In France, five terror attacks thwarted, networks broken

France’s top security official announced that the country has thwarted five terror attacks and dismantled 13 networks affiliated with radical groups in Syria, but stated that the number of young people leaving to become foreign fighters has doubled in the past year.
France’s top security official announced that the country has thwarted five terror attacks and dismantled 13 networks affiliated with radical groups in Syria, but stated that the number of young people leaving to become foreign fighters has doubled in the past year.

France’s top security official announced that the country has thwarted five terror attacks and dismantled 13 networks affiliated with radical groups in Syria, but stated that the number of young people leaving to become foreign fighters has doubled in the past year.

There are more foreign fighters from France leaving to join extremist groups than from any other European country. France’s government is worried that these fighters will pose security threats when they return to the country.

Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve affirmed the government’s commitment to stopping radical networks, but stated that 1,200 Frenchmen have already left for Syria. There are currently 400 in the war zone and 200 travelling.

Since August 2013 the government has stopped five attacks but would not state if they were attempted by returning fighters or those who had not left.

In December 2014 two women and their children were prevented from leaving Paris when they attempted to travel to Turkey with the intention of joining an extremist group in Syria.

Cazeneuve also stated that a third of would-be jihadis are converts.

How the Islamic State is recruiting teenage girls

Two Austrian teeangers, 16-year-old Samra Kesinovic (left) and her 14-year-old friend Sabina Selimovic, ran away from home to join ISIS.
Two Austrian teeangers, 16-year-old Samra Kesinovic (left) and her 14-year-old friend Sabina Selimovic, ran away from home to join ISIS.

In an editorial with The Washington Post, Professor Mia Bloom describes how IS is using social media to recruit and radicalize teen girls through social media. Further, there is a need to balance the security of the United States (preventing the return of dangerous foreign fighters) with allowing young people who made a mistake a way back home and back to their families.

Briton says he has been fighting alongside militants in Iraq

August 7, 2014

A Briton who claims he is fighting alongside militants in Syria has said he also recently went to Iraq to be at the “forefront” of the conflict there. The man, who calls himself Abu Abdullah, said he had been involved in fighting in the Iraqi city of Ramadi. It is the first evidence to emerge of British fighters travelling to take part in the conflict in Iraq. UK officials say up to 500 Britons may have travelled to the Middle East, but most are believed to be in Syria. Abu Abdullah, a 20-year-old British Eritrean man who is a convert to Islam, told BBC Two’s Newsnight programme he was “one of the few” British fighters to have fought in Iraq. He said he had travelled to Syria to fight in the conflict there around nine months ago.

Abu Abdullah said: “The people loved to see the heads of Nusayris (derogatory term for Alawites) on spikes and I feel no sympathy for them because they are enemies of Allah”. The Briton is also understood to have taken part in an IS promotional video posted online. In it, he said: “You are not living under oppression, you are not living under rule, we don’t need any democracy, and we don’t need any communism or anything like that, all we need to Sharia.”

British jihadist boasts of fighters preparing for ‘martyrdom’

August 12, 2014

A young British jihadist who fled his home to fight for the Islamic State boasted of a waiting list for “martyrdom” among the troops. Reyaad Khan also claimed the militants had “fireworks for the US” that have carried out air strikes to halt the advance of the Islamic State (IS) forces in northern Iraq. The 20-year-old former college student was one of three young Britons who appeared in a recruitment video for IS in June. Since travelling to Syria he has bragged about the execution of prisoners and uploaded graphic photos of corpses on Twitter leading to suggestions he could face war crime charges if he returns to the UK.

One posting featured a fighter holding a severed head by its hair while others include pictures of beheadings. In his latest tweet, Khan wrote: “Spent the day with 2 German brothers waiting 2 do martyrdom ops. The waiting list is so long, we got fireworks for US when they return.”

The comment has accelerated fears over a planned wave of suicide attacks against the US in Iraq.

The student, from Cardiff, also shared a photo of the door of an American vehicle, backing claims that IS has seized US military equipment from the retreating Iraqi forces.

The tweets, attributed to Khan, suggest that British jihadists have crossed from Syria into Iraq to join the IS militants, whose advance has forced thousands of Iraqis to flee their villages and seek refuge in the Sinjar mountains.

