Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

Hezbollah Condemns Barcellona Attackers and Others Like Them — They Hurt The Image of Jihad, Image of Islam

August 20, 2017
 AUGUST 20, 2017 03:35

The Lebanese terrorist organization called out the Syrian-based terror group.

Hezbollah condemns Barcelona attack, saying it 'harms the image of jihad'

A Hezbollah fighter stands in front of anti-tank artillery at Juroud Arsal, the Syria-Lebanon border.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Hezbollah on Friday strongly condemned the terror attack allegedly carried out by ISIS on Thursday in Barcelona.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, in which a van rammed into a crowd on a busy tourist street in the Spanish city, killing 13 and injuring over 100. It was followed by another similar attack in the coastal city of Cambrils, in which five suspects were shot and killed by police.

Harry Athwal, 44, stays with an injured boy after the Barcelona attack. Picture: EFE News Agency/Alamy Live News

Harry Athwal, 44, stays with an injured boy after the Barcelona attack. Picture: EFE News Agency/Alamy Live News

The Lebanon-based terrorist organization said the attack was “further proof of the criminal culture” of ISIS, and that the group’s members “are influenced by a culture of hatred of people and the killing and destruction of their property, on false pretexts that are unacceptable to common sense or religion.”

Hezbollah also added that “turning innocent civilians into targets for murder is part of a satanic plan carried out by [ISIS] terrorists” and that the group’s goal “is to harm the image of jihad and to contaminate the image of Islam.”

Barcelona terror attack

The Shi’ite organization called on the world to work together to eliminate ISIS, first by pressuring regional and international forces that support the group with funding and defense.

Hezbollah – along with the Lebanese army – is at war with ISIS. Fire was exchanged on the Lebanese-Syrian border on Saturday just after it was announced that an offensive had been launched.

From the Syrian side of the border, Hezbollah is working with the Syrian army to attack ISIS positions with missiles, artillery, and helicopter fire.


French police arrest man after security scare in southern city of Nimes

August 20, 2017


© Jaime Reina / AFP | Passengers and police officers stand outside the train station of Nimes after it was reopened on August 19, 2017


Latest update : 2017-08-20

Police in the southern French city of Nimes on Saturday briefly closed the local railway station and arrested a man with a fake gun, amid heightened security following a twin terror attack in Spain.

The station was sealed off while police detained a man with a replica gun which fires blanks, the local prefecture told AFP.

Spanish media reported earlier that shots had been fired and social media users bombarded Twitter with worried messages, but the prefecture denied there had been any violence.

“No shootout at Nimes station,” it said, describing it as an “operation to check a suspicious sighting,” and rail traffic was expected to resume shortly.

The incident coincided with the start of the Vuelta a Espana, one of Europe’s leading cycling races, which this year kicks off just outside Nimes.

A heavy police presence was deployed for the event, which took place less than two days after terror attacks in the northeastern Spanish province of Catalonia that killed 14 people and injured 120.


Spanish Police Hunt for Suspected Barcelona Van Driver

August 20, 2017

BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish police put up scores of roadblocks across the northeast as the manhunt continued Sunday for the suspected driver of the van that plowed into pedestrians in Barcelona.

Police in Catalonia are searching for Younes Abouyaaquoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan suspected of carrying out the attack Thursday in Barcelona that left 13 dead and over 120 people wounded.

A headshot of the alleged driver behind the deadly Barcelona terrorist attack.

Younes Abouyaaquoub

The investigation is also focusing on a missing imam who police think could have died in a massive house explosion Wednesday. Police believe imam Abdelbaki Es Satty radicalized the young men in the extremist cell, which may have  accidentally blown up a house in the quiet seaside town of Alcanar with the explosive material it was collecting. Es Satty in June abruptly quit working at a mosque in Ripoll and has not been seen since.

His former mosque denounced the deadly attacks and weeping relatives marched into a Ripoll square on Saturday, tearfully denying any knowledge of the radical plans of their sons and brothers. Abouyaaquoub’s mother says his younger brother Hussein has also disappeared, as has the younger brother of one of five radicals slain Friday by police during an attack on the resort of Cambrils that left one pedestrian dead.

Authorities said the two attacks were the work of a large terrorist cell that had been plotting for a long time from a house they took over in Alcanar. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for both attacks.

 Image may contain: one or more people
A man touches a newspaper displaying a photograph of the aftermath of the terror attack in Las Ramblas, in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

On Sunday, Spain’s king and queen and its prime minister attended a solemn Mass at Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia Basilica for the victims of the terror attacks.

