Belgium – French national of North African origin has been arrested in the north Belgian city of Antwerp on suspicion of driving at a crowd, officials said on the 23 Mar 17. A car was driven "at high speed" on De Meir, Antwerp's main shopping street, before it was intercepted. There were no reports of any injuries. Knives, a gun and some unidentifiable liquid were found in the car, prosecutors say. Belgian PM Charles Michel praised the authorities for an "outstanding job". The attack comes a day after a car was driven at high-speed along London's Westminster Bridge, resulting in the deaths of four people - including the driver - and injuring 40. It was also the day Belgium marked the first anniversary of the twin bomb attacks in Brussels, that killed 32 people. Antwerp police chief Serge Muyters said the car was spotted at around 1100 hrs local time (1000 hrs GMT). "The vehicle was driving at high speed on De Meir. Our army colleagues spotted it and tried to bring the vehicle to a halt," he said. "But the driver broke free and drove through the red light towards the port quays." He said the police were contacted and immediately sent a rapid response team, intercepting the vehicle and driver. "The suspect, a man of north African origin, was immediately arrested," he said. The federal prosecutor's office, which has taken over the investigation, named the suspect as "Mohamed R", a 39-year-old French national and resident of France. "Different arms were found in the boot - bladed weapons, a riot gun (rifle) and a container of liquid that is still unidentifiable," the prosecutor's statement also said. The army bomb disposal unit was sent to the scene to inspect the vehicle. 361 COMMENT: This will be a copy-cat of the terrorist incident in London UK on the 22 Mar 17. That particular incident along with this one may spark others to carryout similar attacks elsewhere in Europe. The European incidents may differ slightly because weapons, such as pistols and semi-automatic weapons are easier to obtain than in the UK. COMMENT ENDS
Brussels/Turkey – Sources say at least three people have been stabbed outside the Turkish embassy in Brussels stabbing leaves ‘three people injured’ outside it was reported on the 30 Mar 17. Turkish nationals were taking part in a referendum that will decide whether to hand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more power. The Turkish Embassy was being used as a polling station. No Further Details Known (NFDK)
Italy – Three adults and a girl have been detained in the centre of Venice as suspects in an alleged jihadist cell. Police had been monitoring the group from Kosovo for months amid concerns they were planning to join Islamist militants in Syria, reports said. But police moved in at dawn on the 30 Mar 17 amid fears of a potential attack in the wake of the last week's murder of four people in London, reports said. Twelve addresses were raided including 10 in the city's historic centre. One of the raids took place close to the famed La Fenice opera house at around 0400 hrs local (0200 hrs GMT), Italian media said. Police said all four of those held had Italian residence permits. They said Italy's specialist Digos crime squad had been investigating the three adults on suspicion of radicalisation. Two of the three had been working as waiters, one report said. Italian police apparently tapped communications referring to the 22 Mar 17 attack at Westminster, when Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians and stabbed a police officer outside parliament. Police decided to move in amid concerns that the alleged cell was planning a similar attack in Venice, possibly targeting a high profile tourist site such as the Rialto Bridge over the city's Grand Canal, Italian media reported. Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti praised the authorities' handling of the operation and said it showed their commitment in the fight against terrorism.
France – Security forces at Orly airport in Paris shot dead a man who took a weapon from a soldier, according to the French interior ministry. Witnesses said the Orly south terminal was evacuated following the shooting at around 0830 hrs local time (0730 hrs GMT) on the 18 Mar 17. "A man took a weapon from a soldier then hid in a shop in the airport before being shot dead by security forces," an interior ministry spokesperson said. The man who attempted to take the weapon was the sole victim; no other person was injured in the incident. A security official said that the incident happened near gates 37-38 where Turkish Airlines flights were scheduled. Early on the 18 Mar 17 morning the suspect was stopped at a checkpoint in northern Paris earlier and fired at police with a pellet gun before escaping in a car that was later found abandoned in the southern suburbs. He is then believed to have stolen another car that was found at Orly airport. At the airport 90 minutes later the man approached a military patrol and tried to seize a weapon from one of the soldiers, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. A BBC report stated that Ziyed Ben Belgacem was responsible and was a radicalised Muslim known to intelligence agencies. The man, who police said was on a security watch list, had earlier fled the suburb of Stains in a Renault Clio stolen from a woman at gunpoint after opening fire on officers using a pistol, injuring one, during an identity check. The car was later found abandoned. According to one report, it contained a bloodstained T-shirt. The airport was evacuated while it was searched by bomb disposal squads. No explosives were found. The soldier whose gun was seized by the unidentified man at Orly was part of a special counter-terrorism patrol. On the 20 Mar 17 it was reported that Ziyed Ben Belgacem was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the results of an autopsy showed. The 39-year-old had a blood alcohol level of 0.93 grams per litre, almost twice the legal driving limit in France, and had also taken cannabis and cocaine it was reported citing judicial sources. Investigators were still trying to determine what motivated the attack by Belgacem. Early investigations indicated that Belgacem, who had an extensive criminal record including convictions for drug dealing and armed robbery, had been influenced to carry out the attack while in prison.
