Thursday, January 8, 2015

Paris Massacre Highlights Jihadists' Mideast-Europe Traffic

Paris Massacre Highlights Jihadists' Mideast-Europe Traffic

Wednesday’s terror attack in Paris, foul as it was, was sadly no great surprise given the movement of Islamist terrorists between Europe and the Middle East.

The Israeli intelligence community currently estimates that there are some 30,000 Islamic State activists; the CIA puts the number anywhere between 20,000 and 31,500. About half of them are foreign volunteers from around the Islamic world and the West. The Magreb states, surprisingly, are the most prominent suppliers, notably including Shiite Tunisia, where 5,000-6,000 IS fighters come from. Thousands have joined IS in Iraq and Syria from Europe, Australia and the United States. Within Europe, Belgium heads the list of suppliers.

Europes’s problem, and this may well have been the case with the massacre in France, is the relative ease with which young Muslims can leave Western countries, join the ranks of IS in Syria and Iraq, and then go back to their homes and attack targets there. It’s an almost impossible mission for European intelligence agencies to track every Muslim youth who goes to the Middle East and then returns home or to a neighboring country with the goal of murdering “infidels.”

Apart from tracking this flow, Western intelligence agencies have another challenge, no less complex. Islamic State is inspiring many youngsters to carry out attacks without first coming to the Middle East. These potential assailants have not fought with IS or spent time in another Muslim state, but make do with getting hold of weapons in their home countries and going out to commit attacks. Thwarting these kinds of attacks must be a nightmare for the intelligence services.

The Middle East-Europe connection does not end there. It is reasonable to assume that given the slowing of IS’s advances in Syria and Iraq — there is a deceleration in its conquest of territory — IS will try to send offshoots to countries such as Libya and Egypt and from there to orchestrate more attacks on European soil. In other words, if IS is taking a hit in the Middle East, it will try to hit back in Europe.

Turkey is said to be the gateway to Europe, and the case of IS proves the point. The thousands of volunteers who seek to join its ranks do so mainly via Turkey. They go back home via Turkey too. And yet, there is no discernible serious effort on the part of the Turkish authorities to stop this flow of volunteers. This, despite the fact that as recently as Tuesday, Istanbul sustained an act of terrorism when a female suicide bomber killed a policeman. (It’s not entirely clear whether this was the work of Islamic extremists, radical leftists or another organization.)

Moreover, half of IS’s income these days comes from the sale of oil, and the number one importer is Turkey. (The rest of IS’s income comes from taxes and bribes.)

Masked Islamic terrorists killed 12 people in Paris on Wednesday in a brazen attack that terrorist expert Walid Phares believes amounts to war, and he said those trying to distance the killers from any connection to Islam are doing the world a great disservice.
On Wednesday, heavily armed and masked gunmen stormed into the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hedbo, asked for victims by name and murdered 10 of them while wounding many others. The terrorists also killed two police officers on the street outside the magazine’s offices.
Phares, who is also an adviser to Congress on the Middle East and terrorism, said the details of this attack chill him even more than the hostage crisis that played out in Australia last month.
“The more worrisome kind of act that we saw today, which is the crossing of a benchmark or a red line, is a military-style attack. This is a team of four. They acted two-by-two, according to reports, and they executed a military mission, using for the first time not just machine guns but also [rocket-propelled grenades]. This is Paris. This is not Baghdad or Mosul, and things have changed,” said Phares, who urges the West to understand how the radicals view this fight.
“What we saw today is war,” Phares said. “This is not people who are offended by an issue anymore. This is a cold-blooded operation that killed many top French artists. This is an intimidation. This is a unilateral action taken not in reaction, because those cartoons were published a long time ago. The majority of those who protested, protested on the street. So people need to make a distinction between what is terrorism and what is a protest.”
The Paris terrorist attacks come less than a month after the Sydney hostage standoff and the terrorist massacre of scores of students at a school in Pakistan. Phares said the world will likely see many more of these targeted attacks that are harder for intelligence efforts to detect.
“We have been seeing, and will unfortunately be seeing, more widespread jihadi attacks of various kinds,” he said.
Phares is also denouncing the response by some media outlets to suggest the staff of Charlie Hebdo should have expected such a response following the publication of Muhammad cartoons years ago, and he is also critical of outlets scrubbing their archives of images that may be offensive to Muslims or adherents of any other religion. He said history proves that self-censorship in the hopes of appeasing enemies does not work.
“These are the absolute wrong moves,” Phares said. “We’ve seen in the late ’20s and ’30s how concession after concession, the National Socialists, the Fascists – and the Bolsheviks in the ’50s – would demand  concession after concession, that this would be hurtful to German nationalism or Italian nationalism. This is how they built their totalitarian web.”
Political and media figures also fueled controversy on Wednesday by refusing to attach a motive to the attacks, even as they reported that the terrorists were shouting “Allahu Akbar” and that they had avenged Muhammad. Again, Phares said denying obvious connections only pushes the world further away from addressing the root cause of these sorts of attacks.

