Sunday, 1 January 2017

2017: France and the Islamic State (ISIS/Daesh)

JANUARY

In Iraq, Francois Hollande Says ISIS Battle Prevents Attacks At Home

Updated: January 03, 2017 05:07 IST


 Arbil, Iraq:  Western support for military action against the ISIS is key to preventing attacks at home, French President Francois Hollande said on Monday in Iraq, where yet another bombing killed dozens. A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden car on a square in Baghdad's Sadr City neighbourhood, killing at least 32 people in the latest attack on the Iraqi capital claimed by ISIS. Later the interior ministry said terrorsit gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed a police station in the city of Samarra north of Baghdad, sparking clashes.

France, one of the most active members of the US-led coalition fighting the Sunni extremist group, is particularly concerned over the return of a large contingent of French jihadists from Syria and Iraq.
"Taking action against terrorism here in Iraq is also preventing acts of terrorism on our own soil," he said at a base where French soldiers have been training elite Iraqi forces.

Hollande, the only major Western head of state to have visited Baghdad since the coalition was set up in 2014, stressed that supporting Iraq was one of the surest ways of securing Europe. Of European countries targeted by attacks claimed or inspired by ISIS, France has been the worst hit, but there have also been attacks in Belgium and Germany. Besides the defeated terrorists expected to return to Europe, radicalised children who grew up in the "caliphate" ISIS proclaimed in 2014 are also seen as ticking bombs.

"We will have to deal with the issue of the return of foreign fighters... who committed crimes, who brought their families with them, including in some cases very young children," Hollande said. Since it joined the United States in the coalition in September 2014, France says its warplanes have conducted 5,700 sorties, around 1,000 strikes and destroyed more than 1,700 targets.

'Before Summer'


France has 14 Rafale warplanes taking part in coalition operations from Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. It also has 500 soldiers training and advising elite Iraqi forces and CAESAR artillery vehicles stationed south of Mosul to support ongoing operations to retake the city. Hollande met Iraqi President Fuad Masum, a Kurd, and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, from the largest Shiite political bloc, and called for reconciliation and unity after ISIS is defeated.

He then flew to the northern city of Arbil, capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, where he met local leader Massud Barzani. He said just before leaving Iraq that he was told that the battle to retake Mosul, the last major jihadist stronghold in the country, could last several more months. "It was confirmed to us that we could possibly achieve this goal in spring, in any case before summer," he said. Hollande added that the focus would then move to Raqa, IS's other major bastion, in neighbouring Syria. "If Daesh is eradicated in Iraq but remains in Syria, we know full well that acts will be carried out here in the Middle East but also on our own soil in France, in Europe," he said.

Hollande began his trip at a base near Baghdad where French forces are training Iraq's elite Counter-Terrorism Service, which has spearheaded most major anti-ISIS operations in Iraq since 2014. It was CTS that first breached Mosul's city limits late last year in an effort to retake it from ISIS. But the going has been tough for Iraqi forces, partly because hundreds of thousands of civilians have remained in the city, slowing their advance.

Belgium Charges 2 New Suspects Over Paris Attacks: Prosecutor

Updated: January 12, 2017 14:29 IST

Brussels:  Belgium has charged two new suspects in connection with the November 2015 Paris attacks claimed by the ISIS group which left 130 people dead, federal prosecutors said on Thursday.
The two -- identified as Farid K. and Meryem E. B. -- are "suspected to have provided Khalid El Bakraoui with the false documents afterwards used in preparation of the Paris attacks," a statement said.
Farid K. has "been charged with participation in the activities of a terrorist group, falsification of documents and use of false documents," the prosecutor's office said.

Meryem E.B. "has been charged with falsification of documents and use of false documents," it said.
Farid K. has been placed in police custody while Meryem E.B was released under "strict" conditions, it added. Belgian police were holding three people for questioning after anti-terror raids late Saturday in central Brussels, reports said. Four raids took place in the Molenbeek district but no arms or explosives were found, the Belga news agency said, citing a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor's office.
 

'I'm Not Ashamed' Says Paris Attacks Suspect: Report

Updated: January 13, 2017 11:16 IST



Paris:  The main suspect in the Paris attacks said he was "not ashamed" in a letter to a woman who has been writing to him in prison, according to extracts published in the French press Friday. Salah Abdeslam has refused to respond to questions from French judges about the November 13, 2015 attacks in which 130 people died at the hands of ISIS terrorists.

But in correspondence with an anonymous woman published by the daily newspaper Liberation he appeared "talkative for the first time," the paper said.
"First of all, I'm not afraid of letting anything slip because I'm not ashamed of what I am -- and then what worse could be said than what's already been said," Abdeslam wrote, according to the extract from his investigation file.

.....CONTINUE READING

Possible To Clear ISIS Bastion In Iraq Before Summer: Francois Hollande

Updated: January 13, 2017 08:50 IST

"In Iraq, the coalition operation allowed to reconquest of a large part of the lost territory thanks to the help of Iraqi forces and Peshmergas," Xinhua quoted Hollande as saying. "IS is retreating and the objective is to oust it from Mosul ... I think it's possible ... to liberate the city before summer," he added.

Paris estimates 700 citizens in IS ranks in Syria, Iraq



Paris, Jan 19: French anti-terrorist services estimate that there are about 700 French residents in the ranks of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. They also added that there are around 1,000 who still reside in France but would like to join the terrorist organisation, Efe news reported.  
Loic Garnier, head of the Counter-Terrorism Coordination Unit (UCLAT), said in an interview on Wednesday, that it is not known the level of danger of each of those jihadists, who face difficulties in entering Syria and Iraq, while secret services are working to uncover their ideology.
At the same time, about 200 IS fighters have been identified to have been in Syria or Iraq but have returned to France, and others who still want to return, but the restrictions on Turkey's borders and the military situation make their trip more difficult.

According to UCLAT, in the areas controlled by IS, there are some 290 French women, or women who are French residents, and 460 French children, one third of whom have been born there.
 

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