Posts Tagged ‘radical Islam’

Egypt’s 9/11 — Sinai Attack Is latest Chapter of Isis’s War Against Humanity

November 26, 2017
BY ADAM HOFFMAN
 NOVEMBER 26, 2017 12:18

 

ISIS’s motives for the attack are both strategic and ideological.

Stringer / AFP / Getty Images

A bomb explosion ripped through the mosque before gunmen opened fire on the worshippers gathered for weekly Friday prayers, officials said.

Victims were carried on stretchers following the attack.

– / AFP / Getty Images

Victims were carried on stretchers following the attack.

Large crowds gathered after the attack to help victims.

– / AFP / Getty Images
 The attack on the crowded al-Rawdah Mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed in Northern Sinai, which was launched during Friday Prayers, killed 305 and injured at least 128 others. Images of the dead and wounded, posted under the hashtag “Rawdah massacre,” flooded Arabic social media since the attack. Egyptian officials called it the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history, and some commentators have already called it “Egypt’s 9/11.”

While Egypt, and particularly the Sinai Peninsula, has faced terror attacks by jihadist groups in the past – mainly against security forces and Coptic churches – this attack was different: for the first time, jihadists deliberately targeted Muslim civilians during prayer time in a mosque, killing men, women and children, and opening fire from outside the mosque on those who tried to flee the carnage taking place inside it.

Although it so far hadn’t claimed responsibility for the attack, Egypt’s public prosecutor’s office blamed ISIS, statingthat the terrorists were carrying the ISIS flag when they opened fire on the mosque. ISIS has been active in the Sinai Peninsula since 2014, when the local salafi-jihadi group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis pledged allegiance to it and formally joined it as the Islamic State’s Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province). Although Wilayat Sinai isn’t the only jihadi group active in Sinai – in mid-November, an old pro-al-Qaida group called Jund al-Islam announced its re-emergence in the area and threatened to “uproot” ISIS presence in the Peninsula – ISIS has both the capability and the motivation to carry out such a bloody attack.

But why would ISIS carry out such a horrific attack now, and against this specific location? ISIS’s motives for the attack are both strategic and ideological. Strategically, ISIS recently lost all of the territory it once controlled in Iraq: after losing control of Mosul in July and additional territory in Iraq and Syria since then, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on November 21 the formal liberation of the country from ISIS’s rule: “We finished Daesh [the Arabic name for ISIS] militarily in Iraq and liberated our towns and cities.” But ISIS’s motto is of a “remaining” (baqiyya) caliphate which fights all of God’s enemies; the loss of territory in the heartland of its state-building project thus only motivates ISIS to strike its enemies outside of Iraq and Syria. As journalist Graeme Wood argued shortly after the Friday attack, “mass murder is how ISIS tries to stay relevant.” Such attacks show that the group is still very much alive and powerful, despite its territorial losses in Iraq and Syria and the Sisi regime’s determined and brutal counterterrorism campaign against it.

In addition to this strategic rationale, ISIS also deliberately targeted a mosque known for its popularity among Sufi worshippers. While Sufism, a mystical form of Islam, has been part of orthodox Islam for centuries and is widely popular in many parts of the Muslim world, Salafi-jihadists view Sufism as heresy and accuse Sufis of polytheism and innovation – both major sins from a salafi-jihadi perspective. ISIS has a well-established record of attacking Sufi shrines in Pakistan, Iraq and Syria, but it also made clear that it views Sufism in Egypt as a mandatory target for attacks: in an interview from the January 2017 issue of Rumiyah, ISIS’s English language magazine, the commander of Wilayat Sinai’s Hisbah force (religious police) stated that “our main focus is to wage war against the manifestations of shirk (polytheism) and bid’ah (innovation), including Sufism, sorcery, soothsaying, and grave-worship.” The interview also specifically promised to “eradicate” the al-Rawdah Mosque, where the Friday attack took place, “as soon as it conquers the areas hosting” it. As part of this anti-Sufism campaign, ISIS beheaded Sulayman Abu Hiraz, a 100-year old well-known Sufi sheikh whom it accused of “soothsaying” last November. Thus, while the deliberate targeting of non-combatants in a mosque might be new in Sinai, it is consistent with ISIS’s policy elsewhere of eradicating Sufism and attacking its followers and places of worship.

