Posts Tagged ‘Extremists’

Opposition leaders among 150 detained in Tunisia

January 13, 2018


Tunisian protesters take to the streets in Siliana, some 130 kms south of Tunis, late on January 11, 2018. (AFP)
TUNIS: Tunisian authorities arrested another 150 people including local opposition leaders over unrest against price and tax rises that prompted troop deployments to restive towns, and activists called for renewed rallies at the weekend.
Protests, some violent, flared across Tunisia on Monday, when one protester was killed, before ebbing on Thursday. Protesters have burned dozens of state buildings, prompting the government to send the army into several cities and towns.
Activists and opposition politicians appealed for fresh demonstrations in the capital, Tunis, on Friday and on Sunday, the seventh anniversary of the toppling of authoritarian president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
On Thursday, unrest was limited to sporadic clashes in the northern city of Siliana, in Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia and Douz in the south of the North African country.
“The protests have declined and there was no damage, but last night the police arrested 150 people involved in rioting in the past few days, bringing the total number of detainees to 778,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khelifa Chibani said. Sixteen extremists were among those detained, he said.
Three local leaders of the Popular Front, the main opposition bloc, were detained in Gafsa for allegedly setting fire to a government building, a judicial source said.
The Popular Front said its leaders had been targeted in a political campaign that was “reproducing the methods of the oppressive Ben Ali regime.” Party members had also been arrested in Mahdia and Karbariya, it said.
The protests draw on anger over price and tax increases included in this year’s budget that took effect on Jan. 1. The government has blamed the opposition and “troublemakers” for stoking unrest, a charge the opposition has denied. The government has vowed not to back down on the austerity measures, taken to satisfy foreign lenders.
Prices have increased for fuel and some consumer goods, while taxes on cars, phone calls, the Internet, hotel accommodation and other items have also gone up.
Tunisia appears to have little scope to back away austerity. The International Monetary Funds says Tunisia is committed to “decisive action” to reform its economy before the IMF reviews the payment of its next loan tranche.
Last year, the Washington-based IMF agreed a four-year loan program worth about $2.8 billion with Tunisia, but tied to economic reforms.
The 2018 budget also raises customs taxes on some imports, and the Tunis government is trying to cut the public sector wage bill through voluntary redundancies.
While Tunisia is held up by some as the only democratic success story among countries swept up in the Arab Spring, it has had nine governments since Ben Ali’s overthrow, none of which have been able to resolve deep-rooted economic problems.



Gunmen kill 12 Niger gendarmes in attack near Mali border

October 21, 2017

Image result for Niger, Mali, map


NIAMEY (Reuters) – Gunmen mounted on pick-up trucks and motorcycles killed 12 gendarmes and wounded several in an attack on their base in western Niger, near the Mali border, on Saturday, two security sources said.

The village is a few dozen kilometres from where militants killed four U.S. soldiers in an ambush on Oct. 4 that has thrown a spotlight on the U.S. counter-terrorism mission in Niger, which straddles a large expanse of the Sahara.

Niger: nouveaux troubles, un camp de gendarmerie attaqué à Niamey

The gunmen crossed over the border from Mali and drove up to the village of Ayorou, about 40 km (25 miles) inside, before springing their attack, the security sources said.

“They were heavily armed. They had rocket launchers and machine guns. They came in four vehicles each with about seven fighters,” said a security source on the scene.

One of the attackers was killed in an exchange of fire, he added. A spokesman for Niger’s military said he could not confirm any details of the attack.

Several Islamist militant groups and well-armed ethnic militia are known to operate in the area near the border with Mali, and there have been at least 46 attacks recorded there since early least year.

However, security officials suspect a relatively new militant group called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara to have been behind many of them, including the ambush on the joint U.S.-Niger patrol.

Reporting by Boureima Balima; Additional reporting by David Lewis in Nairobi, Cheick Amadou Diouara in Bamako and Tim Cocks in Dakar; Writing by Tim Cocks, Editing by Angus MacSwan

 No automatic alt text available.


New gaffe by France’s Macron fuels ‘out of touch’ image

October 5, 2017


© POOL/AFP / by Gina DOGGETT | French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with students in Egletons, where he made the controversial remark about workers
PARIS (AFP) – French President Emmanuel Macron came under fire Thursday after a remark directed against union activists fuelled accusations from opponents that he has disdain for working people.

Macron made the comment Wednesday while visiting the central town of Egletons, referring to trade unionists who clashed with police during a rally against layoffs at the region’s GM&S auto parts plant.

“Some, instead of stirring up shit, would be better off looking for work” at a foundry in Ussel, Macron said. The foundry, located 140 kilometres (85 miles) from the auto plant, is having difficulties finding workers.

The remark follows several others seen as contemptuous of ordinary people or dismissive of critics, contributing to a steep drop in popularity for the 39-year-old centrist since his election in May.

Last month, days before a union-led protest against his flagship labour reforms, Macron said he would not back down “to slackers, cynics and extremists”.

The remark became a rallying cry for protesters who coined slogans such as “Slackers of the world, unite!”

“Macron does it again,” the opposition Socialist Party said in a tweet Wednesday, calling on the president to “watch his language and respect the French people”.

A lawmaker of the hard-left France Unbowed party, Adrien Quatennens, said Macron “doesn’t know what it means to look for work.”

But government spokesman Christophe Castaner defended Macron, saying presidents should be able “to use the words we all use”.

Macron has sought to restore lost prestige to the presidency, hosting events in grandiose settings such as the former royal palace in Versailles and likening his role to that of Jupiter, king of the Roman gods.

The former investment banker’s ambitious agenda includes labour reforms pushed through by decree, with critics seizing on his use of executive orders as an example of an autocratic leadership style.

– ‘President of the rich’ –

Macron is also planning major tax cuts for the wealthy, forcing him to fend off accusations that he is a “president of the rich”.

France’s youngest president sees the tax cuts as essential to spurring investment and stemming the exodus of millionaires such as celebrated actor Gerard Depardieu and ageing rocker Johnny Hallyday.

An overhaul of the wealth tax that would discount yachts, private jets, race horses and luxury cars as taxable assets has provoked particular ire on the left.

Wednesday’s remark “further alienates the president by bolstering the image of heavy-handedness and indifference to the least fortunate,” said Emmanuel Riviere of the Sofres polling institute.

Macron’s approval rating stood at 32 percent in a YouGov poll released Thursday.

But he insists he has a mandate for change after his presidential win was followed by a thumping parliamentary victory for his Republic on the Move (LREM) party.

Political scientist Jerome Sainte-Marie told AFP the president’s latest remark “was not very good in terms of popularity, but that won’t prevent him from passing reforms — he has overwhelming power.”

Three big demonstrations have been staged in the past month, but they were low-key compared with massive street protests seen last year over efforts by Macron’s Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande to overhaul France’s complex workplace regulations.


Indonesian Militants Planned ‘Dirty Bomb’ with highly radioactive uranium

August 25, 2017

JAKARTA — Indonesian militants planned to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb, security sources said, highlighting the rising ambitions of extremists to wreak destruction in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

But experts cast doubt on their expertise, equipment and chances of success.

The plot was foiled when police raided homes and arrested five suspects in Bandung, West Java, last week, the sources with direct knowledge of the plot said. After the raids, police spoke of a plan to explode a “chemical” bomb but provided no other details.

The plot comes as Indonesia grapples with an influx of militants deported from other countries and the fallout from the Islamic State-led siege in the southern Philippines city of Marawi that regional leaders and analysts worry has energized militants across Southeast Asia

The three counter-terrorism sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the militants had hoped to transform low-grade radioactive Thorium 232 (Th-232) into deadly Uranium 233 (U-233).

The highly radioactive uranium would be combined with the powerful home-made explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP) to create a “nuclear bomb”, according to an instruction manual used by the militants and reviewed by Reuters.

Image result for Indonesian Militants, Indonesia, photos

 Indonesia’s most wanted terrorist, “Santoso”

In fact, the device would be, at best, a radiological dispersal device or dirty bomb that could spray radioactive material when the conventional bomb exploded.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s national police, Inspector General Setyo Wasisto, declined to confirm or deny the plot to construct the device, but said it would have been more potent than the two bombs made from TATP that killed three police in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta in May.

“If this bomb was finished, it would have had a more destructive impact than the bomb made from ‘Mother of Satan’,” he said, using the nickname for TATP.

