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Terrorism News

A collection of open-source terrorism news from around the world.
Keyword: policy support

Scotland Yard has created an SAS-style unit of armed officers to counter the threat of a terrorist gun attack in Britain.  The 130 counter-terrorism specialist firearms officers (CTSFOs) who make up the elite unit have been equipped with new weapons and retrained in new tactics, such as fast-roping from helicopters and storming burning buildings to rescue hostages.

The unit has trained alongside the army’s special forces to respond to assaults such as the 2008 attacks in Mumbai and the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, which developed into a siege. It will also be looking to see if any lessons can be learned from Friday’s massacre in Tunisia.  Police and the emergency services will hold their biggest ever counter-terrorism exercise in central London on Tuesday.

Police chiefs are adamant that their officers rather than soldiers would respond to a terrorist gun attack on Britain’s streets, but accept the military would probably have to become involved as the crisis played out.  They have been wrestling with how a largely unarmed police service might deal with such an event, possibly across multiple locations in an urban area.

Regular officers have been told to call in armed colleagues. First on the scene would be one of the hundreds of armed officers who routinely patrol in armed response vehicles.  They would take no longer than 15 minutes to arrive, or even less for areas identified as prime targets, such as Whitehall. The new CTSFO unit would also be scrambled.

Read more: The Guardian (UK)

Fighters loyal to Islamic State have seized substantial territory in Afghanistan for the first time, witnesses and officials said, wresting areas in the east from rival Taliban insurgents in a new threat to stability.  Witnesses who fled fighting in Nangarhar province told Reuters that hundreds of insurgents pledging allegiance to Islamic State pushed out the Taliban, scorching opium poppy fields that help to fund the Taliban's campaign to overthrow the Afghan government.  They also distributed directives purportedly from Islamic State's Middle East-based chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, although it was not clear whether he issued them for the Afghan theater or if previous edicts may have been translated.  "They (IS loyalists) came in on many white pickup trucks mounted with big machine guns and fought the Taliban.  The Taliban could not resist and fled," said Haji Abdul Jan, a tribal elder from Achin district.

Jan, who saw the early June clashes before fleeing to the provincial capital of Jalalabad, said some villagers welcomed the new arrivals.  "Unlike the Taliban, they (IS) don't force villagers to feed and house them. Instead, they have lots of cash in their pockets and spend it on food and luring young villagers to join them."  Their accounts are the clearest sign yet that, beyond a few defections by low-level Taliban leaders and sporadic attacks, Islamic State sympathizers pose a more persistent threat.

IS loyalists, mostly former Taliban disillusioned by the movement's unsuccessful bid to return to power in Kabul, are accompanied by dozens of foreign fighters, witnesses said.  The IS' black flag has been hoisted in some areas, and foreign fighters preach in mosques through translators.  The identity of the non-Afghan insurgents is not known.  Hundreds of militants from around the world already hide out along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Read more: Reuters

Some of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria have been forced to join Islamist militant group Boko Haram, the BBC has been told.  Witnesses say some are now being used to terrorise other captives, and are even carrying out killings themselves.  The testimony cannot be verified but Amnesty International says other girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have been forced to fight.  Boko Haram has killed some 5,500 civilians in Nigeria since 2014.

Two-hundred-and-nineteen schoolgirls from Chibok, are still missing, more than a year after they were kidnapped from their school in northern Nigeria.  Many of those seized are Christians.  Three women who claim they were held in the same camps as some of the Chibok girls have told the BBC's Panorama programme that some of them have been brainwashed and are now carrying out punishments on behalf of the militants.

Seventeen-year-old Miriam (not her real name) fled Boko Haram after being held for six months.  She was forced to marry a militant, and is now pregnant with his child.  Recounting her first days in the camp she said: "They told to us get ready, that they were going to marry us off."  She and four others refused.

Read more: BBC

In the 14 years since Al Qaeda carried out attacks on New York and the Pentagon, extremists have regularly executed smaller lethal assaults in the United States, explaining their motives in online manifestoes or social media rants.  But the breakdown of extremist ideologies behind those attacks may come as a surprise.  Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.

The slaying of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, S.C., church last week, with an avowed white supremacist charged with their murders, was a particularly savage case.  But it is only the latest in a string of lethal attacks by people espousing racial hatred, hostility to government and theories such as those of the “sovereign citizen” movement, which denies the legitimacy of most statutory law. The assaults have taken the lives of police officers, members of racial or religious minorities and random civilians.

Non-Muslim extremists have carried out 19 such attacks since Sept. 11, according to the latest count, compiled by David Sterman, a New America program associate, and overseen by Peter Bergen, a terrorism expert. By comparison, seven lethal attacks by Islamic militants have taken place in the same period.  If such numbers are new to the public, they are familiar to police officers.  A survey to be published this week asked 382 police and sheriff’s departments nationwide to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction.  About 74 percent listed antigovernment violence, while 39 percent listed “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence, according to the researchers, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer of Duke University.

Read more: New York Times

A Europe-wide police team is being formed to track and block social media accounts linked to Islamic State (IS).  A recent US study found there were at least 46,000 accounts on Twitter linked to the militant group, many of which help to recruit new IS members. The European police agency Europol will now work with unnamed social media companies to track the accounts.  They aim to get new accounts closed down within two hours of them being set up.

Europol believes up to 5,000 EU citizens, including people from the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, have travelled to territories controlled by IS.

Rob Wainwright, Europol's director, told the BBC that the new team, which starts its work on 1 July, "would be an effective way of combating the problem".  But, he said, tracking all IS-linked social media accounts was too big a task.  "We will have to combine what we see online, with our own intelligence and that that is shared with us by European police services, so we can be a bit more targeted and identify who the key user accounts are... and concentrate on closing them down."

Source: BBC