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Paris attacks: Bloodshed lifts terrorism fight to top of G-20 agenda

Sunday, November 15, 2015 - 09:04

[TOKYO] The attacks in Paris that killed at least 120 people in Europe's worst terrorist bloodshed for more than a decade will elevate the challenge of combating militant groups such as Islamic State to the top of the agenda at this weekend's G-20 summit in Turkey.

The sophistication of the assault - involving bombs, high- powered assault weapons and hostage-taking across different venues - will broaden the planned discussion on terrorism at the meeting, according to Nick O'Brien, associate professor for counter terrorism at Charles Sturt University in Canberra.

"After an attack like this I wouldn't expect it to be much about de-radicalization," O'Brien said. "I would expect the focus to be on the tough end of security - how to cooperate, better communicate. If we have someone we suspect in our country, do we tell you and how do we do that?" World leaders flying to the Turkish resort city of Antalya are already talking about upping the ante. President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, home to more Muslims than any other nation, on Saturday urged the international community to "wage war against terrorism." Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the talks in Turkey were "more relevant and urgent than ever." That was a sentiment echoed by Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Cevdet Yilmaz, who told reporters Saturday that leaders will issue a separate statement in Antalya with their resolutions on combating terrorism. A statement won't solve everything, "but it's a start," he said.

"We need a strong voice from countries present here," Yilmaz said in Antalya. "We all know that at the root of the current terrorist threat lies Syria." U.S. Fears French President Francois Hollande blamed Islamic State for Friday's slaughter, reinforcing U.S. concerns that the Islamist extremist group is broadening its capacity to attack beyond its base in the Middle East.

If Islamic State is also found to be responsible for the downing of a Russian airliner over Egypt two weeks ago, that would signal it has evolved into a more well-organized force that can carry out lethal strikes beyond the Middle East, said a U.S. counter-terrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Terrorism is the tier one national security threat to Europe," said Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore. "And will naturally be the top most agenda item on the summit." The massacre in Paris took place against a backdrop of rising anxiety in Europe as refugees from Syria and North Africa pour into the continent.

The events in the French capital may bolster the case for lawmakers intent on restricting the number of arrivals. That policy debate has put German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is determined to fight for her open-door policy on migrants, at odds with members of her own coalition and fellow European leaders.

"There have been these vast numbers of people who are seeking to enter into Europe, or who have got there already, almost none of whom have been properly vetted for security to make sure that within that group of an overwhelmingly deserving people, there are not also some sleeper cells of IS fighters," said Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra.

"We're going to see some very dramatic and probably quite hard-line responses coming from a number of European countries now to attempt to shut the gate," Jennings said. "But clearly, the horse has bolted. The problem is in their midst right now. Dealing with it is going to be horrendously difficult."

One immediate concern is ensuring the safety of delegates at the Turkey summit and a key climate-change conference in Paris that starts late this month.

"There will be a complete review of security" for the G-20 and the Paris climate talks, O'Brien said. "The people responsible for looking after the safety of leaders will want to know what extra precautions will be taken. The events may be held at completely secure venues. The leaders won't even see Paris."

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