Homeland Security reported on the 26 Aug 15 that Europe is searching for a solution to its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. Hungary is building a fence along its 110-mile border with Serbia, and is considering using its military to protect its southern border, as thousands of migrants, many of them fleeing Syria, are desperately trying to enter the European Union zone. Greece saw fifty thousand refugees arrived on Greek shores during the month in Jul 15 alone, and the Greek authorities have taken to ferrying many of them – mostly Syrian refugees — from Greece’s overwhelmed islands to Athens, from where they head north by buses provided by the government. The Serbia authorities said that about 10,000 refugees were passing through Serbia at any time. As Hungary border fence building advances, more and more of these refugees remain in Serbia, unable to cross into Hungary or go back into Greece. Hungary is considering using its military to protect its southern border, as thousands of migrants, many of them fleeing Syria, are desperately trying to enter the European Union. Hungarian police said that on the 25 Aug 15 that a record 2,533 migrants, most of them from Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, were caught along the border as they were attempting to enter the country from neighbouring Serbia. Many more were likely to have entered Hungary through sections of the border not yet protected by a fence and other barriers Hungary has been building to stem the flow of refugees into the country. The Guardian reports that the deteriorating situation along the Serbia-Hungary border, and the even worse situation in the southern parts of Greece and Italy, where tens of thousands of migrants are coming ashore after perilous journey across the Mediterranean, has forced Europe to search for a solution to its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. Hungary is now a member of Europe’s Schengen passport-free travel zone, and thus an attractive destination to refugees seeking entry into the EU. Hungary is building a protective system along its 110-mile border with Serbia in an effort to keep migrants out. Zoltan Kovacs, the Hungary government spokesman, told journalists that the Hungarian parliament would next week debate whether to deploy the armed forces to the country’s southern border. “Hungary’s government and national security cabinet has discussed the question of how the army could be used to help protect Hungary’s border and the EU’s border,” he said. The number of migrants coming into the EU through the Balkans has been rising steadily as a result of a new policy by the Greek government. In the last three weeks, about 3,000 refugees have entered Macedonia daily from Greece. The Guardian notes that tens of thousands of refugees have landed on Greek shores in the last six months, and the Greek authorities have taken to ferrying many of them – mostly Syrian refugees — from Greece’s overwhelmed islands to Athens, from where they head north by buses provided by the government. Fifty thousand refugees arrived on Greek shores during the month in Jul 15 alone. The Serbia authorities said that about 10,000 refugees were passing through Serbia at any time. As Hungary border fence building advances, more and more of these refugees remain in Serbia, unable to cross into Hungary or go back into Greece. “The situation will get worse, when winter arrives. We’re getting ready to look after double that number,” the Serbian prime minister, Aleksandar Vucic, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
France/Belgium – A terrorist incident took place on board a high-speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, via Brussels, on the 21 Aug 15. The journey was apparently uneventful until the train reached Oignies in northern France, having just crossed from Belgium. French prosecutor Francois Molins said a French passenger in carriage 12 who was trying to access a toilet cubicle was faced with an individual who emerged from the cubicle "bare-chested, wearing a backpack on his chest and carrying a rifle slung across his shoulder". The man was also in possession of an automatic pistol, nine cartridge clips, a bottle of petrol and a box-cutter. The unnamed French passenger tried to overpower the man. Seeing the struggle, 51-year-old French-American passenger Mark Moogalian also tried to intervene. But the gunmen fired several shots and Mr Moogalian was hit in the neck. Three American friends on a tour of Europe were also in the first class carriage. They were all sleeping when the commotion woke them. Seeing the suspect had freed himself from the Frenchman who first tackled him, the Americans charged the gunman. One of the Americans was slashed in the neck and eyebrow with the box-cutter and had a thumb almost sliced off. The suspect was named as Ayoub El-Khazzani, a 25-year-old Moroccan. Investigators say Mr Khazzani was born on 3 September 1989 in Tetouan in Morocco and lived in the Spanish city of Algeciras. They say he frequently attended the city's Takwa mosque, "known for its radical preaching", according to Mr Molins, and for which his brother was the treasurer. Mr Molins said he had been convicted of several offences in Spain, including drug trafficking and traffic offence, and has been given at least two prison sentences. Mr Khazzani had travelled through several European countries in recent years. Khazzani had returned to Europe from Turkey in Jun 15. Prosecutors believe his presence in Turkey may indicate he went to war-torn Syria. Mr Molins said he had also spent "five to seven months" living in the Paris suburb of Aubervilliers in 2014, during which time he had worked for a mobile phone company for two months. The suspect was flagged up to France by the Spanish authorities in Feb 14 as affiliated to a radical Islamist movement. Mr Khazzani said he was left homeless after his identity documents were stolen. In the last six months, he says he travelled to Spain, Andorra, Belgium, Austria, Germany and France, but denies travelling to Turkey or Syria, according to his lawyer. Mr Khazzani apparently did "not understand why this story has become so inflated," his lawyer told Le Parisien newspaper (in French). "He said he wanted to extract money from the passengers on this Thalys train and nothing else. He denies any terrorist intent to his actions. This is almost laughable, he stated." The lawyer added that Mr Khazzani said he had found the rifle and Luger gun he used in the attack in a suitcase left in a park, near the Brussels station where he used to sleep. Analysis of Mr Khazzani's phone revealed he had watched a YouTube audio file whilst already on the Thalys train "in which an individual called on the faithful to fight and take up arms in the name of the Prophet".
