• NBAF-focused research already underway at K-State U, ahead of level-4 biolab opening

    Although the remaining funding for the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, was recently finalized, work on the federal livestock research facility has continued to move forward in recent years — including Kansas State University conducting research which will help jump-start future operations at NBAF. NBAF will be DHS’s premier foreign animal disease research lab. It will research high-consequence livestock diseases that threaten animal and human health. The $1.25 billion lab will be on the northeast edge of K-State Manhattan, Kansas campus. NBAF is anticipated to begin operations in 2022 or 2023. Construction of the facility’s central utility plant is more than 90 percent complete.

  • Weighing the pros, cons of blocking ISIS’s access to social media

    The Islamic State has successfully used social media to spread its ideology, share videos of beheadings, and recruit new followers. U.S. counterterrorism agencies have launched their own social media campaigns to diminish ISIS’s effects on would be jihadists, but some officials have considered whether it would be simpler to cut off ISIS from social media networks altogether. Doing so would no doubt limit ISIS’s reach on Western recruits, but could it create a challenge for officials looking to monitor the group’s activities?

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  • U.S. security officials share a sober view of terrorism challenge

    U.S. counterterrorism analysts have painted a pessimistic picture of the years to come, saying the threats from terrorism will continue to challenge the United States. This attitude contrasts with the feelings most Americans had after the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011 and the dawn of the Arab Spring, which was initially seen as a first step in a path toward democracy in the Middle East. For U.S. security officials, those optimistic views have evaporated – even as some note that counterterrorism work thrives on pessimism and involves planning for worst-case scenarios.

  • U.K.: 3 London girls who traveled to Syria to join ISIS not regarded as terrorists

    Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, commissioner of the Metropolitan police(Met), has announced that the three London girls who allegedly stole jewelry from their parents to fund a trip to join the Islamic State (ISIS) may return to the United Kingdom without fear of being prosecuted for terrorism. “We have no evidence in this case that these three girls are responsible for any terrorist offenses,” said Mark Rowley, the Met’s chief of counterterrorism. “They have no reason to fear, if nothing else comes to light, that we will be treating them as terrorists.”

  • Bangladesh Supreme Court to hear Islamist leader’s death sentence appeal in April

    Last Thursday, lawyers for Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, 63, an assistant secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, appealed to the country’s Supreme Court to vacate the death penalty passed on Kamaruzzaman for war crimes, including genocide and torture of civilians, committed during the country’s bloody 1971 war between Bengali nationalists and the Pakistani army. So far, only one senior Jamaat official — Abdul Quader Molla — was hanged for war crimes. He was hanged in December 2013 after the Supreme Court overturned a life sentence imposed on him by the war crimes tribunal. Eight others Jamaat have been condemned to death for their part in atrocities during the 1971 war, but have not yet been executed.

  • Suriname president’s son sent to jail for aiding Hezbollah

    A New York court yesterday sentenced Dino Bouterse, the son of the president of Suriname, to more than sixteen years in prison for supporting Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’a terrorist organization. In 2013 Bouterse used his position and connections in the Suriname government to help people he believed were members of Hezbollah and who said their intention was to carry out attacks against American interests. In exchange, he was to receive $2 million – which he never received. The people who presented themselves as Hezbollah operatives were, in fact, undercover U.S. agents.

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  • ISIS shows signs of strain under weight of battle defeats, other setbacks

    The Islamic State (ISIS) seems to be facing setbacks as a result of attacks from a coalition of Iraqi and Kurdish government troops, as well as local non-ISIS fighters residing near the group’s territory. There have also been reports of rising tensions between foreign and local ISIS fighters.The key challenge facing ISIS right now is more internal than external,” says one expert. “We’re seeing basically a failure of the central tenet of ISIS ideology, which is to unify people of different origins under the caliphate. This is not working on the ground. It is making them less effective in governing and less effective in military operations.”

  • Flaws in U.K. counterterrorism laws allowed Mohammed Emwazi to escape – and become “Jihadi John”

    Before Mohammed Emwazi, the British-Kuwaiti Islamic State (ISIS) fighter now known as “Jihadi John” traveled to Syria and began beheading victims, including American journalist James Foley, he was on the radar of British intelligence officials. He described the pressure he was experiencing from surveillance in a series of e-mails to the Mail on Sunday newspaper between December 2010 and 2011. He said that the pressure of being watched was getting to him. British administrative court documents suggest Emwazi was part of a radical West London recruitment network for terrorist groups in East Africa. By 2013, drone strikes, gains by African Unionforces, and infighting within al-Shabaab had made it difficult for foreign fighters to participate in the insurgency in Somalia. Emwazi’s West London group soon pivoted their efforts on fighting the Assad government in Syria.

