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Irrespective of US legal battles, terrorists are plotting to use 3D-printed weapons against us

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3D-printed firearms blueprints

Regardless of the final outcome of an ongoing US court battle over the online availability of 3D-printed firearms blueprints, the genie is already well and truly out of the bottle when it comes to how easily people are able to get their hands on downloadable weapons. While pro-gun advocates argue the availability of 3D-printed gun blueprints is more a question of freedom and their right to bear arms under the Second Amendment than anything else, firearms control campaigners have rightly raised concerns over how these types of weapons could pose a significant threat if they fall into the wrong hands, where they are all but guaranteed to end up.

Downloading a 3D-printed weapon blueprint allows anybody with a rudimental level of knowledge and access to the right technology to create a plastic gun that is virtually untraceable and could be smuggled past metal detectors. Irrespective of which way the legal battle goes over the availability of 3D-pirnted gun blueprints goes, the information needed to create them is already widely available on the dark web, making the outcome of such proceedings close to irrelevant. And while firearms experts have noted that the current generation of 3D weapons are too flimsy and unreliable to pose a major law enforcement threat, it is all but inevitable that organised criminals and terrorists will look to harness the technology as it advances.

While the prospect of petty criminals and gangsters getting their hands on blueprints for untraceable guns they can make at home is of course concerning, the opportunities 3D-printed weapons could open up for terrorist organisations are perhaps of greater worry. Groups such as al-Qa’ida and Daesh are constantly developing new forms of weapons they hope can be used to attack targets in the West, as well as organisations and individuals in the territories from which they operate. Over the years, jihadi groups such as these have proved adept at creating new types of explosive devices and other weapons they can use to spread terror around the globe, and while more recent attacks across Europe and the US have been more low tech in nature, it would be foolish to assume that Islamist organisations have abandoned more sophisticated methods in favour of lone wolf truck and knife assaults.

In fact, evidence has already emerged that Daesh has been experimenting with creating 3D-pirnted bombs. In November 2016, Popular Mechanics reported that Iraqi forces had discovered a Daesh drone factory that appeared to contain such weapons. The components from which the explosives were constructed were made up of honeycomb structures, suggesting they could have been made using a 3D printer. Security services around the globe have feared for some time that groups such as Daesh might launch bomb attacks in the West using consumer drones after the jihadi organisation did just that close to the Iraqi city of Mosul in October 2016, killing two Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and wounding two French soldiers. Since then, security experts have cautioned that Islamists could use explosive-laden drones to attack events such as this summer’s World Cup football tournament in Russia.

Jihadi terrorist plotters have a rich recent history of coming up with new ways in which to attack Western interests, resulting in the security services of target nations struggling to stay ahead of their innovations. It has now been more than 12 years since the aviation industry was forced to introduce a blanket ban on the carrying on board of liquids measuring over 100ml after a plot was discovered to bring down a transatlantic flight from London to North America in 2006. Last year, the US temporarily banned passengers travelling from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa from carrying larger electronic devices on board after a jihadi from the UK planned to smuggle bombs “disguised as laptop batteries” on planes. Previously, an al-Qa’ida master bomb maker had experimented with the idea of surgically implanting explosives into suicide bombers’ bodies. Ibrahim al-Asiri, who was reported to have been killed in a coalition drone strike earlier this month, is said to have abandoned the idea in favour of exploring new ways of concealing explosives in electronic devices such as laptops and printers.

While it may be the case that the types of 3D-printed weapon downloads currently available online can only be used to create guns that are too flimsy and unreliable to depend on while attempting to carry out a terrorist attack, the fact that these firearms could already be smuggled past airport security should raise significant fears for security services worldwide. It would appear that Jihadi groups are already exploring how they can use this emerging technology to attack their enemies, and will almost certainly be able to stay at the cutting edge as it develops. As it is now just a matter of time until a sturdy and reliable 3D-printed weapon is developed, it is more vital than ever that our security services are able to stay one step ahead of those who wish to do us harm.

 

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Chinese medicine could bring about destruction of half the world’s donkeys, new report reveals

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destruction of half the world’s donkeys

A new report from UK-based animal welfare charity the Donkey Sanctuary has revealed that more than half of the world’s donkey population could be wiped out over the five years due to the animal’s body parts being used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Noting that Donkey populations are being decimated in multiple countries across Africa, South America and Asia, the report claims that millions of donkeys are being slaughtered by wildlife traffickers who sell their skins.

Illicit wildlife traders even target pregnant mares, foals and sick donkeys, which are stolen before being transported and killed.

Warning that the species is now “in a state of global crisis”, and that the supply of donkey skins cannot meet demand in China, the Donkey Sanctuary has called for an urgent halt to the largely unregulated global trade in donkey skins before donkey populations are completely annihilated in some parts of the world.

The gelatine in donkey hides is a key ingredient in ejiao, which has been used as a traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years by those who believe it improves blood circulation and can be used to treat conditions such as anaemia, despite there being no clinical evidence to support this.

Over recent years, ejiao has become popular with China’s burgeoning middle class, and is increasingly seen as a wellness product that is added to all manner of products including face creams, sweets and liqueurs.

