Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • TerrorismU.K. debates whether Britons helping ISIS as medics are terrorists

    Counterterrorism officials are debating how to categorize nine British students who had been studying medicine in Sudan, and recently travelled to Syria to work as medics for the Islamic State (ISIS). Are they terrorists? Have they even committed an offense? How officials treat this latest group of Westerners joining ISIS should they return to the United Kingdom may encourage or discourage others who are contemplating joining the fight in Syria and northern Iraq.

  • YemenSaudi Arabia launches attacks against Houthi insurgents in Yemen

    Dozens of Saudi Air Force jets, accompanied by fighter jets of several Gulf States, yesterday (Wednesday) launched a series of attacks against Shia’ Houthi insurgents in Yemen in an effort to beat back to progress of the Houthi forces across Yemen. The Saudis’ ultimate goal is to defeat the pro-Iranian Houthis, but the immediate Saudi worry is the growing presence of the Houthis – who hail from north Yemen – in and around the port city of Aden in south Yemen. The Saudi air strikes, carried out after consultations with the United States, are the first step in a broad military campaign which will include ground forces and will see the participation of other Arab states. Iran, through its regional agents – the Shi’a government in Baghdad; the Alawite Assad regime in Damascus; and the Shi’a Hezbollah militia in Lebanon – already calls the shots in three Arab countries. It appears that the Arab Sunni states have decided the draw the line in Yemen in order to deny Iran yet another regional gain and check the growth of Iran’s regional sway.

  • TerrorismTraining camps in Mauritania train foreign recruits for ISIS, al-Qaeda

    Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) could be working together at al-Qaeda-run training camps in the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, where at least eighty recruits from the United States, Canada, and Europe are being indoctrinated into radical jihad and training for attacks that could reach as far as the West. Mauritania’s roughly three million people are concentrated on the coast, around the capital of Nouakchott, while the rest of the vast country is a sparsely inhabited arid desert. This is where the al-Qaeda training camps are based.

  • CounterterrorismFBI needs to improve intelligence capabilities, hire more linguists: Report

    The FBI needs to improve its intelligence capabilities and hire more linguists to counter evolving threats to the United States, according to a 9/11 Review Commission reportexamining the bureau’s progress since the 9/11 attacks, which was released Wednesday. “Many of the findings and recommendations in this report will not be new to the FBI,” the report said. “The bureau is already taking steps to address them. In 2015, however, the FBI faces an increasingly complicated and dangerous global threat environment that will demand an accelerated commitment to reform. Everything is moving faster.”

  • Chemical plant safetyChemical plants safety must be tightened to prevent a Bhopal-like disaster in the U.S.

    Late last week, hundreds of individuals and organizations sent a letter to President Barack Obama to say that time was running out for taking action to protect the U.S. population from the dangers of accidents or deliberate attacks at U.S. chemical plants. As a senator, Obama described chemical facilities in which dangerous chemicals were processed or stored as “stationary weapons of mass destruction spread all across the country.” On 2-3 December 1984, more than 500,000 people in the Indian city of Bhopal were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other chemicals from the near-by Union Carbide plant. About 16,000 died and 558,000 injured — 3,900 of them permanently disabled. Security experts say that a Bhopal-like disaster could happen in the United States

  • RadicalizationU.S. scrambling to identify, locate recruits to radical Islamist ideology

    Nearly 3,000 Europeans have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic State (ISIS), but social media and court records suggest just about two dozen Americans have made it to the Middle East to fight with the group. Another two dozen or so have been stopped by the FBI and charged before they could fly to Turkey and cross over into the Syrian territories controlled by ISIS.

    U.S. law enforcement, with no clear understanding of how Americans are being recruited, are scrambling to identify U.S. residents attracted to radical Islamic ideology before those individuals try to travel or worse- launch an attack on U.S. soil.

  • TerrorismWould-be U.K. terrorist planned to behead a British soldier on a London street

    Nineteen-year-old Brusthom Ziamani has been sentenced to twenty-seven years in prison after being found guilty of planning to behead a British soldier on the streets of London, an act similar to Michael Adebolajo’s killing of Fusilier Lee Rigby. Ziamani was arrested on an east London street last August when a counterterrorism officer stopped him. On him, Ziamani had an Islamic State (ISIS) flag, a knife, and a hammer, having earlier researched the location of nearby Army cadet bases.

  • IranU.S.: Iran using war against ISIS to gain dominance in Iraq

    Director of the CIA John Brennan said Sunday that Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, has been “very aggressive and active” in advising Shia militias against Islamic State. The active role Suleimani has assumed in directing Iraqi forces against the Islamic State is complicating the U.S. mission against terrorism and contributing to destabilization in Iraq, he said. Brennan’s comments are among the strongest so far voiced by American officials about the involvement of the influential Suleimani in the war against the Islamist group. Last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, general Martin Dempsey said the United States was increasingly worried that Shia militiamen, under Iranian guidance, would eventually turn against Sunni and Kurdish Iraqis, further destabilizing the country.

