Posts Tagged ‘Islamic state’

Islamic State ‘executes’ at least 15 civilians in Mosul

April 25, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | IS members who killed 15 civilians in Mosul drove black vehicles and posed as Iraqi government forces, such as those seen here, to trick residents

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Jihadist militants from the Islamic State group posing as liberating security forces killed at least 15 civilians who welcomed them in central Mosul, officials said on Tuesday.

Wearing police uniforms, they entered parts of the Old City on Monday to trick residents into showing their support for the federal forces, the Joint Operations Command (JOC) and a local official said.

“Daesh (IS) terrorist gangs committed a brutal crime yesterday morning in an area of Mosul’s Old City,” the JOC said in a statement.

It said the jihadists, who are defending their last Mosul bastions against a huge six-month-old offensive by the security forces, wanted to “confound civilians who expressed joy and welcomed them with chanting”.

They killed women and children, the JOC said, “to make it clear the area was still under enemy control”.

The statement did not specify how many were killed in that manner but Hossameddin al-Abbar, a member of Nineveh provincial council, told AFP at least 15 civilians were shot dead.

“Daesh members, some of them wearing federal police uniforms, entered the Al-Maidan and Corniche areas of the Old City,” he said.

“They were driving black vehicles and posing as liberators from the Iraqi forces,” Abbar added.

“When some families welcomed them, they arrested several of them. They executed at least 15 other people,” he said.

U.S. Defense Chief Mattis Pays Surprise Visit to Kabul — Bomb attack reported near US army camp in Afghanistan just after Mattis lands

April 24, 2017
A suicide blast has reportedly taken place near an airfield used by the US military in Afghanistan, according to local media. It occurred shortly after US Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in the country.
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Photos on social media show a plume of smoke rising from the scene.

The attack, which reportedly happened in the eastern province of Khost, comes after Mattis’ arrival to discuss the situation on the ground, as President Donald Trump contemplates sending more troops to Afghanistan.

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Khost Airfield has been used by the US military, but was developed and expanded for public use in recent years. Construction is currently underway to turn it into an international airport.

General John Nicholson, the top American commander in Kabul, recently told Congress that he needs a few thousand more soldiers deployed to assist Afghan security forces, so they can eventually tackle the Taliban insurgency on their own.

– explosion reported in Khost province, close to Khost airport close to U.S Forces base

The US currently has around 9,800 troops in Afghanistan. Although Washington ended its combat mission against the Taliban in 2014, troops are currently involved in backing up Afghan forces on the ground.

READ MORE: Casualty count from Afghan base attack rises to 100 – Defense Ministry

More than 100 Afghan soldiers were killed and injured in a Taliban attack on a military base in northern Afghanistan on Friday, according to the country’s Defense Ministry.

The attack prompted Afghanistan’s defense minister and chief of staff to resign on Monday.

https://www.rt.com/news/385910-afghanistan-us-base-blast/

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U.S. Defense chief to discuss strategy just days after deadly Taliban attack in Mazar-e-Sharif

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U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis looks out over Kabul as he arrvies in Afghanistan, April 24, 2017. Reuters photo

April 24, 2017 5:20 a.m. ET

KABUL—Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Afghanistan for a surprise visit, his first stop here as Pentagon chief, to discuss strategy, troop levels and the dropping of the massive bomb against Islamic State fighters last week.

It is Mr. Mattis’s first visit to Afghanistan as defense chief but his experience here is deep: A former Marine, he was the first commander of American troops here following the U.S.-led invasion of the Central Asian country in 2001.

While the Taliban were quickly forced from power that year, Afghanistan has been at war since then, and during his visit here, Mr. Mattis and the head of American-led international military force, Gen. John Nicholson, will discuss whether to recommend to President Donald Trump the deployment of more U.S. troops to the country.

In testimony to U.S. Congress in February, Gen. Nicholson said a needed a few thousand additional American troops to advise and train Afghan forces.

Currently, there are about 8,500 U.S. forces and some 6,000 soldiers from other members of the international coalition in Afghanistan in support of the central government in Kabul, which is fighting both the Taliban, the largest insurgency, and the local affiliate of the extremist group Islamic State.

Mr. Mattis’s visit comes amid turmoil in the Afghan armed forces.

The government of President Ashraf Ghani had no immediate comment on the departures of the defense minister, Abdullah Habibi, and the army chief of staff, Qadam Shah Shahim, and no reasons were given for the moves. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, the defense ministry spokesman, said only that their resignations had been accepted by Mr. Ghazni.

Friday’s Taliban attack on a government army base in Balkh province left about 170 people dead, Afghan officials said, after six Taliban fighters infiltrated the heavily guarded base aboard military vehicles and opened fire in what became a five-hour battle. Five of the militants were killed and a sixth was captured alive by Afghan commandos who had been rushed to join the battle, according to Afghan military officials.

The Afghan defense ministry, which has come under pressure after initially trying to play down the attack, is examining what went wrong.

“The investigation has begun and many other officials will be investigated and sacked.” Gen. Waziri said.

Mr. Mattis is winding up an eight-day trip that has taken him to Riyadh, Cairo, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as well as Doha and Djibouti. His talks with officials have focused on fighting terrorism and countering what the Trump administration says is Iran’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East and North Africa.

Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mattis-pays-surprise-visit-to-kabul-1493025633

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CNN

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has arrived in Afghanistan, where he is meeting government officials including President Ashraf Ghani.

Mattis also is visiting the headquarters of Operation Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission to train and advise Afghan security forces.

Mattis’s arrival in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, comes just days after an attack on a northern army base that left more than 100 Afghan soldiers dead or wounded.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for Friday’s raid at Camp Shaheen near Mazar-e Sharif, with a spokesman telling CNN it was revenge for the deaths of two of its officials in the region.