While ISIS committed the attack as a show of strength, designed to terrify residents in Sinai and embarrass the Sisi regime for its inability to defeat the insurgency in the Peninsula, the attack on a mosque and the unprecedented number of casualties could potentially mark a turning point in Egypt’s fight against terrorism. The horrific attack was universally condemned – not only by President Trump, Prime Minister Theresa May and Prime Minister Netanyahu, but also by Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Political Bureau of Hamas, and the influential Sunni cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. The universal condemnation of the attack and the public outrage against the perpetrators behind it could mobilize public opinion in Egypt against the jihadists and help the Sisi regime crush Wilayat Sinai and the elements supporting it. While ISIS takes pride in its brutality, the jihadist movement is well aware of the importance of public support for its long-term success and survival: Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaida and a long time Egyptian jihadist, warned that “in the absence of popular support, the Islamic mujahed movement would be crushed in the shadows.” The horrible attack on Muslim non-combatants in a sacred place of worship on Friday could unite the Egyptian public against ISIS and help the Egyptian security services crush the local branch of the organization.

This article written in cooperation with the Forum for Regional Thinking

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Inside the mosque, bodies of victims were lined up.

Stringer / AFP / Getty Images

Inside the mosque, bodies of victims were lined up.

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Saudi Arabia has united with Israel against Iran – and a desert storm is brewing

November 9, 2017

Mass arrests are the Crown Prince’s opening salvo in a fight against corruption and an embrace of moderate Islam

11 November 2017

Until last weekend, the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh’s exclusive Diplomatic Quarter was colloquially known as the Princes’ Hotel. It was a luxurious retreat from the heat, where royals could engage in the kind of wheeling and dealing with the global business elite that had made them millionaires on the back of the 1970s oil boom. No deal could be brokered without paying a bribe to at least one prince. Last Saturday that era of boundless opportunity and total impunity came to a dramatic end. The VIP guests were booted out, the front doors were shuttered, and heavily armed security forces took up positions around the perimeter.

A Saudi who lives nearby sent me a message about what he thought was an unfolding terrorist incident. That’s one way of describing the extraordinary, chaotic events. We have seen a mini-wave of terror orchestrated by the all-powerful 32-year-old heir to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who has been given day-to-day control of the kingdom’s affairs by his ailing father, King Salman, 81. Bin Salman’s ascent and methods now promise to change Saudi Arabia forever.

Despite his youth and inexperience, he has risen rapidly through the ranks, amassing previously unimaginable powers for a single royal. This, and his refusal to govern through consensus — as is customary — has caused deep resentment, jealousy and anger. His most prominent critics and rivals were therefore carted off on corruption charges to the Ritz-Carlton, turning it into the world’s most luxurious prison. Eleven senior princes were among them, as well as dozens of businessmen, and current and former ministers and provincial governors. Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal — the wealthiest Arab tycoon who holds significant stakes in Citigroup, Twitter and countless other companies — got caught up in the dragnet.

At least he is still alive. Mansour bin Muqrin, deputy governor of the Asir region bordering Yemen, hailed from a rival branch of the ruling family sidelined after King Abdullah’s death in 2015. He boarded a helicopter with seven senior advisers, and amid speculation that he had instructed the pilot to head for a foreign country. Then his helicopter was blown from the sky, killing all on board. No official cause was given, fueling conspiracy theories. However baseless, the incident must have given further pause for thought in these febrile times to anyone then thinking of trying to flout the blanket travel ban.

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The country’s Attorney General says that this was only the first phase of mass arrests, and that trials would soon get under way. The front-page headline of the newspaper Al Jazirah a day after the purge encapsulated the new reality: ‘No place for traitors in the age of Salman.’ Welcome to the new Saudi Arabia.

For the Crown Prince’s supporters — vast swathes of the country’s young, eager for progressive social change — his way may be dictatorial but his motives are honourable. The purge represents the opening salvo in a fight against corruption that comes with an embrace of moderate Islam, a determination to relax the strict segregation of the sexes and introduce entertainment venues. Why should ordinary Saudis have sympathy for the arrested if they have, as alleged, been engaged in massive criminal schemes involving bribery and money laundering? When did any of those speak up on behalf of the oppressed masses?

Bin Salman’s power grab is in itself spectacular. But the wider significance of this can only be fully understood in conjunction with events in Israel. The Jewish state is hardly a natural ally for Saudi Arabia, but they have long shared a common enemy: Iran. Both fear the latter is exploiting the opening created by the fall of Isis, and the triumph of the Assad regime in Syria, to dominate the region. Iran and its proxies — whether the Houthi rebels in Yemen or Hezbollah in Lebanon — are in the ascendant, and neither Israel nor Saudi Arabia are going to sit on the sidelines.

