For Manchester, as for Its Libyans, a Test of Faith


MANCHESTER, England — The stretch of Wilmslow Road that runs through the Rusholme neighborhood, south of the city center, is known as the Curry Mile, thanks to the Indian and Pakistani restaurants that have been here for decades.

But that label no longer seems to do the place justice.

Kurdish barbers sit next to stores selling shimmering saris. An Islamic bookstore faces a Jamaican supermarket. There is an Arab print in the area too, withcafes named after Damascus and Dubai. The food is from Tunisia, Vietnam and all points in between. These few blocks contain a whole world.

And part of that world are the 10,000 or so Libyans in Manchester, the largest community outside Libya. Many arrived here to escape Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s brutal regime and have been here for decades, a quiet presence in the city, well woven into Manchester’s fabric.

Now, a British citizen of Libyan descent, Salman Abedi, has inflicted the most grievous pain on the place that raised him. On Monday night, he detonated a bomb full of nails, bolts and ball bearings at the Manchester Arena, killing 22 people and injuring dozens more.

He attacked not just a concert venue. He attacked a city and its sense of self as the proudly cosmopolitan, multicultural capital of northern England.

The Manchester still reeling from Monday night’s terrorist attack is not the decaying postindustrial wasteland of the 1970s. Nor is it the Ecstasy-fueled party city that emerged a decade later, or the gang-ridden gun crime capital of Britain that lodged itself in the popular imagination at the turn of the century.

It is none of those things and all of those things. It is the gleaming glass towers of Spinningfields and the hipster bars of the Northern Quarter, the leafy suburbs of Chorlton and Didsbury, the high-rises of Hulme and the uneasy, red brick streets of Moss Side.

It is a city of 530,000 people — in a metropolitan area of 2.5 million — many of them now wondering whether the city really is the exotic, polyglot, polychrome place they believe it to be. It is smaller than London, of course, and perhaps not as rich or as sophisticated, or as famous, but no less confident or international.

As graffiti on a disused rail depot not far from Piccadilly train station has it, Manchester sees itself as “a haven for heathens, hoodies and ‘hipsters’, hijabis and Hebrews, highbrow intellectuals and ‘however-you-sexuals’ … it’s home to all.”

It is that open-mindedness that first brought Libyans here, in search of their own haven. “People often call it Libya’s second capital,” said Hashem Ben Ghalbon, a Libyan who has lived here since 1976 and who was, for decades, one of the leading figures in the dissident movement based in Manchester after escaping from Colonel Qaddafi.

When he first came, he said, he found “no more than a hundred” of his countrymen.

“If you go to the hospital up the road, there will be Libyan doctors,” said Saif Eddin, who moved to England from Libya 12 years ago and has spent the last decade in Manchester. “If you get a coffee at Costa Coffee or Caffe Nero, the guy serving you will be Libyan. There are lots of Libyans who work at Manchester Airport. If you go to the immigration office, the woman who works there, she’s Libyan.”

The attacker works in a Lebanese restaurant called Beirut on the Curry Mile. There are no Libyan restaurants or bars nearby, nor are there shops or community centers dotted around the city — no physical sign at all, in fact, of a thriving expatriate culture.

“There are a lot of us here, but we don’t live in the same place, like the Jewish community,” said Tariq Olilish, 18, a native Libyan raised in Manchester.

Mr. Ben Ghalbon suggested that could be explained by the circumstances of their arrival. Like him, many who came to Manchester were dissidents fleeing Colonel Qaddafi’s repression.

They came, he said, because it was “cheaper than London, life was not so fast, but it was still cosmopolitan and welcoming,” and it became a hive of anti-Qaddafi activity. Mr. Ben Ghalbon and his brother, Mohamed, founded the Libyan Constitutional Union, an activist group dedicated to Colonel Qaddafi’s removal and the restoration of Libya’s Constitution.

Among the exiles, though, there were countless schisms. Mr. Ben Ghalbon said some were “more religious” than others, and some had differing tribal loyalties. “We were not well integrated among ourselves,” he said.

Even like-minded dissidents were afraid to congregate, unsure who was a fellow traveler and who was a secret agent for Colonel Qaddafi. For “security,” Mr. Ben Ghalbon said, it was better to stay apart, to blend in and to disappear.

There is embarrassment among the Libyans here that “one of our own,” as Mr. Olilish put it, carried out the atrocity. Mr. Eddin said he could understand why the city, and the country, might feel as though they had “done someone a favor and been kicked in the face.”

