Eye on Extremism: April 12, 2019

The New York Times: Pakistan Market Bomb Blast Kills At Least 16 People In Quetta

“At least 16 people were killed when a bomb ripped through a vegetable market in Quetta in southwestern Pakistan early Friday, officials said. Eight of the dead were Hazaras, a Shiite Muslim minority group that has repeatedly been the target of Sunni extremists. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which also injured at least 30 people. But Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned militant Sunni group, has often carried out attacks against Hazaras in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province. For years, the Hazaras have lived in a state of perpetual fear in Quetta, and promises made by successive governments have failed to ensure their safety. While terrorist attacks have declined significantly in the past year across the country, Friday’s attack was a grim reminder that the Hazaras continue to remain vulnerable to militant violence and that the security provided to them remains inadequate. A senior police official said the bomb went off in a sack of potatoes, and that the victims included shopkeepers and customers at the vegetable market. One paramilitary soldier was also killed in the blast. The police ruled out a suicide bombing and said they were investigating whether a remote control or a timed device had set off the bomb.”

Reuters: Snipers, Starvation And Death: IS 'Caliphate' Ended In Bloodbath

“Even when U.S. coalition air strikes and artillery paused for people to evacuate during lulls in fighting, the killing did not stop in Islamic State’s final enclave. Snipers in areas controlled by Syria’s government near the village of Baghouz picked off women and children fetching water from the river or climbing the small hill to seek medical help in Kurdish-controlled territory, survivors said.  People died from their wounds and children starved.  “There were lines of bodies, men, women and children. I didn’t count them,” said Katrin Aleksandr, a Ukrainian woman who left Baghouz in eastern Syria in the last days of the fighting.  She lay in a hospital bed with her head stitched up, two black eyes and shrapnel wounds to her limbs. Her husband, a militant, was killed in the air strike that wounded her.  “Everything was on fire, including tents people lived in,” she said.  Those who lived through the final days of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate said many people had stayed or were trapped in trenches, tunnels and tents in Baghouz.  Aleksandr and several other people interviewed by Reuters in camps and hospitals, including supporters and critics of Islamic State, gave separate but similar accounts.”

The Washington Examiner: The War Against ISIS Is Over In Iraq And Syria — Except For All The Fighting And Bombing

“The ISIS caliphate is history, but the battle to eliminate the terrorist group continues in Iraq and Syria. The U.S.-led coalition, officially named Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, no longer conducts regular briefings, but it does issue a bi-weekly “strike summary,” which shows plenty of bombing is going on along with ground operations as ISIS continues to pose a threat in both countries. “Between March 24 - April 6, the U.S. and its coalition partners conducted 52 strikes against nearly 100 targets in Syria and Iraq,” according to the latest CJTF-OIR release.  “In Syria, CJTF-OIR conducted 29 strikes consisting of 53 engagements, engaged 28 [ISIS] tactical units, and destroyed 72 vehicles, 17 fighting positions, 15 supply routes, and three vehicle borne improvised explosive devices,” said the summary. “In Iraq, CJTF-OIR conducted 23 strikes consisting of 45 engagements, engaged three [ISIS] tactical units, and destroyed seven tunnels, four supply routes, two buildings, two caves, one command and control center, and one compound.”

Reuters: Taliban Announce Annual Spring Offensive In Afghanistan

“The Taliban launched their annual spring offensive on Friday, calling on Afghan soldiers and police to abandon the government in a statement that points to further violence before peace negotiations with Washington bear any fruit.  Fighting has intensified across Afghanistan in recent weeks, killing and wounding hundreds of Afghan troops and civilians, making the announcement of the Al-Fath (“Victory”) operation largely symbolic. The Afghan government launched its own offensive, dubbed Khalid, in March.  However, after repeated rounds of negotiations between U.S. and Taliban representatives over recent months, it underlined how far Afghanistan still remains from peace more than 17 years after U.S.-backed forces drove the Taliban from power in 2001.  A Taliban statement said Al-Fath’s objective would be “eradicating occupation, cleansing our Muslim homeland from invasion and corruption, establishing an Islamic system along with defending and serving our believing fellow countrymen”.  “Even as large parts of our homeland have been freed from the enemy yet the foreign occupying forces continue exercising military and political influence in our Islamic country,” it said.”

