Europe – Police have targeted 17 people in raids in several European countries connected to a suspected jihadist network on the 12 Nov 15. Among those arrested were six suspects in Italy, four in Britain, and three in Norway. Police say some of the suspects may have travelled to Syria or Iraq. Italy's Ansa news agency said the suspects were accused of international terrorism association. The network was allegedly plotting to free its leader, Mullah Krekar, who is already in detention in Norway. Krekar, the Iraqi-Kurdish founder of the radical Islamist group, Ansar al-Islam, is one of those held in the operation. Two other suspects were arrested in Norway. The three of them are suspected of plotting attacks in Norway and other European countries, according to Italian police. They face extradition to Italy. Krekar - born Najm Faraj Ahmad - has served several jail sentences in recent years, including for praising the killing of staff at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Jan 15. The anti-terrorism operation included investigations in the UK, Norway, Finland, Germany and Switzerland, Italian police said. Arrest warrants were issued for 17 people and at least 13 were arrested. The detainees are suspected of involvement in a group called Rawti Shax, described as a "terrorist organisation of Kurdish-Sunni origin". Some suspects could not be located, as they are believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join jihadist organisations, according to the EU's judicial co-operation agency, Eurojust. Sixteen are Kurdish or Kosovan, according to Ansa news agency. In a statement, Eurojust said Rawti Shax - or Didi Nwe - represented "an evolution" of Ansar al-Islam, which is listed by the UN as a terrorist organisation affiliated with al-Qaeda. According to the Italian investigation, it was founded in Europe, with cells operating via the internet.
- Came to Norway as a refugee in 1991 from Iraq.
- Founded Ansar al-Islam, although he later tried to distance himself from the radical Islamist group.
- Norwegian authorities have been trying to deport him since 2003 after deeming him a threat to national security. However, under Norwegian law, he cannot be deported to Iraq because he could face the death penalty.
- Jailed in 2012 for making death threats against officials and others.
- Detained again in February 2015 after praising the Charlie Hebdo attack during a television interview.
Balkans – Since the emergence of the extremist Islamic State group (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, thousands of westerners have joined its ranks. The Western governments expressed fear of the returnee jihadists, who could carry out attacks against European and American interests in their countries it was stated on the 6 Nov 15. Dozens of ISIS jihadists have infiltrated into European countries and have recently installed a “secret base” in the Balkans, a Croatian official has said. The terror group has been able to organize dozens of militants in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to Croatian intelligence, a group of ISIS foreign militants, who are originally from the Balkans, have returned back to their native countries. “We have identified an ISIS senior member who most probably organize dozens of Balkan jihadists,” the official said on the condition of anonymity. Since 2012, hundreds of ISIS jihadists crossed the border into Syria and Iraq coming from the former Soviet republics. The source said that the ongoing refugee crisis may have facilitated the influx of ISIS sleeper cells into the heart of Europe. “Many of them may have sought asylum as Syrians,” he added In June, ISIS circulated a footage on the social media, showing a group of Balkan fighters in Syria, vowing their own government and the American interests with suicide attacks. The former Soviet countries are deemed to be vulnerable to radicalism. More than 1,500 Caucasian militants are fighting alongside the hard-line group in Syria and Iraq, Russian local media quoted officials as saying. Syrian civil rights activist Ahmed Mall, based in the ISIS-held city of Raqqa, told ARA News that the number of fighters from the former Soviet Union countries joining the ISIS ranks is continuously increasing, and that many of them have married with Syrian women, especially in the city of al-Bab in Syria’s Aleppo province. “ISIS leadership pays a lot of attention to such fighters, granting them commanding positions, due to their previous expertise in street wars,” the source added. Noteworthy, many videos published by ISIS group verified the existence of a significant number of Northern Territory fighters (Caucasus) who are engaged in battles in Syria and Iraq. Some of them occupy high-ranking positions, unlike other foreign jihadists in the ranks of the radical group. More than 20,000 foreign fighters are currently active in Syria and Iraq, where extremists of ISIS have taken over large areas, the U.N. says.
France – On the evening of the 13 Nov 15, Islamic State terrorists attacked several targets in Paris, France with devastating effect. Three teams carried out the attacks in the French capital which killed 129 people and left more than 350 wounded, the Paris chief prosecutor said. "We have to find out where they came from... and how they were financed," Francois Molins said in a statement to reporters. He said seven attackers had been killed, and that all had been heavily armed and wearing explosive belts. Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said France will continue with air strikes against IS in Syria and described the group as a very well-organised enemy. Mr Molins confirmed that one of the dead attackers had been identified as a 29-year-old Frenchman who had a criminal record, but had never spent time in jail. Omar Ismaïl Mostefai was identified after his finger was found at the Bataclan concert hall and matched fingerprints the police had on file.
