A Canadian jury found a woman guilty Thursday of terror crimes for trying to join the Islamic State group and in its name attacking staff at a Toronto-area department store two years ago.
Rehab Dughmosh, who was arrested in June 2017 when she was 32, was found guilty of four counts of leaving the country for the purpose of joining a terror group, assaults with a golf club and a butcher knife, and carrying an archery bow.
According to court documents cited by Canadian media, she attempted to fly to Syria in April 2016 to join the IS group, and when that failed returned home and plotted the mall attack.
Her plans to go to Syria were thwarted by Turkish officials tipped off by her brother. At the time, Dughmosh claimed that she was just trying to visit family, although she admitted after her arrest that she had intended to travel to join IS.
The court heard that Dughmosh admitted to pledging her allegiance to the Islamic State group, and on the day in question packed bags with weapons, including a hammer, barbecue skewers, straws tipped with screws and a child’s shovel made into claws.
She also hid the knife and bow in her robe.
But on her way out of her apartment, she ran into her estranged husband, who confiscated the bags. He reportedly did not know about the concealed weapons.
At the Canadian Tire store east of Toronto, Dughmosh grabbed a golf club off a rack after trying unsuccessfully to access arrows in a locked display case.
She then draped herself in a homemade IS banner, tied an IS bandana around her head and charged staff with the golf club and butcher knife, shouting: “This is for ISIS.”
Staff wrestled her to the ground. Nobody was seriously injured.
Police later found the weapons cache at her home, along with a cellphone containing IS propaganda videos and a handwritten will in which she asked for martyrdom.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Monday. The prosecution is seeking eight years in prison.
A Dutch journalist based in Turkey was deported on Thursday a day after she was arrested on suspicion of links to a jihadist group in Syria, Turkish officials said.
The officials insisted Ans Boersma’s deportation was not related to her journalistic activity but that Ankara had received a tip-off from the Dutch police that she had links to Jabhat al-Nusra, a former Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
Boersma, a freelance journalist based in Istanbul who has contributed articles to the financial newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad, also said she had been expelled.
“I got arrested yesterday (Wednesday), got deported this morning. Flying out now,” she said in a messaging group for foreign journalists in Turkey.
Fahrettin Altun, communications director at the Turkish presidency, confirmed her expulsion but said it was “in no way related to her journalistic activities during her stay in Turkey.”
“The Turkish authorities have recently received intelligence from the Dutch police that Ms Boersma had links to a designated terrorist organisation and a request for information about her movements in and out of Turkey,” he said.
‘Acted on intelligence’
Writing on Twitter, Altun said she was suspected of links to Jabhat al-Nusra operating in Syria.
“The Netherlands told Turkey that the reporter, who was deported today (Thursday), had links to Jabhat al-Nusra,” he wrote.
“We acted on intelligence from the Netherlands and took a precautionary measure.”
He said it was up to Dutch authorities to explain why they arrived at that conclusion and refused to speculate on the credibility of their intelligence.
A number of groups including the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State have carried out a spate of attacks in Turkey in recent years.
“Due to the seriousness of the threat, we work closely with our friends and allies, including the Netherlands, and rely on their insights to identify and neutralise threats against Turkish and European security,” Altun said.
Until now, the Turkish authorities, with help from their international partners, have blacklisted tens of thousands of individuals with links to terrorist organisations as part of an ongoing effort to combat extremism, he added.
Another Turkish official, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP the authorities would not have issued a press card if they had had “national security concerns” about the reporter.
The official said Boersma’s press credentials were valid until January 31, 2019.
Human rights defenders have raised concerns over a clampdown on freedom of expression in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with dozens of journalists and civil society activists put behind bars.
Turkey is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
In December, a Turkish court ordered the release from jail of an Austrian student and journalist charged with being a member of a terror group.
Max Zirngast, who writes for the far-left German-language magazine Revolt, had been formally arrested by an Ankara court in September.
Facebook pulled or slapped warnings on nearly 30 million posts containing sexual or violent images, terrorist propaganda or hate speech in the first three months of 2018, the social media giant said Tuesday.
In an unprecedented report responding to calls for transparency after the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, Facebook detailed its actions against such content in line with its “community standards”.
