Monthly Archives: July 2019

Jul 30

Up to 5000 EU nationals join jihadists

Up to 5000 European Union citizens have joined jihadist militant ranks, the head of European police agency Europol has told British lawmakers.

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“We’re talking about 3000, 5000 EU nationals,” Rob Wainwright told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday when asked how many foreign fighters had left from Europe.

The Europol chief added that the mostly young men pose a threat to their country of origin if they return there.

“We’re dealing with a large body of mainly young men who have the potential to come back and have the potential or intent and capability to carry out attacks we have seen in Paris in the last week,” Wainwright said.

Calling the returning militants “the most serious terrorist threat that Europe has faced since 9/11” 2001 attacks, Wainwright called for greater scrutiny of the use of social media, which he said was used as a recruitment tool by jihadists.

“We have to have a closer, much more productive relationship between law enforcement and technology firms.

“One of the important evolutions we’re seeing right now in the current terrorist threat is the way the internet is used, clearly much more aggressively, much more imaginatively by the networks,” he added.

The names of about 2500 suspects have been collected by Europol from the security services of various EU countries, Wainwright said.

The European Union’s counter-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove estimated in September 2014 that around 3000 European citizens had joined jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

De Kerchove said in an interview with AFP in Brussels on Tuesday that around 30 per cent have returned to their EU countries.

The issue of home grown jihadists has gained prominence in recent days following a string of attacks in Paris by assailants born in France.

One of two brothers responsible for an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last week, Said Kouachi, studied at a Yemen college founded by a fundamentalist cleric before undertaking weapons training with an al-Qaeda affiliate.

His brother Cherif was part of the so-called Buttes Chaumont network in Paris, which helped send recruits to join the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda.

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Jul 30

Obama compared to Hitler for Paris no-show

A Republican congressman from Texas has apologised after he essentially compared US President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler in a tweet about last week’s deadly attacks in France.

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“Even Adolph (sic) Hitler thought it more important than Obama to get to Paris,” Randy Weber posted on Twitter, after the US leader failed to join the more than a million people who marched through the French capital in an unprecedented show of defiance against Islamist extremism.

“For all the wrong reasons,” Weber added, presumably referring to Hitler’s survey of German-occupied Paris in June 1940. “Obama couldn’t do it for right reasons.”

The president was criticised for not participating in the massive unity rally or even sending a top emissary such as Secretary of State John Kerry to a march attended by several world leaders.

And the White House apologised for the misstep.

But Weber’s caustic attack was seen as beyond the pale, and several Jewish groups reportedly demanded an apology.

“I need to first apologise to all those offended by my tweet,” Weber said in a statement on Tuesday some 17 hours after his original post.

“It was not my intention to trivialise the Holocaust nor to compare the President to Adolf Hitler. The mention of Hitler was meant to represent the face of evil that still exists in the world today.

“I now realise that the use of Hitler invokes pain and emotional trauma for those affected by the atrocities of the Holocaust and victims of anti-Semitism and hate.”

Other lawmakers including House Speaker John Boehner expressed their disapproval.

“The Speaker believes the tweet was inappropriate,” Boehner aide Michael Steel said.

House Democrat Nita Lowey called Weber’s Obama-Hitler comparison “disgraceful and severely unbecoming of a representative in the United States Congress”.

This is not the first time Weber has used German symbolism in criticising Obama.

Just before the president’s State of the Union address in January 2014, the congressman tweeted, again with a spelling error: “On floor of house waitin on “Kommandant-In-Chef”… the Socialistic dictator”.

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Jul 30

Flights resume after Tonga eruption

A plane from Tonga has landed in Auckland after a volcanic plume near the kingdom’s capital interrupted flights for three days.

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And the problems caused by the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai undersea volcano appear to be over, with only residual sulphur dioxide left in the air, New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority chief meteorological officer Peter Lechner said.