Recode: Silicon Valley’s Self-Regulating Days “Probably Should Be” Over, Nancy Pelosi Says

“It’s a “new era” for tech regulation, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says. “In the UK, as you know, they’ve said the era of self-regulation of these companies is over,” she told Kara Swisher on an upcoming episode of the Recode Decode podcast. “Is it over in this country?” Swisher asked. “It probably should be,” Pelosi said. “I think we have to subject it all to scrutiny and cost-benefits and all that, but I do think that it’s a new era.” Pelosi said Silicon Valley is abusing the privilege of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which says that internet companies are not responsible for what is posted on their platforms. “230 is a gift to them, and I don’t think they are treating it with the respect that they should,” she said. “And so I think that that could be a question mark and in jeopardy. ... For the privilege of 230, there has to be a bigger sense of responsibility on it, and it is not out of the question that that could be removed.”

The Verge: Disney CEO Calls Social Media A ‘Powerful Marketing Tool’ For Extremism

“Disney CEO Bob Iger criticized social media platforms for allowing hate to spread, saying they enable the distribution of misinformation and the propagation of “vile ideology.” Iger referred to social media as something Hitler “would have loved,” according to Variety, while accepting a humanitarian award earlier today from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights nonprofit that’s named after a Holocaust survivor. He added that social media is the “most powerful marketing tool an extremist could ever hope for.” Social media is designed to amplify “our deepest fears,” according to Iger, while also “constantly validating our convictions.” ”It creates a false sense that everyone shares the same opinion,” Iger said. “Social media allows evil to prey on troubled minds and lost souls and we all know that social news feeds can contain more fiction than fact, propagating vile ideology that has no place in a civil society that values human life.” His comments come at a time when Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, and Instagram are being accosted for allowing hateful ideologies to spread around the world and not doing enough to stop dangerous conspiracy theorists from gaming their algorithms.”

United States

Buzzfeed News: A Deputy's Son Has Been Arrested In Connection With Fires At Three Black Churches In Louisiana

“A suspect was arrested Wednesday night in connection with a string of fires that authorities said were intentionally set at three historically black Baptist churches in Louisiana. The suspect, identified as 21-year-old Holden Matthews of Opelousas, is the son of a St. Landry Parish deputy, and has been charged with three counts of arson on religious buildings, authorities said. "This community is safe again," Louisiana State Fire Marshal H. "Butch" Browning said at a news conference Thursday. "We are extremely, unequivocally confident that we have the person who is responsible for these tragic crimes." The three St. Landry Parish churches burned to the ground within 10 days of each other. About 77% of Opelousas' residents are black. The first fire occurred on March 26 at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre. The second fire broke out on April 2 at Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas and the third at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, also in Opelousas, on April 4.”

The New York Times: A Charred Gas Can, A Receipt And An Arrest In Fires Of 3 Black Churches

“While the victims prayed for the soul of the arsonist who burned down their houses of worship, investigators rushed to assemble clues, worried the assailant would strike again. The detectives had noticed the same pickup truck in surveillance video footage near each of the three predominantly black churches that had been set ablaze and destroyed. They found the charred remains of a particular brand of gas can sold at a local Walmart. Then the pieces came together, and the authorities announced the arrest of a 21-year-old white man who is the son of a local sheriff’s deputy and an aficionado of a subgenre of heavy metal, called black metal, whose most extreme practitioners in Norway have engaged in church burning, vandalism and killing. In a Thursday morning news conference announcing the arrest of the man, Holden Matthews, the authorities said that they had not concluded their investigation and could not say whether racism had played a role.”


Al Monitor: Syrian Regime Keeps Shelling Idlib Despite Demilitarized Zone

“The Syrian regime continues to bomb civilians in the demilitarized zone in northwestern Syria's Idlib province, last week carrying out a horrific massacre in the town of Kafr Nabl. The regime used cluster munitions in the April 4 attack, according to media activist Sanaa al-Ali from Kafr Nabl. “The Syrian regime forces [fired] three high-explosive rockets in the market in the center of Kafr Nabl, killing 14 civilians, and wounding dozens. The regime also bombed other towns and cities in the Idlib countryside the same day. Unfortunately, the Turkish military patrols in the buffer zone did little to stop the regime from carrying out strikes,” Ali told Al-Monitor. “The next day, the imams of the mosques in the town warned people through loudspeakers not to go to mosques to perform Friday prayers, fearing another possible attack by the regime forces,” she added.”

