Eye on Extremism: April 3, 2019

The Independent: How A ‘Smarter’ Islamic State Is Quietly Taking Over Swathes Of Syria After ISIS Defeat

“The Isis caliphate is no more. Four years after its fighters captured large swathes of Iraq and Syria and declared its intention to spread jihad around the world, the terror group no longer holds any territory. But as one extremist Islamic state falls, another one endures. Over the past few years, a group that was formerly part of al-Qaeda has cemented its power in northern Syria and now rules over some 3 million people. After forcing out rival rebel groups in Idlib earlier this year, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has moved to impose its control over all institutions in the province. A university with more than 6,000 students has become the latest battleground in its quest for dominance. “They came when we were in the middle of exams and said they would be taking over,” says Ahmad, a student at Free Aleppo University, which was shut down last week by the HTS-controlled administration in Idlib. “We have demonstrated against the decision many times. They arrested many professors at our university to put us under pressure to leave,” says Ahmed, who would give only his first name because he fears retribution for speaking out. When the group first shuttered the university, its lecturers gave classes outside the building’s gates in protest.”

Voice Of America: Islamic State Still Showing Signs Of Life In Syria's Baghuz

“More than a week after declaring victory over Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate, U.S.-backed forces are still trying to clear the terror group’s last stronghold of its fighters. A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces tweeted Tuesday that clearing operations in the northeastern Syrian town of Baghuz included an ongoing hunt for IS members who have yet to give up the fight. “SDF combing the area in #Baghouz (sic) and its vicinity,” spokesman Mustafa Bali said. "There’re still some terrorists hiding in the cave system in vicinity of mount Baghouz.” Separately, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said its observers in Syria estimate there may be as many as 4,000 to 5,000 IS fighters and operatives in areas controlled by the SDF. SDF officials declared victory over the IS caliphate March 23 following several nights of heavy airstrikes against multiple clusters of several hundred fighters in Baghuz, that had refused to surrender following a protracted siege. Almost immediately, though, SDF troops shifted into clearing operations, a process coalition spokesman Col. Sean Ryan described as “deliberate and thorough.”

Motherboard (Vice News): Neo-Nazi Propaganda, Podcasts, And Audiobooks Continue To Exist On YouTube

“The Counter Extremism Project—an anti-extremism non-profit network based in the US—has highlighted YouTube’s continued refusal to remove Siege from its online library. “I think it’s because they’re not taking the threat seriously,” said CEP researcher Joshua Fisher-Birch in an interview with Motherboard on why white nationalist content continues proliferating on YouTube. Fisher-Birch said he’s logged recent uploads of Siege and the Turner Diaries that have thousands of views, while several new uploads of Atomwaffen propaganda appear almost daily. The CEP researcher believes the difference between YouTube’s pronounced and well-documented banning of ISIS content versus white nationalist, has to do with its public image and business model. “With ISIS and ISIS content YouTube was getting a lot of bad press,” said Fisher-Birch. “It was really becoming an issue with advertisers pulling out because they were worried about their brands being associated with ISIS content. And there hasn’t been the same level of public or corporate sponsorship outrage about this kind of content.”

The New York Daily News: Bronx Nurse Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison For Plan To Join ISIS In Syria

“A Bronx nurse who planned to abandon his wife and young son to join ISIS in Syria was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison by a judge disturbed by his calculating, cold-blooded radicalization. Adam Raishani, 32, was arrested at Kennedy Airport on June 21, 2017, before boarding a plane bound for Turkey. He’d left behind a patronizing, sexist will for his wife that revealed he’d unsuccessfully tried to persuade her to join him in jihad. “Join — Over the years you have shown disgust and animosity towards this option. I did my best to reason with your intellect. Unfortunately, I was not successful. It makes me sad that you reject this with all the proofs and evidence that Allah had made apparent to you," Raishani, a native of Yemen, wrote to his wife. “Do Not Divulge this document and other documents that I have giv(en) to you to the authorities. Do not believe their plots. Do not divulge my absences but instead say I went to do volunteering outside the country with my medical skills and health background,” he later added. Judge Ronnie Abrams imposed the maximum possible sentence for providing material support to ISIS. Raishani’s U.S. citizenship, college degree, job and family only highlighted that he had fully embraced the Islamic State’s hateful ideology with his full wits about him, she said.”

Bloomberg: YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Letting Toxic Videos Run Rampant

“A year ago, Susan Wojcicki was on stage to defend YouTube. Her company, hammered for months for fueling falsehoods online, was reeling from another flare-up involving a conspiracy theory video about the Parkland, Florida high school shooting that suggested the victims were “crisis actors.” Wojcicki, YouTube’s chief executive officer, is a reluctant public ambassador, but she was in Austin at the South by Southwest conference to unveil a solution that she hoped would help quell conspiracy theories: a tiny text box from websites like Wikipedia that would sit below videos that questioned well-established facts like the moon landing and link viewers to the truth. Wojcicki’s media behemoth, bent on overtaking television, is estimated to rake in sales of more than $16 billion a year. But on that day, Wojcicki compared her video site to a different kind of institution. “We’re really more like a library,” she said, staking out a familiar position as a defender of free speech. “There have always been controversies, if you look back at libraries.”

