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Archive for July, 2017

Exclusive: Agency believes the fighters could have been trained to bomb Europe as revenge for military defeats in Middle East

Isis extremists in Raqqa in 2014. It is not known whether the militants will attempt to set up a new Syrian base when their ‘capital’ falls.

Interpol has circulated a list of 173 Islamic State fighters it believes could have been trained to mount suicide attacks in Europe in revenge for the group’s military defeats in the Middle East.

The global crime fighting agency’s list was drawn up by US intelligence from information captured during the assault on Isis territories in Syria and Iraq.

European counter-terror networks are concerned that as the Isis “caliphate” collapses, there is an increasing risk of determined suicide bombers seeking to come to Europe, probably operating alone.

There is no evidence that any of the people on the list, whose names the Guardian has obtained, have yet entered Europe, but the Interpol circulation, designed to see if EU intelligence sources have any details on the individuals, underlines the scale of the challenge facing Europe.

The list, sent out by the general secretariat of Interpol on 27 May, defines the group of fighters as individuals that “may have been trained to build and position improvised explosive devices in order to cause serious deaths and injuries. It is believed that they can travel internationally, to participate in terrorist activities.”

The data was originally collected by the US intelligence “through trusted channels”. The material was handed over to the FBI, which transmitted the list to Interpol for global sharing.

A note appended to the Interpol list circulated in Italy explains how the terrorist database was constructed, putting together the pieces of the puzzle from hundreds of elements, mainly gathered when Isis local headquarters were captured.

“The people,” the note says, “have been identified through materials found in the hiding places of Isil, the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant.” The note adds that “it emerges that those subjects may have manifested willingness to commit a suicidal attack or martyrdom to support Islam”.

The list shows the suspects’ names, the date Isis recruited them, their last likely address including the mosque at which they have been praying while away fighting, their mother’s name and any photographs.

For each of the fighters, an ID was created to ensure that each member country in the Interpol network could integrate the data with local databases.

Interpol has asked its national partners for any information they might have about each name on the list, and any other background personal data they have on their files, such as border crossings, previous criminal offences, biometric data, passport numbers, activity on social media and travel history.

The information will then be included in Interpol’s ASF (automatic search facility) database in order to possibly put the names on a higher level watch list.

US intelligence is apparently confident about the reliability of the sources used to compile the list. But western counter-terrorism forces have said they face an uphill struggle identifying potential suspects, who have access to a mountain of false documents, double identities and fake passports.

Interpol stressed the list’s transmission came as part of its role circulating information between national crime-fighting agencies. “Interpol regularly sends alerts and updates to its national central bureaux (NCB) on wanted terrorists and criminals via our secure global police communications network,” a spokesman said. “It is the member country which provides the information that decides which other countries it can be shared with.

“The purpose of sending these alerts and updates is to ensure that vital policing information is made available when and where it is needed, in line with a member country’s request.”

A European counter-terrorism officer said one of the purposes of circulating the list around Europe was to identify those on it who might have been born and raised in European countries.

In 2015 the UN considered there were 20,000 foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, of whom 4,000 were from Europe, but there has not previously been a specific list of those fighters including those born in the Middle East who have been identified as potential suicide bombers.

The speed with which Isis fighters are likely to attempt to reach Europe will depend on a range of issues including whether the group tries to set up a new base in Syria in the wake of the impending fall of Raqqa, its last major redoubt in north-west Syria. There is a growing suggestion that Isis fighters will shift south from Raqqa to the defensible territory stretching from Deir el-Zourez-Zor to Abu Kamal.

The jihadi group is currently struggling to come to terms with the loss of Mosul in northern Iraq following a battle that produced some of the most brutal fighting since the end of the second world war.

The parallel advance on Raqqa, the group’s other urban stronghold in the region, has been stalled partly due to the severity of the resistance being mounted against the Syrian Democratic Forces made up of an alliance of Kurds, Arabs and US Special forces.

US Army Col Ryan Dillon on Friday estimated there were around 2,000 Isis militants in the city, who he said were using civilians and children as human shields. The distance between SDF forces on the eastern side of the city and on the western fronts is now just under 2km.

The United Nations estimates that about 190,000 residents of Raqqa province have been displaced since April, including about 20,000 since the operation to seize the provincial capital began in early June.

US diplomats this week admitted that the SDF forces, due to their ethnic make-up, will be constrained from going south of Raqqa to pursue Isis as far as Deir Azzour, saying this may be the task of the Syrian forces under Bashar al Assad, or even Iranian-backed Shia militia.

THE father of Justine Damond, the Australian woman killed by a police officer in Minnesota, has called for justice for his daughter.

“We only ask that the light of justice shine down on the circumstances of her death,” an emotional John Ruszczyk said outside his family home in Freshwater on Sydney’s northern beaches this afternoon.