France/IMF Letter Bomb (16 Mar 17) – Follow-on Report: ARIS: Investigators suspect a Greek anarchist group was behind a letter bomb that injured an IMF secretary in Paris on the 16 Mar 17 the day after an explosive device was found in Berlin, sources close to the probe said. Fragments of Greek stamps were found at the Paris offices of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) where the letter bomb exploded, leaving the secretary with injuries to her face and hands. A far-left Greek group called ‘Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei’ is "likely behind" the Paris attack, a Greek police source said in Athens. French investigators have told their Greek counterparts that the package was sent from Athens, the official said. Separately, a source close to the French probe said it was focusing on "an anarchist group". The Conspiracy of Fire group had earlier claimed responsibility for an explosive device, also sent from Greece, that was discovered by police at the offices of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. The package was discovered on the 15 Mar 17 a day before Schaeuble was due to host his new US counterpart, Steven Mnuchin. Many Greeks blame Germany and the IMF for imposing years of public sector cuts and reforms in exchange for bailout packages needed to prop up the debt-ridden country. The incidents occurred more than six years after Conspiracy of Fire waged a similar campaign targeting European officials. The group, which is blacklisted as a terror organisation by Washington, sent letter bombs to foreign embassies in Greece and to European leaders in 2010.
Germany/Old School Society – Four people affiliated with the neo-Nazi group “Old School Society” in Germany were sentenced to prison for their roles in attempting to orchestrate an attack against a migrant shelter in Saxony. Three men and one woman were arrested and charged with forming a terror organization in May 15, just two days before their planned attack was scheduled, according to reports. Although prosecutors asked for the group to be sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison, during court on the 15 mar 17 a judge ordered a five-year sentence for a man identified as Marcus W., 41, while the group’s alleged ringleader, 58-year-old Andreas H., was sentenced to four and a half years. The spokesman of the group, identified as Olaf G., 31, was sentenced to three years and 24-year-old Denise Vanessa G., also known as Terror Lady, was given three years and 10 months. Chief prosecutor Jörn Hauschild said the group plotted to use "pyrotechnic explosives, particularly in the form of fire and nail bombs" in an attack against a refugee home. Officials discovered a large number of fireworks covered with a layer of nails, which Marcus W. and Denise G. reportedly purchased in the Czech Republic. The group met back in 2014 on the internet. The group’s website made reference to neo-Nazi organizations and symbols and YouTube videos show them using racist and xenophobic slurs in efforts to recruit new members. The group’s sentencing comes just days after eight Germans, who were also charged with forming a neo-Nazi terrorist group, started trial in Dresden. The group, known as the “Freital Group,” carried out several bombing attacks between July and November 2015, including attacks on two refugee homes, the Associated Press reported. They were also connected to the car bombing of a Left party politician and a Left party office bombing.
Spain/Basque Fatherland and Freedom (ETA) – The militant group ETA has resolved to disarm fully by 8 April, sources close to talks between the Basque separatists and Spanish government have said on the 17 Mar 17. A pro-Basque independence and environmental group called Bizi has been given responsibility for the disarmament, according to one activist speaking to France's Le Monde. ETA declared a ceasefire in 2011 but is yet to relinquish its weapons. The group killed more than 800 people over four decades of violence. It was set up more than 50 years ago in the era of Spanish dictator General Franco to fight for an independent Basque homeland. However, in recent years it has been sapped by the arrest of hundreds of members, including leadership figures, and the seizure of weapons caches. "ETA has handed us responsibility for the disarmament of its arsenal and, as of the evening of 8 April, ETA will have completely handed over its weapons," Txetx Etcheverry, an activist with Bizi, was quoted as saying in Le Monde. No formal announcement has yet been made and the Spanish government has so far declined to make any detailed comment. "ETA needs to do two things - to disarm and disband," cabinet spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said. In 2014 the International Verification Commission of international inspectors said ETA had taken some of its weapons out of action, but the Spanish government dismissed the move as "theatrical". Spanish media say recent seizures of arms have been quite small, which they say indicate ETA does not have many weapons left - giving its disarmament a predominantly symbolic character.
