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Paris Police Shooting: Attacker Karim Cheurfi Had Long Criminal Record

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/paris-police-shooting-attacker-was-french-had-long-criminal-record-n749216?cid=eml_nnn_20170421

 

The Paris prosecutor’s office got a tip in January that the gunman behind a shootout on the Champs-Elysees that left one police officer dead and two others wounded was amassing an arsenal and that he had made death threats against law enforcement.

There was good reason to investigate 39-year-old Karim Cheurfi — he had already served 11 years in prison for trying to kill another police officer, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Friday.

They took Cheurfi into custody but let him go after a search of his home in the multi-ethnic Paris suburb of Livry Gargan turned up no evidence, Molins said. He was not on a watch list of Islamic extremists and was not considered a security risk.

Now, a day after Cheurfi ambushed a trio of police officers and was shot dead while trying to escape, police are questioning his mother and two other relatives. Authorities are trying to determine how he got his hands on the Kalashnikov rifle he used in the deadly shooting, Molins said.

Cheurfi, who was a French citizen, was convicted in 2005 of trying to kill a police officer and sentenced to 15 years in prison, said Molins. He was released in 2012, despite a history of violence behind bars that included a conviction for “violence on civil servants” and beating up a cellmate.

But a year later, Cheurfi was back in prison for violating parole and wasn’t released until October 2015, after which he was required to regularly report his whereabouts to police, Molins said.

After Cheurfi was shot dead on Thursday, police found a piece of paper bearing pro-Isis propaganda beside his body and a Koran in the trunk of the Audi he had been driving, Molins said. They also recovered a shotgun, two kitchen knives, a pruner and a mask.

ISIS claims Cheurfi was one of their soldiers. But police suspect he may have been inspired by the radical Islamic group but not necessarily a member.

Molins did not address conflicting reports that radicals identified by Belgian security forces may have been involved in the attack on the police officers.

John Finney, an American tourist from Kentucky visiting Paris with his family told NBC News that he had been 10 feet away when the shooter opened fire.

“I stopped to buy my wife a rose and I think if I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be here speaking to you right now,” Finney said. “We saw the shooter get out of the car, he had a gun. To me, it looked like an AR-15 [and] he started popping of rounds.”

Finney added: “It was chaos. People were spreading out, running all over the place, falling down, trampling each other. It was real panic.”

French President Francois Hollande has called the deadly shooting a terrorist attack. It happened at a particularly tense time in France just days before the first round of the presidential election.

Some 50,000 police officer and 7,000 military personnel have been deployed for security as the French head to the polls on Sunday, Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed after a meeting of France’s National Defense Council.

Cazeneuve compared the attack to recent incidents in Berlin, Stockholm and London.

Image: Police search near the house of the suspected attacker
Police search near the house of the suspected attacker who opened fire on police on Paris’ Champs Elysees. Sarah Brethessarah Brethes / AFP – Getty Images

National security has become a burning issue in France after attacks by militant Islamists across the country have killed more than 230 people over the past two years.

Marine Le Pen of the far right National Front, who is one of the leading candidates to make it to the runoff stage, spoke out in the aftermath of the latest Paris attack and called for the expulsion of foreigners with criminal records.

President Donald Trump, who has also taken a hard line against illegal immigrants in the U.S., tweeted early Friday about the Paris shooting, implying the latest bloodshed could Le Pen.

“Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!” he wrote.

Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!

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French police identify suspect in Champs-Elysees shooting attack

http://www.timesofisrael.com/french-police-raid-home-of-main-suspect-in-champs-elysees-attack/

 

French police officials said the chief suspect in a deadly shooting attack on police officers patrolling the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Thursday was a 39-year-old man from a suburb east of the French capital with a criminal past.

Police said they searched the home overnight Thursday-Friday of the man they suspect killed a police officer and wounded two others before being shot dead himself on the world-famous boulevard. A police document obtained by The Associated Press identifies the address searched in the town of Chelles as the family home of Karim Cheurfi, a 39-year-old with a police record.

Police tape surrounded the quiet, middle-class neighborhood early Friday, as worried neighbors expressed surprise at the searches.

Cheurfi was convicted of attacking a police officer in 2001, according to archive reports by French newspaper Le Parisien.

L’assaillant Karim Cheurfi avait déjà menacé de s’en prendre à des policiers . Il était dans les radars cc @France3tv

Earlier Thursday, police said Cheurfi was a known terror suspect.

French soldiers stand guard at the Arc de Triomphe near the Champs Elysees in Paris after a shooting on April 20, 2017. AFP/ THOMAS SAMSON)

Investigators said he emerged from a car and used an automatic weapon to shoot at officers outside a Marks & Spencer’s store at the center of the Champs-Elysees. Two police officers and a woman tourist were also wounded. He was shot dead in return fire while trying to flee on foot, just meters from the Arc de Triomphe.

Dramatic footage emerged after the attack showing police shooting at the assailant.

🇫🇷BREAKING| The first moments when the police opened the fire on the attack

Authorities were checking whether he had accomplices in the attack.

The Islamic State terror group had claimed responsibility for the attack and gave a pseudonym for the shooter, Abu Yussef al-Beljiki, indicating he was Belgian or had lived in Belgium.

The claim of responsibility came unusually swiftly for the group, which has been losing territory in Iraq and Syria.

Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said officers were “deliberately” targeted.

The attack came just three days before the first round of the presidential elections set for Sunday.

Islamic State group-inspired attacks have killed at least 235 people in France since January 2015, by far the largest casualty figure of any Western country. France remains under a state of emergency. Security has been especially high since Tuesday, when police said they thwarted a terror attack by arresting two men.

Police and soldiers sealed off the area after the attack, ordering tourists back into hotels and blocking people from approaching the scene.

A French soldier stands guard on the Champs Elysees in Paris after a shooting on April 20, 2017. (AFP / THOMAS SAMSON)

The gunfire also sent scores of tourists fleeing into side streets.

“They were running, running,” said 55-year-old Badi Ftaïti, who lives in the area. “Some were crying. There were tens, maybe even hundreds of them.”

A witness identified only as Ines told French television station BFM that she heard a shooting and saw a man’s body on the ground before police quickly evacuated the area where she works in a shop.

“People were running, bumping into each other and crashing into tables”, said a 39-year-old woman who had been dining in a restaurant off the boulevard bustling with visitors.

Nobody understood what was happening, “especially the foreign tourists,” said the woman who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The waiters told us to get out the back of the restaurant, but there was no exit so we had to hide in a back courtyard,” she said, as the lights of dozens of emergency vehicles flashed.

The two-kilometer (1.2-mile) road that links the Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde is lined with high-priced real estate, luxury shops and theaters.

Some took cover in restaurants or shops, others ran into cinemas to get off the strip that is nicknamed “the most beautiful avenue in the world.”

“I heard shots and I went to see what it was. I saw two bodies on the ground and people screaming, running everywhere,” said Mehdi, a communications consultant. “I was afraid. I left. I didn’t even pay the bill!”

The attack’s impact on the outcome of one of the most unpredictable election contests in decades is unclear, but far-right leader Marine Le Pen and scandal-hit conservative Francois Fillon immediately cancelled their campaign events on Friday.

The burst of violence and rush of police action left visitors bewildered, and saddened by the new reality of a steady threat of terror attacks in the French capital.

Isabel, a 34-year-old Australian tourist, was unable to reach her lodging because of the police lines.

“I just want to go home,” she said.

America Is the World’s Biggest Terrorist Organization—Why Is That So Hard to Understand?

