France – A booby-trapped letter has exploded at the French office of the International Monetary Fund on the 16 Mar 17. François Hollande, the French president, described the explosion as a "terrorist attack". Police said one person was lightly injured when the package containing what appeared to be a home-made "pyrotechnical device or a large banger" blew up at the offices in central Paris. The victim, a female assistant to the director of IMF's offices in Europe, was burned on the hands and face. Speaking to press outside the IMF building at 66 avenue d'Iéna in the affluent 16ème arrondissement, Michel Cadot, Paris police chief, said the package was addressed to the secretariat of the IMF's France representative in Paris and "exploded when the secretary was opening it". "This was a pyrotechnical device, or a large banger. It was relatively home-made, and was in no way a bomb," he added. The victims was injured in the face and eardrum in the blast, but "her life is in no danger and she is not badly injured". Mr Cadot said that the IMF had received "a few threats in recent days" but he could not say whether there was any link. The package was sent in the post. Only one person was hurt. The office contained three people at the time. Some 150 people have been evacuated as a "precautionary measure", according to BFM TV. Forensic police have arrived at the scene.
Judicial police have launched an inquiry and the building is being searched. There is no indication yet whether there is any link between this booby-trapped package and one sent to the Germany finance ministry yesterday. Addressed to Wolfgang Schaüble, the finance minister, the package came from Greece and contained "an explosive mixture" that could have caused "considerable" damage, said police. The IMF Europe Office, located in Paris and Brussels, serves as "liaison to EU institutions and governments, as well as international organizations and civil society in Europe," according to its website. Its main tasks include "engaging with European policymakers and institutions on euro area and EU policies and country programs" as well as "fostering the dialogue on global economic issues with EU institutions, international organizations, governments, and civil society in Europe between the IMF and interlocutors".
Germany – Police ordered a shopping centre in western Germany not to open on the 11 Mar 17 after receiving credible tips of an imminent attack. The mall and adjacent car park in the city of Essen stayed closed as about 100 officers - many armed with machine pistols and bullet-proof vests - positioned themselves around the complex to prevent anyone from entering. Several officers scoured the interior to bring out early morning cleaning staff. "As police, we are the security authority here and have decided to close the mall," police spokesman Christoph Wickhorst said, adding that they had been tipped off by other security agencies late on the 10 Mar 17. He refused to give further details because of the ongoing investigation. The shopping centre at Limbecker Platz square was closed for the entire day. The mall is one of the biggest in Germany with more than 200 stores and attracts up to 60,000 people on a regular Saturday, according to its website. In 2016, three people were injured in an attack on a Sikh temple in Essen by radicalised German-born Muslim teenagers.
Germany has been on edge following a series of attacks in public places over the past year.
Spain – Spanish Police have released striking pictures of a huge weapons haul seized from an organised crime group it was reported on the 14 Mar 17. It includes over 10,000 assault rifles, machine guns, pistols, revolvers, and 400 shells and grenades. The guns and ammunition were seized in Jan 17 during an operation against firearms trafficking. Investigators also found an illegal workshop with machinery to manipulate and reactivate weapons, near Bilbao. Five people were arrested. Cash amounting to 80,000 Euros (£70,000 / $85,000) was seized. The operation involved counter-terror police from Madrid, Bilbao, Valencia and Gerona. Europol, which supported the investigation, said the firearms were sold in Spain, France and Belgium. It said some of the weapons were deactivated, but did not comply with established standards. Criminals acquired the arsenal largely through auctions and other legal channels before reactivating it. The gang had been using a sports shop as a front for its distribution centre - which in reality sold firearms, weapon components and ammunition. Police said the weapons would have had an easy journey onto the black market, and into the hands of terrorists or organised crime groups. Europol said firearms traffickers exploit legal loopholes and legislative differences between EU countries to divert guns from legal suppliers. Reactivating deactivated weapons is one of Europe's main sources of illegal guns. The agency said it had seen a significant increase in the number being supplied to criminals since 2014.
Sweden – The Swedish government has decided to reintroduce military conscription - a move backed by the country's MPs it was reported on the 2 Mar 17. The decision means that 4,000 men and women will be called up for service from 1 Jan 17 a defence ministry spokeswoman said. They will be selected from about 13,000 young people born in 1999, who will be asked to take psychological and physical tests. Sweden, a neutral country, is worried about Russia's Baltic military drills. In Sep 16 a Swedish garrison was restored to Gotland, a big island lying between the Swedish mainland and the three ex-Soviet Baltic States. Ms Radebo said the return to conscription was prompted by "the change in our neighbourhood... Russian military activity is one of the reasons". The conscripts will serve for nine to 12 months. The aim is to encourage them to become military professionals or to join the reserves. Sweden had military conscription until 2010, but previously only men were drafted. Ms Radebo said that "70% of parliament is behind the decision to strengthen the military and co-operation with the countries around us". The closest co-operation is with Finland, she added. Sweden and Finland are not in NATO, but co-operate closely with the alliance. Their Nordic neighbours Norway and Denmark are in NATO. The Swedish recruitment system - a mixture of volunteers and conscripts - will be modelled on Norway's, Ms Radebo said.
Sweden/Muslim Brotherhood – 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. 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 3 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.'