The New York Times

How the World Can Prepare for the ‘Day After’ ISIS


The Manchester terrorist attack by an alleged ISIS “soldier” will accelerate the push by the United States and its allies to capture the terrorist group’s strongholds in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria. But it should also focus some urgent discussions about a post-ISIS strategy for stabilizing the two countries.

For all of President Trump’s bombast about obliterating ISIS, the Raqqa campaign has been delayed for months while US policymakers debated the wisdom of relying on a Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG that Turkey regards as a terrorist group. That group and allied fighters have been poised less than 10 miles from Raqqa, waiting for a decision.

All the while, the clock has been ticking on terrorist plots hatched by ISIS and directed from Raqqa. US officials told me a few weeks ago that they were aware of at least five ISIS operations directed against targets in Europe. European allies have been urging the United States to finish the job in Raqqa as soon as possible.

The horrific bombing in Manchester, England, is a reminder of the difficulty of containing the plots hatched by ISIS — and the cost of waiting to strike the final blows. ISIS is battered and in retreat, and its alleged “caliphate” is nearly destroyed on the ground. But a virtual caliphate survives in the network that spawned Salman Abedi, the alleged Manchester bomber, and others who seek to avenge the group’s slow eradication.

The Raqqa assault should move ahead quickly, now that the Trump administration has rejected Turkish protests and opted to back the YPG as the backbone of a broader coalition known as the “Syrian Democratic Forces”. These are committed, well-led fighters, as I saw during a visit to a special forces training camp in northern Syria a year ago.

The Trump administration listened patiently to Turkish arguments for an alternative force backed by Ankara. But the Pentagon concluded that this force didn’t have a significant battlefield presence and that the real choice was either relying on the Kurdish-led coalition to clear Raqqa or sending in thousands of US troops to do the job.

The White House rightly opted for the first approach several weeks ago. To ease Ankara’s worries, the United States is offering assurances that the Kurdish military presence will be contained and that newly recruited tribal forces will help manage security in Raqqa and nearby Deir al-Zour.

The endgame is near in Mosul, too. Commanders say only about 6 percent of the city remains to be captured, with 500 to 700 ISIS militants hunkered down in the old city west of the Tigris River.

Once Raqqa and Mosul are cleared, the challenge will be rebuilding the areas of Syria and Iraq, with real governance and security — so that follow-on extremist groups don’t quickly emerge. This idea of preparing for the “day after” ISIS has gotten lip service from US policymakers for three years but very little serious planning or funding. It should be an urgent priority for the United States and its key partners, such as Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Intelligence services from several key allies are said to have met in recent weeks with many leaders to form a core leadership that can take the initiative. But so far, this effort is said to have produced more internal bickering than clear strategy — a depressing rewind of failed efforts to build a coherent opposition in Syria.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo told me and several other journalists in an interview Tuesday that he plans to move the agency to a more aggressive, risk-taking stance. Here’s a place to start.

The Kurds are the wild cards in both Iraq and Syria. The Syrian Kurds are already governing the ethnic enclave they call “Rojava.” That should be an incentive for Syria’s Sunnis to develop similar strong government in their liberated areas. Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurds have told US officials that they plan to hold a referendum on Kurdish independence soon, perhaps as early as September.

US officials feel a deep gratitude toward Iraqi Kurds, who have been reliable allies since the early 1990s. But the independence referendum is a potential flash point, and US officials may try to defer the Kurdish question until well after Iraqi provincial elections scheduled in September.

Iraq and Syria need to be reimagined, better-governed, more inclusive confederal states that give minorities room to breathe. The trick for policymakers is to make the post-ISIS transition a pathway toward progress, rather than a continuation of the sectarian catastrophe that has befallen both nations.

Washington Post

It’s Nearly Impossible to Stop Terrorists from Using Trucks as Weapons


Nice, Berlin, London and now Stockholm. Over the past year, terrorist attacks using vehicles have become a sad fact of life in Europe. Such attacks are obviously appealing to would-be mass murderers: In most European nations, a truck is far easier to acquire than a firearm or explosives, and sometimes even deadlier. Groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda have taken note, specifically suggesting that a car could be a good weapon to harm civilians.

