Tag Archives: counter-terrorism

EU diplomacy sidelined Yemen conflict

At present there is a visible diplomatic apathy in the EU, regarding the protracted Yemen conflict, blaming on too many foreign actors, stirring the ongoing feud, which have already degraded into proxy war through involvement of multiple external players, supplying belligerent parties with weapons. However the revenues of arms exporters, namely the Europeans. are not the sole responsible for the warfare, continuously claiming lives of Yemenis, and escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf.

The desire of the European Union to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran, keeps out of focus numerous Tehran illicit activities, aggravating various conflicts, including civil war in Yemen, increasingly destabilizing the entire region. The recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities, which damaged half the production, evoked accusations from the West, presuming the rockets were launched from Iran’s territory. Tehran has vehemently denied any involvement in the offensive, claimed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels fighting a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. However Iran responded reasoning the attack on Aramco oil plans as an act of “legitimate defense” of Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Since regional tensions escalated following the attacks on Saudi’s oil facilities mid-September, the Yemen conflict was upgraded on diplomatic agenda. Especially in view of the protection of vessels in the Persian Gulf from Iranian attacks, as well as the prevention of the illicit arms trade and the protection of civil aviation.

Nowadays there is growing concern among foreign policy experts, pointing at intensified engagement between the Houthi leadership with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Hezbollah chiefs, conspiring operations to strengthening Iran position in the Strait of Hormuz, and weakening Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel.

In the context of the escalations of tensions, on October 21-22 the diplomats have been gathering for a conference in Bahrain (Manama) to discuss the security issue in the Gulf. The even has been co-hosted by the U.S. and Poland, and is regarded as a part of Warsaw Process (Ministerial’s Maritime and Aviation Security Working Group). So far there have been little information about the EU diplomacy participation, and input of the representatives of the European External Actions Service – who claim to be highly sought after “global player”. The conference was attended on a diplomatic level by a delegation representative, the spokesperson confirmed, adding the EEAS position remains unchanged, based on the EU Council conclusions.

The EU continues to reaffirm that only a negotiated and inclusive political solution can end the conflict in Yemen.The EU has contributed with over €560 million in assistance since the beginning of the conflict.

What is defined nowadays by experts as a “proxy war” erupted in in 2014, when Houthi rebels captured the capital, Sanaa. However, in reality it was a new chapter in a long saga of confrontation between the Iran-backed Shia movement and loyalist forces since 2004.

The United Nations Security Council reacted upon belligerent spell of Houthi with resolution 2201 “deploring” their “unilateral actions’ ” and calling for the immediate halt of hostilities. The message of the global community has repeated several times, condemning the violence, including after March 26, 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition that included the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Sudan, and Morocco launched its first military operation.

The Yemeni Civil War is a protracted conflict (since 2015) between two factions: the Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi led Yemeni government and the Houthi armed movement, along with their supporters and allies. Both claim to constitute the official government of Yemen.

According to the UN report due to the protracted conflict, Yemen is the most affected country with in acute need for humanitarian aid for 24.1 million people, including children, who are prime victims of the bloodshed and hunger.

In September 18 drones and seven cruise missiles hit a major oil field and processing facility in Saudi Arabia, which blamed Iran for the attack.

Sri Lanka counter terrorist operation ongoing

The blasts in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday April 21 killed at least 290 people and left hundreds more injured. Search and rescue, victim identification have been carried out along with a counter-terrorist operation. The US Embassy in Colombo launched an ALERT, asking everyone to “remain vigilant, and report any suspicious activity to authorities immediately”.

  • There were six suicide bombers involved in the explosions. So far, 24 suspects have been arrested in connection to the attacks.
  • The FBI and Interpol are among the global agencies who are stepping in to assist the investigation.
  • The Sri Lanka government may have had information about the attacks prior to the bombings. A minister claimed that US and Indian governments had warned of “something terrible,” but it’s unclear if any action was taken.
  • More victims’ names and faces are emerging, among them 30 foreigners.

