Hollande vows to destroy IS

French President Francois Hollande has vowed to destroy the Islamic State group after its atrocities in Paris, promising tough new anti-terror measures at home and intensified bombing of Syria.

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France and Belgium staged dozens of raids on suspected extremists as the manhunt continued for an eighth jihadist, including in a known radical hotspot in Brussels where some of the attackers are thought to have lived.

Describing the co-ordinated attacks that killed at least 129 people as “acts of war”, Hollande urged a global fightback to crush IS and said he would hold talks with his US and Russian counterparts on a new offensive.

Friday’s “acts of war… were decided and planned in Syria, prepared and organised in Belgium (and) perpetrated on our soil with French complicity,” Hollande told an extraordinary meeting of both houses of parliament in Versailles.

“The need to destroy Daesh (IS) … concerns the entire international community,” he told lawmakers, who burst into an emotional rendition of the Marseillaise after his speech.

Hollande said the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle would be deployed to the eastern Mediterranean to “triple our capacity to take action” against IS in Syria.

“We will continue the strikes in the weeks to come … There will be no respite and no truce,” he said.

On the domestic front, Hollande called for an extension of the state of emergency by three months and announced 8,500 new police and judicial jobs to help counter terrorism.

A government source told AFP that those returning from Syria could be placed under house arrest and said the presidency was considering amending the constitution to allow for tougher security measures.

With emotions running high, thousands paused in the streets of Paris for a minute’s silence to remember those killed at nightspots and at the national stadium.

Investigators identified two more extremists involved in the assault, including a Frenchman previously charged with planning a terror attack and a suicide bomber found with a Syrian passport, which has yet to be authenticated.

As indications grew of a Belgian connection, Tuesday’s Belgium-Spain football friendly was cancelled because of security concerns after Belgium raised its terrorist threat level to severe.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at a G20 conference in Turkey, said the attacks proved the need for an international anti-terror coalition.

“I spoke about this at the United Nations… and the tragic events that followed have confirmed that we were right,” he said.

US President Barack Obama said a new deal had been agreed with France to speed up intelligence-sharing.

His secretary of state, John Kerry, landed in Paris late on Monday to discuss the attacks and described IS as “psychopathic monsters”.

During pre-dawn raids in the southeastern French city of Lyon, police found “an arsenal of weapons”, including a rocket launcher and Kalashnikov assault rifle.

More than 100 people have been placed under house arrest, 23 arrested and 31 weapons seized, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

As authorities scrambled to find those responsible, the grieving French tried to return to normal life.

Late on Sunday, French planes bombed the IS stronghold in northern Syria and more raids were reported Monday.

The manhunt continued for 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, one of three brothers linked to the attacks.

One brother blew himself up in the Bataclan concert venue and was identified from a severed finger, while the third was arrested in Belgium but released without charge.

The brothers lived in the rundown Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek, which has a reputation as a hotbed of Islamic militancy and where police have made several arrests.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 28, a Belgian of Moroccan descent also from Molenbeek and thought to be fighting for IS in Syria, is believed to be the mastermind of the attacks.

Five of seven known attackers have been identified, but it is unclear if other gunmen fled after the carnage.

Two of the gunmen behind the bloodbath at the Bataclan, where 89 people were killed, have been identified as 29-year-old Paris native Omar Ismail Mostefai and 28-year-old Samy Amimour. Both detonated suicide bombs.

A Turkish official said its police had twice warned France about Mostefai, who was one of 10,000 people tagged by French intelligence as an extremist.

Amimour was charged in France in 2012 for “conspiracy to commit terrorism” over an attempt to travel to Yemen and was wanted on a global arrest warrant after violating the terms of his judicial supervision.

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Indonesian MP warns IS can attack anywhere

Extended coverage: Fallout from Paris attacks

The former commander of an elite Indonesian counter-terrorism unit says security forces are closely monitoring more than 100 foreign fighters who have returned from battlefields in Syria and Iraq, but warns that no country can be immune from attack.

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Indonesia’s Co-ordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security, Luhut Panjaitan, who is attending a summit on countering terrorism financing in Sydney, said on Tuesday that terrorist groups such as Islamic State “can attack you anywhere, anytime”.

The retired general and former commander of Indonesian army’s elite counter-terror unit, known as Detachment 81, said that regional partners can however “contain the threat if we work together closely”.

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, is also wrestling with the problem of extremism, with about 800 of its citizens having travelled to the Middle East to join Islamic State, also known as ISIS, of which about 50 had been killed.

More than 100 had already returned to Indonesia, where in 2002 more than 200 people, including 88 Australians, were killed in attacks in Bali.

“We know where they are and we already arrested some of them and we’ll see what (will) happen but to be honest … our police and our intelligence agency (have been) successful so far to monitor activities of the ISIS within the country,” General Luhut said.

“But again, no country (is) immune from this kind of threat.”

He said it would be difficult to detain all extremists in Indonesia but that the country’s security organisations are “working very hard” to minimise their activities.

General Luhut said the government of Indonesia condemned “this heinous attack” in Paris which had cost the lives of at least 129 innocent people.

“Nothing whatsoever can justify this barbaric act,” he said.

He said as the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia had a significant regional role to play in preventing extremism and terrorism.

Earlier at the summit, attended by French Consul General Nicolas Crozier, a minute’s silence was held in recognition of the scores killed and injured in the Islamic State’s assault on Paris.

“The tragic events that we have witnessed across the world in recent weeks are a sobering reminder of the dire threat that we all face,” Justice Minister Michael Keenan said.

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Staff threatened over Arabic Optus ads

Optus has been forced to remove signs written in Arabic from a south-west Sydney mall after staff at the store was threatened, the company says.