For authorities, the attacks represent a major problem. Guns and explosives can be banned, but motor vehicles are vital for many city-dwellers. So how do you protect a city from an attack like this? There is one commonly used solution, but it’s far from perfect.

Since the 1990s, many cities in North America and Europe have been installing physical obstacles designed to stop vehicles driving close to the site of a likely terror target. These measures actually predated the rise of the modern vehicle attack — instead, they were largely designed to tackle car bombs, like those used to attack U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998.

When they were first installed in Washington, they were often crude: huge concrete blocks known as “jersey barriers” placed around monuments and government buildings. They served a purpose but didn’t look great. As the headline on a story by Benjamin Forgey, The Washington Post’s architecture critic at the time, put it in 1998, “Does safe have to mean ugly?”

Since then, a number of developments have made these obstacles more subtle. Permanent protective bollards, sleeker in design, are believed to have prevented a number of terrorist attacks: One example is the 2007 Glasgow Airport attack, where a car filled with propane canisters was blocked from driving into the terminal by bollards, likely preventing serious injury to civilians.

In the United States, crash- and attack-resistant bollards are now installed outside “military and governmental buildings and domestic structures and areas of higher security levels,” according to the National Institute of Building Sciences. Similar measures are taken in countries like Britain, where many bollards and barriers are designed to stop a seven-ton truck traveling at 50 mph.

The design of these obstacles is often thoughtfully integrated into their environment. These days, they are often disguised as flower pots, decorative walls or even sculptures — the artful bronze bollards outside New York City’s Financial District are an obvious example. Bollards that slide into the ground, hidden from view until needed, are also common. The aim is to provide security without making a city feel like a fortress.

However, while these obstacles have proliferated outside government buildings and other high-profile areas, they have left other areas exposed.

Jon Coaffee, a professor of Urban Geography at the University of Warwick in England who studies the impact of terrorism on urban areas, says that in U.S. cities like Boston, he can easily see where “so-called hostile vehicle mitigation measures” had been installed. “Equally there are many potential targets that are undefended,” Coaffee wrote in an email. “The key question raised by the Stockholm incident, as was raised recently in London, is can we or should we seek to secure all crowded locations in a city?”

Groups such as ISIS have exploited this, encouraging attacks on so-called “soft targets” that are at best weakly protected. The attack in Nice, France, took place upon a beachfront promenade; in Berlin, it was a Christmas Market; in Stockholm, a shopping center. Even in the London attack, which targeted the (well-protected) center of Britain’s political world at Westminster Palace, most of the carnage took place on the adjacent bridge.

The abundance of soft targets means that protecting them all is difficult, if not impossible. After the attack in Germany, Berlin Police Chief Klaus Kandt told reporters that bollards and other obstacles could not completely prevent an attack. “There are an almost unlimited number of soft targets, that’s simply the fact, so there are many possibilities to kill people with a truck,” he said.

However, the Berlin attack highlighted another way legislation may help. The 40-ton Scania PRT truck used in the attack is thought to have deployed its brakes when the attack occurred, thanks to an advanced emergency braking system now mandated by the European Union on heavier trucks. German government officials have said that the technology may have “saved lives,” Süddeutsche Zeitung reported in December.

The Washington Post

Omar Abdel Rahman’s Death Stirs Memories of 1993 Attack

It was a stunning act of terror, an assault on the World Trade Center that shook New York City. The long wake of its memory still slices through those who were there and the families of those who died.

That was 1993.

Roughly eight years before the twin towers were destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, the buildings were badly damaged on a snowy afternoon by a truck bomb in a basement garage that killed six people.

On Saturday, Omar Abdel Rahman — a blind cleric whose fiery speech exhorted anti-American violence and galvanized those who executed the attack, according to prosecutors — died at 78 in a federal prison in North Carolina. He was serving a life sentence for plotting a series of assaults never carried out: bombs to be set in tunnels and buildings in an attack designed to bring New York to its knees.

In the city, news of his death, from complications of diabetes and coronary artery disease, has caused many who experienced the bombing, whether as rescuers, government officials or witnesses, to recall the smoke and the gaping crater. They have also been led to consider something more existential: a February afternoon when, in an instant, the city experienced a sensation now all too familiar but then quite new — vulnerability.

“Those who went through the ’93 experience remember it as the beginning of the loss of innocence,” said Anthony E. Shorris, then the first deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

After the blast, Mr. Shorris spent a month inside the six-story crater in the garage beneath the World Trade Center plaza as teams shored it up and the police dug for bodies.

