Eye on Extremism: April 11, 2019

ABC News: Fight Against ISIS Continues In Iraq And Syria, Despite Declaration Of Victory

“The U.S.-led coalition's fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is not over, despite a declaration of victory against the group's last remaining stronghold in eastern Syria last month. In the week following the March 23 victory declaration by Syrian and Kurdish partner forces, the coalition conducted 52 strikes in Iraq and Syria, according to a statement released by the coalition on Wednesday. Between March 24 and April 6, the coalition struck 28 ISIS tactical units and destroyed 72 vehicles, 17 fighting positions, 15 supply routes and three vehicles borne improvised explosive devices in Syria. During that same time period, the coalition struck three ISIS tactical units and destroyed seven tunnels, four supply routes, two buildings, two caves, one command and control center and one compound in Iraq. “While the completion of territorial liberation is a major milestone, we will continue to work by, with, and through our partners in Iraq and Syria to deny ISIS the opportunity to re-emerge,” Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Sean Robertson told ABC News. He said Syrian and Kurdish partner forces continue to conduct back clearance operations -- or double checking areas already believed to be swept of militants -- and eliminating any remaining ISIS weapons caches.”

The Detroit News: Islamic State Fighters Trained Dearborn Man Captured In Syria, Feds Say

“Islamic State fighters provided military-style training to a machine-gun toting Dearborn man captured on a Syrian battlefield last summer, prosecutors said Wednesday. Prosecutors leveled the allegations in a new indictment against Ibraheem Musaibli, 28, who was brought back to Metro Detroit last year and charged with conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization. His case presents one of the first times the Trump administration is using federal courts to prosecute a returning foreign fighter. Federal prosecutors accused Musaibli of fighting on behalf of ISIS against coalition forces, including members of the U.S. military. Musaibli was taken into custody by Syrian Democratic Forces in July while trying to flee the Middle Euphrates River Valley in northern Syria. At the time, he was believed to be one of only two male Americans captured alive on an Islamic State battlefield. The indictment accuses Musaibli of knowingly providing support to ISIS since April 2015 and undergoing training at an ISIS military training camp. He also conspired to possess and fire a machine gun in support of ISIS, prosecutors said. ISIS is a designated foreign terrorist organization.”

Kurdistan 24: US Warns Iran's IRGC-Backed Militias In Iraq

“America’s top envoy in Iraq on Wednesday issued a warning to those Iraqi militias that receive support from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC.) The warning follows two days after the US designated the IRGC, including its Quds Force (IRGC-QF), as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO.)  “This designation makes it clearer and clearer that people can have a relationship with the problematic parts of the Iranian government, like the IRGC, or they can have a relationship with the United States and our financial system, but they cannot do both at the same time,” Joey Hood, chargé d'affaires at the US embassy in Baghdad, told reporters after attending a local event in the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region, Erbil. “It is natural for the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people,” he continued, “to have a normal relationship with the Iranian government and the Iranian people.” “But it is not normal for a Revolutionary Guard to be coming into another country and doing things without coordination with that government and trying to destabilize it, and weaken the sovereignty of that government,” Hood affirmed.”

The Guardian: Iraq Seeks Multibillion Dollar Fee To Receive ISIS Prisoners

“Baghdad and Washington are in talks to transfer and place on trial tens of thousands of suspected Isis fighters and their families from detention centres in Syria to prison camps in Iraq, with Iraqi officials seeking a multibillion dollar fee to receive remnants of the terror group captured over five years of war. Discussions about what to do with Isis members, among them thousands of foreign men, women and children, have been pushed intensively by US officials, who have also lobbied coalition partners to remove their citizens from two cramped detention centres in Syria’s north-east, which one former senior US official described as a “volcano”. Baghdad has asked for a $10bn (£7.6bn) fee up front, then $1bn per annum to receive the detainees, senior western officials have told the Guardian. The size of the mooted price tag has led some in Washington and London to view it as a rebuff of a US plan, rather than a willingness to take a stake in a politically sensitive and dangerous operation, just as a war-weary Iraq had begun to recover. Other Iraqi pre-conditions include no access for humanitarian workers to any facilities on Iraqi soil, or objection to the death penalty. Neither is likely to fly with Britain or France, which remain opposed to sending its citizens to countries that carry out executions.”

