TIME Terrorism

These Are the Cities Most Likely to Be Hit by a Terrorist Attack

Twelve of the world's capital cities are considered at "extreme risk" of an attack

A report by global-risk-analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft has identified the cities most likely to be hit by a terrorist attack.

Maplecroft analyzed 1,300 of the world’s important urban centers and commercial hubs and ranked them based on the intensity and frequency of attacks in the year following February 2014. The report also combined the number and severity of attacks in the previous five years.

Baghdad is considered the most at-risk city in the world, with 1,141 people dying in 380 attacks. In all, seven of the most at-risk cities are all in Iraq, including Mosul ranked at No. 2 and Ramadi at No. 3.

According to the index, 64 cities around the world are at “extreme risk” of an attack, most of these are in the Middle East (27) including cities in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan or Asia.

Of those 64 at extreme risk of a terrorist attack, 12 are capital cities including Egypt’s Cairo, Abuja in Nigeria, Nairobi in Kenya and Pakistan’s Islamabad.

There are 14 cities in Africa that have seen an increased risk of violence, which has been attributed to militant extremist groups Boko Haram and al-Shabab as well as political instability.

Three cities at extreme risk of attacks are in Europe, with Ukraine’s Luhansk ranked at 46, Donetsk at 56, and Grozny in Russia at 54.

The British city most at risk of an attack is Belfast (91), compared with Manchester (398) and London, which is ranked at 400.

After the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris that left 17 people dead in January, the city was considered “high risk” and its ranking soared from 201 before the attacks to 97.

TIME Homeland Security

Former CIA Deputy Director Warns America Could ‘Get Hit’ Again

Former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell testifies before the House Select Intelligence Committee April 2, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee—Getty Images Former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell testifies before the House Select Intelligence Committee April 2, 2014 in Washington, DC.

In new book, Michael Morell warns of the possibility of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell warns in a new book that the U.S. is still vulnerable to terrorist attacks, especially from ISIS-inspired groups, and that terrorists could bring down another airliner in the U.S.

“If we don’t keep pressure on the terrorists, they are going to rebound until they’re able to conduct another 9/11-style attack,” Morell told Politico Magazine. “One of the reasons I wrote the book is that I wanted American people to know that.”

Morell wrote in his book, The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism From al Qa’ida to ISIS, that al-Qaeda could bring down another airliner “tomorrow” and he would “not be surprised.”

He said America is not only vulnerable to airliner attacks, but also to smaller-scale attacks on the ground. “You get 10 or 15 guys and send them into malls on a Saturday with single weapons and have them kill 10 or 20 or 25 people,” he says. “Having al-Shabab talk about attacking malls and encouraging radicals in the United States to attack malls really worries me.”

Morell, who started working at the CIA in 1980, served as deputy director of the agency for three years under President Obama. He retired in 2013 and now works in private security consulting and as a contributor to CBS News.

TIME Terrorism

Don’t Let Terrorists Determine the Limits of Free Speech

Two Gunmen Killed Outside Mohammed Cartoon Contest Event In Texas
Ben Torres—Getty Images FBI investigators work a crime scene outside of the Curtis Culwell Center on May 04, 2015 in Garland, Tx.

Afshin Ellian is professor of jurisprudence at the law faculty of Leiden University and the author of Freedom of Speech Under Attack.

"The right to free speech becomes a hollow phrase when people engage in self-censorship out of fear for their lives"

The terrorist attack at the cartoon exhibit and contest featuring Muhammad in Garland, Texas, should be seen as an attack on America and the spirit of freedom that it represents.

At this point, I’m not interested in the political agendas of the attendees, including Dutch politician Geert Wilders. Their political motivations are irrelevant. We shouldn’t forget that jihadists recently murdered European Jews in Brussels and Paris simply for being Jewish, not because they defamed Islam. Terrorists also threaten Muslims who aim to reform Islam. Muslims themselves are the most direct victims of their extreme co-believers. For example, in the Netherlands, imams who work openly with the government to combat radicalization are being threatened. In the 1980s, I fled from Iran, and some of my relatives were executed because they were against the tyranny of the ayatollahs. Even in The Netherlands, I’ve had to have the protection of bodyguards.

