Eye on Extremism: April 5, 2019

The New York Times: Taliban Attack Kills Dozens In Afghanistan Despite U.S. Efforts In Peace Talks

“A large attack by the Taliban in western Afghanistan on Thursday killed at least 30 soldiers and police officers, Afghan officials said, in a sign of intensifying spring fighting across the country despite American efforts to reach a peace deal. Hundreds of Taliban fighters stormed the center of Bala Murghab District in Badghis Province in the predawn hours, according to Abdul Waris Shirzad, the district governor. The district has come underintense insurgent pressure in recent weeks, with officials warning that it could fall unless reinforcements are sent in. “No one is hearing our voice; no reinforcements arrived yet,” said Mr. Shirzad, who confirmed that 30 police officers and soldiers had died in the Taliban raid. He said the insurgents had surrounded police forces in the governor’s office and soldiers on an army base. “If the government does not send more forces, there will be a disaster in the district,” he added. Jamshid Shahabi, a spokesman for the governor of Badghis, said “both sides suffered casualties” in the attack. He did not provide casualty figures, but added, “The security situation is very bad there.” The Taliban attacks are intensifying at a time when Zalmay Khalilzad, the American special envoy, is visiting Afghanistan to build a national consensus on the peace talks with the insurgents.”

The Washington Times: Internet Execs Risk Jail Under Australian Bill Targeting 'Abhorrent Violent Material' Shared Online

“Australian lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill that punishes internet companies for failing to promptly purge their platforms of “abhorrent violent material,” placing new responsibilities on social media providers as a direct result of last month’s mosque shootings in nearby Christchurch, New Zealand. Opposed by stakeholders in Silicon Valley, the bill swiftly passed the Australian House of Representatives a day after finding similar success in the Senate in spite of criticism from opponents who labeled it a rushed response to the March 15 massacre, footage of which was partly broadcast live on Facebook and subsequently shared on other services. The Counter Extremism Project, an NGO co-founded by former diplomat Mark Wallace, applauded the Australian bill as “pioneering” and urged other countries to follow suit. “It’s evident that tech’s desire for self-regulation is failing, and governments must step in to ensure that the proper measures are in place to protect its citizens from the ongoing misuse of Internet sites and platforms,” said Mr. Wallace, an ambassador to the United Nations for the U.S. under former President George W. Bush.”

The Hill: In Iraq, The War Against Terrorism Is Far From Over

“As we witness the final moments of the ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria, we in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq have been welcoming back Yezidis, who by some miracle survived the genocide and escaped the terror group’s last wretched days in Baghouz, Syria. For the people of the region, the liberation of the last territory held by this perverse death cult is a welcomed milestone. But this is not really an end, just the beginning of the next phase of our war against terrorism. If we are to win the post-caliphate peace in Iraq, we will need the full diplomatic and military support of the United States and its partners. The defeat of the caliphate has been a huge achievement. Nearly five years ago, ISIS was at our doorstep, threatening to overrun the Kurdistan Region’s capital of Erbil. Fortunately, with the help of coalition air power, we halted their advance, eventually rolling back their territorial claims by hundreds of square miles. We had set the stage for the liberation of Mosul, which was ISIS’s last big stand in Iraq. This came at an enormous cost to the Kurdistan Region; more than 1,800 Peshmerga fighters were martyred, and over 10,000 wounded. Iraqi security forces and militia groups suffered many thousands of casualties as well. ISIS may no longer be issuing currency and authorizing marriage certificates, as it did for four years, but these terrorists number as many as they did in 2014 when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the caliphate, and they are growing every day.”

The National: Crime, Family Among Reasons Europeans Turn To Extremism: Report

“Pathways into extremism in Europe may be more complex than originally thought, a new study has found. GLOBSEC and the Counter Extremism Project have identified eight main pathways into Islamic extremism, including partaking in criminal activities, family links to extremism and the merging of personal and global issues. Importantly, the crossing of these pathways occurred for many of those studied. The study analysed data on 310 individuals from 11 European countries arrested for terrorism offences, expelled for alleged terrorist connections, or who died while staging terrorist attacks in Europe in 2015, the year GLOBSEC calls the “peak year of European jihadism”. The Counter Extremism Project and GLOBSEC are planning a more detailed study of 60 extremists from five European countries, to be released in June.”

