Posts Tagged ‘Mali’

Mayor of the Brussels district of Molenbeek warned of suspected jihadists just one month before the Paris attacks

November 25, 2015

EC chief says Schengen is ‘comatose’ and warned euro may collapse without it, as Brussels emerges from four days of lockdown

A soldier patrols Place Stephanie – Stefaniaplein in Brussels  Photo: AFP/Getty

• Two still on the loose: Abdeslam, and new suspect Mohamed Abrini
• Mastermind Abaaoud planned to don suit to blend in and attack commercial centre
• Brussels reopens after lockdown

• US issues rare worldwide travel alert due to terror threats


Summary of events

• The Mayor of the Brussels district of Molenbeek received a list with the names of more than 80 suspected jihadists living in the area just one month before the Paris attacks. The New York Times reported that on this list attacks mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud, and the two brothers who took part – Brahim and Salah Abdeslam – who remains at large. Their apartment was just 100 metres from the Mayor’s office, and could be viewed from her window.

Brussels is coming back to life after four days of lockdown following the intelligence that there would be an “imminent” attack on the city. The metro is slowly reopening, as are schools and nurseries. Armed guard remains in place throughout the city, and it continues to be on Level 4 terror alert, meaning that an attack is imminent.

• Jean-Claude Juncker has admitted that Schengen is “comatose” and warned that the euro will collapse without it. The president of the European Commission was responding to parties such as Ukip who argue that Schengen has granted “free movement of jhad”.

• Germany contributing 650 soldiers to France’s Mali operation to grant them relief in their fight against Isil. Meanwhile, the French interior minister has confirmed that the climate change conference in next week Paris will go ahead, and said that more police officers had been drafted out to borders and to Le Bourget where it is taking place.

• Last night we learned that the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks Abaaoud returned to the Bataclan concert venue while a police operation to kill the remaining gunmen was still under way. This meant he was there minutes before President Hollande was in the vicinity.

• We also learned that police are searching for another man in connection with the Paris attacks. Mohammad Abrini, 30, Belgian of Moroccan origin, was seen by police on video footage at a car fuelling station in Ressons, a town north of Paris, on the day before the attacks. The Renault Clio the two were seen in was one of the cars used in the attacks. A Belgian police notice describes Abrini as “dangerous and probably armed”.


Eagles of Death Metal say they will finish the gig that the attackers interrupted

The drummer for Eagles of Death Metal, Julian Dorio, has said that he is “counting down the days until I get to finish that concert.”

He added that he was “forever changed” by the event: ‘To everyone who, in the face of unrelenting evil, went toe to toe using courage, compassion, and love as their weapons. You all are my heroes.”


Brussels highest terror alert to remain

Brussels’ top level terror alert is due to remain until at least next Monday. The Belgian federal prosecutor has prolonged the detention of Abraimi Lazez, a Moroccan from Molenbeek, for one month.

He is accused of taking part in “terrorist murders” and helping Abdelsam escape. The prosecutor said yesterday that traces of blood and two pilots were found in his car.

Ali O., a Frenchman also from Molenbeek, is also suspected of helping Abdeslam escape, and will appear in court on Friday.

The Belgian government has ordered health and emergency services to take precautionary measures to ensure their services aren’t infiltrated by extremists.

Two Belgian Army soldiers patrol in a shopping street in the center of Brussels on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015.Two Belgian Army soldiers patrol in a shopping street in the centre of Brussels   Photo: AP

“We have to be sure that we can see everybody has an identification badge,” Health Minister Maggie De Block told VRT network. “When ambulances arrive, we have to see from where they come, who is in it. Really as a precaution.”

Meanwhile, Mohamed Adbeslam, the brother of terrorists Salah and Brahim, confirms he met Mohamed Abrini, the man now wanted by Belgian over the massacres – and claims he has received messages of support from the families of victims.


He insists he had no idea his brothers were planning the atrocity, and has said they told their mother they were going skiing before the attack.

“Fortunately, there are many people who believe me and I get a lot of messages of support, from a lot of French in particular, families of victims,” ​ ​he said.

“I totally understand their anger against me and my family. But I also want to tell them that, while unfortunately we did nothing, we did not want what happened in Paris.”


Fly the tricolore on French day of mourning on Friday

President Francois Hollande called for French citizens to adorn their homes with flags during the day of mourning for victims of the Paris attacks.

Friday will be a day of homage to the victims, during which the president said citizens “could participate by decorating their homes with the blue, white and red flag,” government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said.


Brussels slowly comes back to life

Brussels is creaking back to life to life today, writes Matthew Holehouse.

The terrorist threat level remains Four, meaning an attack is imminent.

A Belgian soldier patrols at the Central Station subway stop in BrusselsA Belgian soldier patrols at the Central Station subway stop in Brussels  Photo: Reuters

But most of the tube lines are running, and 300 police have been deployed to guard schools, which are open.

The ministry of health has warned the emergency services to be on guard for attacks.

Belgian soldiers patrol at the Central Station subway stop in BrusselsBelgian soldiers patrol at the Central Station subway stop in Brussels  Photo: Reuters

It has also told fire stations to secure their equipment to prevent it being stolen, allowing terrorists to pose as fire officers.


Molenbeek mayor received list of 80 suspected jihadist residents one month before attacks

The Mayor of the Brussels district of Molenbeek received a list with the names of more than 80 suspected jihadists living in the area just one month before the Paris attacks.