BBC News: Islamic State: The Women And Children No-One Wants

“The al-Hol camp in north eastern Syria is an overflowing vessel of anger and unanswered questions. Inside are the lost women and children of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), abandoned by their men, their nightmare caliphate and their governments. Some cling to their hate-fuelled ideology: “We are undefeated!” they scream in your face. Others beg for a way out - a way home. While western governments prevaricate, their children die. mm Usma, a Moroccan-Belgian woman, clings to a fantasy that she helped the women and children of Syria in her six years here, most of it with IS. The former nurse grabs her niqab with a black-gloved hand, “This is my choice,” she says. “In Belgium I couldn't wear my niqab - this is my choice.” “Every religion did something wrong,” she said. “Show us the good.”As she shouts with a group of other black-clad women, a badly burnt child is pushed in a buggy through the mud by his mother. “Look at what they did,” her mother shouts, referring to US-backed forces. Al-Hol is a nightmare, a camp that has grown from 11,000 people, to more than 70,000. It is swollen with the dark aftermath of the collapsed pseudo-caliphate. It is ready to burst."

The Jerusalem Post: The Specter Of ISIS Lingers In Syria

“The once-vast caliphate of Islamic State, better known as ISIS, is no more. On March 23, the last scrap of ISIS territory fell to a US-backed coalition. But while the state of ISIS is gone, the terrorist organization still survives in the shadows – and its memory is a stark reminder of the dangers of political unrest and extremism, and a warning for how Syria needs to proceed. ISIS grew out of al-Qaeda in 2006 and – like other terrorist cells in the Middle East – it was initially a dangerous organization, but one whose territorial aspirations, if any, seemed like a pipe dream. However, the Syrian civil war was the perfect incubator for ISIS to establish itself as an actual state. Taking advantage of the sheer domestic unrest in Syria and then Iraq, ISIS declared itself a caliphate in 2014. At its height in 2015, ISIS, from its capital at Raqqa, controlled nearly half of Syria and a significant part of northern Iraq, including the regional capital of Mosul. At the same time, ISIS has unleashed and inspired over 140 terrorist attacks across the globe. Territorial ISIS is gone, but that hardly means that the terrorist group is fully vanquished. Its operatives continue to carry out terrorist attacks, but now as part of a shadowy, underground organization rather than as the territorial behemoth it once was.”

Kurdistan 24: Syrian Kurds Will Hand Over Iraqi Refugees Not ISIS Detainees To Baghdad

“The local administration in northeast Syria has rejected reports they will hand over Iraqi families accused of Islamic State membership to Baghdad, but rather, only refugees that have requested to return to Iraq. According to Kamal Akef, a spokesperson for the Foreign Relations Department of the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (DAA), the agreement is focused on refugees, and not Iraqi Islamic State detainees. Akef rejected the “unreliable news” and said the DAA’s foreign relations department had met with an official delegation from the Iraqi government to discuss the voluntary transfer of Iraqi refugees who are in camps in northeastern Syria. Over the last few years, many Iraqis fled the Islamic State in Iraq, ending up at refugee camps in northeastern Syria. According to United Nations statistics, Syria’s al-Hol camp, located in Hasakah governorate in the country’s northeast, had hosted over 20,000 Iraqi refugees in 2017. Akef explained that the Iraqi refugees at al-Hol now “exceeds 30,000,” underlining that they “have no relations to the [ISIS] terrorist organization.” He added that 4,000 people, including women and children, had registered their names to return to Iraq voluntarily.”


CNBC: How Trump’s Terrorist Designation Of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Impacts Its Economy

“The President Donald Trump administration announced its plan this week to officially designate Iran’s military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), effective April 15. The unprecedented move garnered swift reaction from critics as well as the Iranian government, which subsequently labeled the U.S. a terrorism supporter and Centcom, U.S. Central Command, a terrorist group. By definition, terrorists are non-state actors — so this designation for a foreign government’s military is a major first on the international stage. But with Iran’s economy already resembling that of a basket case, how much does this really change things? “The economics are expected to be minimal because the IRGC is heavily sanctioned, and international companies have to be incredibly cautious engaging in business in Iran,” Sanam Vakil, a senior fellow at Chatham House and associate professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, told CNBC via phone. “And under the climate of sanctions already, Western companies have withdrawn so there is little impact there.” Iran’s economy shrunk by 1.5% last year and is expected to contract by 3.6% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund…”


