Gangs of Tehran: how Iran takes out its enemies abroad

‘It was Friday afternoon, around 2.45. I came out of the house and was going towards the car on the driver’s side,’ Pouria Zeraati says casually. Zeraati – a presenter at the London-based TV station, Iran International – is recounting what was probably an Iranian state-sponsored attack. ‘I was approached by a man who pretended to be someone asking for £3. The second man then approached. They held me strong, very firmly, and the first person stabbed me in my leg.’ The Iranian regime is reshaping the murder-for-hire market in the US and parts of Europe Zeraati is talking on his first day back at work since he was knifed

Why are the German authorities so reluctant to believe in neo-Nazi attacks?

Enver Simsek’s life story was one familiar to many migrants. He moved from Turkey to a small town in Germany, then worked hard in a factory during the week and as a cleaner at weekends before starting his own business as a florist. By the turn of this century, he employed almost a dozen people selling his blooms from stalls and stands across Bavaria. So in the summer of 2000, he took his wife and two teenage children back to his native land for a break. Soon after returning, the 38-year-old was shot eight times in the head and shoulder, left dying in a pool of blood amid the bouquets

Is terrorism really a mental health problem?

When news first broke of the terrorist attack last Saturday in Paris, the French government rushed out a statement describing the suspect in custody as a French citizen born in France. His name was given as Armand R.   More details gradually emerged and the picture painted of the man accused of stabbing to death a German tourist was what every western government dreads – that of a man who bit the hand that fed him. It is a story not too dissimilar to that of Salman Abedi, who detonated a bomb at the Manchester Arena in 2017, killing himself and 22 others. Abedi was born in Manchester to Libyan parents who

America has lost the war against Islamist terror in Africa

After 9/11, the US built a network of military outposts across the northern tier of Africa to fight a shadow war against Islamist groups, and Niger became central to the effort. From Base Airienne 201, known to locals as ‘Base Americaine’, US drones were sent across the region to track down Islamist terrorists. The coup against President Bazoum marks another disruption in this long-running, mostly secret, war on terror. American troops in Niger are currently confined to their bases. The future of America’s two-decade counterterrorism campaign there is in doubt. In 2008, about 2,600 US military personnel were deployed in Africa, but today, there are around 6,500 troops and civilian

An exposé of drug smuggling and terrorism reads like a first-rate thriller

The crucial moment in this vivid exposé of the murky world of transnational crime comes in 2015. Mustafa Badreddine, one of two Lebanese Shia cousins who for three decades had led the deadliest Iranian-linked terrorist network in the Middle East, was finally indicted by a UN special tribunal investigating the assassination of the Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri a decade earlier. After an extraordinary career of mayhem, Badreddine had spent the previous three years leading an elite Hezbollah militia shoring up President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. But the tide had turned, and in July 2015 Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Quds force in Syria, secretly flew to Moscow to

Violence in Silicon Valley: The Wolf Hunt, by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, reviewed

‘I believe it’s the writer’s job to force the reader to look where they usually avoid looking,’ Ayelet Gundar-Goshen has said. The Wolf Hunt, her fourth novel translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston, shines a light on racial tensions in America. Israeli-born Lilach and Mikhael Shuster live in Silicon Valley with their 16-year-old son Adam. Like many men in the community, Mikhael works in tech, although rather than developing apps his company makes weapons. Having given up an academic career to follow her husband, Lilach works as a cultural coordinator at a retirement home. ‘Most of the women here coordinated something,’ she observes wryly. When a man with a

Terrorists you might know or love: Brotherless Night, by V.V. Ganeshananthan, reviewed

Brotherless Night is the second novel by V.V. Ganeshananthan, an American writer of Sri Lankan Tamil descent, whose debut, Love Marriage, was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2008. Here, as in her previous book, a female narrator unpicks the lives of a Sri Lankan family torn apart by civil war. Sashi’s reason for studying medicine, and her oft-repeated mantra, is: ‘First do no harm’ The prologue, set in New York in 2009, explodes with its opening sentence: ‘I recently sent a letter to a terrorist I used to know.’ But the bulk of the novel, set in 1980s Sri Lanka, is a mesmerising portrait of time and