The US Defense Secretary was due to meet with his Afghan counterpart, but hours before Mattis touched down in Kabul, Ghani announced that his Defense minister and Army Chief of Staff had resigned with immediate effect.

Mattis’s visit to Afghanistan follows meetings in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Qatar and Djibouti.

The US Defense Department says his tour is aimed at reaffirming key US military alliances, engaging with strategic partners and discussing cooperation to counter terrorism.

US troops have been fighting for nearly 16 years in Afghanistan, where the government and its coalition allies are battling a resilient Taliban as well as other terror groups including ISIS.

Attacks and counterattacks

American forces enjoyed a brief victory last week, when the US military said Taliban leader Quari Tayib was killed in an airstrike in Kunduz province.

But it was followed by Friday’s attack on a mosque and dining facility at Camp Sheehan. The slaughter lasted around six hours. By the end, at least five attackers were killed and one was arrested, Afghan army spokesman Abdul Qahar Araam said.

The commander of Resolute Support, Gen. John Nicholson, said the attack “shows the barbaric nature of the Taliban.”

He said Afghan soldiers and security forces “have my personal assurance that we will continue to stand with them.”

On April 13, the US military dropped America’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb on ISIS targets in Afghanistan, killing 94 ISIS fighters. Meantime ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack last month on Kabul’s heavily fortified diplomatic quarter.

Security situation ‘a stalemate’

In February, Gen. Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee that leadership assesses “the current security situation in Afghanistan as a stalemate.”

He cited the government’s stability; Afghan military casualties; the influence of Pakistan, Russia and Iran; “the convergence” of various terror groups; the narcotics trade and corruption.

There are 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan and 6,000 troops from NATO and allied counties. Nicholson said the coalition faces “a shortfall of a few thousand troops” to break the “stalemate.”

Insurgent gains

From January 1 through November 12 last year, 6,785 Afghan national security forces were killed, according to the latest quarterly report of the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.

The agency’s analysis of information from US forces in Afghanistan “suggests that the security situation in Afghanistan has not improved this quarter.”

“The numbers of the Afghan security forces are decreasing, while both casualties and the number of districts under insurgent control or influence are increasing,” according to the January 30 report to Congress.

http://www.wtae.com/article/researchers-find-copy-of-declaration-of-independence/9544463

 

U.S. Defense Secretary in Afghanistan as U.S. Looks to Craft Policy

April 24, 2017

KABUL — U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Afghanistan on Monday as President Donald Trump’s administration looks to construct its strategy for the war-torn country, where resurgent Taliban militants continue to make gains.

Mattis is expected to meet Afghan officials and U.S. troops while in Kabul, but his arrival coincided with an announcement that his Afghan counterpart, Defence Minister Abdullah Habibi, and the Afghan army chief of staff had resigned after more than 140 Afghan soldiers were killed in a Taliban attack last week.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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Mattis in Afghanistan to discuss war needs

By Robert Burns

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived unannounced in Afghanistan on Monday to assess America’s longest war as the Trump administration weighs sending more troops.

Kabul was the final stop on a six-nation, weeklong tour Mattis said was intended to bolster relations with allies and partners and to get an update on the stalemated conflict in Afghanistan. He is the first member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to visit Afghanistan.

Gen. John Nicholson, the top American commander in Kabul, recently told Congress that he needs a few thousand more troops to keep Afghan security forces on track to eventually handling the Taliban insurgency on their own.

As part of the administration’s review of Afghan policy, Trump’s national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, visited Kabul last week to consult with Nicholson and with Afghan officials.

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Haneef Atmar, national security adviser to the president of Afghanistan, welcomes Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the U.S. National Security Adviser, to talks in Kabul about the country’s security situation, Sunday, April 16, 2017.  NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO THE AFGHAN PRESIDENT, VIA TWITTER

McMaster said in a TV interview after returning to Washington that the U.S. in recent years has scaled back its military effort against the Taliban. “Our enemy sensed that and they have redoubled their efforts, and it’s time for us, alongside our Afghan partners, to respond,” he said.

Among the questions facing the administration is how to maintain pressure on a resilient Taliban and keep up counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan without prolonging a stalemate that is costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars a year.

The war began in October 2001. The U.S. has about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan. They ended their combat mission against the Taliban in 2014 but are increasingly involved in backing up Afghan forces on the battlefield.

Mattis was visiting just days after a bloody Taliban attack that killed more than 100 Afghans on a base in the country’s north. The Taliban also controls key parts of Helmand province in the south. Officials say nearly a dozen of the attackers wore army uniforms and rode in military vehicles, raising concerns of help from inside the compound.

Afghan officials said earlier that the country’s army chief and the defense minister resigned following the weekend Taliban attack. The officials said that President Ashraf Ghani accepted the resignations on Monday. It was not immediately clear who would replace Defense Minister Abdullah Habibi and Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim.

Two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The president’s official Twitter account also confirmed the resignations.

In addition to the Taliban insurgency, Afghanistan also is fighting to extinguish a small but troublesome presence in Nangarhar province of militants affiliated with the Islamic State group.

Two weeks ago, Nicholson created a stir by ordering an attack on an IS stronghold in Nangarhar using the military’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb, the so-called “mother of all bombs.”

Mattis has declined to disclose details of damage done by that bombing, which former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called an “atrocity.”

Philippines: Islamic Insurgents Behead Kidnapped Soldier — Abu Sayyaf is notorious for kidnappings, beheadings and deadly bombings

April 24, 2017
The Abu Sayyaf is notorious for kidnappings, beheadings and deadly bombings. Its leaders have also pledged allegiance to Islamic State gunmen in Iraq and Syria. File

3 Abus killed in Bohol

MANILA, Philippines –  The terror group Abu Sayyaf beheaded another one of its captives, a soldier in Patikul, Sulu, the military said yesterday.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, confirmed that Staff Sgt. Anni Siraji was beheaded three days after he was kidnapped in Barangay Igasan.

