Eye on Extremism: August 11

BBC News: UK Could Face Islamist Threat For Decades, Former MI5 Chief Warns

“The UK may continue to face the threat of Islamist terrorism for another ‘20 to 30 years’, the former head of MI5 has said. Lord Evans told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the issue was a ‘generational problem’ and that the UK needed to ‘persevere’ with efforts to defeat it. He also said devices connected to the internet needed to be made more secure in the face of emerging cyber threats. And he warned that Russia was likely to try to interfere in the UK's democracy. Lord Evans stepped down as the director general of the security service MI5 in 2013 at a time when it seemed that the terrorism threat from al-Qaeda might be subsiding.”

Fox News: ‘Sophisticated’ ISIS Plot To Bomb Airliner Raises Serious Questions

“The most sophisticated terror plot ever attempted on Australian soil – to bring down an Etihad airline leaving Sydney airport – is now known to have been planned, directed and even supplied directly by ISIS. Not only did the instructions for the attack come directly from commanders in the terror group – but the military-grade plastic explosives used to build the bomb were sent via airmail. They were shipped from Turkey to Australia by commercial air cargo, most probably in a passenger jet. That high-grade explosives were so easily sent via airmail, halfway across the world will have alarm bells ringing in Western security agencies.”

Newsmax: FBI: ISIS Used Ebay To Send Terror Money To US

“An American citizen charged with supporting the Islamic State received thousands of dollars from fake eBay transactions via a global financial network run by a now-dead official of the terrorist group, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed Thursday. The alleged ISIS operative, Mohamed Elshinawy, who is in his 30s, received $8,700 from people associated with the terrorist group, including five payments through PayPal, The Wall Street Journal reported. Elshinawy was arrested in 2016 for his alleged ISIS ties. His PayPal payments came from a company owned by Siful Sujan, according to the FBI affidavit.”

Reuters: Militants Trapped In Raqqa Center But Syrian Kurd Commander Sees Long Battle

“U.S.-backed forces now have Islamic State fighters surrounded in central Raqqa, a Syrian Kurdish commander said, but he predicted that driving the militants out could take up to four months. ‘We've cleared about half of Old Raqqa ... and we're advancing on all axes,’ said Haval Gabar, the 25-year-old commander from the Kurdish YPG militia who is directing the assault on the Old City front in Islamic State's Syrian stronghold. Units of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance dominated by the YPG, fully linked up in Raqqa's southern districts on Tuesday, encircling the militants in the city center which includes the Old City.”

The Daily Caller: ISIS Stole $800 Million From Iraq, But Proves Worthless In The Grand Scheme Of Things

“A report released by the Central Bank of Iraq indicates that the Islamic State militant group had stolen $830 million dollars from Iraqi bank facilities and reserves in 2014, according to Newsweek. Following the terrorist organization’s caliphate declaration in July of 2014, the group has had a fairly large cash-flow. Their large income not only came from seized public and private banks, but also from the sale of oil and weapons, taxation, and human trafficking, among other things. ‘Unlike many terrorist groups, which finance themselves mainly through wealthy donors, the Islamic State has used its control over a territory that is roughly the size of the U.K. and home to millions of people to develop diversified revenue channels that make it more resilient to U.S. offensives,’ The Washington Post reported in 2015.”

United States

Politico: Trump: We're 'Very Close' To A Decision On Afghanistan Troops

“President Donald Trump said Thursday he’s ‘very close’ to deciding whether he will approve a plan for more troops in Afghanistan. ‘We’re getting close. We’re getting very close,’ Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, according to a pool report. ‘It’s a very big decision for me.’ POLITICO reported earlier Thursday that U.S. and Afghan military commanders have run into an unexpected roadblock, as Trump’s indecision has lingered for months. Military leaders were caught off guard when the commander in chief questioned whether the 16-year effort to stabilize Afghanistan is still worth it, rather than immediately approving their plan to increase troop levels.”

CNN: John McCain Announces His Own Strategy For Afghanistan

“Sen. John McCain on Thursday unveiled his own strategy for the US in Afghanistan — a step he says he's taking because President Donald Trump's administration isn't coming up with one. McCain's Afghan strategy includes adding more US troops for counterterrorism missions, increasing US airpower to aid Afghan forces and providing the US military with broader authority to target enemy forces including the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda and ISIS. The Arizona Republican also would have the US military advising Afghan forces at the Kandak, or battalion level, which is about 600 troops.”

