ISIS expands so what is the US strategy?

February 7th, 2015 at 11:15 am by Lindsay Addie

Where are ISIS expanding?

James Schneider over at Fox News (along with contributions from the Associated Press) reports on the worrying current expansion by ISIS (ISIL) into nearly a dozen countries.

Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, delivered a grim assessment earlier this week in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, as he described how the group was surfacing in North Africa.

“With affiliates in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, the group is beginning to assemble a growing international footprint that includes ungoverned and under governed areas,” Stewart said.

ISIS continues to hold a wide swath of territory, bigger than the state of Pennsylvania, in its home base spanning parts of Iraq and Syria, propped up by more than 20,000 foreign fighters from at least three dozen countries. But the terror network’s tentacles, as Stewart indicated, are creeping into other nations; largely those with fragile governments.

“ISIS, like Al Qaeda, has thrived in the failed states where there is a vacuum of power,” said James Phillips, Middle East senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation.

The strategy of terrorist groups moving into failed states is all too common. The current nominee for the role of US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter is concerned where ISIS may go next.

Defense secretary nominee Ashton Carter, who had his confirmation hearing Wednesday, told Congress he is aware of reports that ISIS may try to expand into Afghanistan, and vowed to work with coalition partners to stop the group. He said he would consider changing plans for withdrawing the remaining 10,600 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016 if security conditions further deteriorate.

Terrorist groups in other countries are supporting ISIS.

The Islamic State’s ambitions do not stop at Afghanistan, the so-called Graveyard of Empires. Militant groups in Pakistan, the Philippines, Israel and the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Indonesia and Jordan, among other areas, reportedly have pledged formal support for ISIS.

There has been a little bit of good news in Kobani Syria where the Kurdish fighters drove ISIS forces out last week.

Current US strategy

So what is the current US strategy? This question was raised by Senator John McCain (R) during Carter’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“I believe I understand our strategy at this time,” Carter explained. “I also have the intention, again if confirmed, to make it my first priority to go there, to talk to our military leaders there, to confer with you … I think a strategy connects ends and means, and our ends with respect to ISIL needs to be its lasting defeat.”

McCain retorted: “Well, it doesn’t sound like a strategy to me, but maybe we can flesh out your goals.”

Hardly a decisive and acceptable answer to a key question regarding US strategy on ISIS. Perhaps the words came out a bit wrong (we’ve all done that) but its still a poor answer.

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The soldier Obama swapped for five terrorists to be tried for desertion

January 28th, 2015 at 8:09 am by Lindsay Addie

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl of the US Army a high profile captive of Haqqani terrorists in Afghanistan for five years who was then swapped by the Obama administration for five terrorists is according to NBC News going to be charged with deserting his post (before he was captured).

According to the officials, the desertion charges would be based on allegations that Bergdahl abandoned his remote outpost in June 2009 to avoid hazardous duty or important service, which are grounds for charges of desertion under the Uniform Military Code of Justice, or UCMJ. According to one senior official, Bergdahl’s actions in Afghanistan go well beyond the lesser offense of AWOL, absent without leave, because he allegedly abandoned his post “in the middle of a combat zone, potentially putting the lives of his fellows soldiers at risk.”

The charges will apparently not allege that Bergdahl left with the intent never to return. Bergdahl was reportedly captured by the Haqqani terrorist network in Pakistan. He was released in a prisoner swap for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay in May.

Sources tell NBC News that the fact that Bergdahl was held captive may be taken into consideration when any punishment is handed out.

The New York Daily News has the biographies of the five terrorists who were swapped for Bergdahl (See the graphic in the middle of the page). I cannot see why there was any rush to release any of them. Seems a bit soft to me.

Barack Obama has some tricky questions to answer bearing in mind that Bergdahl is most likely a deserter. Also how was this guy thought to be worth five terrorists? This is definitely potentially embarrassing for the President seeing he made the release of Bergdahl a high profile event by inviting the soldiers parents to the White House.

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Wife of alleged mentor of Charlie Hebdo terrorists lives in UK on the benefit

January 11th, 2015 at 10:36 am by Lindsay Addie

The UK media including the Daily Mail and The Telegraph are reporting on a convicted terrorist’s wife who is living in the UK on the benefit. Bill Gardner from The Telegraph explains.

The wife of an al-Qaeda lynchpin who mentored the Charlie Hebdo murderers is living on benefits in Britain after deciding France was too strict against Muslims.

Sylvie Beghal, a French citizen, lives rent free in a four bedroomed house in Leicester after she came to the UK with her children in search of a more “Islamic environment”.

She is married to Djamel Beghal, a former London-based lieutenant of Abu Hamza whose teachings are thought to have inspired the Paris attacks. At least two of the suspected gunmen responsible for the killings were Beghal’s disciples, it has emerged.

On Friday Beghal’s wife revealed that prison guards had thrown him into solitary confinement in retaliation for his links to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

The Telegraph has previously disclosed that one of the Kouachi brothers, 32-year-old Cherid, was recruited by Beghal in prison ten years ago while both were serving sentences for terror offences.

