News Roundup and Notes: November 17, 2015

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

PARIS ATTACKS

French President François Hollande stated that “France is at war,” during remarks before a joint session of Parliament yesterday in which he called for constitutional amendments to fight potential terrorists on home soil. [New York Times’ Aurelien Breeden et al]  Hollande also called for a global coalition against ISIS “to achieve a result that is already too late in coming.” [Reuters]

Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris yesterday, a visit intended to demonstrate America’s “shared resolve” to tackle violent extremism after the attacks. [New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis]  Full comments from Secretary Kerry at the US Embassy in Paris available here.

President Obama stood by his administration’s strategy for tackling the Islamic State, despite the “terrible and sickening” attacks in Paris, during comments at the G20 summit in Antalya. [New York Times’ Michael D. Shear and Peter Baker]  Republicans sharply criticized Obama for refusing to re-evaluate the American fight against ISIS. [Politico’s Eliza Collins and Nick Gass]

France launched further airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Raqqa, Syria overnight. French fighter jets dropped 16 bombs on two locations in the second consecutive day of retaliatory strikes. [Wall Street Journal’s Inti Landauro]

Authorities conducted 128 more raids on suspected militants across France overnight and a large-scale manhunt continues for one of the suspects, Salah Abdeslam who is believed to have fled to his native Belgium. The French have mobilized 115,000 security personnel in the wake of Friday’s attacks. [BBC]

German authorities have reportedly arrested three people near Aachen in connection with the Paris attacks. [AP]

Police in Serbia have arrested a man in possession of a Syrian passport matching the details of one found close to the body of one of the Paris suicide bombers; officials say the passport matches the name and details but has a different photograph. Both passports are thought to be fakes. [The Guardian’s Milan Dinic and Amanda Holpuch]

A Belgian citizen suspected of helping plan the attacks from Syria was being monitored by Western allies planning to target him in an airstrike, but he could not be located in the weeks prior to the attack, security officials say. [Wall Street Journal’s Benoît Faucon et al]  French officials have described Abdelhamid Abaaoud as a “barbaric man.” [Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet]

Turkey has suggested that French security agencies suffered intelligences lapses, saying that Turkish officials had identified one of the attackers and repeatedly notified the French but no action was taken. [Wall Street Journal’s Emre Peker]  Friday’s attackers were “dots on the radar screen” of French and Belgian security services but were not joined up, a failure partly caused by a “lack of capacity to process information,” writes Julian Borger. [The Guardian]

CIA Director John Brennan comments. Speaking on the Paris attacks, Brennan said that the US intelligence community had “strategic warning” that ISIS was planning an attack and was “looking at Europe in particular.”  Brennan denounced “hand-wringing” over intrusive government surveillance and said that leaks about intelligence programs made it more difficult to identify ISIS operatives. [New York Times’ Scott Shane; Reuters’ Jonathan Landay et al]

Friday’s attacks have prompted a number of officials to blame former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks for undermining intelligence agencies’ abilities to catch terrorists, reigniting the debate over whether Snowden’s revelations and the use of encryption have made it too easy for terrorists to “hide online,” reports David Perera. [Politico]

The ability of the terrorists to plan Friday’s attacks “apparently … under the noses” of French and Belgian authorities raise the possibility that ISIS has found ways to get around the dragnet. Margaret Coker et al provide the details. [Wall Street Journal]  Encrypted messaging apps are coming under new scrutiny as a result, though there is no definitive evidence that the attackers used encrypted communications technologies to plot. [New York Times’ David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth]

ISIS threatened to launch attacks in Washington and Rome similar to those in Paris, in a video released yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta]

All US troops are banned from travelling within 50km of Paris during their free time following the attacks, a “precautionary measure” to keep personnel safe, US European Command said on Sunday. [The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel]

Democrats and Republicans stand united behind France, though disagree on the appropriate US response to the attacks. [New York Times’ Carl Hulse]

Refugee response. The terrorist attacks have deepened Europe’s complicated border crisis, the region already struggling to deal with the need to provide for both migrants and security interests. [New York Times’ Alison Smale and Barbara Surk]  In the US, Senator Ted Cruz is planning to introduce a bill barring Syrian Muslim refugees from entering the country, while still accepting Syria’s Christian migrants. [Washington Post’s Katie Zezima]  Close to two dozen Republican governors now oppose taking in Syrian refugees to their states. [Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau and Kristina Peterson]

The Paris attacks have left secular France’s “complicated relationship with its Muslim community” at tipping point “toward outright distrust, even hostility,” observe Adam Nossiter and Liz Alderman, commenting that unlike the Charlie Hebdo attacks, there have been “no grand appeals for solidarity” with France’s Muslims. [New York Times]

Live updates as the situation continues to develop available from the Guardian, France 24 and the BBC.

IRAQ and SYRIA

Syria’s army has retaken a village from ISIS in the west of Syria, according to state media and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Reuters]

Bashar al-Assad should remain in power and partake in elections as part of the process of political transition to end the civil war in Syria, an Iranian official said yesterday. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and partner military forces conducted 10 strikes against ISIS targets in Syria on Nov. 10. Separately, coalition forces carried out a further 13 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

ISIS “conscientiously exploits the disheartening dynamic between the rise of radical Islamism and the revival of the xenophobic ethno-nationalist movements that are beginning to seriously undermine the middle class,” writes Scott Atran. [The Guardian]

The Islamic State is building the capacity to launch deadly cyberattacks on British targets, UK Chancellor George Osborne will say. [BBC]

“A frenzy of looting” is underway in the Iraqi city of Sinjar, last week retaken from ISIS by Kurdish and allied forces with the help of US air power. NPR’s Alice Fordham provides the details.

“How ISIS picks its suicide bombers,” from Michael Weiss at The Daily Beast.

EGYPT

The Russian Metrojet plane was “definitely” downed by a bomb, according to Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB. [Al Jazeera]  “Traces of foreign explosives” were found on debris from the plane that crashed last month over Egypt’s Sinai, killing all 224 people on board. [BBC]

President Vladimir Putin has pledged to find those responsible and to “punish them,” in a Kremlin meeting broadcast today. [Reuters’ Andrew Osborn]

Authorities in Egypt have detained two employees of Sharm al-Sheikh airport in connection to the plane crash. Seventeen people are being held while two are suspected of assisting whoever planted the bomb, according to a security official. [Reuters]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The controversial NSA bulk telephone surveillance program will be allowed continue through to its pre-decided end on Nov. 20, following a decision by a federal appeals court to grant a stay on an injunction granted earlier by US District Court Judge Richard Leon. The Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit did not provide any explanation for its decision. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein]

Exiled Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi returned to the city of Aden today, a visit intended to rally fighters loyal to his government and to oversee a military campaign to retake the city of Taiz.  His visit comes as fighting in Taiz left around 45 people from both sides dead on Monday. [Reuters]  “The agony of Saada,” from Iona Craig at The Intercept.

A major terrorist attack on hotels and security forces was prevented in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse, a senior government official said, following the arrest of 17 Islamist militants. [Reuters]

A former German spy has admitted to providing classified information to the CIA, during his trial yesterday. [AP]

A well-known Iranian press cartoonist was arrested yesterday by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for “unknown reasons.” Hadi Heidari had published a cartoon depicting solidarity with the French people following Friday’s terrorist attacks. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

Militant group Boko Haram has destroyed 1,100 schools this year in the region surrounding Lake Chad, according to the UN envoy to the restive Sahel region of central Africa. [Al Jazeera America] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security