Posts Tagged ‘Extremists’

Far-right terror threat on the rise in Britain

June 17, 2018

Stung by an attack on Muslims in London a year ago, Britain is facing a growing threat from far-right extremists fueled by online hate speech, forcing the authorities to react.

Armed British police officers stand on duty outside Parsons Green underground tube station in west London on September 15, 2017. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP)
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In a country hit by five attacks in the span of six months in 2017 that killed 36 people, “the biggest threat is from Islamist terrorism,” Home Secretary Sajid Javid said earlier this month.

But “extreme right-wing terrorism is also an increasing threat,” the interior minister added as he unveiled a new counterterror strategy.

A government report found that four attacks have been carried out in Britain over the past five years “by lone actors motivated to varying degrees by extreme right-wing ideologies.”

Among them was Darren Osborne, a 48-year-old from Cardiff, who a year ago on Tuesday drove his rented van into a group of Muslim worshippers near Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, killing one man and injuring 12 others.

The father-of-four’s radicalization ramped up in a matter of weeks, fed by compulsive reading of hate material online.

In February, Mark Rowley, the then head of counterterrorism policing, said that four extreme right-wing plots were foiled last year and described the trend as “worrying.”

Matthew Henman, from the Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre database, told AFP: “There is a clear increase in both the tempo of attacks conducted by right-wing extremists and in the seriousness, lethality, of such violence.”

In recent decades, extreme right-wing activity in Britain had been confined to small, established groups with an older membership, which promoted anti-immigration and white supremacist views but presented a low risk to national security.

But the emergence of the neo-Nazi group National Action in 2014, and similar fringe outfits like Generation Identity, has helped forge a new, younger pool of extremists, according to the “2018 State of Hate” report by the anti-racism organization Hope Not Hate.

The report’s “online hate” section cited prominent British figures among those with the biggest reach on social media.

They included Stephen Lennon — known as Tommy Robinson — founder of the English Defence League, which he left in 2013.

They also included Paul Joseph Watson, whose videos have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and commentator Katie Hopkins, who in 2015 compared migrants to “cockroaches.”

“The authorities are failing to appreciate or deal with this growing far-right online threat and anti-Muslim hatred in general,” Hope Not Hate’s report concluded.

The Muslim Council of Britain, a national representative umbrella body, has also denounced an Islamophobic climate, blaming elements of the governing Conservative Party.

However, Henman said he had seen “encouraging signals” from the government and security services, such as disrupting plots and banning National Action in December 2016 after the assassination of opposition Labour MP Jo Cox by a neo-Nazi sympathizer.

The killing, which shocked Britain, was carried out in the buildup to the June 2016 referendum on Brexit.

However, National Action continues to operate in the shadows.

On Tuesday, Jack Renshaw, 23, one of its alleged members, pleaded guilty in court in London to planning to assassinate another Labour lawmaker, Rosie Cooper.

“As with the fight against militant Islamism, these policies treat the symptoms of right-wing extremism and not the cause,” said Henman, calling for a more “comprehensive approach.”

He added the spike in far-right activity was “not occurring in a bubble.”

“There is a broader role played by prominent elements in the right-wing media and elements of hard-line government policy that have help foster and create an environment in which right-wing extremism can take root and spread,” Henman said.

The government has pledged to act upstream, identifying young people sensitive to propaganda and developing “alternative speeches” to those of extremists — whether they come from radical Islam or the extreme right.

As Javid noted in his speech, the two camps are “more similar than they might like to think.”

“They both exploit grievances, distort the truth, and undermine the values that hold us together,” he said.

AFP

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1322836/world

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, May 5, 2018 — “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

May 4, 2018

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 290

Image result for jesus, persecuted, photos

Reading 1  ACTS 16:1-10

Paul reached also Derbe and Lystra
where there was a disciple named Timothy,
the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer,
but his father was a Greek.
The brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him,
and Paul wanted him to come along with him.
On account of the Jews of that region, Paul had him circumcised,
for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
As they traveled from city to city,
they handed on to the people for observance the decisions
reached by the Apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem.
Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith
and increased in number.They traveled through the Phrygian and Galatian territory
because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit
from preaching the message in the province of Asia.
When they came to Mysia, they tried to go on into Bithynia,
but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them,
so they crossed through Mysia and came down to Troas.
During the night Paul had a vision.
A Macedonian stood before him and implored him with these words,
“Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
When he had seen the vision,
we sought passage to Macedonia at once,
concluding that God had called us to proclaim the Good News to them.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 100:1B-2, 3, 5