King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia were accompanied by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont and other officials at the Mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Joan Josep Omella.

Everyone so far known in the cell grew up in Ripoll, a town in the Catalan foothills 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Barcelona. Spanish police searched nine homes in Ripoll, including Es Satty’s, and set up roadblocks. French police carried out extra border checks on people coming in from Spain.

Neighbors, family and the mayor of Ripoll said they were shocked by news of the alleged involvement of the young men, whom all described as integrated Spanish and Catalan speakers.

Halima Hychami, the weeping mother of Mohamed Hychami, one of the attackers named by police, said he told her he was leaving on vacation and would return Aug. 25. His younger brother, Omar, slept in late Thursday, left mid-afternoon and has not been heard from since. Mohamed Hychami is believed among the five extremists killed in Cambrils.

“We found out by watching TV, same as all of you. They never talked about the imam. They were normal boys. They took care of me, booked my flight when I went on vacation. They all had jobs. They didn’t steal. Never had a problem with me or anybody else. I can’t understand it,” she said.

Even with Abouyaaquoub and others at large, Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido declared the cell “broken” Saturday. In addition to the five killed by police, four were in custody and others were killed in a house explosion Wednesday. He said there was no new imminent threat of attack.

Police conducted controlled explosions Saturday in Alcanar, south of Barcelona.

Initially, only one person was believed killed in the Wednesday blast that destroyed a house in Alcanar. But officials said DNA tests were underway to determine if human remains found there Friday were from a second victim. A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing searches, said investigators believed they may belong to Es Satty.

The official said investigators also discovered ingredients of the explosive TATP, used by the Islamic State group in attacks in Paris and Brussels, as well as multiple butane tanks.

Neighbors on Saturday said they had seen three vehicles coming and going from the home, including an Audi used in the Cambrils attack and the van used in the Barcelona attack.

The president of the mosque where Es Satty preached, Ali Yassine, said he hadn’t seen him since June, when he announced he was returning to Morocco for three months.

“He left the same way he came,” said a bitter Wafa Marsi, a friend to many of the attackers, who appeared Saturday alongside their families to denounce terrorism.

Fatima Abouyaaquoub, sister-in-law of the Hychami brothers and the cousin of Younes Abouyaaquoub, found it all hard to believe.

“I’m still waiting for all of it to be a lie. I don’t know if they were brainwashed or they gave them some type of medication or what. I can’t explain it,” she said.

Islamic extremists have made a point of targeting Europe’s major tourist attractions — especially in rented or hijacked vehicles. But in the last two years, the extremist group has steadily lost ground in its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

By late Saturday, the Catalan emergency service said 53 attack victims still remained hospitalized, 13 of them in critical condition.

The 14 people killed spanned generations — from age 3 to age 80 — and left behind devastated loved ones. They included a grandmother, 74, and her granddaughter, 20, from Portugal who were visiting Barcelona to celebrate a birthday; an Italian father who saved his children’s lives but lost his own; an American man who was celebrating his first wedding anniversary.

Francisco Lopez Rodriguez, a 57-year-old Spaniard, was killed with his 3-year-old grand-nephew, Javier Martinez, while walking along the Las Ramblas promenade. His widow Roser is recovering in a hospital.

“We are a broken family,” niece Raquel Baron Lopez posted on Twitter.


Hinnant and Oller reported from Ripoll. Angela Charlton in Paris; Nicole Winfield in Rome; Mystyslav Chernov in Ripoll; Oleg Cetinic in Alcanar; and Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed.

Spain attacker showed ‘no sign of radicalisation’: father says

August 19, 2017


© AFP / by Hamza Mekouar | Spanish police cordon off Las Ramblas avenue in central Barcelona after a van ploughed into a crowd, killing 13 people on August 17, 2017

MELOUIYA (MAROC) (AFP) – Residents of Melouiya, a village high in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, are in shock at the news two of their sons were implicated in terror attacks in Spain.A traditional tent set up on a rocky patch of ground near the rough stone house of the Oukabir family, originally intended for a wedding reception, has been turned into a funeral tent.

“Joy has given way to sadness and pain,” said Abderrahim, in his forties, an uncle of the Oukabir brothers.

Driss Oukabir, 27, was arrested in the Spanish town of Ripoll on Thursday just hours after a van sped into crowds on the busy Las Ramblas avenue in central Barcelona, leaving 13 people dead.

His brother Moussa, 17, was one of five “suspected terrorists” shot dead after knocking down pedestrians in the Catalan seaside resort of Cambrils in a second attack in the early hours of Friday.