The New York Times reports that the list included the two brothers who took part in the attacks – Brahim and Salah Abdeslam – as well as Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind.

He was a Molenbeek resident who left for Syria to join the so-called Islamic State in 2014.

Mayor of Molenbeek, Françoise Schepmans, said in an interview: “What was I supposed to do about them? It is not my job to track possible terrorists”.

That “is the responsibility of the federal police”, she said.

The brothers lived very close to Ms Schepmans’ office: their flat was just 100m from City Hall, visible from her office.

A third brother, Mohamed Abdeslam, worked for the mayor’s administration.

The New York Times also reports that the mayor of the eastern Belgian town of Verviers, Muriel Targnion, was given a similar list of 34 residents who authorities suspected as jihadists.

But that was all that was on the list: “All I was given was a number,” she said. “No names, no addresses. Nothing.”


Paris St Germain to wear ‘Je Suis Paris’ shirts


Juncker: Schengen is ‘comatose’ and euro will collapse without it

Jean-Claude Juncker has admitted that Schengen is “comatose” and warned that the euro will collapse without it, wites Matthew Holehouse.

Speaking in the European parliament in session to mark the Paris attacks, the president of the European Commission responded to parties such as Ukip who argue that Schengen has granted “free movement of jhad”.

“Please don’t get things mixed up. We should not exploit in an absurd manner these tragic events,” said Juncker.

“We have to safeguard the spirit behind Schengen. Yes, the Schengen system is partly comatose. But those who believe in Europe, its values, its principles and its freedoms, must try to breath new life into the spirit behind Schengen.

“If the spirit leaves our hearts, we will lose more than Schengnen.

“A single currency does not exist if Schengen fails. It is not a neutral concept. It is not banal. It is one of the pillars of the construction of Europe.”

German Chancellor Merkel stands by refugee decision — “We can do it.”

November 25, 2015


German Chancellor Merkel

German Chancellor Merkel has called for indirect efforts to stem the flow of migrants to Germany. Calls from within her own ranks to set an upper limit on asylum seekers are still not part of her plan.

Deutsche Welle

An audibly hoarse Merkel addressed the German Bundestag on Wednesday in a speech that touched on Germany’s policy regarding the continuing stream of refugees to Germany and other European countries.


Despite the sore throat, her message regarding Germany’s refugee policy remained clear: “we can do it.”

She called for the European Union to follow through on plans for ‘hotspots’ in countries on the bloc’s external borders such as Greece where many refugees seeking asylum first enter the EU. The hotspots would enable more efficient processing and further resettlement or deportation of refugees, but Merkel cautioned that a country like Greece needs to know the willingness of its European partners to take on refugees before it implements such measures.

“Only when the inner-European solidarity has been secured would [a country like Greece] pursue building these hotspots,” Merkel said.

In addition, Merkel said Turkey was a “key partner” for reducing the number of refugees coming to the EU’s borders. Noting that Turkey had already taken on 2 million refugees from Syria and other bordering countries, Merkel said helping Turkey deal with the refugee crisis there would provide relief for the European Union.

Merkel is under fire for her “open-door” stance toward refugees, which critics say has led to even more refugees seeking asylum in Europe and Germany in particular.

Günther Oettinger, the EU’s Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said in an interview with the Handelsblatt on Wednesday that Germany’s asylum laws “work like a magnet on the refugees.”

Germany’s family minister Manuela Schwesig of Merkel’s coalition partner Social Democrats said Germany could not continue to accept refugees at the same rate as in the last few months and that a “breather” would be beneficial.

Setting priority

Over the weekend, the German political divide on the issue was clearly on display at the party conference of Merkel’s right-wing coalition partners, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Normally seen as the sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), CSU leader and Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer was openly at odds with Merkel on the stage they shared at the conference, calling for an upper limit to the number of refugees Germany was willing to accept.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls made a similar call for limiting the number of refugees the entire EU accepts in an interview with several European papers on Wednesday.

While Merkel made no specific reference of an upper limit in her speech to the Bundestag on Wednesday, many of her remarks dealt with other, indirect ways that would reduce the number of refugees coming to Germany. This included the hotspots and efforts to help Turkey, but she also highlighted the success of a stricter policy regarding Balkan asylum seekers, who are now more or less sent directly back to the country they came from when they apply for asylum in Germany.

“We expect that those who are denied asylum after the normal civil procedures leave the country so those who need our protection get it,” Merkel said.

Later, she said “it makes a difference if we are talking about 30,000 people or 800,000. Then we have to decide: ‘who needs our protection, and who must leave our country?'”

In addition to opposition from the CSU, Merkel is being subject to criticism from opposition parties in the Bundestag. Anton Hofreiter of the opposition Greens Party said that while Merkel called for accelerated integration of refugees, she was not backing this with appropriate funding, preferring instead to strictly pursue a balanced budget.

“That’s a budget with no courage, no heart, and no plan” Hofreiter said following Merkel’s speech, adding that if the German economy was doing as well as Merkel described, it should not be a problem to take a few risks.

“Do something instead of just talking,” Hofreiter said.

‘United’ with France

Merkel also addressed her pending visit to Paris to meet with French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday evening.

Von der Leyen besucht Soldaten in Mali

Germany currently has far fewer troops in Mali

Hollande has spent much of his time since the November 13 terror attacks in Paris meeting with world leaders on ways to ramp up joint efforts to destroy the so-called “Islamic State,” which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks.

