Deaths Mount as Iraq Goes to War With Itself

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Deaths Mount as Iraq Goes to War With Itself

ImageAntigovernment protesters behind a burning barricade in Baghdad on Friday. There have been been protests against government corruption, unemployment and a lack of basic services.
Credit Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press

Iraq is at war again, but this time with itself.

Security forces have repeatedly turned their weapons on fellow Iraqis this past week, killing at least 91, and wounding more than 2,000, as of Saturday.

This past week, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Baghdad and across southern Iraq to protest widespread government corruption, unemployment and a lack of basic services such as electricity.

The Iraqi authorities lifted a multi-day curfew in Baghdad on Saturday that many anti-government protesters had ignored. Parliament was set to meet to discuss protesters’ demands, while senior Iraqi officials, including the prime minister and Parliament speaker, were set to meet with protesters.

The harsh response by the security services suggested, however, that they had been given leeway by the leadership to take any steps necessary to halt the protests, signaling how ill-prepared the government was to respond to the demands of its own citizens.

It was also a reminder that Iraq, which never experienced an Arab Spring-like rebellion with people pouring into the streets, had security forces that were trained to deal with terrorism but were a loss to find less lethal ways to control crowds.

“I came out to the streets to ask for reform in my country and to find salvation from the mafias who have stolen my country and was greeted brutally by the security forces,” said Ibrahim Ahmed Yusuf, 34, who was wounded in the neck while demonstrating in Tahrir Square in Baghdad.

ImageProtesters on Tuesday holding a poster that reads “We are all Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi,” referring to the general whose dismissal helped set off the protests.
Credit Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press

“We are peaceful protesters, but the security forces treated us with brutality, as if we were animals, not humans demanding our rights,” he said.

There have been protests in Iraq before, and some seemed more violent, including those in 2016, when crowds entered the Parliament and demanded an end to corruption, which is a core demand of the protesters now. This time, however, the protests have come with a broader and deeper sense of the government’s incompetence, and draw support from Iraqi youth, intellectuals and educated people, as well as from some political parties trying to make the most of it.

Many Iraqis are jobless, and despite the end of the largest part of the fight against the Islamic State, as well as the government’s increased oil revenues, little money is being put into jobs programs or improving services, at least not enough that people feel a significant difference in their daily lives.

Iraqis are continuing to protest despite a more violent, at times deadly, response on the part of the security forces, who in some cases have been firing directly at the protesters rather than into the air to disperse them, according to multiple reports from protesters. This itself suggests desperation, even a willingness to risk everything.

“This reflects a broad realization that the system is incapable of reforming itself,” said Randa Slim, a senior fellow and director of conflict resolution at the Middle East Institute.

“But then what is the path forward?” said Ms. Slim, who was in Iraq recently to meet with people from different backgrounds and political orientations. “I don’t think anyone has a clue.”

Image

Credit Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press

The protests, which began on Oct. 1, seemed to come out of nowhere, but were apparently sparked by a recent, disturbing political event: the removal in September of a highly respected general, Abdul-Wahab Al-Saadi, from the leadership of the counter-terrorism command.

General Al-Saadi, who was widely believed to have done a good job in fighting the Islamic State, especially on the difficult battlefields of Mosul and Falluja, was peremptorily removed from his job and assigned to the ministry of defense.

General Al-Saadi’s profile — he is a Shiite but not aligned with any party — made him something of an Every-man soldier-hero. His dismissal was explained on the street as linked to his lack of corruption, in contrast to other senior figures, and his refusal to kowtow to the Popular Mobilization Forces, military entities within the Iraqi security forces, some of which have links to Iran.

Whether people knew General Al-Saadi was less important than what he stood for, said Abbas Kadhim, the director of the Iraq Initiative and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who was visiting southern Iraq when demonstrations started.

“This was just a spark that unleashed all built-up grievances,” he said.