“We are in shock, completely distraught”, said the father of the two young men, Said, with tears in his eyes.

With an athletic build and a baseball cap on his head, he was surrounded by family members, neighbours and friends who had come to offer their condolences.

“Spanish police called Moussa’s mother who is in Spain to tell her that he was dead,” he told AFP shortly before the official announcement by police on Friday night.

The twin terror attacks left 14 people dead and some 120 wounded.

“We are simple, peaceful people. We don’t know anything about radicalism or terrorism,” another resident told AFP.

– ‘Nice boy’ –

The economy of the impoverished, mostly Berber-speaking region is based mainly on farming, herding and money sent home by family members working in Europe.

Said Oukabir left to try his luck on the other side of the Mediterranean in the 1990s.

With his son Driss, who was 10 at the time, he headed for the province of Girona in Catalonia.

Moussa, who would have celebrated his 18th birthday in October, was born in Ripoll, a Spanish town of around 10,000 people about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Barcelona.

The family have since lived between Spain, Melouiya and the nearby town of Aghbala.

The news that the two brothers were implicated in the Spain attacks shocked relatives, who said they had no idea the two had been radicalised.

“The whole region is in shock,” Moussa’s uncle said. “He was gentle, always smiling, he didn’t smoke or drink.”

Said said his sons had shown no sign of radicalisation.

“They lived like the young people of their age, dressed like them,” their father said.

“Moussa was a nice boy who didn’t hurt anyone.

“He was attending classes and was going to take his high school exams next year. He recently started praying… but it stopped there.”

He said the young man had “doubtless” been manipulated.

Driss had “left school early to work honestly and earn a living”, he said.

“Today he is between the hands of God and the police. He is under investigation. I hope they will say he’s innocent. I don’t want to lose both my sons.”

by Hamza Mekouar

Catalonia Attacks Had Been Planned ‘for Some Time’

August 18, 2017

MADRID — Two deadly attacks in Catalonia on Thursday and in the early hours of Friday had been planned for some time by people operating out of the town of Alcanar, police said on Friday.

Alcanar was the site of an explosion in a house shortly before midnight on Wednesday, in an incident which police are now linking to the attacks.

Three of the people arrested so far over the attacks are Moroccans and a fourth person in custody is a Spaniard, the regional police chief told a news conference. None had a history of terror-related activities. They were aged between 21 and 34.

Police said they had still not identified the driver of a van who mowed down pedestrians in central Barcelona and then fled the scene on foot.

It was possible that this man was among five suspects shot dead in the resort town of Cambrils early on Friday, but nothing was yet certain, the police chief said.

(Reporting by Julien Toyer; Editing by Sarah White)

Barcelona: Eight Thought to Be Have Been Involved in Attacks — The group had planned to use butane gas canisters

August 18, 2017

MADRID — Spanish authorities believe there may have been eight people involved in a cell which carried out an attack in Barcelona on Thursday, and that the group had planned to use butane gas canisters, a judicial source with knowledge of the investigation said on Friday.

Catalan government official Joaquim Forn also told local radio earlier on Friday that it was possible that attackers had meant to use canisters in the attack on Thursday in which a suspect drove a van at speed along a busy pedestrian street.

Police officers on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain, on Thursday night, hours after an attacker driving a van killed at least 13 people. Credit David Ramos/Getty Images

Security forces are hunting for the van’s driver, who was seen escaping on foot, and police said they had killed five attackers on Friday night in Cambrils, a town south of Barcelona, to thwart a separate attack.

“The priority right now is work out the identity of these people, to prove and show the relationship between the different people involved, those that took the van and those that have been able to escape,” Forn said.

(Reporting by Inmaculada Sanz and Blanca Rodriguez; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Sarah White)

The Latest: 2 Danes among injured in Barcelona van attack — Spanish police make another arrest

August 18, 2017

The Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on terror attacks in Spain (all times local):

9 a.m.

Danish authorities have confirmed that there are two Danes among those “lightly wounded” following the deadly van attack on tourists in the Spanish city of Barcelona.

Leaders in the Nordic and Baltic region are rushing to condemn the attack. Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he was “horrified by reports from Barcelona,” while his Danish counterpart Lars Loekke Rasmussen said Europe has “again been attacked by terror.”

In Norway, Prime Minister Erna Solberg called it “a cowardly attack,” her Estonian colleague Juri Ratas called it “brutal” and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said it was “despicable.


8:50 a.m.

