Terrorists behind Paris & Brussels attacks got over €50K in welfare - report

At least five terrorists involved in the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks were receiving welfare benefits from the state, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing local authorities.

Belgian financial investigators looking into the terrorist attacks found that Salah Abdeslam, charged with taking part in the Paris assaults, had collected €19,000 ($21,000) in welfare payments, which were stopped just a few weeks before the attacks were carried out in the French capital in November, WSJ reports.  

However, Abdeslam should not have been receiving payments as he partly owned a bar, which he was managing at the time. Belgian officials say this made him ineligible for welfare. 

In total, the authorities say that five terrorists who took part in the Paris and Brussels attacks were able to claim a total of over €50,000 ($56,000).

Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told the Wall Street Journal that something needs to be done to address issues with the welfare system, adding that it is accepted that “the benefits system is vulnerable to abuse for terrorist financing purposes.” 

He said that the authorities could perhaps look at different ways of handing out benefits, such as the use of vouchers. 

“If you’re paying benefit to people in certain parts of Brussels, maybe you need to be a little more observant about who you’re paying to, and what they might be doing with it,” he told the newspaper. 

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has previously encouraged its followers to tap into the European benefits system. In a 2015 booklet, it suggested that “if you can claim extra benefits from a government, then do so.” 

Meanwhile, the Belgian government has identified student-loan fraud and insurance scams as ways that jihadists could raise financial capital in the West. 

Philippe de Koster, director of Belgium’s Financial Intelligence Processing Unit, said that better coordination was needed between security and welfare officers to try and stop those suspected of terrorism from receiving welfare payments. However, the law in Belgium currently only allows benefit payments to be cut once a person is convicted of terrorism. 

De Koster says there is no evidence that the terrorists used this welfare money to finance their attacks, but he does accept that it helped them with their “livelihoods” and “indirect support for their terrorist activities,” the Wall Street Journal reported. 

Checks in Belgium on people receiving benefits have become significantly more stringent since the Brussels attacks in March. A month later, the National Employment Office found that 14 people jailed in Belgium under terrorism charges had been receiving welfare while they were behind bars. 

The Belgian prime minister’s spokesman, Fred Cauderlier, has since confirmed that the law has been changed to make sure that people convicted of terrorist offenses will not receive benefits payments while in jail.

 
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After Paris: Hypocrisy and Mendacity Writ Large

You have to feel for Benjamin Netanyahu. Just as he was engaging in another of his frequent bouts of foul mendacity with his attempt to exploit the carnage in Paris to justify Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, up pops the Spanish authorities with a warrant for his arrest.

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Military Paralysis': Europe Lacks Resources, Political Will to Tackle ISIL

Following the deadly attacks in Paris, European leaders appear to be determined to do all it takes to defeat ISIL, but the continent's "geopolitical impotence" – the lack of political will and resources – will prevent them from actually delivering on their promises, journalist Matthew Karnitschnig maintains.

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Hollande to tell Obama Europe can’t wait for US war of attrition with ISIS to succeed – report

French President François Hollande is to call for the US to review its strategy in fighting terrorist group Islamic State, arguing that Europe cannot wait for America’s long war of attrition with the jihadists to work, the Guardian reports.
 

Hollande is to meet US President Barack Obama on Tuesday next week before going to Russia for a visit. The French leader intends to make Obama aware of the extent of damage done to Europe by the developing refugee crisis and the rising threat of terrorist attacks, a European diplomat told the British newspaper.

“The message that we want to send to the Americans is simply that the crisis is destabilizing Europe,”said the diplomat, who did not wish to be named. “The problem is that the attacks in Paris and the refugee crisis show that we don’t have time. There is an emergency.”

The source said that’s the reason why the French president will visit Washington on Tuesday before flying to Moscow.

According to the diplomat, Paris’ position is that the Europeans cannot afford to wait for years for the war of attrition that the US-led coalition is waging on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, to take effect. There is an impression in Europe that the US doesn’t fully comprehend the urgency of the issue because it doesn’t have to take the bulk of the refugees fleeting Middle East and pouring into Europe in the biggest movement of people since World War II.

Hollande earlier called on the US and Russia, both of which lead a separate effort to eradicate IS, to join forces. Moscow said a broad coalition was needed to defeat the terrorists, but Washington said it would only agree if Russia shared its goals in Syria.

