Motorbike Explodes in front of Jordan’s Military Office in Paris

Police officers stand next to a burnt scooter outside the office of Jordan's military attache in Paris

A motorbike explosion outside the office of Jordan’s military attache in western Paris did not appear to intentionally target Jordan, an embassy official said on Wednesday.

According to local police and Jordan’s foreign ministry, the scooter caught fire, setting off a small explosion in front of the building.

“A motorbike exploded in front of the building where the military attache’s office is. The police are investigating,” an embassy official said. “It doesn’t seem to be an intentional act that targets Jordan.”

The fire caused minor damage, but no injuries and police are investigating whether the fire was accidental.

According to the Paris police department the fire spread to a diplomatic vehicle early in the morning, but there was nothing that “corresponded to an explosion.”

An official at the nearby Jordanian embassy told Reuters he did not believe the explosion was intentionally targeting Jordan.

The Jordanian embassy and the office of the military attache are in separate areas of Paris.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted by the Jordanian state-run Petra news agency earlier saying that a motorbike exploded in front of Jordan’s military mission, but that no staff were injured in the explosion.

The Paris police department said an investigation had been opened, but there was nothing to suggest the incident was related to terrorism.

Five Questioned over Failed Bomb in Paris Neighborhood

Paris

Five suspects were interrogated on Tuesday for their possible connection to a failed bomb discovered in an apartment building in a posh neighborhood in the French capital Paris.

Judicial sources said the explosive device included two gas canisters inside the building in the affluent 16th district of western Paris and two outside, some of them doused with petrol and wired to connect to a mobile phone.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said one of those arrested was on an intelligence services list of “radicalized” persons.

Asked to explain how someone under surveillance could carry out an attempted attack undetected, he said radicals usually have “friends, networks that can carry out the act,” people who don’t show outward signs of radicalization “but are ready to help.”

He said the incident shows that the threat against France remains “extremely big.”

“Blowing up a building in a chic neighborhood of Paris — is this not a sign that no one is safe? This doesn’t happen just in suburbs in working class neighborhoods,” he said.

“We are still in a state of war,” Collomb, speaking after a Sunday attack in which a knifeman killed two women in Marseille, told France Inter radio.

It was unclear why the device was planted at the location where it was found as there was no obvious target living there, the judicial sources said.

More than 230 people have been killed in France in attacks by extremist militants over the past three years. The ISIS terrorist group, whose bases in Syria and Iraq are being bombed by French war planes, has urged followers to attack France.

Most of those killed died in attacks by extremist gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris in 2015 and when a man drove a large truck into crowds in the Riviera resort of Nice in 2016.

Since then, there has been a string of attacks perpetrated by lone assailants, often targeting police or soldiers.

“The threat is changing form,” said Collomb.

A counter-terrorism investigation is also under way after the attack on Sunday, where a knifeman slit the throat of one of his victims and killed her cousin before being shot dead by soldiers at a train station in the southern port city.

A separate inquiry has been opened to establish why the man, who had been briefly detained by police the day before in the city of Lyon had been released.

France declared a state of emergency in late 2015 after the Paris attack by gunmen and suicide bombers, giving police special search and arrest powers to combat would-be terrorists.

New legislation was due to be put to a vote in parliament on Tuesday to make many of those emergency measures permanent.

Collomb stressed the importance of the counter-terrorism law as critics say it tramples on individual liberties and puts France in a permanent state of emergency.

Paris Terror Suspect Wants to Appear in Person for Trial in Belgium

Belgian prosecutors announced on Tuesday that terror suspect Salah Abdeslam wants to appear in person at his trial for a shootout with police in Brussels last year that led to his capture after four months on the run.

According to AFP, Abdeslam, the only surviving alleged member of the terror group that murdered 130 people in the French capital in November 2015, was arrested three days after a gun battle with police in March last year that left several officers wounded.