Vice News: Heavyweights From The White Nationalist World Will Be Bonding In Finland This Weekend. Here’s What They Want

“Far-right extremist groups from around the world have, for years, been quietly working behind the scenes to amplify their messaging through forging international alliances. And they’ll be building those bonds in person this weekend in Finland, at an event that underscores the growing internationalization of the white nationalist movement. The second annual “Awakening” conference, to be held in the coastal city of Turku, comes less than a month after a shooting at two mosques in New Zealand left 50 dead. The suspected gunman, an Australian national, posted a manifesto online the day before the attack which revealed an intimate familiarity with the ideas and symbols of the modern far-right movement. “We’ve seen a growing internationalization of all this,” said Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director of international policy organization the Counter Extremism Project and a former coordinator of the U.N. team monitoring ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. “The conference is a wonderful example of that.”

Gizmodo: UK Readies Crackdown On Social Networks For Enabling Terrorism, Child Abuse, And Self-Harm

“The British government is preparing to publish its plans to clamp down on social networks that distribute and promote harmful content. According to a leaked document, the proposed measures include enabling regulators to hold company executives personally liable in cases entailing negligence. The government is expected to release a white paper detailing the plans on Monday; however, London’s Guardian newspaper acquired the paper in a leak ahead of publication. It described the recommendations as being broad, aimed not only at social networks, but search engines such as Google, online messaging services, and file hosting websites. The paper reported that the plans are aimed at addressing heightened concern over the distribution of terrorist and child-abuse content, as well as posts and video encouraging self-harm and suicide. One of the principal motivators in the quest for a regulatory solution is the tearful story of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old who took her own life in 2017. The girl’s father, Ian, blamed, in part, Instagram after family members discovered disturbing messages on her profile relating to suicide. Likewise, the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month—in which 50 people were killed and 50 more were injured—have influenced the debate over content moderation.”

United States

NBC News: Man Who Wanted To Join ISIS, Plotted U.S. Attack Arrested At Montana Gun Range, Feds Say

“An Albanian national who talked about joining ISIS and attacking random people to avenge a shooting at a New Zealand mosque was arrested at a gun range in Montana, authorities said Thursday. Fabjan Alameti, 21, appeared before a U.S magistrate judge Thursday on charges of possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of a controlled substance and making false statements involving international and domestic terrorism. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch ordered him detained for further proceedings. Alameti's federal public defender, John Rhodes, did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday. Authorities first interviewed Alameti in 2018, and he later made pro-ISIS comments on Facebook, FBI Special Agent Matthew Duermeier said in a sworn statement filed with the court. Starting in January of this year, Alameti spoke with a federal informant about fighting with the terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria and plotting an attack in the U.S. against a military facility, recruitment center, government building, "gay club" or Jewish temple, Duermeier said. But Alameti also later said he would not carry out an attack on U.S. soil because the country had granted him citizenship, the FBI agent's statement said.”

CBS News: Court To Hear Arguments On Whether Terrorist Watchlist Violates U.S. Constitution

“A federal judge will hear arguments on whether a government watchlist of more than 1 million known or suspected terrorists violates the Constitution. The Council on American-Islamic Relations sued in 2016 on behalf of Muslim Americans who say they were wrongly placed on the list and suffered negative consequences as a result. The government's no-fly and selectee lists, which bar some people from flying and force others to go through extra screening, are derived from the watchlist. The plaintiffs say the list is disseminated so broadly that those listed face not only travel woes but also difficulty completing financial transactions and interacting with police. The plaintiffs also say the standard for inclusion is over-broad and innocent Muslims are routinely listed by mistake. A hearing is scheduled Thursday in Alexandria.”

The Guardian: White Supremacy Feeds On Mainstream Encouragement. That Has To Stop!

