Follow on article – The movement of migrants across the Middle East and Africa towards Europe has generated up to $323 million for the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and other jihadist groups, a new report has revealed on the 13 May 15. Many of the migrants embark from Libya on unseaworthy boats which have foundered with thousands drowning and thousands being rescued by European navies. At least 170,000 refugees made the sea journey last year, and that number looks likely to increase this year. European Union and African officials are scrambling to find ways to stop the migration. On the 13 May 15 the UK Guardian newspaper revealed a 19-page E.U. strategy report to crack down on the smugglers, which included air strikes on boats and possibly the use of troops in Libya. But while E.U. officials anguish over the plight of people crossing the Mediterranean to get to Europe, the migration has proved an invaluable business opportunity for groups like ISIS. So valuable that international crime experts believe ISIS might have launched some attacks specifically in order to drive people to flee, and then profit from their flight. “They [ISIS] were looking desperately for new funds,” says Christian Nelleman, director of the Norwegian Centre for Global Analysis, or RHIPTO, who co-authored this week’s report with the Geneva-based Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, a consortium of organized-crime experts. “Unlike al-Qaeda, ISIS needs a totally different scale of funds because they run an army and provide social services,” he says. ISIS’s sources of funding appear to have changed markedly since 2014. For much of last year, ISIS brought in funds from oil smuggling — a key reason why its fighters seized oil facilities in Syria and Iraq —with oil trading earning up to $3 million a day, according to U.N. estimates. But those earnings have crashed, perhaps by half, since last August, when the U.S. and its allies began bombing ISIS oil facilities, according to a Western intelligence report from last January, which was shared with TIME this week. The report estimates that ISIS needs between $523.5 million and $815.3 million a year to run its operations, including to pay its fighters, run social services, and buy weapons and ammunition. Aside from oil, ISIS has recently earned between $22 million and $55 million a year taxing antiquities smugglers, who traffic looted objects out of Syria and Iraq, and between $168 million and $228 million a month taxing small businesses and residents in ISIS-controlled areas, according to the January intelligence report, which said ISIS has “a robust budget for a group numbering in the 30 to 40,000 range.” In fact, the most robust new business is migrant smuggling, with funds going not only to ISIS but also al-Qaeda-linked groups around the Sahara and militias in Libya, which seized the capital Tripoli last August. Smugglers typically charge each migrant between $800 and $1,000 to reach Libya, either from across the Sahara or from the Middle East, and then between $1,500 and $1,900 to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, according to this week’s report. In an interview with TIME last month, one migrant described being forced to pay different armed groups along each step of his four-month journey, from his home in Senegal until he squeezed aboard a migrant boat off Libya’s coast in mid-April, bringing the total cost of his journey to about $2,150. That is typical of the smugglers’ operation across the Middle East and Africa, according to this week’s report. “The value of this trade dwarfs any existing trafficking and smuggling businesses in the region, and has particularly strengthened groups with a terrorist agenda, including the Islamic State (ISIS),” the report says. “This growing business now provides what is possibly now the largest and most easily accessible threat finance opportunity for both organized crime networks and armed groups to purchase arms, establish larger and more regular armies, and demand taxation.” The report suggests ISIS has recently driven Syrians and Iraqis from their homes in a deliberate attempt to increase their control over smuggling routes, and to drive up the numbers of those trying to cross the Mediterranean. Syrians now comprise the largest number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, followed by refugees from the East African nation of Eritrea. The surge in Syrian refugees crossing the Mediterranean since last year appeared to follow ISIS attacks on refugee camps. “Why would they want to attack refugee camps near the Syria-Jordan border?” Nelleman says. “The purpose was to drive refugees out.” Many of those refugees made their way to Libya to take dangerous boats to Europe.
France/Morocco – France and Morocco have vowed to strengthen counterterrorism cooperation, four months after they resumed judicial cooperation following a year-long diplomatic rift. After meeting with French president Francois Hollande on the 29 May 15 Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkilane said: "We had a difficult year of course, now it's behind us, and (relations) are resuming as if nothing had happened." French authorities say counterterrorism and the fight against radicalization were at the top of the agenda for the meeting. Both countries are deeply concerned by the large numbers of citizens leaving to fight with the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. Morocco suspended judicial cooperation in Feb 14 after French police attempted to arrest the visiting head of Moroccan intelligence. Cooperation resumed in Jan 15.
