TIME Libya

Gunmen Storm Libya Hotel, Killing American, 9 Others

Mideast Libya
In this image made from video posted by a Libyan blogger, the Cortinthia Hotel is seen under attack in Tripoli, Libya, on Jan. 27, 2015 @AliTweel—AP

Ten people are dead, including an American, a French citizen and three people from Asia

(TRIPOLI) — In the latest sign of Libya’s descent into chaos, gunmen stormed a luxury hotel used by diplomats and businessmen in the capital on Tuesday, killing 10 people, including an American, a French citizen and three people from Asia.

Two attackers were killed following an hourslong standoff that included a car bomb that exploded in the parking lot of the seaside Corinthia Hotel. It was unclear if other gunmen were involved in the attack, which also killed five Libyan guards.

In Twitter posts and a statement on social media, a Tripoli affiliate of the Islamic State group was said to be behind the attack, but there was little evidence to back up the claims in a country that has been awash in armed extremist groups who would be equally suspect.

The SITE intelligence group reported that the two dead gunmen were identified online as sympathizers of IS and said the militants said the hotel was targeted because it houses diplomatic missions and “crusader” security companies. However, The Associated Press was unable to independently confirm the claims, which didn’t conform with the group’s earlier postings from Libya.

Militants claiming the attack on behalf of a group called the Islamic State of the Tripoli Province posted a brief video showing burned cars in the hotel’s parking lot and said it was to avenge the 2013 abduction by American commandos of a Libyan al-Qaida operative, Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, also known as Abu Anas al-Libi. Al-Ruqai died earlier this month in a New York hospital of complications from liver surgery while awaiting trial for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The assault highlights the growing threat from militant groups that operate with near impunity in a country torn between rival governments since the 2011 toppling and killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Since Gadhafi’s ouster, the country has been torn among competing militias and tribes vying for power. Libya’s post-Gadhafi transition has collapsed, with two rival governments and parliaments — each backed by different militias — ruling in the country’s eastern and western regions.

Amid the bloody political rivalry, multiple armed groups have emerged, including radical Islamist militias who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, including one based in the eastern city of Derna, a stronghold of radical groups, as well as regional militias and groups loyal to the former regime.

Tripoli, which has been controlled by Islamist militiamen mostly from the western city of Misrata since the summer, has been hit with a series of car bombs and shootings. The internationally recognized government has been forced to relocate to the country’s east, where a former general has waged an offensive against Islamist militias, including Ansar al-Shariah, blamed for the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead.

A senior U.S. State Department official confirmed that a U.S. citizen was among those killed in Tuesday’s attack, but did not provide further details. Cliff Taylor, the CEO of a Virginia security company, Crucible LLC, identified the slain American as David Berry, a contractor with his company.

A French national and three citizens of a former Soviet republic were also among the dead, according to a spokesman for a Tripoli security agency, Essam al-Naas.

The Malta-owned Corinthia hotel, among the most luxurious in Tripoli, is frequented by diplomats and foreign businessmen visiting Libya, and is also where the United Nations support mission in Libya usually holds its meetings. The mission is currently hosting political talks with rival Libyan groups in Geneva, trying to resolve the country’s political and security crisis.

The hotel had Italian, British and Turkish guests but was largely empty at the time of the attack, according to hotel staff members. There was also a visiting American delegation.

The militia-backed government in Tripoli said the target was Prime Minister Omar al-Hassi, who normally resides at the hotel but was not there at the time of the attack. Spokesman Amr Baiou told reporters al-Hassi was unharmed.

A security official in Tripoli, Omar al-Khadrawi, said initial investigations pointed to a group of former Gadhafi loyalists.

Reports about how the attack unfolded were conflicting and it was not immediately possible to reconcile the different accounts.

Hotel staffers initially said that five masked gunmen stormed the Corinthia after security guards at the hotel’s gate tried to stop them, firing randomly at the staff in the lobby as guests fled out the hotel’s back doors into the parking lot.

One staffer said a car bomb exploded in the parking lot after a protection force entered the lobby and opened fire on the gunmen. Two guards were immediately killed, according to the staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared being targeted by militants.

The car bomb incinerated at least five cars in the parking lot and damaged windows in the hotel’s facade, he said.