“On 19 April 1995, Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring another 684, in the deadliest act of domestic US terrorism to date. A white supremacist, among other things, he was radicalised by what he regarded as excessive federal government power, US foreign policy and a constellation of bigotries and inadequacies too numerous to mention. He was sentenced to death and placed in a maximum-security prison in Colorado. While he was there, McVeigh became good friends with Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who was in the next-door cell. Yousef, who trained in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan, had tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. Born within four days of each other, here were two young men both unrepentant about their crimes and ideologies, even if McVeigh had ultimately been more successful in inflicting carnage and misery. He was executed in June 2001. Yousef would later state: “I have never [known] anyone in my life who has so similar a personality to my own as his.”

Fortune: Domestic Terrorism Is On The Rise. But How Prepared Is The U.S. To Counter It?

“The 2017 Las Vegas shooting that left 58 concertgoers dead. The 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that killed 11 worshippers. The 2015 San Bernardino shooting in which 14 people were fatally gunned down by a couple armed with semi-automatic weapons.  All of these attacks are defined under U.S. Code as acts of terrorism. But only those that fall under the definition of international terrorism, not domestic terrorism, have associated criminal charges codified in the law.  Because the FBI’s definition of domestic versus international terrorism hinges on whether or not the perpetrator is associated with designated foreign terrorist organizations or nations, individuals like alleged synagogue shooter Robert Bowers, who was charged with 44 offenses, including “obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death” and “use and discharge of a firearm to commit murder,” have not been charged with “domestic terrorism”—nor will they be. Acts of domestic terrorism are on the rise in the U.S. The Anti-Defamation League found, for example, that between 2009 and 2018, 73.3% of fatalities were linked to domestic right-wing extremists, compared to 23.4% linked to Islamic extremists.”

The Telegraph: Mike Pompeo Appeals For Unity To Confront Russia, China And Iran On Nato's 70th Anniversary

“Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, has appealed for unity to confront "great power" challenges from Russia, China and Iran on the 70th anniversary of Nato. "We have rightly sought peace through strength here in Nato. We must continue to do so, especially in this new era of great power competition from Russia, from China, and the Islamic Republic of Iran," he told a meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers. The ministers approved a new raft of measures in the Black Sea to counter Russia and boost Georgia and the Ukraine - two aspiring Nato members - with increased maritime co-operation, patrols and port visits. The ministers also renewed demands for Russia to end its annexation of Crimea, release Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized in a confrontation last year in the Sea of Azov and respect the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The US has said it will withdraw from the 1987 treaty in August unless Russia returns to compliance.”

The New York Times: Anti-Semitism Is Back, From The Left, Right And Islamist Extremes. Why?

“Swastikas daubed on a Jewish cemetery in France. An anti-Semitic political campaign by Hungary’s far-right government. Labour lawmakers in Britain quitting their party and citing ingrained anti-Semitism. A Belgian carnival float caricaturing Orthodox Jews sitting on bags of money. And that was just the past few months. The accumulated incidents in Europe and the United States have highlighted how an ancient prejudice is surging in the 21st century in both familiar and mutant ways, fusing ideologies that otherwise would have little overlap. The spike is taking place in a context of rising global economic uncertainty, an emphasis on race and national identity, and a deepening polarization between the political left and right in Europe and the United States over the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. “There’s an ideological pattern that is common,” said Günther Jikeli, an expert on European anti-Semitism at Indiana University. “The world is seen as in a bad shape, and what hinders it becoming a better place are the Jews.”

The Wall Street Journal: Americans Agree: Social Media Is Divisive (But We Keep Using It)

“Americans have a paradoxical attachment to the social-media platforms that have transformed communication, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds, saying they regard services such as Facebook FB 1.43% to be divisive and a threat to privacy but continue to use them daily. Across age groups and political ideologies, adults in the survey said they held a negative view of the effects of social media—even though 70% use such services at least once a day. The deep-dive survey into views of technology draws a picture of Americans struggling personally with their social-media habits and looking for more supervision of social-media companies by the federal government. Pollsters said they were surprised by the high and relatively uniform dissatisfaction with social media across demographic and political groups.”

