‘Hero’ imam praises group that saved Finsbury Park suspect from angry crowd

The Guardian reports: In the chaos and terror of the moment, events might have taken an even darker turn.

Outside the Muslim Welfare Centre, three men wrestled to the ground the driver of a van which had ploughed into people leaving the mosque.

Amid confusion, distress and anger, a crowd gathered. Fists and feet struck out. Suddenly a voice shouted: “No one touch him – no one! No one!”

It came from Mohammed Mahmoud, the mosque’s imam, later hailed as the hero of the day. He urged the crowd to be calm and restrained until the police arrived. [Continue reading…]

 

Facebooktwittermail

Following latest terrorist attack in UK, Trump remains silent

The Guardian reports: A man has died and eight others have been injured after a van ploughed into a group of people near a north London mosque in an attack police are treating as terrorism.

A 48-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. Two people hit by the van were said to be “very seriously injured”.

The prime minister, Theresa May, who was woken to be told of the early morning attack in Finsbury Park, said in a statement from Downing Street that the “hatred and evil” of the kind seen in the attack would never succeed.

May said the attack had “once again targeted the ordinary and the innocent going about their daily lives – this time, British Muslims as they left a mosque, having broken their fast and prayed together at this sacred time of year”.

She added: “Today we come together, as we have done before, to condemn this act and to state once again that hatred and evil of this kind will never succeed.”

May said the attack on Muslims was “every bit as insidious and destructive to our values and our way of life” as the recent string of attacks apparently motivated by Islamist extremism, adding: “We will stop at nothing to defeat it.”

It is the fourth terrorist attack to hit the UK in the past three months. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

More than 130 imams refuse funeral prayers for ‘indefensible’ London Bridge attackers

The Guardian reports: More than 130 imams and Muslim religious leaders have said they will refuse to say funeral prayers for the perpetrators of Saturday’s attack in London.

In a highly unusual move, Muslim religious figures from across the country and from different schools of Islam said their pain at the suffering of the victims and their families led them to refuse to perform the traditional Islamic prayer – a ritual normally performed for every Muslim regardless of their actions. They called on others to do the same.

They expressed “shock and utter disgust at these cold-blooded murders”, adding: “We will not perform the traditional Islamic funeral prayer over the perpetrators and we also urge fellow imams and religious authorities to withdraw such a privilege. This is because such indefensible actions are completely at odds with the lofty teachings of Islam.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

World leaders should give Trump the cold shoulder

Bloomberg reports: Prime Minister Theresa May said she thought Donald Trump was “wrong” to attack London Mayor Sadiq Khan in the wake of Saturday’s terror attack in London.

After avoiding several attempts by reporters to get her to condemn the U.S. president for openly criticizing Khan in a series of tweets hours after the attack at London Bridge that killed seven people and left dozens injured, May was asked what it would take for her to criticize Trump. She reiterated her disappointment over his decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, before being eventually forced to defend the capital’s mayor.


“Sadiq Khan is doing a good job,” she told a press conference in central London, when asked if Trump was wrong to attack the mayor’s call for calm in the wake of the attacks. “It’s wrong to say anything else.”


May has been attacked by both the opposition Labour Party and the media for her reluctance to publicly criticize Trump. As well as mocking Khan, Trump sought to turn the London attacks to domestic political advantage by renewing his call to ban travel from some Muslim-majority countries. May’s criticism Monday follows her openly complaining last month about U.S. security agencies leaking details of the Manchester Arena suicide bombing, which British police said hurt their investigation.

While she used her disapproval of Trump pulling out of the Paris accord to illustrate that she was “not afraid to say when President Trump gets things wrong,” her name was notably absent from a joint statement last week by her European counterparts condemning the withdrawal. [Continue reading…]

An editorial in The Guardian says: Unlike other world leaders, Mrs May has made an art of avoiding public confrontation with the US president. But – in the words of her initial response to the London Bridge attack – enough is enough. She should make clear to Mr Trump how offensive and unhelpful his extraordinary intervention was, and rescind the invitation that has been extended to him for a state visit later this year. [Continue reading…]

Political leaders who persist in exercising diplomatic restraint when commenting on Trump’s behavior, are, through their timidity, becoming his enablers, reinforcing his sense that he can get away with anything.

At some point it’s going to take something much stronger than a mild rebuff to demonstrate to Trump that his words have consequences.

So far he has been treated like an obstreperous brat who has to be tolerated out of respect for his office and in spite of his inexcusable behavior.