La Belle Equipe, 92 rue de Charonne, 11th district - 19 dead in gun attacks
Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant at rue Alibert, 10th district - 15 dead in gun attacks
La Casa Nostra restaurant, 92 rue de la Fontaine au Roi, 11th district - five dead in gun attacks
Stade de France, St Denis, just north of Paris - explosions heard outside venue, three attackers and bystander dead
Bataclan concert venue, 50 Boulevard Voltaire, 11th district - 89 dead when stormed by gunmen
Islamic State released a statement on Saturday saying "eight brothers wearing explosive belts and carrying assault rifles" had carried out the attacks on "carefully chosen" targets, and were a response to France's involvement in the air strikes on IS militants in Syria and Iraq. At the time of compiling the report there were many police operations ongoing in Europe.
Spain – Terrorists following the lines laid out for them by the so-called Islamic State are setting their sights on Spain. And while there may be many reasons, one is obvious: Spain, at the urging of Washington, is being turned into a strategic base in the war to contain and eventually cut out the metastasized jihad that has spread across the Mediterranean basin it was reported on the 7 Nov 15. With little fanfare, a base near the town of Morón has been turned into a critical logistics and communication center for operations throughout the region. And, thus, a country that was once a transit point for terrorists is becoming their target. This week three Islamist were arrested in Madrid allegedly planning an attack there, and a statement by Ignacio Cosidó, Director General of Police, put the plot in perspective: “The majority of the operations in recent months were about networks devoted to the identification, recruiting and indoctrination of people to be sent to conflict zones, but these three had demonstrated clear intention to attack.” What you need to know about all this is that Europe and Africa, Spain and Morocco, virtually touch each other at the Strait of Gibraltar, although its never entirely clear if they are kissing or biting. And, most likely, relations wouldn’t be as good as they are, were it not for the role of the Washington as go-between. A U.S. Intelligence briefing document sums up ties south of the Strait: “Morocco and the United States have a long history of closed relations. The U.S. military trains with the Moroccan military on a regular basis.” While Spain, of course, is a member of NATO. The recurring problem is that so much is so close together. The Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla are embedded in the North African coast, with Morocco all around them and Algeria only 70 kilometres from the latter. For those who can make it over or through the fence, Spain has become the natural entry point to Europe from Africa, and that in addition to the fact that Andalusia, in continental Spain, was a historical enclave of Islam. (Yes, the Muslims and Jews were expelled in 1492, but people in this part of the world have long memories.) Only a few months ago the Soldiers of the Algerian Caliphate (an ISIS franchise) promised to attack the country and threatened to not stop until they had “reached al-Andalus.” The new generations of Spaniards tend to regard these daily threats with bored indifference. They were educated to the idea of integrating what once were called “the moors”; they were witnesses to the policy of “visas for all” pushed by the administration of former Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Yet this tolerance is being turned to anger in the Islamist ghettoes and barrios, which appear every week in the newspapers. One of the latest was the marginalized barrio of El Saladillo, in Algeciras near Gibraltar, where Ayoub el-Khazzani made his home. You might remember him from last August. He was the man who allegedly tried to slaughter travellers on the high-speed train between Brussels and Paris before some brave Americans got in his way. Four days after the frustrated terrorist attempt on the Thalys train, a joint operation of the Spanish and Moroccan police took apart an Islamist cell in Madrid and various Moroccan cities. Fourteen people were arrested who allegedly recruited new terrorists for the Islamic State. In September, an 18-year-old Moroccan woman was picked up in Gandía, Valencia, when she was preparing to travel to Syria to join ISIS. Her posts on social media tended to end, none too subtly, “Terrorism is a duty.” Ceuta and Melilla, on the southern side of the Med, are the two European cities that have sent the greatest number of affiliates to ISIS, according to a recent report by AICS, a major private intelligence and security firm in Spain. The experts believe that these cities are not terrorist targets, but logistical and strategic bases for their operations in Europe. Moroccan intelligence warned Spain this summer of the alarming number of “returnees” (jihadists coming back from the battlefields of Syrian or Iraq), trying to cross the border and enter Europe. It’s estimated some 3,000 such jihadists are living in northern Morocco. Presumably, the United States would rather see these folks stopped in Old Spain than in New York. So Washington has chosen the military base Morón de la Frontera near Seville (in Andalusia) as a nerve centre in the fight against jihadists, a commitment reinforced when Secretary of State John Kerry visited Spain in October. After the September 2012 attack on the temporary U.S. diplomatic mission and nearby CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens, a “Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force for Crisis Response” was established at Morón de la Frontera, and it has wound up with a leading role as Europe looks on with something like horror toward the threats developing in Africa. Morón had served as an important temporary staging area during the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions early in the last decade. But in mid-June, Spain and the United signed a modification of their bilateral accord that allowed the conversion of Morón to a permanent U.S. military base able to support 2,200 Marines, 500 civilians, and 36 aircraft. The work on infrastructure is well under way. And meanwhile the United States and Spain are carrying out joint military exercises. The Spanish city of Zaragoza hosted in October the biggest NATO exercise in a decade, Trident Juncture 