Eye on Extremism: August 2

The Washington Post: U.S. Preparing To Withdraw Thousands Of Troops From Afghanistan In Initial Deal With Taliban

“The Trump administration is preparing to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan in exchange for concessions from the Taliban, including a cease-fire and a renunciation of al-Qaeda, as part of an initial deal to end the nearly 18-year-old war, U.S. officials say. The agreement, which would require the Taliban to begin negotiating a larger peace deal directly with the Afghan government, could cut the number of American troops in the country from roughly 14,000 to between 8,000 and 9,000, the officials said. That number would be nearly the same as when President Trump took office. The plan has taken shape after months of negotiations between the Taliban and Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born American diplomat who was appointed by the Trump administration last year to jump-start talks. Officials said an agreement could be finalized ahead of the Afghan presidential election in September, though they cautioned that Taliban leaders could delay and that significant challenges remain. The proposal is likely to be viewed skeptically by some U.S. and Afghan officials who question the Taliban’s honesty and wonder how the United States can verify whether Taliban leaders are following through.”

The New York Times: Syria Says It Agrees To Cease-Fire In Rebel Stronghold

“Syria’s government said it has agreed to a conditional cease-fire starting late Thursday in northwestern Syria, according to state media. Government troops and allied Russia warplanes have been carrying out a three-month offensive against the rebel’s last stronghold, which has displaced hundreds of thousands and has targeted health facilities and other infrastructure. The decision came hours after U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres authorized an investigation into attacks on health facilities and schools in the rebel-held enclave, following a petition from 10 members of the U.N. Security Council. The offensive in Idlib and surrounding areas has unfolded since April 30, displacing more than 400,000 people and killing hundreds. Images of attacks on health facilities and residential homes were reminiscent of the peak of the violence in the eight-year conflict. International rights groups, western countries and the U.N. had appealed for a cease-fire. Around 3 million people are living inside the rebel-held area. A war monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there was no sign of a cease-fire. It said intense clashes continued on the southern edge of the rebel stronghold.”

CNN: US Transports Another Alleged American ISIS Fighter Back From Syria To Face Trial

“A federal grand jury in Dallas on Thursday indicted an American ISIS suspect who had been transported back to American soil from Syria. Omer Kuzu, who is 23, was charged with traveling to Syria and conspiring to provide material support to ISIS.  Kuzu, who was born in Dallas, traveled with his brother in 2014 from Houston to Istanbul and then was smuggled by ISIS into Syria, prosecutors say he told FBI investigators, according to court documents.  He eventually received weapons and other training in Mosul, Iraq, and then returned to Syria, where ISIS maintained the headquarters for its self-declared caliphate, according to the documents. Prosecutors allege Kuzu was issued weapons and was paid the equivalent of $125 a month to maintain and repair communications equipment for front-line ISIS fighters.  Kuzu pleaded not guilty at the arraignment in Texas, according to Erin Dooley, a spokeswoman for the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas. CNN has reached out for comment to the Federal Public Defender's Office in Dallas, which is representing Kuzu. US officials familiar with the situation had told CNN earlier Thursday that the US government had transported Kuzu from Syria to face trial for his alleged involvement with the terror group.”

CBS News: CEP President Fran Townsend Discusses The Death Of Hamza Bin Laden And Its Potential Impact On The Terrorist Group Al-Qaeda

“Sources tell CBS News Osama bin Laden's favored son has been killed in a military operation. Hamza Bin Laden was in line to take over al Qaeda, the terror group founded by his father. David Martin reports.”

JNS: Federal Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of Facebook In Case On Hamas Terror Victims

“A federal appeals court on Wednesday sided against victims of attacks by Hamas who looked to hold Facebook accountable for allegedly enabling a social-media platform for the U.S.-designated terrorist group to promote its objectives. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which monitors Internet material, protected Facebook from liability. “Merely arranging and displaying others’ content to users of Facebook through such algorithms—even if the content is not actively sought by those users—is not enough to hold Facebook responsible as the ‘developer’ or ‘creator’ of that content,” wrote Judge Christopher Droney of the three-judge appeals court panel. However, Chief Judge Robert Katzmann dissented and wrote, “Over the past two decades the Internet has outgrown its swaddling clothes. It is fair to ask whether the rules that governed its infancy should still oversee its adulthood.” The plaintiffs, which included Stuart and Robbi Force, whose son 28-year-old Taylor Force was stabbed to death in Israel by a Palestinian in 2016, asked for $3 billion in damages from Facebook for allowing a platform for Hamas to promote, encourage and celebrate terrorist attacks in Israel.”