Note that Abu Hamza was given a life sentence in the US courts last  week for terrorism offences. See this article from the BBC for more details.

The Telegraph article goes onto document Beghal’s activities that investigators found related to terrorist activities.

Posing as a businessman importing clothing from Germany, Beghal had been able to travel across the world unchallenged. But the authorities decided his movements had been connected to terrorist activities. Three men mentored by Beghal were later jailed for their part in the plots.

Beghal was discovered to have had links with the GSPC, the hardline Algerian group, and Takfir Wal Hirja, an extremist faction founded in Egypt and led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy. He was also alleged to have helped recruit Richard Reid, the shoebomber, and possibly Zacarias Moussaoui, the suspected 20th hijacker, to al-Qaeda.

When detained, Beghal was returning to Paris from Afghanistan after meeting Abu Zubaydah, a senior al-Qaeda figure who allocated missions to terrorist cells around the world.

Under interrogation in Dubai, Beghal admitted plotting to destroy the United States embassy in Paris in a suicide attack. He admitted to investigators he had travelled around British mosques in the late 1990s, recruiting young Muslims for jihad.

I would love to know what the ‘official’ reason for putting this wife of a terrorist on the benefit actually was. It defies all common sense.

Note that the Daily Mail article cited has photos of Baghel with one of the Kouachi brothers.

[UPDATE:]

Thanks to Stephieboy for drawing to my attention to Anjelm Choudary.

The UK media has given Choudary a lot of coverage both for his inflammatory comments and his lifestyle of living on the benefit in the UK.

The Daily Mail in February 2013 published a piece on Choudary.

He also maintained that Osama Bin Laden was his ‘hero’.

The father-of-four takes home more than £25,000 a year in benefits and lives in a £320,000 house in Leytonstone, East London.

He told a crowd of around 30 fanatics: ‘People will say, ‘Ah, but you are not working’. But the normal situation is for you to take money from the kuffar (non-Muslim).

‘So we take Jihadseeker’s Allowance. You need to get support.’

In another video a grinning Choudary is recorded telling his disciples that it is justifiable to take money from non-believers.

He said: ‘The normal situation is to take money from the kuffar. You work, give us the money, Allahu Akhbar (God is great).

Is any proof necessary to prove what radicals like this guy are really up to in the UK? There is a video of him spouting off at the end of the Daily Mail article.

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The blame for the Charlie Hebdo murders

January 10th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A great column by George Packer in the New Yorker:

The murders today in Paris are not a result of France’s failure to assimilate two generations of Muslim immigrants from its former colonies. They’re not about French military action against the Islamic State in the Middle East, or the American invasion of Iraq before that. They’re not part of some general wave of nihilistic violence in the economically depressed, socially atomized, morally hollow West—the Paris version of Newtown or Oslo. Least of all should they be “understood” as reactions to disrespect for religion on the part of irresponsible cartoonists.

They are only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades.

It’s an ideology just as repugnant as fascism and communism – and one incompatible with democratic societies.

It’s the same ideology that sent Salman Rushdie into hiding for a decade under a death sentence for writing a novel, then killed his Japanese translator and tried to kill his Italian translator and Norwegian publisher. The ideology that murdered three thousand people in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The one that butchered Theo van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam, in 2004, for making a film. The one that has brought mass rape and slaughter to the cities and deserts of Syria and Iraq. That massacred a hundred and thirty-two children and thirteen adults in a school in Peshawar last month. That regularly kills so many Nigerians, especially young ones, that hardly anyone pays attention.

Because the ideology is the product of a major world religion, a lot of painstaking pretzel logic goes into trying to explain what the violence does, or doesn’t, have to do with Islam. Some well-meaning people tiptoe around the Islamic connection, claiming that the carnage has nothing to do with faith, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that, at most, the violence represents a “distortion” of a great religion.

He explains:

A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique. Charlie Hebdo had been nondenominational in its satire, sticking its finger into the sensitivities of Jews and Christians, too—but only Muslims responded with threats and acts of terrorism. For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.

These thoughts don’t offer a guide to mitigating the astonishing surge in Islamist killing around the world. Rage and condemnation don’t do the job, nor is it helpful to alienate the millions of Muslims who dislike what’s being done in the name of their religion.

This is key, and it is worth remembering that one of those killed by the terrorist was a Muslim police officer. He died defending the right of Charlie Hebdo, to publish material he was personally probably offended by.

But the murders in Paris were so specific and so brazen as to make their meaning quite clear. The cartoonists died for an idea. The killers are soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend—against everything decent in a democratic society. So we must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day.

Hear hear.

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Two cartoons on terrorism

January 10th, 2015 at 9:10 am by Lindsay Addie

With the tragic slaughter at Charlie Hebdo cartoonists worldwide have been very active in supporting their fallen comrades. The are many to choose from but I’ve chosen two that give a different perspective.

