Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • Terrorists develop tactics to evade U.S. drones

    The CIA’s use of Predator drones against Islamic militants in the Middle East began shortly after the 9/11 attacks and has increased dramatically during the Obama administration. As the number of drone strikes in Yemen increased, AQAP militants began to develop tactics to hide themselves from a drone’s sensors.

  • Islam, blasphemy and free speech: a surprisingly modern conflict

    From the fatwa on author Salman Rushdie to the attack on the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo, the phenomenon of anti-blasphemy actions continues to be prominent in the Muslim world. The reality is, however, that the persecution of blasphemers as it is done currently is a very recent phenomenon. Generally, one could say that the Rushdie fatwa was the beginning of this trend, and the founders of Political Islam are the innovators of this trend. A long distance has passed to see Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in place of the thirteenth-century Muslim scholar Jalal ad-Din al-Rumi, who stood for openness and pluralism in Muslim thought and practice, but this underscores the argument that mainstream Muslims remain against the barbaric actions of fundamentalists. It must not be forgotten that many Muslims are suppressed in their countries for the same reasons that Charlie Hebdo was attacked.

  • What we know about the attack on Charlie Hebdo

    The two gunmen who attacked the offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo — Cherif Kouachi, 32, and his brother Said, 34 — are French citizens of Algerian origin. Cherif Kouachi has been involved in radical Islamic activities in France for over a decade, and served time in jail for his 2005 attempt to go to Iraq to join the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda. In the last three years he was active in facilitating the travel of French Muslims to Syria to fight the Assad regime. The third man believed to have been involved in the attack, 18-year old high school student Hamyd Mourad, was allegedly the driver of the car in which the attacker arrived at the magazine’s office and then escaped. He turned himself in to the police, and is now being interrogated. Thousands of police officers and security services personnel have been conducting a massive manhunt for the two brothers, focusing on the city of Reims – a city of about 200,000 located eighty miles northeast of Paris, in the Champagne-Ardenne region.

  • Charlie Hebdo offends – and we must defend its right to do so

    Now we must reaffirm the importance of absolute freedom of expression in an open society — regardless of how offensive it might be to some and, on occasion, how puerile it may become. Freedom of expression is absolute or it is nothing at all. It cannot be parceled out so that we are only free at particular times or in specific circumstances. That’s how it becomes a privilege rather than a right. That’s how the self-appointed guardians get to decide what is and isn’t acceptable. Unpalatable as it may be on occasion, we all have the responsibility to engage robustly with those we dislike, or even despise. We have to do it in a manner that excludes violence and encourages discourse, debate, and clarification. We must recognize and face the problem: An over-sensitive culture has emerged — not in some far-away place but right here in the West. Violent attacks like those in Paris are still rare but this is a culture that will engender many future acts of conflict unless we regain the real sense of what tolerance means. It is not indifference to others or turning a blind eye but healthy, pointed and, on occasion, offensive engagement.

  • Gunmen kill 12 at the office of French satirical magazine critical of Islam

    Two hooded Islamist gunmen have attacked the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing ten journalists and editors and two policemen and injuring seven, several of them in critical condition. The assailants entered the editorial offices of the magazine and opened fire with assault rifles, before escaping the building and engaging the police on the street outside in a heavy fire exchange, killing two of the police officers. They managed to get into their car and fleets with police in the street outside before escaping by car.


  • Agroterrorism is a major threat to America: Experts

    The economic effects of a successful attack on the U.S. food supply would be devastating, as agriculture accounts for roughly 13 percent of the country’s gross annual domestic product. An introduction of deadly pathogens into U.S. livestock, poultry, or crops would not only result in a disease outbreak, but would disrupt the global food industry and drive up food prices. Agroterrorism is not limited to the intentional introduction of harmful pathogens into U.S. farms and livestock. Terrorists can also cyberattack industrial agriculture systems responsible for operating feeding machines, maintaining milk temperatures, and processing foods.

  • Building better butt bombs: Al Qaeda’s instructions to followers

    Five years after using a “bum bomb” for the first time – on 28 August 2009, against the Saudi deputy interior minister – al Qaeda bomb makers are at it again. Having actively searched for new and better ways to take advantage of privacy (“don’t touch my junk”) considerations which govern airport security checks, one of the organization’s bomb makers goes public. The latest issue of Inspire, the organization’s English-language magazine, contains a detailed 22-page article on how to construct a butt bomb and conceal it in one’s anal cavity. The article alsoadvises would-be suicide bombers on where to sit on the airplane to ensure the most destruction, and also recommends using the hidden bomb for assassination attempts.

