Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • Paris suing Fox News over false report about Muslim “no-go” zones in city

    Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, said the city would sue Fox News for what she said was the network’s false reporting on the city following the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the kosher grocery store. Hidalgo was referring to assertions by several Fox TV shows’ hosts and guests that there were “no-go zones” in Paris — that is, neighborhoods where non-Muslims and even police would not enter. During one broadcast, Fox News showed a map of Paris on the screen which outlined seven such purportedly no-go zones.

  • EU launches a series of counterterrorism initiatives

    Using Europol, which has new authority to collect information on people who have never been convicted of a criminal offense, the EU is planning to create a more centralized intelligence sharing system which will allow security services to monitor and track suspects throughout the union. EU officials are also looking to improve information sharing with Arab countries.

  • Islamic fundamentalism is not a marginal phenomenon in Europe

    A comprehensive new comparative study of religious dispositions among European Muslims and Christians finds that between 40 percent and 45 percent of European Muslims have fundamentalist religious ideas. The percentage goes down among the young and among individuals with higher social and economic status. A PEW Research Center study, using the same criteria for fundamentalism, found that Islamic fundamentalists make up slightly more than 30 percent of U.S. Muslims. Only 4 percent of European Christians are fundamentalists. Fundamentalist beliefs among both Muslims and Christians are closely associated with hostility toward other out-groups, including homosexuals, Jews, and Westerners (in the case of Muslims) or Muslims (in the case of Christians) – but violence does not necessarily form part of a fundamentalist ideology (thus, the Jewish Neturei Karta of the Christian Amish are at the same time among the most fundamentalist religiously and the most violence-averse). The research quotes other studies which found that between 10 percent and 15 percent of European Muslims are prepared to use violence to defend their faith, but that the increase in the propensity for violence among Muslim fundamentalists is a relatively recent phenomenon — of the last two or three decades.

  • Kathryn Bigelow and the bogus link between ivory and terrorism

    It is often said that if something is repeated often enough, it becomes accepted as true. This has certainly been the case for the link between terrorism and the poaching of elephants for the ivory trade. As with any illegal activity, it is very difficult to obtain reliable data on the size of the ivory trade, but it is clear that the allegations linking ivory to terrorist groups are exceedingly weak. Those who keep asserting, for example, that Somali terror group al-Shabaab trades in ivory clearly have something to gain from pushing the link between ivory and terrorism beyond the available evidence. However, it is also clear that in the long run it is not only their own credibility that is at risk but that of a whole conservation movement. Conservationists have focused large on messages of doom and gloom that often sound as if holding humanity for ransom if the environmental crisis is not addressed. If we are serious about keeping the public’s trust, we must ensure that we are driven by evidence, not the hype, lest we become the boy who cried wolf.

  • Israeli strike in Syria kills Hezbollah commanders, six Iranian officers

    Israeli helicopter on Sunday fired missiles at a 3-car convoy near the village of Mazrat al-Amal on the outskirts of Quneitra. The convoy was traveling inside Syria, two or three miles from the Israeli border, carrying Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of former Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed by Israel in February 2008. In all, twelve people – six Hezbollah members and six Iranian military commanders and soldiers — were killed in the attack, in addition to Mughnyyeh. They include two Hezbollah officers — field commander Mohammad Issa, who goes by the nom de guerre “Abu Issa,” and Ismail al-Ashhab – and Abu Ali al-Tabtabai, also known as “Abu Ali Reza,” the Iranian Commander in the Syrian Golan Heights.

  • Europeans try counter-radicalization hotlines to combat Islamists’ appeal

    Much attention has been given to Islamic State recruitment efforts targeting Europe’s Muslim population, and now a coalition of private and public sector groups are countering those recruitment efforts with preventative measures. Current counter-radicalization hotlines were launched after European governments effectively used them to de-radicalize neo-Nazis. Despite the success with skinheads, observers note that many hotlines for would-be Islamic terrorists do not seem to be effective, at least not yet.

  • U.S. struggles to counter extremist Islamist narrative and its appeal

    Since the George W. Bush administration, U.S. officials have understood that winning the war on terror would require changing the narrative used by terrorist groups to recruit new followers. In a 2006 report on America’s strategy for combating terrorism, the administration called the war on terror, “both a battle of arms and a battle of ideas.” Today, U.S. officials still find it difficult to counter extremist narratives that have helped terror groups recruit many young Western Muslims to the Middle East.

  • Concerns grow about attacks on rail systems by domestic terrorists

    Between September 2001 and December 2011, at least838 attacks on passenger rail systems have killed more than 1,370 people. As DHS officials focus on assuring the American public that security agencies remain on high alert, last week’s incidents on two of the nation’s major metropolitan rail systems raised more concerns about public safety and preparedness.

