Eye on Extremism: April 16

ABC News: Trump Sent 'Strong Message' To Iran, Russia And Syria With Missile Strikes: White House Spokesperson

“The missile strikes launched in response to Syria's alleged chemical weapons attack on its own citizens "sent a strong message to Syria, Russia, to Iran," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. The airstrikes conducted by the U.S., Britain and France succeeded, Sanders told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday. "They 100 percent met their objectives." Sanders continued, “They went out to destroy critical chemical weapons infrastructure in Syria and they did exactly that. And they also sent a strong message to Syria, to Russia, to Iran that when this president has a red line, he will enforce it,” she said referring to the administration's "red line" against use of chemical weapons. Asked by Stephanopoulos if President Donald Trump plans to act on his earlier announcement to end the U.S. presence in Syria, Sanders said the United States has three objectives in Syria: Defeating ISIS, containing Iran, and ending the use of chemical weapons.”

The New York Times: The Real Next War In Syria: Iran Vs. Israel

“Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Syria is going to explode. I know, you have heard that one before, but this time I mean really explode. Because the U.S., British and French attack on Syria to punish its regime for its vile use of chemical weapons — and Russia’s vow to respond — is actually just the second-most dangerous confrontation unfolding in that country. Even more dangerous is that Israel and Iran, at the exact same time, seem to be heading for a High Noon shootout in Syria over Iran’s attempts to turn Syria into a forward air base against Israel, something Israel is vowing to never let happen. This is not mere speculation. In the past few weeks — for the first time ever — Israel and Iran have begun quietly trading blows directly, not through proxies, in Syria. And this quiet phase may be about to end. Israel and Iran are now a hair-trigger away from going to the next level — and if that happens, the U.S. and Russia may find it difficult to stay out.”

Scientific American: Can AI Really Solve Facebook’s Problems?

“Congress interrogated Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for two days this week over his company’s privacy policies—and its apparent inability to prevent the misuse of its social media platform by some promoting hatred, terrorism or political propaganda. Throughout Zuckerberg’s apologies for not doing more to protect users’ privacy and curb the spread of false and misleading information on the site, he repeatedly reassured lawmakers artificial intelligence would soon fix many of Facebook’s problems. Whether or not he has a strong case depends on how his company specifically plans to use AI—and how quickly the technology matures over the next few years. Zuckerberg touted several AI successes before two Senate committees: Judiciary and Commerce, Science and Transportation and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Facebook AI algorithms already find and delete 99 percent of terrorist propaganda and recruitment efforts posted by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda-related Facebook accounts, Zuckerberg testified during Tuesday’s Senate hearing. But the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), a nonprofit nongovernmental organization that monitors and reports on the terrorist-group activities, disputed Facebook’s claim the same day. The CEP issued a statement saying it still finds ‘examples of extremist content and hate speech on Facebook on a regular basis.’”

The New York Times: Attacks In Afghanistan Leave Dozens Dead And 2 Schools Burned

“Four attacks across Afghanistan on Saturday night and Sunday killed at least 26 government security officers, while two schools were also set ablaze, according to Afghan officials. The four attacks struck government outposts in northern and eastern Afghanistan; at least three appeared coordinated. They occurred late at night or early in the morning, with the attackers using long-range sniper rifles and night-vision equipment, according to Afghan officials, who tallied at least 10 wounded in all, along with those killed. In separate assaults, a girls’ high school in Logar Province, near the capital, Kabul, was burned on April 11, and masked attackers struck a school in the village of Momandara, in Nangarhar Province, on Saturday night, setting archives and labs ablaze, according to education officials. No one was reported hurt in those two attacks. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but government officials blamed Taliban insurgents for the attacks on the government outposts. In recent years, mainstream Taliban forces have normally refrained from attacking schools.”

Reuters: Arab Leaders Call For Probe Into Syria Chemical Attacks, Condemn Iran

“An Arab League summit called on Sunday for an international probe into the “criminal” use of chemical weapons in Syria and condemned what it saw as Iran’s interference in the affairs of other countries. Saudi Arabia and Iran have for decades been locked in a struggle for regional supremacy that is now being played out in proxy wars in several countries, including Yemen and Syria. “We stress our absolute condemnation of the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people and we demand an independent international investigation to guarantee the application of international law against anyone proven to have used chemical weapons,” said a statement distributed to journalists. It emphasized the need for a political solution to the multi-sided Syrian war. Saudi Arabia and its allies have expressed support for Saturday’s missile strikes by the United States, Britain and France against alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria, while Iraq and Lebanon condemned the strikes.”

