Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • TerrorismISIS’s appeal to Islamist recruits grows as al Qaeda seen as stale, tired, and ineffectual

    Advances by militant groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the midst of turmoil in the Arab world, while al-Qaeda’s aging leaders remain relatively silent, have led would-be terrorists and Islamic scholars to question al-Qaeda’s influence on global Jihad and its would-be fighters. Within the social circles of potential militant recruits, al-Qaeda is increasingly seen as stale, tired, and ineffectual.

  • TerrorismMore Westerners join ISIS following the group’s successes in Iraq

    Of the 10,000 foreign fighters who have already joined militant groups in Syria and Iraq, 3,000 hold European or other Western passports, making it easy for them to travel across most borders. U.S. officials report that as many as 100 foreign fighters hold U.S. passports, leading to worries that foreign fighters may return to the United States to launch an attack.

  • Terrorism9/11 Commission: U.S. faces new and dangerous terrorist threat

    The members of the 9/11 Commission, led by Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton, released a new report the other day to reflect what they describe as the altered but dangerous terrorist threat facing the United States. Members of the commission say that ten years after the release of the commission’s original report, with increasing threats from the resurgence and transformation of al Qaeda, Syria, and a rapidly changing cyberspace, the commission’s new report calls for a vigorous and proactive counterterrorism effort.

  • Israel-Hamas war, Day 17Israel destroys al-Wafa hospital in Gaza City; cabinet considering expansion of Gaza operations

    One of the first targets on the first day of the current round of war between Israel and Hamas was al-Wafa hospital in eastern Gaza City. As is the case with other hospitals in Gaza, Hamas used the facility to store rockets and other arms and shelter Hamas fighters, who also use the hospitals’ upper floors for snipers to shoot at IDF soldiers and for rocket launching – some witnessed by a Financial Times reporter. In the case of al-Wafa, the hospital also served Hamas as a command-and-control center. Yesterday (Wednesday), Israel decided that enough was enough, and that allowing Hamas fighters the freedom to operate behind the patients and staff at the hospital, located in central Gaza City, posed too much of a risk for Israeli forces, and Israel Air Force (IAF) planes finished the destruction of the hospital — after the staff heeded IDF warnings and vacated the facility with the remaining patients. A series of powerful secondary explosions proved that the hospital served Hamas for arms storage. The Israeli cabinet is meeting this morning to consider the expansion of the ground war.

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  • TerrorismAzamat Tazhayakov, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friend, guilty of conspiracy charges

    Azamat Tazhayakov, who removed a backpack from the dorm room of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has been found guilty by a Boston jury of impeding an investigation and conspiracy. Tazhayakov was one of three college friends of Tsarnaev charged following the bombing. Tazhayakov could face up to five years in jail and a fine of $250,000.

  • Driverless carsFBI: driverless cars could be used as bombs-on-wheels

    Whether or not a driverless car, from Google or any other company, ever makes it to market, the FBI thinks it may be a “game changing” vehicle which could dramatically change high-speed car chases so that the pursued vehicle would have an advantage over the pursuing car. An agency report also warned that such cars may be used as “lethal weapons.”

  • Israel-Hamas war, Day 14After eight years under siege, Hamas is fighting to stave off a slow death

    By Fawaz Gerges

    Hamas and Egypt are currently testing each other’s nerve. Hamas wants to engage the Egyptian government and press the point that they have nothing to do with the Islamist insurgency there, in an effort to get the border crossings open and re-engage with the new al-Sissi administration. But regardless of whether this round of conflict is resolved sooner rather than later, or whether Egypt softens its stance on Hamas, the fundamental challenge facing both Palestinians and Israelis remains the same: to reach a political settlement for a viable Palestinian state where both Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace and security.

  • TerrorismCanadian “sha’hid” used by ISIS in Jihadi recruitment video

    The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) strategy to use English-speaking Westerns and social media to recruit militants is unprecedented. ISIS has used World Cup hashtags on Twitterand Facebookto spread propaganda and generate death threats. The group’s adoption of new media could be seen as a move better to compete with rival militant groups. One of the more popular YouTube ISI video featuring a Canadian of was killed in an attack on a Syrian military airport.

  • Israel-Hamas war, Day 10 (cont.)Israel launches ground war against Hamas; Egypt blames Hamas

    Israel forty-five minutes ago launched a land incursion into the Gaza Strip. The ground move is being accompanied by the heaviest Israeli bombardment to date – from land, sea, and the air — of targets throughout the Gaza Strip. The IDF spokesman said that large infantry and armored units have entered Gaza in the north, center, and south simultaneously. The Prime Minister’s office issues a statement saying that one of the goals of the ground operation is the destruction of the system of tunnels Hamas has built close to Israel’s borders. Egypt blames Hamas for any Palestinian casualties resulting from Israel’s operation.

