News Roundup and Notes: November 20, 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.

MALI HOTEL ATTACK

Suspected Islamist militants are holding about 170 guests and staff hostage at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako. At least three people have been killed by the gunmen. [BBC]

Security forces are storming the hotel and three attackers are reported to have been killed, though this has not been confirmed. [The Guardian’s Mamadou Tapily and Matthew Weaver]

This is a developing situation, check out the Guardian for live updates.

PARIS ATTACKS

A third body has been discovered at an apartment building in St-Denis that was subject to a police raid following Friday’s attacks.

For live updates as this story continues to develop check out the BBC and the Guardian. 

France will ask the UN Security Council to effectively declare war on ISIS, proposing a resolution calling on member states to “take all necessary measures” to defeat the militant group. EU ministers are also expected to meet tonight to discuss tightening border security in the bloc. [The Guardian’s Jon Henley et al]

The French strategy against ISIS is starting to emerge, writes Pierre Briancon, asking whether the proposals of French President François Hollande can “make the international community united and coherent.” [Politico]

ISIS has threatened to attack the White House in a video released yesterday, and promised to conduct further attacks on France. [Reuters] 

Four or more of the Paris attackers were on a US counterterrorism database, officials said yesterday. At least one of them was also on a selective “no fly list.” [Reuters]

France and Belgium are scrambling to strengthen their security forces following the attacks, driving Europe deep into the debate over how to balance national security efforts with civil liberties, report Steven Erlanger and Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura. [New York Times] And Ewan MacAskill explores why the French intelligence agencies failed before the attacks, commenting on their every day “dilemma” on how to handle the “gap between available staff and the huge number of suspects.” [The Guardian]

Last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris had been plotted over a period of 11 months. Andrew Higgins et al provide the details at the New York Times.

French forensic teams are examining the body of Hasna Aitboulahcen, the woman who blew herself up during a firefight after the Paris attacks in St-Denis. [The Guardian’s Kim Willsher]

Alleged mastermind of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud traveled through Greece and into Europe recently, heightening concerns about the bloc’s ability to protect its most porous borders. [Wall Street Journal’s Stacy Meichtry et al] Abaaoud was also reportedly captured on CCTV on the Paris Metro while the attacks were taking place. [Reuters]

Abaaoud, who died during a raid in St-Denis “leaves behind countless what-ifs,” including why he wasn’t captured earlier and who will step in to replace him. [The Guardian’s Julian Borger]

Refugee crisis. The House voted by an overwhelming majority to tighten the vetting requirements for Syrian refugees trying to enter the US. In the wake of the Paris attacks, presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a database of Muslims living in the US, and rival Ben Carson said refugees should be screened as they might be “rabid dogs.” [The Guardian’s Tom McCarthy and Ben Jacobs] And UN officials have urged the international community not to use the terror attacks in Paris and Beirut as the pretext for closing the door on refugees. [UN News Centre]

The Paris attacks indicate that the ISIS strategy is shifting toward operational tactics similar to that of al-Qaeda, focusing on large scale, coordinated attacks on the West, according to US and European officials. [Wall Street Journal’s Devlin Barrett et al]

US investigators struggle with different challenges in their efforts to track homegrown ISIS suspects, a task which has “taken on a new urgency” after Paris, report Michael S. Schmidt et al. [New York Times]

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden should be “hanged” in the wake of the terrorist attack on Paris, according to former CIA director James Woolsey, saying that “the blood of a lot of these French people is on his hands.” [The Hill’s Bradford Richardson]

Terror threats “real and imagined” have multiplied in the wake of the Paris attacks, leading individuals and security officials to single out Muslims and others for “special scrutiny,” report Frederick Kunkle et al. [Washington Post]

The Economist proposes how the Islamic State should be tackled, suggesting that the international community must act against “every link in the chain.”

A visual guide to the Paris attacks from the Guardian.

Russia and Western nations are being pushed closer together in the face of the common threat of Islamist terrorism, observes the Economist.