The Washington Post: Facebook Isn’t Making Any New Friends In Brussels

“Nick Clegg made his first splash as Facebook’s resident EU-whisperer-in-chief back in January in a pledge to work with Brussels bureaucrats on future regulation, but without giving much detail on what exactly needed to happen. It fell somewhere between lecture and apology. This week Clegg returned with another media blitz, following an op-ed by Mark Zuckerberg that once more expressed support for regulation. Again, the familiar refrain: Policymakers should come up with new rules, as big and broad as possible, but avoid “Balkanizing” the internet. Another odd mix of lecture and apology. Unsurprisingly, this approach isn’t winning Facebook any new friends. Considering the list of scandals that have hit the social network, from the Cambridge Analytica affair that saw tens of millions of users’ personal data improperly harvested to the deadly Christchurch mosque shooting that was streamed live, Facebook’s high-handed tone seems hopelessly misjudged. It’s akin to an arsonist pleading with firefighters to do a better job of cleaning up the damage.”

United States

The Hill: What The Trump Administration Should Do In Latin America To Go After Hezbollah

“On Friday, a Miami court sentenced Ali Nasreeddine Kassir, a Miami-based Lebanese businessman and suspected Hezbollah facilitator, who pleaded guilty to passport fraud and conspiring to commit money laundering totaling over $70 million. Kassir’s conviction is the opening salvo in a string of interconnected cases implicating alleged Hezbollah financiers Nader Mohamad Farhat and Mahmoud Ali Barakat, and their U.S.-based business counterparts. When combined, these cases involve money transfers worth hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system, allegedly for laundering criminal proceeds, including from drug trafficking, and terror finance. In response to this clear threat to the integrity of the U.S. financial system, the administration has begun to ramp up its pressure against Hezbollah’s overseas networks, yet South American governments need to offer much more cooperation for Washington’s efforts to succeed.”

CBS News: Department Of Homeland Security Admits That It "Restructured" Domestic Terror Team

“Amid reports that it "disbanded" the unit that was focused on domestic terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is admitted Tuesday that it has "restructured" the team that once fed information about domestic terrorism and white supremacist groups to local police departments. DHS is now acknowledging changes in its intelligence gathering, as some former department officials tell CBS News that the unit at issue wasn't disbanded but "gutted" at the worst time – just as threats from domestic terrorists and white supremacist groups increased.  Late last month, in response to a CBS News report on the issue, DHS would not address questions about whether the unit had been "gutted." However, the department did insist that it "is committed to combating all forms of violent extremism, especially movements that espouse racial supremacy or bigotry." On Tuesday, the department was forced to address the issue again after The Daily Beast reported that DHS had disbanded its domestic terror intelligence unit. DHS now says the unit was restructured last year, but its top intelligence official disputes accusations that DHS has decreased its domestic terrorism-related intelligence gathering.”

The Washington Examiner: Congress Can Act Against Extremists, Even If The Un Cannot

“For the fourth time in ten years, China has blocked United Nations efforts to sanction Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar. China’s decision came just weeks after a Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide bomber drove into a convoy of security personnel in Pulwama, India, killing 46. It also came in the midst of escalating tensions between Pakistan and India — South Asia’s rival nuclear powers. U.N. sanctions against Masood Azhar would not end the conflict, but it would deliver a powerful message about the global community’s resolve against violent extremism.  If the U.N. Security Council is unable to act, though, Congress still can. Masood Azhar and Jaish-e-Mohammed have been under U.S. sanctions for nearly a decade, but it is the support Jaish-e-Mohammed receives from lesser-known Islamist groups like Jamaat-e-Islami that provide the ideological and material support that keeps it in business. In the wake of the Valentine’s Day attack in Pulwama, the head of Jamaat-e-Islami’s branch in Pakistan, Siraj-ul-Haq, defended the suicide attack and called on Pakistan’s armed forces to launch a full scale war against India “in the name of Allah.”  This is not the first time Jamaat-e-Islami has lent its support to a U.N.-designated terrorist group.”

Syria

The Washington Post: The Islamic State’s Refugees Are Facing A Humanitarian Calamity

“A humanitarian crisis is erupting in northeastern Syria as tens of thousands of people who fled intense fighting in last month’s decisive battle against the Islamic State are flooding into a desperately overcrowded tent camp atop a rocky hill here. More than 73,000 people, mostly women and children, are now packed into the sprawling al-Hol camp, under the control of U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. The camp, which opened in 1991 to host Iraqi refugees from the first Gulf War, was originally designed to hold barely half that number. Amid a sea of white tents, thousands sleep in communal spaces, and children defecate outside. The war wounded are often left untreated. Thousands more are malnourished. There are just three mobile clinics at the camp, and local hospitals are swollen with patients critically wounded in the war. Those with non-life-threatening injuries often are given painkillers or antibiotics and sent on their way. Last week, 31 people died on the way to the camp or shortly after arriving due to traumatic injuries and malnutrition, according to the International Rescue Committee, bringing the total number of such deaths to 217. Along the camp’s dusty roads, recently muddied by a downpour, amputees struggle without wheelchairs or crutches.”

Military Times: US-Backed Kurdish Fighters Clash With ISIS Days After Declaring Victory

“U.S.-backed Syrian fighters are battling the Islamic State group in eastern Syria 10 days after declaring victory over the extremists, an official with the Kurdish-led force said Tuesday. Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, said they are rooting out groups of militants who were hiding in caves in and near the village of Baghouz. He added that SDF experts are still removing mines and booby-traps in areas liberated in recent weeks. The SDF declared military victory over ISIS on March 23 after liberating what it said was the last pocket of territory held by the militants. The victory marked the end of the brutal self-styled caliphate the group carved out in large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014. The nearly five-year war left a swath of destruction across both countries and ended in Baghouz, a tiny village near the Iraqi border where the cornered militants made their last stand, under a grueling siege for weeks.”

