Eye on Extremism: April 9, 2019

CNN: 3 US Service Members And 1 Contractor Killed In Afghanistan

“Three US service members and one contractor were killed by an improvised explosive device near Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Monday, according to the US military. Three other US service members were wounded. A statement from the military said the wounded service members have been evacuated and are receiving medical care. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack, which involved a car bomb targeting a US military convoy near one of America's largest military facilities in Afghanistan. Seven US service members have been killed in Afghanistan this year. The US has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, where they primarily advise Afghan forces battling the Taliban and the local ISIS affiliate. While US officials have said that peace talks with the Taliban have made progress, they have yet to finalize any agreements and intense fighting between the government and the insurgency continues.”

The Washington Post: Md. Man Planned To Run Down Crowds At National Harbor In An ISIS-Inspired Attack, Prosecutors Say

“Federal authorities have arrested a Maryland man they say planned to plow a stolen U-Haul van into crowds at National Harbor, a large shopping and entertainment compound outside of Washington, as part of an Islamic State-inspired plot, court documents say. Rondell Henry, 28, of Germantown, was arrested March 28 at the waterfront complex in Prince George’s County with a U-Haul he had stolen from a parking garage in Alexandria, Va., two days earlier, according to a newly unsealed charging document. Henry harbored “hatred” for “disbelievers” who didn’t practice Islam and admitted to the plot in interviews with authorities, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court for Maryland asking that he be detained in jail until trial. Before he arrived at the Maryland complex, he spent nearly two hours at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia on March 27 assessing crowds there but finding too few people for the scale of attack he envisioned, court documents contend. Henry is charged with transporting a stolen vehicle but no terrorism-related counts. Prosecutors detailed the terrorism-related accusations Monday in their detention memo. Prosecutors allege Henry stole the van to “commit mass murder,” planning to target the National Harbor after he unsuccessfully tried to breach security at Dulles.”

The Wall Street Journal: Libyan Warlord’s Aircraft Attack Tripoli Airport, Defying U.S. Pressure

“Forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar carried out an airstrike against the Libyan capital’s only functioning airport, as the rogue military commander defied U.S. calls to halt an assault on Tripoli. Mr. Haftar, who opposes an internationally recognized government based in Tripoli, ordered the attack on the capital last week, a move that plunged Libya into one of its worst crises since the death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. It has threatened to return the country to all-out civil war as forces allied to the Tripoli government raced to defend the capital. The fighting has killed at least 21 people and wounded 27 others since the offensive began last week, according to the health ministry in Tripoli. In addition, 2,800 people have been forced to flee, the United Nations said. The battle pits two sides both marshaling loosely organized forces that are light on air power and heavy weapons. Both sides are believed to control a handful of warplanes, including aging Russian MiGs. They have relied on international support for air power in the past, although no foreign powers have launched air raids during the recent fighting. The U.S. in 2016 launched some 500 airstrikes in support of the Tripoli government’s forces in a campaign against Islamic State.”

Bloomberg: European Lawmakers Back New Online Terror Content Rules

“Google, Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc. and other tech firms are one step closer to facing the threat of fines if they fail to speedily remove terror propaganda from their sites, under new European Union rules backed by lawmakers Monday. The European Parliament’s civil liberties committee endorsed draft rules that would require web platforms to wipe Islamic State videos and other terror content from their services within an hour of notification for removal by national authorities. Companies could be hit with fines as high as 4 percent of annual revenue if they systematically fail to remove problematic content. The vote paves the way for negotiations between the EU’s three institutions-- the parliament, the bloc’s member states and the European Commission -- to hammer out the final version of the text before it enters into force. The push comes amid a growing backlash against technology companies to curb illegal activity on their sites. The U.K. on Monday outlined plans for an industry-funded regulator that would police the technology companies’ platforms for harmful content, such as incitement to terrorism and child sexual exploitation. While large tech firms have developed automated tools to help catch malicious posts, EU officials say their efforts haven’t gone far enough.”