“Many of the grievances are not about Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s government,” he added, referring to the prime minister of Iraq. “But when you are the prime minister, you have to pay for your mistakes and those of previous leaders.”

At first, the demonstrations were small, but as the police and security forces responded with violence, they grew in size and quickly spread. The government made little effort to curb the security forces’ violence, and by Friday the Iraqi Federal Police had warned in a statement that snipers who were not part of the security forces were shooting at both the protesters and the police.

Image

Iraqi police officers standing guard in front of torched government buildings south of Baghdad on Friday.
CreditEssam Al-Sudani/Reuters

It was unclear whether these were shadowy entities within the Iraqi security establishment or elements linked to political parties or to neighboring countries seeking to promote instability in Iraq.

Caught off guard by the demonstrators, the government at first met the protesters’ anger with silence, allowing repressive actions by the security forces to dominate the narrative. The prime minister, Mr. Mahdi, put a curfew in place, shut down the internet and called in additional police forces. Then he made a brief statement that backed up the security forces.

Only on Friday — as criticism rained down from the senior Shiite clerics, the United Nations and rights groups, and the repression seemed to have little effect — did the government began to reach out to those among the demonstrators whom they called the “peace protesters.”

The Parliament speaker, Mohammed Al-Halbousi, invited representatives of the protesters to meet with him, offering a laundry list of concessions. Mr. Mahdi also was planning to meet with protesters on Saturday.

The problem is that political parties now smell blood and believe they can topple Mr. Abdul-Mahdi and gain ground for themselves. Already, the leaders of two sizable political parties, Sairoon and Al Hikma, openly criticized the government and called for reform. The former is led by Moktada al-Sadr, the nationalist Shiite cleric who has been a thorn in the side of whoever has been in charge in Iraqi since 2003.

Mr. al-Sadr called for his bloc to stop participation in the Parliament and for the government to resign. If he decides to call his followers to the streets, he has broad influence in Sadr City, a sprawling, largely poor neighborhood of Baghdad that is home to more than a million people, as well as in Iraq’s second largest city, Basra, and elsewhere in southern Iraq.

Unlike the 2016 protests, when many participants were followers of the cleric, these protests include a cross-section of Iraqis, many without ties to political parties.

Different provinces have different demands, however. The disparate goals that drove people into the streets mean that, at least for now, there are no clear leaders to negotiate on behalf of the aggrieved.

Falah Hassan contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 4 of the New York edition with the headline: Iraqi Security Forces Kill Dozens in Week of Protest. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Egypt Calls for Holding Erdogan Accountable over Terrorism, Targeting of Kurds

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

(It is past time that this mass murderer (Erdogan) is removed from breathing free air and replaced with a real Leader who will allow the people of Turkey to live in freedom and peace with their neighbors like the Kurdish people.)(oped: oldpoet56))

Egypt Calls for Holding Erdogan Accountable over Terrorism, Targeting of Kurds

Thursday, 26 September, 2019 – 11:45
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
Cairo – Mohamed Nabil Helmy
In a sharp statement, Cairo made several accusations against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urging the international community to “hold him accountable” for what the Egyptian Foreign Ministry called “all of his crimes”.

The statement, released on Wednesday by Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman, Ahmed Hafez, said that Erdogan was supporting terrorism, arming extremists and deliberately targeting the Kurds.

It also listed human rights violations in Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership, including thousands held as political prisoners, the suspicious deaths of dozens of detainees due to torture or inhuman prison conditions, and the closure of thousands of universities and educational institutions.

Hafez said that Erdogan “claimed to defend the values of justice in his speech, but at the core showed feelings of hatred and spite toward Egypt and its people who have nothing but appreciation for the people of Turkey.”

His remarks came in response to Erdogan’s speech during the UN General Assembly meetings, in which he raised doubts on Mohammed Morsi’s death in court last June.

