Learning to live with terror?
Many countries have increased the number of armed security forces patrolling Europe's streets to deal with the threat, while police are now well-drilled in responding to incidents. Further investments in intelligence-gathering and information-sharing between EU members could also help reduce the risk of future violence, some experts believe. In Syria and Iraq, military action by Western powers and their local allies has also shrunk the territory and resources available to IS, which claimed Thursday's attack in Barcelona. Jean-Pierre Filiu, an expert on terrorism at the Sciences Po University in Paris, warned against thinking the military defeat of the organisation would bring an end to the wave of assaults. "They want to show that they are still effective despite the territorial losses. But it's not because they are retreating in Iraq and Syria that they are striking now," he said on France Inter radio. The Radicalization Awareness Network, an EU research body, warned last month that 1,200-3,000 jihadists risked returning to Europe after fighting in Iraq and Syria, out of an estimated 5,000 who joined the terror groups there. Nathalie Goulet, a French senator who sits on a parliamentary panel tasked with analysing jihadist groups, said it was important to avoid anti-Muslim rhetoric, which plays into the hands of the extremists. One of IS's stated goals is turning Western governments and citizens against Muslim minorities in their countries. "You need to look at the reality. Telling people that banning Muslims... or closing mosques will resolve the problem is lying," she said in a recent interview. "Someone who gets into their car and crashes into a crowd, unfortunately we need to learn to live with that and every citizen must remain vigilant," she said.
Europe/Libya – An unknown armed group in Sabratha, to the west of Tripoli, is reportedly preventing and detaining migrants in Libya from boarding boats destined for Italy and the European mainland it was reported on the 30 Aug 17. News of the group’s activities helps explain the recent dramatic drop in migrant arrivals in Europe from North Africa. Arrivals in Italy from North Africa, the main route for migration to Europe this year, were off more than 50% in July from a year earlier. Figures for August indicate a further reduction. Thought to be made up of former police officers, military personnel and civilians, the precise identity of the group remains unknown. Speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, a civil society organiser said the group is conducting a “very strong campaign” launched by a “former mafia boss,” a second Sabratha source said. A third source told Reuters that the group was detaining migrants turned back while en route to Europe and provided an image of hundreds of potential migrants sitting in front of a high wall as evidence. It was not possible to contact the group, which the third source said was called Brigade 48, although other sources did not confirm this. European countries and international agencies have been seeking to work with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli to formulate a cohesive response to migrants travelling to Europe from North Africa. Their efforts have only had limited success, however. One of the sources contacted by Reuters speculated that the Sabratha group may be seeking both funds and legitimacy from the GNA in helping it achieve one of its key aims. Italy has been especially affected by migrant flows into Europe and in recent years has been trying to support the GNA with cash, training and by sending a ship to repair Tripoli’s Coast Guard and naval vessels. Approximately 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by sea from North Africa since 2014. More than 12,000 others died trying. Reports of the armed group’s activities were supported by testimony provided to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which interviewed migrants who arrived in Trapani, Sicily on August 19. The NGO’s spokesman said: “They said that it was very difficult to depart from Sabratha. There are people stopping the boats before they set out and if they get out to sea they’re immediately sent back." Some migrants spoke of being turned back before reaching Sabratha, they said. News of the drop in migrant numbers was welcomed in Italy, with Interior Minister Marco Minniti saying that he could see the “light at the end of the tunnel.” Italy wants to replicate a deal with Libya that the European Union struck with Turkey last year, largely shutting down the migrant route through Greece and the Balkans. With a national election looming during the first half of next year and fears of widespread civil unrest commonplace, the government in Rome is under pressure to show it can stop, or at least slow, migration.
This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.
Belgium – A man was shot dead after attacking soldiers with a machete in Brussels, in what prosecutors are treating as a terror attack on the 26 Aug 17. The Somali attacker, aged 30, died in hospital. One of the soldiers suffered a hand injury. The attack took place on Boulevard Emile Jacqmain in the centre of the city. Belgium's federal prosecutor's office said the attacker had not been "known for terrorist activities" but had shouted "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest" in Arabic) during the assault.
