Eye on Extremism: August 10

The Washington Post: Syria’s War Could Be Entering Its Last And Most Dangerous Phase

“As Syria’s war enters what could be its last and most dangerous stretch, the Syrian government and its allies will have to contend for the first time with the presence of foreign troops in the quest to bring the rest of the country back under President Bashar al-Assad’s control. The government’s recent defeat of rebels in the southwest of Syria has put Assad unassailably in control of a majority of the country, his hold on power now facing no discernible military or diplomatic threat. But at least a third of Syria remains outside government control, and those areas are occupied both by Turkish and American troops. Turkey has deployed soldiers in the northwest, in parts of the rebel-held province of Aleppo and in Idlib, which Assad has identified as the next target of an offensive. About 2000 U.S. Special Forces hold sway in the northeast, in support of their Kurdish allies fighting against the Islamic State. Iran has meanwhile entrenched its forces and allied militias alongside loyalist Syrian troops across government-held territory, stirring deep concern for Israel. Even as the war enters its final stages, the risk that it could ignite a wider conflict has not passed, analysts say. It will fall to Russia to steer Syria through the pitfalls ahead, as the only outside power to enjoy good relations with all the countries that have a stake in the Syrian war, including Israel and Iran.”

Newsweek: York County Teen Inspiring Failed Anti-Terrorist Bill Pleads Guilty To Helping Isis

“A South Carolina teen whose case prompted local law enforcement officials to attempt to change a law pleaded guilty to assisting ISIS in federal court on Wednesday. Zakaryia Abdin, 19, faces up to 20 years in prison following a string of arrests that York Police Chief Andy Robinson told Newsweek began when with an anonymous tip in 2014. Police found ISIS flags and other items in his home but could not prosecute him in local or state courts. Instead, Abdin was charged as a minor in possession of a handgun in the local court, a charge that Robinson said came “with the understanding that the FBI would eventually file for terrorism charges” at the federal level.  The FBI spent the next three years collecting evidence to file those charges, according to a report from WSOC. In those three years, Abdin allegedly attempted to plot a terror attack in the Carolinas and planned to kill U.S. troops. Robinson said his run-in with the state’s juvenile system “wasn’t very long,” and “he was released against the wishes of the officers.”

Voice Of America: Dissent In IS Ranks; Al-Baghdadi Still In Charge?

“In an extraordinary breach of the Islamic State's culture of unquestioning obedience, an IS writer calling himself Ibn Jubayr has penned a series of five scathing articles leveling direct and unprecedented criticism at the militant group's leadership, according to a respected monitoring group. The articles come amid a growing number of dissident social media posts by apparent IS members, a stark change in a group where any suggestion of disobedience or criticism normally has been met with harsh punishment, including whippings, torture and often, execution. The latest articles, monitored last month by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), were published on the Al-Nasihah channel on Telegram, the heavily encrypted phone messaging and social networking application used by IS supporters to communicate with each other. Ibn Jubayr is believed to be a member of a dissenting circle of IS scholars and clerics, who have been sidelined by power struggles and are dissatisfied with the leadership. They are especially angry at the domination of the upper ranks of the terror group by Iraqis. In his attack, Ibn Jubayr decried the "Iraqization" of the leadership and questioned whether the militants’ caliph, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is powerless and effectively excluded from decision-making.”

Fox News: Iran Plots Terror On European Soil As EU Tries To Shield Regime From Trump Sanctions Push

“As the European Union decries America's restoration of Iran sanctions, the Islamic regime is rewarding Europe’s support by ramping up its terror operation on the continent -- allegedly plotting attacks against Iranian dissidents there and politicians who back them. The Trump administration restored sanctions on the rogue regime this week, a consequence of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That move provoked a strong response from European leaders, who said they “deeply regret” the U.S. decision. “The lifting of nuclear-related sanctions is an essential part of the deal,” E.U. High Representative Federica Mogherini, along with French, German and British foreign ministers, said in a joint statement, vowing to “protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran.”  Last month, an Iranian diplomat based in Vienna was one of four arrested for an alleged plot to bomb an annual gathering of Iranian dissident groups in Paris, which Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani attended.  German prosecutors allege that Assadollah Assadi was a member of the “Ministry of Intelligence and Security,” (MOIS) tasked with combating observation groups inside and outside of Iran. He is charged with activity as a foreign agent and conspiracy to commit murder. Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has called the allegations a ploy. But the regime, while facing significant unrest at home over corruption and mismanagement that has led to water shortages and food price hikes, allegedly has been exporting terror to Europe.”

