Eye on Extremism: April 2, 2019

Kurdistan 24: NATO Warns ISIS Will Continue To Mobilize Support For Its ‘Twisted Ideology’

“Despite its military defeat, the so-called Islamic State remains a threat and is possibly reorganizing its ranks again, the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jens Stoltenberg, said on Monday. “ISIS does not control any territory anymore, and that is, of course, very much because of the efforts of the global coalition and that’s a huge achievement, a significant achievement,” Stoltenberg said during a press conference in the Belgian capital of Brussels in response to a question from Kurdistan 24 correspondent Barzan Hassan. “But that doesn’t mean that the fight against terrorism is over or that we can be complacent,” he added. “We know that they still try to mobilize support for their twisted ideology.” Indeed, although the Islamic State has suffered a military defeat in both Iraq and Syria where it once controlled a considerable amount of territory, the terror organization continues to launch sporadic attacks via its sleeper cells in both countries. Last week, an Islamic State car bomb killed a member of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the Syrian province of Deir al-Zor. Elsewhere in the province, another SDF fighter died from his injuries after unknown gunmen believed to be Islamic State members shot him.”

Fox News: Despite Crumpled Caliphate, Hunt For Baghdadi Continues In Syria

“The ISIS territorial “caliphate” may have crumbled, but the terror group's heart beats on for at least as long as its illusory leader evades capture or death -- and Iraqi intelligence officials insist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 47, is alive and in hiding. "Finding and bringing the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to justice remains an important task for the international community and continues to be actively pursued by local and international forces in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic," said Hans-Jakob Schindler, Senior Director of the Counter Extremism Project. "While the capture of al-Baghdadi would present a major blow against ISIS, it is unlikely to result in the dissolution of this terror group.”

The Jerusalem Post: Hezbollah Established New Missile Factory In Beirut- Report

“Hezbollah has built a new missile factory in Beirut with the help of Iran, a Channel 13 report revealed on Monday night. Israeli intelligence reportedly shared the new information with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who warned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri of the secret facility on his state visit to Lebanon in March and expressed his concern about the threat the terrorist organization poses to the country. The missile factory could include the capability of manufacturing precision-guided missiles, according to an anonymous American source quoted by the report. “We have made it clear to the Lebanese government that Hezbollah is doing something inside Lebanon and that the danger of an escalation with Israel as a result is real,” the source said, adding that “we made sure that all the information we have in this context is also in the hands of the Lebanese government.” In his address to the UN General Assembly in September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hezbollah of shielding its massive missile stockpiles behind civilian buildings, including Beirut’s main airport.”

Arab News: Tech Giants Must Probe Qatar Hate Preacher, Analysts Say

“It is time for social media companies to get tough with Qatar-based Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, experts on extremism have said, as the controversial cleric is named in Arab News’ ongoing “Preachers of Hate” series. Josh Lipowsky, senior research analyst at the Counter-Extremism Project (CEP), said it was inappropriate for Qatar to have provided Al-Qaradawi with a media platform on Al Jazeera. “It helped raise his profile, to expand his influence. Even though he isn’t making as many appearances as he once did, his words still matter and he still has influence,” Lipowsky said. “The elevation and prominence given to Al-Qaradawi has enabled him to continue to spread his views. We need to make sure these platforms are no longer available.”

Middle East Online: After New Zealand Attacks, Facebook Under Scrutiny

“As Christchurch came to a standstill March 29, part of a memorial service for the 50 victims of a terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand two weeks earlier, questions were being asked about how far-right hatred is spread online, particularly via social media. The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) said social media companies — Facebook in particular — needed to do more to address the proliferation of extremist content on their platforms. “Facebook has received much criticism... and deservedly so, for allowing the New Zealand terrorist’s live stream to run its course on the platform, especially given that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously promoted artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning as the panacea to eliminating this kind of horrific content,” CEP Executive Director David Ibsen said in a release. “The tech industry has used spin and talking points playing up the promise of machine learning and AI to deflect pressure from lawmakers, advertisers, the media and the public. The unfortunate fact that the video of the shootings was re-uploaded millions of times across numerous different websites shows that tech’s pledges and promises have gone unfulfilled.”

