TIME Tunisia

Tunisia Bloodshed Threatens to Undo Nation’s Progress

Attack that killed at least 20 foreigners could throw the nascent democracy into turmoil

In the worst attack on foreigners since the Arab revolutions erupted four years ago, more than 20 people were killed in Tunisia on Wednesday along with two of the country’s citizens, when gunmen stormed the country’s most important museum.

The attack, for which no group has yet taken responsibility, raises the prospect that the terrorist attacks that have become increasingly common elsewhere in the region could destabilize the sole democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring.

Early Wednesday afternoon, two gunmen armed with automatic weapons attacked the Bardo Museum in the capital, Tunis, and opened fire on tourists, before taking numerous foreigners hostage inside the museum. Some three hours later, police stormed the museum, killing the gunmen and freeing the hostages.

Tunisian officials said those killed were Polish, German, Spanish and Italian. Local television aired footage taken inside the museum, showing a group of tourists, seemingly under siege, sitting on the floor of an exhibition room below ancient mosaics. The building sits close to the country’s parliament, and early reports suggested the gunmen may also have attempted to enter that building.

Prime Minister Habib Essid — who took office only in January — went on television after security forces killed the gunmen. Grim-faced and clearly shaken, he told Tunisians that they needed to help face down militant groups. “The citizens, the army, are all responsible,” he said. “All of us must support the security forces to fight against this scourge.”

To some Tunisians, the attack in the tiny North African country seemed all too predictable. Although Tunisia is one of the few countries wracked by the Arab Spring uprisings to have successfully held peaceful elections — which it did in December — the regional upheaval has pummeled foreign investment, and Essid told parliament on Tuesday that unemployment among educated Tunisians was now around 30%. These are the kinds of conditions that helped bring thousands of people into the streets in 2011 to drive out Tunisia’s longtime dictator — but also the kinds that can drive a young, resentful population toward extremism.

Indeed, officials believe about 3,000 Tunisians have left the country to join jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, including ISIS, over the past four years. Tunisia’s most wanted terrorist, Ahmed al-Rouissi, was killed in Libya only two days ago, fighting with ISIS jihadists in the coastal city of Sirt. The government has long warned about the dangers the country faces as these battle-hardened fighters return home.

Militant groups in rural areas have staged attacks for several months on military personnel and police officers, killing several of them. Essid told parliament just this week that police had uncovered several big weapons caches in the remote southern desert, and dismantled militant cells. On Monday, Tunisian police arrested 22 people in Kairouan, a small central city, for allegedly recruiting locals for jihadist training and then sending them across Tunisia’s eastern border into Libya, which is wracked by militant violence and rising ISIS activity. Many believed it was only a matter of time before this violence spread to the country’s capital.

Early reports suggested that the attack might have been well planned and carefully timed. At the moment the gunmen attacked the parliament, lawmakers were debating a tough new antiterrorism law. The attack might also have timed in order to target foreigners, since Mediterranean cruise ships dock each Wednesday in Tunis’ La Goulette harbor. There, coach buses ferry tourists to the Bardo museum, which sits on the same downtown compound as the parliament building.

The fact that foreign tourists were killed seems sure to create major new problems for Tunisia, whose economy relies heavily on European visitors. For years, the country has been a favorite, close getaway for French tourists, with Paris a two-hour flight from its former colony, and with no laws banning alcohol or bikinis on the beaches. After the upheaval of the Arab Spring, many tourists stayed away. But in recent months Tunisian tourism posters in the Paris Metro have assured the French that they wanted them back in big numbers, and that the country was safe — a contrast, say, from other popular North African destinations like Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

But it will be hard for officials to offer such assurances now. “This will be very, very bad for the country,” Mounir Khelifa, an English professor at Tunis’ Manoubia University, told TIME by phone shortly after the attack. “Tunisia has been hovering between hope and fear. Now, if the economy is hurt, there will probably be strikes and protests, and then who will care about building up democratic institutions?”

TIME

Witness Scenes From Tunisia Museum Attack

Gunmen opened fire at a leading museum in Tunisia’s capital, leaving at least 21 dead

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Hangs 12 Men in Largest Single-Day Execution in Nearly a Decade

PAKISTAN-CRIME-EXECUTION-PROTEST
AAMIR QURESHI—AFP/Getty Images Pakistani NGO activists carry placards during a demonstration to mark the International Day Against the Death Penalty in Islamabad on October 10, 2014.

The country's death penalty was reinstated in December and broadened to non-terrorism crimes a week ago

Pakistan hanged 12 men on Tuesday, the largest number of people put to death on the same day since a moratorium on executions was lifted in December, according to an Interior Ministry spokesman.

“They were not only terrorists, they included the other crimes,” the spokesman said, according to Reuters. “Some of them were murderers and some did other heinous crimes.”

The informal suspension of capital punishment, enacted when the current democratic government took over from military rule in 2008, was removed on Dec. 17 following a Taliban attack on a school that killed over 140 people, mostly children.

Although Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium under pressure to expedite justice for terrorists and militants, the death penalty for non-terrorism crimes was also reinstated last week.

A total of 27 Pakistanis have been executed since the ban was lifted, and more than 8,000 remain on death row in what human-rights groups say is a severely deficient criminal-justice system.

Read next: Pakistan Court Sanctions Release of Alleged Mumbai Attacks Mastermind

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME justice

See Evidence From the Boston Bombing Trial

Including a bullet-ridden 'manifesto' and new surveillance footage

The writings were allegedly scribbled in pencil by Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev inside the boat where he hid before his arrest. “I am jealous of my brother who has received the ward of Jannatul Firdaus (inshallah) before me,” the writing states. “I do not mourn because his soul is very much alive.” Jannat ul Firdaus refers to the highest level of paradise in Islam.

The jury also saw newly released surveillance footage of the attacks, which identify Tsarnaev at the scene, and heard witness testimony from victims and police officers.

Read next: See the Final Moments Before Boston Bombing Suspect Was Arrested

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Military

Concern Over Iran’s Nukes Drowns Out Its Growing Role in Iraq

Tehran helps Baghdad try to retake Tikrit as U.S. watches

Consternation over Iran boiled Tuesday on Capitol Hill as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Tehran’s push for nuclear weapons “could well threaten the survival of my country.” But over at the Pentagon, the Iran focus wasn’t on Netanyahu but Iraq. That’s because Iran is playing a key role in Baghdad’s fight to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, while the U.S. is confined to the sidelines.

After the U.S. invested $26 billion rebuilding the Iraqi army over the past decade, some Pentagon officials found it disconcerting to see Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias leading the charge into Saddam Hussein’s hometown. The Iranians, of course, are relishing the opportunity: Hussein was running Iraq when it launched the eight-year Iran-Iraq war that ended in a stalemate in 1988 with roughly 200,000 killed on each side.

American concern is justified: having Iranian-backed Shi’ite forces storm largely-Sunni Tikrit risks turning the conflict against the Sunni ISIS forces into a sectarian conflict that could balloon into a civil war. “It’s absolutely key that [the Iraqi government] make sure that they have provisions in place to accommodate the Sunnis,” Army General Lloyd Austin, chief of the U.S. Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday. “That lack of inclusion is what got us to this point, and I think the only way that we can ensure that we don’t go back there is if we have the right steps taken by the government.” Fewer than 1,000 of the 30,000 fighters battling ISIS for Tikrit are Sunni tribal fighters, according to Iraqi estimates.

The populations of both Iran and Iraq are primarily Shi’ite. Since Saddam’s hanging in 2006, the Sunnis of western Iraq have been treated poorly by the Shi’ite-dominated government in Baghdad. Many Sunnis welcomed ISIS’s move into the region last year, when it killed more than 1,000 Iraqi Shi’ite troops who had been stationed at a base known, when the Americans were there, as Camp Speicher. Some of the Shi’ites attacking Tikrit are bent on revenge for the slaughter, which could exacerbate intra-Muslim tensions.

Iran, according to reports from the front and Pentagon officials, is backing Iraqi forces with air power, artillery fire and advisers guiding Shi’ite militiamen, who account for perhaps 10,000 of the fighters trying to retake Tikrit. “This is the most overt conduct of Iranian support, in the form of artillery and other things,” Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told the Senate Armed Services Committee later Tuesday. “Frankly, it will only be a problem if it results in sectarianism.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. — which has conducted thousands of air strikes against ISIS targets since August — has been grounded in the battle to retake Tikrit. The daily U.S. tally of air strikes launched Wednesday ticked off targets around al Asad, Bayji, Mosul, Ramadi and Sinjar. But there were no strikes in or around Tikrit, although U.S. drones are keeping a nervous eye on the fighting (“We have good overhead imagery,” is how Austin put it).