Syria

Newsweek: War On ISIS: U.S. Bombing Pushes Final Christians Out Of Raqqa

“Intense bombing by the U.S-led coalition fighting to liberate Raqqa and deadly clashes in the de facto Syrian capital of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) have pushed some of the last remaining Christians out of the city. The harsh subjugation of minorities such as Christians is one of ISIS's calling cards throughout the Middle East. The United Nations has called the group’s systematic destruction of the ethnic Yazidis in Iraq a genocide. The militants’ repression of other religious faiths it considers heretical has varied by degrees in the territory it controlled.”

The Jerusalem Post: How The Syrian Civil War Will Look Post-Islamic State

“A military offensive targeting the capital of the Islamic State's self-declared ‘caliphate’ is paying dividends, with Brett McGurk—US special envoy for the coalition against the Islamic State—revealing that about 45% of Raqqa has been recaptured. ‘Today, [the Islamic State] is fighting for every last block…and fighting for its own survival,’ he affirmed. ‘They most likely will die there.’ The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces—mainly compromised of Kurdish militias known as YPG—launched an operation on June 6 to liberate Raqqa, which was seized by Islamic State in 2014. The loss of its ‘headquarters’ would be a second consecutive major setback for the jihadist group, which was driven from its Iraqi bastion of Mosul last month.”

Reuters: Syrian Army Gains Ground On Jordan Border In Southwest

“The Syrian army and its allies seized control of at least 30 km (19 miles) of Syria's border with Jordan from rebels in an attack on Thursday, two rebel groups and a Syrian military source said. A military media unit run by Hezbollah, a close ally of the Syrian government, said the army and its allies had gained control over all checkpoints and border posts on the border in Sweida, one of four Syrian provinces that border Jordan. Rebel groups, some of them backed by Western and Arab states, still control much of Syria's southwestern frontier with Jordan and Israel.”

The Guardian: Syria: US-Led Coalition Accused Of Failing To Avoid Civilian Deaths

“Concerns are mounting over the civilian cost of the US-led coalition’s campaign to reclaim Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, with reports of airstrikes killing and wounding hundreds of Syrians. The reports, which cannot be definitively confirmed but are considered reliable by UN officials, raise questions about the US commitment to protect civilians in the battle amid the reported loosening of the rules of engagement under President Donald Trump. ‘The coalition is not taking any precautions to avoid civilian casualties,’ said Aghid al-Khodr, a senior editor at Sound and Picture, an organisation that maintains a network of clandestine correspondents in the Isis capital.”

Turkey

Reuters: Turkey Detains Suspected Islamic State Militant For Planning To Bring Down U.S. Plane: Dogan

“Turkish authorities have detained a suspected Islamic State militant of Russian origin after he allegedly planned to use a drone to bring down a U.S. plane at the Incirlik air base, Dogan News Agency said on Thursday. Dogan, citing security officials, said Russian national Renat Bakiev was detained after police surveillance showed him scouting the southern city of Adana, where the base is located, with the aim of carrying out his attack. Bakiev told authorities that he was a member of Islamic State and planned to use a drone to bring down a U.S. plane and carry out an attack against U.S. nationals, Dogan said.”

Radio Free Europe: Russian Suspected Of Planning Drone Attack On U.S. Aircraft In Turkey

“Media reports in Turkey say law enforcement authorities have detained a suspected Islamic State (IS) militant from Russia who was allegedly planning a drone attack on U.S. aircraft at Incirlik air base. The August 10 reports cited unnamed officials as saying the Russian citizen, identified as Ruslan Bakiyev, was detained in the southern city of Adana while ‘studying’ the area around Incirlik. Reports also said Bakiyev was suspected of plotting an attack on the Alevi Muslim community in the region. Turkey is a NATO member, and the U.S. Air Force uses Incirlik for the air campaign against IS in Syria and Iraq.”

Afghanistan

Bloomberg: Islamic State Preys On Unemployed Afghans To Strengthen Forces

“As unemployment worsens in strife-torn Afghanistan, the Islamic State has arrived to help the jobless with a lucrative new profession: terrorist. The insurgent group has made significant headway in Afghanistan and is recruiting local villagers, as well as its enemy -- the Taliban -- to paid jobs in order to expand its influence across the north, according to local Afghan officials. Hundreds of local villagers from remote areas of the Faryab and Jawzjan provinces and several Taliban commanders with more than 300 fighters have pledged allegiance to ISIS in the past six months, Mohammad Sami Khairkhowah, the head of provincial council of Faryab said by phone. They are paid above $500 monthly, thrice the wage of a government soldier, he said.”

