IS keeps solid on­line sup­port, says Europol

Sol­dier at­tacked in Paris

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

THE HAGUE, Sept 16, (Agen­cies): De­spite set­backs on the bat­tle­field in Syria and Iraq the Is­lamic State group retains a “solid base of ded­i­cated sup­port­ers” on­line, Europe’s polic­ing agency warned on Fri­day.

Ji­hadist groups are also now us­ing smaller in­ter­net plat­forms and fo­rums to spread ter­ror pro­pa­ganda, Europol added.

“The rel­a­tive de­crease of ‘of­fi­cial’ IS pro­pa­ganda over the last month has al­lowed more room for proIS user gen­er­ated con­tent,” the agency said in a state­ment from its Hague-based head­quar­ters.

“This in­di­cates that the so­called Is­lamic State or­gan­i­sa­tion con­tin­ues to have a solid base of ded­i­cated sup­port­ers in the vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment of the in­ter­net,” it said.

The agency re­leased its find­ings af­ter a two-day joint op­er­a­tion ear­lier this week to seek out and flag con­tent posted by ji­hadist groups on the in­ter­net. Europol’s In­ter­net Re­fer­ral Unit teamed up with counter-ter­ror and on­line pro­pa­ganda ex­perts from Bos­nia and Herze­gov­ina, the Czech Repub­lic, Es­to­nia and Hun­gary.

“Ji­hadist or­gan­i­sa­tions and their sup­port­ers con­tinue to abuse a va­ri­ety of plat­forms for dis­sem­i­nat­ing their pro­pa­ganda,” Europol said.

“How­ever, the dis­rup­tive ac­tions un­der­taken by cer­tain ser­vice providers to safe­guard their plat­forms has led ji­hadist sym­pa­this­ers to move to ‘smaller’ plat­forms.”



Some sym­pa­this­ers have also re­verted back to us­ing in­ter­net fo­rums, as well as so-called “Darknet li­braries” which shares links point­ing to ji­hadist con­tent on the open in­ter­net, Europol said.

The agency said it has flagged 1,029 pieces of con­tent pro­mot­ing ter­ror on the in­ter­net to ser­vice providers with the re­quest to have it re­moved if it vi­o­lated their terms and con­di­tions.

Some coun­tries like Bri­tain have al­ready an­nounced plans to clamp down on ex­trem­ist on­line con­tent, fol­low­ing at­tacks in Lon­don and Manch­ester ear­lier this year.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May also wants in­ter­net com­pa­nies to de­velop tools to au­to­mat­i­cally iden­tify and re­move harm­ful ma­te­rial, based on what it con­tains and who posted it.

In ad­di­tion, May wants com­pa­nies to block users who post ex­trem­ist con­tent, and alert author­i­ties when they iden­tify ma­te­rial that could be harm­ful.

IS has suf­fered a string of de­feats on the bat­tle­fields of both Iraq and Syria, leav­ing in tat­ters the cross-bor­der “caliphate” it de­clared in 2014.

Syria’s Rus­sian-backed army is this week bat­tling to oust IS from the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal Deir Ez­zor city, af­ter break­ing the ji­hadist group’s two-year siege of gov­ern­ment-held parts of the metropo­lis.

US-backed pro-gov­ern­ment forces re­cap­tured the Iraqi city of Tal Afar and the sur­round­ing re­gion from IS on Aug 31.

Man at­tacks women with ham­mer:

A man at­tacked two women with a ham­mer in a town in cen­tral France on Fri­day shout­ing “Al­lahu Ak­bar” (God is great) be­fore flee­ing the scene, the lo­cal pro­s­ec­tor said.

Anti-ter­ror­ism pro­s­ec­tors are “fol­low­ing the case” but have not taken it on for­mally, Chalon-sur-Saone’s prose­cu­tor Damien Savarzeix told AFP.

A source close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion said ear­lier that the as­sailant was thought to have psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems.

One of the women, hit in the back of the head, needed four stitches, the prose­cu­tor and po­lice said in a joint state­ment.

The two at­tacks oc­curred within min­utes of each other, the state­ment said.

A po­lice he­li­copter took part in the man­hunt as well as around 50 po­lice of­fi­cers.

Man at­tacks sol­dier in Paris:

A knife-wield­ing man at­tacked a sol­dier in Paris on Fri­day, the lat­est as­sault to raise ques­tions over whether France’s an­titer­ror pa­trols are a tar­get for ex­trem­ists.

The sol­dier, who was part of an anti-ter­ror­ism op­er­a­tion known as Sen­tinelle, rapidly tack­led the man and was un­in­jured. The at­tacker was taken into cus­tody.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors have opened an anti-ter­ror probe, gov­ern­ment spokesman Christophe Cas­taner said.

The in­ci­dent came with France still on high alert fol­low­ing a string of ter­ror at­tacks which be­gan in Jan­uary 2015 when ji­hadist gun­men stormed the of­fices of satir­i­cal weekly Char­lie Hebdo, killing 12.

The gov­ern­ment launched Op­er­a­tion Sen­tinelle af­ter that at­tack, de­ploy­ing some 7,000 troops across the coun­try to guard high-risk ar­eas such as tourist sites and re­li­gious build­ings.

Since then the troops have been at­tacked seven times, in­clud­ing last month when a man rammed a car into a group of sol­diers in the Paris sub­urbs, in­jur­ing six.

Though much smaller in scale than the 2015 Is­lamic State at­tacks in Paris and last year’s truck at­tack in Nice, the re­peated as­saults on sol­diers have sparked crit­i­cism that their pa­trols have be­come a tar­get.

But de­fence min­is­ter Florence Parly said the fact that the at­tacker was swiftly brought un­der con­trol Fri­day was “proof of the pro­fes­sion­al­ism and ef­fi­ciency of the Sen­tinelle sol­diers in their mis­sion to pro­tect”.

“We do not know the in­ten­tions of the at­tacker,” she told Europe 1 ra­dio.

In Fe­bru­ary, a 29-year-old Egyp­tian bran­dish­ing ma­chetes in each hand at­tacked four sol­diers pa­trolling near the Lou­vre mu­seum in Paris, shout­ing “Al­lahu ak­bar” (God is great­est).

In March, a man was shot dead at the cap­i­tal’s Orly air­port af­ter at­tack­ing troops.

Fri­day’s at­tack came a day af­ter In­te­rior Min­is­ter Ger­ard Col­lomb said the Sen­tinelle op­er­a­tion would “evolve” but ruled out cuts to troop num­bers.

“We want to re­de­ploy it to do bet­ter against the threat we are fac­ing to­day,” Col­lomb said, adding there would be changes to the way the force is or­gan­ised.

The mil­i­tary has al­ready shifted to­wards mo­bile pa­trols and away from post­ing troops out­side build­ings on per­ma­nent watch.

Crit­ics ar­gue that the pa­trols have done lit­tle to in­crease se­cu­rity and that troops are placed at un­nec­es­sary risk for an op­er­a­tion largely aimed at re­as­sur­ing the public.

They also point to the strain it puts on an army that has 10,000 troops ac­tive abroad, in­clud­ing 4,000 fight­ing ji­hadism in west Africa.

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