France – French police on the 18 Apr 17 arrested two men suspected of preparing an “imminent” attack, sources close to the probe said just days ahead of the first round of France's presidential vote. The suspects, aged 23 and 29, were arrested by French domestic intelligence service agents in the southern city of Marseille, one of the sources said.
France – A known terror suspect shot dead a French policeman and wounded two others on the 20 Apr 17 on Paris's Champs Elysees in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group days before a presidential election. Observers had long feared bloodshed ahead of the 23 Apr 17 vote in France following a string of atrocities since 2015 and the violence is likely to thrust security to the front of voters' minds. The shooter opened fire with an automatic weapon on a police van on the world-famous boulevard at around 2100 hrs local (1900 hrs GMT), prompting tourists and visitors to run for their lives. After killing the officer and injuring his colleagues just a few hundred metres from the Arc de Triomphe, the gunman was shot dead in return fire while trying to flee on foot, police sources said. A statement from the Islamic State group published by its propaganda agency Amaq said the attacker was "one of the Islamic State's fighters". The killer, identified as a 39-year-old French man, was known to anti-terror police, sources said, and raids took place at his address in a suburb to the east of Paris. He was arrested in Feb 17 on suspicion of plotting to kill officers but was released because of lack of evidence. He had been convicted in 2005 of three counts of attempted murder, with two of these against police officers, sources said. The impact on the outcome of the French election was unclear, Sunday (23 Apr 17) is the poll's first round, but far-right leader Marine Le Pen, her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron, and scandal-hit conservative Francois Fillon cancelled campaign events planned for the 21 Apr 17. French President Francois Hollande promised "absolute vigilance, particularly with regard to the electoral process" and paid tribute to the police. Hollande, who said he was convinced the shooting was a "terrorist act", cancelled a trip to Bretagne and will chair a security cabinet meeting Friday.
Germany/Taliban – A report claims that thousands of Afghan refugees suspected to be former Taliban militants may have entered Germany over the past two years. German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel said in report on the 22 Apr 17 that authorities were verifying statements of thousands of Afghan refugees, who had come to the European country and identified themselves as former members of the Taliban militant group during the asylum application process. Citing Germany’s Federal Migration Office (BAMF), the magazine said criminal investigations had been launched in 70 cases and that six Afghan refugees were being held in investigatory detention. It added that preliminary court hearings involving several other Afghans were due to start next week. Meanwhile, the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office also cautioned that it was already “pushed to the limit” by the large number of counter-terrorism investigations it had to conduct, with the agency opening 200 criminal cases against suspected terrorists in the year 2016. According to official figures from BAMF, Germany has accepted nearly one million refugees from war-torn or impoverished countries since the beginning of 2015, including tens of thousands of Afghan asylum seekers. The Afghan refugees constitute the second largest group of asylum seekers in Germany after Syrians. Berlin has been carrying out collective deportations based on an agreement with Kabul reached in early October 2016. In early February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on authorities to accelerate the deportations of rejected refugees as anti-refugee sentiments have been on the rise and there have been increasing demands pressed by opposition parties to curb the number of refugees. Europe has been experiencing an unprecedented influx of refugees over the past couple of years. The asylum seekers flee conflict-ridden zones in North Africa and the Middle East.
Germany – A German soldier who pretended to be a Syrian refugee and was allegedly planning a gun attack has been arrested in southern Germany it was reported on the 27 Apr 17. Prosecutors in Frankfurt said the 28-year-old suspect was motivated by a "xenophobic background". A student, 22, said to be a co-conspirator, has also been arrested. The soldier was first detained by Austrian police in Feb 17 after he tried to retrieve a handgun he had hidden in a toilet at Vienna airport. He was released but police subsequently discovered the suspect had registered as a Syrian refugee at a shelter in central Germany in Dec 15 and later officially requested political asylum in Bavaria, prosecutors said. No concerns were raised at the time, despite the man speaking no Arabic. German media report that he even received monthly payments and accommodation. "These findings, and indications of a xenophobic background of the Bundeswehr soldier, suggest that the accused was planning a serious crime endangering state security with the weapon that was earlier deposited at Vienna airport," the prosecutors' statement said. The gun is reported not to have come from the German armed forces. The man is a lieutenant normally stationed on a base near Strasbourg in north-east France, but he was arrested in Hammelburg in Bavaria, southern Germany, on the 26 Apr 17. Police searched 16 properties in Germany, France and Austria on the same day. Items banned under weapons and explosives laws were found in the student's home in Offenbach, near Frankfurt. Offenbach is also the soldier's hometown.
