Eye on Extremism: August 26

The Wall Street Journal: Israel Strikes Iranian Targets In Syria To Prevent ‘Killer Drone’ Attack

“Israel said it struck a military site in Syria to prevent planned attacks from Iranian forces, raising the risk of a clash with Tehran amid a broader Israeli campaign to counter the military activities of the Islamic Republic. Israel’s military went on high alert following the strike in Syria and was preparing for possible responses, officials said. The shift coincided with signs of mounting hostility toward the country elsewhere in the region, as Lebanese officials blamed Israel for two drones that fell over Beirut Sunday. Meanwhile, a drone attack in Iraq later in the day killed two members of an Iranian-aligned militia, according to a member of the militia called 45th Brigade, an Iraqi organization loosely tied to Lebanon’s Hezbollah paramilitary and political group. It wasn’t immediately clear who was behind the drone attack in Iraq.”

The Guardian: Three Million Caught In Crossfire As Assad Vows To Capture Every Inch Of Syria

“Syrian government forces have made fresh military advances towards President Bashar al-Assad’s goal of reclaiming “every inch” of the country in an offensive that has intensified fears of a humanitarian disaster in the northern Idlib province. Opposition fighters withdrew last week from the key town of Khan Sheikhoun, another strategic concession to Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers, who have torn up a ceasefire deal protecting the rebels’ last major pocket of territory. As the country’s bloody civil war grinds into its ninth year, Assad is widely acknowledged to have emerged triumphant. But the fighting is far from over, with the terms of victory and the shape of Syria’s future still very much in play on the battlefield. Armed groups are dug in across much of the north, including extremist opposition fighters in Idlib, and beyond them foreign-backed fighters including Turkish proxy militias and US-backed Kurds along sections of the border with Turkey and Iraq.”

CNN: 2 Women Plead Guilty In Plot To Commit Terror Attack In US

“Two New York women who plotted to build a bomb for a terrorist attack in the United States face 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges, authorities say. Asia Siddiqui, 35, and Noelle Velentzas, 31, are US citizens and residents of the New York borough of Queens. In federal court in Brooklyn on Friday, both pleaded guilty to “teaching and distributing information pertaining to the making and use of an explosive, destructive device, and weapon of mass destruction, intending that it be used to commit a federal crime of violence,” according to a press release from the US Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of New York. “In an effort to implement their violent, radical ideology, the defendants studied some of the most deadly terrorist attacks in U.S. history, and used them as a blueprint for their own plans to kill American law enforcement and military personnel,” said US Attorney Richard Donoghue in the release. The women pleaded not guilty in 2015. In the release Friday, authorities said the pair discussed making a bomb between 2013 and 2015; taught each other chemistry and electrical skills; researched how to make a car bomb; and bought materials to make an explosive device, the statement said.”

The Jerusalem Post: U.S., Taliban Deal Will Not Stop Attacks On Afghan Forces, Taliban Say

“As US and Taliban negotiators push to wrap up talks aimed at securing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, Taliban sources say a pact will not mean an end to fighting with the US-backed Afghan government. US and Taliban officials have been negotiating in Qatar since last year on an agreement centered on the withdrawal of US forces, and an end to their longest-ever war, in exchange for a Taliban guarantee that international militant groups will not plot from Afghan soil. US negotiators have been pressing the Taliban to agree to so-called intra-Afghan talks, meaning with the Kabul government and a ceasefire, but a senior Taliban official said that would not happen. "We will continue our fight against the Afghan government and seize power by force," said the Taliban commander on condition of anonymity. US President Donald Trump is impatient to get US forces out of Afghanistan and end the 18-year war that was launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. But there are fears among Afghan officials and US national security aides that a US troop withdrawal could see Afghanistan plunged into a new round of civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and international militants, including Islamic State, finding a refuge.”

Al Jazeera: Turkey-US Ops Centre On Syria Safe Zone 'Fully Operational'

“A Turkey-US operations centre aimed at establishing and managing a safe zone in northeastern Syria is fully operational, according to the Turkish defence minister. Hulusi Akar announced the move in an interview with the state-run Anadolu news agency on Saturday. Ankara and Washington agreed to set up the joint facility earlier this month after difficult negotiations. The centre will help coordinate the establishment of a buffer between the Turkish border and Syrian areas controlled by the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). "The joint operation centre has started working at full capacity. The command of the centre is by one US general and one Turkish general," Akar was quoted as saying.”