Syria

The Washington Examiner: The Caliphate Is Dead, But The Threat Remains

“The U.S.-aligned Syrian Democratic Forces just finished off the last remaining territory held by the Islamic State in Baghouz, Syria, bordering Iraq. This is a significant achievement, especially as the U.S. presence in Syria will eventually shrink down to 400 troops from 2,000. Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF Press Office, conveyed on Twitter, “as the SDF continue the final push against whatever remains of so-called caliphate, jihadists are surrendering en masse...Between 1,500 to 2,000 fighters and their families surrendered to our forces within 24 hours.” While the SDF will continue to battle what remains of ISIS, they certainly do not have the tools or capabilities to make sure that those who surrendered don’t rise again. The shrinking of U.S. forces continues to be ill-timed. Former Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, Brett McGurk, also tweeted, “Given this serious situation in Syria and the SDF now holding thousands of ISIS fighters and families, the last thing we should do is plan to withdraw 90 percent of the American force. Makes no sense. The SDF needs more support right now, not less.” 

Middle East Monitor: Syrian Network For Human Rights: 221 Chemical Attacks In Syria Since 2012

“The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) said that documented chemical attacks in Syria have amounted to nearly 221 attacks since 23 December 2012, the date of the first recorded use of chemical weapons in the country, until 4 April. This came in a report released on Thursday on the occasion of the second anniversary of Khan Shaykhun massacre committed by the Syrian regime, which is the second largest chemical attack in Syria in terms of its victims after the attack of Damascus east and west Ghouta in August 2013. The statement said that the Syrian regime is responsible for 216 chemical attacks, mostly in the provinces of Damascus countryside and Idlib, while Daesh is responsible for all the five attacks in the province of Aleppo. The statement pointed out that these attacks killed at least 1,461 people, all of whom died in attacks by the Syrian regime. They were distributed as follows 1,397 civilians, including 185 children, 252 women, 57 armed opposition fighters and seven prisoners of the Syrian regime who were in an opposition prison.”

Iran

Voice Of America: Activists: Iran's Revolutionary Guards Fire On Protesters In Deadly Flood Confrontation

“Exiled Iranian opposition activists say Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has fired on protesters who tried to stop it from diverting floodwaters in a southwestern town, resulting in a protester's death. The activists said the protester died after being shot by IRGC forces in Wednesday's predawn confrontation in the Dasht-e-Azadegan district of Khuzestan province. They said minority Iranian Arab residents of the area, also known as Ahwazis, were trying to stop the IRGC from destroying a dyke and diverting floodwaters into their farmland. The Iran National Council for Free Elections opposition group said the IRCG forces wanted to divert floodwaters to prevent them from entering IRCG-controlled oil installations in the neighboring town of Susangerd. In a Wednesday Instagram post, the group said one protester was killed and several were wounded by IRGC fire. In a series of tweets posted Thursday, London-based Ahwazi activist Karim Dahimi identified the dead protester as Aboud Jalizi and posted images of the man's body. Washington-based rights group Abdorrahman Boroumand Center shared Dahimi's reports about Jalizi on its Twitter feed and told VOA Persian that it considered Dahimi to be a reliable source.”

Iraq

The Washington Post: I Am A Survivor Of Islamic State Violence. Don’t Forget Us.

“In 2014, a few months before the Islamic State attacked Sinjar in Iraq, extremists killed a young border patrolman named Ismail from my hometown of Kocho. After I had escaped my own enslavement at the hands of the Islamic State, I realized his death had been a sign of what was to come. Iraqis — not just Yazidis, but also Kurds and Arabs, Sunni and Shiite — knew of the Islamic State before it even had a name. It was an ideology and a legacy of war. But we didn’t put the pieces together. At the time, Ismail’s death was simply viewed as a tragedy. Now, as survivors, we are better at reading the signs. Last month, the White House announced that the Islamic State’s “territorial caliphate has been eliminated in Syria.” But Yazidis and other survivors know that even though the Islamic State has been weakened, the gaping wounds it left behind still exist. Unless survivors of Islamic State violence are heard, supported and made part of the reconciliation process, Iraq and Syria will never heal. In particular, the concerns and demands of Yazidi survivors — among the most brutalized by the Islamic State — must be centered. Today, approximately 80 percent of Yazidis remain in refugee camps in northern Iraq. Thousands have moved to Europe as refugees, and many more will follow.”

