Jihadist Horror in Egypt

The Sinai Peninsula has never seen anything like it. Yesterday, on the main highway to Gaza, outside the town of Bir al-Abed, murderers approached the al-Rawda mosque with massacre on their minds. It was toward the end of Friday prayers, just after midday.

A bomb shattered the serenity of prayer, then 25 to 30 killers disgorged from five off-road vehicles and began to rake the mosque with machine gun fire. They blocked doors and windows and poured fire inside. They threw grenades into the ranks of defenseless worshippers. There was considerable planning involved, and the terrorists torched several cars parked outside the mosque to block escape routes from the massacre.

When ambulances began arriving to aid victims, the gunmen shot at them, too. Only when the terrorists fled the scene could emergency workers tend to the victims—and there were hundreds of them. It took many hours to arrive at an accurate casualty count, given the chaos. According to Egyptian authorities, this terrible attack killed 305 innocents—27 of them children—and injured 128. This is the bloodiest terrorist strike in Egypt’s history, which isn’t exactly short on mass violence, especially by Islamist radicals.

The gunmen are widely believed to be followers of the Islamic State, which has put down deep roots in Sinai. Although there have been no claims of responsibility to-date, survivors report that the killers brandished the trademark black flag of jihad, an IS symbol. Some of the terrorists were masked, while others eschewed the usual IS get-up of long hair with thick beards—they looked like professional killers, clad in black t-shirts and camouflage-print trousers.

Read the rest at The Observer …

False Flag Terrorism: Myth and Reality

Sunday night’s appalling atrocity in Las Vegas, where an apparently lone gunman holed up in the Mandalay Bay hotel shot more than 500 people – killing 59 of them at present count – has taken over the airwaves and social media. Rightly so, since this is the deadliest mass shooting incident in recent American history.

Questions abound regarding Stephen Paddock, the shooter, who’s dead (reportedly by his own hand) and therefore unavailable to explain what motivated him to commit such an awful crime. It’s a rare thing for an affluent older white man – he was 64 and devoted to gambling in his retirement from accountancy – without a criminal record to assemble a vast arsenal, then unleash it on hundreds of people he’d never met.

It may be some time before a motive can be detected in this strange and sinister case. The claim of the Islamic State that Paddock was their “soldier” has been dismissed by U.S. intelligence as a desperate fantasy by the ailing terror group, eager to cash in on the Las Vegas horror. Indeed, we may never know exactly what propelled Paddock into this horrific act.

In the absence of reliable information, the usual charlatans have jumped into the fray, offering fact-free speculation. Per sordid custom, this ghoulish gang is led by Alex Jones, the InfoWars doyen, who proffered his customary insta-explanation for the crime: False Flag!

In other words, nothing in Las Vegas is as it seems. Jones offered a tale that was convoluted even for him: Paddock was merely a front for the “Deep State” in Washington, the Islamic State, and “the literal grandchildren of the folks that financed the Bolshevik Revolution out of New York and London” (translation: Jews).

This is his shtick, and Jones falls back on False Flags to explain nearly everything. He became notorious for employing it after the 2012 school horror in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, which left 20 little kids murdered. Egged on by his instance that the entire incident was a hoax, Jones’ demented fans have tortured grieving parents for years.

This vile spectacle has pushed the False Flag idea beyond the pale, which is unfortunate because they really do exist among spies and terrorists. Recruiting agents and conducting espionage operations while pretending to be somebody else happens every day in the real world. Terrorists, too, have been known to kill while masquerading as another party, for political effect.

Polite people don’t like to talk about this, of course, and their politesse has infected our discourse about such important matters, to its detriment. Now, thanks to Alex Jones, to mention False Flags in any way is to self-brand as a lunatic.

Read the rest at The Observer …

How 9/11 Changed America: For Better and for Worse

Today we commemorate the 16th anniversary of what Al-Qa’ida termed its Planes Operation, the most consequential terrorist attacks in history. That operation left 19 dead jihadists, 2,978 dead innocent victims, plus thousands of injured. Not to mention the World Trade Center complex annihilated, four jetliners destroyed, the Pentagon badly damaged, and a nation changed forever.

In Lower Manhattan and at the Pentagon – all rebuilt with appropriate memorials to that day – the usual solemn 9/11 remembrances will take place. Those who recall may think back, briefly, to that sunny Tuesday morning when the world changed. Some will speak of it. Just as my parents and their friends once bored me with their exact memories of where they were on November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, now my friends and I bore our children with precise recollections of 9/11.