Bloomberg: Australia To Block Websites Hosting Live-Streamed Terror Attacks

“Australia will establish a mechanism for internet providers to quickly and effectively block websites hosting terror attacks in the wake of the Christchurch shooting, according to an emailed statement. The government is also creating a center to rapidly detect and shut down the sharing and live-streaming of the violent material as an attack takes place, according to the statement. They are recommendations from an industry and government body established after a man in March live-streamed the killing of more than 40 people in two Christchurch mosques. “The shocking events that took place in Christchurch demonstrated how digital platforms and websites can be exploited to host extreme violent and terrorist content,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in the statement. “That type of abhorrent material has no place in Australia and we are doing everything we can to deny terrorists the opportunity to glorify their crimes, including taking action locally and globally.”

United States

The Independent: How 'Red Flag' Laws Could Help Stop American Mass Shootings

“Last December, 20-year-old Dakota Reed drew the attention of American law enforcement after he posted troubling threats on the internet, claiming a plan for mass slaughter. Just two weeks after a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue left 11 people dead, Reed appeared to promise to carry on in the dark American tradition of violence, in a post on one of seven Facebook accounts he apparently kept, and used to spread hateful messages. “I’m shooting for 30 Jews,” he wrote. But Reed never had the chance to make good on those threats in the way that the Pittsburgh shooter and others who have carried out mass violence in recent years have. Instead, when police were notified by worried observers of the posts, they simply took his guns from him using an extreme risk protection order (also known as “red flag” orders) – a measure that a team of researchers at the University of California Davis School of Medicine has announcedcould be one of the most effective tools to stop mass shootings, and one Donald Trump is reportedly considering at the national level in the wake of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. According to the new report, that instance in Washington is among at least two cases where the so-called red flag laws have stopped a credible threat of a mass shooting.”

The Hill: Why A Domestic Terrorism Law Is A Terrible Idea

“There is nothing more powerful in Washington, it seems, than a bad idea whose time has come. So welcome to the big push for the federal criminalization of domestic terrorism. The impulse, of course, is understandable. We have had a spate of mass-shooting attacks. In one of them, a white racist murdered 22 innocent people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. He is said to have been animated by what he allegedly called the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” To date, the assassin has not been tied to any terrorist organization. Nevertheless, the attack fits the federal-law definition of domestic terrorism: a violent act intended to (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping. This brings into sharp relief the seeming anomaly that, although federal law defines domestic terrorism, it does not criminalize it — at least, as such. Thus, there is growing bipartisan momentum to fix this non-problem. To begin with, the fact that we do not have a federal crime called “domestic terrorism” does not mean the behavior is legal. Federal law simply criminalizes it under other labels.”

USA Today: Stakes Raised In US, Iran Tensions: Drone War Takes Flight

“From the vast deserts of Saudi Arabia to the crowded neighborhoods of Beirut, a drone war has taken flight across the wider Middle East, raising the stakes in the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Iran. In the year since President Donald Trump withdrew America from Iran’s nuclear deal, there’s been an increasing tempo of attacks and alleged threats from unmanned aircraft flown by Tehran’s and Washington’s allies in the region. The appeal of the aircraft – they risk no pilots and can be small enough to evade air-defense systems – fueled their rapid use amid the maximum pressure campaigns of Iran and the U.S. As these strikes become more frequent, the risk of unwanted escalation becomes greater.”

 The New York Times: This U.S. Warship Threatens Iran (From 600 Miles Away)

“Aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, in the North Arabian Sea — Out here, deterring Iran means avoiding Iran. The 5,600 men and women aboard this nuclear-powered aircraft carrier do not venture near Iranian waters, despite a warning from President Trump’s national security adviser that the warship is in the Middle East “to send a clear and unmistakable message” to Iran to steer clear of American interests in the region. Instead, it is the Abraham Lincoln that has steered clear of Iran. In the past four months, the ship has entered neither the Persian Gulf nor the Strait of Hormuz, the crucial oil-tanker highways it is supposed to protect.”


