Europe/Da’esh – With the Islamic State group on the back foot after a string of military defeats, foreign volunteers for the jihadist group are returning home and creating a massive security challenge, experts said on the 9 Sep 16. These radicalised individuals, who have often received weapons and explosives training, are a "time bomb" as they flee the Islamic State and Syria and return home, France's top prosecutor has said. The risk is especially acute for France, which has been attacked in the past year by jihadists hardened from time spent with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. "At some time or another we will be faced with the return of a large number of French fighters and their families," Francois Molins, France's anti-terrorism prosecutor, told the daily Le Monde. "Nearly 700 jihadists who are either French or live in France are in Iraq and Syria at the moment," Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. "Their return represents an additional threat to our national security... We have to be prepared to fight back. It's going to be a long fight." Like many countries, France has tightened its legislation surrounding returning extremists. Suspects identified after being tracked by security services on their journey to Syria - in the vast majority of cases by passing through Turkey - are now systematically arrested when they try to re-enter France. Many face trial and are given prison sentences. Molins, the prosecutor, said nearly 1,000 individuals "are currently, or have been, investigated for Islamist terrorism". Around 280 have been charged and 167 of those prosecutions have led to jail terms. But the limits to placing dangerously radicalised individuals under surveillance were shown in July, when two young extremists, including one wearing an electronic tag after twice attempting to go to Syria, killed an elderly priest near Rouen in northern France. "Straight away there are questions about them being held in custody," Yves Trotignon, a former anti-terrorist analyst at France's foreign intelligence agency (DGSE), said. "Will they be radicalised in prison? These are dangerous individuals and if they are tried on the facts set out by the prosecution, they will get two or three years. What happens to them after that?" Trotignon said that of greater concern to security services were the hardcore jihadists who had years of experience staying under the radar. "There won't be too many of them, but the real danger is those who are going to come back and are still convinced of the righteousness of their cause and who are going to plan attacks. "We have known for a few months that IS(IS) are preparing for defeat militarily, so it is going to once again become an underground movement." Foreign fighters returning home to Europe who still intend to carry out attacks will bide their time, Trotignon believes. "They are not going to take a direct flight to Western Europe. They are going to go on a winding route and make stops on the way and it could take several months. They might go to countries where they will change identity - we've already seen that happen. "They will disappear into gaps, only to re-appear later." Turkey's role is crucial. The Turkish army has seized control of several kilometres of the border with Syria that ISIS formerly used to pass fighters and equipment. "The border is now very much sealed," a diplomat told French journalists. "The Turks have done a huge amount of work, they have filled in holes and built walls. If you try to get into or out of Turkey illegally, you will be shot at." More than 50,000 people are now barred from entering Turkey, the diplomat said, and 150 French nationals have been arrested in the country and returned to France in handcuffs.
Europe/Da’esh – Intelligence chiefs fear Islamic State is planning to launch deadly car bomb attacks on European cities, it was revealed on the 26 Sep 16. Officials believe the jihadi terrorists could use vehicles packed full of explosives as a new ploy to bring fresh devastation to the continent. The EU's counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove warned Europe needed to prepare for an 'exodus' of thousands of fighters returning from Iraq and Syria. He also cautioned there is an increasing risk Libya will be used as a 'springboard' to launch attacks on Europe. Mr de Kerchove, who is the EU's senior anti-terror official, told MEPs: 'The terrorist threat has never been so high in the last 20 years. 'We fear that Da’esh might step-by-step move to other modus operandi. Car bombs might be one. We know how much they learn how to build vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. And there is a concern as well on the use of chemical weapons.' Car bombs can be particularly deadly as vehicles can be packed with large amounts of explosives and driven into the centres of busy cities areas without attracting suspicion. More than 5,000 Europeans are believed to have travelled to conflict areas in Syria and Iraq with fears they could come back and launch attacks at home. Mr de Kerchove said: 'A serious issue is the returnees, the exodus of the fighters, not if because we are sure that it will happen, but when the caliphate will collapse. 'How will we handle not hundreds but thousands of fighters who will either want to go to another hotspot – Libya is probably the most obvious one but there are many others where they can hide – or they may want to get back home? 'We will have to handle a high number and a diversity of profiles: people who have worked on the frontlines as fighters, people who have worked in the back office, but also wives of fighters and children. We know more than 500 children were born there.' EU countries are working together to make it harder for people to become foreign fighters, but Mr de Kerchove said this meant many of those radicalised online are remaining in Europe. 'We have less and less Europeans going to Syria because it is more difficult to reach Syria these days, but we have more and more people inspired,' he said. Syrian refugees arriving in Europe are also seen at risk of being recruited to Islamic State. Mr de Kerchove said: 'We have seen in some member states – in particularly Germany – salafist organisations already trying to recruit in the refugee camps. 'It is not a coincidence because they will want to compromise the refugees, as it may trigger the vicious circle of Islamophobia and radicalisation.' Islamic State has also established a foothold in Libya. Mr de Kerchove said: 'The concern is to see Libya developing more and more into a springboard for Da’esh and a place from which attacks could be planned on Europe.'