The Virgin Australia additional service left Sydney for Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa on Wednesday morning, and arrived in Auckland at 5.30pm.

A spokeswoman for the company said flights to and from the island were now operating as normal, and affected customers had been fed and put up in hotels while they waited.

The successful flight came just hours after an Air New Zealand flight to Tonga was forced to return to Auckland after another pilot flying near the destination airport smelled sulphur dioxide which can cause breathing difficulties for passengers and crew on the aeroplane.

An Air New Zealand flight departed from Auckland just before 5pm on Wednesday headed for the capital.

Some domestic flights have continued as normal despite the ash.

Mr Lechner told AAP the ash which had put holiday plans on hold had now gone.

Flights should now be operating as usual – unless the volcano erupted again, he said.

Volcanic ash “can get into the engines and basically stop the engines, but it can also get into all sorts of other parts of the aeroplane and cause critical problems”.

“We have had ash getting into fuel switching systems and causing the fuel supply to stop,” he said.

The volcano – which is 60km from the capital – began erupting in late December, but only began causing problems for airlines this week when the wind direction changed sending the plume towards the capital.

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Jul 30

HK leader takes hard line on public vote

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers have staged a dramatic walk-out as the territory’s leader told the legislature there will be no deviation from Beijing’s policy on elections.

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In his first speech to Hong Kong’s legislature since huge street rallies calling for free leadership elections, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying made no concessions to protesters and questioned their “understanding” of the intricacies of politics in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

“Hong Kong’s power originates from the central authorities (in Beijing),” said Leung.

“Hong Kong’s autonomy… is a high degree of autonomy, not an absolute autonomy.”

Beijing has ruled that candidates for the city’s first ever public vote for its chief executive in 2017 must be vetted by a loyalist committee, which campaigners denounce as “fake democracy”.

Around 20 pro-democracy lawmakers walked out of the legislative council chamber and two were bundled out by security before Leung’s speech.

Carrying banners and yellow umbrellas, the symbol of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, they shouted: “Down with CY Leung! True universal suffrage!”.

Security guards surrounded two members of the People Power party who refused to leave and were shouting “shameful” at Leung.

Chan Chi-chuen and Chan Wai-yip were eventually carried out.

Leung, whose address was delayed for 15 minutes, gave a faint smile and busied himself reading through his speech as the protests continued.

The chief executive usually lays out domestic policies for the year ahead in the annual address, which this year also covered issues including the economy, housing and transport.

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Jul 30

Rain delays Dellacqua’s Hobart QF bid

Casey Dellacqua will go a second day without competitive play with rain delaying her bid for a quarter-final berth at the Hobart International.

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The event’s top-seed was due to play Italy’s Karin Knapp on Wednesday but a downpour lasting more than 20 hours across the island capital meant players didn’t get a chance to step on court.

“Unfortunately rain has meant that @caseydellacqua match at #HobartTennis is cancelled for today,” the 29-year old’s management @EmageoGroup tweeted.

Tournament organisers soon after confirmed that the Australian’s match will be rescheduled for Thursday.

Following her first-round three-set win over America’s Lauren Davis on Monday, Dellacqua showed surprise that she would not play her second round until Wednesday.

“Oh, really … I thought we may have played every day from now on,” she told reporters.

With the Australian Open just five days away the left-handed world No.29 will be keen to get as much match practice as possible.

Hobart tournament director Mark Handley said he will do whatever he can to facilitate player requests as the schedule is revised.

“I’ll do whatever Casey wants.

“She’s a top seed at a career-high world ranking, she’s Australian, if she comes to me and says she’d like to play at a particular time I’m going to try and honour that request as I would with any of the players.”

Schedules will be revised to try and avoid players having two matches on a day, and organisers will use outside courts to help with the catch up, he added.

The Hobart venue has only one court that is capable of hosting night matches.

Nothing can be done about the weather, except maybe the addition of a very expensive roof, Handley said.

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