The New York Post: Teen Pleads Guilty To Plotting Mall Terror Attack

“A suburban Dallas teenager has pleaded guilty to plotting an Islamic State group-inspired mass shooting at a North Texas mall. A state judge sentenced Matin Azizi-Yarand to 20 years in prison Monday for solicitation of capital murder and making a terroristic threat, state and federal prosecutors announced. The 18-year-old is eligible for parole after serving 10 years. Azizi-Yarand was arrested last May for plotting to shoot civilians and police at a Frisco mall in a rampage authorities said he was timing to coincide with Ramadan. IS has called on its supporters to carry out attacks during the Muslim holy month. The then-high school student had been recruiting others to participate in the shooting and planned to explain it with the release of a “Message to America,” according to prosecutors. He spent more than $1,400 buying weapons and tactical gear, and had been conducting surveillance of the mall. Azizi-Yarand believes his plea agreement is a “fair deal” and is ready to begin his prison term, his lawyer, Mitch Nolte, told The Associated Press. Azizi-Yarand was indicted in July , but his age presented a challenge for prosecutors. Terrorism cases are typically brought in federal court.”

New Europe: Armed Neo-Nazi Group Issues Death Threat To Guy Verhofstadt

“Last Thursday, the neo-Nazi group Feuerkrieg Division (FKD), inspired by James Mason’s Siege and the Atomwaffen Division, posted propaganda on their Gab account calling for violence against MEP Guy Verhofstadt. Speaking to the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) whose researchers found the content and reported it to the European authorities on April 4, 2019, have written a report about the group’s practices. David Ibsen CEP’s Executive Director stated: “The time to allow online providers to regulate the content they publish to the world has come and gone. In the aftermath of the killings of MP Jo Cox and Mayor of Gdansk Pawel Adamowicz, European lawmakers united in ensuring justice was done. These radicals are European, they are active online and they are recruiting. Proactive approaches save lives, this is exactly why the vote in the Civil Liberties (LIBE) Committee on terrorist content is so important. In removing the vacuum in which these radicals operate, we can ensure safety for European legislators and citizens. All MEPs should be united in their call for a strike back against these terrorists, and in the removal of their propaganda.”

United States

The Washington Post: The Fight Against White Supremacy Could Learn Something From America’s First War On Terror

“One hundred forty-eight years ago this month, a member of Congress decried what he saw as a double standard regarding the protection of U.S. citizens from political violence. Overseas, Rep. Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts said on the floor of the House, “no nation...can unjustly lay its hand upon an American citizen in arrest or anger without calling down upon it the whole power of the republic.” Yet at that very moment in the American South, Butler noted, a domestic organization, the Ku Klux Klan, was murdering blacks and whites who supported the post-Civil War program of racial equality known as Reconstruction, and the Klan was operating with virtual impunity. “Can it be,” Butler demanded of those who insisted crime-fighting should be left up to the states, “that an American citizen is protected with the whole power of the government, everywhere, except on our own soil, under his own roof-tree, and covered by our own flag?” Congress duly passed the Ku Klux Klan Act, and President Ulysses S. Grant signed it into law on April 20, 1871. The federal government could suspend the writ of habeas corpus in Klan-dominated areas and use federal marshals and troops to arrest Klan terrorists and bring them to trial in federal courts.”

Forward: ISIS Hopeful Arrested In Montana For Threatening To Possibly Attack A Synagogue

“An Albanian national with U.S. citizenship was arrested after he told a federal informant that he wanted to join ISIS and plan a terror attack on one of several possible locations, including a synagogue. After he heard about the attacks on two mosques in New Zealand he was inspired to “attack random people” out of revenge. Fabjan Alameti, 21, of New York, was arrested in Montana last week, for being in possession of a weapon, an air rifle, while using drugs, in this case marijuana. Beginning in January, Alameti spoke with a federal informant about fighting with ISIS and plotting an attack in the U.S. against a military facility, recruitment center, government building, “gay club,” or Jewish temple, FBI Special Agent Matthew Duermeier said in a sworn statement filed with the U.S. Magistrate’s Court in Helena, Montana, The Associated Press reported. He later said he would not carry out an attack in the U.S.  because the country had granted him citizenship, the statement also said. Last month he moved to Montana due to family issues, and because it is easier to buy a gun in the state, he told the informant. He was ordered held for continued judicial proceedings.”

Syria

The Washington Post: Syrian Media: Militants Hit Government Post, Kill 3 Troops

“Syria state media say militants have attacked a military post belonging to the government forces in the country’s northwest, setting off clashes that killed three soldiers. The state-run Ikhbariya TV says the militants were disguised as farmers from the area in the attack early on Tuesday and approached the military post outside a de-militarized zone in Idlib province. The TV says the soldiers clashed with the militants, who blew themselves up, killing three soldiers. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the attack. The Observatory and a media group, Idlib Correspondent, said the jihadi Ansar Tawheed group was behind the attack. It’s the latest breach of a months-old Russia-Turkey negotiated truce in Idlib and surrounding areas. Recent violence has strained the truce, which also includes a de-militarized zone.”