What is important is that the mere possibility of sharing ideas has been seriously limited due to terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, terrorism works in this way. Terrorists hate freedom. Their attacks target our culture of equality, religious freedom, freedom of expression, and tolerance.

In The Netherlands, the 4th of May is a day on which we remember those who lost their lives during World War II. After World War II, Europeans pledged to defend freedom. It’s a dark coincidence that on this year’s 4th of May we witnessed a terrorist attack at an event dedicated to free speech, where a Dutch politician made use of one of his rights: the right to speak freely, even about controversial matters. In his brilliant book The Tyranny of Silence, Flemming Rose—whose newspaper published the Danish Muhammad cartoons years ago—asks politicians and intellectuals to join a quest for freedom and to offer protection to those who live under threat. Tyranny can only win when we accept its victory; it takes courage to be free.

Today, some intellectuals and politicians are saying: “Freedom of speech is good, but…” That but is a huge problem. The only limitations to free speech should be legal ones. Terrorists should never be allowed to create an exception to free speech.

Terrorists can’t be allowed to determine the limits of free speech. At the same time, states should combat the adherents of terrorism more effectively. We need a climate that enables individuals to remove their fears. The right to free speech becomes a hollow phrase when people engage in self-censorship out of fear for their lives. I call on European and American intellectuals to constitute a committee for the protection of freedom of speech in the Western world. It’s not the freedom of intellectuals, politicians, and journalist that must be combated but the abuse of freedom by jihadism. Europe and America must never be safe havens for jihadism. Security and freedom are closely joined. Whenever a society applies self-censorship out of fear for terrorism, freedom dissipates.

Why do jihadists fear freedom? They are afraid of allowing curiosity to flourish in Islamic communities. In the West, books are read rather than recited. Jihadists live in fear on a daily basis that their children, too, will one day start reading books. Once they do, they may turn out to be a cartoonist, the next Rushdie, an Islamic theologian, or even a philosopher.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME White House

Obama Apologizes to Families of al-Qaeda Hostages Killed in U.S. Drone Strike

'No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy.'

President Barack Obama took “full responsibility” for the death of two hostages held by al-Qaeda in a drone strike in January.

Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Obama said that Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national held since 2012, were killed in a counter-terrorism operation on an al-Qaeda compound in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“It’s a cruel and bitter truth that in times of war mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur,” he said. “I offer our deepest apologies to the families.”

Weinstein’s family issued a statement on a website called Bring Warren Home, noting their disappointment

“We do not yet fully understand all of the facts surrounding Warren’s death but we do understand that the U.S. government will be conducting an independent investigation of the circumstances,” they wrote. “We look forward to the results of that investigation. But those who took Warren captive over three years ago bear ultimate responsibility.”

The White House said the same strike is believed to have killed Ahmed Farouq, an al-Qaeda who held American citizenship. Another U.S. strike in January killed American al-Qaeda member Adam Gadahn, Earnest revealed.

“While both Farouq and Gadahn were al-Qaeda members, neither was specifically targeted, and we did not have information indicating their presence at the sites of these operations,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

As of Thursday morning, Gadahn was still listed on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorists” list.

In 2011, a U.S. drone strike targeted and killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a case that stirred vigorous debate in the U.S. over the killings of Americans fighting alongside terrorist groups without trial.

In his brief statement to reporters, Obama said that after reviewing “hundreds of hours of surveillance, we believed that this was an al-Qaeda compound, that no civilians were present and capturing these terrorists was not possible.”

He added that he has ordered the operations to be declassified so that they could be publicly reviewed.

He also praised the two men, noting they had traveled to Pakistan as aid workers to help those facing poverty.

“There could be no starker contrast between these two selfless men and their al Qaeda captors,” he said.

TIME France

France Has Foiled Five Terrorist Attacks as Security Tightens

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls makes a statement following the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 22, 2015.
Christian Liewig—Corbis French Prime Minister Manuel Valls makes a statement following the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 22, 2015.