The treatment Trump deserves, however, is the cold shoulder.

Every head of state who represents a democracy should refuse direct communication with Trump.

During his first months in office, he has amply demonstrated that he has neither the capacity nor the willingness to engage in foreign affairs in a manner that befits his position.

This isn’t just a matter of decorum; it speaks to his basic competence.

Freezing out Trump doesn’t require any form of public diplomacy. It simply means that if or when the White House places a call to a foreign leader, said leader simply declines to make themselves available. “The Prime Minister is out right now. Would President Trump like to leave a message?”

Trump is the one who has chosen a path of isolation. Let him have it.

Facebooktwittermail

Two of London Bridge attackers named

 

Khuram Shazad Butt, appears in the Channel 4 documentary, The Jihadis Next Door, at 14.50:

 

The Guardian reports: Khuram Shazad Butt, one of the three jihadi attackers who killed seven people in London on Saturday, was a supporter of the banned Islamist group al-Muhajiroun who only last month was spotted urging people in east London not to participate in the general election.

The 27-year-old was described by locals in his neighbourhood of Barking, east London, as the son of parents from Jhelum, a town in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Butt, who was born in Pakistan but brought up in Britain, was a keen supporter of Arsenal football club, whose shirt he wore during the attack, and spoke with a London accent.

The Metropolitan police admitted on Monday that he was known to the police and MI5 and they had opened an investigation into him in 2015. A few months later detectives received a call from a concerned member of the public on the anti-terrorism hotline with information about his extremism. But inquiries established no intelligence or evidence to suggest any terrorist activity or that an attack was being planned, according to assistant commissioner Mark Rowley, the UK’s top counter-terrorism officer. Butt’s case was moved into the “lower echelons” of the 500 most active counter-terrorism investigations.

“I have seen nothing yet that a poor decision was made,” Rowley said. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Is Trump fighting terrorism, or just tweeting about it and making it worse?

Daniel Benjamin writes: Donald Trump came to the presidency on a wave of overheated rhetoric about the terrorist threat, the failures of his predecessors, and promises, as he said in his inaugural address, to “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.” Four months into his term, and on the heels of Saturday’s terrorist attack in London, which killed seven and injured dozens in the third attack in Britain in three months, it’s worth asking: Is Trump actually delivering decisive counterterrorism?

Let’s break it down. Yes, he’s been decisive and even dramatic, from the issuance of his initial travel ban a week after being inaugurated to his May trip to Riyadh, where he tried to galvanize the Muslim world against terror. But it isn’t serious counterterrorism—that is, policy that will diminish the terrorist threat—that he is producing. Instead, Trump’s steps so far seem to be designed to exacerbate the danger and lengthen the life expectancy of jihadism.

Of course, many of the policies that Trump inherited remain—somewhat reassuringly—in place. In the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the central theater of the fight against terror, the administration continues to pursue the strategy of the Obama administration, despite Trump’s many campaign claims that he had a super double-top-secret plan in the waiting. A mix of airstrikes from drones and manned aircraft against ISIS leadership targets, special forces raids and military advisory and training assistance to the Iraqi army, Kurdish and other anti-ISIS force is whittling down the so-called caliphate, whose days as an extremist enclave are numbered. A spike in civilian casualties may mean that targeting restrictions have been relaxed—which the Pentagon denies—but the strategy is fundamentally unchanged. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Police investigating Manchester bombing suspend intelligence sharing with the U.S.

BBC News reports: Police investigating the Manchester Arena bomb attack have stopped sharing information with the US after leaks to the media, the BBC understands.

UK officials were outraged when photos appearing to show debris from the attack appeared in the New York Times.

It came after the name of bomber Salman Abedi was leaked to US media just hours after the attack.

Theresa May said she would tell Donald Trump at a Nato meeting that shared intelligence “must remain secure”.

The UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council described the “unauthorised disclosure” as a breach of trust which had potentially undermined a “major counter-terrorism investigation”.

Counter-terrorism detectives have spoken in the past about how a delay of about 36 hours before the public know who is being investigated can allow known associates of the suspect to be arrested without being tipped off.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the leaks had worried him “greatly”, and he had raised them with the US ambassador. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Theresa May will confront Donald Trump over U.S. officials leaking Manchester bombing evidence

The Guardian reports: Theresa May will confront Donald Trump over the stream of leaks of crucial intelligence about the Manchester bomb attack when she meets the US president at a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday.

