Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • China implements airport-like security checks at crowded train stations

    China’s terrorism problem is worsening as a growing Uighur-led Islamist militancy has emerged in response to the Chinese government’s tough stance on ethnic problems in the Uighur homeland of Xinjiang in west China. In response to the growing security risks, Beijing passengers are now subject to security checks before their train commute.

  • Scientists: immediate action required to address superbugs’ threat

    Scientists warn that drug-resistant superbugs demand an immediate, serious response and that the steps required to plan for these pathogens were not properly taken in previous decades. “[A] world without effective antibiotics would be ‘deadly,’ with routine surgery, treatments for cancer and diabetes and organ transplants becoming impossible,” says one scientist. The scientists warn that if action is not taken immediately, the massive health gains made since Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928 will be lost forever.

  • Scientists urge U.S. to do more to detect, prevent use of bioweapons

    Carefully targeted biological weapons could be as dangerous as nuclear weapons, so the United States should invest more resources in developing technologies to detect them, scientists say. What is especially worrisome is that “The advent of modern molecular genetic technologies is making it increasingly feasible to engineer bioweapons,” says one expert. “It’s making people with even moderate skills able to create threats they couldn’t before.” There is another worry: “A high-tech bioweapon could cost only $1 million to build,” the expert adds. “That’s thousands of times cheaper than going nuclear. Iran’s centrifuges alone cost them billions.”

  • Preventing ethnic violence: Full integration or full separation

    What if we could use science to understand, accurately predict, and ultimately avoid, ethnic violence? A new study argues that the key to peace is either completely to integrate or completely separate people based on cultural, linguistic, and ethnic differences.

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  • Impasse over abducted girls as Nigeria admits it has no military option

    Military and intelligence personnel from France, the United States, Israel, and Britain have been in Abuja and in the field for three weeks now, in an effort to help the Nigerian military develop a plan to deal with the plight of the more than 200 abducted girls. After three weeks in Nigeria, these Western diplomats, and military and intelligence officials, concede that the Nigerian military and government are just not up to the task. “There is a view among diplomats here and with their governments at home that the [Nigerian] military is so poorly trained and armed, and so riddled with corruption, that not only is it incapable of finding the girls, it is also losing the broader fight against Boko Haram,” the New York Times reported. The paper continued: “That the hope of many across the globe [for the safe return of the girls] rests on such a weak reed as the Nigerian military has left diplomats here [in Abuja] in something of a quandary about the way forward. The Nigerian armed forces must be helped, they say, but are those forces so enfeebled that any assistance can only be of limited value?”

  • Port security technologies demonstrated in Gothenburg, Sweden

    FOI, the Swedish Defense Research Agency, conducted a demonstration in Gothenburg of technology designed to improve the security of ports around the world. One of the reasons for the research into countering intrusion is that many ports find that they lack good and affordable tools for seaward surveillance, and so find it difficult to guard against terrorist attack and organized crime such as theft, smuggling, and stowaways. FOI has, therefore, created a system that is capable of detecting divers, swimmers, or small craft which might attempt to approach the quayside or a vessel tied up alongside.

  • U.S. officials: Nigerian military too corrupt, inept to defeat Islamists, rescue girls

    U.S. officials have been unusually frank – and unusually public — in their assessment of the competence and effectiveness of the Nigerian military. The officials presented their analysis last Thursday, when they were questioned by lawmakers about whether the Nigerian military was capable of rescuing – or even locating – the more than 260 girls abducted by Boko Haram last month. U.S. military and intelligence officials said that even with international help, the Nigerian military was too corrupt and too incompetent to play a meaningful role in rescuing the girls. “We’re now looking at a military force that’s, quite frankly, becoming afraid to even engage,” Alice Friend, the Pentagon’s principal director for African affairs, said of the Nigerian military. “The Nigerian military has the same challenges with corruption that every other institution in Nigeria does. Much of the funding that goes to the Nigerian military is skimmed off the top, if you will.” There is another obstacle to U.S. military help to Nigeria: Friend told lawmakers that finding Nigerian army units which have not been involved in gross violations of human rights has been a “persistent and very troubling limitation” on American efforts to work with the Nigerian military.

