Afghanistan – An Afghan MP was among at least three people wounded when a roadside bomb struck his vehicle in Kabul on the 28 Dec 16 officials said, in the latest in a series of attacks on lawmakers. No group had so far claimed responsibility for the blast targeting Fakuri Behishti, an MP from central Bamiyan province, who was on his way to parliament. 'The bomb was placed under a bridge and it detonated when the MP's vehicle was passing through,' interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said. 'Three people including the MP were wounded.' But parliament speaker Abdul Raouf Ibrahimi told lawmakers that a relative of the MP had also been killed. 'I heard a big explosion that shook nearby shops. I saw rescuers pulling out several wounded people from the destroyed vehicle,' said Abdul Manan, a bakery shop owner near the scene of the attack. The attack comes as Taliban insurgents are pressing ahead with a nationwide offensive despite the onset of winter, when fighting usually ebbs. The militants have recently stepped up attacks on Afghan lawmakers. Last Wednesday (21 Dec 16) at least eight people were killed when Taliban suicide bombers stormed the residence of an Afghan lawmaker in Kabul, an attack that lasted nearly 10 hours. Helmand MP Mir Wali survived the assault with injuries, but two of his grandsons and bodyguards were among those killed.
Afghanistan/Iran/Taliban – Afghan officials have accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of fighting alongside the armed factions fighting the government in the west of Afghanistan it was reported on the 29 Dec 16. Head of the Farah Province council Jamileh Amini said that IRGC cooperates with the Taliban militias and are actively fighting alongside them. She claimed that 25 Taliban militants, who were recently killed in the province, were also members of the IRGC, according to the website of French radio in Dari. The claims were asserted by Mohammed Nassir Mehri, a spokesman for Farah’s governor, saying that according to intelligence reports, Iranian authority recently held a memorial ceremony for Taliban militants killed in the province. Farah Province Governor Mohamed Asif Nang earlier accused the Iranian regime of destabilizing the province by inciting violence and fomenting unrest in an attempt to derail the construction of a dam in the province. Earlier this month, Afghan Senate accused Iran and Russia of bolstering Taliban insurgency. Iranian regime officials have not yet commented on the allegations.
Australia/Da’esh – Australian police said on the 23 Dec 16 they had foiled a plot to attack prominent sites in the city of Melbourne with a series of bombs on Christmas Day that authorities described as “an imminent terrorist event” inspired by ISIS. Police laid terrorism charges against one man, and were expected to charge at least three others, after authorities conducted overnight raids on homes in the suburbs of Australia’s second-largest city. Six men and a woman, all Australian citizens in their 20s, were arrested during the raids, which were conducted by about 400 police and members of Australia's domestic spy agency. “This is a significant disruption of what we would describe as an imminent terrorist event in Melbourne,” Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colin told reporters in Sydney. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turn bull told reporters that the planned attack was an “Islamist terrorist plot” and “one of the most substantial terrorist plots that have been disrupted over the last several years”. The plot targeted high-profile locations in Melbourne, including Federation Square, Flinders Street Station and St Paul's Cathedral “possibly on Christmas Day”, acting Victorian police commissioner Graham Ash ton said. It was inspired by ISIS militant group and the suspects had been under close surveillance for a fortnight, he said. One of the suspected planners in custody was an Egyptian-born Australian and the others were all Australian-born of Lebanese descent, Ash ton told reporters. He said the threat had been “removed ... in its entirety”, however security in Melbourne was boosted on the 23 Dec 16. Extra police would be on patrol on Christmas Day and at the annual Boxing Day cricket test, which attracts tens of thousands of fans every year, in Melbourne the following day, he said. Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freer told reporters that services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day would go ahead “unaffected by these things”. One of the arrested men, Abdul Maharani, was later charged with terror offences and did not apply for bail when he appeared briefly in the Melbourne's Magistrate Court, court spokeswoman Asher Whitaker. Similar charges are expected to be laid against at least three other men, a Victoria Police spokeswoman said. Two of those arrested, including the woman, were released without charge, police said earlier. Police in Australia are able to hold terror suspects without charge for four hours but they can also apply to a court to detain them without charge for as long as two weeks. Few details were released about what evidence was collected by police during the raids in suburbs in Melbourne’s northwest but Ash ton said the attacks would likely have involved explosives and either guns or knives.