The Wall Street Journal: Facebook Is Making Enemies, Not Friends

“Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is tired of getting served. In the wake of a year filled with scandal—and a stock-price decline of 23% from 12-month highs—Facebook has been working overtime and spending billions of dollars to shore up security across its platforms. Fed up, Mr. Zuckerberg is now trying to redirect public outrage and serve it to regulators instead. In an opinion piece that ran online on Saturday in the Washington Post and in Ireland’s Independent, Mr. Zuckerberg said he is now having to make decisions about harmful speech, political advertising and cybersecurity—hefty burdens for any company to bear, and particularly one with 2.7 billion users. “If we were starting from scratch,” he wrote, “we wouldn’t have to make these judgments alone.” On its surface, Mr. Zuckerberg’s piece may read as a constructive policy suggestion to bolster the greater social good. Underneath, it is more self-serving.”

United States

Fox News: ISIS Bride Claims She’d Be Model Citizen If She's Allowed To Return To US: ‘I Didn’t Hate America’

“In the dying days of the caliphate, thousands of ISIS families fled into the Syrian desert trying to escape the incessant bombardment of U.S. airpower. Among them, Hoda Muthana, the woman born in America who joined ISIS. She is now living in a squalid camp in Northern Syria – and Fox News tracked her down. “I just want to go back home,” she said. “I want my son to see my family, I want him to be safe in Syria. It’s not safe here, no matter what my government tells me.” But the U.S. insists Muthana is not and has never been a U.S. citizen because her father was a Yemeni diplomat at the time of her birth. Her lawyer is fighting this. President Trump and secretary of State Mike Pompeo have both said she’s not welcome. In February, Trump tweeted that he instructed Pompeo to not “allow Hoda Muthana back into the country.” While she was a part of ISIS, she became a mouthpiece for the terror group, calling for Americans to be killed. “Americans wake up! Men and women altogether. You have much to do while you live under our greatest enemy, enough of your sleeping! Go on drive-bys and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them.”

Reuters: U.S. Considering Additional Iran Sanctions, Perhaps In May: Official

“The U.S. government is considering additional sanctions against Iran that would target areas of its economy that have not been hit before, a senior Trump administration official told reporters on Monday. The official said the administration aimed to follow through with new sanctions around the first anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and several world powers, which President Donald Trump announced last May. “We just want a continued chilling effect,” the official said. “We want businesses to continue to think doing business with Iran is a terrible idea at this point.” Trump announced last May that the United States would pull out of a 2015 international agreement designed to deny Tehran the ability to make nuclear weapons and he ordered sanctions be imposed again on the country. The deal, agreed by the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China and Iran, sought to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb in return for the removal of sanctions that had crippled its economy.”

Forbes: Why We Must Use The Rome Statute To Prosecute Terrorists For Human Trafficking

“Previously, I have written about how terrorist groups are increasingly involved in human trafficking, whereby women and girls of ideologically opposed groups or religions are targeted. This phenomenon involves the perpetration of various forms of sexual violence against the victims of trafficking.  The commission of the interlinked crimes of human trafficking, sexual violence, and terrorism is relatively new, encompassing a vicious cycle in which each crime effectively flows from the commission of the others: sexual violence is facilitated by human trafficking, human trafficking is motivated, in part, by sexual violence, and both crimes spread terror among civilian populations. In light of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) signaling the possibility of investigating crimes of human trafficking committed in Libya, I co-wrote an academic article last month arguing that the link between human trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence, and terrorism needs to be judicially addressed. Prosecuting these interlinked crimes would break new ground in the development of international criminal law, and by doing so it would also recognize and punish the full extent of the criminality suffered by victims.”

