Last week, London was rocked by what authorities are calling a terrorist attack, after a man in a vehicle ploughed into pedestrians near Parliament in the central part of the British capital.
The attack, which occurred during the afternoon hours on Wednesday 22 March resulted in four deaths after the man drove his car along a pavement on Westminster Bridge, knocking down pedestrians, creating panic and leaving at least fifty people injured. After crashing his car into railings, the attacker ran towards Parliament where he stabbed a police officer to death. Armed police then shot the attacker. The attack lasted 82 seconds.
In the days that have followed, information emerged regarding the attacker. On Thursday 23 March, Prime Minister Theresa May revealed that the Westminster attacker was a British-born man who was known to the police and intelligence services. The attacker has been named as Khalid Masood. Speaking to MPs on Thursday, she disclosed that the authorities had investigated some years ago but was not part of the current intelligence picture.
Overnight, police officials carried out several raids across the country, which resulted in eight arrests in London and Birmingham. In total, eleven people have been arrested and nine people in total have been released without charge. Scotland Yard has since reported that Masood acted alone and that there is no information to suggest that further attacks are planned. The Metropolitan Police have disclosed that Masoon, 52, had previous criminal convictions but none for terrorism. He had used a number of aliases. At birth, he was registered in Dartford, Kent, as Adrian Elms, but later took his stepfathers name become Adrian Ajao in childhood. In the early 2000s, he was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm after slashing a man across the face with a knife in a pub.
The so-called Islamic State (IS) group has disclosed that it was behind the attack, stating that the attacker had been a soldier of the Islamic State.
Security officials are reporting that Islamic State (IS) militants have shifted to desert valleys and inland hills southeast of the capital Tripoli in their bid to exploit the North African country’s political divisions in the wake of their defeat in their former stronghold of Sirte.
Officials have disclosed that the militants, who are believed to number several hundred, are now attempting to foment chaos by cutting power supplies and identifying receptive local communities. While they are being monitored by aerial surveillance and on-the-ground intelligence, Libyan officials have noted that they cannot be easily targeted without advanced air power.
While for more than a year, IS exercised total control over Sirte, building its primary North African base in the coastal city, it struggled to keep a footing elsewhere in the country. By December 2016, it was forced out of Sirte after a six-month campaign, which was led by brigades from the western city of Misrata and backed by US air strikes. During that battle, IS lost many of its fighters and it currently holds no territory in Libya. However militants who managed to escape last year’s fighting and sleeper cells are now seen to pose a threat in the country, which had been deeply fractured and which remains largely lawless in the wake of the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.
Ismail Shukri, head of military intelligence in Misrata, has reported that the threat is now focussed south of the coastal strip between Misrata and Tripoli, arcing to the southeast around the town of Bani Walid and into the desert south of Sirte. According to Shukri, one group, comprised of 60 – 80 militants, is operating around Girza, which is located 170 km (105 miles) west of Sirte; while another group of about 100 militants is based around Zalla and Mabrouk oil field, which is located about 300 km southeast of Sirte. He added that there are also reports of a third group present in Al-Uwaynat, which is located close to the border with Algeria. Mohamed Gnaidy, an intelligence officer with forces that conducted the campaign in Sirte, has disclosed that “they work and move around in small groups. They only use two or three vehicles at a time and they move at night to avoid detection.
Officials announced this month that the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France is to have a 2.5m-high (8 ft) wall of reinforced glass built around it as protection against terror attacks. The wall will be designed to stop individuals or vehicles from storming the site.
The Paris mayor’soffice has disclosed that th wall will replace metal fences, which were put up for the Euro 2016 football tournament. The project, if it is approved, is expected to cost about 20 million euros (US $21 million) and work on it should begin later this year. The project will also involve reorganizing pathways around the tower.
The French capital has been on high alert since attacks by jihadists in November 2015 left 130 people dead. Last July, 86 people were killed when a lorry ploughed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the southern city of Nice.
According to the assistant mayor for tourism, Jean-Francois Martins, the Eiffel Tower, which is one of France’s most famous landmarks, attracts more than six million visitors each year. He disclosed that the terror threat remains high in Paris and the most vulnerable sites, led by the Eiffel Tower, must be the object of special security measures. He went on to say that itwill replace the metal grids to the north and south with glass panels, which will allow Parisians and visitors a very pleasant view of the monument, adding we have three aims to improve the look, make access easier and strengthen the protection of visitors and staff.
News of the glass wall project comes after earlier this month a man wielding two machetes attacked soldiers at Paris’s Louvre Museum. President Francois Hollande has since stated that there is little doubt that the incident was a terrorist act.