British ‘Primark jihadist’ killed fighting with Islamic State

August 10, 2014

A former Primark worker from Portsmouth has become the latest Briton to be killed in the Middle East fighting for the feared Jihadist group Islamic State. Muhammad Hamidur Rahman, 25, whose father runs an Indian Restaurant travelled to Syria via Turkey telling his family he was going to help deliver humanitarian aid. But he was recruited by the terror group ISIS which is fighting to establish an Islamic caliphate and already controls vast swathes of Syria and Iraq. According to his family, Rahman was killed during an intense firefight with troops loyal to the Assad regime around a fortnight ago.

His father Abdul Hannan, 52, said the family had received a text message from someone who had been fighting alongside his son to confirm that he had been killed. Mr Hannan, said his son had travelled to Syria at the beginning of last year but had not told his family he was going. He said they had received a phone call from him telling them he was in Syria and telling them not to worry. Mr Hannan said: “He asked us to pray for him, and said he wanted to become a shaheed (martyr) for the sake of Allah.”

Rahman, who worked as a supervisor at the clothing chain Primark, was one of a group of ten young men from Portsmouth who travelled to the Middle East to join up with IS. He flew to Turkey with a group of friends, and then crossed the border by land into Syria. He is the second from the city to be killed after his friend Iftekhar Jarman, 23, died during fighting in December. In May, Mashudur Choudhury, 31, who accompanied Rahman, but returned to the UK, became the first person in the UK to be convicted of taking part in terrorist activity in Syria. He was arrested in October at Gatwick airport by anti-terrorist police, as he flew back from Turkey. It emerged that Choudhury found the training in Syria too difficult and became scared of the fighting.

The authorities estimate there are around 500 Britons, mainly of South Asian origin, who have joined up with Jihadists in the Middle East. Terrorism experts estimate that as many as 19 could have died in Syria and Iraq since the fighting began.

British jihadist shows off bomb prowess

August 13, 2014

A British schoolboy-turned jihadist who appeared in a recruitment video for Islamist militants in Syria has apparently boasted online of blowing up a building with his own homemade bombs. A Twitter account believed to belong to Nasser Muthana displayed before-and-after photographs of a building at a Syrian army base that had been reduced to rubble. The photographs come a month after the 20-year-old from Cardiff warned that the UK should be afraid of the terror skills he has learnt in the Syrian war. In early July he posted an image of a stack of improvised explosive devices in a garage. In the latest message he boasted: “Army base buildings before and after, I’m getting good with these bombs.”

He also said fighters with the Islamic State, previously known as Isis, would slaughter any men from the besieged Yazidi sect they captured in northern Iraq and would enslave their women and children.

Meanwhile Scotland Yard said it was investigating leaflets being handed out on London’s Oxford Street which apparently encouraged British Muslims to join the Islamic State. Dozens of leaflets were handed out on Tuesday night saying it is the responsibility of Muslims to pledge allegiance to the “khaleef”, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who leads the extremists. A spokesman for Scotland Yard said it had been “made aware of leaflets which reports state were being distributed in the Oxford Street area. “We are assessing the content of the leaflets to establish whether any criminal offences have been committed.” No arrests have been made.

Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

July 23, 2014

The Home Guard, or Local Defence Volunteers, given official status on 17 May 1940 and stood down on 31 December 1945, had a remarkable birth. As fears of a German invasion grew in 1940, the force’s architect had to fight his own campaign against the scorn and suspicion of military top brass and cautious politicians. But his idea for decentralised self-defence militias caught on fast. By July 1940, it had attracted 1.5 million volunteers. Not only did the Home Guard stiffen morale at a time when Britain had no European allies against Hitler; its members took an active part in conflict by manning anti-aircraft batteries and downing many Luftwaffe planes.

Tom Wintringham, the strategist who had agitated for a Home Guard since 1938, outraged the Colonel Blimps with his polemic How to Reform the Army. He kick-started support for “people’s militias” when he opened a training school in guerrilla warfare at Osterley. The authorities tried (and failed) to shut down this nest of “Marxist hooligans”, but its principles had already taken root. Wintringham never secured a regular army commission. In 1942, he founded the left-of-Labour Common Wealth Party. But what would have happened today to this oddball soldier who inspired our beloved home-front warriors? As a former “foreign fighter” in an overseas conflict, he could have been subject to a sentence of imprisonment for life.

