VICE News asked people around the world about what they think are the big issues. Terrorism was one of them. Find out what they had to say. Subscribe now: http://bit.ly/Subscribe-to-VICE-News
What is terrorism and what are its causes? Is it an act of pure hatred? Is it politics by other means? Or is it simply the result of “the human mind and soul not being taken care of?” Find out what people in Kabul, Tel Aviv, Beirut, New York and beyond had to say, and tell us what you think: upload a YouTube response, or share a post with the hashtag #vicenews on Twitter, Instagram, or Vine.
Are Terrorists Intent on Destroying the Sochi Olympics?
On Sunday, December 29, a bomb exploded in the entrance of the main train station in Volgograd, Russia, where people were lining up to enter the building. Early the next morning, a bomb exploded on a packed trolleybus during rush hour. The two attacks killed a total of 34 people, with many more wounded.
The suicide bombings came just before New Year’s Eve, which is a particularly big holiday in Russia and comes just weeks away from the start of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, a popular resort town on the Black Sea coast.
No one has claimed responsibility, but fingers were immediately pointed toward Russia’s North Caucasus. Doku Umarov, the leader of an umbrella Islamist organization known as the Caucasus Emirate, had previously called on his followers to use “maximum force” to prevent the Winter Olympics from taking place.
The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) is supposed to prevent passengers from slipping anything that could be used as a weapon past its multiple layers of security personnel, scanning devices, and explosive-detecting swabs. Trouble is, there are a slew of items that you can purchase just past the security checkpoint that can be turned into a makeshift arsenal. Evan Booth, a computer programmer and self-styled security researcher has crafted a wide range of explosive, incendiary, and projectile-launching devices made from seemingly innocuous items. VICE’s Tim Pool traveled to North Carolina to meet with Evan and get a demonstration of how the massive and costly infrastructure of the TSA may be little more than a security blanket.
Is the East Mediterranean the Next Front in the War on Terror?
Collaborative efforts by the Greek and Turkish governments to fight terrorism have been in the headlines since June, when Turkish dissident Bulut Yayla was abducted from Athens and somehow wound up in Istanbul. Yayla allegedly had links to the DHKP-C, a far-left group that’s banned in Turkey and has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings. The Greek police denied all knowledge of the extradition, but evidence from various reportssuggested that this was bullshit. Yayla is still being held by the Turkish police on terrorism charges. His lawyer has been trying to go to Greece for the past six months in order to turn in crucial evidence relevant to the investigation into his abduction, but has been unable to get the necessary visa.
Until recently, other Turkish leftists in Greece were prepared for a similar fate: extradition followed by inevitable imprisonment. Among them were four Turks who were arrested in August after the Greek authorities seized a boat allegedly carrying guns and explosives from the Greek island of Chios to the DHKP-C in Turkey. They went on a hunger strike that lasted more than 50 days to protest their possible deportation. One, Mehmet Yayla, has particularly pressing concerns about going back to Turkey—he said he was tortured by the authorities there and survived two assassination attempts before fleeing the country.
At the NSA, analysts follow a law that is “effectively the same standard that’s used for stop-and-frisk,” according to the agency’s general counsel, Rajesh De, when asked this morning by Rachel Brand of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight board to explain the Reasonable and Articulable Suspicion Standard—the legal method through which NSA determines to further examine and query the phone records of supposed terrorists.
Swimming with Warlords – After Twelve Years of War, a Road Trip Through Afghanistan
nder the cover of a moonless night in mid-October 2001, I found myself loading thousands of pounds of camera equipment and supplies onto a giant pontoon boat on the northern bank of the Amu Darya River. The pontoons were normally used to carry weapons to the northern Alliance troops fighting the Taliban on the other side of the water. With all the gear and colleagues, there didn’t seem to be any room left on that raft for allegory, but I remembered feeling like one of the damned souls of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, about to be ferried across the River Acheron to hell. The American air strikes had begun, and I was headed into Afghanistan.