Reuters: Suspected Boko Haram Militants Kill At Least 15 Soldiers And Disaster Worker: Sources

“At least 15 soldiers and an official from Nigeria’s disaster agency were killed in an ambush by suspected Boko Haram militants in the northeast of the country, security sources said on Thursday, weeks after 20 troops went missing in an attack. The ambush occurred late on Wednesday in the northern Damasak area of Borno, the state worst hit by the jihadist group which has killed more than 30,000 people since 2009, when it launched an insurgency to create an Islamic caliphate. It highlights the challenge to secure the northeast months ahead of a February election President Muhammadu Buhari plans to contest in which security looks set to be a campaign issue. In July a fourth commander in 14 months was named to lead the fight against the militants after a number of embarrassing defeats. Two soldiers and a staff member from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said that 15 troops and a NEMA official who was with them were killed in the latest incident. “We lost 15 troops. Our men were carrying out digging of trenches at Damasak yesterday when the Boko Haram terrorists opened fire on them,” said a soldier who did not want to be named. The NEMA worker, who also did not want to be named, said 18 were killed. NEMA also released a statement in which it confirmed the death of an official in the attack.”

Sky News: Fans Warned To Expect 'Overt' Anti-Terror Measures At Football Stadiums

“Police are seeking the help of football fans in tackling terrorism and are asking them to be vigilant at matches. Officers say stadiums could be targeted as extremists seek out crowded places to attack. Chief Superintendent Nick Aldworth said: "We know from what we've seen on the ground, and also from terrorist rhetoric, that they are interested in attacking crowded places generally, and that would include stadia. "We want (fans) to think about what they might do in the event of an attack and we want them to be really, really vigilant. "And not to be inhibited about reporting stuff to us. If it's trivial to you, it might be significant to us. Don't worry about it - just tell us and leave it to us to sort it out." He said there was no information about a specific threat to football grounds but previous attacks had shown they could be targeted. The attacks on the Stade de France in Paris in 2015 and on Manchester Arena last year showed such locations could be hit, Mr Aldworth said.”

United States

The Wall Street Journal: In Kandahar, U.S. Troops Remain, Even If Salsa Night Is Gone

Salsa Night on the Kandahar Air Field Boardwalk is dead. The TGI Fridays on southern Afghanistan’s biggest military base is long gone, too. They have been replaced by a lonely coffee shop that sells doughnuts and samosas and a Kebab House selling pizza and Philly cheesesteaks. But American soldiers are still here, running laps past the small Sept. 11 memorial, playing soccer in the 90-degree summer-evening heat, and checking out the hip-hop dance night at the USO Ice House. The Boardwalk has always served as an apt metaphor for the state of the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan, and in important ways still does. At the height of President Obama’s military surge in 2011, it was a surreal oasis for 30,000 people working to beat back Taliban advances. Now, it is pretty quiet. About 3,500 American forces work on the sprawling desert base, where they fly Reaper drones and Warthog warplanes, train Afghan helicopter pilots, and keep trying to execute an exit strategy that sticks. In Kandahar and around the country, the U.S. is still battling corruption, still trying to build a reliable Afghan military, still trying to prevent ethnic divisions from triggering another civil war, still worrying about Afghan soldiers turning their guns on their American partners, still badgering Pakistan to crack down on Taliban havens across the border, still trying to turn poppy farmers into pomegranate growers."