R. (2a) Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
serve the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Know that the LORD is God;
he made us, his we are;
his people, the flock he tends.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD is good:
his kindness endures forever,
and his faithfulness, to all generations.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  COL 3:1

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If then you were raised with Christ,
seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
and I have chosen you out of the world,
the world hates you.
Remember the word I spoke to you,
‘No slave is greater than his master.’
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,
because they do not know the one who sent me.”
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Reflection On John 15:18-21 By Fr. Alphonse
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John 15:18-21  Love and Hate

Jesus said to his disciples:  “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.  If you belonged to this world, the world would love its own…Remember the word I spoke to you…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.  If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.  And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.”

Wow!  This week’s Gospels are speaking to us loud and clear.  You would think the Lord is speaking directly to us.  He is.  You would think the Lord is speaking about today’s issues.  He is.  You would think the Lord is warning us of what’s to come.  He is.

If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.  Christ knew what he was saying.  There’s no use sugar coating vinegar.  He laid it all out for his disciples to follow or to leave.  Ladies and gentlemen,here are the facts.  They will beat you and torture you and scourge you all because of me.  You will be hunted down and executed.  You will be called bigots, homophobes, radicals, extremists all because of me.  No slave is greater than his master.  If they ruined my reputation, they will ruin yours.  If they killed me, they will kill you.

Why so much hatred by non-Christians?  Can they love their enemies?  Why so much persecution of Christians?  Is there any point in all of it?  Hasn’t atheism and secularism won the day?  Not yet.  In fact, not at all.  Yes, atheism and secularism have grown in the United States and elsewhere, but so have infidelity, dysfunctional families, gangs, failing scores, eating disorders, population busts, abortion, sexting, drug use, pornography, suicide and general malaise.  You could say that secularism collapses under its own weight.  You may even say it collapses under its own success. Sure, you can say secularism holds its own ground, but the ground falls from underneath it.  You can say that it attracts; as fatal attractions go.  But the truth of the matter is this:  secularism does not have a chance of succeeding because secularism does not inspire.  It knows how to complain, but it doesn’t know how to create.  We complain all the time about the world.  But we don’t know how to create one.

For example the once-upon-a-time Occupy Wall Street movement attracted the young, just like the once-upon-a-time hippy movement of old.  And just like the hippy movement of old – that never really learned how to love – Occupy Wall Street movement quickly disintegrated to crime and filth. Secularism seeks to be an alternative to religion but it just can’t seem to muster anything that compares to the universality of the Church or the teachings of Jesus Christ. And, if you want to become the center of the Universe, then you better do more than just complain.  You have to be able to create something too.

Hatred is full of complaints.  God is full of love; and love always creates, even in death.

Check out this sobering truth.  Secularists have enormous backing and visibility; whereas Christians are attacked or ignored at every conceivable angle.  I am not exaggerating when I say there is little to no God inside the matrix (TV, computer, work, school, etc.).  Think about this:  the Media has billions of dollars and has complete access to the hearts and minds of millions and millions of people.  And there is little to no God in the Media.  Hollywood has their grip on the hearts and minds of millions and millions of people; and there is little to no God in Hollywood.  Public Schools have complete access to millions and millions of kids; and there is no God there.  The Federal Government does nothing to encourage religion, and has a lot of our money.  As you can see, secularists have billions and billions of dollars to spend every year to push out, ignore, or attack God from our midst.  And all God has are his little, itty-bitty tiny temples and private schools across the nation.

And yet, Goliath has been unable to push God out!  GOD WON’T LEAVE!  HE WON’T BUDGE!  HE WON’T DIE!  What is secularism to do???

Hate and persecute.  Hate and persecute.  Hate and persecute.

It’s human nature.  Actually, it’s fallen human nature; that is, when you put so much time and money and effort into something, and you get very little out of it, of course you’re going to be upset, infuriated, mean-spirited and even deadly.  But I’m here to tell you that their vulgarities, profanities, suicide bombers, lies and deceptions are a symptom of death knocking at their door.

So, what shall we do?  We shall overcome.  Love with a fight.  Little by little.  Step by Step.  Baby step by baby step.  Our eyes have seen the glory of the Lord.  “Do not be afraid.  I conquered the world.”