British officials were infuriated on Wednesday when the New York Times published forensic photographs of sophisticated bomb parts that UK authorities fear could complicate the expanding investigation into the lethal blast in which six further arrests have been made in the UK and two more in Libya.

It was the latest of a series of leaks to US journalists that appeared to come from inside the US intelligence community, passing on data that had been shared between the two countries as part of a long-standing security cooperation.

A senior Whitehall source said: “These images from inside the American system are clearly distressing to victims, their families and other members of the public. Protests have been lodged at every relevant level between the British authorities and our US counterparts. They are in no doubt about our huge strength of feeling on this issue. It is unacceptable.”

Police chiefs also criticised the leaking of information from the investigation. A National Counter Terrorism Policing spokesperson said: “We greatly value the important relationships we have with our trusted intelligence, law enforcement and security partners around the world.

“When that trust is breached it undermines these relationships, and undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families. This damage is even greater when it involves unauthorised disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter-terrorism investigation.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

‘Dirty Irish bastards’: Irish in Manchester remember hostility after IRA bombing

TheJournal.ie reports: “Dirty Irish bastards.” It was just over two decades ago that Brian Kennedy was listening to this abuse on the other end of a phone line at the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester. The threats and the slurs have stuck in his memory.

The hostile phone calls followed an IRA bombing in June 1996 that injured more than 200 people and destroyed a large chunk of the city.

Although the Irish in Manchester have come a long way since then, they feel a resonance with the Muslim community this week following the bombing at the Manchester Arena.

They know what it is like to lower their voices in public to hide an accent. They know what it is like to suddenly feel tension in a place they call home.

They know being Muslim does not automatically mean you are a terrorist, just like being Irish did not mean they supported the devastation caused by the IRA more than 20 years ago. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

The common acts of kindness that mark our species

George Monbiot writes: It is a blow to the heart: an atrocity whose purpose was to kill and maim as many children and teenagers as possible. No parent, hearing the voices of those still seeking news of their children, could fail to imagine the frantic play of hope and despair, the terrible wrenching of attachment. The person or people who did this meant to hit where it hurts most, and they succeeded.

The purpose of terrorism, whether perpetrated by lone attackers, organisations or states, is not only to change political outcomes: it is to demoralise the people at whom it is aimed, to erode and degrade their humanity. Attacking a concert crammed with happy young people, detonating a bomb apparently stuffed with nails and bolts, is the clearest possible statement of such intent.

It also allows us to see how we should respond. The terrorists want to drive us apart, to sow suspicion and fear, to oblige us to replace liberty with security and answer them with bombs and bullets of our own. For a terrorist organisation any of this, if implemented, would mean mission accomplished. So we should do the opposite. We defy them by proving that this is not what we are. And the proof is everywhere.

Human cooperation and reciprocity are so normal that we scarcely seem to notice them. We hardly see the daily acts of kindness that mark our species: people helping strangers to lift their suitcases on to a train, carrying pushchairs up flights of stairs, giving way to each other in traffic and on the pavement, listening to friends, volunteering for charities, giving their money to causes from which they cannot possibly benefit.

We might stop to notice the remarkable people who foster children or who take refugees from halfway round the world into their homes, and treat them as members of their families. But we see their tendencies as exceptional, rather than as unalloyed examples of the way that humans are naturally inclined to behave.

Because our minds are attuned to danger and difference, events like the attack on a concert in Manchester dominate perceptions of our species. We look back on the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris in January 2015 and, remembering the perpetrators, tell ourselves that there is something evil lodged in the human mind. Less salient in our memories are the 3.7 million people in France who took to the streets to march in solidarity with the victims, and the millions who did the same elsewhere in the world. These people, not the few terrorists, represent the human norm.

This norm – cooperating with unrelated members of our own species – is, as a review article in the journal Frontiers in Psychology notes, “spectacularly unusual when compared [with] other animals.” It is a norm that is also innate. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Salman Abedi named as the Manchester suicide bomber – what we know about him

The Telegraph reports: Born in 1994, the second youngest of four children, Abedi’s parents were Libyan refugees who fled to the UK to escape Gaddafi.

His mother, Samia Tabbal, 50, and father, Ramadan Abedi, a security officer, were both born in Tripoli but appear to have emigrated to London before moving to the Whalley Range area of south Manchester where they had lived for at least a decade.

Abedi went to school locally and then on to Salford University in 2014 where he studied business management before dropping out. His trips to Libya, where it is thought his parents returned in 2011 following Gaddafi’s overthrow, are now subject to scrutiny including links to jihadists.