Fox News: Bashar Assad Moves To Regain Full Control Of War-Torn Syria With ISIS All But Defeated

“With the ISIS caliphate all but defeated and routed out of Syria, strongman Bashar Assad is using all means necessary to re-consolidate control over his war-ravaged country, targeting civilian infrastructure within rebel-held territory. Throughout March, the Assad regime has targeted a school, a bakery, a hospital, and other medical facilities in its brutal attempt to regain control of Idlib Province, the last rebel stronghold of the Syrian opposition. “Eight years into the crisis, the Syrian government continues to show utter disregard for the laws of war and the lives of civilians,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International. “The ongoing attacks in Idlib fit the same pattern we’ve seen before, in Aleppo, Daraa, Damascus Countryside, whereby Syrian government forces hit hospitals, medical facilities, emergency responders, bakeries, schools, leaving people no choice but to flee,” Maalouf added. Assad has essentially won the civil war which broke out in 2011. While his autocratic rule was once threatened, he is making attempts to reestablish himself as a world leader on the international stage. Formerly opposed to Assad, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and other regional actors accepted the undeniable reality on the battlefield that Assad is victorious and there is no chance of a rebel victory.”

NPR: U.S. Will Leave Up To 1,000 Troops In Syria To Guard Against ISIS Resurgence

“The ISIS physical caliphate is no more, but it leaves a complex legacy. Thousands of ISIS fighters and family members are in camps with no clear future. AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: U.S.-backed fighters overran the last ISIS territory in Syria last month, but a lot of work remains in that country, and there are still about 2,000 U.S. troops there. Back in December, President Trump said he would pull all of them out. Later, he backtracked and said he'd leave around 400 troops there. Now it looks like even more will stay. NPR's Tom Bowman has been reporting on that. He joins us now. Hey there, Tom. TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Hey, Audie. CORNISH: And we're also joined by NPR's Jane Arraf. She was just reporting in northeastern Syria. Welcome back, Jane. JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Thanks, Audie. CORNISH: Tom, what are you hearing from officials about the outlook for U.S. troops in Syria at this point?”

Asharq Al-Awsat: SDF Tracks ISIS Militants In Caves

“A US-backed force said Tuesday it was chasing ISIS militants in eastern Syria, as coalition warplanes pound the extremists more than a week after their so-called "caliphate" was declared defeated. The Syrian Democratic Forces, supported by warplanes of a US-led coalition, dislodged ISIS militants from their last redoubt in the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border on March 23, following a months-long offensive. The US-backed alliance is now "tracking down remnants of the terrorist group", SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali said on Tuesday. "There are groups hiding in caves overlooking Baghouz," he said. The US-led coalition said it was supporting sweeping operations with air strikes on militant hideouts. "The Syrian Democratic Forces continues to deny ISIS a physical space and influence in the area and work to deny them the resources they need to return," coalition spokesman Scott Rawlinson told AFP on Monday. "In support of back-clearance operations, the coalition continues to conduct precision strike support in coordination with SDF," he said. The official said anti-ISIS operations are now focusing on "eroding" the group's "capacity to regenerate and collaborate.”

Iran

The Washington Post: Iran-Linked Twitter Accounts Spread Anti-Saudi Sentiments In Arabic, Report Finds

“In August last year, Twitter announced that it had suspended hundreds of accounts that appeared to be linked to Iran. The reason? Twitter said the accounts had engaged in “coordinated manipulation.” Then, in October, Twitter made tweets from 770 accounts “potentially originating in Iran” publicly available. And when researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute analyzed the languages those accounts tweeted in, they discovered a trend that may shed light on how Iran seeks to wield influence online: The majority of the tweets published by the Iran-linked accounts were written in French, English and Arabic, with only 8 percent written in Iran’s official language, Farsi. In an intensive study of the Arabic-language tweets the Oxford Internet Institute released on Wednesday, researchers determined that “the most widely shared websites included in Arabic tweets push an Iranian political narrative, including criticism of Saudi Arabia and support of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.”

Reuters: Three Importers Cut Iran Oil Shipments To Zero: U.S. Envoy

“Three of eight importers granted waivers by Washington to buy oil from Iran have now cut their shipments to zero, a U.S. official said on Tuesday, adding that improved global oil market conditions would help reduce Iranian crude exports further. The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran after President Donald Trump last May withdrew the country from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and several world powers, accusing it of supporting terrorism and conflicts in Syria and Yemen. While the United States has set a goal of completely halting Iran’s oil exports, it granted temporary import waivers to China, India, Greece, Italy, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey and South Korea to ensure low oil prices and no disruption to the global oil market. The Trump administration is currently in consultations with the importers ahead of a May 2 deadline when the waivers expire. “In November, we granted eight oil waivers to avoid a spike in the price of oil. I can confirm today three of those importers are now at zero,” Brian Hook, the special U.S. envoy for Iran, told reporters.”

