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Homeland Security News

A collection of open-source homeland security and terrorism news from around the world.
Date: Dec 26, 2016

The Tunisian suspect behind the truck attack that killed 12 people in a Berlin Christmas market last week appears to have passed through Lyon in France as he fled to Italy, a French judicial source said on Monday.

Video surveillance footage showed Anis Amri at the Lyon-Part-Dieu train station on Thursday, and officials believe it was at the station that he bought a ticket for Chambery, the source said, between Lyon and the Italian border.

Amri was shot dead near Milan in Italy in the early hours of Friday after he pulled a gun on police who had asked for his identification papers.

French officials are investigating how he arrived in Lyon after the Dec. 19 attack in Berlin that has been claimed by the Islamic State.

Source:  Reuters

Iraqi forces will resume their push against Islamic State inside Mosul in the coming days, a U.S. battlefield commander said, in a new phase of the two-month-old operation that will see American troops deployed closer to the front line in the city.

The battle for Mosul, involving 100,000 Iraqi troops, members of the Kurdish security forces and Shi'ite militiamen, is the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003. The upcoming phase appears likely to give American troops their biggest combat role since they fulfilled President Barack Obama's pledge to withdraw from Iraq in 2011.

Elite Iraqi soldiers have retaken a quarter of Mosul, the jihadists' last major stronghold in Iraq, but their advance has been slow and punishing. They entered a planned "operational refit" this month, the first significant pause of the campaign.

A heavily armoured unit of several thousand federal police was redeployed from the southern outskirts two weeks ago to reinforce the eastern front after army units advised by the Americans suffered heavy losses in an Islamic State counter-attack.

U.S. advisers, part of an international coalition that has conducted thousands of air strikes and trained tens of thousands of Iraqi ground troops, will work directly with those forces and an elite Interior Ministry strike force.

Read more:  Reuters

In the past few weeks, the Islamic State has sustained a string of military defeats: ousted from its refuge on the Libyan coast, struggling to maintain its hold on the Iraqi city of Mosul, and losing ground in Syria. Yet as the deadly truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin made clear, those losses do not diminish the group’s extraordinary power to inspire terrorist mayhem around the world, and may even help fuel it.

In just the past year, even while under near continuous bombardment by the American-led coalition, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for more than three dozen attacks, stretching across 16 countries on four continents.

That figure does not include the organization’s home terrain in Syria and Iraq, where it has lost 50,000 fighters in the past two years, according to the Pentagon — nearly as many dead as the United States lost in the Vietnam War. Many of the attacks beyond the Middle East were carried out by assailants who cited their inability to reach the group’s Syria refuge, its self-proclaimed caliphate, as a motive for acting at home.

At the core of the Islamic State’s global success — and vulnerability — is a peculiar blend of theological boldness and criminal opportunism, something Al Qaeda, its predecessor and rival, never achieved.

Read more:  New York Times

Tunisia's security forces have called on the government to adopt "exceptional measures" to deal with potential security threats from fighters who have returned to their home country.

On Friday evening, the country's interior minister, Hedi Majdoub, told parliament that 800 Tunisian nationals who had travelled abroad to fight for armed groups in other countries have since returned to Tunisia.

Tunisia has witnessed a wave of attacks since its 2011 revolution, including on foreign tourists, and the United Nations estimates that there are more than 5,000 Tunisians fighting for armed groups, mainly in Iraq and Syria.

"The return of terrorists from hotbeds of unrest in Tunisia is worrying and could lead to the Somalisation of the country," said a statement from the internal security forces' national union.

Fighters "have received military training and have learnt to use all sorts of sophisticated weapons", it added.

Read more:  Al Jazeera

At least 30 civilians were killed and many others were wounded on Sunday after Islamic State launched an attack in the Syrian town of al-Bab to prevent people from fleeing, the Turkish military said in a statement on Monday.

Syrian rebels supported by Turkish troops have laid siege to the Islamic State-held town for weeks under the "Euphrates Shield" operation launched by Turkey nearly four months ago to sweep the Sunni hardliners and Kurdish fighters from its Syrian border.

Source:  Reuters