Belgium/Terrorism – Belgian prosecutors have opened more than 20 new probes against people suspected of terrorism-related offenses on average every month since the start of the year, with the total number reaching 189 to date, local media reported on the 25 Aug 17. The figure is already nearing the mark for similar cases opened throughout 2014, when the total number was 195. The average number of monthly cases opened also exceeds last year’s figure, which amounted to 22, the Belgian newspapers De Tijd and L'Echo report. The Belgian media also report that the focus of investigators’ attention has now shifted from extremists who left Belgium to fight alongside terrorist groups in the Middle East, as it was in 2015, to “home-grown radicals” who have never left for Syria or Iraq, as well as towards increasingly younger suspects. Investigations were also opened into cases in which Belgian citizens became victims of terrorist attacks in other countries, such as Spain, Turkey or Sweden. The Belgian authorities say that the risk of a terrorist attack in the country remains high. All Belgian law enforcement and security services “from local police to state security service” are now working “primarily on terrorism” and collect as much information on possible terrorist threats as “never before,” the newspapers report. They add that the Federal Prosecutor’s Office has recently been strengthened through an increase in the number of magistrates from 24 to 32, with 12 of them now working solely on terrorism-related cases. So far, 289 people have been tried for terrorism-related offenses since Jan 15, according to media reports. Belgium was hit by one of the worst terrorist attacks in Europe in recent years when in Mar 16 suicide bombings at Brussels Airport and the city’s metro killed 32 people and left scores more injured. It was later revealed that one of the suicide bombers, Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, was known to the authorities for his criminal background, while Turkey had also warned he was a “foreign terrorist fighter.” Belgium has a substantial migrant population and the largest per capita number of fighters that left to join terrorists in Iraq and Syria, according to a study by the Hague-based International Center for Counter-Terrorism, released in Apr 16. In one of the latest incidents, explosives, loaded AK-47s, police and other uniforms as well as three handguns, ammunition and two bulletproof vests were found during raids in Brussels in early Jul 17. Two men suspected of “participating in activities of a terrorist group” were arrested following the discovery of the arsenal.
Finland – Finnish police shot a man who reportedly stabbed several people in city of Turku on the 18 Aug 17. Police in Finland say they believe the killing of two people in the south-western city of Turku on the 18 Aug 17 was a terrorist attack. They said the attacker, who was shot in the leg by police and taken into custody, was an 18-year-old Moroccan. The two people stabbed to death were both Finnish. Eight people were also injured, among them two Swedes and one Italian. Officers carried out a number of raids overnight. Police said in a statement: "The act had been investigated as murder, but during the night we received additional information which indicates that the criminal offences are now terrorist killings." They said the identity of the 18-year-old Moroccan was known, but they have not released it. The suspect and two other people are still being treated in hospital. Police said a press briefing would be held at 1400 hrs local (1100 hrs GMT). The attack happened in the Puutori/Market Square area of Turku. Police said the alarm was raised at 1602 hrs local (1302 hrs GMT) on the 18 Aug 17 when a man was reported to have attacked passers-by with a knife. Witnesses said he then ran to a nearby square and stabbed more people before he was shot in the thigh. Police said he was arrested at 1605 hrs local.
France – Police arrested a knife-wielding man wearing a Paris Saint-Germain football shirt after he tried to breach security at the Eiffel Tower on the night of the 6 Aug 17. The man, who is aged around 19 and has a history of psychological problems, forced his way past security guards and then shouted 'Allahu Akbar', a legal source said. Soldiers who are permanently stationed at the Eiffel Tower ordered him to drop his weapon, which he did without attacking anyone, the source added. The monument, which was lit up to celebrate Paris St Germain football team signing Brazilian footballer Neymar, was evacuated at around 0030 hrs. The man, who was apparently alone, was 'very quickly overpowered and arrested' and nobody was hurt, a statement from the company that runs the monument said. After the arrest, police at the site checked the venue and called for it to be evacuated 15 minutes before the Eiffel Tower normally closes, the statement added.
