Terrorist threat greatly exaggerated following weekend arrests in Hungary

November 26, 2015

TEK

“This is not the first time that radical right-wing extremists were arrested for being in possession of weapons. There have been multiple such examples of this in recent years. Security experts say this isn’t uncommon…. It is not clear why, in light of [what we now know], Hajdu didn’t give a straightforward answer to the question of whether the people apprehended were Islamic extremists or not…. In a situation like this when Islamist extremists are committing acts of terror and politicians and security experts are saying there is a huge risk of terrorism, sharing this information would have been important.” – András Dezső, journalist with index.hu

Reports that Hungary’s elite counter-terrorism unit foiled a terrorist plot over the weekend appear to have been greatly exaggerated.

On Tuesday Hungarian media reported that János Hajdu, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s former bodyguard tapped by Orbán to run Hungary’s elite Counter Terrorism Center (TEK), had announced that TEK had arrested two bands over the weekend, one of which had “an international dimension” and involved bombs   Hajdu claimed TEK had been monitoring the suspects and came across a “bomb-making laboratory” when searching their property.

The TEK director reportedly stated that the other group taken into custody professed “extremist views” and had been arrested in a motor vehicle in which machine gun parts and ammunition had been found.  He also implied that they are on their way to assassinate a member of the government under TEK’s protection (i.e. the Prime Minister).

Hajdu’s statements were quickly picked up by the Hungarian on-line media.  The “terrorist threat” was even reported abroad.

Well, it turns out the threat of terrorism was greatly exaggerated

According to daily online index.hu, no terrorism-related charges were filed against the six individuals.

One “band” consisted of four antique firearm collectors, including two Hungarians from the southern part of Slovakia (hence the ominous-sounding “international dimension” Hajdu mentioned).  In the opinion of the Budapest judge who ordered the release of the military artifact enthusiasts, the four individuals did not appear to be connected with any terror groups or criminal networks.

The other “band” consisted of two Hungarians who were apprehended for possessing a machine-gun and a silencer.  They are being held in preventative custody, not on suspicion of terrorism but rather for illegal possession of a weapon (and not a “car full of weapons” as reported earlier-ed.).

Turns out, the two suspects are not Islamic extremists (as suggested by some media reports), but rather members of radical right-wing extremist organizations of the kind that have been arming themselves in response to government anti-immigrant propaganda equating migration with terrorism.

“This is not the first time that radical right-wing extremists were arrested for being in possession of weapons,” writes András Dezső of index.hu. “There have been multiple such examples of this in recent years. Security experts say this is not uncommon…. It’s not clear why, in light of [what we now know], Hajdu didn’t give a straightforward answer to the question of whether the people apprehended were Islamic extremists or not…. In a situation like this when Islamist extremists are committing acts of terror and politicians and security experts are saying there is a huge risk of terrorism, sharing this information would have been important.”

Fear and loathing in Hungary

The Orbán government has spent the better part of a year telling Hungarians to equate immigration with terrorism.  In response to this fear-mongering, some extremist organizations have taken to arming themselves and patrolling Hungary’s southern border with Serbia.

On Wednesday morning, the Hungarian parliament’s national security committee convened to speak to Hajdu about the recent arrests. According to index.hu, when asked by opposition MPs to provide specifics, Hajdu declined.  According to one member of the committee, Hajdu “told a real James Bond-like story” of what happened.

In other words, Hajdu failed to avail himself of the opportunity to alleviate concerns that the two groups may have been linked to militant Islamic groups.