Iran has reportedly dispatched commanders notorious for their killings of Sunnis to the fight. That may lead Tikritis to view those seeking to free their city from ISIS’s grip not as rescuers but as bloody vengeance-seekers.

As the U.S. and Israel work to keep Iran’s nuclear genie bottled up, both Washington and Tehran have said they are not operating together inside Iraq. “We don’t coordinate with them,” Austin, whose command oversees U.S. military forces inside the country, repeated Tuesday.

In other words, they’re allied, but not allies. “The battle between Iran and ISIS doesn’t turn Iran into a friend of America,” Netanyahu told Congress on Tuesday. “Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam … They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire.”

TIME isis

Hear Jihadi John Defend Himself Against Charge of Extremism

Mohammed Emwazi, the Londoner who has become the face of ISIS, describes being interrogated

Mohammed Emwazi denied he was an extremist and denounced extremism in a 2009 interview he gave to an advocacy group.

The man who became known as Jihadi John and the masked face of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) after appearing to kill hostages in a series of videos, complained that he was victimized after he was deported from Tanzania and questioned by the security services.

Emwazi went to the London-based group CAGE, which works with people affected by what they call “the war on terror,” after being questioned by an British counterterrorism officer. In the recording of the interview with CAGE, Emwazi recounts the interrogation: “He started telling me what do you think of 9/11? I told him: ‘This is a wrong thing. What happened was wrong. What do you want me to say? If I had the opportunity for those lives to come back then I would make those lives come back.”

He added, “I told him everything that’s been happening is extremism. Everything — the bombs or whatever — that’s happening have been from extremists.”

The recording ends with Emwazi alleging that the agent threatened him and said, “We are going to keep a close eye on you, Mohammed.”

Last week, after Jihadi John’s identity was revealed, CAGE issued statements suggesting the U.K. authorities’ treatment of Emwazi was the cause of his radicalization. CAGE research director Asim Qureshi said in a statement on Feb. 26, “We now have evidence that there are several young Britons whose lives were not only ruined by security agencies, but who became disenfranchised and turned to violence because of British counter-terrorism policies coupled with long standing grievances over Western foreign policy.”

READ MORE: Inside ISIS, a TIME Special Report

TIME Terrorism

‘Jihadi John’ Was a Cold Loner, Says Fellow ISIS Fighter

The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) executioner Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed Jihadi John, was a cold loner who didn’t talk much, according to an ISIS defector who spoke to the BBC.

Abu Ayman first met Emwazi in Syria about two years ago at a hillside refugee camp in Atmeh in northern Syria. British foreign fighters occupied nearby houses, posting photos on social media of their “five-star jihadi.” Ayman says Emwazi seemed strange from the beginning: “The British fighters were always hanging out together, but he wouldn’t join them.”

“He was cold. He didn’t talk much. He wouldn’t join us in prayer,” he said.

Ayman said ISIS has professional psychologists who “know who to choose from the fighters and how to make them famous.” He pointed out that ISIS offered new weapons, luxury guns, cars and promotions in exchange for following orders and said “there was nothing special about Jihadi John … anyone could have become like him.”

He added that some of his former ISIS comrades joined the group because of their admiration for Emwazi. “He’s a celebrity to attract our Muslim brothers in Europe. But some think he is showing off; they think he’s being used by ISIS.”

MORE: Inside ISIS, a TIME Special Report

Ayman’s description of Jihadi John is at odds with depictions of him from earlier stages in his life. His former high school principal, Jo Shuter, told the BBC that Emwazi was never suspected of being radicalized at school. She said that Emwazi had some issues with being bullied, which were dealt with, and that by the end of his time at high school he was “a hardworking, aspirational young man who went on to the university he wanted to go to.”

After university, Emwazi, a Kuwait-born U.K. citizen, worked as a salesman for a Kuwaiti IT company from 2009 to 2010. His former boss told The Guardian that Emwazi, then 21 years old, was “the best employee we ever had,” a calm, decent young man who was “very good with people.”

[BBC]

TIME Jordan

Jordan’s King Abdullah Says the War Against ISIS ‘Is Our War’

"It has been for a long time," he tells CNN

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has intensified his rhetoric in the kingdom’s fight against ISIS.

“It is our war. It has been for a long time,” King Abdullah told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria during an interview that aired on Sunday.

The King went on to describe the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria’s fighters as “outlaws” of Islam and said ISIS had set up an “irresponsible caliphate to try to expand their dominion over Muslims.”