A few years ago, I asked a retired Iraqi Air Force officer what it felt like to be bombed periodically by the United States in the 1990s. Whenever US President Bill Clinton felt irritated, I joked, he seemed to bomb Iraq. The officer, a distinguished man with a long career serving a military whose political leadership he despised, smiled. He said with great lightness – ‘When our leadership said something threatening those words itself were taken to be terrorism; when the United States bombs, the world does not even blush.’

To me this is an intuitive statement.

I was thinking about it as I watched the parade in Pyongyang (North Korea) to celebrate the birth of Kim Il-sung. The imagery from North Korean television was grand – the vast Kim Il-sung Square packed with soldiers as the massive arsenal of North Korea was paraded past its leadership. On twitter, amateur arms experts gave a run-down of this undersea missile and that trans-continental one. It was breathtaking to watch the performance and feel the anxiety in the Western media that North Korean would launch an attack on someone, somewhere. North Korea watchers poured over the sights, building fanciful theories based on what was being presented. Belligerence, it seemed, was on display here.

It is always the ‘rogue state’ that is the threat to the world order – Iraq here, North Korea there. And in that ‘rogue state’ it is always the dictator who commands the entire monstrosity. Mockery is the guise with Kim Jong-un as it was with Saddam Hussein. These men have no taste: Saddam with his garish disco mustache and anachronistic military uniform and Kim with his New Wave haircut and his strangely out of proportion laughter. Threats are made to emanate from them – they itch to attack and are only held back by the democratic role of the United States, who sanctions the countries till they starve or patrols their waters with massive war ships to intimidate them into surrender. But the United States is not a threat. It is merely there to ensure that the real threats – Iraq then, North Korea now – are kept in check.

The author, in other words, is always the Eastern Despot.

Amnesia is the mode of thought in the United States. Cluelessness about its belligerent history is now general. It would sound strange to ask why the North Koreans feel such palpable threat from the United States. Odd to raise the fact that it was the United States that brutally bombed North Korea in the 1950s, targeting its towns and cities as well as farms and dams. The data is inescapable. The United States dropped 635,000 tons of bombs on North Korea. This includes 32,557 tons of napalm – essentially a chemical weapon. As a comparison, it is fitting to see that in all of the Pacific sector of World War II, the United States dropped a mere 503,000 tons of bombs. The United States, in other words, dropped more bombs on North Korea during the ill-named ‘limited war’ than it dropped during the entire engagement against Japan during World War II. Three million Koreans died in that war, the majority in the North.

North Korea has never attacked the United States.

Professor Charles Armstrong of Columbia University, one of the leading experts on the Korean War and on North Korea, writes that the US bombing campaign against North Korea ‘more than any other single factor, gave North Koreans a collective sense of anxiety and fear of outside threats, that would continue long after the war’s end.’ In fact, this anxiety and fear lasts into the present. It is easy to dismiss the North Korean attitude as one of brainwashing by the government. But if one looks seriously at the contemporary history of the North and the devastation caused by the US bombing of the 1950s, then one would ask not of the brainwashing inside North Korea but of the brainwashing inside the United States.

Imagine what it must have been like in North Korea to hear that another US battle group – the USS Carl Vinson and its allied ships – was moving to rendezvous in the Sea of Japan with Japanese naval vessels? It must have been chilling to hear US President Donald Trump saying that Kim Jong-un ‘gotta behave,’ the full meaning of the vernacular only available in the audio where Trump’s special menace is reserved for the word ‘gotta.’ If they don’t behave, he suggests with the snarl, then the cruise missiles on the USS Carl Vinson and the MOAB bombs are ready.

Little wonder that North Korea’s Vice-Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol told the BBC that if the US violated North Korean sovereignty, then ‘all-out war’ would result. More chillingly, he said, ‘If the US is planning a military attack against us, we will react with a nuclear pre-emptive strike by our own style and method.’ These statements – in light of North Korea’s history – sound less like threats of war and more like threats of preservation. The North Koreans are not foolish. They look towards North Africa and see Libya, which had given up its nuclear program to its peril. It is the nuclear shield that protects them and it is one that they will hold up to the light as often as possible. In any actual military exchange, North Korea would be pulverized. This they know. But they also know that this is their only armor.

The idea that the Bad is always bad and that the Good is always good resurfaces with predictable regularity. The ‘rogue states’ are always bad. That is self-evident. When they ‘kill their own people,’ then it is worse. That has been the standard with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. What makes him worse, say the pundits in the US media and political class, is that he ‘kills his own people.’ The chemical attack south of Idlib is the latest example of his mendacity. Investigations are irrelevant. It was evident to the media and to the political class in the West that only Assad could have authorized such an attack. This was a scenario that did not need explanations. A chain of associations was enough: chemical attack, children, and Assad. No more detail was necessary.

It was more complex when the ‘rebels’ bombed a convoy leaving the besieged towns of al-Foua and Kfraya, outside Aleppo, killing at least 126 people – including about 80 children. It was not Assad who did this attack, but the ‘rebels’ which makes outrage suddenly unavailable. There was no outrage, indeed, when US aircraft killed 30 civilians on Monday in a bombing run on the village of al-Bukamal near Deir az-Zor in eastern Syria. Three homes were flattened by the US aircraft and civilians – including children – from six families were killed. There was no hue and cry, no denunciations in the United Nations Security Council, no hashtag, no media campaign for the United States to take action against the perpetrators. Ivanka Trump did not rush to her father with pictures of the dead children, awakening in him a conscience few knew existed. In at least one of the cases, the United States was the one that did the killing. Silence met these tragedies.

I have been traveling around the United States these past few weeks, talking about my book – The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution. At each event, someone asks the honest and heartfelt question, ‘What can we do about Syria?’ What this question implies, it seems to me, is that the United States is not doing anything about Syria and that the United States is capable of acting in a helpful way in these conflicts. There is no sense in this question that the United States is already an actor here, and is often the author of these tragedies with threats from Washington producing anxiety from North Korea to Iran. There is little sense here that it is the United States that has been selling – to great profit – arms to all sides of these conflicts, inflaming animosities with greater weaponry. There is even less concern here that the United States has bombed Syria almost eight thousand times, with numerous of civilian casualties in its ledger. Innocence is the mode of self-regard. To change that attitude is perhaps the greatest step forward towards world peace. A little more outrage at US actions, not US inactivity, might help push an anti-war movement forward.

The Iraqi officers statement should say a lot to an American national. Or at least it begs the question of who is the real threat and why its belligerent actions are not considered to be the most dangerous problem facing the planet. It is easy to see ‘them’ as the problem – the ‘rogue states’ that are almost seen to be genetically predisposed to be erratic and dangerous. Far more difficult to accept that the history of US violence against North Korea or the malice unfolding in West Asia is not the source of the great devastation that tears across the planet.

Vijay Prashad is professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is the author of 18 books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press, 2012), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013) and The Death of a Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016). His columns appear at AlterNet every Wednesday.

Syria “Bus Bombing” Conducted By Terrorists, Not Syrian Government; No Red Lines?

http://www.renegadetribune.com/syria-bus-bombing-conducted-terrorists-not-syrian-government-no-red-lines/
By Brandon Turbeville

Days after pushing the patience of the world with its missile attack on the al-Sha’aryat airbase, America’s puppet troops committed yet another atrocity that is provoking international attention. While the justification provided by the United States missile attack was a highly questionable gas attack (which all the evidence points toward being the handiwork of Western-backed terrorists), the recent incident involves an attack on several buses leaving government-held towns of Kefraya and Foah.