With the passing of time we can see the Planes Operation and its impacts with a clarity that was previously out of reach. In the months after 9/11, when shock turned to an outrage that birthed a national unity which proved as intense as it was fleeting, a new era dawned for America in a long-term struggle against Islamist terrorism and extremism. How has that conflict panned out over the last 16 years?

In the first place, it ought to be noted that our Intelligence Community has done a commendable job of keeping mass-casualty terrorism away from our shores since 9/11. In particular, FBI-NSA teamwork, in near-seamless collaboration with close foreign intelligence partners, has foiled hundreds of terrorist plots “left of boom” as they say in the spy trade. Jihadists have executed exactly zero “big wedding” attacks in the United States in the last 16 years – and it’s not for any lack of trying.

Indeed, since 9/11 the FBI-NSA counterterrorism partnership has grown so effective at stopping jihadists before they kill that civil libertarians routinely complain that many of these would-be terrorists are harmless ne’er-do-wells and fantasists entrapped by government informants. This is a by-product of the success of our domestic counterterrorism in recent years.

Although jihadists, usually self-styled, have killed Americans at home since 9/11, most of these terrorists have been inspired – not directed – by violent co-religionists overseas. In a typical case, the worst of these attacks, the June 2016 slaughter at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, killed 49 innocents; yet their murderer, Omar Mateen, a native-born American citizen, despite clearly being inspired by the Islamic State, was not directed by them except in his own diseased mind.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Ukraine Accuses Russia of the Unthinkable: Terror Attacks Against Its Own People

Secret service bosses are a notoriously tight-lipped bunch, particularly in Eastern Europe, where the Soviet legacy of complete state secrecy lingers. In the former Soviet Union, where the KGB ruled for most of the last century, spy chiefs give few interviews, and when they do they say very little of interest. Such is the nature of the espionage business there.

It was therefore something of a shock this weekend when Vasyl Hrytsak, Ukraine’s secret service chief, gave an interview jam-packed with bombshells about the nasty SpyWar being waged between Kyiv and Moscow. That clandestine struggle is an appendage to the low-boil conflict being waged in Eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces and “rebels” who are in fact the Russian military.

Casualties are generally modest – a couple soldiers here, another handful there – yet they are constant. Shelling, sniping, and patrolling take a steady toll of Ukrainian defenders who are holding the line in the country’s east, keeping the Russian invader at bay, and the conflict shows no signs of abating anytime soon. Roughly one-third of the 10,100 dead in the Russo-Ukrainian War have fallen since the so-called Minsk II cease-fire was hashed out in February 2015.

The espionage portion of this conflict is seldom mentioned in the media, so Hrytsak’s comments were highly unusual. It should be noted that Hrytsak isn’t a political hack, rather a career intelligence officer who’s worked for the Security Service of Ukraine or SBU since the early 1990s and has been its head since mid-2015.

In a TV interview, Hrytsak minced no words, calling out his Russian counterpart, Aleksandr Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service, the powerful FSB. Having previously explained three weeks ago that the SBU knew that the Kremlin had dispatched spy-saboteurs to undertake terrorist attacks inside Ukraine, Hrytsak now made a direct appeal to Bortnikov:

I appeal to you as an officer. There are rules even in war which should not be broken by secret service agents. You have transgressed all these rules.

Read the rest at The Observer …

 

How to Avoid America’s Coming Years of Lead

Violent extremism constitutes a real threat to public order and safety — it’s time to cool it

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville fracas between far-right and far-left protestors, which left one dead and dozens injured, America has undertaken a self-examination of sorts regarding our homegrown extremism problem. The public now realizes that our country possesses violent fringes which, though small in numbers, display an ardent desire to create mayhem in the public square.

The far-right element, with its Nazi and Confederate flags, is catchier on camera, displaying transgressive desires and frequently absurd attire. They seem better at shocking than fighting, however, considering how Charlottesville played out. Few have noted that the kook-right, despite making a nationwide push to get everybody to come to Virginia for the “unite the right” rally, managed to gather only a few hundred followers. In a pattern that’s familiar in Europe, the far-right was significantly outnumbered by left-wing counter-protestors in Charlottesville.

Not to mention that America’s far-right has fallen on hard times after the Virginia debacle. While neo-Nazis managed to get the attention of the nation, indeed the world, in Charlottesville, the repercussions in its aftermath have been severe. Since said movement exists more online than in the real world, post-Charlottesville efforts to get them off the Internet have hit the kook-right hard indeed.

