Europe/al-Qaeda – Al-Qaeda is preparing to launch terror attacks on Britain and Europe as the West focuses its attention on crushing ISIS, a report has claimed on the 6 Oct 16. Sources told The Times of a rising threat from the terror group and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed there has been a resurgence of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, meaning Britain is forced to keep troops on the ground in the country. Sir Fallon said Al-Qaeda posed a ‘very direct threat’ to the UK and Europe. The new charge of terror is believed to be led by the group’s former leader Osama bin Laden’s son, who has recently issued audio messages aimed at challenging ISIS’ dominance. Hamza bin Laden is now thought to be 25 years old and living in Pakistan but he has not been pictured since he was younger. Former director of operations at MI6, Nigel Inkster, told The Times: ‘Al-Qaeda have been rebuilding, quietly and waiting out Islamic State, waiting to see Islamic State come under the pressure it has come under.’ On the 3 Oct 16 a leading figure in al-Qaeda who became a prominent member of its Syrian Nusra Front offshoot was killed in a drone attack. They said Sheikh Abu al Faraj al Masri, who spent years in prison in his native Egypt on charges of plotting with fundamentalist Islamist groups and later left for Afghanistan, died when the vehicle in which he was travelling was hit in rebel-held Idlib in Syria's northwest. 'May God accept him as a martyr who was killed in a Crusader raid,' said a jihadist named Abu Mohammad al Shami. The U.S. Defence Department said in a statement that Masri was the target of a U.S. air strike near Idlib on the 3 Oct. 'We are still assessing the results of the strike,' it said. Since the U.S.-led coalition launched operations in Syria, primarily against Islamic State militants, air strikes have also targeted Nusra Front figures, killing scores. In Hamza bin Laden’s latest audio message, which was released by al-Qaeda's propaganda arm Al Sabaha in Aug 16, he rails against the Saudi government and calls them 'great criminal thieves' and 'agents of the Americans'. Hamza has followed his father's footsteps in attacking his home nation of Saudi Arabia and condemns its relationship with the US. He also blames them for betraying Yemen by attacking al-Qaeda jihadis fighting against the Shia Houthis in the civil war. Saudi Arabia has bombed rebel groups fighting in the country, which is largely a conflict between Sunni-Shia factions. ‘Our brothers there presented great sacrifices and gave enormous efforts in serving the Muslim public in Mukalla, as witnessed by the near and far,' Hamza says, according to a translation produced by jihadi tracker SITE Intelligence. 'But [the House of Saud] did not leave them alone, neither in fighting the Houthis, nor in establishing the sharia of Allah among the Muslims and serving their needs. '[The Saudis] attacked them, thus protecting the transgressing Houthis from the strikes of the mujahideen.' The audio message was distributed on social media channels and is more than 26 minutes long. Unlike slickly produced ISIS propaganda videos, the recording is screeds of Arabic text interspersed with photographs. This is not the first time that Hamza calls for terrorist attacks. Previously, he has incited attacks on London, Washington, Paris and Tel Aviv in an audio message released by al-Qaeda. Hamza is thought to have been groomed by his 9/11 mastermind father. He can be heard on previous audios urging lone wolf attacks against the West. Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, tweeted: 'Hamza Bin Laden, son of Usamah bin Laden, gives strategies in continuing global jihad in audio message. 'Hamza Bin Laden lived the life of jihad with his father throughout AQ’s (al-Qaeda) creation in Afghanistan. 'With Hamza, AQ hopes to renew the popularity of AQ by reviving the brand of "AQ = Bin Laden". 'AQ leadership wants Hamza as a future leader: someone loved & inspirational, without a negative reputation or participation in infighting. 'Hamza Bin Laden calls to move the war from Kabul, Gaza & Baghdad, to Washington, London, Paris & Tel-Aviv. Urges: "This is your duty”. 'Hamza Bin Laden urged lone wolf attacks in the US and the West; targeting of Jewish American interests globally.'
Belgium – Two police officers were stabbed as one of Belgium's busiest train stations was evacuated due to a bomb scare on the 5 Oct 16. The officers were attacked by an unnamed individual in a busy main road in Schaerbeek, known as a 'hotbed of jihadism'. Police shot the suspect in the leg and arrested him. The assailant has been named in Belgian newspaper De Standaard as 43-year-old 'Hicham D', a Belgian national who was formerly in the armed forces and known to the security services. He is reported to have had contact with jihadi fighters who had returned from Syria. Belgium - which has a population of 11 million people - has supplied the highest per capita number of fighters to Syria of any European country. Federal prosecutor's spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt said 'we have reason to believe it is terror-related.' The attack came hours after commuters were ordered to leave Brussels Nord Train Station as it was swept for explosives. The prosecutor's office said the man stabbed one of the plain clothed police officers in the stomach and the other in the neck. Neither was seriously hurt. The suspect then tried to run away but was spotted by a second group of officers who shot him in the leg. The 'strongly built' suspect 'broke the nose' of one of the policemen in the struggle. Schaerbeek has become synonymous with terrorism after a dilapidated 1960s flat in the neighbourhood was used by three jihadists as a bomb-making safehouse prior to the devastating airport and metro attacks on March 22. Several terror suspects linked to the coordinated Paris attacks last November were also based in the district. The attack came hours after commuters were ordered to leave Brussels Nord Train Station as it was swept for explosives. Police searched the station, causing major delays, but found 'nothing untoward'. The station was re-opened at around 1500 hrs local time. Police sources said there was no connection between the stabbing and the bomb scares. The same station was evacuated two days ago as officials investigated a suspect package found in a car parked outside.