The Defense Post: France And Mali Troops Kill 30 Militants In Major Counter-Terrorism Operation Near Burkina Faso Border

“French and Malian troops killed or captured more than 30 extremists and dismantled a jihadist training camp during a major counter-terrorism operation near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso, the French military told AFP on Thursday, April 10. “Over 30 members of armed terrorist groups were neutralized,” the military said, a term meaning that they were killed or captured. A French military doctor was also killed during the operation, the military previously reported. The operation was launched in late March in the Gourma, a crossroads region in Mali’s central belt that flanks the border with Burkina Faso. The doctor, Captain Marc Laycuras, was killed when his vehicle hit a mine, bringing to 24 the number of French defense force members killed in counter-terrorism operations in the region since 2013. Laycuras’s death on April 2 came a week after France’s armed forces chief General Francois Lecointre said jihadist forces in Mali were on the back foot, although he stressed that the enemy had not yet been defeated and that the fight to restore peace in the Sahel would be long. Some 4,500 French troops are deployed in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to help local forces try to flush out jihadist groups, six years after France helped chase al-Qaeda out of northern Mali.”

The Financial Times: Niger: War At The Heart Of West Africa

“Niger sits in a dangerous neighbourhood. Six of the seven countries it borders face crises of one degree or another. Across its northern border, a military strongman’s march on Tripoli threatens to send Libya back into civil war. To the south, Boko Haram and criminal gangs wreak havoc along much of the border with Nigeria, and the jihadi insurgency has bled into neighbouring Chad. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb haunts Algeria’s desert lands; and the ethnic clashes and jihadi insurgencies of northern and central Mali have spilled over into Burkina Faso, leading to the precipitous collapse of parts of a country once viewed as a model of stability.”

United States

The Wall Street Journal: The Threat Of Nuclear War Is Still With Us

“The U.S., its allies and Russia are caught in a dangerous policy paralysis that could lead—most likely by mistake or miscalculation—to a military confrontation and potentially the use of nuclear weapons for the first time in nearly 74 years. A bold policy shift is needed to support a strategic re-engagement with Russia and walk back from this perilous precipice. Otherwise, our nations may soon be entrenched in a nuclear standoff more precarious, disorienting and economically costly than the Cold War. The most difficult task facing the U.S. is also the most important—to refocus on America’s most vital interests even as we respond firmly to Russia’s aggressions. The three of us experienced the low points of U.S. relations with the Soviet Union, and the nuclear dangers that arose. The 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the 1981-83 confrontation over intermediate-range nuclear missiles were periods of increased tensions, reduced trust and rising nuclear risks. With Henry Kissinger, we wrote in 2007 that although the world escaped the nuclear knife’s edge of the Cold War through a combination of diligence, professionalism and good luck, reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective as more states gain nukes of their own.”

The New York Times: Pompeo Is Warned Against Sidestepping Congress For Conflict With Iran

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left open the possibility on Wednesday of entering a conflict with Iran without first seeking explicit congressional approval, telling senators “there is no doubt there is a connection” between Al Qaeda and Iran. His comments came two days after the Trump administration designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist group, and were likely to fuel concerns of American military action against the country. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, pushed Mr. Pompeo to commit that the Trump administration would not attack Iran under a war authorization allowing the use of military force against Al Qaeda and other extremist groups responsible for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Pompeo demurred, saying he would “prefer to just leave that to lawyers.”

Newsweek: U.S. Ready To Take On Russia, China, Iran And Other 'Foreign Powers' In Venezuela, John Bolton Says

“President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton has warned nations seen as obstacles to U.S. plans for Latin America that they must leave Venezuela and stop defending the socialist government opposed by the Trump administration. Venezuela's economic crisis boiled over into a geopolitical flashpoint in January that has polarized world powers, as the U.S. and its allies proclaimed their support for opposition leader Juan Guaidó's political challenge to President Nicolás Maduro. Responding to Tuesday's Newsweek article discussing the recent arrival of Russian, Chinese and Iranian planes intended to support Maduro and his government, Bolton told radio host Hugh Hewitt that "President Trump is determined not to see Venezuela fall under the sway of foreign powers." Bolton praised President James Monroe's 19th-century efforts to expel European colonial powers from the continent (known as the Monroe Doctrine) and President Ronald Reagan's anti-communist crusade there in the 1980s—policies that greatly expanded the U.S. footprint in the region. He also railed against attempts by Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama, to diplomatically court leftist Latin American leaders long targeted by U.S. foreign policy.”