Radio Farda: Britain, France, Germany Seek Full UN Report Of Iran Missile Activity

“Britain, France and Germany are accusing Iran of developing missile technology, following recent activities, that they said was inconsistent with a UN resolution, and are calling for a full UN report, according to a letter released Tuesday. The European trio cited Iran's launch of a space vehicle and the unveiling of two new ballistic missiles in February as forming "part of trend of increased activity inconsistent" with the resolution, according to the letter sent to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. UN Security Council Resolution 2231 -- adopted just after the 2015 nuclear deal -- calls on Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons." Tehran insists that its missile program is defensive and that it has no intention of developing a nuclear capability.”

The Express: Iran Conducted Vicious Cyber Attack On UK Post Office And Local Authorities Says US Agency

“MAJOR cyber attacks which ravaged local Government and the Post Office have been blamed on Iran, a US agency has claimed. As well as branches of local Government, banks were also compromised before Christmas 2018. According to Sky News, the coordinated attacks took place on December 23. In a statement, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said it was “working with victims ad advising on mitigation measures”. At the time, reports suggested around 10 MPs and peers’ mobile phone numbers had data from them compromised. Thousands of employees had their details stolen, which include the Post Office chief executive Paula Vennels, the NCSC said. Sky reported that experts in California claimed the attacks were connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Lewis Henderson, vice-president of threat intelligence at cybersecurity company Glasswall, said: "As we've seen, you can do anything influence elections, in particular. You can start to impersonate people within that government as well and be utterly convincing.”

Iraq

Voice Of America: Iraqi Parliament Speaker Says US Support Needed For Lasting Defeat Of IS

“In an exclusive interview with the Voice of America's Kurdish Service, Mohammed al-Halbousi, Iraq's speaker of the Council of Representatives, said support of the U.S.-led coalition to ensure a lasting defeat of Islamic State (IS) is crucial as Iraq continues its efforts against the group's insurgency activities. Discussing whether neighboring Iran can meddle in Iraqi politics by pushing for the withdrawal of U.S. troops after the military defeat of IS, al-Halbousi said Iraq does not wish to be a proxy of any country, adding that the "overwhelming majority" in the Iraqi government supports the presence of the coalition forces. "No guardianship on Iraq," al-Halbousi said, adding, "Any country can express its objection if it deems this presence will have a negative impact on it, but Iraq makes its own decisions." The presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is the "single goal" of defeating IS and its radical ideology, al-Halbousi said. "We do not allow Iraqi soil to be used against any neighbor," he said, but "we do not accept a country to impose its will on Iraq regarding Iraqi agreements with the international coalition, United States, or any other country." The Iraqi government declared final victory over IS in December 2017, three years after the militant group seized about a third of the country's territory.”

Xinhua: 4 IS Militants Killed In Airstrike In Eastern Iraq: Sources

“At least four Islamic State (IS) militants were killed on Tuesday in an airstrike on their hideout in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, provincial security sources said. Acting on intelligence reports, the Iraqi gunships pounded an IS hideout in a rural area, some 110 km northeast of the capital Baghdad, a statement by Diyala's provincial intelligence directorate said. The statement did not give exact number of the IS casualties, but said there were three to six extremist militants inside the hideout during the bombardment. An intelligence source told Xinhua that four IS militants were killed in the airstrike according to later reports. Despite repeated military operations in Diyala, IS remnants are still hiding in some rugged areas near the border with Iran, and in the sprawling areas extending from the western part of the province to the Himreen mountain range in the north of the province. Late in 2017, Iraq officially declared full liberation from the IS after Iraqi forces recaptured all areas once seized by the extremist group. However, IS remnants have since melted in urban areas or resorted to deserts and rugged areas, carrying out guerrilla attacks from time to time against the security forces and civilians.”

Afghanistan

BBC News: Will Talks With The Taliban Bring Peace Or Chaos?

“For the first time in 18 years, the US government seems serious about withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan and winding up the longest war in its history. Since October, US officials and representatives of the Taliban have held five rounds of direct talks and are about to embark on a sixth - aimed at ensuring a safe exit for the US in return for the insurgents guaranteeing that Afghan territory is not used by foreign militants and wouldn't pose a security threat to the rest of the world. A US-led military coalition overthrew the Taliban in 2001 for sheltering al-Qaeda, the militant group that Washington blamed for the 9/11 attacks. A rare consensus about resolving the conflict peacefully, both inside and outside Afghanistan, means peace has never been so close. But the US-Taliban talks in Qatar's capital, Doha, are only the first phase of a complicated process with an uncertain outcome - and there are many hurdles to overcome. Intense fighting is still going on all over the country, and while the Taliban negotiate they now control and influence more territory than at any point since 2001.  Given the continued stalemate with the insurgents, US President Donald Trump is keen to end the war, which, according to US officials, costs about $45bn (£34bn) annually.”

Voice Of America: Afghan Forces Reclaim Key District From Taliban

“Authorities in Afghanistan say a military-led counteroffensive has evicted the Taliban from a strategically important district in northeastern Badakhshan province, inflicting heavy casualties on retreating insurgents. The Taliban had late last week overrun Arghanj Khwa, located in the vicinity of the provincial capital of Faizabad, disrupting links with at least 10 other districts in the mountainous Afghan province near the border with Pakistan and China. Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said in a tweet the clearance operation in the district ended Tuesday, killing at least 14 insurgents and injuring several others. A provincial government spokesman, Naik Mohammad Nazari, told VOA airstrikes against Taliban positions forced the insurgents to retreat from the district. The Taliban claimed its fighters “abandoned” Arghanj Khwa and took new positions about a kilometer away after transferring all seized military-related equipment from the district. “Enemy claims of retaking the district headquarters in a military operation and causing (Taliban) casualties is fabrications,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid asserted in a brief statement sent to journalists.”