The first is somewhat aspirational and is by Kevin Siers which juxtaposes the famous Eugene Delacroix 1830 painting ‘Liberty Leading the People’ with this weeks events. Here is the Delacroix original.

Siers_Liberty leading the People

© Kevin Siers – Found at cagle.com

The second cartoon is about PC attitudes and radical Islam.

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© Michael Ramirez – found at Investors.com

My take on this cartoon is that Ramirez is arguing that PC attitudes in the west are being used by terrorists as tool to serve their own ends. I have no doubt this is the case.

There are a lot more cartoons on this topic, many can be found here at Cagle Post.

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Two hostage sites stormed in France

January 10th, 2015 at 6:54 am by David Farrar

The BBC reports:

French police have stormed two hostage sites in Paris and north of the city, with the hostage takers reported dead.

Explosions were heard at a warehouse in Dammartin-en-Goele, where two suspects in the Charlie Hebdo magazine shootings had been holding one hostage.

Explosions and gunfire could also be heard at a supermarket in eastern Paris, at Porte de Vincennes, where several hostages were held.

Reports suggest a gunman there was linked to the Charlie Hebdo suspects.

After the operation started, several hostages could be seen leaving the supermarket.

Police told French media that four hostages in the supermarket had been killed prior to security forces storming the site.

It’s great that the Charlie Hebdo killers are no longer a threat, and their hostage was unharmed. Sadly it seems there was innocent loss of life in the other hostage situation. Three terrorists are dead, but at this stage Hayat Boumeddiene is at large, and wanted for the killing of a police woman.

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Awful views from Derek Fox

January 9th, 2015 at 7:06 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Fox said on Facebook said the editor of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had “paid the price” for his “bigotry” and “arrogance”.

The price he should have paid is people not buying his magazine, not execution. Is Fox saying that the victims deserved to be killed because of what they wrote?

Fox wrote that Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier was a “bully” who had abused free speech and was now responsible for the deaths of his colleagues.

Yes he is. So if a white supremacist killed all the staff of Mana magazine, would Derek have been responsible for that?

“The editor of the French magazine has paid the price for his assumption of cultural superiority and arrogance, he was the bully believing he could insult other peoples culture and with impunity and he believed he would be protected in his racism and bigotry by the French state.

Yeah the satirical magazine editor is the bully, not the murdering terrorists.

Fox also misses the point that this magazine insults all cultures and religions. It is a satirical magazine. Does Fox want satire banned at risk of death, or does he think certain religions should be immune from satire?

He continued: “Power cultures all like to use the old chestnut of freedom of speech when they choose to ridicule people who aren’t exactly like them, and mostly they get away with it.”

Yeah that freedom of speech thing is so over-rated. Who needs it eh Derek.

Fox said in this Facebook post that the privilege of free speech brought with it responsibility and ramifications. “These guys liked the privilege but didn’t think they’d be caught up in the ramifications – they were wrong.

“This should serve as a lesson to other people who believe they can use the power they wield by way of dominating the media to abuse and ridicule others they believe to inferior to them – just like [in] this country.”

Fox’s post is vile. He blames the victims and thinks that killing people for satirical cartoons is a food way to teach people a lesson. I’ve had a fair amount of time for Fox in the past, but on this issue I find his writings repugnant.

However unlike Derek, I don’t think people should be killed for writing vile and repugnant things. I think he has a right to do express his views, without being killed for it.

National Party list MP Chris Bishop said it was a “horrific, ridiculous, shameful comment”, adding that supporting freedom of speech was a human right, not “cultural supremacy”.

Free speech is a human right. Not being offended by someone’s speech is not a right.

Fox has stood by his comments, and said that if the magazine had not published gratuitous insults, the victims “would still be alive now”.

If she had just agreed to have sex with him, then she wouldn’t have been raped. That is basically what Fox argues with his victim blaming

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The cartoons that 12 were killed for

January 9th, 2015 at 4:53 am by David Farrar

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It is important not to reward the terrorists by self-censorship. Only if their actions lead to the cartoons getting more widely published, might they stop.

Huffington Post has the full set.

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A murderous attack on free speech

January 8th, 2015 at 3:42 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Two masked gunmen wielding assault rifles have stormed a French satirical magazine on Wednesday (Thursday NZT), shot 12 people dead and injured 10 more, five of them critically.

The killers fled the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, near the Bastille, in a hijacked car.

According to unconfirmed reports on Twitter the gunmen had been shouting “Allahu Akbar” outside the offices, and were later involved in a shootout with police.

At the time of the attack the magazine was said to be holding an editorial meeting on an Islam-themed special edition titled ‘Sharia Hebdo’.

Police said the gunmen shouted “we have avenged the Prophet” after their attack.

This is basically religious fascism – killing people who do not subscribe to their religious tenets. These killings will have a chilling impact on media around the world – who will self-censor in fear of similar executions.

A firebomb attack gutted the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a publication that has always courted controversy with satirical attacks on political and religious leaders, in November 2011 after it put an image of the Prophet Mohammad on its cover.