  • Belgian police raids operational Islamist terror cells in four cities

    The Belgian federal police yesterday raided a residential building in Verviers, a town of about 60,000 residents seventy-five miles east of Brussels, located between Liège and the Belgium-German border, killing two suspected terrorists and seriously injuring a third. Eric Van der Sypt, a spokesman for the office of Belgian federal prosecutor, said a terrorist outrage may only have been hours away: “This operation stopped a major terrorist attack from taking place. You could say a second potential Paris has been averted,” he said. At the same time that the raid on the house in Verviers was unfolding, special police units carried out at least a dozen raids elsewhere in Belgium in what was a coordinated operations. They focused on neighborhoods which are predominantly populated by Muslim immigrants in at least four districts in and around Brussels, with explosives reportedly found in the western Brussels area of Anderlecht.


  • A first: PA, PLO on trial in New York for supporting terrorism

    On Tuesday, a New York federal court opened a trialwhich will decide whether the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) should be held responsible for seven shootings and bombings that killed thirty-three people and wounded more than 450, some of them Americans, in Jerusalem between 2002 and 2004. The lawsuit was launched in 2004 by victims and families of victims, and was filed under the Antiterrorism Act of 1991. It seeks up to $1 billion from the PA and the PLO.

  • Understanding Muhammad: we need a more informed approach

    In any terrorist attack by Muslim extremists perpetrated in the name of Islam — such as the recent Charlie Hebdo atrocity — discussions about the Prophet Muhammad, his life, and his teachings come to the fore in Western societies. From the “prophet of peace” to a kind of terrorist antichrist, ideas about who Muhammad was and what he means vary among both Muslims and non-Muslims. There is no similarity between al-Qaeda’s interpretation of Muhammad and the Muhammad of a Sufi Muslim. But how much of this discussion is relevant to understanding the motivations behind Islamic extremism? How can the West understand Muhammad impartially, and what is Muslims’ relationship with Muhammad?

  • What drives killers like the Ottawa or Paris attackers?

    Zehaf-Bibeau, the Islamist convert who recently killed a Canadian military reservist on duty in Ottawa, Canada, represents a type of attacker rarely discussed — a person so obsessed with an overvalued idea that it defines their identity and leads them to commit violence without regard for the consequences. Although it appears that the assailants in Paris had more ties with terrorist organizations, the individuals still fit the description of people acting on overvalued ideas.

  • U.S. fight against extremism, terrorism hobbled by Obama’s qualms about using the term “Islamist”: Critics

    On 18 February the White House will host a global summit on “Countering Violent Extremism.” Critics say that the title of the summit captures a disturbing aspect of the administration’s efforts to counter terrorism: The preference for using anodyne language about the nature of the challenge rather than calling it for what it is – terrorism carried out by Islamic extremists, or, even more sweepingly, Islamist-fueled terrorism.The administration’s reluctance is not merely a problem of nomenclature, a refusal to employ terminology which may be overly broad or which might be offensive to some, says one critic. Rather, it evinces a lack of strategic focus, weakening the U.S. hand in the fight and undermining efforts to counter Islamist extremists and their supporters.

  • Delicate balance: Fighting extremist Islamists while guarding against anti-Muslim backlash

    The terror attack on Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris has shed more light on the problem France is facing dealing with extremist elements in its Muslim population. As is the case with many young Muslims who have recently joined militant groups, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, the two brothers involved in the Charlie Hebdo attack, were French-born, leaving many in France to wonder how fellow Europeans could have become violent extremists. Many Muslim immigrants to France live in the grimy banlieues, the ugly and impersonal “suburbs” consisting of exposed-concrete housing projects on the outskirts of large French cities, and these shantytowns are also where the most radical elements of the Muslim population effectively market their ideology to young, vulnerable, and largely under-educated and unemployed Muslim men.

  • U.K. anti-radicalization strategy is not working: Critics

    The surge in young Britons flocking to Syria and the Middle East to join radical Islamist groups is a result of failed policies and inadequate funding for anti-radicalization efforts, according to counterterrorism experts. In 2007 the Labor government established Prevent, a counterterrorism strategy aiming to deter individuals from becoming radicalized. Critics say that Prevent, especially as it is being carried out under the current government, is failing to tackle radicalism at its roots.The current strategy is “focusing only on people who have already been radicalized,” but she warns, “prevention is better than cure,” says Labor MP Hazel Blears who introduced the Prevent program when she was a member of the cabinet.