Reuters: Iraqi Victims Of Islamic State Leadership Deserve Justice: U.N.

“Iraq must ensure that Islamic State leadership faces justice for alleged war crimes and genocide against civilians, not just charges of belonging to a terrorist group, a United Nations human rights investigator said on Thursday. Four men, two Iraqi and two Syrians, were sentenced to death by a Baghdad court on Oct 30 on charges of membership of Islamic State, a banned terrorist organization, Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said. Their identity has not been revealed but she described them in a statement as “four senior affiliates of the ISIL leadership”, using a widespread acronym for the militant group. “The trial should have shed light on the inner workings of ISIL and created a crucial judicial record of ISIL crimes against people.” The jihadist group, which took large swathes of Iraq and Syria from 2014, declared a “caliphate” and imposed a reign of terror with public beheadings and sexual enslavement of women and girls including from the Iraqi Yazidi sect. It lost its last territorial stronghold in Syria last month. “The Government of Iraq should take appropriate steps to prosecute the crimes perpetrated against the Iraqi people, including alleged genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Callamard said.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraqi Air Force Kill 14 ISIS Militants In Southern Kirkuk

“Iraq’s Defense Ministry on Thursday announced it had killed 14 Islamic State militants in an air raid in the disputed province of Kirkuk. The airstrikes occurred southwest of Daquq District, located in the south of Kirkuk. Heavy rainfall over the past few weeks has forced Islamic State militants to come out of their dugouts in Qarha Valley, southwest of Daquq, the Iraqi ministry said in a statement. “The first strike killed six of the ISIS terrorists and the second shot was able to kill eight more,” read the statement. The area is largely made up of vast tracts of arid terrain and is the site of sparsely populated Islamic State hideouts, from where its militants plan and carry out attacks. Iraqi security forces regularly conduct operations, including bombardments, in the areas where suspected terrorists are believed to be hiding. Daquq, as part of Kirkuk, is one of the disputed territories claimed by both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government of Iraq. Baghdad currently controls the area since Oct. 16, 2017. Despite Iraq declaring “final victory” against the extremist group in December 2017, they continue to carry out sporadic attacks, including bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings in previously liberated areas like Mosul, and also in areas, it never controlled like the capital of Baghdad.”

Xinhua: 3 Civilians Killed In Car Bomb Explosion In Western Iraq

“Three civilians were killed and another was wounded Thursday in a car bomb explosion in Iraq's western province of Anbar, a provincial source said. The incident took place when a booby-trapped car, apparently left by Islamic State (IS) militants, detonated on civilians collecting truffle in a desert area south of Rutba, some 300 km west the provincial capital Ramadi, Imad al-Dulaimi, mayor of Rutba, told Xinhua. He said the car was exploded immediately when the truffle collectors tried to open its doors, killing three of them and wounding another who was later transported to a hospital to receive treatment. The IS militants are still active in the vast Anbar desert that stretches to the border with neighboring countries of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, as many civilians have been either kidnapped or killed by the extremist group in recent months. In December 2017, Iraq declared full liberation from the IS after the security forces and the paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units, backed by the anti-IS international coalition, 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 as safe havens, carrying out guerilla attacks from time to time against the security forces and civilians.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Islamic State Operatives Captured As Afghan Forces Battle Taliban

“Counterterrorism forces have captured 16 operatives of the Islamic State (IS) terror group, including online recruiters, authorities in Afghanistan said Thursday. The operation comes as Taliban insurgents have staged a major assault on a troubled northwestern district, killing at least a dozen Afghan security forces. The Afghan spy agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS), said a group of six men picked up in capital city Kabul confessed to using hundreds of fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Telegram to recruit fighters and promote IS ideology in the country. The rest of the 10 detainees, described as "Daesh facilitators" — using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State — were captured during anti-terror operations in eastern Nangarhar province, according to NDS. The terrorist group calls its Afghan affiliate IS Khorasan Province (ISKP). IS emerged in Afghanistan in early 2015 from bases in southern districts of Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan. The terrorist outfit, however, has since faced regular ground and air offensives against its bases from U.S.-backed Afghan security forces, losing thousands of fighters. "The Taliban insurgents also have attacked IS militants to prevent them from establishing a foothold in the country.”