Reuters: War Monitor Says Two Hezbollah Members, One Iranian Killed In Damascus Strikes Overnight

“War monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group and one Iranian were killed in Israeli strikes around the Syrian capital Damascus overnight.  An Israeli military spokesman on Saturday said Israeli aircraft struck Iranian forces near Damascus that had been planning to launch “killer drones” at targets in Israel. An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander on Sunday denied that Iranian targets had been hit in the strikes.”

The National: Syrian Regime Forces Prepare To Advance Idlib Offensive

“Syrian forces are massing north of Khan Sheikhoun in the rebel-held province of Idlib, days after the regime took control of the town.  The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said loyalist fighters were preparing to advance an offensive against rebels in the area amid heightened tensions with neighbouring Turkey. Idlib province on the Turkish border is one of the last to escape the control of the Damascus government. President Bashar Al Assad's forces, backed by Russia, launched a deadly bombardment on the area in April, which has killed around 900 civilians, according to the Observatory.  On Friday, they reclaimed a cluster of towns lost early in the eight-year-old war, driving out the last rebel fighters from the Hama countryside. They also took the strategic town of Khan Sheikhoun. The Syrian army are now "preparing to continue their advance towards the area of Maaret Al Noman", a town some 25 kilometres (15 miles) to the north, Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the UK-based monitoring group, told AFP.That area has been under intense Russian and regime aerial bombardment and been depleted of almost all of its residents in the past two weeks in apparent preparation for the maneuver, the Observatory has said.”


The Washington Post: Iraqi Militia Says New Drone Attack Kills 2

“Two unidentified drones killed two Iraqi members of an Iran-backed paramilitary force on Sunday, the group said in a statement, saying the attack took place in Iraq near the border with Syria. The statement issued by the force known as the Popular Mobilization Forces said the attack occurred in Anbar province near the Qaim border crossing with Syria. It said the attack targeted vehicles belonging to the Hezbollah Brigades faction, also known as Brigade 45. Two officials from the Hezbollah Brigades, which is separate from the Lebanese group of the same name, confirmed the attack and said the vehicles were being used to transport weapons. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists about the matter. Iraq’s Hezbollah Brigades operate under the umbrella of the state-sanctioned militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF. Many of them are supported by Iran. If confirmed, it would be the latest in a series of attacks that have targeted PMF bases and weapons depot in Iraq. U.S. officials have said that Israel was behind at least one of them. No one claimed responsibility, and the PMF statement did not assign blame.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Intelligence Arrest Two Islamic State Jihadists In Kirkuk

“Iraqi military intelligence forces announced on Saturday that two Islamic State terrorists were arrested in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk. “Acting on intelligence information, troops of the Iraqi Military Intelligence Directorate caught two Islamic State terrorists in al-Qassem and June First districts in Kirkuk,” Iraqi TV channel Alsumaria TV quoted the directorate as saying in a press release. “The pair were tasked with equipping hotbeds of the Islamic State terrorist group on the outskirts of Kirkuk,” the statement read. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq. IS declared a self-styled “caliphate” in a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014. A government campaign, backed by a U.S.-led international coalition and paramilitary forces, was launched in 2016 to retake IS-held regions, managing to retake all havens, most notably the city of Mosul, the group’s previously proclaimed capital.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraqi Army Launches New Security Campaign In Anbar Desert

“The Joint Operations Command (JOC) announced on Saturday the start of the fourth phase of the Will of Victory Operation to hunt down remnants of ISIS militants in the desert of Iraq's western province of Anbar. A statement issued by the JOC media office said: “the fourth phase of this operation was launched at dawn on Saturday, to search and clear the entire desert and the regions in Anbar province from the ISIS remnants.” It said the operation was under the direction of the commander in chief of the armed forces and the supervision of the joint operations command and came after the third phase of the Will of Victory Operation achieved its objectives accurately and successfully. The troops concluded the third phase of the major offensive in the provinces of Nineveh and Diyala on Aug. 5. In this regard, Army Chief of Staff Othman Al-Ghanmi praised the command and high coordination unit between the army and the PMF in the process of the will victory. Ghanmi said elements from the Army and PMF are now positioned in the desert of Wadi Houran, advancing together to chase down the ISIS remnants. The Chief of Staff’s comments signal the presence of a dispute between the Army and Hashd al-Shaabi about the explosions that lately targeted PMF positions and not the Army.”

