ISIS “act of war” against France

Islamic State have claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, and French President Francois said it amounted to an act of war against France.

Radio NZ reports Hollande: Paris attacks an act of ‘war’

President Hollande said the attacks had been organised from abroad by Islamic State “barbarians”, with internal help.

Sources close to the investigation said a Syrian passport had been found near the body of one of the suicide bombers.

“Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action,” Mr Hollande said after an emergency meeting of security chiefs. He also announced three days of national mourning.

Casualty counts have varied, with this reported by Radio NZ:

A French government source told Reuters there were 127 dead, 67 in critical condition and 116 wounded. Six attackers blew themselves up and one was shot by police. There may have been an eighth attacker, but this was not confirmed.

The worst attack was carried out at the Bataclan concert hall, where officials say four gunmen systematically killed at least 87 people at a rock concert before anti-terrorist commandos launched an assault on the building.

Some 40 more people were killed in five other attacks in the Paris region, the official said, including an apparent double suicide bombing outside the Stade de France national stadium, where Mr Hollande and the German foreign minister were watching a friendly soccer international.

In total eight attackers are reported to have been killed around Paris, including seven by their suicide belts.

And Islamic State have claimed responsibility:

In its claim of responsibility, Islamic State said the attacks were a response to France’s campaign against its fighters.

It also distributed an undated video in which a militant said France would not live peacefully as long it took part in US-led bombing raids against them.

“As long as you keep bombing you will not live in peace. You will even fear travelling to the market,” said a bearded Arabic-speaking militant, flanked by other fighters.

‘Islamic State’, also known as ISIS and ISIL, is a radical group that is a small but currently very brutal and dangerous in large areas of Syria and Iraq, and have been responsible for several terror attacks including the one in Paris.

In What is ‘Islamic State’? the BBC says:

What does IS want?

In June 2014, the group formally declared the establishment of a “caliphate” – a state governed in accordance with Islamic law, or Sharia, by God’s deputy on Earth, or caliph.

It has demanded that Muslims across the world swear allegiance to its leader – Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri al-Samarrai, better known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – and migrate to territory under its control.

IS has also told other jihadist groups worldwide that they must accept its supreme authority. Many already have, among them several offshoots of the rival al-Qaeda network.

IS seeks to eradicate obstacles to restoring God’s rule on Earth and to defend the Muslim community, or umma, against infidels and apostates.

The group has welcomed the prospect of direct confrontation with the US-led coalition, viewing it as a harbinger of an end-of-times showdown between Muslims and their enemies described in Islamic apocalyptic prophecies.

How many fighters does it have?

In February 2015, US Director for National Intelligence James Clapper said IS could muster “somewhere in the range between 20,000 and 32,000 fighters” in Iraq and Syria.

But he noted that there had been “substantial attrition” in its ranks since US-led coalition air strikes began in August 2014. In June 2015, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said more than 10,000 IS fighters had been killed.

To help mitigate the manpower losses, IS has turned to conscription in some areas. Iraqi expert Hisham al-Hashimi believes only 30% of the group’s fighters are “ideologues”, with the remainder joining out of fear or coercion.

A significant number of IS fighters are neither Iraqi nor Syrian. In October 2015, National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen told Congressthat the group had attracted more than 28,000 foreign fighters. They included at least 5,000 Westerners, approximately 250 of them Americans, he said.

Studies by the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) and the New York-based Soufan Group suggest that while about a quarter of the foreign fighters are from the West, the majority are from nearby Arab countries, such as Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Morocco.

Why are their tactics so brutal?

IS members are jihadists who adhere to an extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam and consider themselves the only true believers. They hold that the rest of the world is made up of unbelievers who seek to destroy Islam, justifying attacks against other Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Beheadings, crucifixions and mass shootings have been used to terrorise their enemies. IS members have justified such atrocities by citing the Koran and Hadith, but Muslims have denounced them.

Even al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who disavowed IS in February 2014 over its actions in Syria, warned Zarqawi in 2005 that such brutality loses “Muslim hearts and minds”.

Many victims of ISIS have been Muslims in the Middle East.

In other news, the war against ISIS goes on.