“The West has lost its spine, a spine called America.” Roger Cohen argues that the “border-straddling ISIS sanctuary” must be destroyed, concluding: “they are beatable.” [New York Times]

IRAQ and SYRIA 

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton adopted a hawkish stance to the threat posed by the Islamic State, laying out an agenda for tackling the militant group. Anne Gearan and Karen Tumulty report at the Washington Post. Clinton emphasized that “it’s time to begin a new phase to intensify and broaden our efforts.” [Politico]

Republican candidate Marco Rubio presents his strategy for fighting the Islamic State, at Politico Magazine.

Secretary of State John Kerry called for patience in the fight against the Islamic State, following a two-hour briefing with the Senate Intelligence Committee. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem] Kerry also said that the US has the ability to “neutralize” ISIS much more efficiently than it was able to do with al-Qaeda. [Reuters] 

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out eight strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Nov. 18. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 19 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

Russia deployed a new, radar-evading cruise missile in Syria during its large-scale bomber raid on Nov. 17. David Axe provides the details at The Daily Beast.

A ceasefire between parties to the Syrian conflict is possible, according to UN special envoy, Staffan de Mistura. [UN News Centre]

Solving the Syria crisis “requires a leap of the imagination” that has not been witnessed for decades, comments John Jenkins, urging for a security settlement for the region as a whole. [The Guardian]

The international response to ISIS depends on whether the group is actually a state, opines Yaroslav Trofimov, a question which governs whether the response is that of a counterterrorism operation or conventional war. [Wall Street Journal]

“Airstrikes … do not win wars.” Charles Glass calls on “outside powers” to end their proxy wars in Syria, saying that diplomacy is “better than war.” [The Intercept]

The Islamic State is part of a world-wide “jihadist insurgency” intent on imposing “religion by gunpoint,” writes Maajid Naawaz. [The Daily Beast]

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY 

The NSA found a way to continue the bulk collection of US citizens’ emails through a functional equivalent, despite claiming the program was shut down in December 2011 for “operational and resource reasons” when it came to light in 2013. Charlie Savage reports. [New York Times]

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) is rejecting calls for tech companies to gives government access to encrypted data following the Paris attacks. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

Sen Rand Paul described claims that the government should increase surveillance in the wake of Paris as “bull—-,” during an appearance at the George Washington University. [The Hill’s Jesse Byrnes]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board describes the decline of US intelligence capabilities as “alarming,” arguing that the point of metadata collection is to “find patterns you might not otherwise see.” 

ISRAEL and PALESTINE 

A Palestinian stabbing attack in a Tel Aviv office building has left two Israelis dead. Separately, an attack in the occupied West Bank killed three people, Israeli security forces said. [Reuters] 

A US citizen convicted of spying for Israel has been released today after 30 years, but the Obama administration does not intend to let Jonathan J. Pollard leave the country and move to Israel, despite his requests. [New York Times’ Peter Baker]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Paris attacks do not change President Obama’s determination to close Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg] And three state prosecutors have urged the Obama administration not to send Guantánamo prisoners to their states, in a letter sent Wednesday. [AP]

An AQAP attack on a military post in Yemen’s Hadramawt region has left 15 Yemeni soldiers and 14 militants dead. [Reuters]

Chinese forces have shown “enormous restraint” in the face of American provocations in the South China Sea, according to China’s top admiral. [Reuters]

An “imminent terrorist threat” has been reported in Malaysia, ahead of a regional summit, to be attended by US President Barack Obama. [Al Jazeera]

Could a soda can bomb really have downed the Russian Metrojet flight over Sinai on Oct. 31? Experts at Al Jazeera weigh in on the feasibility of the Islamic State’s claim.

US drone operators have “developed an institutional culture callous to the death of children” and other civilians, four former operators said at a press conference in New York, reports Murtaza Hussain. [The Intercept] The group also gave an interview with The Guardian and penned an open letter to President Obama.

“As in Syria, defeating IS in Libya is no one’s priority; both sides in the civil war prioritize attacks on each other,” observes the Economist. 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security