EU backs redesign of public spaces to curb terror attacks

European Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King gives a press conference at the EU Commission in Brussels, on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2017
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EU backs redesign of public spaces to curb terror attacks

BRUSSELS: The EU unveiled on Wednesday plans to help redesign European public spaces to make it harder to carry out low-tech terror attacks like those in Barcelona and Nice.
The European Commission pledged more than €100 million ($117 million) to help towns and cities, many of them historic tourist magnets, adapt their public spaces after a two-year wave of attacks that have killed hundreds of people in crowded areas.
"We can't stop all attacks," EU Security Commissioner Julian King told a press conference. "But we can make it harder and harder for the terrorists and others who wish us ill to carry out the attacks."
The steps include improving security barriers in crowded places, guidance on design to protect public spaces, and advice on how to protect sports and cultural events.
"We believe we can make public spaces less vulnerable without completely changing their nature as fundamentally open spaces where we gather to live our lives," King said.
He referred to a recent wave of "low-tech terrorism" where extremists have used vehicles to kill and maim civilians, most recently in August in the Spanish port of Barcelona and a nearby resort, in which 16 people were killed
A truck attack on the Bastille Day celebrations in the French city of Nice in 2016 killed 86 people, and there have been similar vehicle attacks in London, Stockholm and Berlin.
In addition to vehicles, recent attacks have sometimes involved knives, in contrast to the suicide bombs and automatic weapons used in previous attacks.
The plans unveiled by the European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation bloc, also calls for restricting access to substances used to make home-made bombs such as those used in the 2016 Brussels airport and metro attacks.
The commission also proposed a "new toolbox" of techniques and training to tackle the problem of encrypted messages used by extremists to plot attacks.
It also urged member states to support opening negotiations with Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey on the transfer of personal data between Europol and these countries to prevent and combat terrorism and serious crimes.
It also recommended that Brussels open talks on a revised deal with Canada to share air passenger data that was ruled illegal by a top court in July.
The commission also proposed a plan step up preparedness against the "low" risk of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks, including creating a security network on the issue.


Man killed in random knife attack at California steakhouse

Updated 22 April 2018
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Man killed in random knife attack at California steakhouse

  • The victim was dining with his family when the suspect came and stabbed him without warning
  • Police say suspect is a felon who had been convicted for burglary and unlawful sexual intercourse since the 1990s

LOS ANGELES: A homeless man who randomly stabbed a patron in a crowded Southern California restaurant to death as he was holding his daughter was reported just a few hours earlier for disruptive behavior, but police ultimately determined he was not a threat, authorities said Saturday.
Jamal Jackson, 49, is facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of 35-year-old Anthony Mele. He was being held in Ventura County jail on a $1.5 million bail. It was unclear if Jackson, who is also a convicted felon, had an attorney to speak on his behalf.
Mele and his wife were eating dinner with their 5-year-old daughter Wednesday at Aloha Steakhouse in the seaside city of Ventura. The girl was sitting on her father’s lap when prosecutors say Jackson walked up and stabbed Mele in the neck.
Prosecutor Richard Simon said customers and a restaurant employee followed Jackson out of the restaurant, even though he still had the knife. They kept track of him until Ventura police arrived and arrested him.
Mele was taken to a hospital and died Thursday after being taken off life support.
“It’s horrible,” Simon said. “You don’t think you’re going to be killed when you go out to dinner at a nice restaurant with your family and you didn’t do anything.”
Simon said the two men had not interacted before the attack.
“He was just sitting there with his daughter in his lap,” Simon said. “You’re not supposed to die that way.”
Mele’s loved ones started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for a funeral and to support his wife and daughter.
Mele’s Facebook page was filled with photos of his daughter and said he was a manager at an AT&T store.
Police confirmed that a bystander reported a man — who turned out to be Jackson — for disruptive behavior several hours before the stabbing.
According to the bystander, a man was yelling on the promenade not far from the beachside restaurant about three hours before the attack.
Patrol officers were out on other calls so command center staff monitored the man via a pier security camera system for more than 20 minutes before deciding he didn’t seem to be a threat, police said.
Police are asking anyone who spoke with Jackson during that time to contact investigators in the city 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.
Jackson also had half a dozen contacts with police in Ventura since the beginning of the year, including an arrest after a physical fight at a park, said Commander Tom Higgins.
He was also stopped on March 31 after a passer-by reported he was brandishing a knife. Police searched his bag and found a knife but there was no victim so no charge was filed, Higgins said.
Jackson has a lengthy rap sheet including charges in San Bernardino County, Higgins said, as well as convictions for burglary and unlawful sexual intercourse dating back to the 1990s.
The killing prompted the Ventura City Council to increase police patrols in the area and add staff members to monitor security cameras, among other measures.
“We are extremely disheartened and infuriated by this criminal attack,” Mayor Neal Andrews said in a statement. “We will not tolerate this in our community. Nothing is more important than the safety of our visitors, residents and businesses.”
If convicted, Jackson faces up to 55 years in prison.