United States

The Washington Post: Wisconsin Man Who Blew Himself Up Might Have Been White Supremacist Making ISIS-Style Bombs

“Last month, 28-year-old Benjamin Morrow was found dead in his Beaver Dam, Wis., kitchen. Investigators have said Morrow was making explosives on March 5 when he accidentally detonated them, which at the time was confusing to those who knew him as the home-schooled, religious man described in an obituary. ‘I’d love to defend Ben because he has been described as a bombmaker and he’s not a bombmaker,’ the Rev. Jerry Marsden, who presided over Morrow’s funeral, told the Associated Press on March 15. ‘He wasn’t a recluse as some have said he is. He was far from that.’ But evidence has emerged suggesting Morrow was a white supremacist whose apartment doubled as a ‘homemade explosives laboratory,’ and that he may have had plans for those explosives, according to an unsealed warrant application by the state’s Department of Justice, which was obtained by the Daily Beast. Investigators said a ‘one-gallon metal container of acetone’ was found at the scene — an easy-to-procure substance that, when cooked, becomes highly volatile and potent. The fatal explosion occurred around the same time that a weeks-long string of exploding packages terrorized Austin. Acetone is typically found in the ‘Mother of Satan’ bombs used by terrorists in Islamic State attacks. It was a primary ingredient, for example, in the bombs Islamic State operatives used in coordinated attacks in Paris in 2015 that killed 130 people and suicide bombings in Brussels in 2016 that killed 32.”

Boston Globe: Five Years Later, We Feel The Grief Like A Sixth Sense

“Has it really been five years? Sometimes it feels a million years and a million miles away. And then something will happen — I’ll see a survivor on TV or on the sidewalk in the North End or Adams Village — and it feels like yesterday. I happened upon a house fire recently, in Mattapan, and the smell reminded me of Boylston Street five years ago, when so many lost their lives and their limbs and their sense of security. I can smell Patriots Day, 2013. I can hear it. God, can I hear it, whenever multiple fire engines or ambulances are racing to a scene. I can taste it, when I’m around a campfire and embers create a certain sensation. I can see it, when I bump into survivors, which happens with more regularity than I could ever have imagined. And I can touch it, when I grab those survivors’ hands or their shoulders. There are five senses of the 2013 Marathon, a sixth if you throw in grief. And many people in this town and beyond experience all those senses. So we can mark anniversaries until we die, and 2013 will just always be there.”

The New York Times: Trump To Impose New Sanctions On Russia Over Support For Syria

“The Trump administration plans to impose new sanctions against Russia on Monday to punish it for enabling the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons in its civil war, the latest in a series of actions by both sides underscoring the deterioration in relations between Moscow and the West. The sanctions, coming shortly after American-led airstrikes against facilities linked to Syria’s chemical weapons, are meant to signal that the United States holds responsible not just the government of President Bashar al-Assad but also his patrons in Russia and Iran. President Trump has vowed that Syria’s allies will pay a “big price” for facilitating the suspected use of poison gas. But it remained unclear how far Mr. Trump would go in trying to shape events in Syria, which has been racked by civil war for seven years. President Emmanuel Macron of France, who along with Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain joined in the strike on Syrian targets, said on Sunday night that he had persuaded Mr. Trump to keep a small American ground force in Syria despite the president’s public declaration that he wanted to get out.”

Daily Mail: ISIS Threaten To Bomb New York's Subway In Chilling Poster Showing A Militant With Sticks Of Dynamite At High Street Brooklyn Bridge Station

“ISIS propaganda chiefs have issued a chilling threat to bring death and destruction to New York's subway. The terror group has vowed to attack Paris and the World Cup finals in Russia in recent weeks as part of a global campaign of lone wolf strikes as it continues to lose territory in the Middle East. In its latest warning, uploaded to militant Islamist messaging platforms, a man is pictured standing on the platform at New York's High Street - Brooklyn Bridge Station with explosives and a timer behind him.”


The Atlantic: How Syria Came To This

“Seven years of horrific twists and turns in the Syrian Civil War make it hard to remember that it all started with a little graffiti. In March 2011, four children in the southern city of Der’a scrawled on a wall “It’s your turn, Doctor”— a not so subtle prediction that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a British trained ophthalmologist and self-styled reformer, would go down in the the manner of the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia, the Mubarak regime in Egypt, and eventually, the Qaddafi regime in Libya. But Syria’s story would turn out differently. The crackdown started small. Assad’s security services arrested the four graffiti artists, refusing to tell their parents where they were. After two weeks of waiting, the residents of Der’a—who are famously direct and fiery—held protests demanding the children’s release. The regime responded with live gunfire, killing several, and drawing the first blood in a war that’s now killed some half a million people. With every funeral came more opportunities for protests—and for the regime to respond with more violence.”