Catalonia authorities say a third person has been arrested in connection with the Barcelona van attack that killed at least 13 people.

Catalonia Interior Minister Joaquim Forn told Catalunya Radio on Friday that the suspect was taken into custody in the northern Catalan town of Ripoll.

On Thursday, one of the two suspects detained in the hours after the Las Ramblas attack was arrested in Ripoll and another in Alcanar.

Police said neither of the two people detained Thursday was the driver of the white van that plowed down pedestrians. The driver escaped the scene on foot.

Footage has emerged of panic on Barcelona’s streets after Thursday’s van attack in the city’s historic Las Ramblas district. Authorities say one person is dead, and dozens have been injured. (Aug. 17)


8 a.m.

French officials say 26 French nationals were among the dozens injured in a van attack in Barcelona, and Australia says one of its citizens is unaccounted for.

Spanish authorities previously said the dead and injured are from 24 countries. The attack involved a van that veered onto a busy promenade in downtown Barcelona and struck pedestrians. Thirteen people were killed and 100 injured.

One of the dead was Belgian, and Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters: “We are concerned for one Australian who remains unaccounted for.”

France’s Foreign Ministry said Friday at least 11 of the French nationals who were hurt had serious injuries.

Australia also says three of its citizens were injured, one seriously. Two with slight injuries were Taiwanese. A Greek woman and a Hong Kong resident were also hurt.


The item timed at 8 a.m. has been corrected to show that 26 French nationals were injured, not 25.

Muslim-baiter Hanson wears burka in Australia’s Senate

August 17, 2017


© AFP/File | Controversial former Australian politician Pauline Hanson (L) caused a furore when she entered the Senate wearing a full burqa

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian anti-immigration politician Pauline Hanson caused a furore Thursday when she entered the Senate wearing a full burqa, earning a blistering rebuke from the country’s top lawyer for the “appalling’ stunt.Hanson wore the Islamic garment in the chamber to highlight what she said were the security issues it posed, linking it to terrorism as fellow senators heckled her.

“Will you work to ban the burqa in Australia in light of what is happening with national security?” she said after whipping off the garment to question Attorney-General George Brandis.

She added: “Terrorism is a true threat to our country, many Australians are in fear of it.”

Brandis said his conservative government had no such plans, warning Hanson she risked offending the Muslim community by wearing a burka when she was not a follower of Islam.

“To ridicule that community, to drive it into a corner, to mock its religious garments is an appalling thing to do, and I would ask you to reflect on what you have done,” he said.

Brandis, his voice cracking with emotion, also said that being a strict adherent Muslim, such as those who wear the burka, was “absolutely consistent” with being a law-abiding citizen.

“We have about half a million Australians in this country of the Islamic faith and the vast majority of them are law-abiding, good Australians,” he said.

Brandis’ remarks prompted a standing ovation from his political opponents in the Labor and Greens parties.

Independent senator Derryn Hinch labelled Hanson’s conduct “disgusting”.

“Pauline Hanson mocked the religion of some Australians… she made a mockery of an honourable place (the Senate),” he told Sky News.

Labor senator Sam Dastyari accused Hanson of stoking extremism in a poorly timed bid for “a cheap headline”.

“In the same week that we saw white nationalism rear its ugly head in the country of our closest ally — in that week a stunt like this gets pulled in the Australian Senate,” he said.

“It is hurtful, it is offensive, it is wrong,”

Hanson first gained prominence in the 1990s, when she warned Australia was in danger of being “swamped by Asians”.

After a 12-year hiatus from politics she returned in 2014, this time targeting Muslims and was elected to the Senate two years later as leader of the right-wing One Nation party.

In her first speech after returning to parliament, she said Islam was “a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own”.

Hanson was unrepentant after her latest stunt, telling commercial radio: “Is it extreme? Yes. Is it getting my message across? I hope so.”

US blacklists Kashmir ‘terror’ group

August 16, 2017


© AFP/File | The US designation comes on the week that both India and Pakistan mark 70 years of independence from the British Empire — and the start of a bitter rivalry and decades of conflict over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States added the Kashmiri separatist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen to its blacklist of terrorist organizations on Wednesday, amid renewed protests against Indian rule in the region.US authorities had already designated the group’s leader, Syed Salahuddin, a “global terrorist”, but he is still able to operate in Pakistani Kashmir, where his group has strong support.

The State Department designation bans US citizens and residents from dealing with the group and any assets found to belong to the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in areas under US jurisdiction will be frozen.

“Today’s action notifies the US public and the international community that HM is a terrorist organization,” the department said.