Al Jazeera: Syria Joint Patrols: Russia And Turkey Announce Idlib Deal

“Russia and Turkey are ready to start joint patrols to secure the last rebel stronghold in Syria. The deal for Idlib province was announced in Moscow during a visit by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both countries also reiterated their determination to go ahead with a missile defence deal, which is angering the United States. Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen reports from Moscow.”

Voice Of America: Returning From Syria, Iranian-Backed Afghan Fighters Could Pose Threat

“With Syria's eight-year war waning, many foreign fighters who have fought in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are returning to their home countries. Some of those fighters are Iranian-backed Afghan refugees. Since 2011, Iran has sent thousands of undocumented Shi'ite Afghan refugees to Syria to fight alongside forces of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces. These Afghan fighters are part of the Fatimiyoun Brigade, the second-largest group of foreigners fighting for Assad in Syria. At the peak of the war, media reports estimated they numbered between 10,000 and 12,000 fighters. One of the returning Afghan fighters is 22-year-old Hamid, who commanded a unit within the Fatimiyoun Brigade. He said that he was 17 when he moved to Iran to find a job.”

Reuters: Suicide Bombers Attack Syrian Army Post, Several Dead: Media

“Suicide bombers disguised as farmers struck an army position in western Syria on Tuesday in an attack that killed three people and all the militants, state-run media said. The attack north of Hama city adds to pressures on Russian-Turkish agreements that have contained the war in northwestern Syria, the last major foothold of the insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the eight-year-long war, said 10 people were killed and the attack was carried out by a jihadist group in a “demilitarised” zone set up under the Turkish-Russian agreement. State media said the militants were dressed as local farmers when they hit the position near Taybat al-Imam around 3 a.m. (midnight GMT). A tank supporting them was destroyed.”

The National: US Official: ISIS Can’t Be Defeated In Syria As Long As Iran Has A Foothold

“One of America’s main aims in Syria remains pushing Iranian forces and its militias out of the country, a top United States official told The National, adding that “there are a lot of tools we can use.” US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Special Envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn said his country’s “priorities haven’t changed” in Syria, adding that “we continue to do our planning about the means we use to accomplish our strategic objectives”. Mr Rayburn outlined US objectives as “an enduring defeat of Daesh [ISIS] and other terrorist groups like it; to try to bring about a withdrawal from all of Syria of all Iranian commanded forces; and to support a political settlement of the conflict under United Nations security council resolution 2254”. He added that “If there is ever to be a stable and sustainable Syria, there has to be a political process. “You cannot fight your way out of this, there has to be a political settlement”. Last December, US President Donald Trump announced a full troop withdrawal from Syria, only to scale this back and agree to maintain some 400 troops in the country. On the decision, Mr Rayburn said the president’s move was “in order to continue to take part, under the auspices of the coalition and with local partners, in this next stage of the campaign [against ISIS].”

Iran

The Washington Post: US Labels Elite Iran Force A Foreign Terrorist Organization

“The United States on Monday designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization, an unprecedented declaration against a foreign government that may prompt retaliation and make it harder for American diplomats and military officers to work with allies in the region. It is the first time that the U.S. has designated an entity of another government as a terrorist organization, placing a group with vast economic resources that answers only to Iran’s supreme leader in the same category as al-Qaida and the Islamic State. “This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” President Donald Trump said in announcing the measure. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the designation is intended to increase pressure on Iran, isolating it further and diverting some of the financial resources it uses to fund terrorism and militant activity in the Middle East and beyond. But, in addition to the potential for Iranian retaliation, it complicates a delicate balance for U.S. personnel in at least two key countries.”

The Wall Street Journal: More Reality Recognition On Iran

“The Trump Administration said Monday it will designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization. While this will upset those who want to do business with Iran, it’s a welcome recognition of reality. The IRGC is a branch of the Iranian military with some 125,000 personnel loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It controls much of the national economy, including construction, banking and telecommunications, and it oversees the regime’s ballistic-missile program. The IRGC’s Quds Force trains terrorists and exports weapons throughout the Middle East. The State Department estimates the IRGC spends $1 billion a year backing militias in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. The IRGC was responsible for killing hundreds of Americans with roadside bombs during the Iraq war. It produced “shape charges” for Shiite militias that cut through even the best U.S. armor.”