Australia – A van reportedly carrying gas cylinders drove into the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) headquarters in capital city of Canberra on the night of the 21 Dec 16 authorities said. According to the police, there were no injuries suffered from people inside the building but the driver was being treated, The Canberra Times reported. The van was destroyed and the two-storey office building, named Eternity House, was badly damaged by the fire. The police later said in a statement they had established the actions of the 35-year-old male driver "were not politically, religiously or ideologically motivated". ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton posted two images online of the vehicle outside the office in the inner-southern Canberra suburb of Deakin. He also connected the incident to the ACL's staunch opposition to same-sex marriage and the Safe Schools initiative, labelling the apparent attack "unsettling" in the context of death threats being made against members of the organisation. "I think something of this nature, that appears to be so deliberate, is an attack against the sort of things that we've been saying in the public square," he told the ABC News. "And obviously someone didn't like that which we stand for, which we've advocated publicly."
Bangladesh – Police in Bangladesh arrested five suspected Islamist militants believed to be plotting to attack New Year celebrations, a counter-terrorism police chief said on the 28 Dec 16. The five were believed to be members of a faction of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) group, which was blamed for an attack on a cafe in Dhaka in Jul 16 in which 22 people were killed, most of them foreigners. "They planned to attack on New Year's Eve," Monirul Islam, head of the counter-terrorism police unit, told a news conference. Islam declined to elaborate when asked about the militants' target and how they planned to attack but said police had also seized 60 kg (132 lb) of explosives, when the five were detained in overnight raids in the capital. The five were paraded before the media but did not speak to reporters. Authorities had already banned all outdoor gatherings in Dhaka from dusk on the 31 Dec 16 to dawn on 1 Jan 17 on security grounds. Militant attacks have increased in mostly Muslim Bangladesh, a country of 160 million people, over the past few years with several prominent liberal writers and members of religious minorities killed. The JMB has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, which police believe was involved in organising the attack on the cafe in Dhaka's diplomatic quarter on 1 Jul 16.Islamic State claimed responsibility for what was the worst militant attack in Bangladesh. Police have killed more than 40 suspected militants in raids since the cafe attack, including the man police said was the mastermind, Bangladesh-born Canadian citizen Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury.
China – Attackers drove a car into a government building in China's unruly far western region of Xinjiang on the 28 Dec 16 and set off an explosive device killing one person, while all four of the attackers were shot dead, the regional government said. Hundreds of people have been killed in recent years in resource-rich Xinjiang, on the borders of central Asia, in violence between the Muslim Uighur people who call the region home and ethnic majority Han Chinese. The government has blamed the unrest on Islamist militants, though rights groups and exiles say anger at Chinese controls on the religion and culture of Uighurs is more to blame for the unrest. China denies any repression in Xinjiang. The Xinjiang government said in a short statement on its main news website the incident occurred just before 1700 hrs (0900 hrs GMT) in Karakax county, deep in southern Xinjiang's Uighur heartland. It said the four "thugs" drove a vehicle into a yard at the county Communist Party offices and detonated an "explosive device", but were all shot dead. Three people were wounded and one other died, it said, without giving details. In a separate English language report, the official Xinhua news agency described the incident as a "terrorist attack". State television said the attackers also used knives against staff at the party offices, and that the person they killed was a security guard and three government officials were wounded. It did not say if the guard died in the blast or the knife attack. It is difficult for foreign journalists to report in Xinjiang, making it almost impossible to reach an independent assessment of security there. Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the exiled group the World Uyghur Congress, said he doubted the official account."I strongly doubt the casualty toll and reason for the incident from official reports, which lack transparency," he said in an emailed statement. The government has delayed reporting some previous incidents. An attack on a coal mine in Sep 15 in which at least 16 died, was not reported by the government until two months later, when it announced its security forces had killed 28 of the "terrorists" involved. Xinjiang had generally been quiet this year, with no major reported attacks or other violent incidents.
Indonesia/Da’esh – Indonesian police say three suspects who were planning a suicide bombing on Christmas Day or New Year's Eve were killed when a gun battle erupted during a raid on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta. It was the second imminent attack to be foiled in less than two weeks. After the raid on the 21 Dec 16 police said the suspects - supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - had planned to stab officers at a traffic post and then detonate a "large, homemade" bomb as crowds gathered. "The intention was for a suicide bomb," national police spokesman Rikwanto told a news conference. "Every year, Christmas and new year events are the target of terrorists to carry out amaliyah," Rikwanto said, using an Arabic term to describe suicide bombings in armed group circles. Police said a total of five bombs were found at the house in the South Tangerang suburb. Television footage showed a bomb squad officer wearing a blast-resistant suit entering the house as locals watched from behind a police line. Rikwanto said one suspect was captured alive after the firefight. The raid was the latest in a series over recent weeks that police say have disrupted bomb plots, raising concerns that homegrown attackers in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation are getting bolder in their attempts to engage in violence.Police said earlier at least 14 people were being interrogated over suicide-bomb plots targeting the presidential palace in Jakarta and an undisclosed location on Java island. Both involved a female suicide bomber. A gun-and-bomb assault in the heart of Jakarta in January killed four people and was the first attack in Southeast Asia claimed by ISIL.
Malaysia – Malaysian counter-terrorism authorities have found a number of newly established extremist groups in the country, as well as previously neutralised terror cells that have been gaining momentum in their recruitment exercises, the New Straits Times reported on the 19 Dec 16. Despite the arrest of more than 100 individuals this year who attempted to go to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, intelligence suggested there were scores of Malaysians still trying to evade the police to join ISIS. Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-terrorism Division (SB-CTD) principal assistant director, said that although only nine people slipped through the police net and made their way to Syria this year, the number of people arrested for attempting to travel to the conflict-hit country had increased significantly. Senior Assistant Commissioner Ayob added that until last month, the SB-CTD had arrested 112 individuals. That was a rise from the 82 Malaysians nabbed last year for trying to travel to Syria. He said that Kumpulan Tandzim Al-Qaeda Malaysia, Briged Al Jamaah, Kumpulan Fisabilillah, Kumpulan Daulah Islamiah Malizia, Al Qubro Generation and Kumpulan Gagak Hitam were the terror cells that counter-terrorism officials are keeping a close eye on. Newly established group Kumpulan Gagak Hitam, in particular, has been on an aggressive recruitment drive, with 38 members now in the group, SAC Ayob said. Intelligence suggests that Kumpulan Fisabilillah, another new outfit, now has 13 ready-to-die fighters under its wing, he added. Malaysian terror cells subscribe to the same Salafi ideology of ISIS and their goal is to "free Malaysia" from the "shackles of secularism", said SAC Ayob, adding that the groups were using social media platforms to recruit new members. Salafis are fundamentalists who believe in a return to the original ways of Islam. He shared the confession of one ISIS supporter who was caught as he was leaving to fight in Syria. "The suspect told our officers that he wanted to go there for 'redemption', saying he was battling with the guilt of his past sins and was hoping to die a martyr. He said it was an Islamic scholar who told him that it was the right thing to do if he ever wanted to taste heaven," said SAC Ayob. He highlighted the myriad propaganda tools used by ISIS to justify its cause, noting the role played by some groups, including religious teachers, in misguiding the public and promoting the Salafi ideology, reported the New Straits Times. SAC Ayob said that while his men were working round the clock to stop the spread of extremist views - visiting villages and even schools and colleges - killing the ISIS ideology was a great challenge. There are currently 60 Malaysians, including 12 women and 17 children, in Syria. Besides the nine suicide bombers, 18 other Malaysians have died while fighting there.
Pakistan/United States – The US government has added the Al-Muhammadia Students (AMS) organization, or “the student wing” of the Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT or Army of the Pure), to its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Additionally, the US added LeT leaders Muhammad Sarwar and Shahid Mahmood to the list of global terrorists. The designations highlight LeT’s role in international terrorism and its adeptness in using front organizations to skirt international sanctions. “Founded in 2009, AMS is a subsidiary of LeT and has worked with LeT senior leaders to organize recruiting courses and other activities for youth,” the State Department designation noted. State also noted that LeT has “repeatedly changed its name and created front organizations in an effort to avoid sanctions” since the US first added it to the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in 2001. LeT has mastered the art of using charitable groups to fundraise as well as promote its message and recruit. Since 2010, the US has identified the following groups as LeT fronts: Falah-i Insaniat Foundation, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Al-Anfal Trust, Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool, and Tehrik-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awwal. [See LWJ reports, US designates Lashkar-e-Taiba’s charitable front as terror group, and US adds 2 Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders, several aliases to terrorism list.] AMS is active on social media and uses Twitter and Facebook to fundraise and promote their message. AMS also holds rallies and seminars throughout Pakistan.