Cairo and Ankara have reduced their diplomatic relations since 2013 because of the Turkish president’s position against the June 30 Revolution that toppled the rule of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, after widespread public protests against his continued rule. In the wake of a number of statements that Egypt considered “hostile”, Cairo decided to withdraw its ambassador from Ankara and expel the Turkish ambassador.

Hafez emphasized that Erdogan’s statements were a “desperate attempt to steer attention away from his deteriorating regime and the successive losses he is suffering.

Pak terror groups use Chinese drones to airdrop 80 kg weapons in Punjab for J&K

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Pak terror groups use Chinese drones to airdrop 80 kg weapons in Punjab for J&K

The entire consignment, using the Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) network, was supported by Pakistan’s spy agency Inter Services Intelligence and orchestrated through Germany and Lahore; the ultimate aim — to fuel terror attacks in Jammu & Kashmir.

INDIA Updated: Sep 25, 2019 15:49 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Five people have so far been arrested by Punjab Police in connection with the drone drops.
Five people have so far been arrested by Punjab Police in connection with the drone drops.(File photo)

At least eight drone sorties, carrying a total of 80 kg of weapons (arms and ammunition), were sent across the border into Punjab by Pakistan-based Khalistani terror groups between September 9 and 16, officials in security agencies and the Punjab Police have confirmed on condition of anonymity.

The entire consignment, using the Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) network, was supported by Pakistan’s spy agency Inter Services Intelligence and orchestrated through Germany and Lahore; the ultimate aim — to fuel terror attacks in Jammu & Kashmir.

The details of these drops have emerged following investigations that led to and following the September 22 weapons seizure at Tarn Taran district; the eight payloads were dropped in Amritsar and Tarn Taran.

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Police recover a half-burnt drone that was used for smuggling weapons into Punjab from Pakistan.

Police recover a half-burnt drone that was used for smuggling weapons into Punjab from Pakistan. ( Photo: Special arrangement )

Five people have so far been arrested by Punjab Police in connection with the drone drops, with one 22-year-old Subhdeep held on Tuesday. Investigators said he was from Amritsar district and was radicalised by the prime accused in the case, Mann Singh, and another accused, Akashdeep, in Amritsar jail. The other four people, suspected to belong to a terror module, were arrested from the outskirts of village Chohla Sahib in Tarn Taran on Sunday. They were using a white Maruti Swift with a Punjab registration number.

The investigation involved multiple agencies – the Punjab Police, central security agencies, the Border Security Force, the Indian Air Force – and prima facie found that multiple Chinese commercial drones with 10 kg payloads have been used in the weapons drop operations across the border. The drones, the investigation reveals, may have been launched from locations 2 km inside Pakistan and made to travel the distance of five kilometres at a height of 2,000 feet, and then dropped off the weapons after descending to 1200 ft. The payload was slung from the platform using Chinese mountaineering ropes.

Chinese batteries recovered from  the drone that crashed in Tarn Taran, Punjab.

Chinese batteries recovered from the drone that crashed in Tarn Taran, Punjab. ( Sourced )

With drone activity also being seen in Punjab’s Ferozepur district, the IAF and BSF have been asked by the Punjab police to intercept these unmanned aerial vehicles through low-level radars and destroy them. Officials fear that they could also be used to carry and drop off bombs.

The interrogation of those arrested has revealed that KZF’s Germany-based operative Gurmeet Singh Bagga in coordination with his Pakistan-based chief Ranjeet Singh aka Neeta have made deliveries of at least four weapons, grenades, electronics, and fake currency through drones. The deliveries were made on the intervening nights of September 6/7, 9/10 and the last one on 15/16. The last drone crashed at Rajoke Village, Khalra police station, in Tarn Taran, near a border drain which is 2km from the fencing on the international border with Pakistan. The entire operation came to light after the discovery of the burnt drone, whose eight Chinese batteries were stripped off by the accused on instructions from across the border. “ It has also been revealed that such deliveries took place on four different dates, mostly between 9.30 pm and 10.30 pm with the drone making two sorties within an hour,” said a senior Punjab Police official. As many as five AK-47 rifles, which weigh about four kilograms with magazine, four Chinese pistols , nine HE grenades, Rs 10 lakh fake currency, 1000 rounds of ammunition and two electronic receivers were recovered by the police from the accused.