Sobejana told ABS-CBN that troops found Siraji’s severed head and body in the village of Taglibis, Upper Patikul early yesterday.

Siraji, a former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighter integrated into the Army, was snatched by seven suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen on Thursday morning.

The military said the soldier, who was unarmed, was traveling to Barangay Igasan in Patikul when the militants snatched him at gunpoint.

Siraji, a native of Sulu, had been helping the government in the peace and development efforts in the province.

The kidnapping of Siraji came after the bandit group beheaded Filipino sailor Noel Besconde earlier this month.

The beheadings occurred while the military  focused on hunting down the Abu Sayyaf gunmen who went to Bohol.

After a massive manhunt, government forces killed at least four suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits since Saturday in Bohol where troops had foiled possible kidnapping and bombing plots by extremists earlier this April.

Hours after Joselito Melloria, alias Abu Alih, was killed Saturday, three more suspected bandits were killed by troops in Barangay Bacani, Clarin town yesterday.

Officials have yet to verify the names of the three dead militants who were reportedly armed with M16 and M14 rifles.

The regional military command said local officials decided to bury the four slain bandits in a mass grave yesterday. Melloria’s body was placed in a white casket while the three still unidentified gunmen were buried in body bags.

Melloria was killed in a gun battle with about seven militants near Clarin. His companions fled and three of them were later killed by troops, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Año said.

“They dared to go to an unfamiliar area and they couldn’t find any support from villagers in Bohol,” Año said, adding that troops were continuing to hunt down the remaining militants.

Following the killing of the four bandits over the weekend, President Duterte yesterday ordered the military “not to sleep” until they finish off the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol as he warned the terrorists that he can replicate their acts  “50 times over.”

“Do not sleep. Kill them. I want them dead. Do not deliver them to me alive,” Duterte said during the opening of the Palarong Pambansa in Antique.

“The terrorists cut other people’s throat, slit it. They are animals. If you want me to be an animal, I am used to that. We are alike. I can dish out more than what you can 50 times over,” he added.

Duterte reiterated his previous warning to terrorists that he can eat them alive.

“Just give me vinegar and salt, I’ll eat you. That’s true, and I’ll eat his liver,” he said.

The military said the slain suspects were stragglers from a boatload of Abu Sayyaf gunmen who sailed to Bohol early this month as part of a plot to kidnap tourists.

The raid had signaled an escalation of the kidnapping threat from the Abu Sayyaf, who are based in Sulu and Basilan and also blamed for beheadings and deadly bombings.

“Terrorism has no place in the Visayas (central) region,” said a joint military and police statement announcing the death of the four Abu Sayyaf gunmen.

Five other Abu Sayyaf militants had been killed in earlier clashes in Inabanga town on April 11, where three soldiers and a policeman were also slain.

Among those killed was Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Muamar Askali, alias Abu Rami, who was reportedly involved in the beheading of two Canadians last year and a German hostage last February.

The military said they had been pursuing up to seven of the remaining gunmen.

Three suspects were still on the run after the latest clashes, officials said.

“The remaining lawless armed elements who are strangers in the area have nowhere to go,” the joint statement said.

“It could just be a matter of time before we can say that the threat (on Bohol) is totally eliminated,” they said.

Lockdown

While he claimed to have no plans to resort to such drastic action, Duterte said he would put an end to all the problems in Mindanao if he declares martial law.

“I will end all problems whether it is terrorism or land boundary row or family feud. I will end all of them. I will not leave any problem behind,” he said.

“If I declare martial law, I’ll ask the Navy to blast even the people. To the terrorists in Mindanao, I’m warning you I hate it. I do not want it but I said do not force me to do it because it will be a sad day for all of us.”

Duterte said Mindanao will change if he decides to impose military rule in the island.

“I will lock down Mindanao. I will put an end to the problem, even the people there,” he said. 

Duterte earlier warned he might “invade” Jolo, the island province stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf to “finish the game.”

When asked when he thinks the Abu Sayyaf menace in Bohol would end, Duterte had said invading Jolo, or locking down Mindanao, might be “the last option” if the whole nation is placed in jeopardy by the bandit group.

The Abu Sayyaf is notorious for kidnappings, beheadings and deadly bombings. Its leaders have also pledged allegiance to Islamic State gunmen in Iraq and Syria.

The fighting in Bohol caused a scare for the country’s tourism industry.

The clashes occurred as the Philippines prepared to host the ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings on April 26 to 29.

The Philippines alerted Western governments after the military said it got wind of an Abu Sayyaf plan to raid tourist resorts in Central Visayas during the Easter holidays and kidnap up to a dozen tourists.

This led to travel warnings being issued by the United States, Australia and other countries.

President Duterte had offered a P1-million bounty for each Abu Sayyaf bandit captured dead or alive. He said he preferred them dead.

Over the past year the Abu Sayyaf has been expanding its activities from southern Mindanao where the military has been waging an offensive in recent months.

Its gunmen have been boarding commercial and fishing vessels and abducting dozens of foreign crew members, ransoming some of them off for huge sums of money. – Michael Punongbayan,  Alexis Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Gilbert Bayoran, Christell Fatima Tudtud and Rolex Elmido/The Freeman, AFP

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/04/24/1693418/sayyaf-beheads-kidnapped-soldier

Questions remain over Champs-Élysées attacker’s links to IS group

April 22, 2017

AFP

© PHILIPPE LOPEZ, AFP | People lay flowers at the site of a shooting on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on April 21, 2017, a day after a gunman opened fire on police on the avenue, killing a policeman.

