WASHINGTON: Sayfullo Saipov, the radicalized Uzbek who mowed down eight people on a New York bike path, apparently developed his plot in relative isolation, like most other extremist attackers in the United States.
But in Europe many have had community support, an underground network, or even a hard-line Islamist to guide them, as in the twin attacks in Spain in August.
What makes the difference?
Experts say that in part, a better rooted, more affluent US Muslim community shows no tolerance for anyone exhibiting sympathy for causes like the Daesh group or Al-Qaeda.
And tougher and expansive US laws and more aggressive law enforcement than Europe have also made a difference.
Together, they leave aspiring extremists in the United States isolated with their social media links and, at times, just a few friends in the know.
Saipov, who crashed a rented truck down a busy New York bike path Tuesday, is so far believed by investigators to have been “self-radicalized” online without any apparent support inside the United States.
Analysts say that’s because it is much harder to safely find support.
“We tend not to have large clusters in the US.... For the most part you are talking about ones and twos,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.
Hughes said one fundamental reason is distance: the country is much farther away from extremist networks and it is much harder to travel to the Middle East because of official no-fly lists.
European Muslims find it much easier to travel to areas where radical groups like Daesh operate.
As a consequence, he said, “We don’t have the kind of in-person recruitment done in Europe.”
Another factor is the expansive use of the charge of “material support of terrorism,” a catch-all that “allows the FBI to interject themselves at an earlier stage than our European partners,” Hughes said.
For critics, the FBI is too aggressive and stretches the law with undercover schemes that entrap people who are not really threats. But the net effect is to prevent them from establishing connections and frightening others thinking of trying to build networks.
According to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, heavier prison sentences in terror cases in the US makes a difference.
US sentences are 15-20 years, compared to four to seven years in Europe, which releases terror convicts back into the community much more quickly. That helps sustain dangerous cells, he said.
That is not to say the United States has not had its own cells or ringleaders, Gartenstein-Ross notes.
Anwar Al-Awlaki, one of the most influential extremist thinkers and propagandists, was born and raised in the United States before he joined Al-Qaeda in Yemen and was killed in a 2011 drone strike.
And in the late 2000s a cell that involved maybe 20 people developed around the Somali community in Minneapolis that became an effective body to recruit people to join Daesh.
“That was clearly a network,” like those in Europe, he said. “They have not been prevented, they still exist.”
The Somali cell more resembled those in Europe, rooted in a more recent, less wealthy, poorly educated immigrant community.
For the most part American Muslim communities are wealthier, and better educated on average than European communities.
That makes them less alienated and better-integrated, according to Corey Saylor, an expert on Islamophobia at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
US Muslim groups will more readily chase out of the community and the mosque someone who espouses radical ideas.
“If somebody in the congregation is talking about it, they get pushed out fairly quickly. There is no hospitality” for it, he said.
While neither side talks about it much, US Muslim communities have been more willing to report possible threats to law enforcement than in Europe. That was helped by outreach programs under president Barack Obama, according to Gartenstein-Ross.
That may have ebbed under President Donald Trump, however, given his open mistrust of Muslims. “The lack of trust has impeded cooperation; suspicion has likely increased,” he said.
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YOKOTA Air Base: President Donald Trump warned on Sunday that “no dictator, no regime” should underestimate the US, as he kicked off an Asian tour likely to be dominated by the threat posed by North Korea.
“No one, no dictator, no regime... should underestimate American resolve,” Trump told cheering servicemen at the Yokota Air Base on his arrival in Japan.
Trump had earlier described Japan as a “treasured partner and crucial ally of the US,” as Asian partners look for reassurance that Washington will back them if conflict with North Korea were to break out.
The president was speaking at the start of a marathon Asian tour that will take in five countries, starting with a trip to Japan to visit his “friend” Shinzo Abe.
Before touching down, Trump had announced to reporters on Air Force One that he was expecting to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during the trip, as the international community strives for a solution to the North Korea crisis.
“I think it’s expected we’ll meet with Putin, yeah. We want Putin’s help on North Korea, and we’ll be meeting with a lot of different leaders,” said Trump.
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JEDDAH: King Salman announced two key changes in the Saudi Cabinet and ordered the formation of a super committee to combat corruption. The committee is to be headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In its first decision, the committee ordered the arrests of a number of princes and big businessmen for their involvement in corruption in different cases.
The two key changes in the Cabinet were that of National Guard Minister Miteb bin Abdullah, who was replaced by Prince Khaled bin Ayyaf, and Economy Minister Adel Fakieh, who was replaced by Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri.