The main concern of Indian security agencies is the revelation that entire consignment was meant for Islamist groups in Kashmir. “ We are not very clear as to how many other consignment has made their way into Kashmir using similar modus operandi and with the help of Pakistan based Sikh terrorists,” said a senior security official.

First Published: Sep 25, 2019 05:03 IST

(Poem) Today The Hate Flew In

Today The Hate Flew In

 

Today we all remember the day the hate flew into our home

Eighteen years ago on this very mornings date and time

The blind began to see what their minds didn’t seem to know

There are millions in this world who hate both you and me

Many millions now ask, why was this attack upon all of us

 

This morning hate flew in on the wings of four passenger jets

For many was the first time we had seen mass death on our T.V.’s

On this day anger did rage and criers burst into many a tears

Why did some hate us so that they gave their lives in such a rage

Were we really innocent in that we were blinded to their hate

 

Two buildings flattened in lower Manhattan and one hit in D.C.

In a field in western Pennsylvania there is a fourth mass grave

Over three thousand innocent folks lost their lives this day

A unholy war of 1,400 years showed it’s ugly face to us today

A new date of infamy was today, the day the hate flew in

India: Jaish chief Masood Azhar secretly released from Pakistan jail: Intelligence report

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Jaish chief Masood Azhar secretly released from Pakistan jail: Intelligence report

According to an intelligence input, Pakistan has released Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar to carry out terror attacks.There are also reports of a Pakistan plan to carry out a “big action” in Sialkot-Jammu and Rajasthan sectors in the coming days.

INDIA Updated: Sep 09, 2019 09:43 IST

Neeraj Chauhan
Neeraj Chauhan

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar
Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar(AFP file photo)

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) has alerted the government about the deployment of additional Pakistani troopers along the border near Rajasthan and said Islamabad has released Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar to carry out terror attacks, according to two officials aware of the developments. HT has also accessed an input issued in this regard.

According to the input, Pakistan is planning “big action” in Sialkot-Jammu and Rajasthan sectors in the coming days in response to the government’s move to revoke Article 370 that gave Jammu and Kashmir some autonomy and prevented non-residents from buying property and getting government jobs in the state. The input warned that Pakistan has started deploying additional troops near the Rajasthan border as part of the plan.

The input has been conveyed to the respective Border Security Force and army field formations in Jammu and Rajasthan sectors “to avoid any surprises” from the Pakistani army and the troops have been asked to remain alert, the officials cited above said.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday threatened “fullest possible response” to India’s moves in Jammu and Kashmir. Khan added the global community would be responsible for any “catastrophic” aftermath as he continued his rhetoric amid rising tensions with New Delhi since the government abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.

The comments by Khan, who last week said there was a risk of India-Pakistan war, came on a day Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said they were prepared to “go till any extent”. Bajwa added they were ready to “give sacrifices for our Kashmiri brothers, fulfil our duty till the last bullet, last soldiers and last breath”.

Amid rising tensions between the two countries, the IB input said Pakistan has “secretly” released Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar to plan terrorist operations while other terror organisations were also working openly. There were uncorroborated reports after the February 14 car bomb attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama that Pakistani agencies had taken Azhar into protective custody.

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Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Karambir Singh, revealed that intelligence alerts suggest that Jaish-e-Mohammad is providing training to its ‘underwater wing’.
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JeM took responsibility for the attack in which 40 paramilitary troopers were killed and prompted India to carry airstrikes on the group’s camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26.

One of the officials cited above said Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had no inkling that the Indian government would revoke Article 370 on August 5. “It is being considered the ISI’s biggest intelligence failure in history and now they are under pressure to act,’’ the official said on condition of anonymity.

