Monday 16 November 2015

Paris terror attacks - 13 November 2015

Paris lockdown after terror attacks
France declares attacks an act of war. Troops patrol city. Three days of mourning
By Chia Han Keong, In Paris, The Sunday Times, 15 Nov 2015

Parisians woke up yesterday to an eerily silent and tense city, after a night of terror with a series of coordinated gun and suicide bomb attacks at popular nightspots that left at least 128 people dead and 300 others injured.

Eight of the attackers died, seven by suicide blasts.

President Francois Hollande blamed the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) for the attacks, declaring three days of national mourning, and said that military troops would patrol the capital.

France remained under a nationwide state of emergency.

"It is an act of war that was prepared, organised and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside, which the investigation will help establish," Mr Hollande told the nation from the Elysee Palace.

Mr Hollande did not specify what intelligence pointed to the militant group's involvement but ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they were designed to show that France would remain in danger as long as it continued its current policies.

It was a clear reference to French air strikes in Syria and Iraq.

Much about the attacks was still not clear by late yesterday, including the identities of the eight attackers; whether any accomplices remained at large; and how a plot of such sophistication and lethality could have escaped the notice of intelligence agencies, both in France and abroad.

With little known, the palpable sense of fear among Parisians was understandable.

Major attractions were shuttered, from Disneyland in the east and the Eiffel Tower in the centre to the Chateau of Versailles in the west, and its picturesque squares and avenues were eerily quiet. Sporting fixtures were cancelled on the orders of the city or national authorities.

Schools, museums, libraries, sports halls, swimming pools, tennis courts, food markets and district town halls were also closed.

Usually a bustling centre of traffic, the Gare de l'Est train station was subdued at around 7.30am, with only a handful of grim-looking residents using the Metro trains or the buses at the terminal outside.

Even fewer travelled into the city via the regional trains, most of which were largely empty.

Those who braved the public transport encountered police barricades and closed Metro train stations near the six locations where the horrific attacks took place.

Barricades and police vans blocked the vicinity near the Bataclan theatre, site of the worst carnage where more than 80 people attending a concert were gunned down.

"I had wanted to open my souvenir shop, to show that life goes on as normal," said Mr Guy Blatt, 52. "But they've closed the road, so I can only go home and wait until it's safer."

French media reported that there were queues of people wanting to donate blood at hospitals. Medical officials have asked for people to space out donations, over the weekend and throughout next week.

No reports of Singaporeans directly affected by the attacks have emerged but the primary concern for those visiting Paris was getting out of the city conveniently, especially after Mr Hollande ordered the closure of borders.

Said Mr Ken Low, 33, a project manager on a business trip in Paris: "I hope when I leave the city on Sunday, it will be smooth-sailing at the airport."

World leaders were unanimous in condemning Friday's terror strikes. US President Barack Obama described them as "an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share", while President Xi Jinping, in a phone call to his French counterpart, said that China was ready to join France and the international community in stepping up security cooperation and combating terrorism.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressed shock in a Facebook posting.

Mr Lee, who is attending the G-20 summit in Antalya, in Turkey, beginning today, said a planned discussion about terrorism at the meeting was "more relevant and urgent than ever".

He said: "Each time it happens, we again feel appalled and outraged beyond words, for an attack like this is in fact an attack on our shared humanity."

Shocked to wake up to the news of the multiple terrorist attacks in Paris. At least 40 people have been killed, and...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Friday, November 13, 2015

The Paris attacks were dastardly. We have raised our alert level in Singapore, increased our checks. MHA has issued...
Posted by K Shanmugam Sc on Friday, November 13, 2015

Singapore raises alert level, steps up security
By Danson Cheong, The Sunday Times, 15 Nov 2015

Singapore has stepped up security in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday also urged people to be on the alert.

"These attacks show that no country is immune, even when there is a state of heightened security. In Singapore, today, we have raised our alert level. We have stepped up security measures, border checks and vigilance," he said in a statement.

"Together, everyone plays a part to keep Singapore safe and secure. We encourage everyone to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activities or persons to authorities."

<<Terror attacks in Paris>> We grieve with the families and people of Paris who are now coping with the shock and...
Posted by Ng Eng Hen on Friday, November 13, 2015

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, in a post on Facebook, said that Singapore air force personnel in France were safe and taking extra precautions.

"We have also stepped up vigilance at our local camps, especially at our naval and air bases. Our security agencies are monitoring the situation closely. Let's all be vigilant and keep each other safe," he wrote.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has received no reports of Singaporeans directly affected by the attacks and, along with the Singapore Embassy in Paris, has managed to get in touch with most of those who have registered their presence in the French capital.