Facebook said improved technology using artificial intelligence had helped it act on 3.4 million posts containing graphic violence, nearly three times more than it had in the last quarter of 2017.
In 85.6 percent of the cases, Facebook detected the images before being alerted to them by users, said the report, issued the day after the company said “around 200” apps had been suspended on its platform as part of an investigation into misuse of private user data.
The figure represents between 0.22 and 0.27 percent of the total content viewed by Facebook’s more than two billion users from January through March.
“In other words, of every 10,000 content views, an estimate of 22 to 27 contained graphic violence,” the report said.
Responses to rule violations include removing content, adding warnings to content that may be disturbing to some users while not violating Facebook standards; and notifying law enforcement in case of a “specific, imminent and credible threat to human life”.
Improved IT also helped Facebook take action against 1.9 million posts containing terrorist propaganda, a 73 percent increase. Nearly all were dealt with before any alert was raised, the company said.
It attributed the increase to the enhanced use of photo detection technology.
Hate speech is harder to police using automated methods, however, as racist or homophobic hate speech is often quoted on posts by their targets or activists.
Sarcasm needs human touch
“It may take a human to understand and accurately interpret nuances like… self-referential comments or sarcasm,” the report said, noting that Facebook aims to “protect and respect both expression and personal safety”.
Facebook took action against 2.5 million pieces of hate speech content during the period, a 56 increase over October-December. But only 38 percent had been detected through Facebook’s efforts — the rest flagged up by users.
The posts that keep the Facebook reviewers the busiest are those showing adult nudity or sexual activity — quite apart from child pornography, which is not covered by the report.
Some 21 million such posts were handled in the period, a similar number to October-December 2017.
That was less than 0.1 percent of viewed content — which includes text, images, videos, links, live videos or comments on posts — Facebook said, adding it had dealt with nearly 96 percent of the cases before being alerted to them.
Facebook has come under fire for showing too much zeal on this front, such as removing images of artwork tolerated under its own rules.
In March, Facebook apologised for temporarily removing an advert featuring French artist Eugene Delacroix’s famous work “Liberty Leading the People” because it depicts a bare-breasted woman.
Spain’s top criminal court sentenced a rapper to two years in prison Friday for Twitter posts and a song it said glorified terrorism, the latest such decision against an artist that has raised free speech concerns.
Such was the uncertainty over whether the tweets of Pablo Rivadulla, better known as Pablo Hasel, were harmful enough to warrant prison that one of the three judges who oversaw his case made known her disagreement with the sentence.
In its statement, the National Audience said it had analysed 64 of Hasel’s Twitter posts as well as a song’s lyrics and found that put together, they not only went against state authorities but alluded “to the necessity to take a step further using violent behaviour, including using terrorism.”
The court gave as an example one 2016 tweet in which the rapper attached a photo of a member of the GRAPO, a once violent far-left group.
Hasel wrote: “Protests are necessary, but not enough, we support those who went beyond,” the statement read.
One judge, however, disagreed with the decision to sentence Hasel to jail, it added.
She considered that none of the tweets were “a call for violence,” according to a court document.
This is not the first time that Hasel has been condemned for glorifying terrorism.
In 2014, the National Audience sentenced him to two years jail for the content of some of his songs.
He did not serve time, as first-time offenders of non-violent crimes with a sentence of no more than two years don’t usually spend time behind bars in Spain.
But this time round, if the Supreme Court confirms Friday’s sentence, he will be sent to prison for four years to serve both sentences.
The news comes just over a week after the Supreme Court upheld a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence for another rapper, Valtonyc, for lyrics they said glorified terrorism and insulted the crown.
The sentences have raised concern over free speech in Spain, but terror victim groups argue they do not want to see violence trivialised.
Police in Ghana on Tuesday said they were investigating whether three people had links to extremist groups after they were arrested following the discovery of suspected explosives in the capital.
The Ghana Police Service announced in a statement late on Monday that the suspects were detained after the discovery in the Odorkor area of Accra.
On Tuesday it said three men — identified as Ismaila Ali Musah, Abdul Karim Yakubu and Osman Hassan — had been charged with possession of explosives and remanded in custody to reappear in court on January 30.