Syria

Military.com: With ISIS Caliphate Defeated, Syrian Democratic Forces Begin A New Chapter

“On Friday, March 22, the Trump Administration officially announced the end of the Islamic State (ISIS) caliphate, declaring that the jihadist organization had been “100% defeated.” At a press briefing, the White House distributed maps of the region showing that for the first time since 2014, ISIS no longer controlled any territory in Syria. “The territorial caliphate has been eliminated in Syria,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. The Islamic State's territorial holdings in Iraq had been rolled up a few months earlier. At its height, the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate stretched across Iraq and Syria and covered a region of approximately 80,000 square miles; roughly equivalent to the area of Great Britain. There were an additional 10,000 square miles of territory controlled by ISIS or its affiliates across North Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East. To its credit, the Trump Administration revitalized and expanded the lackluster campaign that the Obama Administration had been waging against the Islamic State. It paved the way for the eventual defeat of ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria, and the liberation of the territory previously under its control. The destruction of ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria is a defeat for the caliphate.”

BBC: Syria Trip Pair Guilty Of Preparing Terrorist Acts

“Two men who tried to get into Islamic State-controlled Syria have been found guilty of preparing terrorist acts. Hanzalah Patel and Safwaan Mansur, both 22, were arrested at an Istanbul hotel in June 2017, after contacting a US agent posing as an IS sympathiser. Birmingham Crown Court heard the pair, who denied the charges, claimed the talk was just "thoughts and banter". The jury returned its verdicts after less than an hour of deliberation and the pair will be sentenced on 25 April. The court heard Patel, of Frederick Road in Leicester, and Mansur, of Hampton Road in Birmingham, first travelled to Istanbul in 2016, with the aim of getting into Syria. They returned home after a contact failed to answer calls but went back the following year. The court heard in May 2017, Mansur was in contact with a user of the encrypted messaging site Telegram - who was in fact working for the US government - to discuss crossing the border into Syria. When the two men arrived in Istanbul, the contact told them he would send someone to help but once they revealed their whereabouts they were arrested.”

Iran

Radio Farda: More Than 600,000 Sign Petition To Free Prominent Iran Rights Defender

“More than 600,000 have signed a petition calling for the release of prominent Iranian human rights activist and legal counsel, Nasrin Sotoudeh, Amnesty International (AI) reported. Meanwhile, in a letter dated March 30, Ms. Sotoudeh disclosed that she has been sentenced to a total of 38 years imprisonment, twelve years of it obligatory, and 148 lashes. Sotoudeh also maintained that she has been sentenced to twelve years for defending the "Girls of the Revolution Street," and "advocating corruption and prostitution." The anti-hijab movement gained more traction in Iran last year as many lone women (aka the Girls of the Revolution Street) dared to remove their headscarves in public places as a show of defiance. Some of them were arrested and prosecuted. Sotoudeh played a pivotal role in defending the women who dared to drop their headscarves in busy streets across Iran.”

Iraq

The Washington Examiner: Why ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Is Likely Hiding In Anbar, Iraq

“Where is Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? It's a question I asked a year ago, and unfortunately we still don't know the answer for sure. But based on ISIS tradecraft and significant U.S., Syrian rebel, and Iraqi efforts to capture Baghdadi, he is almost certainly playing a very limited role in directing ISIS operations. Were the ISIS leader issuing regular orders, he would leave a trail by which the U.S. and its partners could identify him. Where would Baghdadi choose to hide? Well, that's a far harder question. Again, however, considering where and how ISIS leaders have hidden in the past, I would venture that Baghdadi is staying in one safe house or alternating between a few safe houses in the Anbar province.  Baghdadi's model for hiding is likely that of Osama bin Laden's in Abbottabad, Pakistan. There, bin Laden was able to live a relatively comfortable life under a presumption of safety. He was only caught when the CIA managed to identify his most reliable interlocutor and track him to the residence. Yet by staying out of sight in one location, bin Laden was able to mitigate the risk of his detection at a road block or at the ears and eyes of a nosy neighbor. Iraqi safe houses are almost certainly preferable for ISIS than those in Syria.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Where Violence Can Strike Anywhere, Even At A Wedding Party On The Move