What would be a great response is for every media outlet in the western world to publish images of Mohammad, to send a signal that the more you use terror to try and create censorship, the more it will backfire.

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Was Man Haron Monis a terrorist or just a criminal?

December 18th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A number of people have asserted that Man Haron Monis was not an Islamist terrorist but a just a deranged criminal. Terrorist are of course a sub-set of criminals, but putting that aside, what is the evidence for whether this was a terrorist event.

The argument against is that Man Haron Monis was already before the courts on attempted murder and sexual offending. This was not someone who had led a blameless life and suddenly committed crimes after being radicalised. He was  someone facing a lengthy spell in jail, and perhaps thought better to go out in a blaze of publicity – maybe like our Phillip Smith – someone with nothing to lose.

But I don’t think that argument holds up, for multiple reasons. In order:

  1. He was actually free and at large. He shouldn’t have been of course, but he was.
  2. His previous convictions on the letters is directly related to his extreme political views
  3. He displayed a jihadist flag in the window of the cafe
  4. He demanded an ISIL flag be delivered to the cafe
  5. He demanded that the media broadcast his actions as an attack on Australia by ISIL
  6. He demanded that the PM be put on the line to him
  7. He made no demands about his court cases or convictions

While I understand why people would prefer to think it was not a terrorist incident, I think they are being naive. Certainly it was not a co-ordinated attack with multiple people. But sadly that is no longer the sole threat. ISIL is very different to other groups in that they have encouraged supporters to do whatever attacks they can manage, without authorisation or endorsement.

The article on news.com.au provides some thinking on what he may have planned to do:

Queensland barrister Patrick Van Grinsven, who spent 21 years with the police and 12 years of them as a counter-terrorism-qualified specialist negotiator, said police would have been concerned it was providing him with the tools for a horror show.

“If he got the ISIS flag, he could use that to make a very dramatic statement indeed,” said Mr Van Grinsven, who has trained closely with the NSW negotiators on the scene at Martin Place.

As for the media broadcasting his supposed request that Australia was under attack by ISIS, the police requested they not relay his demand for the same reason.

“This person may have been trying to set up an international stage,” said Mr Van Grinsven.

“It could be as serious as trying to do a live execution. We have seen others prepared to do that. This goes through negotiators’ minds.”

It is awful that two innocent people lost their lives. But it could have turned out even worse.

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Majority of Americans think CIA harsh interrogation methods justified

December 17th, 2014 at 2:28 pm by Lindsay Addie

A Washington Post-ABC News poll asking Americans about the Senate report in CIA interrogation methods post 9/11 has some revealing conclusions.

NB: I’ve paraphrased some of the questions for reasons of brevity.

When asked if they thought the report was fair?
Fair: 36% – Unfair 47%

Did the CIA intentionally or not mislead the White House?
Intentionally mislead: 54% – Did not mislead: 33%

Was the CIA treatment of suspected terrorists torture?
Yes: 49% – No: 38%

Did the CIA’s methods produce important information?
Yes: 53% – No: 31%

Which of these statements comes closer to your own opinion: (It was wrong to release this report because it may raise the risk of terrorism by increasing anti-American sentiment) OR (It was right to release this report in order to expose what happened and prevent it in the future)?
Yes: 52% – No: 43%

Do you think there should or should not be criminal charges filed against officials who were responsible for the CIA interrogation activities?
Should: 34% – Should not: 57%

All in all, do you think the CIA treatment of suspected terrorists was justified or unjustified?
Justified: 59% – Unjustified 31%

Looking ahead, do you feel that torture of suspected terrorists can often be justified, sometimes justified, rarely justified or never justified?
Often or sometimes justified: 58% – Rarely or never justified: 39%

So a majority of Americans according to the poll are happy to see some kind of rough treatment meted out to terrorist suspects. Even though they think the CIA lied to the White House. Also of particular interest is the reaction of voters across the political spectrum. This is covered here. The chart is too large to reproduce here but it shows that across many demographics except the liberal Democrats there it is accepted that use of torture in some shape or form is justified. That includes moderate/conservative Democrats.

With the events in Australia and Pakistan in recent days there is a greater opposition than ever to terrorist attacks. It is too soon to accurately assess how these events will frame the debate on terrorism and how terrorists should be treated in captivity. Has what is morally acceptable in dealing with terrorism changed especially after the Taliban slaughtered 130+ innocent children? I think it probably has.

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Taliban massacre children at Pakistan School

December 16th, 2014 at 11:14 pm by Lindsay Addie

The BBC reports on this very disturbing incident.

At least 100 people, 80 of them children, have been killed in a Taliban assault on an army-run school in Peshawar, Pakistani officials say.

Five or six militants wearing security uniforms entered the school, officials said. Gunfire and explosions were heard as security forces surrounded the area.

The army says most of the school’s 500 students have been evacuated. It is not clear how many are being held hostage.

A Taliban spokesman says the assault is in response to army operations.

Hundreds of Taliban fighters are thought to have died in a recent military offensive in North Waziristan and the nearby Khyber area.

