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India calls for action as world remembers anniversary of Mumbai terror attacks

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This week marks the 12th anniversary of a date forever etched on the minds of Indian people: the murderous 2008 attacks in Mumbai. The atrocity was likened to the 2001 terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York and, while the scale was not quite the same, some 166 people were killed when gunmen went on a killing spree in India’s financial capital.

The attacks were carried out by 10 gunmen who were believed to be connected to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a  Pakistan based terrorist organization. Armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades, the terrorists targeted civilians at numerous sites in the southern part of Mumbai, including the Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, the popular Leopold Café, two hospitals, and a theatre.

Pakistan has long been criticized for cultivating militant proxy groups and the country currently faces renewed pressure to act against terrorists. There is particular concern that despite some convictions, some of those responsible for the terrible attacks are still at liberty and thereby free to plot a similar atrocity.

With the anniversary of the Mumbai attacks falling today (26 November), international pressure is again pushing Pakistan to take more action against militant groups and their leaders.

Some argue there is still a lack of political will on the part of Pakistan to deal with the issue. As evidence, they point to the decision by a global “dirty money” watchdog to keep Pakistan on its “grey list” for failing to meet international anti-terrorism financing norms.

The independent Financial Action Task Force has urged Pakistan to meet these requirements by February 2021.

Pakistan was placed on the FATF’s “grey list” of countries with inadequate controls over terrorism financing in 2018 saying Pakistan “still needs to demonstrate that law enforcement agencies are identifying and investigating the widest range of terrorism financing activity.”

The watchdog also asked Islamabad to demonstrate that terrorism financing probes result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions and has called for Pakistan to prosecute those funding “terrorism”, as well as to enact laws to help track and stop “terror financing”.

Xiangmin Liu, president of the FATF, warned: “Pakistan needs to do more and it needs to do it faster.”

Further comment comes from Denis MacShane, a former Europe minister in the UK under Tony Blair, who told this website, “It is hardly a secret that Pakistan's renowned Inter-Services Intelligence agency undertakes black operations rather like Mossad does for Israel as Pakistan have been locked in its cold, occasionally hot war with its much bigger neighbour India. A number of majority Muslim states have helped Islamist terrorist actions, most notably Saudi Arabia, whose Islamist citizens helped carry out the 9/11 attacks on Manhattan. Pakistan's nominally civilian government is helpless against the military and the ISI.”

There is still widespread concern about Islamist militant groups in Pakiston - especially Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its welfare arms, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insanyat - and on their sources of income.

There are also long-standing accusations that Pakistan has nurtured and supported Islamist militant groups for use as proxies to project power in the region, particularly towards its arch-rival India.

As recently as last year, a U.S. State Department country report on terrorism said Pakistan “continued to provide safe harbour to other top militant leaders.”

There is concern too at reports that a top Pakistan militant suspected to have planned the 2008 Mumbai attacks is still living freely in Pakistan.

India and the United States have both indicted Sajid Mir, of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group, for the three-day attacks on hotels, a train station and a Jewish centre in which 166 people were killed including six Americans.

The immediate impact of the attacks was felt on the ongoing peace process between the two countries and India’s attempt at pressuring Pakistan to crack down on terrorists within its borders has been strongly supported by the international community.

At various times since the attacks, there have been concerns that tensions might escalate between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. India, however, has refrained from amassing troops at the Pakistan border as it had following the December 13, 2001, attack on India’s parliament. Instead, India has focused on building international public support through various diplomatic channels and the media.

India has long said there is evidence that “official agencies” were involved in plotting the attack – a charge Islamabad denies – and Islamabad is widely believed to use jihadist groups such as LeT as proxies against India. The U.S. is among those to allege that Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorists.

Fraser Cameron, a former senior European commission official and now director of the EU-Asia Centre in Brussels, said, “Indian claims that Pakistan continues to provide refuge to some of those involved in the 2008 attacks makes a Modi-Khan meeting almost impossible to arrange.”

The anniversary this week of the Mumbai attacks will evoke a strong national and international outcry against such violence and has sparked renewed calls to increase efforts to deal with the menace of terrorism.

The sense of outrage at Pakistan’s failure to fully hold to account those responsible for the attacks is summed up by Willy Fautre, the respected director of Brussels-based right NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers.

He told this site: “Ten years ago, from 26 to 29 November, over 160 people lost their lives in ten terrorist attacks perpetrated by ten Pakistanis in Mumbai. Nine of them were killed. Human Rights Without Frontiers deplores the fact that Pakistan waited until 2020 before convicting the mastermind of the Mumbai attack, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. He was sentenced to five years and a half in prison.”

coronavirus

Initial DOD COVID-19 vaccinations under way across USEUCOM region

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The initial round of COVID-19 vaccinations are under way
for prioritized Department of Defense (DOD) personnel serving within the US European Command (USEUCOM) area of responsibility.

The DOD vaccination program began in Europe on 28 December when the Moderna
vaccine was administered to health-care workers serving at three US Army
medical treatment facilities located in Bavaria.

Three DOD medical facilities in the United Kingdom also began giving the
vaccine to patients this week. Additional DOD medical facilities in Germany
and the United Kingdom are scheduled to start inoculating personnel this
week. Next week, DOD clinics in Italy, Spain, Belgium and Portugal are
slated to receive their first shipment of the vaccine.