Las Vegas Review Journal: MIT Grad To Serve Up To 10 Years In Las Vegas Terrorism Case

“A Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate who prosecutors say stored a cache of explosives in his Las Vegas home was ordered Thursday to serve four to 10 years behind bars. But while Nicolai Mork serves time in state prison, federal authorities will continue to dig into his computer storage, investigating whether he committed further crimes, prosecutors said. Mork, 41, pleaded guilty in June to attempted unlawful acts related to weapons of mass destruction and possession of components of an explosive or incendiary device with the intent to manufacture. “I’m very sorry for my actions,” Mork told District Judge Jennifer Togliatti. “And I’m just glad that no one was injured or otherwise harmed.” Las Vegas police first tracked Mork in December 2016 after linking him to at least eight Molotov cocktails found near “seemingly random homes” in the southeast valley neighborhood where he lived, according to court records. Inside Mork’s home, detectives discovered 264 pounds of a mixture of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder, commonly referred to as Tannerite. The combination “could cause substantial damage to Mork’s residence and the houses around him,” his arrest report stated. Chief Deputy District Attorney Jake Villani said he did not believe Mork’s prior statement that he did not know the possession was illegal and had the weapons and ammunition for target practice. “I was hoping he would take more responsibility and he would learn from this, and it doesn’t appear that he has,” Villani said after the sentencing. “That’s concerning to the state, but given that, it’s a good negotiation for both sides.”

Syria

Agence Frenche Presse: Second Syrian Druze Held Hostage By ISIS Dies

“A second hostage has died after being abducted by the ISIS extremist group in southern Syria last month, a journalist in the area and a monitor said Thursday. The 65-year-old Syrian woman was among more than 30 people seized by ISIS two weeks ago as it unleashed a violent attack against the Druze minority of Sweida province. ISIS has been in talks with Syria’s government and its ally Russia to swap the hostages for jihadists held by the regime. The ultra-conservative group beheaded one of them, a 19-year-old male student, last week. On Thursday, the negotiating delegation received images showing the lifeless body of a second hostage, said Nour Radwan, who heads the Sweida24 news outlet. “After cutting off communication for several days, ISIS corresponded with the negotiating delegation of Sweida to tell them she died of illness,” Radwan told AFP. Relatives told Radwan the woman suffered from heart problems and diabetes, but they had no way of verifying if they had caused her death. There is little information on what conditions the hostages are being kept in, including whether they are subject to torture or other abuses. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, also said one of the female hostages had died under “mysterious circumstances.” Sweida province is the heartland of the country’s Druze minority, which made up around three percent of Syria’s pre-war population -- or around 700,000 people. On July 25, ISIS waged a series of suicide bombings, shootings and stabbings that left more than 250 people dead across the province, most of them civilians. It later emerged the extremists had also kidnapped more than 30 people -- mostly Druze women and their children -- during the attack. While ISIS claimed responsibility for the violence, it has made no mention of the abductions on its usual channels.”

Turkey

Bloomberg: U.S.-Turkey Relations Will Never Be The Same

“There are only two ways that the diplomatic rift between the U.S. and Turkey can end: a compromise that salvages the relationship as best possible, or a complete rupture with devastating consequences both for Turkey's economy and America's regional strategic interests. Either way, there is no going back to the way things were. The arrest in Turkey of American pastor Andrew Brunson nearly two years ago has led to a diplomatic spat that threatens a full-blown economic meltdown in Turkey. Brunson, along with many foreign nationals that were detained in the wake of the failed 2016 coup attempt, has been accused of "supporting terrorism." A deal for Brunson's release seemed likely as Turkish officials traveled to Washington this week, but fell apart apparently over last-minute Turkish demands. Meanwhile, tensions have ratcheted up. The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Turkey's interior and justice ministers. Erdogan threatened retaliation and got the support of most of the Turkish opposition. On Wednesday, Stars and Stripes reported that a group of pro-government lawyers in Turkey have filed charges against several U.S. officers at the Incirlik Air Base, accusing them too of ties to terrorist groups. They are demanding all flights leaving the base be temporarily suspended and a search warrant be executed.”

