Europe at risk from Daesh fighters returning from Mideast: Report

Federal Criminal Police chief Holger Muench speaks to open the European Police Congress on February 6, 2018 in Berlin. (AFP)
Updated 14 February 2018

Europe at risk from Daesh fighters returning from Mideast: Report

LONDON: European countries could face an increased terror risk in 2018 as Daesh fighters return home with training and expertise gained in Syria and Iraq.
Of particular concern is the use of weaponized drones, high-tech car bombs, and other new technologies, although low-tech terror is likely to be prominent, according to a report.
Extremists will remain the primary threat in Europe in 2018, with international operations becoming increasingly important for Daesh, as it seeks to maintain its global relevance.
The report issued by Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre (JTIC) said that returning foreign fighters will inject “capability, ideological rigor and added extremism” to existing radical networks across Europe.
“In the five to 10-year outlook, European countries will face an elevated terrorism threat posed by radicalized convicts, returned foreign fighters and other returnees who have direct ties to the legacy of Daesh,” said Otso Iho, a senior analyst at JTIC by IHS Markit.
“Low-capability” attacks, including the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), attacks using rented or stolen trucks and vans, knife and small-arms attacks are likely to continue, the report claims.
“Foreign fighters returning to Europe will provide critical skills that will help an increasing number of operational (extremist) networks conduct more complex attacks,” Iho said.
“These skills include the construction of viable IEDs... expertise in assault weapons, and the use of new weapons types or technologies such as drones,” he added.
“If such weapons are used in Europe it would mark a notable increase in the threat level.”
According to JTIC, there are indicators that some cells have already attempted to adopt these methods, including the perpetrators of the August 2017 attack in Barcelona. However, the threat is not just from fighters unleashing attacks on their return from the Middle East. The report reveals that the growing number of extremists in European jails is likely to exacerbate the risk of radicalization across the prison population.
Additionally, many of those imprisoned for providing support to groups like Daesh over the past two years are likely to be released between 2019 and 2023, according to data analyzed by JTIC.
It is predicted that European security services will struggle to adequately monitor a combination of returning militants, an increased number of radicalized terror networks across Europe, and the radicalization risks associated with rising extremism in prisons.


South Korean justice minister resigns during finance probe

Updated 50 min 57 sec ago

South Korean justice minister resigns during finance probe

  • Cho said in a statement he was offering to resign to reduce the burden on President Moon Jae-in
  • The conservative Liberty Korea Party criticized Moon for sticking with Cho for too long

SEOUL: South Korea’s justice minister resigned Monday, citing the political burden of an investigation into alleged financial crimes and academic favors surrounding his family, a scandal that has rocked Seoul’s liberal government and spurred huge protests.

Cho Kuk has denied wrongdoing. But the law professor who for years cultivated an anti-elitist reformist image said he couldn’t remain a government minister while ignoring the pain his family was enduring.

Huge crowds of Cho’s supporters and critics have marched in South Korea’s capital in recent weeks, demonstrating how the months-long saga over Cho has deepened the country’s political divide.

Cho said in a statement he was offering to resign to reduce the burden on President Moon Jae-in, whose office later said he accepted Cho’s offer.

Cho’s resignation came as state prosecutors continued a criminal investigation into his university professor wife, brother and other relatives over allegations of dubious financial investments, fraud and fake credentials for his daughter that may have helped her enter a top university in Seoul and a medical school in Busan.

“I concluded that I should no longer burden the president and the government with issues surrounding my family,” Cho said in an emailed statement. “I think the time has come that the completion of efforts to reform the prosecution would only be possible if I step down from my position.”

Moon’s liberal Minjoo Party and Cho’s supporters, who occupied streets in front of a Seoul prosecutors office for the fourth-straight weekend Saturday, have claimed the investigation is aimed at intimating Cho, who has pushed for reforms that include curbing the power of prosecutors.

South Korea’s main opposition party called Cho’s resignation offer “too late” and criticized Moon for causing turmoil with a divisive appointment.

In a meeting with senior aides, Moon said he was “very sorry for consequentially creating a lot of conflict between the people” over his hand-picked choice but also praised Cho’s “passion for prosecutorial reform and willingness to calmly withstand various difficulties to get it done.”

Moon had stood firmly by Cho, whom he appointed a month ago despite parliamentary resistance. But the controversy dented the popularity of Moon and his ruling liberal party in recent polls, an alarming development for the liberals ahead of parliamentary elections in April.

The conservative Liberty Korea Party criticized Moon for sticking with Cho for too long. “Is President Moon Jae-in listening to people’s voices only after his and his ruling party’s approval ratings face the danger of a nosedive?” the conservative Liberty Korea Party said in a statement.

In South Korea, prosecutors have exclusive authority to indict and seek warrants for criminal suspects and exercise control over police investigative activities. They can also directly initiate criminal investigations even when there’s no complaint.

Critics say such powers are excessive and have prompted past conservative governments to use the prosecution as a political tool to suppress opponents and carry out vendettas.

The controversy over Cho has struck a nerve in a country facing widening inequality and brutally competitive school environments and has tarnished the image of Moon, who vowed to restore faith in fairness and justice after replacing President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached and jailed for corruption.

Recent polls indicate Moon’s popularity has sank to the lowest levels since he took office. In a survey of some 1,000 South Koreans released last Friday by Gallup Korea, 51% of the respondents negatively rated Moon’s performance in state affairs, compared to 43% who said he was doing a good job. The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.