Posts Tagged ‘Terror Attacks’

London Police question ‘troubled’ anti-Muslim van attacker

June 20, 2017


© AFP / by Robin MILLARD | Britain is coming to terms with the aftermath of its fourth terror attack in three months

LONDON (AFP) – Police on Tuesday questioned a man suspected of deliberately mowing down Muslims in London, as the interior minister said Britain was “bruised but not broken” by a series of terror attacks.

Britain was coming to terms with the aftermath of its fourth bloody assault in three months following Monday’s van attack on worshippers leaving the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London.

The string of attacks had “bruised but not broken the heart of this great nation”, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said.

The family of Darren Osborne, the man suspected of deliberately driving into the Muslim group, said he was “troubled”, describing his action as “sheer madness”.

Osborne, 47, a father of four from Cardiff, was arrested.

Police believe the suspect acted alone and searches were being conducted at a residential address in the Welsh capital.

Police are treating the incident as a terror attack and British Prime Minister Theresa May described it as “sickening”, vowing Monday to fight extremism in all its forms.

The attack raised fears of retaliation against Muslims after a series of deadly assaults in Britain by Islamist extremists.

One man who was already receiving first aid at the time died following the assault, while nine people were taken to hospital and two others were treated for minor injuries.

“I’m sorry that my brother has been that troubled that it has taken him to this level of troubledness,” said the suspect’s sister Nicola Osborne.

“He has just been troubled for a long time.”

His mother Christine, 72, said she screamed when she saw her son in television footage.

“My son is no terrorist — he’s just a man with problems,” The Sun newspaper quoted her as saying.

In a statement on behalf of his family, his nephew Ellis Osborne, 26, said: “We are massively shocked.

“Our hearts go out to the people who have been injured.”

His uncle was “not a racist”, he said. “It’s madness. It is obviously sheer madness.”

– Suspect saved by imam –

Londoners bearing flowers and messages of solidarity gathered late Monday at the scene of the attack, some carrying signs reading “United Against All Terror”.

Another vigil is planned for Tuesday.

The van driver was pinned down by locals before being shielded from retaliatory violence by an imam and detained by police.

The man suspected of driving the van was arrested on suspicion of “the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism including murder and attempted murder”, police said.

London police chief Cressida Dick said the incident was “quite clearly an attack on Muslims” and promised a stepped-up police presence near mosques as the holy month of Ramadan draws to a close.

Rudd said Muslims needed to feel safe in Britain and the government was working to tackle all forms of hate crime and extremism.

“Indicative figures suggest that over half of those who experience hate because of their religion are Muslim. Any hate crime is unacceptable but this stark figure is something we will not shy away from,” she wrote in The Guardian newspaper.

“We stand with the Muslim community — you are not alone, we share your pain and we will not let you down.”

– ‘Does not remember anything’ –

One victim of Monday’s attack has no memory of what happened, according to a nephew who did not wish to be identified.

“He is bleeding out of his ear, but in general his health was stable,” he said after visiting his uncle Hamza Sharif in hospital.

“He has a fracture in his skull — but they still don’t know why the bleeding from his ear is not stopping yet,” the Somali-born man said.

Sharif “does not remember anything” of the attack and kept asking “what was wrong”.

The three previous terror attacks in recent months were all Islamist-inspired.

A car and knife attack on March 22 in London killed four pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and a police officer guarding the British parliament.

Two months later, on May 22, 22 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a pop concert in the northern city of Manchester.

On June 3, eight people were killed in a van and knife attack on London Bridge and nearby Borough Market.

by Robin MILLARD

French police hold 4 family members of Champs-Elysees assailant

June 20, 2017


© AFP/File | Adam Dzaziri was killed when he rammed a car loaded with guns and a gas bottle into a police van on the Champs-Elysees in Paris

PARIS (AFP) – French police have taken into custody four members of the family of a radicalised Islamist who was killed when he rammed a car loaded with guns and a gas bottle into a police van on the Champs-Elysees, a judicial source said Tuesday.