Sweden – The Muslim Brotherhood is creating a 'parallel social structure' in Sweden with the help of 'political elites' who foster a culture of silence, a damning government report has found and was reported on the 26 Mar 17. The document claims that the Brotherhood is building a 'parallel society' within the Scandinavian country, which can help the Islamist group to achieve its ends. Founded in 1826, the Muslim Brotherhood aims to organise Muslims politically in order to create a global, Sunni Islamic Caliphate. The group is arguably the largest Islamist organisation in the world and has in the past been linked to mainstream Islamic institutions, including to the Muslim Council of Britain. The organisation has been accused of fostering links to militants and is classed as a terrorist organisation by the governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The research focused on Muslim Brotherhood members both in Egypt and in Europe. Publication of the damning document about the group has sparked a row in Sweden, with critics labelling the report 'conspiratorial' and claiming it misrepresents Islam. The report, which was published on the 24 Mar 17 was commissioned by Sweden's Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), which is part of the country's Ministry of Defence. The paper's authors claim the Brotherhood is working to increase the number of practising Muslims in Sweden, which they say encourages tension with the secular society and puts community cohesion in jeopardy. The authors also claim the organisation is targeting political parties, NGOs, academic institutions and other civil society organisations. 'Islamists aim to build a parallel social structure competing with the rest of the Swedish society the values of its citizens. In this sense, MB's activists pose a long-term challenge in terms of the country's social cohesion', the report says. The document, edited by Magnus Norell, claims that as migration to the country increases, so the problems will intensify. 'Migration from Africa and the Middle East is likely to continue in coming years, both in form of relatives and refugees', it says. 'Given that MB's goal is to increase the number of practising Muslims in Swedish or European territory, there is a great likelihood that a 'tug of war' will occur between the majority community and the Islamic community with the MB's encouragement.' The report further claims that those who criticise the group run the risk of being branded racist or Islamophobic. However, the publication has been heavily criticised, with a group of 22 academics and religious experts questioning the methodology of the research. In a blog post they said the suggestion that criticism in Islam was difficult in Sweden is 'almost conspiratorial', and said past research had refuted the idea that the Brotherhood was building a parallel society. The blog post, which has academics at some of Sweden's top universities among its authors, read: 'The [report's] authors seem to conclude that Swedish Islam is a homogeneous phenomenon and that Swedish Muslims are led by the Muslim Brotherhood. 'It is a conclusion that goes against the overall research, which rather points towards the Muslim community being diverse and there being competition between Muslim groups.' In response the report's editor, Magnus Norell, hit back at critics, telling public service broadcaster SVT: 'Had they smoked something before they read it? 'You just need to read the report. If someone doesn't accept this, there's not much I can do about it. It's proven.'
United Kingdom Travel Ban – An aircraft cabin ban on large electronic devices was prompted by intelligence suggesting a terror threat to US-bound flights, say US media. The US and UK have announced new carry-on restrictions banning laptops on certain passenger flights. The so-called Islamic State group (IS) has been working on ways to smuggle explosives on to planes by hiding them in electronics, US sources tell ABC. The tip-off was judged by the US to be "substantiated" and "credible". Inbound flights on nine airlines operating out of 10 airports in eight countries are subject to the US Department of Homeland Security ban. Phones and medical devices are not affected. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is hosting a two-day meeting of ministers and senior officials from 68 nations to discuss the threat from IS. The Washington talks will be the first full meeting of the coalition since Dec 14. Eric Swalwell, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC News there was "a new aviation threat". "We know that our adversaries, terrorist groups in the United States and outside the United States, seek to bring down a US-bound airliner. That's one of their highest value targets. And we're doing everything we can right now to prevent that from happening." "It was based on intelligence reports that are fairly recent. Intelligence of something possibly planned." The restriction is based, we are told, on "evaluated intelligence", BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner writes. That means that US intelligence has either intercepted discussion of a possible extremist plot or has been passed word of one by a human informant.
Which airlines are affected?
