OIC Secretary General Condemns Suicide Attacks in Nigeria

The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, has strongly condemned the series of suicide attacks that were carried out by suspected members of Boko Haram on Sunday and Monday, 25 and 26 June 2017 respectively, in Maiduguri town, including the University of Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, killing more than 13 people and injuring dozens of others.

The Secretary General described the suicide attacks as heinous and despicable acts that negate Islamic values which uphold the sanctity of human life, especially at a time when Muslims are celebrating the Eid festival.

The group had alleged links to al-Qaeda, but in March 2015, it announced its allegiance to terror group ISIS.

Boko Haram is an extremist/terror group based in northeastern Nigeria, also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon.

Dr. Al-Othaimeen extended his condolences to the families of the victims and the people and government of Nigeria over this tragedy, and urged the government to intensify efforts in bringing all those responsible for this reprehensible act to justice.

Warnings of Potential Attacks in UK

attacks

London – British intelligence agencies have announced tightening security at airports and nuclear power plants over fears of potential terrorist attacks, reported The Telegraph.

Intelligence agencies believe that ISIS and other terrorist groups have developed ways to plant explosives in laptops and mobile phones that can evade airport security screening methods – they also warned that terrorists may have developed ways of bypassing safety checks.

British securities notified lately of potential attacks that might target airports and nuclear power plants and ordered them to tighten security measures.

Jesse Norman, the energy minister, told The Telegraph that nuclear plants must make sure that they remain resilient to evolving cyber threats. Norman added: “The Government is fully committed to defending the UK against cyber threats, with a £1.9 billion investment designed in security against terrorist attacks.”

Therefore, the decision of the US and Britain to ban travelers coming from some Middle Eastern countries from carrying laptops and large electronic devices on board did not come out of nowhere.

FBI experts have tested how the explosives can be hidden inside laptop battery compartments in a way that allows a computer to remain turned on. There were also fears that computer hackers were trying to bypass nuclear power station security measures.

Government officials have warned that terrorists and foreign spies are looking to exploit “vulnerabilities” in the nuclear industry’s internet defenses.

Earlier, US banned carrying electronic devices on airplanes by travelers coming from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Turkey.

Opinion: Attacking Bahrain Season

The story goes like this – three citizens were found guilty by a court of killing two Bahraini police officers and an Emirati officer. They were given the death sentence by the court of cassation after exhaustive trial proceedings in the presence of the defendants’ lawyers, and after their statements were heard in accordance with court rulings that are in line with internationally accepted procedures. After that, the customary party attended by international organisations and human rights groups began.

These parties have become dull, repetitive and routine and they do not bring anything new, even if they are supported by states and governments, in light of the west’s coarse human rights awakening whose influence has started to erode and is no longer what it was. This is not because people do not believe in the role of organisations in consolidating human rights that are violated, but because these same people are sick of the blatant politicisation of these organisations, the lack of effective standards that determine their reactions and their disparity when it comes to dealing with issues.

Since the events of February 2011, Bahrain has been the target of a fierce Western campaign that organisations, bodies, governments and, unfortunately, regional states have been involved in. However, it has managed to overcome the effects of the crisis gradually and successfully. The tolerance that it has displayed exceeds that of well-established states that experienced similar crises and confronted them with violence and repression. Instead of helping Bahrain achieve success with its project of reformation which ironically began ten years before the Arab Spring, the attack against Bahrain was fierce and everyone except its real friends abandoned it. However, this did not prevent the kingdom from overcoming the toughest crisis in its history and proving its unique ability to become stronger than it was.

Earlier this month, an attack on a prison in Bahrain led to the escape of ten convicted prisoners who were convicted of serious crimes. The well planned operation in which sophisticated weapons were used and a guard was killed is considered new evidence that what Bahrain is facing is bigger than can be imagined. There are many signs that innocent people are being exploited in cells supported by Iran that do not just pose a great danger to Bahrain’s stability, but also to the stability of the entire region. Attempting to isolate events such as these from the full picture of what is happening in Bahrain is a violation of human rights unless the victims are not human beings!

