TIME Tunisia

Tunisia Terrorist Attack Survivors Describe Scenes of Horror

TUNISIA-UNREST-TOURISM
Kenzo Tribouillard—AFP/Getty Images Tourists look at flowers at the site of a shooting attack on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 28, 2015.

At least 38 people were killed and dozens of others wounded in Friday's beachfront rampage

SOUSSE, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia’s postcard destination for tourists is reeling from the terror that blighted another day of play at the Mediterranean seaside resort of Sousse. A man armed with a Kalashnikov and grenades gunned down tourists on a private beach, and then moved methodically through the grounds of a luxury hotel — to the swimming pool, reception area and offices.

At least 38 people were killed and dozens of others wounded in Friday’s deadly noon rampage by a young Tunisian disguised as a tourist ready for fun in the sun.

From accounts of the attack by shocked survivors, tourists who stayed on, lifeguards and beach employees who helped at the site of the massacre emerge stories of love and horror.

No one grasped what was happening at first in what became Tunisia’s worst terrorist attack. Were the popping sounds and explosions fireworks for yet another celebration?

On Saturday, the private beach of the 370-room Imperial Marhaba Hotel was immaculate with chairs lined up under straw umbrellas — and police tape sealing it off. Only the emptiness and an overturned lounge chair with flowers accumulating hinted at the horror. “Why? Warum?” read a note on one bouquet. “Warum” is German for “why.” Sousse is a popular destination for Germans and at least one German was killed in the attack.

Some people cried as they placed their offerings.

Then there are the horrific recollections of the living — many of whom quickly fled Sousse.

___

Tony Callaghan of Norfolk, England, was near the pool around midday when he heard what many others thought were fireworks. With his 23 years in the Royal Air Force, Callaghan knew better.

“I knew it was gunfire … The hotel was being attacked.”

Callaghan, 63, suffered a gunshot wound to his leg and his wife, Christine, 62, had her femur shattered. Both were among those being treated at Sahloul Hospital, the largest in Sousse.

Along with what he said were some 40 people, they had taken refuge in the hotel’s administrative offices, not far from the reception area. They climbed to the first floor, “but then we were trapped.” Callaghan said he told people to hide because the gunman was following “and shooting coming up the stairs.”

His wife stumbled in the corridor and “was screaming ‘Help me! Help me!'” Callaghan said shortly before heading for surgery. Another woman had been shot four times, he said, and “was lying in a pool of blood.”

The gunfire appeared endless. For Callaghan, it lasted about 40 minutes. “It was, like, incessant.”

But no one really counted as they looked to save their lives. Some others suggested it lasted about 20 minutes.

The attacker “took time to go to the beach, to the pool, the reception, the administration, climbing the stairs,” said Imen Belfekih, an employee for seven years at the hotel. She was among those hiding in the administration offices, along with a fellow employee, who was wounded in the attack.

Belfekih said that the attacker threw a grenade as he climbed the stairs to the rooms where the group was hiding, apparently following the screams of fear. Her colleague was hospitalized with shrapnel wounds.

“We saw only black. It was smoky. Everyone was hiding in offices …. I hid under a desk,” she said.

A police officer who was called to the scene told The Associated Press that the gunman threw three grenades — but one failed to explode. He wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the case and asked not to be identified by name.

Belfekih said she was on the beach when she first heard the gunfire. She and her wounded friend only left their hideout “when we heard silence.”

The varying accounts of the ordeal made it difficult to understand exactly where the gunman was killed by police. However, he apparently went back downstairs to make an escape. Several accounts put the location outside. And no one who spoke with the AP could clearly describe him.

“I never saw him because we were running for our lives,” Callaghan said.

___

The hotel manager, Mohamed Becheur, said he had no details about the tragedy that befell his establishment, arriving later when notified and after the attack.

He has not officially closed the hotel, though concedes that everyone will shortly be gone.

“We may have zero clients today but we will keep our staff,” Becheur said.