“I will address a question with Francois Hollande that affects us both,” she said, “the spirit of this discussion will surely be that we act together with our friends, and when additional measures are needed, we won’t rule that out from the beginning.”

Following last week’s terror attack at a hotel in Mali , German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced on Wednesday that up to 650 German Bundeswehr soldiers would join a French-led peacekeeping mission in the country.



The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has vowed to stick to her open-door refugee policy, defying criticism at home and abroad which has intensified due to growing fears about a potential security risk after the Paris attacks.

Conservative Merkel faces splits in her right-left coalition and pressure from EU states, including France, over her insistence that Germany can cope with up to 1 million migrants this year and that Europe must accept quotas to take them in.

In a 40-minute speech to the Bundestag’s lower house, Merkel said the security threat level in Germany was high but people must carry on with normal life.

“The strongest response to terrorists is to carry on living our lives and our values as we have until now – self-confident and free, considerate and engaged,” she said to loud applause.

“We Europeans will show our free life is stronger than any terror,” Merkel added, battling with a croaky voice.

Just hours before heading to Paris to meet the French president, François Hollande, she said Germany would show solidarity with France after the attacks that killed 130 people.

Germany said earlier it was sending 650 soldiers to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali and increasing the number of troops training Kurdish peshmerga forces in Iraq.

Merkel stressed her commitment to her disputed refugee policy, saying Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse, has a duty to protect those fleeing war and conflict in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

In a nod to critics in her conservative party, especially in Bavaria, where most of the refugees enter Germany, she said that migrants who do not need protection must be sent home.

“But simply sealing ourselves off will not solve the problem,” she said. Merkel repeated her “we will cope” mantra and reiterated her argument that Europe must tackle the causes of the crisis by working for peace in Syria and engaging Turkey as a partner in the refugee crisis.


She countered politicians in some countries who have warned that the refugee crisis has exposed problems in Europe’s Schengen passport-free area, saying that states must develop it further by agreeing on migrant quotas.

“A distribution of refugees according to economic strength and other conditions … and the readiness for a permanent distribution mechanism … will determine whether the Schengen area will hold in the long term,” she said.

Popular support for Merkel, who this week marked a decade in power, and her party has waned in the last three months due to the influx of migrants.

But a Forsa poll on Wednesday put her conservative bloc up three points at 39% due to the effect of the Paris attacks, which the research firm’s chief, Manfred Güllner, said had driven voters back to the incumbent party.

Beijing Fears Looking Impotent in the Face of Terror — Chinese say their intervention in world’s trouble spots may have to come soon

November 24, 2015

Deaths, image of bloodied hostage speed up calls for Chinese intervention in world’s trouble spots

Islamic State’s slaying of Fan Jinghui, right, who was executed along with a Norwegian hostage, left, has put pressure on Beijing to step up protections for Chinese citizens abroad.  
Islamic State’s slaying of Fan Jinghui, right, who was executed along with a Norwegian hostage, left, has put pressure on Beijing to step up protections for Chinese citizens abroad. Photo: Associated Press

A self-described drifter and thrill-seeker, Fan Jinghui didn’t fit the typical profile of Chinese victims of terrorism overseas.

Among the scores of Chinese expatriates who have met violent deaths in the past decade at the hands of extremists, most have been workers in state companies drilling for oil, operating mines or building highways, hospitals and other infrastructure in unstable parts of Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

But the recent execution of the itinerant Beijing resident by Islamic State, along with a Norwegian hostage, triggered a particularly bitter outpouring of online commentary in China. While France responded to the massacre in Paris by declaring it was at war with Islamic State, and U.S. and Russian jets pounded the group’s strongholds, critics noted that the Chinese government offered only angry rhetoric in response to the killing of Mr. Fan.

“Beyond that, what else can it do?” scoffed one Internet user.

Police escort a Chinese hostage in Bamako, Mali, where three Chinese rail executives were killed during a hotel siege. 
Police escort a Chinese hostage in Bamako, Mali, where three Chinese rail executives were killed during a hotel siege. Photo: Panoramic/Zuma Press

Any accusation of impotence abroad, when Chinese lives are at stake, stings Beijing’s leadership. Almost certainly, Mr. Fan’s brutal slaying, together with the deaths of three Chinese rail executives gunned down in the Mali hotel siege, is likely to accelerate a trend for Beijing to intervene in lawless areas of the globe to protect its own nationals and massive investments.

President Xi Jinping vowed to strengthen collaboration with the world community “to resolutely fight violent terrorist activities that hurt innocent lives.” A foreign ministry spokesman said Monday, “In light of new circumstances, we will come up with new proposals to ensure the security of Chinese citizens and institutions overseas.”

To an extraordinary degree, China’s international security policy in recent years has been driven by the political imperative to be seen doing everything it can to protect an estimated five million Chinese nationals living and working outside the country.

That has eaten away at China’s long-standing policy of “noninterference” in the affairs of other countries.

The shift was dramatically apparent in 2011 when China deployed naval vessels and air force transport planes to pluck more than 35,000 Chinese nationals to safety from Libya as the country descended into civil war. This year, Chinese naval ships were again in action extracting Chinese nationals from war-torn Yemen. And China for the first time sent combat troops to join U.N. peacekeepers, adding them to forces in South Sudan after getting an agreement that the U.N.’s mandate there would include protection of Chinese oil installations. Previously, China’s extensive contribution to U.N. peacekeeping had been mainly in logistics and other support functions.

