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Man Killed at Paris Airport Had Been Flagged for Possible Radical Ties

ORLY, FRANCE: French soldiers shot and killed a man who wrestled another soldier to the ground and tried to take her rifle Saturday at Paris’ Orly Airport. The melee forced the airport’s busy terminals to close and trapped hundreds of passengers aboard flights that had just landed.

The 39-year-old Frenchman, who authorities said had a long criminal record and was previously flagged for possible radicalism, had earlier fired birdshot at police officers during an early morning traffic stop before speeding away and heading for the airport south of Paris.

There, in the public area of its South Terminal, the man wrestled the soldier who was on foot patrol and tried to snatch away her rifle, authorities said. The French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said the patrol’s other two members opened fire. Le Drian said the soldier managed to keep hold of her weapon.

“Her two comrades thought it was necessary — and they were right — to open fire to protect her and especially to protect all the people who were around,” Le Drian said.

The shooting further rattled France, which remains under a state of emergency after attacks over the past two years that have killed 235 people.

Witnesses described panicked bystanders fleeing, flights halting, traffic chaos and planes under lockdowns. French authorities, however, emphasized that security planning — reinforced across the country in the wake of repeated attacks — worked well.

The soldier was “psychologically shocked” but unhurt by the “rapid and violent” assault, said Col. Benoit Brulon, a spokesman for the military force that patrols public sites in France. No other injuries were reported.

“We’d already registered our bags when we saw a soldier pointing his gun at the attacker who was holding another soldier hostage,” said traveler Pascal Menniti, who was flying to the Dominican Republic.

Authorities said at least 3,000 people were evacuated from the airport. Hundreds of passengers also were confined for several hours aboard 13 flights that were held in landing areas, and 15 other flights were diverted to Paris’ other main airport, Charles de Gaulle, the Paris airport authority said.

A French official connected to the investigation confirmed French media reports that identified the attacker as Ziyed Ben Belgacem, born in France in 1978. The official spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the man’s details.

The attacker’s motives were unknown. After the airport attack, his father and brother were detained by police for questioning Saturday — standard operating procedure in such probes.

The antiterrorism section of the Paris prosecutor’s office immediately took over the investigation. The prosecutor’s office said the attacker had a record of robbery and drug offenses.

He did not appear in a French government database of people considered potential threats to national security. But prosecutors said he had already crossed authorities’ radar for suspected Islamic extremism. His house was among scores searched in November 2015 in the immediate aftermath of suicide bomb-and-gun attacks that killed 130 people in Paris. Those searches targeted people with suspected radical leanings. Read the rest of this entry »

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South China See: Satellite Images Show China’s Continued Island Building

In early August, China’s foreign minister said the country had stopped land reclamation projects in the South China Sea that were worrying neighbors and irking the U.S. With Chinese President Xi Jinping gearing up for a state visit to the U.S., a Washington-based think tank has published satellite images that cast doubt on that statement.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

A report published earlier this week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies contains high-definition photos of Chinese-controlled reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands taken in early September. The images suggest China’s island-building efforts are ongoing, and that China could soon have three airfields in the area, according to CSIS.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said this week when asked about the report that China has “indisputable sovereignty” over the islands and its works there are both for defensive needs and the public good. Read the rest of this entry »


With a Few Words, Japan Escalates Its Standoff With China in the South China Sea

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Japan isn’t the only one pushing back against China’s expansion in the region.

Jennifer Peters reports: Japan has put its foot down — at least in writing — over China’s attempts to assert greater control of the South China Sea.

In an outline of a defense white paper due to be released at the end of July, Japan calls China’s efforts to lay claim to the much-disputed Spratly Islands “high handed.” The diplomatically sharp words come in the wake of China’s reclamation efforts of the islands, which have included laying the foundations of a military base on Fiery Cross Reef at the western edge of a part of the South China Sea fittingly named Dangerous Ground.

“The Chinese take kind of a Leninist approach to these things,” Currie said. “They probe with the bayonet until they hit steel, and then they’ll stop. When they start to see that people are serious about pushing back, then they will back off a bit.”

Over the past year and a half, China has built up seven reefs in the region, adding 800 hectares — about three square miles — to islands and putting an airstrip and the beginnings of the base on Fiery Cross Reef. China has claimed that its structures in the South China Sea are for civilian purposes — or at most for a defensive military role — and would benefit other countries. But Japan’s fight with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea has seemingly left them wary of Beijing’s intentions.