The attack was a suicide bombing aimed at the buses carrying refugees set to be evacuated from both towns to more secure government-held areas. The transportation of these civilians is part of the recent “four cities” agreement between the Syrian government and Western-backed terrorist forces to evacuate civilians to Syrian-government territory or terrorist supporters to terrorist held territory. The other villages involved in the transfer were the terrorist-held Zabadani and Madaya. The plan was devised to minimize civilian casualties and to eliminate the necessity to reclaim territory isolated by opposing forces, a plan that was facilitated by Iran and Qatar.

Around 126 people were killed in the attacks, including at least 80 children, according to the pro-terrorist Syrian Observatory For Human Rights.

The BBC reports slightly different numbers, recounting the story as follows:

At least 68 children were among 126 people killed in Saturday’s bomb attack on buses carrying evacuees from besieged Syrian towns, activists say. A vehicle filled with explosives hit the convoy near Aleppo.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said at least 109 evacuees from government-held towns were killed, along with aid workers and rebel soldiers. Many more were injured in the attack, the group said. The explosion shattered buses and set cars on fire, leaving a trail of bodies, as the convoy waited in rebel territory near Aleppo.

Interestingly enough, many mainstream media outlets are attempting to blame the bombing on the Syrian government, despite the fact that the attack was a suicide bombing, a hallmark of the Western-backed “opposition.” In addition, it has yet to be explained why the Syrian government would bomb its own “loyalists” which it negotiated to have evacuated or why the Syrian government would benefit from doing so.

Indeed, witness testimony definitively points to the bombs being a coordinated act by the terrorists. As Eva Bartlett writes,

Al Ikhbaria, Syrian TV, has multiple updates on the carnage wrought by the terrorist attack on these buses that carried civilians, including scenes of the injured civilians in hospital.

“A witness to the massacre told a Syrian journalist (shared by journalist Maytham al-Ashkar): ”The ‘rebels’ brought a bus full of crisps. They tried to gather as many kids as possible around the vehicle. Then we heard a really loud explosion. A lot of children were killed, many were injured.”

Journalist Vanessa Beeley, reporting from inside Syria, stated that the terrorists responsible for the bombing was Ahrar al-Sham, an organization considered “moderate” by the United States.

Bartlett continues, pointing out that there is no “red line” regarding these atrocities,

A journalist with U-News who sent photos and videos of the massacre of civilians asked the anguished rhetorical question one asks in such repeated situations: “Where are the mainstream media? Why don’t they report the barbaric and cowardly terrorist attack on Foua and Kafraya?”

The answer is that the genuine torment these civilians have endured for years will never be fairly reported, it does not serve the agenda of demonizing the leader of Syria and the national army in order to win western public opinion for yet another ‘humanitarian’ intervention which destroys the Syrian nation and installs chaos in the place of the legitimate government.

None of the people terrorized by these mercenaries of the NATO/Zionist/Gulf/Turkish alliance over the years will be respected or recognized by the Western press, be they women and children victims of rocket attacks, sniping and mortar terrorism in and around Damascus; Syrian and allied journalists assassinated by the ‘moderates’; civilians of Aleppo for years bombed, sniped at and besieged by terrorist factions; or especially liberated civilians from eastern areas of Aleppo whose horrific testimonies directly negate the myth of ‘rebels’, ‘moderates’, or the falsity of Assad as the problem and the Syrian Arab Army as the ‘aggressor’.

As with civilian victims of suicide bombs in Beirut and Homs, Jableh and Tartous, (which I visited in July 2016) the civilians of Foua and Kafraya are rendered by the Western corporate media as either invisible or a sect not worthy of human consideration. Ironically, while Foua and Kafraya may contain a predominate number of Shia Muslims, residents of the villages have told me how they intermarried with their neighbouring Sunni Syrians, and shared the celebrations of other faiths’, as is common in secular Syria.

Pointing out the hypocrisy of Western media reporting, Bartlett adds,

The Western corporate media’s reporting on massacres like the recent suicide bombings of several buses full of civilians in Syria deserves some scathing critique. Consider these lines from an article by Lizzie Dearden for the UK Independent:

“A car bomb has hit a convoy of buses carrying civilians evacuated from besieged towns in Syria, killing at least 24 people. The blast hit the Rashidin area on the outskirts of Aleppo, where dozens of buses carrying mostly Shia Muslim families from pro-government villages were waiting to enter the city. Photos that were too graphic to publish showed a huge fire raging next to bodies scattered on the ground next to charred buses with blown-out windows, including those of children.”

If the area in question were a terrorist-occupied area, Dearden’s report would read something like this: “A regime-dropped barrel bomb has killed a convoy of buses carrying innocent civilians, mostly women and children, who were being evacuated from rebel areas of Syria. The deadly 8.0 magntitude Hiroshima barrel bomb hit Sunni Muslim families from freedom-loving rebel areas…” etc. etc.

Do note in the reporting of ‘journalists’ like Dearden and other presstitutes, the downplaying of actual documented Syrian civilian deaths at the hands of terrorists dubbed ‘rebels’. Do note the sectarian language (rejected by most Syrians). Do note the implication that acts of terrorism on Syrians in government secured areas of the country must be considered as not credible (but physics-defying alleged school-bombings or alleged chemical weapons attacks should be believed). Also note the kind of reporting on this attack that was produced by CNN. While stating that “no group has claimed responsibility”, CNN felt the need to get a word from that paragon of immorality, Abdul Rahman of the utterly discredited ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’:

“During a televised interview, Rami Abdul Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said a suicide bomber claimed he was carrying food items and blew himself up in a fuel station. Abdul Rahman said he doesn’t believe the Syrian regime is behind the attack. He said the regime kills scores of people daily using all types of weaponry and doesn’t need to kill its own sympathizers.”

Yes indeed, just in case you were distracted by the US-backed terrorist bombing of buses full of civilians, CNN used the pathetic quisling Rahman to remind you of the ‘evils of the regime’ and to admit that, despite the ‘evil’ of Assad, he has not yet found a need to kill his own sympathiziers.

Regarding the “photos that were too graphic to publish” by the Independent; please explain to the families of these mutilated Syrians why their graphic murders were too distasteful to Western sensitivities when graphic images of dead and injured children are splashed across Western media broadsheets when the alleged author of such attacks is the Syrian or Russian military.

Britain’s state-owned BBC, no stranger to the propagation war porn when it serves the NATO agenda, headlined rather blandly: “Syria war: Huge bomb kills dozens of evacuees in Syria“.

Had the bombing in question been attributed to the Syrian army, or Russians, you can bet the headline would have read something like: “Murderous Regime Bombs Innocent Civilians in Rebel-held Area Just Days After Worst Chemical Attack in the History of the World”.

Of course, I do not believe for a moment that the allegations of the western-propagated Idlib chemical incident are true, but this is the sort of headline the Western corporate media runs, irrespective of actual evidence, of which they have none as regards the alleged chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun.

Please recall that just days after the US-led coalition murdered anywhere between 60 and 80 Syrian soldiers in Deir ez-Zor, Western governments, their jihadi proxies and the Western press deflected attention by attacking a UN humanitarian convoy and blaming Syria and/or Russia.

I highly encourage the readers to access Eva Bartlett’s article, “No ‘Red-Lines’ After US-Backed Terrorists Massacre Idlib’s Foua Civilians.

It now remains to be seen whether or not the United States will use this recent attack by its own proxies as a justification for more escalation in the Syrian conflict or whether the Trump administration will simply ignore the deaths of these “beautiful babies.” Either way, the treachery and hypocrisy of the West will be on full display.


This article originally appeared on Activist Post.

WHY RUSSIA’S REACTION TO TERROR IS ALL ABOUT STRENGTHENING VLADIMIR PUTIN’S (KIKE) POWER

http://www.newsweek.com/2017/04/14/russia-st-petersburg-bombing-strengthening-putin-581681.html?spMailingID=1662906&spUserID=MzQ4OTUyNDAxNTAS1&spJobID=770306595&spReportId=NzcwMzA2NTk1S0

 

 

Power, for Vladimir Putin, has always been closely linked to terrorism. Back in 1999, as an unknown and untried prime minister, he first showed Russians his steely character after a series of unexplained bombings demolished four apartment buildings and killed more than 300 people. Putin, in his trademark brand of clipped tough-talk, announced that the those responsible would be “rubbed out, even if they’re in the outhouse,” and launched a renewed war against the breakaway republic of Chechnya. The resulting wave of approval, stoked by fear of terrorism, carried Putin to the presidency months later.

Eighteen years on and Putin has fulfilled his promise by rubbing out many thousands of extremists—with his army in Chechnya and all over the North Caucasus, via Federal Security Service assassins in Turkey and Yemen, and most recently from the air and by the hand of special forces in Syria. What’s more, he has expanded the definition of extremists to include not just Islamist militants but also Ukrainian filmmakers and gay activists who share digitally altered images of Putin in garish makeup on social media. Nonetheless, as the deadly bombing in St. Petersburg’s metro on April 2 showed, neither violence nor repression has put an end to terrorist attacks in Russia.

Post-Attack Playbook

Even as the 14 dead and at least 60 wounded were being stretchered out of the smoke-filled Technology Institute metro station and bomb disposal experts carefully defused an unexploded second device, the usual conspiracy theories began to circulate. Murderous jihadis, of course, were most people’s default assumption. The St. Petersburg news site Fontanka showed closed-circuit TV images of a bearded Muslim in a skull cap leaving the station, naming him as a prime suspect. He “looks like he stepped right out of a poster for…ISIS,” fulminated columnist Denis Korotkov. Ilyas Nikitin was indeed a Muslim from Bashkortostan—but also a law-abiding reserve army captain and Chechnya veteran on the Russian side. Hard-line patriots were quick to blame Ukrainians or supporters of Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who brought some 60,000 protesters onto the streets of scores of Russian cities the previous weekend to protest against government sleaze. Meanwhile, in Ukraine, social media was buzzing with unsubstantiated theories that the bombing was a false-flag attack organized by the Russian state as a pretext for a renewed assault on Ukraine.

RELATED: What to know about Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s showdown with Medvedev

The Kremlin’s reaction was also one Russians have seen many times before. Putin appeared on television looking grim and promising a full investigation, as well as swift retribution for the guilty. Members of the Russian Duma railed against enemies inside and outside Russia. Large numbers of police with metal detectors and dogs appeared at stations, shopping malls and movie theaters across the country in a massive show of force to reassure the public. (There was a difference, though, from the response to the recent attacks in Europe—a glaring absence of international solidarity. No Russian flag was projected onto Berlin’s Reichstag, as Britain’s had been after an attack on Parliament in March. Tel Aviv was the only Western city to illuminate a public building in the Russian tricolor.)

Another part of the Kremlin’s post-attack playbook that was depressingly familiar was using the bombing as an excuse for a new round of crackdowns on dissent. Over the 18 years of Putin’s rule, every major terrorist outrage has been followed by a crackdown. In 2004, he scrapped direct elections of governors after Chechen militants massacred schoolchildren in Beslan; in 2010, after suicide attacks on the Moscow metro, he enacted legislation to control the internet; in 2013, when Moscow’s Domodedovo airport was bombed, he expanded the definition of extremism to include dissidents of every stripe, from environmentalists to historians.

04_21_Russia_03Police officers detain an opposition supporter during a rally in Vladivostok, Russia, on March 26. Alexei Navalny’s March 26 anti-corruption protests were the largest anti-government rallies Russia has seen since 2011-2012.YURI MALTSEV/REUTERS

A day after the latest attack, Yury Shvytkin, deputy chair of the Duma’s Defense Committee, proposed a moratorium on public protests. Such a move is necessary for public safety, he said, because terrorists time their attacks to “significant events and significant dates…. We should refrain from holding any planned rallies, especially now.” At the same time, authorities announced a series of “anti-terror rallies” across Russia. (Shvytkin didn’t explain how these would be less of a target for terrorists than opposition marches.) A government source told the Kommersant newspaper that the organizers of the Kremlin-backed anti-terrorist marches would be giving “special attention” to cities that had a large turnout for Navalny’s anti-corruption protests on March 26, the largest anti-government rallies Russia has seen since 2011-2012. Another lawmaker, Vitaly Milonov, is introducing legislation that would criminalize online calls for unsanctioned demonstrations and require all social media users to register their passport data with the police.

“No measures can be called excessive if they protect the lives of Russian citizens,” a senior member of Russia’s National Guard, a 250,000-strong force created by Putin last year for internal security, tells Newsweek . (The source, a former member of the State Duma, was not authorized to speak on the record.) “We are facing the same threat from terror as the rest of the civilized world, yet when we take steps to fight it, we are criticized…. This is pure hypocrisy,” the source says. In March, the National Guard created a dedicated cyber division to monitor social network sites and comb the internet for “extremist content” posted online. And last July, Moscow police chief Anatoly Yakunin told journalists that an 86 percent rise in “online extremism” in the capital had been recorded—and that combating extremism would be the Moscow police’s “highest priority.”

It’s not clear how added vigilance of social networks could have stopped Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, the 22-year-old suicide bomber who attacked the St. Petersburg metro. Russian authorities had not identified him as a security risk, and his page on VKontakte, the Russian version of Facebook, shows no obvious links to radical Islamism. The only violence depicted on his pages were videos about combat sports, such as street fighting and boxing, the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets reported.

A native of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan, Dzhalilov was one of the millions of gastarbeiters (guest workers) who have flooded into Russia from the former Soviet empire in search of work. By 2011, he was granted Russian citizenship and moved to St. Petersburg, where he worked in a sushi bar and as a car mechanic alongside his father, also a naturalized Russian. According to the National Guard source, Dzhalilov dropped off the grid in 2015 and apparently became radicalized, though investigators have not established where. One important clue lies in the bomb he detonated. Packed into an empty fire extinguisher, the device may have used homemade explosives based on ammonium nitrate, an ingredient used in industrial fertilizer. The bomb’s core had nails and coins taped around it. Authorities discovered and defused another bomb hidden in a black men’s bag under a bench in St. Petersburg’s Ploshchad Vosstaniya metro station a few hours after the first. The devices “bear some similarities to devices used in Dagestan over the last five or six years,” says the source.

Connections to ISIS

Islamist rebels continue to fight Russian authorities in both Chechnya and neighboring Dagestan, despite the best efforts of Chechnya’s strongman president, Ramzan Kadyrov. He has won Putin’s support and lavish funding, and Kadyrov has been given a free hand to impose his brand of pro-Kremlin Sharia law by ruthlessly crushing insurgents, using methods that include, according to Human Rights Watch, torture and collective punishment of a suspect’s relatives. Nevertheless, as recently as March 24, six soldiers from the Russian National Guard were killed and three were injured during an overnight raid by authorities on the village of Stanitsa Naurskaya, on the northern edge of Chechnya.

