British Intelligence Investigates Over 500 Cases of Terrorism

MI5 Director General Parker speech in London

London- The United Kingdom’s intelligence services are facing an “intense” challenge from terrorism, the head of MI5 has warned.

He noted that Britain is running more than 500 live operations targeting 3,000 individuals involved in extremist activity in some way with 20,000 more, who have been on the counter-terrorism radar and others who are not even known to law agencies.

Director General of MI5 Andrew Parker said there was currently “more terrorist activity coming at us, more quickly” and that it can also be “harder to detect”.

Speaking in London, Parker said the tempo of counter-terrorism operations was the highest he had seen in his 34-year career at MI5.

The UK has suffered five terror attacks this year, and he said MI5 staff had been “deeply affected” by them.

Twenty attacks had been foiled in the last four years, including seven in the last seven months, Parker revealed, adding that all were related to what he called Islamist extremism.

Britain has experienced five attacks using knives, cars and bombs since the beginning of 2017, four in London and one in Manchester.

Twenty major acts have been detected in the past four years and 379 suspects have been arrested in the first six months of this year, Parker stressed.

Parker recalled that he had said in a speech two years ago that despite a string of successful operations he feared “that we had not yet reached the high-water mark”.

He said Tuesday: “Sadly that has proved to be the case. Islamist terrorism is an acute and enduring challenge that requires a sustained and comprehensive approach.”

The internet has provided terrorists with access and immediacy. “They can go online to get explosives and learn how to build a bomb”, said the director general.

As a result, they can “accelerate from inception to planning to action in just a handful of days, exploiting safe space online which can make it harder to detect and gives us a smaller window to intervene”.

MI5 is under pressure to demonstrate its effectiveness after four Islamist terrorist attacks escaped its detection this year.

Parker’s speech to specialist security journalists on Tuesday was his chance to frame the debate about Britain’s battle against Islamist terrorism at a time when the agency’s staff numbers are already expanding from 4,000 to 5,000, according to The Guardian.

This month the government will receive reports on whether chances to thwart the atrocities were missed and what lessons could be learned.

Ministers and the National Security Council wanted independent oversight of the review, in essence not allowing MI5 or counter-terrorism police to assess themselves.

Oversight is being provided by the barrister David Anderson QC, a former government appointment as independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.

Jordan Sentences 8 to Prison on Terrorism Charges

Jordan

Amman – The Jordanian State Security Court on Monday issued three- to 15-year prison sentences against eight Jordanians after they were convicted of carrying out terrorist acts, promoting the ideas of an extremist group and attempting to join ISIS.

The court also sentenced a man to 15 years hard labor for planning to commit a terrorist act for ISIS by stabbing a Tourism Ministry guard, Mousa al-Abudullat, the defendants’ lawyer told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The 24-year-old convict, who has been in custody since March 2017, was found guilty of conspiring to carry out terrorist acts, promoting ISIS terrorist ideology and attempting to join the terror group.

The sentence was announced during a public hearing held under Colonel Judge Mohammad al-Afif and the membership of the civil judge Ahmad al-Qatarna, the leading Judge Safwan al-Zu’bi and in the presence of the State Security Prosecutor Captain Anas al-Khasawneh.

Also on Monday, the court sentenced six convicts to three years hard labor and a seventh suspect to four years hard labor for promoting ISIS ideologies and trying to join terrorist and armed groups.

Two detainees were acquitted.

Abdullat said that during the past three months, the court has sentenced 120 suspects, ten of whom were Syrian and the rest were Jordanian.

Most of the cases were related to promoting ISIS ideology or attempting to join terrorist organizations or carry out terrorist acts.

Algeria: Laws to Prevent ‘Alteration’ of Citizens’ Religious Convictions

Algiers – Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments Mohammed Eisa warned of sectarian efforts to break the religious principles of Algerian society, pointing out that the government is planning to issue new laws posing penalties on those who try to change Algerians’ religious convictions.

Speaking at a conference for religious Imams and religious guides, eastern Algeria, the minister said that the country was exposed to foreign ideas that created terrorism and provoked hatred among the people. Eissa was referring to the war during the 1990s where 150,000 people were killed inducing: extremists, security men, and civilians.

The minister reiterated that Algerian youths do not need to cross the border looking for new forms of religiosity other than the ones they inherited from their ancestors. He didn’t elaborate as to what he meant, but it is understood that he was referring to hundreds of young people who had been involved in extremist groups abroad and then returned to the country to perform their practices in society.

Through a scientific and pedagogic method, Algeria succeeded in overcoming this flux and discourse of hatred, especially against various sectarian movements aiming to divide the country, added the minister, in reference to Shi’ite sects chased by security services.

Since his appointment as Minister of Religious Affairs in 2014, Minister Eissa had repeatedly spoken of the authorities’ efforts to “protect local religious authority”.

He called upon Imams and teachers of Koranic education to adopt the approach of relying on local religious authority to immunize the country against all dangers.

Eissa stressed that the state is determined to legislate laws that “protect the doctrine, fight sectarianism, and punish those who seek to change the convictions of religious Algerians.”

The minister announced a new law will soon be issued to regulate mosques’ affairs.

Since 2008, according to the minister, all Imams finished their religious education programs and memorized the Qur’an because these measures are important to ensure moderate speech that could serve the country.

Eissa himself is in a war against al-Ahmadiyya sect and Shiaism in the country.

Recently, he told state radio that Algeria was “a target for Islamic trends that are different from our culture and religious values that we inherited from the predecessors” in reference to several new sects that are spreading in many mosques in the country.

The minister confirmed that Islam in Algeria is that of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and a moderate one that promotes coexistence with other sects and religions. He added that Islam in the country is not affected by ideologies or political exploitation.

Saudi Shura Council Approves Draft Law to Combat Terrorism, Terror Funding

Shura

Riyadh – The Saudi Shura Council approved on Monday a draft law to combat terrorism and terror funding. During its 59th session chaired by Deputy President Mohammad al-Jafri, the council took the decision after listening to a briefing from its Security Affairs Committee.

Chairman of the Committee Major General Abdullah al-Sadoun stated that the draft is one of the best in the world and takes into consideration all legal, rights and humanitarian angles.

Sadoun told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saudi Arabia still continues to counter terrorism whether through security measures or legislating laws.

Assistant president of the Council, Yahya al-Samaan said in a statement after the session that the council discussed a Security Affairs Committee report on the draft regulation of combating terrorism crimes and financing it

The Council also approved the amendments and additions to the law for combating money laundering.

In another decision, the Council urged the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture to address the issue of unbalanced distribution of water and sewage services between various Saudi regions.

The Council on Sunday approved the draft law for the rights of the elderly.

General Sharif Says Terrorists Restrict Attack Strategy to Smaller Rings

Pakistan's newly appointed army chief General Raheel Sharif attends the change of command ceremony with outgoing army chief General Ashfaq Kayani in Rawalpindi

Manama- Islamic Military Alliance Commander General Raheel Sharif stressed that Islamic countries exert great efforts when facing the challenge of combating terrorism and violent extremism, especially when confronting groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. He pointed out that terrorists no longer use central and organized planning, but resort to lone-wolf attacks and smaller terror rings.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Military Alliances Conference in the Middle East, Gen. Sharif labeled the initiative launched by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz to establish the 41-nation Islamic Military Coalition against terrorism as one of the most important alliances in the world.

Gen. Sharif highlighted that the Islamic alliance is not directed against any state, doctrine, or religion, but is an alliance set out to eradicate terrorism by promoting tolerance and countering misconceptions surrounding Islam.

Terrorist groups and organizations have exploited and marred the image of Islam and its believers.

General Sharif briefed a crowd of military officials and diplomats about the strategy undertook by the Islamic military alliance for the war on terror, which includes countering terrorist propaganda and intelligence work, drying up terror funds and any form of support.