Text by Ségolène ALLEMANDOU

Latest update : 2017-04-22

Two days after an attack on Paris’s Champs-Élysées that left one police officer dead, questions remain about the shooter, his ties to terrorism, and whether he had accomplices.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility about two hours after the attack, which took place on Paris’s Champs-Élysées avenue. A statement published by the terrorist group’s progaganda agency identified the attacker as “Abu Yussef the Belgian”.

However, French authorities on Friday identified the attacker, who was killed in the assault, as Karim Cheurfi, a 39-year-old French citizen who lived in the suburbs of Paris and was known to French authorities.

The discrepancy in the reports led to speculation about who really carried out the attack. Was there a second attacker? If so, were they on the loose?

No second attacker is known

Rumours had spread on Twitter Thursday night that a Belgian man named Youssouf el Osri, who was wanted by Belgian authorities, had travelled on a Thalys train to Paris. Some Twitter users implied that he was linked to the Champs-Élysées attack. Was this the “Yussef the Belgian” that the IS group later referred to?

El Osri gave himself up at a police station in Antwerp, Belgium, Friday morning. The Belgian public prosecutor said that on Thursday evening el Osri had been in Belgium — not in Paris — and “ruled out” any link between him and the Champs-Élysées attack.

Terror suspect sought in wake of Champs Elysées attack has turned himself to police – AFP.

The Belgian prosecutor offered two theories. Either “there really is an ‘Abu Yussef the Belgian’ – and we are trying to identify who this is – or the IS group took advantage of the fact that the man from Antwerp was already in the news, especially in France, in order to name him when they claimed responsibility for the attack”.

Or did the IS group make a mistake? Their claim of responsibility was unusual for two reasons. Firstly, the Islamist group rarely names attackers, instead referring to them as “soldiers of IS”. Secondly, the speed with which they put out their statement was also unusual. The IS group more typically claims responsibility 12 to 48 hours after an attack.

Radicalised or not?

Did Karim Cheurfi have any other links to radical Islam? Cheurfi comes from Seine-Saint-Denis, to the northeast of Paris, and last lived in Chelles, a suburb 18 kilometres east of Paris.

He spent 14 years in prison on three counts of attempted murder, including of police officers, but “didn’t show any signs of radicalisation or proselytising”, according to Paris Prosecutor François Molins.

Reuters reported Thursday night that Cheurfi was on France’s official Fiche S watch list of those being monitored by security services, but this turned out to be false.

Cheurfi’s neighbours said that he nourished a “hatred” of the police, and that he was “suffering psychologically”. French anti-terrorism researchers knew as early as the beginning of 2016 that Cheurfi was trying to buy weapons, and that he wanted to kill police in revenge for children killed in Syria.

However, Cheurfi’s name did appear on a list of some 15,000 “radicalised” people, kept by France’s domestic intelligence agency (Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure or DGSI).

The note

The other link between Cheurfi and the IS group is a handwritten note praising the terrorist group found next to Cheurfi’s body after he was killed by the police. But the IS group has encouraged would-be attackers to leave such notes to enable the group to claim responsibility.

Three men close to Cheurfi who are currently being held by police for questioning may provide more answers. One of the men met Cheurfi in prison and has an extensive criminal record.

This article was translated from the original in French

Taliban attack underlines shortcomings in Afghan security

April 22, 2017

Taliban militants have attacked an army compound in northern Afghanistan, killing more than 140 army personnel. Some say intelligence failures and other mistakes by Kabul and its foreign allies led to the incident.

Afghanistan Angriff der Taliban auf eine Militärbasis in Masar-i-Scharif (Reuters/A. Usyan)

Thirteen Taliban militants disguised in military uniforms launched an attack on the Afghan army base in northern Balkh province on Friday, storming it in three military vehicles. They killed most of their victims in a mosque inside the compound where army personnel were at Friday prayers.

“They are getting closer to our building and shooting anyone they see,” a medical staffer of the 209th Shaheen Military Corps told DW only minutes after the attack on the army base had started.

“Pray for me,” the medical staffer begged in his telephone conversation with DW, as if those were his last words.

DW was able to establish contact with the corps medical staffer only one hour after the first call. Fortunately, he was alive and in a secure location, but had very sad news.

“More then 135 are killed and many more wounded,” he said.

Karte Afghanistan Mazar-i-Sharif Englisch (DW)

Three-hour rampage

The number of those killed in the attack rose to 143 later, with more than 160 others wounded. All the assailants were also killed after going on a rampage for more than three hours at the base.

The base in Mazar-i-Sharif is the command center for northern Afghanistan. A contingent from the German army is based there as well, but no German soldiers were reported injured in the attack.

“Many of my friends, people who worked with me, are among the casualties,” said the medical staffer, who did not want to be named as he was not authorized to talk to media.

This is the second such attack on a secure facility in recent months. In early March, “Islamic State” (IS) militants attacked a military hospital in Kabul and killed 49 people, leaving 76 wounded. The actual number of those killed in the Kabul attack is also said to be much higher than the numbers given by the Afghan government.

Afghanistan Taliban-Angriff auf Militärlager in Mazar-i-Sharif (Getty Images/AFP/F. Usyan)Fighting went on for some three hours before the attackers were killed

Taliban boosts attacks in northern Afghan provinces

Such a large-scale attack in Balkh province would have been considered very unlikely only a few years back. Northern provinces – Balkh in particular – were considered the safest in Afghanistan until 2010. But now Kunduz, Balkh, Faryab, Sari Pul and Baghlan – all in the north – have become a new battlefield between Afghan security forces and its armed opponents.

Read more on the situation in northern Afghanistan here.