“Terrorism designations expose and isolate organizations and individuals, and deny them access to the US financial system. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of US agencies and other governments.”

The US designation comes on the week that both India and Pakistan mark 70 years of independence from the British Empire — and the start of a bitter rivalry and decades of conflict over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Since 1989, rebel groups have fought in Indian Kashmir, demanding independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan, and tens of thousands — mostly civilians — have been killed.

On Sunday, two Indian soldiers and three rebels were killed in a gun battle after counter-insurgency forces surrounded separatists in a village just south of the city of Srinagar.

Burkina Faso Stunned by Another Deadly Extremist Attack

August 16, 2017

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — The scene was all too familiar: Islamic extremists striking a popular dining spot while dozens of patrons, many of them foreigners, took a break from daily life in Burkina Faso. Victims were gunned down at random. Gunfire rang out for hours as special forces worked to secure the scene.

After Sunday night’s deadly attack on Kwame N’krumah Avenue, some in this West African nation are wondering: How could this happen again only 200 meters (yards) away from the first massacre in January 2016? And why is the capital no safer?

Location of  Burkina Faso  (dark blue)– in Africa  (light blue & dark grey)– in the African Union  (light blue)  –  [Legend]

“There are no words to explain our anger and despair,” said Ousseni Tanagda, whose job selling phone credit has suffered since the 2016 attack on a popular cafe. “I was afraid of staying here because the security measures set up earlier were no more strictly respected as they used to be.”

While Burkina Faso shares a border with volatile Mali — long home to such attacks — the 2016 massacre that killed 30 people shocked many in Ouagadougou. The capital is home to many foreigners working with the United Nations and international aid organizations in this desperately poor country on the edge of the Sahara.

After that attack, security measures were strengthened at sensitive places such as banks, hotels and restaurants, with many hiring armed security personnel. As more time passed without another attack, locals say some of those measures eased.

In recent months, however, the United States and France warned their citizens to avoid certain areas of Burkina Faso, mainly the unstable north near Mali and Niger but also the capital.

Already Sunday’s assault on the Aziz Istanbul restaurant that left 18 people dead has had political fallout, with one former minister saying it underscores “the failure of our security system.”

“Two attacks in about 18 months in the same spot with the same mode of operation, it’s not acceptable,” said Ablasse Ouedraogo, who served as foreign affairs minister during the era of longtime leader Blaise Compaore. “It’s as though we have not learned any lessons.”

Compaore was ousted in a popular uprising in late 2014, and some critics say the military has suffered during the years of political upheaval ever since. During the 2016 assault, Burkina Faso’s security forces waited for hours before trying to intervene despite having people at the scene. During Sunday’s attack, gunfire also rang out for nearly seven hours before officials noted there were only two assailants.

Capt. Guy Ye, spokesman for the special forces, said they are better equipped now than in 2016 but he acknowledged they are still learning.

“There were hostages who had to be freed before launching the assault against the terrorists who were hiding in the back of the restaurant,” he said.

Ouedraogo, the former minister, said the army and security sector need an overhaul. Already they’ve received specialized training from both the French and U.S. militaries.

Felix Alexandre Sanfo, a security expert, said Burkinabes are learning they must accept that the threat of terrorism is here to stay, just as it is in many other parts of the world.

“Many think it’s a problem that can be solved definitively,” Sanfo said. “We are not prepared to maintain an elevated level of vigilance on a permanent basis. People have quickly let down their guard because they think the danger is behind us.”

On the contrary, regional security analysts point to a deepening and troubling Islamic extremism movement in northern Burkina Faso, where an Australian doctor who had spent decades treating civilians has been abducted and remains missing.

The region is now the home of a Burkinabe extremist figure, Malam Dicko, who has collaborated with militants across the border in Mali. Among his objectives has been seeking to end the use of French, the former colonizer’s language, in regional schools. Burkinabe forces backed by French military counterparts have tried to take out Dicko but he remains at large.

Burkina Faso is now one of five regional nations putting together a 5,000-strong force to fight the growing threat from extremists in the vast Sahel region. The first units are expected to deploy in October and all battalions should be on the ground by March. The countries have been pressing the international community to help funding; a gap of 305 million euros ($356 million) remains.

Burkina Faso’s government knows it must move quickly to avoid the political instability and human suffering inflicted by extremists to the north in Mali.

“If we do not master intelligence quickly, we will continue to count the dead due to terrorism because the situation is alarming,” said an intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

“We are vulnerable now, and the situation calls for lucid, cool and objective analysis.”


Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed.