A British teenager is among four suicide bombers alleged to be behind an attack in Iraq on Saturday that killed at least 11 people, illustrating the front-line role foreign fighters from the West are playing in the conflict in Iraq and Syria.
Saturday, the family of 17-year-old Talha Asmal, from Yorkshire in North England, said their son was one of four men that Islamic State supporters alleged were responsible, writes the Wall Street Journal.
In separate news, a senior Kenyan official told The Wall Street Journal on Monday that Kenyan authorities believe another British man, Thomas Evans, had died while fighting for the Somali militant group al-Shabaab.
Authorities are waiting for forensic confirmation that Mr. Evans was among 11 militants and two Kenyan soldiers killed in an al-Shabaab raid on an army base close to the country’s northern border with Somalia, the official said.
Counter-terrorism police in Australia arrested a teen because they feared he might be carrying a bomb.
According to the Herald Sun, heavily armed police who overwhelmed the recently-turned 17-year-old as he was being driven by his mother to a mosque. They searched a bag he had with him before finding improvised explosive devices inside the family home.
Only an asthma pump was in the bag, but the police force’s bomb squad found three pipe bombs believed to have been hidden in the boy’s bedroom of the northern Melbourne suburb house, writes the Herald Sun.
Police have spent days scouring the house for more homemade explosive devices and yesterday widened the search to a nearby park and creek.
Soccer (football) club chairmen in Britain are warning of a new threat of football hooliganism from retired grandfathers.
Dave Doggett, boss of the soccer team Cambridge United, says a hardcore of around 10 men in their 50s and 60s are trying to relive the 1980s by arranging fights with rivals on match days.
“Club chiefs say ageing thugs who took part in violence during the 1970s and 80s are returning to the terraces,” according to the Daily Mirror.
Mr. Doggett warns the violence has increased recently as the men return to the club in their retirements after being distracted by years of having a career and raising families.
Doggett says there is a danger that they will spread violence as they try to encourage younger men to join their “gangs,” states The Telegraph.
Writing in his club’s latest program, Mr Doggett says: “Unfortunately football clubs still attract an undesirable element of society that appear determined to ruin the enjoyment of real supporters of football clubs.
“Our promotion to the Football League appears to have encouraged our ‘risk’ from the 1980s to come out of retirement.
“Many of them are grandparents trying to encourage the next generation to join their ‘gangs’.
“It sounds pathetic but unfortunately it is reality.”
Doggett states they are working closely with police on the matter.
Officers opened fire after two men allegedly dressed as women refused to stop a stolen vehicle Monday at the National Security Agency gate at Fort Meade in Maryland. The stolen vehicle smashed into a police vehicle blocking the road, officials said.
One of the men died, and the other man and an officer were hurt.
Officials claimed that there were plenty of chances for the incident to end nonviolently.
The NSA released a statement Monday afternoon saying the driver of the sport utility vehicle disobeyed instructions from an NSA police officer and failed to stop shortly before 9 a.m.
Investigators are looking into whether the men were under the influence of drugs following a night of partying, a federal law enforcement official said.
A man reported his car stolen from a hotel not far away from NSA Headquarters and said he had been with two men who had taken his car. Cocaine was found in the vehicle. The Howard County Police Department confirms that a Ford Escape reported stolen in Howard County, Maryland, is the vehicle involved in the incident.
The FBI said they did not think terrorism was related to the incident.
Is it America’s job to fix everything on the planet?
Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski and NBC News correspondent Chris Jansing challenged White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Thursday morning to defend the administration’s position that Yemen is a counter-terrorism success story.
In a speech in 2014, the President said, “This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us…is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”
But what does the media want to do about it? Start another invasion?
Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert “damaged our ability to fight terrorism.”
“Every night for whatever number of years, seven years, six years, Comedy Central, Stewart, Colbert, you name it, Bush lied. The mainstream media, every day, every week, Bush lied. What did that do? In the minds of young skulls full of mush, it turn around the Iraq war into a joke, number one. It turned Bush into a joke. It turned the country into a joke, and it told everybody that everything we were doing over there was illegitimate because we had no business being there, that there was no terrorism.”
But the issue is that the U.S. attacked the wrong country after 9/11.
Is Rush Limbaugh hypocritical?
Limbaugh claimed that “John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are guilty of criticizing the president,” referring to President Bush.