This week French police arrested a man, who is believed to have planned to attack churches in Paris, after he shot himself by accident

French authorities have halted five terrorist attacks in recent months, the country’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Thursday.

The latest was an attack on churches in Villejuif outside Paris, which stalled when an Algerian man was arrested on Saturday after apparently shooting himself accidentally in the leg.

“The threat has never been so high,” Valls told France Inter radio. “We have never had to face this kind of terrorism in our history.”

Following January’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket in which 17 people died, France is stepping up security. More than 1,500 French citizens or residents have been tied to “terror networks,” including 442 believed to be in Syria.

[BBC]

TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Has Fled but No One Knows the Fate of the Chibok Girls One Year On

“It would have been better to see the dead body of my daughter than to let them carry her away”

Some days, the Rev. Enoch Mark wishes his 20-year-old daughter Monica were dead. One year ago she was kidnapped, and not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about her fate. “Sometimes I think knowing she is dead would be better than knowing nothing at all,” he says. Today, the private agony of a father lamenting his missing daughter is amplified 219 times, as Nigeria observes the one-year anniversary of a kidnapping that stunned a country and woke the world to the threat of Boko Haram.

On the night of April 14, 2014, the calm of Chibok, a rural town in northeastern Nigeria, was shattered as militants stormed the dormitory of a government boarding school for girls just before midnight. Gunmen rampaged through the compound, shooting guns and setting fire to buildings while others, disguised as military personnel on a rescue operation, bundled the students into waiting trucks. The girls’ screams could be heard half a mile away. Itinerant preacher Mark, who had only just enrolled his daughter Monica at the school, ran toward campus. By the time he arrived it was too late: the militants had already rounded up 276 girls and disappeared into the nearby Sambisa forest. “It would have been better to see the dead body of my daughter than to let them carry her away,” he says of that night. “But I didn’t see anyone left, dead or alive.”

The abduction drew international condemnation, with celebrities from Michelle Obama to Madonna and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai calling for their release. Boko Haram, a long-running localized Islamist insurgency determined to bring its radical interpretation of Islamic law to the region, entered the lexicon of global terrorist groups and Chibok, which didn’t even have a Google Maps entry, became a household name. Fifty-seven of the girls managed to escape in the first few days, leaping from the transport trucks where they had been packed like cattle, or dashing into the forest when their captors’ backs were turned. But one year on, 219 girls remain missing, a black eye for the Nigerian military that has done little to locate them, and a rebuke to the international community that joined the Twitter campaign to #BringBackOurGirls, but has achieved little else, despite three regional conferences and international pledges of support. “We keep on telling the girl child that she is important, that she should dare to be educated. Yet we have left 219 of her sisters with terrorists,” says Aisha Yesufu, a mother of three in the Nigerian capital of Abuja who is spearheading the campaign to keep the issue alive. “So everywhere in the world, the girl child, she has realized that she doesn’t matter, not to the world. Nobody cares. Because if her sisters can be left with their abductors for so long, then there is something wrong with us as humans.”

On Tuesday Nigeria’s President-elect Muhammadu Buhari said his government would do everything in its power to bring the Chibok girls home, but he injected a note of caution. “We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them.” The Nigerian military, with assistance from mercenary groups as well as neighbors Chad, Niger and Cameroon, has managed to force Boko Haram out of much of the Belgium-size territory it once held, but the group, including leader Abubakar Shekau, is thought to have taken refuge in the trackless Sambisa forest, where it is protected by dense foliage and difficult terrain.

Boko Haram, which loosely translated means “Western education is forbidden,” started in 2002 as a rejectionist religious group that sought salvation in a fundamentalist reading of Islamic law. It turned violent in 2009, when clashes with Nigerian security forces resulted in the extrajudicial killing of founder Muhammad Yusuf. Since then the group has killed around 13,000 people in a violent campaign of bombings, suicide attacks, massacres and guerilla warfare. An estimated 1.5 million people have been forced from their homes by the insurgency, including some 800,000 children, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund.