Syria

Reuters: Islamic State Recruit Says Many Foreign Fighters Jailed Or Killed

“A Tajik man who joined Islamic State said many foreigners who enlisted in its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria were jailed or killed for trying to leave. The 28-year-old, who once drove a taxi in Moscow, said he handed himself over to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed group, from Islamic State’s last holdout of Baghouz in eastern Syria last month after years of trying to escape. SDF officials monitored and recorded a Reuters interview with the man, Abdul Ahad Rustam Nazarov, at an SDF centre in Rmeilan in Syria. Reuters could not verify his account. Tajikistan has offered amnesty to those who quit IS and return home, provided they’ve committed no other crimes. Nazarov says he never fought for IS. Parts of his account about his life were inconsistent, although other parts matched what others have said about IS, including its strict judicial system and its eventual defeat.”

Iran

Asharq Al-Awsat: US Urges Europe to Label IRGC as Terrorist Organization

“US State Department officials called on EU states to take a step similar to that of the US and add the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on their terror list. This request aims at increasing pressure on the Iranian regime in order to keep it from financing IRGC-affiliated militias in the region and planning terrorist operations from within European territory. US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook and US Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales said the Iranian regime had used the IRGC to threaten the Middles East’s security and stability, leading the US administration to classify it as a terrorist organization. They both stressed that the US and Europe share the same views in regard to dangers posed by Iran’s threats in terms of terrorism, ballistic missile tests, human rights violations, and women’s oppression. “We obviously disagree (with Europeans) about the Iran Nuclear Deal, but whenever we’re in a room with our European allies and we talk about Iran’s threats, the missile testing, ballistic missile testing, missile proliferation, the terrorism, terror finance, cyber-attacks, maritime aggression, human rights abuses, the arbitrary detention of dual nationals, the oppression of women, we see eye to eye on this,” Hook explained.”

The New York Post: Iran Says It Will Push Ahead With Satellite Launches Despite US Opposition

“Iran said on Tuesday it would press ahead with the launch of three satellites into orbit this year despite a US move to curb Tehran’s ballistic missile program which Washington says has been advanced by the satellite activity. President Donald Trump said on Monday he would name Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, a move partly intended to curb the Islamic Republic’s development of ballistic missiles. The United States fears long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also be used to launch nuclear warheads. Iranian Telecoms Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi told Reuters in Geneva on Tuesday that Tehran would stick to its plans to launch three satellites and denied the US accusation that such activity is a cover for ballistic missile development. “The rockets which have currently been developed in Iran for carrying satellites are not something that are a cover for another kind of rocket activity,” Azari-Jahromi said in an interview on the sidelines of a conference in Geneva.”

France 24: Pompeo Says Iran Tied To Al-Qaeda, Declines To Say If War Legal

“US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday accused Iran of ties to Al-Qaeda and declined to say whether the Trump administration had legal authority to invade the country. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo hedged on whether the authorization of force by the US Congress days after the September 11, 2001 attacks would allow the United States to strike Iran. "I would prefer just to leave that to lawyers," Pompeo told Senator Rand Paul, a Republican who is critical of US foreign interventions. "The factual question with respect to Iran's connections to Al-Qaeda is very real. They have hosted Al-Qaeda, they have permitted Al-Qaeda to transit their country," he said. "There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Al-Qaeda. Period, full stop," he said. But Pompeo denied Paul's suggestion that President Donald Trump's designation Monday of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards was aimed at making a legal case for war.”

Al Arabiya: Pompeo Says Iran Tied To Al-Qaeda, Declines To Say If War Legal

“US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday accused Iran of ties to al-Qaeda and declined to say whether the Trump administration had the legal authority to invade the country. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo hedged on whether the authorization of force by the US Congress days after the September 11, 2001 attacks would allow the United States to strike Iran. “I would prefer just to leave that to lawyers,” Pompeo told Senator Rand Paul, a Republican who is critical of US foreign interventions. “The factual question with respect to Iran’s connections to al-Qaeda is very real. They have hosted al-Qaeda, they have permitted al-Qaeda to transit their country,” he said. “There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al-Qaeda. Period, full stop,” he said. But Pompeo denied Paul’s suggestion that President Donald Trump’s designation on Monday of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards was aimed at making a legal case for war. “It was not part of the decision-making process. The designation was a simple recognition of reality,” Pompeo said, citing US figures that Iran was behind more than 600 deaths of US troops in Iraq after the 2003 invasion when Tehran backed Shiite forces.”

