Daesh-linked Albanian child arrives home to Italy from Syria camp

The Italian public has been avidly following he story of 11-year-old Alvin, born in Italy to Albanian parents, since it emerged last month he was living in a Kurdish-held camp in northeastern Syria. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2019

Daesh-linked Albanian child arrives home to Italy from Syria camp

  • The Italian public has been avidly following the story of 11-year-old Alvin
  • A media report aired in October showed the emotional reunion between the boy and his father in the Al-Hol camp housing thousands of family members of suspected Daesh fighter

ROME: An Albanian boy taken by his mother to join the Daesh group in Syria returned to his home in Italy on Friday, in the first such operation coordinated with Damascus.
“Little Alvin Berisha has arrived at Fiumicino (Rome) airport where he was reunited with his father and sister,” Italian police said in a statement.
The Italian public has been avidly following the story of 11-year-old Alvin, who was born in Italy to Albanian parents, since it emerged last month he was living in a Kurdish-held camp in northeastern Syria.
The Albanian boy’s mother was killed in fighting, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
A media report aired in October showed the emotional reunion between the boy and his father in the Al-Hol camp housing thousands of family members of suspected Daesh fighters.
An IFRC spokesman said on Thursday that an Albanian boy was on his way back from Al-Hol to his father in Italy.
“This started five years ago with the mother kidnapping the child, and deciding to go and fight for IS,” Tommaso Della Longa told AFP.
“We discovered through a message from Al-Hol camp that the boy was still alive.”
After years of fighting, Syria’s Kurds hold thousands of suspected foreign Daesh members in detention camps: men and women, but also some 8,000 children — more than half of whom are under the age of five.
The United Nations says hundreds of them are unaccompanied.
With the backing of Italian and Albanian authorities and after negotiations in the Syrian capital, the IFRC was handed over the Albanian child on Wednesday in the first such repatriation via Damascus.
“Our Syrian Red Crescent volunteers escorted the boy from Al-Hol to Damascus,” Della Longa said.
International powers have warned of mass Daesh breakouts from Al-Hol, as well as other Kurdish-run camps and jails, in the wake of a deadly Turkish cross-border offensive on October 9.
The Albanian boy’s return home is the first such known handover since the start of the attack, which has seen Syria’s Kurds cosy up to Damascus after years of seeking semi-autonomy.
The Kurdish authorities have repeatedly called for Western countries to repatriate their nationals linked to Daesh, but they have been largely reluctant.
Austria, Germany, France and Belgium, however, have brought a handful of orphans home, while the United States has repatriated several women and their children.
Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kosovo have repatriated dozens of women and children.


Hackers attempt to take down UK Labour Party’s web services ahead of election

Updated 12 November 2019

Hackers attempt to take down UK Labour Party’s web services ahead of election

  • Britain’s security agencies have warned that Russia and other countries could use cyberattacks messages on social media to attempt to disrupt the election
  • The nature of such attacks often made it difficult to attribute responsibility to any particular group, a NCSC spokesman said

LONDON: Hackers attacked Britain’s opposition Labour Party, bombarding its web services with malicious traffic in an attempt to force them offline just weeks ahead of a national election, party and security officials said on Tuesday,
“We have experienced a sophisticated and large-scale cyberattack on Labour digital platforms,” Labour said in a statement. “We took swift action and these attempts failed due to our robust security systems.
The party was confident data breach occurred, it said.
Britain’s security agencies have warned that Russia and other countries could use cyberattacks or political messages on social media to attempt to disrupt the Dec. 12 election.
Moscow has repeatedly denied Western allegations of election interference and a person with knowledge of the matter said an initial investigation had found nothing to link the Labour Party attack to a foreign state.
Britain’s National Cyber Security Center, part of the GCHQ signals intelligence agency, said the attack was a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack — a technique used by hackers to take down websites by overwhelming them with malicious traffic.
“DDoS attacks are a common form of attack used by a very wide range of attackers. Mitigation techniques are available and worked in this case,” a NCSC spokesman said.
The nature of such attacks often made it difficult to attribute responsibility to any particular group, he said.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the attack was very serious but was successfully repelled by the party’s defense systems when the digital assault began on Monday.
“But if this is a sign of things to come in this election, I feel very nervous about it all,” he said. “Because a cyberattack against a political party in an election is suspicious and something one is very worried about.”
A Labour spokesman said that while the attack had slowed down some campaign activity, they were restored on Tuesday.
The person with knowledge of the matter said any Labour Party web services currently offline were not directly connected to the attack.
Britain goes to the polls on Dec. 12 in an election called by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to try to break the Brexit deadlock in parliament more than three years since the country voted to leave the European Union.
A report by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has investigated Russian activity in British politics and reportedly includes charges of spying and interference in polls, including the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2017 national election.
The government, however, has declined to publish it before the upcoming election.