Thursday, January 8, 2015
By ERIC SCHMITT and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
One of the two brothers suspected of killing 12 people at a satirical newspaper in Paris traveled to Yemen in 2011 and received terrorist training from Al Qaeda’s affiliate there before returning to France, a senior American official said on Thursday.
The suspect, Saïd Kouachi, 34, spent “a few months” training in small arms combat, marksmanship and other skills that appeared to be on display in videos of the military-style attack on Wednesday carried out by at least two gunmen on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper.
Mr. Kouachi’s training came at a time when many other young Muslim men in the West were inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who by 2011 had become a senior operational figure for the terrorist group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
A United States intelligence official said on Thursday that both brothers were in the United States database of known or suspected terrorists, and were on an American no-fly list for years.
The Kouachi brothers have been under scrutiny for years by French and American officials. Saïd Kouachi’s younger brother, Chérif, first came to the attention of the French authorities as a possible terrorist a decade ago, when he was in his early 20s. He was detained in 2005 as he prepared to leave for Syria, the first leg of a trip he hoped would take him to Iraq.
American intelligence and counterterrorism officials on Thursday were still trying to determine whether the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen had explicitly ordered the attack, although there was no indication so far that the brothers had received direct orders from the group or were part of a larger cell in France.
But a recent issue of “Inspire” — the propaganda magazine published by the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen — encouraged its followers to attack Westerners who have insulted the Muslim faith. It identified Charlie Hebdo’s top editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, whose name appears in a two-page spread under the heading, “A Bullet a Day Keeps the Infidel Away — Defend the Prophet Muhammad.”
BY PAUL TAYLOR
A deadly attack on a French satirical magazine that lampooned Islam seems certain to fuel rising anti-immigration movements around Europe and inflame a "culture war" about the place of religion and ethnic identity in society.
The first reaction in France to Wednesday's killing of 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo by two masked gunmen who shouted Islamist slogans was an outpouring of support for national unity and freedom of speech.
But that looks likely to be little more than a momentary ceasefire in a country gripped by economic malaise and high unemployment. France has Europe's largest Muslim population and is in the throes of a virulent debate over national identity and the role of Islam.
"This attack is bound to accentuate rising Islamophobia inFrance," said Olivier Roy, a political scientist and Middle East specialist at the European University Institute in Florence.
A book by journalist Eric Zemmour entitled "Le suicide francais" (French suicide), arguing that mass Muslim immigration is among factors destroying French secular values, was the best-selling essay of 2014. The publishing event of the new year is a novel by controversial author Michel Houellebecq that imagines a Muslim president winning power in 2022 and enforcing religious schooling and polygamy in France and banning women from working.
That intellectual ferment has mingled with public anxiety over the radicalization of hundreds of French Muslims who have gone to join Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraqand who security officials fear may return to cause carnage in France.
The far-right National Front lost no time in linking the most deadly act of political violence for decades to immigration and calling for a referendum to restore the death penalty, even though a leading French imam, Hassen Chalghoumi, said the right way to counter Charlie Hebdo was not through bloodshed or hate.
Party leader Marine Le Pen, who opinion surveys suggest would top the first round of a poll if a presidential election were held now, said "Islamic fundamentalism" had declared war on France and that demanded strong, effective action.
While she was careful to draw a distinction between Muslim citizens who share French values and "those who kill in the name of Islam", her father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, and her deputy, Florian Philippot, were less cautious.
"Anyone who says Islamist radicalism has nothing to do with immigration is living on another planet," Philippot told RTL radio.
Imams intoned prayers outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo on Thursday and Islamic leaders urged their faithful to join in national mourning for the victims, whose cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad had drawn the wrath of many Muslims in the past.
In what justice officials said looked like revenge attacks, shots were fired overnight at a mosque in the western city of Le Mans, and a blast destroyed a kebab shop next to a mosque in the central town of Villefranche-sur-Saone.