Then a member of the Communist Party, Wintringham had commanded the British Battalion of the International Brigades at the Battle of Jarama in February 1937. At “Suicide Hill”, through an extraordinary combination of pluck and luck, the British volunteers played a bloodily decisive role in the early stages of the Spanish Civil War. They were instrumental in holding back Franco’s rebel forces in their advance on Madrid and so helped to safeguard the capital for the Republican government. Although Madrid would fall in 1939, Jarama arguably counts as the most significant armed rebuff for international Fascism until the Battle of El Alamein in November 1942. The human cost proved enormous. In Unlikely Warriors, his definitive account of British and Irish fighters in the Spanish Civil War, Richard Baxell calculates that “of the 630 men who had gone into action on 12 February, only 80 were left unscathed when the battle ended”.

Heroes? Not, since 2006, according to British law. Some 2,300 British volunteers fought against Franco in Spain; more than 500 were killed. Although history tends to remember the writers and intellectuals – George Orwell and John Cornford; Ralph Fox and Laurie Lee – most were working-class trade unionists in their late twenties, with 200 Welsh miners among them. In 1996, the government of Spain paid the ultimate tribute to their contribution by proposing an offer of citizenship to every surviving member of the International Brigades. George Orwell wrote a personal account of his experiences and observations during the Spanish Civil War.

A decade after that, and just before the grant of citizenship to every veteran entered Spanish law, Tony Blair’s third administration passed the Terrorism Act 2006. Section Five, as presently interpreted by the Crown Prosecution Service, makes it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a “political, ideological, religious or racial motive”. The legislation appears to forbid all training or action in a foreign combat. If so, its provisions would have criminalised every Briton who fought in Spain. It would have turned Lord Byron, whose commitment to Greek independence led him to arm and lead a raggle-taggle regiment prior to his death at Missolonghi in 1824, into an outlaw. As for the 6,500 veterans of Wellington’s armies who went off after Waterloo to fight against Spanish colonial rule in the battles that led to freedom for Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, how could the courts have processed such a lawless throng?

The 2006 legislation currently targets UK citizens deemed to have fought with Syrian rebel groups. Estimates of their number vary wildly but a figure of around 400-500 has gained currency. At least eight have died. The fear of radicalisation, with any link to al-Qaida-allied units and above all to Isis treated as a communicable virus, has propelled the hard legal line. In January, 16 Britons were arrested after returning from Syria. Further arrests have followed since.

“Potentially it’s an offence to go out and get involved in a conflict, however loathsome you think the people on the other side are,” affirms Sue Hemming, the head of counter-terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service (London Evening Standard, 3 February 2014). “Our Government chooses to have legislation which prevents people from joining in whichever conflicts they have views about. We will apply the law robustly.” No sane observer will whitewash the motives and methods of the al-Nusra front or the newly rebranded “Islamic State”. If, until mid-2014, some foreign recruits could dupe themselves into thinking that Isis stood for a dogmatic but authentic war for faith against Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, then the surge into northern Iraq which began on 5 June has blown that façade clean away. Everywhere from Mosul to Tikrit and the gates of Baghdad, the forces of the “Islamic State” have massacred Muslims, prisoners and civilians alike. Now they threaten genocide to Christians. Yet this sectarian mass slaughter may make it more vital than ever to clear a path back to normality for the drifters, dreamers, malcontents and bedroom zealots once attracted by the Isis cult. The risk of an indiscriminate criminal stigma might give the doubters and waverers a reason to stick with the fanatics.

Young people volunteer for foreign combat for a variety of reasons. Heartfelt belief in the justice of a cause fires many, as does solidarity with those of a similar background or outlook. For others, a simple itch for adventure or boredom with life at home will supply the push. From Wellington’s grizzled veterans in the Andes through to the last-ditch defenders at Jarama, British history gives us ample opportunities to understand the urge to go abroad to fight. The long-term significance of an overseas adventure for anyone may not be apparent to them, or to others, at the time. But every present or past volunteer in Syria now knows they bear an invisible brand marked “potential murderer”, stamped by the agencies of surveillance. In a BBC radio analysis, one British fighter thought it a “slightly surreal” notion to “go back to the UK and start a jihad there”. For him, at least: “As to the global jihad, I couldn’t tell you if I’m going to be alive tomorrow, let alone future plans.” Over the past six weeks, Isis has shown to the world its bloody stunts. They will have deterred many secret faint-hearts, already in too deep. However, if the near-certainty of UK criminal sanctions closes down your road to reintegration, why not rise to the fanatics’ bait? What have you then got to lose?