Yemen

NPR: Yemen Teeters On Brink Of A New 'Catastrophe' As Blood Bank Eyes Closure

“In the past two years, Yemen has endured no end of crises. At least 10,000 people have been killed in the war between Iran-backed Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition seeking to oust them from power. Still, Yemen's health ministry says that violence has exacted a smaller death toll than the closure of the airport in the capital, Sanaa, which has left thousands more people incapable of seeking medical treatment abroad. And both tolls pale in comparison to the cholera outbreak now ravaging the country, where an eroding infrastructure has allowed the disease to fester at a frightening rate.”

Daily Signal: Why The Crisis In Yemen Matters To The United States

“For years, Yemen has been one of the world’s poorest countries. Today, its economy is on the verge of collapse, infectious disease is rampant, and competing factions pose an existential threat to the country. A civil war has left Yemen in what some are calling the world’s ‘largest humanitarian crisis to date.’ After the Arab Spring protests forced former President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power in 2012, he joined with rebels supported by Iran to overthrow his successor, current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Hadi, forced into exile in Saudi Arabia, made a comeback after a Saudi-led coalition intervened to support his government in 2015.”

NPR: Smugglers Reportedly Toss Up To 180 Migrants Overboard Near Yemen

“Scores of migrants were forced overboard by smugglers off the coast of Yemen — the second such incident in as many days. Up to 180 people were forced off a boat Thursday and at least five have drowned and 50 are still missing, according to the International Organization for Migration. ‘We have the five bodies for sure ... but we believe that there are certainly more than 50 who are still in the sea,’ Laurent de Boeck, the IOM's chief of mission in Yemen, told The Associated Press. It wasn't immediately clear where the refugees came from, but in a similar incident on Wednesday, 120 migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia were forced overboard in the same area by smugglers who feared arrest if they were caught with human cargo. Twenty-nine of them died, and 22 are still missing.”

Saudi Arabia

The New York Times: Saudis Propose That U.N. Run Airport In Yemen’s Capital

“Saudi Arabia proposed on Thursday that the United Nations reopen and run the international airport in Yemen’s capital, which has been closed for a year because of a Saudi blockade to pressure the Houthi rebel movement. The Saudi proposal, made by a spokesman for the military coalition that has been bombing the rebels in a war that began more than two years ago, appeared to take the United Nations by surprise. It came a day after international aid groups, vexed at what they called obstacles created by the Saudis that are hindering efforts to send relief supplies to Yemen, said that more civilians had died from deprivations attributable to Saudi restrictions on Yemeni airspace than from military airstrikes.”

The Washington Post: Why A Controversial Iraqi Shiite Cleric Visited Saudi Arabia

“In a move that surprised many analysts, Moqtada al-Sadr — a controversial Iraqi Shiite cleric and political leader — visited Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, late last month. This followed a season of marked improvement in relations between Baghdad and Riyadh over the past year, which allowed for a measure of guarded optimism toward the future of Iraqi diplomacy among some Iraq-watchers. Several diplomatic visits had taken place between the two countries in recent months. In February, Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s minister of foreign affairs, visited Iraq. In June, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Riyadh, followed by Iraqi Interior Minister Qassim al-Araji a month later.”

Egypt

The Times Of Israel: Egypt Police Kills 3 Jihadists Behind Anti-Coptic Attacks

“Egypt’s interior ministry said Thursday its forces had killed three jihadists suspected of involvement in deadly attacks against the country’s Coptic Christian minority. An officer also died in a shootout in the southern province of Qena on Tuesday, security officials said. Egypt is battling a local affiliate of the Islamic State terror group, which has claimed attacks that have killed more than 100 Copts since December. The shootout occurred after a suspected jihadist, who had previously been detained, guided police to an alleged hideout in Qena, the ministry said in a statement.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Israeli Forces Arrest 5 Palestinians Said On Way To Terror Attack

“Israeli forces arrested five Palestinians ‘suspected of being involved in terrorism’ in the West Bank village of Eizariya, outside Jerusalem, on Thursday, the Shin Bet security service said. The agency said it could not detail of what they are suspected at this time. However, Channel 10 news reported the five men were armed and were believed to be en route to committing a major attack in Jerusalem. According to the news outlet, the suspects had all left behind suicide notes. The Shin Bet said it could not confirm the report and provided no further details.”