Yesterday on Stuff: ‘Jihadi John’ believed killed as Islamic State’s losses mount

The US has said it is “reasonably certain” that it has killed the Islamic State extremist known as “Jihadi John” in an airstrike in Syria.

The man, a British citizen named Mohamed Emwazi and a symbol of the group’s reign of terror, was the focus of a US drone strike on a vehicle near Raqqah.

Breaking news from the BBC: Libya IS head ‘killed in US air strike’

A US air strike has killed the leader of the Islamic State (IS) group in Libya, the Pentagon says.

Iraqi national Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi, was a “longtime al-Qaeda operative and the senior ISIL leader in Libya”, it said, using another acronym for IS.

The air strike took place on Friday night.

The Pentagon said the strike demonstrated that it would “go after ISIL leaders wherever they operate”.

Despite what some claim there is no ‘appeasement’. Many countries have joined the fight against ISIS.

Terror attacks like the ones if Paris will no doubt increase the resolve to destroy ISIS.

Unfortunately it will also increase the blaming of all Muslims including calls to marginalise and drive out Muslims from Europe and other Western countries.

An unfortunate but in part unavoidable reaction of Islamic State to being attacked will be ongoing acts of barbarity, retaliation is a major part of how they operate.

This division and the promotion of Islam versus the rest is what ISIS want.

The world needs to support the many millions of moderate Muslims and fight resolutely against terror tactics of groups like ISIS.

French surveillance post Paris attacks

‘The Scrutineer’ at Al Jazeera looks at surveillance in light of the Paris attacks – In wake of Paris attacks, French surveillance gets a closer look.

France already allows mass surveillance with new laws coming into effect just before the attacks.

French President Francois Hollande chaired an emergency meeting Monday morning with key cabinet ministers and heads of police and security services to discuss how persons known to the country’s intelligence community were still able to coordinate violent raids in Paris. But just days before the attacks on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo left 12 dead and wounded another 11, a controversial new law, broadly expanding the French government’s surveillance powers, went into effect.

The law — passed in December 2013 over loud protests by the Green Party, leftists, privacy advocates and business interests — permits the French government to engage in real-time, bulk data collection without judicial oversight. This, coupled with a 2014 law criminalizing “individual terrorist enterprise,” has established the kind of wide-ranging authority that, when used by the U.S. National Security Agency, was once sharply condemned by Hollande.

Buit they had been doing mass surveillance prior to making it legal.

Yet, long before the 2013 surveillance bill was introduced, Hollande’s socialist administration was profiling French Muslims, and, unbeknownst to the public, carrying out a massive program of domestic surveillance.

Run out of the Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE) — the French CIA equivalent staffed by some 5,000 people, with an annual budget of 600 million Euros (more than $700 million) — the monitoring program has gathered troves of informationthrough a network of satellites and 20 on-the-ground “listening stations” dispersed throughout France and its territories. Untold volumes have been swept in: data and metadata from phone calls, email and text messages, social media posts and faxes. (No matter that the country supported a 2013 U.N. resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age.)

Other post-9/11 laws and policies — not at all clandestine — have permitted incursions into French daily life, virtual and real. Statutes purporting to combat terrorism and illegal file-sharing have undermined privacy on the Web and, by extension, residents’ freedom of speech.

And they had been watching the Paris murderers.

Following Wednesday morning’s attack, it became clear that French intelligence and law enforcement had been monitoring the shooters, Cherif and Said Kouachi. And, during the Friday standoffs, much was divulged about Amedy Coulibaly, the man who held 16 hostages at a Paris kosher supermarket. But earlier surveillance failed to prevent these incidents.

The only type of surveillance that would stop almost all attacks would be round the clock surveillance by people, and the intrusiveness of that and the resources required would rule it out as a viable option.

Many will want to know why. As analogies to 9/11 and the Patriot Act proliferate in the international media, Hollande’s reformist administration may be forced to choose, at least rhetorically, between national security and the rights to privacy and freedom of speech. The coming months will challenge France to answer with intelligence of a different kind.

Many governments will be challenged by the Paris attacks, and will be forced between types and degrees of surveillance.

Law enforcement and protection will never be 100% effective. The challenge is to get a reasonable and palatable balance between security and the rights to privacy and freedom of speech.