Ms. Rukmini Callimachi, Foreign Correspondent covering ISIS & al Qaeda, The New York Times, United States of America
The session was part of the ICT's 16th World Summit on Counter-Terrorism: "Unpuzzling Terrorism". Ms. Callimachi reviewed ISIS' focus on the West, particularly Europe, and claimed that this focus is a result of both lost ground in the Middle East and an act of revenge. She discussed both thwarted plots and attacks that were carried out, highlighting ISIS' desire and ability to carry out attacks in Western countries.
Ms. Callimachi began her speech by showing a photo of the Eiffel Tower. The forefront of the picture showed regular soldiers in a major touristic district. She did this to emphasize the implementation of higher security measures in European metropolis areas after several recent attacks.
According to Ms. Callimachi, ISIS is losing ground in Iraq and Syria, which has caused it to lash out with various terrorist attacks against Europe. The terrorist organization was interested mainly in governing the territory they held and fought the near enemy. Nowadays, ISIS focuses on the far enemy, the West, as an act of revenge. What is alarming is the very limited knowledge we have about ISIS after two years.
The presentation focused on thwarted plots and attacks that took place on European soil. Furthermore, Callimachi elaborated on the work of intelligence agencies. The focus of the keynote was the foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq who were trained to carry out these attacks. She also shared the valuable information that helped to trace and arrest various suspects of terrorist involvement.
Ms. Callimachi brought up a number of key events and individuals who had acted as a lone wolf with connection to ISIS:
1.January 3rd 2014; Abraham Budina
In a small village in Greece close to Turkish borders police stopped a suspicious car. In the car there was a manual on how to create a TATP substance, a substance widely used by ISIS in suicide bombings. TATP was used in attacks in both Paris and Belgium. Other attacks in Europe have been noted to have TATP present.
A 50-page manual in French was found on how to make a bomb using TATP. The manual was very accurate; if it was followed precisely it could create a bomb. The key ingredients to the bomb are easily obtainable. TATP was also found in the car.
TATP is not an explosive which ISIS uses in Iraq and Syria. The use of military explosive TNT, CN4 is preferable since it is more powerful. These kinds of explosives are much more easily detectable in the West, which is why they are not used there.
The police arrested the terrorist suspect before he carried out the attack. According to his internet search history – ‘hydrogen peroxide, oxygenated water, acetone’, also the ‘list of military camps, Jewish defence league, wigs, disguises, masks.’
His family and friends were also under surveillance, which found the link between ISIS and Budina (calls, messages). His friends knew that he was coming back to commit an attack.
2.May 24th 2014; Mehdi Nemmouche
Attack in a museum in Belgium, four people killed. Official report said that Nemmouche did not have a connection to ISIS and acted alone. However, one of the hostages held by ISIS identified Nemmouche as one the ISIS guards who had previously tortured him. Only trusted members and insiders had access to EU hostages.
3.June 2014; establishment of the Caliphate declared by Abu Mohammad Al-Adnani
Three months after that (September 2014), the US launched airstrikes on Syria
French nationality, sent to Beirut to carry out a suicide mission targeting Shia
First evidence of a person who was sent directly from Syria to commit the attack abroad; assumed he was sent there on orders by Al-Adnani
Foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq started causing problems on European doorsteps
Charlie Hebdo attack, committed by a young man, no affiliation with ISIS
Because of the massive attention and investigation, intelligence services missed the plot in Belgium, which took a place a week afterwards
During the raids in Brussels, Belgium police found an arsenal of automatic firearms, precursors for the TATP, a body camera, multiple cell phones, hand radios, police uniforms, fraudulent identification document and large quality of cash
Abdelhamid Abaaoud –appeared in Dabiq (ISIS magazine). He was linked to the Brussels’ museum attack. Belgium citizen, attended private school, and previously jailed for various crimes.
Callimachi explained the concept of Emni, whichis described as a branch inside ISIS. It is responsible for sending fighters to carry out terrorist attacks abroad. Furthermore, it serves as internal security wing of ISIS. In order to strengthen efficiency, Emni sends spies to Europe. They receive months of training to be able to carry out a successful attack.
Ms. Callimachi shared her personal experience with a suspect held on house arrest. He was an individual with a criminal past, fluent in German and English who lived extended period in both England and Germany. During the interview with Ms. Callimachi, he explained the procedure of recruitment and how ISIS was encouraging him to carry out the attack on German soil. In his words, ISIS did not have many people willing to carry out the attack in Germany. When he asked about France, they started laughing, told him to do not worry about France. A few months later, the gruesome 13th November attack occurred.