Al-Naas, the security agency spokesman, said after a standoff of several hours, the attackers threw a grenade at the security forces on the hotel’s 24th floor, killing themselves and a security guard. Ten people were also wounded in the attack, including security guards and guests.

“The operation is over,” al-Naas said but added that the streets around the Corinthia remained closed. He said an investigation was underway and the car used by the gunmen is believed to be the same one used in an assault on the Algerian embassy 10 days ago that wounded three guards.

The U.N. Security Council condemned the attack “in the strongest terms” and urged all countries to help bring “the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice.” In a statement approved by all 15 members, the council also urged all parties in Libya “to engage constructively” with U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon and resume “an inclusive political process aimed at addressing the political and security challenges” facing Libya.

The Corinthia previously came under attack in 2013 when gunmen abducted then prime minister Ali Zeidan, who was living there. He was released several hours later.

TIME Greece

5 Facts About the Greek Elections

Greek Prime Minister and Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras, at the Presidential palace during the swearing in ceremony of the new Greek Government, Athens, Jan. 27, 2015 .
Greek Prime Minister and Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras, at the Presidential palace during the swearing in ceremony of the new Greek Government, Athens, Jan. 27, 2015 . Panayiotis Tzamaros/NurPhoto/Corbis

The results of Sunday's elections in Greece pose major challenges to Europe

On Sunday, Greek elections ushered in a radical left-wing Syriza government in sweeping fashion: the party won 149 seats—two short of an absolute majority—on the back of its anti-establishment, anti-austerity platform. How dissatisfied are Greeks with the status quo? How does that compare with Germany, heading into tense negotiations over the southern European country’s debt? And where can Greece turn for support? Here are five facts that explain the situation.

1. Surging discontent

In 2010, Syriza was polling at 5%. In last weekend’s elections, they captured more than 36% of the vote. Meanwhile, Golden Dawn, an anti-immigration party with neo-Nazi associations, took third place with 6%. Perhaps a different poll best explains this surge in support for anti-establishment parties. In a Pew Research survey measuring economic attitudes, Greece came dead last among all countries polled: just 2% of Greeks think their economic situation is good. (Compare that to the 85% of Germans who are happy with their economy.)

(Eurasia Group, Pew Research)

2. 25%: Greece’s unlucky number

Why so much frustration with the economy? Since the financial crisis struck in 2008, the Greek economy has shrunk by more than 25%. So have wages. The unemployment rate is over 25% too. Youth unemployment is double that, rising to 50.6% in October. (Compare that to 7.4% youth unemployment in Germany.)

(Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the European Magazine, Trading Economics)

3. Under pressure

When Greece inked a historic bailout worth $270 billion dollars, or some $25,000 per Greek citizen from the Troika—the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank—it came with a quid pro quo. The government has undertaken drastic cuts in government spending to try to balance the budget. Education funding has been decimated: over six years of austerity, the Ministry of Education’s budget has been slashed by more than 35%. The pain adds up: the University of Crete endured a budget cut of 75% in 2011, an additional 15% the following year—and a 23% cut is scheduled for this year. Syriza’s argument—that such cuts are a bad bet for Greece’s future and will undermine longer term growth—resonates with the broader Greek population.

(CNBC, European Parliament)

4. Brain drain

With the numbers so bleak, it’s no wonder Greeks are leaving in droves. Migration outflows are up 300% compared to pre-crisis figures; roughly 2% of the population has left, some 200,000 people. Somewhat ironically, over half of these emigrants have headed for Britain—and for Germany. Since 2010, more than 4,000 Greek doctors have left the country for jobs abroad.

(The Guardian, NPR, Deutsche Welle)

5. Pivot to Russia?

Greece has had a little help from a friend outside the EU. In 2013, Russia surpassed Germany to become Greece’s largest trading partner, with trade flows of $12.5 billion. Tourism is a huge part of the Greek economy, contributing over 16% of GDP—and Russia has been the fastest growing source of new visitors. In 2013, tourism revenues from Russia skyrocketed 42%. Of course, recent Western sanctions undermine this budding relationship—a weaker ruble means less tourism, and Russia’s EU food export ban hurts Greek fruit exporters. This could explain why new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with the Russian ambassador to Greece within hours of taking office—and publicly expressed his disapproval with new EU condemnations of Russia.