The ministry urged Singaporeans residing in and travelling to Paris to stay indoors, monitor local news and heed the instructions of the local authorities.

#masagos am saddened by the response of some of my brothers on the massacre of innocents in Paris. Even while the French...
Posted by Masagos Zulkifli on Saturday, November 14, 2015

Defiant chiefs vow to act against terror
Outpouring of grief over horrific Paris attacks comes with expressions of solidarity, resolve
By Jeremy Au Yong, US Bureau Chief In Washington, The Sunday Times, 15 Nov 2015

There was an outpouring of grief and support yesterday as a shocked world learnt of the horrifying terror attacks in Paris - but it came mixed with a dose of resolve and defiance.

In the immediate aftermath of Friday's attacks that killed at least 128 people, world leaders did not just extend their sympathies, they also pledged to act.

A sombre President Barack Obama told reporters at the White House that the United States will do whatever it takes to bring those responsible to justice.

"This is an attack not just on Paris, it is an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share," he said, just hours after news first emerged of the tragedy.

"We are going to do whatever it takes to work with the French people and with nations around the world to bring these terrorists to justice, and to go after any terrorist networks that go after our people."

Similar expressions of solidarity came from Britain, Russia and China, among others.

British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "I am shocked by events in Paris tonight. Our thoughts and prayers are with the French people. We will do whatever we can to help."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a telegram to his French counterpart Francois Hollande, said Friday's attacks have "become another testimony of terrorism's barbarity, which poses a challenge to human civilisation".

In a phone call with Mr Hollande, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China was ready to join France and the international community in stepping up security cooperation and combating terrorism.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, leader of the country with the world's most populous Muslim population, which has borne the brunt of similar attacks, said terrorism, "for whatever reason", should not be tolerated, while Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called for unity in the war against terror.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressed shock, and said the attacks made a planned discussion about terrorism at the Group of 20 meeting, due to begin today, "more relevant and urgent than ever".

The attacks were similarly condemned by several leaders in the Middle East, including in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is due to attend a global climate summit in France at the end of the month, condemned the savagery of the attacks, but also cancelled his trip to Paris.

While questions remain over the identity of the culprits and whether the plans involve Paris alone, other cities are not taking any chances and are ramping up security.

In the United States, the authorities in New York and Boston said they were boosting security, but also stressed that they did not have any intelligence of a credible threat.

The Philippine capital Manila, meanwhile, pledged tighter security for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit this Saturday.

"Our security establishment... will be taking the necessary steps to fine-tune as necessary our plans and our contingency plans," said President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Abigail Valte. "We are committed to ensuring the safety of our visitors and our people," she added.

Mr Obama, Mr Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are among leaders from 20 Asia-Pacific economies expected at the summit.

Several global landmarks, including the spire of One World Trade Centre in New York - built on the site of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks - were lit in the French colours of blue, white and red in a show of solidarity with the country.

Putting Isis into words: thirteen stories that spell out what the Islamist terror group stands for.
Posted by The Guardian on Monday, November 16, 2015

ISIS claims responsibility for attacks
France will remain top target as long as it continues with its policies, group says
The Sunday Times, 15 Nov 2015

SINONE (Iraq) • The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks in Paris, calling them "the first of the storm" and mocking France as a "capital of prostitution and obscenity", according to statements released in multiple languages on one of the terror group's encrypted messaging accounts.

Yesterday's remarks came in a communique published in Arabic, English and French on ISIS' mobile messaging Telegram account, and then distributed via its supporters on Twitter, according to a transcript provided by the Site Intelligence Group, which tracks extremist propaganda.

"Eight brothers, wrapped in explosive belts and armed with machine rifles, targeted sites that were accurately chosen in the heart of the capital of France," the group said in the statement.

"Let France and those who walk in its path know that they will remain on the top of the list of targets of the Islamic State (IS)," the statement added, referring to the attacks at the Bataclan theatre and several districts in Paris, and using another name for the terror group.

France was targeted by ISIS due to its involvement in a US-led coalition conducting an air war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, where the terrorist group declared a caliphate last year after seizing swathes of both countries.

In addition to the claim of responsibility, the celebrations by ISIS supporters online were such that the Site monitoring group said that it could suggest the terror group's involvement.

"The extent of the celebration far exceeded past online rallying by IS supporters," Site said in an analysis.

"The way IS supporters have embraced this attack appears much more coordinated at a much earlier stage than massive reactions to past attacks."

Earlier yesterday, ISIS distributed an undated video threatening to attack France if bombings of its fighters continued.