The Wall Street Journal: The Next Big Threat To Iraq’s Christians

“Before visiting Iraq last month, I met with Pope Francis. He told me that “a Middle East without Christians is not the Middle East.” Baghdad’s ambassador in Washington often says that “Iraq is not Iraq without its minorities.” Consider these sentiments as Christian towns in Iraq increasingly look neither Christian nor Iraqi—but Iranian. The public identifies the threat against Christians in Iraq and Syria as emanating from Islamic State. After a hard-fought war, ISIS is no longer a territorial power. But the religious minorities persecuted under the caliphate remain in peril, thanks to the Iraqi government’s tolerance of Iranian influence. Five years ago, ISIS swept through Northern Iraq, killing and displacing hundreds of thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities. The Obama and Trump administrations each declared ISIS’ actions “genocide.” The proof lay not only in the dead but in the collapse of communities that had survived for millennia. There were as many as 1.5 million Iraqi Christians before 2003. Today some 200,000 remain. The explosion of ISIS across Iraq was intense but burned out quickly. The group swiftly took control of the ancient Christian homeland of Nineveh in 2014 but was forced out within three years.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraqi Troops Destroy ISIS Media Center In Hamreen

“Iraq's elite counter-terrorism force targeted ISIS holdouts Thursday in the northern region of Hamreen, including a media center, more than a year after the country declared ISIS vanquished, Agence France Presse reported. Although they no longer hold territory, ISIS sleeper cells were believed to be hiding out in vast deserts and scraggy mountains like Hamreen, from where they have conducted deadly hit-and-run attacks against government posts. AFP quoted Iraqi military spokesman General Yahya Rasool as saying that Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi had ordered the Counter-Terrorism Service “to conduct operations targeting ISIS remnants and their caves in the Hamreen Mountains.” The operation was supported by both Iraqi aircraft and US-led coalition warplanes, he said in an online statement. CTS spokesman Sabah al-Naaman said the operation had lasted four days, with troops parachuting in and setting fire to 15 ISIS shelters. Among them was a center used to produce ISIS's weekly propaganda magazine Al-Naba. “A special team is currently analyzing the seized computers and documents -- and we'll see if there's a new issue, as they are usually published on Thursdays,” Naaman said.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraq Launches 'Large-Scale' Anti-ISIS Operation In Hamrin Mountains

“Iraqi special forces backed by the US-led international coalition began a “large-scale military campaign” to clear remnants of the Islamic State from the Hamrin Mountains, Iraq’s Interior Ministry announced on Thursday. Hamrin is a rugged mountain ridge located in Diyala Province near the Iranian border and westward to the eastern banks of the Tigris River, straddling the borders of Salahuddin and Kirkuk. The area has long been a safe haven for extremist groups that maintain caves and tunnels there from which they have often planned future attacks. The statement did not specify a timetable for the end of the operation. The new campaign comes under the direction of the Iraqi Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the statement read, and will be “personally overseen by the head of the counter-terrorism forces, Abdul-Wahab al-Sa’idi.” Iraqi forces aim to “destroy all caves and safe havens” used by jihadi militants. This is just the latest combing operation in the region, as Iraqi troops have carried out several similar ones in the past few months.”


Reuters: Afghan Taliban Bans WHO And Red Cross Work Amid Vaccination Drive

“The Afghan Taliban have banned the World Health Organization and the Red Cross from operating in areas under their control until further notice, a spokesman said on Thursday, citing unspecified “suspicious” actions during vaccination campaigns.  The WHO is carrying out a vaccination campaign in Afghanistan, one of the last countries in the world where polio is still endemic.  Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said fighting across Afghanistan had created a “complex situation” and some charitable organisations including the WHO and the Red Cross were not operating in accordance with the situation.  “They have not stuck to the commitments they had with Islamic Emirates, and they are acting suspiciously during vaccination campaigns,” he said, providing no details.  Other aid groups were free to continue operations, he said.  The Red Cross says it tries to build relationships with all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, where it has worked for more than 30 years.  Sanela Bajrambasic, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, said the organisation was seeking clarification but remained committed to Afghanistan.”

USA Today: Ex-Ambassador: Don't Leave Afghanistan Without A Deal Built On National Unification

“When I led the U.S. team trying to bring peace to Afghanistan, we coined a term — “dirty reconciliation” — for the United States making a deal with the Taliban that protected our minimal security interests, while abandoning both the Afghan government and any attempt to preserve the gains made in Afghan society since 2001. The idea was purely a scenario to be avoided, not an actual strategy. But the possibility of such a deal now seems more likely. In order to avoid a dirty deal, the United States needs to signal clearly that no separate peace with the Taliban will be possible and that the Taliban must negotiate with Kabul. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also needs to overcome his reluctance to appointing a negotiating team than includes representatives of all Afghans who stand to lose if the Taliban come back, not just government officials. The U.S.-Taliban talks in Doha, Qatar, center around two issues: the withdrawal of foreign troops and counterterrorism. An understanding could easily be struck covering the two points — America agrees to a timetable for withdrawal in return for the Taliban breaking definitively with al-Qaeda and other transnational terrorist groups.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Yemen PM To Asharq Al-Awsat: Houthis Exploit Peace Talks To Prepare For War

“Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed stressed that Operation Decisive Storm was the strongest signal against Iran’s hostile agenda against the Arab nation and its proxy, the Houthi militias, in Yemen. On the fourth anniversary of the launch of the operation, Asharq Al-Awsat sat down with Saeed to assess peace prospects in his war-torn country. “Since the launch of numerous UN-sponsored peace consultations in 2016, we have reached the same conclusion that we as Yemenis had already known that the coupists cannot be approached for peace,” he stressed. “Their policy of stalling and maneuvering is unwavering and is not affected by horrors of war that they are fueling. The Houthis see peace talks as a lull to prepare for war and continue their coup and crimes,” he charged.” 


The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Treasury Sanctions Lebanese Currency Exchange

“The U.S. Treasury Department levied sanctions against a Lebanese currency exchange for allegedly laundering money for Colombian drug cartels and handling transactions for Hezbollah, the Iran-backed group designated by the U.S. as terrorists. The action Thursday against Chams Exchange and its owner, Kassem Chams, comes amid building fears within Lebanon that the U.S. could jolt the fragile Lebanese economy by targeting the financial sector more broadly. The sanctions are part of the larger Trump administration pressure campaign against Tehran and its proxies in the region. Sigal Mandelker, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the action should be read as a warning to other banks and exchange houses conducting similar operations. “We are laser-focused on what’s going on in Lebanon,” Ms. Mandelker said. “We will continue to have a heavy focus on any entity or organization that is moving money on behalf of Hezbollah.” Mr. Chams denied the allegations. “This is not right at all,” he said in an interview by phone from Lebanon. “They absolutely are a mistake; this is a small shop.” Many Hezbollah experts, including former U.S. intelligence officials, say Lebanon’s financial system is riddled with Hezbollah-linked accounts, with billions of dollars flowing into the country from illicit activities around the world, including drug and arms trafficking.”

The National: Hezbollah's Desperate Crowdfunding Reflects Trump's Tough Stance On Iran

“The news that Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia that controls large swathes of Lebanon, has been reduced to crowd-funding to fill its coffers is a clear indication that the Trump administration’s tough sanctions policy towards Iran is starting to pay dividends. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani struck a characteristically defiant note last autumn when Washington announced the imposition of a new round of sanctions designed to cripple Iran’s oil, banking and shipping sectors. The White House described last November’s move as “the toughest sanctions regime ever imposed”. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran must “act like a normal country, or see its economy crumble”. But Mr Rouhani, together with the rest of Iran’s clerical leadership, dismissed the effects the sanctions were likely to have on Iran’s economic well-being, with the Iranian president declaring that Tehran would “proudly break the sanctions” and “continue selling oil”. Five months on, Iran’s defiant stand against Washington’s increasingly robust position does not appear to be achieving the results that Mr Rouhani had hoped for. On the contrary, as the parlous state of Hezbollah’s finances illustrates, the sanctions are having a serious impact on Iran’s already-struggling economy.” 


Asharq Al-Awsat: Egyptian Security Forces Kill 11 Militants in Sinai

“Egyptian police forces have killed 11 militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula, after several attacks in the last two days have left eight policemen and three civilians dead in the restive area. An Interior Ministry statement Thursday said security forces exchanged fire with the militants, but no casualties were reported among the police as they stormed the insurgent hideout in the Mediterranean coastal city of el-Arish. The ministry said it found weapons, two explosive devices and two explosive belts. On Wednesday, Egyptian security officials said two separate explosive attacks overnight killed four policemen, a day after an ISIS suicide bomber killed four policemen and three civilians. Egypt has for years battled militants in Sinai.”