Rome was not built in a day, but it was destroyed in just a few.  Secularism will always appear to be making ground quickly, but again, it’s quick sand; whereas Christianity will always take its time, because it is always harder to create a culture of life than it is to dig a culture of death.  And Christianity is not about time, it’s about one life at a time.

I read today that twenty-one Anglican priests will be ordained this year for the English Ordinariate. That brings the total number to eighty.  Eighty Catholic priests!  A few years ago the Bishops in England were wondering how to solve their priestly shortage.  It would appear as though the Lord knew the solution.  Please pray for them and support them.  They are being battered on both sides of the Tiber: from Anglicans to liberal minded Catholics.

I also read that the SSPX (Society of Saint Pius X), a schismatic group that disavowed themselves from Vatican II, may soon be reconciled with Rome.  Its leader, Bishop Bernard Fellay, appears to be ready to come back to the fold.  If the SSPX does in fact do so, it will be a major victory for Christ and His Bride. Please pray for the Holy Father and for Bishop Bernard.  They will be battered on both sides of the Tiber:  from members within the Society and from liberal minded Catholics on the other.  As of January, 2010, the Society had over five hundred priests and over two hundred seminarians with nearly two hundred nuns.  This reconciliation is very close to the Holy Father’s heart and he needs our prayers.

If the Lord said his disciples would be hated because of him.  Then he also implied they would be loved because of him.  Let the prayer warriors out of their cage.

http://fralfonse.blogspot.com/2012/05/john-1518-21-love-and-hate-click-here.html

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

05 MAY, 2018, Saturday, 5th Week of Easter

DARE TO BE LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 16:1-10PS 100:1-3,5JOHN 15:18-21  ]

In undertaking the mission of Christ, should emphasis be placed on planning and strategizing, or simply being docile to the primacy of grace, which is to be led by the Holy Spirit?  Today, most of us spend much time meeting to brainstorm and formulate our pastoral plans.  This is more so when most of our people are highly educated and trained in corporate planning and strategizing.  Naturally, they bring in their acquired knowledge and skills from the corporate world to apply to the work of evangelization.

If we study the history of salvation, we will find that charismatic leaders and prophets did not plan much but simply responded to the times and the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  All the battles during the time of Moses, Judges and the Kings, were engineered by God.  He was revered as the Lord of Hosts, the Commander of the Army of Israel.  The leaders were told simply to rely on God alone.  Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.”  (Ex14:13f; cf Dt 3:22Joshua 10:142 Chr 20:17)

In the New Testament, Jesus’ mission was also done in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Immediately after His baptism, He was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  (Mt 4:1)  At the beginning of His mission, He was conscious that His mission was propelled by the Holy Spirit.   Citing from the Prophet Isaiah, He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”  (Lk 4:18)  At His death, He surrendered His mission to the Holy Spirit.  “Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!’” (Lk 23:46)

Image may contain: one or more people

Holy Spirit book by Edward Leen

After His resurrection, He entrusted the mission to the apostles.  He told them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samar′ia and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 cf Acts 1:4f)  He bestowed upon them the Holy Spirit and sent them out on a mission.  (cf Jn 20:21-23)  Indeed, the Acts of the Apostles illustrate from beginning to end that the mission of the disciples was the work of the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, in today’s first reading, we read how St Paul allowed himself to be led by the Holy Spirit at every stage of his journey.  He did not seem to have done much planning because he relied solely on the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  St Paul seemed to have moved along as the Spirit inspired him.  Docile to the Holy Spirit, he visited one town after another.  They were “told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas.”  Finally, “one night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us’. Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.”

What about us?  Do we have the confidence to allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit?  Do we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit or in ourselves more?  More often than not, we trust God as a last resort.  We believe more in human planning and our hard work than the work of the Holy Spirit.  Many of us would go into detailed planning for our projects and activities.  Even when preaching a homily or giving a talk, we would prepare our power point, read from our prepared notes so that no mistakes would be made.  We leave no chance for anything else to happen because we want to be in control.  Only when things do not work out the way we plan, then we have no choice but to surrender our plans into the hands of God.