Xinhua: 5 IS Militants Killed In Drone Strike In E. Afghanistan

“Five militants of the Islamic State (IS) group including commander Mawlawi Suliman have been killed in a drone attack against the group in Achin district of the eastern Nangarhar province, said a statement of the provincial government released here Wednesday. "Acting upon intelligence report, the unmanned plane struck a hideout of IS group in Sawarband area of Achin district early this morning, killing notorious commander Mawlawi Suliman along with four of his armed men on the spot," the statement said. No civilians or security personnel were hurt during the deadly strike, the statement added. Militants affiliated with the IS outfit and operating in Nangarhar and the neighboring Kunar and Nuristan provinces, are yet to make comment.”

Yemen

Reuters: Yemen's Houthis Deny U.N. Access To Hodeidah Mills For 'Safety Reasons': Sources

“Houthi forces denied the United Nations access to a grain storage site in the Yemeni port of Hodeidah on Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter said, hindering efforts to increase food aid to millions facing severe hunger. Hodeidah is the entry point for most of Yemen’s humanitarian aid and commercial imports. World Food Programme (WFP) grain stores there have been cut off in the conflict zone for six months, putting the contents at risk of rotting. A WFP technical team was scheduled to cross the front line between the Iran-aligned Houthi movement forces and the Saudi-backed government on the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah to fumigate the wheat stored in the Red Sea Mills. But Houthi forces told the WFP team they could not leave Houthi-held areas inside Hodeidah city for “security reasons”, asking the United Nations instead for a way to investigate attacks on the mills.”

Arab News: Houthi Militants Deny UN Access To Yemen Food Aid

“Yemeni rebels blocked the UN from accessing vital food aid near the flashpoint port city of Hodeidah, a pro-government source said Tuesday. More than 100 workers were denied access to the Red Sea mills warehouse, said a source in the Arab coalition fighting on the side of the Yemeni government. “Unfortunately, the Houthi (rebels) have decided to once again renege on a previous commitment, denying the team access to the mills,” the source told AFP. In February, a team from the UN’s World Food Programme visited the Red Sea mills warehouse for the first time since September, when they became inaccessible due to the conflict between pro-government forces and the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels. The WFP said laboratory tests confirmed the wheat had been infested with insects and had to be fumigated to feed million of people. WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel told AFP Tuesday the mission planned by the UN agency to the Red Sea mills was postponed due to “security reasons.” Before the UN lost access in September the Red Sea mills held 51,000 tons of grain, which was enough to feed more than 3.7 million people for a month. This comes after an agreement was struck in Sweden in February, in which Yemeni rivals agreed to redeploy their fighters outside the ports and away from areas that are key to the humanitarian relief effort.”

Arab News: Five Injured By Debris As Houthi Drones Intercepted Over Saudi Arabia

“Five people were injured, including a woman and a child, when two Houthi drones targeting civilian areas in Saudi Arabia were intercepted and destroyed on April 2. “At 21:35 local time on Tuesday, the Royal Saudi Air Defense systems detected two unidentified objects headed towards civilian objects in Khamis Mushait,” said Col. Turki S. Al-Malki, official spokesman for the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen. “They were directed at densely populated civilian areas, and were intercepted and destroyed according to the rules of engagement.” He added that the injuries were caused by debris that fell in two civilian areas when the drones were destroyed. Some houses were damaged, along with four vehicles. Al-Malki said that the continued attempts to target civilians in the Kingdom by Iran-backed Houthi terrorists in Hodeida Governorate — at a time when coalition forces are adhering to the ceasefire there, in accordance with the Stockholm Agreement — is an attempt to provoke the coalition into taking military action.” 

Lebanon

Asharq Al-Awsat: Western Reports Warn Of Possible Terrorists' Infiltration From Syria To Lebanon

“Lebanon has received alarming reports from Western intelligence agencies and some European embassies in Beirut, warning of the danger of infiltration of terrorists from Syria into Lebanese territory in the coming weeks and months. “Western apparatuses and embassies have built their conclusions on unstable military and security conditions in Syria and renewed sporadic rounds of violence, making the security very bad and the economic situation worse than at the climax of the war,” well-informed Lebanese security sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. Part of the western information received in Lebanon was drawn from the situation of al-Hol refugee camp in north-eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border, which is under the control of the Kurdish forces, supported by the International Coalition Forces. According to data, the camp hosts 76,000 people, all of whom are women and children under the age of 15, including 10,000 with foreign nationalities. Most of them are Europeans from Sweden, France and Britain, as well as a few hundred Australian nationals. They receive food and medical assistance from the International Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent.”

