Terrorism and extremism weekly summary 20-26 March

Europe

In Strabane, Northern Ireland, a device exploded near a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) patrol in the evening of 21 March. PSNI said it was an attempt to kill police officers. No one was hurt and people were evacuated from their homes as the area went under lockdown. Two people were arrested in connection with the attack and are under investigation. While investigations have not been concluded, suspicion falls on dissident republicans with the Police Federation of Northern Ireland calling the perpetrators terrorists. Northern Ireland has recorded one of the highest rates of dissident republican activity in the last several years.

Five people, including the attacker, were killed and around 40 wounded after a car and stabbing attack by a British national outside the London Houses of Parliament on 22 March. 

On 23 March in Antwerp, Belgium, a French resident of Tunisian nationality attempted to hit pedestrians in a crowded shopping street. No one was injured, however, knives were found in the vehicle. Belgian authorities said the man was highly intoxicated and was found asleep in the car. The man was charged on 24 March with attempted terrorist murder and illegal possession of weapons by Belgian federal prosecutors. A French source close to the investigation, however, said they believed that there was no terrorist motive and the man was not trying to hurt anyone. 

Two men were arrested on 24 March and are under investigation in France for allegedly providing the weapon used by a gunman in an attempted attack on soldiers at Paris’ Orly airport on 18 March. The investigation has not found links to a radical Islamist movement. The attacker, a French national, shot a policeman at a traffic stop, and later attacked a soldier at the airport before being killed by other soldiers. He shouted that he was there to kill and die for Allah.

Middle East

On 20 March, a car bomb exploded in Baghdad, Iraq killing over 20 and wounding 43. The bomb detonated in a busy commercial area in a mainly Shia district. No group has claimed the attack, however, the IS has carried out similar attacks in recent months. Later on the same day, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi received assurances of greater US support in fighting IS in his first face-to-face meeting with US President Donald Trump. The attack comes as the Iraqi army attempts to retake Mosul from IS – its last major stronghold in Iraq.

Ten Egyptian military personnel were killed by two roadside bombs on 23 March during an operation against suspected militants in Sinai, Egypt. The military said that its forces were targeting highly dangerous terrorists, and that they killed 15 and captured seven militants during the raids. The group, using the name Sinai Province, is allied with IS. On 25 March, three other personnel were killed and six injured by another roadside bomb and one soldier was killed by sniper fire in Arish, northern Sinai.

About author: Ashleigh Templeton

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