A school worker and a student interviewed by the local Geo TV station said the attackers had entered the Army Public School’s auditorium, where a military team was conducting first-aid training for students.

Live updates are here.

What an evil bunch the Taliban really are.

UPDATE: The BBC are reporting the death toll is now 141 of which 132 are children

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Terrorism is bad but let’s not forget family violence

December 16th, 2014 at 2:50 pm by Lindsay Addie

While the media attention has been focused on the events in Sydney and tragic events at the Lindt Café another tragedy has been playing out in Philadelphia.

A former US marine has allegediy murdered six members of his own family.

Police near Philadelphia were hunting a former Marine reservist who authorities say shot and killed six family members and wounded another in a Monday rampage that left dead bodies in three different homes.

A SWAT team storming of a house in Pennsburg, where Bradley William Stone, 35, was believed to be holed up, turned up nothing, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported, and authorities said Monday evening that they did not know his whereabouts.

“As I stand here right now, we do not know where he is,” Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said shortly after 6 p.m.

The events that transpired makes very sad reading. What makes it more tragic is the accused’s ex-wife has been living in fear of hear life and had warned that Bradley Stone was capable of becoming extremely violent.

Speaking at an evening news conference, Ferman said the rampage began around 3:30 a.m., when Stone allegedly shot and killed Patricia Flick, the sister of his ex-wife, Nicole Stone, at her home in Souderton, also killing Flick’s husband, Aaron Flick, and her 14-year-old daughter, Nina Flick. Her 17-year-old son, Anthony Flick, was receiving treatment at a hospital in Philadelphia for a head wound.

Nicole Stone’s mother, Joanne Hill, and grandmother Patricia Hill were killed next at their home in nearby Lansdale. Investigators were alerted by a hang-up call to emergency dispatchers, Ferman said.

Then, around 5 a.m., Stone went to Nicole Stone’s apartment, located in the Harleysville section of Lower Salford Township, around 5 a.m., investigators said. Brad Stone broke in through a glass door, shot and killed Nicole Stone, and fled with their two children, the woman’s neighbors said. Authorities said Stone then delivered the two children, who were unharmed, to a neighbor in Pennsburg.

Currently the accused is still at large.

Yes terrorism offends decent people and should be eradicated but family violence like that in Philadelphia is also totally unacceptable and shouldn’t be forgotten.

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Two hostages dead in Sydney

December 16th, 2014 at 8:25 am by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

Police confirmed three people have died and four others were injured during the police operation that brought the siege at Lindt cafe to an end just after 2am today after more than 16 hours.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione confirmed two hostages and a lone gunman were killed and a total of 17 hostages were held throughout the siege.

Terrible that two innocent lives were lost, but am relieved that it wasn’t much higher. The Police did the best they could in a very difficult situation.

There was no word on the fate of the gunman, earlier identified as 50-year-old self-styled sheik Man Haron Monis.

Monis was known to police and as a self-styled preacher of Islamic State on bail for accessory to murder, as the gunman who was holding 15 terrified hostages in Sydney’s Lindt cafe.

On bail!

The 49-year-old, originally from Iran who lived in southwest Sydney, had previously sent offensive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers, calling them ‘murderers’, The Daily Telegraph says.

He had a sawn-off shotgun and was a fringe Islamist, The Australian and Sky News reports.

I think countries such as Australia, and NZ, need to have much more stringent immigration criteria – I don’t mean banning people on the basis of their religion, but asking prospective migrants a detailed set of questions to ascertain if they hold extreme views, and would be happy living in a secular country.

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key says it would naive to think that an attack similar to the Sydney siege couldn’t happen in New Zealand.

Three people, including the gunman, are dead after the Martin Pl siege ended in a volley of gunfire shortly after 2am local time this morning (4am NZT).

“I think you have to say yes,” Key said. “There is always that risk, there’s that risk everywhere in the world. There’s the risk that there’s a person who is somehow attracted to the teachings and kinds of messages and propaganda that these people are peddling.” …

Key said the events in Sydney only showed how dangerous IS was, even if it wasn’t directly involved. 

“As I said, they’re extremely well-resourced, we believe they’re the most highly-resourced terrorist group in the world. 

“They’re using the internet in a way that’s never been seen before, to build this outreach capacity and to target the very sort of people that we’ve seen in Australia overnight; to tap into people and to use them as a domestic terror threat type of organisation,” he said. 

“I don’t think we should stop the things that we’re doing. I think we should continue to standup to ISIS and actually, it just demonstrates how dangerous they are.” 

The gunman at the centre of the Sydney siege is among a number of homegrown terrorists being targeted by IS, Key said.

The attack was an act of “cowardice”, and New Zealand’s hearts went out to all Australians, he said.

“It’s a terrible tragedy isn’t it? Our hearts and thoughts go out not only to the families of the victims and the hostages, but actually to all Australians. 

“Australia’s our nearest neighbour, they’re our greatest mates, we consider ourselves to be very similar in the way we go about our lives. 