France/Da’esh – The security services in France have grown increasingly worried about a new wave of female terrorist recruits it was reported on the 27 Sep 16. The concern has grown over the last few weeks, as arrests were made of French women, some of them teen-agers, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS. The Express reports that earlier this month French police arrested two young women, 17 and 19, who were being groomed to carry out an attack on “specific targets” in France in retaliation for the recent death of the ISIS leader Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. The two women used the encrypted Telegram messaging system to communicate with Rachid Kassim, a French Muslim who is suspected in being the mastermind behind several attacks or attempted attacks in France. Security experts have warned that authorities often turn a blind eye to women jihadists because they are not deemed to be a high risk. Dr. Karla Cunningham, who published a study of women terrorists a few years ago in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, said female terrorism was “rarely acknowledged” because officials “fail to anticipate the emergency and range of female militant actors.” She added: “While women who head to ISIS controlled territories may be limited to support roles, women who are attracted to groups like ISIS are often interested in, and capable of, full operational support. “We should expect groups like ISIS to either directly or indirectly incite, inspire or direct women to participate in terrorist attacks against targets throughout the world.” The two French teenagers arrested three weeks ago admitted to considering an attack on Notre Dame Cathedral, before abandoning the idea, according to the French police. The General Directorate for Internal Security, the French domestic intelligence agency, said that at least four other teenagers, all suspected of having plotted terrorist acts on behalf of ISIS, were arrested in about ten days in early September. All were in contact via Telegram with Kassim, who is currently in Syria. Other researchers have found that female terrorists do a better job than men at maintaining networks and communicating with fellow operatives (see John Bohannon, “Women critical for online terrorist networks,” Science, 10 June 2016). In the United Kingdom, figures released by the government show that arrests of female terrorists, or women suspected of terrorist connection, are on the rise. Arrests of women now accounts for 14 percent of all terrorism-related arrests in the United Kingdom.
Germany – German police named a 22-year-old Syrian on the 8 Oct 16 as the target of a manhunt in the eastern town of Chemnitz over a suspected bomb plot. Police in the state of Saxony issued a search warrant for Jaber Albakr, saying he was born in Syria in January 1994. Albakr was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and was "suspected of preparing a bomb attack." The police carried out a raid on an apartment in the eastern city of Chemnitz turned up nothing, authorities said on the 8 Oct 16. Police raided the apartment after receiving information from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency on the night of the 7 Oct 16 about the alleged attack plans, Saxony police spokesman Tom Bernhardt told reporters. Neighbours reported hearing an explosion, but that was the police assault team blowing open the apartment’s door, police spokeswoman Kathlen Zink said. She said police found nobody in the apartment, that that they are now searching for the suspect. “The investigation is continuing,” she said. Germany has been on edge since two attacks this summer claimed by ISIS in which multiple people were injured and both assailants died. Two other attacks unrelated to Islamic extremism, including a deadly mall shooting in Munich, have also contributed to fears.
Follow-on Report – German police have arrested a Syrian man in the eastern city of Leipzig they suspect of planning a bomb attack. Following a nearly two-day manhunt, Jaber Albakr was captured early on the 10 Oct 16. Authorities said later in the day that intelligence agencies had been watching him since Sep 16 and that he appeared to have ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group. "The approach and behaviour of the suspect point to an IS context," Joerg Michaelis, the chief investigator in the eastern state of Saxony said. Police had been looking for the 22-year-old after finding several hundred grammes of an explosive in an apartment they raided on Saturday in the eastern city of Chemnitz. Investigators said the volatile explosive was enough to cause significant damage. Albakr, who had been in Germany since last year, was officially recognised as a refugee, Berhardt said. The suspicion that a refugee was planning a bomb attack will prove unwelcome news for Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose conservatives have lost support to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party over her open-door migrants policy. Support for the AfD party has surged since last year's refugee influx, particularly in eastern states where unemployment is generally higher than in the west.
Spain/France/Basque Fatherland and Freedom (ETA) – The Guardia Civil and French security forces have located a large cache of weapons near Compiègne in the northern French department of Oise, in the region of Picardy, and believe that they have thus dismantled the Basque separatist group’s last major stock of arms. The discovery was made on the 12 Oct 16 in a wood outside the town of Compiègne, which is located 65 kilometres north of Paris, and among the items taken into custody are around a hundred revolvers, rifles and other firearms as well as extensive documentation. Some of the weapons are believed to have been among the 350 which were stolen from the Sidam company in Vauvert, also in northern France, ten years ago, and after months of preparation the forces of law and order are working on the theory that the remaining leadership of ETA was planning to hand over the cache as part of an eventual deal by which the group was to be formally disbanded. A similar cache was found on 28 May 15 near Biarritz, containing 19 revolvers, seven pistols, over a thousand cartridges and 3.2 kilos of explosives, as well as homemade detonators and timers. Police sources report that there are now believed to be no more than a dozen members of ETA at large, and that they were gathering the material for storage in four large containers, three of which were full when the Guardia and the French police moved in. These containers were buried 50 centimetres under the ground, and although there are certain to be other arms stores in existence it is thought that not even the ETA members who have still not been captured are aware of the locations of all of them. This latest raid comes in the wake of speculation that ETA may be preparing to announce a definitive end to its operations, six years after a ceasefire came into force and five years after a definitive end to the armed struggle was announced. According to the French police, who have codenamed the operation “Discovery” in reference to the fact that it took place on the anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in America in 1492, the operation is still ongoing, and while no arrests have yet been made they have not been ruled out.