Egypt Independent: Egypt Tries 5 Russians On Extremism Charges: Embassy

“The Russian embassy in Cairo reported that Egyptian authorities have charged with extremism five Russian citizens detained in Egypt since August 2018. The first session of the trial was held on April 9 and included five Russian defendants formally charged with extremism, the Russian consular official in Egypt Yusuf Abakarov told TASS Russian News Agency on Wednesday. Russian diplomats and the father of a Russian defendant from Ingushetia were prevented from entering the court hall under the pretext that the session was closed, Abakarov said, according to Russia Today. Abakarov, however, stressed that the lawyers of the Russian defendants were allowed to speak with their clients and therefore attended the trial session, later informing diplomats of the details. He added that the next session is scheduled for May. In August 2018, Egyptian authorities detained a group of Russian citizens who arrived in Egypt for study. Later, some of them were released, but the fate of five of the detainees was vague until they were referred to trial. Four defendants have been held in a prison in Cairo. There was no information about the whereabouts of the fifth Russian defendant, Abakarov said.”


Reuters: Islamic State Says It Killed Six Members Of East Libyan LNA Force Near Sabha

“Islamic State’s AMAQ news agency said on Thursday that the Islamist militant group had killed six soldiers from the east Libyan LNA force near Sabha, in Libya’s southwest.  Libyan National Army spokesman Ahmed Mismari confirmed the attack but said there had been no casualties on the LNA side.”


The Guardian: Nigeria Evacuates Whole Town To Screen For Boko Haram Members

“Nigerian soldiers have evacuated the entire population of a town in the north-eastern insurgency-hit state of Borno without warning. The military said people were evacuated ahead of operations, but residents of Jakana said they were taken to a camp this week in the state capital Maiduguri to check whether they were members of the extremist group Boko Haram. Jakana is home to about 10,000 people. The UN said residents were not allowed to collect any belongings, with some even arriving without shoes. It called for them to be given humanitarian aid immediately. Nana Sanda, who lives in Maiduguri, was in Jakana visiting family. On Monday night, the military came and ordered everyone into their vehicles. “I was thinking of nothing but death,” she said. “Where are they taking us to? Are they going to kill us without any reason? Is this how I am going to die without seeing my children and husband for the last time? I was pushed on to the vehicle and in the process, I fell down and injured my legs and back. “Nobody was allowed to take anything along. People were crammed into the vehicles, one on top of the other and without food or water. Children were bundled into any available vehicle and this went on from 8pm on Monday until Tuesday evening.”


All Africa: Somalia: U.S. Military Carries Out A Fresh Airstrike In Southern Somalia

“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.”


The Wall Street Journal: Sudan’s Dictator Omar al-Bashir Ousted as North Africa Rocked by Upheaval

“The ouster of Sudan’s longtime dictator, Omar al-Bashir, heralds a major reset of power in the African country of 40 million, an anchor in the U.S. war on terrorism and European efforts to contain migration. Mr. Bashir has been arrested and the army is taking over power for two years, Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, Sudan’s defense minister and a longtime ally of Mr. Bashir, said in a statement broadcast on state television. The military suspended the constitution and dissolved the government and parliament, Mr. Auf said. “I, minister of defense and head of the high security committee, declare the uprooting of Bashir’s regime and detaining its head [Mr. Bashir] in a safe place and the formation of an interim military council for a transitional period of two years,” said Mr. Auf, dressed in full military uniform. Mr. Auf was later sworn in as head of the transitional council, while protesters decried the role of Mr. Bashir’s inner circle in the post-Bashir era. Mr. Auf was sanctioned by the U.S. for his role in the genocide against the local population in the region of Darfur, starting in the early 2000s. Mr. Bashir has been facing a popular uprising since December that started as a demonstration against rising bread prices and quickly swelled into the biggest challenge to his three-decade rule.”

CBS News: Cuban Doctors Kidnapped By Suspected Al-Shabab Islamic Extremists In Kenya

“Suspected Somali al-Shabab Islamic extremists kidnapped two Cuban doctors on Friday and killed their police protection officer in northeastern Kenya, police sources said. The sources said the two doctors and their guard were on the way to work in the town of Mandera when they were attacked. "It just happened this morning. The police officer is dead but the two doctors were taken away," a senior police officer, who asked not to be named, told AFP. "From the modus operandi and the fact that they went towards the Somalia border, we have reasons to believe that the kidnappers are al-Shabab." The two doctors are part of a group of about 100 Cubans who came to Kenya last year to help boost health services. Al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants have been waging an insurgency against Somalia's foreign-backed government for over a decade, and while it has lost some ground, the group continues to stage deadly attacks in both Somali and neighboring Kenya. The terror group continues to threaten the region despite being hammered by U.S. airstrikes in recent months, prompting repeated warnings from Washington for Americans in Kenya.”