“Remembering a time when we didn’t think things like this could happen, and now we think about it all the time,” Mr. Shorris, now the deputy mayor of New York City, said.

He paused. “All the time.”

The explosion, on Feb. 26, 1993, injured about 1,000 people and could be heard on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The percussion was felt, some said, even farther north than Harlem. But New Yorkers thought of vehicle bombings as something that happened elsewhere. At first, the city sought more innocent explanations.

Stanley Brezenoff, then the executive director of the Port Authority, which owned the World Trade Center property and had offices on the 65th floor, said: “People walked out of their offices and looked at each other. ‘Did something happen? Did a generator go out? Was there some kind of a storm that we weren’t aware of?’” He made the call to evacuate, and staff members carried a colleague in a wheelchair down more than 20 flights.

“I don’t think we stopped to reflect on the enormity of what happened,” said Mr. Brezenoff, now the interim head of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. The Port Authority launched an all-out effort to repair the stricken tower, reopening it in a month.

“A lot of the response was, ‘They can’t do that to us,’” Mr. Brezenoff said. “It sounds almost quaint now.”

Raymond W. Kelly, who was then at the start of the first of his two stints as police commissioner, said, “In terms of modern terrorism, the threat was there, but I don’t think it was seen as a threat to this country.”

The sense was, he said, “it was going on in other places.”

It took about a day to definitively determine the blast was terrorism, and even then, the city was unsure who its enemies were, Mr. Kelly said. Speculation about their origin included the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East.

The office of the governor at the time, Mario M. Cuomo, was on the 57th floor of 2 World Trade Center. After the boom, no one there panicked, mostly because it “never occurred to us that it would be a bomb,” said Deborah Sale, who was chief of staff to Stan Lundine, then the lieutenant governor.

Using their limited knowledge from infrequent fire drills and holding on to handrails, employees gingerly crept down the stairs, Ms. Sale said. “There was no power at all, and it was pitch black,” she said, recalling that she had used a scarf to cover her nose and mouth in the smoky stairwell.

The new reality of terrorism led to changes in the towers themselves. Afterward, emergency lights were installed, and screenings were added for people entering the building.

Norman Steisel, who was first deputy mayor at the time, said the safety improvements saved lives on Sept. 11. “Those buildings were evacuated pretty quickly,” he said, referring to the floors below where the planes had hit. “Just imagine if more and more people were trapped downstairs.”

In 1995, Mr. Abdel Rahman was convicted, along with nine others, on charges of seditious conspiracy in Federal District Court in Manhattan for a plot to bomb landmarks and infrastructure hubs, although the plans were never carried out. While prosecutors asserted he had been involved in the 1993 attack, six other men were convicted after the vehicle identification number from a rental van linked to the perpetrators was found in the rubble.

Mr. Kelly said he believed the conspirators’ web of connections to groups like Al Qaeda had not been fully mined, even though data was discovered linking some to a somewhat obscure leader. His name was Osama bin Laden.

“It should have been a huge wake-up call for the federal government and the city, and it wasn’t,” he said. “And we paid the price on Sept. 11.”

Although Mr. Abdel Rahman’s name has over time become linked in many minds to the 1993 attack, it has not for Lynne F. Stewart, his defense lawyer in his 1995 trial. She believes he is innocent. Ms. Stewart was convicted in 2005 of smuggling messages on behalf of the imprisoned sheikh and sentenced to a decade in prison, which she began serving about seven years ago. She was released in 2014 when a judge reduced her sentence after a diagnosis of terminal cancer.

Speaking from her hospital bed in Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan a few days after the sheikh’s death, Ms. Stewart expressed the view that Mr. Abdel Rahman’s fiery rhetoric was a matter of free speech, a belief shared by many in the Arab world.

The New York Times

Berlin: Saudi Arabia Spared Us From Terrorist Attacks

Saudi Arabia

Riyadh- Saudi Arabia confirmed on Monday it was exchanging information with German investigators to track an ISIS militant responsible for a bomb attack that hit the European country last July.

Spokesman for the Saudi interior ministry, General Mansour al-Turki announced that his country had cooperated with Germany over evidence showing that an ISIS member had used an account through a social media application that was previously activated using a Saudi phone number.

Meanwhile, German foreign ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli told a news conference on Monday that Saudi Arabia played a leading role by helping German investigators prevent more terrorist attacks from happening on its territories.