The nine airlines covered by the US ban are Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways. The British ban, announced hours after the American measure, is similar but applies to different airlines, including British Airways and Easyjet. It covers direct passenger flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. On the 15 Mar 17 Easyjet passengers from Turkey and Egypt bound for the UK were already told to put large electronic devices in the hold. The airline said passengers would face extra security checks and advised them to arrive early at the airport.
The 10 airports affected by the US ban are:
Mohammed V International, Casablanca, Morocco
Ataturk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey
Cairo International Airport, Egypt
Queen Alia International, Amman, Jordan
King Abdulaziz International, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
King Khalid International, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Kuwait International Airport
Hamad International, Doha, Qatar
Abu Dhabi International, United Arab Emirates
Dubai International, United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom/Northern Ireland – A device that exploded in Strabane, County Tyrone, was an attempt to kill police officers, the PSNI has said. A device exploded while officers were on patrol on the night of the 21 Nov 17 police said. The explosion reportedly happened at about 2030 hrs GMT. There were no fatalities or injuries. The Police Federation for Northern Ireland described those who planted the bomb as "terrorists" who had "nothing to offer". "They are fixed firmly in the past with nothing to offer a community that is trying to build a better here and now and a more positive future," said the federation in a statement. "They peddle misery. They are a throwback to bad times. They oppress and brutalise people and deserve to be ostracised, caught, convicted and given tough prison sentences."
United Kingdom Lone Wolf Attack – At 14:40 GMT on the 22 Mar 17 a single attacker drove a grey Hyundai over Westminster Bridge, near the Houses of Parliament in central London, killing at least two pedestrians and injuring approximately more. The car then crashed into railings outside the Houses of Parliament. The attacker, armed with a knife, ran through Carriage Gates on Parliament Square Parliament where he was confronted by the police. One officer, PC Keith Palmer - who was not armed - was stabbed and killed. The attacker was shot dead by undercover armed officers. The police officer who died was PC Keith Palmer, 48, of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command. He had 15 years' service and was a husband and a father. Aysha Frade, who worked at DLD College London, was killed after being hit by the attacker's car before it reached Parliament. She was confirmed dead by a doctor at St Thomas' Hospital. A third victim has been named as Kurt Cochran - a US tourist who was in London to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary. His wife Melissa has been seriously injured and was in hospital. A number of people were treated in hospital, with seven remaining in a critical condition. Four people died including the attacker. Others that were injured by the vehicle were 12 Britons, 3 French Children were injured, two Romanians, four South Koreans, two Greeks and one each from Germany, Poland, Irish Republic, China, Italy and the United States with some being walking wounded. Some of the wounds suffered by the victims were described as "catastrophic". One woman was pulled out alive from the River Thames with serious injuries by port authorities. The injured included three police officers who were walking across the bridge on their way back from a commendation ceremony. Two were described as being in a serious condition. The Westminster attacker was British-born and known to the police and intelligence services. On the 22 Mar 17 Armed police raided a Birmingham flat in an operation linked to the 22 Mar 17 terror attack in Westminster. Armed officers stormed a second-floor flat above shops on Hagley Road in Ladywood at 2300 hrs GMT on the 22 Mar 17. Anti-terror officers confirmed six addresses in total were raided in London and Birmingham, with eight arrests made. West Midlands Police said more than one location was raided in Birmingham, but did not say how many. Officers were also searching a property in Quayside in the Winson Green area of the city. Police refused to comment on whether it was linked to the London attack. In a statement, the force said: "Overnight our colleagues from the Metropolitan Police have searched a number of addresses across the country and have made a number of arrests in connection with the [Westminster] incident, including addresses in Birmingham. "The arrests and searches were intelligence led and there was no immediate risk to public safety." The suspect of a deadly attack outside the UK parliament in London was British-born Khalid Masood, 52, who was known to the police authorities explaining that he had a number of criminal convictions. Masood was born in Kent to the south-east of London and had been recently living in central England. His criminal convictions were for assaults, including GBH [grievous bodily harm], possession of offensive weapons and public order offences but had not been arrested for any terrorism offences. He had come to the attention of the security service MI5 some years ago over concerns about violent extremism. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group/Da’esh claimed responsibility on the 23 Mar 17 for the attack. It said on its Amaq website the attacker "carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting citizens of the coalition" of countries fighting ISIL in Syria and Iraq. However, no source was able to independently confirm the claim. The last major attack to hit London was in July 2005, when a coordinated series of bomb blasts targeted its public transportation system during rush hour. The bombings killed 52 people and wounded more than 700 others. Mark Rowley, acting deputy commissioner at the Metropolitan police, said, "It is still our belief that the attacker acted alone [and] was inspired by international terrorism." 361 COMMENT and ADVICE: Sadly attacks of this nature are becoming too frequent. The British soldier Fusilier Lee Rigby who was murdered on the 22 May 13 by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale was first run down by a vehicle; The Nice attack in France where a 19 tonne cargo truck was used to kill 86 people and injure 434 on the 14 Jul 16 and the Berlin attack on the 19 Dec 16 where a truck was used to kill 12 people and injured 56 others, now this latest attack in London. In Israel, Palestinians have being using this style of attack for some time. There was also an attempt to conduct a similar attack in Antwerp, Belgium on the 23 Mar 17. Lone wolf terrorists who plan these are difficult to detect. The examples mentioned show that they are successful and those who perpetrate the crime are not known until afterwards making it difficult for the security services to detect. However, there are steps that individuals can take to ensure they can be safer. They are:
· Always be aware of your surroundings. No matter how many times you have been in a certain area or walked down a particular road always be aware of what is going on.