Socialist President Francois Hollande urged the French last month to embrace immigration as an economic and cultural boon to the country and not make migrants a scapegoat for economic woes.
His conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, attempting a political comeback, has demanded much tighter European border controls to curb illegal migration.
Marine Le Pen has attacked visible symbols of Islam in French life such as Muslims praying in the street, hallal food being served in schools and women wearing headscarves.
Many left-wing secularists share those concerns in a country where the separation of church and state took decades of struggle.
A survey last year found French people believe immigrants make up 31 percent of the population, roughly four times the real number. Although France collects no ethnic or religious statistics, a reliable estimate published by the Pew Research Centre put the Muslim population at about 7.5 percent.
That is well ahead of 6.0 percent in the Netherlands, 5.8 in Germany or 4.4 in Britain, yet groups hostile to immigration and Islam, which they often conflate with terrorism and crime, are on the rise in all those countries.
INTEGRATION, MULTICULTURALISM QUESTIONED
A grassroots movement called PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, warns Germany is being overrun by Muslims and has staged weekly rallies of up to 18,000 people in Dresden. Chancellor Angela Merkel and other political leaders have urged Germans to shun the protests, which Merkel said were organized by people "with hate in their hearts".
PEGIDA, whose rise mirrors electoral gains by the right-wing Eurosceptic Alternative forGermany (AfD) party, was quick to claim the Paris attack vindicated its views.
"The Islamists, against whom PEGIDA has been warning over the last 12 weeks, showed inFrance ... that they are not capable of democracy but instead see violence and death as the solution," the movement wrote on its Facebook page.
"Our political leaders want us to believe the opposite is true," the group said. "Does a tragedy like this first have to happen in Germany?"
A poll taken in November, well before the Paris attack, found 57 percent of non-Muslim Germans feel threatened by Islam.
In Britain, the leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, said the Paris attack was the result of a "fifth column" living in European countries.
"We've encouraged people from other cultures to remain within those cultures and not integrate fully within our communities," Farage told LBC radio.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who has called "multiculturalism" a failure and is seeking to restrict migration from poorer European Union countries, condemned Farage's comments, saying this was no time to play politics.
Social scientists say neither France's secular integration model, which confines religion to the private sphere and bars the wearing of religious symbols in schools and government buildings, nor the multicultural British and U.S. model, which recognizes separate ethnic and religious communities, has prevented violence by a fringe of alienated young Muslims.
In the Netherlands, traumatized by the killing of film producer Theo van Gogh by an Islamist gunman 10 years ago, outspoken anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders is topping public opinion polls. Within minutes of the Paris events, Wilders, who has lived under police protection for a decade, repeated calls to close Dutch borders to Muslim immigrants and said in a statement: "The West is at war and should de-Islamize."
In the Nordic countries, where far-right anti-immigrant parties are gaining ground, Muslim leaders said their communities faced a wave of violence.
Omar Mustafa, chairman of the Islamic Association of Sweden, said many mosques had set up night patrols after recent arson and racist attacks on Muslim communities.
"Times are tough now," Mustafa told Reuters. "The forces of hate, anti-democratic forces, are trying to set the agenda, both the extremists on the right and those who are religious."
Courtesy U.S. Forces Afghanistan
The U.S. military has shifted to Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, ending the 13-year Operation Enduring Freedom as NATO and its allies move to new chapter there. There are many ways to contextualize that, and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan released this graphic Tuesday in an attempt to provide the scope of what they’ve done in the last year, and what comes next.
The graphic shows the vast amount of equipment that has come home since early 2014. U.S. Forces-Afghanistan had 19,400 shipping containers in the country in February 2014, but had reduced that number to 597 as of mid-December. It moved nearly 30 million pounds of cargo by plane last year, and another 8.8 by helicopter.
At the war’s peak, there were hundreds of U.S. bases in Afghanistan, many with no more than a dozen troops at them. That number was cut back to 87 in February 2014, and 25 in December.
