• Central Mali gripped by a dangerous brew of jihad, revolt, and self-defense

    As the conflict in northern Mali endures, another hot spot south of the Niger River is attracting increasing attention. It involves two main areas in the center of the country: the Macina heartland (Fulani historical-political region, between Mopti and Segou) and the Hayré (northeast of Mopti). However, it would be false to attribute political violence in this region solely to groups embracing jihad. At least two more rationales exist. One is about community self-defense. The other involves a struggle led by Fulani herdsmen, more vulnerable than other Fulani communities of the area. The situation shows how the presence of armed jihadi actors stirs up local political tensions. It also shows that political developments in this area intimately depend on specific social configurations. It is essential that those who claim to want to help rid Mali of the jihadi threat recognize the diversity of these configurations and of the social experiences deriving from them in times of crisis.

  • Colombian government, FARC agree on a new peace deal

    The government of Colombia and the leftist FARC guerrillas have agreed on a new peace deal aiming to broaden popular support after Colombian voters, in a referendum on 2 October, narrowly defeated an earlier agreement to end the 52-years conflict. The text of the new agreement was not immediately published, by the president, Juan Manuel Santos, laid out the changes in a televised speech. Under the new agreement, FARC commits to declare and hand over all the organization’s assets, to be used to compensate the victims of the conflict. More than 220,000 people were killed in the conflict, and nearly eight million people were forces out of their homes. The compensation clause was not part of the original accord, but was one of the main demands of the anti-accord campaign.

  • More U.K. children call Childline help-line over terrorism anxiety

    Children as young as nine have contacted Childline “petrified” about the prospect of a terror attack. The U.K. National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s (NSPCC) 24/7 service said it had handled 660 counselling sessions since the November 2015 Paris attacks. Across the United Kingdom, one in five of the contacts to the service – which is free and anonymous — were from young people aged 11 or younger.

  • The new normal: one year since terror attacks, Paris is a city afraid and divided

    It has been one year since the attacks on 13 November 2015 chilled all Parisians – Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and secular alike – to the core. In coordinated attacks on a football match and a music concert, 130 innocent civilians lost their lives, and hundreds more were injured. In Paris, a global hub for business, arts, diplomacy and culture, life is not the same as before. More than 6,500 soldiers are based in the Paris metropolitan area to help the local police, and Parisians have had to adjust to the sight of military uniforms patrolling subway stations, museums, major streets, and religious sites. The atmosphere of the city has grown tense, and residents have become jumpy.

  • Who’s Who in Mosul: A guide to the most important battle in the fight against ISIS

    On 17 October, the Iraqi government officially declared its plans to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State, more than two years after the city was captured. Unfortunately, winning will require cooperation many different parties. The Shiite government of Iraq, as well as the country’s Shiite militias, both want to be involved in the recapture of Mosul. So do Sunni actors, which include Iraqi tribes, Turkey, and the Kurds. And then there are the forces of the Yazidis and Christians.

  • Mosul will fall – but it may take a bigger U.S. presence to force Islamic State out

    The 5,000 ISIS paramilitaries deployed to defend Mosul will eventually lose to the 60,000-strong coalition forces arrayed against them. But a defeat in Mosul, or even in Raqqa, may not finish ISIS off. As IS moves away from being fixated on its caliphate, it is now embarking on more of a virtual existence – recruiting across the world with a focus on Western countries. And even if ISIS is in decline, what is happening in parallel is the rebirth of groups linked formally or informally to al-Qaeda which has reinvented itself as a less extreme entity that pays greater deference to local cultures and is promoting this in marked contrast to the sheer brutality of ISIS.

  • Boycott-Israel movement tainted by ties to terrorists, researchers find

    The campaign to subject Israel to boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) is tainted by ties to the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), researchers from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said. The PFLP, which was founded in 1967 as a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary group, is the second-biggest entity within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It has been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department since 1997.

