Terrorism and Extremism weekly summary 27 March - 2 April

Europe

Three men in Agen, Bobigny and Asnières-sur-Seine, France, were arrested and questioned on 28 March by the services of the Directorate-General for Internal Security on suspicion of planning to go to Syria. The Islamist trio met online and radicalised each other. They were still in custody on 29 March.

Two teenage girls were arrested in Nice and Levens on 1 April on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack. Authorities searched the suspects’ homes and found clues that they could be planning an attack, however, did not find any weapons. A source close to the investigation said that at this stage, authorities did not know the degree of preparation that went into the suspects’ plans.

German prosecutors said in a statement on 28 March that they arrested a suspected former Taliban commander in Bavaria on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organisation and attempted murder. Prosecutors said that the 30-year-old Afghan national is suspected of commanding a Taliban unit responsible for an attack on a convoy that killed 16 Afghan and American soldiers, as well as taking part in other countless missions against foreign and Afghan soldiers. The man allegedly joined the Taliban in 2002 but left his combat unit in 2008 fleeing to Pakistan, and travelled to Germany in 2011.

A second Afghan national was charged on 20 March in Koblenz, Germany, with being a member of a foreign terrorist organisation and as an accessory to attempted murder. The 21-year-old joined the Taliban in 2013 and took part in four attacks against Afghan police. Prosecutors did not confirm whether he was an asylum seeker upon arrival to Germany, however, mentioned that he left the Taliban in 2014

On 30 March, German prosecutors said they charged an 18-year-old German national with attempted murder for throwing two Molotov cocktails into the entrance of a shopping mall in Hannover in an attempt to “kill infidels”. No one was hurt and no damage was caused as the bombs failed to ignite. Prosecutors say the suspect sympathised with groups such as the Islamic State (IS) and is the elder brother of a 16-year-old girl convicted in January 2017 for stabbing and wounding a police officer for IS.

The Polish consulate in Lutsk, Ukraine, was targeted by a suspected grenade launcher overnight on 29 March. No one was injured in the attack and the assailants have not been identified.

Italian police announced on 30 March that three Kosovan nationals and a minor were arrested in Venice on suspicion of plotting to blow up the Rialto Bridge. Venice prosecutor in charge of the case, Adelchi d’Ippolito, mentioned that in a wiretapped conversation, one of the suspects said that with all the unbelievers there are in Venice, you put a bomb under Rialto and you go straight to heaven. D’Ippolito added that the group was studying how to build explosives but lacked the necessary components and police added that the group had undergone religious radicalisation and aimed to join IS.

Three Turkish nationals of Kurdish descent were injured in a knife attack by four suspected pro-Erdogan supporters on 30 March outside the Turkish Embassy in Brussels, Belgium. Protests later erupted in response and riot police were patrolling the scene in case of any eruption in violence. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel condemned the violence on twitter saying that the Belgian government has absolutely zero tolerance for spill-overs from the Turkish referendum. The embassy is being used as a polling station for Turkish nationals taking part in a referendum that seeks to change the current parliamentary-based political system in Turkey, to an executive presidency.

Middle East

A suicide bomber killed 17 and wounded over 60 after detonating an explosive-laden oil tanker at a police checkpoint in southern Baghdad, Iraq on 29 March. The affected area was cordoned off by Iraqi security forces. No group claimed the attack, however, IS are suspected due to previous similar acts. The attack comes as Iraqi security forces are fighting to retake Mosul’s west from IS.

South Asia

A remote-detonated bomb killed 24 and wounded more than 70 outside a Mosque in Parachinar, Pakistan on 31 March. Reports indicate that a car, laden with explosives, was left near the women’s entrance of the mosque as people gathered for Friday prayers. The attack was claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban. Parachinar is a Shia majority area and is the biggest city in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on the border with Afghanistan. The Pakistani government has little control in FATA and the area is known to be a hotbed and safe zone for militant and terrorist organisations, including al-Qaeda.

About author: Ashleigh Templeton

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