“In a time of war and corruption, when one hand grips a gun and the other opens to be greased, even the happiest of occasions can turn deadly. On Sunday, after a wedding convoy in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz left the bride’s house for the groom’s, it was stopped at a checkpoint near a busy picnic spot. Afghan forces, the wedding participants said, asked for money — not an unusual request of newlyweds here. In this case, the wedding party tried to bargain. The soldiers made clear it was a demand, witnesses said. Then came violence: One of the soldiers opened fire, killing two people — Mohammed Yonus, 14, and Rahimullah, 27. Hamidullah Langar, a cousin of the groom, said the soldiers had asked for 1,000 afghanis, roughly $15. Mr. Langar handed them 200, about $3 — roughly half a day’s wages. They would not accept. Then, one of the motorcycles that was behind the newlyweds’ vehicle drove past the soldiers. The two young men riding on it were shot dead. “They fired because convoy members tried to pass before the wedding people had cleared the payment issue,” Mr. Langar said.”

Radio Free Europe: U.S. Special Envoy Holds Talks In Kabul Amid Continued Taliban Violence

“The U.S. envoy seeking a peace deal with the Taliban has held consultations in Kabul with Afghan government representatives. Zalmay Khalilzad's trip to Afghanistan comes ahead of an expected new round of talks with the Taliban in Qatar's capital, Doha, reportedly due to begin in mid-April. Previous talks in the Qatari capital, where the Taliban has a political office, concluded last month with Khalilzad saying “real strides” had been made in efforts meant to put an end to the almost 18-year conflict.  Fereydoun Khuzon, deputy spokesman for the Afghan presidential administration, told RFE/RL on April 1 that he expected the visit of U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to pave the way for the start of direct talks between the government and the Taliban. Khalilzad, the chief negotiator with the Taliban, has held several rounds of peace talks with the militant group in Qatar. But the Western-backed government in Kabul has complained it is being left out of the negotiations, with the Taliban refusing to negotiate with what they consider “a U.S. puppet.” Khalilzad appears to have hit the ground trying to smooth those complaints and facilitate a peace process that brings all Afghan parties together in inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations.”

Foreign Policy: The Afghan Government Can’t Make Peace With The Taliban On Its Own

“For most Afghans, the day when their country is free of any foreign troops will be a day to celebrate. More important is winning a dignified peace. The two aims are intricately linked, and their realization seems closer than it has been for years. The U.S. government’s announced intention to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, and hold direct talks with the Taliban, has created significant momentum. Meanwhile, an intra-Afghan dialogue has started between a number of Afghan politicians and the Taliban. The two tracks, U.S.-Taliban and Afghan-Afghan, complement one another. However, neither can truly succeed without including representatives of all Afghans and the Afghan government. The government of President Ashraf Ghani has alienated and sidelined the overwhelming majority of senior Afghan politicians because it has not included them in major policymaking decisions and has failed to improve security and economic conditions in the country. Indeed, security conditions have worsened, with more than 45,000 security personnel killed since Ghani came into office.”

Reuters: Swapping Kalashnikovs For Bat And Pads: Afghan Cricket, The Taliban And Peace

“During a lull in Afghanistan’s never-ending war, before the fighting season resumes once again in the spring, Taliban fighters recall laying down their Kalashnikovs and, for a brief moment, enjoying a game of cricket.  The sport is the only one most of the fighters enjoy, commanders say, with matches attracting hundreds of spectators from Taliban-controlled villages when there is no fighting. They are also fans of the increasingly successful national team.  “I love cricket,” said Mullah Badruddin, a Taliban commander in Khogyani district of Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan, where a tournament organized by the militants at the start of last winter drew large crowds.  “When Afghanistan play against another team, we listen to the radio with great interest and we also check for scores in social media and follow those in Facebook who give live updates,” he told Reuters by telephone.  First played in Afghanistan by British troops in the 19th Century, the game was adopted by Afghans in the refugee camps of cricket-loving Pakistan, where more than 3 million fled a Soviet invasion and civil war in the 1980s and 1990s, and has since made huge strides in the country, particularly among ethnic Pashtuns in the eastern border provinces.”

