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Taliban attack kills dozens, decimates Afghan army camp

(CBS) — KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban have killed at least 58 Afghan security forces in a wave of attacks across the country, including an assault that officials say wiped out an army camp in the southern Kandahar province.

Spokesman Dawlat Wazir said the attack on the army camp late Wednesday, which involved two suicide car bombs and set of hours of fighting, killed at least 43 soldiers. Nine other soldiers were wounded and six have gone missing, he said, adding that 10 attackers were killed.

A Ministry of Defense official told CBS News’ Ahmad Mukhtar that the attackers struck in the middle of the night while most of the 60 soldiers at the camp were sleeping. The Ministry spokesman confirmed to CBS News that the camp was totally destroyed.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a Taliban ambush in the northern Balkh province late Wednesday killed six police, according to Shir Jan Durani, spokesman for the provincial police chief. A Taliban attack on police posts in the western Farah province, also late Wednesday, killed nine police, said police chief Abdul Marouf Foulad. He said 22 insurgents were killed in the ensuing gun battle.

Afghan forces have struggled to combat a resurgent Taliban since U.S. and NATO forces formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014, switching to a counterterrorism and support role.

The Taliban unleashed a wave of attacks across Afghanistan on Tuesday, targeting police compounds and government facilities with suicide bombers in the country’s south, east and west, and killing at least 74 people, officials said.

Among those killed in one of the attacks was a provincial police chief. Scores were also wounded, both policemen and civilians. Afghanistan’s deputy interior minister, Murad Ali Murad, called Tuesday’s onslaught the “biggest terrorist attack this year.”

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UK facing most severe terror threat ever, warns Intelligence chief

(THE GUARDIAN) — By Vikram Dodd

Britain is facing its most severe ever terrorist threat and fresh attacks in the country are inevitable, according to the head of Britain’s normally secretive domestic intelligence service in a rare public speech.

Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5, said the UK had seen “a dramatic upshift in the threat” from Islamist terrorism this year, reflecting attacks that have taken place in Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge.

The spy chief said: “That threat is multi-dimensional, evolving rapidly and operating at a scale and pace we’ve not seen before.”

He added: “It’s at the highest tempo I have seen in my 34-year career. Today there is more terrorist activity, coming at us more quickly, and it can be harder to detect.”

MI5 is under pressure to demonstrate its effectiveness after four Islamist terrorist attacks escaped its detection this year.

Parker’s speech to specialist security journalists on Tuesday was his chance to frame the debate about Britain’s battle against Islamist terrorism at a time when the agency’s staff numbers are already expanding from 4,000 to 5,000.

This month the government will receive reports on whether chances to thwart the atrocities were missed and what lessons could be learned. Ministers and the National Security Council wanted independent oversight of the review, in essence not allowing MI5 or counter-terrorism police to assess themselves.

Parker said MI5 had stopped far more terror plots than those that caused mass casualties this year. He said 20 plots had been thwarted in the last four years.

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Afghan officials: Taliban wave of attacks kills at least 74, hundreds wounded

(USA TODAY) — KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban unleashed a wave of attacks across Afghanistan on Tuesday, targeting police compounds and government facilities with suicide bombers in the country’s south, east and west, and killing at least 74 people, officials said.

Among those killed in one of the attacks was a provincial police chief. Scores were also wounded, both policemen and civilians.

According to Afghanistan’s deputy interior minister, Murad Ali Murad, the day’s onslaught was “biggest terrorist attack this year.”

Murad told a press conference in Kabul that in Tuesday’s attacks in Ghazni and Paktia provinces, the insurgents killed 71 people.

In southern Paktia province, 41 people — 21 policemen and 20 civilians — were killed when the Taliban targeted a police compound in the provincial capital of Gardez with two suicide car bombs. Among the wounded were 48 policemen and 110 civilians.

The provincial police chief, Toryalai Abdyani, was killed in the Paktia attack, Murad confirmed.

The Ministry of Interior said in a statement earlier on Tuesday that after the two cars blew up in Gardez, five attackers with suicide belts tried to storm the compound but that Afghan security forces “killed all five terrorist.”

According to the Health Ministry spokesman, Waheed Majroo, the Gardez city hospital reported receiving at least 130 wounded in the attack.

Hamza Aqmhal, a student at the Paktia University, told The Associated Press that he heard a very powerful blast that shattered glass and broke all the windows at the building he was in. The university is 1.25 miles from the training academy, said Aqmhal, who was slightly injured by the glass

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Raqqa: Isis completely driven out of Syria ‘capital’ by US-backed forces

(UK INDEPENDENT) — By John Davidson

US-backed militias have completely taken Isis’ de facto capital, Raqqa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Tuesday, in a major symbolic blow to the jihadist group.

The fall of Raqqa, where Isis staged euphoric parades after its string of lightning victories in 2014, is a potent symbol of the movement’s collapsing fortunes. The city was used as a base for the group to plan attacks abroad.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias backed by a US-led international alliance, has been fighting Isis inside Raqqa since June.

SOHR said 3,250 people were killed in the five-month battle, including 1,130 civilians.