France – The 'radicalised' owner of a car found packed with gas cylinders close to Notre Dame Cathedral was arrested, police have revealed on the 7 Sep 16. The vehicle, a Peugeot 607 without a licence plate, was found with its hazard lights flashing close to the landmark building in the heart of the French capital. Documents with writing in Arabic were also found in the car. Police said the car's owner, who is now in custody, is on an intelligence services watchlist of people suspected of religious radicalisation. One of the seven canisters inside was empty when police found the abandoned vehicle parked on a Seine riverside stretch called the Quai de Montebello in the fifth arrondissement of Paris on the night of the 3 Sep 16. However, police official revealed the incident on the 7 Sep 16: 'We think he may have been trying to carry out a test-run.' The cylinders were not thought to have been connected to detonator. There are reports in France that two people have been arrested. The car's owner and an associate, both known to police, were arrested police said, and anti-terror prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation. The mysterious car had no number plate, but investigators have spent the past four days raiding the homes of anybody who might be linked to it. Six people were originally arrested, and two remain in custody, including a woman who is on a security watchlist. Da’esh has threatened Notre Dame as part of its violent campaign against France for sending warplanes to bomb countries including Syria. In May, Patrick Calvar, the head of France's DGSI internal security agency, said he was confident Da’esh would 'reach the stage of car bombs'.
France/ Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel – French police have reportedly detained eight men linked to lorry attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who murdered 86 people on the seafront at Nice. Police carried out a wave of arrests on the 19/20 Sep 16 in and around Nice. Bouhlel drove a lorry into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day on 14 July. He was originally thought to have acted on his own, but prosecutors later said he had accomplices. Six suspects have already been placed under formal investigation as part of the inquiry. The attack was claimed by jihadist group Islamic State (IS), and anti-terror prosecutor Francois Molins said it had been planned for months in advance. The six initial suspects have been accused of providing Bouhlel either with a pistol or with logistical support. The latest arrests involve French and Tunisian men, reports say.
Germany/Hate Attack – Bomb attacks hit a mosque and a convention centre in the eastern German city of Dresden, police said on the 27 Sep 16 adding that the motive appeared to be xenophobia and nationalism. No one was injured in the explosions late on the 26 Sep 16 in a city that has become a hotspot for far-right protests and hate crimes following a major influx of migrants and refugees into Germany. The imam, his wife and two sons were in the Fatih Camii mosque at the time of the blast. Police said they found the remains of homemade explosives at both crime scenes. "Although no one has so far claimed responsibility, we must assume that there was a xenophobic motive," Horst Kretschmar, the Dresden police chief, said. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the mosque attack was "all the more scandalous" because it happened on the eve of the 10th annual meeting of the German Islam Conference. Police linked the explosion at the congress centre to celebrations due to take place next week in Dresden marking the 26th anniversary of German unification, which is to be attended by German President Joachim Gauck. "We have now switched to crisis mode," Kretschmar said, as police deployed to guard the city's two mosques and an Islamic cultural centre. About 300 worshippers regularly attend Friday prayers at the Fatih Camii mosque, which lies a short distance from Dresden's historic centre. The explosion at the mosque was detonated at 1953 hrs GMT on the 26 Sep 16. The force of the blast pushed the front door of the building inwards and left the building covered with soot, police said. The explosion at the convention centre - about 2 kilometres from the Fatih Camii mosque on the River Elbe, which runs through Dresden - occurred about half an hour later. Dresden, a Baroque city in Germany's ex-communist east, is also the birthplace of the anti-immigration Pegida street movement, short for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident. Its members have angrily protested against the influx of refugees and migrants that last year brought one million asylum seekers to Europe's biggest economy. About a dozen demonstrations are planned during the weekend, by both Pegida and by anti-fascist groups. Saxony state premier Stanislaw Tillich called the "cowardly" bombings an "attack on freedom of religion and on the values of an enlightened society" that could easily have claimed lives. Far-right hate crimes targeting shelters for asylum seekers in Saxony rose to 106 in 2015, with another 50 recorded in the first half of this year. In an annual report outlining progress since reunification, the government warned last week that growing xenophobia and right-wing "extremism" could threaten peace in eastern Germany. De Maiziere said he understood that many Muslims in Germany did not wish to apologise for every act of "terrorism" that is carried out in the name of Islam. But he said he expected more from the Muslim organisations in Germany. "I think it would be advisable that the security debate becomes more intense and also more public in the future," he said. "Political influence from abroad in Germany through religion is something we cannot accept," said de Maiziere. However, Muslim leaders attending the 10th anniversary of the dialogue forum hit back. It was wrong, "to brand Muslims as representatives of foreign powers and to speak of them as having a representive role", said Bekir Alboga, the secretary-general of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs.
Germany – German police closed a motorway at the Austrian border overnight after stopping a car carrying suspected bomb-making materials it was reported on the 30 Sep 16. During a routine check at the Kiefersfelden border crossing, police found "explosive-like" materials in a Polish-registered car. The discovery triggered a major security operation. The police detained the Polish driver and his three African passengers, from Ivory Coast and Guinea. The A93 motorway was later reopened. Three pipes were found in the car which police suspect were intended for pipe bombs. They also found a large amount of gunpowder in the car, as well as connecting wires and several mobile phones. The Polish driver's intentions remain a mystery. He is suspected of trafficking the Africans into Germany illegally. German police have stepped up checks on vehicles entering from Austria since last year's unexpected influx of 1.1 million migrants and refugees.