Counter-terrorism unit investigates Crimea explosion

A powerful blast in a college in the Crimean city of Kerch (pictured), claimed lives of at least 10 young people and injured more than 50. Initially accidental gas leakage has been presumed  as a cause of explosion,  but shorty afterwards the investigators revealed an explosive device was used.

Crimean emergency services and ambulances started to arrive shortly after the blast was heard. The injured have been rushed to local hospitals.  The majority of those injured are reportedly in serious condition and medical students have flocked to the hospitals offering their help, while locals rushed to offer  blood donations.

AMENDED: Blast in Crimea college was terror attack, explosive device was filled with shrapnel,  investigators said, according to RT TV channel.

AMENDED: There were two explosions according to local media, before the detonation armed people were rushing though the building and shooting. Death toll is growing to 13 people, but some reporters insist on 18.

AMENDED:
The suspect in the Kerch college attack has been identified as a 22-year-old student. He committed suicide after killing 18 people and injuring dozens with gunfire and a blast the head of the Republic of Crimea has said.

“The suspected murderer shot himself,” Sergey Aksenov told the media. He was a senior student of the same college.”

The official added that the number of people killed in the attack, which is reportedly mostly made up of students, has risen to 18. Earlier, witnesses claimed there were multiple masked attackers involved, but Aksenov didn’t mention any possible accomplices.

Russia’s investigative committee has named the suspect as Vladislav Roslyakov and said he was 18 rather than 22. It added the incident was now considered a multiple homicide rather than a terrorist attack.

ALERT: Hostage operation in #Cologne

German police asked to avoid the area of the central railroad station in the city of #Cologne, Germany. At present there is a perimeter  in the surrounding streets, and the passengers are evacuated. Witnesses report hearing some shots. Police also call for following their advice transmitted via different media, including Twitter.

German media is moving closer to the spot to report from proximity of the Central Station. However at present the pieces of information are contradictory.

AMENDED: According to German sources a person/persons (?) has been taken hostage at a drug store in the building of the station. There is massive police presence, reported by locals.

AMENDED: Special crisis negotiation team arrived to the spot of ongoing  hostage operation.

AMENDED: Media reports there is one woman taken hostage in the pharmacy in the Station building. Specialized police team has began the negotiations over her liberation.

AMENDED: Police operation is over according  to DW reporter. The attacker shot and taken to hospital, the hostage is assisted at spot.

22:30 AMENDED: Terrorist motives are not ruled out by the authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia after security forces shot and subdued a 55-year-old Syrian man who threw a Molotov cocktail at a McDonald’s and took a woman hostage. The local police said the assailant had claimed allegiance to the Islamic State, or ISIS.

The perpetrator, who is in intensive underwent surgery, has been captured at the central train station in Cologne after failed negotiations, they added. A special forces unit threw stun grenades at him when the order was given and the hostage was slightly injured, alongside two other people, according to the official report. The final act took place at a pharmacy next to the restaurant inside the building. The attacker held a pistol, the police said, but failed to ascertain whether it was real or a replica.

Officials revealed they found a passport issued to him that contained a residency permit. The suspect had prior offenses, namely theft and the possession of narcotics, they claimed and said he demanded the release of a “Tunisian woman.”

EU-UN to enhance counterterrorist cooperation

Federica Mogherini the EU top diplomat, and UN Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism Vladimir Voronkov met in Brussels to discuss the cooperation between the European Union and United Nations in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism, as well as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ efforts to reform and strengthen the UN’s counter-terrorism work.

Federica Mogherini and Vladimir Voronkov spoke of possible steps the United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism (UNOCT) could take in further developing global counterterrorism policy, and in coordinating capacity-building efforts undertaken by the various UN entities in support of UN Member States. The EU top diplomat Mogherini confirmed the European Union’s commitment to the fight against terrorism both internally and globally, with full respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law. She underlined the European Union´s resolve to continue to work closely together with UNOCT and the wider UN system in strengthening multilateralism and global governance. Mr. Voronkov confirmed UNOCT´s commitment to play a central role in strengthening the partnership between the EU and the UN system based on shared values, common objectives and priorities.