ISIS forces captured Royal Jordanian Air Force fighter pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh last December and later burned him alive during a notorious video that they published online. The killing sparked retaliatory attacks from Jordan led by King Abdullah personally.

Read more at CNN

TIME Terrorism

Why Terrorism Works: Jihadi John and the Fear Premium

Alan Henning
AP This frame from a video released by Islamic State militants purports to show 'Jihadi John' before the alleged killing of taxi driver Alan Henning, released on Oct. 3, 2014.

It costs a lot to identify future threats

What’s it worth it to keep the world safe from “Jihadi John”? In theory, the vast economic resources and intelligence power of the West should make identifying, tracking and detaining a single, brutal terrorist worth the cost.

But ease of travel, availability of low-tech weapons and our inability to identify future threats from the vast pool of potential terrorists make neutralizing bad guys before they become high-profile killers difficult. The calculation becomes even harder when you realize the enormous cost of counterterrorism investments and how many lives can be saved in other areas of life for the same money.

On the surface, it seems like a simple thing. Mohammed Emwazi, who was identified by the Washington Post Thursday as the ISIS executioner “Jihadi John”, had been questioned and released by British authorities long before he went to Syria to join the group, according to the BBC. Not surprisingly, some are already asking how such a notorious killer could have slipped through authorities’ hands.

For starters, it’s hard to know whom to watch. Investigations into the July 7, 2005 terrorist bombings in London that killed 52 people and injured 700 confirmed that the UK’s domestic security service, MI5, had previously come across some of the members of the plot. But the investigations [pdf] concluded that the huge amount of threat information before MI5 and the lack of evidence of an imminent threat meant “it would not be right or fair to criticise the Security Service for the fact they did not pay greater attention” to the plotters.

Similarly, after the Paris attack at the satirical weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo, French authorities were criticized for not doing a better job tracking the killers beforehand. Both men had been on U.S. terrorist watch lists, and the French Prime Minister admitted “failings” by intelligence services after the attack. But some estimates say it costs millions to monitor just one terrorism suspect, let alone the hundreds that French authorities say they would have to track to foil every possible future attacker, assuming one could even create a reliable and useful list of suspects.

Some have tried to calculate the total cost of such an effort. A 2014 study by John Mueller of Ohio University and the CATO Institute and Mark Stewart of the University of Newcastle in Australia, did a “back of the envelope” estimate to compare the cost of attacks to the cost of prevention. The authors assumed what they say is a common valuation of a human life of $6 million-$7 million and factored in their calculations the consequences of an attack, its likelihood of success, the risk reduction of terrorism measures and their costs.

Their conclusion: based on an estimated $75 billion increase in annual counterterrorism spending in the wake of 9/11 by the U.S. government, authorities would have to stop “150 Boston-type attacks per year, 15 London-type attacks each year, or one 9/11-type attack every three years” to justify the expense.

Such numbers are more polemical than scientific, of course: dollar costs aren’t the only consequences to factor into the equation. We may decide to pay extra to feel safe from foreign threats, or to fight back against those who directly challenge our political and social structures. We may value humanitarian intervention against terrorists who embrace genocide. Or we may think that the costs of current terrorist attacks could rise dramatically if, for example, bad guys got nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

National security hawks argue that we should pay with diminished privacy to leverage America’s technical superiority in electronic surveillance, which gives a lot of coverage for relatively little money. Mueller points out that the “Transportation Security Administration’s Federal Air Marshal Service and its full body scanner technology together are nearly as costly as the entire FBI counterterrorism budget,” which delivers a regular stream of arrested potential future jihadis.

Ultimately, if all we’re doing is paying extra because we’re afraid, though, Mueller’s numbers highlight the premium that fear factor represents. It costs a lot more to protect you from a terrorist attack that is statistically extremely unlikely to kill you than to minimize many other daily dangers, like auto accidents, gun deaths and falls by seniors.

That of course is the asymmetric idea as far as terrorists are concerned–use cheap but scary methods to trick opponents into costly, ineffectual countermeasures. In other words, terrorism works.

See our cover story this week, “The ISIS Trap” for more on the current calculation before the Obama administration.

TIME Iraq

Know Right Now: ISIS Destroys Artifacts at Iraqi Museum

The video was apparently recorded at a museum in Mosul

ISIS released a new video purportedly showing the destruction of several ancient artifacts in a Mosul museum. Watch Know Right Now to find out more.

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