In response to Mr. Fan’s execution, don’t expect Chinese fighter jets to join bombing runs against Islamic State; China lacks the ability to project force in that way, even if it wanted to. It has no overseas military bases, and shuns military alliances.

But it’s only a matter of time, say security analysts, before China sends in special forces to free hostages or rescue Chinese civilians trapped in a crisis.

In their book “China’s Strong Arm: Protecting Citizens and Assets Abroad,” Jonas Parello-Plesner, a Danish diplomat, and Mathieu Duchâtel, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, write that the next time trouble erupts in a fragile country and threatens Chinese interests, Beijing will be under greater pressure from its citizens and companies to intervene decisively. “When, where and under which extreme circumstances this will happen is an open question, as is the degree of military involvement,” they write.

Count on any such action triggering a vigorous debate about Chinese strategic intentions.

China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea, where it is building artificial islands with military-capable runways, as well as in the East China Sea are widely viewed in Washington as evidence that China seeks to replace America as the regional hegemon, and is ultimately bent on global primacy. Chinese boots on the ground in the world’s trouble spots would add to those apprehensions.

Yet that outcome is looking more likely as Mr. Xi pushes China even more deeply into troubled parts of the world.

At the heart of his international grand vision is a plan to revive ancient overland trade routes to Europe by building a network of highways, railways and energy pipelines through Central Asia and Pakistan. The “Silk Road Economic Belt” project is designed to bring East Asian-style prosperity and stability to some of the most politically volatile parts of the planet, creating new export markets for China and—just as important—checking the spread of Islamic extremism to its vast Xinjiang border region that’s torn by violent strife involving mostly Muslim Uighurs.

Pulling off this project will put armies of Chinese workers in harm’s way, requiring China to engage more deeply in the domestic politics of countries along the route, and raising the prospect of military involvement.

As Beijing plans its next security moves, it will be looking hard at public opinion. The image of a bloodied Mr. Fan, published in an Islamic State magazine, may prove to be a turning point in China’s relations with the world.

Write to Andrew Browne at

Obama, Kerry defiant in face of Islamic State strategy critics

November 23, 2015


But even as Kerry and Obama try to cool the rhetoric around the U.S. strategy to combat ISIL, the critics are piling up. | AP Photo

‘ISIS is not 10 feet tall,’ the secretary of state said, in defending the administration’s stay-the-course approach.

By NICK GASS 11/23/15 11:48 AM EST Updated 11/23/15 02:31 PM EST

President Barack Obama, facing intensifying criticism over his approach to the Islamic State after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, is fiercely defending his stay-the-course plan and downplaying the potency of the terrorist network, stoking ire both on the campaign trail and from some fellow Democrats.

A defiant John Kerry represented the administration on Monday morning, appearing on NBC’s “Today” to describe how the U.S. is not being complacent but that the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS — or Daesh, as he has come to call it at times— is not an invincible force.

“I believe ISIS is going to be defeated. ISIS is not 10 feet tall,” the secretary of state said, when asked about criticism that the administration has not adequately addressed the threat posed by the terrorist group. “I’m just in Abu Dhabi now; we’ve just had serious meetings here. I’m about to meet with the Saudi Arabians. There is a very clear focus by everybody. There is a united front, and I am absolutely convinced that Daesh will be defeated, and there will be increased steps taken in order to do so.”

The words of reassurance come after Obama again irked his critics by using a tone that some said appeared flip when closing out his 10-day Asia trip. “They’re a bunch of killers with good social media,” Obama told reporters on Sunday. ISIL is “dangerous,” he said, but, he added: “Our way of life is stronger. We have more to offer.”

Besides engaging in a war of words, the administration is trying to show that it’s not just sitting on its hands. Obama is due to meet on Tuesday with French President François Hollande about how the U.S. might further collaborate with France and possibly Russia in the fight against ISIL. And at the State Department on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden met with ambassadors of countries that are part of the anti-ISIL coalition.

But even as Kerry and Obama try to cool the rhetoric around the U.S. strategy to combat ISIL, the critics are piling up.

Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, had blunt words on Sunday after attending a briefing last week from Kerry.

“I don’t think the approach is sufficient to the job,” the California Democrat said. Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” she added she is “concerned that we don’t have the time — and we don’t have years.”

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. Credit Getty

“We need to be aggressive now,” she said.

In an interview with MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on Monday, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner said he would have welcomed a “more forceful statement” from Obama. “I think we needed to hear a more forceful statement about the barbarity of these attacks and the fact that America is committed to destroying and eradicating ISIL,” he said, remarking that Hillary Clinton and members on both sides of the aisle have been more emphatic than the president.

Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also hard some harsh words for Obama, panning his strategy as a “containment policy.”

“The president, to have a successful strategy, is going to admit that they’ve got it wrong, and they need to relook at a larger strategy that deals with North Africa, the Middle East, all the way to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and then work closely with our NATO allies with what appears to be a command and control structure that ISIS has created successfully in Europe,” the California Republican said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Paul Ryan, still settling into his newly powerful role as House speaker, hit back at Obama on Monday morning, after the president continued to scold Republicans for trying to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S.

Ryan, in a CNN op-ed, said additional safeguards against the risk that ISIL fighters could slip in with refugees are needed because of the leadership vacuum. “More importantly, we can’t lose sight of the bigger picture here: The refugee crisis is a consequence of the President’s failed policy in the Middle East,” Ryan said. “It is a symptom of the disease. The ultimate solution is a plan to defeat ISIS, but until we are willing to truly confront this terrorist threat wherever it is, we cannot be truly safe.”