The ex-wife, brother and sister-in-law of Adam Dzaziri were detained late on Monday afternoon after police questioned them at the family home outside Paris.

The assailant’s father was also “taken into custody during the evening”, the source said.

Dzaziri was killed in Monday’s attack, but there were no other casualties.

French police secure the area on the Champs Elysees avenue after an incident in Paris (Reuters/G.Fuentes)

Sources close to the probe said he had been on France’s security watchlist since 2015 over ties to “the radical Islamist movement”.

The suspect’s father told AFP that his son “had a registered weapon, he practised shooting”. A source close to the case said the 31-year-old had a firearms permit.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the assault, which occurred just a short distance from where a jihadist shot dead a police officer two months earlier.

France remains under a state of emergency imposed after the November 2015 attacks in Paris, when Islamic State jihadists slaughtered 130 people in a night of carnage at venues across the city.

The latest attack came two days before the French government is to unveil a new anti-terrorism law, designed to allow the state of emergency to be lifted.


Paris cordons off Champs Elysees after car hits police van — Bursts into flames

June 19, 2017

BBC News

Police patrol security cordon on Champs Elysee in Paris on 19 JuneImage copyrightREUTERS

A car has crashed into a police van before bursting into flames around the Champs Elysees area of central Paris, police officials say. Reuters

The driver, who was armed, was knocked unconscious and is seriously injured, French media report.

Police say the situation is now under control, and neither law enforcement nor civilians were injured.

France is currently in a state of emergency after being hit by a wave of deadly terror attacks in recent years.

A policeman was shot dead and two others were wounded in an attack on the Champs Elysees in April, just days before the presidential election.

The national police Twitter account had earlier said (in French) that there was an “ongoing police operation”, warning people to respect the security cordon.

French media, quoting police sources, say the act was deliberate.


PARIS (AFP) – A car burst into flames after it crashed into a police van on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on Monday, police and investigators said, adding that the driver was armed and it appeared to be a “deliberate” act.

Interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said police had pulled the driver out of the flaming vehicle and he was “very likely dead.”

Police had said earlier that the driver of the Renault Megane was “seriously injured” and “on the ground… unconscious.”

No police or bystanders were injured in the incident near the Grand Palais exhibition hall.

“Apparently, it’s a deliberate act,” a source close to the investigation said.

Anti-terrorism prosecutors have opened an investigation.

Police have closed two of the metro stations on the Champs-Elysees, a major tourist draw in the French capital.

The incident came just two months after a policeman was shot and killed on the world-renowned avenue, three days before the first round of France’s presidential election.

A note praising the Islamic State group was found next to the body of the gunman, Karim Cheurfi, in that incident.

Police later found other weapons in Cheurfi’s car including a shotgun and knives.

– String of attacks –

The incident on Monday was the latest in a string of attacks in London and Paris.

Two weeks ago jihadists used a van and knives to crush and kill eight people enjoying a night out in the British capital. Three of the victims were French.

Four days later, a hammer-wielding Algerian man was shot and wounded by police after he struck an officer on the head in front of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

In a video found at his home, he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

In London on Monday, a van ploughed into a crowd of Muslims near a London mosque early on Monday, leaving one person dead and injuring 10 others in the second terror attack this month in the British capital.

France is still under a state of emergency imposed after the November 2015 attacks in Paris, when Islamic State jihadists killed 130 people in a night of carnage at venues across the city.

Previous major attacks targeted the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in January 2015 and in November that year, gunmen and suicide bombers attacked venues around Paris including the Bataclan concert hall, killing 130 people in all.


Islamic State Calls For Attacks in the United States, Europe, Russia, Australia, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and the Philippines during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan

June 14, 2017
Updated June 14, 2017, 2:20 PM

By AP, Reuters, AFP, Genalyn D. Kabiling


With its strongholds in Iraq and Syria slipping from its grasp, the Islamic State (IS) group called on followers to launch attacks in the United States, Europe, Russia, Australia, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and the Philippines during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan which began in late May.

An audio message was distributed on Monday on Islamic State’s channel on Telegram, an encrypted messaging application. It was attributed to the militant group’s official spokesman, Abi al-Hassan al-Muhajer.