A Japanese patrol plane, pictured in 2011, flying over the disputed islands in the East China Sea.

A Japanese patrol plane flying over the disputed islands in the East China Sea. Japan Pool, via Jiji Press

“The US plays a unique role, because it’s not an Asian nation, as a relatively distant and disinterested outsider there. The interest we have is not territorial, it’s not to benefit ourselves in any way other than maintaining this open trade order that we benefit from economically, but not in any of the traditional ways that usually cause war.”

Japan’s decision to act on this wariness so stridently, however, is a recent phenomenon. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pushing for legislation that would allow Japan to participate in collective self-defense for the first time since World War II.

[Related: China Goes on the Offensive in the South China Sea]

“[This is] a shift that’s been coming,” Kelley Currie, a senior fellow with the Project 2049 Institute, told VICE News. “The language is definitely stronger, and the whole effort around reinterpretation to the self-defense constitution has been a response to the multi-year trend of the Chinese being more aggressive and pushing their military advantage in the region.”

Japan's Self-Defense Force honor guards prepare for a welcoming ceremony of new Defence Minister Gen Nakatani in Tokyo on December 25, 2014. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised December 24 at the start of his new term to revive Japan's economy so he can pursue "powerful diplomacy", but China's state media warned him to be wary about changing the pacifist constitution.  AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI        (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

China’s state media warned Abe to be wary about changing the pacifist constitution. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI 

“China is actually very worried about Japan and how far Japan might go.”

— Michael Auslin, resident scholar and director of Japan Studies for the American Enterprise Institute

Japan isn’t the only one pushing back against China’s expansion in the region. The Philippines is taking China to court over territorial claims to the South China Sea, with top Filipino officials appearing at The Hague to argue their case before a United Nations arbitral tribunal. China has called it a “political provocation.”

[Read the full text here, at VICE News]

“The Chinese take kind of a Leninist approach to these things,” Currie said. “They probe with the bayonet until they hit steel, and then they’ll stop. When they start to see that people are serious about pushing back, then they will back off a bit.”

Other than the United States, Japan is the only nation that can truly challenge China in the region militarily. Read the rest of this entry »


Costly Spanish ‘Ghost Airport’ Receives Only One Bid at Auction

ghost-airport

MADRID—One of Spain’s “ghost airports”—expensive projects that were virtually unused—received just one bid in a bankruptcy auction after costing about €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) to build. The buyer’s offer: €10,000.

Ciudad Real’s Central airport, about 235 kilometers south of Madrid, became a symbol of the country’s wasteful spending during a construction boom that ended with the financial crisis of 2008, the year the airport opened. The operator of the airport went bankrupt in 2012 after it failed to draw enough traffic.

Chinese group Tzaneen International tabled the single bid in Friday’s auction, Spanish news agency Europa Press said. The receiver had set a minimum price of €28 million. If no better bid is received by September, the sale will go through, the news agency said. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] Spotted in Airport Bathroom

Batman-sign

“Spotted in an airport bathroom. I never thought of it this way, but it makes sense. I think.”

 via Twitter


Newbie Jihadist FAIL: Muslim Convert Reveals Location of ISIS Safe Houses

mark-taylor

New-Zealand English teacher-turned-terrorist Mark Taylor, who shot into the public eye last year after publicly burning his Kiwi passport and then asking for a new one has blundered again by apparently forgetting to turn off geo-location services on his smartphone while tweeting from Islamic State safe houses in Syria.

“Taylor’s numerous failures demonstrate the opportunities that can be gained through monitoring and tracking extremists via social media and telecommunications. Given his need for attention I’m sure this will not be the last we hear from Kiwi Jihadi. With luck he will fail to read the manual on his next shiny new phone”.

The terrorist, who changed his name to the more appropriate-sounding ‘Abu Abdul-Rahman’ uploaded a series of tweets during his travels across the Islamic State, updating his twitter following on his progress with ISIS. The Daily Mail reports a Canadian jihad-monitoring group recorded 45 of these tweets containing geo-location data and passed the information on to intelligence agencies.

Tweet-Locations

Describing the blunder, Canadian monitoring group IBRABO said: “It’s a rookie social media mistake and one that intelligence and law enforcement agencies pray for when tracking criminals. This week one of New Zealand’s well known jihadists, Mark Taylor removed 45 tweets after he discovered that he was broadcasting his twitter location to every intelligence agency… Unfortunately for him we captured all of them prior to him removing the tweets”. Read the rest of this entry »