The official added while the Pakistani army will try to play mischief, militants like Azhar have been unleashed to carry out terror attacks in India. “Pakistan may try to use the current situation and the Indian government’s focus in Jammu and Kashmir to target somewhere else.”

Azhar, who is wanted in India for several attacks, including the 2016 Pathankot airbase attack, was among four people declared as individual terrorists on August 4 under a new anti-terror law passed in August.

In an interaction with journalists on Saturday, national security adviser Ajit Doval said Pakistan is trying to create trouble and some 230 terrorists have been spotted across the border.

There have been sporadic skirmishes along the India-Pakistan border since August 5. Army chief General Bipin Rawat told HT last week that Pakistan has reopened terror training camps and attempted to push infiltrators. He said that the Indian Army is ready for any eventuality.

Internal security expert Ajay Sahni said Pakistan sees the abrogation of Article 370 as a provocation and has to be seen doing something about it, saying: “Also, Pakistan is under tremendous pressure from the international community over terrorism, failing the FATF [Financial Action Task Force] yardsticks, the economic situation, and others, which are limiting its capacity to respond. It is difficult to predict how Pakistan will respond.” Sahni, however, cautioned against taking all the IB inputs at face value.

First Published: Sep 09, 2019 05:27 IST

Italy: Warrants for 10 Suspects, Including 8 Tunisians, on Terror Finance Charges

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Italy: Warrants for 10 Suspects, Including 8 Tunisians, on Terror Finance Charges

Saturday, 7 September, 2019 – 11:00
EPA file photo of Italian police
Asharq Al-Awsat
Italy has issued arrest warrants for 10 people suspected of financing terrorism, prosecutors said Saturday.

Eight of the suspects are of Tunisian origin and two are Italian. Among them is an Imam from the city of Teramo in the central region of Abruzzo.

The suspects are alleged to have “created many false accounts, through various companies to set aside large sums of money,” the prosecutor’s office in Aquila said.

The money was used to finance activities related to al-Nusra Front, the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, it said.

Part of the money was also intended for imams in Italy, “including one convicted for association with a group linked to international terrorism”.

An Italian accountant is also among the 10 suspects, whose property, money and real estate, said to be worth more than one million euros (over $1.1 million), were seized, the statement said.

San Francisco Board Of Supervisors Declares NRA Domestic Terrorist’s

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

 

SAN FRANCISCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS DECLARES NRA A DOMESTIC TERRORIST ORGANIZATION, URGES OTHER CITIES, STATES AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO DO SAME

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San Francisco’s legislative body has challenged other American cities and states to follow its lead and formally condemn the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The Californian city’s board of supervisors passed a resolution on Tuesday officially labeling the gun rights’ group a domestic terrorist organization.

District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani, whose district includes the Marina and Presidio, wrote the declaration stating that the NRA “spreads propaganda that misinforms and aims to deceive the public about the dangers of gun violence.”

It said the NRA “musters its considerable wealth and organizational strength to promote gun ownership and incite gun owners to acts of violence.”

“All countries have violent and hateful people, but only in America do we give them ready access to assault weapons and large-capacity magazines thanks, in large part, to the National Rifle Association’s influence,” the declaration read.

National Rifle Association protesters
Advocates of gun reform legislation hold a candlelight vigil for victims of recent mass shootings outside the headquarters of the National Rifle Association August 5, 2019 in Fairfax, Virginia. The city of San Francisco has formally adopted a resolution calling the NRA a domestic terrorist organization.WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES

Stefani was inspired to write the declaration after the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festivalon July 28, in which a gunman killed three people before shooting himself.

“The NRA has it coming to them, and I will do everything that I possibly can to call them out on what they are, which is a domestic terrorist organization,” she told Fox affiliate KVTU.

She referred to other mass shootings that took place in quick succession, including in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso in Texas and Odessa, also in Texas.

“People are dying every day in this country, and doing nothing is not an option, and that is what the NRA continues to do,” she added.