I was dispatched by NBC News only one week after Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terror network attacked the US, crashing planes into the Pentagon and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. I arrived in Afghanistan in October to bear witness to America’s righteous anger and retribution. It was swift and unrelenting.
In my first month on the ground, I watched as the US obliterated al Qaeda’s bases and, with the help of its Northern Alliance allies—a mix of mostly ethnic Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara Afghans—toppled the Taliban government that had hosted them. But the war, as we well know, did not end there.
I returned to Afghanistan in June for my fifth visit, on the eve of the planned 2014 withdrawal of foreign troops (a joint security agreement will likely keep some US military personnel there past the deadline) in attempt to understand what had happened to the country in the 12 years since I first set foot there and what might happen this time, after I left.
How the Shutdown Confused al-Qaeda
While the government shutdown seems like an expected event to Americans, recent research indicates that in other parts of the world it appears irrational and incomprehensible. This became apparent over the past few days as foreign media outlets struggled to make sense of the shutdown and the elaborate congressional choreography leading to it.
Furthermore, an intercept of a conversation between two al-Qaeda operatives confirmed what some have suspected for a long time: American politics is a joke. It also revealed that even an organization known for suicide operations can be baffled by the self-destructive tendencies of the US political system. Below is a transcript of this revealing conversation between the two al-Qaeda members, referred to as A and B.
A: Al Salamu Alaykom, Brother B.
B: Al Salamu Alaykom. How are the preparation or the, er, party?
A: Not so good. I’m afraid the venue is closed down.
B: Closed down? That’s bad news. Did you move to the alternative venue?
A: It’s also closed down. In fact, they are all closed down.
B: What? This is incredible. How could this happen?
A: All government buildings are closed. Didn’t you hear about the shutdown?
B: The shutdown? Vaguely, yes, I thought it was a new American movie. They were talking about it on TV and they were using that voice they use for movies.
A: It’s not a movie! They are closing down government departments!
B: That’s incredible, why would they do that?
A: It seems we have overestimated how efficient their political system is. When they can’t agree they just shut down the whole thing and go home.
Somali Jihadists’ Growing Pains Are a Pain for Everyone
When I left Somaliland (northern Somalia) a few weeks ago, after two months spent listening to the chatter and news in cafes and ministries, I’d come to believe that the Somalia-based violent jihadist group al-Shabaab, while still dangerous, was fundamentally shattered. During my stay I chatted with former Shabaab supporters and even an ex-Shabaab soldier, Qawdhan, whose stories of infighting between older members, who believed in a limited, nationalist agenda, and the younger recruits who advocated international jihad, led me to believe that the organization, though swollen with manpower, had descended into paralyzed bickering, limiting its ability to act.
Today the president of Kenya announced the siege carried out by members of Shabaabon the Westgate Shopping Center in Nairobi was over. Still, the attack, which began on Saturday when armed militants stormed the mall, killing civilians and taking hostages, made it clear my assumptions were incorrect. As of this writing, the body count sits at 67—61 civilians and six soldiers—with almost 200 wounded, at least ten of them officers, and the news remains dominated by images of bodies splayed on the ground and a plume of black smoke rising up from the mall.
Qawdhan was a member of the old Shabaab guard. During his time the group was composed of Somali nationalists pushing for an Islamic state as a means to end foreign interference in the country’s politics. He fled shortly after Moktar Ali Zubeyr (a.k.a. Ahmed Abdi Godane), a member of Qawdhan’s Arab clan and Shabaab’s current leader, officially affiliated the group with al Qaeda in early 2012, ushering in a new level of chaos and violence between the nationalist and international jihadist camps. By the end of this June, there were signs that the chaos might be tipping in Godane’s favor; Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, the group’s longtime spiritual leader and advocate of limited, nationalist goals, fled Shabaab and surrendered to Somali government custody. In another recent boost to his authority, Godane’s forces purged two of his most vocal and visible opponents: Abu Mansoor al-Amriki and Usama al-Britani (the American and the Brit).