But this is not the way the Lord asks us to fulfill His mission.  He told the disciples, “And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.”  (Mk 13:11)  True enough, when the apostles were arrested and tried before the Sanhedrin, they spoke courageously before them.  “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.”  (Acts 4:13f)

This is why St John Paul II in his apostolic letter said, “I have no hesitation in saying that all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness.”  (Novo Milennio Inuente, 30)  “It is also clear however that the paths to holiness are personal and call for a genuine ‘training in holiness’, adapted to people’s needs.”  (NMI, 31) “This training in holiness calls for a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer.”  (NMI 32)

St John Paul II underscores the primacy of grace.  He wrote, “If in the planning that awaits us we commit ourselves more confidently to a pastoral activity that gives personal and communal prayer its proper place, we shall be observing an essential principle of the Christian view of life: the primacy of grace. There is a temptation which perennially besets every spiritual journey and pastoral work: that of thinking that the results depend on our ability to act and to plan. God of course asks us really to cooperate with his grace, and therefore invites us to invest all our resources of intelligence and energy in serving the cause of the Kingdom. But it is fatal to forget that ‘without Christ we can do nothing’ (cf. Jn 15:5)” (NMI 38)

Truly, we must learn to rely on the grace of God more than ourselves.  For as St Paul wrote, “And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”  (1 Cor 2:3-5)  The Lord assured St Paul in his weakness,  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)  Hence, St Paul said, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Cor 12:9bf)

This does not mean that we discard the human talents that the Lord has given to us.  Even St Paul made use of his intellectual ingenuity.  He had Timothy circumcised because his father was a Greek.  Although it was not necessary for Timothy to be circumcised to be a Christian, yet for the sake of expedience and receptivity by the Jews, he felt it would make it easier for them to preach the gospel as there would be less resistance.   So by all means, we need to plan, strategize and be prepared, but we must also not constrain the Holy Spirit from blowing and acting beyond your expectations and planning.  We must be ready to change when the Spirit moves us.  If we are too rigid and fearful of responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we will reduce the effectiveness of His work in our lives.  Indeed, in my ministry, how often the Lord led me to do things beyond my logic and planning.  Many times, the talks I painstakingly prepared, and the homilies I wrote with much preparation were discarded at the last minute, even as I was delivering it, because I felt the Holy Spirit was leading me to speak on other matters.   With an act of faith in Him, I responded and He often brought about the conversion of hearts more than I could if I had followed according to plan.

In the final analysis, to be able to respond to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we must be people of prayer.  St John Paul II wrote, “It is prayer which roots us in this truth. It constantly reminds us of the primacy of Christ and, in union with him, the primacy of the interior life and of holiness. When this principle is not respected, is it any wonder that pastoral plans come to nothing and leave us with a disheartening sense of frustration?”  (NMI 38)

That is why it is very important that whilst we should engage in pastoral planning and serious preparations for our talks and homilies, yet we need to bring all these into prayer.  We must pray before we plan, during the planning and after the planning, even whilst we are executing the plan, because the Lord might want to surprise us as He surprised St Peter who said, “We have toiled all night and caught nothing” (Lk 5:5).  “This is the moment of faith, of prayer, of conversation with God, in order to open our hearts to the tide of grace and allow the word of Christ to pass through us in all its power: Duc in altum!” (NMI 38)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

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France clamps down on radical Islam in prisons, schools — France is experimenting with various ways of ending the drift towards extremism — Worry about young people

February 23, 2018

AFP

© AFP / by Clare BYRNE, Marc PRÉEL | “No one has a magic formula for ‘deradicalisation’ as if you might de-install dangerous software,” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (C) said in the northern city of Lille where he presented his strategy, flanked by a dozen ministers

LILLE (FRANCE) (AFP) – The French government said Friday said it would seal off extremists within prisons and open new centres to reintegrate returning jihadists into society as part of a plan to halt the spread of radical Islam.France is experimenting with various ways of ending the drift towards extremism of young people growing up on the margins of society, in predominantly immigrant suburbs where organisations like the Islamic State group or Al-Qaeda recruit.

The plan unveiled Friday is the third in four years and aims to draw lessons from past failures, after three years marked by a series of attacks that left over 240 people dead.

“No one has a magic formula for ‘deradicalisation’ as if you might de-install dangerous software,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in the northern city of Lille where he presented his strategy, flanked by a dozen ministers.

“But in France and elsewhere there are good approaches to prevention and disengagement.”

France is particularly keen to stop extremism flourishing in its prisons, where some of the jihadists behind attacks in recent years first came under the spell of hardliners.

A total of 512 people are currently serving time for terrorism offences in France and a further 1,139 prisoners have been flagged up as being radicalised.