France – A car rammed into a group of soldiers in a Parisian suburb on 9 Aug 17 injuring six before speeding off in what officials identified as a suspected terrorist attack. The vehicle, a BMW, was parked in an alley before it accelerated into the soldiers as they left their barracks to go on patrol, said Patrick Balkany, mayor of Levallois-Perret. "The vehicle did not stop. It hurtled at them ... it accelerated rapidly," he told broadcaster BFM TV. Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said the driver was on the run and being sought, and an investigation was under way to determine "the motives and circumstances" for what she called a "cowardly act". A justice ministry official said counter-terrorism investigators had been assigned to the case. The incident follows a string of Islamist-inspired attacks on soldiers and police, who have been deployed in large numbers nationwide after calls by militant group Islamic State for attacks on France and other countries bombing its strongholds in Syria and Iraq. The soldiers hit on the 9 Aug 17 were rushed to hospital and police said two of the six were seriously injured.Balkany said that what he called a "disgusting" act of aggression was "without any doubt" premeditated. Jean-Claude Veillant, resident of an apartment building directly above the scene, witnessed part of the attack. "I heard a loud noise, the sound of scraping metal. Shortly after, I saw one of the badly wounded lying in front of the Vigipirate (army patrol) vehicle and another one behind it receiving treatment," he told reporters. This year, assailants attacked soldiers at the Louvre museum site in Paris in February and at Orly airport in March. An assailant shot a policeman dead on the Champs Elysees Avenue in the capital in April. Another man died after ramming his car into a police van in June and soldiers disarmed a knife-wielding man at the Eiffel Tower earlier this month. The car in this attack, which police said was dark-coloured and probably a BMW, was parked near the edge of the Place de Verdun square in the centre of Levallois-Perret, a relatively affluent suburb on the western edge of Paris. The area, quieter than normal in peak summer holiday season, was cordoned off after the incident, which happened at around 0800 hrs police said. Levallois-Perret is about 5 km (3 miles) from city centre landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Elysee Presidential Palace.
Germany/Iran/Jordan/Turkey/Israel/United States – The Iran-backed cyber-espionage group CopyKittens has increased activities, launching attacks on governments, defence companies and academic institutions in support of Tehran’s political agenda, a report said on the 13 Aug 17. An investigative study by Israeli firm ClearSky Cybersecurity and Trend Micro called Operation Wilted Tulip traced CopyKittens’ activities to 2013, shedding light on its work patterns and possible motivations. The report revealed that CopyKittens’ activities mostly centred on espionage of strategic targets, particularly Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Israel, Germany and the United States. The group extracted information from government organisations, academic institutions, online news sites and NGOs with the objective of gathering “as much information and data from target organisations as possible,” the report said. CopyKittens used rudimentary techniques, such as phishing, malicious e-mail attachments and, more recently, watering hole attacks to gather information. “It’s more that the methods they are using are efficient. They are getting out the data that they need to,” said Robert McArdle, director of research at Trend Micro, adding that the group’s lack of refinement makes it relatively easy to track CopyKittens’ activities compared to more sophisticated campaigns that could go on for years without being detected. McArdle said CopyKittens’ methods are of the more traditional variety, using exploits to take advantage of out-of-date systems, so if the user is missing updates or patches, an automatic infection is more likely. A lot of the group’s attacks go after the most vulnerable parts of any organisation — humans. “In any computer network security chain, the weakest link in always the human element,” said Iyad Barakat, a London-based digital analyst. “Groups more sophisticated than CopyKittens will try to target the human element in the chain, using techniques like a watering hole attack to simply extract passwords because these methods save them time, effort and usually have a higher success rate than the more sophisticated ones.” McArdle said an effective method to gain the human element’s trust is a social engineering campaign, which uses a number of psychological tricks to get the information needed to access a computer network. “Social engineering is relatively quick and easy to do in terms of setting up fake e-mail accounts or fake Facebook accounts or whichever social networking profile you are going with,” McArdle said, adding that effort is required to manage these resources and accounts. Social engineering can’t be stopped with traditional protection methods, said David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. “Social engineering works and even if businesses have the right protection, without the right staff education they can fall victim,” Emm said. “Awareness is low in the Middle East as generally Western businesses have had longer to grapple with such issues.” One effective trick that CopyKittens used, McArdle said, is reaching important targets through other compromised accounts. Once CopyKittens gained access to an e-mail account in an organisation, it would not immediately try to take over higher-level targets in the company but log on and wait for a natural conversation to start between the person whose account it controls and the target. It might then reply to an e-mail thread, saying: “You might want to open this link.” During the Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference in May in Dubai, experts urged for more cybersecurity cooperation between countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Middle East cyber-security market is projected to grow to $22.14 billion by 2022, with Saudi Arabia expected to contribute the largest share.