Its foreign media arm, the Al-Hayat Media Centre, made threats through several militants, who called on French Muslims to carry out attacks. "As long as you keep bombing, you will not live in peace. You will even fear travelling to the market," said a militant identified as Abu Maryam the Frenchman.

Foreign fighters who join ISIS are seen as especially dangerous because Western passports enable them to live in and travel to Western countries undetected.

"Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action," French President Francois Hollande said yesterday, without saying what that meant.

Mr Hollande will address Parliament tomorrow in an extraordinary meeting.


The security nightmare that all cities face
Attacks in Paris a reminder of how difficult it is to protect any urban centre from acts of terror
By Jonathan Eyal, Europe Correspondent In London, The Sunday Times, 15 Nov 2015

"I've never seen anything like this... It was a night of nightmare," Mr Philippe Jouvain, a hospital director, tweeted as his emergency ward doctors struggled with the blood-soaked aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks.

The chaos and carnage at one of the French capital's leading hospitals came at the end of the bloodiest night in Paris since World War II.

But the nightmare for security and intelligence services throughout the world is only just beginning. For the events in Paris are a grim reminder of how difficult it is to protect any urban centre from terrorist attacks.

Ironically, Paris is already one of Europe's most heavily policed capitals. Many policemen are deployed along the city's central avenues, the so-called "grand boulevards". Vans full of heavily armed officers belonging to the CRS crack security units are parked discreetly behind most public buildings.

France also has a long tradition of centralised authority, which means that its resources can be quickly deployed. Few other European countries would have been able to impose a state of emergency, order the closure of all places of entertainment and seal the country's frontiers at the same time, yet French President Francois Hollande did all these things, and his orders were carried out almost instantly.

The French mistrust authority, but also worship it. And they respond with defiant collective national pride whenever their country is under threat. The crowds evacuated from the Stade de France stadium in the wake of the terrorist attacks burst into a spontaneous rendition of their national anthem.

Yet none of these national advantages can insulate France from determined terrorists, who retain the initiative because they can choose the battlefield.

The men of violence are no longer interested in targeting government buildings, famous tourist landmarks or main shopping streets like the Champs-Elysees, all of which are already under considerable protection. Instead, they now go after any place where large numbers of people gather, with the aim of killing as many civilians as possible.

The fact that most of the attackers appear to have been suicide terrorists also simplifies their murderous task: Since they don't have to worry about escape routes, terrorists can position themselves in the midst of crowds, boosting the number of casualties even further.

And, by launching simultaneous attacks in a number of places, the terrorists not only retain the element of surprise, but also slow down the response of the security services, another factor which maximises casualties. The killers at the Bataclan, a popular concert venue in Paris, had time to reload their Kalashnikov assault rifles no fewer than three times before they were confronted by law officers.

What's more, terrorists in France now appear to favour a new, deadlier innovation: The capture of large numbers of people who are then held hostage not, as previous generations of terrorists used to do, in order to exchange them as part of a deal, but simply in order to prevent people from escaping, and to butcher as many as possible.

An early version of that occurred in January, when two gunmen stormed into the office of Paris-based Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and shot dead 12 people while an apparent accomplice killed a police officer and four hostages held at a market shortly after.

This tactic forces the security services to storm such hostage hideouts almost immediately, without preparation; that is what happened with the Bataclan concert hall on Friday night. Sadly, such hurried rescue operations almost never end well: They invariably result in a higher number of casualties, both among hostages and rescuers.

Ways to minimise future attacks do exist. Israel, for instance, now imposes airport-style security checks at all places where large numbers of people mingle, including shopping malls, cinemas, concert halls, markets and even major streets. These are hived off into various parameters, each one with its own checkpoints. The effect has been almost no civilian casualties in years.

However, it is unlikely that the residents of European cities would accept such restrictions.

And even if governments are prepared to pay the considerable costs which such intrusive security measures entail, it is doubtful that they can be applied to great effect: The Israeli measures work on "racial profiling", on separating those who appear to be Jews and are given only cursory checks, from others who look racially different and are subjected to intensive checks.

Yet, no European city - and especially not Paris - can resort to such invidious procedures without unleashing ethnic tensions.

The only other alternative remains that of using the intelligence services to dismantle terrorist plots while they are being hatched. The French have foiled at least three attacks this year alone.

But no government can offer complete protection against any threat, and particularly not against terrorism which resurfaces under different guises.

All that governments can do is what Mr Hollande has already pledged: Ensure that peaceful societies make no compromises with the men of violence, and that the murderers of Paris will be pursued mercilessly.

