News Roundup and Notes: November 18, 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 

St-Denis raids. Early this morning, French police launched a major operation at an apartment in St-Denis, north of Paris city center. The raid targeted the alleged mastermind of Friday’s terrorist attacks, Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud, as well as Salah Abdeslam and another suspect thought to be a ninth attacker. [The Guardian’s Claire Phipps and Damien Gayle]

At least two have died following a shootout between police and people in the apartment, including a woman who blew herself up with an explosive belt. Seven people have also been arrested. There is no confirmation that Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud was among them. [BBC; Reuters; New York Times’ Liz Alderman and Aurelien Breeden]

French President François Hollande held an emergency meeting with senior government officials to monitor the raid. [AP] 

This story is still developing: for live updates check out the Guardian, the BBC, Reuters and France 24.

A profile of suspected mastermind Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud, from Andrew Higgins and Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura at the New York Times.

Hannover terror threat. An international soccer match between Germany and the Netherlands was canceled yesterday evening following a bomb scare. The game was set to be played at Hannover football stadium but was evacuated after a suspicious package was found. Part of Hannover’s central train station was also closed following the discovery of another object. No arrests have been made. [Deutsche Welle]  German Chancellor Angela Merkel said cancelling the match was the “responsible” decision to make. [Reuters]

Air France bomb scare. Two Air France flights bound for Paris from the US were diverted last night following anonymous threats made against them. The threats were called in after the planes took off. In a statement, the FBI said that no evidence was found “which would lend credibility to the threats” against the flights. [Reuters]

Terminal 3 at Copenhagen’s airport has been evacuated following the discovery of a suspicious bag. [Reuters

The Paris attacks were likely orchestrated by senior ISIS leaders inside Syria, according to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr. [Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta]

Secretary of State John Kerry said that there was a “rationale” behind the January terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, which the “indiscriminate” attacks on Friday lacked. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]  Presidential candidate Jeb Bush criticized Kerry’s comments, saying that there can never be rationale for “barbaric Islamic terrorists.” [Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe]

The French counterattack against the Islamic State will “not look like anything the US would do,” observes Michael Shurkin, concluding that “one thing is certain: if the French are determined to hurt someone, they will.” [Politico Magazine]

Surveillance after Paris. There is growing consensus among the intelligence community that Friday’s attackers used encrypted communications, spurring a re-examination of American policy on surveillance and data collection, write Damian Paletta and Siobhan Hughes. [Wall Street Journal]  Michael Hirsh speaks with former acting head of the CIA, Michael Morell who suggests that the attacks demonstrate how terrorists have adapted post-Snowden revelations to “essentially go silent.” [Politico Magazine]  And Jenna McLaughlin argues that the NSA’s bulk collection programs “do not have a track record” either pre or post Snowden of “identifying or thwarting” large-scale terrorist attacks. [The Intercept]

Refugee crisis. President Obama accused Republicans of providing ISIS with a “potent recruitment tool” through their anti-Syrian refugee rhetoric in the wake of the Paris attacks. [Washington Post’s David Nakamura and Juliet Eilperin]  The Wall Street Journal editorial board hits back at Obama’s comments, arguing that it is the president’s inaction in Syria and against ISIS that has resulted in the “illiberal backlash.”  The New York Times editorial board counters this view, concluding that “confusing refugees with terrorists is morally unacceptable and, as a matter of strategy, misguided.”

“Complex reasons” explain the imbalance of attention paid to the Paris attacks compared to the recent deaths in Beirut, including “the simple limitations of what we can care about, its proximity to home, and how it grabs our attention,” opines Nesrine Malik. [The Guardian]

Molenbeek, Belgium has “become known as the incubator for some of the highest-profile attacks on European soil in recent years.” A profile of the town from Rosie Gray at BuzzFeed News.

“If this is not war, it is starting to look like it.” Sylvie Kauffman discusses “France’s war within,” at the New York Times.

IRAQ and SYRIA 

A “grand and single coalition” against the Islamic State is starting to emerge, leading France, Russia and the US into a “difficult realm of action.” [Wall Street Journal’s Nathan Hodge et al]  And US military officials are cautious of a bigger war against the Islamic State, worried that the government has not learned its lessons from America’s interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. [Politico’s Bryan Bender] 

A ceasefire between all parties to the conflict and a political transition are necessary in Syria to ensure success in defeating ISIS, Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday, emphasizing that cooperation cannot begin until these aims are achieved. [New York Times]

Suspicious bank transactions are being increasingly utilized by the US government to identify ISIS targets, according to a senior US official. [Wall Street Journal’s Aruna Viswanatha]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and partner military forces carried out six airstrikes targeting the Islamic State in Syria. Separately, coalition forces conducted a further 17 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

Moscow is coordinating with the French military to conduct increased airstrikes in Syria, particularly against ISIS, it said yesterday. [New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar]  David Axe describes Russia’s airstrikes on Tuesday as “one of the biggest and most complex heavy bomber missions in modern history.” [The Daily Beast]

Direct military reprisals against the Islamic State from France and then Russia through intensified airstrikes against Raqqa, pose “more questions than decisive results,” reports Anne Bernard, suggesting that the key question is why were these targets not hit heavily long ago if there is a way of doing it without harming civilians. [New York Times]

Defeating ISIS cannot involve the assistance of Moscow, warn Jeffrey Gedmin and Gary Schmitt, arguing that President Putin will undoubtedly expect “major concessions” in return for joining a coalition against ISIS which serve “his strategic advantage.” [Wall Street Journal]

Friday’s Paris attacks should serve as a wakeup call to Western nations, says the head of intelligence and security in Iraqi Kurdistan. [BBC]

The Syrian army is violating international law through attacks on medical facilities and personnel, according to a report released today by the human rights organization Physicians for Human Rights. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]

The goal of the Islamic State is to destroy the “grayzone” of coexistence between Muslims and the Western world, according to the group’s magazine Dabiq, reports Murtaza Hussain. [The Intercept]

“Is the fight against ISIS the West’s fight.” The New York Times presents several perspectives on “Room for Debate.”

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The transfer of Guantánamo Bay prisoners to the US would be illegal and is “not being contemplated,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Her comments were later clarified by her spokeswoman who emphasized that Lynch did not intend to preclude any of President Obama’s plans. [Tribune Washington Bureau’s Timothy M. Phelps]

A suicide bomb attack at a market in the northern Nigerian city of Yola has killed more than 20 people today, according to officials. [BBC]  And the Nigerian president has ordered the arrest of a former national security adviser, accused of stealing more than $2 billion intended to purchase weapons for the fight against Boko Haram. [Al Jazeera]

Israel has banned the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in the country, accusing it of associations with Hamas. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]

The Obama administration is being pushed to take a stronger stance against Hezbollah, a bipartisan move backed by the Senate. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]

China must stop land reclamation in the South China Sea, said President Obama after a meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific summit in Manila today. [Reuters]  And a US guided missile destroyer arrived in Shanghai for a weeklong port visit on Monday. [New York Times’ Jane Perlez]

The 2016 defense policy bill was signed by House Speaker Paul Ryan yesterday, and will now be sent to President Obama for his signature for a second time. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

Two Saudi security force members were shot dead today in the kingdom’s eastern province, according to the Interior Ministry. No group has immediately claimed responsibility. [Reuters] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security