CopyKittens is an espionage group that has been attacking Israeli targets since at least August 2014. Among the targets are high ranking diplomats at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and well-known Israeli academic researchers specializing in Middle East Studies. Matryoshka is the name we gave the malware built by CopyKittens. It is a multi-stage framework, with each part integrates into the subsequent one. CopyKittens assembled Matryoshka from code snippets picked from public repositories and online forums, hence their nickname. Matryoshka is spread through spear phishing with a document attached to it. The document has either a malicious macro that the victim is asked to enable, or an embedded executable the victim is asked to open. DNS requests and answers are used for command and control communication and for data exfiltration. Based on the type of targets, delivery, and malware used – we estimate that CopyKittens are a state actor or are endorsed by one. (Read the full report: The CopyKittens attack group.)
Great Britain/Yemen – The British government and the Merchant Navy on the 17 Aug 17 have issued a warning alerting commercial ships of the potentiality of being attacked by remote controlled booby-trapped boats or rocket launchers. The concerned ships involve those passing through Bab-el-Mandeb strait and Gulf of Aden. The warning was issued after two commercial carriers were attacked by rockets at the southern entrance of Bab el-Mandab in broad daylight near the Yemeni isle of Perim. The booby-trapped boats headed towards the ship with high acceleration. The statement said: “In previous situations of the sort, attacks were launched via hand grenades, or rocket-propelled grenades. However, the last two attacks involved booby-trapped boats which blew up some distance away from the targeted ship, however the intention was to detonate the hull.”
Holland/Spain – Dutch police were on the 24 Aug 17 investigating possible terror links after arresting a Spaniard driving a van containing gas canisters close to a rock concert which was abruptly cancelled over fears of an attack. The man "was arrested and taken to the police station," Rotterdam police said in a tweet late on the 23 Aug 17 following a tip-off from Spanish authorities. The arrest came little under a week after twin vehicle attacks in Spain killed 15 people, which were claimed by the Islamic State group. Dutch bomb squad officials "were investigating the van" which was found just two streets away from the Maassilo concert hall where an American rock band were due to play, they added. "What I saw was a vehicle with lots of gas cylinders inside and inside the boot," witness Usama Mohamed said. Earlier in the evening Dutch authorities decided to cancel the concert by Californian group Allah-Las in Europe's largest port city after a tip-off from Spanish police around 1730 hrs local (1530 hrs GMT) about a possible terror attack. "In the early evening I was warned by telephone that we had received a threat which had implications for an American concert at the Maassilo in Rotterdam," the city's mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, told a hastily-called press conference. "This signal came from the Spanish police to the Dutch police," he added. But Aboutaleb, the country's first Muslim and immigrant-born mayor who has spoken out against Islamic terror groups, added an investigation was under way and "we cannot say now if the van with the canisters was linked to the threat". The four-piece band, from Los Angeles, had been escorted from the concert hall by police wearing bullet-proof vests. In a statement sent to AFP, they said they were "unharmed and are very grateful to the Rotterdam police and other responsible agencies for detecting the potential threat before anyone was hurt". Rotterdam police said that afterwards an officer "stationed close to the venue decided to stop a van that he saw driving at around 2130 hrs". "The van had Spanish plates and was driven by a Spanish national. Inside the van were a couple of gas bottles. Whether there is a link with the terror threat is being looked into," the statement in English said, adding "the driver was taken into custody". The international connections of the cell of mostly Moroccan nationals behind the Spanish attacks are being probed as investigators retrace their movements to France and Belgium. Spanish police carried out new raids overnight of the 22/23 Aug 17 after vehicles ploughed into pedestrians on Barcelona's busy Las Ramblas boulevard and a seaside promenade in the resort town of Cambrils. Spanish court documents have shown that at least 500 litres of acetone, large quantities of nails and detonators as well as gas canisters were found in raids on a house in the town of Alcanar, south of Barcelona. The Rotterdam building where the 23 Aug 17 concert was to be held, which can hold about 1,000 people, was searched by the Dutch anti-terror squad after the crowd had been evacuated. The Netherlands has so far been spared from the slew of terror attacks which have rocked its closest European neighbours in past years. But amid a number of scares here in recent months, and reports that people linked to some of the attacks may have crossed briefly into the country, concerned top Dutch security and intelligence officials have been keeping a wary eye on events. A spokesman for the Dutch justice ministry said the threat level in The Netherlands remained at "four" out of a possible five. "Nothing has changed for the moment," Lodewijk Hekking said, meaning the threat levels remains that there is the real possibility of an attack in the Netherlands. The arrest comes months after a Dutch man -- who was known to authorities as being possibly radicalised -- was arrested filming outside one of the country's largest stadiums during a concert. The 29-year-old from Amsterdam was detained in Jun 17 outside the Philips Stadium in southern Eindhoven where popular Dutch pop singer Guus Meeuwis was performing. Police said at the time "he had no reasonable explanation for what he doing, and also had no ticket to the concert". The performance ended without incident. It followed an attack in May 17 at the end of a concert in Manchester by US singer Ariana Grande in which a suicide bomber killed 22 people including seven children.