“I think Australia will be really hurting, and indeed the world is as we see some people lose their lives in an utter act of cowardice, and so close to Christmas,” Key said on Firstline. 

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Will US Drone attacks now come under closer scrutiny?

December 13th, 2014 at 2:27 pm by Lindsay Addie

 

Mural in Sanna, Yemen - (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Mural in Sanna, Yemen – (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

 

With the furore over the CIA interrogation techniques during the George W Bush administration still ongoing attention is starting to shift to using US Drones to attack and kill terrorists.

Lauren Fox from the National Journal discusses the various arguments.

As Republicans prepare to take leadership over the Senate Intelligence Committee, the panel’s oversight work will shift from spending considerable resources to ensure the release of the backwards-looking torture report to a committee that incoming Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said will deliver oversight in “real time.”

“We are not going to be looking back at a decade trying to dredge up things,” Burr said about his future on the committee, just before Feinstein released her report.

Members of Congress are divided over whether the president’s highly secretive drone-strikes program needs more congressional scrutiny. Some criticize the program’s legal rationale, while others have concerns about killing combatants who may have valuable information.

One issue is that a dead terrorist suspect isn’t as good an information source as a live one.

Details about how drones are used to kill terrorists remain unknown, a fact leaders on Capitol Hill harbor concerns about. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who is in line to be the next Senate Foreign Relations chairman, said it’s an area ripe for oversight.

“I have always wondered why there isn’t more concerns about how that is carried out, but I don’t think anyone would want to do that as retribution,” for the torture report’s release, Corker said. “I think people genuinely want our country to be secure, but at the same time it is pretty amazing that those kinds of decisions are made amongst such a small group of people.”

The Obama administration strongly defends the drone program. But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling for more information to made available by the CIA.

“We could be going down the same road all over again, but with killing instead of torturing,” says Chris Anders, senior legal counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “The kinds of people that were involved in the horrors of this torture report are still around. It is hard to believe they have become better managers or more careful about remaining within the law in subsequent years.”

Fighting terrorism is always a messy business and there is a fine line between what is morally acceptable and the steps needed to actually defeat the perpetrators of terrorist acts.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has released detailed data of US drone strikes between 2004 and May 2014. This article and the spreadsheet can be found here.

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Significant increase in deaths linked to terrorism

November 19th, 2014 at 1:08 pm by Lindsay Addie

The New York Times has a story on the latest terrorism statistics. They cite two studies which have researched the statistics for 2013.

Pointing to a geographic imbalance, the report by the nonprofit Institute for Economics and Peace said five countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria — accounted for four-fifths of the almost 18,000 fatalities attributed to terrorism last year. Iraq had the bloodiest record of all, with more than 6,300 fatalities.

This data will not surprise anyone. According to Vision of Humanity’s research these are the raw statistics.

  • 17,958 people were killed in terrorist attacks last year, that’s 61% more than the previous year
  • 82% of all deaths from terrorist attack occur in just 5 countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.
  • Last year terrorism was dominated by four groups: the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIL, and al Qa’ida.
  • More than 90% of all terrorist attacks occur in countries that have gross human rights violations.
  • 40 times more people are killed by homicides than terrorist attacks.

The New York Times also states that in the four years starting in 2007, worldwide attempts to defeat terrorism only managed to achieve ‘modest decreases’.

Vision of Humanity cite the principal causes for terrorism

The three main factors associated with terrorism are state sponsored violence such as extra-judicial killings, group grievances and high levels of criminality. Poverty rates, levels of schools attendance and most economic factors have no association with terrorism. Most terrorist attacks use explosives; since 2000 only 5% were suicide attacks.

It is certain the 2014 terrorism statistics will be even worse.

[UPDATE]: Vision of Humanity uses the following definition of terrorism

The definition of terrorism used by the Global Terrorism Index is: “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation”.

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A moving standing ovation

October 26th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Canadian Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers receiving a standing ovation in the Canadian House of Commons.

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A terrorist attack in Canada?

October 23rd, 2014 at 11:16 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

At least 30 shots are fired inside the main building of Canada’s Parliament Hill, after a gunman shot and wounded a soldier at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa.

Ottawa police are hunting multiple gunmen in the shooting incidents near the Canadian war memorial and nearby Parliament Hill.

A Canadian soldier was shot and killed at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa early today (NZ time) and a gunman was shot dead in a nearby parliament building, media and witnesses reported. Buildings remained locked down.

At least 30 shots were fired in dramatic scenes in the heart of the Canadian capital, starting around 10am local time (3am NZT).

Canadian media outlets are reporting the soldier was Nathan Cirillo, a 24-year-old reservist serving in Hamilton from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada regiment.

Officials have named the gunman shot dead as 32-year-old, Canadian-born, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.

Reuters has reported Mr Zehaf-Bibeau was was a Canadian convert to Islam, according to US officials. He is from Quebec and has criminal convictions for drug possession and parole violations.

Ottawa police spokesman Chuck Benoit said two or three gunmen were believed to be involved in the attacks. 

Gilles Michaud, assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, called it a ”dynamic, unfolding situation.”