A group of Gaddafi dissidents, who were members of the outlawed Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), lived within close proximity to Abedi in Whalley Range.

Among them was Abd al-Baset Azzouz, a father-of-four from Manchester, who left Britain to run a terrorist network in Libya overseen by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as leader of al-Qaeda.

Azzouz, 48, an expert bomb-maker, was accused of running an al-Qaeda network in eastern Libya. The Telegraph reported in 2014 that Azzouz had 200 to 300 militants under his control and was an expert in bomb-making.

Another member of the Libyan community in Manchester, Salah Aboaoba told Channel 4 news in 2011 that he had been fund raising for LIFG while in the city. Aboaoba had claimed he had raised funds at Didsbury mosque, the same mosque attended by Abedi. The mosque at the time vehemently denied the claim. “This is the first time I’ve heard of the LIFG. I do not know Salah,” a mosque spokesman said at the time.

At the mosque, Mohammed Saeed El-Saeiti, the imam at the Didsbury mosque yesterday branded Abedi an dangerous extremist. “Salman showed me the face of hate after my speech on Isis,” said the imam. “He used to show me the face of hate and I could tell this person does not like me. It’s not a surprise to me.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Why it matters that the Manchester attack targeted girls

Emily Crockett writes: We don’t know the exact motivation behind Monday’s horrifying terrorist attack in Manchester, England, which killed 22 people, including an 8-year-old girl. And given that the bomber died in the attack, we’re unlikely to ever find out precisely what was going through his head as he detonated that device. But one thing we do know is the demographic he targeted: young girls and women. As is so often the case with acts of violence, misogyny was deeply woven into this attack.

ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the attack, is of course notorious for its ghastly treatment of women and girls – for mass imprisonments, rapes and acts of torture. It’s not yet known if the suicide bomber, whom police have named as 22-year-old British national Salman Abedi, acted alone, or what his exposure to ISIS might have been. Regardless, the symbolism of his attack is clear and devastating. During Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour, Abedi gave the world a sick reminder of the dangers of being a woman in public in 2017, attacking largely female concertgoers for doing nothing but enjoying themselves while listening to music.

These girls and women weren’t just listening to any music, either – this was feminist music. Through her songs and public statements, Ariana Grande has taken a strong stand against sexism and the objectification of women, and she does so kindly, joyfully and without apology.

All of that is threatening enough. But Grande goes even further, daring to embrace sex positivity: the idea that sexuality is healthy, that it can and should be expressed in diverse ways, and that it deserves no shame.

It hardly takes being a member of ISIS to balk at women embracing their sexuality without shame – plenty of Republican lawmakers show their discomfort with the idea by attacking basic reproductive and sexual health for women. Take away shame, and you take away one of humanity’s most powerful tools for keeping women in line; suicide bombs and oppressive laws might put women in their place, but shame is the glue that holds it all together. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Manchester spirit: Tony Walsh recites ‘This Is The Place’ at a vigil for the bombing victims

HuffPost: Poet Tony Walsh became an instant symbol of Manchester’s defiance in the face of terror after reading his powerful ode to the city at a vigil to victims of the Manchester bombing.

Addressing thousands gathered at Manchester’s central Albert Square, the poet – known as ‘Longfella’ – gave a recital of his poem This Is The Place that paid tribute to the city’s rich history as an industrial and musical powerhouse. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Who are the new jihadis?

Olivier Roy writes: There is something new about the jihadi terrorist violence of the past two decades. Both terrorism and jihad have existed for many years, and forms of “globalised” terror – in which highly symbolic locations or innocent civilians are targeted, with no regard for national borders – go back at least as far as the anarchist movement of the late 19th century. What is unprecedented is the way that terrorists now deliberately pursue their own deaths.

Over the past 20 years – from Khaled Kelkal, a leader of a plot to bomb Paris trains in 1995, to the Bataclan killers of 2015 – nearly every terrorist in France blew themselves up or got themselves killed by the police. Mohamed Merah, who killed a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012, uttered a variant of a famous statement attributed to Osama bin Laden and routinely used by other jihadis: “We love death as you love life.” Now, the terrorist’s death is no longer just a possibility or an unfortunate consequence of his actions; it is a central part of his plan. The same fascination with death is found among the jihadis who join Islamic State. Suicide attacks are perceived as the ultimate goal of their engagement.