His hotel was a scene of chaos for hours, with people hiding out in halls, offices and bathrooms.

Marian King, from the Dublin suburb of Lucan, was in her final few hours before departure when chaos struck. Then a British woman ran into the lobby screaming that her husband had been shot and was “lying on a sunbed in a pool of blood.”

King immediately returned with her son to her room, hiding for two hours in the bathroom as sounds of gunfire continued for what she said was an hour. Others from the hotel joined them.

“There were footsteps in the corridor and people running back and forth, shouting in all languages, every language,” she told Irish radio station RTE.

Travel agents were calling with rides out of town, and with a 10-minute warning “we chucked everything into bags and went.”

___

On Saturday, a pall hung over sunny Sousse. Scattered sunbathers who said they weren’t afraid waded in the water. An occasional police patrol boat skimmed the water, and police on horseback worked the sand. But there was little sign of the violence a day earlier.

But there was lots of praise from tourists for employees of their respective hotels who may soon be out of work ifTunisia’s prime industry, tourism, is gutted by the attack.

Employees at nearby hotels or those with outlets on the beach joined in the rescue operation, running to the massacre site to lend a hand.

“You hear the gunfire. You can’t count the number of times,” said Haytham, a lifeguard at the nearby Royal Kenz Hotel. He and others cleared the beach and moved some wounded into ambulances. Visibly shaken, he and a group of tourists laid a bouquet at the doomed beach.

Faycal Mhoub, who from his post at the beach offers camel rides, rushed from his circuit when he heard the news, putting tourists in the family home, then went to help moved the wounded.

“I live with the tourists more than with my family,” he said. “I don’t know how many months or years tourists won’t come, but I’ll be at my spot.”

TIME Greece

Greece on Edge as Banks Run Low on Cash

European Central Bank is pondering whether to extend funds after Tuesday's deadline

The European Central Bank has announced it is maintaining emergency credit to Greek banks at its current level.

The decision keeps a key financial lifeline open but does not provide further credit to Greece’s banks, which are seeing deposits drain away as anxious Greeks withdraw savings.

The ECB said it was working closely with the Bank of Greece to maintain financial stability and added it could reconsider the decision on credit levels.

ECB head Mario Draghi said “we continue to work closely with the Bank of Greece and we strongly endorse the commitment of Member States in pledging to take action to address the fragilities of euro-area economies.”

Worried Greeks were lining up at ATM machines on Sunday, the day after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for a referendum on creditors’ financial proposals in return for rescue loans and creditors refused to extend Greece’s international bailout beyond Tuesday.

While some machines in Greece were running out of cash, others were being replenished. Another top Greek financial official urged Greeks on Sunday to remain calm and not withdraw all their savings.

The news came as France’s prime minister urged Greece and other nations to do whatever they can to keep Greece in the 19-nation bloc that uses the euro currency.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Sunday that “we don’t know — none of us — the consequences of an exit from the eurozone, either on the political or economic front. We must do everything so that Greece stays in the eurozone.” He was speaking on France’s i-Tele TV.

Valls added that “means respecting Greece and democracy, but it’s also about respecting European rules. So Greece needs to come back to the negotiating table.”

Tsipras’ call for a national referendum on creditors’ demands has thrown Greece’s negotiations with its international lenders into turmoil.

 

TIME Syria

ISIS Fighters Kill 200 Civilians in Syrian Town

Turkey Syrian Islamic State
Yasin Akgul—AP People standing on the Turkish side of the border with Syria, on the outskirts of Suruc, Turkey, watch as smoke rises over Kobani, in Syria, June 27, 2015.

The victims were mostly shot dead in cold blood, some in their own homes, activists said

(BEIRUT)—Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria fighters who launched a surprise attack on a Syrian border town massacred more than 200 civilians, including women and children, before they were killed and driven out by Kurdish forces, activists said on Saturday.

Kurdish activist Mustafa Bali, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Kurdish official Idris Naasan put at 40-50 the number of elite IS fighters killed in the two days of fighting since the militants sneaked into the town of Kobani before dawn on Thursday.

