Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • Lebanese court sentences a cousin of Qatar’s foreign minister for funding terrorism

    Abdulaziz bin Khalifa al-Attiyah, the cousin of Qatar’s foreign minister and a former member of the Qatar Olympic Committee, was convicted in June in absentia by a Lebanese court of funding international terrorism. Al-Attiyah’s conviction is one of many events that ties members of the Qatari government to the funding of terrorism. The Qatari government itself has been funding Jihadists groups in the Middle East and North Africa in an effort to undermine and weaken to influence of moderate forces and governments in the region.

  • U.S. introduces new security measures to screen Western-passport travelers

    At least 3,000 of the 15,000 foreign fighters in Syria are from Australia and Europe. DHS has introduced new screening measures for travelers from Europe, Australia, and other allied nations due to concerns about the increasing number of Islamist militants who have fought in Syria and Iraq alongside the Islamic State (ISIS) and could travel freely to the United States using their Western passports.

  • European Muslims say they pay the price for the actions of extremists

    Many European Muslims feel that anti-Islamic sentiment is on the rise, partly due to recent violent videos of torture and beheadings by Islamic State (ISIS). At least 3,000 Europeans have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight in ISIS ranks, and European security services are worried that if they return home, some of them would use the skills they acquired in Iraq and Syria to perpetrate terrorist activities at home. In response, the public has been on high alert, ringing the alarm whenever a potential terrorist is spotted.

  • Tensions over Islam find their way to U.S. campuses

    University of Central Florida(UCF) professor Dr. Jonathan Matusitz is facing backlash from some groups which claim that his class on terrorism and communication is based on a biased view and a hatred of Islam. Students at the University of California-Berkeleybegan to protest the university’s selection of television personality Bill Maher as the mid-year commencement speaker on 20 December, describing his comments on Islam as racist, divisive, and offensive to many students. UCF says it stands behind Matusitz, and UC-Berkeley says Maher’s invitation stands.

  • Setback to U.S. Syria plan as Islamists evict anti-ISIS militia from stronghold

    One of the moderate rebel forces in Syria which the United States views as central to the formation of an effective ground force to fight ISIS is the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF). Over the weekend, however, the SRF suffered a major defeat when the al-Qaeda-aligned Jabhat al-Nusra ousted it from its stronghold.

  • U.K. prepared to assist disillusioned Jihadists returning from Syria

    William Hague, former British foreign secretary, said that British jihadists returning to the United Kingdom from Syria and Iraq will be helped by the government as long as they have “good intentions.” Hague said that the U.K. authorities are prepared to assist people who come back to Britain after fighting in the Middle East as long as it can be established that they are not planning attacks in the United Kingdom.

  • World’s first counterterrorism “bank” to finance anti-extremism projects

    The world’s first counterterrorism “bank” will next year begin funding projects aiming to stop violent extremism in five of the most “at risk” countries. The Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) was established in Switzerland last month, and it will soon be awarding grants of around $10-$30,000 to small-scale counter-radicalization programs in Mali, Pakistan, Nigeria, Morocco, and Bangladesh. The organization expects to be financing thousands of such programs over the next decade. Some of these projects appear to be replicating development work, but the new organization says that the difference is that these prospective projects will have security outcomes in mind, and that funding will specifically target areas of the world at risk of creating violent combatants, but where there are few resources to tackle the issues.

  • Microrockets fueled by water neutralize chemical and biological warfare agents

    With fears growing over chemical and biological weapons falling into the wrong hands, scientists are developing microrockets to fight back against these dangerous agents. Scientists point out that titanium dioxide is one of the most promising materials available for degrading chemical and biological warfare agents. It does not require harsh chemicals or result in toxic by-products. There is no way, however, actively to mix titanium dioxide in waterways, so scientists have been working on ways to propel titanium dioxide around to accelerate the decontamination process without the need for active stirring.

  • Foreigners from 80 countries are joining ISIS on “unprecedented scale”: UN

    A report by the UN Security Council has warned that foreign jihadists are swarming into Iraq and Syria on “an unprecedented scale” and from countries that had not previously contributed combatants to global terrorism. The report finds that 15,000 people have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic State (ISIS) and other extremist groups. These volunteers come from more than eighty countries, the report states, “including a tail of countries that have not previously faced challenges relating to al-Qaeda.” ISIS is estimated to have more than $1 million in daily revenues from oil smuggling operations alone. It controls territory the size of Texas in Iraq and Syria, a territory which is home to between five and six million people, a population the size of Finland’s. The UN reports says that ISIS’s treasury also benefits from up to $45 million in money from kidnapping for ransom.

  • Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friend convicted of lying to police investigating Boston Marathon bombing

    Robel Phillipos, 21, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a friend of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was convicted yesterday (Tuesday) of lying to police during the investigation of the 2013 attack. Phillipos was convicted of two counts for lying about being in Tsarnaev’s dorm room three days after the attack, at the same time that two other friends removed a backpack containing fireworks and other related evidence from the room. The three friends went to Tsarnaev’s room while federal and local law enforcement units were engaged in an intense search for the bombing suspects.

  • Tunisia’s Islamist party Ennahda concedes defeat in Sunday’s elections

    Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party, the first Islamist movement to come to power in an Arab country in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring turmoil, has conceded defeat in Tunisia’s general elections held on Sunday. Ennahda’s main secular rival, the Nidaa Tounes party, is certain to emerge as the strongest force in the new parliament. Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Ennahda did not try to turn Tunisia into an Islamist state and did not use its parliamentary majority to exclude non-Islamists from power. It opted for a coalition government with two secular parties, and participated in the writing of a new constitution which is regarded as the most progressive in the Arab world. Its mishandling of the economy, and a general anti-Islamist sentiment in Tunisia, doomed its hope of retaining power.

  • A framework for destroying ISIS and creating stability in the Middle East

    In responding to the barbarism of ISIS, the United States must develop and articulate a political strategy that keeps America out of an inter-ethnic civil war, relies on local Arab armies to defeat ISIS, reduces Iran’s influence in the region, strengthens Israeli security, and prevents terrorist groups like ISIS from ever again establishing a political or geographic foothold in Syria and Iraq. The current U.S. policy of arming the overwhelmingly Shiite Arab Iraqi government army, the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and the hodgepodge Free Syrian Army is not going to achieve these goals. Instead, the United States should pursue a strategy based on diplomatically recognizing the already-existing partition of the region into its natural divisions — the “Five State” partition. The Five State approach aims to re-partition the two failed states of Syria and Iraq into more stable and cohesive states which will exclude Iranian influence, provide a stable and potentially powerful Sunni Arab state that can ally with the pro-Western Sunni Arab states, and accommodate the security concerns of the major regional non-Arab powers, Israel, Turkey, and the concerns of neighboring Russia.

  • Canada considering expanding powers of its security agencies

    The Harper government is considering legislation which would expand the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to investigate, apprehend, and detain homegrown terrorists. CSIS wants the power to take advantage of the so-called “Five Eyes” spy network to which Canada, the United Kingdom, America, Australia, and New Zealand all belong. CSIS is also asking for more power to track Canadians believed to have been radicalized, and to take more advantage of anonymous sources. Ottawa officials are talking about whether to give CSIS explicit legislative permission to engage in “threat-diminishment” — a power which the intelligence agency’s watchdog recently pointed out that CSIS already uses, but the law does not explicitly permit.

  • Israel army in late August saved Irish troops from al-Nusra Jihadists on Golan Heights

    Israel Defense Force (IDF) units on 30 August helped rescue Irish soldiers serving with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights. The rescue required the IDF to direct heavy fire at the Syrian Jihadists to prevent them from approaching the Irish contingent. The IDF, using its observation posts and aerial intelligence, guided the Irish soldiers so they could avoid concentrations of the heavily armed al-Nusra forces.

  • Five Britons go to Iraq, Syria every week to join ISIS: U.K. police chief

    The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the most senior U.K. police officer, has revealed that five Britons are travelling to Iraq and Syria to join Islamic State (ISIS) every week. Hogan-Howe spoke after it was reported that a third Jihadi from Portsmouth has been killed in the conflict. Hogan-Howe said that the figure of five Britons a week joining ISIS was a minimum and the “drumbeat of terrorism in the U.K.” was now “faster and more intense.” He added: “Those are the ones that we believe have gone. There may be many more who set out to travel to another country and meandered over to Syria and Iraq in a way that is not always possible to spot when you have failed states and leaky borders,” Hogan-Howe said.