The deeper problem for Russia is that the Islamists of the Caucasus are deeply entwined with the world’s most dangerous dynamo of terrorism, ISIS. Estimates of the numbers of Russian citizens fighting alongside ISIS in Syria and Iraq vary from 2,500 to 7,000, but it’s clear Russians are its largest non-Arab group of foreign fighters. Many were even helped by the Russian Federal Security Service to leave Russia and travel to Syria. A special report by Reutersin May 2016 revealed that authorities encouraged dozens of suspected Islamist militants to depart before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. “I was in hiding. I was part of an illegal armed group. I was armed,” Saadu Sharapudinov, one of six rebels identified in the investigation, told Reuters. He had been hiding in forests in the North Caucasus, he said, when FSB officers offered him immunity from prosecution, a new passport under a new name and a one-way plane ticket to Istanbul. Shortly after arriving in Turkey, Sharapudinov crossed into Syria and joined an Islamist group that would later pledge allegiance to the ISIS.

Exporting troublemakers worked in the short term. There were no attacks on the Sochi Olympics, despite it being just a few hours’ drive from Chechnya. And violence fell all over the troubled North Caucasus in the past few years. “The departure of Dagestani radicals in large numbers made the situation in the republic healthier,” Magomed Abdurashidov, of Dagestan’s anti-terrorist Commission of Makhachkala, told Reuters.

But the problem remained of what to do with these jihadis if and when they come home, now trained and battle-hardened by ISIS. Russian security officials frequently cite fighting terrorism as one of the main reasons for Putin’s decision to start bombing the forces in Syria fighting against President Bashar al-Assad in September 2015. “There are thousands of our citizens fighting there,” Nikolai Kovalev, head of the FSB from 1996 to 1998 and now a member of the Duma Security committee, told Newsweek in January. “It’s a matter of national security to make sure that they don’t bring that ideology back to Russia.” Leonid Kalashnikov, chairman of the Duma Committee on the Former Soviet Union, agreed: “We remember how many radicals came to fight in Chechnya from the Middle East. The region is right next to Central Asia. That is our underbelly. We have to be in [Syria] in order to prevent the contagion of terrorism from spreading.”

Putin’s bombing campaign did kill ISIS militants. How many isn’t clear. Ashton Carter, then the U.S. secretary of defense, told NBC in January that Russia had done “virtually zero” against ISIS in Syria. Days after Russian bombers began their campaign in Syria, Wilayat Sinai, a new ISIS affiliate in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that had been affiliated with Al-Qaeda, decided to attack a Russian target. Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, emir of ISIS in Syria and the group’s official spokesman, released an audio message on October 13 urging Islamic youth everywhere to “ignite jihad against the Russians and the Americans in their crusaders’ war against Muslims.” Wilayat Sinai was ready to answer the call. The group had infiltrated a recruit into Sharm el-Sheikh airport’s team of baggage handlers. In the early morning of October 31, 2015, the airport insider smuggled a soda can packed with explosives into the hold of a Russian charter plane bound for St. Petersburg, just below seats 31A and 30A, window seats occupied by 15-year-old Maria Ivleva and 77-year-old Natalia Bashakova. Twenty-two minutes after the Metrojet Airbus pushed back from its stand, the bomb detonated, killing all 224 on board. The Metrojet bombing remains ISIS’s deadliest attack to date.

04_21_Russia_02Russia’s President Vladimir Putin lays flowers in memory of the St. Petersburg metro explosion victims at Tekhnologichesky Institut station on April 3.MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/TASS/GETTY

Other groups inside Russia also heeded Adnani’s call. In June 2015, Amir Khamzat, one of the most wanted Islamist rebels in the North Caucasus, defected from a group previously linked to Al-Qaeda and pledged loyalty to ISIS. Today, two main Islamist groups vie for control of Russia’s homegrown rebels: the Caucasus Emirate, which is affiliated with the Nusra Front, and the Caucasus Governorate, an ISIS affiliate under the control of Dagestani Rustam Asilderov, also known as Abu Muhammad al-Kadarskii. They are united by a shared hatred of two things, Shiites and Putin’s Russia.

Whether ISIS, via its affiliates in the Caucasus or elsewhere, was behind the St. Petersburg attack remains to be proved. According to Kommersant, the FSB had arrested and questioned a Russian man with ties to ISIS, after he returned home from fighting in Syria, and he warned of an impending attack. The man was “low in the organization’s hierarchy and did not have a complete picture of the situation,” according to Kommersant ’s “trusted security source,” so the FSB was unable to take more concrete action.

Propaganda Demonizes Dissidents

The key question is whether this is a one-off attack or the start of a major campaign against Russian targets. And would a sustained terrorist campaign undermine Putin’s regime or strengthen it?

Putin has proved his ability to withstand terrorism. After the Metrojet bombing—a massive attack that would have sparked a major political crisis for any Western leader—he used his well-honed propaganda machine to whip up more public support for his Syria campaign, in the guise of protecting Russians. Putin has maneuvered himself into a position where any threat to Russia—whether it’s sanctions following his annexation of Crimea or the St. Petersburg bombing—becomes just another argument for why Russia needs a strong leader. What’s more, it makes his critics, such as the thousands of young people who turned up to protest corruption in March, not just dissidents but dangerous traitors, criticizing the president when their country is under threat. State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin called on lawmakers to defend Russians against Navalny and his vocal anti-corruption campaigns, referring to him as “the voice of the Western security services.”

At the same time, Russia’s diplomats have used the attacks to move the international conversation away from Ukraine and Moscow’s alleged meddling in Western elections to the shared problem of terrorism. The St. Petersburg bombing illustrated “the importance of stepping up joint efforts to combat this evil,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists.

Putin’s reputation was built on being tough on terrorism. Over the years, says Brian Whitmore, author of Radio Free Europe’s influential blog The Power Vertical, “power has been consolidated, dissent has been suppressed—and terrorism has continued.” And throughout it all, Russians keep looking to the Kremlin for protection.

ISLAMIC STATE CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR COPTIC CHURCH ATTACKS IN EGYPT

http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Islamic-State-claims-responsibility-for-Coptic-church-attacks-in-Egypt-486595

 

 

TANTA/CAIRO – Islamic State was responsible for two Coptic church bombings in Egypt on Palm Sunday that killed at least 36 and injured over 100, the group’s news agency Amaq said.

“A group that belongs to Islamic State carried out the two attacks on the churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria,” Amaq said.

 

At least 36 people were killed and more than 100 injured in bomb attacks on two Coptic churches on Palm Sunday, in the latest assault on a religious minority increasingly targeted by Islamist militants.

The attack comes a week before Coptic Easter and in the same month that Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt.

The first bombing, in Tanta, a Nile Delta city less than 100 kilometers outside Cairo, killed at least 25 and injured at least 78, Egypt’s Ministry of Health said.

The second, carried out just a few hours later by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, hit the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, killing 11, including three police officers, and injuring 35, the ministry added.

A relative of one of the victims reacts after a church explosion killed at least 21 in Tanta, Egypt, April 9, 2017 (Reuters)A relative of one of the victims reacts after a church explosion killed at least 21 in Tanta, Egypt, April 9, 2017 (Reuters)

Pope Tawadros, who had attended mass at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, was still in the building at the time of the explosion but was not harmed, the Ministry of Interior said.

The bombings come as Islamic State’s branch in Egypt appears to be stepping up attacks and threats against Christians.

In February, Christian families and students fled Egypt’s North Sinai province after a spate of targeted killings.

Those attacks came after one of the deadliest on Egypt’s Christian minority, when a suicide bomber hit its largest Coptic cathedral, killing at least 25. Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack.

Thousands gathered outside the church in Tanta shortly after the blast, some wearing black, crying, and describing a scene of carnage.

“There was blood all over the floor and body parts scattered,” said a Christian woman who was inside the church.

“There was a huge explosion in the hall. Fire and smoke filled the room and the injuries were extremely severe,” another Christian woman, Vivian Fareeg, said.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail are set to visit the Tanta site on Sunday and Sisi has ordered an emergency national defense council meeting, state news reported.