(Bloomberg, the OEC, EU Observer)

Foreign-affairs columnist Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy. His next book, Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World, will be published in May

TIME Mexico

Mexico Says Investigators Certain 43 Students Are Dead

Mexico's Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam speaks during a press conference in Mexico City on Jan. 27, 2015.
Mexico's Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam speaks during a press conference in Mexico City on Jan. 27, 2015. Alfredo Estrella—AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General says students were "kidnapped, killed, burned and thrown into the river"

(MEXICO CITY) — Investigators are now certain that 43 college students missing since September were killed and incinerated after they were seized by police in southern Guerrero state, the Mexican attorney general said Tuesday.

It was the first time Jesus Murillo Karam said definitely that all were dead, even though Mexican authorities have DNA identification for only one student and a declaration from a laboratory in Innsbruck, Austria, that it appears impossible to identify the others.

The attorney general cited confessions and forensic evidence from an area near a garbage dump where the Sept. 26 crime occurred that showed the fuel and temperature of the fire were sufficient to turn 43 bodies into ashes.

“The evidence allows us to determine that the students were kidnapped, killed, burned and thrown into the river,” Murillo Karam said in a press conference that included a video reconstruction of the mass slaying and of the investigation into the case.

He added that “there is not a single shred of evidence that the army intervened … not a single shred of evidence of the participation of the army,” as relatives of the victims have claimed.

Murillo Karam’s explanation seemed unlikely to quell the controversy and doubts about the case, in which the federal government has been criticized for acting slowly and callously. Thousands of people demonstrated in Mexico City Monday night, demanding the students be returned alive.

“They pretty much gave the same story as they had given two months ago. There are not many additional details,” said analyst Alejandro Hope. “They are searching for closure but I’m not sure they’re going to get it.”

The attorney general has come under attack from many quarters, including the students’ relatives and fire experts, who say the government’s version of what happened is implausible. Family members are still searching in hopes of finding the students alive.

The Argentine Forensic Anthropologists, an independent team hired by parents to work with federal investigators, told The Associated Press on Sunday that there is still not “sufficient evidence” to link the charred remains found by authorities in a river in the town of Cocula to what happened at the garbage dump.

Valentin Cornelio Gonzalez, 30, brother-in-law of missing student Abel Garcia Hernandez, said the shifting theories of what happened to the students have left him and other family members not believing anything that officials say.

“On a personal level, it makes me mad because this is what they’ve always done,” he said of Tuesday’s announcement. “There’s no chance that the parents are going to believe the PGR (saying) that they’re dead. … They are going to look for them alive.”

Murillo Karam said the conclusion was made based on the testimony of a key suspect arrested two weeks ago, Felipe Rodriguez Salgado, who said he was called to get rid of the students. There are also 39 confessions. Based on samples of gasoline, diesel and steel from burned tires, he said, they concluded that the amount of heat from the fire and the location could have kept the blaze going for hours, and that the remains were crushed afterward.

Authorities say they were burned the night of Sept. 26 and over the next day, and their incinerated remains were bagged up and thrown into a nearby river. The remains in the bags found in the river had traces of the garbage dump where the fire occurred, Murillo Karam added.

The scene of the crime was an 800-meter (yard) ravine that resembled a furnace, said criminal investigations chief Tomas Zeron.

Murillo Karam said the information was based as well on 386 declarations, 487 forensic tests, 16 raids and two reconstructions.

So far 99 people have been detained in connection with the crime, including the former mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca.

Murillo Karam said the motive was that the members of a local gang, the Guerreros Unidos, believed the young men were rival gang members when they hijacked some public transit buses in Iguala. But many of the suspects testified that they knew the men were students. The students, known for commandeering buses and taking over toll booths to support their leftist causes, said they were taking the buses for transport to an upcoming demonstration in Mexico City.

“They thought they were infiltrated,” Murillo Karam said at the press conference, adding that there is no indication that the students were part of any criminal group.

The case has sparked protests inside and outside Mexico over the four months since the students disappeared, and has forced the Mexican government to turn its attention from touting economic and education reforms to dealing with the country’s crime and insecurity problems.