Al-Turki confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that based on conclusions reached by German investigators, the two countries have examined evidence showing that a member of ISIS, probably present in a country currently witnessing conflicts, had been in contact with one of the terrorist attackers in Germany using a Saudi phone number.

Al Turki added that coordination is still ongoing between experts in both countries to try to find the parties to the case.

The spokesperson said Saudi Arabia is keen on collaborating with any party to help fight terrorism, regionally and internationally.

Germany had asserted through the spokespersons of its Interior and Foreign Ministries that it had received an offer from Saudi Arabia to help investigate the latest attacks that took place in Germany. Berlin has welcomed the offer.

German interior ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said that security collaboration between both countries had a “significant value” but refused to comment on the status of investigations.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack in Bavaria in which a refugee wounded five people with an axe before police shot him dead, and for a bombing in Ansbach, southern Germany, which wounded 15 people.

Father of Medina Suicide Attacker: We Wash Our Hands of Nayer’s Crimes, What He Did Represents Only Him

Emir of Tabuk Prince Fahd Bin Sultan recieving father of the Prophet's Mosque suicide attacker, S.P.A.

Tabuk- Saudi Arabia’s Emir of Tabuk Prince Fahd Bin Sultan said that the criminal and terrorist act staged by Nayer Musallam Al-Bluwi, suicide bomber who detonated himself in Medina, was an affliction which harmed the perpetrator before harming anyone else. Prince Fahd also added that the kin of Nayer are clear of any mischief delivered, are trustworthy and held high.

Musallam Hammad Al-Nijeidi Al-Bluwi, father of Nayer Musallam Al-Bluwi, was accompanied by brothers and uncles of Nayer and a group of citizens from their neighborhood, when received by Prince Fahd.

The kin of Nayer officially washed their hands of the heinous crime committed by the 26-year-old terrorist. They also slammed the terrorist act that is unacceptable by any religion.

The family reiterated that the perpetrator of such a disgraceful crime does not represent none other than him—their statements were made while renewing their loyalty to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, and Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman.

The family gave their condolences to the bereaved families of victims and expressed deep sorrow over the martyrdom of security men in the suicide attack staged by Nayer.

The emir urged them to extend full cooperation with the concerned authorities. Prince Fahd also prayed Almighty Allah to shower His mercy on the martyred security men and give quick recovery to those wounded in the attack.

Nayer, 26, having a history of drug abuse, had staged a terrorist attack which killed four security men in the vicinity of the Prophet’s Mosque, in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

On July 4 the security men suspected a Saudi Arabian national, Nayer, who was walking towards the Prophet’s Mosque across an open area that is used as a car park for visitors. When trying to intercept him, he detonated the explosive lace he was wearing.

Belgian Court Jails Militants Who Travelled to Syria to Fight

Brussels – Brussels Court of Appeal convicted three Belgians from Fulford who left Belgium for Syria.

According to local media, the three convicts: Mohammed Akyshooh, Anas Kondi, and Zuhair B. are members of Fulford Youth Group, trained by the extremist Fouad Belkacem, leader of Sharia4Belgium.

Two years ago, Belkacem and others were convicted of crimes which they denied.

Mohammed Akyshooh and Anas Kondi left to Syria in March 2013 accompanied by Mohammed Sadeq Sharabi. Akyshooh remained in Syria till April.

Later, Mohammed Sharabi returned to Belgium and started preparing to leave to Syria with Zuhair B., but he eventually left alone since Zuhair was arrested on the ground of other crimes.

Criminal court sentenced Sharabi for seven years in prison, Anas Kondi for six years, and both Zuhair B. and Mohammed Akyshooh for four years.

Mohammed Akyshooh was acquitted of charges of torturing the Belgian Jijoein Bontik.

Court of Appeal confirmed the sentences for Akyshooh and Zuhair, while Kondi received 5 years, whereas Mohammed Sharabi didn’t appeal his sentence. The court also ordered for immediate arrest of the convicts.

In January last year, Belgian authorities arrested two persons in Brussels airport on their way to Syria through Greece. Belgian Federal Bureau said that two persons were arrested in the airport on their way to Greece and possibly from there to Syria.

VRT TV said that a 30-year-old man and another 20-year-old were arrested, along with a woman who was later released.

Authorities announced earlier that it had arrested a 19-year old student in the Industrial School at Fiel Ford town before heading to Syria with forged ID.