Stars And Stripes: ISIS Mortar Attack On Soccer Field Kills Six In Iraq

“Police in Iraq say Islamic State militants have fired mortar rounds at a soccer field near a Shiite shrine, killing six civilians and wounding nine others. The attack occurred late Saturday in the village of Daquq, in Iraq's northern Kirkuk province, as people were exercising. Police officials confirmed the attack, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. The area of the attack, southeast of the city of Kirkuk, is controlled by Iran-supported militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. ISIS, which once ruled a self-styled Islamic caliphate sprawling across Iraq and Syria, no longer controls territory in either country but has continued to stage sporadic attacks.”


Arab News: 3 Turkish Soldiers Killed In Clash With Kurdish Militants In Iraq

“Three Turkish soldiers were killed and seven were wounded in a clash with Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, the Turkish Defense Ministry said on Sunday. The statement came after Turkey on Friday launched the third phase of an operation begun in May to root out fighters of the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK (PKK), in the region. It did not specify the location of the clashes. Turkey launched the “Claw” operation in May into mountainous northern Iraq against the PKK. The operation involved conducting a ground offensive and bombing campaign against the PKK in the region. The offensive entered its third phase on Friday, in which troops aim to destroy PKK caves and shelters in the Sinat-Haftanin region. The conflict has claimed more than 40,000 lives since the PKK took up arms in 1984. The PKK began an insurgency against Turkey in the country’s mainly Kurdish southeast in 1984, and the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people. Turkey, the US and the EU consider the group, based in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq, a terror organization. Separately, Daesh militants have fired mortar rounds at a soccer field near a religious site, killing six civilians and wounding nine others, according to police in Iraq.”


The Washington Post: As U.S.-Taliban Deal Nears, Afghanistan’s Ghani Hardens Resolve To Hold Elections On Time

“As 10 months of U.S.-Taliban peace talks enter their final stage, President Ashraf Ghani is doubling down on his determination to hold a presidential election in five weeks, as scheduled, while aides are hurriedly prepping negotiators to meet with Taliban leaders even sooner if a deal is reached with U.S. officials.  Ghani, who is seeking a second five-year term, has rejected concerns raised by critics, who say peace is a higher priority than elections, and politics cannot be allowed to interfere in the country’s first real chance to end an 18-year war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Ghani’s government is not a party to the U.S.-Taliban talks. The negotiations entered their ninth round Friday in Qatar, and both sides said they hope to work out the final issues soon. Under a draft agreement, the United States would withdraw 5,000 troops in coming months and could pull out 9,000 more by next year. The Taliban, in return, would cut ties with al-Qaeda. Still unclear is whether the insurgents would agree to a permanent cease-fire and to talks with the government. A Taliban spokesman said Saturday the agreement would be completed after discussions on implementation and ”some technical points.” Both sides rejected reports Saturday that they had agreed to form an interim government in Kabul.”

Fox News: Graham Warns Withdrawing From Afghanistan Will Lead To ‘Another 9/11’

“Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned in an interview with Fox News Saturday that withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan would lead to “another 9/11,” saying that America can’t “outsource” U.S. national security to the Taliban. “If we left tomorrow, the Taliban cannot be trusted to take care of ISIS and Al Qaeda,” Graham told chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge. “They don't have the capability. So when you ask our intelligence community…what would happen to America if we withdrew all of our forces. They tell us without any hesitation it would lead to another 9/11 in a matter of time.” When asked what the timeframe for such a situation would be, Graham said it would be “years not decades.” The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, beginning an 18-year involvement – the longest in U.S. history. The conflict has killed more than 2,000 American troops, injured more than 20,000 and cost nearly a trillion dollars since 2001. President Trump announced a 4,000-troop increase in August 2017 as part of an effort to break the stalemate in the country. But he has been moving toward agreeing to a phased withdrawal of troops.”