The authenticity of the recording could not be independently verified, but the voice was the same as a previous audio message purported to be from the spokesman.

“O lions of Mosul, Raqqa, and Tal Afar, God bless those pure arms and bright faces, charge against the rejectionists and the apostates and fight them with the strength of one man,” said al-Muhajer. Rejectionist is a derogatory term used to refer to Shi’ite Muslims.

Members of Iranian security forces take cover during an attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran, Iran, June 7, 2017. Tasnim News Agency/Handout via REUTERS

“To the brethren of faith and belief in Europe, America, Russia, Australia, and others. Your brothers in your land have done well so take them as role models and do as they have done.”

With attacks in Egypt, Britain and Iran among others and a land-grab in the Philippines, the group is trying to divert attention from its losses and win over supporters around the world in the twisted competition for jihadi recruits during the Muslim holy month.

The militants insisted in their English language magazine this week that losing territory has only made it work that much harder to kill. The attacks since Ramadan’s beginning on May 26 show the sweep of the group’s ambition – from attacking the West, to expanding in the Philippines, to targeting Shiite powerhouse Iran – something al-Qaida itself never risked.

“They can say here is something that al-Qaida has refrained to do,” said Assaf Moghadam, an author and analyst of jihadi groups. “From their perspective it’s been a great Ramadan so far.”

But a powerful counter-message is emerging in recent days. With the month of fasting also a time of high television ratings in the Arab world, the telecommunications company Zain has launched a commercial that begins with footage of a man fabricating a suicide bomb. By the end, faced with bloodied victims and survivors of extremist attacks, the man stumbles and fails in his mission. “Let’s bomb delusion with the truth,” a man sings. The ad has been viewed more than 6 million times on YouTube. “We will counter their attacks of hatred with songs of love,” it ends.

The attack on Iran marked a new stage for the Islamic State group, which had threatened the Shiite-majority state repeatedly without actually striking it.

Image may contain: 3 people, outdoor

Philippine troops in Marawi

Fight continues

The Philippine government has expressed concern over the reported Islamic State’s call for more terror attacks during the Ramadan but is still determined to quell security threats, including the raging Maute-led rebellion in Marawi City.

Government forces will continue to fight until Marawi is completely cleared of the armed groups and peace and order have been restored, Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

“With concern and with continued decisiveness,” Abella said in a Palace press briefing when asked about the government’s response to the ISIS threat of more attacks.

“Tuluy-tuloy po ang laban. (The fight continues). I just said, we will not stop until it’s finished,” he said about government operations to resolve the Marawi conflict.


China supports the Philippine government’s “anti-terrorism” operations against Islamist militants, the Chinese foreign ministry said Monday after US special forces provided support to Filipino troops.

The US embassy in Manila said Saturday that special forces were assisting the Philippine military with ongoing operations in the southern city of Marawi, which insurgents overran on May 23.

“Terrorism is the common enemy of mankind. China understands and firmly supports (Philippine President Rodrigo) Duterte’s leadership and its government in fighting terrorism,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing.

“We support these antiterrorism operations,” he said.

Lu was asked about China’s views on the assistance provided by Washington to the Philippine military.

“On the operations launched by the Philippine government on their territory, in principle, we welcome the constructive support of the international community, on the basis of the respect of the Philippine government’s own will, and of the Philippines’ sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Lu said.

The announcement of US help in the embattled southern region of Mindanao comes after Duterte has sought to reduce the Philippines’ reliance on the United States and build much closer ties with China and Russia.

Under Duterte, the Philippines has moved to ease tensions with Beijing over rival territorial claims in the South China Sea.


British PM loses majority, faces pressure to resign — Who is now going to control the Brexit process?

June 9, 2017
AFPJune 9, 2017
Britain’s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on Prime Minister Theresa May to resign after the election result (AFP Photo/JOHN THYS, Paul ELLIS)

London (AFP) – British Prime Minister Theresa May faced pressure to resign on Friday after losing her parliamentary majority, plunging the country into uncertainty as Brexit talks loom.