The police did series of raids targeting houses of those involved in the FurFei incident.

Belgian Minister of Interior Affairs Jan Jambon announced that the number of people heading to fight in Syria has indeed decreased. Since January, authorities has been revoking the ID of any person suspected of planning to travel to areas of terrorist groups.

The minister also announced that statistics show that the total number of Belgians who traveled or tried to travel to Syria is over 500. Whereas, countries like France and UK, with a population larger than that of Belgium, had fewer numbers of persons traveling to fight outside.

The numbers declared by the minister of interior are not different from the official numbers issued by the Belgian Parliament. Brussels had 197-person travel, 112 of which are in Syria and 59 returned to Belgium.

Terrorism…. From Ahsa to Ahsa

Three suicide bombers attacked a mosque in Mahasen neighborhood in Al-Ahsa
Three suicide bombers attacked a mosque in Mahasen neighborhood in Al-Ahsa

Once again, terrorism goes back to Ahsa, from which it formerly initiated a series of bloody operations that targeted places of worship, and gatherings of innocent civilians.

For yesterday, Mahasen neighborhood in Ahsa witnessed a terrorist attack that was carefully planned and implemented through three suicide bombers targeting the largest number of victims among those performing their prayers. Despite the «martyrdom» of four and the injury of about 36, the vigilance of security and mosque guards prevented a bloody slaughter.

Since the bombing that took place in «Aldaloh», six other bombings of mosques occurred in Al-Ahsa, Qatif, Dammam, Asir, Najran and Seihat leaving 60 people «martyred» and more than 160 injured.

The Mahasen neighborhood in Ahsa, which was targeted by three terrorists yesterday, is approximately 20 km away from Aldaloh, which was targeted by four terrorists 16 months ago.

Al Anoud- On 29 May 2015, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a Shiite mosque in Dammam and killed four people. The bomber tried to enter the Mosque during Friday prayers and detonated his bomb in the parking lot after being stopped by security guards

Abha mosque- On 6 August, an explosion ripped through the Abha mosque belonging to a special emergency force in southwestern city of Abha, killing at least 13 people and leaving nine others wounded.

Saihat – On 16 October 2015, a gunman shot dead five people at a Shia gathering in eastern Saudi Arabia before police shot him dead.

Najran- A suicide bomber tried to enter a Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia’s Najran city in which at least one person was killed and 16 others were injured.

United against sedition:
The common factor in all these crimes was the ISIS terrorist organization claiming responsibility, aiming to create civil strife and jeopardize national unity in Saudi Arabia.

Nevertheless, the greatest common factor has been the Saudi people’s steadfastness and awareness, added to the security officers’ vigilance and the security authorities’ determination. This strength has been able to thwart terrorist plans in targeting civil peace and imperiling the country’s integrity. Terrorism has failed in achieving any of its goals. Its intentions to sow discord and division among Saudis have been shattered, with the Saudi society, especially victims showing a high level of awareness and national solidarity.

New Year Without Celebrations in Paris, Brussel and Moscow

anticipation of terrorist acts coinciding with New Year’s Eve
anticipation of terrorist acts coinciding with New Year’s Eve

Many Western capitals have strengthened their security measures in anticipation of terrorist acts coinciding with New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The municipality of Brussels announced yesterday the abolition of all the celebrations and fireworks displays planned on New Year’s Eve due to threats of attacks.

Moreover, Russian authorities have also decided to close the Red Square in Moscow, the destination of thousands of celebrators each year, in order to avoid terrorist attacks.

In France, which is living on high alert after the assassination of 130 people in coordinated attack on Nov. 13, has decided to deploy 60,000 policemen tonight to protect itself. In addition, Paris cancelled official firework shows and forbid the public from using them. Barricades will be erected in the areas surrounding the Eiffel Tower and the popular Champs-Élysées Street.

In Turkey’s capital, Ankara, authorities have announced the arrest of two individuals suspected of belonging to ISIS and planning a double attack. The police seized suicide vests loaded with bombs believed to have been fortified with ball bearings and metal sticks.

An official Turkish source told the press that the two terrorists were detained in a house raid in the Mamak district on the outskirts of the city.

In the past these capitals would compete for the best fireworks displays, this year they seem to be in competition over the best security arrangement to thwart terrorist acts or attacks that may disturb tourism and safety.