So the two have been working together: close diplomatic cooperation, intelligence sharing and perhaps more. Israeli media recently reported that a senior Saudi prince, possibly Bin Salman himself, paid a secret visit to the Jewish state. The idea of a Saudi-Israeli alliance is still deeply controversial in both countries, but details are starting to leak out.

Amid the recent madness, for example, we saw the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Saudi puppet. He was summoned to Riyadh, where he was forced to read a letter announcing his immediate departure, the official reason being that he feared an assassination attempt by Hezbollah. But why would a prime minister visit a foreign capital to resign? The odds are that he had no idea he was resigning until he landed in Riyadh to meet Saudis furious at him for holding talks with both Iranian and Hezbollah officials. His departure has shocked the region.

But it didn’t shock the Israelis. A leaked memo shows Israeli diplomats being instructed to back the Saudi version of events, and start to join Riyadh in denouncing the Houthi rebels. Such diplomatic coordination is dangerous, given that an alliance has the potential to create a massive backlash among ordinary Saudis. For generations, they have been taught that Jews are the descendants of apes and pigs and Israel is the eternal enemy.

This brings us back to the night of the long knives. An outpouring of anti-Israeli sentiment might, only a few months ago, have provided a rallying cry for those determined to oust the Crown Prince. They would have likely turned to Al-Waleed bin Talal, a fierce critic of Trump and the most vocal Saudi supporter of the Palestinians. But he is in prison, presumably as a warning to anyone who shows opposition to the young new broom.

The military hostilities have already started. Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh, which was intercepted by the Saudis, who then announced that both Lebanon and Iran had ‘declared war’ on the kingdom by supplying the rebels with missiles. Iran denies it, and military analysts say it would be hard to ship whole missiles to Yemen. The Saudis, though, are adamant, and they say that retaliation will follow.

Whose side will the West be on? Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, recently left Riyadh after his third visit this year, staying up talking with the Crown Prince until the small hours of the morning at a ranch in the desert. Robert W. Jordan, a former American ambassador, says that the recent purges were conducted after ‘what people would call a green light from President Trump’. And all this while Israel was conducting its biggest-ever aerial military drill, just a month after its largest-ever land military drill — both simulating war with Hezbollah.

So two months after his 32nd birthday, the Crown Prince has established himself as a despot, albeit one hailed by the West as an enlightened visionary. He has tightened a military alliance with Israel, all but declared war on Iran and prepared Lebanon as the first scene of this war — with Hezbollah as the first target.

John R. Bradley’s books include Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis.

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/11/saudi-arabia-has-united-with-israel-against-iran-and-a-desert-storm-is-brewing/

Tajikistan Agrees to More Intelligence Exchanges With China

September 1, 2017

BEIJING — China’s foreign ministry on Friday announced an agreement with Tajikistan to establish exchanges of security intelligence as part of an upgrade to diplomatic relations during a state visit by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon to China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Rahmon on Thursday established a “comprehensive strategic partnership” between the two countries, according to a statement released on the foreign ministry’s website.

The two sides agreed to bolster efforts to combat the threats of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism, as well as international criminal groups and drug trafficking by launching professional intelligence exchanges, the posting said.

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Map:https://www.pinterest.com/pin/508554982898536406

“Both sides will strengthen communications between defense, security and law enforcement departments and deepen intelligence exchanges,” it said.

China’s plan to rebuild the ancient Silk Road by reconnecting trade routes from its borders into Central and South East Asia, dubbed the Belt and Road Initiative, has raised new security concerns for the country and its companies.

Beijing has worked to deepen security cooperation with countries in Central Asia and elsewhere to make up for shortfalls in its own intelligence and security measures to combat terror groups and other threats in the region.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security bloc established in 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to fight radical Islam, has expanded to now include nearly twenty states as members or partners.

In September last year, China agreed to finance and build several outposts for Tajik border guards and other facilities along the porous 1,345-km border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Tom Hogue)

The Danger of a Jihadist Pakistan

August 29, 2017

Careless U.S. pressure could push the country’s nukes into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. China can be helpful.