Afghanistan

CNN: Taliban Fighters Launch Attack On Afghanistan's Ghazni Province

“Taliban forces launched a coordinated attack on the provincial city of Ghazni in Afghanistan, south of the capital Kabul, in the early hours of Friday, according to the government and the Taliban. Afghan soldiers fought back as militants converged from four sides of the province, resulting in multiple casualties on all sides, Ghazni provincial government spokesman Mohammad Arif Noori told CNN. Sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the provincial city as Afghan forces exchanged fire with militants. Noori said that a group of Taliban fighters who had made their way into the city were holed up near the provincial police headquarters and were firing on the building. In a tweet, US Forces Afghanistan called the attack a "failed attempt to seize terrain," saying that Afghan forces were able to maintain control of government buildings. American military assets were involved in the city's defense, the tweet said. "US Forces responded with close-air support this morning in #Ghazni. Afghan forces held their ground and maintain control of all (government) centers. Another failed attempt by Taliban to seize terrain, while creating strategically inconsequential headlines," it read.Ghazni security forces had managed to drive out most of the Taliban forces from the city center, Noori said.”

The Wall Street Journal: Afghan Forces, Backed By U.S. Firepower, Stave Off Taliban Siege

“Taliban fighters stormed a strategic city in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, laying siege to government buildings and security installations, local officials and residents said, in a show of insurgent strength ahead of an expected cease-fire later this month. Over more than six hours of heavy fighting, during which some residents huddled in their homes in terror, the U.S. carried out airstrikes to help Afghan security forces beat back the early-morning attack on Ghazni, the capital of Ghazni province located 80 miles southeast of Kabul. By midmorning, the city of some 143,000 people was calm except for sporadic gunfire, a provincial security official said by telephone. “I’m at my office now, and I haven’t heard any in 10 minutes,” he said. Earlier, in the dark of night following a multipronged attack by the Taliban, the situation was far more fraught. A member of the provincial council, Nasir Faqiri, said the city was facing “disaster” unless central government authorities in Kabul sent help to prevent crucial landmarks in the city from falling under the militants’ control. It wasn’t immediately known if additional government forces arrived.”

Yemem

Asharq Al-Awsat: Houthi Commander Killed South Of Hodeidah

“A senior Houthi militia commander has been killed in an attack by the National Army's ‘Giant Brigades’ on the center of the Duraihimi district, south of Hodeidah. “Commander of the Iranian Houthi rapid intervention forces Sheikh Mansour al-Sudi was killed along with a number of his escorts during the attack," the Giant brigades said in a brief statement published on its Facebook page. Sudi has led an operation to support Houthi militias in Duraihimi’s battle, and he has recruited many people from Mabyan district in Hajjah governorate, sending them to the battlefronts there, the statement added. The senior Houthi Commander, who goes by the nom de guerre of Abu Humaid, has also led the rapid intervention forces in Duraihimi. He was one of Mabyan’s elders and a member of the local council in the district. The insurgents had sought to keep news of his killing along with the death of Commander of the West Coast axis Abu Hagira away from the spotlight. “Houthi militias have been reacting to their daily losses of lives …. by intensifying the shelling on liberated At Tuhayat District and a number of other liberated villages in Duraihimi, causing losses and material damages,” local residents said. Fighting also continued to rage in Jouf province amid the advance of the National Army forces, supported by the Saudi-led coalition, which liberated a new mountain chain linking the militias’ strongholds in Jouf and Saada provinces after fierce battles that resulted in casualties from both sides, a military source told Asharq Al-Awsat. Saudi-led coalition forces also continued their operations to destroy Houthi sites and reinforcements in various areas, including Hodeidah, the west coast and Amran, where Houthi military targets were attacked in Amshia district.”