  • African securityMorocco says it experienced no acts of terrorism in 2014

    The Moroccan government says that although the Maghreb region as a whole, including Mali, experienced more than 280 terrorist operations in 2014, Morocco is the only country where no single terrorist operation took place. The government says this was the result of Morocco’s anti-terrorism strategy.

  • African securityThe virtual significance of Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS

    By Terje Ostebo

    The Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram’s recent pledge of allegiance to ISIS has generated a wave of speculation about its significance. There are, however, good reasons not to read too much into the Boko Haram pledge. It is probable that it will have little or no real practical significance, beyond the initial public relations bump. Boko Haram’s pledge obviously has an important symbolic meaning, but there is a noncommittal flavor to it. It says what it says, but that’s not necessarily binding for either party. In a world with constant flows of messaging, including the posting of online fatwas (legal rulings) and jihadi propaganda videos, let’s not forget the ephemeral nature of such messages. Yesterday’s postings are forgotten and substituted by today’s postings. Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS can therefore for practical reasons remain what it is: virtual.

  • BigotsAnti-Semitic French entertainer found guilty of condoning terrorism

    Two separate French courts, on Wednesday and Thursday, found anti-Semitic entertainer Dieudonné M’bala M’bala guilty in two separate cases. In one case he was convicted of supporting terrorism by posting a sympathetic message on his Facebook page about Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who killed four people in January at a kosher supermarket. In the second case he was found guilty of inciting racial hatred by saying that it was too bad that a French Jewish journalist, who wrote critically about him, was not killed in the Nazi gas chambers. M’bala M’bala has been convicted and fined dozens of times in the past for anti-Semitic statements or slander, but Wednesday’s court decision was the first one to threaten him with jail time. In the first case, the entertainer was convicted under a new law, passed in November, which aims to rein in speech and expressions supporting terrorism. French law enforcement and prosecutors have enforced the law aggressively, and since the January attacks more than 100 were brought up of charges of expressing support for terrorism.

  • African securityTunisia’s security nightmare long predates the Arab Spring

    By Rory McCarthy

    Until now, Tunisia seemed to have escaped the worst of the violence that has beset the countries of the Arab Spring. Instead, this small nation, whose revolution for democracy and dignity sparked a wave of protest across the Arab world four years ago, looked like the only success story left. But the shocking attack at the Bardo museum in Tunis which left at least twenty dead, including seventeen foreign tourists, marks a profound setback to this rare democratic transition — and it may herald a new wave of violence and political crisis. Tunisia’s new government, which won elections in October 2014 by promising security, will now be under pressure to launch a tough crackdown. The challenge of Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi will be to provide the Tunisians with the security they deserve without resorting to the authoritarianism that is so rapidly re-emerging across the countries of the Arab Spring.

  • Lone wolvesMore lone-wolf attacks committed by extremists/supremacists than Jihadists

    Internal documents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) reveal that more Lone Wolf attacks are committed by white supremacists and individuals with extreme right-wing ideologies than by Islamic extremists. Citing academic research, the agency attributes 17 percent of lone-wolf attacks worldwide to white supremacists causes. Islamic extremists account for 15 percent of such attacks, while left-wing radicalism and “black power” groups followed with 13 percent. Anti-abortion activism accounts for 8 percent and nationalism/separatism causes make up 7 percent, while 40 percent of lone wolf attacks showed no clear ideological motivation.

  • African securitySouth Africa refuses to give up cache of weapon-grade uranium

    In the 1980s, White minority-ruled South Africa built six nuclear bombs. In 1990s the F. W. de Klerk government began planning the transformation of the country into a democracy. As part of the transition, the country’s nuclear weapons, and nuclear weapons-making infrastructure, were dismantled under IAEA supervision. TheWhite-minority regime and, since 1994, the democratically elected South African government, have both held to, and refused to give up, the 485 pounds of weapon-grade nuclear fuel – some of it extracted from the dismantled weapons and some of it already produced but not yet put in warheads. Despite pressure by successive U.S. administrations, South Africa says it is determined to keep its weapon-grade nuclear fuel.

  • Patriot ActPrivacy concerns potentially an obstacle to 1 June Patriot Act reauthorization

    With the USA Patriot Act set to expire on 1 June, lawmakers are debating whether the bill, which allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect bulk metadata of U.S. phone records, should be extended. The act was last renewed in 2011, before former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of the U.S. intelligence agency’s surveillance activities. The debate around the reauthorization of the Patriot Act focuses on Section 215 of the law, used by the NSA to mass collect phone records in an effort to locate terrorists who might be calling supporters in the United States.