This systematic choice of death is a recent development. The perpetrators of terrorist attacks in France in the 1970s and 1980s, whether or not they had any connection with the Middle East, carefully planned their escapes. Muslim tradition, while it recognises the merits of the martyr who dies in combat, does not prize those who strike out in pursuit of their own deaths, because doing so interferes with God’s will. So, why, for the past 20 years, have terrorists regularly chosen to die? What does it say about contemporary Islamic radicalism? And what does it say about our societies today? [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

A bomb hits Russia’s St. Petersburg metro. Conspiracy theories follow

The Daily Beast reports: An explosion killed at least 9 people and injured about 50 adults and children in the metro of Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Monday, according to Russian news agencies.

The crowded metro train hit by the attack was traveling between Sennaya and Tekhnologichesky Institut stations at about 3:00 p.m. Witnesses in one of the cars described a “deafening blast, sharp smell, and smoke.” Surviving victims were bleeding, many with hair burned off their heads and bodies. On seeing the smoke, “passengers in other wagons panicked, two women fainted,” according to a local student named Polina speaking to the Paperpaper internet outlet.

Senator Victor Ozerov, responsible for security at the Russian Federal Assembly said that “there are all the signs of a terrorist attack.” Izvestia reported that according to a special unit veteran investigating the attack, the bombing was carried out by a jihadist suicide-bomber.

The first images of the tragedy featured terrified, bloodied passengers, bloodied floors, blasted windows and doors in the bombed metro carriage.

In reaction, Russian authorities closed down the metro, which caused transport issues and traffic jams in Saint Petersburg. Taxi drivers gave people free lifts.

The attack coincided with a Kremlin-organized annual “Truth and Justice” event in St. Petersburg attended by President Vladimir Putin and 500 journalists from all over Russia. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Khalid Masood: From Kent schoolboy to Westminster attacker

The Guardian reports: In an old school photograph, the smiling face of Adrian Ajao is a picture of a healthy, happy, middle class boy from Tunbridge Wells. Beaming with satisfaction after a football marathon, he stood on the cusp of a fruitful life.

What led that bright, sporty, popular teenager to become the Islamic State-inspired killer responsible for the attack on parliament this week confounds those who knew him then and is now the focus of a urgent and sprawling investigation by the security services.

“He was a smashing guy, really nice chap,” said Stuart Knight, an old classmate at Huntleys school. “The picture of us in the football team was after we did a 24-hour sponsored football match to raise money for the sports hall. We would have been about 14 years old. Everyone got on with Adrian, he was a lovely bloke.”

But there are themes running through the life of Adrian Ajao, who was born as Adrian Elms and who died as Khalid Masood that help explain what went so terribly wrong and turned that “lovely bloke” into the most murderous terrorist in Britain since 2005. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Bravery and simple humanity have shown Westminster at its best

Jonathan Freedland writes: There are certain places that cease to be places in the public imagination. They become shorthand for a loathed political establishment or distant, overmighty government. In America, that place is “Washington, DC”. For Eurosceptics, it’s “Brussels”. And in Britain, that reviled, imperial citadel is “Westminster”.

Yet today, as the airwaves and social media timelines filled with dreadful, violent news, “Westminster” began to lose those quotation marks. As the afternoon passed, it became seen not as the widely despised bastion of the political class, but a real place inhabited by office workers, tourists, security guards and groups of visiting schoolchildren.

On any other day, Tobias Ellwood might be seen as just another Tory MP. But then came word that he had given CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a policeman who lay wounded – and with it a reminder that the MP, a former army officer, had lost a brother in the Bali bombings of 2002.

Or there were those photos of MPs locked in the chamber of the Commons for their own safety, many of them on their phones, searching for news just like the rest of us but with an extra edge: they were worrying about friends, colleagues or their own employees. Everyone had the same thought: what if someone they knew or loved was among those hurt?

As it happens, I was in Westminster (though not in parliament) when the attacker struck, wrapping up a lunch meeting with an MP who was alerted to the news by a text from his wife, checking that he was safe. On television, he’ll look like just another politician. But if people saw him today, they’d have seen a human being.

And yet, when it comes to those involved in politics – the people who keep our democratic machinery functioning – it seems to take violent tragedy to remind us that those we elect to represent us don’t stop being people the moment we vote for them. Last year it was the murder of Jo Cox that reminded people an MP could also be a living, breathing, loving person. At that moment, many felt chastened about the way we speak about politics – so often using violent language to describe political argument. We held back for a while. But we soon fell back into the old habits. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail