Denmark – The country was on high alert after a gunman in Copenhagen killed one person and injured three at a free speech debate attended by a Swedish cartoonist on the 14 Feb 15. Several dozen shots were fired at the seminar and a manhunt was put in place for the attacker. Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt described it as a "politically motivated" act of terrorism. Cartoonist Lars Vilks, who has faced death threats over his caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, was unhurt. He claimed that he believed he was the intended target of the attack. Police initially thought there were two terrorists, but later said they were searching for a lone gunman. One of the speakers at the debate, which took place at a cafe and concerned the limits of free speech, was suddenly interrupted by a barrage of gunshots. The French ambassador, Francois Zimeray, was also present during the attack. Satirists targeting Islam have been in the spotlight since the Jan 15 attacks in France. Hours later, Dan Uzan, a 37-year-old long-time member of the Copenhagen synagogue, was shot dead while on security duty outside the building. Eighty people were celebrating a girl's bat mitzvah, or coming of age, in a hall behind the synagogue at the time. The suspected gunman, named by Danish media as Omar El-Hussein, 22, was shot dead by police. Later two men were arrested and charged with providing and disposing of the weapon, as well as with helping the gunman to hide. Omar El-Hussein, the Danish national suspected of carrying out Saturday's attacks, was known to police and had convictions for violent offences and dealing in weapons. El-Hussein was released from prison two weeks before the attacks after reportedly serving a two-year sentence for grievous bodily harm. The head of Danish intelligence, Jens Madsen, acknowledged that El-Hussein had been "on the radar" of his services. Mr Madsen said investigators were working on the theory that he could have been inspired by the shootings in Paris last month. Denmark's foreign minister, Martin Lidegaard, rejected suggestions that El-Hussein may have visited the Middle East but said he may have been radicalised while in prison.
Sequence of events:
- One man killed, three police injured
- Gunman flees by car - suspected vehicle later found abandoned
- Gunman calls taxi to take him to address in Norrebro district
- Police use information from taxi driver to identify address and release CCTV images
- After midnight on Sunday: gunman opens fire outside a Copenhagen synagogue, killing a Jewish man and wounding two police
- 0350 hrs GMT 15 Feb 15: Police keeping Norrebro address under observation come under fire from a man
- They fire back, shooting him dead
- Police arrest two men on the 15 Feb 15 and later charge them with helping the gunman
France – Two unidentified girls (aged 15 and 17-years-old) were detained by police during operations in the Tarbes and Venissieux neighbourhoods of the city of Lyon in France's Rhone department on the 22 Aug 14. The two suspects were charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism. The suspects reportedly plotted to carry out a suicide bombing at the Great Synagogue in the city. Unnamed security sources stated that the suspects had communicated online and were part of a network of young Islamists who were being monitored by security services. The incident was reported on the 29 Jan 15.
French police have arrested eight men suspected of recruiting fighters for Islamist militants in Syria, Interior Minister Barnard Cazeneuve said on the 3 Feb 15. The arrests in the Paris and Lyon areas are not linked to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, Mr Cazeneuve told local media. Under French law, the suspects can be held for up to 96 hours without charge. Speaking at a press conference, Mr Cazeneuve said the eight men had actively participated in a network recruiting French youths for jihad in Syria. The French government estimates that around 400 French citizens have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside militants, and that there are approximately 900 more at home with links to recruitment cells.
A man wielding a knife has attacked three soldiers patrolling outside a Jewish community centre in Nice, in the south of France it was reported on the 3 Feb 15. The soldiers were wounded and police said the assailant was captured along with a second male. The attacker was expelled from Turkey last week and questioned upon his return, French media reported. The soldiers attacked in Nice were guarding a building in the city's Massena square which houses the Jewish community centre and a Jewish radio station. The attacker had been travelling on the tram without a ticket, but left the tram when ticket collectors approached him and he then targeted the soldiers. He has been named as Moussa Coulibaly, aged 30 and of Malian origin. The suspect had been expelled from Turkey last week, having flown there from the Corsican city of Ajaccio on 28 Jan 15 suspicion had been raised by border officials when he bought a single fare to Turkey, and French intelligence asked the Turkish authorities to send him back. 361 COMMENT: It is unsure if this incident is terrorist related or the man was taking out a frustrated grievance. However, with France response after the latest attacks and arrests all attacks on its security forces maybe double edged. COMMENT ENDS
Greece – A guerrilla organization known for targeting political and foreign diplomatic sites in Greece has claimed responsibility for a gun attack on the Israeli Embassy in Dec 14 a Greek police official said on the 4 Feb 15. In the assault on the 12 Dec 14 gunmen with Kalashnikov rifles opened fire on the Israeli Embassy in a northern suburb of Athens, raking the building with bullets but causing no injuries. An organization called “the Group of Popular Rebels” claimed responsibility for the attack according to a police official. Counterterrorism officers are examining a 19-page statement found on a portable digital storage device left in a rubbish bin in the southern Athens suburb of Nea Smyrni. The police were alerted in the early hours of the 4 Feb by staff at a left-leaning newspaper, who received an anonymous call informing them of the location of the device. Police tests on bullet casings found outside the Israeli Embassy after the attack showed the shots were fired from two assault rifles used in a similar attack in Dec 13 on the German ambassador’s home, also in the capital’s affluent northern suburbs. Group of Popular Rebels claimed responsibility for the attack on the ambassador’s home and for a shooting in Jan 13 at the offices of the New Democracy party of former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. The guerrilla group is one of several in Greece to have carried out bomb and gun attacks against political and diplomatic targets in recent years, most in protest over austerity measures imposed by the authorities at the behest of Greece’s international creditors. The assaults are usually intended to be symbolic and rarely result in injuries. The assault on the Israeli Embassy came amid mounting political and financial turmoil in Greece, ahead of elections in Jan 15 that brought a leftist-led coalition to power. But it was unclear whether the attacks were motivated by domestic developments or by Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza.
United Kingdom/United States/Yemen – British diplomatic staff in Yemen have been withdrawn and the embassy closed due the security situation in the country, the Foreign Office stated on the 11 Feb 15. Embassy staff and its premises are at "increased risk" and all Britons who remain in Yemen should leave immediately, it said. The US has also shut down its embassy in Yemen and evacuated its staff. It comes as Shia Houthi rebels have taken over large parts of the country and crisis talks broke down in the latter part of the reporting period. "The security situation in Yemen has continued to deteriorate over recent days," Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood said. "Regrettably we now judge that our Embassy staff and premises are at increased risk.” "We have therefore decided to withdraw diplomatic staff and temporarily suspend the operations of the British Embassy in Sana'a. Our Ambassador and diplomatic staff have left Yemen and will return to the UK." The situation in Yemen escalated last month when the Houthis seized a key aide of President Hadi, in an attempt to block a draft constitution. They later took the presidential palace and other key buildings, prompting Mr Hadi's resignation. He said he could not continue in his post under such pressure. The US Department of State has also suspended its embassy operations in the country and withdrew staff due to the "deteriorating security situation", a State Department travel warning said. "All consular services, routine and/or emergency, have been suspended until further notice," it added.