The Washington Post: Syria’s Assad In A ‘Good Mood,’ Scorns U.S. Weaponry After Airstrikes

“Syrian President Bashar al-Assad praised Russian weaponry on Sunday as his government celebrated victory over rebels in the town where an alleged chemical attack took place, triggering U.S. airstrikes over the weekend. Assad made the comments during a meeting in Damascus with Russian lawmakers, who later told reporters that he was in a “good mood,” according to Russian news reports. Footage of the meeting broadcast by state television showed an animated Assad smiling and laughing as he met with the Russians. “President Assad was in absolutely positive spirits. He is in a good mood,” the Interfax news agency quoted Natalya Komarova, governor of Russia’s autonomous Khanty-Mansiysk district, as saying. The meeting came a day after U.S.-led strikes, launched together with Britain and France, hit three Syrian chemical weapons facilities. The airstrikes were in response to the suspected April 7 chemical attack in Douma, a Damascus suburb.”

Fox News: Deadly Syria Attack Shines Spotlight On Chemical Weapons Linked To Assad Regime, ISIS-Inspired Terror Groups

“The Syrian government and its Iran and Russian backers continue to rebuff staunchly any responsibility for chemical attacks in the war-ravaged country — of which there allegedly have been more than 50 since the war began — including last weekend in the city of Douma. Instead, they point the finger at opposition “terrorist” groups at having either “staged” the events or dispersed the chemicals themselves.  And while the U.S. and allied French and U.K. officials collected irrefutable evidence linking the Assad regime to the recent attacks — prompting retaliatory action to take out their stockpiles early Saturday — the showdown has cast a renewed spotlight onto the chemical weapons use of non-state actors in the war-torn country.  According to some experts, this latest development poses a perhaps even more direct threat on U.S. interests.  “There has always been a sneaking suspicion that ISIS and other terror groups in Syria may have overrun several of Assad’s hidden stores of chemical weapons. The challenge, however, is ISIS fighters might not have the ability to use them efficiently, as such weapons would be dropped from the skies or used in artillery-style weapons,” Harry Kazianis, Director of Defense Studies at the Center for the National Interest, told Fox News.”

The Wall Street Journal: A Day After U.S. Airstrikes In Syria, Assad Launches New Onslaught Against Rebels

“Syrian armed forces on Sunday unleashed airstrikes against rebels and shelled what rescue workers said were civilian homes, as President Bashar al-Assad sought to demonstrate his regime’s continued strength a day after a U.S.-led missile attack. The American, French and British barrage of missiles on Saturday destroyed much of Syria’s chemical-weapons capabilities, U.S. Defense Department officials said, but left Mr. Assad’s conventional military intact. American officials said the strikes were retaliation for a suspected regime attack—possibly with chlorine and a nerve agent—on Eastern Ghouta near Damascus on April 7 but weren’t designed to topple Mr. Assad or change the course of a war tilting in his favor. With the help of Russia and Iran, Mr. Assad has taken back much of the territory he lost after an antigovernment uprising in 2011 erupted into a full-scale civil war. While the alleged chemical-weapons attack forced opposition rebels to surrender in Douma, his forces have killed far more Syrians with conventional means of war such as barrel bombs, rockets, mortars and sieges. Of the more than 400,000 Syrians killed, fewer than 2,000 have lost their lives to chemical weapons, according to activists and human-rights groups.”

Real Clear Politics: Assad: Chemical Attack Was 100% Fabricated, "Al-Qaeda Shaved Their Beards And Put On White Helmets"

“The deadly gas attack in Syria last year was a "100% fabrication", said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in an interview with Sky News. Assad accused the group "Syria Civil Defence" (better known as the "White Helmets," the subject of a Netflix documentary), of being behind the attack. The "White Helmets" group allegedly rescues civilians in rebel-held areas of Syria, but have been accused of associating too closely with known terrorists. "The allegations itself if by al Qaeda and al Nusra front. They announced it," Assad said about the gas attack claims. "It is not clear if it happened or not. You have a lot of fake videos now." "They are al Qaeda, they are al-Nusra Front who shave their beards, wore white hats, and appeared as humanitarian heroes," Assad said of the White Helmets. "We don't know whether those dead children... were they dead at all, who committed the attack if there was an attack. You have no information at all, no one has investigation.”

PBS NewsHour: What Happens To The American Families Of Islamic State Fighters?

“Sam El Hassani, an American woman from Indiana, said her husband tricked her into going to Turkey on a vacation in 2015. ‘We ended up in Raqqa,’ which was the declared capital of the Islamic State terrorist group, she said in an exclusive interview with Frontline and the BBC. ‘’You’re crazy and I’m leaving,’’ El Hassani said she told her husband, who replied, ‘’Go ahead. You can try, but you won’t make it.’’ For two years, El Hassani and her husband Moussa, a Moroccan national, lived in Raqqa with their four children. Moussa became a sniper for the terrorist group. Their oldest son, Mathew, appeared in an Islamic State propaganda video appearing to handle weapons. After her husband’s death in an airstrike in 2017, El Hassani and her children escaped Raqqa, were captured by Kurdish forces and brought to a refugee camp in northern Syria where they still reside. Sam El Hassani said she is wary of returning to the U.S., where she worries her children will be taken away from her.”

