Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • Captured documents reveal IS’s interest in acquiring bioterror weapons

    Terrorist organizations have been trying to acquire or build biological weapons of mass destruction, and now, with the growing threat of the Islamic State (IS), analysts are concerned that the Islamist group may gain access to bio-labs in Syria or Iraq. A laptop belonging to a Tunisian who joined ISIS was recently found in Syria, contained documents about how to build and use biological weapons.

  • ISIS beheads second American hostage

    ISIS has released a video yesterday which depicted the beheading of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist kept captive by the group. It appears that Sotloff had been killed by the same U.K.-born ISIS militant who beheaded James Foley two weeks ago. U.S. intelligence experts said the video was authentic. The killer warned President Obama to “back off” and end the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS targets, then warned other governments which might join the “evil” actions of the United States against ISIS. The video shows another kneeling captive, who is described as a British national (the U.K. has identified the hostage as David Cawthorne Haines, an aid worker).

  • U.S. opens a second drone base in Niger

    The Pentagon has reached an agreement with the government of Niger to open a second U.S. drone base in the landlocked country. The base, in the city of Agadez, will help the U.S. Air Force track Islamist militants who have gained control of remote parts of North and West Africa. U.S. and French troops already operate out of a military base in Niamey, Niger’s capital, where drones are set to conduct reconnaissance flights throughout the region.

  • U.S. strike kills al-Shabab’s spiritual leader

    The U.S. military has attacked the Islamic al-Shabab network in Somalia yesterday (Monday). The Pentagon said the operation targeted the group’s fugitive leader. A senior Somali intelligence official said that a U.S. drone targeted al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane as he left a meeting of the group’s top leaders. Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, is the group’s spiritual leader who forged an alliance between Somali militants and al-Qaeda. About 100 U.S. Navy SEALs and other Special Operation forces have been operating in different parts of Somalia for more than a year now.

  • Better security for Europe’s mass transportation

    When a suspicious individual flees on a bus or by train, things usually get tough for the police. This is because the security systems of the various transportation companies and security services are typically incompatible. The EU project, Secur-ED (Secure Urban Mass Transportation – European Demonstrator), aims to correct this by establishing better collaboration among transportation companies within the same city.

  • ISIS threat in Iraq exposes Obama’s failed policy in Syria: Administration insiders

    President Barack Obama has been coming under growing criticism over his policy – or, as some critics would argue, lack of policy — toward the Jihadist threat in Iraq and Syria. The criticism is increasingly coming from members of his own administration. They argue that the failure to help the moderate elements among the Syrian rebels not only helped Assad stay in power, but also allowed the Jihadists to cement their power over a large swath of Syria and then move south to control a third of Iraq. The president has recently asked for $500 million to help train moderate Syrian rebels, but even those who supported such a move two years ago say it may be too late.

  • Most of 2013 terrorist attacks took place in only a few countries

    The majority of terrorist attacks occurring in 2013 remained isolated in just a few countries, according to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which is generated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). In 2013, 11,952 terrorist attacks resulted in 22,178 fatalities (including perpetrator deaths) and 37,529 injuries across 91 countries. More than half of all attacks (54 percent), fatalities (61 percent), and injuries (69 percent) occurred in just three countries: Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

  • Going the distance: does Islamic State have staying power?

    The rise of Islamic State (IS) across parts of the Middle East has galvanized the international community in a way not seen since September 11. But before a military response is considered, Western nations need to ask whether IS has staying power. Establishing a functional state will depend upon the militants’ ability to transition the skills gained in fighting wars to those required for governance. In particular, success will be necessary in three areas: establishing public security, delivering basic goods and services, and creating a perception of legitimacy. History tells us these criteria — not democratic niceties, secularism, or a moderate hand — will make or break IS. Snippets of information suggest that IS is likely to last, especially as its power is buttressed by considerable support from Iraq’s disenfranchised Sunni Arabs. The best option to weaken IS is to weaken its ability to monopolize the provision of basic needs to the people. This option will impact those who are passive bystanders swept up in the turmoil rather than the militants, but considering the extreme nature of the threat IS poses, as well as IS’s breaches of the most basic and universally held codes of morality, it may well be that in this case, the ends could justify the means.

  • Social networks aim to curb terror posts

    Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram have all become a staple of everyday Western lifestyles – and these avenues have also become more interesting for terrorists to exploit to advance their goals. These companies admit, however, that curbing free speech and screening violent and hateful content does involve walking a fine line.

  • James Foley’s killers linked to British kidnapping network

    Right before American journalist James Foley was taken hostage in Syria in November of 2012, British security officials arrested and charged three British citizens who were allegedly members of a an Islamic terrorist kidnapping ring involved in the disappearance of two other Western journalists. Now, some are beginning to see a connection between his death and the organization operating in the United Kingdom.

  • Egypt, UAE strike Islamists’ targets in Libya

    Last week and again on Saturday, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined forces to conduct a series of airstrikes against Islamist militias in Libya. In recent months UAE special forces, operating out of Egyptian bases, destroyed an Islamist camp in eastern Libya without detection. The United States was not informed of the airstrikes, and U.S. permission was not sought. The move by Egypt and the UAE is but one more indication that after two years of introspection and confusion, the moderate forces in the Arab world have begun to assert themselves in an effort to gain a measure of control over post-Arab Spring developments in the region. The airstrikes by Egypt and UAE against Libya’s Islamist militias are thus an intensification of the regional campaign, led by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, to confront and defeat the Qatar- and Turkey-supported Islamist forces in the region.

  • ISIS cleverly exploits social media for recruiting, communicating, and instilling fear

    Islamist militants have adopted social media as their primary medium for communicating with the public. Terrorism experts and social media analysts agree that in recent weeks IS has demonstrated a mastery of social media that far exceeds that of al-Qaeda. That use of social media is partly due to the participation of young Western-educated recruits who join IS.

  • Islamists seize Tripoli’s airport, announce new government

    Libya moved closer to disintegration on Saturday after Islamist-led militias captured the airport in the capital, Tripoli, and announced the creation of a government. In what the Islamists called Operation Dawn, a coalition of different Islamist and Misrata militias captured the airport in a bloody firefight against pro-government militias. Saturday’s battle came after a five-week siege the Islamist coalition had imposed on the capital. Yesterday, Sunday, Islamist fighters set many of airport buildings ablaze. Regional experts say that developments over the weekend threaten to move Libya across the line from troubled post-Arab spring country to outright failed state.

  • U.S., European policies on paying ransom for kidnapped citizens not in sync

    The beheading of American journalist James Foley by a militant from the Islamic State has focused renewed attention on the U.S. policy of not negotiating with or paying ransom to terrorists – and on the differences between U.S. policy and the policies followed by many European countries.

  • Islam’s silent majority: moderate voices drowned out by extremists

    Stretching from North Africa to east Asia, many Muslims are engaged in a life-and-death tussle with extremists who are bent on extinguishing the diversity of opinions within the Muslim community. The reality, however, is that there exists more than one Islamic faith. Islam is an umbrella term, which covers multiple differences within the religion. Diversity of opinion is not a recent feature of Islam; evidence of broad shades of opinion can be traced back to its origins. But today the global Salafist movement, funded greatly by the Saudi regime and other sources, publicly occupies most of the Muslim world and parts of Muslim communities in the West. Islam should not be considered from the perspective of fundamentalism as, in the end, this will strengthen the extremists’ position. Rather, it should be understood by opening a dialogue, supporting, and co-operating with the moderates who offer a different understanding of Islam.