Hope, the analyst, said the protests will likely continue as long as there is no unimpeachable evidence that the remains belong to the students. Also unclear are questions such as why the gang members thought the students were rivals, and why they would have killed them even after learning that wasn’t the case.

“We know the who, the what, the when and the where. We don’t know the why,” Hope said. “They have yet to tell a compelling story of why this happened. It doesn’t matter how many people they detain — unless they answer that question, the whole thing will remain under a halo of mystery.”

___

Associated Press writer Peter Orsi in Mexico City contributed.

TIME Middle East

See Kurds Celebrate After Victory Is Declared Over ISIS in Kobani

Following a four-month battle for the Syrian border town

Crowds of people celebrated on Tuesday after Kurdish fighters declared victory over the militants of Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) for control of the Syrian town of Kobani. It’s seen as more of a symbolic win than a strategic turning-point in the conflict, as the group still holds large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Read next: ISIS Still Strong Despite Major Defeat in Kobani

TIME The Holocaust

The Selection at Auschwitz

Auschwitz survivors and families visit the Birkenau Memorial carrying candles on Jan. 27, 2015 in Oswiecim, Poland.
Auschwitz survivors and families visit the Birkenau Memorial carrying candles on Jan. 27, 2015 in Oswiecim, Poland. Ian Gavan—Getty Images

Primo Levi's account of his arrival at the death camp

Seventy years ago today, Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied southern Poland where, from 1942 on, the Nazis killed at least 960,000 Jews, 74,000 Poles, 21,000 Roma (Gypsies), 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and 10,000-15,000 others. Most were killed in gas chambers designed and constructed for the purpose.

In February 1944, less than a year before the liberation, the Italian chemist Primo Levi arrived at the camp with more than 600 other Jews who had been deported from German-occupied Italy in sealed train cars. In all, some 10,000 Jews were deported to concentration and extermination camps from Italy after the German occupation in September 1943.

Following is Levi’s account of the selection process by means of which the Nazis determined who would be killed and who would be kept alive for slave labor, from Survival in Auschwitz, (Simon and Schuster):

The climax came suddenly. The door opened with a crash, and the dark echoed with outlandish orders in that curt, barbaric barking of Germans in command which seems to give vent to a millennial anger. A vast platform appeared before us, lit up by reflectors. A little beyond it, a row of lorries. Then everything was silent again. Someone translated: we had to climb down with our luggage and deposit it alongside the train. In a moment the platform was swarming with shadows. But we were afraid to break that silence: everyone busied himself with his luggage, searched for someone else, called to somebody, but timidly, in a whisper.

A dozen SS men stood around, legs akimbo, with an indifferent air. At a certain moment they moved among us, and in a subdued tone of voice, with faces of stone, began to interrogate us rapidly, one by one, in bad Italian. They did not interrogate everybody, only a few: ‘How old? Healthy or ill?’ And on the basis of the reply they pointed in two different directions.

Everything was as silent as an aquarium, or as in certain dream sequences. We had expected something more apocalyptic: they seemed simple police agents. It was disconcerting and disarming. Someone dared to ask for his luggage: they replied, ‘luggage afterwards’. Someone else did not want to leave his wife: they said, ‘together again afterwards’. Many mothers did not want to be separated from their children: they said ‘good, good, stay with child’. They behaved with the calm assurance of people doing their normal duty of every day. But Renzo stayed an instant too long to say good-bye to Francesca, his fiancée, and with a single blow they knocked him to the ground. It was their everyday duty.

In less than ten minutes all the fit men had been collected together in a group. What happened to the others, to the women, to the children, to the old men, we could establish neither then nor later: the night swallowed them up, purely and simply. Today, however, we know that in that rapid and summary choice each one of us had been judged capable or not of working usefully for the Reich; we know that of our convoy no more than ninety-six men and twenty-nine women entered the respective camps of Monowitz-Buna and Birkenau, and that of all the others, more than five hundred in number, not one was living two days later…

This is the reason why three-year-old Emilia died: the historical necessity of killing the children of Jews was self-demonstrative to the Germans. Emilia, daughter of Aldo Levi of Milan, was a curious, ambitious, cheerful, intelligent child; her parents had succeeded in washing her during the journey in the packed car in a tub with tepid water which the degenerate German engineer had allowed them to draw from the engine that was dragging us all to death.