Haaretz: Israel Held Secret Talks With Russia, U.S. Over Cease-Fire In Southern Syria

“Israel, the United States and Russia held a series of secret meetings early last month in Amman and in a European capital regarding the cease-fire in southern Syria. The parties focused in part on the establishment of ‘safe zones’ on the Syrian-Israeli and Syrian-Jordanian borders, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats. At these meetings, which were held a few days before Russia and the United States announced the cease-fire agreement, Israel presented numerous objections to the deal, saying the two powers were not paying enough attention to the importance of removing Iranian forces from Syria.”

BBC News: Israel To Speed Up Gaza Tunnel Barrier

“Israel is to accelerate the building of a huge barrier along its boundary with Gaza aimed at preventing militants from tunnelling under the border. The 64km (40-mile) long construction will reach a depth of 40m (131ft) below and 6m above ground, at a cost of 3bn shekels ($833m). An Israeli army commander said the barrier should be completed in 2019. Israel has sought to neutralise the threat of cross-border tunnels since its war with militants in Gaza in 2014. During 50 days of fighting, militants from Gaza's ruling Hamas faction used tunnels to infiltrate Israeli territory on four occasions, killing 12 soldiers. Israeli troops destroyed more than 30 tunnels and have found two since the end of the war.”

The Times Of Israel: Hamas Says Israel’s Anti-Tunnel Barrier Won’t Stop Its ‘Resistance’

“Hamas spokesperson says Israel’s barrier against tunnels currently under construction along the border with the Gaza Strip won’t stop the group’s attacks, but adds that Hamas does not want a violent escalation at this time. ‘The resistance in the Gaza Strip will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to defend the Palestinians from Israeli aggression,’ Hazem Kassam says. ‘Israel’s threats don’t frighten us, but we nevertheless aren’t seeking an escalation. We don’t fear a conflict. All Israel’s efforts won’t bring it security as long as it continues to occupy our land and besiege our nation,’ Kassam tells the Turkish news agency Anadolu.”

The New York Times: Israel’s Getting A New Wall, This One With A Twist

“Israel is building another wall to protect itself from its enemies. But rather than a major eyesore, much of this one will be invisible. In the coming months, military officials say, the army will be accelerating construction of a subterranean barrier around the Gaza Strip, designed to cut off tunnels running beneath the border into Israel like the ones Hamas militants used to ambush Israeli military posts during the summer-long war of 2014.”

Libya

Reuters: More Than Half A Million Children In Libya Need Help: UNICEF

“United Nations children agency UNICEF warned on Wednesday that more than half a million children in Libya need help and called on warring parties to end the violence and negotiate a political solution to the crisis.  Libya has spiraled into turmoil after a civil war ousted longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Rival brigades of former rebels backed by competing political factions have turned against each other in a fight for control. A U.N.-backed government in Tripoli is trying to extend its influence, though it is facing resistance from armed rivals.”

Germany

International Business Times: 16 And Brainwashed: Linda Wenzel Fled Germany To Fight For ISIS - Should She Face Execution?

“Linda Wenzel was only 15 when she started speaking to a man online who, it later turned out, was part of Isis. The German student from Pulsnitz was brainwashed by the Islamist preacher based in Hamburg, who sent her a copy of the Quran and convinced her to leave her home to join the terror group in Iraq. Police believe the girl had fallen in love with the preacher. Her mother, who lived with Wenzel after divorcing her father, had noticed her new interest in Islam. ‘She began leaving home with a small bag in which she had an Islamic headscarf and long flowing robes which she donned to cover up all her skin,’ she told local media.”

Europe

The Guardian: Number Of Migrants Arriving In Italy From Libya Falls By Half In July

“The Italian government has hailed a fall of more than 50% in the number of migrants from Libya reaching its coastline in July as a potential turning point made possible by tougher actions against smugglers operating in the Mediterranean. The number of migrants reaching Italy fell to 11,459 in July from 23,524 in June and 23,522 in July last year. Over the past few years the summer months have been the peak period for traffickers in the Mediterranean. The fall in numbers making the crossing is likely to be the result of a more aggressive turnaround policy by the Libyan navy and coastguard, backed by improved boats and equipment – funded by the European Union – and Italian-led training.”