In both Spain and Syria, idealism, escapism and sheer youthful bravado will have been pretty evenly mixed. After such an episode, you would expect young men to develop in many ways. The Spanish volunteers did. One veteran of the International Brigades became a champion of neo-liberal economics and a mentor to Margaret Thatcher: Sir Alfred Sherman. Another would become Britain’s most prominent mainstream trade-union leader: Jack Jones. A third quit all politics to flourish as a character actor: James Robertson Justice. It is hard to imagine a better way to kill off such varied careers than by marking every foolhardy youth, whatever their motives, with a lifelong criminal brand.

Spanish girl, 14, held on suspicion of trying to join Isis

August 4, 2014

Spanish police have detained a 14-year-old girl and a 19-year-old woman suspected of trying to join Islamist extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria.

Security forces stopped the teenagers on Saturday as they tried to enter Morocco allegedly to join Islamic State (Isis), whose fighters have seized swaths of Iraq and Syria, the government said.

“The detention of two women recruited for jihad is a remarkable and unprecedented event in Spain,” the interior ministry said.

They were detained at the Beni Enzar border crossing in Melilla, one of two tiny Spanish territories on the north African coast, which share a border with Morocco.

“The two women detained in this police operation are a clear example of this,” the interior ministry said. “Their radicalisation, recruitment and later dispatch as combatants were perfectly planned and organised by a network that operates across north Africa and has as its main goal getting the maximum number of unquestioning combatants.”

 

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National Assembly strengthens anti-terrorism law

July 23, 2014

The National Assembly’s legal commission strengthened the law aimed at reinforcing France’s fight against terrorism. The legislation is expected to combat the threat represented by the presence of numerous French and European jihadists in Syria and in Iraq.

The plan’s key measure provides for the possibility to prohibit, for a limited time, a suspected individual from leaving the country to participate in jihadist operations. The text created a new “illegal entity”, that of an “individual terrorist firm” and equally reinforces Internet monitoring with the possibility of the government blocking sites that glorify terrorism.

“When these young people…see crime in its most barbaric and terrible form, with numerous executions, decapitations, and crucifixions, their behavior is destroyed to the point that when they come back, they represent a danger to our national security,” said Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve Tuesday, July 22 at the Assembly meeting.

The text, which will be publicly debated by leaders in September, completes the plan put in place in April, whose goal was to prohibit jihadist suspects from participating in Syria’s war.

Authorities have already put in place prohibitions in which children’s names, at the request of their parents, can be put on a list circulated throughout the European Union in order to stop minors from leaving to fight.

All the amendments presented by the Commission’s spokesperson, Sebastien Pietrasanta (PS) were passed. Both an individual’s identity card and passport can be confiscated in order to prohibit entrance to Turkey, the gateway to Syria.

Editors and hosts of websites “leading to acts of terrorism or glorifying it” will be, according to the amendment, required to remove the content in question.

According to Sebastien Pietrasanta, 900 Frenchmen have been involved in Syrian jihadist networks. As of mid-July, 342 Frenchmen are currently fighting in Syria including 50 women and seven minors. Over 150 people are in the process of going to Syria, and 171 are leaving Syria, of which 100 have returned to France. Thirty-three of these combatants were killed. Homeland Security stopped three people suspected of being members of a jihadist group Tuesday in Albi.

Bernard Cazeneuve: number of individuals involved in jihadist networks has risen 56% in six months

The minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve presented the anti-terrorism bill to French leaders, stating a record number of involved individuals. At the beginning of his speech Cazeneuve specified that “terrorist groups have nothing to do with the Islam of France.”

He then listed an unsettling number of Frenchmen involved in jihadist networks. “Despite engaged efforts, the number of young radicalized, jihadist Frenchmen in this country has not ceased to grow,” said Cazeneuve.

The number of combatants has risen from 234 to 334 in six months, including 55 women and seven minors. “These figures require us to take measures to stem this phenomenon,” he argued. The rise of those involved in more general jihadist networks has risen 56% in six months. “What we are confronted with constantly changes,” he noted, stating that one shouldn’t believe “in the concept of the lone wolf.”