Briefing :-23/3/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 23rd of March, 2017 :-

1. Islamic State claims London terror attack :-

Armed Police officers secure the area on Whitehall leading toward the Houses of Parliament in central London on March 23.

The Islamic State group on Thursday claimed the deadly rampage at the British parliament, as the prime minister identified the attacker as a British-born man once investigated for possible links to extremist violence.

The jihadist claim came as armed police arrested eight people in raids over the attack on the symbol of Britain’s democracy that left three dead and sowed panic in the heart of London.

“An act of terrorism tried to silence our democracy,” a defiant Prime Minister Theresa May told a packed House of Commons, which stood for a minute’s silence in remembrance of the victims.

“We are not afraid and our resolve will never waver in the face of terrorism,” May said. IS said it was responsible, according to the Amaq propaganda agency linked to the group, the first time the jihadists have claimed an attack on British soil.

“The perpetrator of yesterday’s attack in front of the British parliament was a soldier of the Islamic State and the operation was carried out in response to calls to target coalition countries,” Amaq said citing a “security source.” Britain is a member of the US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria that the jihadist group has urged its followers to target.

Barely 24 hours later, Belgian police arrested a man as he tried to drive into a crowd at high speed in a shopping area in the port city of Antwerp. The London carnage was unleashed the same day Brussels marked the first anniversary of bombings that killed 32 people and were also claimed by IS.

In the British parliament, defiant lawmakers returned to “business as usual” in the surreal silence of an area in the heart of London normally thronged with tourists.  Hundreds of extra police were on patrol as officers worked around the clock to piece together what happened in the deadliest attack in Britain since four suicide bombers killed 52 people on the capital’s transport system in July 2005.

Wednesday’s attacker mowed down pedestrians with a car along Westminster Bridge — a busy traffic route and popular tourist spot with views of parliament and the Big Ben clock tower. He then rammed the railings outside parliament and jumped out of the car, stabbing to death a police officer before being shot dead. The other victims were a 43-year-old mother and a man in his 50s.

Twenty-nine people were treated in hospital, including seven in critical condition, some with “catastrophic” injuries. Among them were French school children and foreign tourists. Europe has been on high alert after a wave of deadly jihadist assaults over the past two years.

May said the attacker’s identity was known to police and the MI5 domestic intelligence service although she did not name him. He was British-born and some years ago had been a “peripheral figure” investigated over concerns about violent extremism.

2. Security forces arrest man trying to drive into a crowd in Antwerp, Belgium :-

The incident was the third in a week in the European Union after attacks at the Orly airport in Paris and London

Belgian security forces arrested a French national Thursday after he tried to drive into a crowd of shoppers at high speed in the port city of Antwerp, officials said.

Authorities found a rifle and bladed weapons in the car after the 39-year-old man tried to flee and was detained in the northern city, prosecutors said. The incident was the third in a week in the European Union after attacks at Orly airport in Paris and London, and came a day after the first anniversary of the Brussels suicide bombings that killed 32 people.

“A vehicle with French plates has tried to drive at high speed into the Meir (shopping street) so that pedestrians had to jump aside,” Antwerp police chief Serge Muyters told a news conference.

“Our army colleagues forced the driver to stop but he pulled away and ran a red traffic light. We sent a special forces team and the car and the driver were stopped,” he added.

“A man in camouflage was taken away.” Images on social media showed investigators searching a burgundy-coloured vehicle near the bank of the Scheldt river.

Belgium’s federal prosecutor later said the man was a French national living in France identified only as Mohamed R, who was born in May 1977. The prosecutor’s office said he was driving at “very high speed” and that “at different times pedestrians were placed in danger.”

“Different arms were found in the boot, bladed weapons, a pump-action rifle and a container of as yet unidentified liquid,” the prosecutor said in a statement. Bomb disposal experts are still at the scene.

“In light of what has initially been gathered, and taking into account what happened in London yesterday, it has been decided to send this case to the federal prosecutor,” the statement added. Prime Minister Charles Michel said the government was “following this situation as it develops” in the Flemish-speaking northern city.

“We continue to be vigilant. Our security services did an excellent job in Antwerp, thanks,” he tweeted. Meir is the main shopping street in Antwerp’s historic centre and is mostly pedestrianised. It is one of the country’s biggest shopping areas.

The Antwerp incident will put Europe further on edge after the attack on the British parliament killed three people plus the attacker, and a man was shot dead at Paris’s Orly airport after grabbing a soldier’s rifle. With soldiers deployed at key sites, Belgium has been on high alert since March 22 last year when suicide bombers attacked Zaventem airport and Maalbeek metro station, killing 32 people and leaving more than 320 wounded.

Belgium suffered a further shock in August when a machete-wielding man shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) attacked two policewomen in the industrial town of Charleroi. He badly injured one in the face, before a third officer shot him dead.

3. New evidence suggests Trump associates may have coordinated with Russian officials : CNN :-

New evidence suggests Trump associates may have coordinated with Russian officials: CNN
Donald Trump is accused of acquiring help from the Russian Embassy in Washington to win the Elections.

The FBI possesses information indicating associates of US President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the divulging of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, CNN reports, citing US officials.

One source told CNN that this is what FBI Director James Comey alluded to when he announced on Monday that not only was the FBI investigating Russian interference in the US election, but the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

The information the FBI is now reviewing, CNN reports citing those US officials, includes: human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings.

US officials told CNN this information intelligence was not taken from the leaked dossier of unverified compiled by Christopher Steele, who was hired by Trump’s opponents (first Republicans, then by Democrats), though that dossier also suggested there was coordination between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign.

These officials have cautioned that the investigation is ongoing and that the information was not conclusive, though it has raised the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence that “coordination” may have taken place.

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