The U.S. now has about 10,600 troops in Afghanistan. That number will fluctuate over the next few months, as NATO partners send more forces to take part in Resolute Support. Once they are there, the U.S. number will be cut by about 1,000, officials said.
Author: Sajjad Ashraf
Pakistan is in a state of discord. Its civilian governance structure is becoming corrupt and oligarchic. Its façade of democratic order belies a more tawdry reality characterised by money, patronage and cronyism, in which parliament exists to enhance the privileges of the few.
Pakistan’s problems are long-standing, rooted in governance failures, with the resultant erosion of state authority. 2014 was no different in this respect.
Pakistan’s civil-military divide, manifested in the government’s clumsy handling of former President General Pervez Musharraf, remained at the centre of Pakistan’s political debate through the year.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif locked horns with the army by preventing the General from going abroad, after the courts granted him bail in several politically motivated cases. The army showed that it would not stand by when its former chief was insulted. In this process, Sharif was the loser. The mistrust between the military and the civilian government was palpable.
The Sharif government was rocked by simultaneous sit-ins by Tahir-ul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek party and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party in front of Parliament House in Islamabad, beginning in mid August. While Qadri folded quickly, Khan only wound up his protest in the wake of the Peshawar killings in December, winning kudos for showing statesmanship in a time of national crisis. The army repeated its desire for a political solution to this impasse and Khan’s tenacity in persisting with widespread agitation, while weakening Sharif, has helped the army to attain an even stronger political position.
Sharif showed little energy in tackling the problem of terrorism until the army took the initiative by launching Operation Zarb-e-Azb (Sword of the Prophet) in North Waziristan, following the terrorist attack on Karachi Airport in June. The latest reports indicate that 2100 militants and 190 servicemen have been killed in this operation.
A terrorist attack on an army-run school in Peshawar on 16 December killed 145 people, including 132 teenage children. This attack exposed the government’s lack of preparedness towards a menace that has claimed over 50,000 Pakistani lives over the last decade. When the nation clamoured for action, Sharif feebly announced that his government would set up a committee to draw up policy to tackle terrorism — forgetting that his own government had announced a National Internal Security Policy in February 2014.
Again, Prime Minister Sharif showed no sign of leadership. For him, building roads and talking the talk on development are panaceas for Pakistan’s problems. Large projects are waved through without stakeholder consultation on feasibility or environmental concerns. As an example, the metro bus project in Lahore is now being replicated in Islamabad. This 24 kilometre project could cost as much as 75 billion rupees (US$744 million). Stories of underhand behaviour abound in the awarding of state contracts. Public functionaries are replaced with political cronies when expensive national projects or imports are negotiated.
Sharif’s governance style — one that heavily involves his family and a coterie of associates — easily degenerates into the politics of patronage. Parliamentary oversight is inadequate. Cabinet meetings, when they are held, are devoid of substance. Pakistan’s minorities also suffer the wrath of religious fanatics and those who raise the spectre of blasphemy allegations in order to eject people from their homes.
The Sharif government has been lethargic when it comes to reforming Pakistan’s healthcare, education and skills programs. Over 25 million children do not attend school and Pakistan ranks second from the bottom in South Asia according to arecent UN Human Development Report.
Finally, the government’s record on economic management leaves much to be desired. The recently released State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) annual report confirms that national debt has increased by 25 per cent in the 17 months or so that the government has been in power, while the number of taxpayers has actually declined to a mere 1.7 million in a population of 186 million. This jeopardises Pakistan’s future.
Pakistanis deserve much better in 2015. They are unlikely to be so lucky.
Pakistan - A Muslim Man Beat A Christian Mother Brutally While She Defended Her Daughter From Him In A Rape Attempt
- See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/a-muslim-man-beat-a-christian-mother-brutally-while-she-defended-her-daughter-from-him-in-a-rape-attempt/#sthash.51jYmOBG.dpuf