In Israel, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely condemned the incident as a terrorist attack, saying it served as a reminder that Egypt is also under attack by terrorists.

Hotovely, in the first Israeli response to the Palm Sunday attack, said that terrorism does not stop at Stockholm, St, Petersburg, Berlin, London and Jerusalem.

“Alongside the sadness and the mourning, we must unite forces with an iron fist against the Axis of Evil and terrorism,” she said. “Israel is a partner in the fight against terror everywhere it hits and will extend a hand in order to wipe it out.”

Relatives of victims reacts after a church explosion killed at least 21 in Tanta, Egypt, April 9, 2017 (Reuters)Relatives of victims reacts after a church explosion killed at least 21 in Tanta, Egypt, April 9, 2017 (Reuters)

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on also condemned the bombing of the Egyptian church, Wafa, the official PA news site, reported.

Abbas said the Palestinian people and leadership stand with the Egyptian people, leadership and army against “the blind terror that is targeting Egypt.”

Christians, mostly Orthodox Copts, account for about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, which is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim. Copts face regular attacks by Muslim neighbors, who burn their homes and churches in poor rural areas, usually in anger over an inter-faith romance or the construction of church.

Islamic State’s branch in Egypt, which has waged a low-level conflict for years in the Sinai peninsula, has stepped up attacks on Christians in Egypt in recent months.

‘WE FEEL TARGETED’

A shift in Islamic State’s tactics, which has waged a low-level conflict for years in the Sinai peninsula against soldiers and police, to targeting Christian civilians and broadening its reach into Egypt’s mainland is a potential turning point in a country trying to prevent a provincial insurgency from spiraling into wider sectarian bloodshed.

Egypt’s Christian community has felt increasingly insecure since Islamic State spread through Iraq and Syria in 2014, ruthlessly targeting religious minorities. In 2015, 21 Egyptian Christians working in Libya were killed by Islamic State.

“Of course we feel targeted, there was a bomb here about a week ago but it was dismantled. There’s no security,” said another Christian woman in Tanta referring to an attack earlier this month near a police training center that killed one policeman and injured 15..

Copts face regular attacks by Muslim neighbors, who burn their homes and churches in poor rural areas, usually in anger over an inter-faith romance or the construction of a church..

Deadly Explosions at Egyptian Coptic Churches on Palm Sunday

TANTA, Egypt — Suicide bombers attacked two Coptic churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday, killing at least 40 worshipers and police officers stationed outside, in the deadliest day of violence against Christians in the country in decades.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for both attacks in a statement via its Aamaq news agency, having recently signaled its intention to escalate a campaign of violence against Egyptian Christians.

The first explosion occurred about 9:30 at St. George’s Church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, 50 miles north of Cairo, during a Palm Sunday Mass. Security officials and a witness said that a suicide bomber had barged past security measures and detonated his explosives in the front pews, near the altar.

At least 27 people were killed and 71 others injured, officials said.

Hours later, a second explosion occurred at the gates of St. Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria. That blast killed 13 people and wounded 21 others, the Health Ministry said.

The patriarch of the Egyptian Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, who is to meet with Pope Francis on his visit to Egypt on April 28 and 29, was in the church at the time but was not injured, the Interior Ministry said.

Egyptians sit in shock at the scene of a bomb explosion inside St. George’s Church.CreditKhaled Elfiqi/European Pressphoto Agency

Kamil Sadiq Sawiras, a Coptic church official in Alexandria, said a police officer at the church gates had intercepted a suicide bomber, who blew himself up before he could reach the church.

Two police officers and a neighborhood police chief, Adel El-Rakiby, were among the dead.

The bombings, at the start of the Holy Week leading to Easter, renewed questions about the ability of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to protect minority Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people. Later on Sunday, Mr. Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency.

In a televised speech, Mr. Sisi called for national unity and criticized the news media for its reporting on the attacks.

“Deal with the issue with credibility, and responsibility and awareness,” he said, according to Reuters. “It’s not right what I’m seeing being repeated on all of our channels, and you know this hurts Egyptians.”

As forensic teams combed through the bloodstained wreckage of the church in Tanta, witnesses told of how a suicide bomber managed to slip through a side door where security officials had been checking congregants with a metal detector as they entered.

Several deacons, lay Christians who help with the service, were among the dead. Remon Emaad said the church had been on alert since the authorities discovered an explosive device nearby last week and defused it.

Soia Williams said that her uncle, Methat Moussa, a retired army officer, had been late to Sunday’s service and had gone to the front pews, where the explosion went off.

“We can’t find his body, just a bloodied identity card,” she said.

Egyptian security officials found and defused several other explosive devices at other locations, including at a prominent Sufi Muslim shrine. One bomb had been planted at the Collège Saint Marc, an all-boys school in downtown Alexandria.

Two others were found at the Sidi Abdel Rahim Mosque in Tanta, home to one of the most famous Sufi shrines in the city. The authorities also found two suspected bombs at a local market in the coastal city of Marsa Matruh, state news media reported.

The violence on Sunday comes weeks before the visit to Egypt by Francis, in what has been billed as the latest stage of his long-running effort to forge stronger ties with Muslim leaders.

Photo

The scene inside St. George’s Church in Tanta, northern Egypt, after a bomb exploded on Palm Sunday.CreditKhaled Elfiqi/European Pressphoto Agency

But the pontiff will find himself arriving in a country where the government is struggling to protect Christians and where the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is intent on driving a wedge between the two religions.

In December, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 28 people in an attack on a chapel in the grounds of St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Cairo. In February, hundreds of Christians fled their homes in north Sinai after a concerted campaign of assassination and intimidation in the area.

After the attack in December, the Islamic State said it was escalating a campaign of sectarian bloodshed in Egypt, much as it has done for many years in Syria and Iraq.

The terror group claimed responsibility for the deadly blasts on Sunday through the Amaq news agency, which acts as its news wire. It said that a “security detachment” had targeted the churches in Tanta and Alexandria.

The Islamic State has an active affiliate in Egypt, which has claimed numerous other attacks, including the downing of a MetroJet flight in 2015, which killed more than 200 passengers flying from an Egyptian resort to Russia.

A relative of one of the victims in Tanta, Egypt.CreditMohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Its campaign poses a frontal threat to the Mr. Sisi, a strongman ruler who has put security at the heart of his legitimacy in Egypt, and who has used his anti-Islamist credentials to win support from Western allies.

During a visit to Washington last week, Mr. Sisi got a warm welcome from President Trump, who hailed the Egyptian leader as a “fantastic guy” and a major ally in the battle against Islamist extremists.

But back in Egypt, Mr. Sisi has had to contend with growing criticism from the country’s Christians over his failure to protect them from attacks.

Initial reports from Tanta said the explosion near the front of the church had killed many children. The state news media, citing a security official, said that a suicide bomber was believed to be behind the attack, and that that the police were examining the remains of a suspect found at the scene.

Witnesses said an angry crowd outside the church had attacked a young man it accused of being involved in the attack.

Inside St. George’s Church after the deadly explosion on Palm Sunday in Tanta, Egypt.CreditKhaled Elfiqi/European Pressphoto Agency

In a statement, President Sisi said he had convened a meeting of the National Defense Council, which includes the prime minister and commanders of the Egyptian armed forces, in response to the bombings.

Responding to the attacks from Rome, Francis offered his condolences to the Copts and all Egyptians, and referred to the Coptic patriarch as his “brother.”

During his coming trip to Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, the pontiff is to visit with Mr. Sisi; the leadership of the Coptic Orthodox Church; and the grand imam of Al Azhar, a 1,000-year-old mosque and university that is revered by Sunni Muslims.