A witness said fighting appeared to be almost at an end with only sporadic bursts of gunfire.

Militia fighters celebrated in the streets, chanted slogans from their vehicles and raised a flag inside Raqqa stadium.

An SDF spokesman said the alliance would capture the last Isis areas in the city within hours.

Save The Children has warned that the humanitarian crisis in northeast Syria is “rapidly escalating”, with 270,000 people who have fled the fighting in “critical need” of aid and camps “bursting at the seams”.

On Saturday a deal was brokered for the last remaining local fighters in Raqqa to leave the city.

SDF spokesman Talal Silo said then that any fighters who were not signed up to the deal would be left behind “to surrender or die”.

The jihadists’ last bases in the city, a stadium and a hospital, were captured earlier on Tuesday, the SDF said.

A local field commander said no Isis fighters remained at the two central points where militants had been best entrenched and where the SDF said fighting on Monday night and early Tuesday was focused.

“We do still know there are still IEDs and booby traps in and amongst the areas that ISIS once held, so the SDF will continue to clear deliberately through areas,” said Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the coalition.

In a sign that the four-month battle for Raqqa was in its last stages, Col. Dillon said there had been no coalition air strikes there on Monday.

It is now hemmed in to a tiny bomb-cratered patch of the city around the stadium that was being pounded from the air by a US-led coalition and encircled by SDF fighters.

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Austrian voters concerned about immigration, Islam

(ABC NEWS) — Wrapping up a bruising political campaign season, Austrian political parties were counting down to an election Sunday that could turn the country to the right amid voter concerns over immigration and Islam.

The vote is coming a year ahead of schedule after squabbles led to the breakup last spring of the coalition government of the Social Democrats and the People’s Party. A total of 16 parties are vying for 183 seats in the national parliament and will be chosen by Austria’s 6.4 million eligible voters. But less than a dozen parties have a chance of getting seats.

The People’s Party, which has shifted from centrist to right-wing positions, is leading in the pre-vote polls after an image make-over by its leader, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz.

Austria’s traditionally right-wing, anti-migrant Freedom Party is expected to come in second and the center-left Social Democrats are thought to be trailing in third place.

Others that may clear the 4 percent hurdle needed to get into parliament seats are the Greens, the liberal NEOS, and Liste Pilz, led by former Greens politician Peter Pilz.

Favoring the People’s and Freedom parties is distrust of migrants and Muslims among many Austrian voters.

The 2015 influx of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the war in Syria and poverty elsewhere into the EU’s prosperous heartland left Austria with nearly 100,000 new and mostly Muslim migrants. That has fueled fears Austria’s traditional Western and Christian culture is in danger. As a result, voters are receptive to the anti-migrant platforms of both the People’s Party and the Freedom Party.

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In Belgium, arguments about Islam grow louder

(THE ECONOMIST) — Like much else in Belgium, the administration of the country’s second-largest religion is in a rather chaotic state, and things could get worse.

In a kingdom of 11m people, Islam claims the loyalty of about 800,000 souls, of whom the vast majority originate either from Morocco or Turkey. Most of the country’s 300-plus mosques are Turkish or Moroccan in flavor, and imams who serve them usually come from those countries. In Brussels, which is the country’s capital as well as hub of Europe’s main institutions, the Muslim share of the population is about 25%.

Since the terrorist outrages of March 2016, which targeted Brussels airport and the metro system, both the government, the security services and a parliamentary commission have been delving into the country’s Islamic scene to see whether it has any characteristics that make it prone to produce fanatics.

The handling of this problem is complicated by Belgium’s older division between Francophones and the Dutch-speakers of Flanders. Among Flemings on the political right, there is a strong streak of Islamo-scepticism. Many sensitive matters, like the teaching of Islam and the regulation of female headgear, are handled at regional or local level. Flemings sometime accuse French-speakers of being soft on Islam.

Even before last year’s horrors, Belgium had the grim distinction of being the European country that produced the highest number per head of young fanatics who went off to fight in Syria. The heavily immigrant Brussels district of Molenbeek received (and bitterly resents) the nickname of “jihadi central” because it had been a way-station of the perpetrators of terror in France. For the record, it is a pleasanter place to walk the streets than are similar urban areas in England or France.

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Somalia bomb attacks: Death toll rises to 231 after huge blast in Mogadishu

(UK INDEPENDENT) — The death toll from the most powerful bomb blast witnessed in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has risen to 231 with more than 275 injured, a senator has said.

Police said a truck bomb exploded outside the Safari Hotel at the K5 intersection, which is lined with government offices, restaurants and kiosks, flattening buildings and setting vehicles on fire. A separate blast struck the Medina district two hours later.

Abshir Abdi Ahmed said the toll comes from doctors at hospitals he has visited in Mogadishu. Many of the bodies in hospital mortuaries have not yet been identified, he said.

It is the single deadliest attack ever in the Horn of Africa nation.

More than 200 were injured in the explosion outside of the hotel and hospitals are struggling to cope with the high number of casualties.

Officials feared the death toll would continue to climb.