Al Monitor: After Missile Strikes, Trump Resumes Exit Strategy For Syria

“While the United States may be ‘locked and loaded’ to respond to future chemical weapons use, the Trump administration is otherwise planning its exit from Syria. In announcing the April 14 missile strikes by the United States, United Kingdom and France on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, US President Donald Trump also explained his broader approach to Syria and the region; other than defeating the remaining forces of the Islamic State (IS), this approach envisions a much-reduced American role. ‘America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria, under no circumstances,’ Trump said. ‘As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home.’ Trump has called on US partners in the region to ‘take greater responsibility for securing their home region, including contributing large amounts of money for the resources, equipment and all of the anti-[IS] effort. Increased engagement from our friends, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt and others can ensure that Iran does not profit from the eradication of [IS].’”


Reuters: Iran's Supreme Leader Says Western Attack On Syria A Crime

“Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said coordinated air strikes on Syria by the United States, France and Britain on Saturday were a crime that would bring no benefit. “Today’s dawn attack on Syria is a crime. I clearly declare that the president of the United States, the president of France and the British prime minister are criminals,” Khamenei said in a speech, according to his Twitter account. “They will not benefit (from the attack) as they went to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan in the past years and committed such crimes and did not gain any benefits,” Khamenei added. Iran — the dominant Shi’ite Muslim power which is in rivalry with Saudi Arabia and the United States’ other Sunni Arab allies — has been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most supportive ally against insurgents throughout the conflict. Militias backed by Tehran helped Assad’s army stem rebel advances and, following Russia’s entry into the war in 2015, turn the tide decisively in the Syrian government’s favor.”


CBS News: 1,000 Bodies, Many Believed To Be ISIS Fighters, Buried In Mosul Mass Grave

“Authorities in Mosul have buried more than 1,000 bodies in a mass grave in a desert valley outside the city, most of them believed to be Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group militants, according to a provincial official. More remains are being dug out of the rubble of the district where the fighters made their final stand last year. Hundreds more bodies are still strewn across or buried in Maydan district nine months after it was flattened in the final battles to retake Mosul, creating one of the grimmest scenes from a brutal war that was compared to the worst urban combat of World War II. During a recent visit by The Associated Press, pieces of desiccated bodies, often in shreds of fighters' uniforms, were visible scattered in the ruins, which are also laced with unexploded bombs and unused suicide belts. In one place, the crown of a skull stuck out of the dirt, brilliant white with a fringe of leathery scalp and hair. One man lay crushed under the wreck of a car, his legs sticking up in the air. Most of the bodies appeared to belong to ISIS fighters killed by airstrikes or shelling, their remains half-buried. But there were also women and small children. The body of baby girl, turned ghoulish brown, lay on the balcony of a half-collapsed building, covered by bits of rubble.”

Iraqi News: Islamic State Claims Responsibility Killing, Injuring Tens Of People In Blasts, North Of Salahuddin

“Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility for the blasts that took place, north of Tikrit, which left many people killed and injured. The media-arm of IS, Amaq news agency, said 17 personnel of al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) were killed, while 30 others were wounded in an ambush at Asdeira village in Shirqat town. On Thursday, Ali Dawdah, mayor of Shirqat, said in a statement, ‘ten people were killed, while 14 others were wounded as explosives went off while digging tombs, on Wednesday night. The bombs were planted in a grave in Asdeira village in western Shirqat, north of Salahuddin.’ Islamic State continues to launch sporadic attacks across Iraq against troops. Security reports indicate that the militant group still poses threat against stability in the country. A total of 104 Iraqi civilians and policemen were killed, while 177 others were injured in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in Iraq in March, according to casualty figures by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).”

Iraqi News: Six Islamic State Members, Including Woman, Arrested In Mosul: Ministry

“Six Islamic State members, including a woman, were arrested in operations in Nineveh province, the Iraqi Interior Ministry announced on Friday. In a press release, the ministry said troops in Nineveh ‘arrested six Islamic State members, including a woman. All are wanted for by courts for trials.’ ‘Two of them were arrested in Abu Maria village in Tal Afar, while the rest were in several areas across Mosul,’ the ministry added. Last week, news reports quoted sources as saying that over 20 IS members were arrested in several security operations carried out in west of Mosul. Thousands of Islamic State militants as well as Iraqi civilians were killed since the government campaign, backed by paramilitary troops and the coalition was launched in October 2016 to fight the militant group, which declared a self-styled ‘caliphate’ from Mosul in June 2014.”