United States

New York Post: FBI: Conspiracy Theory ‘Extremists’ Are A Terror Threat

“The FBI has for the first time identified “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” as a terror threat — including the believers in the shadowy QAnon network, according to a report. An FBI bulletin dated May 30, 2019, from the bureau’s Phoenix field office and obtained by Yahoo News describes the growing threat and lists multiple arrests tied to violent incidents sparked by fringe beliefs. “The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the document states. The feds believe the conspiracy theory extremists will likely increase their activities during the 2020 presidential election cycle, according to the document cited by Yahoo. The bureau said another factor driving the mounting threat is “the uncovering of real conspiracies or cover-ups involving illegal, harmful, or unconstitutional activities by government officials or leading political figures.” The FBI does not specify which people or cover-ups it was referring to. The document specifically mentions the infamous QAnon conspiracy, whose believers say a deep state of Hollywood celebs and Democrats is working to undermine President Trump and is running an international pedophile ring including Clinton associates from a DC pizzeria.”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: DFW Man Fought Alongside ISIS Terrorists In Syria, Department Of Justice Says

“A Dallas man was indicted on charges of conspiring to provide support to ISIS, the Department of Justice said Thursday.  Omer Kuzu, 23, was detained overseas by the Syrian Democratic Forces while fighting with ISIS fighters in Syria early this year, he told the FBI. He was transferred to FBI custody and returned to Texas, where a federal grand jury indicted him. Kuzu was born in Dallas and visited Istanbul in October 2014 to join ISIS, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.  He told FBI agents that he and his brother were smuggled into Syria by ISIS and the terrorist group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The group gave him an AK-47 and paid him $125 a month to to repair communications equipment for ISIS fighters, the DOJ reported.  “There are few things more concerning to me than young Americans being radicalized by terrorists’ violent and hateful agendas while in the U.S., and then traveling abroad in order to fight for groups like ISIS,” said Erin Nealy Cox, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, in the press release. If he is convicted, Kuzu faces up to 20 years in prison.  “The FBI remains committed to protecting the United States from all terrorist threats,” said Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno of the FBI Dallas Field Office in the release.”

Syria

Associated Press: US Officials Say Islamic State Still Poses Global Threat

“The Islamic State remains a global threat despite losing the once vast territory it held in Syria and Iraq, U.S. officials said Thursday in warning about persistent violence from underground cells and an expansion of militants into new areas. Ambassador James Jeffrey, the State Department envoy to the international coalition fighting the Islamic State, told reporters that thousands of the extremist organization’s fighters are scattered around Syria and Iraq, where officials see a “persistent, resilient, rural terrorist level of violence” in that country. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces ousted Islamic State militants from the last piece of their self-declared calilphate earlier this year. But “the ISIS brand lives on around the world,” State Department counterterrorism coordinator Nathan Sales said as he joined Jeffrey to provide an update on the fight against the organization. “ISIS branches and networks now span the African continent from east to west and north to south,” Sales said. “They’ve increased the lethality of their attacks, they’ve expanded into new areas, and they’ve repeatedly targeted U.S. interests.” Sales also said the U.S. is also urging countries to take back and prosecute foreign fighters who flocked by the thousands to Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State.”

The Hill: ISIS Fighters Have Reverted To 'Shadow Warriors' Fighting An Endless War

“For all of its territorial losses, and despite President Trump’s boasts that we have “wiped out” ISIS, the terror group has demonstrated a phoenix-like ability to reconstitute itself from a mere 700 surviving fighters at the time of President Obama’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011. It is far from being completely defeated or obliterated.  The Pentagon has estimated the terrorist group has as many as 30,000 followers and has reverted to its roots as a deadly guerrilla insurgency. The United Nations agreed with the Pentagon’s estimate of ISIS fighters remaining in Iraq and Syria, and found that ISIS’s affiliates in Afghanistan, Libya and the Sinai also had 4,000, 3,000 and 1,000 hardcore fighters, respectively. Most worryingly, ISIS reportedly has set up fallback bases in the remote highlands to the southeast of Mosul, Iraq, in the Qara Chokh, Hamrin, and Makhmour Mountains.   ISIS members are carrying out sleeper cell terror attacks in Iraq and Syria, including the systematic killing of pro-government Iraqi elders, setting off massive car bombs, ambushing Shiite militias, dressing up as government troops at fake checkpoints and executing government employees, wiping out Iranian convoys in Syria, massacring pro-government villagers in Syria, killing Syrian Army troops in ambushes, reconquering lands in central Syria, suicide bombing allied Kurdish Syrian Democratic Force fighters and Kurdish intelligence operatives.”