Numerous claims are made about the benefits of consuming ejiao, with proponents suggesting it can boost libido, aid sleep, prevent cancer and make people look younger.

No evidence exists to support any of these claims.

According to the Donkey Sanctuary, China needs some 4.8 million donkey hides a year for domestic ejiao production, which is driving traffickers in Africa, Asia and South America to source and sell skins to Chinese traders.

As well as seriously threatening donkey numbers in a number of countries, the illicit trade in the animal’s body parts increases the risk of the spread of dangerous diseases such as anthrax and equine diseases due to unhygienic practices during transport and slaughter.

Commenting on the findings of the charity’s report, Mike Baker, Chief Executive of the Donkey Sanctuary, said: “This is suffering on an enormous and unacceptable scale. This suffering is not just confined to donkeys as it also threatens the livelihood of millions of people.

“The skin trade is the biggest threat to donkey welfare we have ever seen. Urgent action needs to be taken.”

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Boy aged 16 arrested on US border with remote-control car and methamphetamine worth $100,000

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remote-control car and methamphetamine

US border control officers have arrested a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of using a remote-control car to smuggle methamphetamine estimated to the worth more than $100,000 across the US/Mexico border.

Customs investigators allegedly saw the boy close to the border carrying two duffel bags and called in additional agents to help apprehend him.

One officer noticed the boy attempting to hide himself in a bush close to the secondary border wall, where he was found to be in possession of a remote-control car.

While questioning the boy, who identified himself as US citizen, officers discovered that the two bags he was carrying contained 50 packages of methamphetamine.

In total, the drugs he was in possession of weighed more than 25kgs and had an estimated street value of $106,096.

Customs agents arrested the boy and took him to a nearby station to face drug smuggling charges.

In a statement on the US Customs and Border Control (CBP) website, San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Douglas Harrison said: “I am extremely proud of the agents’ heightened vigilance and hard work in stopping this unusual smuggling scheme.”

Last August, CBP officers arrested 25-year-old man carrying nearly 7kgs of methamphetamine after agents spotted a remote-controlled drone flying over the US/Mexico border.

Drones are now routinely used by criminals to sneak contraband across borders and into restricted sites such as prisons.

Last month, a man from the US state of Georgia was handed a four-year jail term after he was caught attempting to fly a drug-laden drone into Jimmy Autry State Prison.

Eric Lee Brown, 35, admitted one count of operating an aircraft eligible for registration knowing that it was not registered, and pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal to attempting to use the drone to drop a large bag of cannabis into the jail.

Speaking after Brown was sentenced, US Attorney Charlie Peeler said: “Smugglers using drones, or other means, to move illegal contraband and drugs into our prisons will face prosecution and penalties in the Middle District of Georgia.”

In April 2018, it was reported that customs officers in China had smashed a criminal gang that used drones to smuggle iPhones estimated to be worth $79.8 million from Hong Kong to the south-eastern city of Shenzhen.

In what was thought to have been the first recorded example of cross-border smuggling facilitated by drone in China, investigators detained 29 people on both sides of the border and seized two drones and thousands of Apple devices.

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Italian police arrest 23 suspects and recover 10,000 cultural items in archaeological trafficking crackdown

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archaeological trafficking crackdown

A major international police operation led by investigators in Italy has resulted in the recovery 10,000 stolen cultural items and the arrest of 23 suspected antiquities smugglers.

Operation Achei was led by the Italian national police force’s Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

The initiative involved input from several other agencies, including Europol and law enforcement organisations from a number of other countries, namely the UK, Germany and Serbia.

Police in Italy started a probe into the gang’s activities back in 2017 while investigating the looting of archaeological sites in Calabria, southern Italy, where valuable cultural items from the Greek and Roman period were being stolen.

Members of the gang are said to have used bulldozers and metal detectors to locate the items they stole, before selling them on to to a network of buyers across Europe.

Investigators discovered the smuggling network was being run by an organised crime group headed up by a pair of Italian nationals living in the province of Crotone.

The two ringleaders led a network of looters, fences, intermediaries and mules who operated from various locations across Italy, as well as key facilitators working in locations such as Djion, Munich, London and Vršac.

Detectives in Italy said they believe the gang was involved in the illicit trafficking of antique items including vases, jewellery and jars that dated back as far as the 4th century BC.

As well as the arrest of the 23 suspects, the operation also led to a further 80 individuals from the UK, France, Germany and Serbia being placed under investigation.

In a statement, Europol said: “The damage caused to the Italian cultural heritage by this criminal group is very significant as it the criminals were looting archaeological sites for many years.

“Europol Analysis Project FURTUM supported the investigation by coordinating the information exchange, holding several operational meetings, preparing the action day and providing on-the-spot analytical support in Italy to cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases.

“Eurojust supported the execution of the European Investigation Orders and arranged a coordination centre to follow the action in real-time.”

Back in July, a major operation run by Europol and Interpol targeting the trafficking of cultural artefacts involving customs and police officers from 29 countries resulted in the recovery of 18,000 items and the arrest of 59 suspects.

Operation Pandora III saw investigators carry out inspections and raids at numerous locations across the globe, making 49 arrests and imposing 67 administrative sanctions at auction houses, art galleries, museums and private houses.

 

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