Spain/Belgium – Spanish police said on the 25 Apr 17 they had arrested nine men and raided 12 properties in Barcelona in an operation against suspected extremist militants believed to be linked to last year's attack on Brussels airport. The operations were carried out in conjunction with Belgian and Moroccan police. At least three of those arrested were suspected of links to the Belgian suicide bombings in March of last year, which killed 31 people at the Brussels airport and on a metro train, Spain’s High Court said in a statement. The nine arrested men were Moroccan apart from one Spaniard and were aged between 30 and 40, the police said. Most already had criminal records related to organized crime such as drug trafficking. Most had lived for more than 20 years in the north-eastern region of Catalonia, although they often returned to Morocco for visits, the court said. House searches turned up documents, computers and memory drives that will now be analyzed by authorities, as well as at least three guns and drugs including marijuana, the police and court said. Raids of houses in Morocco connected to the men are currently underway in collaboration with Moroccan police, the police said. The raids follow an eight-month investigation of a group of suspected extremist militants with links to organized crime in the Barcelona area, the police said. The investigation remains open. Police said they started tracking the gang as a result of a tip-off from a member of the public. The tip-off was an anonymous call to police from a member of the public concerned about drug trafficking, La Vanguardia newspaper said. Not including Tuesday’s arrests, Spain has detained 22 people in 16 separate operations this year in connection with extremism, according to Interior Ministry figures.
United Kingdom – A man was arrested by armed officers after an incident in Whitehall, near Parliament, police have said on the 27 Apr 17. A witness described seeing two knives on the ground, one of which he described as a large bread knife. A Metropolitan Police statement said there were no injuries. Security remains tight outside Whitehall buildings following the terror attack on Westminster Bridge and the entrance to Parliament on the 22 Mar 17.
United Kingdom – British police warned on the 28 Apr 17 they were facing an "increased level of terrorist activity", the day after a knifeman was arrested near parliament and a woman was shot in a separate police raid. Just weeks after the attack on the Houses of Parliament that left five people dead and scores injured, London is once again on high alert as Britain prepares for a snap election on the 8 Jun 17. "Yesterday was an extraordinary day in London," Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said, after confirming six arrests overnight. "I wanted to reassure the public that this increased level of terrorist activity is being matched by our action. We are making arrests on a near daily basis." A 27-year-old man remains in custody after being arrested near parliament on suspicion of terrorism offences and possession of knives, in what police confirmed had been an ongoing investigation. Just hours later, armed police raided a property in north London as part of an unrelated counter-terrorism investigation, firing CS gas as they entered and shooting a woman in her 20s. Six people have been arrested as part of the probe while the woman, who is also suspected of involvement, remains in a serious but stable condition in hospital. "Due to these arrests that have been made yesterday, in both cases I believe we have contained the threats that they posed," Basu said. Britain's national terror threat level has been at "severe", meaning an attack is highly likely, since August 2014, and remained unchanged after the attack on parliament on the 22 Mar 17. The man arrested on the 27 Apr 17 metres from parliament and Prime Minister Theresa May's Downing Street residence, had reportedly been tracked by police and the domestic intelligence agency MI5. Newspaper reports said he had been followed as he travelled into Westminster, in an investigation that originally began with a tip-off by someone close to him. "They stopped and searched him as part of an ongoing counter-terrorism investigation," Basu said, without giving further details. A witness saw firearms officers surrounding the bearded man and pinning him to the ground, before putting him in handcuffs. Construction worker David Wisniowski, who was working on a building site next to the incident, said he saw "three knives on the floor, one big one and two small". Hours later in Harlesden, a suburb in north London, armed police launched an unrelated counter-terrorism operation that resulted in six arrests overnight, five in the area and one in Kent, southeast England. The address had been under observation and the woman who was shot was one of the subjects of the investigation, Basu said. Because of her condition she has not yet been arrested. We are monitoring her condition closely," he said, adding that the police watchdog had been informed.