France 24: In North Cameroon, The Struggle To Save Youngsters From Boko Haram

“My life changed completely,” said 14-year-old Ina Viche, recalling the day in 2016 when her parents were killed by Boko Haram jihadists. “While our parents were alive, we went to school. It was no longer possible when they died.” At the age of 11, she had to find work to feed herself and her younger brother -- and a new home, too, for their village in Cameroon's Far North region was abandoned by its inhabitants after the attack. The two orphans now live in Mozogo, a village farther from the Nigerian border, from which Boko Haram launch their murderous raids. Ina has a long walk to the onion fields, where she works for pitifully low pay. “I start at 8am and finish at 1pm. I am paid 600 CFA francs (0.91 euros/one dollar) per day,” she said. “It's very hard. We lack everything. We need a place to live in, food, clothing. My dream is to have a piece of land to grow my own crops.” Ina and her brother are among more than 270,000 people -- a UN estimate that dates from August 2016 -- displaced from their homes in the Far North by the Nigerian insurgents. More than half of them, 56 percent, are children. Young people in the Far North are victims of Boko Haram in other ways. Kidnappings are dreaded in rural areas of this tongue-shaped projection of territory that abuts Nigeria.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Morocco Arrests Terror Cell Led by Former Fighter in Syria

“Moroccan security forces have arrested a four-member terrorist cell in the country's northeastern city of Taza, local media reported on Wednesday, citing the Interior Ministry. “According to preliminary information, the leader of the terrorist cell, who invited and recruited other members of the network, was trying to use combat experience he gained in Iraq and Syria to plot and carry out terrorist attacks against vital institutions,” the Ministry said in its statement. The suspects – whose ages range between between 33 and 38 - were remanded in custody as part of the investigation conducted under the supervision of the competent prosecutor. The Moroccan authorities didn’t determine to which group - ISIS, al-Nusra Front or others – the former militant belonged. In a related matter, the administration of Ain Sebaa prison reported that inmates arrested in line with the anti-terror law, enjoy all the rights guaranteed by the law. It said the prisoners are making unfounded claims to pressure the administration into overlooking their illegal behavior. The administration affirmed in its statement that the General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration (DGAPR) has taken a decision on banning inmates in all prisons from bringing in their food baskets to alleviate the burden on their families and to stop the smuggling of contraband.” 

United Kingdom

The Guardian: Britons Going To Terror Hotspots Face 10 Years In Jail Under New Laws

“British citizens travelling to live in foreign terrorism hotspots could face up to 10 years in prison under controversial new laws. The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 comes into force on Friday and creates a criminal offence of entering or remaining in a “designated area” overseas. Ministers unveiled the measure last year as part of efforts to boost authorities’ ability to tackle the threat from so-called foreign fighters. The act allows the home secretary to designate an area, subject to parliamentary approval. In order to use the power, Sajid Javid would need to be satisfied that it is necessary to restrict UK nationals and residents from travelling to or remaining in the area in order to protect the public from a risk of terrorism. An individual found to have entered or remained in a designated area could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The act also gives border guards the power to stop and search individuals without suspicion on the grounds of tackling “hostile state” activity, and criminalises the viewing of terrorist-linked material online. Exemptions have been written into the legislation to protect those who have a legitimate reason for being in a designated area or conducting research online, such as journalists.”


Reuters: France Seeks Assurances On Migrants, Militants And Political Solution For Libya In EU Position

“France has asked the European Union to amend and strengthen a statement on the bloc’s position concerning eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli.  It also denied that Paris had blocked an EU statement on Libya.  French foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said France wanted the text to be reinforced in three areas - the status of migrants, the involvement in the fighting in Libya of groups under U.N. sanctions for terrorism, and ways to reach a U.N.-backed political solution.”


The Jerusalem Post: Hamas’s Well-Established Presence In Germany

“The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has a “well-documented” presence in Germany, despite hundreds of its supporters having been under surveillance for several years, counter-terrorism experts have revealed. Jannis Jost, research associate at the Center for the Research on Terrorism and Radicalization in the German city of Kiel, told The Media Line that Germany’s intelligence and domestic security agencies have been “monitoring Hamas supporters in the country for more than a decade.” “The reported number of [Hamas] supporters fluctuates around 300 since at least 2007,” Jost noted. “The problem is that these individuals of course don’t operate under the name ‘Hamas,’ instead they found other inconspicuous-sounding organizations,” he elaborated. He noted that evidence of financial, institutional or propaganda connections to Hamas have repeatedly been discovered in a number of charitable bodies. Jost underlined that, upon finding proof, such groups are then disbanded. He noted this was the case “in 2002 with the organization ‘al-Aqsa e.V.’ and in 2005 with ‘YATIM-Kinderhilfe e.V.’ (YATIM Children Relief).” His statements come just as Berlin announced it had conducted a widescale raid on properties across the country that were found to be linked to Hamas.”