By John Bolton
The Wall Street Journal
Aug. 28, 2017 6:54 p.m. ET

Almost certainly, the war in Afghanistan will be won or lost in Pakistan. President Trump’s announcement last week that he will send more U.S. troops—some sources say another 4,000—to Afghanistan represents a change in tactics from President Obama’s policy. But the ultimate objective is still opaque, and even once the specifics are articulated, what may ultimately matter more is the still-undeveloped “South Asia policy” promised by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

That means dealing with Pakistan. Islamabad has provided financial and military aid, including privileged sanctuaries, to the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Islamic State, al Qaeda and other malefactors, allowing them not just to survive but flourish. President Trump rightly says this must stop and is encouraging Pakistan’s principal adversary, India, to increase its economic assistance to Afghanistan.

But the task isn’t so straightforward. The Bush and Obama administrations also criticized Pakistan’s support for terrorists, without effect. Putting too much pressure on Pakistan risks further destabilizing the already volatile country, tipping it into the hands of domestic radical Islamists, who grow stronger by the day.

Read the rest:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-danger-of-a-jihadist-pakistan-1503960880

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Written by C. Raja Mohan | Updated: August 29, 2017 12:42 am

One of the important objectives of President Donald Trump’s new South Asia policy is to end the Pakistan army’s four decades of addiction to jihadi terrorism. While many in America think it’s a great idea, there are very few who are willing to bet on Rawalpindi kicking the habit. They point to the fact that support for terror sanctuaries has become too entrenched in the Pakistan army’s domestic and regional calculus.

Jihad as foreign policy was indeed encouraged by the US in the 1980s and blessed by many leading Islamic countries, Western Europe and China as part of the global effort against the Soviet army’s occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistan’s support to violent extremism played a key role in trapping and bleeding the Russian bear in Afghanistan. It was critical in compelling Moscow to accept a humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of the 1980s.

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As the Americans turned their back on the region in the 1990s, amidst the focus on constructing the post-Cold War political arrangements in Europe, Rawalpindi persisted with the jihadi strategy across its eastern borders with Afghanistan. It also lent a new edge to cross-border terrorism across its eastern frontiers in India.

When America returned to Afghanistan and Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, it rightly underlined the urgency of draining the terror swamps in the north-western marches of the Subcontinent. But over the last two decades, America has discovered how hard it is to change Pakistan’s course. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama found that neither money (military and economic assistance more than $30 billion since 2002), love (declaring Rawalpindi as a “major non-Nato ally”) or coercion (raining drones across Pakistan’s western borderlands) seemed to have any effect.

Many in the US argue it is not only futile but also dangerous to even try and change Pakistan’s behaviour, either at home or in the region. They insist that the tyranny of Af-Pak geography can’t be overcome. If the US wants to have troops in landlocked Afghanistan, it needs Pakistan’s logistical support. They underline the value of Pakistan’s intelligence cooperation in the global war on terror.

American sceptics also say too much pressure on Rawalpindi is not wise, for “Pakistan is too nuclear to fail”. They never cease sounding the alarm bells about the dangers of a nuclear confrontation between Pakistan and India. They raise the fear of Pakistan exporting its nuclear and missile technology to other states in the region and beyond. Put simply, Trump’s critics say the US has no option but to acquiesce in the Pakistan army’s nuclear blackmail, accommodate its claims for a dominant role in Afghanistan, and acknowledge its deep insecurities about India.

Initial responses to Trump’s speech do confirm the difficulty of getting Pakistan’s security establishment to see reason. Rawalpindi has publicly rejected Trump’s demands to shut down terror sanctuaries and has outlined its own counter demands — like getting Kabul to end its support to the groups fighting Pakistan and Delhi to make concessions on Kashmir.

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s public threat to cut off aid last week has helped rally Pakistan’s public opinion behind the flag. Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Bajwa, has argued that “We are not looking for any material or financial assistance from USA but trust, understanding and acknowledgement of our contributions to the war on terror.” The political class and the talking heads have taken the cue to denounce America’s betrayal.

Pakistan also feels buoyed by the diplomatic support it has received from old friends in Beijing and the new suitors in Moscow. It has postponed different levels of consultations with Washington and is dispatching its foreign minister on a defiant visit to China, Russia and Turkey. The objective is to demonstrate that the US can’t isolate Pakistan.

