Texas Church Shooting Again Raises Security Concerns for Congregations
Religious institutions confronted questions on how to protect their congregations following the shooting in Texas that left 26 dead at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs (right). The gunman killed himself minutes later as his vehicle was chased by two citizens on November 5. Some may arm worshippers, and others employ guards. Uniformed police officers now attend services at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a historic black church where a white gunman killed nine at a 2015 bible study. Experts encourage the installation of security cameras, and strong windows and doors. Community Security Service has trained over 4,000 volunteers in New Jersey, New York, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania and California to keep synagogues, day schools and other Jewish institutions safe. Resources at NJOHSP’s Houses of Worship website include Security Guidelines and a Facility Self-Assessment Tool.
As ISIS Evaporates in Iraq and Syria, it Maintains Propaganda and Footholds Elsewhere
ISIS continued to lose territory in Iraq and Syria this month. Fighters on November 9 left their last Syrian stronghold, Boukamal, a town by the Iraqi border. A week earlier, Syrian government fighters, aided by Russian airstrikes and Iranian-backed militias, regained control of Deir al-Zour, a provincial capital. About 100 miles southeast, Iraqi forces claimed control of a border crossing and the town of Qaim. ISIS’ self-proclaimed caliphate has now lost 90 percent of the land it controlled in 2014. But it remains an inspiration to extremists, including the suspect charged with killing eight by driving a rented pickup truck along a New York City bicycle lane on October 31. In addition, ISIS forces continue to conduct deadly attacks in other nations, including Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan. ISIS appears to be expanding operations in West Africa, notably in Niger, where four US soldiers were killed in an ambush attributed to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. ISIS fighters have engaged government forces in Somalia, as well as the homegrown Islamist group al-Shabaab. And in the Philippines, forces that pledged loyalty to ISIS took control of the city of Marawi in May and were only dislodged by Philippine soldiers in October.
United States Seeks Extradition of Filipino Doctor Accused in NYC Bomb Plot
A Filipino doctor maintained that money he sent to a charity was mistaken as funding for a plot to detonate a bomb in New York City. “I just donated money without any malicious intent,” Russell Salic said November 7 as he was led away following an appearance before a Manilla court hearing a US extradition request. US prosecutors charged that Salic and two other ISIS sympathizers wanted to attack New York City concert venues, subway stations and Times Square. The leader, Canadian Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, was arrested in Cranford, New Jersey, in May 2016 and pleaded guilty. An American of Pakistani heritage, Talha Haroon, was arrested in Pakistan in November. Salic was arrested in Manila in April. Prosecutors said Salic sent about $423 from the Philippines to an undercover FBI agent posing as an Islamic extremist. Salic told the agent that he would continue sending money for ISIS and hoped to join the group in Syria, according to court documents in New York.