2015, clearly intended as a message to the Russians in Syria as well as the jihadists arrayed across North Africa and the Middle East. Some of this build-up is a result of lessons learned (too late) from the Benghazi disaster, an oft-told tale recently highlighted by Hillary Clinton’s marathon testimony before Congress. In 2012, Washington sought desperately for a force that could deploy in time to rescue the besieged diplomats and operatives in Libya, but there was none to be had. The base at Morón reportedly will serve to help protect American embassies in the region and evacuate personnel quickly in case of a crisis, while it also has the ability to intervene in small-scale conflicts and in humanitarian disasters. If they are looking for threatened diplomatic missions, they won’t have to go far. One early morning in September the Madrid police evacuated dozens of people from the pubs and outdoor cafés of Diego de León street when it was thought a car bomb had been placed about 50 meters from the U.S. embassy. Fortunately, the Spanish police are well trained for this kind of thing after years fighting the Basque terrorist organization ETA. Although the bomb dogs determined this was a false alarm, the Ministry of Interior know that U.S. interests are a priority target for the Islamists. But it’s southward toward the Mediterranean where most of the attention is focused at Morón. Brig. Gen. Norman L. Cooling told the Spanish daily ABC that in addition to Morón’s own strategic location, negotiations are underway to use the amphibious assault ship Juan Carlos I, the pride of the Spanish navy, as support when deploying U.S. Marines in harm’s way. Initial tests have shown the ship can handle MV-22 Osprey aircraft, six of which will be based at Morón. The official text of the agreement between Madrid and Washington centres on operational questions and the amount of money to be expended (about $29 million in new infrastructure), but the Spanish government is not hiding its desire to build what amounts to a strategic defence able to slow Islamism where it is building momentum in northern and western Africa. Most especially, they are worried about the expansion of the Islamic State in Libya, and the relative ease with which it has carried out attacks on important tourist centres, like the recent beach massacre in Tunisia. The AICS consultancy reports it has discovered jihadist training camps only eight kilometres from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, in the area around the Moroccan town of Fnideq, a place through which many Moroccan Islamists have passed on their way to the Syrian war zone. Once again, all signs point to this being a long struggle against ISIS and its ilk, which is why Morón will be home to thousands of U.S. Marines, most likely, for many years to come.
United Kingdom/Islamic State/Europe – Four men were arrested in the UK on the 12 Nov 15 as part of an operation to break-up a terror recruitment ring that sent fighters to Iraq and Syria. European authorities said they have successfully destroyed the Norway-based terror cell after police in Italy issued 17 arrest warrants for Iraqi Kurds across Europe. Italian police said Najmaddin Faraj Ahmad, who was jailed in Norway last month for praising the Charlie Hebdo killings, was the ideological leader of the group. Norwegian media is reporting that he and two others are suspected of involvement in an alleged terror plot in Italy. The investigation monitored internet chats with members of the cell who were spread across, Britain, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway and Sweden. It is understood that none of the four men arrested in the UK are British nationals. The men aged 38, 32, 33 and 52, were held at addresses in Hull, Derby, Birmingham and Sheffield and will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court. Britain's North East Counter Terrorism Unit said: "We understand that people may be concerned following today's arrests, however we would like to reassure communities that today's activity is as a result of an ongoing investigation which is intelligence-led.” "There is no evidence to suggest that communities are at risk."
United Kingdom/ISIS – MI5 is on high alert amid fears that ISIL fanatics are already plotting revenge attacks for the reported killing of Jihadi John in a drone strike in Raqqa, Syria it was reported on the 14 Nov 15. The communications of known sympathisers are being monitored closely as surveillance is stepped up to prevent a terrorist outrage in revenge for the operation which is now widely acknowledged to have resulted in the death of Mohammed Emwazi– who as Jihadi John – earned global notoriety. In a separate development it has also been disclosed that Jihadi John has fathered a son who is entitled to British citizenship and could be brought to live in the UK. The identity and nationality of the boy’s mother is not known, but as a British citizen. Although one or two officials in Washington are counselling caution, there is now an overwhelming consensus that Jihadi John was killed in the drone strike along with a sympathiser – possibly his driver – as their car hurtled through the Syrian town of Raqqa. Gradually details of how the British Jihadist was tracked down and then attacked by drone has started to emerge. A British drone, operating from Lincolnshire, helped track Emwazi, although what are believed to have been the fatal shots were fired by the Americans. According to one report he was tracked for six weeks before the decisive strike was made. At various times reports have said that Jihadi John was “evaporated” or “incinerated” and “eviscerated” during the strike. In a separate development, there were reports that the Turkish authorities had captured his closest associate, Aine Lesley Davis, who is also a Briton. Reaction to the death of Emwazi has varied. Col. Steve Warren, the Pentagon spokesman, was jubilant. “He was a primary recruitment tool for that organization. We’re all familiar with the ghastly videos- the absolute barbarism that he displayed against American citizens. I mean this guy was a human animal, and killing him is probably making the world a better place.” But the families of his victims were rather less triumphant. Dragana Prodanovic Haines, the Croatian wife of David Haines, a British aid worker, said the Jihadist’s death would mean one monster less, but she still wished he had been captured alive.