The Local Sweden: Save The Children Urges Sweden To Repatriate Children Of ISIS Fighters

“Around 80 children of Swedes who travelled overseas to fight for the terrorist group Isis are thought to be in a refugee camp in a Kurdish-controlled part of Syria. In total, around 800 foreign Isis fighters are being held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), including some believed to be Swedish.  Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has said the Ministry is looking into the issue of whether the children can be brought home, and is “trying to obtain all the necessary documentation”, but has not yet made a statement about the ministry's stance or plans. But Save the Children has argued that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child means Sweden has a responsibility to collect the children. “We believe that Sweden has both a legal responsibility and a humanitarian and moral obligation to act,” Ola Mattsson, head of Save the Children in Sweden, told the TT newswire. “Such a situation, when it comes to Swedish children who are innocent of their parents' crimes, is very difficult. There are very difficult conditions. Many children are malnourished, have pneumonia or other illnesses, so it is an extremely dangerous place to be.”

Southeast Asia

Xinhua: 9 Abu Sayyaf Militants Killed, 19 Wounded In Southern Philippine Clashes

“A total of nine Abu Sayyaf militants have been killed and 19 others have been wounded in a series of clashes in the southern Philippine Sulu province, the military said on Friday. The military said that the initial clash erupted at 10:37 a.m. local time on Thursday, when government security forces engaged about 120 Abu Sayyaf militants led by Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron and sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan in a remote village in Patikul, Sulu. The military said a militant was killed in the initial fighting. The militants broke into smaller groups after the initial fighting in an attempt to escape from the pursuing troops, the military added. Three other succeeding clashes occurred from 3:45 p.m. local time to 5:45 p.m. local time as the troops caught up with the fleeing militants, killing eight other militants and wounding 19 others, the military said. Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, the commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said the support and cooperation of the local community led to the success of the military operation. Abu Sayyaf gained notice in the southern Philippines in the early 1990s. It acquired a worldwide notoriety with a series of kidnappings and beheadings. Philippine authorities referred to the Abu Sayyaf group as nothing more than a collection of bandits.”


The Daily Beast: Democrats In Congress Tell Social Media Companies To Reveal Size Of Their Counter-Terror Budgets

“Members of Congress are pushing some of the country’s most powerful tech companies—Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft—to reveal how much they spend to keep terrorists from co-opting their platforms. For years, and especially since the rise of ISIS, social media companies have taken heat for the way terror groups use them to find recruits and inspire attacks. The companies faced renewed scrutiny after a white supremacist terrorist killed 50 Muslims in two mosques. The killer live-streamed his rampage on Facebook, and the video stayed up there for about an hour; Facebook didn’t pull it down until New Zealand law enforcement reached out, and a Facebook rep said their algorithms couldn’t tell the video violated their terms of service because it wasn’t “particularly gruesome,” as The Daily Beast reported. On March 27, representatives from the four companies –– who formed a counter-terror industry group called the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT)––had a closed-door meeting with members of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Members asked the company’s representatives how much money they spend on efforts to block terrorists from using their sites, according to a person briefed on the conversation, and the representatives said they didn’t have that information available.”

Irish Tech News: Tech Outreach Programme To Offer Opportunity For Trip Of A Lifetime For Young People

“The best young tech talent in Northern Ireland will be jetting off as VIPs to the U.S. as part of an innovative technology and outreach programme. Spearheaded by the team behind Digital DNA, Northern Ireland’s largest digital and technology conference, Digital Futures will bring together some of the most inspiring tech leaders to showcase the opportunities for young people within the sector. New York’s Counter Extremism Project is once again supporting the initiative. David Ibsen, executive director at the international organisation, explains why: “Digital Futures is a great opportunity to develop some of the brightest talent Northern Ireland has to offer. The Counter Extremism Project is delighted to be able to help provide a platform for the next generation of programmers, designers and coders to improve the online world that connects us all. Now more than ever before, the encouragement of best online practises has become crucial in helping young people to enjoy the benefits of the online sphere, and proactively remove any threats of discrimination and non-inclusion. Through support and direction, these upcoming specialists can help us ensure safety throughout the digital sphere worldwide.”