The pound fell sharply amid fears the Conservative leader will be unable to form a government and could even be forced out of office after a troubled campaign overshadowed by two terror attacks.

After being re-elected with an increased majority in the London commuter seat of Maidenhead, May said Britain “needs a period of stability” as it prepares for the complicated process of withdrawing from the European Union.

She said that while the full results had yet to emerge, her party seemed to have won the most seats and “it would be incumbent on us to ensure we have that period of stability”.

But Leftist opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose Labour party surged from 20 points behind, urged May to quit, saying she had “lost votes, lost support and lost confidence”.

Former Conservative minister Anna Soubry, who just held onto her seat, said May was “in a very difficult place” following a “dreadful campaign”.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

With a handful of seats still to be declared, the Conservatives were predicted to win 319 seats, down from 331 in 2015 — yet another upset in a turbulent year since the EU referendum in June 2016.

They were mathematically unable to reach the 326 mark that would give them a majority, meaning they will have to form an informal or formal alliance to forward their agenda.

Labour are expected to increase their share from 229 to 260 seats, resulting in a hung parliament.

May, a 60-year-old vicar’s daughter, is now facing questions over her judgement in calling the election three years early and risking her party’s slim but stable majority of 17.

“It is exactly the opposite of why she held the election and she then has to go and negotiate Brexit in that weakened position,” said Professor Tony Travers of the London School of Economics.

Sterling fell nearly two percent against the dollar on the back of the exit poll, as investors questioned who was now going to control the Brexit process.

Early newspaper editions reflected the drama, with headlines such as “Britain on a knife edge”, “Mayhem” and “Hanging by a thread”.

In a night that threatened to redraw the political landscape once again, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which won 12.5 percent of the vote two years ago and was a driving force behind the Brexit vote, was all but wiped out, hovering around two percent.

The pro-European Liberal Democrats, who have campaigned for a second EU referendum, increased their number of seats from nine, but their former leader Nick Clegg lost his seat.

Meanwhile the Scottish National Party of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, which has dominated politics north of the border for a decade and called for a new independence vote after Brexit, was tipped to lose around 21 of its 54 seats.

Deputy leader Angus Robertson, one of the strongest SNP performers in the House of Commons, was an early casualty.

– ‘Pressure to resign’ –

May, who took over after last year’s Brexit referendum, began the formal two-year process of leaving the EU on March 29, promising to take Britain out of the single market and cut immigration.

Seeking to capitalise on sky-high popularity ratings, she called the election a few weeks later, urging voters to give her a stronger mandate to go into Brexit talks that are expected to begin as early as June 19.

Officials in Brussels were hopeful the election would allow her to make compromises, but this has been thrown into question by the prospect of a hung parliament.

“It creates another layer of uncertainty ahead of the Brexit negotiations,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA currency traders.

Despite campaigning against Brexit, Labour has accepted the result but promised to avoid a “hard Brexit”, focusing on maintaining economic ties with the bloc.

Barely a month ago, the centre-left party seemed doomed to lose the election, plagued by internal divisions over its direction under veteran socialist Corbyn.

But May’s botched announcement of a reform in funding for elderly care, a strong grassroots campaign by Corbyn and the terror attacks, which increased scrutiny of her time as interior minister, changed the game.


“Even if she manages to get just enough seats it will be seen as a failure and she may indeed be under pressure to resign as leader quite quickly,” said Paula Surridge, senior lecturer at the University of Bristol.

– Terror in the campaign –

Britain has been hit with three terror attacks since March, and campaigning was twice suspended.

A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a pop concert in Manchester on May 22, killing 22 people.

Last Saturday, three assailants wearing fake suicide vests mowed down pedestrians and launched a stabbing rampage around London Bridge, killing eight people before being shot dead by police.

The attacks led to scrutiny over May’s time as interior minister from 2010 to 2016, particularly since it emerged that some of the attackers had been known to police and security services.

Labour seized on steep cuts in police numbers implemented as part of a Conservative austerity programme, although May insisted she had protected funding for counter-terrorism.