The New York Times: Iran Should Reconcile With America

“Iran recently observed the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, but few Iranians beyond the regime’s elites celebrated it. The reason for this lack of enthusiasm among ordinary Iranians is no mystery. By any reasonable measure, the revolution has failed to deliver the just and prosperous society that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and other revolutionary leaders promised the Iranian people in 1979. These days, Iran’s ruling theocracy is best known for oppression, corruption and mismanagement at home, and ghastly sectarian warfare abroad. Through its Shiite militias, the clerical regime has fueled violence and death in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and well beyond. Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas has enabled deadly cross-border attacks into Israel. This proxy network has allowed Iran to project power well beyond its borders. But a combination of the regime’s own financial mismanagement and strong American sanctions is clearly straining Iran’s allies. On Monday, in an effort to further raise the pressures on Iran's regime from outside, we designated its Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization.”

Associated Press: Iranian Lawmakers Convene With Chants Of ‘Death To America’

“Iranian lawmakers dressed in paramilitary uniforms chanted “Death to America” as they convened Tuesday for an open session of parliament after the White House designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization. President Hassan Rouhani declared that the force’s popularity would only surge in the wake of the designation, saying guard members would be dearer “than any other time in the hearts of Iranian nation.” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised the guard and said America’s “evil designs would not harm” the force. The move by Washington on Monday was an unprecedented declaration against a foreign government entity — one that could prompt retaliation and make it harder for Americans to work with allies in the region who have contact with members and affiliates of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC.”

CBS News: Iran Slams U.S. Sanctions On Revolutionary Guard As Lawmakers Chant "Death To America"

“Chanting "Death to America," Iranian lawmakers convened an open session of parliament Tuesday following the White House's decision to designate Iran's elite paramilitary Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization. The U.S. move was an unprecedented declaration against a foreign government, one that could prompt retaliation and make it harder for Americans to work with allies in the region. Iran's Supreme National Security Council immediately responded by designating the U.S. Central Command, also known as CENTCOM, and all its forces as terrorist, and labeling the U.S. a "supporter of terrorism." It was the first time the United States has designated an entity of another government as a terrorist organization, placing a group with vast economic resources that answers only to Iran's supreme leader in the same category as al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”

Iraq

Kurdistan 24: Belgian ISIS Fighter Confesses To Group's Use Of Chemical Weapons, Chlorine

“The Iraqi judiciary on Monday released the courtroom confession of a Belgian Islamic State fighter sentenced to death in which he admitted to the use of chemical weapons and chlorine gas by the jihadist group. Bilal Abdul-Aziz al-Marshouhi, 25, known as Abu Fadhil al-Belgiki (Belgian), faces a hangman's noose after being convicted by an Iraqi court of belonging to the Islamic State and fighting against Iraqi forces in Mosul. “I was born in Belgium, so I have a Belgian nationality with Morocco origin. I studied engineering at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. I became Muslim after I got to know a friend there and read some books that urge extremism and extremist ideas,” Marshouhi said during the court hearing in Baghdad, as detailed on Monday in the official publication of the Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq. “In the meantime, the Syrian revolution broke out, and I started to go back to the internet and some websites, where I was briefed on the actions of the Nasra Front and the Free Syrian Army, their fighting against the Syrian forces, the liberation of the territories and the conditions of the people living there.” He stated that he became a hard-line radical and his mindset only worsened as a result of serious differences with his family.”

Iraqi News: Four IS Terrorists Killed In Fierce Clashes With Paramilitary Fighters In Iraq

“Four Islamic State militants were killed Monday in fierce clashes with Iraqi paramilitary fighters in Anbar province, a security source was quoted as saying. “A force of the pro-government Tribal Mobilization Forces fought a fierce battle with a group of Islamic State terrorists at a village in Anbar province,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Baghdad Today website. “The clashes left four Islamic State terrorists killed,” the source added, without giving further details. Violence in the country has surged further with the emergence of Islamic State extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014. The surge in violence between armed groups and government forces has resulted in over five million internally displaced persons across Iraq and left more than 11 million in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Troops Apprehend IS Terrorist At Camp For Displaced Families In Mosul

“Iraqi military intelligence forces arrested on Monday an Islamic State terrorist at a camp for the displaced people in Mosul city. “Troops of the 43rd brigade of the Military Intelligence Directorate arrested a terrorist hiding among the displaced families at a camp in al-Qayyarah district in Mosul,” Iraqi news website Almaalomah quoted the directorate as saying in a press statement. “The terrorist is wanted by Iraqi judiciary on terror charges pursuant to article no. ¼ of the anti-terrorism law,” added the statement. Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi announced in July 2017 liberation of the second largest Iraqi city of Mosul from IS militants, who had captured it in 2014. More than 25,000 militants were killed throughout the campaign, which started in October 2016. The campaign was backed by paramilitary troops and a U.S.-led international coalition. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in Iraq in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq.”