City Hall passed the resolution unanimously and called on the city and county of San Francisco to “take every reasonable step to limit … entities who do business with the City and County of San Francisco from doing business” with the NRA, according to SF Gate.

Newsweek has contacted the NRA for comment.

In a statement provided to Fox, it described the move as a “ludicrous stunt” which was undertaken to “distract from the real problems facing San Francisco, such as rampant homelessness, drug abuse and skyrocketing petty crime.

“The NRA will continue working to protect the constitutional rights of all freedom-loving Americans,” it added.

This week, the NRA criticized Walmart’s decision to end handgun sales, stop sales of certain types of ammunition and ask customers to not openly carry firearms.

The move came after the shooting at one of its stores in El Paso, Texas, which left 22 people dead.

“It is shameful to see Walmart succumb to the pressure of the anti-gun elites. Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms,” the NRA said (via The Hill).

Texas mass shooter was fired from job hours before deadly rampage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)

 

Texas mass shooter was fired from job hours before deadly rampage

The Texas madman who went on a mobile shooting spree had been fired from his job just hours before his rampage — and had previously failed a background check, according to new reports.

Seth Ator, 36, had been axed from his trucking job a few hours before he killed seven and injured 22 in a spree in Odessa that started with a routine traffic stop on Saturday, authorities told the New York Times.

Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke did not mention the firing at a press briefing Sunday, instead insisting there were “no definitive answers as to motive or reasons at this point.”

Ator used an “AR-type weapon” in his attack, and police say they are still investigating how he got it — especially in light of a revelation by state Rep. Tom Craddick, who said Ator had previously failed a background check, according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram.

No details were given as to what caused him to fail.

Ator first opened fire at state troopers who pulled him over in his gold Toyota pickup truck for a minor signaling infraction along a stretch of I-20 near Midland, Texas, on Saturday.

He then peeled off, firing indiscriminately out of the truck as he floored it toward Odessa, authorities said.

Along the way, he killed a Postal Service worker and hijacked her mail truck, continuing the spree, officials said.

He made his last stand in the parking lot of an Odessa movie theater, where he was killed in a shootout with cops.

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One person was killed, 8 others wounded in knife attack outside Lyon, France

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

One person was killed, 8 others wounded in knife attack outside Lyon, France

Emergency services at work on the outskirts of Lyon after a deadly knife attack

(CNN)One person was killed and eight others wounded during a knife attack at a subway stop near Lyon, France, according to authorities and media reports.

Three of the eight victims were seriously wounded, CNN affiliate BFM TV reported. The station had earlier reported nine wounded but later revised the number to eight, citing police sources.
A suspect has been taken into custody, according to Lyon Mayor Gerard Collomb. The motive for the attack is not known.
Emergency services at scene of knife assault that left one person dead and nine others wounded.

“I am extremely shocked by the attack that just took place in the Lyon area, during which one person died and several others wounded, some seriously,” the mayor tweeted.
The suspected attacker is a 33-year-old asylum seeker, BFM reported.
The attack is not a terror investigation at the moment, a police trade union official told CNN.
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, via Twitter, expressed his condolences to “friends and family of the young man killed.” He said he was following the situation.
The assault occurred in Villeurbanne, a suburb of the southeastern city of Lyon, about 4:30 p.m., BFM reported. Emergency services responded to an exit at the Laurent Bonnevay stop of the Lyon Metro.
In September, seven people were injured, including two British tourists, during an attack by a man wielding a knife and an iron bar in northeastern Paris, police said. The assault came after a series of knife attacks in France.