“It could burn anything and make it hard for people to breathe.”

Thorium-232 can be transformed into Uranium-233 but requires the Thorium to absorb a neutron, a process that needs powerful irradiation, generally from a nuclear reactor, according to three analysts contacted by Reuters and the website of the World Nuclear Association, which represents reactor vendors and nuclear engineers, among other industry stakeholders.

The militants’ manual advised an X-Ray machine or microwave be used instead.

“X rays would not have enough punch to overcome the binding energy of the Thorium atoms,” said Peter Hayes, an expert in radiological devices from the Nautilus Institute, in an email.

“And, no, you can’t cook Th-232 to make U-233 in a microwave and, if you could, you would have a painful and rapid death from the radioactive nature of the co-present U-232 produced alongside U-233.”

One senior Indonesian counter-terrorism source said the Bandung-based cell had bought a large amount of a household item and had begun to extract the Thorium. Reuters has chosen not to name the item.

“They needed three weeks. It was still only one week (into the process when police raided),” the source said.


Indonesia has suffered a series of mostly small attacks by extremists over the past 18 months, although police have disrupted many more.

Indonesian terrorism analyst Rakyan Adibrata fears militants have been inspired by the events in Marawi, where IS fighters continue to occupy part of the city despite a three-month offensive by Philippines force to re-take it.

“They don’t have the ability to occupy a city like has happened in Marawi, but they want to do something big that pleases their bosses in Islamic State,” said Adibrata.

A radiological bombing could fit the bill, although Adibrata said that it was highly unlikely that the Bandung cell had either “the equipment or the knowledge” to succeed.

Most of Indonesia’s recent attacks have involved members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a pro-IS alliance of Indonesian militants. Many have been directed from Syria by an Indonesian national and JAD leader Bahrun Naim, according to police.

Naim is identified as the author on the front page of the 47-page Indonesian-language bomb instruction manual – named “Nuclear for Dummy” (sic) – and posted on a blog that has since been taken down.

“Mastering weaponry is essentially every Muslim’s duty,” it says.

“This paper, we hope, also can motivate the Muslim mujahideen to learn nuclear science easily and apply it.”

Last week, police said the militants had been working off Naim’s manual, but did not disclose its contents.

According to police, the suspected Bandung plotters were members of JAD and were considering targets like the presidential palace in Jakarta and police headquarters in Bandung and the capital.

Two of the five suspects are Indonesian migrant workers deported from Singapore and Hong Kong this year for posting radical Islamist material on social media.

They spent a month or less in a deradicalization shelter before joining up with the other militants, sources told Reuters.

About 177 Indonesian militants have been deported from other countries this year, according to Adibrata, citing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

(Reporting by Tom Allard and Agustinus Beo Da Costa Additional reporting by Stefanno Reinard; Editing by Ed Davies and Nick Macfie)

Egypt’s insurgency by the Islamic State: 30 extremists killed in the Sinai Peninsula

July 22, 2017


© AFP/File | Egypt is battling an insurgency by the Islamic State group in the Sinai that has killed hundreds of members of the security forces

CAIRO (AFP) – Egyptian forces have killed 30 extremists during several days of security operations in the Sinai Peninsula involving the army, air force and police, the military said Saturday.The Egyptian authorities are battling an insurgency by the Islamic State (IS) group in North Sinai that has killed hundreds of members of the security forces.

The military did not specify to which group the 30 extremists belonged but described them as “extremely dangerous”.

Five others were arrested as Egyptian forces imposed a “tight siege” on the North Sinai provincial capital El-Arish and the cities of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, a military statement said.

Egypt has struggled to quash attacks led by IS, whose local branch is based in North Sinai, after the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The bombing by IS of a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from a South Sinai resort in 2015 killed all 224 people on board and severely damaged the country’s tourism sector.


Russian state security services have admitted that a bomb brought down a Metrojet aircraft over Egypt 

Russian Metro Jet crash,  31 October 2015 — All 224 people on board were killed, including 219 Russian citizens, making it Russia’s worst ever air disaster and the country’s deadliest terrorist attack since the 2004 Beslan school siege.