Unfortunately, the political exploitation of human rights issues often defeats their fundamental aim and turns these issues into an arena for political attraction instead of being an arena purely for human rights in Bahrain. In Bahrain, for example, instead of these international organisations carrying out their roles to deepen the necessary concepts, stopping any potential violations, assisting in the review of policies, practices and legislation and bringing them closer to international standards, we find that the whole issue turns into abusing Bahrain politically. We also find that this abuse is based on false information and suspicious sources; in the recent incident, coverage focussed on the execution of the three defendants and ignored the rights of the three victims and their families. 25 Bahraini police men have been killed and 3,800 individuals have been injured in clashes with demonstrators since 2011. Don’t they have rights? Shouldn’t their killers be held accountable?

Sinai: Eastern Gate of Egypt Defies Extremists

Cairo- Sinai, the eastern gate of Egypt, has witnessed constant bloody scenes since 2013 in an open war launched by the Egyptian army against extremists who transformed the peninsula into a terrorist governorate.

According to the latest national statistics, terrorist attacks during the last three months of 2016 were 92.

Observers and analysts say that the bordering tunnels in Sinai extend on 15km along with Gaza Strip and form an underground network, through which arms and explosives are transported for use in attacks against the army.
Observers note that Sinai currently harbors extremist groups and international gangs with common interests that aim to weaken security.

Strategic reports show that many factors have contributed to the environment that allowed extremist groups to move freely in Sinai.

Three extremist organizations

The strategic reports say that a number of organizations have sought safe haven in the northeast region of Sinai since the end of the eighties.

Extremists began flourishing there after they were chased following the assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat in 1981 and many other operations that targeted Egyptian symbols. According to these reports, three groups “Salafi Jihadism”, “Islamic Jihad”, and “Takfir wal-Hijra” expanded in Sinai.
ISIS in Sinai

Last week, ISIS in Sinai announced it responsibility for killing 25 policemen in an attack in El Arish. This attack was one of many that have taken place over the past months. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said that his country conducts a real war against terrorism. He also revealed that over the past three months, the Egyptian security forces confiscated tons of explosives along with millions of Egyptian Pounds and U.S. Dollars hidden in underground depots.

Networks of tunnels

On the other hand, observers see that the networks of tunnels have been a major problem; in the past, they were used to help people in Gaza during the Israeli blockade, yet today they are used to transport explosives and arms to carry out attacks in Egypt.

In Sinai, the most dominating extremist organization is Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which has pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014 and called itself Wilayat Sinai. However, the Egyptian government rejects this name and uses ISIS in Sinai in its media outlets. In fact, this organization has emerged after the Revolution of January 25, which toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Since the fall of Mohammed Morsi in 2013, in targeted gas pipelines, Egyptian security forces, security zones, and touristic buses near Taba City.

International organizations

Security expert Assayed Abdul Mohsen told Asharq Al-Awsat that Sinai incubates extremist members and international gangs of human trafficking. These members and organizations cooperate to serve their joint interests to weaken the national security and carry out attacks in the country. He added that ISIS Sinai announced many times that it has aimed at founding an “extremist Imara” in this region; However, security experts asserted that this goal can never be achieved considering the power balances.

A new study conducted by Al-Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies reported that the Bait al-Maqdis organization in Sinai was responsible for the majority of terrorist attacks in the last quarter of 2016; it has carried out around 89% of the attacks (92) while other random organizations were responsible for 11% of assaults.

Terrorist attacks

Among the major attacks carried out by the terrorist organizations was the attack in Taba, which killed 34 people in October 2004 and the explosions of Sharm al-Sheikh in July 2005 that killed 67 people; many attacks have also targeted the Egyptian army and killed several of its members since 2013.
Religious resistance

Dar al-Ifta al Misriyyah said that despite all the preparations and efforts made by these terrorist organizations; they have failed in controlling territories in Sinai so they cannot expand as they did in Syria, Libya, and Iraq. The courage of the Egyptian state and the bravery of its soldiers have been considered the main factor in banning terrorists from consolidating themselves in Sinai, it said.

Al-Shabaab Claims Responsibility For Suicide Attacks in Somalia

Five people including two suicide bombers were killed and five others were wounded when two car bombs exploded near Mogadishu’s international airport. A car bomb exploded near the main base of the African Union peacekeeping force, AMISOM. The base is the force’s largest and is located near Aden Adde International Airport.

Somali Police said that the bombers attacked the headquarters of peacekeeping force in Mogadishu and killed at least three Somali security officers.

The extremist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack which occurred near Mogadishu’s main airport, an area where there are several embassies, aid organisations and telecommunications companies.