Their most noxious website, The Daily Stormer, infamous for its incantations of violence against Jews and others, has been run off the Internet. After multiple shutdowns, the avowedly Nazi site now resides on the Dark Web, where its site traffic is surely far lower than before Charlottesville. Similarly run off the Internet is Stormfront, an online message board that’s been a focus for the far-right since 1995, when it was founded by Don Black, a former KKK leader.

The far-left has faced less public scrutiny than their sparring partners after Charlottesville. Part of this is the habitual double-standard about genocidal totalitarianisms in our country: carrying a Nazi flag is considered unthinkably offensive, while brandishing a Soviet one is viewed as much less awful – and possibly only quirky – notwithstanding that Stalin murdered more people than Hitler did.

Indeed, in recent weeks quite a few mainstream liberals have gushed about the “anti-fascists” on the left who engage in violent street theater with the far-right. It’s easy to detect more than a whiff of envy among some liberals for Antifa fighters, who get to punch Nazis whenever they feel like it. Even before Charlottesville, some on the mainstream left positively gushed about black-clad Antifas and their eagerness to do battle with the evil forces of Trumpism.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Homegrown Terrorism Festers in America’s Toxic Political Environment

The US needs to look at its violence problem without ideological blinders

It’s happened again. This week’s horrifying assassination attempt against Congressional Republicans as they practiced for a bipartisan charity baseball game reminds Americans that violence is ever present in our society.

Four innocent people were shot and the highest-ranking victim, Rep. Steve Scalise, remains in critical condition at this hour. However, the fact that Scalise is the majority whip in the House of Representatives may be the only reason there wasn’t a far worse massacre. As the third-ranking Republican in the House, Scalise travels with bodyguards from the Capitol Police (two of whom were shot while protecting Congress-members). Had they not been present, a much bloodier event would have surely transpired.

The gunman was fatally wounded by those bodyguards – thereby saving uncounted lives – in a wild melée with dozens of rounds expended in a firefight on a suburban baseball diamond. James Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old from the St. Louis suburbs, was exactly the sort of angry ne’er-do-well commonly associated with such killings. A man with a lengthy arrest record known for violent outbursts, Hodgkinson descended into ever-greater anger until he traveled to Virginia to kill his political enemies.

On social media and in person, Hodgkinson exuded hatred for Republicans in general and President Donald Trump in particular. Whether the difference between this killer’s ideological venom and that of millions of perfectly peaceful liberals was one of degree or kind looms as an important question right now. Regardless, it would help the country if citizens on both sides of the aisle took this week’s tragedy as an opportunity to tone down our increasingly shrill political rhetoric.

Read the rest at The Observer …

There Is No Intelligence Solution to Britain’s Rivers of Blood

After three jihadist attacks in as many months, the United Kingdom is facing a protracted insurgency – not mere terrorism

It’s happened again. This time the target was the heart of London. Last night shortly after 10 p.m., weekend merry-making was shattered when a van careened wildly across London Bridge, running over innocents. After the van came to a halt, three men emerged, brandishing large knives which they proceeded to plunge into as many people as possible.

Eyewitnesses report the men, adorned with fake suicide bomb vests, were shouting “This is for Allah” as they ran foot-long blades into people walking along the trendy Borough High Street. Saturday night partiers barricaded themselves in pubs to save their lives. Eight minutes after the horror started it ended in gunfire. Armed police arrived at the scene and shot the three terrorists dead.

Now the police are following their standard procedure: Talking to eyewitnesses, gathering evidence from crime scenes, and rounding up anybody who might be involved, even peripherally. Several potential suspects have been taken into custody after police raids in East London, while at present the casualty count stands at seven dead (not including the terrorists) and 48 injured, many seriously.

This atrocity comes only 12 days after the horrific bomb attack in Manchester, at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, which slaughtered 22 innocents – many of them children – and maimed more than a hundred. The killer there, who blew himself up with an improvised explosive device loaded with nuts and bolts to inflict maximum shrapnel wounds, was Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old British national.

