Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • Nuclear forensics science helps thwart terrorist use of nuclear materials

    A nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists is the stuff of nightmares, especially for U.S. agencies charged with preventing a devastating attack. When security or law enforcement agents confiscate nuclear or radiological weapons or their ingredients being smuggled domestically or internationally, they must quickly trace them back to their source. This is where the science of nuclear forensics comes in. With funding from DHS, Oregon State University has launched a new graduate emphasis in nuclear forensics in OSU’s Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics.

  • U.S. Muslim communities develop their own counter-radicalization programs

    Almost fourteen years after the 9/11 attacks, young vulnerable Muslim youths are still subject to surveillance by law enforcement agents who have been given a mandate to identify radicalism within America’s Muslim communities. Muslim community leaders across the country are looking to provide an outlet for vulnerable youths to express their radical views, in the hopes that the community will take care of itself. “Heavy-handed tactics don’t work,” says one community leader. “The fact is that for many people, there needs to be a third option between locking them up in jail and just doing nothing if they might be a danger to themselves or others.”

  • Using shotcrete to make tunnels withstand terrorist attacks

    Conflagrations and terrorist attacks are a threat for tunnels and bridges, so engineers are searching for ways to make tunnels and bridges as robust as possible. Construction materials, such as special types of high-performance concrete, which can partly absorb the impact of explosions, already exist, but due to their manufacturing principle, they cannot be made in any other shape than the slab, which cannot be used for cladding surfaces with complex geometries. A new type of shotcrete — which used to be considered impossible to manufacture — was created by scientists to render the structures more robust. Despite its high steel and synthetic-fiber contents, it can be sprayed on easily.

  • 4,300 people in more than fifteen countries killed in 504 suicide bombings in 2014

    A new report on global trends in suicide terrorism shows that during 2014 more than 4,300 people in more than fifteen countries were killed in 504 suicide bombings. Out of the fifteen countries, Afghanistan and Iraq led the world last year in suicide attacks with an increase in Iraq. The report highlights key data on world hot spots for attacks and also shows that, with the exception of Nigeria, the majority of suicide bombers were males. The researchers also found that car bombs were the most prevalent weapons, and the targets were overwhelmingly security forces.

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  • Friends recall indications of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s growing radicalization

    In the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, FBI agents interviewed two friends of Tamerlan Tsarnaev who, with his brother Dzhokhar, planted bombs at the marathon on 15 April. A paralegal on the defense team read aloud portions of notes from the interviews at the sentencing phase of Dzhokhar’s trial on Tuesday. Both friends — Viskhan Vakhabov, who was born in Chechnya and who lived in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan before moving to Chelsea in 2004, and Russian-born Magomed Dolakov – said they noticed Tamerlan’s growing radicalization.

  • California drought highlights the state’s economic divide

    As much of Southern California enters into the spring and warmer temperatures, the effects of California’s historic drought begin to manifest themselves in the daily lives of residents, highlighting the economic inequality in the ways people cope. Following Governor Jerry Brown’s (D) unprecedented water rationing regulations,wealthier Californians weigh on which day of the week no longer to water their grass, while those less fortunate are now choosing which days they skip a bath.

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  • Water scarcity increase Middle East instability

    At least1.6 billion people worldwide face water scarcity because their countries lack the necessary infrastructure to move water from rivers and aquifers. In the Middle East, this lack of water infrastructure combines with the effects of global warming — including prolonged in droughts — to make the entire region politically and economically unstable. Food supplies are diminished as farmers find it difficult to find water for crops, and even basic sanitary requirements are not met due to poor access to clean water, thus increasing the spread of disease.

  • Despite persistent questions, support for use of drones against terrorists remains strong

    The CIA counterterrorism program which captured, interrogated, and tortured al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons was criticized by lawmakers, including Senate Democrats who questioned the secrecy of the program. Many of those same lawmakers overwhelmingly support CIA targeted drone missions aimed at killing terror suspects and militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia. Some lawmakers say it is time to move the drone program to the Pentagon. “I can understand when it was a very small operation why it would be done by the intelligence agency, such as U-2s and other reconnaissance aircraft, for many years,” says Senator John McCain (R-Arizona). “Now it’s reached the point where it’s an integral part of the conflict and a very essential one, so I think it should be conducted and oversight and administered by the Department of Defense.”