Ottawa Hospital said it received two patients, both listed in stable condition, in addition to the soldier.

“Condolences to family of the soldier killed, and prayers for the Parliamentary guard wounded. Canada will not be terrorised or intimidated,” cabinet minister Jason Kenney said.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in a caucus meeting in parliament when gunfire erupted in the building, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, a former policeman, told the Toronto Sun.

Harper was later safely removed from the building, and parliament was locked down.

Fantino said parliament’s head of security, Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), had shot a suspect dead.

“All the details are not in, but the sergeant-at-arms, a former Mountie, is the one that engaged the gunman, or one of them at least, and stopped this,” Fantino said. “He did a great job and, from what I know, shot the gunman and he is now deceased.”

The Sergeant-at-Arms should him dead personally! Wow. One always thinks of those roles of nominally being in charge of maintaining order – not active duty. He is being feted justifiably as a hero. Mr Vickers is 58 years old.

It is somewhat sickening that these attacks are spreading to countries like Canada and Australia, and being done by people born in those countries.

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Beheadings planned in Sydney!

September 18th, 2014 at 2:32 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

HORRIFIC details have emerged of a plot to behead an Australian and upload it to social media in a deliberate attack against the country.

While the claims remain unconfirmed, Channel Seven reports one the men charged in this morning’s raids in Sydney planned to kidnap a random Australian, execute them by beheading in a public place, possibly Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD, and film the act and post on social media.

Further reports have emerged terrorists planned to drape the victim in an Islamic State flag.

The man, charged for serious terrorism related offences, is due in a Sydney court later today.

Beyond appalling.  And how was this stopped:

The operation is understood to have been given the green light after months of surveillance of Australians believed to be linked to extremist terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

People may want to reflect on this. We’re not talking about the Middle East. We’re not talking New York. We’re not talking London. We’re talking Sydney.

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Bad terrorist – didn’t file his expense claims

May 30th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Who knew terrorists had to fill out expense reports?

According to a letter obtained by Associated Press, al Qaeda was beset by the kind of managerial problems that afflict companies around the world.

Al Qaeda chiefs required lower-level terrorists to attend meetings on time, return phone calls promptly, follow orders, fill out expense reports properly and not bitch about managers in public.

Who knew that even terrorist groups, had bureaucracies?

The 10-page letter lays out in embarrassing detail the problems al Qaeda chiefs were having managing a particularly difficult terrorist in the group’s North African division.

Moktar Belmoktar, an Algerian-born terrorist in his 40s, clashed with his superiors on numerous occasions, mostly over procedural matters.

I wonder if he obliged to file a strategic plan, listing the desired outcomes, his planned outputs and necessary inputs?

The letter criticises Belmoktar for accepting a less-than-impressive 700,000 euros in ransom for Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler in 2008, when the going rate was $US3 million.

He also broke union rules!

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The London attack

May 23rd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Daily Telegraph reports:

A cub scout leader confronted terrorists just seconds after they had beheaded a soldier asking them to hand over their weapons and warning them: “It is only you versus many people, you are going to lose.”

Well done Ingrid Loyau-Kennett.

Cub scout leader Ingrid Loyau-Kennett selflessly engaged the terrorists in conversation and kept her nerve as one of them told her: “We want to start a war in London tonight.”

Mrs Loyau-Kennett, 48, from Cornwall, was one of the first people on the scene after the two Islamic extremists butchered a soldier in Woolwich, south east London.

She was photographed by onlookers confronting one of the attackers who was holding a bloodied knife.

Give her a medal.

“I asked him if he did it and he said yes and I said why? And he said because he has killed Muslim people in Muslim countries, he said he was a British soldier and I said really and he said ‘I killed him because he killed Muslims and I am fed up with people killing Muslims in Afghanistan they have nothing to do there.”

It is worth recalling that the 9/11 attacks preceded the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. If it was not Afghanistan as their excuse, it would be something else.

In some ways having terrorists just jump out and stab someone to death is possibly more scary than bomb attacks. You can detect bombs, but there is little defence against an attacker with a knife – except a gun!

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Islamic Terrorism

April 24th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The two brothers suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon appear to have been motivated by a radical brand of Islam but do not seem connected to any Muslim terrorist groups, US officials said after interrogating and charging Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with crimes that could bring the death penalty.

Tsarnaev, 19, was charged in his hospital room, where he was in serious condition with a gunshot wound to the throat and other injuries suffered during his attempted getaway. His older brother, Tamerlan, 26, died after a fierce gunbattle with police.

The Massachusetts college student was charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. He was accused of joining with his brother in setting off the shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs that killed three people and wounded more than 200 a week ago.

The brothers, ethnic Chechens from Russia who had been living in the US for about a decade, practiced Islam.

Two US officials said preliminary evidence from the younger man’s interrogation suggests the brothers were motivated by religious extremism but were apparently not involved with Islamic terrorist organisations.

In one sense it is more concerning they were not dupes put up to it by a terrorist group, but decided to turn to terrorism based solely on their religious beliefs.