Egypt

Egypt Today: Family Terrorism: How Terrorists Recruit Nowadays

“The terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq and their decreasing sources of financial funding and human resources will cause them to resort to what has become known as family terrorism, according to a new study by the observatory of Thought Fatwas and Extremist Thoughts in affiliation with the Egyptian Fatwa center. What this means is that to recruit more individuals, terrorist organizations will try to spread within family frameworks. One way this is done is through marriages, such as those that took place during the formation of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  The Observatory explained that a number of international reports confirmed that more than a quarter of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq have ties of kinship and friendship at varying degrees. When it comes to recruitment, terrorist organizations can use these ties to their benefit.  The study warned that confronting the phenomenon of family terrorism is difficult because of its secrecy and ability to plan and coordinate seriously dangerous operations.  Terrorist organizations developed their mechanisms to infiltrate social structure. It is true that terrorist groups may have family and relatives; however, what is new is that these family members participate in these terrorist attacks. A rather horrendous example of family terrorism can be seen in the terrorist attacks in Indonesia in May 2018 when a family with a father, mother and son, targeted three churches in Surabaya, killing 12 people and injuring 40 others. A day after the attack, another family of five carried out a suicide attack on a police station, injuring dozens of people. These incidents are not limited to certain countries. The United States also happened to witness a family terrorism attack at the bombing of the Boston Marathon back in 2013 carried out by brothers. The incident killed three and injured 264 people. Arab countries are not an exception to these phenomena. In July 2015, Saudi authorities announced the arrest of three brothers that were believed to be linked to the suicide attack on a Shia mosque in Kuwait.  Some of the questions on family terrorism deal with what caused the phenomena to spread, how it spreads and why they have resorted to this type of recruitment. The studies noted that family terrorism could be linked to issues of racism, discrimination, and non-integration, or rather marginalization, within societies that pushes these individuals into joining terrorist, extremist groups. To them, it could mean some sort of protection and a fulfillment in their ambitions to be part of something.” By recruiting entire extremist families, terrorist organizations can circumvent the strict restrictions imposed by the security services of different countries, since the association of terrorists with relatives facilitates coordination between them.”

Africa

Xinhua: Sudan, Libya, Chad, Niger Vow To Work Together To Fight Terrorism, Organized Crimes On Borders

“Sudan, Libya, Chad and Niger on Thursday agreed to enhance cooperation in combating security challenges, including terrorism and organized crimes on their borders. The third ministerial meeting on enhancing cooperation in the field of securing and monitoring joint borders among Sudan, Libya, Niger and Chad kicked off in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. Sudan's Foreign Minister Al-Dirdiri Mohamed Ahmed, addressing the opening session, underlined the importance of relaunching the joint operation center to exchange information among the four countries. He said that the success of the Sudanese-Chadian forces in securing the borders between the two countries gave an example of what joint work can achieve. Libya's Foreign Minister Mohamed Taher Siala also underlined the importance of the united efforts by the four countries to deal with the security challenges of terrorism, organized crimes and illegal immigration. Nigerien Defense Minister Kalla Mountari called for speeding up joint coordination to secure the borders. He said the countries of the region are facing challenges that need a common will to tackle, mainly through establishing mechanisms for exchanging information about the border security. Chadian Foreign Minister Mahamat Zene Cherif said that the cooperation among the four countries would continue until all aspired goals are achieved. Last June, the four countries signed a framework agreement in the Chadian capital N'Djamena to control and monitor their common borders.”

Germany

Deutch Welles: German 'Islamic State' Recruit Lamia K's Journey To Iraq

“It was 2014 when Lamia K. packed her bags and, her two teenage daughters in tow, moved to Syria to join the "Islamic State" (IS), which was sweeping across Iraq and Syria. A divorced woman in her early 50s at the time of her departure, Lamia kept mostly to herself, former friends and acquaintances told DW. Lamia grew up middle class in Rabat and moved to Trier, in western Germany, in the mid-1990s with a grant to pursue a postgraduate degree in German studies. There she met a man who converted to Islam to marry her and with whom she would go on to have three children: a boy and two girls. One friend in Trier, one of a handful of Moroccan women who met each other regularly, described Lamia as strong-minded. Back then Lamia went to mosque for the important religious holidays, but stopped wearing her headscarf after she settled in Germany. People interviewed by DW agreed that Lamia, who has dual German-Moroccan citizenship, was liberal, "normal." "She wasn't conservative or radical," her friend recalled. 'I don't understand' The family moved to the western German city of Mainz, where Lamia's husband had a job. And, then, Lamia changed radically. "I don't understand what happened," a friend told DW. Lamia and her husband divorced while the children were still small. She eventually took them to Morocco for a couple of months and then moved back to Germany and settled in the southwestern city of Mannheim.  It's unclear why she moved to Mannheim, which, security officials say, is by no means a hotbed of radicals.”