Manchester bombing latest: 18 terror plots foiled since 2013, including five since Westminster attack, source says

May 25, 2017

© AFP | A soldier patrols outside 10 Downing Street, the official residence of Britain’s Prime Minister, in central London on May 24, 2017

The Telegraph

The security services have foiled five attacks in the past two months since the Westminster attack, a senior Whitehall source has said.

Defending against accusations that MI5 had been repeatedly warned the Manchester suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was dangerous, the source outlined the scale of the job facing counter-terrorism officials.

The bombmaker who provided Salman Abedi (pictured) with the explosive device used to cause carnage at Manchester Arena may still at large, police have revealed

Salman Abedi,

The source said MI5 is currently managing 500 active investigations, involving 3,000 subjects of interest at any one time.

The source said: “Where former subjects of interest show sufficient risk of reengaging in terrorism, MI5 can consider reopening the investigation, but this process inevitably relies on difficult professional judgments based on partial information.”

Bomb squad on the scene in Manchester

Bomb squad on the scene in Manchester CREDIT: TWITTER/LUKE SANDERSON

Meanwhile, a suspicious package which prompted an alert in Hulme has been deemed safe, Greater Manchester Police said.

An army bomb disposal team was sent to the scene and several roads were closed, including Linby Street and Jackson Street.

But GMP later said the incident “has now been deemed safe and the cordon has been removed”.

It followed a minute’s silence held in memory of the victims and the arrival of The Queen to a hospital where medics battled to save the lives of children caught up in Monday’s suicide bomb.

 armed police ukArmed police stand outside Manchester Central in Manchester, England, in 2015. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

She met victims at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, and staff who worked tirelessly through the night in the aftermath of Monday’s atrocity.

Earlier it was revealed police hunting the terror network behind the Manchester Arena bombing have stopped passing information to the US on the investigation as a major transatlantic row erupted over leaks of key evidence in the US, according to a report.

The police, Downing Street and the Home Office refused to comment on the BBC report, but Theresa May will confront Donald Trump about the leaks – including crime scene photographs – when she meets him at a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday.

The leaks included suggestions that bomber Salman Abedi’s family had warned security officials he was dangerous.

There were also reports Abedi’s parents were so worried about him being radicalised in Manchester that they got him to join them in Libya and confiscated his passport. It was apparently returned when he said he wanted to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has admitted Abedi, 22, was known to the security services “up to a point”.

But further details have emerged about the UK-born bomber’s radicalisation, and the warnings that were sounded, which will raise questions about why he was not more closely monitored.

Responding to the leak in the New York Times of crime scene photos showing bomb fragments and the backpack used by Abedi to conceal his device, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said it “undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families”.

But in the US, politicians were openly briefing the media on what they had been told about Abedi and his “cell of Isis-inspired terrorists”.

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Former Pentagon chief Gates warns of more IS attacks

May 23, 2017

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | Former US defense chief Robert Gates warns that Islamic State fighters will step up attacks against the West as they lose ground in Iraq and Syria


Former US defense secretary Robert Gates warned Tuesday that the West can expect further attacks like the suicide bombing in Manchester that killed at least 22 people.

Gates, who served under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said Islamic State jihadists would step up international terror attacks as they lose ground in Iraq and Syria.

“As people scurry away from those sites, that doesn’t mean they are defeated individually or have lost their commitment to attacking the ‘crusaders,'” Gates said at a Washington conference.

“It just means they will change their tactics.”

US-backed local forces have pushed IS out of almost all of their former stronghold Mosul in Iraq, and an offensive on Raqa in Syria is expected to begin in the coming months.

But the jihadists’ eventual loss of this emblematic pair of cities should not be overstated.

“Just as we have seen Al-Qaeda metastasize subsequent to the killing of Osama bin Laden back in 2011… I think you will see ISIS become more active and more aggressive in a variety of places in the West,” Gates predicted.

President Donald Trump has instructed the Pentagon to “annihilate” IS in a bid to prevent escaped foreign fighters from returning home.