Belgian judges have ordered the 28-year-old, who is in custody in France awaiting trial for the Paris attacks, to stand trial in Brussels along with his alleged accomplice Sofiane Ayari, with the case due to start on December 18.

“Contrary to what was thought, he has said he wants to come and attend his trial,” a spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office told AFP.

Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French national, is charged with “attempted murder of several police officers in a terrorist context” over the shootout at a flat in the Forest district of Brussels.

He and Ayari fled the flat but police caught up with them in the gritty Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek, shooting Abdeslam in the leg.

Investigators suspect that Abdeslam’s arrest precipitated the suicide bombings targeting Brussels airport and metro system four days later by ultra-harliners who feared that they too would be captured before they could carry out their plot.

ISIS claimed the Paris and Brussels attacks and French and Belgian police believe the same terror cell plotted both assaults.

A lawyer in the Brussels case told AFP that hearings are scheduled over four days, ending on December 22.

Himat Ali…An Artist Who Speaks Through Colors

The Eiffel Tower and La Defense business district are seen during traditional Bastille Day in Paris

Paris- The Kurdish referendum has made headlines in northern Iraq, however, the Iraqi-Kurdish Artist Himat Mohammed Ali has different interests. He is speaking to the world through colors instead of words. Even his name has been shortened to four letters. With these few letters, he built a wide celebrity and wandered many cities with his paintings; from Manama to Tokyo, to Paris where he settled. He was lucky to stay at a home dedicated to artists. It was built of iron bars, which were used by Gustave Eiffel, who engineered the famous Parisian tower, in constructing a suite at the universal exhibition held in the French capital in 1900.

“La Roche”, which means the beehive, is the name of this building surrounded by perennial trees and located in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. It currently houses 60 painting ateliers occupied by painters and sculptors of different nationalities. In the backyard opened on a narrow alleyway, brightly-colored paintings lure pedestrians and visitors. It is the nature with all its details, beauties, and suns, give up to Himat’s pencil willingly, as if the painter is taking us to the northern Iraqi plains embroidered with anemones and chamomiles. Did he mean it or his eyes were just washed with the greenery of nature in every place he visited? Something of the cherry tree buds on the Japanese islands must have fallen into his pockets. Therefore, before hanging the paintings on the gallery’s walls, he took them and placed them on the dense trees of La Roche’s garden at the home of artists, where they harmonized with the surrounding.

The exhibition features rectangular and round paintings that look like carpets in fancy houses. When approaching them, visitors discover amazing details and try to catch the secret behind the light emerging from them. The drawings were shining; they emit warmth and have the magic of a bright sun or a full moon. There are butterflies flying in the exhibition’s space. The exhibition also featured some folded paintings that resemble an old manuscript known as “Sheherazade Letters”. How beautiful was to see young visitors, art students, and other elderly people. A lady and her companion, with smiles on their faces, were looking for the artist, but they met a shy man with a sharp mustache, who greeted them by shaking his head. Ali seemed muted by the events taking place in his homeland, so he used the pencil instead of his voice to draw beauty, in order to beat ugliness.

Himat was born in Kirkuk in 1960 and had organized 25 exhibitions, in Japan and Arab and European capitals. French writer and critic Bernard Noel, together with the Iraqi poet and critic Farouk Yousef, published a book entitled “The Amulets of Solitude” on the Iraqi artist.

The latter has great relations with poets. He contributed to joint exhibitions and volumes with the Syrian Adonis, French André Velter, Japanese Kutaro Ganzoumi, Bahraini Qassem Haddad, Iraqi Saadi Youssef and Moroccan Mohamed Bennis.

Bassil-Moallem Meeting Disturbs Lebanon’s Ruling Coalition

Beirut- A meeting held between the son-in-law of Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun and Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in New York last week sparked dismay in the team of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, shaking the ruling alliance that would also deal on Monday with a general strike organized by civil servants to protest a freeze in their salary hike.