Haaretz: Hezbollah Turning Syria Villages On Israel Border Into Fortresses

“Compared to Gaza, the Iranian front – which to Israeli eyes stretches from the Persian Gulf through Iraq and into Syria and Lebanon – is bustling with action. Throughout July, reports attributed two attacks in Iraq to Israel and at least three other attacks in southern Syria, which were directed against the military apparatus Hezbollah is building on the Syrian side of the border on the Golan Heights – and in one case included the killing of a local activist. The “campaign between the wars” is continuing with relative momentum, even if most of it is being conducted under the radar and has not received almost any detailed coverage in real time. What is going on in Iraq reached the headlines in Israel with a delay of almost two weeks, and only after Arab media outlets reported on two attacks by the Israel Air Force in western Iraq. One of the reports even claimed that the attack was carried out by Israel’s new F-35s. Even if the information is correct in general, as usual it is recommended to take the details with a grain of salt. Not every attack needs to be carried out using the most advanced technological means. The IDF’s military intelligence directorate highlighted Iraq as the next arena for the military campaign back in 2018.”

The Washington Post: U.N. To Investigate Accusations That Russia, Syria Are Deliberately Targeting Hospitals

“The United Nations has ordered an investigation into a surge of Russian and Syrian airstrikes against hospitals and clinics in northwestern Syria amid growing concerns that Russia is using U.N.-supplied data to deliberately target medical facilities. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres authorized the inquiry Thursday after pressure from U.N. Security Council members and human rights groups to do more to establish why health facilities and other civilian infrastructure such as schools and rescue services are being hit so frequently in the recent fighting. The investigation comes after a grim assessment of the civilian toll was delivered to the Security Council on Tuesday by U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock. Since the Syrian government launched an offensive in April to reclaim control of the northwestern province of Idlib and a portion of the province of Hama, more than 450 civilians have been killed, hundreds more have been wounded and 440,000 have been forced to flee their homes, Lowcock said.”

Iran

Voice Of America: IS Stepping Up Attacks In Iraq’s North

“Islamic State (IS) militants killed four security officials late Wednesday near the northern city of Kirkuk, local officials said. The attack, which was carried out on a checkpoint manned by local Kurdish security forces, also left at least eight people wounded, local sources said. “At least 15 IS militants, including a couple snipers, were involved in the overnight raid,” a senior Iraqi security official told VOA. The Iraqi official, who refused to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, added that the militants used mortars in the Wednesday attack. In the nearby province of Saladin, at least five Iraqi soldiers and government-backed militia members were killed in an IS attack on their positions, Iraqi police reported Thursday. IS has not yet claimed responsibility for either attack. In response to Wednesday’s attacks, Iraqi warplanes carried out an airstrike on an IS position, killing at least three militants, an Iraqi security official said. IS has increased its attacks in recent weeks against Iraqi and Kurdish forces in parts of northern Iraq that were held by the terror group before they were freed with the help of the U.S.-led coalition. A VOA reporter in Iraq said one of the targeted areas has largely been safe until recently, with IS increasingly carrying out surprise attacks against civilians and security forces in places like Kirkuk, Diyala and Mosul.”

The Jerusalem Post: How Can Israel Counter Iran’s Seaborne Shipments Of Weapons To Hezbollah?

“According to recent reports, Israel estimates that Iran is working to move weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon by sea in response to attacks on similar weapons shipments overland via Syria. What can Israel do to counter these shipments, and is international law – just by chance – in its favor? This question immediately calls to mind the recent capture of the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 by Gibraltar authorities and the British Royal Navy on the suspicion that it was headed for Syria, in defiance of European Union sanctions, which in turn resulted in the capture of a British tanker by Iran. This incident demands a discussion of very complex questions, including the applicability in Gibraltar of the sanctions imposed on Syria by the European Union, the right to freedom of navigation in international waterways, and the question of the country to which the tanker was registered. In the case of marine weapons shipments from Iran to Hezbollah, the legal situation is simpler and clearer: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which was passed at the end of the Second Lebanon War (2006) and is binding on all countries, requires that states take all necessary measures to prevent the supply or sale of military equipment to any individual or entity in Lebanon by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft.”

Radio Farda: Three Women Sentenced To 55 Years For Defying Compulsory Hijab In Iran

“Three women held in custody for "disrespecting compulsory hijab," or the so-called Islamic dress code, have been sentenced to a total of 55 years and six months. A "Revolutionary Court" in the capital city of Tehran delivered the verdict to Monireh Arabshahi, Yasamin Ariany, and Mojgan Keshavarz who are behind bars in the notorious Qarchak prison. Arabshahi and Ariany's legal counsel, Amir Raeesian, told Ensaf News website August 1 that if the verdict is upheld, his clients would be sentenced to ten years to serve, each. In Iran if a prison term is unusually long, a shorter sentence is set to be served. Usually, the shorter sentence to be served is a little more than half of the original long prison term. In an interview with Radio Farda, Mojgan Keshavarz's attorney, Mohammad Moqimi, also verified the news but said that her client would appeal. The verdict was delivered to the prisoners in the absence of their lawyers, Human Rights Activists News Agency, HRANA, reported.”