Iraq

Iraqi News: Bomb Attack Wounds Three Paramilitary Fighters In Iraq’s Babylon

“Three Iraqi paramilitary fighters were wounded Wednesday when a bomb blast rocked the ancient city of Babylon, a security source was quoted as saying. “A roadside bomb placed by unidentified men targeted a security patrol of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Jurf al-Sakhar district in northern Babylon,” the source told Baghdad Today website. “The bomb attack left three PMF members wounded,” the source said, adding that a security force rushed to the blast site and carried the wounded into a nearby hospital for treatment. Violence in the country has surged further with the emergence of Islamic State extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014. The surge in violence between armed groups and government forces has resulted in over five million internally displaced persons across Iraq and left more than 11 million in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Times: Afghanistan Again On The Brink

“Last month, I arrived at Kabul International Airport. Walking toward the car, I asked Jawed, the porter, what people thought about the ongoing negotiations between the United States and the Taliban. With a puzzled look he said: “I’m not an educated man and don’t understand what’s going on. What simple folks think is that the fire under the caldron has been set, but no one seems to know where to find a fitting cover for it.” “You looked surprised I asked you about the situation,” I said. “I couldn’t believe you would ask me,” Jawed said. “People with money and importance don’t care to know what we think.” “I’m neither with money nor important,” I said. “You’re from America,” he said. “You look rich.” As I later went into longer, deeper conversations with “people of money and importance,” I realized that that self-declared “not an educated man” was absolutely right. I didn’t find a single person who convincingly suggested a way to end the Afghan conflict without it collapsing into civil war. Modern policymakers and bureaucrats who consider themselves to be knowledgeable realists have concluded that more than a trillion dollars was wasted on a people whose unimaginable poverty, primordial social conditions and rugged, unforgiving countryside have rendered them mentally, physically and philosophically impregnable.”

Radio Free Europe: Afghan Government Says Talks With Taliban Delayed Until April 19

“The Afghan government says talks with the Taliban that were meant to start on April 14 in Qatar have been rescheduled to begin five days later. Abdul Hadi Arghandewal, a member of the Afghan leadership council for reconciliation, said more discussions on the Afghan negotiation team were needed -- pushing the start of the talks in Doha back to April 19. The planned meeting has been seen as a significant step toward finding an end to Afghanistan's long war and allowing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. Government envoys are participating in talks as part of a larger group of prominent Afghans. The Taliban says it will speak with government representatives but recognize them only as “ordinary” Afghans. Arghandewal said the council will announce the members of the Afghan negotiating team in the next three to four days. Taliban officials have confirmed they are aware of the delay but did not provide more details.”

Pakistan

The New York Times: Pakistan PM Khan Says Anti-Militant Push Vital For Stability

“Pakistan's push to curb armed militant groups in the wake of a standoff with India that brought the nuclear-armed neighbors close to war reflected an urgent need for stability to meet growing economic challenges, Prime Minister Imran Khan said. Facing a financial crisis and heavy pressure to take on militant groups to avoid sanctions from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global money laundering and terror finance watchdog, Khan said Pakistan was acting in its own interests. "Everyone now knows that what is happening in Pakistan has never happened (before)," Khan told a group of foreign journalists at his office in Islamabad on Tuesday, outlining a push to bring the more than 30,000 madrasas across Pakistan under government control and rehabilitate thousands of former militants. "We have decided, this country has decided, for the future of the country - forget outside pressure - we will not allow armed militias to operate," he said.”

Yemen

Asharq Al-Awsat: Yemen: Houthis Trigger Oil Crisis To Counter Anti-Iran Government Measures

“Iran-backed Houthi militias have orchestrated a fuel crisis in areas under their control with the intention of using the shortage as a trump card against the Central Bank of Yemen to overturn its decision to crack down on the illegal purchase of Iranian oil derivatives, one of the main resources funding coup militias. The decision had the effect of restoring a large part of the cash cycle from the black market to the banking sector and tightened the noose on Houthi financial activity. Gas stations in Houthi-run strongholds, such as Sanaa, are frantic civilians rushing to stock up on fuel despite them being sold at doubled rates. Yemeni economist Fares Al-Jadabi said that mid-October 2018 the Yemeni rial exchange rate against the US dollar plummeted to YER 820. The currency crisis, according to Jadabi, was a result of militias taking hold of astronomical amounts of cash from oil trade.”

Arab News: Arab Coalition Strikes Houthi Drone Capabilities In Sanaa

“The Arab Coalition in Yemen said it had struck Houthi targets in the capital Sanaa, Saudi TV reported early Wednesday. A Houthi workshop manufacturing unmanned drones and a launchpad were hit in the attack, said the coalition, which is tasked with supporting the internationally recognized government of Yemen against the Iranian-backed Houthi militia that control the capital. Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said that at 4:17 a.m. the Joint Forces Command carried out an operation in Sanaa to destroy two legitimate military targets, including a workshop used by the Houthi militia for installing and booby-trapping UAVs and a store for platforms for launching and preparing UAVs to carry out terrorist operations. He said that the targeting operation was an extension of previous military operations (on Jan. 19, 31 and Feb. 9 and March 23), which were conducted by the Joint Forces Command to destroy an Iran-backed terrorist Houthi militia’s integrated network for UAV capabilities and its logistical facilities, in addition to the locations of foreign experts.” 

Lebanon

Associated Press: Lebanon’s Hezbollah Warns US Pressure On Iran May Backfire

“The leader of the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah on Wednesday called the U.S. decision to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization “stupidity,” and warned that the group and its allies may respond to further escalation. Hassan Nasrallah said the Trump administration’s decision reflects the “failure” of its policies in the region and confirms the growing influence of and support for the Iranian group. The Guard is the main backer for Hezbollah, which plays an influential role in the Lebanese government and has already been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. It is the first time that Washington has designated an entity of another government as a terrorist organization. Nasrallah said the move set a “precedent.”

Reuters: Hezbollah Warns U.S. Over Sanctions Against Iran And Allies

“Lebanon’s Hezbollah raised the prospect of retaliation by Iran and its allies over U.S. sanctions, saying on Wednesday that all options were on the table were Washington to take steps that “threaten our nation”. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the heavily armed Iranian-backed Shi’ite group, said the United States’ move this week to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization reflected a failure of U.S. policy in the Middle East.  Iran and its allies, which include Hezbollah, had so far made do with condemnation in response to the U.S. sanctions, said Nasrallah, before adding that this was “not a permanent and fixed policy”.  “There are measures which, if taken by the Americans ... who said they will remain without response?” he said in a televised speech delivered to an event for Hezbollah’s wounded fighters.  “There will be an appropriate response for sure,” he said. Iran and its allies held “many strong cards”, he added. Hezbollah was founded by the Revolutionary Guards in 1982 and has long been designated as a terrorist group by the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has tightened sanctions against Hezbollah as part of its wider regional policy to counter Iran.” 

Egypt

The Jerusalem Post: Ilhan Omar Calls For Release Of Egyptian Prisoner With Terrorist Ties

“Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is calling for the release of a terrorist. On her Twitter page last week, Omar demanded that US President Donald Trump push for the release of a senior member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hoda Abdelmonem. Omar posted a photo of herself meeting with pro-Muslim Brotherhood campaigners and retweeted an Al Jazeera video that calls for Abdelmonem’s release. The Muslim Brotherhood is classified as a terrorist organization in many countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt. Republicans have long lobbied Congress to classify the group as a terrorist organization in the United States, too. The terrorist organization is one of the oldest in the world. It promotes a platform called “The Project,” an 18-page plan that is focused on destroying the Western world from within its border. That plan charts the groundwork of jihadists for establishing an Islamic government in North America. Several Hamas and al-Qaeda activists have been trained by the Muslim Brotherhood.” 

Libya

DW: Could Libya Be Russia's New Syria?

“The rumors that Libyan General Khalifa Haftar has Kremlin support are as consistent as his advance on the country's capital. In Syria, Russia has flexed its military muscles — but it isn't showing its cards on Libya yet. As the conflict in Libya heats up, the words out of Moscow have remained cool and rational. During a recent visit to Egypt, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia's "task is to help the Libyan people overcome their current differences of opinion, and come up with a stable agreement" to reconcile the sides. And at the beginning of the week Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia will use every possible opportunity to call on all sides to avoid causing bloodshed and "deaths in the civilian population." Since early April, the forces of military strongman Khalifa Haftar (above) have been pushing towards the Libyan capital, Tripoli. That is where the internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj is based, which has accused Haftar of attempting a coup. Haftar heads the self-titled Libyan National Army, which is backed by a rival government in the east of the country.”

Nigeria

Voice Of America: Boko Haram Targets Civilians In Deadly Attacks In South-East Niger

“The United Nations refugee agency reports tens of thousands of refugees and displaced people in Niger’s Diffa region are suffering immense hardships as violent attacks by Boko Haram increase in frequency and intensity. According to the U.N. refugee agency, last month 88 civilians in Niger’s border areas were killed by Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based Islamist militant group. The spike in violence, it says, has forced more than 18,000 people to flee their homes, many for the second or third time. Large numbers have fled to Diffa town in search of safety, adding to the heavy burden of this overcrowded area. Since 2015, nearly 250,000 people, about half of them refugees from Nigeria, have sought protection from Boko Haram in Diffa. UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said the situation has become untenable. He told VOA his agency is working with local authorities to immediately relocate 10,000 refugees away from the dangerous border area. “We are trying to bring them to Sayam Forage camp, which already has an existing refugee population and for the part of the remaining population, we are trying to work with the local authorities and our humanitarian partners to find alternative solutions for them,” he said.”

Reuters: Nigerian Troops Evacuate Town In Security Operation: U.N.

“Nigerian troops evacuated the entire population of a town of 10,000 people in northeastern Borno state without warning on Monday before an operation against militants, the United Nations said on Thursday. The military relocated the people of Jakana to a camp in the city of Maiduguri about 40 km (25 miles) away, some arriving with “nothing, not even shoes on their feet,” the United Nations said in a statement. The northeast is the battleground in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Islamist insurgencies Islamic State West Africa Province and Boko Haram.  A surge in militant attacks in December in which towns and military bases were overrun saw tens of thousands of civilians fleeing into Maiduguri and swelling the population of existing camps. ”The entire town of Jakana was emptied, and people were forced to move to Maiduguri with very little time to collect personal belongings,” Edward Kallon, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, said in the statement.  Jakana residents said the military was screening the population for Boko Haram members. Last June, the Nigerian government ordered thousands of people to leave the relative safety of their camp in Maiduguri to live in a town in an unsafe area. In September, the town was attacked, forcing the population to flee.”

Somalia

CNN: US Conducts Airstrike In Somalia As Its Prime Minister Visits Washington

“The US military conducted an airstrike in Somalia Tuesday that killed one Al-Shabaab militant, according to US Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent. The strike occurred in the vicinity of Jilib, Middle Juba Region, an area that has in the past been a hotbed of Al-Shabaab activity. News of the strike comes on the same day that Somalia's Prime Minister Hassan Khayre met with President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton at the White House on Wednesday. Khayre is seen as a key ally in the fight against the al Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab. “Pleased to have hosted Somali PM Khayre today. I congratulated him on Somalia's economic reforms and urged sustained engagement on this front. We discussed ways to deepen the strong US-Somalia partnership on critical issues, including counterterrorism and regional stability,” Bolton wrote on Twitter Wednesday following their meeting. American diplomats, military officers, and USAID officials tell CNN that they see progress in Somalia, with many of them citing increased security in major cities and reform efforts as examples of success, which has been bolstered by recent reform efforts made by the government.”

Voice Of America: US Resumes Airstrikes In Somalia After Brief Pause

“The United States said Wednesday it has resumed airstrikes against the al-Shabab Islamist group in Somalia, after a brief pause that followed accusations from Amnesty International that it had tried to hide civilian casualties. The latest airstrike was carried out on Tuesday near Jilib, in the Moyen-Juba region southwest of Mogadishu, and killed one Islamist fighter, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said. "Currently, we assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike," AFRICOM said in a statement, adding, for the first time, that the army had procedures in place to collect follow-up information on the impact of bombings. It was the first air raid carried out by the U.S. military since March 18. The day after that strike, Amnesty published a report saying 14 civilians had been killed and seven wounded in the course of five airstrikes attributed to the US military.”

Africa

Xinhua: Morocco Busts Terror Cell Led By Former Fighter In Iraq, Syria

“The Moroccan Interior Ministry announced on Wednesday the busting of terror cell made up of four suspects and led by a former fighter in Syria and Iraq. According to a statement from the ministry, the suspects, aged between 33 and 38, were active in the northern city of Taza. Initial investigations revealed that the leader of the cell, who served a prison sentence in 2015 under the anti-terrorism law, recruited the members of his group and tried to use his fighting experience in Syria and Iraq to plot and carry out terrorist acts against sensitive institutions in Morocco. The suspects were remanded in custody as part of the investigation conducted under the supervision of the competent prosecutor, the same source noted.” 

Canada

The Washington Post: Far From The Crumbling Caliphate But Haunted By ISIS

“She was thousands of miles from Syria when the call came, but the voice on the line took her back. The caller spoke in Arabic, addressed Melkeya by name, threatened her. ”I know who you are,” he said. “Just you wait.” Her first thought: ISIS. In 2014, the Islamic State swept through Melkeya’s hometown in northern Iraq, killing and kidnapping thousands of Yazidis, an ancient religious minority group, in what the United Nations called a genocide. Many ended up in Syria, where the fighters claimed a capital. At a time when others were closing their doors to refugees, Canada stepped in to help, offering to resettle more than 1,000 of the Islamic State’s most vulnerable victims, particularly Yazidi women and girls who, like Melkeya, survived sexual enslavement. Interviews with more than two dozen people, including five Yazidi families, settlement workers, doctors, volunteers and officials, show how the Islamic State continues to haunt them, even as their caliphate crumbles, even in quiet, Canadian suburbs blanketed in snow. “After I got that first phone call, it was like I was put back in that place,” Melkeya said. “All of those fears returned.” The Washington Post is identifying adult refugees by only their first names to protect their safety and privacy, as well as the privacy of their children, some of whom were also enslaved.”

United Kingdom

The Independent: Terrorist Planned To Bomb UK’s Largest Mosque ‘To Get Justice’ For Manchester Attack

“I think it would be justice if someone did to them what they do to us,” Steven Bishop told police after being arrested for planning to bomb the UK’s largest mosque. The 41-year-old was open about his desire for “revenge” for the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing after becoming fixated on its youngest victim, Saffie-Rose Roussos. He is the second terrorist to be jailed in little over a year after targeting Muslims at British mosques. The first terrorist, Darren Osborne, succeeded in carrying out his plan when he ploughed a van into worshippers in Finsbury Park and killed a grandfather leaving prayers. Bishop’s target was the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden, which he researched while collecting parts for homemade incendiary devices. Police were alerted to the plot in October after Bishop showed a drug recovery worker a picture of a detonator on his mobile phone and told her of his plans. Officers visited his home in Thornton Heath and he told them “he wanted to get revenge for the eight-year-old girl killed in Manchester, that he had made donations to the victims’ fund and that he had looked up how terrorists had made the bomb used in the attack”, prosecutors said.”

Germany

ABC News: ISIS Militant Who Allegedly Let Girl Die Of Thirst Faces Trial In Landmark Case

“A trial is now underway in Munich against a 27-year-old German convert to Islam who is accused of allowing a 5-year-old Yazidi girl to die of thirst in the scorching heat in Iraq. It is the first prosecution for crimes of ISIS militants against Yazidi victims and may set a precedent for forthcoming cases. If convicted by Munich state court, the defendant, identified as Jennifer W., faces life in prison for weapons offenses, joining a terrorist group, war crimes and murder. Jennifer W. and her husband are also accused of enslaving the young girl in ISIS-held territory in Iraq. The co-plaintiff and witness in the case is the girl's mother, who was also held captive by Jennifer W. and her husband. She is being represented by international and human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney, among others. The start of the case is a landmark for Yazda, a global Yazidi non-governmental organization that helped identify and locate the girl’s mother. “We have been waiting for this moment to happen – to see that this being discussed legally in the court where there is a criminal perpetrator,” Ahmed Khudida Burjus, director of Yazda, told ABC News.”

The Guardian: German Police Raid 30 Premises Linked To Far-Right Extremists

“Police have carried out extensive raids in four German states on premises linked to suspected far-right extremists. Thirty properties including flats, offices and commercial premises in the states of Brandenburg, Berlin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Saxony were searched in the operations which began at dawn and continued into Wednesday afternoon. Police said that no arrests had been made. They are expected to release more information in a press conference on Thursday morning. According to German media, the focus of the police’s interests is Inferno Cottbus ’99, an extremist group affiliated with the football club Energie Cottbus that has been under investigation since April 2018. The raids were requested by the main court in the city of Cottbus, which is investigating the group. Inferno Cottbus ’99 is suspected of involvement in criminal activities including robberies, violence, tax evasion and advertising Nazi symbolism, which is a crime in Germany. Inferno Cottbus has also been accused of organising riots in the eastern city of Chemnitz last summer, sparked by the murder of a local German-Cuban man. According to the group itself, it broke up in May 2017. But observers of the far-right scene say the disbandment happened on paper only.”

Europe

Reuters: Austria Wants Islamic State Fighters To Be Tried In U.N.: Style Tribunals

“Austria wants its citizens who have fought for Islamic State to be tried in U.N.-style tribunals in the Middle East rather than brought home for prosecution, it said on Wednesday.  U.S.-backed forces last month announced the capture of Islamic State’s last territory in Syria, eliminating its rule over a self-proclaimed “caliphate”, but no clear international policy has emerged yet about how to deal with the militants captured there and at other strongholds.  Austria’s far-right interior minister, Herbert Kickl, called for “tribunals in the region” to be set up to deal with those who had left Austria and other European countries to join Islamic State, whom he referred to as “ticking time bombs”.  “I have turned to the three EU commissioners responsible with the request that this be made into a pan-European project,” Kickl told a news conference after a weekly cabinet meeting, adding that Germany, Sweden and Finland support the idea. Roughly 100 “foreign fighters” who had traveled from Austria were in Islamic State combat zones in Syria and Iraq at the start of the year, Austrian media reported in February, citing an estimate Austria’s main intelligence service. Only some of those were believed to be Austrians.”

Southeast Asia

The New York Times: Pentagon Prosecutors Seek Trial Of 3 Guantánamo Prisoners For Indonesia Bombings

“Pentagon prosecutors have made a renewed effort to charge three prisoners at the Guantánamo Bay wartime prison with conspiring in two deadly terrorist bombings in Indonesia in 2002 and 2003. The prosecutors have tried unsuccessfully twice before to move the case ahead, but the office overseeing military commissions never signed off on the charges. If the charges are approved this time, it would be the first new case to head toward trial at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, since 2014. The prosecutors are seeking to charge the prisoners — an Indonesian captive known as Hambali and two Malaysian men — with murder, terrorism and conspiracy in the 2002 nightclub bombings in Baliwhich killed 202 people, including seven Americans, and the 2003 Marriott hotel bombing in Jakarta, which killed at least 11 people and wounded at least 80, including three Americans. The three men have been held at Guantánamo since September 2006. They were captured in Thailand in August 2003 in a joint Thai-United States intelligence raid and spent about three years in the secret C.I.A. prison network.”

Philippine Star: Duterte: ISIS Will Never Gain A Foothold In Philippines Again

“International terrorist group  Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will no longer gain a foothold anywhere in the Philippines but remains a cause for concern for government forces, President Rodrigo Duterte said. Duterte cited the military's gains against the Abu Sayyaf, a local terrorist group involved in bombings and kidnappings that has pledged allegiance to the ISIS. The strength of the Abu Sayyaf has been estimated at about 400. ”I am especially pleased with our military's recent accomplishments against the Abu Sayyaf Group. Your efforts have brought us even closer to our ultimate objective of totally crushing the violent extremism at its roots,” the president said during the commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) in Jolo, Sulu on Tuesday. ”With this, I can confidently declare that ISIS will never gain foothold anywhere in the Philippines,” he added. ISIS, which aims to establish a worldwide caliphate, inspired extremists from the Maute group to occupy the Islamic City of Marawi in 2017, a siege that paved way to the longest urban war in the Philippines since World War II. About 1,000 terrorists and more than 160 soldiers died during the siege, which prompted Duterte to place the entire island Mindanao under martial law.”

Xinhua: 3 Killed In Abu Sayyaf Militants' Attack In Southern Philippines

“Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants shot dead on Wednesday an army soldier and two militiamen in Basilan, an island province in the southern Philippines, the military said. The military said the three were travelling on board two motorcycles when the militants shot them dead around 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday in Sumisip town in Basilan. “The recent attack is a clear manifestation that the Abu Sayyaf group is incapable of engaging combat troops who are conducting intensified operations in the area. Rather, they are resorting to diversionary tactics to disrupt the peaceful situation in the province,” Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said in a statement. Abu Sayyaf is a radical insurgent group in the Philippines, and often carry out kidnappings, bombings and beheadings in western Mindanao, particularly in their lair in the island provinces of Basilan and Sulu. Abu Sayyaf gained notice in the southern Philippines in the early 1990s. It acquired a worldwide notoriety with a series of kidnappings and beheadings.”

Technology

The Huffington Post: Twitter Bans White Nationalist Group, Losing A Drop In Its Bucket

“Twitter has banned a prominent white nationalist group called the Canadian Nationalist Front from its platform, a day after Facebook banned a host of extremists and hate groups from its own. The big tech companies have been under worldwide pressure to restrict prominent white nationalists and their rhetoric after the New Zealand mosque shootings were livestreamed on Facebook. But Twitter’s ban of Canadian Nationalist Front, which The Globe and Mail reported on Tuesday, is peculiar because of a swath of extremists and white nationalist groups that remain on the platform. Whereas Facebook banned groups ― including the Canadian Nationalist Front and prominent white nationalists like Faith Goldy ― following a HuffPost story about Goldy and other extremists on the platform, Twitter banned only one. The company confirmed with The Globe and Mail that it banned the group and affiliated accounts for violating its rules barring violent extremist groups, but declined to go into detail. Meanwhile, a very basic search on Twitter reveals that a slew of other white nationalist groups remain, some of which appear to blatantly violate its strict terms of service. Red Ice, for example, is a white nationalist propaganda outlet as described by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”