  • Israel attacks in Syria, destroying Hezbollah-bound arms

    The Israeli Air Force (IAF) launched two attacks on targets located inside Syria army bases – the first attacks took place on the night between Wednesday and Thursday, and the second wave of attacks took place the night between Friday and Saturday. The targets destroyed in the attacks were Iran-made long-range missiles which the Assad regime stored and maintained for Hezbollah, the Shi’a Lebanese militia. Since January 2013, the IAF conducted ten such attacks – the attacks Wednesday night and Friday night were attacks number nine and ten.

  • Montreal school struggles to explain why its students join ISIS

    Just months after five students at Montreal’s Collège de Maisonneuveleft Canada to join the Islamic State in Syria, a young couple, El Mahdi Jamali and Sabrine Djaermane, who attended the same school, were arrested last Tuesday for what police allege were plans to commit terrorist acts. Since the arrest, school officials have met with terrorism and extremism experts to help analyze if the school itself had been a breeding ground for extremists. Some locals familiar with the school have pointed fingers at Adil Charkaoui, an Islamic leader in Montreal who rents the school’s facilities for a weekend Muslim youth group, and was once probed by federal agents as a suspected al-Qaeda sleeper agent.

  • Increased al-Shabaab attacks in East Africa a sign of weakness: Experts

    Somali-based al-Shabaab is increasing its guerrilla-style attacks in East Africa, but terrorism experts say the attacks are the results of the group losing its ability to fight and win on the battlefield. In the past few years, the United States has supported, with arms and training, an African Union force to carry out missions against al-Shabaab in Somalia’s major towns and urban areas. That has forced al-Shabaab to retreat to small villages, where they still collect taxes to fund their operations throughout East Africa.

  • To prevent Iranian nukes, a negotiated deal better than a military strike: David Albright

    David Albright is the founder and president of the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), and author of several books on fissile materials and nuclear weapons proliferation. In a testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, and an interview with Deutsche Welle on Thursday, Albrights says that there is every reason to be suspicious of Iran because it has cheated on its obligations in the past and has been uncooperative on an ongoing basis. Iran has also built many sites in secret, so any agreement with Iran should have extra insurance — a more powerful inspection and verification tool to try to ferret out any secret nuclear activities or facilities that Iran would build. Still, a negotiated deal, if it includes sufficiently robust inspection and verification measures, would be a more effective way than a military strike to make sure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.

  • Fusion centers, created to fight domestic terrorism, suffering from mission creep: Critics

    Years before the 9/11 attacks, law enforcement agencies throughout the country, alarmed by the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, began to monitor and investigate signs of domestic terrorism. That increased monitoring, and the need for coordination among various law enforcement agencies, gave rise to the fusion centers. A new report, which is supported by current and former law enforcement and government officials, concludes that post-9/11, fusion centers and the FBI teams which work with them shifted their focus from domestic terrorism to global terrorism and other crimes, including drug trafficking.Experts say that at a time when the number of domestic terrorism threats, many of which are linked to right-wing extremist groups, is surging, law enforcement must refocus their attention on the threats from within.

  • Drug cartels, terrorists may cooperate in smuggling materials for a nuclear device into U.S.

    Detonating a nuclear device or dirty bomb in the United States has long been goal of terrorists groups including al-Qaeda. Doing so, however, would require access to nuclear materials and a way to smuggle them into the country. Experts note the nexus between drug organizations, crime groups, and violent extremists and the trafficking of radiological and nuclear materials. A new report points out that al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Colombia’s FARC are the three organizations with the motivation and capability to obtain a radiological or nuclear device.

  • Yemen chaos makes the country a haven for an al-Qaeda affiliate

    Over the past year, while ISIS gained control of vast territories in Syria and Iraq, U.S. drone strikes and military raids in Yemen drove al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) into hiding. The current chaos in Yemen’s multi-sided war, however, has allowed AQAP militants to recreate a haven which counterterrorism experts say could help it launch terrorist attacks. U.S. officials acknowledge the changes on the ground, but say U.S. strategy has not changed. “Our efforts have to change their character but remain steady in their intensity,” said Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.