The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, has boosted its presence in several districts and is threatening to launch attacks on provincial capitals. The group was even able to briefly take control of northern Kunduz city in 2015 and for a second time a year later.

“The government controls Kunduz city and district centers but the Taliban are in charge of the rest of the province,” Abdul Ahad Turyal Kakar, a member of the provincial council in Kunduz, told DW.

The situation in Balkh is not as dire as in Kunduz, but Friday’s attack highlights the Taliban’s ability to launch a heavy attack on one of the most heavily guarded compounds in the safest northern Afghan province.

Afghanistan Taliban Kämpfer in der Ghazni Provinz (Reuters)Taliban militants are stepping up attacks in Afghanistan’s north

Foreign terrorists on the move

The Taliban is not the only worry for locals in Afghanistan’s north: Locals and officials claim that fighters from IS and other foreign terrorist groups are becoming more active.

Yunus Fakur, a Kabul-based analyst, believes the situation in the north is also a result of the mistakes Kabul and its international allies have made in the past decade. He said that besides the Taliban and foreign insurgent groups, local commanders that are heavily armed and who fear irrelevance also pose a threat to the region.

“Post 2001, many local commanders in (the) Afghan north remained heavily armed, and whenever they feel that they don’t get the support they need from Kabul, they join hands with the Taliban and other groups to ensure their relevance,” Fakur told DW.

Some military experts, on the other hand, stressed that Friday’s attack happened only because of intelligence failures.

“If the intelligence community fails, there is not much soldiers on the ground can do,” retired Afghan general Atiqullah Amarkhail told DW.

Amarkhail stressed the government should curb corruption, improve intelligence organizations and hold local officials accountable to prevent such incidents in the future.

http://www.dw.com/en/taliban-attack-underlines-shortcomings-in-afghan-security/a-38543263

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Italy’s prime minister: Don’t let Africa become ‘second Chinese continent’

April 22, 2017
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni urged western officials on Thursday not to let China overrun Africa, and said more needs to be done by America and Europe to help the continent develop.”We can’t consider Africa as the second Chinese continent,” Gentiloni said Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
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“I have nothing against the fact that China is investing a lot in Africa. I am only saying that we should do perhaps our part more strongly.”
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Italy has a more direct interest in African stability than most European nations, as its proximity to North Africa has made it a gateway for hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing north from the continent. Gentiloni wants the G-7 — a forum of the leading industrialized western democracies — to expand foreign aid and trade agreements with struggling African nations, a move that could have significant humanitarian and foreign policy implications.

“We can’t forget this continent,” he said. “They will have 2 billion inhabitants in 2040, and 2040 is tomorrow. And they have enormous resources, but a very complicated level of services. There are enormous potentialities. For example, renewable energies in Africa, is agriculture, food security.”

That could be a point of disagreement between Gentiloni and President Trump, who has proposed major cuts to the State Department and foreign aid budgets. “I think clearly, the level of spending that the State Department has been undertaking in the past – and particularly in this past year – is simply not sustainable,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in March.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed deep skepticism of those cuts, however, with some pointing out a particular need to assist African countries suffering from famines of biblical proportions. “[M]illions of innocent people will starve to death without concerted and urgent action in the coming weeks,” a group of ten senators wrote to Tillerson last month.

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Paris attack to have ‘big effect’ on presidential poll: Trump

April 21, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | A French soldier patrols on the Champs Elysees in Paris after a shooting on April 20, 2017
WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump on Friday said a deadly attack in Paris claimed by the Islamic State group “will have a big effect” on France’s upcoming presidential vote.”Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!”

Trump tweeted hours after a gunman shot dead a policeman and wounded two others on the world-famous Champs Elysees boulevard.

The attack rocked France’s presidential race Friday with just days to go before one of the closest races in recent memory.

Bloodshed had long been feared ahead of Sunday’s first round of voting after a string of jihadist atrocities since 2015, and shooting on the world-renowned boulevard forced security to the top of the agenda in the campaign.

Three of the four frontrunners called off campaign events planned for Friday in the wake of the attack.

France is in a state of emergency and at its highest possible level of alert since a string of terror attacks that began in 2015, which have killed over 230 people.

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Paris gunman who killed police officer known to security forces — Spent 15 years in prison for shooting officers — On watch list after recent arrest — Informants last month said he was ‘seeking to obtain weapons to kill policemen’

April 21, 2017

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Paris Police secure the Champs-Elysees after one police officer was killed and another wounded in a shooting in Paris, France, April 20, 2017. REUTERS – Christian Hartmann

French security services are today facing troubling questions as to how they failed to prevent an ISIS gunman from slaughtering one policeman and wounding two other officers when he was already on a terror watch list.

Champs-Elysees killer Karim Cheurfi had been detained only last month, it has emerged, after informants said he was ‘seeking to obtain weapons to kill policemen’.

But the 39-year-old, who used the war name ‘Abu Yousuf the Belgian’, had to be released because anti-terror police did not have enough evidence to hold him.

The homegrown fanatic, who officials confirmed was a French national despite his nickname, had also been released early from prison – where it is thought he was radicalised – having been jailed for 20 years in 2005 for trying to kill two policemen.

Cheurfi opened fire five times with a .38 revolver following a car chase in 2001, leaving the officers and a third victim wounded.

He had fled on foot before the driver of the other car and the passenger – a trainee police officer – caught up with him. He fired twice, seriously wounding both men in the chest. All three survived the attack in Roissy-en-Brie, in the Seine-et-Marne department of northern France.

Cheurfi was arrested and placed in custody under a false name. Two days later he seriously injured an officer who was taking him out of his cell, seizing his weapon and firing several times.