Voice Of America: IS, Taliban Fight Displaces 1000s In Eastern Afghanistan

“In Afghanistan, fighting between Islamic State militants and Taliban insurgents has displaced over 20,000 people in eastern Kunar province recently, according to U.N. officials. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Thursday that 3,000 families fled their homes, and warned the situation could escalate as the warring sides mobilize more fighters. "Sporadic clashes continue to be reported in several areas of the (Chapa Dara) district, with indications that both sides are reinforcing positions and continuing to mobilize, while the frontlines remain unchanged," OCHA reported. The report warns that efforts by the Afghan National Security Forces could spark renewed fighting as the government tries to push both Islamic State and the Taliban out of the area. Meanwhile, provincial government officials are working to help displaced families. "As our survey is still under way, the number of displaced families recorded up until now is around 2,500. Humanitarian aid has already been distributed," Abdul Ghani Musamim, a spokesperson for the Kunar provincial government, told VOA. The displaced families, mostly women and children, sought refuge in nearby districts and villages.”

Reuters: Afghan Forces Arrest Alleged Islamic State Online Recruiters

“Afghan security forces have arrested six alleged members of the Islamic State militant group and accused them of using hundreds of fake accounts on Facebook Inc and other social media to find recruits, authorities said on Thursday.  The men, arrested in the capital, Kabul, also used Twitter Inc, Instagram and Telegram for fake accounts recruiting fighters and promoting Islamic State, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) said.  The agency said the men had confessed, but have not yet been charged. They were among 16 arrests it said were connected to Islamic State. The arrests come as Facebook and Twitter have been separately sucked into an information war between India and Pakistan. The Afghan affiliate of Islamic State, sometimes known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) after an old name for the region that includes Afghanistan, has recruited many fighters from around the world, including Western countries.  The group, also known as Daesh, has been active in Afghanistan since 2015, fighting the Taliban as well as Afghan and U.S. forces. In a separate operation in the eastern province of Nangarhar, the NDS arrested 10 suspects over involvement in assassinations and transporting weapons, ammunition and explosives, it said in the statement. 

Qatar

National Review: Qatar Is The Weakest Link In An ‘Arab NATO’

“It is a good idea in theory: Assemble a coalition of Sunni Arab states, call it the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), and create a multinational military force meant to serve as a bulwark against Iranian aggression, terrorism, and extremism. Such an alliance would finally allow the U.S. to lessen its Middle East footprint, as the 2017 National Security Strategy recommended, and allow the Pentagon to redeploy some capabilities toward China and Russia — two of the “Big 4” countries that pose the greatest menace to the United States according to the latest U.S. intelligence community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment. It is also hoped that such a self-sufficient Arab military pact would help bring some much-needed stability to the region. Where there are common interests and shared threats, such a coalition can succeed. The obvious example is NATO, which for decades was unified in its mission to hold the Soviet Union at bay.”

Libya

The New York Times: Militia Advances On Libyan Capital, Raising Prospect Of Renewed Civil War

“A military leader who has vowed for years that he would seize control of Libya ordered his troops on Thursday to march on the capital, Tripoli. By nightfall, they had come within 25 miles of the city and a powerful rival militia was racing to stop them, raising the possibility of renewed civil war. The advance, by Gen. Khalifa Hifter, appeared to mark a new and possibly decisive stage in the power struggle that has torn Libya apart since the Arab Spring uprising of 2011. The move all but obviated plans for peace talks this month among competing Libyan factions. The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, had arrived in Tripoli for that purpose the previous day. On Thursday he urged “calm and restraint.” “I am deeply concerned by the military movement taking place in Libya and the risk of confrontation,” he said in a message posted on Twitter. “There is no military solution. Only intra-Libyan dialogue can solve Libyan problems.” In a joint statement on Thursday, the United States, Britain, France, Italy and the United Arab Emirates said they “urge all parties to immediately de-escalate tensions” and “will hold accountable any Libyan faction that precipitates further civil conflict.” The statement did not specify who had instigated the latest confrontation.”

