Threat ‘acute’ as militant attacks double in 2017: Europol

File photo showing a crime scene cordoned off by UK police. (Reuters)
Updated 20 June 2018
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Threat ‘acute’ as militant attacks double in 2017: Europol

THE HAGUE: Militant attacks on European targets more than doubled last year, Europe’s police agency said Wednesday, warning the risk of more unsophisticated attacks by the so-called Daesh” remains acute.”
Last year, a total 33 terror attacks were reported on the continent and Britain 10 of which were successful, killing 62 people, while the rest were foiled or failed, Europol said in a annual report issued in The Hague.

That figure compared with 13 reported attacks in 2016, of which 10 were successful leading to 135 deaths.
However, the “increase in the number of terrorist attacks in 2017 ran parallel to a decrease in sophistication in their preparation and execution,” Europol’s 2018 Terrorism Situation and Trend report said.

This included the attack on London’s Westminster Bridge on March 22 last year and a similar attack on London Bridge two months later when attackers simply drove vehicles into pedestrians and stabbed bystanders with knives, killing 13 people in total and wounding some 98 others.
Extremists who carried out such attacks in the EU in 2017 were mainly home-grown, “meaning that they were radicalized in their country of residence without having traveled to join a terrorist group abroad.”

In many cases “it becomes a form of personal retaliation against the country that they failed to integrate with,” Europol’s counter-terrorism chief Manuel Navarette told journalists ahead of the report’s launch.
However, the May 22, 2017, attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, in which 22 people were killed, and an August van attack on tourists at Barcelona’s La Rambla promenade in Spain in which 15 died, were linked to organized terror cells.
The Daesh group in all these cases claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Daesh militants swept across large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, declaring a so-called “caliphate” in areas they controlled.
But the militants have since lost much of that territory to various offensives, in Syria to Russia-backed regime forces and to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
“As Daesh gets weaker, it has been urging its followers to carry out lone actor type attacks in their home countries, rather than guiding them to travel to the so-called caliphate,” Europol said.
But it warned: “The threat of militant attacks in the EU remains acute, as demonstrated by the attacks which took place in 2017.”
“It should be underlined that Daesh, Al-Qaeda and other militant groups continue to pose a major threat. They have the ongoing intent and capability to conduct terrorist attacks in the West,” Europol said.
“It therefore goes without saying that supporting member states to combat terrorism will remain a top priority,” Europol’s new director Catherine De Bolle told journalists.
“To fight terrorism, it is essential to have optimal information exchange and data,” she added.
Europol’s report comes as German police Wednesday announced the arrest of a Tunisian man caught in possession of deadly ricin poison and bomb-making material to be used in a suspected terror attack.


Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen providing info in Mueller probe

Updated 21 September 2018
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Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen providing info in Mueller probe

  • Trump’s longtime fixer-turned-foe could be a vital witness for prosecutors as they investigate whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russians
  • Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight federal charges and said Trump directed him to arrange payments before the 2016 election to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer claimed Thursday he is providing “critical information” as part special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election and possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance and other charges last month, said he is providing the information to prosecutors without a cooperation agreement.
Trump’s longtime fixer-turned-foe could be a vital witness for prosecutors as they investigate whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russians. For more than a decade, Cohen was Trump’s personal lawyer, and he was a key power player in the Trump Organization and a fixture in Trump’s political life.
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight federal charges and said Trump directed him to arrange payments before the 2016 election to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model who had both alleged they had affairs with Trump. It was the first time any Trump associate implicated Trump himself in a crime, though whether — or when — a president can be prosecuted remains a matter of legal dispute.
On Thursday night, Cohen tweeted: “Good for @MichaelCohen212 for providing critical information to the #MuellerInvestigation without a cooperation agreement. No one should question his integrity, veracity or loyalty to his family and country over @POTUS @realDonaldTrump.”
The tweet was deleted almost immediately and was later reposted by his attorney, Lanny Davis, who said he wrote the tweet for Cohen and asked him to tweet it because he has a “much larger following.” Davis said he was delayed posting the tweet on his own account, so Cohen tweeted it first.
ABC News reported earlier Thursday that Cohen has met several times — for several hours — with investigators from the special counsel’s office.
The television network, citing sources familiar with the matter, said he was questioned about Trump’s dealings with Russia, including whether members of the Trump campaign worked with Russians to try to influence the outcome of the election.
Davis had asserted last month that his client could tell the special counsel that Trump had prior knowledge of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer, Trump’s son-in-law and Trump’s eldest son, who had been told in emails that it was part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign. But Davis later walked back the assertions, saying he could not independently confirm the claims that Cohen witnessed Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., telling his father about the Trump Tower meeting beforehand.
In the last two weeks, the special counsel secured the cooperation of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; signaled that he has obtained all the information he needs from former national security adviser Michael Flynn — who was also a government cooperator; and dispensed with the case of the campaign aide who triggered the Russia probe.
The president has continued a very public battle against the Mueller investigation, repeatedly calling it a politically motivated and “rigged witch hunt.” He has said he is going to declassify secret documents in the Russia investigation, an extraordinary move that he says will show that the investigation was tainted from the start by bias in the Justice Department and FBI.