Thus in an instant, our women, our parents, our children disappeared. We saw them for a short while as an obscure mass at the other end of the platform; then we saw nothing more.

[The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum]

[Centro Primo Levi, New York]

Read next: Eva Kor: What It Was Like to Be Experimented on During the Holocaust

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Arts

Smithsonian Wants to Open Museum in London

General Views of the Olympic Park
An aerial view of the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre and Water Polo Centre in the London 2012 Olympic Park on April 16, 2012 in London, England. Anthony Charlton—LOCOG/Getty Images

Gallery planned for Olympic park would be institute's first international location

The Smithsonian Institute is exploring opening its first international location in London.

The 40,000-square foot Smithsonian gallery would be part of “Olympicopolis,” a cultural center set to open in London’s revamped Olympic park, AP reports.

“We envision this as being a Smithsonian facility that really allows us to show the breadth and depth of everything that we do,” Smithsonian Acting Secretary Al Horvath said. “So it won’t be specifically focused on one topic but will allow us to run the gamut of things that we do — history, science, art, culture and the like.”

London’s mayor and developers for the park site have already secured $50 million to bring a Smithsonian site to “Olympicopolis,” which is set to open in 2021.

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Fighting Intensifies in Eastern Ukraine

A weekend of fierce fighting in Ukraine's embattled Donbass region continued Monday

A weekend of fierce fighting in Ukraine’s embattled Donbass region continued Monday as pro-Russian insurgents encircled Ukrainian government troops in a new advance. The war of words heated up, too, as Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Kiev of relying on a “foreign legion” to wage war against the separatist militias. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called Putin’s comments “nonsense.”

TIME Cuba

Fidel Castro Sends Word That He’s Alive — and Cautiously Optimistic About Talks With the U.S.

El Capitolio, the National Capitol Building in Havana, Dec. 2014.
El Capitolio, the National Capitol Building in Havana, Dec. 2014. Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME

The former Cuban leader and lifelong revolutionary makes it clear that he won't stand in the way of diplomacy with Washington

The letter from Fidel Castro that surfaced on the front page of the state newspaper Granma on Tuesday served two purposes. The first was proof of life. When you’re the founder of a state and your physical condition is subject to almost constant rumor, you don’t arrange to be photographed holding up a copy of a current newspaper to prove that you remain alive. You remark on events that have recently transpired, and make that front page your own.

Which was of course the other thing the senior Castro, 88, accomplished: leaving his mark — however belatedly, guardedly and obtusely — on events that have largely been out of his hands since he handed over power to his brother Raúl in 2006, owing to failing health. Tuesday’s remarks were Fidel’s first since the momentous simultaneous declaration on Dec. 19 by Raúl and President Barack Obama that Cuba and the U.S. would begin to re-establish diplomatic relations, and work together toward removing the more than 50-year-old American economic embargo.

In the meantime a senior State Department delegation had already come to Havana on Jan. 21 and left amid smiles and mutual avowals of continuing the rapprochement. In his public letter Fidel was less effusive, but made it clear that he wouldn’t stand in the way of new diplomatic ties. “I don’t trust the policy of the United States, nor have I exchanged a word with them, but this does not mean I reject a pacific solution to the conflicts,” Castro wrote, in remarks addressed in his name to a student federation at the University of Havana. “We shall always defend the cooperation and friendship between all people, among them our political adversaries,” the letter went on. “With this spirit, I have fought and will continue fighting until my last breath.”

The tones of skepticism, even amid the outpouring of enthusiasm with which ordinary Cubans received word of the rapprochement, shouldn’t be surprising. After reaching out in vain to the Eisenhower Administration after Fidel and his fellow rebels ousted the U.S.-backed Cuban government in 1959, no leader faced more persistent efforts by the U.S. to remove him and undo his revolution. There were direct military attacks, planned assassinations and a long string of assaults by U.S.-backed surrogates spanning more than a decade. Castro’s resilience and increasingly proud defiance of Washington gave him unique standing on the world stage — and made him ever more reviled by the Cuban exiles in the U.S. who loathed his socialist system and often brutal repression of dissidents and rivals.