On Thursday, Moallem and his Lebanese counterpart Jebran Bassil met in New York on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly.

Aoun spoke last week about “communication channels” with the Syrian regime concerning the issue of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

In objection to the Bassil-Moallem meeting, Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouq announced that he was not accompanying the president on his official trip to Paris on Monday, describing the meeting between the two foreign ministers as tantamount to a political attack on the premiership, and a violation of the political settlement.

“We will not accept it [Bassil-Moallem meeting] under any circumstances and we will confront it by all means,” Mashnouk said during a meeting with Beiruti families on Sunday.

Despite his harsh attack on Bassil, Mashnouq did not mention President Aoun.

However, ministerial sources warned that the ruling coalition could not survive long if Lebanon remains attached to such approach vis-à-vis the Syrian regime.

“The president is not alone entitled to discuss the issue of cooperation with the Syrian regime, but should present the matter to the cabinet that in return makes the appropriate decision in this regard,” sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

On Sunday, Aoun said that Lebanon would discuss with Syria the file of the Syrian refugees, who currently constitute 50 percent of his country’s population.

Separately, and following the confusion produced by last week’s decision of the Constitutional Council to overturn a tax law, the cabinet currently faces a new deadlock in providing resources to fund a salary scale for public employees, who are now angry from the possibility of not receiving their financial rights.

The Syndicate Coordination Committee called for a general strike Monday in all public institutions, schools and municipalities to put pressure on the government in case political forces decide to halt the salary hike during a cabinet session scheduled for Tuesday morning. 

Secretary General of the Teachers Union in Lebanon Walid Jaradi predicted that around 125,000 public employees would participate in Monday’s strike.

False Alarm Delays London-Bound Plane at Paris Airport

British

A false security alarm delayed on Sunday a British Airways plane at Paris’ international airport.

Police and firefighters checked the plane on the tarmac of the Charles de Gaulle airport after reports of a security threat, which turned out to be a false alarm.

A spokesman for France’s national gendarme service said police and firefighters rushed to the scene after receiving a “security alert.”

Passengers were evacuated from Flight BA303 at Charles de Gaulle airport before it was due to fly to London for what officials said was a security reason.

The spokesman said each passenger and each bag was checked and the plane was thoroughly examined but no threats were found.

He would not elaborate on the nature of the original alert. The spokesman was not authorized to be publicly named according to gendarme policy.

“The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our top priority. Additional security checks are being carried out as a precaution,” British Airways said in a statement when asked about the flight.

One passenger on the plane said it was surrounded by dozens of armed officers and firefighters.

James Anderson, a 20-year-old entrepreneur on the flight from Paris to London’s Heathrow Airport, told The Associated Press that the pilot initially told passengers there were technical issues.

After about an hour, he said passengers were told the aircraft had to move to another part of the airport and that’s when security officers surrounded the plane.

“The pilot then said there had been a direct security threat involving our flight,” Anderson told the AP.

Knife-wielding Man Attacks Soldier in Paris, No Injuries

A knife-wielding man attacked a soldier on a counter-terrorism patrol in central Paris on Friday but did not cause any injuries, police said.

The attacker lunged at the soldier around 6.30 am at the Chatelet station, a busy central hub for the metro and the suburban RER rail network that carries commuters into Paris from the capital’s sprawling suburbs, a police source said. The soldier quickly brought the man under control.

The attacker was not previously known to police, a source said.

The incident came with France still on high alert following a string of terror attacks which began in January 2015 and which left more than 230 people dead.

Following that attack, the government launched an operation known as Sentinelle, deploying some 7,000 troops across the country to guard high-risk areas such as tourist sites and religious buildings. 

Since then, there has been a string of assaults by individual attackers targeting these soldiers, including at Paris’s Orly airport, sparking a debate over whether the troops should remain on the streets.