More biting words came from former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who penned an op-ed of his own on Fox News’ website. In it, he accused the Obama administration of expressing “more outrage at conservatives than at radical Islamic terrorists,” and he delved into the latest attacks from an Al Qaeda-linked jihadist group in Mali from Friday.

“In the face of this chaos, America needs real strength, moral clarity and commonsense,” Huckabee wrote. “Obama’s politically-correct, press release foreign policy is a complete disaster, and it shouldn’t take another Paris or Mali for the cartoonish clowns in the administration to wake-up.”

Besides attacks from fellow politicians, Obama is also on the defensive following a Saturday New York Times article that reported that the Pentagon is broadening its investigation into whether intelligence reports from United States Central Command had been altered to present a more positive spin on events surrounding ISIL’s gains and rise over the past year, thus providing the president with an incomplete, if flawed, window into the region.

“I don’t know what we’ll discover with respect to what was going on at CENTCOM,” Obama told reporters on Sunday, adding later that his expectation has always been of the “highest fidelity to facts, data — the truth.”


Read more:


Obama says we will destroy Islamic State “with every aspect of American power” — But does anyone believe him?

November 22, 2015


President Obama holds a news conference in Kuala Lumpur after taking part in the ASEAN Summit. (SAUL LOEB, AFP, Getty Images)

By Michael Memoli
The Los Angeles Times

President Obama on Sunday urged Americans not to “succumb to fear” or accept the threat of terrorism as a “new normal,” vowing as the United States intensifies its military campaign that defeating the Islamic State was “not only a realistic goal, we’re going to get it done.”

In a news conference closing a three-nation tour of Asia, Obama seemed to acknowledge the critique that he’s misjudged the threat of the Islamic State while at the same time challenging its validity, expressing resolve to defeat the terrorist network “with every aspect of American power” but later arguing the best way to do so would be to deprive it of the exalted status its leaders seek.

At one point the president seemed to dismiss the radical group as “a bunch of killers with good social media” as he was asked to explain to the American people just how it should view the security threat it poses.

In addition to the military action and intelligence gathering, “the most powerful tool that we have to fight ISIL is to say that we’re not afraid,” Obama said, using an alternate term for the Islamic State. “To not elevate them, to somehow buy into their fantasy that they’re doing something important.”

Throughout his nine days overseas — a trip that ultimately takes him fully around the globe before returning to Washington Monday — the president’s characteristic drive to urge patience and restraint in a media and political climate that often tolerates neither has only been more difficult.

In a nearly hour-long press conference he repeatedly urged the public to take a long view of recent events, saying for instance that Americans should “catch our breath” amid a political storm over the prospect of accepting Syrian refugees. Obama said the kind of “prejudice” shown in the debate, including some “radical” ideas from Republican presidential hopefuls, “helps ISIL and undermines our national security.”

“And so even as we destroy ISIL on the battlefield — and we will destroy them,” he said, “we want to make sure that we don’t lose our own values and our own principles. We can all do our part by upholding the values of tolerance and diversity and equality that help keep America strong.”

The president did say it was understandable that Americans are afraid of the threat of terorrism. He invoked the memory of Nohemi Gonzalez, the 23-year-old Californian killed in Paris, as well as another American killed in the more recent attack in Mali — saying they reminded him “of my daughters, or my mother.”

“It is worth us remembering when we look at the statistics that there are beautiful, wonderful lives behind the terrible death tolls that we see in these places,” he said.

Still, Americans should “not accept the idea that terrorist assaults on restaurants and theaters and hotels are the new normal or that we are powerless to stop them.”

After returning to Washington, Obama will meet with French President Francois Hollande to discuss the next steps in the international campaign against Islamic State after a series of attacks in Paris killed 129.

The president said there was increasing awareness on the part of the Russians that Islamic State represents a greater threat to them “than anything else in the region.” He has criticized President Vladimir Putin for being more interested in propping up President Bashar Assad than combating a terrorist threat that he said took down a Russian airliner; on Sunday he reiterated that Assad could not play a role in any solution to the Syrian civil war.

“There are large numbers of members of this coalition including President Hollande who agree with me on that,” he said.

Follow @mikememoli for more White House coverage.


Paris strikes and their aftermath expose security lapses in Europe

Five Syrian asylum seekers surrender at Texas border crossing

At refugee center in Malaysia, Obama calls on U.S. to welcome the ‘forgotten’


Obama has responded with emotions rarely seen during his stoical administration: anger at ‘hysterical’ politicians back home, sorrow at the thought of sending US troops into another Middle East war. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

As UN calls on members to take ‘all necessary measures’ to defeat extremists, US president feels pressure from Republicans, Hillary Clinton and France to do more

The Guardian:

When Air Force One next touches down on US soil, at an Alaskan refuelling stop on Sunday, Barack Obama will have completed a week-long circumnavigation of a world that can rarely have felt further from his control.

The president flew east from a shell-shocked G20 summit in Turkey to meetings with Asia-Pacific leaders that had been designed to reassure them about China. His trip was overshadowed by bloodshed in Paris and Mali, chaos in the Middle East and political warfare back in Washington.

