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Updated: 17-Mar-2004

SHAPE News Morning Update

17 March 2004

  • NATO extends terrorism patrols in Mediterranean
  • EU governments need to more fully implement anti-terrorism measures
  • France gets Islamist threat with Chechen link
  • As terror threat evolves, U.S. forces begin focusing on West and North Africa


  • Serbs stone Kosovo peacekeepers after shooting


  • NATO umbrella could keep Spanish troops in Iraq


  • NATO extended its anti-terrorism patrols in the Mediterranean to waters off eastern Spain, southern France and western Italy. Under Operation Active Endeavour, alliance vessels hail and board suspect ships east of the Italian island of Sicily. They also escort non-military ships through the Strait of Gibraltar. “This successful operation will continue to play its role in NATO’s fight against terrorism,” an alliance statement said. “Against this background, the (North Atlantic) Council agreed to expand the area of operations to the whole Mediterranean.” It said the alliance’s partner nations and North African states with which it has a forum for dialogue had been asked to participate in the wider operation. The decision means that NATO ships will now also patrol in international waters off Tunisia and Algeria. (Reuters 161651 GMT Mar 04)

  • To more effectively combat terrorism, European Union leaders need to fully implement existing anti-terrorism measures and promote better cooperation between countries, the EU head office said Tuesday in Brussels. In the wake of the train bombings in Spain, the European Commission will propose on Thursday a list of actions to EU leaders who will be meeting next week. A recent report by Javier Solana also cited “coordination problems” in EU anti-terrorism efforts. It suggested beefing up cooperation with other countries and with NATO, a common definition of terrorism, boosting security at airports and freezing assets of terrorists and terrorist organizations. (AP 161808 Mar 04)

  • France has received threats of a possible attack against French interests from an Islamist group apparently named after a Chechen guerrilla, Movsar Barayev, killed in a Moscow hostage-taking in 2002, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday in Paris. The letter, sent to several newspapers, threatened “to plunge France into terror and remorse and spill blood outside its frontiers,” Jacques Esperandieu, deputy editor of the daily Le Parisien which received a copy, quoted it as saying. The ministry confirmed earlier Justice Ministry reports that the threat, which it said was sent “on behalf of the servants of Allah, the powerful and wise,” mentioned possible attacks in France and against French interests abroad. (Reuters 162046 GMT Mar 04)

  • Opening a new front in the global war on terrorism, the U.S. has begun training and equipping a growing number of armies in parts of Africa that U.S. officials see as an inviting refuge for terrorists as well as a long-term source of oil supplies. Soldiers of the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group are training troops in Mali and Mauritania, on the fringes of the Sahara Desert, and Marines are preparing for missions in Niger and Chad. “It’s a good move,” said J. Stephen Morrison, an African affairs specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (AP 162006 Mar 04)


  • Kosovo Serbs threw stones at international peacekeepers and blocked roads to protest the shooting of a Serb teenager near Gracanica , UN police said on Tuesday. One policeman was injured in what has been called one of the worst recent outbreaks of unrest in the Serbian province. (Reuters 161806 GMT Mar 04)


  • A UN-mandated NATO presence in Iraq could be a face-saving formula for Spain’s incoming Socialist prime minister as allies put pressure on him not to withdraw troops from the country, diplomats said in Brussels. “Spain’s position now complicates things for NATO,” said one diplomat at the U.S.-dominated military alliance. “Beyond the political question there is now a question of whether there will be sufficient military capability: you’ve seen how difficult it has been to get forces for Afghanistan.” Alliance officials denied a report in the Financial Times, however, that Secretary-General de Hoop Scheffer would ask Madrid to reconsider its position: “That’s not correct, the political decisions are not for him to make,” said one diplomat. (Reuters 161420 GMT Mar 04)


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