Middle East

Asharq Al-Awsat: Jordan Hands Jail Terms To 11 Suspects For Promoting ISIS

“A Jordanian court on Wednesday handed out five-year jail terms to 11 suspects after 10 of them were convicted of promoting the terror group, ISIS. The State Security Court court sentenced, in a public hearing, the 10 defendants, three of whom were college students, to temporary hard labor terms between two to five years after being found guilty of “promoting terrorist groups and organizations on Facebook.” The convicts, in their 20s, were arrested at different times in 2018, and have each received different sentences based on the quality and quantity of pro-ISIS material they published on Facebook, a judicial source said. The court sentenced another defendant to one year in prison after being convicted of anti-state conduct. On a weekly basis, the State Security Court addresses terror-related cases, with the majority of defendants being supporters of ISIS and the former al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Nusra Front. Jordan, in recent years, has upheld a strict policy on punishing promoters of ISIS ideology and any who attempt to join the group’s ranks. Fighting the spillover of terrorists from neighboring Syria, Jordan has upped border control and arrested and imprisoned dozens of suspects for trying to take their terror operations into the Kingdom.”

The Jerusalem Post: Is Abbas Fighting The War On Terror Or Promoting Terror?

“Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas last week addressed a group of visiting Harvard students. In his remarks he told the students that he believes in  “peace and security for everyone” and has joined the “war on terror in all its forms, variations and sources.” Abbas spoke in Arabic and his remarks were simultaneously translated into English for his overseas guests. But in a report disseminated Tuesday, Palestinian Media Watch said that Abbas’ remarks to the Harvard students contradicted remarks made the day before by his deputy, Mahmoud Al-Aloul. A day before, Al-Aloul praised the terrorist Omar Abu Laila, who last month murdered a 19-year-old soldier and a 47-year-old father of 12.  “We are extremely proud [of] this Omar Abu Laila [who]….. represents all young Palestinians,” Al-Aloul wrote on the official Fatah Facebook page. “This is a well-rehearsed modus operandi in the Palestinian Authority,” said Nan Jacques Zilberdik, a senior analyst at PMW.”

Libya

The Libya Observer: Interior Minister Reviews Measures To Enhance The Fight Against Terrorism

“Interior Minister, Fathi Bashagha discussed Monday with the coordinator of operations in the Anti-terrorism Department of the European Union-funded partnership project, Ahmed Abdel Wahid, the project aimed at achieving control over all Libyan ports and borders. "The project's goal is to prevent the infiltration of terrorists and criminals," Bashagha said, according to the ministry's Facebook. The meeting also reviewed the training and international cooperation mechanism, in coordination with the Arab and International criminal police office in the ministry.”

Nigeria

The Punch Nigeria: ISIS-Backed Boko Haram Faction Publishes ‘Execution’ Video

“Boko Haram’s Islamic State-backed faction has claimed to have executed five Nigerian soldiers but security sources told AFP on Tuesday three of those killed were civilian militia members. The Islamic State West Africa Province video, dated April 1 and said to have been filmed in Borno state, northeast Nigeria, was published online by the IS propaganda arm Amaq. It showed two men in military fatigues and three in red-orange jumpsuits reminiscent of those worn by IS hostages in Syria and Iraq. All five are shot in the head at point-blank range. Nigerian Army spokesman Sagir Musa said only that he had seen the video. But three senior security sources said at least three of the five were not soldiers.  “We have identified three of them as CJTF (Civilian Joint Taskforce) who were held by ISWAP in Baga in December,” said one of the sources on condition of anonymity. The CJTF assists the military with security. ISWAP attacked military bases in and around Baga, on the shores of Lake Chad, in northern Borno, in December last year. The sources said the militia members were trying to flee with civilians when they were detained.”

Sahara Reporters: Boko Haram Insurgents Raid Chibok Village, Cart Away All The Animals

“Suspected Boko Haram terrorists have invaded a community in Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State. The incident happened in the remote village of Kontinyar, some kilometres from Chibok town at about 8:30pm on Monday night. Shooting sporadically, they looted the whole village. According to a hunter in the community, the invaders went away with all the livestock in the village. Narrating the incident, he said: "They came to Kontinyar village at exactly 8:30am last night and started shooting. We ran into bushes. When we came back, they had left with all the animals, including chickens. They equally burgled all shops and looted foodstuffs. “We came back this morning and the whole village was empty; no single animal in the village. Shops were opened and emptied, although no life was lost. However, many of those who ran away are yet to return.”

Somalia

Xinhua: Somali Forces Foil Major Terror Attack In Southern Region

“National Army (SNA) forces foiled a major terrorist attack in southern region late on Monday following heavy fighting between the army and al-Shabab fighters, government officials said on Tuesday. The ministry of information said the SNA forces also seized a tanker truck loaded with explosives in Sabid village, Lower Shabelle region. "The terrorists were plotting to carry out a large-scale terrorist attack in Somalia but heroes foiled and arrested number of terrorists," said the ministry in a statement. It was not clear how many militants were killed during the latest fighting in Sabid where the insurgents have several bases. According to security sources, the explosives is one of the largest bombs ever made by al-Qaida allied terrorist group, al-Shabab, saying Mogadishu was the militants' likely target. The ministry said security forces recaptured Sabid village, located about 40 km southwest of Mogadishu from militants.”

Africa

Reuters: Islamic State Claims Killing Of Canadian Geologist In Burkina Faso

“Islamic State carried out the kidnapping and killing of a Canadian citizen in Burkina Faso in January, the group’s weekly newspaper Al-Naba said, claiming responsibility in its latest issue without providing evidence.  Kirk Woodman’s body was found on Jan.16, two days after his abduction by a dozen gunmen at a mining site operated by Vancouver-based Progress Minerals in the northeast of the landlocked West African country.  Burkina Faso officials said he had been shot, and his body was dumped in an area that the government says is under growing threat from Islamist militants.  Prior to the claim made in the Islamic State newspaper there had been no word on who was responsible.  In an article trumpeting Islamic State’s insurgencies in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the newspaper detailed the operation to kidnap and kill the Canadian geologist and showed a photograph of what it claimed was his driver license.  The Islamic State newspaper said “the kidnapping and killing of a Canadian crusader” has increased the West’s interest in “the war of the Mujahideen” in Burkina Faso. Woodman’s body was dumped in the desert by “the Caliphate soldiers”, Al-Naba said, though it put a date on Woodman’s execution using the Hijri, or Islamic, calendar, that would equate to Jan.25 - which would have been several days after the body was found.”