French defense minister Florence Parly told Europe 1 radio the fact that the attacker was swiftly brought under control Friday was “proof of the professionalism and efficiency of the Sentinelle soldiers in their mission to protect.”

She said she had no further details on the assailant or his motives.

Police Evict Thousands of Migrants from Paris Sidewalks

French police evicted more than 2,000 migrants living on sidewalks in an area north of Paris on Friday and Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the latest action proved the system for handling migrants is “dysfunctional”.

Dozens of police and white police vans moved in at around 5 a.m. local time to clear the area where the regional police said numbers have swollen to almost 2,500.

A similar roundup of the mostly Afghan and African migrants around the Porte de la Chapelle area in July saw 2,800 moved from the streets into temporary accommodation.

“These illegal camps present a security and public health risk for both the occupants and local residents,” the Paris police prefect’s office said in a statement as 350 police and other officials conducted the clear-out.

The migrants who came from countries including Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan – many of whom were ready waiting with small backpacks- were escorted onto buses to be taken to temporary lodgings such as gymnasium buildings in Paris and areas ringing the capital.

Collomb told RTL radio the ministry and police were studying how to prevent a regrouping of migrants in Paris.

“What we want to do is to ensure that there isn’t a focal point (in Paris), but that we can welcome (the migrants) within the national asylum schemes, possibly on the outskirts of Paris,” he said. “It shows that the Parisian system has some dysfunctions.”

President Emmanuel Macron has asked Collomb to produce a plan to accelerate processing of asylum requests with a view to deciding within six months who will be granted refugee status and who gets sent back.

The camp in Paris has swollen despite the creation of two new centers by Paris City Hall to register and temporarily house migrants arriving in the city.

Local authorities also report a rise in recent weeks in the number of migrants roaming the streets of the northern port city of Calais, where a sprawling illegal camp was razed to the ground last November and its inhabitants dispatched to other parts of France.

Calais, from which migrants hope to reach Britain, has come to symbolize Europe’s difficulty in dealing with a record influx of men, women and children who have fled their native countries.

Paris Terror Suspect to Stand Trial in Belgium over Shootout

Belgian judges on Thursday ordered Abdeslam, 27, and his alleged accomplice Sofiane Ayari, 24, to stand trial in Brussels criminal court, with the date set in a few weeks, the federal prosecutor’s office said.

The two will be tried for “attempted murder of several police officers in a terrorist context” and “carrying banned weapons in a terrorist context,” the office said in a statement.

Abdeslam, the sole surviving alleged assailant in the November 2015 Paris massacre, was arrested three days after the shootout on March 15 last year in which several officers were wounded.

Abdeslam remains in custody in France where he was transferred from Belgium in April last year and where he is also to face trial over his alleged role in the Paris attacks.

A female French police officer and Belgian colleagues were wounded at the Forest neighbourhood apartment in which an Algerian suspect was killed. Abdeslam and Ayari fled the apartment that police had initially thought was empty.

After finding Abdeslam’s fingerprints in the apartment, police arrested him and Ayari during a raid on March 18, 2016 in the gritty Brussels immigrant neighbourhood of Molenbeek, shooting Abdeslam in the leg.

Investigators suspect that Abdeslam’s arrest precipitated the suicide bombings in Brussels four days later by jihadists who feared that they too would be captured before they could carry out their plot.

French and Belgian police believe the same cell plotted the Paris bombing and gun attacks, which left 130 people dead, and the Brussels suicide bombings, which cost the lives of 32 people at Zaventem airport and Malbeek metro station.

Terror group ISIS claimed responsibility for both sets of attacks.

Abdeslam was neither present nor represented by a lawyer at Thursday’s court proceedings, while Ayari was absent but represented by his lawyer Laura Severin, she told AFP.

Severin said Ayari, who is of Tunisian origin and is also implicated in the Paris attacks, admits being present in Forest on the day of the shootout and “at this point does not contest the charges.”