READ MORE: Russian warplanes disrupt ISIS oil sales channels; destroy 500 terrorist oil trucks in Syria

The White House insists that the Syrian conflict can only be resolved if President Bashar Assad steps down.

"Bottom line is, I do not foresee a situation in which we can end the civil war in Syria while Assad remains in power," Barack Obama told reporters in Manila on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

The Kremlin sees the Syrian government as the most viable force in the country that can provide ground troops to battle terrorist groups. Russia says Assad’s political future should be decided by the Syrian people, but the US insists he should not be part of a political settlement.

The Pentagon on its part wants to rely on “moderate rebel forces” and Kurdish militias to attack terrorists on the ground in Syria. So far the strategy wasn’t effective. Kurds fought IS militants when they attacked Kurd-controlled territories, but are reluctant to go on offensive. The empowerment of Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria also puts the US-led coalition at odds with NATO member Turkey, which has been fighting Kurdish insurgency for decades.

As for the program to train and arm moderate rebels, it proved to be a failure with the Pentagon reporting in September just a handful of US-prepared soldiers actually fighting IS.

IS strategy has become one of the major campaign issues for the upcoming presidential election in the US. Republican candidates like Jeb Bush and Donald Trump have been criticizing the Obama administration for being too soft on terrorists.

Voices calling for the Obama administration to reconsider its ‘Assad must go’ mantra are coming from intelligence professionals as well.

“I think it’s now crystal clear to us that our strategy, our policy vis-à-vis ISIS is not working and it’s time to look at something else,” former CIA deputy director Michael Morell told CBS. “The question of whether President Assad needs to go or whether he is part of the solution – we must look at it again. Clearly he is part of the problem but he may also be part of the solution. An agreement, where he stays for a while and the Syrian army supported by the coalition takes on ISIS may be give us the best result.”

‘France is at war’: Hollande urges more security spending & stripping of citizenship
Enlace permanente de imagen incrustada

According to the diplomat, Paris’ position is that the Europeans cannot afford to wait for years for the war of attrition that the US-led coalition is waging on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, to take effect. There is an impression in Europe that the US doesn’t fully comprehend the urgency of the issue because it doesn’t have to take the bulk of the refugees fleeting Middle East and pouring into Europe in the biggest movement of people since World War II.

Hollande earlier called on the US and Russia, both of which lead a separate effort to eradicate IS, to join forces. Moscow said a broad coalition was needed to defeat the terrorists, but Washington said it would only agree if Russia shared its goals in Syria.

READ MORE: Russian warplanes disrupt ISIS oil sales channels; destroy 500 terrorist oil trucks in Syria

The White House insists that the Syrian conflict can only be resolved if President Bashar Assad steps down.

"Bottom line is, I do not foresee a situation in which we can end the civil war in Syria while Assad remains in power," Barack Obama told reporters in Manila on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

The Kremlin sees the Syrian government as the most viable force in the country that can provide ground troops to battle terrorist groups. Russia says Assad’s political future should be decided by the Syrian people, but the US insists he should not be part of a political settlement.

US intentionally spare ISIS in Syria, want terrorists to weaken Assad – Russian FM Enlace permanente de imagen incrustada

The Pentagon on its part wants to rely on “moderate rebel forces” and Kurdish militias to attack terrorists on the ground in Syria. So far the strategy wasn’t effective. Kurds fought IS militants when they attacked Kurd-controlled territories, but are reluctant to go on offensive. The empowerment of Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria also puts the US-led coalition at odds with NATO member Turkey, which has been fighting Kurdish insurgency for decades.

As for the program to train and arm moderate rebels, it proved to be a failure with the Pentagon reporting in September just a handful of US-prepared soldiers actually fighting IS.

IS strategy has become one of the major campaign issues for the upcoming presidential election in the US. Republican candidates like Jeb Bush and Donald Trump have been criticizing the Obama administration for being too soft on terrorists.

Voices calling for the Obama administration to reconsider its ‘Assad must go’ mantra are coming from intelligence professionals as well.

“I think it’s now crystal clear to us that our strategy, our policy vis-à-vis ISIS is not working and it’s time to look at something else,” former CIA deputy director Michael Morell told CBS. “The question of whether President Assad needs to go or whether he is part of the solution – we must look at it again. Clearly he is part of the problem but he may also be part of the solution. An agreement, where he stays for a while and the Syrian army supported by the coalition takes on ISIS may be give us the best result.”

  • Published in World
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