In a statement that the group made, it said that its fighters carried out two suicide attacks: “The first targeted a check point” at the entrance of the airport in order to “let the second attacker, who was driving a truck, target Hotel Peace”.

A policeman named Mohammed Ahmed said that one bomber drove a car into a checkpoint outside the headquarters of the African Union peacekeeping force AMISOM, killing three Somali officers stationed there.

Another vehicle then drove through towards the base’s main gates but came under fire from peacekeepers.

AMISOM wrote on its Twitter feed that the second vehicle “exploded about 200 metres from the gate. Civilian buildings were damaged”.

The powerful blasts damaged the front of the nearby Hotel Peace, though there were no immediate reports of casualties there. The burned-out shell of one of the wrecked vehicles lay outside the hotel.

Opinion: Turkey – The Terrorists’ First Target

Two attacks have shaken Turkey in the last twelve days. The first was when a police officer who was affiliated to the wolves of ISIS killed Russia’s ambassador at an art gallery in Ankara, and the second took place on New Year’s Eve when a terrorist disguised as Santa Claus attacked a nightclub in Istanbul. The past year was bloody due to the large number of terrorist crimes that targeted Turkey more than other countries. Why was this so?

There are countries that have highly sophisticated security and intelligence services that make them difficult targets for terrorists. An example is Jordan, however, ISIS also managed to carry out terrorism there recently. Up until two years ago, Turkey was not a target for terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and its security services were mostly concerned with following other hostile organisations such as Kurdish separatist organisations.

Terrorists linked to radical Islamist organisations arrived in Turkey later than in other countries. In January 2015, a pregnant woman blew herself up in a crowd of visitors in Hagia Sophia, and it turned out that she was Chechen.

Other attacks followed, and this includes the awful attack carried out by three ISIS fighters on Ataturk Airport which killed and wounded about 190 people. Later, many people were also killed in a terrorist bombing at a football stadium on the outskirts of Istanbul. Attacks during the last few months have also targeted marriage ceremonies, police check points, markets and tourist areas.

Why is ISIS targeting Turkey in particular? Is it directed by hostile regimes in the region that have escalated their war against Turkey, like Iran as it has been claimed, or has ISIS decided to react to the Turkish government which has launched military operations against its positions inside Syria and Iraq?

Turkey’s situation is very similar to that of Pakistan during the last decade. During most of the duration of the Syrian crisis, Turkey turned a blind eye to people crossing its land to fight in Syria. Likewise, Pakistan was the fighters’ gate to Afghanistan after the war against Al-Qaeda was launched. Turkey became the main corridor which Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters and those who joined extremist groups such as Al-Nusra Front and ISIS passed through.

Turkey has become a target since the authorities there took strict measures to monitor border crossings into Syria. Foreign fighters were forced to return after European countries requested that Turkey block their citizens’ access to war zones. Most Arab countries made similar requests.

Turkey came under western, Arab and Russian pressure and they all called on it to close its borders to prevent the activity of fighting groups. At the same time that Ankara agreed to prevent foreign fighters crossing into Syria, it wanted to differentiate between those affiliated to Syrian groups that are fighting for their country, and those affiliated to terrorist groups.

Now, Turkey , the gate of the Syrian revolution, is paying a heavy price; it has become the main target of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organisations – ISIS and Al-Nusra Front. These organisations seem to be strong on the ground and pose a constant threat to the country.

It is likely that Turkey will do what states that have experienced the same thing did. The government of Bosnia began to expel foreign fighters and unarmed extremists, most of whom were Arabs, after they become a burden on its security and caused problems at a political level. It also shut down their organisations and associations.

Pakistan also pursued foreign fighters and handed over all of those who were captured to the governments of their respective countries. It also imposed visas and expelled extremist groups.

It is expected that the Turkish authorities will now turn their attention to extremist groups that found a comfortable haven in Turkey after they escaped Egypt, Tunisia and the Gulf because Ankara’s government needs to strengthen cooperation with regional security systems after having protested in the past that they were being lenient with these Islamist groups that oppose it politically.

Israel Warns on Travel to India, Citing Immediate Threat of Attacks

Israel’s anti-terrorism directorate issued a travel warning for India on Friday, citing an immediate threat of attack to Western and tourist targets, particularly in the south-west of the country.