DW: Yemen: Dozens Killed In Attack On Military Parade Blamed On Iran

“At least 51 people died in twin attacks in the Yemeni city of Aden on Thursday, according to security and medical sources. The city is the seat of power for Yemen's internationally recognized government, which is in the midst of conflict with the Iran-backed rebel Houthis who control the capital, Sanaa, and most of the country's north. How the attacks unfolded: There were two attacks in the city: a strike on a military parade and coordinated bombings near a police station. The early morning suicide bombing targeted policemen in Aden's Sheikh Othman area, killing at least 11 people and injuring 29 others. No one has claimed responsibility for the police station attack. In the parade attack, Houthi rebels claimed they hit the Al-Jala Camp with an armed drone and a medium-range ballistic missile. The attack killed at least 40 people, and injured many more.”

Iraq

Xinhua: 19 IS Militants Killed, 16 Arrested In Anti-IS Operation In Eastern Iraq

“Up to 19 Islamic State (IS) militants were killed and 16 other captured after continuing operation by Iraqi security forces to hunt down IS militants in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, a security official said on Thursday. The Iraqi army, intelligence service and paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units participated in the operation which was launched about three weeks ago to hunt down remnants of IS militants in seven areas in Diyala, Sadiq al-Husseini, head of the security committee of the provincial council, told Xinhua. So far, the troops killed 19 IS militants and captured 16 others, al-Husseini said, adding that six of the extremist group leaders were among the killed and five other leaders were among the captured. During the operation, the joint forces have also destroyed 13 hideouts and confiscated caches of weapons and ammunition, according to al-Husseini. Also in Diyala, a security force captured three members of an IS supply cell as they were moving in motorcycles in rugged area carrying foodstuff, weapons and ammunition near Himreen Mountain, some 55 km northeast the provincial capital Baquba, al-Husseini said.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: US Envoy In Pakistan Ahead Of Key Taliban Talks

“The United States peace envoy to Afghanistan met with Pakistan’s prime minister and other top officials ahead of his flight to Qatar for a crucial round of peace talks with the Taliban. Before landing in Islamabad, Zalmay Khalilzad had hinted that a peace agreement could be reached in the next round of talks, potentially delivering an end to the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan, America’s longest. “In Doha, if the Taliban do their part, we will do ours, and conclude the agreement we have been working on,” he tweeted Wednesday, adding that he was, “Wrapping up my most productive visit to #Afghanistan since I took this job as Special Rep.” The Taliban have been holding peace talks with the U.S. for nearly a year but have refused to recognize the Kabul government, viewing it as an American puppet. The insurgents effectively control around half the country and continue to carry out daily attacks on Afghan security forces. The U.S. and the Taliban appear to be closing in on an agreement whereby American forces would withdraw from Afghanistan in return for guarantees that the country won’t be used as a launch-pad for international terror attacks. Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman in Doha, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the upcoming talks would be to “finalize the agreement.”

Yemen

Radio Free Europe: Rebels, Militants Kill Dozens In Yemen's Aden; Saudi Arabia Blames Iran

“Iran-backed Huthi rebels say they launched missile and drone attacks on a military parade in Yemen's southern port of Aden, the headquarters of the Saudi-backed government, that killed more than 30 people. In separate tweets, Yemeni Prime Minister, Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed and Saudi Arabia's envoy to Yemen accused Tehran of being behind the August 1 attack claimed by the Huthis, and an explosion at a police station in Aden, the headquarters of the Saudi-backed government, that security sources said involved a car bomb. The attack on the parade killed at least 32 people, including a commander, according to medical and security sources. Al Masirah TV, the Huthis' official channel, said the rebels launched a medium-range ballistic missile and used an armed drone at the parade. No one has claimed responsibility for the car-bomb attack, which Doctors Without Borders said killed 10 people. Car-bombings in Yemen have been carried out in the past by the militant Islamist group Al-Qaeda. Shi'ite Muslim Iran denies having any involvement in Yemen, where the Saudi-led Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government ousted from power in the capital Sanaa by Shi'ite Huthis in late 2014.”

Lebanon

Asharq Al-Awsat: Hezbollah Is The Real Government In Lebanon

“The Lebanese government has been disabled for a while due to a concocted crisis, the intentions behind which go much further exploiting the deaths of two young men in the village of Qabr Shmoun, in Mount Lebanon’s Aley District. The true intentions are to undermine, and bring down, a redundant ‘compromise cabinet’ through making the position of Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri untenable; leading to either impose presidential rule through pro-Hezbollah President Michel Aoun, or to a political ‘vacuum’ that only Hezbollah can fill. Either way, then, Hezbollah is the party most interested in undermining the current fragile compromise, bringing down the cabinet, and fomenting internal strife within Lebanon’s sectarian communities. Contrary to Hezbollah media denial a few days ago, this party is indeed the ‘orchestrator’, coordinator, and commander-in-chief behind the crisis. As for its henchmen, whether Christians, Druze or others, they are nothing but pawns in a dangerous game that is pushing Lebanon to a political and sectarian ‘inferno’ created by Iran as part of its raising the tempo of concluding the deal of its regional influence. The incident in which the two men were killed, occurred around a month ago as the Lebanese Foreign minister Gibran Bassil – who is also the president of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), President Aoun’s son-in-law, as well his ‘heir apparent’, was conducting his political tours in the country.”