This initial phase of vaccine distribution within the USEUCOM region is an
important first step toward DOD's overall plan that encourages all personnel
to get vaccinated.

"Getting everybody immunized allows us to move back to, essentially, a sense
of normalcy in terms of how we interact with each other," said Brig. Gen.
Mark Thompson, Commanding General of Regional Health Command Europe.

Thompson said the initial phase will take about a month to complete because
of the 28-day time period between first dose and second dose of the Moderna
vaccine.

For more information, see USEUCOM's COVID-19 vaccine distribution webpage

About USEUCOM

US European Command (USEUCOM) is responsible for US military operations
across Europe, portions of Asia and the Middle East, the Arctic and Atlantic
Ocean. USEUCOM is comprised of more than 64,000 military and civilian
personnel and works closely with NATO Allies and partners. The command is
one of two US forward-deployed geographic combatant commands headquartered
in Stuttgart, Germany. For more information about USEUCOM, click here.

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coronavirus

USEUCOM COVID-19 vaccine distribution

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Medical treatment facilities in Europe will receive the initial shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine at 28 locations in nine countries across the USEUCOM area of responsibility starting this week. Initial doses of the vaccine will be administered in accordance with the Department of Defense (DoD) phase-driven vaccine distribution plan to vaccinate US military and civilian personnel in a prioritized order.

After the initial distribution, and as more vaccine becomes available, additional personnel will have access to the vaccine."While the speed at which this vaccine was developed is unprecedented, the thorough research showing its safety and efficacy is compelling," said US Navy Captain Mark Kobelja, USEUCOM surgeon general. "I would encourage all eligible personnel to get this vaccine when it is offered."

Heath authorities encourage everyone's continued adherence with health protection requirements to wear appropriate masks, practice physical distancing, wash hands, and appropriate restriction of movement inaccordance with DoD and host nation regulations. The latest USEUCOM information about COVID-19 and the vaccine distribution plan can be found here.

About USEUCOM

US European Command (USEUCOM) is responsible for US military operationsacross Europe, portions of Asia and the Middle East, the Arctic and AtlanticOcean. USEUCOM is comprised of more than 64,000 military and civilianpersonnel and works closely with NATO Allies and partners. The command is one of two US forward-deployed geographic combatant commands headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. For more information about USEUCOM, click here.

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Crime

European Audit Institutions pool their work on cybersecurity

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As the threat level for cybercrime and cyberattacks has been rising over recent years, auditors across the European Union have been paying increasing attention to the resilience of critical information systems and digital infrastructures. The Audit Compendium on cybersecurity, published today by the Contact Committee of EU supreme audit institutions (SAIs), provides an overview of their relevant audit work in this field.

Cyber incidents may be intentional or unintentional and range from the accidental disclosure of information to attacks on businesses and critical infrastructure, the theft of personal data, or even interference in democratic processes, including elections, and general disinformation campaigns to influence public debates. Cybersecurity was already critical for our societies before COVID-19 hit. But the consequences of the pandemic we are facing will further exacerbate cyber threats. Many business activities and public services have moved from physical offices to teleworking, while ‘fake news’ and conspiracy theories have spread more than ever.

Protecting critical information systems and digital infrastructures against cyberattacks has thus become an ever-growing strategic challenge for the EU and its member states. The question is no longer whether cyberattacks will occur, but how and when they will occur. This concerns us all: individuals, businesses and public authorities.

“The COVID-19 crisis has been testing the economic and social fabric of our societies. Given our dependence on information technology, a ‘cyber crisis’ could well turn out to be the next pandemic“, said European Court of Auditors (ECA) President Klaus-Heiner Lehne. “Seeking digital autonomy and facing challenges posed by cyber threats and external disinformation campaigns will undoubtedly continue to be part of our daily lives and will remain on the political agenda in the next decade. It is therefore essential to raise awareness of recent audit findings on cybersecurity across the EU member states.”

European SAIs have therefore geared up their audit work on cybersecurity recently, with a particular focus on data protection, system readiness for cyberattacks, and the protection of essential public utilities systems. This has to be set in a context in which the EU is aiming to become the world’s safest digital environment. The European Commission and the Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in fact, have just presented a new EU Cybersecurity Strategy, which aims to bolster Europe's collective resilience against cyber threats.

The Compendium published on 17 December provides background information on cybersecurity, main strategic initiatives and relevant legal bases in the EU. It also illustrates the main challenges the EU and its member states are facing, such as threats to individual EU citizens´ rights through misuse of personal data, the risk for institutions of not being able to deliver essential public services or facing limited performance following cyberattacks.

The Compendium draws on the results of audits carried out by the ECA and the SAIs of twelve EU member states: Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Finland and Sweden.

Background

This audit Compendium is a product of co-operation between the SAIs of the EU and its member states within the framework of the EU Contact Committee. It is designed to be a source of information for everyone interested in this important policy field. It is currently available in English on the EU Contact Committee website, and will later be available in other EU languages.

This is the third edition of the Contact Committee’s Audit Compendium. The first edition on Youth unemployment and the integration of young people into the labour market was published in June 2018. The second on Public health in the EU was issued in December 2019.

The Contact Committee is an autonomous, independent and non-political assembly of the heads of SAIs of the EU and its member states. It provides a forum for discussing and addressing matters of common interest relating to the EU. By strengthening dialogue and co-operation between its members, the Contact Committee contributes to an effective and independent external audit of EU policies and programmes

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