No further details were given and Ghana’s most senior police officer, Inspector General of Police David Asante-Apeatu, said the men’s nationalities had yet to be established.
The explosives were believed to be grenades and specialists were working to determine whether they were viable devices, he told a news conference at police headquarters.
“Our investigation seeks to answer questions such as whether these persons are terrorists, whether they have linkage with any terrorist group, how they obtained the objects, their sources, potential allies and many more.”
Asante-Apeatu said the investigation would look at the men’s “potential allies inside and outside the country” and that officers were working with “the relevant agencies”.
Ghana has largely been spared the extremist attacks that have hit other countries in west Africa.
But security was tightened in April 2016 after a warning the country and neighbouring Togo to the east could be the next target for jihadists who killed 19 in Ivory Coast the previous month.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed that attack on the Grand-Bassam resort in Ivory Coast, following a similar strike in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou in January that killed 30.
Ghana has borders with both countries.
Asked about security in Ghana, Asante-Apeatu told reporters: “If you look at countries around the world, no-one can say, ‘I’m immune from issues of this kind’…
“In Ghana, I think we have managed the situation up to this time.”
President Donald Trump on Monday declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, returning Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear-armed pariah regime to a short blacklist of targeted US foes.
“Should have happened a long time ago. Should have happened years ago,” Trump declared, announcing the designation at the start of a White House cabinet meeting.
North Korea is already under a wide array of United States and United Nations sanctions, and what is at this stage a largely-symbolic terror designation will not have much immediate economic impact in itself.
But US officials see the designation — which was removed by then-president George W. Bush in 2008 — as a way of ratcheting up pressure on Pyongyang and especially on other states that may be failing to fully enforce the sanctions already in place.
“In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism including assassinations on foreign soil,” Trump said.
In February, Kim’s potential rival and elder brother Kim Jong-Nam died after he was sprayed with a nerve agent in Kuala Lumpur airport, in an assassination blamed on Pyongyang.
– Tortured in custody –
US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that other murders have been linked to North Korea, but the State Department said information about them “remains classified.”
“As we take this action today, our thoughts turn to Otto Warmbier and others affected by North Korean oppression,” Trump continued, underlining the legal case for the designation.
US student Warmbier did this year aged only 22 after he was repatriated from detention in North Korea already in a coma. US officials allege he was tortured in custody.
Trump warned that, in addition to the terror designation, Washington is preparing yet another round of sanctions to force Pyongyang to give up its nuclear missile program.
“Tomorrow, the Treasury Department will be announcing an additional sanction — and a very large one — on North Korea,” he said.
“This will be going on over the next two weeks and it will be the highest level of sanctions,” he warned.
“The North Korean regime must be lawful and end its unlawful nuclear ballistic missile development and cease all support for international terrorism, which it is not doing.”
While no details of new Treasury sanctions were released, the State Department said the terror designation would “penalize persons and countries engaging in certain trade with the DPRK.”
And “when a country designated as a State Sponsor of Terror carries out acts of terrorism, US victims of such attacks would be able to sue to seek relief in US courts.”
The White House has declared it will not tolerate Kim’s regime testing or deploying an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to US cities.
Experts believe Pyongyang is within months of such a threshold, having carried out six nuclear tests since 2006 and test-fired several types of missiles, including multi-stage rockets.
Kim’s government insists it will defy international sanctions to develop a capability it believes is essential to defending itself from the threat of US and South Korean invasion.
Washington is also pressuring the North’s key trade partner and traditional ally China to turn up the sanctions pressure and force Kim to come to the table to discuss his disarmament.
– Assassinations on foreign soil –
Until North Korea’s designation, the only three countries still on the state sponsor list were Iran, Syria and Sudan — and Sudan has begun cooperating with US counterterrorism efforts and can now expect to be removed at some point.
Some have argued that whatever military threat North Korea poses to the United States and its allies Japan and South Korea, its actions do not meet the standard “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”
But Trump, who was reportedly moved to fury by Warmbier’s death, has listened to more hawkish voices, who point to a murky but allegedly extensive pattern of aggression.
“Today’s designation is long overdue as North Korea continued its sponsorship of terrorism,” argued Anthony Ruggiero, a sanctions expert at the Federation for Defense of Democracies think tank and former State and Treasury department official.
“A few years ago after North Korea’s cyber hack of Sony Pictures, it threatened a 9/11 style attack against US movie theaters,” he said, adding that Kim Jong-Nam’s assassination was only the “most visible example” of overseas repression.
The State Department said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had advised Trump to make the designation after a “thorough and ongoing review of information and intelligence from a variety of sources.”
“The Secretary of State determined that the government of the DPRK has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, as the DPRK has been implicated in assassinations on foreign soil,” a senior official said.
Following the decision, she said, Washington will renew its efforts to persuade hold-out countries to cut all ties with Kim’s regime and force him to negotiate.
The Nigerian Army is set to close some markets in Borno and Yobe states identified for engaging in illegal trade.
Addressing a news conference in Abuja, the Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Sani Usman said that the measure is to curtail illicit trading and smuggling in the northeast.
Also speaking at the news conference, the Chief of Civil Military Affairs, Major General Nicholas Rogers added that the Nigerian Army is collaborating with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to ensure thorough search of vehicles and commuters and arrest anyone in possession of arms and ammunitions.
A bilateral defence meeting between Nigeria and Cameroon is scheduled to commence on Wednesday at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja.
This is in furtherance of various international contacts by Nigeria in the efforts to stamp out the scourge of terrorism in the sub-region.
According to a statement by the Director, Defence Information, Major-General Chris Olukolade, the three-day meeting which is being hosted by Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, would have in attendance his Cameroonian counterpart and his country’s military delegation.
The forum which is a follow-up to previous international and regional meetings to foster a common ground in the fight against insurgency and terrorism is to fashion out ways of strengthening the existing working relationship and cooperation between the two Armed Forces in the war against terror in the West African sub-region.
The bilateral talk is expected to advance the collaboration to contain the activities of terrorists in the two countries through coordinated military operations along the borders.
The meeting between the two countries is coming at the heels of a similar parley of foreign ministers of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin Republic held earlier in the week on appropriate legal framework for cross border military operations against the Boko Haram terrorists in the region.
The Nigerian Police said that it is stepping up the fight against criminals and terrorists in order to get better result in 2014.
The Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 7 Command, covering the FCT, Niger and Kaduna states, Mister Suleiman Abba, told journalists on Tuesday that the Police would do everything possible to stamp out hoodlums within its area of jurisdiction.
He said that although there was a significant reduction in crimes in 2013, the year 2014 would witness more stringent strategies. He added that such incidences as occurred in Kaduna on Monday where four policemen were gunned down by unknown gunmen would not be tolerated this year.
The four Policemen who were attached to a new generation bank were allegedly killed when some unknown gunmen attacked a bullion van along the Nnamdi Azikiwe by-pass in Kaduna metropolis.
Abba’s declaration of new strategies comes on a day in which the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 82 Division Enugu, Major-General Adebayo Olaniyi, also called for nationwide synergy between security agencies in fighting crime.
Olaniyi, while speaking at the Akim Barracks in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, noted that the successes achieved in oil theft, piracy and kidnapping in Cross River and Akwa Ibom States would not have been reached in isolation of one security agency, but in collaboration of the Armed Forces and other security personnel.
Gunmen on Tuesday opened fire on students at campus hostels used by students at Federal Polytechnic Mubi, Adamawa state killing and wounding an unknown number, official of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said.
“Definitely there are casualties but we don’t yet know how many dead or injured,” said the spokesman of NEMA, Yushua Shuaib.
Some residents put the number of victims at 35 persons. The dead and injured persons are mostly students of the polytechnic. The school have not issued any official reaction to the attack.
The Boko Haram Islamist sect, which usually targets politicians or security forces, has also attacked students in the past and has cells in Adamawa.
Mr Shuaib said it was not clear if the attack was carried out by Boko Haram or if it was related to a dispute between rival political groups at the college.
Only a few days ago, the military Joint Task Force had conducted a major operation against insurgents in the town, killing a major Boko Haram figure, and arresting more than a hundred.