Middle East

The New York Times: Death Of Hamza Bin Laden Seen As Blow To Al Qaeda’s Future

“In the years before his death, Osama bin Laden spent his days behind the walls of his compound in Pakistan, fretting about his son living thousands of miles away. He penned letter after letter, describing the curriculum that the son, Hamza bin Laden, then 23, should study, the qualities he should cultivate and the safety measures he should follow. In one, he advised his son, who was just 13 when he saw his father for the last time, not to leave his house. In another, he discussed whether the young man could rejoin him in Pakistan, advising him to travel on a cloudy day when it would be harder for a drone to track him. He devised a complicated security protocol, calling for the son to switch cars inside a tunnel in order to fool overhead surveillance. The care he showed was not just that of a father for a son. It appears to have also been an attempt by the world’s most hunted terrorist to secure his legacy. Analysts believe that since at least 2010, Al Qaeda was secretly grooming Hamza bin Laden to take over the organization, a move that now appears to have been foiled. According to three American officials, the younger bin Laden was killed during the first two years of the Trump administration.”

CNN: Intel Indicates Al Qaeda Leader Has Potentially Serious 'Heart Complaint', Official Says

“Recent intelligence indicates that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has a “heart complaint,” according to a senior official involved in international counterterrorism efforts. The official said the information suggests Zawahiri had a potentially serious condition but cautioned it was difficult to ascertain the severity of his health problems and what effect they might have on his longevity. The possibility that Zawahiri, who just turned 68, is seriously ill increases uncertainty over al Qaeda's long-term leadership succession plans. Osama bin Laden's son Hamza bin Laden had been widely tipped to one day take over command of al Qaeda but a US official told CNN on Wednesday that the US now believes that he is dead. Zawahiri's health was also referenced in a UN monitoring report that was circulated this summer to the Security Council. Citing “member state information,” the report noted Zawahiri was “reported to be in poor health.” It stated that although “Al-Qaida remains resilient” the “health and longevity of its leader ... and how the succession will work are in doubt.” Zawahiri has continued to frequently appear in al Qaeda videos and was last heard from last month. There were no obvious signs that he has a serious health condition in these videos.”

The Wall Street Journal: Israeli Jets Appear To Have Struck Iraq For The First Time Since 1981

“Two airstrikes on Shiite militia targets took place in Iraq last month. No country or organization has taken responsibility, but there are strong reasons to think they were carried out by Israel. If so, these would be the Jewish state’s first air raids on Iraq since the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981. The first of the raids, on July 19, targeted a militia base near the town of Amerli in Salah al-Din province, north of Baghdad. The second, three days later, struck Camp Ashraf, a former U.S. military base in Iraq’s Diyala Province. Both the Ashraf and Amerli bases are now controlled by the Badr Organization, a Shiite militia cum political party, in apparent cooperation with Iran. According to Arabic media reports, the second raid was of considerably larger dimensions than the first. Al-Ain, the Emirati news website that broke the news of the Camp Ashraf action, reported about 40 dead Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel and Iraqi Shiite militiamen. The Saudi Sharq al Awsat newspaper last week attributed the attacks to Israel. Officials in Jerusalem have remained silent, but their country is the only serious candidate. The only other main enemies of the Shiite militias in Iraq are Islamic State and the U.S. and its coalition.”

Al Jazeera: Al-Qaeda Launches Deadly Attack On Army Base In Southern Yemen

“An al-Qaeda attack on a military camp in war-torn Yemen has killed at least 19 soldiers, security officials said, a day after dozens of people were killed in separate assaults by Houthi rebels and the Islamic State in Aden. Gunmen stormed the al-Mahfad army base in southern Abyan province on Friday and remained inside for several hours before military reinforcements came, three security officials told AFP news agency. "The Qaeda gunmen took advantage of what happened [on Thursday] in Aden and launched an assault on al-Mahfad base and clashed with soldiers," a government security official said. "Military reinforcements were sent ... and the gunmen were killed while others were driven out with air support from the [Saudi-led] coalition, in an operation that lasted hours," the official said. "At least 19 soldiers were killed and others wounded.”