  • A combination ricin/anthrax vaccine shows promise

    Soligenix, Inc. last month announced the publication of data demonstrating that the combination of RiVax and VeloThrax induces protective immunity to both ricin toxin and anthrax toxin exposure. RiVax is the company’s candidate vaccine for the prevention of exposure to ricin toxin using an antigen which is completely devoid of the toxic activity of ricin. VeloThrax is the company’s candidate vaccine which employs a derivative of recombinant protective antigen, termed Dominant Negative Inhibitor (DNI), which is a candidate for inclusion in a next generation anthrax vaccine.

  • France set to intervene in Libya “within three months”: Diplomats

    Since the November 2011 toppling of Col. Qaddafi, Libya has ceased to exist as a unitary, cohesive state. Different armed militias control different parts of the country, and two governments and two parliaments claim to be the country’s legitimate rulers: The internationally recognized government operates out of Tobruk in northeast Libya, while the Islamist-led Libya Dawn government – backed by Turkey and Qatar – operates out of the capital Tripoli, which Dawn occupied in August. Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s defense minister, said on Saturday that “the moment has come” to address the growing unrest in Libya, adding that France could launch a military intervention in Libya within three months. The French defense minister added that the question currently under discussion in Paris is not whether France will launch military strikes against the Islamist militias in Libya, but when.

  • Former Navy SEALs member under NCIS investigation for allegedly revealing secrets

    Former U.S. Navy SEALs Chief Special Warfare Operator Robert O’Neill, who claimed to have killed Osama bin Laden in the Navy SEALsraid, is under criminal investigation for possibly sharing classified information. Even if the NCIS concluded that O’Neill did not release any classified information, the SEALs code of silence has still been violated, veterans say.

  • Kenya’s efforts to counter al- Shabaab faulted as heavy-handed

    As Somali-based al-Shabaab loses ground in its home country to international forces backed by the United States, the United Nations, and the African Union, it has increased its attacks in Kenya, specifically, attacks on Christians who live in towns near Kenya’s border with Somalia. To counter al-Shabaab’s operations in Kenyan security forces have begun to launch attacks on suspected terrorists in Kenya. Human rights groups have documented assassinations and disappearances of terrorism suspects by Kenya’s counterterrorism units. Such raids only act as a recruitment tool for al-Shabaab, say analysts.

  • Terrorists use human trafficking to generate revenue, demoralize adversaries, fill the ranks

    Counterterrorism initiatives tend to target drug trafficking rings operated by militant groups as a way to cut the funding of terror operations. Terror groups, however, including the Islamic State (ISIS) and Boko Haram, have always diversified their revenue stream by relying on the sale of women and children from captured villages to fund their operations. Analysts say that counterterrorism officials must begin to pay attention to human trafficking schemes, because in addition to generating revenue, human trafficking helps terror groups demoralize their enemies and supply fighting power.

  • Kenya’s harsh new security laws put hundreds of thousands of refugees at risk

    Kenya has passed a controversial amendment to the country’s existing security laws, days after heated debates led to brawling on the floor of the Kenyan Parliament. Despite the fracas, the bill was passed with only minor changes, to the dismay of observers at home and abroad. Domestic and international attention has mainly focused on the impact the bill would have on the period of detention without charge, the tapping of communications without court consent, the erosion of media freedom and the limitations placed upon the right to protest. But the world has paid less attention to the severe implications the new amendments have for refugees in Africa’s second-largest refugee-hosting country.

  • Assessing U.K. government’s 10-year effort to tackle online extremism

    Following increased scrutiny of Prevent, the U.K. government’s counter-extremism strategy, Quilliam, a London-based counter-extremism think tank, released a White Paper which assesses the successes and failures of Prevent in its 10-year history, and makes recommendations for its improvement to deal with the current nature of the threat. The paper responds to the report from the Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee and adds to the debate surrounding the 2014 Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.

  • Libya’s nominal government calls for international help in fighting blaze at Al Sidra oil tank farm, port

    Libya has issued a call to foreign firefighters to come to Libya to help fight a massive blaze at the country’s largest oil port, started by rocket fire from an Islamist militia attack. The barrage of rockets, launched by members of Libya Dawn, a coalition of Islamist and Misratan militias which is now in control of the capital Tripoli, set ablaze one of the giant storage tanks at Al Sidra on Thursday. The blaze has since spread through the tank farms, igniting seven of the nineteen storage tanks and sending flames and smoke hundreds of feet into the sky. To make sure the tank farm is destroyed, the Libyan Dawn authorities ordered local fire departments not to assist in extinguishing the fires, prompting the internationally recognized government, now situated in Tobruk, to issue a call for foreign fire fighters to come to Libya to help fight the spreading fire.