The move to encircle then kill as many jihadists in place as possible — rather than letting them exit a city and targeting them as they flee — reflects an increased urgency to stop battle-hardened jihadists bringing their military expertise and ideology back to European capitals and other areas.

Twenty-two people, including children, were killed in a suicide bombing at a pop concert packed with teens in the British city of Manchester late Monday. Another 59 were wounded.

IS has claimed responsibility.

While Assad, Putin Flattened Aleppo, Islamic State Made Gains Elsewhere in Syria

December 23, 2016
© AFP/File / by Daphné BENOIT | Syrian government troops patrol in eastern Aleppo on December 7, 2016

PARIS (AFP) – The Syrian regime’s all-out offensive to recapture Aleppo enabled the Islamic State group to regain territory elsewhere, including the historic city of Palmyra, and has dimmed prospects of defeating the jihadists, experts say.

“The resources deployed (by Damascus and its allies) to retake Aleppo have allowed IS to claim a series of opportunistic victories” in Syria, said Charles Lister of the US think-tank Middle East Institute.

During the assault by Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces on rebels in eastern Aleppo, IS jihadists recaptured the historic city of Palmyra on December 11 after losing it in March.

“Russia and Syria prioritised the defeat of the opposition in Aleppo city over the defence of Palmyra from IS, ultimately enhancing the threat posed by Salafi-jihadist groups in both northern and eastern Syria,” Jonathan Mautner of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote on the Washington-based think-tank’s blog.

He said the recapture of Palmyra highlighted “the inability of pro-regime forces to establish security across the entire country without sustained support from Russia and Iran, notwithstanding their recent success in Aleppo city”.

– IS ‘the big winner’ –

IS “appears the big winner from the fall of Aleppo,” said Jean-Pierre Filiu, a professor at the Paris School of International Affairs.

Not only did the group recapture Palmyra, its propaganda benefitted from “international passivity in the face of Aleppo’s suffering”, which encouraged the group’s followers to launch attacks one after the other in Jordan and Germany, he said.

A shooting rampage in the Jordanian city of Karak left 10 dead on Sunday, the day before 12 people were killed in the truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. The main suspect, Anis Amri, was shot dead in Italy on Friday.

Still, IS controls only half the territory it seized in 2014 in Iraq and Syria, with its heaviest defeats coming this year at the hands of coalition forces.

In northern Syria, IS lost Kobane and Minbej, as well as Dabiq, a town of major symbolic importance to the jihadists because according to a Sunni prophecy, it will be the site of an apocalyptic battle between Muslim and Christian armies.

Al-Bab, its stronghold north of Aleppo, is under attack by Turkey, which launched an offensive four months ago to chase IS from its southern border.

But the jihadists still control Raqa, the Syrian capital of their self-proclaimed “caliphate”.

They also control the banks of the Euphrates river all the way to the border with Iraq.

After the battle of Aleppo, “there is a de-facto division of Syria in two, with the Russians in the west and the Americans in the east,” a European diplomat said.

Moscow is expected to continue supporting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to recapture territory from the Syrian rebels, while Washington continues its fight against IS.

“The Russians want to recapture ‘useful’ Syria and leave the ‘IS-land’ quagmire to the West,” the diplomat said.

On December 14, US Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, who commands the air campaign of the anti-IS coalition, said that if the Russians do not try to retake Palmyra, the US-led coalition would “do what we need to do”.

– Raqa remains a challenge –

But the main challenge remains the recapture of Raqa, the base from which IS has planned attacks in Europe and Arab countries.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an Arab-Kurdish alliance backed by US ground and air forces, launched an offensive to retake Raqa in early November.

The Kurds’ leading role has set alarm bells ringing in Ankara, which considers the main Syrian Kurdish YPG militia a “terrorist” group. Turkey is currently waging its own offensive inside Syria, targeting both IS and the Kurds.

Turkey worries that the SDF offensive against Raqa could allow it to put down roots in the city.