Two French officials said this morning that Cheurfi was detained in February for threatening police before being freed, although a warrant for his arrest is dated March 6.

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The killer was known to security services in France, according to reports this evening

The killer was known to security services in France, according to reports this evening

One police officer was shot dead and two more seriously injured by a gunman carrying a Kalashnikov in Paris this evening

One police officer was shot dead and two more seriously injured by a gunman carrying a Kalashnikov in Paris this evening

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Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for France's Interior Ministry, confirmed that one police officer was dead and two seriously wounded following the 'targeted attack'

Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for France’s Interior Ministry, confirmed that one police officer was dead and two seriously wounded following the ‘targeted attack’

The arrest warrant issued for Cheurfi before he was detained at the beginning of last month

The arrest warrant issued for Cheurfi before he was detained at the beginning of last month

The ISIS killer is believed to have been released in 2016 following the triple assassination attempt, at a time when he was known for drug offences, car theft and robbery.

Despite having the nickname ‘Abu Yousuf the Belgian’, Cheurfi was a French national, Belgian interior minister Jan Jambon told public broadcaster VRT.

It has been claimed Cheurfi was making dark threats on messaging app Telegram before launching his attack on the Champs Elysees in Paris last night.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the atrocity, which was carried out with a Kalashnikov weapon. A female foreign terrorist was also injured when a bullet ricocheted off the police car before Cheurfi was shot dead.

The fatal incident unfolded as presidential candidates, including National Front party leader Marine Le Pen, debated on a TV show nearby before Sunday’s election.

French President Francois Hollande said he was convinced it was a terrorist attack, adding that he would hold a security cabinet meeting this morning.

The French-born killer lived in Chelles, a commuter town close to Paris in the Seine-et-Marne department.

In 2003 he was sentenced to 20 years inside a high security prison following the attacks in Roissy-en-Brie, also in Seine-et-Marne.

But he was let out early following an appeal ruling, giving him the freedom to carry out tonight’s attack.

Gunshot-like noise forces BBC crew in Paris to run off the street

WHAT IS TELEGRAM? THE APP ALLEGEDLY USED BY KILLER

The app makers have boasted of security settings which keep messages safe from 'snoopers'

The app makers have boasted of security settings which keep messages safe from ‘snoopers’

Telegram is a messaging app which focuses on speed and security, according to its makers.

It allows users to send messages, photos, videos and files to groups of up to 5,000 and broadcast to unlimited audiences.

A statement on Telegram’s website about security says: ‘Big internet companies like Facebook or Google have effectively hijacked the privacy discourse in the recent years.

‘Their marketers managed to convince the public that the most important things about privacy are superficial tools that allow hiding your public posts or your profile pictures from the people around you. Adding these superficial tools enables companies to calm down the public and change nothing in how they are turning over private data to marketers and other third parties.

‘At Telegram we think that the two most important components of Internet privacy should be instead:

  • Protecting your private conversations from snooping third parties, such as officials, employers, etc
  • Protecting your personal data from third parties, such as marketers, advertisers, etc

‘This is what everybody should care about, and these are some of our top priorities. Telegram’s aim is to create a truly free messenger, without the usual caveats. This means that instead of diverting public attention with low-impact settings, we can afford to focus on the real privacy issues that exist in the modern world.’

Cheurfi was the registered keeper of the grey Audi used in last night’s attack. A raid on his home later found guns and ammunition, intelligence sources said.

He had targeted a parked patrol car full of traffic control officers working to the Paris prefecture.

The officer killed was at the wheel and was having an evening snack at the time of his death.

French television network BFMTV reports that Cheurfi had used the Telegram internet messaging service, which extremists have previously been claimed to favour because of its encryption.

Police are searching the home of the shooter in eastern Paris, and following the attack French presidential candidate Francois Fillon has called for the election campaign to be suspended.

Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for France’s Interior Ministry, confirmed that one police officer was dead and two seriously wounded following the ‘targeted attack’.

He said a ‘car pulled up just after 9pm’ next to a police patrol car which was parked up on the busy avenue.

Police search the car reportedly used in Paris attack

Intelligence sources said the dead assailant was a known radical on a so-called S-file, for 'State-security'

Intelligence sources said the dead assailant was a known radical on a so-called S-file, for ‘State-security’

Police officers searched the home of the suspected gunman in east Paris following the attack in the capital on Thursday 

Police officers searched the home of the suspected gunman in east Paris following the attack in the capital on Thursday

Officers searched the home of the suspected gunman on Thursday evening after they travelled to his home in the east part of the capital 

Officers searched the home of the suspected gunman on Thursday evening after they travelled to his home in the east part of the capital

A man jumped out with a weapon and started firing indiscriminately into the police vehicle, hitting the unidentified officer who died directly in the head.

The assailant then ran off, pursued by other officers. Two of them were wounded as they killed him.

Mr Brandet said ‘all lines of investigation were being pursued’, while intelligence sources said the dead assailant was a known radical on a so-called S-file, for ‘State-security’.

This means he would have been under surveillance, because he was a known risk to the country.

Mr Brandet later said a possible accomplice had turned himself over to Belgian police, but it was ‘too early to say’ if he had played a significant part in the attack.

President Hollande, speaking from the Elysee palace close to the scene of the shooting, said: ‘A national tribute will be paid to this policeman who was killed in such a cowardly way.

‘A passerby was hit. The assailant was neutralised by other police officers. The entire area has been cordoned off. The people present have been evacuated.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4430542/Paris-killer-talked-wanting-kill-Telegram.html#ixzz4esXKdx3z
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Updated 9:35 PM ET, Thu April 20, 2017

Paris (CNN)  A man who killed a police officer on the Champs-Elysees Thursday night was known to French security services for radical Islamist activities and had shot and wounded an officer in the past, a source close to the investigation told CNN.