Spain – On the 17 Aug 17 at approximately 1650 hrs local (1450 hrs GMT) a white van drove into pedestrians along the Las Ramblas boulevard in central Barcelona, Spain. The boulevard was heavily populated with locals and numerous tourists of different nationalities. The driver of the van was witnessed to have driven the vehicle in a zigzag configuration at speed in order to incapacitate as many people as possible. During the time of reporting (18 Aug17) the casualty report was 14 people fatally wounded with a further 100 people injured, however, the extent of injuries is unknown and the death toll could rise. Later a large police man-hunt was instigated to look for the driver who had fled on foot after the Barcelona attack. The driver was believed to have been Moussa Oukabir, 18 years-old. It is believed he used documents belonging to his 28 year-old brother, Driss Oukabir, to hire the van in order to carry out the attack in Barcelona. Driss Oukabir was arrested by Spanish police in the town of Ripoll near Catalonia on the 18 Aug 17. On the 19 Aug 17 a French security official said that the Spanish police were on the lookout for a Renault Kangoo which had been rented on the 17 Aug 17 and may have crossed into France. Approximately eight hours later authorities reported an A3 Audi saloon vehicle drove into pedestrians in the seaside town of Cambrils 110km (68 miles) south-west of Barcelona. One female was fatally wounded and died later in hospital and five others, including one policeman, were also hurt. The attackers vehicle overturned and five people alighted some of which were alleged to have been wearing suicide belts but later turned out to be fake, and were fatally wounded by nearby Spanish police officers. Four died instantly with the fifth dying later of his injuries. They were later named as; Moussa Oukabir, 17, Said Aallaa, 18, Mohamed Hychami, 24, as yet two other unnamed males. The Spanish authorities on the 18 Aug 17 believe that may have been up to eight people in the terrorist cell which carried out the attacks. It was also reported that the group may have been planning to use butane gas canisters a judicial source was reported as saying, but it is unsure at present as to in which capacity. It is thought that Oukabir was the ringleader but had not been highlighted by police as a possible terrorist. Social media accounts linked to him contained a number of comments. One comment that he had replied to stated, “kill all infidels and only allow Muslims to continue the religion.” On the evening of the 16 Aug 17 a large explosion in a house 200 km (120 miles) was said to have been linked to the attack in Barcelona. Police believe that the perpetrators were attempting to build an explosive device. The explosion fatally wounded at least one person in the house and injured a male occupant who was later taken to hospital; others who were injured in the blast were neighbours. In a press conference held by Josep Lluis Trapero, head of Mossos police believed there was a connection between the occupants of the house and the attackers in the Barcelona attack. Inside the house the police found approximately 20 butane and propane gas canisters. The police believe that the house had been occupied for a few months. El Mundo reported that it was possible that at least a dozen people were operating in the house that was destroyed by the blast. It is believed that the house was being used as a bomb factory and the cell were preparing terrorist acts that would have caused more deaths against designated targets. Police who searched the remains of the building after the explosion discovered a huge amount of gas canisters approximately 120. The police believe that canisters were intended to be packed into a vehicle and driven into crowds. Police chief Josep Lluis Trapero stated that they were planning “a much bigger atrocity”. Da’esh the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack the groups’ news agency stated. On the 19 Aug 17 the name of the driver was given to the press and media, he was named as Moroccan born Younes Abouyaaqoub. Abouyaaqoub who was 22 years old lived in a town known as Ripoll to the north of Barcelona. Three others; Driss Oukabir, 28, gave himself up to police stating that his documents had been allegedly stolen. Sahel el-Karib, 34, and Mohammed Aallaa, 27 were arrested One other was arrested in Alcanar after the house explosion on the 16 Aug 17. At noon on the 19 Aug 17 