Yemen

The Hill: Central Command: Eight Airstrikes Conducted Against Al Qaeda In Yemen Since Jan. 1

“The U.S. military has conducted eight airstrikes against the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen since the start of the year, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said Monday. Six of those strikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) happened in March in the Al Bayda governate, according to a news release. The other two happened in January, one in Al Bayda and the other in the Marib governate. The strike in Marib was previously announced as killing the alleged organizer of the USS Cole bombing, Jamal al-Badawi. Monday’s release gave no additional details about the eight strikes, including on casualties. “In coordination with the government of Yemen, U.S. forces continue to support ongoing counterterrorism operations against AQAP and ISIS-[Yemen] to disrupt and destroy militants' attack-plotting efforts, networks, and freedom of maneuver within the region,” Centcom spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. Last year, the U.S. military conducted 36 strikes against AQAP and Yemen’s branch of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The total was a significant drop from 2017, which itself was a spike from 2016. U.S. military operations against AQAP and ISIS in Yemen are separate from the U.S. support for the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen’s civil war against Houthi rebels.”

Arab News: Yemen Army Kills 167 Houthis In Five-Day Firefight

“The Yemeni army killed 167 Houthi militants during the five-day clashes in the north of Al-Dhale province, Saudi news agency SPA reported on Monday. A Houthi field commander also died during the clashes, and a 100 of the militia were injured. The militants are abusing the financial and legal situation of Somalis and recruiting them to fight in some of their fronts.”

Lebanon

Axios: Scoop: Pompeo Warned Lebanon About Covert Hezbollah Missile Factory

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned the Lebanese government during his recent visit to Beirut that Hezbollah and Iran have set up a new covert factory for precision missiles on Lebanese soil, U.S. sources briefed on the matter tell me.  Why it matters: The sources say Pompeo based his warning on intelligence he received from Israel. Israel is greatly concerned about Hezbollah's manufacturing of precision missiles but hasn't responded with military force out of concern that could lead to an all out war. The backdrop: Last September at the UN, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed satellite imagery of what he claimed were two covert Hezbollah sites for manufacturing precision missiles. A few weeks later, Hezbollah shut down the sites. Now it seems Hezbollah and Iran have opened a new factory.  Pompeo visited Jerusalem two weeks ago and met with Netanyahu, who presented him with intelligence which pointed to a new covert facility in Lebanon, the U.S. officials say. From Jerusalem, Pompeo traveled to Beirut. The U.S. sources tell me Pompeo met with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and warned him that the existence of the new covert missile facility could have consequences for Lebanese security.”

Nigeria

The Defense Post: Nigeria: Troops Kill 16 ‘Boko Haram Terrorists’ In Lake Chad Area, MNJTF Says

“Troops from the regional Multinational Joint Task Force killed 16 Boko Haram fighters including a commander, in the Lake Chad area of Nigeria’s Borno state, the MNJTF said in a release. Over the weekend, troops deployed with Operation Yancin Tafki were conducting clearance operation in the Kerenoa – likely meaning Kirenowa – area when “contact was made with Boko Haram Terrorists at Andakar Camp,” Colonel Timothy Antigha, the MNJTF’s Chief of Military Public Information, said in the Sunday, March 31 release that included graphic images of dead bodies. A firefight followed and 16 militants including Malloum Moussa, who Antigha described as “a high ranking Boko Haram Commander,” were “neutralized,” a term commonly used to mean killed by security forces. Five technicals were destroyed and one woman “whose relationship with the terrorists is yet to be determined” was detained. Antigha said Moussa had “jurisdiction” over the southern Lake Chad area including around Daban Masara, Kirta Wulgo and Koleram, and that he was “notorious for imposing hefty levies on farmers, fishermen and cattle herders.”