Today there’s no disputing who is in charge in Cuba. Nearly a decade after taking power, Raúl has brought in his own people, and gradually but steadily pushed for pragmatic changes that have eased the economic hardships that defined Cuban life in the years after the Soviet Union abruptly withdrew its wholesale support at the end of the Cold War. Fidel said as much in his statement, noting that as President, the 83-year-old Raúl “has taken the pertinent steps in accordance with his prerogatives and the powers given to him by the National Assembly the Communist Party of Cuba.” But opening to market forces also threatens the system of social equality that was a hallmark of the Castro regime — a risk that likely accounts for much of the wariness evident in Fidel’s missive.

Fidel, who hasn’t spoken in public in years, is clearly not well. He remains at home on his ranch on the western outskirts of the capital, his health widely believed to be fragile at best. After a flurry of rumors a fortnight ago that he had suffered a fatal stroke, he sent a letter to the soccer legend Diego Maradona, an old friend, saying he was very much alive. (The confusion was due in part to the very real death earlier this month of Fidel Castro Odinga, the son of Kenya’s opposition leader.) But as the embodiment of the Revolution, the Bearded One retains the power of paterfamilias status, and perhaps a good deal more, among ordinary Cubans.

“I’ve got a lot of faith in my government,” said Caridad Alfonso, 43, at a beer garden along the shore after finishing her day as a general practitioner in Havana. “We are Fidelistas. We love Fidel even though he’s not the President any more and we follow Raúl.”

But she welcomed the opening to the U.S., especially as framed by both Raúl and Obama and their diplomats, who make frequent mentions of mutual respect and sovereignty, as well as “profound disagreements.”

“Now we’re equal,” Alfonso said. “It’s a good beginning.” And Fidel Castro may be around to see the end as well.

TIME European Union

E.U. Anti-Terror Chief Calls for Rehab for Jihadis

BELGIUM-EU-FRANCE-ATTACKS-CHARLIE-HEBDO-DE-KERCHOVE
EU counter-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove gives an interview on Jan. 13, 2015 to Agence France-Presse in reaction to the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris in his office at European Coucil headquarters in Brussels. Emmanuel Dunand—AFP/Getty Images

It would remain a challenge to be sure when and if they are fully de-radicalized

(BRUSSELS) — The European Union’s anti-terror chief called Tuesday for countries to rehabilitate rather than punish returning jihadis with no blood on their hands, saying that some prisons have become “incubators of radicalization.”

EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said in an interview with The Associated Press that “if we can avoid prison, let’s avoid prison.”

At a time when EU nations are still shocked by the attacks in France early this month, many are pushing for swift, repressive measures for anyone who has gone off to fight holy war in Syria or Iraq.

And even if true criminals among the returnees need to be punished with jail time, “I don’t advise to bring them all to court because it would be a mistake,” De Kerchove said.

Since the Jan. 7-9 Paris attacks that killed 20 people, including the three gunmen, dozens of people have been charged in France with defending terrorism. Several were almost immediately convicted under special measures for immediate sentencing. Inciting terrorism can bring a five-year prison term — or up to seven years for inciting terrorism online.

“We know how much jails are major incubators of radicalization. Much better, provided they accept to do that, they undertake major rehabilitation,” De Kerchove said.

France recently expanded prison terms for terrorism-related offenses, but the country was still caught off-guard when a member of a jihadi network worked in tandem with his brother and a former jailhouse acquaintance during three days of attacks in the Paris region.

“These people got radicalized in prison,” De Kerchove said.

And for those who are convicted, he suggests jails be designed “in a way that they are not in contact with petty criminals” and instead can meet with moderate imams. Belgium is already working on such plans.

A major challenge facing the authorities is to collect evidence against foreign fighters traveling to conflict-torn Syria that would stand up in European courts.

In many cases it’s virtually impossible to prove whether suspects have joined the Syrian rebels in their fight against Syrian President Bashar Assad or joined the ranks of the Islamic State group.

De Kerchove looked positively on a program for returnees in Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, which former political extremists and foreign fighters can voluntarily join.

On Tuesday, Denmark earmarked 60.9 million kroner ($9.2 million) over the next three years for programs to de-radicalize Islamic extremists, including those who have fought with jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq.