The grand imam, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, condemned the attacks on Sunday as a “despicable terrorist bombing that targeted the lives of innocents.”

Relations between Muslim leaders and the Roman Catholic Church became strained under Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who denounced what he called “a strategy of violence that has Christians as a target” after a bombing in 2011 at a church in Alexandria killed at least 23 people.

Francis actively sought to rebuild ties with Muslim clerics after becoming pope in 2013, and last year he welcomed the grand imam of Al Azhar in the Vatican.

Although the head of the Catholic Church in Egypt, Bishop Emmanuel, told reporters on Friday that the pope’s pending journey was a signal that Egypt is safe for visitors, the attacks on Sunday were certain to bring new scrutiny on security arrangements for the trip in April.

In a Twitter post, a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Ahmed Abu Zeid, said, “Terrorism hits Egypt again.”

Stockholm Truck Attack Kills 4; Terrorism Is Suspected

STOCKHOLM — A man drove a stolen beer truck into a crowd of people in a popular shopping district in Stockholm on Friday afternoon and then rammed it into a department store, killing four people and injuring 15 others in an attack that unleashed bloodshed and panic on the streets of another European capital.

“Sweden has been attacked,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said in a televised news conference. “This indicates that it is an act of terror.”

A nationwide manhunt conducted through much of the evening ended when the police “caught one person of particular interest,” said Jan Evensson, the chief of regional police. On Saturday, a spokesman for the police, Lars Bystrom, said the man in custody was believed to have driven the truck.

A picture showing a man wanted in connection with the truck attack in Stockholm was released by the Swedish police on Friday. CreditStockholm Police

The first emergency call came in around 2:50 p.m. local time as the truck mowed down pedestrians along Drottninggatan, a busy pedestrian shopping street. The truck, stolen just blocks away earlier in the day, came to a stop after slamming into the entrance of the Ahlens department store. Photos from the scene showed a billowing cloud of black smoke rising from the store.

The attack struck the heart of a nation known for its peacefulness and tolerance, and turned a warm spring afternoon into a scene of terror.

“I saw hundreds of people running. They ran for their lives” before the truck crashed into the department store, a witness identified only as Anna told the newspaper Aftonbladet.

Katarina Libert, 32, a freelance journalist, was trying on clothes at the department store when she heard a boom and the walls shook.

At first, she said, she thought the noise had come from people moving things around the store, but then the fire alarm went off and staff members told shoppers to leave the building.

“We were running, we were crying — everyone was in shock,” Ms. Libert said. “We rushed down the street, and I glanced to the right and saw the truck. People were lying on the ground. They were not moving.”

She said that she usually avoided busy areas that could be potential terrorist targets, but that she had decided to take the afternoon off to do some shopping.

“Some people felt that this was just a matter of time,” she said. “Paris, Brussels, London and now Stockholm. I just had a feeling something like this would happen.”

The front part of the truck ended up inside the department store.CreditJonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Vehicles have been used to attack people in several episodes in Europe in the past year. The Islamic State revived the idea of using cars as weapons after it broke with Al Qaeda in 2014. In the past year, Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility for the deaths of more than 100 people in Europe.

In France, a man drove into a crowd on a busy seaside promenade during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice. Another attacker plowed a truck into shoppers at a Christmas market in Berlin. And last month, an assailant drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge near Parliament in London.

The attacks in France, Germany and Britain were seen by some as retaliation for those countries’ participation in wars in the Middle East. But Sweden is not involved in any military confrontations abroad.

The country contributes only 35 soldiers to the American-led coalition battling the Islamic State; they serve only as trainers in northern Iraq and are not involved in combat. In Afghanistan, 50 Swedish soldiers are serving mainly as advisers, according to the Swedish Defense Ministry’s website.

The police outside Stockholm’s central train station. Security was increased on Friday after the attack at a department store nearby. CreditTt News Agency/Reuters

Nevertheless, the country has been a target of previous terrorist attacks. In December 2010, the same street, Drottninggatan, was the site of the first suicide bombing in the country. An Iraqi-born Swedish citizen, carrying several pipe bombs, detonated an explosive device but killed only himself.

In February, President Trump suggested that Sweden’s tolerance of immigrants would lead to an extremist attack similar to those that had befallen France and Belgium.

Moments after the attack on Friday, Sweden’s Parliament was placed on lockdown, trains were canceled and the police, who blocked off the affected area, urged people to stay at home and avoid the city center.

In his late-night address, Prime Minister Lofven vowed that the country’s progressive values would triumph over terrorism.

People reacted after the attack at a department store in Stockholm. CreditTt News Agency/Reuters

“If it’s a terrorist act, the aim is to undermine democracy, but such acts will never succeed in Sweden,” he said. “Our message is clear: You will never, ever win.”

The authorities said they did not know whether the episode was an isolated assault or something bigger. Mr. Lofven said controls at Sweden’s borders had been tightened.

Fears from the attack reverberated in neighboring Norway, where the police said on Twitter that officers in the nation’s largest cities and at the airport in Oslo would be armed until further notice.

The chief medical doctor at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Nelson Follin, told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the hospital was treating “a handful” of people.

Some of the wounded in a street near the site of the attack. CreditPer Haljestam/Reuters

“The injuries are quite serious, but for now, I cannot give further comments on conditions,” Dr. Follin said.

The attack took place just as Swedes were preparing for fredagsmys, or cozy Friday, the unofficial start to the weekend: a time typically spent at home with friends or family.

“We were walking, and we saw all these police vehicles and helicopters in the air,” said Ingrid Falk, 46, a music teacher who had been preparing to conduct a children’s choir just steps from where the attack took place. “We realized something had happened. We saw people running, and everybody was making calls and wondering what had happened.”

The concert was ultimately canceled, Ms. Falk said. The church in which it was to be held was surrounded by the police.

The theme of the concert: “Your life is a gift. Be careful with it.”

How Zionist terrorism determined Palestine’s fate

https://electronicintifada.net/content/how-zionist-terrorism-determined-palestines-fate/19871

 

Israel’s propaganda playbook attempts to reframe the Palestinian liberation struggle as a question of terror, not territory. Thanks to a dutiful media, this effort to portray Palestinians as terrorists has had significant traction among some demographics.

But how did terrorism originate in Palestine and what was its outcome, both historically and today?

Thomas Suárez sheds much new light on those questions in State of Terror: How Terrorism Created Modern Israel. He does this largely by mining previously neglected declassified documents from the British National Archives, covering the period of the British Mandate for Palestine (1920-1948).

Suárez’s principal thesis is that Zionist terrorism “ultimately dictated the course of events during the Mandate, and it is Israeli state terrorism that continues to dictate events today.”

The author cautions that while he unequivocally condemns Palestinian terrorism against civilians, he recognizes that some were driven to extreme measures due to an asymmetry in power and in reaction to attempts to subjugate the Palestinian people and expropriate their resources, land and labor.

Zionist terrorism aimed to prevent Palestinian Arabs from exercising their right to self-determination, Suárez argues, and when an aggressor encounters resistance, it can hardly use self-defense as a justification for its own acts of violence. “Otherwise,” Suárez writes, “all aggression would self-justify.”

Suárez is not a professional historian. However, State of Terror has drawn praise from such figures as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe who – on the book cover – calls it a “tour de force” and “the first comprehensive and structured analysis” of the violence employed by the Zionist movement both before and after Israel’s creation. Indeed, Suárez’s scholarship is impressive and the book includes nearly 700 endnotes consisting mainly of original sources.