Nigeria

Xinhua: 565 Killed By Boko Haram Landmines In NE Nigeria In 2018: UN Agency

“About 565 people might have been killed by the explosive remnants of the militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria's restive northeast region in 2018, according to a report by the United Nations anti-mine agency released on Thursday. Lionel Pechera, a program coordinator of the United Nations Mines Action Service (UNMAS), disclosed this at a campaign to mark the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram. Pechera said the presence of explosive hazards was a barrier to accessing the majority of land for agricultural activities, which in turn increased food insecurity in the northeast area. Some of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) areas were highly contaminated by explosives, indiscriminately injuring, maiming and killing civilians, said Pechera. The given figure was believed to represent only a portion of the actual number of incidents, he noted, saying that a large part of the territories in the country's northeast region was inaccessible. The mine awareness and assistance in mine action campaign has become imperative to protect lives and property as well as support the voluntary return of the IDPs to their homes, the UN official said.”

Somalia

Al Arabiya: Car Bomb Explodes At Restaurant Near Police Academy In Somali Capital

“A car bomb exploded at a restaurant near the police academy in the Somali capital on Thursday evening, police said, the latest in a string of attacks in the city. “A car bomb parked at a restaurant exploded. The restaurant is behind the police academy. So far we do not know the casualties,” Major Mohamed Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters.”

Xinhua: Somali Police Warn Of Impending Terror Attack

“Somali police on Thursday warned of impending terrorist attack in the restive capital, Mogadishu. Zakia Hussein Ahmed, deputy police commander and spokesperson of the Somali Police Forces, called on the public to remain vigilant and report to the security forces a suspicious vehicle, a Toyota Prado which is on the loose in the capital. Ahmed, who also circulated photos of the vehicle, said they believe the vehicle could be used by al-Shabab militants to carry out terror attacks in Mogadishu and its environs. Al-Shabab militant group, which is fighting the Western-backed government, has been driven out of major strongholds in Somalia in recent years in a joint offensive by AMISOM and local forces. However, it still stages guerrilla-style assaults and bomb attacks to drive out AU mission's troops from Somalia and impose its harsh version of Islamic law across the Horn of Africa nation.”

Africa

Reuters: Islamic State Says It Killed 18 Soldiers In West Africa

“Jihadist group Islamic State said on Thursday it had killed 13 Nigerian soldiers and five troops from a west African anti-militant force in attacks over recent days. Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), which split from Nigeria-based Boko Haram in 2016, has carried out a series of attacks in the last few months. In its newspaper Al-Nabaa, IS said its fighters killed the Nigerians in attacks on a military barracks on Friday, a military post on Sunday, and a town on Monday, all in northeastern Borno state. Fighters also detonated explosives on Wednesday on a vehicle in the Lake Chad region, killing five more soldiers, IS said, without specifying the country. The militants said the vehicle was carrying troops from a multinational task force - comprising of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon - set up to fight them. A Nigerian military spokesman declined comment, and a spokesman for the task force could not immediately be reached. Boko Haram has waged a decade-long insurgency in northeast Nigeria which has killed around 30,000 people and forced about 2 million to leave their homes.”