Commander of the Navy, Abdullah Al-Sultan, was relieved of his position and has been replaced by Adm. Fahad Al-Ghofaili.
Besides the crown prince, the committee comprises heads of the Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha), Public Security, General Prosecutor and the Investigation Authority.
The job of the new anti-corruption committee will be to “identify offenses, crimes, persons and entities involved in cases of public corruption,” the royal decree said.
The committee is empowered to investigate, issue arrest warrants and travel bans, order financial disclosure and the freezing of accounts and portfolios, track funds and assets and prevent their remittance or transfer by persons and entities.
“The committee has the right to take any precautionary measures it sees fit, until they are referred to the investigating authorities or judicial bodies,” said the decree.
“It may take whatever measures deemed necessary to deal with those involved in public corruption cases and take what it considers to be the right of persons, entities, funds, fixed and movable assets, at home and abroad, return funds to the state treasury and register property and assets in the name of state property.”
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JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia launched a crackdown on public corruption on Saturday and apppointed new ministers for the National Guard and for economy and planning.
National Guard Minister Miteb bin Abdullah was dismissed and replaced by Prince Khaled bin Ayyaf. Economy and Planning Minister Adel Fakeih was dismissed and replaced by Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri.
The Commander of the Navy, Adm. Abdullah Al-Sultan, was relieved of his position and replaced by Fahad Al-Ghofaili, who is promoted to the rank of Admiral.
King Salman also ordered the formation of a new anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and comprising the chairman of the Monitoring and Investigation Commission, the chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Authority, the chief of the General Audit Bureau, the Attorney General and the head of State Security.
“We have noticed exploitation by some weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to illicitly accrue money,” the king said.
The job of the new anti-corruption committee will be to “identify offenses, crimes, persons and entities involved in cases of public corruption,” he said.
The committee is empowered to investigate, issue arrest warrants and travel bans, order financial disclosure and the freezing of accounts and portfolios, track funds and assets and prevent their remittance or transfer by persons and entities.
“The committee has the right to take any precautionary measures it sees fit, until they are referred to the investigating authorities or judicial bodies,” the king said.
“It may take whatever measures deemed necessary to deal with those involved in public corruption cases and take what it considers to be the right of persons, entities, funds, fixed and movable assets, at home and abroad, return funds to the state treasury and register property and assets in the name of state property.
“The committee may seek the assistance of those it deems necessary and may set up teams for investigation, prosecution, etc., and may delegate some or all of its powers to these teams.”
When its tasks are complete, the king ordered the committee to submit a detailed report to him on its findings and what actions it had taken.
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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia introduced a new Anti-Money Laundering Law on Saturday. Under the new law, the penalty for money laundering will be between three and 15 years imprisonment or a fine of up to SR7 million ($1.87 million).
Those penalties can be combined if the accused was part of an organized gang or used violence during the crime; if the accused works in the public sector and exploited their job and/or power to commit the crime; or if the crime included human trafficking, the exploitation of a minor or a woman, or the use of a correctional, charitable or educational facility.
The penalties will also be combined for repeat offenders.
Saudi nationals imprisoned for money laundering will be banned from traveling once released for the same length of time as their prison term, while non-Saudis will be deported after completing their sentence and will not be allowed to enter the Kingdom again.
A money laundering crime, according to the new law, includes conducting any transaction involving property or proceeds with the knowledge that they are the result of criminal activity or originate from an illegitimate source in order to disguise, protect or help that source or any other person involved in the original crime through which the property or proceeds were obtained.
Money laundering also includes earning, keeping, or using any property or proceeds with the knowledge that they are the result of criminal activity or come from an illegal or illegitimate source, in addition to concealing or camouflaging the nature, source, movement, ownership, location, method of disposition, or associated rights of this property or proceeds with the knowledge that they are the result of criminal activity.
The new law emphasizes that attempting to commit any of the previously mentioned acts, participating in any of the acts by agreement, providing assistance, incitement, counseling, guidance, advice, conspiring, collusion or concealment are all considered money-laundering crimes.
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RIYADH: French multinational giant Thales Group has voiced its support for Saudi Arabia’s national defense production. Thales serves the defense, aerospace, transport and security sectors.
Thales chairman and CEO Patrice Caine was in Riyadh on Saturday giving an overview of the group’s regional activities. He affirmed Thales’ commitment to assisting Saudi localize its defense industry, in line with Vision 2030.
“Our strategy is to localize activities and further develop capabilities in the region through training and knowledge-transfer programs within our defense as well as security and civil businesses,” Caine said.