A shocking claim about the Baghdad bombings of 1950 and 1951

Avi Shlaim’s family led the good life in Baghdad. Prosperous and distinguished members of Iraq’s Jewish minority, a community which could trace its presence in Babylon back more than 2,500 years, they had a large house with servants and nannies, went to the best schools, rubbed shoulders with the great and the good and sashayed elegantly from one glittering party to the next. Shlaim’s father was a successful businessman who counted ministers as friends. His much younger mother was a socially ambitious beauty who attracted admirers, from Egypt’s King Farouk to a Mossad recruiter. For this privileged section of Iraqi society, it was a rich, cosmopolitan and generally harmonious milieu.

Risk aversion and the failure of our emergency services

The litany of errors in the emergency services’ response to the Manchester Arena attack has been widely detailed this week, from a senior police officer who failed to pass on crucial information, to a key fire officer who spent an hour driving in from his home, and a specialised paramedic unit that took 44 minutes to arrive from Stockport. The only paramedic to turn up in that three quarters of an hour – because he had ‘self-deployed’ – was supposed to triage patients but forgot his triage cards and never went back to his vehicle to get them. A ‘risk averse’ senior fire officer set off a chain of events

Are we ready for the next war?

Is Britain ready to fight tomorrow’s wars? ‘Ish,’ answers James Heappey, the armed forces minister. Britain’s military is in an okay state, he says. But we need to spend more money on ammunition, medics and logistics systems. Our high-tech kit, the kind that helps us wage electronic warfare and collect data on our enemy’s positions, needs to be better connected with what our soldiers on the ground are doing. Liam Fox, the Tory MP and former defence secretary, is scathing about how we identify threats. ‘We have to stop substituting wishful thinking for critical analysis’, he says, to approving murmurs from the audience at Tory party conference. Fox asks us to remember the 2007

Isis is wreaking havoc in Afghanistan

The bomb tore through an examination hall in Kabul on Friday, where students – mostly minority Hazara, mostly young women – were sitting a practice test in preparation for university. Thirty-five were killed, dozens more injured. An unspeakable human tragedy. We don’t formally know who did it, but we can guess. Under the Taliban’s leadership, Afghanistan is a haven for terrorists. And the terrorists compete. The Taliban is, in my judgement, indistinguishable from al-Qaeda. Its eyes are still firmly placed on international terrorism: a campaign of domestic terror within Afghanistan against ‘enemies within’ – be they former members of the internationally-recognised Afghan government, or religious minorities, or campaigners for liberty

Prevent and the problem of ‘political correctness’

Britain is reviewing its cornerstone anti-terror programme. As the name implies, Prevent is a strategy designed to stop radicalisation before it metastasises into killer intent. But how well is it working? There have been accusations that Prevent is discriminatory. Groups such as Liberty and the Muslim Council of Britain have criticised the anti-terror strategy for targetting Muslims, arguing that it has caused hurt to Britain’s Islamic communities. But there are also criticisms that, even on its own terms, the Home Office programme isn’t working as well as it should. Dame Sara Khan, the social cohesion tsar, last week warned that efforts to tackle Islamist extremism are being hampered by ‘political

Is Israel facing a new Intifada?

Dizengoff Street is one of the busiest thoroughfares in Tel Aviv, a strip of bars, restaurants and Bauhaus architecture that is typically bustling with young people on a Thursday evening. Last night, it was the scene of the latest Palestinian terror attack when a gunman opened fire outside the Ilka bar, killing three and wounding nine. One of those killed was Olympic kayaker Barak Lopen, who represented Israel at Beijing 2008 and London 2012. In the past two weeks, 14 Israelis have been killed by a mixture of Palestinian and Israeli-Arab terrorists. For comparison, there were 17 terrorism-related fatalities in the entirety of last year. I asked on Coffee House

Will Macron surrender to the mob?