BBC: US Pastor Goes On Trial In Turkey After Arrest In Coup Crackdown

“An American pastor has gone on trial in Turkey charged with aiding a terrorist organisation, in a case that has frayed relations between Turkey and the US. Andrew Brunson is accused of helping a group led by Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Muslim preacher who Turkish officials allege was behind a failed 2016 coup. Mr Brunson, who ran a Protestant church in the Turkish city of Izmir, was arrested in October 2016. If convicted, he faces up to 35 years behind bars. Mr Brunson, 50, an evangelical pastor originally from North Carolina, appeared in court on Monday in the town of Aliaga, alongside his lawyer Cem Halavurt. Also in court were Sam Brownback, the US ambassador at large for religious freedoms, and US Senator Thom Tillis. Mr Halavurt has called the charges "totally unfounded", and says they are based on testimony from secret informants. He told the AFP news agency ahead of the hearing that his client was "both nervous, but also excited because it is the first time he will appear before a judge. He has expectations and a hope.”


The Washington Post: Civilian Casualties In Afghanistan At Near-Record Level This Year, According To U.N. Report

“An ambulance packed with explosives that detonated in Kabul and a pedestrian suicide bombing outside a Shiite shrine there were among the deadly incidents that led to a near-record 2,258 civilian casualties in Afghanistan during the first quarter of this year, U.N. officials reported this week. According to the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, there were 763 conflict-related civilian deaths and 1,495 injuries across Afghanistan between January and March. Those figures were comparable with record-high levels of casualties reported during the same period in the past two years, as aggressive attacks by Taliban insurgents and the Islamic State increased. In an especially alarming sign, the report indicated the number of casualties caused by suicide bombings or by complex insurgent assaults with both bombs and guns was twice as high as during the first quarter of 2017, even as thousands of U.S. military troops embarked on an ambitious effort to expand and bolster the performance of Afghan defense forces.”

Voice Of America: Afghan Council To Host Religious Conference To Promote Peace

“Focusing on Pakistani hardline religious scholars, Afghanistan is in the process of convening an international religious conference in a bid to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the county, the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) said. The HPC told VOA it is very important that Pakistani scholars, who believe the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is legitimate, participate in the ‘Grand Religious Conference.’ ‘We are hoping that those Pakistani religious scholars like Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman and Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, who see the war in Afghanistan as legitimate jihad, would participate in the conference,’ Sayed Ehsan Taheri, Afghan High Peace Council spokesperson, told VOA. Rehman, who is also a member of country's National Assembly, linked the Afghan Taliban's insurgency to the presence of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in an effort to justify the Taliban's continued violence in the country.”


Reuters: Houthi Leader Says Group Developing Its Military Capabilities

“Yemen’s Houthi leader said on Friday the group would continue to develop its military capabilities as the Iran-aligned movement stepped up its attacks against Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war. Saudi air defense forces on Wednesday intercepted three missiles fired at Riyadh and other cities by the Houthis — the fourth time in five months that missiles have flown over the Saudi capital. They also downed two Houthi drones in cities in the south of the kingdom, Saudi state media said. ‘As long as the aggression continues, our military capabilities will grow and develop,’ Abdul Malik al-Houthi said in a speech aired by the Houthi-run Al Masirah TV, adding that the group had a right to build drone planes and use them. A Saudi-led alliance intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to try to push back the Houthis after they drove the internationally recognized government into exile in Riyadh.”

Al Arabiya: Girls Attacked At School In Sanaa For Refusing To Shout Houthi Cry

“A Houthi supervisor attacked school girls at Al Manar high school in Sanaa when they refused to repeat a cry of allegiance to the Houthis. The school principal told the girls to shout the call, but the students chanted (no Houthi after today) instead. The supervisor chased the girls and beat them up after they threw stones at him, then he called an armed crew, who shot live bullets at the girls as they chased them. Schools across Sanaa are experiencing rebellion attitudes from student uprising, as they refuse to chant the Houthi cry, which the Houthis are trying to impose instead of the Yemeni national anthem. In addition to their attempts to change the curriculum and force students to join their lines in the battlefields.”

Business Standard: 18 Al-Qaeda Inmates Escape From Prison

“Eighteen inmates of the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda branch managed to escape from a prison controlled by the Shiite Houthi rebels in Al-Bayda province, an official has said. According to the security source, who preferred to remain anonymous, the escape followed a rebellion that erupted on Saturday inside the Political Security (Intelligence) prison controlled by Houthis in Al-Bayda province, Xinhua news agency reported. ‘The guards around the prison who were badly injured failed to resist or put down the prisoners rebellion,’ the source said. ‘Even the weapons of the guards were seized by the al-Qaida inmates who fled to unknown locations,’ the source added.”