Meanwhile, with Moscow “indifferent to the fate of Raqa and the United States bogged down in the battle of Mosul” — the main IS stronghold in Iraq — Turkey could be emboldened to step up its intervention in Syria, Filiu said.

by Daphné BENOIT

Berlin Attack Aids Cause of Europe’s Nationalist Parties

December 20, 2016

Such movements could shape elections next year in the Netherlands, France and Germany

Police stand at the area where a truck ploughed through a Christmas market on  Monday in Berlin, killing at least 12 people and injuring at least 50 others.
Police stand at the area where a truck ploughed through a Christmas market on Monday in Berlin, killing at least 12 people and injuring at least 50 others. PHOTO: SEAN GALLUP/GETTY IMAGES

Updated Dec. 20, 2016 8:01 a.m. ET

BRUSSELS—It seemed not so much a question of if, but of when and where.

Security forces across Europe were on alert for a strike on a Christmas market and it came Monday night in Berlin in a truck attack that copied the technique used to deadly effect in Nice in July.

In November, the State Department alerted U.S. citizens to the risk of holiday attacks by Islamic State or al Qaeda throughout Europe, advising them to “exercise caution at holiday festivals, events and outdoor markets.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Tuesday at the site of the Christmas market attack in Berlin.CreditHannibal Hanschke/Reuters.

Islamic extremists have had such symbols of Christian celebration in their sights since at least 2000, when French and German authorities averted a planned attack on the big Christmas market in Strasbourg, France.

The difference today is politics. If the assailant or assailants are proven to be Muslims, and particularly if they were among the recent wave of refugees to sweep into Europe following the conflict in Syria, the most obvious beneficiaries will be nationalist political movements across Europe.

Right-wing political forces were already on the rise, their success helped by Europe’s faltering recovery from the financial crisis and governments’ collective struggles to deal with an influx of refugees from war zones in the Middle East and beyond.

Now, another serious terrorist attack, adding to those in the past 13 months in France and Belgium, seems likely to further aid their causes. More than ever, these movements seem set to shape elections next year in three of the core countries of the European Union: the Netherlands, France and Germany itself.

France’s Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, holding a rally in Frejus, France, in September. The latest opinion polls suggest she would make it through the first round in next year’s presidential election but is unlikely to win the second round run-off.
France’s Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, holding a rally in Frejus, France, in September. The latest opinion polls suggest she would make it through the first round in next year’s presidential election but is unlikely to win the second round run-off. PHOTO: JEAN-PAUL PELISSIER/REUTERS

In the Netherlands, the anti-Muslim firebrand Geert Wilders is leading in opinion polls ahead of elections in March, though political analysts there expect his opponents to gather into a coalition to thwart him.

In France next spring, National Front leader Marine Le Pen is expected to win through the first round of the presidential elections, though most forecasts suggest she will fall at the final hurdle of the elections’ second round.

In Germany, the attack will further intensify pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces general elections next fall, over her decision to open Germany’s doors last year to a million people fleeing the conflict in Syria.

She has since rolled up the welcome mat and Europe has pulled up the drawbridge to the refugees, among whom Islamic State fighters hid to find their way into—or back to—Europe to carry out the Paris attack in November 2015 and the bomb blasts last March in Brussels.

Nonetheless, parties on the right of her center-right Christian Democrats may benefit from Monday night’s killings, even though they are even less likely than elsewhere to gain enough votes to form a government.

The conflation of asylum seekers and terrorists in the minds of some voters is catnip to the anti-immigration parties. Even if they don’t gather the numbers to form governments, these insurgent movements—all opponents of the EU—will likely pull politics and policies in their direction.

The groups are undoubtedly benefiting from support among people who feel they have been left behind by gathering globalization, whose living standards have barely risen in two decades. But often layered on that is identity politics that also blames immigrants for their plight.

The whole mixture risks making it even harder for new entrants to assimilate into host societies and increases the struggles of immigrants who have been there longer—driving a wedge between immigrants and native populations that the terrorists likely hope will further advance their agenda.

As France announced it would further tighten security around Christmas markets, there appeared little confidence among security authorities that they can prevent further such atrocities. Across Belgium, France and Germany, news of plots and disrupted terror cells appears almost daily.