“A particular emphasis should be put on events in the coming days in connection with beach and club parties celebrating the New Year where a concentration of tourists will be high,” part of the warning said according to Reuters.

The statement recommended that tourists avoid participation in such parties. It also called on families in Israel to contact their relatives in India and tell them of the threat.

In addition, it recommended avoiding markets, festivals and crowded shopping areas. Unusually, the warning was published on Friday evening in Israel, after the start of the Jewish Sabbath, when government offices close for business.

The directorate did not say what prompted the warning. In 2012, the wife of Israeli diplomat stationed in India, her driver and two others were wounded in a bomb attack on her car. Israel and India share close military ties

2016…a Year of Balances and Maps Confusion

World

London – Asharq Al-Awsat has dedicated a week to review 2016’s most important incidences and developments before anticipating the major incidents of 2017. The newspapers’ reporters and writers have contributed in gathering the remarkable events that took place over the 12 past months on national, regional, and international levels; they also highlighted the backgrounds and makers and sometimes tackled their repercussions and exceptional importance.

Many incidents have dominated the Arab region and the world – these incidents covered security crises like war against terrorism and extremism, projects of expansion and hegemony aiming to spread and exploit factional discord, and the development of international relations with major players and partners in both private and public sectors.

The political issues in the Arab world mainly Syria, Iraq, and Yemen have witnessed important developments; Al-Assad regime supported by Iran and Russia has maintained its efforts to bury the popular uprising through systematic displacement and demographic change. Tehran in cooperation with many local parties has manipulated the local scene aiming to change regional equations; it also benefited from Barak Obama’s Administration, which worked on achieving a nuclear deal with Iran and avoided a serious intervention to stop the Iranian interference.

2016 also witnessed many major events like the 100th anniversary of The Sykes–Picot Agreement, which drew the Middle East’s maps. Over the past 12 months, maps’ changes represented a serious concern, which was highly discussed and negotiated among Arabs, Kurds, Turks, and Iranians. ISIS-led terrorism was also another major dilemma; the organization has taken advantage of people’s burdens and sufferance to justify its draconian acts against civilians.

Last but not least, practices of the Israeli right-winged Likud-led administration and its insistence on continuing settlement and Judaism projects have contributed in maximizing depression among the Arabic and Muslim youth and pushed them toward extremism. We also have to shed lights on the phenomenon of another kind of extremism practiced against Muslims and Arabs all across Europe and the United States.

In fact, the asylum and displacement and even the economic migration, which have grown after the drop of national barriers in Europe have agitated concerns and rivalry against others, and helped racist powers to reach the heart of the battle over the authority. Phenomena which have emphasized this new trend included the British voting for Brexit, the fall of the Italian government, election of the Republican Donald Trump in U.S.A. and the ascension of the right-wing’s influence in France.

On another hand, by the time the West was in confusion with economic obstacles, Russia and China have marked more presence. Russia led by Vladimir Putin has showed more influence in the Middle East and Eastern Europe – taking advantage of Obama’s administration’s weakness – Beijing has sought to play a similar leading role in the Middle East, which has raised concerns among neighboring countries.

Most important incidences:

• January: Saudi Arabia has suspended diplomatic ties with Iran after the attack on its embassy in Tehran.
• February: Physicians announce their detection for the first clear gravity phenomenon expected by Einstein in 1915.
• February: A historic meeting between Pope Francis and Moscow’s Patriarch in Havana after more than 1000 years of separation among Christians of the East and the West.
• March: The EU inked suspicious agreement with Turkey to stop refugees flow to Europe.
• March: Barack Obama visits Cuba for the first time since Fidel Castro reached the rule in 1959.
• March: ISIS hit Brussels through coordinated attacks and killed 32 people.
• April: Journalists discover Panama Documents revealing scandals of fiscal evasion.
• May: Murder of Taliban’s leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour through an air strike launched by a U.S. drone.
• Mat: Obama calls to clear the world from nuclear weapon of Hiroshima.
• June: Mohammad Ali Clay left this world.
• June: 52% of the British people voted for separation from the EU.
• July: A suicide member carried on an attack in Nice and killed 82 people with a bus hit.
• July: A failed coup attempt took place in Turkey.
• August: Rio Olympics kicked off.
• September: North Koran regime announced success of its fifth nuclear test.
• September: Shimon Peres died.
• November: Republican candidate Donald Trump won U.S. presidential elections.
• November: Syrian army launched violent assault over Aleppo.
• November: Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban revolution passed away.
• December: Twin terrorist attack in Istanbul killed 44 policemen.
• December: Attack against the Coptic church in Cairo
• December: António Guterres sworn in as next U.N. Secretary-General