He added that one of the tasks is to reduce terror financing through building intelligence capabilities and law enforcement institutions in member states. He said that the coalition will work with international organizations in this regard.

Gen. Sharif stressed that the coalition’s military wing will provide support to member states in their fight against terrorism and efforts on deterring violent attacks.

He pointed out to defense ministries in the member states coordinating with the Saudi Defense Ministry led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on making decisions related to maintaining the sovereignty, security, and stability of member states.

Gen. Sharif reviewed Pakistan’s experience in the war on terrorism, noting that Pakistan had suffered the loss of 6,000 martyrs in the war against terrorism.

The main conference’s session was held on Monday with a speech to Brigadier General Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Commander of the Royal Guards, in which he welcomed Bahrain’s strategy announced by President Donald Trump to address Iranian policies aimed at security and stability in the region.

Egyptian Army Announces Death of 24 Terrorists in Sinai

An Egyptian military vehicle in northern Sinai. Reuters

Cairo- Egyptian armed forces said Sunday that at least 24 terrorists and six soldiers were killed as they foiled terror attacks aimed at targeting checkpoints in al-Qawades district, North Sinai.

Armed Forces Spokesman Colonel Tamer al-Rifai said in a statement that one terrorist was also injured during the clashes.

During the operation, 24 militants were killed and another one was injured when law enforcement forces thwarted a failed terrorist attempt

The armed forces also destroyed two vehicles, which were used by terrorists, and the forces are currently combing the area of the incident and chasing the attackers.

North Sinai has witnessed many terrorist attacks since the January 2011 revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt is fighting an insurgency by militants affiliated with ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula, where hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed since 2013 when the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi after mass protests.

Since then, hundreds of Egyptian security personnel have been killed in attacks across Sinai, especially in the peninsula’s volatile northeastern quadrant, which shares borders with both Israel and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

The militants have also extended their campaign to other parts of Egypt, most recently attacking churches in Cairo and other cities with the loss of dozens of lives.

Russia Dismantles ISIS Cell in Moscow, Makhachkala

Russia

Moscow- The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has uncovered a ‘sleeper cell’ linked to ISIS that was active both in Moscow and the North Caucasus region, the Russian National Anti-terrorist Committee said. Four members of the cell were detained.

In Makhachkala, the capital of Russia’s southern Republic of Dagestan, security forces also discovered two extremist hideouts, where they found three ready-to-use improvised explosive devices.

According to investigators, the members of the cell were plotting several potentially high-profile attacks in southern Russian regions, including explosions at public events as well as assaults on officials and the military.

“On October 13 and 14, four members of the so-called sleeping cell of ISIS organization (terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) were detained by the FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Moscow and Makhachkala, all of them are from Dagestan,” the statement issued by Russian National Anti-terrorist Committee said.

The statement added that the detainees are confessing and providing detailed information about their contacts with elements of the organization’s envoys, as well as the preparation of terrorist attacks using IEDs and knives in areas in Dagestan, where large crowds of people gather during large celebrations and social events.

Russian Security forces released video footage showing arrest operations and confessions of the detainees.

One of the videos showed security forces while they were arresting two terrorists in a car and confiscating cold weapons they had with them.

In another video, one of the detainees was shown confessing and admitting that he was planning to travel to one of Central Asia’s republics to buy weapons needed to carry out terrorist attacks and target security forces and headquarters in Dagestan.

Another detainee said that the IEDs they have made were stuffed with iron rollers, which terrorists usually do to maximize the number of injuries.

He explained that they were filled with a magnet to stick to the walls or metal screens, and he confirmed that the cell members had carried out the necessary tests before assembling the IEDs.

Notably, this is the second operation of its kind the Russian security forces have carried out within two weeks and ended up with thwarting the activity of terrorist sleeper cells in Moscow.

Russia’s FSB security service said on October 2 that it had detained members of what it said was ISIS sleeper cell in the Moscow region that had been planning to launch a series of high-profile attacks on the country’s transport system.