How to explain the incomprehensible to those who will struggle to understand it the most.
Posted by The Guardian on Monday, November 16, 2015

The answer isn't as simple as "racism."
Posted by Washington Post on Monday, November 16, 2015

Paris terror attacks: Retaliation

French jets pound Syrian city
2 ISIS targets destroyed in raid on group's self-proclaimed capital
The Straits Times, 17 Nov 2015

PARIS • France bombed the Syrian city of Raqqa on Sunday night, its most aggressive strike against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group it blames for killing 129 people in a string of terrorist attacks across Paris only two days before.

President Francois Hollande, who vowed to be "unforgiving with the barbarians" of the ISIS after the carnage in Paris, decided on the air strikes in a meeting with his national security team on Saturday, officials said.

While France has been conducting scores of air strikes against ISIS in Iraq, it had been bombing inside Syria only sparingly, wary of inadvertently strengthening the hand of President Bashar al-Assad by killing his enemies.

But after militants with AK-47s and suicide vests shattered the peaceful revelry of Paris on Friday night, killing dozens of civilians in restaurants and at a concert hall, France seemed intent on sending a clear message of its determination to curb ISIS and the group's ability to carry out attacks outside the territory it controls.

The French Defence Ministry said in a statement that the air raid, coordinated with US forces, was led by 12 French aircraft, including 10 fighter jets, and had destroyed two ISIS targets in Raqqa, the radical group's self-proclaimed capital.

The United States provided French officials with information to help them strike ISIS targets in Syria, known as "strike packages", US officials said.

Initial reports from activists on the ground in Raqqa, which could not be verified independently, said that hospitals had not reported any civilian casualties. Yet they also said the targeted sites included clinics, a museum and other buildings in an urban area, leaving the full extent of the damage unknown.

The French air strikes on Raqqa began at 7.50pm Paris time, first taking aim at an ISIS "command post, jihadist recruitment centre and weapons and ammunition depot", the Defence Ministry said. The second target, it said, was a "terrorist training camp".

Warplanes continued to hover over the city close to midnight, according to residents and activist groups. Residents have seen the city bombed by Syrian, US and Russian warplanes. They have been terrorised by public executions by ISIS. Now they are wary of yet another power arriving to pummel the city.

Mr Khaled al-Homsi, an anti-government activist from Palmyra, who uses a nom de guerre for his safety and is the nephew of an archaeologist who was beheaded by ISIS fighters, issued a plea on Twitter to France, saying not all the city's residents were ISIS militants and urging caution for the safety of civilians.

Meanwhile, the US military said 116 fuel trucks used by ISIS had been destroyed in a single air strike on Sunday near Albu Kamal, an ISIS-held town in Deir Ezzor province along Syria's border with Iraq.

ISIS reportedly makes millions of dollars in revenue from oil fields under its control, and the US-led coalition has regularly targeted oil infrastructure held by the group.


The ISIS threat: At least 7 Singaporeans have been known to have joined or planned to join ISIS. Five people have been identified and dealt with. More here:
Posted by The Straits Times on Sunday, November 15, 2015

The West’s movement towards the truth is remarkably slow. We drag ourselves towards it painfully, inch by inch, after each bloody Islamist assault, says Douglas Murray.
Posted by The Spectator on Saturday, November 14, 2015

French people 'ready to trade some freedom for security'

84% of survey respondents say they are willing to accept more controls and 'a certain limitation of liberties'
By Lee Seok Hwai, The Straits Times, 19 Nov 2015

The French people are closing ranks and throwing their support behind the government's efforts to boost security in the wake of the country's worst terrorist attacks, a survey shows.

Fully 84 per cent of the population, known as fierce defenders of civil liberties, say they are willing to accept more restrictive measures if they would lead to better security, according to a survey of 910 people commissioned by Le Figaro newspaper and RTL radio.

The survey was published on Tuesday as French President Francois Hollande moved to extend by three months a state of emergency declared last Friday, after nine terrorists killed 129 people and wounded hundreds in coordinated attacks in Paris.

Mr Hollande, who has said France is at war with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group which claimed responsibility for the attacks, also wants the Constitution to be amended to grant more powers to the police. The state of emergency gives the authorities the power to search homes without a warrant, impose curfews, restrict traffic, ban public gatherings and impose controls on the media.

And most French appear prepared to accept such draconian measures, according to the Le Figaro survey, which was conducted via an online questionnaire on Monday.

About 84 per cent of respondents said they were prepared to accept more controls and "a certain limitation of your liberties". Of these, half said that they were "very prepared" while the other half were "quite prepared".