Clashes, however, continued to the south and west of the predominantly Kurdish town on the Turkish border on Saturday, they said, although the fighting in the south quietened down by nightfall.

Naasan said 23 of the city’s Kurdish defenders were killed in the fighting, but the Observatory put the number at 16. The discrepancy could not immediately be reconciled, but conflicting casualty figures are common in the aftermath of major fighting.

“Kobani has been completely cleared of Daesh, and Kurdish forces are now combing the town looking for fighters who may have gone into hiding,” Bali, using the Arabic acronym for the IS, told The Associated Press by telephone from Kobani. The official Syrian news agency, SANA, also reported that Kobani has been cleared of IS fighters.

The more than 200 civilians killed in the last two days include some who perished in IS suicide bombings, including one at the border crossing with Turkey, but they were mostly shot dead in cold blood, some in their own homes, the activists said.

“They were revenge killings,” Rami Abdurrahman, the observatory’s director, told the AP.

Others were caught in the cross-fire as gun battles raged in the town’s streets or were randomly targeted by IS snipers on rooftops.

Bali, Abdurrahman and Naasan all said the number of Kobani civilians and IS fighters killed was likely to rise as rescue teams continue to search neighborhoods where the fighting took place.

Massacring civilians is not an uncommon practice by the Islamic State group, whose men have slaughtered thousands in Syria and neighboring Iraq over the last year, when its fighters blitzed through large swathes of territory and declared a caliphate that spans both nations.

The Islamic State group often posts on social media networks gruesome images of its fighters executing captives as part of psychological warfare tactics designed to intimidate and inspire desertions among their enemies. Last week, it posted one of its most gruesome video clips, showing the execution of 16 men it claimed to have been spies. Five of the men were drowned in a cage, four were burned inside a car and seven were blown up by explosives.

The killing of so many civilians in Kobani, according to Abdurrahman, was premeditated and meant by the Islamic State to avenge their recent defeats at the hands of Kurdish forces.

The Western-backed Kurdish forces have emerged as a formidable foe of the extremist group, rolling them back in the north and northeast parts of Syria, where the Kurds are the dominant community, as well as in northern Iraq, where they have also made significant gains against the IS.

Kobani has become a symbol of Kurdish resistance after it endured a months-long siege by the Islamic State group before Kurdish forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, broke through and drove the militants out in January.

Thursday’s surprise attack on the town and a simultaneous one targeting the remote northeastern town of Hassakeh came one day after the Islamic State group called for a wave of violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time of fasting and piety that is now in its second week.

“You Muslims, take the initiative and rush to jihad, rise up you mujahideen everywhere, push forward and make Ramadan a month of calamities for the nonbelievers,” IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani said in an audio message released Tuesday.

In what also appears to be a response to that call, terror attacks took place Friday across three continents: shootings in a Tunisian beach resort that left 39 people dead, an explosion and a beheading in a U.S.-owned chemical warehouse in southeast France and a suicide bombing by an Islamic State affiliate at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait that killed at least 27 worshippers.

The attacks also came after the group suffered a series of setbacks over the past two weeks, including the loss last week of the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad — one of the group’s main points for bringing in foreign fighters and supplies.

Fighting is continuing in Hassakeh for the third successive day, with government and Kurdish forces separately fighting IS militants who have seized several neighborhoods in the mostly Kurdish town, according to the Observatory. Forces loyal to embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad have brought in reinforcements from the town of Deir el-Zour to the south while the Syrian air force pounded IS positions inside the town.

TIME Taiwan

Hundreds Injured in Taiwan Water Park Fire

Taiwan park fire
EPA Taiwanese push a young man suffering from burns on his legs to an ambulance at the Formosa Fun Coast park in the Bali District of New Taipei City, northern Taiwan, June 27, 2015.

The fire's cause is under investigation

More than 200 people were injured in a fire that broke out at a water park in Taipei, Taiwan on Saturday.

