the possibility that devastating Russian forest fires might be the work of jihadis, perhaps working for the GOP/transnational corporate/Underground Reich faction of U.S. intelligence.
In light of recent devastating wild fires in Europe and the United States, a number of things come to mind:
- The Russian official noted fires in Portugal and Spain, that have been particularly destructive.
- Those two countries are among the poor Southern eurozone countries being devastated by German-EMU–mandated austerity. Whether this was an intended jihadist/Underground Reich  goal, those fires will simply exacerbate those unfortunate countries’ plights, as spending to fight the fires will absorb badly needed public funds, thereby making it increasingly difficult to meet requisite budgetary constraints.
- In FTR #667 , we discussed wildfires that struck the Victoria section of Australia. That portion of Australia has been the focal point of religious strife  between Muslims and some of their Christian prelate neighbors. (See text excerpt below.)
- Prior to the fires, Australian jihadists have been urging the use of wildfires as weapons against “infidels.”  (See text excerpt below.)
- After the Victoria wildfires of early 2009, jihadists celebrated the event . Is there any connection between the religious discord between Muslim and Christian in Victoria, the call for “jihadist” forest fires in Autralia and the recent conflagration?
- In light of recent statements by Islamists that the Egyptian military’s defenestration of the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi proved that democracy and elections were futile and that violence was the only way for political Islam to triumph, will we be seeing more attacks on infrastructure of this type?
- Will the parched Western United States be a target for such activity?
- The U.S. Forest Service was formed during World War II  to prevent just such an eventuality. Is the Al-Qaeda “forest fire jihad” a Muslim Brotherhood update of the World War II Axis tactic?
- The Japanese sent balloons carrying incendiary bombs in an attempt to start forest fires. (See text excerpt below.)
EXCERPT: “One should note that setting fires to forests in the countries of the European Union is a new tendency in al-Qaeda’s strategy of a ‘thousand cuts’,” Alexander Bortnikov said, according to state news agency RIA Novosti, at a meeting of heads of security agencies.
“This method allows (al-Qaeda) to inflict significant economic and moral damage without serious preliminary preparations, technical equipment or significant expenses.”
In linking al-Qaeda to the deadly wildfires, Mr Bortnikov pointed to calls to launch a “forest jihad” by various extremist websites which he said also publish detailed instructions about how and where to best carry out arson.
He said it was very difficult for special services to find and prosecute such arsonists.
Deadly fires have swept through forest land in EU countries such as Portugal and Spain over the past few months, killing scores of people and forcing thousands to evacuate.
Last month, a forest fire in the Spanish region of Valencia forced authorities to evacuate around 2,000 people from their home.
More than 184,000 hectares of land in Spain alone were destroyed by fires between January 1 and September 16, according to its agriculture ministry, the highest amount in a decade.
In its continuing campaign against the West, al-Qaeda has vowed to “bleed the enemy to death” by resorting to inexpensive, low-scale attacks it refers to as a “strategy of a thousand cuts”. . . .
EXCERPT: The Supreme Court of Victoria in Australia upheld the appeal of two Australian pastors who could have faced jail time for publicly comparing Christianity with Islam.
The court ruled in favor of Daniel Scot and Danny Nalliah, who were previously found to have ‘vilified Islam’  with their public comments by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
In 2004, the tribunal ruled that the pastors were in violation of Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. It deemed the pastors’ beliefs ‘offensive’ and ‘unreasonable’ interpretations of Christian and Islamic teachings. It also ordered the pastors to apologize for their sermon. The pastors could have faced jail time if they refused to comply. . . .
EXCERPT: Australia has been singled out as a target for ‘forest jihad’ by a group of Islamic extremists urging Muslims to deliberately light bushfires as a weapon of terror.
US intelligence channels earlier this year identified a website calling on Muslims in Australia, the US, Europe and Russia to ‘start forest fires’, claiming ‘scholars have justified chopping down and burning the infidels’ forests when they do the same to our lands’.