Cenk Uygur, host of TYT Network, gives his opinion on it.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Memphis Division reportedly warned police officers about a threat to blow up the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge sometime in December.
FOX13 News obtained the FBI bulletin sent to Mid-South Law Enforcement agencies warning about a possible Islamic State terror plot targeting the I-55 Bridge.
“According to an anonymous complainant, as of December 2014, ISIS instructed an ISIS member, a presumed USPER in Memphis, with a direct order to blow up the Memphis-Arkansas bridge on an unknown date, activating ISIS terror cells in the United States,” the warning reads.
USPER is a law enforcement acronym for U.S. person.
Described as “an unsubstantiated, anonymous threat,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned authorities in Tennessee and Arkansas about a threat made by the Islamic State to blow up an expansion of the Mississippi River bridge that connects the two states.
The question remains: Why would a terror group choose a bridge between Arkansas and Tennessee?
As part of its plan to counter violent extremism throughout the world, the Obama administration is looking to fight the impact that groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have on social media, according to The Hill.
The administration will work with companies and nations and will launch campaigns to counter terrorist groups’ online propaganda, which have become a key tool in their effort to spread their message of violence to the globe.
“The U.S. government, in partnership with foreign governments, civil society, and the private sector, is working to weaken the legitimacy and resonance of violent extremist messaging and narratives, including through social media,” the White House said in a fact sheet on Wednesday.
The government is organizing “technology camps” to work with companies and community groups “to develop digital content that discredits violent extremist narratives and amplifies positive alternatives,” the White House said.
Additionally, the administration is putting a new focus on countering the extremist groups’ online messages by designating a new envoy charged with discrediting them and creating a “digital communications hub” to focus specifically on ISIS’ messaging.
Internet companies have come under some pressure to do more to block the militant organizations.
One letter currently on Capitol Hill calls on Twitter to adopt new internal policies so that it treats posts endorsing terrorism similar to posts on child pornography or pirated content.
“In light of the fact that designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations now actively use Twitter to post content depicting the murder of individuals they have kidnapped or captured, users should be afforded the option to report such content as obscene and objectionable – just as easily as they are able to flag child pornography,” lawmakers wrote in a recent draft of the letter, according to The Hill.
The White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism opened in the United States capital on Tuesday, February 17th. A group of 40 participants were at the beginning of the three-day event.
The summit was not just about the Islamic State, it also had a focus on American domestic issues.
“We all understand that in dealing with violent extremism, we need answers that go beyond a military answer,” said US Vice President Joe Biden. “We need answers that go beyond force. Countries, all of us including the United States, we have to work this from the ground up.
He added: “We have to work from the ground up and engage our communities and engage those who might be susceptible to being radicalized because they are marginalized.
Biden said societies need to provide immigrant communities with a sense of opportunity and a sense of belonging to counter radicalization.
“Societies have to provide an affirmative alternative for immigrant communities with a sense of opportunity, a sense of belonging – and that will discredit the terrorist appeal to fear, isolation, hatred and resentment.”
An important issue at the summit is how to stop lone-wolf attacks, which is usually violence plotted by a single person who may not share their plans with anyone.
Attention was also paid to social media.
U.S. intelligence and officials from Homeland Security have said that social media campaigns by extremist groups have fueled recruitment and inspired lone wolves in cities including Paris, Copenhagen, Ottawa and Boston.
To counter the messages by ISIS and al-Qaeda, the US State Department will expand its Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications to amplify its own messages.
President Barack Obama is set to address the meetings twice with an emphasis on how civil society and the private sector have roles to play in countering violent extremism.
The meeting – which features speakers and participants from the US and abroad – has been in the works for months as part of a program the Obama administration began in 2011.
It comes just as a new report warns of a rise in violence by “lone wolves” or “leaderless resistance” groups composed of no more than two people.
It comes at a time when recent events seem connected to Islam: The shooting deaths last week of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, N.C., by a suspect who may have been motivated by religious hatred as well as other issues, and the shooting attacks that killed two and wounded five at a free speech event and synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark, over the weekend, believed to have been inspired by Islamic radicalism.
The vice president upheld as examples the work of Boston, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, where the Justice Department has launched a series of pilot programs involving local religious leaders, law enforcement and advocacy groups. Administration officials said one goal of the conference was for leaders from those cities to share best practices with others.
Overcoming distrust has been a challenge for federal officials. Some critics say the apprehension of young men – such as Christopher Lee Cornell, recently charged with plotting an attack on the US Capitol – amounts to legally questionable entrapment.
The Los Angeles program has drawn criticism from civil rights groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is worried that the program will infringe on Muslims’ freedom of speech and religion, and might hurt their public image.
The council’s national office issued a statement ahead of the summit questioning the effectiveness of programs closely tied to a government that many Muslims don’t trust.
“Credible community voices who are not viewed as ‘being in the government’s pocket’ are necessary,” it said.
More than 22 Somali men from Minnesota have gone to Somalia to fight for the radical group al-Shabab. Several others have gone or tried to go to Syria to fight for the Islamic State group.
“The most important lesson we’ve learned, and we don’t always practice it, but it’s that inclusion counts,” Biden said of the need to effectively integrate minority immigrant groups into American society, particularly Muslims. “Let me say it again: Inclusion counts. Inclusion counts.”
The Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington has taken what it calls “a proactive approach to identifying and intervening individuals who may be susceptible to violent extremism.”
Authorities are studying whether the killing of the three Muslim students in Chapel Hill – allegedly by Craig Hicks – was a hate crime. On his Facebook page, he had written: “I hate Islam just as much as (C)hristianity, but they have the right to worship in this country just as much as any others do.”
Though Hicks apparently acted alone (possibly set off by a dispute with the victims over parking spaces), it’s unclear whether he can be thought of as a violent extremist “lone wolf” in the usual sense.
In a report last week – “Age of the Wolf: A Study of the Rise of Lone Wolf and Leaderless Resistance Terrorism” – the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) examined more than 60 domestic terror incidents. Almost three-quarters of these were carried out or planned by a lone wolf, a single person acting without accomplices. Ninety percent of the incidents were the work of no more than two persons, according to the report.
The study, which included violence from both the radical right and homegrown jihadists from April 1, 2009 to Feb. 1, 2015, also found that a domestic terrorist attack or foiled attack occurred, on average, every 34 days.
“It’s important to recognize the trend away from organized groups committing acts of domestic terror,” said Mark Potok, SPLC senior fellow and editor of the report. “As Timothy McVeigh demonstrated with the Oklahoma City bombing, lone wolves and small cells of domestic terrorists can create massive carnage.”
“It is imperative that authorities, including those gathering at the White House next week, take this threat seriously. Anything less would be an invitation to disaster,” said Potok.
Some European publications found that not enough attention was paid to America’s own right-wing extremism, whereas some American news sources felt that not enough attention was paid to ISIS or religious-related terms like “Muslim” extremism.
The Guardian: “On Tuesday, the White House will convene a national summit on combatting violent extremism – but, despite a plethora of attacks by domestic right-wing extremists and the increase in white supremacist hate groups, no one expects that to be on the agenda.”
Washington Times: “From Afghanistan and borderlands of Pakistan to Iraq and North Africa, radical Islamists eager to spread their strict interpretation of the Muslim faith and topple Western values have bombed, beheaded and slaughtered — undermining the White House narrative and raising questions about its strategy.”
Bloomberg claimed that the term “Muslim extremism” won’t be used much: “President Barack Obama and his staff have gone to lengths to avoid characterizing the ideology driving Islamic State and other terrorist groups as religious extremism. The semantic exercise is intended to avoid legitimizing acts of terror as expressions of religious belief. It’s also part of a strategy to draw in the domestic Muslim leaders who Obama is leaning on…”
As President Obama seeks to ramp up military action against the terrorist group ISIS, Americans are unsure of Islam’s place in the United States, a LifeWay Research survey shows, as reported by Baptist Press.
37 percent of Americans say they are worried about Sharia law — an Islamic legal and moral code — being applied in America.
Roughly 1 in 4 Americans (27 percent) believe the terrorist group ISIS reflects the true nature of Islam.
4 in 10 (43 percent) believe Islam can create a peaceful society.
Most Protestant senior pastors (76 percent) say they support military action against ISIS.
Those are among the results of two surveys of 1,000 Americans each, along with a survey of 1,000 senior pastors of Protestant churches, from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
“ISIS has stirred an odd religious debate in America today,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research.
A terrorist attack on a satirical magazine in Paris last month and the rise of ISIS have possibly renewed concerns over extremist versions of Islam. In particular, ISIS is known for its brutality. The shooting deaths of three Muslim Americans in North Carolina recently has also made headlines and caused concern about possible backlash against Muslims.