The FSB said in a statement on its website that the detentions had occurred on Sept. 30 and that the cell included Russian citizens from the North Caucasus region, who, it said, were committed to trying to set up a global Islamic caliphate and were directed by foreign militants.

It said the cell had been planning to set off explosives in crowded public places and target transport infrastructure.

The FSB said then that it had detained all of the cell’s members, but did not say how many people it had taken into custody. The question of opening criminal cases against them was being decided, it added.

Women and Terrorism … A Gender Reading

ISIS

Dubai – Every now and then the stories of female members of the ISIS terrorist group and of other extremist organizations emerge.

The latest of these stories is that of a 16-year old German ISIS member, who was persuaded to join the group by another member through the internet. She traveled to Turkey and later to Syria where she met with her new husband, “Abou Mohammed,” whom she had never met before. He was killed on the battlefield however soon after she married him,. The German ISIS member now finds herself on trial in Iraq.

Another example is the so-called “White Widow,” former British rapper Sally Jones, who joined ISIS and was killed in a US drone strike on the Syrian-Iraqi border in June. There are several other stories of women, who have joined extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia.

These stories, and many others, prompted Tunisians Dr. Amal Qourami and Monia al-Arfawi to write a book, “Women and Terrorism: A Gender Study.” Published by the Masciliana publishing house in Tunisia, the seven-chapter, over 500-page book covers a range of issues, such as terrorism and gender, jihad and gender, the role of women and girls in terrorist groups, the role of families in terrorism and terrorism and identity.

In explaining her reason for writing the book, Qourami explained that there are few studies that address the role of women in terrorist and extremist groups. The fact is that the participation of women and girls in such organizations is a truth that cannot be denied. Has this issue been avoided because people have been in denial? Or is it due to male-dominated societies?

This masculine perspective and blindness to gender roles was a motivation to dedicate a study on the relationship between girls and women with terrorism, she explained.

The book particularly focuses on Moroccan and Tunisian female members of terrorist groups.

Qourami believes that female members of terror groups has not yet become a phenomenon despite the large number of such recruits and the likelihood that it will rise.

The authors asked what pushes girls and women from all over the world to join extremist groups, especially ISIS. They wondered how they are willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of jihad that contradicts, according to modern concepts, with women’s rights, seeing as organizations like ISIS advocate the establishment of patriarchal states that do not believe in equality and liberties.

Are they attracted by the idea of ISIS being able to accomplish all that it promised in establishing an Islamic “caliphate”?

The authors pose questions on why women would want to take part in terrorist activities that throughout history have been dominated by men. To answer this, they had to examine the rhetoric the terrorists used to lure the women. They also had to examine what role these women seek to play in these organizations.

Women and the dream of a male society

One of the ironies the book reveals is how Tunisian women are leading the list of female terrorists in Syria at a time when they rank the best among Arab women when it comes to enjoying their rights in Tunisia. This “mystery” has aroused anger, disappointment and condemnation, and yet it has also sparked curiosity.

Categories of women in the terrorist organization

Arfawi said that women in the Ansar al-Sharia group are divided into three categories:

The first are wives who have been forced to submit to their husbands, who are leaders of the organization.

The second are those who have voluntarily joined the group because they believe in its ideology.

The third are sympathizers of the organization and its ideology.

The majority of the Ansar al-Sharia female members sampled by Qourami and Arfawi were between the age of 16 and 35. They noted that 90 percent of them either sympathized with the terrorists or were blackmailed into joining them. Arfawi noted that many of them were also victims of the wave of religious fervor that pervaded Tunisia in 2011 and 2012. Many women who were suffering from an identity crisis or who were initially not very religious fell victim to this wave.

Furthermore, she said that the poor and illiterates did not make up the majority of the female terrorists, but many of them were educated and came from a range of economic classes. Most of the terrorist operations were carried out by educated women.