The Cable Nigeria: Boko Haram Sets Chibok Village On Fire

“Suspected Boko Haram insurgents have again attacked a community in Chibok local government area of Borno state. The attack comes three days after the insurgents burnt houses in Gatamwarwa ward, Chibok. “They came in through Sambisa forest at about 7pm and they have been setting the village on fire,” a Chibok resident told TheCable. Kaumutiyahi is at least 13 kilometres away from Chibok. A military source told TheCable that the Nigeria’s army 117 battalion stationed in Chibok were getting set to move into Kaumutiyahi. “There is actually a company of army about 6 kilometres from the village under attack, but they would need the support of the larger battalion,” the source said. In December, the insurgents attacked Makalama, a village in Gatamawarwa ward. Bwalakia villagers were also attacked three days after the Makalama attack, burning houses and leaving villagers stranded. “They looted and burnt everything we have. We don’t have what to eat and we don’t have where to sleep,” one of the victims had told TheCable. In November, Abubakar Elkanemi, shehu of Borno, had said the people of the state were still under Boko Haram siege. As of the time this report was filed, Sagir Musa, army spokesman, had not responded to to TheCable’s message seeking information on the recent attack.”

The Punch Nigeria: Nigeria And Dangers Of ISIS Rout

“The world heaved a collective sigh of relief when local liberation forces, backed by a United States-led coalition, recently routed the Islamic State terrorist group from the last sliver of territory it held in Syria. Five years of apocalyptic scale terror and its “caliphate” came to its inevitable end in the village of Baghouz, near the River Euphrates, freeing all of Syrian territory of the terrorist occupants, just as Iraq had been in December 2017. However, Nigeria cannot afford to join in the muted celebration: rather it must quickly rout its own home-grown terror group and prepare resolutely for possible targeting of its territory by fleeing global jihadists.  ISIS’ defeat as a territorial power holds valuable lessons for Nigeria and its leadership. It reminds us that a terror group seizing and laying claim to sovereign land can, and should, be defeated by a combination of strong political will, a matrix of strategic military, intelligence and diplomatic engagement, local resistance, as well as by welcoming hands-on international support. All these were in evidence, first in Iraq, where coalition-backed Iraqi armed forces and assorted militias erased the caliphate and, lately, in Syria.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somali, AU Troops Clash With Al-Shabaab In Southern Somalia

“More details are coming out of a heavy gunfight between Somali government forces backed by AU peacekeepers and Al-Shabaab militants erupted in the outskirts of Qoryoley town. The battle broke out following an ambush attack on a military checkpoint near the district by heavily armed Al-Shabaab fighters, according to local residents. The fighting has raged on for several hours and both sides exchanged heavy and small weapons that caused casualties, but, the exact number of the losses remained unclear. This was the latest in a series of attacks against Somali and AU military bases in the Lower Shabelle region by the Al-Qaeda-linked militant group Al-Shabab.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: At Least Seven From My University Joined IS, Says Captured Fighter

“An Islamic State fighter held in Syria has told the BBC he was one of at least seven students and ex-students from University of Westminster to join IS. Zakariyya Elogbani abandoned a degree in business management which he was taking at the university in 2014. Another student had been studying while on a terror protection order which was made less restrictive by a judge, a BBC investigation has found.  University of Westminster says it takes its safeguarding duty “very seriously”.  This is not the first time that students at the university have been linked to violent jihadism - the notorious IS killer Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, studied there until 2009. The BBC's investigation now exposes the secret funnelling of fighters and funds from the UK to IS in Syria. Elogbani, who grew up in east London, was captured by Kurdish forces in Syria nine months ago. Speaking to the BBC's Middle East Correspondent Quentin Sommerville, Elogbani said: “Obviously we came here intending to fight. That's the honest truth. But I don't think it was a love for blood.” He said there was a group at University of Westminster who had already left for Syria before he even began his studies. “They kind of opened the way,” he added.”