Last Friday (3 February), another attempted terrorist attack took place in Paris, when French soldiers shot and critically wounded a man who attacked them with a machete at the Louvre while shouting “Allah Akbar”. Reportedly, a group of four soldiers guarding the entrance of the Louvre shopping centre had refused him to entry with two backpacks. When the troops stopped him, he launched the attack, wounding one of the soldiers. Hundreds of visitors were inside the museum after the incident and were evacuated. According to the police, the man has been identified as Abdullah Reda Refaei al-Hamamy, a 29-year-old with Egyptian identity paper who arrived in France last month.
After initially refusing to talk, the man, who remains under arrest in hospital, has confirmed his identity. Agence France-Presse has reported that Hamamay had visited Turkey in 2015 and 2016. Afterwards, he entered in France on 26 January on a flight from Dubai and stayed at an apartment costing € 1,700 (£ 1,470) a week near the Champs Elysees that had been reserved last June, months before he applied for a tourist visa in October.
The man’s father, a retired Egyptian police general, said his son had never shown any signals of radicalisation. He said his son is a sale manager and also justified his stay in Paris as a business trip. According to his family, Hamamy was expected to go back to the Emirates soon, as he has a wife and a seven-months old son and they have accused French authorities of seeking to justify their shooting with false allegations.
No group has claimed the attempted attack so far, and no link to extremism was found during a search of the apartment. Moreover, after few days, Hamamy has broken the silence about his intentions, claiming that he acted of his own will and intended only to damage works of art at the gallery as a symbolic attack on France.
However, investigators do not fully believe his statements after they found out a series of tweets posted in Arabic few minutes be fore the assault was launched. In those posts, in which he exalted Allah and the creation of an Islamic State, he does not refer to ISIS by its Arabic acronym, Daesh, but used the phrase “Dawlat al-Islam”, which is commonly used to refer to the group’s territories by its supporters.
Egyptian officials, who are collaborating with French authorities, have declared that local security agencies are gathering information to help establish if he was a member of any militant groups or had been radicalised in the past. In the meantime, President Francois Holland has labelled the act as “clearly an act of terrorism” and prosecutors in Paris said they would ask judges to file preliminary charges of “attempted terrorist murder” and “terrorist criminal conspiracy”.
Since 2012 the country has struggled against Islamic terrorism, which has already caused 250 victims. A French mayor and member of the French National Assembly, Jaques Myard, has blamed the Schengen agreement, which allows traveling throughout much of the EU without border-controls. According to Mayard, France is in a dark place, as it has to face to threats: the threat of terrorists coming from abroad, and an internal threat, because of its large Muslims community. He reiterated that, although not all Muslims of course are radicals, over 10,000 of those could be radicalised across France. In those conditions it is impossible to really prevent anything, since it is impossible to have 100 per cent security everywhere. The only possible thing for citizens to do, Mayard added, is to be vigilant and always on guard, alerting the police every time they see something suspicious.
Analysts reported on 16 November that Nigerian-based militant group Boko Haram has significantly scaled back attacks in Cameroon in recent months, suggesting that a regional security force is gaining ground against the militants.
According to the International Crisis Group (ICG), the Islamist movement, which controlled an area in northeastern Nigeria last year and raided Cameroon and other neighbours, including Niger, in a bid to expand its “caliphate,” has since suffered a number of defeats. One of the report’s authors, Hans de Maria Heungoup, disclosed that “we’ve seen a dizzying downwards spiral in the number of attacks suicide bombings.” Two years ago, attacks were happening on an almost daily basis, however since September that number has fallen to between six and eight a month. The study indicated that “(Boko Haram) has suffered heavy losses and seen its conventional capacities reduced,” partly thanks to last year’ formation of a 10,000-strong regional force with troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. According to the report, up to 1,000 fighters with heavy weaponry and armoured vehicles joined strikes in Cameroon’s Far North region in 2014 – 2015, however attacks have now focused on the northernmost tip of the region, where fighters have continued to control part of the fishing industry of Lake Chad.
The ICG also noted that recruitment in Cameroon has also faltered, warning however that forced enlistment remains a risk. Citing interviews with the locals, the study disclosed that up to 4,000 Cameroonians are though to have joined the group and some were given sign-on bonuses of up to US $2,000 and a motorbike, adding that those who proved their loyalty by killed their parents often enjoyed quick promotion. Analysts have disclosed that the faction around the Lake Chad Basin represents the stronger branch of the group, which is loyal to the so-called Islamic State (IS) group and which is led by Abu Musab al-Barnawi, while another faction, which is led by Abubakar Shekau, is based further south in Nigeria’s Sambisa forest.