It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

New developments now related to a series of terrorism plots aimed at Europe.

Investigators have fanned out over three countries looking for al-Qaida sleeper cells that might be preparing to attack. French authorities have arrested a dozen suspects, and U.S. and other officials say that a series of missile strikes along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border targeted and killed a handful of German nationals. It's believed that they'd been training for some sort of terror strike against the West.

NPR's Dina Temple-Raston is following the story and joins us now.

And, Dina, let's start with the arrests in France. What do you know about them?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the details are still sketchy, but we know that the people arrested today were involved with forging documents and, apparently, were being watched for some time. The French police, apparently, just decided not to take any chances and to ensure that these people weren't part of these plots that we've been talking about over the past week, so they decided to bring them in now. And right now, it looks like they were only tangentially related to this broader terrorism warning across Europe.

SIEGEL: And what do you know about the drone attacks on Monday that apparently killed some German nationals?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, there's some confusion as to how many Germans were actually killed. U.S. sources tell us they think between four and eight Germans may have been killed in this attack. But what I think most people don't realize is that there's actually a fair amount of German nationals who are fighting in Afghanistan and training in the border regions.

You know, we've reported a lot on Somali kids from Minneapolis who went to Somalia and joined a group there called al-Shabaab. Well, the Germans have a real similar issue. They have dozens of Germans who've left Europe and joined forces with a group called the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. This is one of these groups in the region that are very, very close to the Taliban. And apparently, some of its members were the ones who were caught in that drone strike.

You know, investigators learned about these European plots from a German national who was part of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is also called IMU. He tried to board a flight from Kabul to Europe back in July, was grabbed off a plane, and he's been at Bagram Air Force Base ever since.

SIEGEL: And that German national, he's the one who told police about the possible plots in Europe?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. Officials had to go and check out his story. But here's what's important that's coming out of this is that this seems to be part of a broader trend that we've been seeing over the last 18 months. Groups that never looked at overseas targets before seemed to be starting to. The IMU - this Uzbek group - never had gone after an international target.

Before this past May, the Pakistani Taliban never did either, and then they sent Faisal Shahzad to detonate a car bomb in Times Square. So the fight is really shifting. New groups are joining the fight, and the other pattern is that they seem to be sending people to attack the nation that they come from. So Faisal Shahzad, for example, focused on Times Square, and the Germans are targeting Germany.

SIEGEL: And, in fact, Faisal Shahzad was sentenced today in New York.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's right. You know, I actually spent the morning at this annual gathering the New York Police Department puts together. It's called the SHIELD Conference, and Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American who tried to detonate the car bomb, he's actually - his sentencing was announced while the conference is going on. And they interrupted the program to say he'd been sentenced to life without parole, and the whole room just erupted into applause.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Dina.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're Welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Dina Temple-Raston.

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