The suspect, who was shot dead by French police, was the subject of a “Fiche S” surveillance file and was on the radar of the French domestic security service DGSI, the source said.
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The man was a French national who shot two officers in 2001 after being stopped by a police car, the source said. He was taken into custody but while being questioned grabbed another officer’s gun and shot him three times, the source said. He was convicted in that attack and had a criminal record because of involvement in violent robberies, the source said.
The source said French investigators now believe this was in all likelihood a terrorist attack. They believe there was just one attacker, and the danger is likely over, the source said.
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ISIS issued a statement saying an Islamic State “fighter” carried out the attack. The ISIS claim comes via a statement released by the group’s media wing, Amaq. The ISIS statement identified the attacker and called him “the Belgian.” CNN has not confirmed the attacker’s association with Belgium.
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Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said he will reveal the shooter’s identity on Friday at a news conference. He said officers are searching the man’s residence in Chelles, Seine-et-Marne, a Paris suburb, and are trying to determine if he had accomplices.
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The shooting has not officially been declared a terrorist act but anti-terrorist forces are leading the investigation, French President Francois Hollande said.
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“The people who were present have been evacuated and we are convinced that the leads which point us to this case, and which will allow us to uncover the truth, are of a terrorist nature,” he said.

Elections on Sunday

The shooting happened about 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) when a car stopped at 102 Champs-Elysees in front of a police van, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre Henry Brandet said.
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A man emerged from the car and opened fire on the van with an “automatic weapon,” killing one officer instantly, he said. The man “then ran away, managing to shoot and wound two other policemen. Other policemen engaged and shot and killed the attacker,” Brandet said.
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The slain officer was 30 years old, Molin said. One of the wounded officers was critically injured but is improving, he said. Also wounded was a female tourist.
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The shooting shut down the famed Champs-Elysees, one of Paris’ top tourist attractions and home to the iconic Arc de Triomphe monument. The avenue was clear of residents and tourists but teeming with security officers Thursday night.
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It comes three days before French voters start elections for a new president. Candidates went ahead with a debate Thursday night.
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France has been in a state of emergency since the 2015 Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead. Parliament voted in December to extend the extraordinary provisions to ensure the protection of upcoming presidential and general elections.
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Security has been tight because of the vote. Just two days ago French authorities arrested two men in Marseille who were allegedly planning an attack in a run-up to the election.
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Police officers block access to the Champs-Elysees.

At least three underground train stations of the Paris Metro — the Champs-Elysees-Clemenceau, George V and F. Roosevelt stations — have been “closed off” near the site of the police operation on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, BFMTV reported.

Trump: ‘What can you say?’

Paris resident Daoud Kal, 29, said he was walking in the area near a metro station when he heard four to five shots. He looked around, but couldn’t identify where the shots were coming from. People panicked and ran away from the scene and he joined them.
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The CNN Paris bureau is on this street and staffers reported hearing a dozen shots. At least 20 police vehicles were seen on the street.
Officers could be seen forcibly removing innocent citizens from the area as they attempted to get them to safety.
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President Donald Trump, speaking at a news conference in Washington with the visiting Italian Prime Minister, offered condolences to the people of France after the shooting, saying it “looks like another terrorist attack.”
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“What can you say? It never ends,” the President said.
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The Champs-Elysees is a main road lined with restaurants, cafes, exclusive designer boutiques and tourist shops. At one end is the Arc de Triomphe, surrounded by a several-lane-wide roundabout, and the other end stops at the Place de la Concorde, known for its obelisk monument.
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The presidential palace, the Elysee, is a few blocks away.
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French police tweeted, “Police intervention underway in the area of the #ChampsElysees avoid the sector and follow the instructions of the police forces.”

French candidates respond

The US State Department put out a cautionary tweet, saying: “If you’re in #Paris, monitor local news. #ChampsElysees has been closed. Authorities are telling people to avoid the area after a shooting.”

One police officer was killed in a shooting on the Champs-Elysees.

The shooting comes three days before French general elections and Paris was already in a state of heightened alert. French politicians immediately reacted on social media.
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French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen tweeted, “My emotions and solidarity for the police, once again targeted.”
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Conservative French presidential hopeful Francois Fillon tweeted, “Paying homage to police who give their lives to protect ours, #ChampsElysees.”
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Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve tweeted: “Paying homage to the policeman killed on the champs elysees. Thoughts are with his family. Solidarity with his injured colleagues and those close to them.”
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Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy tweeted: “To our law enforcement: support, strength, courage. They are paying again a heavy price. Our Nation’s tribute must be total NS”
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Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted: “We won’t give up, not bow and remain united facing these odious and insidious threats that weigh on our cities.”
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She also extended a message of solidarity and thanks to the retailers on the Champs-Elysees who gave people shelter during the attack.
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This developing story has been updated to clarify details about the attacker’s nationality.
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http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/20/europe/champs-elyses-in-paris-closed/

‘Defeat ISIS and go home’: Trump rejects US role in Libya nation-building — While Mediterranean is awash with refugees

April 21, 2017

Russia Today (RT)

'Defeat ISIS and go home': Trump rejects US role in Libya nation-building
President Donald Trump does not see a US role in helping its European allies build a government in Libya. Instead, he told reporters, he wants to defeat Islamic State, after which the US can focus on domestic issues.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, DC on Thursday, following a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Trump contradicted his guest’s assessment that the US role in stabilizing Libya would be critical, arguing the US has “enough roles… everywhere.”

“I do not see a role in Libya,” Trump said. “I do see a role in getting rid of ISIS. We’re being very effective in that regard.”

