French Counter-Terrorism prevents an Easter Islamist attack in Beziers

On the night of June 4th the French Police, in coordination with the DGSI, raided an apartment in the southern French city of Beziers and detained five women all belonging to the same family.

The mother and her four daughters, all resided in an apartment in the neighborhood of Deveze, notorious for its high crime rate.  During the house search, investigators found a sword, several empty bottles, small marbles, and chemical material to be used for the preparation of explosives (sulfuric acid, acetone, hydrogen peroxide).  No device had yet been prepared, but a notebook with handwritten notes on how to fabricate explosive was also found, together with a sketch of a church located nearby (very likely Notre-Dame de la Reconciliation).

Four of the five women were later released while one of them, 18-year-old Leila B, remains in custody with charges of criminal/terrorist association and possession of incendiary/explosive substances with the objective of conducting an attack, as exposed by the Parquet National Anti-Terroriste (PNAT).

The arrested teen was already known to the social services. She had been constantly watching pro-Isis videos online, expressing her intention to conduct an attack on social media, and was about to take action with a terror attack to perpetrate most likely on Easter Monday.

It seems that initially, the plan of the 18-year-old was to target churches in Montpellier; however, due to the Covid travel restrictions, she changed her mind and opted for action in her hometown.

Additionally, during the house search investigators also recovered a photo of murdered and decapitated French teacher Samuel Paty, Isis material, and Nazi symbols. Local sources revealed that the women were known in the neighborhood for their Islamist extremist views.

The Capitol Hill attacker: a quick profile view

The April 2nd  Capitol Hill attack has once again exposed how the threat of domestic terrorism in the United States is always present, and this time all signs lead to a mentally ill individual with an ideological motivation repeatedly exposed on social networks. Indeed, a very dangerous combination.

Despite the fact that it will take far more time to obtain an exhaustive picture of what surrounds the deadly attack, it is still useful to make a few considerations regarding the attacker’s profile and the dynamics of the attack, according to the information currently available.

Noah Green’s modus operandi and profile reflect characteristics that make him very similar to a so-called “lone wolf” acting in the name of Isis (as frequently seen in Europe), including a very fast radicalization process whose dynamics are still unclear: did it occur online? Did Green meet people who contributed to his radicalization? The main difference between Green’s case and Isis “lone wolves” or “zombies” seems to be exclusively in the ideology.

According to numerous sources, Green was mentally ill and had recently turned from a quiet and non-violent person to a depressed, and paranoid individual who had even expressed suicidal intentions. However, this doesn’t necessarily indicate that the terrorist motive is automatically ruled out, as it would imply that all terrorists have to be mentally healthy and rational in order to take action, something which would make no sense.

The modus operandi

Phase 1: Green rams his vehicle against a security barrier at the northern entrance of the US. Capitol Hill.

Phase 2: Green comes out of the vehicle armed with a knife and tries to stab USCP officers; he is consequently shot and killed.

Final outcome: one officer killed, one wounded, attacker killed. [1] [2] [3]

The ideological motivation

US and UK sources have pointed out the ideology fueling Green, as he publicly expressed on Facebook his growing support for Louis Farrakhan and the extremist group “Nation of Islam”. Green credited Farrakhan (whom he defined as “Jesus, the Messiah”), with saving him from the “terrible afflictions” which he had suffered, blaming the CIA, FBI and the other agencies. In one post just a few hours before the attack, he had branded the federal government the “#1 enemy of Black People”.

On Facebook he often wrote about “mind control”, “the anti-Christ government”, “end times”, and other disturbing claims:

I consider him my (Farrakhan) spiritual father. Without his guidance, his word, and his teachings that I’ve picked up on along the way, I would’ve been unable to continue”…

Preaching to the multitudes, calling a million black men to Washington, and standing up to the most powerful government of modern times. He has done miraculous work not just with me, but with the lives of millions.”…

And again: “I was on the right track and everything I had planned was coming into existence. It required long hours, lots of studying, and exercise to keep me balanced while experiencing an array of concerning symptoms along the path (I believe to be side effects of drugs I was intaking unknowingly). However, the path has been thwarted, as Allah (God) has chosen me for other things.”

Green wished to rename himself “Noah X” in honor of Malcolm X, (a notorious member of the “Nation of Islam” who was assassinated in 1965), and revealed he had sent $1,085 as a donation to the Nation of Islam.

On his biography page for the football team which he played in, Green had indicated that he was majoring in business and that the person in history he’d most like to meet was Malcolm X.

It is also interesting to notice how in December 2020, Green had petitioned to change his name to Noah Zaeem Muhammad but failed to appear at his hearing in Indianapolis.

Green had also spent some months in Botswana on some kind of “spiritual mission” before going back to the United States, as exposed by his brother. It would be interesting to dig deeper into Green’s activity in the African country as well [4] [5] [6] [7]

IN SUNTO

Name: Noah Green

Alias: “Noah X”, “Zaeem Muhammad”

Location: Washington DC

Site: Government

Target: Law enforcers

Attackers: 1

Weapon: car + knife

Nationality: US

Age: 25

Mental Illness: Yes

Previous convictions: no

Motivation: Anti-Government

Ideology: Nation of Islam

Deceased attackers: 1

Deceased victims: 1


[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56620113

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/04/02/us/us-capitol-police-attack

[3] https://edition.cnn.com/2021/04/02/politics/us-capitol-incident/index.html

[4] https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/14536644/capitol-killer-noah-green-nation-islam/

[5] https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/04/02/noah-green-went-from-football-player-posting-extremist-groups/7068100002/?fbclid=IwAR1rjwSwCZv3kNJQoT8msl96TdTrJcEwK2uALq2ZoUSBp1CKK7SxbjxITIA

[6] https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/antisemitism/capitol-hill-ramming-attacker-member-of-antisemitic-nation-of-islam-org-663975

[7] https://www.washingtonpost.com/gdpr-consent/?next_url=https%3a%2f%2fwww.washingtonpost.com%2flocal%2fpublic-safety%2fnoah-green-capitol-attack%2f2021%2f04%2f02%2f74f75802-93fe-11eb-a74e-1f4cf89fd948_story.html

Individual terror attacks in Italy, how to read them

On February 19th, 2021, a 23-years-old Somali refugee in an altered psychological state boarded tram number 5 in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, near the city’s Termini train station.

Armed with an iron bar and two fire extinguishers, and with his face covered by a garment, the individual began to threaten the passengers in a broken Italian and shouted several times the words “Allahu akbar”.

After numerous requests for intervention by the passengers and the driver, the police reached the scene and tried to calm the attacker down. The agents also noticed that the individual, who was in an increasing state of agitation, was also hiding unidentified objects under his jacket. At that point, the law enforcers decided to tackle and disarm the individual, who was immediately placed under arrest on charges of aggravated threat, receiving stolen goods, interruption of public service, and carrying abusive weapons. The individual was found in possession of several IDs belonging to other people, all probably stolen. [1] [2]

However, Italian authorities have indicated that, while the individual had a criminal record, he was not known for acts of terrorism or for radicalization.

Cases like this one have already occurred on Italian soil, for instance, on September 19th, 2019, Yemeni refugee Mahamed Fathe yelled “Allahu akbar” and attacked a soldier patrolling Milan’s “Stazione Centrale” train station, seriously wounding him to the throat with a pair of scissors, before being taken down by a brave 52-years-old Senegalese citizen who was passing by. [3] [4]

In May 2017, 21-years-old Italian/Tunisian Tommaso Hosni attacked an army patrol unit inside Milan’s “Stazione Centrale”. Police agents and military personnel managed to take away his two knives and place him under arrest. Once again, the attacker yelled “Allahu akbar” during the attack. [5]

On August 12th, 2020, a 26 years-old Egyptian immigrant legally resident on Italian soil was spotted while sitting on the stairs of Milan’s central Duomo cathedral by private security operators and police; the man attracted attention after behaving nervously and suspiciously. As the officers approached him for a check, the individual pulled out a knife and rushed towards the entrance of the Duomo, chased by a private security officer. The situation quickly deteriorated, with the attacker holding a knife against the guard. As more police agents reached the scene, the attacker went on for over 20 minutes threatening to behead the guard, before the law enforcers intervened with an adventurous initiative that fortunately turned out successful, as the individual was placed under arrest. [6] It is yet unclear if the Egyptian individual made any consistent ideological claims, however, the dynamics of the attack, the symbolism (the victim kneeling with a knife pointed at his throat), and the location (the city’s main Cathedral) are all elements that are worth pondering on.

A few thoughts

In relation to the February 19th 2021 attack in Rome, the assailant boarded the bus near the train station, while the two attacks in Milan also occurred at the train station. This could be due to the fact that train stations in Italy are usually areas where desperate individuals, street thugs, drug dealers, and other deviant individuals tend to gather; however, it is also true that such profiles can easily and quickly fall into the radicalization trap, no matter if the input comes from outside or if it’s the result of personal initiative.

At this point, the question is: can such an act be considered terrorism? The fact that there is no claim of responsibility by a known terrorist organization can be sufficient to exclude the ideological motivation? Are the words “Allahu akbar” accompanied by an act of violence directed against civilians, law enforcers or military personnel a combination that is strong enough to support the terrorist motive? Does the fact that an attacker is mentally unstable rule out the terrorist motive? (As it often happens) Would this mean that all terrorists are mentally stable and rational?

It surely isn’t an easy issue. One thing is for sure, terrorism has changed since 2011 with the arrival of Isis. Professor Marco Lombardi, director of the Italian Team for Security, Terroristic Issues and Managing Emergencies-Catholic University of Milan defined the Isis terrorist modus operandi as “terror franchising”, which is an extremely brilliant term that sharply explains a new way of conducting terror attacks. Basically, anyone today can wake up one morning, decide to perpetrate an attack with whatever everyday tool they can find, such as a knife, a screwdriver, a car used as a ram (a modus operandi already encouraged by both Al Qaeda and Isis) and then claim it on behalf of Isis. This is a win-win situation for both, the terror organization, and the individual because, while the first one gains great publicity from the attack, the second one can hit the media headlines and become “famous” (an important input for many marginalized, and unstable individuals who aspire to notoriety, no matter if positive or negative, or who simply want their voice to be heard).

In some cases, the claim of responsibility doesn’t even require to be done in the name of a terror organization, but the attacker can simply relate to an ideology, and that’s where the words “Allahu akbar” come in; stolen from their religious context by the Islamist extremists and turned into a slogan that, unfortunately, has become an expression of terror and violence, as used by the jihadists.

Additionally, taking note that terrorism has changed, it might be helpful to cite the definition of “terrorism” exposed by the director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Boaz Ganor: “a politically motivated act of violence against civilian targets”.

It doesn’t matter if behind the attack there is an organization, an independent and autonomous cell, or if it is the result of individual action. The objective of the terrorist is to generate terror among the population, in the name of an ideology, to obtain a political goal. Plain and simple. So yes, such acts as the ones seen in Rome and Milan could be classified as terrorist attacks, because they were perpetrated against civilians and representatives of the State, because there were no economic objectives (stealing), and because ideological elements are present. It doesn’t matter if the attacker was mentally unstable or not, because such a view would imply that all terrorists are mentally healthy, something quite hard to believe. It doesn’t even matter if the attacker meant what he said, because what really counts is the action and its objective, generating terror, and we define terrorism by the effects that it generates, and by its “motor”.


[1] https://www.ilgiornale.it/news/roma/sale-armato-sul-tram-e-urla-allah-u-akbar-arrestato-1925442.html

[2] https://www.ilmessaggero.it/roma/news/piazza_vittorio_minaccia_passeggeri_tram_spranga_estintore_roma-5777435.html

[3] https://www.milanotoday.it/cronaca/ambrogino-samba-diagne.html

[4]https://www.ilmessaggero.it/italia/terrorismo_feri_militare_davati_alla_stazione_centrale_chiesti_14_anni_di_carcere_per_fathe-5565655.html

[5]https://milano.repubblica.it/cronaca/2018/12/04/news/milano_hosni_aggressione_polizia_stazione_centrale_pena_ridotta_appello-213398308/

[6] https://www.ilgiornale.it/news/cronache/esclusiva-ecco-video-dellaggressione-duomo-1883163.html

Europe Terror Attacks Summary for the Year 2020

The PDF version of the Summary can be downloaded here

For the year 2020, we have identified 24 terrorist attacks within Europe, 20 of which have been classified as Islamist, 2 as perpetrated by Extreme Right supporters, and 2 more that have no clear motivation.

As to countries involved, 10 attacks have been perpetrated in France, 5 in Germany, four in the United Kingdom, and 1 respectively in Austria, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland. [1] [2]

The first quarter of 2020 has been the one with the higher number of attacks (10), followed by the fourth quarter (6), while the second and third quarters both registered 4 attacks. During the months of May and July, no attacks were recorded.

In 6 out of the 24 attacks, the targets were law enforcers or private security, while the rest were civilian targets.

The total number of deceased victims is 24; the deceased terrorists are 6, while the others have been apprehended.

Weapons

The weapon most commonly used is once again the cold steel weapon (may it be a kitchen knife, an all-purpose knife, or a machete), in some cases combined with a vehicle utilized as a “ram” against pedestrian targets. A common modus operandi known as “vehicle-ramming”, used on plenty of occasions in Europe by terrorists such as Anis Amri in Berlin (December 19th, 2016) and Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel in Nice (July 14th, 2016), as already exposed by Stratfor Global Intelligence. [3]

This technique had already been utilized by terrorists at least since 2006, when Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar, a University of North Carolina graduate, drove an SUV against a popular campus gathering spot, injuring nine people. [4]

Ramming attacks had also been suggested in the fall of 2010 issue on al-Qaeda’s English-language online magazine Inspire, specifying how easy it is to find a vehicle and drive it at high speed against a crowd; a technique that can maximize the number of victims without much preparation. [5] [6]

Another interesting observation can be made in relation to the weapons used in the Vienna terrorist attack on the night of November 2nd. As already exposed to Sec-Ter by an Italian weapon expert, the AK-47 and the Tokarev pistol used by Kujtim Fejzulai (see photo below) are a classic of the black market, and largely available in the Balkans, where the terrorist was originally from.

Researcher Asya Metodieva from the Institute of International Relations Prague indicated that there is an understanding among experts who follow jihadism in Europe that Vienna has been utilized by jihadists as a strategic hub in terms of logistics and networks, due to the fact that Vienna is a connector between Western Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East. Following this important observation by Metodieva, it is therefore legitimate to go beyond the jihadist issue and consider the connections between Austria and the Balkans in relation to the weapons black market, which could be crucial in this case.

France’s role in fighting Islamists

As initially exposed, ten out of the twenty attacks classified as “Islamists” targeted France. This can be attributed to France’s strong effort in fighting Islamist extremism both domestically and on an international level. It is essential to recall how Paris has been active in the Sahel region since July 2014 with Operation “Barkhane”, with the objective of fighting jihadist groups active in the area, such as Jamat Nusrat al-Islam, Aqim, al-Mourabitoun and Ansar Dine. In November, French troops in Mali eliminated Ba Ag Moussa, leader of the al-Qaeda aligned group Gsim (Group to Support Islam and Muslims). [7] [8]

It is also interesting to notice how attacks against France have once again increased in September after a new satirical publication by magazine Charlie Hebdo depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammed. One of these attacks targeted the magazine’s former headquarter on September 25th. Two other attacks that took place on October 16th and 29th respectively in Paris and Nice included two beheadings.

Overall, between September and December, France was targeted by five attacks, with three concentrated in October.

A few further considerations

It is also interesting to notice the similarity between the February 2nd attack in London’s Streatham High Road and the one that occurred on April 4th in Romans-sur-Isere.

In both cases, the attackers stole a knife from a shop and then attacked pedestrians while yelling Islamist slogans. However, while London attacker Sudesh Amman was well known to British authorities, with a long radicalization path that had begun in 2018, very little is known about the Sudanese asylum-seeker Abdallah Ahmed Usman, who hit in Romans-sur-Isere.

Amman had also been wearing a fake suicide vest during the attack, which indicates two factors: 1- the will to be shot and consequently die as a martyr; 2- the preparation of the attack.

Ahmed Usman’s attack might instead have very limited preparation, if not none. This could raise a question: was the Romans-sur-Isere attack an emulation of the London terror attack? Did Usman inspire himself from Amman’s action?

One additional element that emerged from the London attack is how the UK’s prevention programs once again failed in rehabilitating an extremist, just like in the case of Usman Khan, as already exposed by the BBC. [9]

Sudesh Amman had been sentenced in December 2018 to three years and four months of prison, on terror charges, and he had also been subjected to some de-radicalization initiatives while in custody; however, he was released early, on January 23rd, shortly before perpetrating the attack. [10]


[1] The December 1st car-ramming in Trier has not been included in the list as the motivation has been linked exclusively to the consumption of alcohol and drugs, combined with mental issues, that most likely have caused the action https://luxtimes.lu/european-union/42427-driver-kills-five-in-trier-attack-may-have-mental-problems

[2] The Hackney terror attack that occurred in June has been classified by authorities as a hate crime, but not terror-related https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/rabbi-murder-charge-police-stabbing-stoke-newington-a9564726.html

[3] https://publicintelligence.net/ufouo-dhs-fbi-warning-terrorist-use-of-vehicle-ramming-tactics/

[4] https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna11660817#.VFpd9fTF9lw

[5] https://info.publicintelligence.net/DHS-TerroristRamming.pdf

[6] https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2014/11/car-attack-in-jerusalem-why-are-terrorists-ramming-vehicles-into-crowds-of-people.html

[7] https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20201113-french-forces-kill-jihadist-commander-in-mali

[8] https://www.thedefensepost.com/2020/11/13/france-kills-ag-moussa-mali/

[9] https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-54573750

[10] https://www.thenationalnews.com/opinion/comment/the-last-two-attacks-in-london-indicate-uk-s-approach-to-de-radicalisation-is-failing-1.975113

The possible motivation behind the Vienna terrorist attack

On the night of November 2nd in Vienna, an individual of ethnic Albanian origin with dual Austrian and North Macedonian citizenship, identified as 20-year-old Kujtim Fejzullai, opened fire in the streets of Vienna’s historical center and against the Stadttempel synagogue. In the attack, four people were killed and 23 injured.

The perpetrator, was heavily armed with an AK-47 rifle, a Tokarev handgun, a machete, and a fake suicide vest; this could indicate that he would have continued to kill if he hadn’t been taken down by police 9 minutes after the attack had begun.

The shooting took place four hours before the midnight start of a nationwide lockdown as new COVID-19 restrictions came into force in Austria, including a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am.

The following day, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack and released a video of Fejzullai pledging allegiance to the jihadist Organization with the “nom de guerre” Abu Dujana al-Albani.

The individual had been sentenced to 22 months of prison in April 2019, after he had tried to cross the Turkish border into Syria to join ISIS; however, he was paroled in December 2019, eight months into the sentence. Fejzullai had also taken part in a deradicalization program managed by the DERAD association and which obviously did not succeed. (For further information on the attacker and a risk assessment perspective, we invite you to read Jorg Peschak’s article for the Italian Team for Security, Terroristic Issues and Managing Emergencies).

On November 13th a spokeswoman for the Vienna prosecutor’s office, Nina Bussek, stated that 21 people between the ages of 16 and 28 were under investigation, with 10 of them in custody. Following the attack, Austrian authorities shut down the Tewhid Mosque and the Melit Ibrahim Association, both apparently attended by the 20-year-old terrorist.

Investigations revealed that in July 2020, Fejzulai had tried to buy ammunition in Slovakia, and had also met with known Islamists from Germany and Switzerland that same month in Vienna.

Shooting instructor and weapon expert Giacomo Tisi, contacted by Sec-Ter, indicated how the AK-47 and the Tokarev pistol used by Fejzulai are “a classic of the black market”; an observation which raises a further question: when, where and how did the terrorist manage to obtain these firearms?

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz claimed that the Austrian authorities were ready to outlaw political Islam in order to intervene against those who are not necessarily terrorists but who are active in creating fertile ground for them by fueling Islamist ideology that consequently leads to terror attacks.

As a consequence, mosques and Islamic centers that spread Islamist ideology will be closed while authorities will also be cutting financial channels that bring in funds to such groups. In the following days, several places linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood were also raided by Austria police.

The weapons used in the attack

Why Austria?

Researcher Asya Metodieva from the Institute of International Relations Prague is correct when she explains that since the rise of the Islamic State, Austria has never been a target of a major terror attack. She also indicates that there is an understanding among experts who follow jihadism in Europe that Vienna has been utilized by jihadists as a strategic hub in terms of logistics and networks, due to the fact that Vienna is a connector between Western Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East.

Metodieva also points out that there are legitimate doubts about the fact that the attack was a response to Charlie Hebdo’s new publication of satirical cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad, considering that Fejzulai had been preparing for the attack months before.

Then why Vienna? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to scroll back to the summer of 2018, when Austrian authorities had taken strong measures against seven mosques belonging to the Turkish-Austrian Islamic Union (Atib) and expelled forty imams. The move came after the website “Clarion Project” had published an article by the title “Erdogan grooming child martyrs”, exposing shocking images published by the AKP watch Twitter account, taken inside Turkish mosques on Austrian soil, that portrayed minors in military clothes who improvised themselves as martyrs with Turkish flags.

Such horrifying images came after Turkish president Erdogan had glorified child-martyrs and told a six-year-old girl how she would have been covered in a Turkish flag if she had died as a martyr, as reported by the New York Times.

Erdogan had defined the measures taken by the Austrian government as “racist and Islamophobic”, exactly as he did in response to the new measures taken by the Austrian government. Additionally, it is important to notice how Austrian authorities explained that the raids on sites linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood were not linked to the November 2nd attack as investigations had been ongoing for more than a year.

It is therefore possible to suppose that the terror attack in Vienna could be a retaliation to the stronger measures taken by Austrian authorities against Islamism.

Additionally, the first target hit by Fejzulai was the Stadttempel synagogue, already hit on August 29th ,1981 by two terrorists belonging to the Abu Nidal organization. [1]

This could be linked to the September normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, a move that enraged the Islamist world. Of course, this is only speculation, but at this stage all elements must be kept into consideration.


[1] In the attack, which occurred during a Bar Mitzvah, two people were killed and eighteen wounded.

Who is Aymen Abidi? The story of the funambulist (and fundamentalist?) who embarrassed the Italian Penitentiary Police

On the morning of September 18th, Tunisian detainee Aymen Abidi (25) managed to escape while being transferred to Sollicciano prison from Florence’s courthouse in viale Guidoni.

According to the reconstruction provided by Florence’s local newspaper “La Nazione”, Abidi was about to board a Penitentiary Police truck in the courthouse’s parking lot when he managed to slip out of his handcuffs, hit the escorting agent in the face and neck with the handcuff, push him on the ground, jump over a tall fence that delimits the parking perimeter and flee through the nearby San Donato park. The Penitentiary agent remained injured and received medical treatment and a prognosis of 10 days.

According to newspaper “Il Giornale”, Abidi’s last traces lead to the S.M.N. train station, a location that he should have reached onboard tram T2, that connects the airport to Piazza Unità.

Aymen Abidi is wanted by the German police for attempted murder. He is indicated as responsible for a shooting incident that occurred in the city of Leipzig on April 9th, 2020.

On July 10th, the German police tracked him down while hiding in a flat on the 4th floor of an apartment complex in Delitzsch, but Abidi managed to flee barefoot from the balcony and reach Florence, Italy, where he had friends.

The Italian police detected the fugitive on a bike and arrested him on July 23rd in the center of the city, after a long chase. However, Abidi managed to escape once again and this time in a very adventurous way.

At this point in time, many questions spontaneously arise, first of all, how is it possible that Abidi managed to slip out of his handcuffs? This isn’t exactly an easy task, unless you are Houdini…

Secondly, due to his particularly athletic conditions and the fact that he is considered extremely dangerous and violent (as indicated on Abidi’s profile posted by the German police), why was the detainee not being escorted by enough police personnel and with proper security measures? How did he have the time to run and jump over the tall fence delimiting the parking lot of the courthouse without anyone stopping him? Didn’t the personnel guarding the structure’s perimeter have enough time to intervene?

Is Ayman Abidi a Jihadist?

The local Italian newspaper “La Nazione” described Ayman Abidi as “a terrorist” and “a jihadist”. However, no correlations between the fugitive and terrorist activities have so far been found on the international media, nor has this element been indicated in the German police’s profile outline.

Abidi’s Facebook profile, which is under examination by Sec-Ter personnel, so far shows no elements that can link him to any sort of terrorist or jihadist activity. The photos posted in his profile show Abidi’s presence in Leipzig, Florence, and Tunisia.

It is yet unclear what Abidi’s relation to jihadism is. It is indeed possible that precise information linking the fugitive to such an activity haven’t been released to the public: was the April 9th shooting in Leipzig terror-related? Was Abidi attending extremist milieu in Germany? Did the German police find sensitive elements during the flat raid in Delitzsch? So far it is impossible to find any type of reliable confirmation.

Is he a dangerous criminal? Yes, and undoubtedly an athletic funambulist who finds no difficulties in fleeing barefoot from a balcony located on the 4th floor, in slipping out of handcuffs, and in jumping over security fences. A characteristic that makes many wonder why he was not being safely escorted out of Florence’s courthouse.

The fence outside the Courthouse of Florence, Italy

Police intervention in Milan’s Duomo: an example of what should always be avoided

On August 12th, 2020, a 26 years-old Egyptian immigrant who is legally resident on Italian soil was spotted while sitting on the stairs of Milan’s central Duomo cathedral by private security operators and police; the man attracted attention after behaving nervously and suspiciously. As the officers approached him for a check, the individual pulled out a knife and rushed towards the entrance of the Duomo, chased by a private security officer. It is yet unclear what really occurred when the officer reached him, but the situation unfolded with the individual holding a knife against the guard who appeared wounded and who was made kneel-down inside the church. As more police agents reached the scene, the attacker went on for over 20 minutes threatening to behead the guard, and this is where the whole drama begins, accompanied by a dangerous improvisation by agents.

The full viewed can be viewed below

Preventive screening failure

One first sign that indicates the failure of a security apparatus that is supposed to detect potentially dangerous individuals and intervene before they can put at stake lives (specifically in one of the most notorious touristic sites in Italy), is not much in the fact that the assailant was able to reach the site armed with a knife, but rather in how he easily managed to pull out the weapon and run inside the church while being approached by the Police. The intervening officers should have considered a potentially violent and sudden reaction of the individual, and they should have taken proper measures to prevent it, something that they did not do.

According to Italian news reports, the attacker was chased inside the Duomo by a private security guard in service at the site and once inside he was outpowered by the armed assailant who had him kneel down while threatening to stab or behead him.

A long, unprofessional, and improvised negotiation

What follows inside the Duomo is a second sign of a major security failure, this time through an absurd dialogue (calling it negotiation would be very generous) between the attacker and several agents, in an uncoordinated way and often overlapping each other, while aiming their guns at him.

While pointing firearms, the officers try to calm down the attacker by saying “put the knife down, nothing will happen to you”. At some point, one of the officers even removes his gun belt and gun, like if it was some sort of police TV series broadcasted on Netflix. An unnecessary delay accompanied by a dramatization that could and should have been avoided.

The assailant could have easily severely wounded or even killed the victim before any of the agents would have been able to fire a single shot at him and it is only due to a huge stroke of luck that the situation did not unfold into a tragedy.

At the end of the action, while several agents progressively approach the attacker, one of them jumps on him and almost end up being slashed as the blade dangerously reaches his left ear and neck areas. No attempt to grab the arm with the knife is made by the intervening officer.

The police did not fire

Previous similar cases in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany, the United States and Israel (just to cite some) ended up with the police shooting the knifeman to prevent him from stabbing. However, this rarely occurs in Italy, as confirmed once again by yesterday’s case. The Italian police decided not to fire their guns at the attacker who was threatening a wounded victim.

According to some local opinions, not shooting the attacker was a positive decision as it demonstrated that things can be achieved without violence, but is it really so? This point of view is based exclusively on the fact that the attacker did not slash or stab the victim in these long 20 minutes of negotiation, but it was most likely up to him rather than to the officers rushed to the scene. Who was really in control of the situation? Most likely the knifeman, and this is not acceptable when there is a life at stake.

At this point, many will ponder why the police did not shoot, even if they could have simply wounded the attacker, due to the very close range. Is it for fear of a potential judicial trial, as it often happens in Italy when a police agent tries to properly do his job and injures a criminal?

After all, in December 2016 two police officers in Sesto San Giovanni (a municipality just outside of Milan) shot and killed jihadist Anis Amri and a few hours later the Minister of Interior Affairs at that time, Marco Minniti, publicly mentioned names and last names of the two police officers who fatally shot the terrorist; an illogic, senseless and reckless move that caused serious concern for the officers’ safety. Hence, can police officers be blamed for not wanting to shoot? Probably not.

Going back to similar cases that share some similarities with yesterday’s episode in Milan’s Duomo square, it is worth mentioning the one occurred in September 2019 in the square in front of Milan’s Central Train Station, when a Yemeni refugee stabbed a soldier and threatened several others before being taken down on the ground by a 52 years-old Senegalese man who happened to be passing by.

The message being passed out by this “non-modus operandi” is not positive at all because it encourages potential assailants to carry out attacks, especially against the security forces, because they simply cannot use the required force to neutralize them. Indeed, this is not an invitation to use excessive force, but rather a just one when the situation requires it, in order to protect the lives of officers and civilians.

From the scenes seen yesterday, it is also undeniable how the Italian police needs proper training and the Institutions in charge are required to provide it, because in certain situation it is just not possible to improvise. Next time a potential attacker might not be willing to put the knife down so easily or there might not be a 52 years-old Senegalese man willing to put his life at risk to save those who are supposed to be there to protect him.

It will take time for Italy to solve such issues, as their roots are mainly political and reside in the institutional upper floors and higher police ranks. In the meantime, the lives of police officers on the street and the ones of civilians are at stake on a daily base.

Is Europe’s security at stake?

In mid-June 2020, the French city of Dijon became a fighting ground for gangs of Chechens and North-Africans that faced each other with sticks, broken bottles, blades, axes, hand-guns, and assault rifles, all caught on video.

For three consecutive nights, the city became a real warzone, with security cameras “deactivated” with gunshots, blazes in the middle of the street to block any access to the area, knocked down street signals, destroyed cars.

According to reconstructions, it all began after a 16 years-old Chechen was approached in the street and beaten by a group of North-Africans in the Gresilles neighborhood.

The Chechens consequently took the streets in vast numbers to look for the attackers. However, this was only the beginning; in fact, authorities in Dijon explained that gangs issued a social media call for revenge, urging Chechens to travel from Belgium and around France to join the reprisal. 

It is clear that, no matter how strong the tribal sense of belonging might be within the Chechen society, it is quite hard to believe that hundreds of individuals, fully armed with semi-automatic weapons, can quickly be gathered from different parts of France and Belgium just to react to the beating of a 16 years-old boy, which in this case seems more as a “casus-belli”. As a matter of fact, it is fair to ask ourselves how did these groups manage to have access to such an arsenal; after all, Europe is not Texas.

The dynamics of the clashes tend to indicate something far more serious, such as territorial control over areas that were once under the hegemony of North-African groups and that are now being “threatened” by the Chechens.

Inter-ethnic battles are not a peculiarity of France, as on June 24th clashes broke out after Turks pestered a Kurdish gathering in Vienna, with stones, glass bottles, and fire-crackers being thrown at each other. Some Turkish demonstrators were using a hand gesture used by the Grey Wolves, an ultranationalist militant group affiliated with Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), according to the Austrian police.

Other clashes between Turks and Kurds had also taken place in Germany in 2019, over the Turkish offensive in north-eastern Syria. Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer is very right when he claims that “it is completely unacceptable for Turkish conflicts to be carried out on Austrian territory” and that is exactly the point, because as different ethnic communities move into Europe, the risk is that the respective tensions and hatred between groups will be transferred from their areas of origin to the heart of the “Old Continent”.

Back in 2011 clashes broke out in different parts of Spain between Gypsies and African immigrants in the Galician city of Ferrol as well as in Palma de Mallorca.

In February 2010 major violence broke out in Milan’s multi-ethnic “via Padova” street after an Egyptian immigrant was stabbed to death by a Dominican belonging to a local street gang. The North-Africans consequently took the streets of the neighborhood, attacking shops and destroying cars.

Considerations

Sometimes the cause of violence can be related to old grudges and resentment, while in other cases it can be the consequence of dispute over territory (as it very likely occurred in Dijon), with ethnic gangs feeling (and being) threatened by the arrival of other groups that tend to strengthen throughout time as the diaspora increases in numbers. In other cases, a single and random incident can degenerate into massive violence opposing different groups.

These facts indicate that Europe is heading towards an era of inter-ethnic and cultural clashes, and the situation can only deteriorate as massive immigration to the “Old Continent” from the Eastern and the Southern route do not stop.

European institutions so far seem unable to face the issue as shown in France and the declaration made to Reuters by the regional secretary of the National Alliance Police Union, Stephan Ragonneau, says it all:

“It would have been dangerous to intervene (earlier)…If it had kicked off, there would have been shooting everywhere. There would certainly have been injuries, deaths.”

This sounds like a total surrender to ethnic gang violence and at a very high cost for European society. Considering that the massive immigration towards Europe will unlikely be blocked in the short-medium term, it is worth pondering if and how the EU institutions will be able to face such a growing threat. If not, the role of private security could become essential in contrasting the phenomenon, as already occurred in certain areas of South Africa and South America. This would indeed be a sign of “third-worldization” of Europe, as public institutions would no longer be able to manage the security situation by itself.

Additionally, this situation could also lead to a further fragmentation of the European Union, as some State-members could decide to step aside and defend its borders, if the EU is no longer able to do it.

Khairi Saadallah, the Reading knifeman

The June 20th knife attack in Reading

At approximately 7 pm on June 20th, an individual armed with a 5 inches-long knife attacked groups of people in Forbury Gardens, a park near the center of Reading, about 40 miles west of London. The attacker, who was also heard shouting incomprehensible words, managed to kill three people and injure three more before being tackled to the ground by a police officer and arrested. The incident was treated by British authorities as “terror-related”.

On 27 June 2020, the suspect was charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder and appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 29 June 2020.

The identity of the attacker

The attacker, identified as 25 years-old Libyan refugee Khairi Saadallah, had fled the North-African country in 2012 and had a remarkable criminal background in the UK as he was arrested six times for 15 crimes between 2015 and 2019. Saadallah was also diagnosed with PSTD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and paranoid-schizophrenia. It is also interesting to notice how, in a photo of Saaldallah published by the Daily Mail, a forearm shows what seem to be self-inflicted blade wounds.

He had caught the attention of the MI5 over information that he was thinking about heading for Libya or Syria to join the jihadists, but the story was not considered credible.

Khairi Saadallah had been sentenced, in October 2019, to 28 months of prison for breaching a suspended jail term after being charged with assault and knife possession but was released early, just two weeks before the Reading attack (just like Sudesh Mamoor, the Streatham High Road attacker). Saadallah had been involved in the government’s Prevent deradicalization program, just like the Westminster bridge attacker Usman Khan (2019), Parson’s Green bomber Ahmed Hassan (2017) and the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi (2017).

One of Saadallah’s neighbors claimed that a close relative of Khairi had fought in the Libyan civil war against former President Muhammar Ghedafi and according to acquaintances, Khairi had also bragged about having fought against the former regime.

The following day, the AS-Source News Twitter account posted the image of an old “February 17th Revolutionary Brigade” card with the photo of a young individual looking very much like Khairi Saadallah and by the name Khairi Jamal Mohamed.

The “February 17th Revolutionary Brigade” is known as a former Islamist militia that had also joined the ranks of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, before being dismantled. Some of its men had also fought in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

The Antifa blacklisting: not an issue of ideology or cause, but rather of method

The US President, Donald Trump, indicated that Antifa will soon be formally designated as a terrorist group, following the riots that took place in different US cities after George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.

Antifa’s roots in America can be traced back as early as the 1970s and the group is often described as “far-left” with extremist anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist views that can embrace anarchism, communism, and socialism.

Antifa activists have recently attracted public attention for their provocations and violent attacks at political rallies and demonstrations.

Leaving aside Antifa’s history and ideology, it is worth focusing on what the peculiarities of the group are, because blacklisting it as a terrorist organization might not be as easy as it seems. It must also be noted that the Department of Homeland Security formally classified Antifa’s activities as “domestic terrorist violence” back in 2016 when its activists began to attract attention for attacks against Trump supporters and police officers.

President Trump’s statements regarding the blacklisting of the Antifa movement have been followed by opinions of experts and officials pointing out how Antifa is not an organization, but rather an ideology. As FBI Director, Cristopher Wray , explained:

“For us, Antifa we view as more of an ideology than an organization…We have quite a number though, I should tell you, of properly predicated investigations of what we categorize as ‘anarchist extremists,’ people who are trying to commit violent, criminal activity that violates federal law, and some of those people do subscribe to what we would describe as — to what we would refer to as kind of an Antifa-like ideology.”

If we try to isolate some characteristics of the Antifa group we will come up with some interesting elements:

Antifa is far from a traditional terrorist organization (such as the IRA, al-Qaeda, or FARC) as it presents no hierarchical leadership structure and no chain of command and control.

Antifa could be seen as a “movement” composed of different groups and individuals acting autonomously while spontaneously sharing information.

The affiliation of its members can often be indicated as “loose” and mainly focused on informal relations and exchange of information.

A “loose” membership implies that an activist or a sympathizer might simply join a demonstration, perpetrate violence and then go back to a normal life routine without even being in touch with any of the more coordinated groups. Would this be sufficient to classify an individual as “a member of a terrorist organization”?

Additionally, those who share the Antifa ideology but do not promote violence can be classified as terrorists? Is the Antifa ideology intrinsically violent? This is another tough question because, unlike the jihadist ideology with its specific violent traits, Antifa has a wide range of ideologies and views (not necessarily violent) within its movement, and as a consequence, it is very hard to define.

If Isis has broken the traditional structural rules of jihadis organizations by permitting individual self-claimed affiliation, often manifested after an attack through a video recording or a letter, Antifa is even further from that as it provides no clear organizational structure or ideology.

The main issue regards the use of violence, theoretical or practical, because an incitement to violence will very likely find someone willing to carry it out. For instance, a call for jihad is as dangerous as its practical application and it is in fact the first step to a potential attack.

Hence, it is not a problem of ideology or cause, but rather of method and for this purpose, it is worth mentioning the definition of “terrorism” proposed by Dr. Boaz Ganor, director of the Israel-based International Institute for Counter-Terrorism:

“Terrorism is the intentional use of, or threat to use violence against civilians or against civilian targets, in order to attain political aims”.

This definition includes three main factors that are all essential:

  1. The core of the activity, the modus operandi: VIOLENCE – if it does not involve violence or a threat of violence, then it cannot be classified as “terrorist”;
  2. The objective or motivation: POLITICAL – The political objective defines the action as “terrorist”. In the absence of this, the incident can be classified as “criminal”;
  3. The target of the attack: CIVILIAN – The violence is directed at civilian targets. As indicated by Ganor: “Terrorism exploits the relative vulnerability of the civilian “underbelly”—the tremendous anxiety, and the intense media reaction evoked by attacks against civilian targets”.

If we are in the presence of these three factors, then we can consider the incident as a terrorist attack. As a consequence, an organization, a group or a simple violent action should be examined on the basis of its action, rather than on its ideology or cause. This approach could somehow simplify the Antifa dilemma, even if we are still far from a solution.