ABC News: Young Afghan Women Barely Remember Taliban But Fear A Return

“Two yellow burqas are on display at a television station in Kabul, bright versions of the blue ghostlike garments some women in the capital still wear. For the young women at Zan TV they are relics, a reminder of a Taliban-ruled past that few of them can recall. Their generation is the most vulnerable, and perhaps the most defiant, as the United States and the Taliban near a deal on ending America's longest war. Worried about losing what they've gained over nearly two decades, they are demanding a voice in high-level talks to determine their country's future. "For me, I will not submit myself to the Taliban," said Shogofa Sadiqi, Zan TV's 25-year-old chief director, who believes the insurgent group will have less impact as it faces a new generation. She described the burqas as a symbol of the challenges women have faced over the years and practically shuddered when asked if she'd worn one herself. Never, ever. "I don't like it," she said, switching to English to make her feelings clear. About two-thirds of Afghanistan's population is 25 or younger, with little or no memory of life before 2001. That's when a U.S.-led invasion pushed out the Taliban, who had sheltered al-Qaida and its leader Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks and imposed a harsh form of Islamic law that kept women out of public view.”


The Washington Post: Gunmen On Motorcycles Attack Police In NW Pakistan, 2 Killed

“Pakistani police say gunmen on motorcycles attacked a security post overnight in the northwestern Daraban Kalan area, killing two employees at a nearby gas station. Police officer Tariq Khan said Saturday that the eight militants also wounded two people in a bus getting gas when the shooting started at around midnight Friday. A faction of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place close to the former Taliban stronghold in South Waziristan bordering Afghanistan. Pakistan claims to have driven out the Taliban, al-Qaida and other militant groups in a series of military operations in recent years, but the region still sees occasional attacks.”


Reuters: Yemen Houthis Say They Attacked Military Target In Saudi Capital

“Yemen's Houthi movement said on Monday it had attacked a "military target" in the Saudi capital Riyadh with armed drones. The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”

Saudi Arabia

Reuters: Coalition Destroys Missiles Fired By Houthis At Saudi Arabia: Spokesman

“A Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Houthis intercepted and destroyed six ballistic missiles fired by the Iran-aligned group targeting civilians in Jizan, southwest of the kingdom, Saudi state news agency SPA said on Sunday.  Earlier, the military spokesman for the Iran-aligned Houthi movement said the group fired 10 Badr-1 ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia’s southwestern Jizan airport, adding that the attack had killed and wounded dozens.  The attack is part of an escalation of cross-border assaults in the four-year-old conflict between the Houthis and coalition forces.  The Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa, have in the past few months stepped up their attacks against targets in the kingdom. In response, the coalition has targeted military sites belonging to the group, especially around Sanaa.  “The Houthi militias continued targeting of civilians through drones and ballistic missiles ...is an act of aggression and terrorism and a war crime according to international human law,” the coalition spokesman, Colonel Turki al-Malki, said in a statement.  The Western-backed Sunni Muslim coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognised Yemeni government that was ousted from power in Sanaa by the Houthis in late 2014.”


Reuters: Two Israeli Drones Fall In Beirut Suburbs, One Explodes: Army, Hezbollah

“An Israeli drone fell in the Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut and a second one exploded near the ground early on Sunday, the Lebanese army and Hezbollah said, in the first such incident in more than a decade. The Israeli military declined to comment. The second drone caused some damage when it crashed before dawn close to Hezbollah’s media center in the Dahiyeh suburbs of Lebanon’s capital Beirut, a Hezbollah official told Reuters. The incident took place hours after the Israeli military said its aircraft had struck Iranian forces and Shi’ite militias near Syria’s capital Damascus which it said had been planning to launch “killer drones” into Israel. Residents in Dahiyeh said they heard the sound of a blast. A witness said the army closed off the streets where a fire had started. A Hezbollah spokesman told Lebanon’s state news agency NNA the second drone was rigged with explosives causing serious damage to the media center. Hezbollah is now examining the first drone, he said. The Lebanese army said that one Israeli drone fell and another exploded at 02:30 am local time (2330 GMT), causing only material damage. ”The army arrived immediately and cordoned off the area where the two drones fell,” it said.”

Al Jazeera: Hezbollah Chief: 'We Will Down Israeli Drones In Lebanon Skies'

“The leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, has said two Israeli drones that fell over the southern suburbs of Beirut were on a "suicide mission" and said Hezbollah will do what it takes to prevent Israel from sending more drones to Beirut. "Hezbollah will not allow such an aggression," he said in a televised address on Sunday. "The time when Israeli aircraft come and bombard parts of Lebanon is over." Nasrallah's speech came hours after a drone crashed in the Lebanese capital. A second drone exploded in the air, Lebanese authorities said. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the drones amounted to an open attack on the country's sovereignty. "The new aggression ... constitutes a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation towards further tension," Hariri said on Sunday in a statement from his office. Israel's security cabinet met on Sunday morning to discuss recent security developments, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened further attacks. ''If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first," he said. "I would like to emphasise: This was an initiative of Iran and we prevented serious attacks. Henceforth we will expose any attempt by Iran to attack us and any Iranian effort to hide behind excuses."