  • Behind the Boko Haram headlines, slavery in Africa is the real crisis

    The mass kidnapping of schoolgirls by terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria is neither a new nor rare occurrence. Boko Haram has been active in Nigeria for five years and is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Africa’s slavery crisis. In Nigeria, there are tens of thousands of people bought and sold every year, according to Africa experts. The majority are children: in 2003, the International Labor Organization estimated that as many as six million Nigerian children had been trafficked at some time in their lives. In Africa as a whole, the scale of the problem is vast and far beyond the resources currently allocated to fight it, let alone sufficient to help victims. Experts estimate that $1.6 billion profit (an amount larger than the GDP of eight African countries last year) derives from African and Middle Eastern slavery annually.

  • Calif. Terrorism suspect to remain in jail, for now

    Last Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison Claire ordered the release of alleged supporter of foreign terrorists, Nicholas Michael Teausant, on $200,000 bail under restrictive conditions.. Teausant will remain in jail, however, because the judge accepted the request by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Hitt to allow prosecutors to take the matter to U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez on Tuesday.

  • Validating air sampling techniques to fight bioterrorism

    Air and surface sampling techniques currently used by the U.S. government are effective in fighting bioterrorism and potentially saving lives, a new study says. Air sampling has been readily accepted for similar uses such as measuring for particulate matter, but using it to detect bacteria in biological terrorism was a new concept instituted after the 9/11 attacks. This type of sampling is now part of a sophisticated system used by the DHS and the Department of Defense. In order for the system to work more efficiently, however, experts say that the detection cycle, which currently takes between 12-36 hours, would need to produce results in a shorter time frame.

  • Battelle shows smart technology for biodefense and hazard avoidance

    Battelle last week announced production of the next generation chemical and biological hazard sensor system, which the company says operates at a fraction of the cost of current technologies. The technology, known as the Resource Effective BioIdentification System (REBS), is a battery-powered system capable of autonomous use with operating costs of less than $1 per day per unit (the company notes that current system costs that can range from $500 - $3,000 per day) and assay costs of $0.04 per sample (compared to current systems at over $100 per sample).

  • New biodefense centers offer modernized approach, face criticism

    A new facility at Texas A&M University is one of three new biodefense centers created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to revolutionize the way fatal viruses are countered in the event of an emergency. The $286-million lab features mobile clean rooms that can be detached and moved to form different production or testing systems as the need arises. Not everyone agrees that the design and capabilities of the new center would offer the best response to biothreats.

  • Teaching under siege in Nigeria gripped by fear of Boko Haram

    The world is waking up to Boko Haram. More than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped from the classes last month remain missing. A car bomb in Abuja on 1 May killed at least 19 people. Figures released by the International Crisis Group indicate that more than 4,000 people have been killed since the insurgency began. The war has displaced more than half a million inhabitants, ravaged the economy of an already impoverished region and put stress on relations between Muslims and Christians as well as among Muslims. Education has been singled out for violent attacks with lethal regularity since early 2012. No less than twenty schools have been burnt, and the attacks on schools and the killing of students and teachers has become a war strategy of Boko Haram.

  • Lawmakers urge NRC not to exempt shut-down nuclear plants from emergency, security regulations

    Lawmakers are urging the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to halt exemption of recently- shuttered nuclear power plants from emergency-planning and security regulations. The lawmakers are especially concerned about the nuclear waste which will continue to be stored on the grounds of shut-down nuclear plants, saying that the stored radioactive waste continues to be a security threat whether or not the plant itself is still operational.

  • Gerry Adams arrest: peace process in Northern Ireland can’t take much more pressure

    The arrest last week of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams for questioning relating to the 1972 murder of Jean McConville threatens to undermine an established peace process in Northern Ireland, a process where the Rubicon has already been crossed, involving political sacrifice on all sides. Last December, following negotiations with all sides to the conflict, U.S. diplomat Richard Haass proposed a way to deal with outstanding issues in the peace process, a proposal which saw the past firmly on the agenda. The Adams arrest contradicts the Haass proposal, as it continues with the eclectic and incoherent approach to dealing with the open issues from a painful past. The Haass proposals may not be perfect, but experience from other countries shows that no perfect mechanism for dealing with the past exists. The key question now is not how to get to something better. It is a choice between Northern Ireland having a dedicated thought-through forum in which to contend with the past, or being forced to make do with political and legal institutions that were not designed to deal with it. The peace process has come too far, with both sides sacrifices to get this far. Its achievements should not be treated so carelessly.