Spanish officials reported that the terror cell responsible for the two terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils had been completely dismantled. On the 20 Aug 17 the Catalan police chief gave an update; he believed that the terrorist cell consisted of 12 people and had now been dismantled due to the amount of personnel who had been killed and arrested. There was, at this time, one outstanding member who was still avoiding the police search. He also stated that the attacks had been in the planning stage for approximately six months and the Alcanar House was the location that the explosives had been prepared for the attacks. At the scene of the explosion on the night of the 16 Aug 17 there were two sets of remains which as yet had not been identified. One of the remains is thought to be an Imam from the town of Ripoll which is north of Barcelona. The Imam is thought to have left the Mosque quickly in Jun 17 and had not been seen since but saying that he wanted to go back to Morocco. He was also believed to be the person who radicalized the others. In some Spanish media outlets have claimed that the terrorist cell intended to attack the iconic Gaudi designated church with the explosives. On the 21 Aug 17 Younes Abouyaaqoub was fatally wounded in the town of Sant Sadurni d’Anoia in the district of Subirats.
Europe (Timeline: Deadly attacks in Europe) – The van attack claimed by ISIL that killed at least 13 people in Barcelona was the latest fatal assault on a European city. Here are some of the major attacks on the continent over the past year:
June 19, 2017: London, United Kingdom
One man died after a vehicle ran over pedestrians close to two mosques in Finsbury Park. British prosecutors said the attacker was motived by "extreme political views and a personal hatred of Muslims".
June 3, 2017: London, UK
A van rammed into a crowd on London Bridge, then the three assailants left the vehicle armed with knives and attacked people. Eight people were killed and about 50 wounded. Police shot dead the attackers. ISIL claimed responsibility.
May 22, 2017: Manchester, UK
A bombing at a pop concert by US star Ariana Grande in the British city of Manchester killed 22 people, including children. ISIL claimed responsibility.
April 7, 2017: Stockholm, Sweden
A truck ploughed into shoppers outside a busy department store in central Stockholm, killing five people including an 11-year-old girl. Police said an Uzbek suspect who was denied a residency permit in 2016 confessed.
April 3, 2017: St Petersburg, Russia
Five people were killed when a bomb ripped through an underground train in Russia's second city of St Petersburg. A group suspected of links to al-Qaeda claimed the attack, which was blamed on a Russian suicide bomber born in Kyrgyzstan.
March 22, 2017: London, UK
Five people died when a man rammed his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and then fatally stabbed a police officer outside parliament. The attacker was shot dead by police.
January 1, 2017: Istanbul, Turkey
A Uzbek gunman killed a policeman before entering the popular Reina nightclub and opening fire on people partying inside. At least 39 people celebrating New Year, mainly Arab tourists, were kileld. The bloodshed was claimed by ISIL.
December 19, 2016: Berlin, Germany
A man hijacked a truck and ploughed into shoppers at a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people. The attacker was shot dead by police in Milan, Italy four days later, and the attack was claimed by ISIL.
July 26, 2016: Normandy, France
Two men with alleged links to ISIL took several people hostage in an attack on a church in northern France. An 85-year-old priest was killed with a knife before French police entered and shot dead the attackers.
July 22, 2016: Munich, Germany
A gunman opened fire at a crowded Munich shopping centre and fast-food restaurant, shooting nine people dead before killing himself. The 18-year-old suspect was a German-Iranian and was obsessed with mass shootings, police said.
July 14, 2016: Nice, France
On Bastille Day, France's main national holiday, a man rammed a truck into a crowd of revellers at the Mediterranean resort of Nice, killing 86 people. He was shot dead by police, and ISIL claimed responsibility.
March 22, 2016: Brussels, Belgium
Suicide bombings killed 32 people and wounded 230 more at Brussels airport and Maelbeek metro station, near the EU headquarters. The attacks were claimed by ISIL.