Does this mean Trump has to simply back down and return to the default mode when it comes to Pakistan’s jihadi strategy? Not so fast. The difficulties of sustaining the current US position do seem insurmountable in the face of America’s past record with Pakistan. Trump’s team has surely taken all these problems into consideration when it got the US President to demand that Pakistan must end — right now — its unacceptable commitment to jihadi terrorism.

The Trump team is saying the past is not always a guide to the future. Just because some lines of pressure on Pakistan were not tried out does not mean they won’t be now. While signalling a new political will to do things it would not in the past — kinetic and financial targeting of terror groups and their facilitators in Pakistan’s security establishment — the Trump administration has held these measures close to its chest. How and when they might be unveiled will depend on the political engagement with Pakistan in the coming weeks.

Although it has thumbed its nose at Trump, Rawalpindi is bound to talk with Washington sooner than later. It has always valued the special relationship with America and is aware of the dangers of inviting Washington’s wrath. Pakistan’s upper crust too has many personal and pecuniary links with the West. While defiance marks Rawalpindi’s public posture, its private approach might well be defined by pretended deference, claims of victimhood, protests against abandonment and obfuscation on supporting terror.

The writer is director, Carnegie India, Delhi and the contributing editor on foreign affairs for ‘The Indian Express’

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Raja Mandala: Curing Rawalpindi

Link between mental illness and terrorism has not been established — Psychiatrists contradict French Interior Minister

August 24, 2017

AFP

Eitan Abramovich, AFP archives | Nearly a third of people reported for radicalisation have psychological issues, according to France’s interior minister, Gérard Collomb.

Text by Stéphanie TROUILLARD

Latest update : 2017-08-24

French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb believes that a third of terrorists “have psychological issues”. But according to several psychiatrists, the link between mental illness and terrorism has not been established.

In a bid to fight the terrorism threat, Collomb has suggested several times this month that a third of the French suspects reported for radicalisation in the Terrorist Prevention and Radicalisation Reporting File (FSPRT) suffer from the aforementioned “psychological issues”. Around 18,550 people have been recorded in the FSPRT, created in 2015, according to an article published in French daily Le Figaro.

Collomb has declared that he wants to mobilise psychiatric hospitals and psychiatrists “in order to identify the kind of personalities that could potentially take [radical] action”. He cited the example of a man who, on Monday August 21, killed one person and injured another in Marseille after crashing his van into pedestrians waiting at bus shelters. “He came out of a psychiatric clinic,” said Collomb on TV channel BFMTV. “He’d previously been in prison and he killed someone. We need to consider this kind of case.”

Several specialists have reacted to Collomb’s statements and have criticised the idea of using psychiatric examinations to try to identify potential terrorists. In an interview with FRANCE 24, Fethi Benslama, a psychoanalyst and a professor at Paris Diderot University, says that a history of mental health problems do not explain why someone would carry out an act of terrorism.

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 Université Paris Diderot

FRANCE 24: France’s interior minister, Gérard Collomb, has said that around a third of people reported for radicalisation have psychological issues. What do you make of this suggestion?

Fethi Benslama: I’ve asked myself where he got this data from. I don’t know what this figure is based on. The file on radicalisation is not available to researchers. We’ve been asking to have access to it for the last two years. The interior minister has statistics that have been communicated to him by his services, but what expertise do [his services] have in order to judge whether or not these people [in the FSPRT file] have psychological problems? Rather than withholding this information, it should be transmitted to researchers. A scientific advisory board on radicalisation was set up by the previous government. It’s up to this board to analyse this data.

The interior minister also said that he wants to mobilise psychiatric hospitals and psychiatrists in order to identify profiles that might commit acts of terrorism. What do you think about that?

It’s absurd. Some psychiatric patients have gone on to commit violent acts but they are very few in number compared to the majority of people who have committed such acts. I believe that psychiatrists are right not to adhere to this analysis. Besides, we don’t see how it can work. Is it about making a report each time a patient becomes delirious or makes remarks about current affairs? That said, the law already provides for this. We don’t need any particular [method]. When a psychiatrist believes that somebody is likely to commit a crime, the psychiatrist [informs the police]. If we don’t, we could be prosecuted. In all other situations, we’re bound by professional confidentiality.

How do you detect the signs of a potential crime?

It’s very complicated but let’s say that some personalities are very dangerous. Psychiatrists know how to diagnose them. But they represent a minority [of patients]; a general rule on the prevention of terrorism can’t be drawn from that. Terrorists aren’t mentally ill. There’s also a confusion between mental illness and psychological disorders. Mental illnesses are treated by psychiatry. And numerous people display psychological disorders but they don’t necessarily become terrorists. If they did, we’d have hundreds of thousands of them committing [terrorist] acts.