“A big step toward this is through the opportunity to localize part of the manufacturing element of our business here in the region. Thales has partnered with Saudi companies to produce certain products specifically for the Saudi market within the Kingdom. This is something we are extremely proud of as a company, where it will allow us to contribute to the development of the Kingdom’s economy in line with Vision 2030.”
Caine praised the launch of Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) in May, calling it “a great initiative” and claiming that Thales already has “great ideas” to be developed in partnership with it.
Thales is ramping up its presence in the region, he said, with the Middle East defense market set to reach $180 billion by 2020. Caine noted that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are in the world’s top 10 spenders on defense.
“At the moment, roughly 60 percent of our projects in the region are defense-related,” Caine added. “We are … trusted to assist armed forces to achieve and maintain tactical superiority and strategic independence over any form of threat.”
Caine explained that Thales currently serves five markets in the region: defense, security, ground transportation, aeronautics, and satellites.
Referring to the blossoming Saudi-Thales relationship, Caine noted: “A key involvement for us is the security of the holy sites in Saudi Arabia — Makkah and Madinah — which is supported by Thales’ technology.”
In terms of physical presence, Thales’ operations cover the entire Kingdom through its offices in Riyadh, Jubail, and Jeddah. “We have over 700 employees including 30 percent Saudis covering the group’s entire sector portfolio,” the Thales chief explained.
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RIYADH: A new food aid distribution project for Yemen has been launched by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) in Marib, local media reported.
The food aid project is intended for a number of districts in the south of Marib and North Al-Bayda, and the first phase is part of a project to distribute 49,000 food parcels.
Beneficiaries are Yemenis affected by the war in Marib, Sanaa, Hadramout, Al-Bayda and Al-Jawf. KSRelief will also distribute 35,000 bags of flour to the governorates of Hadramout, Al-Jawf and Marib.
The aid comes as an extension of relief and humanitarian projects provided by KSRelief to the people of the Yemeni provinces and to alleviate their suffering as a result of the crisis they are experiencing.
Earlier, KSRelief also launched a land convoy carrying 778 tons of food and medical and shelter supplies to Yemeni provinces.
Salah bin Fahd Al-Mazrou, assistant general supervisor for financial and administrative affairs, said the convoy comes as an extension of the great care by King Salman and his directives to stand with Yemenis and alleviate their suffering.
Recently Dr. Mohammed Al-Saadi, official spokesman of the Ministry of Health and Population of Yemen, reported a significant reduction in the number of cholera deaths to 0.2 percent, in addition to the decline in the total cases of acute watery diarrhea, which fell to a quarter of previous rates.
He pointed out that only 560 cases were referred during the second week of October, which means a significant decline in suspected cases. He added that recovery from the cholera epidemic had reached 99.5 percent, which led many organizations on the ground to close their centers for the treatment of cholera. These included the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the World Medical Organization, as well as MSF according to its report dated Oct. 31, 2017.
KSRelief has also stepped up its operations through its clinics at the Zaatari Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan to provide medical services at the highest level of efficiency and diversity.
The clinics also provide free medicines for their visitors free of charge and are in constant development as a result of interest and follow-up by the center.
KSRelief is also coordinating with the Saudi National Campaign, which is offering humanitarian support including providing medical services via specialized clinics at the Zaatari camp.
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RIYADH: The spokesman of the Coalition for the Support of Legitimacy in Yemen, Col. Turki Al-Maliki, stressed the keenness of the Joint Forces Command to implement the rules of engagement in Yemen in line with international law.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the coalition spokesman said the most important of these rules of engagement is the assumption that everyone is a civilian until proven otherwise.
Al-Maliki said the joint command has followed with interest what has been circulated by some media outlets, alleging that coalition forces targeted a food market in Sohar, Saada.
He said that the coalition leadership was proceeding with the post-action review for all its executed operations, especially the place and time of the incident.
Al-Maliki also said the coalition forces were legally and morally committed to the protection of civilians and civilian properties. They are also bound to take precautionary and preventive measures to ensure that they avoid adverse effects of the conflict, he said.
Ongoing coalition operations, Al-Maliki said, are in accordance with the highest standards and modern targeting mechanisms, and that they are also bound to obey and follow legitimate military objectives to achieve their operational goals.
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WASHINGTON: Four years ago, well before the furor over allegations Moscow meddled in the 2016 election that put Donald Trump in the White House, at least 195 web addresses belonging to Trump, his family or his business empire were hijacked by hackers possibly operating out of Russia, The Associated Press has learned.
The Trump Organization denied the domain names were ever compromised. But a review of Internet records by the AP and cybersecurity experts shows otherwise. And it was not until this past week, after the Trump camp was asked about it by the AP, that the last of the tampered-with addresses were repaired.