To prevent extremism spreading further, Philippe said he would create 1,500 places in separate prison wings “especially for radicalised inmates”.

– Islamic schools under scrutiny –

He also announced plans for three new centres that will attempt to reintegrate radicals referred by French courts, including jihadists returning from fallen IS strongholds in the Middle East.

A first de-radicalisation trial ended in failure last July, with a centre in western France that operated on a voluntary basis shutting after less than a year with no improvements to show.

Other measures announced by Philippe include:

— Investments in psychological care for returning children of jihadists. So far 68 children have been repatriated, most of them under 13.

— Tighter controls on private Islamic schools which have grown rapidly in number in recent years.

— More training for teachers to help them detect early signs of radicalisation and to debunk conspiracy theories.

— More investment in teaching students to separate fact from rumour on the internet.

— Making it easier to reassign public servants that show signs of radicalisation to jobs that do not involve contact with the public.

by Clare BYRNE, Marc PRÉEL

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Related:

French prime minister unveils new deradicalisation programme — change in strategy for the French government.

February 23, 2018

AFP

Image may contain: 11 people, people standing and suit

Philippe Huguen, AFP | French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and some members of his government pose afting announcing new de-radicalisation measures on February 23, 2018, in Lille.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2018-02-23

The French government unveiled new deradicalisation plans on Friday, including isolating extremists within prisons and opening centres dedicated to reintegrating former radicals into society.

France is experimenting with new ways of halting the drift towards extremism for young people growing up on the margins of society, predominantly in immigrant suburbs where organisations like the Islamic State group or al Qaeda focus their recruiting efforts.

The plan unveiled by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Friday is the third such proposal in four years. But this one aims to learn from past mistakes, after three years marked by a series of attacks that has left more than 240 people dead across France.

“No one has a magic formula for ‘deradicalisation’, like you might de-install dangerous software,” Philippe said in the northern city of Lille, where he presented his strategy flanked by a dozen ministers.  

“But in France and elsewhere there are good approaches to prevention and disengagement.”

Wassim Nasr, FRANCE 24’s expert on radicalisation, said that Philippe’s speech represented a change in strategy for the French government. 

“The prime minister ended his speech by talking about understanding the causes of radicalisation, which is a total turnaround from what has been said before,” Nasr said. “Former prime minister [Manuel Valls] said that understanding was ‘justifying’. So it is a real U-turn for the French government.” 

>> Read more: France’s first and only deradicalisation centre shuts down

France is particularly keen to stop extremism from flourishing in its prisons, where some of the jihadists behind attacks in recent years first came under the spell of hardliners.

A total of 512 people are currently serving time for terrorism offences in France and another 1,139 prisoners have been flagged as having been radicalised.

To prevent extremism from spreading further, Philippe said he would create 1,500 places in separate prison wings “especially for radicalised inmates”.

“This is the first plan that specifically addresses the prevention of radicalisation,” said Muriel Domenach, the secretary general of the CIPDR, a committee under the prime minister tasked with the prevention of deliquance and radicalisation.

“It compliments the anti-terrorist arsenal that the government reinforced this autumn. Sociologists and anti-terrorism specialists agree that a security response isn’t enough.”

Islamic schools under scrutiny

Philippe also announced plans for three new centres that will attempt to reintegrate radicals referred by French courts, including some of the jihadists returning from fallen IS group strongholds in the Middle East.

A first attempt at introducing a deradicalisation programme ended in failure last July, with a centre in western France that operated on a voluntary basis shutting down after less than a year.

Other measures announced by Philippe include:

  • Investments in psychological care for the children of returning jihadists. So far 68 children have been repatriated, most of them under 13.
  • Tighter regulation of private Islamic schools, which have grown rapidly in number in recent years.
  • More training for teachers to help them detect the early signs of radicalisation and debunk conspiracy theories.
  • More investment in teaching students to separate fact from fiction on the internet.
  • Making it easier to reassign public servants that show signs of radicalisation to jobs that do not involve contact with the public.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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“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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Last year, the Washington-based IMF agreed a four-year loan program worth about $2.8 billion with Tunisia, but tied to economic reforms.
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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.
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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

AFP

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

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

October 5, 2017

AFP

© 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.

by Gina DOGGETT

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.

“A MUSLIM’S DUTY”

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

© 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.

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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

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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.

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