Insightful meditation

At its best, State of Terror is an insightful meditation on history. This is apparent especially in the opening chapters that cover the period leading up to the British Mandate and the issuance of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, in which Britain decreed a “national home” for Jews in Palestine.

Suárez offers a penetrating analysis of the roots of Zionist ideology, showing not only its racist underpinnings and colonialist attitudes toward Arabs but also its attempt to exercise political, religious and cultural hegemony over the Jewish people. In a sense Suárez exposes political Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism and a kind of totalitarianism.

The Zionist mistreatment of Jews is a sub theme that runs throughout Suárez’s narrative. Early Zionist leaders tried to depict Jews as a “race” and “nationality,” rather than a people of faith and ethnic identity. Zionist leaders such as David Ben-Gurion also maintained that Jews were ”obliged to settle in Palestine.”

Suárez cites an early opponent of Zionism, the English Jewish journalist and historian Lucien Wolf who condemned Zionism as “a comprehensive capitulation to the calumnies of the anti-Semites” that would set back the Jewish struggle for equality in their home countries.

In support of this claim, Wolf notes that Arthur James Balfour, who was foreign secretary at the time of the declaration that bears his name, appears to have been motivated to promise a “national home” for Jews by classic anti-Semitism: as prime minister in 1905, Balfour had attempted to block Jewish refugees escaping Czarist Russia’s pogroms from immigrating to Britain, viewing them as an “undoubted evil.”

Suárez makes the dramatic claim that “most victims” of the targeted assassinations carried out by Zionist paramilitaries in Mandate Palestine were Jews, in part because these militias identified British Jewish soldiers and police as traitors. This was the case even during the Second World War when Britain was engaged in a life-and-death struggle with Nazi Germany.

Partition plan capitulation

State of Terror asserts that most acts of terrorism were directed at Palestinian Arab civilians. Both the Labor and Revisionist wings of Zionism engaged in terrorism and often colluded with each other in carrying out terrorist attacks, which escalated following the end of the Second World War, culminating famously in the King David Hotel attack in July 1946 that killed 41 Palestinian Arabs, 28 Brits, 17 Jews, 2 Armenians, 1 Russian and 1 Egyptian.

Suárez maintains that the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 was largely a capitulation to this terrorism. Here his conclusion differs somewhat from that of other historians, including Tom Segev, who argues in One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate (1999) that the exhausted and bankrupt British Empire was intent on leaving Palestine regardless of Zionist terrorism.

In Segev’s account the British departure was a foregone conclusion, and the terrorism of both the Labor Zionist and Revisionist-led militias represented a competition between them “for control of the state that would soon be established.”

“The British were not the real enemy,” Segev writes, “the Arabs were.”

The numerous acts of terrorism against Palestinian civilians during the Nakba of 1947-1949, such as the massacre at Deir Yassin, figure prominently in Suárez’s concluding chapters.

With the creation of Israel in 1948 paramilitary terrorism transformed itself into official state terrorism.

Suárez calls out the Orwellian newsspeak that statehood seemingly confers on acts of terrorism by contrasting the reaction of world opinion to Deir Yassin in April 1948 with the bloodier mass murder that occurred in the village of al-Dawayima in October 1948 after Israel had declared statehood.

That massacre, estimated at 145 people by the village mukhtar (chief), was regarded largely “as a military operation” at the time, according to Suárez, although recent scholarship has more accurately described it as an example of state terrorism.

Suárez devotes considerable attention to Zionist efforts to thwart Holocaust survivors from immigrating to countries other than Palestine and the kidnapping of young Jewish survivors from foster homes in Europe and their transfer to Palestine. In this, he relies heavily on Yosef Grodzinsky’s groundbreaking In the Shadow of the Holocaust: The Struggle Between Jews and Zionists in the Aftermath of World War II (2004).

Suárez also recounts the false-flag terrorism in Egypt designed to win US support for Israel. Famous at the time, but largely forgotten since, Israel’s Unit 131 carried out terrorist bombings against civilian targets in Alexandria and Cairo, mainly cinemas frequented by US and British citizens, in what a Central Intelligence Agency bulletin, declassified in 2005, described as a bungled false-flag operation.

He also includes the shameful blaming of Holocaust survivors by Israeli and Zionist officials for acts of collective punishment carried out in secret by Israeli military forces, such as the massacre in the West Bank village of Qibya in 1953, led by Unit 101 under the command of Ariel Sharon.

State of Terror is a comprehensive guide to Zionist and Israeli state terrorism and one that sheds valuable light on today’s situation.

As Suárez concludes: “Terrorism … is the only means through which an indigenous population can be subjugated, dehumanized and displaced. This, stripped of all baggage, is the reality of today’s Israel-Palestine ‘conflict.’”

Rod Such is a former editor for World Book and Encarta encyclopedias. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and is active with the Occupation-Free Portland campaign.

RUSSIAN MEDIA: SEARCH WARRANTS ISSUED AGAINST TWO SUSPECTS IN DEADLY METRO BLAST

 

http://www.jpost.com/International/Initial-Several-hurt-in-blast-at-Russian-train-station-485957

 

Russia has issued search warrants for two people for their possible role in Monday’s deadly metro blast in Saint Petersburg, which took the lives of dozens and injured at least 50 people.

According to Russia’s news agency TASS, the blast was a terrorist attack.

 

“Two people are being sought on suspicion of planning the blasts, one of whom is thought to have placed the explosive device in the metro wagon and the second person for leaving a bomb at the metro station ‘Ploshchad Revolutsii’,” the source told Interfax.

Russia’s prosecutor general has also called the explosion a terror attack.

Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying one of the blasts was caused by a bomb filled with shrapnel.

The cause of the blast was not immediately known and a terror motive has not been ruled out. The Moscow metro said it was taking unspecified additional security measures in case of an attack there.

Following the incident, all metro stations in Russia’s second-largest city have been evacuated and closed. Reuters witnesses reported that at least eight ambulances had arrived near the Sennaya Ploshchad metro station.

Bomb blast kills 10 in St Petersberg, RussiaBomb blast kills 10 in St Petersberg, Russia

According to Russia’s Interfax news agency, explosions were heard in at least two different carriages in two metro stations.
The agency also said that the number of people injured is estimated at 20. Other reports suggest that there are at least 50 people injured.

Life News, an online news outlet with close ties to Russia’s security services, showed pictures of blown-out train doors and injured people at the Sennaya Ploshchad station platform.

Video showed injured people lying bleeding on a platform, some being treated by emergency services. Others ran away from the platform amid clouds of smoke.

A huge whole was blasted in the side of one carriage with mangled metal wreckage strewn around the platform. Passengers were seen hammering at the windows of one closed carriage.

According to Russian media, Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Saint Petersburg to closely monitor the scene and the investigation that will ensue.

Speaking to state media, Putin said the cause of the blasts was not clear and efforts were underway to investigate. He said he was considering all possibilities, including terrorism, and expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.

“I have already spoken to the head of our special services, they are working to ascertain the cause (of the blasts),” Putin, at a meeting with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, said.

“The causes are not clear, it’s too early. We will look at all possible causes, terrorism as well as common crime,” he added.

Russia has been the target of attacks by Chechen militants in past years. Chechen rebel leaders have frequently threatened further attacks.

At least 38 people were killed in 2010 when two female suicide bombers detonated bombs on packed Moscow metro trains.

Over 330 people, half of them children, were killed in 2004 when police stormed a school in southern Russia after a hostage taking by islamist militants. In 2002, 120 hostages were killed when police stormed a Moscow theatre to end another hostage taking.

Putin, as prime minister, launched a 1999 campaign to crush a separatist government in the muslim southern region of Chechnya, and as president continued a hard line in suppressing rebellion.

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