After the hack, computer users who visited the Trump-related addresses were unwittingly redirected to servers in St. Petersburg, Russia, that cybersecurity experts said contained malicious software commonly used to steal passwords or hold files for ransom. Whether anyone fell victim to such tactics is unclear.
A further mystery is who the hackers were and why they did it.
The discovery represents a new twist in the Russian hacking story, which up to now has focused mostly on what US intelligence officials say was a campaign by the Kremlin to try to undermine Democrat Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and benefit Trump’s.
It is not known whether the hackers who tampered with the Trump addresses are the same ones who stole Democratic officials’ emails and embarrassed the party in the heat of the campaign last year. Nor is it clear whether the hackers were acting on behalf of the Russian government.
The affected addresses, or domain names, included donaldtrump.org, donaldtrumpexecutiveoffice.com, donaldtrumprealty.com and barrontrump.com. They were compromised in two waves of attacks in August and September 2013, according to the review of Internet records.
Many of the addresses were not being used by Trump. Businesses and public figures commonly buy addresses for possible future use or to prevent them from falling into the hands of rivals or enemies. The Trump Organization and its affiliates own at least 3,300 in all.
According to security experts, the hackers hijacked the addresses by penetrating and altering the domain registration records housed at GoDaddy.com, a seller of web addresses.
Accounts at GoDaddy, like at any site that requires a user name and password, are often subject to malicious messages known as phishing attacks, which are designed to trick people to reveal that personal information to hackers.
Computer users who entered or clicked on one of those Trump addresses probably would have had no idea they were redirected to servers in Russia.
Within days after the AP asked the Trump Organization about the tampering, the affected web addresses were all corrected.
The White House referred questions to the Trump Organization. The FBI did not respond to a request for comment.
GoDaddy spokesman Nick Fuller said the company had no breaches of its system in 2013 and has measures in place to monitor for malicious activity. Fuller would not discuss any customers in particular.
Some cybersecurity experts said there is an outside chance the tampering was a probe — an attempt to test security for an eventual effort to gather information on Trump or his business dealings. But those experts were only guessing.
There was no evidence the hackers ultimately broke into server computers at the Trump Organization or other Trump interests.
“This is beyond me,” said Paul Vixie, CEO of the San Mateo, California-based Internet security company Farsight Security Inc. “I have simply never seen a benefit accrue from an attack of this kind. I’m at loss, unless it’s a demonstration of capabilities.”
Vixie said the Trump Organization’s apparent failure to detect what was happening probably suggests inadequate cybersecurity at the company.
“There’s no way something like this could go by in the Bloomberg empire without this being seen,” Vixie said.
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ISLAMABAD: Smog is causing chaos in the Pakistani province of Punjab close to the Indian border, in particular the densely populated provincial capital, Lahore.
Traffic accidents, flight delays, health hazards, and power failures have been reported across the province.
Chashma nuclear power plant units C1, C2, C3 and C4 have shut down, along with other power production units. Specialists are working to restore the systems and expect the plants to be at full capacity within a few days.
One commuter told Arab News on Saturday that there was “almost zero visibility” on the highway between Islamabad and Lahore. Authorities prohibited heavy vehicles from using that highway on Saturday.
Dozens of accidents resulting in serious injuries and deaths have been reported around Punjab. And a number of flights have been cancelled in the province’s major cities.
“The air in the outskirts of Lahore is very bad,” Lahore resident Adnan Khan told Arab News. “But this is nothing new for us. We go through this phase usually at this time of the year when the temperature starts to drop. It’s the open fields where the density of smog is greater and drifting in towards the city and roads.”
The government has ordered the closure of all oil-based power plants to reduce the smog’s environmental impact. Reports indicate that the region is relying on hydroelectric generation as its primary source of electrical power. This has caused a drop of 7000 megawatts from the distribution grid, as several power plants are offline.
Faheem Khokhar, a professor at the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, told Arab News there is no reason to panic about the nuclear shutdown. “The tripping is likely due to safety reasons,” he said. “Our nuclear plants are secure enough.”
Khohkar says there is no current data on smog levels in Pakistan but he estimated that the “scale is quite high.”
According to local media reports, the Environment Protection Department (EPD) says the smog has been caused by emissions from nine nearby thermal power plants in India, and by Indian farmers setting leftover crops on fire after the harvest.
EPD officials speaking to Geo News on Friday noted that the smog was affecting the Indian cities of New Delhi, Amritsar, and Ambala as well.
The officials urged the Pakistani government to engage Indian authorities over the issue immediately.
A local TV network reported on Friday that the Punjab environment minister blames India for triggering the smog by burning some 35 million tons of waste.
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