Turkey

The New York Times: Turkey Must Choose Between The U.S. And Russia

“By the end of the year, Turkey will have either F-35 advanced fighter aircraft on its soil or a Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system. It will not have both. The choice made by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey will have profound consequences for his country’s place in the world, its relationship with the United States and its standing in NATO. The F-35 program is the world’s largest fifth-generation fighter aircraft program, with more than a trillion dollars in investment from a dozen international partners, including Turkey, and customers. In large part, the ability of the United States and its allies to maintain a military advantage in the skies is riding on the program. In July 2017, Turkey announced that it would purchase the S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system from Russia. The S-400 is the most advanced system produced to date in Russia’s quest to defeat stealth technology — the system Russia built to shoot down the F-35 fighters.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Four Americans Killed In Afghan Blast, Despite U.S.-Brokered Peace Talks

“Three American service members and one contractor were killed Monday after a bomb exploded near Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, Defense Department officials said. In a statement, the Defense Department said that three additional troops were wounded in the blast. They were evacuated and are being treated. A United States military official said that the blast was part of an attack on a convoy of trucks transporting American service members near Bagram Air Base in eastern Afghanistan. The official said that the Taliban are believed to be behind the attack. Fighting between the Taliban and American-backed Afghan forces has continued in recent weeks despite continuing negotiations on a framework to end the nearly 18-year war. Last week, at least hundreds of Taliban fighters stormed a district in Afghanistan’s western Badghis Province, resulting in dozens of casualties. Fighting in Afghanistan usually escalates in the spring as the weather gets warmer, but the violence has been intensified by the peace talks as all sides try to increase their leverage. Last month, two members of an American Special Forces unit and four Afghan Special Forces soldiers were killed during a joint operation in Gul Tepa District, on the outskirts of Kunduz city.”

The Washington Post: Afghan Officials: Taliban Kill 5, Soldier Kills 2 Troops

“An Afghan official says at least five members of the country’s security forces were killed when the Taliban attacked a joint army and police base in northern Sari Pul province. Zabihullah Amani, the provincial governor’s spokesman, says the Monday night attack in Sangcharak district also wounded seven other troops. There was no immediate comment from the Taliban. Amani says four insurgents were also killed in the ensuing clashes. Earlier, around noon on Monday, an Afghan army officer shot and killed two of his fellow soldiers and later fled to join the Taliban. Sayed Hashim Bayan, the provincial police chief’s spokesman, says the shooter seized a Humvee along with some ammunition before making his getaway. The Taliban praised the soldier’s actions and confirmed he joined their ranks in Dari Suf district.”

Xinhua: Over 100 Afghans Killed In Clashes Within 2 Days Amid Peace Efforts

“More than 100 fighters mostly militants have been killed in fighting for the control of the strategically important Bala Murghab district in western Afghanistan's Badghis province over the past 48 hours amid peace efforts for Afghanistan's prolonged conflicts, warring sides said Monday. A statement released by the 207 Zafar Corps in the western region claimed killing 99 militants in and around the besieged Bala Murghab district since Saturday. According to the statement, 35 militants have been injured and huge quantity of arms and ammunitions of the insurgents have been destroyed. However, Taliban outfit in a statement sent to media outlets has confirmed fighting in Bala Murghab district, calling upon security personnel to give up fighting and join the militant group. According to the Taliban statement, the militant group has besieged Bala Murghab district and inflicted huge casualties on the security forces. According to locals, the militants may threaten the provincial capital Qala-e-Naw, if they capture Bala Murghab district. Fighting for the control of Bala Murghab district has escalated amid increased efforts to bring Taliban outfit into negotiating table with the Afghan administration.”

Pakistan

Reuters: Attacked By Both Sides: Journalists Caught In The Crossfire Of Kashmir Conflict

“Most nights in recent weeks, journalist Asif Qureshi’s phone vibrates with a message from a known number of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a Pakistan-based militant group that killed 40 Indian paramilitary policemen in a suicide attack in Kashmir in February: “Allah always keeps you in safety and security”.  “They want to tell us that we are monitoring you,” said Qureshi, the Kashmir bureau chief for Delhi-based TV channel ABP News. He is one of the many journalists caught in the crossfire – metaphorically and literally – between the Indian government and militant groups fighting for India-controlled Kashmir’s independence. Both sides are making increasing attempts to control the flow of information, journalists say, after the conflict in Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region claimed by both India and Pakistan, escalated dramatically over the past few months. India blames Pakistan for harbouring JeM, a claim Islamabad denies, and both nuclear-armed nations said they carried out air strikes and downed enemy jets after the suicide attack, to the alarm of world powers.  The present situation is the most dangerous and difficult for journalists in decades, according to dozens of journalists in Kashmir Reuters spoke to in recent weeks.”