  • Western Sahara conflict reaches British court

    Europeans are familiar with efforts, some of them successful, to label agricultural and consumer products produced by Jewish settlers in the West Bank as coming from the Palestinian West Bank, not from Israel, in order to allow consumers to make an educated decision about whether or not they wish to support Israel’s continuing occupation of that territory. A similar effort is now underway in the United Kingdom to label produce coming from Western Sahara. The campaign, launched by campaigners for the freedom of Western Sahara, aims to weaken Morocco’s claim to, and control of, the disputed territory. Morocco, which took control of the territory after Spain, in 1975, ended its colonial rule, regards the Western Sahara as the kingdom’s “southern provinces.” The indigenous Saharawi people want self-determination by establishing an independent state called the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

  • Boko Haram announces it is now allied with Islamic State

    Nigeria’s Islamist group Boko Haram has declared its allegiance to Islamic State. The leader of the group, Abubakar Shekau, announced the move in in a Saturday online Arabic audio message with English subtitles. Earlier on Saturday, five bomb explosions killed at least fifty people in the northeastern Nigerian cities of Maiduguri, Baga, and Borno. Boko Haram used five teenagers – four girls and one boy – to carry out the suicide attacks. The Nigerian military proved no match for Boko Haram, but since early February, when Chadian and Cameroonian forces joined the fight, Boko Haram has been losing ground. Security analysts noted that Boko haram fighters are massing at a headquarters in the northeastern town of Gwoza, in what appears as a preparation for a showdown with the multinational forces.

  • Lack of evidence-based terrorism research hobbles counterterrorism strategies

    The Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland estimates that groups connected with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State committed almost 200 attacks per year between 2007 and 2010. That number has increased to about 600 attacks in 2013. As terrorism becomes more prevalent, the study of terrorism has also increased, which, in theory, should lead to more effective antiterrorism policies, and thus to less terrorism. The opposite is happening, however, and this could be partly due to the sort of studies which are being conducted. The problem: few of these studies are rooted in empirical analysis, and there is an “almost complete absence of evaluation research” concerning anti-terrorism strategies, in the words of a review of such studies.

  • Philadelphia terror charges highlight mall kiosks security issues

    The arrest last week of Abror Habibov on terrorism finance charges has brought new scrutiny to the oversight and security of mall kiosk businesses. Habibov ran a series of largely unlicensed mall kiosks along the East Coast, where his employees sold kitchen wares and repaired cell phones. He was arrested after being caught organizing support with two other individuals for ISIS operations in Syria. Security analysts say that the qualities which make these small businesses attractive to their owners — low overhead, short-term leases, and low site maintenance — may also serve as an ideal cover for employing members of terrorist groups.

  • Terrorists shift focus of attacks from air transportation to rail systems

    Terrorists have shifted their focus in recent years away from attacking airlines to attacking subway and rail systems, according to an analysis of terrorist attacks over a 30-year period from 1982 to 2011. The author of the new study notes that in a previous analysis, for the period 1968 to 10 September 2001, he concluded that air travel within the United States entailed a greater risk of a terrorist attack than “virtually any other activity.” Statistically significant evidence, however, points to a growing focus of terrorist attacks against ground mass transit.

  • Climate change and the origins of the Syrian war

    A new study says a record drought that ravaged Syria in 2006-10 was likely stoked by ongoing man-made climate change, and that the drought may have helped propel the 2011 Syrian uprising. Researchers say the drought, the worst ever recorded in the region, destroyed agriculture in the breadbasket region of northern Syria, driving dispossessed farmers to cities, where poverty, government mismanagement, and other factors created unrest that exploded in spring 2011. A growing body of research suggests that extreme weather, including high temperatures and droughts, increases the chances of violence, from individual attacks to full-scale wars. Researchers project that man-made global warming will heighten future conflicts, or that it is already doing so. The new study, combining climate, social, and economic data, is perhaps the first to look closely and quantitatively at these questions in relation to a current war.

  • FBI’s biometric data center key to identifying Jihadi John

    The FBI is unlikely to release details of how, working with allies in the United Kingdom, it managed to accomplish the task of identifying “Jihadi John” with only video footage of the suspect’s hidden face and a voice with a British accent. Identifying Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born, British-educated man in his mid-20s, was likely done at the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division(CJIS), which houses the bureau’s Biometric Center of Excellence(BCE). At BCE, the FBI uses the $1.2 billion dollar Next Generation Identification(NGI) software to scan photos, aliases, physical traits, fingerprints, and voiceprints. The software is interoperable with the Pentagon’s Automated Biometric Identification System(ABIS) and DHS’s Automated Biometric Identification System(IDENT).