North Korea has a new war plan to complete a Southern invasion within a week using asymmetric capabilities including nuclear weapons, a high-profile defector and South Korean government officials told the JoongAng Ilbo.

The war plan was created less than a year after Kim Jong-un assumed power, a South Korean official told the JoongAng Ilbo quoting a defector who used to serve in a senior position in the North Korean military.

According to the official, Kim Jong-un hosted a top military-party meeting in Wonsan on Aug. 25, 2012, and approved the new war plan. The young ruler became the supreme commander of the North’s Korean People’s Army on Dec. 30, 2011, shortly after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il. 

“In addition to Kim Jong-un, all members of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party and the top brass of the military who command a unit larger than a corps attended the meeting,” the former senior official of the North Korean military was quoted as saying. 

"At the meeting, a larger framework of the operations plan created by the [General Staff Department of the] Korean People’s Army was determined. Kim then ordered that each commander of a corps create detailed operations plans for their units based on the war plan and conduct exercises.”

South Korean intelligence authorities confirmed the creation of the new war plan by the North.

The Jewish visitors knew within seconds that they had entered hostile territory.
Scores of hooded Palestinian women, their faces covered, chanted a shrill chorus of Allah-u akbar (God is great) as wary policemen looked on.
A police officer used a video camera to film one woman who, holding the hand of a toddler carrying a toy gun, protested the newcomers' arrival with particular vehemence.
The scene of the confrontation was the Al Aqsa Mosque complex, the most sensitive - and hotly contested - religious shrine in Jerusalem's historic Old City, and known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Such scenes have become increasingly common in recent months as radical Jewish groups - often backed by Right-wing Israeli politicians - have entered the site trying to claim worship rights in the face of opposition from Muslims, who insist it is rightfully and exclusively theirs.

The women - members of the Murabitat (defenders of the faith) movement - were trying to counter what many Palestinians see as a creeping takeover by Jewish extremists of the 35.6 acre compound, considered the third holiest site in Islam.
The all-male Jewish group was visiting because the compound is also regarded as the most sacred location in Judaism, whose adherents believe it to be where the two ancient Jewish temples stood and the site of their foundation stone.
Similar stand-offs happen almost daily at the compound - a sweeping open plaza dominated by the 1,400-year-old Al Aqsa mosque, one of the world's oldest, and the dazzling gold-plated Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem's most recognizable architectural landmark and the spot from where the Prophet Mohammed reputedly made his flight to heaven.

At issue, Jewish campaigners say, is the right of Jews to worship at their religion's holiest site. That right has been denied for as long as the complex has been an Islamic shrine since the 7the century AD. It was re-affirmed by a 1967 agreement between Israel and the Al Aqsa authorities, known as the waqf, after Israeli forces captured East Jerusalem, including the holy sites, from Jordan in the Six Day War.
The accord, commonly referred to as the status quo, states that only Muslims have the right pray. Jews and other non-Muslims are allowed to visit at certain times of the day but cannot pray.
But nationalist Israeli Jews are trying to overturn it, arguing that the current arrangement tramples their civil rights and religious freedom.
"The Temple Mount is holy. The status quo isn't holy, it's evil," said Ya'acov Hayman, leader of the Haliba organisation, one of several groups calling for "Jewish freedom" on the site.
"We want legislation making sure that our rights are respected. We will soon be suing the government of Israel for failing to respect the civil rights of Jews and other non-Muslims on the Temple Mount. Ninety-five per cent of the area of Temple Mount is open space and there is no reason whatsoever why that can't be shared space. "
Mr Hayman - who was last year arrested for openly praying and singing the Israeli national anthem inside the complex - said the rules must be changed even if it risked triggering a religious conflict with Muslims who would be likely to see it as an attack on their faith.
"Could there be bloodshed? That's up to the Arabs," he said. "If they are not willing to accept non-Muslim rights then non-Muslims have to be willing to struggle to get them, even if it means armed struggle. We cannot let Muslims continue on their path to world domination."

The USGS said the two strongest of Tuesday's quakes, a 3.5 and a 3.6, each ranked as an MMI V on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale, which indicates they had the strength to be felt by nearly everyone, wake those sleeping, break windows and dishes and to overturn unstable objects.
No injuries or significant damage have been reported in connection with the earthquakes and police have requested people stop calling 911 to report only shaking.  Atmos Energy said Wednesday the earthquakes have not caused any gas leaks in the area.
The recent earthquake swarm, where a number of quakes are concentrated in a single area over a few days, is centered in an area of Irving where more than 20 quakes have been recorded since October 2014, but where only one earthquake was ever recorded before 2008, according to a scientist at Dallas' Southern Methodist University.

Scientists at SMU said these are some of the largest quakes to hit North Texas in recent history. Before this most recent swarm, the largest magnitude quake recorded in the Irving area since October 2014 was a 3.3-magnitude quake on Nov. 22. The most recent temblor before this swarm was a 2.4 MMI III recorded at 8:29 p.m. on New Year's Day.

Geologists and seismologists at SMU are trying to figure out what is causing the increase in earthquakes, whether they are induced or if they are simply the result of natural, believed to be dormant, fault lines.

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