Abdeslam’s exact role in the worst terror attack in French history remains unclear. Prosecutors believe he was in charge of logistics for the attacks, which were planned in Brussels.

He drove the three suicide bombers who blew themselves up outside the Stade de France to the stadium and then roamed the city before fleeing to Belgium early the next day.

He told investigators in Belgium before his transfer that he had also wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France but had changed his mind.

His former Belgian lawyer Sven Mary told a Dutch newspaper that Abdeslam had become even more radicalised since his arrest, saying he had grown a beard and become a “true fundamentalist”.

Abdeslam’s brother Brahim blew himself up in a Paris cafe during the November attacks.

Salah Abdeslam is a childhood friend of Mohamed Abrini, who did not set off his suitcase bomb at Zaventem airport with the other two suicide bombers and was captured days later.

Abrini and Abdeslam, who hail from the same gritty immigrant Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek, were filmed at a service station en route to Paris just before the 2015 attacks there.

Mystery Surrounds Paris Car-Ramming Attack

Atrash

Paris – Mystery still surrounds the car-ramming attack that was carried out by Algerian Hamou bin al-Atrash in a Paris suburb on Wednesday.

The suspect is currently in hospital where he is receiving treatment after being shot five times by police during his arrest. He was not well enough to be questioned, a police source said. His condition is however no longer critical.

On Wednesday, the 36-year-old Algerian man was arrested after a motorway car chase and is suspected of driving a BMW into a group of servicemen in a suburb of Paris earlier in the day, injuring six of them.

Atrash, a taxi driver, had no previous convictions and was not on France’s terror watch list.

Pending his recovery and investigation, security and judicial sources have not yet labeled the attack as terrorist.

Security agencies carried out a number of raids and confiscated mobile phones and laptops and interrogated a number of individuals who may have connections with Atrash.

French media released several details of the operation that led to the suspect’s arrest. The 300-strong force succeeded in arresting him after opening heavy fire against him. Atrash in turn did not hesitate in ramming into one of the police cars in an attempt to escape their clutches on the highway.

La Parisian newspaper said that police succeeded in tracking him down due to the GPS in his rented vehicle.

Atrash’s uncle told local French television that he was “surprised” when he saw the name of his nephew on the news. He described him as a “calm” and “polite” man. His neighbors in the city of Bezons in the Val-d’Oise region also expressed their shock at the news.

Up until Thursday night, no one claimed responsibility for the car-ramming in the upmarket western Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret. Investigators have also not found any evidence linking the suspect to terrorist or extremist groups outside of France.

The latest attack on French anti-terror soldiers sparked debate over whether troops should remain on patrol around the country after being repeatedly targeted by extremists.

The incident was the sixth attack on patrolling soldiers since 7,000 troops were ordered onto the streets in January 2015 after an attack by two extremists on the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Leftist lawmaker Clementine Autain charged Thursday that the force is counterproductive, telling French radio: “Most of their operations are aimed at protecting themselves.”

The soldiers form part of so-called “Sentinelle” force which patrols French streets and guards high-risk areas such as tourist sites and religious buildings.

Right-wing MP Daniel Fasquelle called for an overhaul of the Sentinelle force.

He questioned whether the soldiers were adequately trained for the job of preventing the kind of terror attacks that have claimed more than 230 lives in France.

Vincent Desportes, former director of France’s military academy the Ecole Superieure de Guerre, told AFP: “Since the beginning they have essentially served as targets.”

Historian Benedicte Cheron agrees, telling the news magazine Le Point in a recent interview: “Let’s face it: Sentinelle is a lightning rod that attracts lightning.”

But a lawmaker with the ruling Republic on the Move (REM) party defended the force, saying it “demonstrates the contribution of the French army… to the security of the country.”

In Wednesday’s attack, the BMW rolled slowly down a quiet street, then accelerated as it neared the troops, ramming into them before speeding away.

Three of the soldiers sustained serious, but not life-threatening injuries.