The New York Post: ISIS Fanatic Captured In Syria Just Wants To Eat McDonald’s

“A British ISIS fanatic nicknamed “Hungry Hamza” has been captured in Syria — but he’s still looking for the nearest McDonald’s, according to a new report. Hamza Parvez, also known as Abu Hamza al-Britani, of West London, first joined the Islamic State about five years ago, according to the Washington Post. In his early days with the caliphate, he was known for his pudginess — and social media posts about fast food and kittens. His posts began to decrease as the Islamic State’s territory shrank, according to the report, and his fate was long unknown. But last month, Parvez was among 50 Brits who surrendered to Kurdish-led forces outside the terror group’s former stronghold of Baghouz. He lost 66 pounds during his time with the terror group, according to the report. During an interview with the paper at a northern Syria prison — surrounded by armed guards — he had one question for a reporter. “You don’t have to tell me what city I’m in,” Parvez said. “But can I ask: Is there a McDonald’s here?” He also spoke of the living conditions in Baghouz, an encampment of tents that he called the “crumbs of ISIS.”

France

The Washington Examiner: Are France's Yellow Vest Hard-Liners Turning To Terrorism?

“On Monday, French officials found two explosive devices outside a tax office on the island territory of Corsica.  French counterterrorism prosecutors have taken lead of the investigation. But as Le Monde reports, this isn't the first attack of its kind. Another tax office in a different area of France was targeted in this manner back in February. So what's going on here? Well, there is suspicion that the attacks are related to the “gilet jaunes” or “yellow vest” protest movement. That's a deep tragedy. Because it shows the increasing extremism that defines the populist anti-austerity, anti-tax movement. As more-moderate yellow vest activists have moved away from the group, which is shown by reduced protest sizes, those remaining are centered around a hard-liner cadre. But we in the U.S. should be clear about two things. First, that there is absolute legitimacy in taking to the streets with strong voice to demand a redress of grievances. Second, that there is no legitimacy in the violence we've seen in Corsica, home of France's greatest son Napoleon Bonaparte.  Whatever we think of President Emmanuel Macron's policies, those who use violence to promote their views and destroy their monuments are not patriots.”

Europe

The Washington Post: Russian Court Fines Jehovah’s Witness Over Alleged Extremism

“Jehovah’s Witnesses say one of their followers has been fined 350,000 rubles ($5,350) in Russia on an extremism charge related to his membership in the religious group. The group says Sergei Skrynnikov was found guilty by a court in the Russian city of Oryol of participating in the activity of an extremist organization. Russia officially banned Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017 and declared the group an extremist organization. His case follows that of Danish Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen, who was sentenced to six years in prison in February. He had been detained in 2017 while leading a prayer meeting in Oryol. Before the ban, the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses claimed about 170,000 adherents in Russia.”

El País: The Jihadist Women That Spain Wants To Bring Back Home

“Three Spanish women have been identified at detention camps for Jihadist combatants run by Kurdish militias in Syria following the fall of the Islamic State. According to the police, one is a native of Morocco with Spanish citizenship, and the other two are Madrid-born women who converted to Islam. All three traveled to Syria with their husbands, and the Spanish government is now “studying” whether to repatriate them and any minors in their care. The last time that Lubna Miludi was seen in Spain was on November 5, 2014, five months after Abu Bkr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the Islamic State on June 4 of that year. She was 21 and there is footage from security cameras at Málaga airport showing her as she dragged a red suitcase to the gate to board a flight to Istanbul. From there, her plan was to cross the border and join the Islamic State. Kurdish authorities have not revealed how many Spaniards are in their custody Miludi, a native of Morocco with Spanish citizenship, had been working as a teacher in Ceuta, a Spanish exclave city in northern Africa. She told her parents that she was going to “help the little children who have been orphaned because their parents died fighting the Jihad.”

Southeast Asia

Bloomberg: Singapore Isn’t Waiting For Facebook To Crack Down On Fake News

“Singapore plans to introduce tough new laws to hold online outlets accountable for the spread of fake news, joining countries around the world in putting pressure on companies like Facebook Inc. to address the issue. The new measures will require online sites to show corrections to false or misleading claims and take down falsehoods, according to a bill put forward in Parliament on Monday by the government. Account restriction directions can be issued to a platform to disable a fake account or bot that spreads a falsehood undermining the public interest, the government said in parliament. These directions can be appealed in a court. The bill also intends to impose criminal sanctions -- including fines of up to S$1 million ($740,000) and 10 years in prison -- against those who spread an online falsehood with intent to prejudice the public interest, and those who make a bot to spread an online falsehood. The sanctions will also apply to anyone providing services for the purpose of spreading falsehoods in return for a reward."