Committing an act [of terrorism] is something individual. It doesn’t obey any of the factors that we try to pass off as being determinant. A while ago, they said it was because [terrorists] came from the suburbs; now one talks about mental issues. Each time, one blames it on something particular or makes a generalisation. One tries to find a general explanation where no such thing exists. The violent act is a subjective, individual act [and should be looked at] on a case-by-case basis. If it were possible to systematically spot [potential terrorists], well, I think that the intelligence services would have used this [strategy].

Do you think there are improvements that can be made and if so, how?

The interior minister must really give researchers access to the FSPRT file, which has recorded more than 17,000 people [Editor’s note: Beslama was citing an earlier figure], so that we can draw information from it. It may well be that there’s a strong propensity for people who suffer from psychological disorders [to become terrorists] but it is unknown at this stage. In order to improve our preventative tactics, we need more knowledge. There aren’t any other solutions. The files need to be opened, but within a strict framework.

Israeli plane hits Syrian army in latest Golan exchange

June 30, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A picture taken from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights shows smoke billowing from the Syrian side of the border on June 25, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – An Israeli warplane struck a Syrian army post on Friday, the Israeli military said, hours after stray fire from Syria’s civil war hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

“In response to the projectile launched earlier today at Israel from Syria, an Israel Air Force aircraft targeted the Syrian army position that fired the mortar,” the English-language Israeli statement said.

“The errant projectile was a result of internal fighting in Syria.”

It was the fourth such exchange in a week as Syrian troops battle rebels, including hardline Islamists, on the other side, leading to occasional stray fire.

There have been no casualties on the Israeli side but the Jewish state also responded to the previous three incidents by striking Syrian government positions.

Rebels recently launched an offensive against government forces in Quneitra on the Syrian side of the armistice line.

Israel has conducted several air strikes in Syria since that country’s civil war erupted in 2011, most of which it has said had been against arms convoys or warehouses of its Lebanese arch-foe Hezbollah.

The Iran-backed movement is a key supporter of the Syrian regime and is fighting alongside government forces.

In April, Israel shot down what it identified only as “a target” over the Golan, hours after Syria accused it of hitting a military position near Damascus airport.

Israel did not confirm or deny the reported Damascus attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he would not tolerate any spillover from the fighting in Syria.

“We will respond to every firing,” he said. “Whoever attacks us, we will attack him. This is our policy and we will continue with it.”

– ‘Determined to respond’ –

Netanyahu was speaking at the Israeli settlement of Katzrin in the Golan, when a Syrian mortar shell hit further north and the Israeli military retaliated.

“During my speech, shells from the Syrian side landed in our territory and the Israel Defence Forces have already struck back,” he said.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

Around 510 square kilometres of the Golan are under Syrian control.

“Our line is clear,” Netanyahu said in his Hebrew-language speech on Wednesday.

“We are not interfering in the bloody conflict in Syria, which has been going on for more than six years, but we are determined to respond firmly and forcefully to any violation of our sovereignty.”

“We shall not permit radical Islam, led by Iran or Daesh, to open a terrorist front against the State of Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights,” he added using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State Jihadist group.

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Swedish security service says extremist views on the rise — People with sympathies for radical Islam outnumber all other groups — Historic challenge to governments

June 16, 2017

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Swedish security service SAPO says the number of people in Sweden with extremist views has grown to several thousands, mainly among people with sympathies for radical Islam.

Its head, Anders Thornberg, says “we have never seen anything like it” and propaganda from the Islamic State group was a key factor.

He says the figure was in the hundreds a few years ago, adding it was “a historic challenge with extremist environments growing.”

Thornberg told Sweden’s news agency TT Friday that SAPO gets about 6,000 pieces of intelligence every month, up from 2,000 five years ago. He didn’t go into specifics.

Sweden’s threat assessment remains three on a five-level scale. On April 7, the driver of stolen truck killed five pedestrians and injured 14 in central Stockholm.