(To read the full LWJ Report: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/12/us-adds-lashkar-e-taiba-student-wing-to-terrorism-list.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LongWarJournalSiteWide+%28FDD%27s+Long+War+Journal+%28Site-Wide%29%29)
Russia/Syria – Two mortar rounds were fired at the Russian embassy in Damascus on the 28 Dec 16 the foreign ministry in Moscow said, adding that no casualties or damage had been caused. "From 1300 hrs to 1319 hrs Moscow time (1000 hrs GMT to 1019 hrs GMT), the Russian embassy was bombarded by terrorists. One mortar, which luckily didn't explode, landed in the courtyard inside the embassy premises," the foreign ministry said in a statement. "The second mortar landed in the neighbourhood" near the embassy, the statement said, adding that de-miners intervened to defuse the explosives. "We consider this new act of provocation by extremists seeking to derail the peace process in Syria, to be a confirmation of their intention to continue to sow terror and violence" in the war-torn nation, the ministry added. The Russian embassy in central Damascus has been the frequent target of rebel fire ever since war erupted in 2011. In May 15, a man was killed when mortar rounds landed near the embassy complex.
Russia/United States – The United States expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to a campaign of harassment against American diplomats in Moscow, a senior US official said on the 30 Dec 16. The move against the diplomats from the Russian embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco is part of a series of actions announced to punish Russia for a campaign of intimidation of American diplomats in Moscow and interference in the US election. The Obama administration was also announcing a series of retaliatory measures against Russia for hacking into US political institutions and individuals and leaking information to help President-elect Donald Trump and other Republican candidates, two US officials said. Trump, who takes office on 20 Jan 17 has called for better relations with Russia. It was not clear if he will be able to immediately overturn the measures announced. The Russian diplomats would have 72 hours to leave the United States, the official said. Access to the two compounds, which are used by Russian officials for intelligence gathering, will be denied to all Russian officials as of noon on the 30 Dec 16 the senior US official added. “These actions were taken to respond to Russian harassment of American diplomats and actions by the diplomats that we have assessed to be not consistent with diplomatic practice,” the official said. The State Department has long complained that Russian security agents and traffic police have harassed US diplomats in Moscow, and US Secretary of State John Kerry has raised the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. “By imposing costs on the Russian diplomats in the United States, by denying them access to the two facilities, we hope the Russian government re-evaluates its own actions, which have impeded the ability and safety of our own embassy personnel in Russia,” the official said. The US official declined to name the Russian diplomats who would be affected, although it is understood that Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, will not be one of those expelled. New US sanctions on Russia are counterproductive and will harm a restoration of bilateral ties, Interfax news agency reported on the 29 Dec 16 citing Konstantin Dolgov, Foreign Ministry commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Turkey – Thirteen soldiers were killed and 48 more were injured when a car bomb hit a bus transporting off-duty military personnel in the central Turkish city of Kayseri on the 17 Dec 16 one week after a similar attack targeted police outside an Istanbul stadium. The blast is likely to further anger a Turkish public frustrated by a string of deadly attacks this year, several of which have been claimed by Kurdish militants. After the incident there was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak likened the bus attack to the twin bombings outside the stadium of Istanbul soccer team Besiktas last reporting period. Those attacks, which targeted police, were later claimed by an offshoot of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). “The car bomb attack resembles the Besiktas attack in terms of its style,” he told a group of reporters, adding the attack would not put Turkey off of its goal of fighting militancy. The blast hit as the bus passed by a car believed to be packed with explosives, Turkey’s Dogan news agency said. It occurred near the campus of Erciyes University in Kayseri, broadcaster NTV reported.
Turkey/United States – The US embassy in Ankara and other consulates in Turkey were closed on the 20 Dec 16 after an individual fired shots in front of the mission in the capital. Turkish police have detained the man, who took out a shotgun he hid in his coat and fired about eight rounds into the air before the embassy's security guards intervened and apparently overpowered him. No one was hurt in the incident, which occurred at 0350 hrs local time hours after a Turkish policeman who condemned Russia's military role in Syria fatally shot Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov at a photo exhibition in Ankara. The US embassy is just across the street from the art exhibition building where the attack on the ambassador occurred. It was not immediately clear if the two incidents were connected.