The fire ignited in the midst of “colour play” party at the Formosa Water Park, which featured music and dancing. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but BBC reports it may have sparked when a colored powder being thrown on the audience burst into flame.

There were at least 215 people injured, with 83 of them suffering severe burns, BBC reports. There were about 1,000 people near a stage where the fire started.

The fire was brought under control.

[BBC]

TIME Greece

Greece’s Future Hangs in Balance as Creditors Reject Aid Extension

It is uncertain whether Greece will be able to continue to receive emergency support for its banks

(BRUSSELS) — Greece’s place in the euro currency bloc looked increasingly shaky on Saturday after eurozone nations rejected a month-long extension to its bailout program and the prime minister called for a risky popular vote on the country’s financial future.

Worried Greeks queued outside banks for cash amid the uncertainty, while eurozone finance ministers deciding to hold a meeting without Greece to assess how to keep the euro currency union stable in the face of heightened risks that Greece could drop out.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras shocked Greece’s creditors late Friday when he called for a referendum in a week on whether to accept the reforms that the rescue lenders want in return for more financial aid. The country’s bailout program ends Tuesday and without an extension or more loans from creditors, Greece is likely to be in arrears on a debt payment due the same day. Its banks face the risk of collapse.

The Greek government’s call for the people to vote against a proposed bailout deal from international creditors on July 5 angered many of its eurozone partners.

“We must conclude that, however regretful, that the program will expire on Tuesday night. That is the latest date that we could have reached an agreement,” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the top eurozone official.

“The Greek authorities have asked for a month extension. But in that month there can be no disbursements,” he said. “How does the Greek government think that it will survive and deal with its problems in that period? I do not know,” Dijsselbloem said.

France’s finance minister, Michel Sapin, stressed that a deal was still possible and that he was ready to act as a go-between among Greece and the creditors after relations neared a breaking point.

Now much will depend on whether the European Central Bank will accept to continue to prop up Greek banks even after the country’s bailout program expires. It would be under huge pressure to stop using eurozone taxpayer money to keep alive the banks if there is no prospect for a deal.

In that case, the banks would likely collapse and the Greek government would have to support them itself. Penniless, the government would have to revert to printing a new currency, effectively drawing the country out of the euro union.

The governing council of the ECB will meet “in due course” to assess the situation.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis insisted that Athens and lenders still had time to improve the deal — and avoid a negative outcome to the referendum. “There is no reason why we can’t have a deal by Tuesday. If the deal is acceptable we will recommend a positive vote,” he said.

“It’s a sad day for Europe but we will overcome it,” Varourfakis said upon leaving while his counterparts continued talks.

The sides are haggling over the reforms the country needs to make in exchange for more financial aid but have managed to only increase uncertainty over the country’s future.

Greece has a debt due on Tuesday and its bailout program expires the same day, after which it is unclear whether its banks would be able to avoid collapse, an event that could be the precursor to Greece leaving the euro.

The Greek Parliament is debating and will vote at midnight Saturday on the government’s request for a referendum.

Across Athens, people started flocking to cash machines shortly after Tsipras announced the referendum around 1 a.m. local time. The queues grew the next day, though the number of people and the availability of cash varied widely. The Bank of Greece assured in a statement that the flow of cash will continue.

The referendum will ask Greeks to vote on a proposal of reforms that the country’s creditors made on Thursday. The Greek government rejected it as imposing cuts that are too harsh on the general population.

The Greek government said it would recommend Greeks vote “no” in the referendum, but Varoufakis noted “the high possibility that the Greek people will vote against the advice of the Greek government.”

What would happen in that case — whether Greece would have to leave the euro or try to renegotiate more time with creditors — is unclear.

An exit from the euro would put Greece through a new era of economic pain. With the new currency less valuable than the euro, the government would have to write off a chunk of its foreign loans — mainly owed to eurozone countries — and many companies and households would go bankrupt. Experts predict a long and deep recession in a country that has already been through five years economic depression.