Germany – Police in Frankfurt ordered the cancellation of a professional cycling race hours before it was set to begin on the 1 May 15 over fears of an imminent Islamist terror attack. A married couple living nearby were arrested overnight, after police found a pipe bomb, assault rifle and ammunition for a bazooka inside their home. The arrested couple have been identified only as Halil D, 35, and Senay D, 34, under strict German privacy laws. Halil D, a German citizen of Turkish origin is known to have ties to Islamist extremist groups, according to the police. His wife is believed to be a Turkish citizen. The couple’s home was raided after Halil D was spotted hanging around car parks and repeatedly walking the route of the annual Eschborn-Frankfurt City Loop race where it runs through woodland. Police said they had no concrete evidence of a direct threat to the race, but ordered it to be called off as a precautionary measure. Some 200 police officers searched the route of the race on the 30 Apr 15. Over 100 rounds of assault rifle ammunition and bomb-making ingredients were also found in the couple’s home. Police said it was unclear whether they were acting alone or part of a wider network. “The accused had ties to the extremist scene in the Rhine-Main area,” Albrecht Schreiber, the head of the Frankfurt prosecutors’ office said. Citing unnamed sources close to the investigation, *Welt* newspaper claimed Halil D has links to the Algerian-based group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Italy/Tunisia/Migrants – Italian police have arrested a Moroccan man on suspicion he helped organize and execute the 18 Mar 15 attack on Tunisia's Bardo Museum that left 22 people dead, authorities said on the 20 Mar 15. Abdelmajid Touil was arrested the night of the 19 May 15 on a Tunisian arrest warrant at the home of his mother and two brothers in Gaggiano, near Milan, anti-terrorism investigator Bruno Megale said. The only trace that Italian authorities had of Touil prior to his arrest was that he had arrived in Italy on the 17 Feb 15 along with migrants from a smuggler's boat, police stated. He was identified by authorities in Porto Empedocle, Sicily, and was subsequently issued an expulsion decree, Megale said. Those decrees are usually given to migrants heading to Europe for economic reasons — not refugees from conflict who could apply for asylum. It's not clear when or if he left Italy or how he might have returned. Italian police, however, believe he went to back to Tunisia to help organize the 18 Mar attack in Tunis. Anti-immigrant politicians have warned that Islamic extremists might enter Italy via any one of the dozens of migrant boats setting off weekly from Libya for European shores. Confirmation that Abdelmajid had made at least one trip to Italy by boat has fuelled criticism of the massive, Italy-led Mediterranean operation to rescue would-be refugees crossing the Mediterranean. The accusations in the Tunisian arrest warrant against Touil include premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit attacks against the state, belonging to a terrorist group and recruiting and training others to commit terrorist attacks. Tunisian authorities do not think Abdelmajid is that mastermind. But the spokesman for Tunisia's interior ministry, Mohammed Ali Aroui, confirmed that Abdelmajid was the subject of an international arrest warrant for his involvement in the attack. "He participated indirectly in the attack, supporting the ones who carried it out," he stated. Italian police said they were able to identify Touil in part after his mother reported that her son's passport was missing immediately after the Bardo attack.
Netherlands – The Dutch cabinet has approved a partial ban on wearing the face-covering veil, including in schools, hospitals and on public transport. Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists on the 22 May 15 the ban does not apply to wearing the niqab on the street, but only "in specific situations where it is essential for people to be seen" or for security reasons. Rutte said the government had "tried to find a balance between people's freedom to wear the clothes they want and the importance of mutual and recognisable communication". The prime minister said the bill, which was initiated by the Dutch Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk, did not have a "religious background". A previous bill banning the veil even on the street and dating from Rutte's last government, which was supported by anti-Islam activist Geert Wilders, will be withdrawn. The government said it "sees no reason for a general ban that would apply to all public places." It was agreed that a new bill would be drawn up by the coalition partners of Rutte's Liberal VVD party and the Labour PvdA when they formed their coalition in 2012. Those flouting the ban can be fined up to 405 Euros (around $450). State broadcaster NOS said that between 100 and 500 women in the Netherlands wear the face veils, most of them only occasionally. Neighbouring France and Belgium have more restrictive bans targeting those who wear face veils, not allowing people to wear such garments in public. A number of far-right movements across the continent have made the banning of the niqab a political objective.
Spain/United States – The Spanish government approved an accord on the 29 May 15 permanently granting the U.S. military a presence at a south-western base as a centre for a rapid reaction force to deal with crises in Africa and elsewhere. The deal approved by Spain's Cabinet allows for the U.S. to station up to 3,000 troops at the Moron air base, up from a current 850. The number of aircraft deployed can be increased from 14 to 40. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is to visit Madrid on the 31 Jun 15 and on the 1 Jun 15 to sign the agreement. Kerry will meet with King Felipe, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo during his stay. Under a 1988 bilateral agreement, accords permitting U.S. presence at the base have been renewed annually. The new agreement needs to be approved by Spain's Parliament. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the rapid reaction force was aimed at contributing to stability in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. She said the base remained Spanish and that the U.S. would need Spanish permission for all unilateral missions from the base. She said U.S. has pledged to invest 26 million Euros ($29 million) in infrastructure work at the base, a welcome boost for the local economy. 361 COMMENT: This maybe one of the first steps in the threat of IS in North Africa as Libya is not that far across the Mediterranean Sea although there are other NATO countries closer. If they are to become an asset in the fight against terrorism, Spain and the base will become a target for terrorists. COMMENT ENDS
United Kingdom – A device found in north Belfast was a substantial bomb targeting police officers, the PSNI reported on the 1 May 15. A controlled explosion was carried out on the device at the Crumlin Road junction with Brompton Park. The PSNI are blaming dissident republicans for the bomb and said it could have caused "carnage". The device was a fairly substantial cylinder-type device that was designed to do one thing - kill. It was placed in a position that was designed to attack police who may have been in the vicinity.