Europe

Agence Frenche Presse: Russia Jails IS-Linked Teen For St Petersburg Cathedral Bomb Plot

“A Russian court on Thursday jailed a teenaged supporter of the Islamic State jihadist group over a plot to carry out a suicide attack at Saint Petersburg's Kazan cathedral, a key tourist attraction. The military district court sentenced 18-year-old Yevgeny Yefimov to serve five years in a strict-regime penal colony, RIA Novosti news agency reported. The Russian security service said in December 2017 it had broken up an IS cell that was plotting to stage the attack later that month, with President Vladimir Putin thanking his US counterpart Donald Trump for assistance in the case. Putin said the CIA had provided intelligence on two plotters. Yefimov, a slight youth, was teaching English at a private school at the time he was detained in December. He had rented a shipping container in the centre of Saint Petersburg where investigators found chemicals and equipment used to make explosives.  The massive early 19th-century cathedral, modelled after St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, is located on the city's main thoroughfare, Nevsky Prospekt. Yefimov told the court he had been in touch with IS fighters in Syria who encouraged him to carry out an attack and he planned to blow himself up during a religious service.  He said he had since changed his views and was glad his attempt to make explosives failed. Asking for forgiveness in court, he said he planned to spend his prison time studying. Russia has already jailed two men for failing to report the plotters while having "credible information" and for possessing illegal weapons. Two other men allegedly involved in the plot still face prosecution.”

Southeast Asia

Associated Press: Philippine Official: Foreign Militant Behind Van Explosion

“A foreign militant was behind a powerful van blast that targeted a big public gathering in the southern Philippines but failed after the vehicle stalled and instead killed the suspect and 10 others, an official said Thursday. Interior Undersecretary Eduardo Ano said there is no conclusive evidence the Islamic State group plotted the suicide bombing. The extremist group, however, could benefit by claiming responsibility to project strength and gain new recruits, he said. The Islamic State group has claimed credit for the attack, saying the attacker was a Moroccan. However, it erroneously cited a much higher military death toll in the July 31 blast. All information and forensic data showed the suspected bomber was a foreigner, said Ano, a former military chief who now oversees the national police, which is investigating the explosion in the outskirts of Lamitan city in Basilan province. "He was targeting an event that gathered about 3,000 people but something went wrong with his van," Ano told The Associated Press, referring to a scheduled program by schools to promote nutrition in Lamitan, which was near the scene of the bombing outside an army militia outpost. The suspected militant asked villagers to push his white van after it stalled but they became suspicious after seeing unusual wires protruding from plastic gallon tanks in the vehicle, which blew up and killed him, a soldier, five militiamen and four civilians, Ano said.”

Technology

The Express: Disgusting And Sickening...The IS Terror Videos That Thousands See On Facebook

“The material is at risk of radicalising young men and women in the UK and could inspire fresh terror attacks. The internet giant was failing to prevent the spread of hate-filled propaganda, a counter extremism group said. Yesterday the Daily Express was able to access a catalogue of sickening videos showing beheadings, shootings and bombings carried out by jihadist executioners. Some had been online for months and viewed thousands of times. Others had been uploaded in the past fortnight but all were available to be shared publicly despite a supposed crackdown on radical extremism. It included the notorious video of British-educated Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John”. He is seen triumphantly clutching the severed head of American aid worker Peter Kassig. The vile video had been watched 111 times. Former Tory minister Mark Simmonds, senior adviser to the Counter Extremism Project, a notfor-profit organisation formed to combat the growing threat from extremist ideologies online, said: “These videos portray disgusting violence and executions. “They explicitly glorify IS, brainwash its followers and seek to groom new recruits, yet they have been watched and shared for weeks and months without action being taken.”