Yemen

Asharq Al-Awsat: UN Envoy In Sanaa To Persuade Houthis To Accept Hodeidah Deal

“United Nations envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths arrived in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Monday on a mission to persuade the Iran-backed Houthi militias to accept the truce agreement on Hodeidah that includes the deployment of forces in its three main ports. The deal was reached in Sweden in December 2018 and it has yet to be completely implemented, generating pessimism among the legitimate government. Government member of the Regional Redeployment Committee (RCC) Saghir bin Aziz said: “It is known that the Houthis have always withdrawn from a region they occupied with force. Have you ever heard of them quitting an area in peace?” He said that Griffiths would not have traveled to Sanaa without having had received a pledge by the Houthis to implement the first phase of the redeployment.”

Associated Press: Vaccines Blocked As Deadly Cholera Raged Across Yemen

“In the summer of 2017, a plane chartered by the United Nations idled on the tarmac at an airport in the Horn of Africa as officials waited for final clearance to deliver half a million doses of cholera vaccine to Yemen. Amid the country’s ruinous war, the disease was spiraling out of control, with thousands of new cases reported each day. The green light for the plane to head to northern Yemen never came. The U.N. wasn’t able to distribute cholera vaccines to Yemen until May 2018 and the outbreak ultimately produced more than 1 million suspected cholera cases — the worst cholera epidemic recorded in modern times and a calamity that medical researchers say may have been avoided if vaccines had been deployed sooner. U.N. officials blamed the canceled flight on the difficulties in distributing vaccines during an armed conflict. But officials with knowledge of the episode told The Associated Press that the real reason was that the Houthi rebels who control northern Yemen refused to allow the vaccines to be delivered, after spending months demanding that the U.N. send ambulances and other medical equipment for their military forces as a condition for accepting the shipment.” 

Lebanon

The National: Hezbollah ally says US sanctions would be 'crazy'

“Any US plan to sanction allies of Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri over his longstanding ties with Hezbollah and Iran would backfire, sources close to the veteran politician have said, reacting to The National’s report that Washington was considering such a move. US officials told The National last week that measures being considered could target Mr Berri's Amal party as well as its financial backers, and that the issue had been discussed during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recent visit to Lebanon. “Such a move, if confirmed, would be crazy,” a source close to Mr Berri told Lebanese daily Al Akhbar on Monday, saying Hezbollah and Amal represent most of Lebanon's Shiite community in parliament. No official data exists on Lebanon’s population, but the country is believed to be roughly one-third Christian, one-third Sunni and one-third Shiite, although some experts believe that the Shiite community has become dominant. “This move would not hurt Hezbollah or Amal. On the contrary, it would make their alliance against the US stronger,” said the source, warning that it would increase hostility towards “the American administration’s arrogance”. There has been no official response from Amal, but two MPs and Mr Berri's spokesman arrived in Washington on Sunday for several days of talks with US officials aimed at minimising the scope of any sanctions.”

Libya

The Washington Post: Libya Clashes Over Tripoli Escalate As City’s Airport Is Hit

“Clashes between rival Libyan forces for control of Tripoli escalated on Monday as the death toll from days of fighting rose to at least 51, including both combatants and civilians, and the city’s only functioning airport said it was hit by an airstrike. The self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Hifter who last week launched the push on Tripoli, acknowledged striking the Mitiga airport, barely 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of the city center. Hifter’s forces have clashed with rival militias which support the U.N.-backed government that controls Tripoli and the western part of the country. The escalation has threatened to plunge the fractured North African nation deeper into chaos and ignite civil war on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The U.N. said the latest fighting has displaced some 3,400 people and blocked emergency services from reaching casualties and civilians. The World Health Organization said two doctors were killed trying to “evacuate wounded patients from conflict areas.” Ibrahim Fadel, an official at Mitiga, said no casualties were reported in the airport attack. Flights were suspended for several hours but the airport reopened later Monday and said it would resume operations going forward from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m.”