The uncertainties of all this would roil European and global markets, though experts are divided on the extent. Some say Europe is better equipped to handle a Greek euro exit, but others say it is unclear what might happen. The euro dropped in value slightly on international markets after the referendum was called.

As the country came to grips with what lay ahead, former prime minister Costas Karamanlis broke a longstanding silence and criticized the government.

“The nation’s most vital interests demand that the country remains at the heart of Europe. The EU’s actual shortcomings do not, in any way, negate this…” Karamanlis said. “Foolish choices that undermine this principle push the country to adventures, with unpredictable and possibly irreversible consequences.”

In the streets of Athens, views were mixed on the merits of holding a referendum.

“The people are not in a position to decide. Those who are in position to decide are the ones that know a bit more and they must explain and simplify the issues for the people,” said Grigoris Kanellopoulos, 41, a street seller of bagels.

Athina Kontosozou, 56, has already made up her made about how she will vote.

“No (to the creditors’ proposals), no to any more measures. We don’t know what will happen (after the referendum). Let’s hope that things will be better. And they will get better. We believe it”.

TIME brazil

Sao Paulo Bans Foie Gras in Restaurants

Brazil Foie Gras Ban
M. Spencer Green—AP In this Aug. 9, 2006 file photo, a serving of salt-cured fresh foie gras with herbs is displayed at Chef Didier Durand's Cyrano's Bistrot and Wine Bar in Chicago.

Restaurants that don't abide by the new law will be fined

The Brazilian city Sao Paulo officially banned the production and sale of foie gras in restaurants on Friday.

Foie gras is a delicacy that’s made from the fatty liver of force-fed ducks and geese. The legislation was passed out of concern over the suffering the making of foie gras causes the animals.

“Foie gras is an appetizer for the wealthy. It does not benefit human health and to make it, the birds are submitted to a lot of suffering,” City Councilman Laercio Benko said, according to the Associated Press.

While animal rights advocates are pleased with the decision, some chefs in the city are reportedly upset, arguing that people shouldn’t be told how to eat.

The law will go into effect in 45 days so restaurants have time to adapt. Those that break the law will be fined.

Other countries have banned the production of foie gras, BBC reports, such as Germany, Italy and Argentina. In many of these places, however, it is not illegal for it to be sold.

TIME Tunisia

Tunisia Pledges Tough Security Measures After ISIS Claims Attack That Killed 39

TUNISIA-UNREST-TOURISM
Kenzo Tribouillard—AFP/Getty Images A member of the Tunisian security forces patrols the beach of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 27, 2015.

Thirty-nine people were killed, mostly tourists

(SOUSSE, Tunisia)—Tunisia’s prime minister on Saturday called for all citizens to work together to defeat terrorism as thousands of tourists prepared to leave the North African country in wake of its worst terrorist attack ever.

Tourists crowded into the airport at Hammamet near the coastal city of Sousse where a young man dressed in shorts on Friday pulled an assault rifle out of his beach umbrella and killed 39 people, mostly tourists.

“The fight against terrorism is a national responsibility,” said a visibly exhausted Habib Essid at a press conference in Tunis early Saturday. “We are at war against terrorism which represents a serious danger to national unity during this delicate period that the nation is going through.”

He announced a string of tough measures to fight extremism, including examining the funding of organizations suspected of promoting radicalism, closing some 80 mosques outside government control and declaring certain mountainous zones military areas.

He identified the shooter, who was killed by police after the attack, as Seifeddine Rezgui, a young student at Kairouan University. A tweet from the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack and gave his jihadi pseudonym of Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani, according to the SITE intelligence group.

At the Imperial Marhaba Hotel where the attack took place, vans and buses were carrying away tourists on Saturday. While the hotel was not actually closing down, the tour operators had urged everyone to leave, the director said.

“We may have zero clients today but we will keep our staff,” said Mohammed Becheur, adding the 370-room hotel had been at 75 percent occupancy before the attack.