Calls for tighter security on the railways are to be discussed by European ministers and officials, following the foiled attack on a high-speed Amsterdam-Paris train on the 21 Aug 15. Passengers overpowered a heavily armed man and pinned him to the floor. French prosecutors have filed charges against Ayoub El-Khazzani, 25. France is understood to want tighter security measures on its railway network. Questions have been raised about how someone was able to board the train in Brussels carrying an assault rifle, 270 rounds of ammunition, a handgun, a box-cutter and petrol. The meeting which was held on the 29 Aug 15 included ministers from France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. The talks discussed the following:
- Airport-style metal-detectors on some international trains
- More armed security personnel
- Greater information exchange so that destination countries know when a suspect is heading their way
Announcing the meeting, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said: "We must see if we can put in place a mechanism that allows control at airports, in transportation, in a more co-ordinated manner." Any recommendations from the meeting will be debated first by a European rail security working group on 11 Sep 15 and then by EU transport ministers meeting on 7-8 Oct 15.
France – French security forces are bracing for the eventuality of civil unrest and fear there could be a missile strike on a passenger airliner or a September 11-style attack, according to sources close to French intelligence it was reported on the 27 Aug 15 in the British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. “Airlines have been warned of a possible attack on a plane with an anti-tank missile. But pilots are unsure how to take evasive action.” After the 21 Aug thwarted attempt to massacre passengers on an Amsterdam-Paris train and a series of terrorist attacks and attempted killings in France this year, President François Hollande warned the nation to prepare for more violence, considered inevitable as the Islamist threat grows. The army has made contingency plans for the “reappropriation of national territory”, meaning to win back control of neighbourhoods where the population become hostile to the security forces and where guns are easily obtainable, according to the source. “There are a lot of alienated and angry fourth-generation immigrant kids in the suburbs and the prospect of radicalisation is increasingly likely,” a source said. “The idea that attacks like the one on the train are carried out by individuals acting on their own is not credible. We’re dealing with highly-organised networks of militant Islamists embarked on a campaign of violence and determined to intensify it.” Kalashnikov automatic rifles -- used by the train gunman and Islamist terrorists who killed 17 people in Paris in Jan 15 -- and anti-tank missiles are now obtainable in France. Many were smuggled in from the former Yugoslavia after the Balkan wars in the 1990s. More weapons have come in from Libya, the sources said, adding that organised crime and terrorist groups were working together to procure the “We don’t know what happened to the arms we (France) to Libyan rebels. It’s worrying,” the source said. In the chaos following the fall of the Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, French officials described the north African country as an “open-air arms market”. In 2011, France admitted to sending “light weapons” to Libyan rebels in 2011, but French media reported that consignments of heavier arms, including European-made Milan anti-tank missiles were also sent. There were fears that ISIL, al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups were procuring heavy weapons from the stocks of Gaddafi’s former army, and that rebel groups were losing control of their own arms. As early as 2010, an anti-tank missile was seized by police along with several tons of cannabis. Since then, an unknown number of rocket-propelled grenades and missiles are believed to have been smuggled into the country. A missile attack could be devastating for an airliner, particularly if the plane was taking off and full of fuel. The main Paris airport at Roissy is near drug-infested suburbs of the capital prone to violence. Agents of the DGSI, France’s equivalent of MI5, warned they are powerless to improve surveillance of Islamist militants bent on losing their lives to cause maximum carnage, and have been “lucky” to have avoided far worse catastrophes since the Paris Islamist attacks in January that killed 17, Le Canard Enchaîné, the investigative and satirical weekly, reported. An agent told the newspaper there were fears of “an upcoming 11 September à la française where (intelligence) services are mere spectators”. Luck rather than judgment had allayed larger-scale strikes, another is cited as saying. “We’ve been lucky. Passengers in a train who neutralise a suspect, another who shoots himself in the foot then calls the emergency services, and a third who fails to blow up a chemical factory; without these fortuitous turns of events, the human and material toll would have been much higher. And we wouldn’t have been able to change a thing,” he told the weekly. “The truth is we’ve already tried everything. But we’ve reached the very limits of what we are able to do as much from a legislative and organisational as a financial point of view.”