ISIS female members vs. Qaeda counterparts

The position a female occupies in ISIS differs than the one she may occupy in al-Qaeda. Hundreds of women have joined ISIS and they formed female brigades. International reports estimate their members at 1,000, most of them foreign. They gave the likes of al-Khansa brigade, one of the fiercest ISIS units, said Arfawi. She also gave the example of the “Umm Mohammed” brigade that was led by Pakistani Aqsa Mohammed, the “Umm Moqdad” group that was led by a Saudi Arabian woman and the “Umm al-Rayyan” brigade led by a Tunisian. The majority of these female leaders married ISIS military commanders.

ISIS has proven to be a bigger draw to women than al-Qaeda because it promises them with the establishment of stability and the virtuous city. Al-Qaeda on the other hand did not focus on the idea of the establishment of the state.

Egypt Extends State of Emergency for Three Months

Cairo– Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has issued an order extending the state of emergency for another three months, starting Friday.

The decision, which was published in the Official Gazette on Thursday, stated: “The armed and police forces shall take the necessary measures to confront the dangers of terrorism and its financing, to maintain security throughout the country, to preserve public and private property and to protect the lives of citizens.”

Egypt first imposed the state of emergency in April after two church bombings killed at least 45 people. It was then extended in July for a further three months.

Constitutional Jurist Rajai Attieh, member of the National Council for Combating Terrorism and Extremism, told Asharq al-Awsat that Thursday’s decision was a new announcement of the state of emergency, not an extension of the previous one, in compliance with a constitutional provision that prevents the extension of an emergency state more than once, but allows the President to re-declare emergency state after the expiry of the extension period.

According to the Egyptian Constitution, the declaration of a state of emergency for a specified period shall not exceed three months, and shall be extended only one time for a similar period, after the approval of two-thirds of the members of Parliament.

Attieh stressed that Egypt was facing a real war and was fighting foreign and local terrorist elements not only in the Sinai but also in Cairo, the Delta and all Egyptian governorates.

He noted in this regard that the war on terrorism was a strong reason to declare a state of emergency, which is “indisputably necessary to secure Egyptian national security.”

Egypt has been witnessing sporadic terrorist acts, especially in northern Sinai. Those have increased over the past four years, following the ousting of former president Mohammed Morsi in 2013, who belongs to the “banned” Muslim Brotherhood organization.

18 Terrorists Killed, Dozens Arrested during Security Raids in Turkey

Turkey

Ankara – Turkish security forces neutralized 41 terrorists in operations it carried out in different cities last week, announced the Interior Ministry on Monday.

It said in a statement that the security forces carried out, in the period between October 2 and 9, 1,648 raids against terrorist organizations.

The ministry added that eight terrorists surrendered, 15 were arrested and 18 were killed during the raids.

The statement added that the Turkish security forces also detained 136 people on suspicion of supporting terrorist groups, 52 people on suspicion of belonging to ISIS and 27 people on suspicion of belonging to banned left-wing terrorist organizations.

Moreover, Turkish counter-terrorism forces carried out a series of successful operations against ISIS during the last few days, during which six Syrians were arrested in the western city of Bursa on Friday, revealed security sources.

In this context, the Turkish authorities announced on October 3 that security authorities arrested ISIS Commander Abou Youssef, aka Khaider Karim, during a security operation in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Abou Youssef is an Iraqi citizen, whom Iraqi authorities had previously declared to have been killed.

Turkish authorities said that the Special Investigations Office of Sakarya province received information that Abou Youssef was alive and living in Ankara.

Based on the investigation of the Special Investigations Office, a Turkish counter-terrorism units raided his house and arrested him. The units also found 40 fake ID cards in his house.

Abou Youssef was handed over to Sakarya province Public Prosecution Office that charged him with “genocide”, “belonging to a terrorist organization” and “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order”.

The arrested terrorist had been an active member of the al-Qaeda terrorist group since 2011. He defected from it in 2014 and joined ISIS, becoming one of its commanders in al-Anbar governorate in Iraq.

The Turkish security forces have been carrying out several campaigns against ISIS since the beginning of this year after the organization was involved in more than one bombing and terrorist attacks in different parts of Turkey in 2016 and early 2017.