United Kingdom/France/United States/al-Qaeda – Propagandists for al-Qaeda have urged their followers in the West to commit mass murder by derailing 'vulnerable' trains with a homemade tool it was reported on the 15 Aug 17. The Islamist terror group laid out its plan in an article titled 'Train Derail Operations', which was published in the latest issue of its magazine Inspire. Would-be murderers are told: 'It is time we instil fear and make them impose strict security measure to trains as they did with their Air [sic] transportation.' The elaborate 19-page tutorial uses the United States as an example target but stresses that the UK and France also have long stretches of unguarded railways. In the article, the author explains that the motivation for targeting trains is so that Islamist terrorists might 'continue to bleed the American economy to more losses, increase the psychological warfare and make it worry, fear and weaken much more'. An official US body is also cited after it highlighted more than 100,000 miles of vulnerable American railways and worries over hazardous materials being transported along them. Included in the lengthy guide are step-by-step instructions on how to create a 'homemade derail tool' and where best to position it to cause maximum damage. Followers of the group - al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula - are urged to study schedules and time the deployment of their obstacles to match certain trains. They even included a map of US railways and highlighted busy passenger routes. Because it would not require the 'martyrdom' of the attacker, the Inspire article stresses that a single follower could derail several trains in repeated attacks. The magazine also warns Muslims in the West to reject 'the message of solidarity' from political parties or other groups - and even from a 'kind neighbour or a nice co-worker'. It adds: 'The West will eventually turn against its Muslim citizens'. Just hours after the publication of the magazine online, the New York Police Department's counter-terrorism department responded on Twitter. They said they were already aware of the threats from al-Qaeda before they released the issue and stressed that their 'robust' defence apparatus was designed to protect railways. In 2004, terrorists linked with al-Qaeda murdered 191 in Madrid, Spain after planting ten bombs on commuter trains.
United Kingdom – Police are investigating an anti-Muslim campaign of intimidation after hate mail and suspicious packages were sent to mosques in London, South Yorkshire and even the USA it was reported on the 12 Aug 17. Handwritten letters were also sent to three mosques and other places in London in Jul 17 all of which bore a Sheffield postmark, leading counter-terror units to believe the campaign is being orchestrated near the Yorkshire town. Hate mail bearing the postmark was also sent to at least four American mosques this year and three UK mosques in Jul 16. Many of the letters, which have been seen by the The Guardian, are signed by the same pseudonym or initials. Three of the letters received by US mosques were sent at the same time, with the postmarks reading 1714 hrs or 1715 hrs on the 22 Feb 17. Steve Rose, who oversees content at counter-extremist group Faith Matters, said there were other similarities. 'There were two second-class stamps on all the letters sent to the USA, which is interesting. 'There are similarities in the shape of the numbers. It could be one person sending them, it could be several people.' Muslims in east London were targeted as Forest Gate mosque, Coventry Cross mosque in Bromley-by-Bow and Dalston's Shacklewell Lane mosque received letters last month threatening that the sender would visit each one. In Jul 16, three other London mosques in Leyton, Finsbury Park and Tottenham were sent white powder. The packages were also sent to the Bank of England and the parliamentary office of independent peer Nazir Ahmed. The letters also contained offensive remarks about Pakistani Muslims, with one sent to a New Jersey mosque threatening death for Muslims alongside an offensive cartoon. Anti-Muslim abuse watchdog TellMama reports similar letters were sent to mosques in New York, Georgia, and Kentucky this year. In Feb 17 letters bearing the same pseudonym were received by mosques in Washington DC, New Jersey and Alabama. The latest letter was sent to South Dakota's Islam Centre in Jun 17 but Mr Rose fears others might be escaping scrutiny. 'Maybe other mosques got them but didn’t report it.' On the 28 Feb 17 the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Centre in Falls Church, Virginia, received written threats of violence and offensive cartoons, posted with two first-class UK stamps. Spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Corey Saylor says the letters he's seen all seem to have come from south Yorkshire. 'All the letters I have seen have similar drawings, handwriting, and originated from Sheffield. 'Whoever is behind these letters feels empowered to make people on the opposite side of the Atlantic feel afraid to go to their places of worship. 'Such religious intimidation is wrong in any context and I hope British authorities act to expose and bring appropriate legal charges against the sender.' North East Counter Terrorism Unit issued a statement to say it was investigating. 'Police received a number of reports of malicious communications and packages which have been received in recent days across London. 'Specialist officers have attended the addresses and the contents of the packages were examined. In all cases, the substances were found not to be noxious or harmful.' The police are considering the possibility that these latest letters are linked to the earlier packages of powder and letters reported in London, South Yorkshire and the US. Mr Rose said Muslims should report any threatening behaviour at mosques to police. 'It’s encouraging that within a day they’d gone to mosques and the counter-terrorism unit was involved. 'Police are taking their time with it … and it’s very hard to trace. But it’s good they are taking it seriously. 'We need the mosques to report, and check their mail regularly. 'They should make sure they have hate mail policy in place for hateful mail. If you’re worried, contact 101.”