Times Of Israel: Hamza Bin Laden’s Death No Big Blow To Al-Qaeda, Experts Say

“The reported death of Osama bin Laden’s son and heir to the al-Qaeda mantle is unlikely to do much damage to the jihadist group’s resurgence, US terror experts said Thursday. While Hamza bin Laden was being groomed as a leader of the group his father founded and led to notoriety with the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, his death would leave the al-Qaeda’s leadership under Ayman al-Zawahiri intact and able to continue plotting its comeback. The circumstances of the younger Bin Laden’s death, reported by NBC News and The New York Times Wednesday, citing anonymous US officials, remain a mystery, although he is believed to have been killed in the past two years. The Times said he died in an air strike but had no information on when or where it happened, or if the US was involved. He is believed to have been in Afghanistan in recent years, but his demise has been wrongly reported more than once.”

Bloomberg: Al-Qaeda Is As Strong As Ever After Rebuilding Itself, U.S. Says

“Al-Qaeda and its affiliates remain as much of a threat to the U.S. as “it has ever been” after the terrorist group rebuilt itself while the U.S. and other nations focused on destroying Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a State Department official said. “Al-Qaeda has been strategic and patient over the past several years,” Nathan Sales, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, said on Thursday at a briefing in Washington. “It’s let ISIS absorb the brunt of the world’s counterterrorism efforts while patiently reconstituting itself. What we see today is an al-Qaeda that is as strong as it has ever been.” The U.S. focused in recent years on wiping out Islamic State’s territorial holdings in Syria and Iraq after the militant group seized a swath of territory across both countries from 2014. President Donald Trump said in February that the U.S. and its coalition partners liberated all of the Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq, though Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned that thousands of fighters were going underground to regroup.”

Nigeria

Daily Post Nigeria: Nigerian Military Denies Secretly Burying 1,000 Soldiers Killed By Boko Haram

“Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters, DHQ, on Thursday, rubbished a report by the Wall Street Journal which claimed that 1, 000 soldiers in the North-East were secretly buried under the cover of darkness after being killed by Boko Haram and ISWAP insurgents. The Director of Defence Information, Onyema Nwachukwu, insisted that the Nigerian Armed Forces does not engage in the secret burial of soldiers but accords fallen soldiers a befitting military funeral of international standard. The Wall Street Journal report had alleged that about 1,000 soldiers killed by Boko Haram were secretly buried in the North-East. However, Nwachukwu maintained that the report was a figment of the writer’s imagination. A statement signed by Nwachukwu and forwarded to DAILY POST reads: “The Defence Headquarters has noted with dismay an Online Article by “Wall Street Journal” purporting that the Nigerian Military maintains secret graveyards in the North East theatre of operation. This insinuation can only emanate from an uninformed position of the author of the said publication. “It, therefore, becomes necessary to inform the public that the Armed Forces of Nigeria has a rich and solemn tradition for the interment of our fallen heroes.”

Voice Of America: Tensions Rise After Nigerian Court Labels Muslim Sect 'Terrorists'

“Tension between a Nigerian Shi'ite Muslim group and authorities is growing after a court last week granted permission to label the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) a terrorist organization.  Security forces clashed violently with the group as they took to the streets of Abuja this month to call for the release of their leader, Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, who authorities have held since deadly clashes in 2015, despite a court order for his release.  Maimuna Dauda's three children, two daughters and a son, are among more than 350 Shi'ite Muslims killed in the city of Zaria in December 2015. They were members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, or IMN, and had just returned from school when violence broke out between members of the group and the military as they tried to block a military convoy. Dauda remembers the military cracked down hard on the IMN, accusing it of trying to kill the Nigerian army chief. “I got a call from my daughter that the military had shot her in the stomach and her sister in the head and set the leader's house, where they were hiding, on fire. When I called back, I could no longer reach them. They had burned with the building,” said Dauda. Days later, authorities arrested IMN leader Ibraheem el-Zakzaky and his wife and have detained them ever since, despite court rulings for their release.”

Xinhua: Boko Haram Kills 27,000 In Nigeria In Decade-Long Militancy: UN

“Over 27,000 people were killed in Boko Haram's militancy in Nigeria since the group launched operation in the northeast region of the country in 2009, according to data by the United Nations (UN). A statement made available to Xinhua in Abuja on Thursday quoted Edward Kallon, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, as saying 130,000 people have also been newly displaced from their homes. “Rising insecurity in recent months has pushed over 130,000 newly displaced people on a long trudge. Arriving en masse to displaced camps, they are looking upon us for aid and protection,” the statement said. Boko Haram, whose agenda is to maintain a virtual caliphate in the most populous African country, had also spread its tentacles to neighboring countries including Chad, Niger, and northern Cameroon. The UN office in Abuja expressed the humanitarian community's willingness to assist in abating the crisis while organizing on Wednesday a remembrance of 10 years of the security crisis in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe -- the three most-affected northeastern states in Nigeria. Humanitarian aid workers, school boys and girls, women, and security operatives, among others, have either been killed or abducted by Boko Haram during the decade of violence.”

