An extremist who allegedly planned to detonate explosives outside of the Polish Parliament building in Warsaw was foiled by security officials this month, authorities said Tuesday. But the suspect’s links to other extremists – including Norway’s Anders Breivik – has raised fears about the growth of far-right radicalism in Europe.
Prosecutors in Poland did not name the 45-year-old suspect, but it has emerged that he was a chemical researcher at the University of Agriculture in Krakow. Prosecutors said he had planned to load four tons of explosive materials into a van and detonate it remotely, with the intention of killing the politicians who would have been inside, including Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Bronislaw Komorowski.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Tusk called the incident a “new and dramatic experience,” according to Reuters.
“The would-be bomber did not hide his fascination with Breivik,” he added. “This should not be ignored.”
Breivik executed a similar plan last year in Norway, detonating bombs near government buildings in Oslo and killing eight people. He then traveled to a summer camp sponsored by the governing leftist Labor Party, where he shot and killed 69 people, most of them teenagers.
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During his trial in June of this year, Breivik called the massacre “necessary” and said he “would do it again.” He is currently in prison and will likely stay there for the rest of his life.
In preparing for his attack, Breivik had bought some materials from Poland to construct his fertilizer bomb. Authorities traced those purchases back – eventually leading them to the same Polish chemist who had planned to launch an attack of his own.
Prosecutor Mariusz Krason told reporters the suspect had revealed his motives in a videotaped confession.
"He claims that he was acting on nationalistic, anti-Semitic and xenophobic motives," said Krason, according to Reuters.
"He believed the situation in the country is going in the wrong direction, described the people ruling Poland as foreign and said they were not true Poles."
That sounds a lot like Breivik, who had sought to realize his radical conservative vision for Norway. The trend is an alarming one; all across Europe, economic crises have helped to fuel a rise in anti-foreigner sentiments that have seen far-right parties make unprecedented gains.
In France, a one-time fringe party called the National Front made an impressive showing in the May presidential election; its candidate, Marine Le Pen, polled in third place behind incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialist winner Francois Hollande.
In Greece, the virulently xenophobic, Nazi-imitating Golden Dawn party won about 7 percent of the vote in national elections this year, gaining parliamentary seats for the first time ever.
In Hungary, the ultra-nationalist Jobbik won 16 percent of the popular vote in the last parliamentary election in April 2010, taking 47 seats.
Not all ultra-nationalist political parties are racist or xenophobic – in fact, most officially claim to disavow those sentiments. But in all of these countries, ethnic and religious minorities have lately endured worsening discrimination and, in many cases, violent attacks on their own communities.
In Poland, no extreme right-wing group has yet made gains in parliament. But Tusk’s center-right Civic Platform party has been challenged by a more conservative bloc, Law and Justice. Outside the government, extremist groups are slowly gaining traction, emboldened in part by Internet communities that link radicals from all across the continent.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Tusk voiced his determination to prevent extremists from resorting to prejudice, seizing on the foiled bomb plotter’s arrest to make his pitch for moderation in politics.
"Let this be a signal to all of us that we should be wise from harm, and renounce the language of hatred and violence in the public debate," he said.