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Newsblog: 22-28 July

By research intern Joana Cook

Following the tragic events in Norway, this week’s news has been dominated by a focus on right-wing political groups both in the UK around the world. That will also be the focus of this week’s NewsBlog.

The Middle East and more

Right-wing Christian fundamentalist Anders Behring Breivik killed a total of 76 people in two major attacks in Norway last Friday. This attack is the deadliest on Norwegian soil since WWII. Breivik first targeted a government building in central Oslo, badly damaging the building after detonating a home-made car bomb. While investigators were on the scene of the first attack, Breivik, dressed like a police officer, went on a shooting rampage on the island of Utoya where a Labor Party youth camp was being held. Breivik posted a 1,500-page memorandum online just days before the attack. The document, entitled, “2083, A European Declaration of Independence,” described (among other things) Breivik’s belief that the spread of Islamisation in Europe was a great danger to ethnic Europeans, feminism was weakening European men and instruction on how to create bombs and avoid suspicion.

The attack in Norway has triggered a debate across Europe on the far-Right, Islam and multiculturalis. MP’s from far-right groups in Italy and Sweden were condemned for blaming the attacks on multiculturalism. In France, a member of the far-right National Front was suspended after praising the attacks. Spectators worry about the potential political fallout that may come as many have began to analyze xenophobia and nationalism more critically in the region as the political left attempts to find new footing across the EU.

The mayor of Kandahar, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, was assassinated on Wednesday. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the death which was carried out by a suicide bomber concealing explosives in his turban. This is the third high-profile assassination to happen in Afghanistan this month raising concerns that security gains in the south of the country may not be effective, even with increased fighting by NATO forces. The assassination was said to be motivated by Hamidi’s campaign to destroy illegal buildings in Kandahar.

President of the Palestinian Authority, Mamoud Abbas has urged mass, peaceful, demonstrations by Palestinians leading up to the September UN vote where Palestine will seek recognition as an independent state. Israel has threatened to and said that this move by Palestine is an attempt to isolate Israel and may set off more violence in the area. The US has announced this week that they will not support Palestine’s bid for independence, but as this would not be a Security Council Resolution, is unable to veto the vote.

Members of the UN peacekeeping force were the target of a roadside bombing in Lebanon on Tuesday. Three soldiers were injured in the blast that showed many similarities to a bombing that injured six Italian peacekeepers in May. No group has yet taken responsibility for the attack. There are currently 12,000 UN troops involved in the mission in Lebanon, which was originally tasked with monitoring the Israel-Lebanon border following the 2006 war.

The Taliban and emerging right-wing political-religious groups in the US may have more in common that initially meets the eye, a report this week claimed. A number of these groups aim to replace the current secular democracy with a Christian theocracy, only a single focus of their stated “strategic level spiritual warfare”. One of these groups based throughout the US, named the New Apolistic Reformation has been linked to popular American politicians such as Sarah Palin and Texas Governor Rick Perry. As the debate about the far-right continues across Europe, this author asks journalists to focus more on this quickly expanding (and as he suggests, worrisome) movement in the US.

The UK

Following the tragedy in Norway, far-right links to shooter Anders Behring Breivik have started to emerge – leading these, The English Defense League (EDL). Among the connections were direct communication with the organization, an invitation for Breivik to join an EDL rally and apparent association with a number of EDL supporters. The EDL has vehemently denied any relationship or support for Breivik. Speculations on this relationship have urged some in the UK to urge the Home Office to label the group a terrorist organisation. The Home Office claimed it is investigating links between Breivik and the EDL, but the EDL would have to meet certain criteria as listed under the Terrorism Act 2000 in order to be deemed a terrorist organisation.

EUROPOL has invited the UK to participate in a European-wide police effort to identify terrorism, claiming that many of the right-wing groups throughout Europe are quickly becoming more professional, aggressive and organized. What is also becoming clear is a shift in these groups focus from Neo-Nazi extremism to more nationalist and anti-Islamic ideals. One article in the Financial Times offers a brief summary of the history of many popular far-right groups as well as current such groups across Europe, many of which will likely be focused on in the upcoming investigation. Among the mentioned are political parties such as Geert Wilders’ Party For Freedom in the Netherlands and France’s National Front, as well as organizations such as Stop Islamisation of Europe.

British couple were detained last Friday in Afghanistan under suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks in the UK. The married, Afghan-British dual citizens were thought to be seeking out al-Qaeda and Taliban in an effort to learn bomb-making skills. They were arrested in the International Trade Hotel centre in Heart in by British troops who were also accompanied by members of the Afghan intelligence service. Few details have emerged about the case, but the couple had been investigated by Britain’s security intelligence agency MI5.

British citizen David Mockett, a marine surveyor from Plympton, was remembered this week after he was killed in Yemen last Wednesday. Mockett, who had lived in Aden for ten years, died instantly when his car exploded as he turned the engine on. Al Qaeda is suspected for the death, but an investigation is currently underway by Yemeni authorities. Only last October, a diplomatic convoy containing a British diplomat came under a rocket attack, which wounded the diplomat. Violence and unrest continues throughout the country.