Nigeria

Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram: Airforce Hits Hard On Islamic State Terrorists In Borno

“The Nigerian Air Force, NAF, says its Air Task Force, ATF, of Operation LAFIYA DOLE has degraded an Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) Terrorists’ hideout in Northern Borno. NAF’s spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, who disclosed this in a statement in Abuja, said the operation was conducted on Monday. Daramola said the ATF also neutralised some of the ISWAP fighters at Tumbun Zarami in the Northern part of Borno. “This was accomplished through air strikes conducted on Monday, April 8, as part of the ongoing air campaign of Operation YANCIN TAFKI, which is aimed at flushing out ISWAP elements from islands on the fringes of the Lake Chad. “A Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform, on a routine reconnaissance mission, observed significant presence of ISWAP fighters in the settlement, with several structures and equipment spotted beneath the thick vegetation of the area. “Accordingly, the ATF scrambled two NAF Alpha Jets to attack the location, recording successful strikes on the terrorists’ structures and neutralising several of their fighters,” he said. Daramola said the NAF, operating in concert with surface forces, would sustain its operations to completely degrade the terrorists in the North East.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Govt, AU Forces Arrest 9 Al-Shabab Militants In Southern Region

“The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces said Monday they have arrested nine al-Shabab militants during a security operation backed by Somali troops in southern region. The AU mission said the operation, which was carried out on Sunday in near Sabiid Anole town in Lower Shabelle, about 40 km south of Mogadishu, saw al-Shabab commander and explosive expert arrested. “The militants were in possession of IED (improvised explosive device) making materials which they intended to use to build explosives,” said the AU mission. It said the fighting erupted after the allied forces came under attack by the terrorists but did not indicate the number of al-Shabab militants who were killed during the fighting. “All suspects are currently being interrogated by the relevant authorities,” said the AMISOM. The arrests came a week after the strategic bridge of Sabiid was liberated by the allied forces. Meanwhile, AMISOM also confirmed the arrest of an al-Shabab terrorist who has been extorting money from civilians at checkpoints in Qoryooley. The AU mission vowed to continue supporting the Somali security forces to restore peace in all regions of Somalia.”

United Kingdom

New Statesman: Why British Jihadists Can’t Be Charged With Treason

“Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2012, it is estimated that around 800 British citizens have joined ISIS in its fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. And now that ISIS has all but lost that battle, a number of British jihadists are looking to repatriate or are being pushed to return to the UK by their captors in Syria. What should we do with these individuals? Should we leave them to their fate? Or should we kill them without qualm if the operational opportunity to do so presents itself, as Rory Stewart, a Foreign Office minister, recently suggested? Should we help those who joined as teenagers to return to Britain and reintegrate into society? Should we prosecute them? And if so, for what crime? Since Britain is taking part in military operations against ISIS, British jihadists in Syria have been fighting against their own government and, some would argue, against their fellow British citizens. As a result, proponents of the aforementioned judicial option have suggested we prosecute returning ISIS fighters under the ancient law of treason. The Treason Act of 1351, which has since been amended but is still in force, defines high treason as acting against the monarch and their immediate family.”

Europe

The Belfast Telegraph: Ex-Diplomat Fears Return Of IRA Violence

“A former UK ambassador to Dublin fears a return to IRA violence across the UK if devolution is not restored. Former diplomat Sir Ivor Roberts (72) - who served from 1999 to 2003 as Ambassador to Ireland - also hit out at 'tone-deaf' comments from what he called the "Westminster Establishment" which were raising the political temperature in Northern Ireland. Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Sir Ivor said a recent republican car bomb in Londonderry and letter bombs sent to cities in the UK were warnings of a deteriorating situation. Sir Ivor is now a senior adviser to the Counter Extremism Project policy group.”

Southeast Asia

Al Jazeera: UN: Recent Myanmar Army Attack May Have Killed Dozens Of Rohingya

“The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has said it fears that dozens of Rohingya civilians may have been killed in a military attack in Myanmar's Rakhine state last week, despite official government tolls putting the number of dead at six. “We are now receiving reports that the number may be much higher than that. We have unconfirmed reports that the number may be as high as 30,” said Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the OHCHR, on Tuesday. On Friday, the the Myanmar army-run Myawady Daily newspaper had said the six Rohingya killed and nine wounded in Wednesday's aerial attack were “together with terrorists while the army was cracking down on the Arakan Army's terrorist activities” in Buthidaung township, referring to an armed group that draws much of its recruits from the ethnic Rakhine population. But Arakan Army Spokesman Khin Thu Kha denied that the dead and wounded men were members of the armed group, saying the military had attacked indiscriminately. “They bombed everywhere, believing there were Arakan Army members in the jungle,” he was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.”