According to a newly released report by Amnesty International, the Chibok girls are but a small fraction of the 2,000 women and children who have been abducted by Boko Haram since the beginning of 2014. The testimonies of those who escaped makes for grim reading: repeatedly raped, married against their will and forced to fight. It is likely the Chibok girls share similar fates, if they are alive at all — when Gwoza, the capital of Boko Haram’s self-declared caliphate, was recaptured in late March, residents reported that the fleeing militants killed their wives and stuffed the bodies into wells rather than let them be captured by “infidels.” But residents, speaking to the BBC, said they had seen about 50 of the Chibok girls under Boko Haram guard in the weeks before the city fell. “I don’t believe they are dead,” says Yesufu, the activist, by telephone from Abuja. “They are alive, somewhere. Boko Haram understands the importance of these girls, and will want to keep them as bargaining chips.” Shekau has declared in several video broadcasts that the girls, many of whom were Christian, had either converted to Islam and been married off, or refused to convert and sold as slaves.

Just a few months after the Chibok kidnapping, Boko Haram launched a series of devastating suicide attacks by women, leading some to speculate that the girls could have been brainwashed, or otherwise forced into detonating explosive vests and backpacks in crowded markets. “When Kano saw four explosions in the space of a week in July, all apparently involving young women or teenagers, the first thought was: Is this the Chibok girls?” says Elizabeth Pearson, a doctoral researcher in gender and radicalization at King’s College London and a member of the Nigeria Security Network. As a tactic, it is extremely effective: male security guards are loath to pat down female shoppers, and few suspect women to be suicide bombers. With female bombers, “the shock and fear value is greater. With young women being used particularly, this guarantees greater publicity and media coverage.” But the evidence is inconclusive, notes Pearson. There has been no DNA testing, and the damage wrought by the bombs makes visual identification all but impossible.

For Mark, the idea that his daughter might be living as a captive, abused, enslaved and terrified, is worse than the idea of her being dead. He was told, early on, that one of the kidnapped girls had refused to convert to Islam. As punishment, she was stoned to death. “If that really happened,” he told TIME in January, “it might be my daughter, because she holds her Christian faith so strong. If my daughter was stoned to death for Christ’s sake, I will be grateful.” For some, a martyr’s brutal death gives more comfort than knowing nothing at all.

TIME Nigeria

Report: Boko Haram Abducts 2,000 Women and Girls Since Start of 2014

Amnesty International released report on one-year anniversary of the Chibok kidnappings

The terrorist organization Boko Haram has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014, according to a new report released to mark the first anniversary of the group’s notorious kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls from the town of Chibok.

Many of the thousands of abducted women have been sold into sex slavery and trained for battle since 2014, the Amnesty International report found. Men and boys have also been taken to join in the Islamist extremist group’s fighting across Nigeria.

Boko Haram has killed at least 5,500 Nigerians during the past year, the report said. The group boasts about 15,000 fighters whose tactics include taking kidnapped women and girls to remote camps where they are introduced to the group’s version of the Islamic faith. From there they can be either married off to fighters or trained to join them. Either way, according to interviews in the report, women and girls can fall victim to brutalization and rape.

Amnesty International is hopeful that a new government in Nigeria, elected in March, will offer a fresh approach to combating the group, which it says has not been properly investigated and prosecuted thus far.

Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari promised to crack down on the group Tuesday. “We hear the anguish of our citizens and intend to respond accordingly,” his statement said.

TIME Middle East

U.N. Warns of ‘Slaughter’ in ISIS-Held Refugee Camp

Palestinian refugees demonstrating in solidarity with Palestinians in Yarmouk refugee camp, overrun by Islamic State militants last week, in the Ein el-Hilweh camp near the southern city of Sidon, Lebanon, Lebanon, on Apr. 10, 2015.
Mohammed Zaatari—AP Palestinian refugees demonstrating in solidarity with Palestinians in Yarmouk refugee camp, overrun by Islamic State militants last week, in the Ein el-Hilweh camp near the southern city of Sidon, Lebanon, Lebanon, on Apr. 10, 2015.

