herald

Friday 20 October 2017

IS militants plan subway attacks in Paris and US

Islamic State militants captured in Iraq said the group has been planning attacks on subways in Paris and in the US, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said.

The "accurate reports" came from the recent arrests of fighters from France and the US who are in Iraq, Abadi told a group of reporters in New York ahead of a United Nations General Assembly meeting.

The US will "review information from the Iraqis and seek to corroborate that," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters on Air Force One. He said that no security steps in the US had been taken, when asked about subways in Washington and New York.

THREAT

Phil Walzak, a spokesman for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, said city officials were in contact with federal authorities.

"The mayor's office is aware of the reports and the city takes any threat seriously," Walzak said in an e-mailed statement.

Thousands of foreign fighters from Europe and some from the US. are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside Islamic State after the group seized territory in the region. Western officials have expressed concern that their citizens will return to their home countries to plot attacks.

President Barack Obama said on September 10 that US officials hadn't thus far detected specific plots against the country.

Abadi said the information reflects what appears to be ongoing plotting by the Islamic State network. The network "has not been disrupted yet," he said, adding that he's "not sure" if any attack is imminent.

Such information is difficult to verify and US intelligence officials warn that extremists discuss many ideas for attacks that may never materialise.

Meanwhile, British prime minister David Cameron made an impassioned plea for Britain to join the United States and a coalition of Western and Arab nations in airstrikes meant to thwart Islamic State group militants in Iraq.

Cameron told a tense House of Commons that there was no more serious issue than asking the country to devote armed forces to conflict.

PROTECTING

He repeatedly stressed that no combat troops were planned, but he could barely get through his statement, as lawmakers peppered him with questions about the move.

"I believe it is our duty to take part," he said. "This international operation is about protecting our people, too, and protecting the streets of Britain should not be a task that we are prepared to entirely subcontract to other air forces of other countries."

Lawmakers are expected to approve the motion, which is supported by all three main parties and comes days after Iraq's prime minister requested help.

The motion does not address any action in Syria. Critics say that would be illegal because President Bashar Assad has not invited outsiders to help. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond refused to speculate on how long the military campaign could last.

hnews@herald.ie

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