The National: Yemen Says Iran Is Arming Houthis With Drones To Attack Saudi Arabia

“The Yemeni government says that Iran supplied the Houthi rebels with drones used to attack Saudi Arabia. On Wednesday, Riyadh said it shot down two drones in the south of the country and intercepted ballistic missiles launched by the Houthis in Yemen. The drones are ‘made in Iran,’ said Yemen’s internationally-recognised government on Saturday. It added that the country’s military did not possess such aircraft and it was ‘impossible to manufacture them locally.’ Iran has long denied supplying arms to the Houthis, although a growing body of evidence contradicts that claim. Between Wednesday and Friday, Riyadh said its air defences have intercepted five missiles and two drones launched from rebel-held northern Yemen.”


BBC: Israel Destroys 'Longest And Deepest' Gaza Tunnel

“The Israeli military has disabled a major tunnel dug by militants which reached into Israel from the Gaza Strip, officials say. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said it was the longest and deepest tunnel of its kind Israel had discovered. A military spokesman said it had been dug since the 2014 Gaza war, when Israel destroyed more than 30 tunnels which it said were meant for attacks. Israel is using sophisticated measures to thwart tunnels dug by militants. Military spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus said the tunnel had been dug by Hamas and began in the area of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. He said it penetrated several metres into Israel in the direction of Nahal Oz, but did not yet have an exit. The tunnel stretched "several kilometres" into Gaza and connected with other tunnels from which attacks could be launched, he said. Israel disabled the tunnel over the weekend, according to the military. "We filled the tunnel with material that renders it useless for a very long period of time," Col Conricus said.”

Reuters: Netanyahu Praises US Strikes In Syria, Warns About Iran

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coupled praise for U.S.-led strikes on Syrian targets on Saturday with a warning that Iran’s presence there further endangers Syria. U.S., British and French forces hit Syria with air strikes overnight in response to an alleged poison gas attack that killed dozens of people last week. U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to sustain the response until Assad’s government stopped its use of chemical weapons. ‘Early this morning, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom demonstrated that their commitment is not limited to proclamations of principle,’ Netanyahu said in a written statement. Netanyahu said Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must understand that ‘his provision of a forward base for Iran and its proxies endangers Syria.’”

Middle East

The Times: Three Years A Sex Slave: Woman Tells Of Suffering Under ISIS

“For days she did not know that she was free from the Isis man who owned and regularly abused her, from his wife, who insulted her, and from the shelling and fighting that engulfed the town where she had been held captive. Rita Habib, a Christian woman kidnapped three years earlier in northern Iraq, thought she had merely been sold again. She had already been bought by four different men. The man who had paid for her this time, and his friend who had done the same for a Yazidi woman held captive alongside her, had said nothing to them. They wore keffiyehs wrapped round their heads and faces so they could not be identified, and made sure the women stayed indoors.”


The Washington Post: Islamic State Claims Attack In Egypt’s Sinai That Killed 8

“The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for an attack on an Egyptian army base in the Sinai Peninsula that killed at least eight soldiers. The extremist group claimed Saturday’s attack in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency. Egypt’s military said another 15 soldiers were wounded when suicide bombers blew themselves up as they tried to infiltrate the base. It said 14 militants were killed in the attack. The attack comes two months after the launch of a massive operation against militants in Sinai as well as parts of Egypt’s Nile Delta and the Western Desert, along the porous border with Libya.”


ABC News: Nigeria's Boko Haram Extremists Hamper Polio Eradication

“Islamic extremists made Imana Alhaji Gana's village in northeastern Nigeria too dangerous for health workers to vaccinate against polio. Now that she and her family have fled to a displacement camp, those workers want to catch her children in time. Here in the camps housing thousands of families seeking safety from the extremists, health teams are going from tent to tent, inoculating youngsters against the disease that withers limbs and disables children for life. At first, Gana is afraid to let the outreach workers vaccinate her baby. Eventually they persuade her that the three-week-old child is not too young for immunization, which can take place as early as the day of birth.”

North Korea

CNBC: Syria Strikes Could Strengthen Trump's Hand In North Korea Talks

“U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria over the weekend could benefit President Donald Trump during nuclear negotiations with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un. Saturday's missile attacks on Syrian chemical weapons facilities shows the world's largest economy possesses the military and the political will to back up warnings it makes, strategists told CNBC. That sends a message of resolve to Pyongyang, which was likely closely monitoring developments in the Arab nation, they argued. The coordinated bombings by the United States, France and Britain were in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons — toxic agents, including chlorine gas, are said to have killed at least 70 people on April 7 in a city near Damascus. Assad's government denied any responsibility in the incident, but French intelligence indicated Syrian government forces executed the chemical attack. The airstrikes are proof that the White House will back up talk with action, said Dakota Wood, a senior research fellow specializing in defense at conservative research group The Heritage Foundation.”