Tourism is a key part of Tunisia’s economy and had already fallen some 25 percent after a terrorist attack on the national museum in the capital Tunis that killed 22 people in March.

“It’s really sad but what can you do, for everyone, for the tourists, for the people who died, for their families,” said Belgian tourist Clause Besser, as he recovered in the hospital from a gunshot wound he received fleeing from the attacker. “For me, somehow, with a bullet in the leg, it’s not a catastrophe. For those who died or were injured for life, it’s something else.”

British travel companies Thomson and First Choice said they are flying back thousands of tourists from Tunisia Saturday and are cancelling all flights to the country in the coming week. Tourist flights from Ireland to Tunisia have continued in the wake of the attack, but travel agents are offering full refunds for those canceling.Slovakia has sent a plane to evacuate some 150 of its citizens who are currently in Tunisia, according to the Foreign Ministry and Scandinavian tour operators have stopped all flights to the North African country for the rest of the season.

“We felt a bit scared because Sousse isn’t that far away, it’s only 40-50 kilometers (25-30 miles) from where we stayed,” said Kathrin Scheider as she waited in line to check in to her flight out of the country at the Hammamet airport near Sousse. “We felt quite safe during the whole holiday, but as soon as we heard, we were quite happy to leave because you don’t feel that safe anymore if something happens like that.”

The Tunisian Ministry of Health has confirmed the nationalities of 10 of the 39 victims of the attack, including eight Britons, a Belgian and a German. The government of Ireland said an Irish nurse was also among those who were killed.

Relatives and family friends say Lorna Carty was fatally shot as she sunbathed. She and her husband, Declan, had received the holiday as a present to help Declan Carty relax following his recent heart surgery. Family friends speaking to the couple’s two children said Lorna Carty went ahead of her husband to the beach, where she suffered fatal gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead in hospital.

TIME Greece

Greece to Put Bailout Deal to a Popular Vote

Greeks will vote on the country's agreement with international creditors on July 5

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s prime minister has set a date of July 5 for a referendum on the country’s bailout deal with international creditors.

Alexis Tsipras made the announcement in a televised address to the Greek people early Saturday. It followed an emergency cabinet meeting.

Without an agreement on its international bailout, Greece faces the threat of running out of cash, defaulting on its loans and, possibly, leaving the euro currency.

Greece’s development minister is urging the nation to vote against the deal. Panayiotis Lafazanis says Greeks will answer “with a resounding no” in the vote.

Lafazanis spoke early Saturday, after an emergency cabinet meeting during which Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced his intention to call the referendum.

TIME World

See Gay Pride Parades From Around the World

Celebrations took place in June 2015 in countries across the globe, from Brazil to Germany

TIME Terrorism

Friday’s Three Terror Attacks Might Not Be Connected—and That’s Even Scarier

Tunisia hotel attack
Amine Ben Aziza—Reuters Police officers control the crowd, while surrounding a man suspected to be involved in opening fire on a beachside hotel in Sousse, Tunisia, as a woman reacts, on June 26, 2015.

A bloody assault in Tunisia, a decapitation in France and a suicide bombing in Kuwait are part of the horriying new normal of terrorism

Three separate terror attacks on the very same morning—perhaps 37 people rifled to death on a Tunisia beach, a businessman decapitated outside a gas factory in France and a Shi’ite mosque bombed in Kuwait City—sounds like more than a coincidence. Simultaneity has been a signature of al-Qaeda since Aug. 7, 1998, when the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were hit by truck bombs within minutes of each other. And if counterterrorism analysts say the greater threat now appears to be ISIS, sure enough the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria’s spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani just this week issued a general call for attacks in an audio message:

Muslims, embark and hasten toward jihad. O mujahedeen everywhere, rush and go to make Ramadan a month of disasters for the infidels.