· If you are texting or checking your mobile phone, step to one side, look up and around to see what is going on around you before you start to check or text.
· Do not walk with headphones/earphones blaring music that loud that you cannot hear what is going on around you. Have the sound at a reasonable level so that you can hear above it, better still have one earphone in and the other out, if using headphones have one ear covered and the other exposed. By having both ears wired in you lose one of your important senses, hearing.
· Walk towards traffic where you can, not with it that way even if someone mounts the pavement you have time to move out of the way. This will also give you warning of would be attackers/abductors because they are driving towards you not coming from behind you.
· Absence of the normal and presence of the abnormal.
· Dislocation of expectations, meaning, “It can never happen to me.”
United Kingdom/Post 22 Mar 17 London Terrorist Attack – The British government has said its security services must have access to encrypted messaging applications such as WhatsApp to prevent violent crimes it was reported on the 26 Mar 17. UK media reports have suggested that the man behind an attack in London last week sent an encrypted WhatsApp message moments before killing four people by ploughing his car into pedestrians and fatally stabbing a policeman. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said on it was "completely unacceptable" that police and security services had not been able to crack the heavily encrypted service. "You can't have a situation where you have terrorists talking to each other - where this terrorist sent a WhatsApp message - and it can't be accessed," she said. Police said on the 25 Mar 17 that they still do not know why the suspect, 52-year-old Khalid Masood - had carried out the attack in central London, adding it was likely that he had acted alone, despite a claim by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group. In a separate interview with the BBC, Rudd said end-to-end encryption was vital to cybersecurity to ensure that business, banking and other transactions were safe - but insisted it must also be accessible. "It's not incompatible. You can have a system whereby they can build it so that we can have access to it when it is absolutely necessary." Rudd said she did not yet intend to force the industry's hand with new legislation, but would meet key players on the 30 Mar 17 to discuss this issue. A technology expert stated that he expects tech companies to resist efforts by governments around the world to look into the communications of private individuals. "I do not think they will receive it at all well," he said. "The push in recent years has been towards privacy and security. For these tech companies to change their position on the basis of a single British politician and her view, after a single event like this we have seen in London, I think that is unlikely." What Rudd is proposing, a "backdoor way" of accessing messages that could be administered through a court order, would be "open to abuse and potential hackers", Bazley said. "And that would make a mockery of the whole notion of security." Brian Paddick, a home affairs spokesman for the opposition Liberal Democrats and former deputy assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police, said the security services could view "the content of suspected terrorists' encrypted messages". "The real question is, could lives have been saved in London last week if end-to-end encryption had been banned? All the evidence suggests that the answer is no." There may be difficulties in taking on technology companies such as Facebook-owned WhatsApp. According to technology magazine Wired, end-to-end encryption means messages can only be decoded by the sender and recipient and not by anyone in between, including the company providing the service. In the United States, where WhatsApp is based, officials have been trying to make US technology firms provide a way around encryption, talks that have intensified since a mass shooting in San Bernardino in December of 2015. Last year, US authorities also fought a legal battle with tech giant Apple to get it to unlock a smartphone used by the perpetrator of San Bernardino attack. The FBI's own experts ended up breaking into the device.