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The calls for the signs to be removed from Casula Mall came after a customer posted a picture of the poster advertisement on the Optus Facebook page saying: 

“Can I just ask why Optus is advertising at Casula Mall in middle eastern language and not in English? This is an outrage, this is Australia not Syria. You are hypocrites, saying sorry for Paris etc. etc. but advertising for only Muslims to read.”

An Optus staff member named Dan responded saying: “We believe Australia is a welcoming and inclusive society”.

“We welcome all our customers, and where we can, we love to be able to assist our customers in their native language,” he wrote.

“The sign is just letting any Arabic speaking customers know that we have a staff member who can help them in their native language.”

Another customer then commented below: “I’m contacting everyone I know to let them know [a]bout the Casula advertising and urging as many of them and their friends to leave Optus asap”.

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Other customers have since hit out at the posters, including one customer who wrote on Optus’ Facebook page: “If you want to push your multicultural barrow, why aren’t the offending signs also in Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian etc? Oh, and English of course. The Optus message regarding consideration for all is inconsistent. This promotes feelings of exclusion. I doubt Optus meant for a large portion of the community to feel excluded and offended. But it seems to be both practical and reasonable for Optus to correct this situation by removing or modifying the signage”.

Optus responded: “We do have signs in English at every store in the country, as well as on all of our advertisements. This run of posters also has signs in Chinese and Vietnamese to let speakers of those languages know we can help them in their own language. The sign itself says ‘We speak your language, visit us in the branch and have a chat with us in Arabic’, a pretty welcoming and inclusive message”.

Other customers have responded postively to the signs, with some posting congratulations on the company’s Facebook page and encouraging to continue with using the posters.

An Optus spokeswoman told SBS News “in some communities we actively promote the bi-lingual skills of our front-line staff”.

“We recognise that sometimes customers find it easier to understand the detail of a phone plan when it’s explained in their first language,” she said.

“Optus remains committed to minimising and eliminating discrimination through our corporate culture, marketing activities, employment practices and interactions with the community. However, yesterday following a threat to our store staff, we made the decision to remove some materials that were published in Arabic. The safety and security of our staff is paramount.”

The spokeswoman declined to comment on other locations where the Arabic signs remained on display.

The Islamophobia Register posted screenshots of the complaints on their own Facebook page on Monday.

Post by Islamophobia Register Australia on Monday, 16 November 2015.

 

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Eye test works wonders for Ross Taylor

Star Kiwi batsman Ross Taylor has revealed how a trip to the optometrist played a key role in his record-breaking Test knock at the WACA Ground.

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Taylor struggled to see the ball on the way to a seven-ball duck in the first Test against Australia at the Gabba, while he also battled during his second-innings dig of 26.

The 31-year-old booked himself in to see an optometrist after the Test loss to suss out what was going on.

The optometrist discovered that a condition called pterygium – a fleshy overgrowth of the eye’s mucous membrane.- was the reason behind Taylor’s woes.

Taylor left the appointment with a new set of eye drops.

And by the time he walked off the WACA Ground on Monday, he had 290 runs next to his name after producing one of the greatest ever Test knocks by a Kiwi.

“I had to get my eyes tested in between (the two Tests). I couldn’t really see the ball, so the eye drops obviously worked,” Taylor said.

“I have a pterygium in my left eye and I do that a lot (opens eyes wide).

“The optometrist said when it’s dark you’ll probably do this a lot, and I told the boys and they lost it because that’s how they take the mickey out of me.”

Taylor was sidelined for almost two months earlier this year after undergoing testicular surgery following a training mishap.

Doctors have warned Taylor that he risks further damage if he gets struck in the area over the coming months.

“There’s no discomfort,” Taylor said.

“(The doctors told me) to try not to get hit for the next four months.

“It’s an interesting thing to tell a player. I think I’ve got about two months to go so I’m counting down.

“It’s a bit nerve wracking when 160kmh is coming at you.

“But once you get into the fight, the adrenalin kicks in and the instincts take over and you just bat.”

Taylor’s 290 at the WACA was the highest Test score by a Kiwi in Australia, surpassing Martin Crowe’s previous mark of 188 set at the Gabba in 1985.

“I got a text from him last night and he jokingly said he was disappointed because that was his proudest moment having the record here in Australia,” Taylor said with a laugh.

“He’s very proud.”

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Global terrorism deaths rise by 80% in last year

The number of people killed in terrorist attacks jumped by 80 per cent to 32,658 last year as 11 nations suffered more than 500 deaths.

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Terrorists linked to Islamic State and Boko Haram – which operates mainly in Nigeria – accounted for 51 per cent of the deaths in 2014, according to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index published by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

The institute estimated the cost of terrorism last year at $A74.55 billion ($US52.9 billion).

Five nations – Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria – bore the brunt of the attacks, suffering 78 per cent of the deaths recorded.

Almost 10,000 people died in terrorist attacks in Iraq, while the number of deaths in Nigeria soared to more than 7,500, it said.

“The significant increase in terrorist activity has meant that its ramifications are being felt more widely throughout the world,” said Steve Killelea, the think tank’s founder.

“Terrorism is gaining momentum at an unprecedented pace,” he said.

“The Paris incident in many ways is a watershed within Europe. It shows that Isil has the capabilities to be able to launch sophisticated and deadly attacks in Europe.”

The index ranks the level of terrorism in 162 countries – representing 99.5 per cent of the world’s population – by measuring the number of attacks, injuries, deaths and property damage as a result of terror attacks.

Extended coverage: Fallout from Paris attacks

Killelea said 10 of the 11 nations most affected by terrorism were also among those with the highest rates of refugees and internal displacement.

“This highlights the strong interconnectedness between the current refugee crisis, terrorism and conflict,” he said.

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