There are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims, and it goes without saying that the vast majority do not practice or support terrorism. Just mindlessly ranting against an entire religion achieves nothing.

And of course there have been terrorists motivated by other religions – Northern Ireland, for one.

But to my mind there is a difference with terrorism done by extreme Islamists. It is that religion seems to be the sole reason for the terrorism.

Most terrorism involves territorial disputes. Northern Ireland was part-religious but partly an fight over the partition or Ireland.

Terrorism in Kashmir is linked to control of disputed territory. Religion is part of it, but not all of it.

Other factors involved in why people turn to terrorism can be extreme poverty, lack of education etc.

But when it comes to terrorism involving relatively well off, well educated citizens, with no territorial dispute – the sole factor often is just their belief in an extreme version of Islam. And to be frank that is scary.

Tony Blair and the IRA managed to find a political settlement that has almost stopped terrorism in Northern Ireland. The same has happened in other areas.

But I’m at a loss to know how you stop people like the Tsarnaev brothers concluding that their God wants them to blow up children who are watching the Boston Marathon. When a religion doesn’t unambiguously condemn violence and killing, and many priests promote rewards in the afterlife for those who kill in God’s name – no wonder. When Iran’s mullahs hand out fatwas encourging people to kill the likes of Salman Rushdie, it is no surprise that you have others decide that killing people for their God is a good idea.

Christianity has it faults, and a chequered history. But the number of Christian priests who in modern times ever call for someone to be killed is almost zero – the odd lunatic excepted. But sadly in Islam, all too many religious and political leaders (and the two are linked) do preach violence in God’s name.

The solutions are not easy. Just condemning 1.6 billion Muslims for the sins of a few is not a solution – just prejudice. But neither is there merit in ignoring the problems and almost unique challenges of Islamic terrorism. The lack of a central authority in Islam, and the inability to modernise their teachings, makes change very challenging.

In the end the only practical long-term solution is to encourage moderate Muslim leaders, to speak out and condemn the extremists, and make clear that terrorism is evil and sinful – no matter what.

But I have to admit I am pessimistic. I don’t see an end to religious terrorism in my lifetime.

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Another terror plot

April 23rd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Reuters reports:

Canadian security forces have thwarted an al Qaeda plot to blow up a rail line between Canada and the United States, police and intelligence agencies say.

US security and law enforcement sources said the suspects had sought to attack the railroad between Toronto and New York City. Two men had been arrested after raids in Toronto and Montreal.

With this plot and the recent terrorism in Boston, it seems a very bad time to be arguing that there should be no capability to do intercept domestic communications in New Zealand. One professor was recently in print saying that this would make us a totalitarian state in a hysterical rant.

Of course any domestic spying must be strictly controlled and have rigorous oversight.  But those who argue New Zealand never has and never will have domestic threats are dangerously naive.

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The Boston killers

April 21st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing lay hospitalised under heavy guard as people across the area breathed easier and investigators tried to piece together the motive for the deadly plot.

Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, was reported in serious condition and unable to be interrogated the morning after he was pulled, wounded and bloody, from a boat parked in the backyard of a home in Watertown, Massachusetts. 

The capture came at the end of a tense day that began with his older brother, Tamerlan, dying in a desperate getaway attempt.

President Barack Obama said there are many unanswered questions about the Boston bombings, including whether the Tsarnaev brothers – ethnic Chechens from southern Russia who had been in the US for about a decade and lived in the Boston area – had help from others.

“When a tragedy like this happens, with public safety at risk and the stakes so high, it’s important that we do this right,” Obama said. 

“That’s why we take care not to rush to judgment – not about the motivations of these individuals, certainly not about entire groups of people.”

However, Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau told CNN the early indications were that the brothers did act alone.

That appears to be the case. In fact it seems the (deceased) older brother probably put his younger brother up to it.

It is still a very distressing case. The two killers were relatively well integrated it seems, but the older brother appears to have become a radical Islamist. Hopefully we may learn from the surviving brother if there was a specific trigger that led to this.

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Boston Marathon explosions

April 16th, 2013 at 7:33 am by David Farrar

Fox News reports:

The Boston Marathon headquarters has been locked down after two explosions were reported near the finish line, a spokesman told Reuters.

Witnesses reportedly heard two booms near the finish line inside the Fairmount Copley Plaza Hotel that sounded like two claps of thunder. 

The Associated Press says there are reports of injuries. 

Unless this is a freak accident, this is a terrible criminal event – to target marathon runners. One can only assume they wnted to kill or injure as many people as possible.

There are first hand reports on Twitter of horrific injuries, legs blown off etc.

My prayers and thoughts are with the victims, and with the United States today.

UPDATE: Two or three dead so far. My emotions are torn between profound sadness and massive anger. What should have been a day of joy has become a day of tragedy. May those responsible be found and removed from civilisation.

UPDATE2: The NY Post is reporting 12 dead and 50 injured. Note no other media are reporting this many dead. Two dead and six critical is the latest on CNN.

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