‘US has enough roles’: not interested in nation-building

Read more: https://on.rt.com/89ft 

“We are effectively ridding the world of ISIS. I see that as the primary role, and that’s what we’re going to do – whether it’s in Iraq, or in Libya, or anywhere else.  And that role will come to an end at a certain point, and we’ll be able to go back home and rebuild our country, which is what I want to do,” Trump concluded.

Gentiloni had just finished making a case for US involvement in stabilizing Libya by helping the internationally recognized government in Tripoli establish control over the country’s entire territory.

READ MORE: Chaos unrelenting: 6 years since Arab Spring started, no democracy in sight for Libya

“We need a stable and unified Libya,” the Italian PM said, noting that US Special Forces had taken part in defeating Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in the port city of Sirte, but that solving the problem of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Italy and beyond would require nation-building. “The US role in this is critical.”

Read more

© Reuters

Trump’s rejection of that role is at odds with his recent actions – launching a missile strike in Syria, escalating tensions with North Korea, and authorizing a review of the nuclear deal with Iran – but in line with his promise during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“We’re getting out of the nation-building business,” Trump announced on April 27 of last year, describing his foreign policy as “America first.”

Libya collapsed into chaos and anarchy in 2011, after the Obama administration backed a rebellion in Benghazi against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the country’s leader since 1969. Using UN Security Council resolution 1973, authorizing a no-fly zone in the north of the country, NATO began air strikes in support of the rebels. In October 2011, one such strike hit a convoy carrying Gaddafi, who was then captured and killed by the rebels.

As Libya collapsed, neighboring countries of Tunisia, Egypt and Mali had to deal with a surge in terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, human traffickers exploited tens of thousands of African migrants, who try to reach Italian shores in rickety boats. In a recent report, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) spoke of slave markets in the south of Libya, where Africans are traded for as little as $200.

https://www.rt.com/usa/385481-trump-rejects-nation-building-libya/

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More than 8,000 migrants rescued in Mediterranean and brought to Italy over Easter long weekend

Migrants try to stay afloat after falling off their rubber dinghy during a rescue operation by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship in the central Mediterranean 

Migrants try to stay afloat after falling off their rubber dinghy during a rescue operation by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship in the central Mediterranean  CREDIT: DARRIN ZAMMIT LUPI/REUTERS

More than 8,000 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean and brought to Italy in the space of just three days over Easter, as Italian politicians denounced the exodus as a racket that should be stopped as quickly as possible.

Nearly 8,500 asylum seekers were saved from dinghies and ex-fishing boats by the Italian coast guard, Frontex, the EU’s border patrol agency, and humanitarian NGOs operating rescue vessels.

It was a huge number, even by the standards of the relentless flow of migrants and refugees who regularly depart from the coast of Libyawith the hope of reaching Europe.

The bodies of 13 migrants were recovered, including that of an eight-year-old boy who drowned. The spate of operations boosted the total number of rescues in the central Mediterranean so far this year to nearly 36,000.

Migrants on a wooden boat are rescued by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) in the central Mediterranean
Migrants on a wooden boat are rescued by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) in the central Mediterranean CREDIT: DARRIN ZAMMIT LUPI/REUTERS

The departure of so many boats was prompted in part by calm weather conditions, but also by concern among smugglers that EU efforts to beef up the Libyan coast guard may soon make it harder for them to operate.

“When 8,500 illegal immigrants arrive in three days, it’s clear that it is all organised,” said Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Right-wing Northern League political party.

Mr Salvini said he intended to sue the Italian government, as well as NGOs which rescue migrants at sea, for “favouring clandestine immigration”.  The Northern League leader said: “It is quite clear that clandestine immigration is being organised. So we’ve decided to sue the government and the commanders of the navy and coast guard”.

If arrivals continue at this pace, 2017 could be a record year for migrants reaching Italy, outstripping even last year, when 181,000 were rescued and brought to Italian shores. Rescuing, processing and accommodating the asylum seekers is likely to cost the government 4.6 billion euros – a billion euros more than in 2016.

Migrants in a rubber dinghy hang on to ropes beneath the bow of the Panama-registered ship Tuna 1, after some migrants on another rubber dinghy drowned in the central Mediterranean in international waters off the coast of Libya
Migrants in a rubber dinghy hang on to ropes beneath the bow of the Panama-registered ship Tuna 1, after some migrants on another rubber dinghy drowned in the central Mediterranean in international waters off the coast of Libya CREDIT: DARREN ZAMMIT LUPI/REUTERS

The government says it has little choice but to rescue the migrants, but critics say that trafficking gangs in Libya have come to depend on Italian, EU and NGO vessels deployed in the Mediterranean as a free taxi service.

Smugglers launch boats packed with migrants from Libyan beaches with little fuel and cheap outboard engines, knowing full well that they are likely to be rescued once they reach international waters.

“Thousands more people who don’t have the right to come to Italy, reaching our shores,” said Maurizio Gasparri, an MP from Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-Right Forza Italia party. “A catastrophe, the fault of the (governing) Democratic Party.”

Paolo Romani, another MP from Forza Italia, accused the Italian, British, French and German NGOs operating in the Mediterranean of “incentivising human trafficking” – a charge that organisations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres strongly deny, arguing that migrants will try to reach Italy regardless.

The majority come from West African countries such as Mali, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Guinea, as well as from other countries such as Bangladesh. They are classed as economic migrants, rather than refugees fleeing conflict.

At least 900 migrants have died while trying to reach Europe by sea so far this year. The International Organisation of Migration reported earlier this month that growing numbers of African migrants passing through Libya are traded in what they call “slave markets” before being held for ransom, forced labour or sexual exploitation.

“So there’s a full-on economy of trafficking or trading in migrants who think they are going to a better life in Europe and end up effectively in a gulag of exploitation,” IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle told a briefing in Geneva.