‘We’re following you’: Sweden's security service trolls citizens with sarcastic first tweet

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/

France: Emmanuel Macron says not to “give in to fear” — Le Pen says reinstate border checks and expel foreigners who are on the watch lists

April 21, 2017

After Paris Attack

LE PEN: EXPEL FOREIGNERS WHO ARE ON WATCH LISTS

BYREUTERS APRIL 21, 2017 12:49

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En Marche candidate Emmanuel Macron urged the country not to “give in to fear” in the wake of the attack.

Image may contain: one or more people, people on stage and people standing
Marine Le Pen delivers a speech during a political rally near Toulon. (photo credit REUTERS)

Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said on Friday that France should immediately reinstate border checks and expel foreigners who are on the watch lists of intelligence services, adding that these were steps she would take, if elected.

Seizing on Thursday night’s killing of a police officer in an attack claimed by Islamic State, Le Pen, who has been campaigning on a hardline anti-EU, anti-immigration platform, urged the Socialist government to carry out immediately measures that are included in her campaign manifesto.

 

“We cannot afford to lose this war. But for the past ten years, left-wing and right-wing governments have done everything they can for us to lose it. We need a presidency which acts and protects us,” Le Pen told reporters at her campaign headquarters.

French voters elect a president in a two-round vote on April 23 and May 7. Opinion polls have for months forecast that Le Pen would make it through to the run-off, but then lose in the final vote.

Until now, Le Pen had struggled to get the campaign to focus on her party’s trademark tough security and immigration stance. By contrast, she has been thrown on the defensive over her position to pull out of the euro zone, a proposal that lacks wide support.

Referring disparagingly to outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande as “notoriously feeble,” Le Pen said: “I only ask one last-ditch effort from him before leaving power: I solemnly ask him to effectively reinstate our borders.”

She added: “Elected president of the Republic, I would immediately, and with no hesitation, carry out the battle plan against Islamist terrorism and against judicial laxity.”

Several other presidential candidates made public statements in response to the Champs Elysees shooting.

French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron urged the country not to “give in to fear” in the wake of the attack.

“We clearly see that the challenge we have in front of us over the coming years will continue to be fighting against terrorism. Because we will not erase it overnight, and for the final stretch of this campaign our challenge is, on the one hand, to bring about the response, to shed light on the democratic choice in this context. But to never give in to fear,” the En Marche candidate said on Friday.

Conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon also spoke on Friday, saying that the fight against “Islamist totalitarianism” should be the priority of France’s next president.

Fillon, who has been campaigning on a hardline security platform, told reporters: “We are at war, there is no alternative, it’s us or them.”

“Radical Islam is challenging our values and our strength of character.”

It is unclear what impact the attack will have on the first round of already very unpredictable presidential elections on Sunday.

With their hardline view on security and immigration, Le Pen and Francois Fillon may resonate with some voters.

But other attacks that took place shortly before elections – the November 2015 attacks in Paris ahead of regional elections and the shooting in a Jewish school before the 2012 presidential elections – did not have any effect on those ballots.

Related:

Germany Raids 24 Locations Across Berlin Including Mosque Suspected of Being a Meeting Point for Radical Islamists

February 28, 2017

More than 400 police officers took part in raids linked to the mosque. Prosecutors have launched criminal investigations into the association’s activity, which is suspected of being a meeting point for radical Islamists.

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing

Berlin’s office of the interior banned the mosque association known as “Fussilet 33” on Tuesday. The organization is suspected of being a meeting point for radical Islamists, prosecutors said.

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Anis Amri, a Tunisian national who launched an attack on a Berlin Christmas market in December that left 12 people dead and dozens more injured, frequented the mosque, according to authorities.

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Last week, authorities in Berlin arrested three men suspected of links to the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (IS) militant group in an anti-terror raid. Police said the men had visited the mosque operated by the association.

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Police raided 24 locations across Berlin early Tuesday morning with more than 400 law enforcement officers participating in the operation, local authorities said in a tweet.

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Authorities closed the mosque following raids last week. The mosque has been under surveillance since 2015 for its suspected links in recruitment activities. It had also raised donations to support terrorist attacks in Syria.
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Counterterrorism measures.
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Banning the association means that the group is formally disbanded and can no longer rent mosques for their activities.
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Germany has taken proactive measures to curb terrorist threats and tackle radicalization following the Berlin attack.
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The measures include launching dozens of raids across the country and proposing legislation to detain foreign nationals suspected of extremist activity who have been denied residency, a precursor for deportation.
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According to Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, more than 500 individuals have been classified as a potential threat in Germany, of which roughly half of them are non-German nationals.
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