Somalia

The New York Times: Mogadishu Mayor Dies Of Injuries From Suicide Bombing

“The mayor of Mogadishu has died after being badly wounded in a suicide bombing by Al Shabab in his offices last week, Somalia’s government said on Thursday. Six of his colleagues were also killed in the attack, and nine members of his staff wounded. Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman had been airlifted to Qatar, along with nine other injured people, for treatment after the attack, which struck on July 24, the lawmaker Dahir Amin Jesow said. Al Shabaab, the Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group that aims to topple Somalia’s United Nations-backed government, claimed responsibility for the bombing. The militants have lost territory but have kept up a relentless campaign of bombings and assassinations. The extremist group and government officials said that the suicide bomber, a woman, had been aiming for James Swan, the new United Nations envoy to Somalia, but that he had left the office minutes before the bombing. It was not clear how the bomber managed to enter the mayor’s office, as visitors are required to pass through at least four metal detectors. Mr. Osman had been a councilor in London before returning to Somalia to enter local politics and help rebuild his war-torn country.”

VOA: Mogadishu Mayor Dies From Wounds Sustained In Al-Shabab Attack

“Authorities in Somalia say the mayor of the capital has died of wounds sustained in a militant suicide attack on his office last month. "I confirm that the mayor, Abdurahman Omar Osman, has died from the serious wounds he sustained in the vicious suicide attack on his office on July 24," said his deputy, Ibrahim Omar Mahadale. He said the mayor died Thursday afternoon while doctors were treating wounds to his abdomen and head at a hospital in Doha, Qatar. Osman, who became mayor of Mogadishu in 2018, left a wife and seven children. Islamist militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for last month's attack, saying it was targeting U.N. Special Envoy to Somalia James Swan, an American national, who had met with the mayor prior to the attack. Somalia's president: In a separate development, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmajo, has renounced his U.S. citizenship. A statement from the president's office Thursday said "this is to officially announce that the President of The Federal Republic of Somalia, H.E. Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, has relinquished his United States citizenship.”

Africa

The Defense Post: US Signals Shift To Africa In Counter-ISIS Coalition Campaign

“The United States will seek additional international cooperation to fight Islamic State on a global scale, with a particular focus on Africa, following the defeat of the group in Iraq and Syria, a State Department official said on Thursday, August 1. Speaking at a press conference in Washington, State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Ambassador Nathan Sales said the next stage of the counter-ISIS campaign will require international coordination to combat the group’s expansion in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Afghanistan. “The so-called ISIS Caliphate has been destroyed, but the ISIS brand lives on around the world,” Sales said, speaking alongside U.S. Envoy to the anti-ISIS Coalition James Jeffrey. “We are now working closely with our partners to identify focus regions for the Coalition, and expect to have more clarity soon on where we intend to be active.” Sales said a Coalition meeting on the situation in West Africa and the Sahel is set for autumn. “In Africa, ISIS-linked groups are on the rise. ISIS-linked groups now span the African continent from east to west, from north to south,” Sales said. “They’ve increased the lethality of their attacks, they’ve expanded into new areas, and they repeatedly target U.S. interests,” he said, referencing the killing of four U.S. Special Forces members in Niger in October 2017, which he said was carried out by “ISIS affiliates.”

Xinhua: “Terror” Attack On Airport Thwarted By Tunisian Security Forces

“Tunisian Interior Minister Hichem Fourati said on Thursday that the security forces thwarted a terrorist plot targeting the Carthage International Airport in the capital Tunis. “Following the two separate terrorist attacks that occurred on June 27 in the heart of Tunis, several suspects have been arrested by the security units,” said Fourati in a statement. “The security situation in the country is stable now,” assured the minister, calling for “more vigilance.” Since the beginning of July, the Tunisian authorities have imposed exceptional security measures in and outside the airport immediately after a Tunisian suicide bomber blew himself up a few weeks ago.”

United Kingdom

The National: British Army To Mobilise Cyber Spies To Combat ISIS And Russia Threats

“The British Army is launching a new division specialising in hybrid warfare to combat cyber threats from hostile states and extremist groups. Troops in the Sixth Division, as the new unit has been titled, will be trained in intelligence gathering, counter-propaganda and electronic warfare to be used against groups such as ISIS, who have traditionally used the digital sphere - and in particular social media - to share its propaganda and attract new recruits. Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) said the new division was part of plans to “rebalance the Field Army” and to “defeat adversaries both above and below the threshold of conventional conflict”. “This change will be integrated within broader defence, national and alliance efforts and enable the Field Army to operate and fight more effectively above and below the threshold of conflict,” the MOD said in a statement.  The troops moved into the Sixth Division, the British Army’s first dedicated information warfare formation, will come from existing units within the military as well as a small number from the country’s Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. No additional resources are involved in the move and the overall military personnel numbers would remain the same after the restructure, the MOD said.”