United Kingdom – The UK may continue to face the threat of Islamist terrorism for another "20 to 30 years", the former head of MI5 has said on the 11 Aug 17. Lord Evans told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the issue was a "generational problem" and that the UK needed to "persevere" with efforts to defeat it. He also said devices connected to the internet needed to be made more secure in the face of emerging cyber threats. And he warned that Russia was likely to try to interfere in the UK's democracy. Lord Evans stepped down as the director general of the security service MI5 in 2013 at a time when it seemed that the terrorism threat from al-Qaeda might be subsiding. But now, with the rise of the so-called Islamic State militant group, he said the threat was unlikely to end soon. Lord Evans said: "There's no doubt that we are still facing a severe terrorist threat but I think it’s also important to put this in a slightly longer context because right the way back from the 1990s we have been experiencing difficulties from Islamist terrorists of one sort or another. "Over that period the threat has come and gone but the underlying threat has continued. "Since 2013 there have been 19 attempted attacks that have been disrupted and even since the attack at Westminster we are told there have been six disruptions, so this is a permanent state of preparedness." He added: "We're at least 20 years into this. My guess is that we will still be dealing with the long tail in over 20 years' time. "I think this is genuinely a generational problem. I think we are going to be facing 20 to 30 years of terrorist threat and therefore we need, absolutely critically, to persevere." The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner, who conducted the interview, said Lord Evans was also asked about being responsible for sending people inside terrorist cells to gather intelligence. The former MI5 head said it often was "just sleepless nights" and "nail-biting" but measures to protect staff were taken. Lord Evans also warned that the "internet of things" - in which vehicles and domestic devices are all connected to the internet - will need to be made more secure to reduce emerging cyber threats. He said it was concerning that Russia had apparently been interfering in the democratic processes of some Western countries. Lord Evans said it was something the UK needed to be alert to, as he would be "very surprised" if it was not a target as well. Speaking on Radio 4's Today, the head of national counter-terrorism policing called the current Islamist threat a "cultish movement" compared to al-Qaeda and the IRA who were "a very tight network of wicked individuals". Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said: "You've got that range of people who have picked up that ideology and come up with their own plan based on the encouragement of the propaganda all the way through to the more organised directed attacks. "This widening cohort of people that we're concerned about and our ability to keep our radar on them is no longer just a job for police and security services." He added the change in tempo of the threat was "quite dramatic" considering in four years 13 terror plots were foiled compared to six in the last few months.
United Kingdom – A terror suspect drove at police outside Buckingham Palace and yelled 'Allahu akbar' while reaching for a 4ft sword before he was arrested by three unarmed officers on the 26 Aug 17. The 26-year-old from Luton was wrestled to the ground and incapacitated with CS gas by the officers, two of which suffered injuries, at about 2030 hrs on the night of the 25 Aug 17. Metropolitan Police said the suspect had been arrested under the Terrorism Act and was currently in custody in a central London police station. The force revealed how the man had deliberately driven at a police van parked near the Mall roundabout in front of the palace, before stopping in front of the vehicle. As three unarmed PCs exited the van and approached the blue Toyota Prius, the suspect reached for a 4ft sword in the footwell. Following a struggle, the suspect and two officers were taken to hospital to be treated for minor injuries, while the third officer did not require treatment. Officers from the Counter Terrorism Command are now investigating and searches are being carried out in the Luton area today. The police Commander said, 'We believe the man was acting alone and we are not looking for other suspects at this stage. 'While we cannot speculate on what the man was intending to do - this will be determined during the course of the investigation - it is only right that we investigate this as a terrorist incident at this time.