Germany/Counter Terrorism – Germany's interior minister on the 2 Jan 17 outlined plans for a security services overhaul, seeking greater federal powers on domestic intelligence and quicker expulsions of illegal migrants following the Berlin truck attack. Thomas de Maiziere also called for giving federal police wider oversight across the country's 16 states, and for a new national crisis management centre to be set up. "We don't have federal jurisdiction to deal with national catastrophes. The jurisdiction for the fight against international terrorism is fragmented," he wrote in a guest column for the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "The federal police's scope of action is restricted to railway stations, airports and border controls," he wrote, stressing that "it is time" to re-examine Germany's security set-up. Policing and domestic intelligence services in Germany are currently decentralised and controlled by the country's 16 states. The plans for a sweeping reform come after a series of embarrassing security failures, with the 19 Dec 16 attack training a spotlight on the gaps. After Tunisian suspect Anis Amri allegedly rammed a truck into a crowded Christmas market, killing 12, it swiftly emerged that the asylum seeker had slipped through the net of security services. Amri, 24, who was days later shot dead by Italian police, had been under surveillance since Mar 16 but German police dropped their watch in Sep 16 thinking he was a small-time drug dealer. The failed asylum seeker should also have been deported months ago but Tunisia did not provide the necessary paperwork until after the attack. De Maiziere also said federal detention centres should be set up to hold rejected asylum seekers and illegal immigrants in the period leading up to their expulsion. In order to close security gaps, federal police must be given wider powers, the minister said. "The current remit of the federal police is too limited," he said. "We need a set of common rules and better coordination, for instance in checking dangerous individuals." The federal government should also take charge of domestic intelligence services, he said, noting that trouble-makers do not seek to disrupt only one state but the country as a whole. But de Maiziere's suggestions quickly drew criticism, including from Ralf Jaeger, the interior minister of Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, who opposes removing state control over domestic intelligence services. The Social Democratic Party's parliamentary chief Thomas Oppermann also accused de Maiziere of heading down a radical path with the security overhaul. The Islamophobic and rightwing populist party AfD meanwhile claimed credit for the planned measures, saying it had been seeking such reforms for months. De Maiziere is a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is running for a fourth term in a general election expected in Sep 17. Her government came under fire in the wake of the 19 Dec 16 attack for its liberal border policy, which has allowed in more than one million asylum seekers since 2015, and for allowing Amri to slip through the net despite documented security concerns. The Dec 16 attack was only one of several cases last year that exposed security failings in Germany. In Oct 16 police botched an attempt to arrest a Syrian bomb plot suspect. The man was finally caught after a nationwide manhunt, thanks to Syrian asylum seekers who detained him but was later found hanged in his cell. And in Nov 16 Germany's domestic spy service unmasked a Spanish-born agent in its own ranks as a suspected Islamist. Media reports said he was also a former gay porn actor.
Spain/Ceuta/Migrants – More than 1,000 migrants tried to jump a high double fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on the 1 Jan 17 in a violent assault that saw one officer lose an eye. A group of 1,100 people from sub-Saharan Africa trying to reach Europe stormed the border fence just after 0400 hrs (0300 hrs GMT) on New Year's Day in an "extremely violent and organised" way, said the central government's representative office in Ceuta. None however managed to get through but two who were badly injured and taken to hospital in Ceuta, the office said in a statement. A similar assault took place on the 9 Dec 16 saw more than 400 migrants enter the tiny enclave. They tried "to force open some of the doors in the external fence, using iron bars, wire cutters and large stones with which they assaulted Moroccan forces and [Spanish] Guardia Civil [police] agents," it added. Five Spanish policemen and 50 members of the Moroccan forces were injured, including one who lost an eye, it said. "From now on those making such attempts will be presented before the competent judicial authorities who will decree their expulsion from the kingdom [of Morocco] or heavier penalties, according the gravity of the act," Morocco's interior ministry said in a statement. Ceuta and Melilla, another Spanish territory in North Africa, have the European Union's only land borders with Africa. They are one of the entry points for African migrants seeking a better life in Europe, who get there by either climbing over the border fence, swimming along the coast, or hiding in vehicles. On the 2 Jan 16 a French national was arrested for trying to board a ferry out of Ceuta with a camper van where 12 Algerians were found hiding, "car sick and sweating", police said. Separately on the 1 Jan 16 Spanish police said a Moroccan woman was arrested in Ceuta last week for trying to smuggle a 19-year-old migrant from Gabon across the border with Spain curled up inside a suitcase. According to local authorities, of the 1,100 migrants who stormed the border on the 1 Jan 16 about 100 managed to climb up the external fence and stayed on top for hours. Footage shot by the local Faro TV shows one man perched at the top of the six-metre high fence, sitting uncomfortably near rolls of barbed wire, his head hanging down onto his chest. Eventually as darkness turns to light, he slowly climbs down to a space between both fences and lies down as a Spanish policeman fetches him a bottle of water before taking him to an entry back into Morocco. Separately, coastguards said they had rescued 52 people who were packed onto a small boat at sea south of Malaga on Spain's southern coast. 2016 was the deadliest year ever for migrants in the Mediterranean, with almost 5,000 deaths, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Spain – A man was reportedly carrying gasoline and gunpowder in his pockets as he entered the Mercadona shop, in As Lagoas, Ourense, Spain on the 12 Jan 17. Numerous shoppers were inside making their purchases when the assailant, who was armed with a shotgun, entered and fired several shots. Supermarket employees said he fired at least six shots during the terrifying ordeal. One employee said the man, who was standing just a few metres from him, yelled "Allahu Akbar." Police arrived at the scene to arrest the attacker. Officer Carlos Perez, who was already at the supermarket, revealed he was fired at when he tried to stop the attack. The 38-year-old revealed the attacker was only apprehended after his colleagues arrived. He said: "I had the impression that he ran out of ammunition." It is believed no shoppers were injured during the attack. Local media reported that the attacker had been living in the area for six months and had previously shopped in the supermarket. The 35-year-old was taken to a local police stations but refuses to speak to officers and shows no sign of remorse, according to insiders. Police sources told local media the gunman, who has been previously arrested, is believed to have psychological problems. The supermarket remained cordoned off while investigators questioned employees and witnesses.
United kingdom/Northern Ireland – A bomb recovered in west Belfast after a two day security operation could have killed, police have said. The alert began at 1800 hrs on the 14 Jan 17 after a report that a suspicious object had been left in the Brians Well Road area of Dunmurry. There was significant disruption as the Brians Well Road was closed. The road remained closed until the evening of the 15 Jan 17 when police confirmed that the device had been examined by Army experts who "declared it to be a viable explosive device". It is believed that those who left the deadly device had been targeting members of the PSNI Auto Crime Team. Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said: "I believe it was designed to kill or seriously injure officers serving the local community in west Belfast, but it was also left in a position where there is every possibility that it could have killed or maimed members of the public. "Those who left this device have shown callous disregard for the safety of the local community and the police officers serving this community. We are extremely fortunate that no one was killed or seriously injured." As Army experts dealt with the device, one republican website complained of "Crown forces" allegedly "swamping" west Belfast.