Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • The Nigerian bus terminal attack: Public transport is a lucrative terror target

    During the morning rush hour on 14 April, a car bomb containing an estimated 500-800 pounds of explosives blew up at the Nyanya District bus station on the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria. Terrorism experts from the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) say we should note the significance of the attack for the rest of the world and put the facts into a larger perspective. Looking at all attacks on public surface transportation systems worldwide since 1970, the Abuja bombing was the twelfth most lethal attack. When comparing similar attack methods, it was the ninth most lethal attack.

  • U.S. drone attacks kill at least 55 al-Qaeda militants in Yemen

    A series of U.S. drone strikes Sunday and Monday killed at least fifty-five al-Qaeda militants in Yemen. The operation focused on al-Qaeda operation basecamps in the rugged mountain of the central and southern provinces of Yemen. Yemeni government sources to say that the first series of attacks, carried out on Sunday, killed three prominent al-Qaeda operatives. Al-Qaeda made gains in Yemen during the chaos which accompanied the 2011 popular uprising against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was driven from power a year later. In the last two years, the United States and the new Yemeni government have escalated the fight against the Islamist militants.

  • Four former teaching assistants from Birmingham's “Trojan Horse”-plot school arrested

    The alleged Trojan Horse school take-over plot in Birmingham, U.K., has taken another twist last Thursday when four women connected to a school mentioned as part of the alleged Islamist plot were arrested in connection with an ongoing fraud investigation at the school. Adderley primary school was discussed in detail in the original document outlining the supposed Trojan Horse conspiracy. The document is a how-to guide for hardline Islamists wanting to advance the cause of jihad by overthrowing headmasters and senior teachers at state schools in Birmingham.

  • France says Syrian regime forces used chemical weapons in recent attacks

    French president François Hollande said on Sunday that France had “information” of toxic gases being used by the Bashar a-Assad regime against opposition targets in Syria. The French claim follows accusations by the exiled Syrian opposition and rebel groups in the west and south of the country that gas has been used nine times in the past two months, killing more than ten people and affecting hundreds more.

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  • NYPD shuts down controversial Muslim surveillance program

    The New York Police Department has shut down its “Demographics Unit,” known for secretly infiltrating Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey with informers. The Muslim surveillance program, initiated under former NYPD commissioner, Raymond Kelly, is the subject of two federal lawsuits and has faced growing criticism from civil rights groups. NYPD acknowledged that in its 10-year existence, the surveillance program has not generated even a single lead.

  • Report details first-response lessons from Boston Marathon bombing

    Last Thursday, DHS released a 19-page report titled “Boston One Year Later: DHS’s Lessons Learned,” detailing three topics which were a focus of attention in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. The report discussed the “importance of partnerships,” the “need for effective and reliable communications,” and the need to further boost anti-radicalization efforts.

  • Allegations about Muslim plot to take over U.K. schools rock Britain

    Stories have emerged in Britain about what has been described as a “Trojan Horse” plot by Jihadists to take control of schools in the Birmingham area. The plot was outlined in a purported letter from one Muslim extremist in the city of Birmingham to another. The letter outlines tactics such as spreading false allegations about senior managers that they were promoting sex education or Christian prayers to Muslim children. Law enforcement and counterterrorism officials now admit the document is very likely a hoax, but the city of Birmingham has launched an investigation. The other day, Secretary of Education Michael Gove announced his office was launching its own investigation, to be headed by Peter Clarke, former head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command. Leaders of the West Midland Police and the Birmingham city council harshly criticized Gove for his decision – which the Chief Constable of the West Midland Police described as “desperately unfortunate” – saying it would add nothing to the ongoing investigations, but would unnecessarily inflame the already tense inter-communal relations in the city. Leaders of the city council said Gove’s move would “inevitably” lead people to “draw unwarranted conclusions” about the allegations.

  • Evaluating English-language jihadist magazine “Inspire”

    In a recent in-depth analysis of Inspire magazine, researchers applied the information, motivation, and behavioral skills model (IMB) of behavior change, an empirically tested and widely applied model, and found that the online English-language jihadist publication created in Yemen used religious arguments, terroristic propaganda, and quotes from prominent American figures as tools to radicalize and recruit Western terrorists and promote a do-it-yourself approach to terrorism.

  • Peace in the Philippines, but what next for the MILF?

    Late last month, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) insurgency and the Philippines government signed a landmark peace settlement, signaling the end of a decades-old conflict. After seventeen years of on-and-off negotiations, the two parties finally signed a settlement based on the Framework Agreement developed in 2012. While the agreement is a significant political achievement for Philippines president Benigno Aquino as it essentially marks the end of combat between the insurgency and government forces, a challenging road lies ahead in achieving overall peace in the Philippines.

  • Extending terrorism insurance would save U.S. government money after future attacks

    In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, terrorism risk insurance quickly became either unavailable or very expensive. Congress reacted by passing the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which provides an assurance of government support after a catastrophic attack. This has helped keep terrorism risk insurance affordable for businesses. The program will expire at the end of this year and Congress is considering the appropriate government role in terrorism insurance markets.

  • Identifying the most likely non-state chem-bio threats

    New research finds that Jihadists pose the most likely chem-bio threat, but other actors also featured as top threats. Jihadist actors occupied seven of the top 10 spots in a qualitative analysis; nine of the top 10 in a quantitative analysis; and half of the top 10 in an elicitation analysis.

  • Russia declined to share with the FBI all it knew about Tamerlan Tsarnaev

    A report by the inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community – which comprises seventeen different intelligence agencies — and the inspectors general from DHS and the CIA, says the Russian government did not provide the FBI with information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. The FBI says that a more detailed information from Russia would likely have resulted in a more thorough examination of him two years before the attack.

  • European, American jihadists training in Syria are the next major threat to the West

    Islamic militants who travel back and forth between their home countries and Syria may be the next major threat to the West. Some al-Qaeda leaders have been leaving their posts in Pakistan and Afghanistan to go to Syria, with plans to help train the next generation of jihadis. During the 1990s, al-Qaeda used unstable regions in Afghanistan as a training ground for Islamist militants. Getting into Afghanistan was difficult, however, while gaining entry into Syria and then joining a rebel camp is easy due to Syria’s porous borders with Turkey and Lebanon and the decentralized nature of Syrian opposition groups.

  • Chemical plant security measure moves forward in the House

    The House Homeland Security Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee are making progress on legislation meant to extend DHS’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standardsprogram, which helps secure commercial chemical plants from terrorist attacks. Several attempts by the House Homeland Security Committee to extend the program have failed due to disagreements with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which also oversees the matter.

  • Federal judge: terrorism victims may seize Iranian-owned $500 million mid-Manhattan tower

    Federal Judge Katherine Forrest on Friday ruled that the Iranian companies which own the 650 Fifth Avenue building in Manhattan must forfeit the property – evaluated between $500 and $700 million — to victims of terrorism who hold billions of dollars in judgments against Iran. The claimants include families who lost relatives in the 9/11 attacks and the 1983 Beirut bombing, in both of which Iran was implicated. The Iranian owners have vowed to appeal, but legal experts say the building assets could possibly be distributed while the challenge is pending.