Technology

New Statesman: Why Do We Watch Terrorist Videos And What Effect Do They Have On Us?

“In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand that killed 50 people, internet companies struggled to take down footage of the shooting, which the gunman livestreamed on Facebook. According to the Guardian, in the four days after the attack and long after the original video had been removed, it was reuploaded on the social media site 1.5 million times. YouTube told the newspaper that, at points, a video of the attack was being added to the site every second. New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern condemned social media sites for their role in disseminating the horrific footage, and the incident intensified questions over how internet companies should regulate and remove violent, graphic or offensive content. Another question, one that is raised less often but is no less urgent is: why were so many people so eager to see the video in the first place? Why do we watch terrorist videos, and what effect do they have on us? Researchers have long studied the effects of violent computer games or horror films on viewers but have paid less attention to the impact of real-life violence. In a paper published in the journal American Psychologist in March, a group of researchers from the University of California, Irvine, set out to redress the imbalance.”

The Verge: Facebook Is Making An All-Out Push For Regulation — On Its Own Terms

“Facebook has spent so much time on the defensive since 2016 that it can be startling to see the company come out swinging. But with Europe beginning to peel away from the open web, and American lawmakers rattling their sabers a bit more each day, Facebook is undertaking a kind of regulatory shock-and-awe campaign: a public effort to recast the debate on its own terms, to advance its worldview and ensure its continued dominance. The campaign, which began to unfold over the weekend has three main themes. The first is to take the offensive: in the absence of global agreement on how to regulate big tech platforms, Facebook will attempt to frame the debate on its own terms. The second is to offer concessions: to generate goodwill from skeptics in government and the press, the company will give up some of its power and revenue. Finally, Facebook seeks to maintain control. Whatever it may give up, Facebook wants to retain the maximum flexibility to continue operating basically as is.”

The Wall Street Journal: Fake News Runs Wild On WhatsApp As India Elections Loom

“In India, viral fake news is lighting up Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messaging app as the world’s biggest democracy prepares for national elections in the coming weeks. Efforts by WhatsApp and the government to stop the spread of misinformation are having little effect, according to fact-checking groups and analysts. That is a challenge for Facebook, as well as policy makers and voters grappling with digital falsehoods in India, a country of 1.3 billion people where mobile internet access has exploded in recent years. It also provides a unique window on how Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s surprising strategic shift from public postings to private messaging could play out around the world. Mr. Zuckerberg said in March that Facebook would move to a model favoring encrypted group chats like those on WhatsApp, which is popular in emerging economies including Brazil and Indonesia.”

War on the Rocks: Back To The Future: The Return Of Violent Far-Right Terrorism In The Age Of Lone Wolves

““He is a terrorist.” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s unflinching description of the person responsible for the tragic attacks on Muslim worshippers in her country captured the changing nature of political violence in the 21st Century. In the past, a terrorist was mostly recognizable as someone committing violence at the direct behest or on behalf of some existent organizational entity or movement that had an identifiable chain of command. This criterion, as Ardern’s statement suggests, has outlived its usefulness. In recent years, a variety of both foreign and now domestic extremist movements have adopted and vigorously advocated via social media a strategy that encourages “lone wolves” to engage in individual acts of violence against a broad array of designated enemies. This breed of inspired adversary is a more recent and distinctly different kind of terrorist — to which traditional organizational constructs and definitions do not neatly apply. Terrorism today is thus also populated by individuals who are ideologically motivated, inspired, and animated by a movement, a leader, or a mélange of ideological mentors but who neither necessarily formally belong to a specific, identifiable terrorist group nor directly follow orders issued by its leadership.”