  • Food for thought: Including agriculture in biosecurity and biodefense

    From agriculture to animal health, Kansas State University has been on the forefront of the national discussion in bio/agrodefense since it published the Homeland Defense Food Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Program — also known as “The Big Purple Book” — in 1999. Recently, the university co-hosted an event at the Bipartisan Policy Center, highlighted the threat of bio/agroterrorism and the importance of including agriculture in biosecurity and biodefense.

  • New genetic mutations in antibiotic-resistant bioterrorism agent identified

    Researchers have identified new genetic mutations in antibiotic-resistant Francisella tularensis bacteria that could be used in a bioterrorist attack. The mutations confer resistance to ciprofloxacin (Cipro), one of the most common antibiotic treatments. F. tularensis is a Category A Select Agent, a designation for organisms and toxins that pose the greatest risk to public health and safety, such as the microbes that cause anthrax and plague.

  • Understanding insurgency warfare

    A new book explores the history and details of 181 insurgencies since the end of the Second World War, providing lessons for those fighting insurgent campaigns today in such countries as Syria, Libya, and Iraq. The book finds that there has been a significant increase in the past decade in the number of insurgencies involving extremist Islamic groups. The book also finds that insurgent groups are most likely to lose when they perpetrate large-scale brutality against civilians and fail to secure outside support from great powers.

  • Why it’s not all about security as West beefs up military in Africa’s Sahel

    Over the past few weeks the United States and France have pledged considerable extra funds to strengthening their military presence in Africa’s Sahel region – a narrow, arid band of land stretching across the continent from west to east just south of the Sahara desert. This has been prompted by growing Western fears of destabilization. There has been concern that Islamist groups were establishing themselves in the vast spaces between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea. But Western interest in the Sahel region is not merely about security. It has also been linked by some to the West’s desire to protect vital natural resources such as oil, gas, and uranium. One geographer and Africa specialist has called this a new scramble for Africa.

  • More than 500 ISIS militants killed in Mosul so far -- 300 of them child-soldiers

    More than 500 ISIS militants have been killed since the beginning of the campaign to re-retake Mosul. Of the 500 ISIS dead, about 300 are child-soldiers called “Caliphate Lion Cubs.” ISIS militants have killed more than 300 civilians last week alone – some of them members of ISIS suspected of trying to stage a revolt against the jihadists.

  • ISIS plotting Paris-style attacks in Britain: U.K. police

    The U.K. National Crime Agency (NCA) and Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, in a rare public statement, said that terrorists had tried to get their hands on a large quantity of weapons in order to launch wide-scale gun attacks in Britain. The details have emerged as a result of investigations in the wake of five jihadist terror plots which have been foiled in the last two years. The investigation into the origins and background of the five foiled plots has also discovered that 800 legally owned guns had gone missing.

  • ISIS coming defeat in Mosul could drive jihadists attacks in Germany

    Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, said that the German authorities are preparing for possible terror attacks on German soil as pressure builds on ISIS in Iraq. The U.S.-led coalition’s operation to push ISIS out of Mosul could encourage ISIS supporters in Europe to carry out attacks, Maassen said.

  • Is the Islamic State finished? Five possible scenarios

    Most military analysts believe it’s only a matter of time before Mosul falls. The next target on the coalition’s agenda is Raqqa, Syria, the capital of IS. It may only be a matter of time before IS’s territorial “caliphate” is no more. What then will be the fate of IS? Can the group survive without controlling any territory? Will it rebound? Or will it disappear? Whatever the case, history provides lessons on how effectively to deal with movements and individuals who wage war against the international order. For example, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, anarchists struck out at rulers and symbols of capitalism throughout the world. Then, suddenly, the wave of anarchist violence ceased. Historians point to a number of reasons the anarchist moment passed. Anarchism competed for hearts and minds with other dissident groups. Nations undertook political and social reforms that addressed the grievances of potential anarchists. They adopted new methods of policing and surveillance. Police agencies cooperated across borders. But perhaps most important was the fact that high-risk movements that attempt to realize the unrealizable have a short shelf life. Such might be the case for IS.