Atlantic Council: Congolese President Cites Threat From ISIS, Seeks US Help To Fight Terrorism

“The Islamic State, pushed out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, could seek to establish a caliphate in the heart of Africa, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi warned in a meeting at the Atlantic Council in Washington on April 4. He sought a “strategic partnership” with the United States, one of the pillars of which would be military assistance to address the challenge of terrorism. “It is easy to see how the defeat of Daesh, the Islamic State, in Syria and Iraq could lead to a situation where these groups are now going to come into Africa and take advantage of the pervasive poverty and also the situation of chaos that we have, for example, in Beni and Butembo, to set up their caliphate,” Tshisekedi said, referring to cities in northeastern DRC which have been gripped by deadly violence. He blamed the violence in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on “local and foreign” armed groups. Tshisekedi cited recent military intelligence that he said points to an “Islamic threat” stemming from the ADF, a Ugandan-led militant group based in the DRC. In November 2018, the US Embassy in Kinshasa closed after receiving intelligence that an ISIS-linked group could carry out attacks against US interests in the DRC.”

Germany

The Defense Post: Germany Repatriates Children Of ISIS Fighters From Iraq

“Germany has repatriated from Iraq several children of jailed Islamic State adherents, the foreign ministry said Friday, April 5 as the war against the jihadist group draws to a close. “The number of minors already brought back to Germany has reached a high single-digit figure,” the foreign ministry source said, adding that the returns were carried out with the consent of the children’s parents. They are now in the custody of their relatives in Germany, the source added. Among the first young returnees to Germany were three children who arrived with their 31-year-old mother at Stuttgart airport on Thursday, their lawyer Mahmut Erdem said in a statement. They were taken into custody immediately, the lawyer said. According to the foreign ministry, at least eight Germans were jailed in Iraq, after they were convicted over their membership of ISIS. In August, an Iraqi judge cleared a woman of German and Turkish origin of ties to ISIS, and in April an Iraqi court commuted the death sentence of a German woman of Moroccan origin, reducing her sentence for ISIS membership to a life term. The court sentenced the woman’s daughter Nadia Rainer Hermann, also a German national, to life in prison.”

Europe

The Washington Post: Kosovo Man Charged With Inciting Terror Acts

“Kosovo prosecutors have charged a suspect for illegally spreading information on the Islamic State terror group in Syria. A prosecutor’s office statement Thursday said that from August last year until January the man, identified only as B.E., had used his social network page to spread photos and other information about the group, “openly supporting their terrorist acts.” He had also posted a photo threatening Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. If convicted of inciting terror acts, the suspect may be imprisoned for up to five years. Kosovo authorities claim no citizens have joined extremist groups in Syria and Iraq in the past three years or so. About 160 Kosovo citizens are still actively supporting the groups there.”

Technology

CNBC: Zuckerberg Resists Pressure To Alter Facebook’s Livestream Feature After Christchurch Attacks

“Mark Zuckerberg has expressed reluctance to alter the Facebook feature that hosted video footage of the deadly terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The tech giant came under criticism after video of the attack, which killed 50 people, was livestreamed and widely circulated on its platform. Speaking to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Thursday, the Facebook founder and CEO admitted that the artificial intelligence it uses to filter harmful content failed to flag the video, adding that its reach may have been limited if livestreams were subject to a broadcast delay. “But it would also fundamentally break what livestreaming is for people. Most people are livestreaming a birthday party or hanging out with friends when they can’t be together,” he said. “One of the things that’s magical about livestreaming is that it’s bi-directional, … you’re not just broadcasting, you’re communicating, and people are commenting back. So if you had a delay [it] would break that.”

The Economic Times: What's Making Facebook, YouTube, Twitter A Hotbed For Extremism And Bigotry? Not Algorithms, But The 'Growth At Any Cost' Mantra

“When it comes to explaining why Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have become hotbeds for extremism, propaganda and bigotry, there’s a tendency to over-complicate things. That’s understandable. The algorithms that govern the platforms are unknowable trade secrets. There are, in some cases, billions of users to account for. There are meaty issues of free speech and copyright law playing out in real time across borders. Technology is confusing! And, yes, it’s true that the tech companies are dealing with thorny problems that most likely have no universally satisfying outcome. Big Tech’s problems are indeed dizzying and manifold, but the past few years have taught us that there’s an Occam’s razor quality to any explanation of the toxicity of our online platforms. The original sin, it seems, isn’t all that complicated; it’s the prioritization of growth — above all else and at the expense of those of us who use the services.”