Tuesday, January 20, 2015

20-Jan-15: From the warzones

Belgian armed troops guard a courthouse in Brussels [Image Source]
Berlin, todayAssociated Press: After two suspected members of an Islamic terror cell were taken into custody by German police this past Friday (see our post: "16-Jan-15: Scenes from a warzone"), thirteen homes, mostly in Berlin, were raided today by a force of some 200 police "looking for further evidence". Most are Turks, and members of a mosque in Berlin’s Moabit neighborhood, as are the two suspects already in the hands of the police. The group’s leader, identified only as Ismet D. because his privacy is a major pre-occupation of the German law, is accused of recruiting Turkish and Russian nationals to fight against “infidels” in Syria. Emin F. is accused of being in charge of finances. It appears the police think the group's plans did not include attacks within Germany and "were unrelated to the recent attacks in Paris or raids in Belgium". German citizens are doubtless hoping the security men and woman are right.

Paris: How confident ought we to be that sooner or later the authorities in Western Europe are going to get on top of the rapidly metastasizing spread of Islamist terror? CNN doesn't reach a conclusion but reports on a list of what it calls "mishaps" (intelligence failures might be a more useful term) that culminated in the January 7, 2015, Charlie Hebdo massacre.
  • French security ended its surveillance of one of the murdering brothers, Cherif Kouachi, in November 2013. They knew he had gotten into the business of selling counterfeit goods, but failed to realize this was how he was financing his purchase of the weapons arsenal discovered after he had been shot dead by police. So he was not on their radar for the year leading up to the execution of the lethal plan.
  • A French surveillance agency received an unspecified alert concerning one of the Kouachi brothers in February 2014. How long before this intelligence was passed on to the country's main domestic spy agency? A mere four months. By then, neither of the brothers was under surveillance. Presumably the intelligence was then trashed.
  • French surveillance on the other brother, Said Kouachi, ended in June 2014. Why? No one is volunteering an answer, at least not to CNN.
  • The authorities in France now say both Kouachis traveled from their homes in Paris to Yemen in 2011 via Oman. But note that Cherif Kouachi's passport had been officially confiscated in 2010. So how could he have gotten across the borders? And neither brother's name has been discovered in any of the relevant government databases of travelers. Which brings up the next point...
Europe: The Wall Street Journal noted yesterday that
"Borderless travel across most of the European Union makes it easy for suspects to cover their tracks. Terror suspects are exploiting the ease of travel across the Continent to stay one step ahead of authorities as they move militants, cash and weapons across the bloc without raising alarms, according to European officials. In some cases, suspects are evading tough antiterrorism laws in countries like France—where travel to Syria and Iraq has been banned—by moving through other EU countries en route to Syria or Iraq. The problem is compounded, officials say, by a lack of coordination between national law-enforcement and intelligence agencies from Brussels to Athens who are straining to pursue suspects across European borders."

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