Turkey/Russia – Russia's intelligence services are to develop extra security measures for its embassies following the killing of its ambassador to Turkey on the 19 Dec 16. Andrei Karlov was shot dead as he gave a speech in Ankara. The gunman, Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, an Ankara policeman, was apparently protesting at Russia's involvement in Syria's Aleppo. He was later shot dead. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack was aimed at hurting ties with Russia. It was not clear whether the gunman, a riot police member, had links to any group. Mr Karlov was attending an embassy-sponsored photo exhibition called "Russia as seen by Turks" on the evening of the 19 Dec 16 in Ankara. He was several minutes into a speech when the gunman - who had been standing behind him as he spoke - fired about eight shots, according to eye witnesses. The ambassador fell to the ground instantly, while the smartly dressed gunman, wearing a suit and tie, waved a pistol and shouted in Arabic and Turkish. He yelled "don't forget about Aleppo, don't forget about Syria" and used the Arabic phrase "Allahu Akbar" (God is great). Karlov was rushed to hospital but his death was later confirmed. The gunman was killed at the gallery after a 15 minute shoot-out with police. Altintas was born in the town of Soke in Aydin province, western Turkey, in 1994 and attended a special school for training future policemen. But he was on leave from his job as a member of Ankara's riot police squad on medical grounds, Turkish newspaper Huriyet claimed. According to the pro-government Daily Sabah, Altintas had set off the metal detector on entering the exhibition, but was waved through after showing his official police ID. He was not known to have any political or extremist links. However, some Turkish media are pointing to a possible connection with the movement of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. However, the movement has condemned the attack and rejected any links to the attacker, according to an adviser quoted by Reuters news agency. Turkish officials blame the movement for July's failed coup aimed at removing Mr Erdogan.
Who was Andrei Karlov?
Russia's ambassador to Turkey was a veteran diplomat who had served as Soviet ambassador to North Korea for much of the 1980s, and took up the Ankara posting in July 2013. Karlov, 62, had to grapple with a major diplomatic crisis last year when a Turkish plane shot down a Russian jet close to the Syrian border. Demanding a Turkish apology, Moscow imposed damaging sanctions - notably a freeze on charter flights by Russian tourists - and the two countries only recently mended ties.
How have the countries responded?
Russia and Turkey agreed quickly the assassination was an act of "provocation." In televised remarks, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the act was "undoubtedly... aimed at disrupting the normalisation" of bilateral ties and the "peace process in Syria". The shooting took place a day after protests in Turkey over Russian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the day before Turkey, Russia and Iran were due to meet over the Syria crisis. Russian investigators have been sent to help their Turkish counterparts, who have given assurances of a comprehensive investigation, and that those responsible would be punished. Mr Putin has ordered extra security measures for Russian embassies around the world, a Kremlin spokesman told news agency Tass. Other countries have also condemned the murder, including the UK, US and Germany, as has the UN Security Council. Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was appalled by "this senseless act of terror".
Turkey – Police in Istanbul are hunting for a gunman who opened fire at a night club, killing at least 39 people. The attack happened at Reina nightclub early on the 1 Jan 17 as hundreds of revellers marked the New Year. Officials say at least 15 foreigners were killed, including an Israeli woman. Citizens from Morocco, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Libya were hurt. The motive for the attack is not clear. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed terror groups "trying to create chaos". "They are trying to demoralise our people and destabilise our country," he said. At least 69 people were being treated in hospital, officials said, with four in a serious condition. In an early morning statement, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu described the attack as "a massacre, a truly inhuman savagery". "A manhunt for the terrorist is under way. Police had launched operations. We hope the attacker will be captured soon." Police believed there was only one gunman, he said, although some eyewitness reports mentioned multiple attackers. Early reports had suggested that the gunman was wearing a Santa Claus outfit but CCTV footage from outside the nightclub appeared to contradict this. Early the interior minister said some of the dead had yet to be identified. Israel has confirmed 19-year-old Leanne Nasser was killed. Turkish state news agency Anadolu also quoted Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya as saying most of the victims were foreigners "from different countries - Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Libya". Later reports clarified that she was referring to the injured, rather than to the dead. A policeman and a security guard were shot outside the club as the attack began. Reina nightclub, in the the Ortakoy area of Istanbul, is an upmarket venue on the banks of the Bosphorus. There were reportedly as many as 700 people in the nightclub at the time of the attack, some of whom jumped into the water to escape. Eyewitnesses described panic and confusion as the attack unfolded. Istanbul was already on high alert with some 17,000 police officers on duty in the city, following a string of terror attacks in recent months. IS leaders have threatened Turkey and called on their followers to carry out attacks inside the country.
10 December: Twin bomb attack outside a football stadium in Istanbul kills 44 people, Kurdish militant group claims responsibility
20 August: Bomb attack on wedding party in Gaziantep kills at least 30 people, IS suspected
30 July: 35 Kurdish fighters try to storm a military base and are killed by the Turkish army
28 June: A gun and bomb attack on Ataturk airport in Istanbul kills 41 people, in an attack blamed on IS militants
13 March: 37 people are killed by Kurdish militants in a suicide car bombing in Ankara
17 February: 28 people die in an attack on a military convoy in Ankara