It has been a torrid few days in France. In the early hours of Saturday morning, a former Argentine rugby international, Federico Aramburú, was shot dead on a chic Paris street after an altercation in a bar. The suspect is a notorious far-right activist who allegedly told Aramburú that he didn’t belong in France. On Monday Corsican nationalist Yvan Colonna died, three weeks after he was beaten into a coma by fellow prisoner and infamous extremist, Franck Elong Abé, an Islamist who was captured fighting for the Taliban a decade ago. It is alleged that Abé justified his attack on the grounds that Colonna ‘had bad-mouthed the Prophet’. Even among battle-hardened Jihadists, Abé was

I’m getting sick of the Tories

I suppose this happens to all of us at different speeds, but I am getting a little fed up of this government. In particular, I am getting fed up of the gap between its rhetoric and its actions. Most of the time this is most noticeable with the Prime Minister, who gives his base the occasional morsel of right-wingery only to then force-feed them great dollops of lefty-greenery. On a trip to Washington, Priti Patel has demonstrated that she is also no stranger to this tactic. So far we have had Patel (the DC version) talk about ‘the mass migration crisis’, as though she is merely an observer of the crisis

Gavin Mortimer

How Britain and France learned to live with terror

Emmanuel Macron told his people last summer they would have to learn to live with Covid. A year-and-a-half on, France is unrecognisable to the country it once was: Covid passports are in force and face masks remain mandatory in many places. The president of France is not alone among Western leaders in his uncompromising approach to the pandemic: Holland, Austria and Germany are re-imposing restrictions and Boris Johnson, who used the ‘learn to live with it’ line in July, has refused to rule out a Christmas lockdown. Yet while Europe’s presidents and prime ministers appear ready to go to any length to protect their people from this virus, their approach to another

What the Liverpool attack means for Britain

What’s happening in Liverpool? This morning police declared the detonation of a device in a taxi outside a large women’s hospital, and subsequent arrests of four people in the city, as a ‘terrorist incident’. It has just been announced that our terror threat level has been raised from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’ meaning another attack is highly likely.  It appears the Liverpool incident involved a taxi passenger detonating an improvised explosive device outside the hospital, which was apparently its intended destination. The single passenger was killed as the car exploded and was engulfed in flames. The CCTV image is extraordinary, showing a blast of some force showering debris around. The taxi’s driver

Gus Carter

Terror threat level raised to ‘severe’

The Home Secretary Priti Patel has just announced that the terror threat level has been raised to ‘severe’ meaning that another attack is now considered ‘highly likely’. The move comes after yesterday’s explosion in Liverpool was declared to be a ‘terrorist incident’. Speaking after a Cobra meeting, Patel confirmed that the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre had raised the threat level following the Liverpool attack.  The Home Secretary said that the decision had been taken because two terror attacks had been confirmed in the last month, the former being the murder of MP Sir David Amess. Patel told reporters:  The Prime Minister has this afternoon just chaired a Cobra meeting and I attended that meeting

Gus Carter

Liverpool terror attack: what we know so far

Britain has been subjected to another terror attack, just as the nation fell silent for yesterday’s annual Remembrance Sunday memorial. An explosion occurred in a taxi outside the Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Sunday morning, killing the passenger and leaving the driver in hospital. Police have now confirmed that the incident is being treated as a terror attack.  Reports suggest that the driver, David Perry, noticed that his passenger had a device and locked himself in the car alongside the bomber. The as-yet-unnamed passenger was declared dead at the scene. Boris Johnson has hailed Mr Perry’s ‘incredible presence of mind and bravery’. He was discharged from hospital last night after receiving treatment for cuts and burns as

The enduring power of Japan’s doomsday cults

 Tokyo It is now 26 years since the doomsday cult known as Aum Shinrikyu (‘supreme truth’) carried out the worst domestic terrorist attack in Japanese history. Led by their leader Shoko Asahara, Aum released sarin gas on to the Tokyo subway, killing 13 and injuring 6,000. It remains the only time a weapon of mass destruction has been deployed by a private organisation. The details were sickening: one woman had to have her eyes surgically removed because the nerve gas fused her contact lenses on to them. Despite Asahara’s execution in 2018, the death cult has (somehow) survived, changing its name to Aleph and spawning two splinter groups. Aleph is