  • TerrorismWhy hundreds of westerners are taking up arms in global jihad

    By Ali Mamouri

    The conflicts in Syria and Iraq are attracting many Westerners as jihadi fighters. The stereotype that these fighters are migrants who have struggled to find a place in their adopted societies is shattered upon viewing YouTube propaganda videos. The typical portrayal of a violent jihadi is as a brutal group member, wearing sinister ninja-style costumes, maintaining a lifestyle straight from the Dark Ages and determined to drag the world back there. This stereotype is far from reality. Salafism is a thoroughly modern phenomenon, one that materialized the abstract concepts of Islam into an actual political system to be implemented. Salafists use modern means such as the Internet, social media and other technology. Their language embraces modern concepts of freedom, liberation and equality, which are all foreign to traditional Islamic theology and jurisprudence. Salafists also strongly oppose the traditional Islamic seminaries and institutes. They see these as one of the major barriers to Islamic awakening. Jihadi Salafism promises its followers an attractive utopia that is certain to become reality with the application of strong will and assertive action. They see their battle as a fight for humanity and for a better world where purity and authenticity prevail. In this regard, they, like other utopian movements such as particular types of socialists and communists, have a clear strategy for changing the world.

  • Israel-Hamas war, Day 8Hamas refuses Egypt's cease-fire proposal; Israel to resume – and escalate -- military operations

    Israel earlier today (12:00 midnight EST) had accepted the Egyptian cease-fire proposal, which was to go into effect at 02:00 EST. At that time, Israel halted all military operation. Hamas, however, announced it would not accept the cease fire, and continued to fire rockets into Israel. Sources in the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have just announced that Israel, after five hours of not responding to Hamas rocket attacks, was about to resume the fighting – and said that the next hours and days will see an intensified Israeli military efforts to destroy Hamas war-making ability.

  • TerrorismHolder calls on Europeans to adopt U.S. counterterrorism methods

    Last week in Oslo, Attorney General Eric Holder called on more European countries to adopt American-style counterterrorism laws and tactics to prevent would-be terrorists from traveling to Syria. “If we wait for our nations’ citizens to travel to Syria or Iraq, to become radicalized, and to return home, it may be too late to adequately protect our national security,” Holder said.

  • Arab SpringBad social policy, not ideology, is to blame for the Arab world’s downward spiral

    By Rana Jawad

    Nothing symbolizes the sorry state of Arab politics more than the rise of ISIS. The Arab world at large appears to be fast descending into a political quagmire, only a few years after the euphoria of the so-called Arab Spring. The unravelling of old dictatorships in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria has opened up a Pandora’s box of sectarian, ethnic and tribal divisions, old fault lines that have persisted under the heavy hand of police states for the last century.

  • Israel-Hamas war, Day 6IAF begins heavy bombardment of residential areas in north Gaza

    As we predicted yesterday, the Israel Air Force (IAF) earlier this morning showered Palestinian urban areas in north Gaza with leaflets giving residents until today (Sunday) at noon (Israel time) to evacuate their homes ahead of massive Israeli bombardment of these area. The leaflets were accompanied by calls to every home phone and cell phone of residents in the area (Israel has all these phone numbers), and radio and TV broadcasts in Arabic. Hamas, in an effort to forestall the Israeli attack by keeping Palestinian civilians as a human shield, has publicly ordered the residents to stay put, branding those who leave as collaborators with the “Zionist enemy.” So far, about a third of the residents have left. Israel has just begun a heavy bombardment on the outskirts of Beit Lahia in order to remind residents that Israel is serious.

  • Israel-Hamas war, Day 5Israel to focus on Hamas tunnel system, then seek a “Syrian solution” to Hamas problem

    Since Hamas violently seized power in the Gaza Strip in summer 2007, the organization invested millions of dollars in following Hezbollah’s example and build a vast system of tunnels and bunkers under residential areas, using the Palestinians living above ground as a human shield to the Hamas war machine underground. Israel cannot destroy these underground tunnel systems without destroying the cities above, in the process killing and injuring an untold number of Palestinian civilians. In a move similar to the tactics followed by Israel during the 2006 war with Hezbollah, the Israel Air Force (IAF) will drop leaflets on cities in the northern part of the Gaza strip, instructing residents to leave their homes and move south. These leaflets will be accompanied by automatic phone calls to everyone in these areas to reinforce the message that they must leave. Once the residents have left, in effect turning towns into ghost towns, the IAF will have the freedom to use much heavier ordinance in bombing and destroying large portions of Hamas’s tunnel system underneath. As to how the war will end: The “Syrian option” – that is, allowing a defanged Hamas to remain in power – now appears to be Israel’s goal.