But while the extremist group claimed responsibility for the Kuwait bombing—a rare attack in a rich kingdom that has largely escaped terror—ISIS has so far said nothing about the other two. There’s a very real chance that the timing of the three attacks was indeed coincidental—though the reason is scarcely less alarming. The fact is there are so many terror attacks these days that three bad ones happening on the same morning falls well within the realm of statistical probabilities.

There were 13,463 terror attacks across the globe in 2014, according to the U.S. State Department. That factors out to an average of 1,122 a month, or about 37 a day, which means a terror attack roughly every 40 minutes, somewhere in the world. Half of them took place in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where such atrocities have indeed grown so routine as to rarely qualify as international news. Syria, India and Nigeria together accounted for a bit better than a tenth of the sum. The rest were scattered around the globe, but not evenly. Of the 32,727 people killed, only 24 were Americans, or .07 percent of the total. Ten of those were in Afghanistan.

We are, moreover, in what has historically been the peak season for terror strikes, which past tallies show tend to rise in May, June and July. The holy month of Ramadan also factors in, with its associations of heightened piety. ISIS’s call to arms for Ramadan echoed similar summons from earlier insurgent groups in Iraq, where, as anyone who spent time in Baghdad over the last decade or so can attest, Fridays were seldom quiet.

If it seems like things are getting worse fast, they are. The number of attacks almost doubled from 2013 to 2014, as did the number fatalities. This had the perverse effect of making terror—which is meant to shock—actually less remarkable, as each attack dissolved into the generalized “background noise” of global news cycles.

ISIS has responded by amping up the horror. The group last year accounted for 17 percent of all terror strikes, yet nonetheless dominated the news by taking lives grotesquely and on video: Decapitating hostages, setting a Jordanian pilot alight in a cage, and in a new atrocity video released this week, killing captives by drowning them in a cage lowered into a pool; firing a rocket-propelled grenade at a car in which they are shackled; detonating explosive necklaces looped around their necks.

The group also wallows in mass killings, usually of Shi’ite Muslims and other groups the Sunni extremists of ISIS regard as apostates. Organized terror strikes by ISIS outside its theatre of military operations in Iraq and Syria remain infrequent, but when they come they do tend to be against Shi’ite targets, like the mosque in Kuwait City that ISIS dubbed “a gathering of apostates.” And as details emerge from rural France, where both suspects were taken alive, that attack may also turn out to have been inspired by, if not quite organized by ISIS. With a human head perched on a factory fence, the incident has the medieval flavor of the Islamic State.

The Tunisia attack, on a pair of beach hotels popular with European tourists also resulted in an arrest, of a man from the Tunisian city of Kairouan who had hidden a Kalashnikov in a beach umbrella. There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but both the targets and the setting— a moderate and democratic Arab nation friendly to the West—meant that attack is likeliest to hit closest to home for Americans. The dead included British, German and Belgian visitors, according to reports.

The U.S. remains at once quite safe and yet more vulnerable than it’s been in a decade, according to authorities. Officials explain the paradox by noting that the surge in the number of attacks worldwide includes few of the “spectacular” strikes such as bombings of civilian airlines, or other plots that the West in particular has hardened itself against. But officials expect more and more of the kind of attacks ISIS calls for — small-bore, lone-wolf, often impulsive attacks that may be impossible to detect in advance.

“In many ways I would say the threat streams now are higher than they’ve been since any time after Sept. 11,” Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican who serves on the House Intelligence subcommittee, tells TIME, speaking before Friday’s attacks. “ISIS has added a whole new dimension to it.”

The group’s power to inspire attacks, largely through its adept use of social media, has intelligence and counter-terrorism authorities scrambling to discern threats that could pop up anywhere a laptop or smart phone connects to the Internet. It’s a far more diffuse threat than Western countries faced from al-Qaeda, which organized specific plots through a rigid hierarchy, notes Jane Harman, formerly ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Subcommittee, now director of the Wilson Center in Washington. “A terror cell [now] is somebody on the web encountering some dangerous information,” Harman says. “That’s a terror cell.”

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