The Telegraph: Our Woeful Anti-Terror Laws Leave Us Powerless To Prosecute Returning Jihadists

“Al-Hawl in Northern Syria is a secure refugee camp for the wives and children of Isil jihadists killed or captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Like Dante's First Circle of Hell, it acts as a kind of limbo - a place where people go to be forgotten. The 74,000 women and children held in the camp are not considered innocent enough to return home but nor are they deemed sinful enough to warrant the prison cells that hold the Isil men. After the fall of the so-called Islamic State in the dusty village of Baghous, the West was confronted by a vast number of captured foreign...”

France

The National: French Police Arrest Men Who Pledged Allegiance To ISIS And Were Planning Attacks

“French investigators have discovered weapons and a pledge of allegiance to ISIS after charging three men with planning a terror attack, sources close to the inquiry said on Thursday. The men had not yet decided on a specific target, but had considered attacking a prison guard, another source had said on Wednesday. Two of the men are already serving prison sentences and the letter claiming ISIS allegiance was found on the third man, one source said Thursday. All have denied the claims after they were charged last Friday. One of the men was Zakaria Chedili, 31, who was behind bars for spending six months in Syria in 2014 with a group affiliated to Al Qaeda, a source said. The sources added that the seized weapons were “old”, without further details. “It was a project, we were not on a particularly high level of risk,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Thursday, after the arrests were reported by French daily Le Parisien. The mastermind of the group was a 27-year-old convert to Islam who had been jailed for being an “apologist for terrorism”, it said. He had been transferred to at least three different prisons and it was during those transfers that he met the other two suspects. The third man, aged 42, had been released from prison earlier this year, the paper said.”

Germany

The Jerusalem Post: U.S. Congressmen Urge Germany To Designate Hezbollah A Terrorist Group

“Twelve US Republican Congressmen have sent a letter to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expressing disappointment over a recent parliamentary vote that failed to outlaw the political branch of Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, and urging the German government to outlaw Hezbollah completely. The vote in June was brought to parliament by the right-wing Alternative for Germany [AfD] Party.  The Congressmen wrote to Maas: “We urge your government to take a profound step in the war against terrorism... And eliminate the artificial distinction between Hezbollah's military and political branches.” Currently, only Hezbollah’s military wing is outlawed in Germany. Hezbollah as a political entity is not. As well as referencing the growing number of Hezbollah members and supporters throughout Germany, the Congressmen wrote that, “Hezbollah legally raises funds and support through German community and Islamic centers and meets with German politicians.” According to an intelligence report from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hezbollah has centers in Hamburg, Berlin and Münster, according to the report.”

Europe

Radio Free Europe: Two Suspected IS Supporters Arrested In Russia's Tatarstan

“A court in Russia's Republic of Tatarstan has arrested two men suspected of supporting the extremist group Islamic State and planning a terrorist attack. The Vakhitov district court in the regional capital, Kazan, on August 1 sent Ruslan Shamsutdinov and Ilshat Zainabutdinov to pretrial detention for two months. They were detained a day earlier and charged with propagating terrorism and recruiting for a terrorist group. The Federal Security Service said its agents had confiscated explosives and components of explosive devices from the two men. Russian authorities have said that about 2,000 Russian citizens traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside Islamic State militants.”

Technology

The Wall Street Journal: FTC Antitrust Probe Of Facebook Scrutinizes Its Acquisitions

“The Federal Trade Commission is examining Facebook Inc. acquisitions as part of its antitrust investigation into the social-media giant, seeking to determine if they were part of a campaign to snap up potential rivals to head off competitive threats, according to people familiar with the matter. The company’s acquisition practices are a central component of the FTC probe, the people said. Facebook disclosed the FTC’s investigation in its earnings announcement last week but provided few details. FTC investigators are examining whether the company and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, purchased technology startups to keep them from challenging Facebook’s empire, the people said, some of whom added that the FTC has begun reaching out to the founders of such companies. The tech giant has acquired about 90 companies over roughly the last 15 years, according to data compiled by S&P Global. Among those companies are the photo-sharing app Instagram and the messaging service WhatsApp, which bolstered Facebook as a dominant force in social media and messaging.”

The Times: Terrorists Boost Fundraising On Social Media, Warns Think-Tank

“Terrorists are taking advantage of the chance to “industrialise” their financing by using charity crowdfunding sites and social media. Members of Islamist and white supremacist groups have raised funds via Facebook, GoFundMe and YouTube, and encrypted messengers such as WhatsApp and Telegram are also exposed, a report from the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) said. Poor regulation and monitoring have led to extremists sharing bank details on social media, setting up fake humanitarian crowdfunding accounts and using encrypted messaging services to organise money transfers. The report, from Rusi’s global research network on terrorism and technology, urged companies to respond through better co-operation with law enforcement and clearer terms of use.”