Israel: ‘Watch out’ IDF reveals details of Iran-Hezbollah missile plot

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

‘Watch out’: In tacit threat, IDF reveals details of Iran-Hezbollah missile plot

Military names Iranian, Lebanese officers working for years to give Shiite terror group advanced munitions; wants Lebanon, international community to act to halt the program

This frame grab from video released on July 22, 2017, and provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows Hezbollah fighters firing a missile at positions of al-Qaeda-linked militants in an area on the Lebanon-Syria border. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

Illustrative. This frame grab from video released on July 22, 2017, shows Hezbollah fighters firing a missile at positions of al-Qaeda-linked militants in an area on the Lebanon-Syria border. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday revealed the identities of four senior Iranian and Hezbollah officials involved in a joint project to manufacture precision-guided missiles for the Lebanese terror group, in a dramatic move apparently intended as a tacit threat to the officers.

The program is being led on the Iranian side by Brig. Gen. Muhammad Hussein-Zada Hejazi, a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps operating under the direct command of Qassem Soleimani, a general who heads the IRGC’s Quds Force, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters.

According to Conricus, Iran has intensified its efforts to establish facilities capable of producing precision-guided missiles in Lebanon in recent weeks.

The Israeli military said it was taking the highly irregular step of releasing information about active members of a terrorist plot in order to push the Lebanese government and international community to take action to halt the project.  Conricus said the IDF would likely reveal additional intelligence about the plot within the coming hours and days.

“Iran is endangering Lebanese by trying to produce precision-guided missiles on Lebanese soil, using the Lebanese people as human shields,” Conricus said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said exposing the details of the program was meant to send a signal to Israel’s enemies.

“We will not stand to the side and allow our enemies to acquire deadly weapons to use against us. This week, I already told our enemies to be careful with their actions. Now I am telling them: Dir balak,” Netanyahu said, using an Arabic phrase meaning, “Watch out.”

A graphic released by the Israeli military showing IRGC Brig. Gen. Muhammad Hussein-Zada Hejazi, who is allegedly responsible for the Iranian military’s activities in Lebanon, which was released on August 29, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah have been particularly high this week following Israeli airstrikes on Saturday night on an Iranian position in Syria that killed two Hezbollah members. Israel named the two as Lebanese nationals and said they were involved in a IRGC Quds Force plot to use armed unmanned aerial vehicles against the Jewish state.

Further stoking tensions was as a drone attack in Beirut early Sunday morning attributed to Israel that reportedly targeted key components of the joint Hezbollah-Iranian precision missile project.

Conricus said he would not comment on the matter.

The precision missile project

According to the IDF, Iran began trying to transport advanced precision missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon through Syria in 2013 and 2014. But airstrikes attributed to Israel prevented the Islamic Republic from providing the terror group with large numbers of these projectiles.

Israeli Military Intelligence believes that in 2016 Iran and Hezbollah decided to change tack and convert the terror group’s existing simple rockets into precision-guided missiles in factories inside Lebanon, but had yet to acquire the ability to do so, despite significant investments of time, money and resources.

A graphic by the Israeli military providing a general explanation of the production methods used in a joint Iranian-Hezbollah program to provide the Lebanese terror group with precision-guided missiles, which was released on August 29, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

“According to our assessments, Hezbollah does not yet have an industrial capability to manufacture precision-guided munitions — not for lack of trying,” Conricus said.

He said the terror group does possess several precision-guided missiles, but does not have “significant amounts” of them.

The Israeli army said IRGC Col. Majid Nuab is responsible for the technical aspects of the program, which began in 2016.

The complicated logistics of transporting the machinery necessary to create such precision-guided missiles from Iran, through Syria and into Lebanon is managed by IRGC Brig. Gen. Ali Asrar Nuruzi, according to the IDF.

A graphic by the Israeli military showing Hezbollah commander Fuad Shukr, who is allegedly responsible for Hezbollah’s role in a joint Iranian-Hezbollah program to provide the Lebanese terror group with precision-guided missiles, which was released on August 29, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

This joint project is being led for Hezbollah by Fuad Shukr, a senior member of the Lebanese group who acts as a close adviser to its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, and is wanted by the United States for his role in the 1983 bombing of a US Marines barracks in Beirut, Conricus said.

“He is responsible for everything related to this precision missile project, the development of the missiles as well as preparations to use them. If they’ll be used by Hezbollah, he’s the guy who’ll [actually] be using them,” the IDF spokesman said.

In addition to their names, the Israeli military also released photographs of the officials.

Asked if the revelation of their identities was meant to serve as a threat of assassination to the three IRGC officers and Hezbollah official, Conricus said, “If I were any of these terrorists, I probably wouldn’t be too happy to be named and shamed.”

A graphic by the Israeli military showing IRGC Brig. Gen. Ali Asrar Nuruzi, who is allegedly responsible for the logistical aspects of an Iranian-Hezbollah program to provide the Lebanese terror group with precision-guided missiles, which was released on August 29, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

According to the Israeli military, Iran has used three main ways to transfer the technical equipment necessary both to convert simple rockets into precision missiles and to indigenously manufacture long-range precision missiles from Iran to Lebanon: through the ground, air and sea.

The army spokesman said Military Intelligence believes some of these components were transferred from Syria, where Iran has a large presence and significant influence, to Lebanon through official Lebanese ground crossings, including through the Masnaa Crossing. Other pieces of equipment are suspected of being flown into Lebanon using civilian transport flights into Beirut’s Hariri International Airport. And some machinery was sent to Lebanon by ship through Beirut’s international port, according to the Israeli military.

Conricus said Hezbollah has established multiple facilities involved in the precision missile project in various areas of Lebanon, including in Beirut.

During the strike in Beirut early Sunday morning, a drone carrying explosives reportedly detonated near two crates containing equipment central to the project, destroying them and setting back Hezbollah’s efforts by approximately a year.

A graphic by the Israeli military showing IRGC Col. Majid Nuab, who is allegedly responsible for the technical aspects of an Iranian-Hezbollah program to provide the Lebanese terror group with precision-guided missiles, which was released on August 29, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Conricus said Israel has attempted to use diplomatic methods to block the joint Iranian-Hezbollah effort.

Last September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed the locations of three alleged precision missile facilities inside Beirut during a speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

Since then, Israel has provided information on the plot to Lebanon through the UN and through large countries that have diplomatic ties with both Israel and Beirut, but to no avail, Conricus said.

“It is happening inside Lebanon, despite the fact that Israel through official and covert channels has warned the state of Lebanon and tried to [alert] the state of Lebanon to the dangers of producing these weapons on Lebanese soil near Lebanese civilians,” Conricus said.

He said Israel believes that in light of the Lebanese government’s lack of action on the matter, it has made itself complicit in the Iranian-led endeavor.

“In our point of view, the Lebanese government is completely responsible for what is happening on Lebanese soil,” Conricus said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 27, 2018, and holds up a placard detailing alleged Hezbollah missile sites in Beirut. (AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

However, the spokesman added that at this time Israel does not see the Lebanese Armed Forces as an “active enemy,” as it does consider Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah is our main enemy, the LAF is a potential enemy,” he said.

Soldiers in northern Israel have been on high alert this week over fears of a reprisal attack from Hezbollah following the strikes on Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

The Lebanese frontier was especially tense Thursday morning, following an incident the night before in which Lebanese troops fired on Israeli drones that reportedly entered their airspace.

The IDF believes Hezbollah intends to attack its soldiers or a military installation on the border, and not civilians.

In light of these concerns, the army on Tuesday restricted the movement of military vehicles along roads close to the Lebanese border. The limitations were not imposed on civilians in border communities.

A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border on August 27, 2019 shows Lebanese army and United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicles patrolling in the Lebanese village of Aitaroun along the border with Lebanon. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Israeli officials have threatened a harsh response to any reprisals by Hezbollah, both against the group and against the state of Lebanon, which Jerusalem sees as complicit in the terrorist militia’s activities.

“The Israeli response to an attack will be disproportionate,” an unnamed senior officer told Israel’s Channel 12 news on Monday night.

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