EU official warns of extremists exploiting virus outbreak

EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, left, Spain’s FM Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, center, and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, Brussels, Jan. 19, 2015. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 May 2020

EU official warns of extremists exploiting virus outbreak

  • Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove cautioned that right-wing extremists and Daesh militants could view attacks on medical personnel and facilities as highly effective
  • De Kerchove: To increase their support base, violent extremists use people’s insecurities, vulnerabilities and grievances, creating a narrative which explains problems by blaming outsiders

BERLIN: The European Union’s counterterrorism official is warning that the coronavirus pandemic is being used by extremists as an opportunity to spread their message and could be exploited to carry out attacks.
In a confidential briefing to member nations obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove cautioned that right-wing extremists and Daesh militants “could view attacks on medical personnel and facilities as highly effective, because these would generate a massive shock in society.”
He noted that in the US, the FBI in March shot and killed a white supremacist while trying to arrest him for plotting to blow up a hospital treating COVID-19 patients, after initially considering an attack on an African-American school, mosque or synagogue.
From past experience, he said it’s known that “terrorists and violent extremists, aiming to change societies and governmental systems through violence, seek to exploit major crises to achieve their objectives”.
De Kerchove noted that the Daesh group, for example, emerged after the US-led invasion of Iraq and then gained strength during the Arab Spring uprisings.
In Europe, left-wing extremists are paying “extensive attention” to the pandemic, blaming governments and “the capitalist system as a whole” for it, saying politicians have underfunded health care services, de Kerchove wrote in the analysis provided to EU member nations on May 7 and first reported Wednesday by Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper’s online edition.
Daesh has “incited its supporters in the West to take advantage of the current crisis to stage attacks,” but so far there has been no uptick in any violence, he said.
Currently, most extremists seem to be using the crisis for propaganda purposes, taking advantage of the fact that with lockdown measures people are spending more time online than usual.
“To increase their support base, violent extremists use people’s insecurities, vulnerabilities and grievances, creating a simple narrative which ‘explains’ problems by blaming outsiders,” de Kerchove wrote.
“‘Infidels’ or ‘apostates’ serve as scapegoats for Daesh militants, members of ethnic and religious minority groups for right-wing extremists, and ‘class enemies’ and ‘capitalists’ for left-wing extremists.”


Explosion as fire breaks out at Iranian industrial complex

Updated 13 July 2020

Explosion as fire breaks out at Iranian industrial complex

  • Six storage tanks had caught fire, including the one that exploded, an Iranian official said

Iranian police are investigating after a fire broke out at an industrial complex in northeast Iran where gas condensate storage tanks are sited, one of which exploded, the Mehr news agency reported on Monday.
Javad Jahandoust, the fire chief at the Kavian Fariman industrial complex, some 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the city of Mashhad, was quoted as saying six storage tanks had caught fire, including the one that exploded.
He said the fire was under control and there were no casualties, but police were investigating the cause.
There have been several explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial facilities since late June.
On Sunday, the official IRNA news agency reported a fire at a petrochemical facility in southwest Iran, which was blamed on an oil leak. There were no casualties.