The bookshop owner and his family paid tribute to the former vet, with his family supporting him as he faced the media.

“We thought yesterday was our worst nightmare. But we awoke to the ugly truth, and it hurt even more.

“We went down to Freshy beach this morning, and saw the darkness change to light.” he said.

Ruszczyk paid tribute to his daughter, saying she touched many lives.

“Justine our daughter was so special to us, and to so many others,” he said. “Justine was a beacon to all of us,” he added.

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Maryan Herffernan and John Ruszczyk (front), father of Justine Damond, with brother Jason Ruszczyk and Katarina Ruszczyk. Picture: Dylan Robinson

According to the Star Tribune, officer Mohamed Noor violated his department’s rules on the use of bodycams.

The Minneapolis Police Department’s Policy and Procedure manual says that any use of force requires the camera’s activation. If things change quickly and the officer is too busy, he or she should activate the camera “as soon as it is safe to do so”.

The cameras record a 30-second video buffer, a so-called “lookback” that allows officers to capture whatever happened in the half-minute before it’s activated.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is investigating the actions of Noor, who shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond, 40, on Saturday night.

The BCA said in a statement that it will be the Police Department’s job to determine whether the officers officially violated the department’s body camera policy.

Ms Damond’s distraught fiance made an emotional appeal, saying his family is “utterly devastated”.

Don Damond, 50, said the family were “desperate for information” about her shooting — in which he also referred to as a “homicide.”

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner, after conducting an autopsy on Ms Damond, has issued a statement saying the fatal police shooting was a homicide. She died from a gunshot wound to her abdomen.

Police say officers were responding to a call about a possible assault late on Saturday when Ms Damond was killed. Authorities have released no details about what led to the shooting.

But a history of complaints made against the police officer who shot Ms Damond, including one incident which he is being sued for, has also emerged.

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A BRISBANE man used his knowledge as a former police officer to plot the murders of his wife and two children in a frenzied stabbing attack at their family home.

The man in his 40s, who cannot be named to protect the identities of the victims, has pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Supreme Court to three charges of attempted murder.

This afternoon he was sentenced to life in prison.

Justice Peter Flanagan said there were only two to three precedent cases for life sentences on attempted murder charges in Queensland.

But he said the horrific nature of the man’s attempted killing spree warranted a severe sentence.

“All three victims carry with them to this day the terrible scars of that night,” the judge said.

The man was a police officer for 17 years before resigning in 2008.

Photo: Police arrested the man at a home at Carina Brisbane Qld on February 2, 2014. (ABC TV)

He will be eligible for parole after serving 15 years.

Previously, the court heard harrowing details of his rampage through the family home on February 2, 2014.

Crown prosecutor Dejana Kovac said the man hatched the plan in response to his wife discovering he had had multiple affairs with prostitutes.

“He was in fact spending money on his sexual activities … and even (pawned his wife’s) engagement ring to fund prostitutes,” Ms Kovac said.

He plotted the murder of his family for about a week beforehand, deciding 6am was the best time to coincide with shift changes at the police station.

He selected two knives from the kitchen and crept into his wife’s bedroom first — because “he knew she would be the hardest person to kill”.

Ms Kovac said he “savagely attacked her”, targeting her thighs and neck “hoping to hit an artery”.

“ … She was defenceless from his brutal attack,” she said.

The man thought he’d done enough to kill her judging by the bloodshed.

The woman’s screams woke their young son, which Ms Kovac said upset the man “because he was hoping he would kill his son while he was asleep”.

He approached the child as he sat with a blanket around him in the living room and stabbed him twice in the neck.

The child replied: “That hurt, don’t do it again”.

By now the couple’s daughter had woken and witnessed the attack on her little brother.

She tried desperately to escape, but her father chased her through the house.

“She fought back, begged him to stop … ,” Ms Kovac said.

The child pleaded: “I thought you loved me” as she suffered up to 40 stab wounds.

The attack came to an end when the man’s wife managed to phone Triple 0.

The family miraculously somehow survived, although they have significant physical and emotional scars.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, the man’s wife described her bodily scarring as a “road map” of an attack that could never be erased.

She said she’d continued to have severe nightmares of her daughter pleading with her father not to kill her.

“My children will carry this trauma with them for the rest of their lives, lives that I hope will be long despite the attempted efforts of their father to cut them short,” the statement said.

“My children are now growing up with the stigma, shame and pain of having a parent who tried to murder them.

“The first time (my children) saw me after the crime I was still in hospital. I can never forget the shock and fear on their faces when they saw me … I had tubes and drains coming out of my neck and face, I was weak. “(My children) didn’t know if they could hug me because there wasn’t anywhere that they could see that wasn’t injured.

“My body is littered with scars, I remember counting the number of wounds I had after my stitches were removed. I was chilled by the number: 71.” A number I will never forget. That day was my 911 day.

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