The website, posted by a group called the Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network, argues in Arabic that lighting fires is an effective form of terrorism justified in Islamic law under the ‘eye for an eye’ doctrine.
The posting — which instructs jihadis to remember ‘forest jihad’ in summer months — says fires cause economic damage and pollution, tie up security agencies and can take months to extinguish so that ‘this terror will haunt them for an extended period of time’.
‘Imagine if, after all the losses caused by such an event, a jihadist organisation were to claim responsibility for the forest fires,’ the website says. ‘You can hardly begin to imagine the level of fear that would take hold of people in the United States, in Europe, in Russia and in Australia.’
With the nation heading into another hot, dry summer, Australian intelligence agencies are treating the possibility that bushfires could be used as a weapon of terrorism as a serious concern.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Federal Government remained ‘vigilant against such threats’, warning that anyone caught lighting a fire as a weapon of terror would feel the wrath of anti-terror laws.
‘Any information that suggests a threat to Australia’s interests is investigated by relevant agencies as appropriate,’ Mr McClelland said. . . .
EXCERPT: Jihadists are celebrating the worst tragedy in Victoria’s history.
Terror watchdogs said fundamentalists had blogged on websites across the globe, applauding the lives lost and destruction in the Victoria fires .
Senior analyst at SITE Intelligence Group Adam Raisman said they were posting pictures of burnt homes and devastated victims and ‘taking joy in the scenes’, the Sunday Herald Sun reports .
One jihadist wrote: ‘It would be an act of revenge for Australian’s participation in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.’
Bushfires victims said they were stunned.
‘We’re minding our own business and trying to cope with all this and they are celebrating our suffering,’ said Denise McCann who lost her home in the Kinglake blaze. . . .
Smokey Bear came to us by necessity. At the beginning of World War II, Americans feared that an enemy attack or sabotage could destroy our forest resources at a time when wood products were greatly needed. Time was ripe for a Smokey Bear icon.
In the spring of 1942 a Japanese submarine fired shells onto an oil field in Southern California near Los Padres National Forest. Government officials were relieved that the shelling did not start a forest fire but were determined to provide protection.
The USDA Forest Service organized the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) Program in 1942. It encouraged citizens nationwide to make a personal effort to prevent forest fires. It was a mobilized civilian effort in support of the war effort to protect valuable trees. Timber was a primary commodity for battleships, gunstocks, and packing crates for military transport. Smokey Bear was created as the symbol for wildfire prevention but with a war-time incentive. . . .
. . . . On August 2, 1944, the Forest Service and the War Advertising Council introduced the smokey bear character as their campaign symbol. . . .
. . . .The Japanese balloon bomb program has become part of American smokejumping lore. During World War II, the Japanese sent balloons across the Pacific Ocean with incendiary bombs attached. The idea was that the devices, which typically carried four incendiary bombs and one anti-personnel bomb, would land somewhere in a wooded area, explode, and start a forest fire that would then tie up critical firefighting resources. Moreover, the threat from these devices, they hoped, would cause panic and terror to spread whether or not they started a fire. In all, more than 9,000 balloons were launched by Japan but only about 100 are known to have reached the continent, with one reportedly reaching Michigan. No fires were attributed to the bombs. And because the American press cooperated with the federal government and did not report the balloons, the Japanese never heard of any working and assumed that the program had failed.
To some extent, though, the balloon bombs had the desired effect. When the balloons first appeared in 1944, federal officials feared they might carry anthrax or other communicable diseases. The U.S. Army responded to the possibility of forest fires with Operation Firefly. As part of that program the government trained and dispatched conscientious objectors and the first all-black battalion of paratroopers, the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, better known as the Triple Nickles, to do battle with the aerial menace. Their training included demolition of unexploded ordinance. The Triple Nickles never fought a bomb-created fire but did participate in 36 missions and made 1,200 jumps. . . .