Qatar changes anti-terror law amid Gulf row

July 21, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people, skyscraper, ocean, sky, outdoor and water

DOHA (AFP) – Qatar announced on Thursday changes to its anti-terror legislation, one of the controversial issues at the core of the crisis between Doha and its neighbours who accuse it of backing extremists.

The decree from Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani establishes two national lists for individuals and terrorist entities and sets out the requirements for being included on them.

It also defines terrorists, terrorist crimes, terrorist entities as well as the financing of terrorism.

The decree follows the signing of a US-Qatar agreement to combat terror funding, later dismissed by the Gulf nation’s neighbours.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson arrived in Doha, Qatar. Credit Qatar News Agency, via Associated Press

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have put in place a boycott on Qatar since June 5.

They have imposed sanctions on Doha, including closing its only land border, refusing Qatar access to their airspace and ordering their citizens back from Qatar.

They also presented the emirate with a list of 13 demands with which to comply to end the worst political crisis in the region for years.

Qatar denies the charges of extremism and has called the demands unrealistic.


US-led coalition building jihadist database

June 22, 2017


© AFP/File | The Islamic State’s black flag being taken down by a Syrian rebel in the town of Tabqa in April as the extremist group faces setbacks in Syria and Iraq

HERZLIYA (ISRAEL) (AFP) – The US-led coalition battling the Islamic State group is building a database of foreign fighters to track jihadists returning from Iraq and Syria at home, a senior US official said Thursday.

Brett McGurk, the White House envoy to the anti-IS coalition, told an Israeli security conference the effort aimed to help prevent attacks like those recently carried out in Europe.

“Our coalition is building a global database of foreign fighters, through information-sharing networks and Interpol, to ensure that anyone who fought with ISIS in Syria and Iraq can be identified in either routine traffic stops, border entry points or in the course of routine police work,” McGurk said.

Speaking at the annual Herzliya security conference near Tel Aviv, McGurk said the coalition was also having success in preventing more foreign fighters from joining IS, also known as ISIS or Daesh, in Syria.

“On foreign fighters we’ve largely halted the flow into Syria from Turkey; from hundreds a week to now a handful at most a month,” he said.

Qatar Says Won’t Negotiate Until Economic Boycott Ends

June 19, 2017

DOHA — Qatar will not negotiate with Arab states that have cut economic and travel ties with it unless they reverse their measures, its foreign minister said, ruling out discussions over Qatar’s internal affairs including Al Jazeera TV.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said Qatar had still not received any demands from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which severed relations two weeks ago, triggering the worst Gulf Arab crisis in years.

Image result for Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, photos

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahmanal-Thani

The countries accuse Qatar of supporting Islamist militants and stirring up unrest, charges Doha denies.

“Qatar is under blockade, there is no negotiation. They have to lift the blockade to start negotiations,” Sheikh Mohammed told reporters in Doha. “Until now we didn’t see any progress about lifting the blockade, which is the precondition for anything to move forward.”

He said Kuwait’s ruler was the sole mediator in the crisis and that he was waiting for specific demands from Gulf states in order to take resolution efforts forward.

“We cannot just have (vague) demands such as ‘the Qataris know what we want from them, they have to stop this or that, they have to be monitored by a foreign monitoring mechanism,'” Sheikh Mohammed said.

Anything that relates to the affairs of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council is subject to negotiation, he said, referring to the body comprising Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

“Anything not related to them is not subject to negotiation. No one has the right to interfere in my affairs. Al Jazeera is Qatar’s affairs, Qatari foreign policy on regional issues is Qatar’s affairs. And we are not going to negotiate on our own affairs,” he said.

Qatar’s Gulf critics have accused Al Jazeera of being a platform for extremists and an agent of interference in their affairs. The network has rejected those accusations and said it will maintain its editorial independence.

Image result for LNG, Qatar, photos

The crisis has hit civilian travel, some food imports, ratcheted up tensions in the Gulf and sown confusion among businesses. But it has not affected energy exports from Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar would rely on other states if the boycott continued, including Saudi Arabia’s arch regional foe Iran.

“We have a back-up plan which depends mainly on Turkey, Kuwait and Oman,” he said. “Iran has facilitated for us the sky passages for our aviation and we are cooperating with all countries that can ensure supplies for Qatar.”

