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US, Britain to Establish Joint 'Cyber Cell'

  • VOA News

The United States and Britain say they will work together to prevent attacks by Islamic radicals and counter violent extremism as police across Europe arrest dozens of terrorist suspects.

U.S. President Barack Obama said after meeting in Washington with British Prime Minister David Cameron that the U.S. "continues to stand unequivocally" with France and all of its partners on the threat of terrorism. He also said the United States will help France seek justice for last week's terrorist attacks.

"Much of our discussion obviously focused on the continuing threat of terrorism, and in the wake of the vicious attacks in Paris as well as the news surfacing out of Belgium, today we continue to stand unequivocally, not only with our French friends and allies, but with all of our partners who are dealing with this scourge," said Obama.

Cameron said the U.S. and Britain both face threats to their national security from "people who want to do us harm." He said the Islamic extremists who seek to attack the West are following "a poisonous and fanatical ideology.”

The move comes in the wake of the devastating November 24 hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment and attacks this week on social media accounts of the U.S. Central Command. CENTCOM oversees U.S.-led airstrikes on Islamic State insurgents in Iraq and Syria.

Cyber war games

The two world leaders reportedly are planning to hold joint cyber war games starting later this year with a mock attack on banks. A White House statement says the two leaders have also agreed to establish a joint "cyber cell" to prepare for and share intelligence on malicious hacking.

Cameron had said prior to the meeting that he planned to ask Obama to press U.S. technology companies, such as Google and Facebook, to allow governments to snoop on encrypted communications.

The subject is a sensitive one in the United States following widespread public outrage at revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency was scooping up phone records of millions of Americans. Disclosures by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden also showed that several U.S. Internet businesses were giving the NSA access to customer data.

Europe arrests

Friday, more than two dozen suspects were arrested in Belgium, France, Germany and Ireland in continuing searches for suspected terrorists, as the region remains on alert for potential attacks.

In Belgium, authorities arrested 13 people in a series of raids across the country, saying the suspects are believed to have been members of an Islamist group planning attacks on police officers.

Belgian police killed two people during a raid Thursday on a terrorist cell in the city of Verviers, noting that some members of the cell had returned from Syria.

Around Paris, police arrested 12 people with suspected ties to the gunmen who killed 17 people in last week's attacks in the French capital.

In Germany, police say they have arrested two men in Berlin on suspicion they were recruiting fighters for the Islamic State group in Syria.

The suspects were detained Friday during a series of raids by more than 200 police officers on 12 properties in the German capital.

In Ireland, police arrested a suspected French-Algerian militant at Dublin Airport when he tried to enter the country using a false passport.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, the head of the European Union's police agency, Europol, said Europe must cooperate more closely to prevent attacks like last week's deadly incidents in Paris.

Rob Wainwright said the large number of radicalized Muslim extremists across Europe, plus their lack of command structure and growing sophistication, makes it "extremely difficult" for law enforcement agencies to foil every terrorist attack.

Russia sanctions

Obama and Cameron also agreed on the need to maintain strong sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine. The two leaders pledged to support Ukraine as it implements what the president described as "important democratic reforms."

Another major topic of discussion was Iran. Cameron said both the U.S. and Britain remain "absolutely committed" to blocking the Islamic Republic's capacity to develop nuclear weapons. He said the best way to achieve that is to give the negotiations toward an agreement with Iran the space to succeed.

The two leaders also discussed joint efforts on Ebola, climate change and the economy. They identified 2015 as a pivotal year for talks on a U.S.-European Union trade agreement.

Obama's meetings with Cameron, including a working dinner Thursday night come a week after Europe was shaken by terror attacks in Paris.

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