Only 16 per cent said they were not ready for such restrictions.

"From now on, not only do the French support the rhetoric of war, they also support decisions which lead to a restriction of public liberties," said Mr Jerome Fourquet, a director of Ifop, the survey company.

Meanwhile, many French are showing their defiance in a different way: venturing back to cafes and bars.

"This was an attack on our way of life," said Mr Maxence Lezeau, sitting at a tiny bistro table at Le Barometre in the Boulevard Voltaire, scene of some of the carnage.

"With this simple act, we're showing that we are never going to let the terrorists get at the heart of France," he told The New York Times.

French Muslims are included in the sense of unity. Many, including Islamic veil-wearing student Sabah Zouaghi, told Le Monde newspaper they have not felt more hostility in the wake of the attacks, unlike in the aftermath of the January attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket.

Ms Farah Maiza, vice-president of the inter-religion association Coesister, told the paper: "This time, it was the French people, whatever their convictions may be, who were targeted, and not an (anti-Islam) symbol like Charlie Hebdo."

Fight guns with flowers, dad tells son in viral clip

The Straits Times, 19 Nov 2015

A video of a father telling his son that "flowers can fight against guns" while talking about France's worst terrorist attacks has become one of the most watched clips on the Internet.

A father and son have the most precious conversation during an interview by french media at the scene of the Bataclan...
Posted by Jerome Isaac Rousseau on Monday, November 16, 2015

The 1min 18sec clip, which was filmed by French newspaper Le Petit Journal near one of the makeshift memorials to the 129 victims of last Friday's terrorist attacks, begins with the paper's reporter asking the boy: "Do you understand what happened? Do you understand why those people did that?"

The boy replied: "Yes, because they're really, really, really mean... Bad guys are not very nice."

He added: "And... we have to be really careful because we have to change houses."

His father patted him on the head and said: "Don't worry, we won't have to move. France is our home."

Confused, the boy looked at him: "But there're bad guys, daddy..."

The father said: "But there are bad guys everywhere. They might have guns, but we have flowers."

"But flowers don't do anything," the boy argued.

The man gestured at the memorial next to them and said: "Of course they do. Look, everyone is putting flowers. It's to fight against guns."

The boy looked around him. "It's to protect?" he asked.

"Exactly," his dad responded with a smile.

The reporter then asked the boy if he felt better.

"Yes, I feel better," the child said.

The clip has been watched at least 16 million times on Le Petit Journal's Facebook page and on YouTube since it was put online on Tuesday.

Some 30,000 people have commented on the moving exchange between the father and son on Le Petit Journal's wall. Many said the man's words gave them hope.

The Paris attacks through a child's eyes
A father had a tough time trying to explain the terror attacks to his child. CNN's Anderson Cooper interviewed the family. to talk to your kids about tragic events:
Posted by CNN on Friday, November 20, 2015

A man by the name of Angel Le identified himself as the father and thanked everyone for their support.

"I am proud to be French and proud of my compatriots!" he said.

"My family and I embrace all of you," he added.

“I won’t give you the gift of hating you” – Antoine Leiris’ powerful tribute to his wife, who died in the Bataclan during the #ParisAttacks
Posted by BBC News on Wednesday, November 18, 2015

He drives 640km to play Imagine at attack site

The Straits Times, 19 Nov 2015

Music soothes all wounds - that is the message a pianist felt he needed to send after the Paris attacks.

So within minutes of the attacks last Friday, Mr Davide Martello put his piano on a trailer and drove 640km from the south-western German city of Konstanz to Paris.

Amid national mourning on Monday, the 34-year-old played John Lennon's Imagine outside Paris' Bataclan concert hall, where 89 people lost their lives in the attack.

Mr Martello told the Guardian newspaper: "I phoned my friend to talk about it, got in the car and drove all through the night."

He said he felt it was his "duty" to pay tribute to the victims.

"I can't bring people back but I can inspire them with music and when people are inspired they can do anything. That's why I played Imagine," he was quoted by the Guardian as saying.

"I got to the end of playing Imagine and just couldn't carry on," he said. "Even if I wanted to, it was just too emotional."

The musician is known for travelling around conflict zones to play the piano and previously performed at the sites of the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year, the Guardian said.

He has also appeared in Istanbul, Kiev and Donetsk when the cities were rocked by unrest and bloodshed.

He has been recognised by the European Parliament for his "outstanding contribution to European cooperation and the promotion of common values".

This is what happens when you read violent passages from the Bible and tell people it's the Quran.
Posted by Dit Is Normaal on Saturday, December 5, 2015

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