Linking it all, Obama’s strategy for defeating Islamic State is under question as never before. Not just from Republican critics whose doubts have triggered a nationalist backlash over Syrian refugees, but also from his more hawkish would-be successor Hillary Clinton and even French president François Hollande, who arrives in Washington on Tuesday to demand a more urgent global effort against Isis.

On Friday evening, a United Nations security council resolution called Isis “a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security” and said all able member states should take “all necessary measures”.

Obama has responded with emotions rarely seen during his stoical administration: anger at “hysterical” politicians back home, sorrow at the thought of sending US troops into another Middle East war he fears would be unwinnable, and petulance in the face of those who question his resolve.

The frustration is understandable, for in between the dramatic headlines and calls for all-out war, there have been glimpses of just how limited the US president’s room for manoeuvre has become.

One such source of realism has been the Pentagon, which quietly released a report on Friday detailing the latest deaths of Iraqi civilians in one of its many airstrikes against Isis. Coming just hours after Clinton called for a stepped-up air campaign and greater use of US special forces in Iraq and Syria, it made for sobering reading.

Read the rest:

Obama: United States and its international partners “will not relent” in the fight against the Islamic State

November 22, 2015

President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. AP photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Nov 22, 2015, 4:03 AM ET


President Barack Obama vowed Sunday that the United States and its international partners “will not relent” in the fight against the Islamic State group, insisting the world would not accept the extremists’ attacks on civilians in Paris and elsewhere as the “new normal.”

“The most powerful tool we have is to say we are not afraid,” Obama said as he wrapped up a nine-day trip to Turkey and Asia that was shadowed by terror attacks.

The president also pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to align himself with the U.S.-led coalition, noting that the Islamic State has been accused of bringing down a Russian passenger jet last month, killing 224 people.

“He needs to go after the people who killed Russian citizens,” he said of Putin.

The president spoke in Malaysia shortly before departing for Washington. His trip also took him to the Philippines and Turkey, where he met with Putin on the sidelines of an international summit.

While Russia has stepped up its air campaign in Syria, Obama said Moscow has focused its attention on moderate rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, a Russian ally. He called on Russia to make a “strategic adjustment” and drop its support for Assad, insisting the violence in Syria cannot be stopped as long as Assad is in office.

“It will not work to keep him in power,” Obama said. “We can’t stop the fighting.”

Nearly five years of fighting between the Assad government and rebels has created a vacuum that allowed the Islamic State to thrive in both Syria and Iraq. The militant group is now setting its sights on targets outside its stronghold, including the attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more.

French President Francois Hollande is due to meet with Obama at the White House on Tuesday to discuss ways to bolster the international coalition fighting the Islamic State. Hollande then heads to Russia for talks with Putin.

The discussions about a military coalition to defeat the Islamic State come amid parallel talks about a diplomatic solution to end Syria’s civil war. The violence has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced millions, sparking a refugee crisis in Europe.

Foreign ministers from about 20 nations agreed last week to an ambitious yet incomplete plan that sets a Jan. 1 deadline for the start of negotiations between Assad’s government and opposition groups. Within six months, the negotiations are to establish a “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian” transitional government that would set a schedule for drafting a new constitution and holding a free and fair U.N.-supervised election within 18 months.

The Paris attacks have heightened fears of terrorism in the West and also sparked a debate in the U.S. about accepting refugees from Syria. It’s unclear whether any of the terrorists in the Paris attacks exploited the refugee system to enter Europe, though Obama has insisted that’s not a legitimate security threat in the United States.

“Refugees who end up in the United States are the most vetted, scrutinized, thoroughly investigated individuals that ever arrive on American shores,” Obama said.

Still, the House passed legislation last week essentially blocking Syrian and Iraqi refugees from the U.S. Democrats in large numbers abandoned the president, with 47 voting for the legislation. Having secured a veto-proof majority in the House, supporters are now hoping for a repeat in the Senate, while Obama works to shift the conversation to milder visa waiver changes that wouldn’t affect Syrian refugees.

Obama has focused his ire on Republicans throughout the trip, harshly criticizing GOP lawmakers and presidential candidates for acting contrary to American values. He took a softer tone Sunday, saying he understands Americans’ concerns but urging them not to give into fear.

He said the Islamic State “can’t beat us on the battlefield so they try to terrorize us into being afraid.”

Speaking dismissively of the Islamic State’s global prowess, Obama said, “They’re a bunch of killers with good social media.”

The president also paid tribute to Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old from California who was killed in the Paris attacks, and Anita Ashok Datar, a 41-year-old from Maryland who died in Friday’s terror attack in Mali. He said the women reminded him of his teenage daughters and his late mother.

“It is worth us remembering when we look at the statistics that there are beautiful, wonderful lives behind the terrible death tolls we see in these places,” he said.


Follow Josh Lederman at . His work can be found at

“Not In My Name” — Muslims in Italy protest the ‘abuse’ of Islam by attackers in Paris and Mali

November 21, 2015


Two girls hold a sign reading “Not in my name” as members of the Milanese Muslim community gather in downtown Milan, Italy, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 to protest against violence. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

The Associated Press

Hundreds of Muslims living in Italy have demonstrated in Rome and Milan against the “abuse” of Islam by those who carried out the attacks in Paris and Mali.

In Rome, hundreds gathered at the central Piazza Santi Apostoli chanting “no to terrorism” and holding banners reading “Not in My Name.” In Milan about 500 demonstrated in Piazza San Babila with banners reading “Stop Terrorism” and “Terrorism has No Religion.”

Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, vice president of the Islamic Religious Community of Italy, said in Rome that the demonstrators wanted to show a message of unity “of the healthy and predominant part of Islam in Italy” and distance themselves “clearly and vocally, from any abuse of our religion by criminals.”

The number of Muslims in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy is estimated at 1.7 million.

Russia’s Putin seeks global cooperation to confront terrorism — Hollande, Cameron to meet for Syria, anti-terrorism talks

November 21, 2015


Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday global cooperation was need to confront terrorism in the wake of an Islamist militant attack targeting foreigners in a luxury hotel in Mali that killed 19 people.

Friday’s assault on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako came a week after militants killed 130 people in a spate of gun and bomb attacks in Paris claimed by Islamic State. France on Friday extended a state of emergency until February as police pursued raids and investigations, with over 250 people detained.

The bloodshed in Mali, a former French colony, was the latest sign of the problems faced by French troops and U.N. peacekeepers in restoring security in a West African state that has battled rebels and militants in its desert north for years.

The assault on the Radisson Blu hotel, claimed by jihadist groups Al Mourabitoun and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), ended when Malian commandos stormed the building and rescued 170 people, many of them foreigners.

Malian officials prepare to lift a corpse into an emergency vehicle outside the Radisson hotel in Bamako, Mali, November 20, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Penney

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said two militants were killed in the commando operation.

His government increased security at strategic points around Bamako at the start of a declared 10-day state of emergency.

Chinese President Xi Jinping condemned the “cruel and savage” attack, whose dead included three Chinese executives of a state-run railway firm.

The head of a Bamako hospital told Russian television channel LifeNews that at least two Russian citizens were killed. RIA news agency said Russians were among the dead, citing Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

Putin sent a telegram of condolences to Keita and said “the widest international cooperation” was needed to confront global terrorism, according to a statement by the Kremlin.

On Tuesday, Putin promised to hunt down Islamist militants responsible for blowing up a Russian airliner over Egypt on Oct. 31 as well as intensified air strikes against militants in Syria, after the Kremlin concluded a bomb had destroyed the plane, killing 224 people.

Putin and French President Francois Hollande also spoke by phone on Tuesday and agreed to boost coordination of their military actions in fighting jihadist militants in Syria.

One American and a deputy from a regional parliament in Belgium were also killed in the Bamako hotel attack, though French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was not aware of any French nationals killed.


The attack began at 7 a.m. on Friday when gunmen killed guards at the entrance of the hotel and barged inside.

Malian commandos subsequently stormed the hotel and rescued around 170 people, many of whom had been hiding under beds or in side-rooms and rushed terrified from the building to safety as shooting continued inside.

By around 4 p.m. the hotel was secured but Malians woke on Saturday to a sense of shock at the latest high-profile raid by Islamists this year.

“I feel bruised by this atrocious act, which cannot be justified. No nation, no human life deserves such criminal barbarity,” said Oumar Fomba, a teacher. “I urge the Malian government to fight more fiercely against terrorism.”

In a speech on the sidelines of a summit with Asian nations in Malaysia, U.S. President Barack Obama described the raid in Mali as “another awful reminder of the scourge of terrorism”.

“Once again, this barbarity only stiffens our resolve to meet this challenge. We will stand with the people of Mali as they work to rid their country of terrorists and strengthen their democracy. With allies and partners, the United States will be relentless.”


The attack was another jolting blow to France after the shock of the Paris carnage. France has stationed 3,500 troops in northern Mali to try to restore stability after a rebellion in 2012 by ethnic Tuaregs that was later hijacked by jihadists linked to al Qaeda.

“We (France) have proved to be as blind as the Malian elite. Nothing changes in Mali. The elite continues to act like it always has as does the international community,” said Laurent Bigot, former undersecretary in charge of West Africa at France’s foreign ministry, alluding to U.N. peacekeepers.

“People have been ringing the alarm bell for a long time, but it doesn’t do any good,” Bigot, who now works as a consultant, told Reuters.

The attack also cast a spotlight on a veteran leader of Al Mourabitoun, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a few months after reports, never confirmed, that he was killed in an air strike.

Northern Mali was occupied by Islamist fighters, some with links to al Qaeda, for most of 2012. They were driven out by a French-led military operation, but violence has continued.

Al Mourabitoun has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks, including an assault on a hotel in the town of Sevare, 600 km (375 miles) northeast of Bamako, in August in which 17 people including five U.N. staff were killed.

One of its leaders is Belmokhtar, blamed for a large-scale assault on an Algerian gas field in 2013 and a major figure in insurgencies across North Africa.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, an Islamic State militant in Syria told Reuters the organization viewed France’s military intervention in Mali as another reason to target France and French interests.

“This is just the beginning. We also haven’t forgotten what happened in Mali,” said the non-Syrian fighter, who was contacted online by Reuters. “The bitterness from Mali, the arrogance of the French, will not be forgotten at all.”

(Additional reporting by Joe Penney in Bamako, John Irish in Paris, Jason Bush in Moscow and Michael Martina in Beijing; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Mark Heinrich)


Paris (AFP) – French President Francois Hollande will meet British Prime Minister David Cameron in Paris on Monday to discuss the fight against terrorism and the Syrian crisis, his office said Saturday.

The meeting opens a week of intense diplomatic exchanges in which Hollande will meet with US President Barack Obama, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the wake of France’s worst-ever terror attack.


BBC News

Prime Minister David Cameron will meet French President Francois Hollande in Paris on Monday to discuss the fight against terror.

They will discuss how to co-operate in counter-terrorism and the fight against so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, UK officials said.

Earlier Mr Cameron hailed a universally approved UN Security Council resolution to “redouble” action against IS.

IS has said it carried out the Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead.

The meeting will begin a week of diplomacy in which Mr Hollande will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama.

A French-drafted UN document asking countries to “combat by all means this unprecedented threat” from IS received universal approval on Friday night.

Mr Cameron said the vote was an important moment which “shows beyond doubt the breadth of international support” to “eradicate” IS.

He is seeking to build cross-party support in the UK for British air strikes against IS – also known as Isil, Isis or Daesh – in Syria, though there is no timetable for a Parliamentary vote.

Brussels alert over fears of ‘Paris-style attack’

Paris attacks: Brussels on high alert

Two years ago, MPs voted against possible UK military action against President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.

Parliament later approved British participation in air strikes against IS extremists in Iraq, which have been ongoing ever since.

A Number 10 spokesman said: “The prime minister will travel to Paris on Monday morning for talks with President Hollande at the Elysee.

“They are expected to focus on counter-terrorism co-operation and the fight against Isil in Syria and Iraq.”

UN Security Council

The French-drafted resolution to “redouble” efforts against IS was unanimously carried by the UN Security Council. AP Photo

Malaysia urges world leaders to confront Islamist extremists — But ASEAN also talks about South China Sea, TPP, migrants

November 21, 2015


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak delivers a speech at the opening of the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur November 21, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

By Trinna Leong and Martin Petty

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called on world leaders to confront Islamist extremism, saying its “barbaric acts” do not represent any race or religion, as he opened a regional summit overshadowed by a spate of attacks around the globe.

Islamist militants killed 19 people in an attack on a hotel in Mali on Friday before Malian commandos stormed the building and rescued 170 people, many of them foreigners. This came a week after Islamic State militants killed 129 people in coordinated attacks in Paris.

“The perpetrators of these cowardly and barbaric acts do not represent any race, religion or creed, nor should we allow them to claim to do so,” Najib said in his opening speech at the ASEAN summit.

“They are terrorists and should be confronted as such, with the full force of the law.”

Malaysia has deployed extraordinary security measures around Kuala Lumpur as leaders from 18 countries, including U.S. President Barack Obama, arrived for a pair of weekend summits.

Obama said on Saturday the Mali hotel attacks only stiffened the resolve of the United States and its allies, which would be relentless in fighting those targeting its citizens and would allow militants no safe haven.

“With allies and partners, the United States will be relentless to those who target our citizens,” Obama said in opening remarks to ASEAN business executives. “We will continue to root out terrorist networks. We will not allow these killers to have a safe haven.”


Most of the leaders arrived from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila. Both the APEC meeting and the ASEAN summit typically focus on economic issues but have been overshadowed by the terrorist attacks.

Najib said he had intended to open the summit to talk about an economic community that the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations intends to launch in a region of 622 million people with a combined economic output of $2.5 trillion.

“But the events of recent days and weeks have cast a shadow over us all,” he said.

He said predominantly Islamic countries such as Malaysia have a duty to expose as lies the “ideology propagated by these extremists that is the cause of this sadistic violence.

Malaysia has announced it is setting up a “counter-terrrorism” messaging center using social media and other messaging tools.


In a veiled swipe at China, which is also attending the meetings in Malaysia, Obama told the ASEAN business executives the United States was working with Southeast Asian allies to preserve maritime security and freedom of navigation.

“The United States is working … to uphold the freedom of navigation and ensure disputes in the region are resolved peacefully,” he said.

Beijing has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.

China has been transforming seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago into artificial islands and building three airfields and other facilities on some of them, prompting concern in Washington and the region that China is extending its military reach deep into maritime Southeast Asia.

China has said it does not want the South China Sea issue to be the focus of the meetings in Kuala Lumpur.

Obama said his signature free trade agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), will bind the United States even closer to some of our strongest allies in Asia”.

“Our alliances are the foundation for our security which becomes the foundation for our prosperity, which allows us to invest in the source of our strength, including our alliances,” he told the ASEAN business executives.

The Asia-Pacific countries in the TPP include Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, New Zealand and Australia, all of whom are attending the Malaysia meetings.


After his speech, Obama visited a Kuala Lumpur educational center for refugees, many of them Rohingyas from Myanmar, to help focus attention, he said, on “an unprecedented number of refugees” across the world.

Speaking of the children he met, he said “that’s the face of not only of children from Myanmar, that’s the face of Syrian children and Iraqi children.”

Alluding to Republican critics who are trying to block the flow of Syrian refugees to the United States, he said: “The notion that somehow we would be fearful of them, that the politics would somehow lead us to turn our sights away from their plight” was not in keeping with American values.

(This story has been refiled to fix headline)

(Reporting by Trinna Leong and Martin Petty; additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Praveen Menon. Editing by Bill Tarrant.)

Mali still hunting three suspects over hotel attack

November 21, 2015


Malian troops take position outside the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako on November 20, 2015. AFP

BAMAKO (AFP) – At least three people suspected of involvement in a jihadist attack on a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital that killed 21 people were being hunted down Saturday, a Malian security source told AFP.


“We are actively pursuing three suspects who might have been involved in Friday’s attack on the Radisson Blu hotel,” the source said.



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