Technology

Associated Press: Facebook, Google Face Widening Crackdown Over Online Content

“Tech giants like Facebook and Google came under increasing pressure in Europe on Monday when countries proposed stricter rules to force them to block extreme material such as terrorist propaganda and child porn. Britain called for a first-of-its-kind watchdog for social media that could fine executives and even ban companies. And a European Union parliamentary committee approved a bill giving internet companies an hour to remove terror-related material or face fines that could reach into the billions.  “We are forcing these firms to clean up their act once and for all,” said British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, whose department collaborated on Britain’s proposal. Opponents warned the British and EU measures could stifle innovation and strengthen the dominance of technology giants because smaller companies won’t have the money to comply. That, in turn, could turn Google and Facebook into the web’s censors, they said. The push to make the big companies responsible for the torrent of material they carry has largely been driven by Europeans. But it picked up momentum after the March 15 mosque shootings in New Zealand that killed 50 people and were livestreamed for 17 minutes. Facebook said it removed 1.5 million videos of the attacks in the 24 hours afterward.”

The Los Angeles Times: Britain Joins Social Media Crackdown After Livestreamed New Zealand Attack

“The United Kingdom joined a growing global backlash against technology companies such as Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., proposing fines and bans if social-media platforms fail to curb illegal activity. The government outlined plans for an industry-funded regulator that would police the technology companies’ platforms for harmful content, such as incitement to terrorism and child sexual exploitation. The move is part of a push to hold the companies accountable, and fines for breaches of the new law could reach as high as 4% of global turnover, Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “There is an acceptance that some form of regulation on social media is inevitable,” Wright said on Monday. “Companies will be subject to internet rules wherever they are.” The U.K. plan follows steps by Australia, the European Union and others to increase scrutiny of tech companies that until now have largely avoided any form of industry regulation. Last week, Australia passed legislation that included potential prison sentences of up to three years for executives who fail to remove abhorrent material from their platforms. In the U.K., too, enforcement powers could go as far as imposing liability on individual company managers.”

CNN: Facebook And Google Will Face Congress Over White Nationalism

“Representatives from Facebook and Google will be on Capitol Hill Tuesday to face questions from lawmakers about how their platforms are used by white supremacists. The hearing, which is being held by the House Judiciary Committee, comes just a few weeks after a terror attack in New Zealand that was streamed live on Facebook. Fifty people at two mosques were killed in the attack. The representatives from the two big tech companies' policy teams will appear on an eight person panel that will also include representatives from civil rights groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, and Candace Owens of the conservative group Turning Point USA. Google has received criticism for the role online search plays in spreading hateful ideologies, but its video sharing site YouTube has increasingly been slammed for hosting such content and its algorithms surfacing it. The New Zealand attack "underscores the urgency" of addressing the white supremacy problem on social media, Kristen Clarke, the head of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told CNN Business.”

The Washington Post: Facebook And Google To Be Quizzed On White Nationalism And Political Bias As Congress Pushes Dueling Reasons For Regulation

“Congressional lawmakers plan to grill Facebook and Google this week over the ways they police their platforms, including their efforts to stop online hate speech from spurring real-world violence, offering the latest sign that tech giants face a global regulatory reckoning for their business practices. For years, Silicon Valley has struggled to strike the right balance between allowing users to express themselves and preventing the viral spread of objectionable posts, photos and videos. But a series of recent, high-profile failures in the eyes of some Democrats and Republicans have prompted renewed debate in Washington over the need to hold tech companies accountable for the content they allow or block on the web. That tension will be on display beginning Tuesday, when House Democratic lawmakers plan to explore the spread of white nationalism on social media. The hearing grows out of concern that Facebook, Google and other tech giants have become digital incubators for some of the most deadly, racially motivated attacks around the world, including a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, the shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last year and the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month.”

The Wall Street Journal: Facebook Bends To EU Pressure On ‘Misleading’ Fine Print

“Facebook Inc. FB -0.45% has bowed to demands from European Union regulators to change what the bloc had called its misleading terms of service, the latest example of a broader effort by governments globally to exercise more control over tech firms. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm Tuesday said that Facebook has agreed to address a list of outstanding concerns that it and a group of national consumer-protection authorities had articulated about the company’s terms of service. The changes will be made by June, the commission said. Among the commitments the commission disclosed, Facebook will spell out for users how it makes money by using personal information about them to sell targeted advertising, and clarify that it can be held liable for misuse of user data when it “has not acted with due professional diligence.”