NBC News: Algerian President Steps Down Amid Protests, Army Pressure

“Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down on Tuesday after 20 years in office, and six weeks of massive nationwide protests aimed at pushing him and his much-criticized inner circle from power to create a real democracy in the gas-rich nation. The announcement followed soon after a sternly-worded call from the powerful army chief for Bouteflika, 82 and ailing, to "immediately" bow out. Crowds celebrated peacefully in the capital Algiers soon after his announcement. Honking car horns, singing songs and waving Algerian flags, hundreds gathered Tuesday night at the central post office — a plaza that has become a symbol of the protest movement. Police watched from the sidelines. The Constitutional Council was expected to convene Wednesday to formalize his departure. Under the constitution, the president of the upper house, the Council of Nations, steps in as interim leader for a maximum of 90 days so that elections can be organized.”

Foreign Policy: ISIS’s West African Offshoot Is Following Al Qaeda’s Rules For Success

“As the Islamic State is squeezed out of its self-proclaimed caliphate in the Middle East, its offshoot in West Africa, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), appears to be growing even stronger. In the last five months, the insurgent group has gained a grim kind of momentum, establishing itself in new towns in northeastern Nigeria and beyond. Along the way, its fighters have slain hundreds of people…” 

United Kingdom

The Guardian: Briton Committed Terrorist Acts Fighting ISIS In Syria, Court Told

“A British man committed terrorism offences by joining Kurdish militants to fight Islamic State in Syria, a court has heard. Aidan James, 28, from Formby, Merseyside, who had no previous military knowledge, allegedly signed up with the PKK, which is banned in the UK, before setting out to join the Syrian war in 2017. He prepared himself for battle in an “amateurish way”, undergoing initial training in north Wales and acquiring rudimentary combat equipment including body armour, the court heard. He arrived in Iraq between the end of August and beginning of October 2017, where he underwent further training. James is accused of receiving training from the PKK, including weapons, before going on to fight with a series of Kurdish YPG – or people’s protection – units, in Syria. The prosecution stressed he was not on trial for fighting Isis but for his intention to support an ideological or political cause – that of the PKK or Kurdistan Workers’ party – through violence. “At the time and since, he claimed that his aim was to combat Islamic State,” said the prosecutor, Mark Heywood QC. “In reality, it was not just that – there was much more to it.”

Fox News: British ISIS Bride Admits She Was 'Brainwashed' Into Believing ISIS, Hopes For Second Chance

“British ISIS bride Shamima Begum admitted that she’s unlikely to come back to Britain after the government revoked her citizenship, but insisted that the terror group “brainwashed” her. The 19-year-old, who fled her life in London for the Islamic State in her teens, has been stuck in a refugee camp for months now, attracting international attention amid her pregnancy and vocal plans to return to her home country. Since the media scrutiny, Begum’s British citizenship was revoked by the government for supporting terrorism, while her third baby died last month. Her previous two children died during her life in the so-called caliphate while she was married to Dutch ISIS militant Yago Riedijk. But Begum now says that she traveled to Syria to join ISIS in 2015 because she believed “everything that I had been told, while knowing little about the truths of my religion". “I have sat down and thought about how long I would have to stay here. And I have kind of accepted that I will have to stay here, I will have to make this like a second home,” she told the London Times. She said that since leaving Baghouz, a previously ISIS-held territory that was liberated earlier this year, she came to regret decisions she made and hoped the government may take a second look at her case.”

The National: Far Right Now Catching Up With ISIS Threat In Britain

“Far-right terrorism has risen neck and neck with the threat from Islamist extremists, according to an assessment from Britain’s security minister. The number of referrals to the UK’s terrorism-prevention scheme, Prevent, now stands at 43 per cent from the extreme right wing, compared with 45 per cent for concerns relating to Islamist militants. Latest figures reveal the number of referrals for far-right activity to the programme increased by more than a third last year. During a hearing in London on the global terrorist threat, Ben Wallace, the security minister, said immediate action needs to be taken to stop the rise of the far right as the terrorists of tomorrow. Measures are in place to ensure that the depth and scope of the threat did not reach levels such as those achieved by groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. “It’s a case of concern,” he said. “It has not yet reached the point where they are at the same level of determined conspiracy or cultural religious depth that we have seen in the Islamist [militants].“But individuals are starting to pose a significant danger and that is why Prevent is very important to head them off.”

