English on the job

Bill English has emerged from the holiday period via  Media Statement (that isn’t obvious on his Parliamentary web page nor the National Party website).

He will be hitting 2017 with a significant international trip, a big outing for him early in his tenure as Prime Minister.


PM to travel to Brussels, London and Berlin

Prime Minister Bill English will travel to Brussels, London and Berlin next week to meet with leaders to discuss issues including trade and security.

“This is an opportunity to exchange views on a range of issues facing Europe and the world, and to reaffirm that New Zealand remains a committed friend and partner,” Mr English says.

“The focus of my trip will be to advance New Zealand business and trade opportunities in the region, including starting the negotiations on an FTA with the European Union this year.”

In Brussels, Mr English will meet with the three Presidents of the EU – European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament President Martin Schulz. He will also meet with Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel.

In London, Mr English will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May and Mayor Sadiq Khan.

“I will be interested to hear Prime Minister May’s views on Brexit and will take the opportunity to reaffirm New Zealand’s commitment to working towards a high quality trade deal when the UK is in a position to negotiate.”

In Berlin, Mr English will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

Mr English will also meet with a range of other government, business and academic leaders to hear their views on the political, economic and security situation in the region and about opportunities for New Zealand there.

The Prime Minister will be accompanied by Trade Minister Todd McClay in Brussels and Foreign Minister Murray McCully in London and Berlin.

Dr Mary English will also travel with the Prime Minister.

Mr English will leave New Zealand on 9 January and return on 18 January.

– Scoop

Berlin attack suspect shot in Italy

Anis Amri, the suspect in the Berlin truck attack, has been shot dead by Italian police after travelling to Italy via France.

Reuters: Berlin truck attack suspect shot dead by police in Italy

Italian police shot dead the man believed responsible for this week’s Berlin Christmas market truck attack, killing him after he pulled a gun on them during a routine check in the early hours of Friday.

The suspect – 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri – traveled to Italy from Germany via France, taking advantage of Europe’s open-border Schengen pact to cross the continent undetected.

Open borders are great for tourists, but one can still be detected – in my only visit to France I walked across the border in Basel railway station, got on a French train, and soon after leaving the station I was asked for my passport by a posse of French security working their way through the train. I don’t know if this is normal or random.

As anger grew over the fact that Amri had escaped expulsion twice in 18 months thanks to bureaucratic loopholes, euroskeptic parties called for the reintroduction of border controls, while Germany said deportations had to be made easier.

From what I’ve seen it was a difficult ‘loophole’ to overcome as German authorities couldn’t prove Amri’s Tunisian citizenship so Tunisia wouldn’t have allowed him in. They can’t deport someone with nowhere for them to go.

“I call on my Muslim brothers everywhere… Those in Europe, kill the crusader pigs, each person to their own ability,” he says in the video posted on Islamic State’s Amaq news agency.

The video of Amri’s video is in the Reuters link. It sounds like recited boilerplate bull typical of Muslim extremists.

Amri had arrived in Milan’s main railway station from France at 1.00 a.m. (2000 EDT) and then traveled to the working class suburb of Sesto San Giovanni, where two young policemen approached him because he looked suspicious idling on a street.

Milan police chief Antonio De Iesu told a news conference his men had no idea that they might be dealing with Amri.

“They had no perception that it could be him, otherwise they would have been much more cautious,” De Iesu said. “We had no intelligence that he could be in Milan.”

So a lucky encounter for the Italian police…

He failed to produce any identification so the police requested he empty his pockets and his small backpack. He pulled a loaded gun from his bag and shot at one of the men, lightly wounding him in the shoulder.

Amri then hid behind a nearby car but the other police officer managed to shoot him once or twice, killing him on the spot, De Iesu said. Amri was identified by his fingerprints.

…and lucky for the world as it turns out.

Amri once spent four years in jail in Italy and police were trying to work out if he knew someone in Sesto, which is home to a sizeable Muslim community. “He could have carried out other attacks. He was a loose cannon,” De Iesu said.

So Amri was well known to Italian as well as German authorities.

A lot will be asked and said about why Amri still had the opportunity to carry out the truck attack in Berlin.

A problem for a number of European countries is the large number of illegal immigrants who have travelled across the Mediterranean, and that flood continues via boat.

It would be a huge job to identify and detain them all, let alone work out where they could be deported to, especially if they are suspected of having links extremist organisations.

Even if they can be sent back to their country of origin unless they are detained indefinitely there they can probably find another boat to take them back to Europe. And it’s a worsening problem.

Financial Times reports:

Nearly 15,000 people have made the dangerous crossing from north Africa to Italian shores in the first three months of 2016, which is a 43 per cent increase on the same period in 2015, and a 38 per cent increase on the same period in 2014.

The vast majority of migrants arriving in Italy recently are from sub-Saharan Africa — Nigerians, Gambians and Senegalese are the largest nationalities to arrive in Italy in 2016 — and are not automatically eligible for international protection. This means they cannot qualify for the EU’s relocation programme, which applies to Syrians and Eritreans fleeing war and persecution, redistributing them to other EU countries. Many are likely to have their initial asylum applications rejected and will be stuck in legal limbo in Italy for months, until a final ruling is made.

In the past, Italy could count on many undocumented migrants moving on to northern Europe, taking advantage of the EU’s passport-free travel zone. But since Austria has said it will step up checks along the Italian border and limit the number of refugees allowed to enter, migrants are more likely to remain boxed in south of the Alps. France, too, is expected to further intensify its own border controls, in response to terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris.

There will be pressure on Germany to try to clamp down on illegal immigrants entering there too.

But there is already a huge problem scattered across Europe. Random attacks as happened in Berlin will be very difficult to prevent. Public events like the Berlin markets and the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice must be able to continue.

Risks are still relatively tiny to members of the public, but small terrorist attacks are designed to inflict maximum fear – and maximum loathing. This is nothing new, but what is relatively new is how quickly and graphically news of attacks spreads around the world.

There are no easy solutions.

Western nations with colonist histories ending their meddling in the Middle East must be a serious consideration because it is one of the primary causes. And not supplying Middle Eastern countries with weapons and bombs would help a lot. But that gets complicated, with Russia being also heavily involved in the current destruction.

One thing that would reduce interference in the Middle East would be to substantially reduce demand for oil.

But the arms and oil industries have very strong lobbies in the US and in Europe. Power and greed perpetuate death and destruction, and the occasional terrorist attack is a price that will continue to be paid.

Arrest warrant for Berlin suspect

An arrest warrant has been issued for a Tunisian man as German police try to find the person who rammed a truck into a crowded Berlin market, killing twelve people and injuring many more.

Guardian: European arrest warrant issued for Tunisian suspect

German authorities have issued a European arrest warrant for a Tunisian man with alleged ties to Islamic extremists who has been identified as a suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack that killed 12 people on Monday.

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The wanted notice, obtained by the Associated Press, says Anis Amri should be considered armed and dangerous and appears to have used six different aliases and three different nationalities.

Several media outlets earlier reported that police had found under the driver’s seat of the truck used in the attack an identity document in the name of Amri, born in Tataouine in 1992.

I would be suspicious of papers being left in the truck, unless he deliberately wanted to identify himself.

Amri is being sought in Germany and across Europe’s border-free travel zone, the interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, said after briefing parliament’s domestic affairs committee. He stressed: “This is a suspect, not necessarily the perpetrator. We are still investigating in all directions.”

Stephan Mayer, a senior politician with the governing CSU party, said the suspect was in his early 20s and apparently used various identities. He was considered by authorities to be part of the “Salafist-Islamist scene” and apparently had spent time in pre-deportation detention in Germany after his asylum application was rejected.

Ralf Jäger, the interior minister for North Rhine-Westphalia, said: “Security agencies exchanged their findings and information about this person with the joint counter-terrorism centre in November 2016.”

Jäger said the suspect’s application for asylum in Germany was rejected in July. Attempts to deport him to Tunisia failed because he did not have the required identification papers and the Tunisian authorities disputed whether he was their national.

Another suspect, a Pakistani man, was earlier released by police.

ISIL has claimed via its Amaq website “A soldier of the Islamic State carried out the Berlin operation in response to appeals to target citizens of coalition countries.”

The Salafi movement…

…is an ultra-conservative reform branch or movement within Sunni Islam that developed in Arabia in the first half of the 18th century, against a background of European colonialism. It advocated a return to the traditions of the “devout ancestors” (the salaf).

The Salafist doctrine can be summed up as taking “a fundamentalist approach to Islam, emulating the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers – al-salaf al-salih, the ‘pious forefathers’.” “They reject religious innovation, or bid’ah, and support the implementation of sharia (Islamic law).” The movement is often divided into three categories: the largest group are the purists (or quietists), who avoid politics; the second largest group are the activists, who get involved in politics; and the smallest group are jihadists, who form a small minority.

The Salafi movement is often described as being synonymous with Wahhabism, but Salafists consider the term “Wahhabi” to be derogatory. At other times, Salafism has been described as a hybrid of Wahhabism and other post-1960s movements. Salafism has become associated with literalist, strict and puritanical approaches to Islam. Particularly in the West it is associated with Salafi jihadists, who espouse jihad as a legitimate expression of Islam against those they deem to be enemies of Islam.

In Germany:

Salafism is a growing movement in Germany and estimates by German security police show that it grew from 3800 members in 2011 to 7500 members in 2015.[108] In Germany, most of the recruitment to the movement is done on the Internet and also on the streets, a propaganda drive which mostly attracts youth.

There are two ideological camps, one advocates political salafism and directs its recruitment efforts towards non-Muslims and non-salafist Muslims to gain influence in society. The other and minority movement, the jihadist salafism, advocates gaining influence by the use of violence and nearly all identified terrorist cells in Germany came from salafist circles.

German government officials have stated that Salafism has a strong link to terrorism but have clarified that not all Salafists are terrorists. The statements by German government officials criticizing Salafism were televised by Deutsche Welle during April 2012.

In 2015, Sigmar Gabriel, Vice-Chancellor of Germany, spoke out, saying “We need Saudi Arabia to solve the regional conflicts, but we must at the same time make clear that the time to look away is past.

Wahhabi mosques are financed all over the world by Saudi Arabia. In Germany, many dangerous Islamists come from these communities.”

In November 2016, nationwide raids were conducted on the Salafist True Religion (Islamist organization).

Salafi movement

Saudi Arabian involvement:

Salafism is sponsored globally by Saudi Arabia and this ideology is used to justify the violent acts of Jihadi Salafi groups that include Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, and the Al-Shabaab. In addition, Saudi Arabia prints textbooks for schools and universities to teach Salafism as well as recruit international students from Egypt, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Africa and the Balkans to help spreading Salafisim in their local communities.

Some other Islamic groups, particularly some Sufis, have also complained about extremism among some Salafi.

Saudi Arabians were heavily involved in the 911 attacks on the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon. Despite that:

In January 2015, after the death of King Abdullah, the White House and President Obama praised him as a leader and mentioned “the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond.”[57]

In March 2015, President Barack Obama declared that he had authorized U.S. forces to provide logistical and intelligence support to the Saudis in their military intervention in Yemen, establishing a “Joint Planning Cell” with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia–United States relations

It’s a complicated world.

 

Berlin attacker may be still at large

Twelve people were killed in the horrendous truck attack in Berlin, and another 48 injured, 18 of them severely.

While it looks like an Islam extremist related attack there’s some uncertainty. Police arrested a Pakistani asylum seeker but admit he may not be the attacker.

RNZ: German police say arrested man may not be Christmas market attacker

German authorities say they cannot be sure if a man in custody was behind the truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 people.

Police arrested a Pakistani asylum-seeker but have said he may not be the attacker and the real perpetrator could still be on the run.

The Pakistani man was captured in a park after reportedly fleeing the scene. He has denied involvement.

The 23-year-old arrived in Germany from Pakistan at the end of last year.

“According to my information it’s uncertain whether he was really the driver,” Police President Klaus Kandt told a news conference.

Berlin police tweeted that they were “particularly alert” because of the denial.

Die Welt newspaper quoted an unnamed police chief as saying: “We have the wrong man. And therefore a new situation. The true perpetrator is still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage.”

The truck belonged to a Polish freight company and its rightful driver was found dead in the vehicle. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said a pistol believed to have been used to kill him had not yet been found.

“We have to entertain the theory that the detainee might possibly not have been the perpetrator,” federal prosecutor Peter Frank told reporters.

The style of attack and the target suggested Islamic extremism, he said.

That’s an obvious assumption to make.

The attack makes things even more difficult for Angela Merkel, already having difficulty with the influx of refugees and asylum seekers into Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters: “There is much we still do not know with sufficient certainty but we must, as things stand now, assume it was a terrorist attack.”

She added: “I know it would be especially hard for us all to bear if it were confirmed that the person who committed this act was someone who sought protection and asylum.”

The attack fuelled immediate demands for a change to Ms Merkel’s immigration policies, under which more than a million people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere have arrived in Germany this year and last.

“We must say that we are in a state of war, although some people, who always only want to see good, do not want to see this,” said Klaus Bouillon, interior minister of the state of Saarland and a member of Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

Horst Seehofer, leader of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, said: “We owe it to the victims, to those affected and to the whole population to rethink our immigration and security policy and to change it.”

It’s not going to be easy to change things quickly. There are already a large number of  immigrants in Germany, and Europe’s open borders make it easy for people intent on inflicting death and mayhem to move from country to country.

And when individuals or small numbers of Islamic terrorists launch successful attacks – and it’s impossible to prevent them completely – it raises tensions and makes things more difficult for the majority of Muslims who are not involved in extremist acts.