Three Car Bombs Near Mosul Kill and Injure Dozens of People

The Iraqi army announced yesterday that 23 people, including eight policemen, were killed and dozens wounded after three car bombs targeting a popular market in Kokjali, an eastern suburb of Mosul, were detonated. ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombings.

A statement issued by the joint operations command said that 15 civilians and 8 policemen were killed when three car bombs exploded in a market in Kokjali, an eastern suburb of Mosul that Iraqi forces recaptured from ISIS at the beginning of November. Life was beginning to return to this town gradually and markets that brought goods from Erbil were teeming with shoppers coming from neighbourhoods under the control of government forces.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement that it posted on Twitter and confirmed that the operations were carried out by three suicide bombers. Twenty people were killed and ten Hummer vehicles and four 4×4 cars were destroyed in the attacks.

On its part, the United Nations said that four Iraqi aid workers and at least seven civilians were killed by mortar fire this week during an operation to distribute aid in Mosul as the campaign to retake the city from ISIS continued to make slow and punishing progress.

A statement issued by the United Nations said that two separate mortar attacks this week killed aid workers and wounded about 40 people. It also said that indiscriminate shelling violated international law.

The UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande condemned the two attacks and considers them a violation of humanitarian principles. She said that “People waiting for aid are already vulnerable and need help. They should be protected, not attacked”. She continued by saying that “All parties to the conflict – all parties – have an obligation to uphold international humanitarian law and ensure that civilians survive and receive the assistance they need.”

Grande did not blame any party for the attacks but ISIS extremists retreating from the military offensive have repeatedly bombed areas after they were retaken by the army, killing or wounding scores of residents fleeing in the opposite direction.

The US backed assault on Mosul, the militants’ last major stronghold in Iraq, was launched by a 100,000-strong alliance of local forces on October 17. It has become the biggest military operation in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Authorities do not release figures for civilian or military casualties, but medical officials say dozens of people are wounded each day in the battle to liberate Mosul.

Syrian Opposition Resists an Attack by Iranian Fighters in Eastern Aleppo

Syrian opposition factions yesterday resisted attacks carried out by the Syrian regime’s forces and its allies to expand the area that they control in besieged neighbourhoods in eastern Aleppo. They were able to regain the lead on more than one front by seizing areas that they had lost last week, and this coincided with an increase in the loss of Russian lives and equipment in Syria.

The military spokesman for the Fastaqim Kama Umirt group Ammar Saqqar said that “the Syrian regime, the Russians and the Iranians yesterday prepared a massing of troops to storm the western part of eastern Aleppo, specifically the neighbourhoods of Al-Iza’ah and Jubb Al-Jalabi. However, the Syrian opposition resisted them and inflicted great loss of life and equipment on them”. In a statement that he made to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said that most of the attacking forces were Iranian and not Syrian. He added “We were also able to confirm that Russian soldiers were on the field. They were not fighting but were managing back line operations”.

The German Press Agency (DPA) quoted an “Army of Aleppo” military commander as saying that it had “regained control of the Eye Hospital in the Qadi Askar neighbourhood after violent clashes with the regime’s forces”. He also pointed out that more than 20 soldiers belonging to the regime’s forces were killed in a bombing that took place in the Maysir district, 15 others were killed in battles near the Eye Hospital and the areas of Karam Al-Turab and Al-Qatarji and a group of others from the Syrian regime were detained.

In contrast, the Russian news agency Sputnik said that “the Syrian regime’s forces and its allies continue to advance at the cost of armed opposition factions in Aleppo, northern Syria”. The agency also alluded to the Syrian regime’s control of more eastern neighbourhoods after fierce battles took place between the two sides and amidst Russian – Syrian air strikes.

A military source on the ground told the Russian agency that the regime’s forces “have seized control of the neighbourhoods Karam Al-Turab and Al-Qatarji and the Eye Hospital that were considered to be Jabhat Fath Al-Sham’s most important strongholds.”