Born in Manchester to Libyan refugee parents, Abedi fits the clichéd profile for homegrown jihadists in the West: a failed assimilation case, a ne’er-do-well dropout who got caught up in drugs and hooliganism, only to turn his life around by embracing the jihad. Abedi’s fervent radicalism made him notorious at his mosque. He was viewed by his community, rightly, as a troublemaker headed for nothing good.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Berlin: A Failure of Policy, Not Intelligence

In the aftermath of this week’s truck jihad attack in Berlin which flattened part of the German capital’s main Christmas market, killing 12 innocents and injuring 48 more, many questions have rightly arisen. Especially because the killer, a 24 year-old migrant criminal turned jihadist from Tunisia, was known to German authorities as a would-be terrorist who was in touch with ISIS-linked radicals.

Lots of uncomfortable issues now must be dealt with, across Europe and the West, if we want to save innocent lives from jihadism at home. I unpacked several of these knotty problems on FoxNews yesterday.

You can see my FNC interview here — enjoy!

Jihad Takes Ankara, Zürich, Berlin

ISIS commands its followers to attack anywhere they can this holiday season

Monday, December 19 was supposed to be noted in the history books as the day the Electoral College formally made Donald J. Trump our 45th president. That did happen, as anticipated—Democratic dreams of electors defecting in droves to overturn the ballot box proved wholly illusory—but that news was overshadowed by a series of brutal terrorist attacks that have shocked the world.

First, Ankara. Early on Monday evening, at an art gallery in a suburb of the Turkish capital, Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador, approached the podium to make a few words, only to be gunned down from behind with several shots fired by an off-duty Turkish policeman. A career diplomat who had served the Kremlin for four decades, including serving as Russia’s minister to Ankara since mid-2013, Karlov succumbed to his numerous wounds. His horrific end was caught in gripping footage which has taken the Internet by storm.

His killer, 22-year-old Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, a member of a police special unit, didn’t live much longer than his target, being killed by fellow policemen shortly after the assassination. There’s not much room for doubt about his motivation, since after gunning down the ambassador, Altıntaş proceeded to utter a stream of jihadist clichés in a mixture of Arabic and Turkish. There was the customary tekbir, the proclaiming of God’s greatness—Allahu akbar—followed by boasting that the shooting was payback for the fate of Aleppo, the long-besieged Syrian city now living under Russian bombs.

It’s too soon to say whether Altıntaş was a self-starting lone jihadist or he was acting under orders from a bona fide terrorist organization, but his crime certainly appears to be the terrorist act which the Kremlin has stated it is. The Islamic State claimed the attack as their own, as is their wont whenever anything that appears remotely jihad-linked happens anywhere these days—and Turkey is unquestionably crawling with large numbers of ISIS-connected jihadists. Thanks to the policies of its Islamist strongman president, Recep Erdoğan, extremists in neighboring Syria’s civil war may now be turning on Turkey with a vengeance.

Read the rest at The Observer …

It’s Almost Too Late to Get Serious About Jihadism

Yet another angry, lost Muslim immigrant has gone on a killing spree

It’s happened again. Yesterday, on the campus of Ohio State University, an angry young man used his car as a weapon, plowing through a group of bystanders, whom he then attacked with a butcher knife. Eleven innocent people were injured, though mercifully all are expected to make a full recovery.

This time, we got lucky. A campus cop was on-scene within a minute and, when the madman running amok refused to follow orders to drop his knife, the policeman opened fire, killing him before he struck lethally. Which was clearly his intent, as described by a student who witnessed the event unfold: “He seemed like a crazed animal. He seemed like he was determined. He seemed like he was there for one reason—to do as much damage as he could.”

Before any facts were established, the left-wing online outrage machine went into overdrive, like clockwork, with Democratic politicians and activists denouncing their usual suspects. One was Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, recently the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, who tweeted, “Deeply saddened by the senseless act of gun violence at Ohio State this morning.” Countless fervent Social Justice Warriors took to social media to express their deep hope that the shooter was a white racist—presumably inspired by President-elect Donald Trump and his message of “hate.”

Embarrassingly for the Left, the failed spree killer in Columbus turned out to have no gun at all. Worse for the liberal smart-set, he was a Somali refugee—hardly a redneck domestic terrorist. The disappointment felt online was palpable as it turned out the perpetrator was a Muslim of color, plus an immigrant to boot. He seemed to be practically a caricature drawn from Trump’s repeated warnings about the dangers posed by importing Muslims to America.

Virtually every liberal cliché was on display here. The dead man, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, an 18-year-old (some sources say 20), was a recent refugee arrival from Somalia, via Pakistan. His family moved to the United States in 2014 and Artan got an associate’s degree in 2016, then transferred to Ohio State to continue his studies.

Read the rest at The Observer …