Already terrorism has colored the holiday season for many people in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. But few will be sleeping more uneasily than the establishment politicians struggling in vain to show they are in control of events.

Write to Stephen Fidler at


US warns its citizens of possible kidnappings, terror attacks in Turkey

October 23, 2016

US State Department updates travel warning for American citizens in Turkey.

A Turkish special forces police officer guards the entrance of the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, August 5, 2016. (photo credit:REUTERS)


The US State Department warned American citizens early on Sunday of increased terrorist threats in Turkey.

In the updated travel warning, the State Department urged US citizens to avoid travel to Turkey’s volatile southeast region near the Syrian border, while reminding citizens that risks remain for travel throughout the country.

“The Department continues to monitor the effects of the ongoing State of Emergency; recent terrorist incidents in Ankara, Istanbul, Gaziantep, and throughout the Southeast; recurring threats; visible increases in police or military activities; and the potential for restrictions on movement as they relate to the safety and well-being of US citizens in Turkey,” read the advisory that replaced an August 29 warning.
The advisory also warned that foreigners and US tourist have recently been targeted by terrorist groups operating in Turkey.

“Most recently, extremists have threatened to kidnap and assassinate Westerners and US citizens,” read the government notice. “US citizens are reminded to review personal security plans, monitor local news for breaking events, and remain vigilant at all times.”

The State Department announced that the updated travel warning came as it was decided to end an authorization made after the Turkey’s failed coup in July that permitted the voluntary departure of family members of employees at the US Embassy in Ankara and the US Consulate General in Istanbul.

A child suicide bomber in August killed 51 people at a wedding party in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep, in one of the deadliest attack in the country struggling to contain spillover from neighboring Syria’s war.
In June, three suspected Islamic State suicide bombers opened fire and blew themselves up in Istanbul’s main airport, killing 41 people and wounding 239.

Five Saudis and two Iraqis were among the dead, a Turkish official said. Citizens from China, Jordan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Ukraine were also among the 13 foreigners killed at Europe’s third-busiest airport .

In March, a suicide bomber killed four people and wounded 36 others, including 11 Israelis in a busy shopping district in central Istanbul.

A suicide car bombing in the capital Ankara that month killed 37 people. A similar bombing in Ankara earlier in the year killed 29 people. A Kurdish militant group has claimed responsibility for both of those bombings.

In January, a suicide bomber killed around 10 people, most of them German tourists, in Istanbul’s historic heart, an attack the government blamed on Islamic State.



The US consulate in Istanbul said late Saturday that extremist groups continued their “aggressive efforts” to attack Americans and other foreigners in the city

ANKARA (TURKEY) (AFP) – The United States has warned its citizens of the potential risk of terror attack or attempted kidnapping of foreigners in Istanbul, which has been rocked by several bombings this year.


The consulate in Istanbul said in a message late Saturday that extremist groups continued their “aggressive efforts” to attack Americans and other foreigners in the city.

“These attacks may be pre-planned or could occur with little or no warning, and include, but are not limited to: armed attack, attempted kidnapping, bombing, or other violent acts,” it said in an online notice.

The consulate did not specify which group was believed to be plotting such acts, but in the past year the city has suffered multiple bombings by the Islamic State group (IS) and Kurdish militants.

In June, 47 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, which authorities blamed on IS.

Those visiting Istanbul or living in the city were advised to “review and update their personal security practices” when frequenting areas popular with Westerners or where they may live, the consulate said.

It is the latest warning from the US after the consulate in southern Adana province warned of a potential security threat targeting US-branded hotels in southern Turkey in late September.

In the same month, the US embassy warned of the risk of a terror attack on businesses, including Starbucks, used by Westerners in Gaziantep, close to the Syrian border.

That warning came after a deadly suicide bombing in Gaziantep blamed on jihadists linked to IS in August. The attack on a wedding left 57 dead including 34 children.

In the latest message, the consulate also told its citizens to avoid travelling to southeastern Turkey and to stay away from large crowds — especially in popular tourist destinations — as well as political gatherings and rallies.