ISIS controls roughly half of the Palestinian refugee camp in Syria

The United Nations warned Friday of a “potential massacre” in the Palestinian refugee camp in Syria that was partially seized by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

ISIS now controls roughly half of the Yarmouk camp, which is home to some 18,000 people, according to the U.N.

“Today, this hour, we are looking at nothing short of the potential massacre of the innocents,” Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said in a call with journalists on Friday.

“We have called for a cease-fire,” Gunness said. “We have called for humanitarian access so that people can have aid administered to them where they are.”

The camp is located in the outskirts of the capital Damascus, which is mostly controlled by government forces.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon warned that the refugee camp “is beginning to resemble a death camp.”

TIME Terrorism

Kansas Man Arrested for Plotting Attack on Army Base, Pledging Loyalty to ISIS

"We will bring the Islamic State straight to your doorstep."

A Kansas man was arrested Friday for planning to detonate a bomb at a U.S. army base and pledging loyalty to the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), prosecutors said, the latest of several ISIS-related arrests on American soil.

John T. Booker, a 20-year old U.S. Citizen from Topeka, was planning a suicide attack on the Fort Riley army base in Kansas in an attempt to support ISIS, authorities said. A criminal complaint alleges that Booker, who also goes by the name Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, posted to Facebook “I will soon be leaving you forever so goodbye! I’m going to wage jihad and hopes that i die” and “Getting ready to be killed in jihad is HUGE adrenaline rush!! I am so nervous. NOT because I’m scared to die but I am eager to meet my lord.”

The alleged plot comes in the wake of other home-grown terrorism arrests over the last two weeks. On Thursday, a Wisconsin man was arrested for trying to join ISIS, and last Friday a Philadelphia mother of two was arrested for trying to go to Syria to martyr herself for the group. And last week, two New York City women were arrested after allegedly plotting a Boston Marathon-style attack.

When the FBI questioned Booker about his Facebook posts, he said he enlisted in the U.S. Army with the intent to commit an insider attack like Major Nidal Hassan did at Fort Hood in Texas, according to prosecutors. He said if his army officer ever told him to kill a fellow Muslim, he would kill the officer instead.

After waiving his Miranda rights, Booker also told the agents that he intended to target high-ranking army officials, but that he didn’t envision using a machine gun—he was more interested in an attack with a small gun or sword. This led to Booker being denied entry into the military, but he was not immediately arrested.

Throughout his plan to attack Fort Riley, Booker was accompanied by two undercover FBI agents who he believed were helping him. Booker rented two storage units where he kept materials and explosives for a car bomb, and planned for the accomplices to build the bomb, prosecutors said. The plan was for Booker and one of the accomplices to bring the bomb to Fort Riley and for Booker to detonate it himself, since he wanted to be the one to flip the switch, prosecutors said.

Booker also asked the undercover officers to take care of his debts so he could enter paradise as a martyr after his death. In one of the videos he made about his plan, he said:

“Today, Inshallah, we are going to build this bomb with 1,000 pounds of Ammonium Nitrate… This message is to you, America. You sit in your homes and you think that this war is just over in Iraq… we will bring the Islamic State straight to your doorstep. You think this is just a game… when this bomb blows up and kills as many kuffar [non-Muslims] as possible, maybe then you’ll realize it.

Booker was arrested by FBI agents Friday, as he drove in to Fort Riley to carry out the attack. As he was making preparations to detonate the device, he was taken into custody. He is facing federal charges for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. property. Booker, who is being represented by the Federal Public Defender’s office, will plead not guilty.

TIME Crime

Woman Faces Prison After Getting Married 10 Times

She faces up to four years in prison if convicted

A New York City woman is facing felony charges after authorities discovered she’d been married 10 times in 11 years, and at one point may have been married to up to eight men at once.

Liana Barrientos, 39, of the Bronx, married 10 different men between 1999 and 2010, but prosecutors say she wasn’t as fond of divorces. She is currently married to four people, prosecutors said, and was married six times in 2002 alone.

Barrientos is being charged with two felony counts of offering a false instrument for filing, for filing a false marriage application and license, and could face up to four years in prison if convicted.

She pleaded not guilty to both charges, and calls to her lawyer were not immediately returned.

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