Their encounter took place on the occasion of the first high-level EU-UN Leadership Dialogue on Counter-Terrorism. The Dialogue initiated a new spirit of practical collaboration aimed at strengthening multilateral coordination efforts in counter-terrorism and the prevention of violent extremism.

Discussions centered on collaboration between the UN and the EU in areas of common concern such as addressing the challenges of retuning/relocating foreign terrorist fighters, counter-terrorism capacity building efforts in Central Asia, South and South-East Asia, the Sahel region and Lake Chad Basin as well as promoting a whole-of-UN approach in preventing and countering terrorism. Both sides agreed on the need to adopt an “all of society” approach to preventing violent extremism and to include civil society organizations, the private sector, think tanks, as well as with governments at national and local levels in the process.

The dialogue was co-convened by UN Under-Secretary-General Mr. Vladimir Voronkov and Mr. Pedro Serrano, the Deputy Secretary General for Common Security and Defence Policy at the European External Action Service (EEAS) with the participation of Sir Julian King, the European Commissioner for Security Union, Mr. Gilles de Kerchove the European Union Counter-Terrorism Coordinator. Accompanied by Mr. Jürgen Stock the Secretary-General of INTERPOL, Mr. Voronkov led a delegation of representatives of 6 UN agencies including CTED, UNDP, UNESCO, UNICRI, and UNLOPS.

MEPs promote improved Schengen

An improved Schengen Information System should help to step up the EU fight against terrorism, cross-border crime and illegal immigration.

The European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee adopted three regulations to update the Schengen Information System (SIS), including:

  • an obligation for a member state to swiftly share details of a terrorist act with all other member states;
  • a preventive alert signalling children who are at high risk, for instance from parental abduction;
  • an automatic alert to all national authorities when an entry ban is issued by one member state;
  • a new alert system for so-called ‘unknown wanted persons’, to help enforcement bodies to access SIS information on individuals whose fingerprints are found on a crime scene;
  • compulsory sharing of data on fingerprints, palm prints, facial images and DNA with all national law-enforcement authorities.

Now, identity checks in the SIS are based on alphanumerical searching (name and date of birth) and fingerprints can only be used to verify and confirm the identity of someone who has already been identified by name.

To help enforce decisions by a member state on returning an illegally staying non-EU national to his or her country of origin, MEPs also approved:

  • an obligation for member states to enter into the SIS all return decisions issued;
  • a new alert system will inform national bodies whether the period for ‘leaving voluntarily’, during which the person is asked to leave the EU, has expired;
  • a requirement for national authorities to inform the member state that launched the alert that a non-EU national has left the EU.

 Currently, there is no system in place to automatically provide information on return decisions, which are now shared on a voluntary basis.

The negotiating mandate to start talks with EU Ministers to reach an agreement on the new legislation still needs approval at Strasbourg plenary by majority vote.

EU actions to prevent terrorism

The European Commission is today reporting on actions taken since President Juncker’s 2016 State of the Union address to enhance security at the EU external border, improve information exchange between Member States, close down the space in which terrorists operate and prevent radicalisation. A year later, the Commission has delivered on all security related priorities set out by President Juncker. This 10th Security Union Progress Report also takes stock of the progress made on other security files and looks ahead to continued work in the next 12 months and beyond.

“The EU is reducing the space where terrorists can operate: making it harder for them to travel, to train, to get money, weapons and explosives. We have made our external borders more secure, improved our exchange of information about terrorists and other criminals, and stepped up our work with internet companies and local communities to tackle radicalisation. But there remains more to do, as recent attacks have again tragically underlined. Our citizens look to us to protect and strengthen their security; working together we need to deliver on the commitments we’ve made” – said Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King.

 

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