United Kingdom

The Guardian: British Isis 'Beatle' Suspected Of Plotting To Shoot Police In London

“One of the members of the Islamic State cell dubbed the Beatles is suspected of helping to organise a plot from Raqqa in Syria to shoot soldiers, police officers and civilians in London from the back of a moped. Alexanda Kotey, who was captured at the start of this year by the Syrian Democratic Forces while apparently fleeing after the collapse of Isis, is alleged to have been one of the four members of the group of jihadist extremists who held British and other foreign nationals. Members of the cell are accused of having beheaded prisoners including the British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, the US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and the US aid worker Peter Kassig. Kotey’s alleged role in the London plot was revealed by ITV News on Friday and independently confirmed by the Guardian.”

Evening Standard: Man, 27, Arrested In London On Suspicion Of Planning Terror Attacks

“A 27-year-old man has been arrested in east London on suspicion of the preparation of terrorist acts, police said. Detectives from the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command arrested the man just after 3pm on Friday. He was detained on suspicion of commission, preparation or instigation of a terrorist act and remains in custody in a south London police station. As part of the same operation and at around the same time, a 24-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of having information about acts of terrorism. Police are searching the house in north London where she was arrested and three further addresses in east London.”


CNN: Macron Says He 'Convinced' Trump To Stay In Syria Ahead Of Strikes

“French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday he "convinced" President Donald Trump to stay in Syria before the United States, United Kingdom and France launched strikes against targets at three sites Friday night. "Ten days ago, President Trump said the USA's will is to disengage from Syria. We convinced him that it was necessary to stay," Macron said, during a two-hour televised interview with several French media outlets. On Friday, the United States, France and the United Kingdom launched a series of strikes on a research laboratory and two storage facilities associated with Syria's chemical weapons program. Satellite images of the facilities, located west of Homs and near the capital Damascus, before and after the strikes appear to show they suffered extensive damage. Macron said it had also been France which convinced Trump that the strikes had to be limited to suspected chemical weapons sites.”

Arab News: France Aims To Relaunch Syria Peace Process After ‘Legitimate’ Strikes

“France wants to start working ‘right now’ on resuming the political process aimed at ending the conflict in Syria, officials said Saturday after Western powers carried out what it called ‘legitimate’ military strikes against the regime of President Bashar Assad. ‘A plan for ending the crisis must be found, with a political solution. We are ready to start working right now with all countries who want to participate,’ Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at a press conference. Speaking alongside Defense Minister Florence Parly, he said the strikes carried out overnight by France, Britain and the US were “legitimate” in retaliation for the suspected chemical weapons attack in the rebel-held Syrian enclave of Douma last week. ‘A chemical escalation in Syria is not acceptable,’ Le Drian said, calling the strikes ‘proportional and targeted.’”


The Verge: AI Is An Excuse For Facebook To Keep Messing Up

“Over the course of an accumulated 10 hours spread out over two days of hearings, Mark Zuckerberg dodged question after question by citing the power of artificial intelligence. Moderating hate speech? AI will fix it. Terrorist content and recruitment? AI again. Fake accounts? AI. Russian misinformation? AI. Racially discriminatory ads? AI. Security? AI. It’s not even entirely clear what Zuckerberg means by “AI” here. He repeatedly brought up how Facebook’s detection systems automatically take down 99 percent of “terrorist content” before any kind of flagging. In 2017, Facebook announced that it was “experimenting” with AI to detect language that “might be advocating for terrorism” — presumably a deep learning technique. It’s not clear that deep learning is actually part of Facebook’s automated system. (We emailed Facebook for clarification and have not yet heard back.) But we do know AI is still in its infancy when it comes to understanding language. As The Verge’s James Vincent concludes from his reporting, AI is not up to snuff when it comes to the nuances of human language, and that’s not even taking into consideration the edge cases where even humans disagree. In fact, AI might never be capable of dealing with certain categories of content, like fake news.”

The Washington Post: Why Europe, Not Congress, Will Rein In Big Tech

“U.S. lawmakers demonstrated an increased appetite for regulating technology giants when they grilled Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg about privacy last week. But the future of Facebook’s relationship with its 2 billion users is less likely to be determined from the halls of Congress than it is from an un­assuming 18th-century townhouse in Ireland’s capital packed with lawyers, technology experts and gumshoe investigators. Europe has been moving aggressively to impose order on the tech space. Already, it has inflicted painful penalties on Apple and Google for their business practices. Now, technology companies are readying themselves for sweeping new privacy rules that will go into effect next month across the European Union. They could face billion-dollar fines if they fail to give European users far more control over their personal information. Whether Congress follows the European model, as some lawmakers floated last week, or whether big tech companies determine it’s too cumbersome to treat the 500 million people of the European Union differently from the rest of the world, Europe is likely to keep setting the global pace for aggressive regulation.”