Justice Minister Mette Frederiksen said about 7 million kroner ($1 million) will be spent on exit programs for former foreign fighters.

Swedish terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp stressed the program “is in no way a reward, a second chance on a silver plate. It is about protecting society, and avoid having people running around with a knife or an ax.”

“Many countries rely on repression but punitive methods are a recipe to create resentment toward the society,” Ranstorp said.

Whatever program returnees enter, it would remain a challenge to be sure when and if they are fully de-radicalized, but De Kerchove said it was “probably something achievable.”

Meanwhile, anti-terror raids in France and Belgium netted five more suspects on Tuesday as Paris urged its EU partners to step up the fight against terror financing with new measures to make transactions more transparent.

Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that raids in southern France detained five people and broke up “one more network” in a small town that has seen several youths leave to fight in Syria and Iraq.

In western Belgium, authorities detained three men in an operation linked to a terror threat but they were later released and not charged, said prosecutor spokeswoman Karlien Ververken.

A raid in the eastern town of Verviers earlier this month left two suspects dead and later put seven more behind bars. Belgian authorities said that raid had averted an imminent major terrorist attack against police and their offices.

At EU headquarters, European finance ministers endorsed an anti-money laundering deal and threw their weight behind French proposals to boost intelligence-sharing on terror financing, tighten controls on virtual currencies like bitcoins and crack down on anonymous money transfers.

“We have to stop this anonymity. It is really dangerous for our citizens,” French Finance Minister Michel Sapin told reporters.

The new money-laundering plan aims to ensure that the real owners of companies and trusts are listed in public registers in Europe, and to force banks, auditors, lawyers and others to be more vigilant about suspicious transactions. The measures will be debated by EU leaders on February 12.

___

Lorne Cook in Brussels, Lori Hinnant in Paris and Jan Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this article

TIME South Sudan

South Sudan Militant Group to Release 3,000 Child Soldiers

Child soldiers at Cobra camp in Gumuruk, South Sudan go to a demobilization ceremony. UNICEF

UNICEF calls it "one of the largest ever demobilizations of children."

Nearly three hundred children between ages 11 and 17 laid down their arms Tuesday, in the first step of an ambitious program to reintegrate some 3,000 child soldiers in South Sudan, according to UNICEF.

The children are members of the South Sudan Democratic Army Cobra Faction, a militant group in eastern Sudan whose leader, David Yau Yau, signed a peace agreement with the government last year amid ongoing violence in the country.

UNICEF, which helped broker the children’s release, said it would mark one of the largest demobilization of children soldiers ever. It expects the full handover to take weeks.

“These children have been forced to do and see things no child should ever experience,” UNICEF South Sudan Representative Jonathan Veitch said in a statement.

Since fighting broke out between President Salva Kiir and supporters of Vice President Riek Machar in December 2013, the country—which broke off from Sudan, its northern neighbor, in 2011—has been embroiled in a conflict between the government and rebel groups that has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced some 1.5 million others.

But the conflict has taken a disproportionate toll on children, forcing some 400,000 students out of school and prompting a surge in the number of child soldiers, according to Ettie Higgins, the deputy representative for UNICEF in South Sudan. Since the fighting began, an estimated 12,000 children have been recruited to fight with armed groups on both sides.

Now UNICEF and other organizations, in conjunction with the government, are aiming to return those children to their families.

“They’re happy to give their gun up and they just want to go to school,” Higgins said in a telephone interview from South Sudan after the first group of 280 children were released. “That’s been the key message we’re getting.”

UNICEF and its partner organizations said they will provide counseling and health care to the children as they attempt to reunite them with their families. The aid groups are also working with local communities, which have agreed to welcome back the children recruited by the Cobra Faction, to prevent discrimination and limit the chances that the children are again recruited.

But UN officials stress that the program risks stalling if funding dries up. UNICEF, which is appealing for $10 million in funding, says the process of reintigrating the children costs roughly $2,330 a child over two years.

“At the risk of sounding like other conflict zones, we don’t want to lose another generation here,” Higgins said. “These children, despite everything they’ve gone through, they’re still looking to the future. We mustn’t let them down.”

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