Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • Qatar funds Jihadist groups, but citizens of other U.S. ME allies do so, too

    Before the Islamic State (IS) raided banks in Iraq, the group received most of its funding from donors and supporters in Kuwait and Qatar, often with the knowledge of government officials. The United States is now pressing Arab Gulf governments to crack down on funding to IS and other extremist groups, but many Sunni Gulf leaders are facing domestic pressure to support militant Sunni groups believed to be counterweights to their Shia rival, Iran, and the Iranian-backed Assad regime.

  • Record of dissuading young Somalis in Minnesota from joining terror groups mixed

    For the past decade, the Somali population in Minnesota has been a recruitment hub for al-Qaeda linked terrorist group, al-Shabaab. Law enforcement officials, counterterrorism units, and community leaders have made major strides in deterring young Somali men and women from traveling abroad to join the group in Somalia or Ethiopia. The recent surge of the Islamic State (IS) militant group, however, has renewed recruitment efforts targeting Somali immigrants in America.

  • NYC bridges need better protection against terrorists: Experts

    New York City’s bridges have long been the target of terrorist attacks. In 1993, for example, officials discovered a plot by Omar Abdel-Rahman to target the George Washington Bridge and other sites. Recent security breaches on both the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge have heightened concerns as the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks near. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that his office would soon offer better ways to secure the Brooklyn Bridge.

  • State Department’s social media campaign against ISIS questioned

    The State Departmentis advancing its anti-terrorism efforts on social media by reaching out to vulnerable English-speakers who could be recruited to join the Islamic State (IS). The campaign emphasizes IS’s brutality, and, mockingly, advises would-be recruits to learn “useful new skills” such as “blowing up mosques” and “crucifying and executing Muslims.” Experts say that there is a psychological error in trying to scare people off with threats that something might be exciting and thrilling. “If you challenge a young adult, particularly a male, with the fact that something might be especially difficult or challenging, you’re just exciting them,” says an expert in the psychology of terrorists.

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  • Former Jihadists effective in dissuading would-be IS recruits from joining the group: Experts

    Last week British prime minister David Cameron announced new powers, allowing police to seize the passports of terrorist suspects to stop them from returning to the United Kingdom. London mayor Boris Johnson also called for British Jihadists to have their citizenship revoked. Richard Barrett, former counter-terrorism chief at MI5 and MI6, disagrees. He is advocating a passage of return for repentant fighters, saying “Many of the people who have been most successful in undermining the terrorist narrative are themselves ex-extremists.”

  • New gene therapy approach offers better treatment of botulism exposure, other illnesses

    The current method to treat acute toxin poisoning is to inject antibodies, commonly produced in animals, to neutralize the toxin. This method, however, has challenges ranging from safety to difficulties in developing, producing and maintaining the anti-serums in large quantities. New research shows that gene therapy may offer significant advantages in prevention and treatment of botulism exposure over current methods, and may have applicability to other illnesses.

  • New device improves radiation detection

    In a move that could have important implications for national security, researchers have created a very sensitive and tiny detector that is capable of detecting radiation from various sources at room temperature. The detector is eight to nine orders of magnitude —100 million to as high as 1 billion — times faster than the existing technology. The researchers sought to utilize the exceptional electronic carrier properties of graphene to create the photo detector device. Graphene is made of carbon atoms that are arranged in a honeycomb-like geometrical structure (the diameter of a human hair is 300,000 times thicker than a two-dimensional sheet of graphene).

  • Ricin toxin vaccine shows promise in a non-human primate study

    Ricin toxin is a plant toxin thought to be a bioterror threat because of its stability and high potency as well as the large worldwide reservoir created as a by-product of castor oil production. As a poison, ricin is so potent that the U.S Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the lethal dose in humans is about the size of a grain of salt. There are currently no effective means to prevent the effects of ricin poisoning. Soligenix, Inc., a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing several biodefense vaccines and therapeutics, announced last week promising preliminary results from a preclinical study with its ricin toxin vaccine RiVax, in a non-human primate (NHP) lethal aerosol exposure model.

  • U.S. forms an international coalition to fight, defeat ISIS

    The United States has announced it is forming a “core coalition” to fight Islamic State in Iraq, and has given the new group of states two weeks to finalize plans to help the Iraqi government and the Kurds in the north intensify the campaign against the militants. The core group consists of NATO members, but it is expected that Iraq’s Sunni neighbors such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Gulf states (except Jihadists-supporting Qatar), and even Arab countries farther afield such as Egypt and Morocco, will cooperate closely with the coalition and lend support to its operations, and that some of these Sunni countries would join it.

  • Growing cyberthreats lead to growing interest in cybersecurity insurance

    The increasing sophistication and scope of cyberattacks on businesses – and the increasing damage such attacks are causing – have led to growing interest in cybersecurity insurance. The industry is urging the government to treat cyberattacks as acts of terrorism which should be covered under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act(TRIA), while also looking into how the Stafford Actcould help companies after a cyberterror attack. At the same time, more private insurers are offering limited cyber-coverage, but many say they would discontinue selling cyber policies if TRIA is not renewed. As the term “cyber-coverage” continues to be defined by large insurers, the insurance product lines continue to change.

  • Captured documents reveal IS’s interest in acquiring bioterror weapons

    Terrorist organizations have been trying to acquire or build biological weapons of mass destruction, and now, with the growing threat of the Islamic State (IS), analysts are concerned that the Islamist group may gain access to bio-labs in Syria or Iraq. A laptop belonging to a Tunisian who joined ISIS was recently found in Syria, contained documents about how to build and use biological weapons.

  • ISIS beheads second American hostage

    ISIS has released a video yesterday which depicted the beheading of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist kept captive by the group. It appears that Sotloff had been killed by the same U.K.-born ISIS militant who beheaded James Foley two weeks ago. U.S. intelligence experts said the video was authentic. The killer warned President Obama to “back off” and end the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS targets, then warned other governments which might join the “evil” actions of the United States against ISIS. The video shows another kneeling captive, who is described as a British national (the U.K. has identified the hostage as David Cawthorne Haines, an aid worker).

  • U.S. opens a second drone base in Niger

    The Pentagon has reached an agreement with the government of Niger to open a second U.S. drone base in the landlocked country. The base, in the city of Agadez, will help the U.S. Air Force track Islamist militants who have gained control of remote parts of North and West Africa. U.S. and French troops already operate out of a military base in Niamey, Niger’s capital, where drones are set to conduct reconnaissance flights throughout the region.

  • U.S. strike kills al-Shabab’s spiritual leader

    The U.S. military has attacked the Islamic al-Shabab network in Somalia yesterday (Monday). The Pentagon said the operation targeted the group’s fugitive leader. A senior Somali intelligence official said that a U.S. drone targeted al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane as he left a meeting of the group’s top leaders. Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, is the group’s spiritual leader who forged an alliance between Somali militants and al-Qaeda. About 100 U.S. Navy SEALs and other Special Operation forces have been operating in different parts of Somalia for more than a year now.

  • Better security for Europe’s mass transportation

    When a suspicious individual flees on a bus or by train, things usually get tough for the police. This is because the security systems of the various transportation companies and security services are typically incompatible. The EU project, Secur-ED (Secure Urban Mass Transportation – European Demonstrator), aims to correct this by establishing better collaboration among transportation companies within the same city.