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Suicide Vest Found In Paris Similar To The Ones Used In Paris Attacks, Raises Possible Link to Suspect

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Suicide Vest Found In Paris Similar To The Ones Used In Paris Attacks, Raises Possible Link to Suspect

BRUSSELS — A street cleaner found an explosive vest similar to those used in the Paris attacks on Monday near the place where a suspect’s mobile phone had been found, raising the possibility that he aborted his mission, either ditching a malfunctioning vest — or fleeing in fear.

The discovery of the vest came as Belgium’s prime minister cited a “serious and imminent” threat justifying keeping the highest alert level operational for at least another week. The security measures, already in place for three days, have severely disrupted normal life in the capital.

In France, police said an explosive vest — without a detonator — was found by a street cleaner in a pile of rubble in Chatillon-Montrouge, on the southern edge of Paris and a considerable distance from the sites of the attacks on the Right Bank of the Seine to the north. A police official later said the vest contained bolts and the same type of explosives — TATP — as those used in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that claimed 130 lives and left hundreds wounded.

The device was found Monday in the same area where a cellphone belonging to fugitive suspect Salah Abdeslam was located on the day of the Paris attacks but the vest has not been formally linked to him, said two police officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.

Belgium-based terrorism expert Claude Moniquet, who has been in contact with both Belgian and French investigators since the attacks, laid out two possibilities: that Abdeslam became afraid of carrying out a suicide mission or, more likely he says, that he simply ditched a defective explosive vest.

Nervousness could have played a role in concocting a defective vest, but he said he doubted fear played a role for among Islamic State followers, “it is rare not to go to the end.”

Moniquet said this was only theory since he had not yet spoken to investigators about the explosive vest find.

A manhunt is underway for Abdeslam, whose brother Brahim was among attackers who blew themselves up. He crossed the border into Belgium after the attacks, with French police stopping and interviewing him, before letting him go.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Brussels, which houses the headquarters of the European Union and NATO, faced a “serious and imminent” threat that requires keeping the city at the highest alert level, while the rest of the country would stay at the second-highest level. Belgium’s crisis center said the alert level would only change if a significant breakthrough warranted it.

The increased security measures in the wake of the massacre in Paris have virtually shut down the Belgian capital, with the subway system, many shops and schools remaining shut on Monday. Michel said that despite the continued high-alert level, schools would reopen Wednesday, with parts of the subway system beginning to operate. He did not say when the system would be completely online again.

“We are very alert and call for caution,” Michel said. “The potential targets remain the same: shopping centers and shopping streets and public transport.”

“We want to return to a normal way of life as quickly as possible,” he added.

Belgian authorities have not announced any details of their investigation into potential attacks nor have they released information about four suspects who have been arrested and charged with terrorism-related offenses. These include one suspect who was arrested as part of a sweep that saw 21 people detained since Sunday night. Fifteen of those detainees have since been released.

Frank Foley, a terrorism expert and lecturer in war studies at King’s College London, said it was difficult to know if the Belgian operations were justified because authorities have provided few details. The measures could even be counterproductive if they last too long, he said.

“If these dramatic measures continue in Brussels, we will be doing the terrorists’ job for them,” Foley said. “The government may be unintentionally contributing to the atmosphere of fear.”

Henry Willis, director of RAND Homeland Security and Defense Center, likened the clampdown to the reaction of U.S. authorities after the Boston Marathon bombing.

“They did shut down the city for a couple of days and when they lifted those restrictions, that’s when they caught the terrorist,” he said.

Several of the Paris attackers had lived in Brussels, including Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the man who authorities say orchestrated the plot. He was killed Wednesday in a standoff with French police.

French authorities issued a new appeal for help in identifying one of the three attackers who was killed in the assault near the national stadium. They posted a photo of the man on Twitter Sunday asking the public for information.

Greek police confirmed the man posed as an asylum seeker before the carnage. Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas said the man traveled to the island of Leros on Oct. 3, but he gave no further details.

Two senior Greek law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that the man traveled with another attacker, identified as Ahmad Al Mohammad. Both men were rescued by the Greek coast guard while traveling from Turkey on a boat carrying nearly 200 migrants and refugees that sank before reaching Greece. The officials requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media.

Last week, France extended for three months a state of emergency that allows police raids, searches and house arrest without permission from a judge. On Saturday, it also extended a ban on demonstrations and other gatherings through Nov. 30, when a U.N. climate conference to be attended by more than 100 heads of state is scheduled to start.

 

Brussels has been put on the highest terror alert as authorities continue to search for Salah Abdeslam, a suspected assailant in the Paris attacks.

Brussels has been put on the highest terror alert as authorities continue to search for Salah Abdeslam, a suspected assailant in the Paris attacks.


The West, reeling from attacks in the heart of Europe, was also using military might to go after the Islamic State group.

Earlier Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said during a visit to Paris that he would seek parliamentary approval for the U.K. to join the airstrikes being carried out by the U.S., France, Russia and other nations against the Islamic State extremists in Syria. Britain has been carrying out airstrikes in Iraq, and Cameron has long wanted an expanded mandate to extend the air campaign to Syria.

Cameron and French President Francois Hollande paid a visit to the Bataclan concert hall, which saw the worst of the carnage. Seeking a unified strategy on Syria, Hollande meets Tuesday with President Barack Obama and with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, before traveling to Moscow on Thursday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

France’s Defense Ministry said it launched its first airstrikes from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, bombing IS targets in the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Mosul in a seven-hour operation. The ministry said four Rafale fighter jets were sent from the carrier Monday afternoon. France has already carried out strikes against IS targets in Syria.

 

Ganley reported from Paris. Associated Press writers Lori Hinnant, Frank Jordans, Sylvie Corbet, Nicolas Vaux-Montagny and Elena Becatoros in Paris, Lorne Cook, John-Thor Dahlburg and Maria Cheng in Brussels, Danica Kirka in London, Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki, Greece, and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, contributed to this report.

Entrepreneur, contributor, writer, and editor of Sostre News. With a powerful new bi-lingual speaking generation by his side, Sostre News is becoming the preferred site for the latest in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Culture, Tech, Breaking and World News.

International

Syria al-Qaeda Leader Attacked, Unsure of His Survival

An air strike struck Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in the Syrian province of Idlib on Sunday, based on unconfirmed reports.

The Egyptian is second-in-command to overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to BBC News.

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An air strike struck Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in the Syrian province of Idlib on Sunday, based on unconfirmed reports.

The Egyptian is second-in-command to overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to BBC News.

Syrian opposition forces, the Local Co-ordination Committees, posted a photo of the car which was targeted for the attack, as stated by them.

Car with roof shattered is shown in photo taken from Syrian opposition activists

The car, in the town of al-Mastuma, was targeted by “international coalition aircraft”, the group said.

Additionally, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that an al-Qaeda official was killed in a strike, but did not confirm it was Abu al-Khayr al-Masri.

The Egyptian, whose real name is Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abd al-Rahman, was reportedly released from custody by Iran in 2015 as part of a prisoner swap.

Last year, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri was reported to have given his blessing to a decision by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front, to cut formal ties with the global jihadist network.

The Syrian jihadist with ties broken with al-Qaeda had renamed its name to Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, as reported by CNN.

According to Ahmad Hasan Abu al Khayr al-Masri, al-Qaeda has embraced the split. The man Masri would replace as an upranking to No. 2 of the leadership position in the terror group, is al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri expressed his opinion on the split in a supportive manner and called for infighting between jihadist groups to end.

Although Jabhat Fateh al-Sham was no longer linked to an external entity, the U.S. still kept it on its list of foreign terrorist groups and continued to target air strikes.

Therefore, in January, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham dissolved itself and formed an alliance with four smaller Syrian jihadist groups called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The move seemed to deem an attempt by the group to distance itself from al-Qaeda.

Tahrir al-Sham as since then fought rebel groups for control of the Idlib province in Syria, implying that it was them who had instigated suicide bombs on Saturday against the military in the government-controlled city of Homs.

Although the death of Abu al-Khayr al-Masri is uncertain, the Guardian has stated that he has been killed based off of what jihadists are stating.

The immediate circumstances of Masri’s death were unclear. Video online showed a tan four-door Kia sedan destroyed at a roadside with a large hole in its canopy but its windscreen mostly intact. The location of the attack was unusually far west for a US drone strike.

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International

Honor Killings are Never Justifiable, Not Ever or Anywhere!

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I have decided to shed some light on some insights about honor killings, amidst one that occurred in my parents’ home country, Pakistan, yesterday. An upcoming supermodel by the name of Qandeel Baloch was killed by her brother in Multan, Paksitan while her parents were in their bedroom, asleep. The model was allegedly there to visit family or for other reasons. The brother who strangled her to death, reportedly after he drugged her, was interviewed and showed no remorse for his wrongdoing. Of course, what he did is inexcusable in all ways and is unsurpassable as a violation and a wrongdoing!

Baloch’s brother, who took her life, was embarrassed by his sister’s career as a supermodel and was aghast at her actions in this profession. This, however, can never justify the fact that he felt he had to end her life. Not only in this culture, mostly and especially in Pakistan’s rural areas, is this prevalent. It happens in other areas of the world and this is not attributable to Pakistanis or any type of Muslim or the religion itself, Islam. Anyway, surely you can recall the incident that was reported on television a few years ago. A man killed his daughter by running her over with a car, as well as her attempts to kill her boyfriend and his mother. He killed her because she had a boyfriend.

Oppressing women is not taught in any culture or religion, and is inexcusable in any way. A woman has the right to live however she pleases, at least I genuinely believe in this, and she should not have to fear for her life.

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Turkish Military Attempts to Overthrow President

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted to the nation Saturday that his government is in charge following a coup attempt brought a night of explosions, air battles, gunfire and unrest across the capital and left at least 90 dead, 1,154 people wounded and more than 1,000 military personnel detained.

In a press conference at Ataturk Airport, Erdogan said the architects of the coup attempt would “pay a heavy price” and vowed he would “not surrender this country to intruders.”

A senior Turkish official told the Associated Press that 1,563 military personnel have been detained in the coup attempt.

A Turkish lawmaker contacted by Reuters said he and his colleagues were hiding in special shelters in the bowels of the parliament building after at least three explosions near the complex in the capital, Ankara. Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman told the Associated Press a bomb hit one corner of a public relations building inside the parliament complex, injuring some police officers.

Elsewhere, troops also fired in the air to disperse a growing crowd of government supporters at the Taksim monument in Istanbul as military helicopters flew overhead. A nearby mosque made an anti-coup announcement over its loudspeakers.

Erdogan insisted that the coup attempt wouldn’t succeed.

“They have pointed the people’s guns against the people. The president, whom 52 percent of the people brought to power, is in charge,” he said. “This government brought to power by the people, is in charge. They won’t succeed as long as we stand against them by risking everything.”

In his TV address, Erdogan blamed the attack on supporters of Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan has long accused the cleric and his supporters of attempting to overthrow the government. The cleric lives in exile in Pennsylvania and promotes a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue.

Turkey’s allies, fellow NATO member nations and world leaders swiftly reacted Friday to an attempted coup Friday night, which could spur immense implications, not only in the Middle East, but also in the West.

“The United States views with gravest concern events unfolding in Turkey,” said Secretary of State John Kerry.

He said the State Department was “monitoring a fluid situation,” and “emphasized the United States’ absolute support for Turkey’s democratically-elected, civilian government and democratic institutions.”

The U.S. State Department urged U.S. citizens in Turkey to shelter in place during the attempted coup.

President Barack Obama had been briefed on the situation. “The president and secretary agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected government of Turkey, show restraint and avoid any violence or bloodshed,” a White House statement said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote in a tweet that he spoke with the Turkish foreign minister. “I call for calm, restraint & full respect for Turkey’s democratic institutions and constitution,” Stoltenberg wrote, without saying what actions, if any, NATO would take. Turkey joined NATO in 1952.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for calm as the world body sought to clarify the situation, said a U.N. spokesman.

“The Secretary-General is closely following developments in Turkey. He is aware of the reports of a coup attempt in the country. The United Nations is seeking to clarify the situation on the ground and appeals for calm,” said spokesman Farhan Haq.

Britain’s government was also monitoring the turmoil. “We are concerned by events unfolding in Ankara and Istanbul. Our Embassy is monitoring the situation closely,” a British foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson also said he was “very concerned.”

The foreign minister of Turkey’s neighbor to the east said he was “deeply concerned about the crisis in Turkey.”

“Stability, democracy & safety of Turkish people are paramount. Unity & prudence are imperative,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet.

Slovakia, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, said on Saturday it was following the events unfolding in Turkey with serious concern, and was coordinating appropriate reaction with EU partners.

“Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak has been in intensive contact all evening with EU high foreign affairs representative Federica Mogherini and other European colleagues,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“He has also been in contact with partners in the Turkish government with the aim to clarify the situation in Turkey and discuss steps that the EU should take with the aim to maintain and support democracy and stability in the country.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she was “in constant contact with EU delegation in Ankara and Brussels from Mongolia.” She called for “restraint and respect for democratic institutions.”

The Kremlin said it was gravely concerned. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that President Vladimir Putin was being kept constantly updated on the situation in Turkey.

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