Axios: Facebook’s Next Big Headache: Europe

“Now that Facebook survived its congressional onslaught, it's focusing its attention towards a much more powerful threat: the EU.  Why it matters: The risk to Facebook’s business coming out of last week’s Mark Zuckerberg hearings is minimal. The threat to its business in the EU, where aggressive regulation has already passed, is massive. The latest: The European Parliament has issued a second invitation to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear at a joint committee heating. EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová had a phone exchange with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg urging Zuckerberg to pay the Parliament a visit, according to the Associated Press. "I expect that Mr Zuckerberg will take this invitation because I believe that face-to-face communication and being available for such communication will be a good sign that Mr. Zuckerberg understands the European market," Jourová told CNBC Friday. "Facebook has more active users in Europe than in the US," tweeted parliament member Guy Verhofstadt. "We expect Mark Zuckerberg to come to the European Parliament and explain how he will make sure Facebook respects [the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation].”


Asrar 7days: Egypt: Legislative Committee In Egyptian Parliament Approves Draft Law On Confiscation Of Funds Belonging To Terror Groups

“The Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Egyptian Parliament, during its Sunday morning meeting headed by Chancellor Bahaa Abou Shaqa, approved a draft law submitted by the government to regulate the procedures of seizure, management and expenditure of funds belonging to terrorist groups. The law comes under the provisions of the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters. The parliamentary committee approved all 18 articles of the draft. However, it received objections to the {specific} article dealing with formation of a committee to oversee the seizure from several deputies, who demanded that the decision to select the members of the committee – i.e., judges – be granted to the Supreme Judicial Council and not the President of the Republic. This is to ensure the independence of the committee. On his part, Chancellor Mahmoud Fawzi stressed that the current text, stating that the {presidential} decision to appoint judges will be issued only after approval is granted by the Supreme Judicial Council, fulfills this purpose. This view was backed by Chairman Abou Shaqa, who affirmed that the final decisions regarding the appointment of judges will be issued by the President of the Republic.”

Terror Financing

Arab Youm: Expert: Drug Trafficking Tops Terrorism Financing In Sinai

“Several military experts describe the "Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018" as a successful qualitative war, particularly since it targets terrorists who hide among civilians rather than traditional enemy soldiers. The terrorists operate based on the key agendas and massive funding of terror-sponsoring countries, the experts added. General Nasr Salem, former military intelligence officer, stated that the Egyptian army, one of the region's strongest armies, is not only combating terrorism of various types but is also acting against the terrorists’ funding sources. General Salem noted that drug trafficking tops the funding sources of terrorism in Sinai; thus, drugs constitute a major threat to Egypt. The military expert emphasized that the Egyptian armed forces are well aware of the large sums being received by the terrorist groups in Sinai from their sponsor states. The armed forces are confronting domestic as well as foreign attempts at targeting the Egyptian state, General Salem concluded.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Shorouk News: Egypt: Ruling To De-List 154 Muslim Brotherhood-Affiliated Individuals

“Chaired by Counsellor Hamad Abdullatif, the Egyptian Court of Cassation nullified on Sunday an earlier verdict that had placed 154 Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated persons on the terror lists. These individuals were on the terror lists in reference to Case no. 351 of 2015, also dubbed the Brotherhood's "Qualitative Committees" in Fayoum. It's noteworthy that the Court of Cassation has accepted appeals which were filed by several of the defendants. The abovementioned court has also decided to refer the case to the Cairo Criminal Court, so that another judicial bureau may review it and issue a final ruling concerning all 154 individuals.”

Veto Gate: Egypt: 20 Muslim Brotherhood Figures Owned EGP 45 Billion

“Mustafa Bakri, a member of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee of the Egyptian House of Representatives and a prominent media figure, disclosed that nearly EGP 45 billion ($2.5 billion) of the banned Muslim Brotherhood's assets was owned by {merely} 20 senior figures of the outlawed Islamic group. The government seized all of their funds, MP Bakri noted. These statements by Bakri came during a committee meeting, held on Sunday and chaired by MP Bahaa Abou Shaqa, to debate a new bill aimed at regulating the confiscation procedures of the Muslim Brotherhood's assets.”


Yemen Voice: Yemen: Houthi Group Calls For Donations From Private School Students

“The Administration of Private Schools in Yemen has sent a letter to the parents of the students from the Sana'a-based Houthi leadership, ‘requesting’ they provide cash donations, supposedly to low-income public school students. Parents said that their children received strong messages from the teachers that they must donate. "The teacher said that I can donate any sum and {of course} I do not want to return the envelope empty," a mother of a student was quoted as saying. "Houthis see us parents as financially capable, but don't they realize we moved our children to private schools due to teachers' strikes in the public schools?”