(Reporting by Tom Finn; writing by Sylvia Westall; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Philippine Troops Retake Parts of Marawi City From Islamist Militants; City 90% Clear of Civilians

May 27, 2017
The provincial capitol in Marawi City and town hall of Saguiaran is currently an evacuation center catering to 1,832 families. Women and children are yet to receive aid from the government and non-government organizations. Even DSWD food aid can’t pass through AFP checkpoints. Facebook/Sandugo

LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines — Parts of Marawi City had been cleared from Islamic militants and soldiers are now trying to restore control over five more enclaves where gunmen are still displaying the iconic black Islamic State flag.

Vice Governor Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on Saturday called on private physicians to help in their relief missions for more than 100,000 displaced residents.

Thousands of evacuees are now confined in gymnasiums and government buildings in nearby Iligan City in Administrative Region 10.

“Doctors are badly needed to help our medical and rescue teams working round-the-clock since Tuesday,” said Lucman, concurrent regional secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development-ARMM.

ARMM officials and Lanao del Sur Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. on Saturday said 90 percent of the more than 200,000 residents of Marawi City have evacuated to neutral grounds for fear of the gunfights between government troops and combined Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists.

“Marawi City is virtually a ghost city now,” said ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman.

 Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Hataman and Adiong are jointly directing relief operations from the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol compound in Marawi City.

Marawi City is the capital of Lanao de Sur, a component province of ARMM.

Policemen and soldiers have cleared the surroundings of the old Marawi City hall, the Toros, Bangon, Kadingilan, Moncado, Buadi Sakayo and Colony areas from occupation by militants, according to city officials and traditional Maranaw elders helping in relief works for displaced residents.

Officials of the Army’s 103rd Brigade and the Regional Police Office-ARMM said on Saturday that clearing operations are now focused on Moncado, Guimba, Malimono, Marinaut and Caloocan areas in Marawi City.

The Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART) of ARMM is trying since Friday to reach out to hundreds of ethnic Maranaws in villages where extremists are still holding out, displaying the black flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The provincial government of Lanao del Sur has distributed more than 10 tons of relief supplies to evacuees since Wednesday, according to Adiong, a first-termer vice governor and member of the inter-agency peace and order council in the province.

A senior ARMM executive, who requested anonymity, said the police should also check on the exorbitant charges of fares for public conveyances and overpricing of rice and petroleum products by unscrupulous merchants in Marawi City.

“I was informed that there are drivers of passenger vehicles charging P1,500 per passenger for a ride from Marawi City to Pagadian City. Gasoline is retailed at P100 per liter and rice is sold at P5,000 per sack, accordingly,” the source said.

Efforts to locate more than a hundred missing people, among them a policeman and a Catholic priest gunmen snatched on Tuesday are still underway.

Lawyer Laisa Alamia, executive secretary of ARMM, said six male adolescents, some of them with shrapnel wounds, were rescued at past 4:00 p.m. Friday from a village where soldiers are fighting militants.

“They were caught in the crossfire,” Alamia said.

She said hundreds of students in the campus of the Mindanao State University in Marawi City had been relocated to a safe area through the efforts of school president Habib Macaayong and emergency teams.

“Our concern now is how to extricate many villagers who can’t leave their barangays because of the ongoing encounters there and the presence of militants probably preventing them to leave,” Alamia said.

Alamia said rescue workers cannot get through to the barangays where there are skirmishes.

“We are hoping there would be a lull in fighting so we can rescue those trapped in the crossfire,” she said.

Philippines: After Attack Foiled, ASEAN Site ‘Most Secure’

April 17, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine officials say more than 200 Association of Southeast Asian Nation delegates will meet in a central resort province this week despite a foiled attack there by Abu Sayyaf extremists.

Acting Interior Secretary Catalino Cuy said Monday that Panglao Island in Bohol province could be considered “the most secure place in the country right now.” The two-day ASEAN trade meeting on the island starts Wednesday.

The foiled attack and ensuing battle with government forces occurred in a hinterland village about 80 kilometers (50 miles) away. Philippine forces killed four of several Abu Sayyaf extremists who had traveled to Bohol to stage kidnappings and bombings. Two villagers, three soldiers and a policeman were also killed in the clashes last week.