Spain – A 26-year-old who called himself "Salami Jihadi" is accused of running an Islamic State recruitment network that wanted to "carry out massacres and create a climate of mass panic and instability" in Spain. The suspect, a Moroccan national called Abdeladim Achriaa, had lived in Spain for years but was arrested on the 25 Aug 15 in a joint Spanish-Moroccan police operation south of Madrid that targeted alleged supporters of the Islamic State group. Achriaa applied for bail but National Court judge Juan Pablo Gonzalez rejected his request on the 27 Aug 15 saying he posed a flight risk and ordering him to be kept behind bars while the investigation continues. "Abdeladim was coordinating the members of a Syrian-Iraqi affiliate of Islamic State deployed in several cities in Morocco," the judge wrote after questioning Achriaa in court. The aim was for them to eventually join Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, he said, noting that Achriaa had several Facebook profiles, one of which gave his name as 'salami Jihadi'. Officials in Madrid and Rabat said the network sought to recruit IS jihadists to join the fighting in Iraq and Syria and also to carry out attacks in Spain and Morocco. "They were aiming to mimic in Spain and Morocco the massacres carried out by Islamic State members with the intention of creating a climate of mass panic and instability," the Spanish Interior Ministry said following the arrests. During Tuesday's arrest operation, police in Morocco also arrested another 13 people in Fez, Casablanca, Nador, Al Hoceima and Driouech as part of the same investigation. One of them was the father of a woman called Hafsa Azaoum, who is Achriaa's partner. Five of Azaoum's brothers have gone to Syria to fight for the IS jihadists, the judge said. Spain is on 'high alert' for a terrorist attack, at level four on a scale of five, that from this week will be published on the Interior Ministry website.
United Kingdom/Northern Ireland – It has been assumed that Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) has “gone away,” in the words of Sinn Féin’s leader Gerry Adams. In the wake of the 13 August killing in Belfast of a former IRA operative, police north of south of the border have launched an investigation into whether PIRA is still engaged in violence. Separately, a former member of PIRA, who is now a historian working in the Boston College Belfast Project, has charged that hackers affiliated with Sinn Féin have hacked his and his wife’s communication and leaked some of it to the press. U.S. courts allowed the Northern Ireland police access to portions of the archive, leading to arrests of several prominent Belfast Republicans. Kevin McGuigan, a former IRA assassin, was killed in the Catholic Short Strand district of east Belfast on 13 Aug 15. After the killing, Ireland’s justice minister, Frances Fitzgerald, has ordered the head of the Garda Siochána, the Irish Republic’s police force, to find out more about the Provisional IRA (PIRA) and its activities. The investigation by Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) found that some PIRA members were involved in the vendetta killing of McGuigan. In all, eleven people have been arrested in relation to the killing. Sinn Féin has insisted it had nothing to do with PIRA or the killing, and claimed that Sinn Féin’s opponents on both sides of the border were using McGuigan’s killing to score political points ahead of the elections scheduled for next year. In the wake of the investigation, Fitzgerald told the Guardian: “Recent developments are of considerable concern but what we need to do now is establish all the current facts and that is what is happening in the rigorous investigation being carried out by the PSNI. “I have asked the Garda commissioner to liaise closely with the PSNI and carry out a fresh assessment of the status of PIRA in the light of any new evidence emerging during the PSNI investigation into the death of Mr McGuigan.” Fitzgerald is a member of Fine Gael, the dominant coalition party in Dublin, and she believes that PIRA was still more engaged in political rather than military activities. She added, however: “To simply say PIRA continues to exist as if nothing has changed would be quite wrong.” The leader of the Irish Labour party, Joan Burton, was sceptical about claims by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams that the PIRA had “gone away.” “When people leave the stage, that leaves the question where do they go? Are they at the side of the stage or at the back of the stage?” Burton told the Guardian. The investigation into the killing of McGuigan took place against the backdrop of another investigation – into the hacking of communications by former PIRA member Anthony McIntyre, who is now a researcher of the history of the IRA, and his wife, , Carrie Twomey. Senior Sinn Féin figures in Belfast harshly criticized McIntyre for his research activities in the Boston College Belfast Project. The Project’s archive contains unvarnished information provided by IRA and loyalist veterans about their activities – including torture and killings — during the Troubles. U.S. courts allowed the PSNI access to some of the information in the archive, which led to the arrests of several prominent Belfast republicans. McIntyre and Twomey allege that their calls and e-mails to American diplomatic staff in Dublin were intercepted by a “non-state organization” – that is, the hackers were working on behalf of Sinn Féin — and that some of the illegally intercepted material was leaked to the press. Ed Moloney, the director of the Belfast Project, has written to the Garda commissioner Nóírin O’Sullivan to urge a thorough investigation of McIntyre’s and Twomey’s allegations. “I need hardly point out that if this allegation is shown to have substance it is a very serious matter which amounts to a direct challenge to the authority of the state and its security arms.”