Germany

Sun Sentinel: Germany Takes Stance Against Terrorist, But Not Hezbollah

“Rasmea Odeh, a terrorist convicted of a bombing attack that killed two Jewish students in 1969, was banned from speaking at an event in Berlin set to take place on March 16. Berlin authorities cited the Residence Act, which curbs the political activity of a foreigner if it endangers the peaceful coexistence or public security. However, while German authorities took a strong stance against Odeh, the government has so far refused to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization. “Offering a public speaking role to a Palestinian terrorist convicted of murder, terrorism and immigration fraud legitimizes anti-Semitism at a time when we should be condemning it,” U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told JNS. “I joined a chorus of others who raised their voices in Berlin standing against anti-Semitism, no matter where it’s found.” Benjamin Weinthal, fellow for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies Fellow, credited Grenell with influencing the decision of the German government to ban Odeh and revoke her visa to the Schengen area—a move that Odeh and her supporters are now legally appealing.”

Europe

The Jerusalem Post: Swedish Police Arrest Iraqi Journalist For Working As Iranian Spy

“Swedish police arrested a Stockholm-based Iraqi journalist for operating as a spy for the Islamic Republic of Iran. British newspaper The Telegraph reported the arrest of Raghdan al-Khazali on Friday. According to the paper, al-Khazali “is suspected of spying on members of an Ahwazi opposition group, which has been repeatedly targeted by Iranian assassins in Europe.” The arrest of al-Khazali comes on the heels of new European sanctions against Iran for murdering Iranian dissidents in the Netherlands as well as assassination plots in Denmark, Germany and France against opponents of the clerical regime in Tehran. The Telegraph also reported that a Swedish court had ruled that al-Khazali is being held in pre-trial detention for “serious illegal intelligence activities against an individual.” Hanna Lindblom, al-Khazali’s lawyer, said: “All I can say is that he denies what the prosecutor says,” adding “I cannot say anything else because I am under a gag order.” Al-Khazali works as the Stockholm correspondent for the Euro-Times.”

Southeast Asia

The Straits Times: Indonesian Police Hunting Down ISIS-Linked Cell Plotting Terror Attacks

“The Indonesian national police is pursuing six to eight alleged terrorists who are members of an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-affiliated cell and plotting terrorist attacks in the country, a police officer said on Tuesday (April 2). The alleged militants were members of the outlawed Jemaah Anshurat Daulah (JAD), an ISIS-affiliated group, in Bandung, West Java province, national police spokesman Brigadier General Dedi Prasetyo said. The suspects, led by a man with the initial A, were plotting terrorist attacks in East Java province targeting police personnel, said Brig Gen Prasetyo. The hunt for the militants was conducted across the island, the spokesman said. Days ago, the anti-terror squad of the police nabbed an alleged militant with the initials WP, who was also known as Sahid, in his hideout in Bojongmalaka village of Baleendah district, Bandung Regency, in West Java province. Recently, the squad arrested 11 alleged militants in Sibolga town of North Sumatra province, as well as in Lampung province and West Java province. In May 2018, police headquarters and churches in East Java province along with police headquarters in Riau province were targeted in a series of suicide attacks that caused dozens of casualties.”

The Straits Times: Call For Countries To Work With Private Sector To Fight Terrorism

“Terrorism is no longer about the fight for territory but a fight for the hearts and minds online, and tackling it requires greater collaboration between countries and the private sector, former United States secretary for homeland security Michael Chertoff said in a visit to Singapore yesterday. Mr Chertoff, who held that post from 2005 to 2009, said extremism has evolved into "inspired terrorism". "It's the case where someone gets online and basically tries to exhort or inspire people to carry out attacks with very little preparation and, frankly, very little training or skill, using any kind of weapon at hand," he said in his opening keynote speech on the first day of the biennial regional security conference Milipol Asia-Pacific at the Marina Bay Sands Sands' Expo & Convention Centre. "These attacks are not going to bring down the foundations of society, but the multiplicity of the attacks creates a sense of instability and inspires further kinds of similar terrorist activity." As these attacks are typically difficult to detect, one way the authorities could prevent them is to work with community groups, mental health advocates and other social services to identify those who may be more susceptible to being radicalised and turning violent, he said.”

Technology

CNN: Singapore's 'Fake News' Bill Is Bad News For Facebook

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he welcomed more regulation of big tech, but he probably didn't mean this. A new bill in Singapore -- which had its first reading Monday -- would give the government sweeping new powers to crack down on so-called "fake news" and hit Facebook and other social media companies with big fines if they don't comply with censorship orders. Under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill, it will be illegal to spread "false statements of fact" in Singapore, where that information is "prejudicial" to Singapore's security, public safety, "public tranquility," or to the "friendly relations of Singapore with other countries," among numerous other topics. Individuals found guilty of contravening the act can face fines of up to 50,000 SGD (over $36,000) and, or, up to five years in prison. If the "fake news" is posted using "an inauthentic online account or controlled by a bot," the total potential fine rises to 100,000 SGD (around $73,000), and, or, up to 10 years in prison.”

The Star: Canada Must Legislate Facebook To Tackle Online-Networked Hate

“Following the terrorist attack against two mosques in New Zealand, Facebook announced a new set of policies to combat far-right extremism. The company said it would boot “white separatism” and “white nationalism” from its platform. The tech giant noted that users searching for the above terms would be redirected to Life After Hate, a non-profit specializing in de-radicalizing white supremacists. Facebook’s latest move follows on the heels of the Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announcing that Ottawa is considering the implementation of new legislation to force social media companies to remove extremist content. Canada seems to be waking up to the global challenge of stopping extremists from exploiting tech platforms, seeing it as both a domestic and international threat. Earlier this year, over concerns of digital interference in the upcoming federal election, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould remarked that the Canadian government was considering regulating Facebook and Twitter.”