Many victims died at hospitals from their wounds, Police Captain Mohamed Hussein said.

The Red Cross said four volunteers with the Somali Red Crescent Society are among the dead and warned “this figure may rise as there are a number of volunteers still missing.”

Overnight, rescue workers with torch lights searched for survivors trapped under the rubble of the largely destroyed Safari Hotel, which is close to Somalia’s foreign ministry. The explosion blew off metal gates and blast walls erected outside the hotel.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of mourning and joined thousands of people who responded to a desperate plea by hospitals to donate blood for the wounded victims. “I am appealing all Somali people to come forward and donate,” he said.

Angry protesters took to the streets in Mogadishu a day after the massive truck bomb attack.

Somalia’s government blamed the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab extremist group for the attack it called a “national disaster.” However, al-Shabaab, which often targets high-profile areas of the capital with bombings, had yet to claim the attack.

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Knifeman shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ slits a woman’s throat and stabs another to death at Marseille station before he is killed by French army

(UK DAILY MAIL) — A man carrying a knife and shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ killed two female passengers before being shot dead by soldiers at train station in the southern French city of Marseille.

The attack at Marseille’s busiest train station took place early this afternoon, as scores of armed police officers and soldiers swarmed the area.

Both victims were women, with one left with a ‘sliced neck’.

Local official Oliver de Mazieres told AFP: ‘Two victims have been stabbed to death.’

The prosecutor for the area Xavier Tarabeux said the knife man was shot by soldiers, while Marseille police urged people in the city to avoid the area around Saint-Charles station.

The prosecutor’s office in Paris said in a statement the probe would focus on ‘killings linked to a terrorist organization’ and the ‘attempted killing of a public official’, two terror-related charges.

Early pictures from the scene showed a woman lying on the ground and armed police standing over a man on the floor.

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China orders Muslim families in Xinjiang to hand over Qurans, prayer mats

(BREITBART) — by Frances Martel

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported this week that some Uighur Muslims in China’s westernmost province of Xinjiang have accused the police of confiscating their Qurans, claiming the seminal Islamic text contains “extremist content.”

Xinjiang is home to a Uighur Muslim separatist movement and the Chinese government has previously claimed citizens from Xinjiang have left to the Middle East to join the Islamic State. In response, the Communist Party has cracked down significantly on public displays of faith, including publicly fasting during Ramadan or wearing Islamic garb on public transportation.

Radio Free Asia cites Dilxat Raxit, World Uyghur Congress spokesman, as having seen orders from police on the social media platform WeChat ordering families to hand over their Qurans and prayer mats, among other religious paraphernalia.

“All Qurans and related items must be handed into the authorities, and there are notices to this effect being broadcast via WeChat,” Raxit told the outlet. “We received a notification saying that every single ethnic Uyghur must hand in any Islam-related items from their own home, including Qurans, prayers and anything else bearing the symbols of religion … They have to be handed in voluntarily. If they aren’t handed in, and they are found, then there will be harsh punishments.”

RFA adds that sources on the ground have seen instances of confiscations involving non-Uighur Muslims in the region as well, such as Kazakh and Kyrgyz Muslims. “Officials at village, township and county level are confiscating all Qurans and the special mats used for namaaz[prayer],” a Kazakh source told the outlet.

RFA adds that officials in the region began confiscation Qurans this year, citing their “extremist content,” but had only extended the ban to Qurans published more than five years ago, attempting to replace them with government-approved copies.

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Swiss Parliament votes to ban foreign-funded mosques and Arabic preaching

(BREITBART) — by Liam Deacon

Switzerland’s legislature has voted to ban the foreign funding of mosques, including from Saudi Arabia, as well as to force mosques to use local languages instead of Arabic or other foreign tongues.

The Swiss National Council, the parliament’s lower house, voted by a narrow majority to ban the financing of mosques from abroad and for generally increasing the transparency of how mosques are funded.

If the law passes the Senate, individual mosques will need to declare who they are backed by as well as preach in one of Switzerland’s official languages, namely German, French, Italian, or Romansch, Neue Zuercher Zeitung reports.

The vote took place on Tuesday, and according to the Federal Assembly’s website, 94 members of the parliament voted in favor, and 89 voted against.

The new law is said to be inspired by a similar law enacted in Austria in 2015, which was designed to encourage a distinctly “European Islam” and to deter radicalization and foreign influence on the nation’s Muslims.

The legislation is not backed by the federal government, however, which claims it unfairly discriminates against Muslims by placing them under suspicion and fuels extremism.

They also oppose making mosques use local languages, insisting that it is an issue of freedom of language.

Last year, the federal government managed to block a law voted for by the Council, proposing the banning of the full-face Islamic face veil.

However, a ban on Islamic minarets was voted for in a referendum in 2009 and was approved by nearly 58 per cent of the population.

Saudi Arabia is well known for funding the spread of its radical, Wahhabist interpretation of Islam in Europe, including financing the construction of Finsbury Park Mosque in London. The mosque was notorious for its links to hate preacher Abu Hamza, shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui before it was reformed and reopened in 2005.

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