The New York Times: Hezbollah Says Drones That Crashed In Beirut Suburbs Came From Israel

“Two drones crashed in the southern suburbs of Beirut early Sunday, an area that is home to many supporters of the Iran-backed militia Hezbollah, which said the aircraft came from neighboring Israel. The crashes came a day after Israeli warplanes struck targets in Syria where, according to the Israeli military, Iran had been preparing to attack Israel using explosive-laden “killer drones.” Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of forces to Syria to fight in support of President Bashar al-Assad, said two of its fighters were killed in that strike. The weekend events further heightened tensions between the United States and its regional allies on one side and Iran and the local forces it backs on the other. So far, the struggle has played out mostly through the diversion of oil tankers, drone attacks, covert support to militant groups and strikes on military bases said to be used by the Iranians. But the frequency of such incidents and the heated rhetoric on both sides has raised fears that a wider conflict could be on the way. With Iran’s economy reeling from sanctions imposed by the United States, Tehran is less able to fund its allies than it was in the past.”

Haaretz: Israel Strikes Palestinian Base On Lebanese-Syrian Border, State News Claims

“Lebanon's state-run National News Agency says Israeli warplanes have attacked a Palestinian base in the country's east, near the border with Syria early Monday. The report says there were three strikes early on Monday, minutes apart, that struck a base for a Syrian-backed group known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — General Command. The strikes came a day after two drones, which the Lebanese army and Hezbollah said were Israeli, crashed in the Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut, with one exploding. Reuters quotes Lebanon's An-Nahar news, which said that "Three Israeli air strikes target the Lebanese-Syria border east of Zahle."

CNN: Hezbollah Vows Retaliation After Israel Claims Responsibility For Airstrikes Near Damascus

“The leader of Hezbollah has vowed to shoot down any Israeli drones that enter into Lebanese airspace, after two drones reportedly crashed in Beirut, Sunday. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group, said that two Israeli drones crashed in the Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut, with one exploding. Making reference to the same alleged incident, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri had earlier accused Israel of an attack on Lebanese sovereignty. The Israeli army has refused to comment on reports of the two drones. In his address to supporters Sunday evening, Nasrallah also spoke about Israel's airstrikes on a target near the Syrian capital Damascus on Saturday, vowing retaliation. The Israeli military said those strikes foiled an imminent attack by Iran and a Shiite militia on north Israel. Nasrallah said the building targeted by Israel was used to house Hezbollah members, two of whom had been killed in the strike.”

BBC News: Israel Says It Struck Iranian 'Killer Drone' Sites In Syria

“Israel has struck Iranian military sites in Syria to prevent what it said was a pending drone strike by Iran. Israel's military rarely acknowledges operations in Syria, but it claimed on Saturday its strikes had prevented an attack on Israel "using killer drones". PM Benjamin Netanyahu hailed his military's "major operational effort". Israel is believed to have carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since civil war broke out there in 2011, to try to prevent Iran gaining a foothold. An Israeli military spokesman said the strikes on Saturday targeted the Quds Force of the Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) in Aqraba, south-east of the capital, Damascus.”

Middle East

Gulf News: The Fight Against Terrorism Is Far From Over

“Last month, US President Donald Trump said the following about the threat from the Daesh: “We did a great job ... We have 100 per cent of the caliphate, and we’re rapidly pulling out of Syria. We’ll be out of there pretty soon. And let them handle their own problems. Syria can handle their own problems — along with Iran, along with Russia, along with Iraq, along with Turkey. We’re 7,000 miles away.” In other words, the Daesh has been largely defeated and no longer represents a direct threat to our country. Let other, closer countries handle the faraway problem. That has always been the false promise of isolationism — that distance can shield us from the threats in the world. It did not work for those who argued in the 1930s that the oceans could protect us from Nazi Germany. And it will not work in the 21st century in confronting the global threat of terrorism. According to US and Iraqi military and intelligence officers and a Defence Department inspector general report, the Daesh is gathering new strength, conducting guerrilla attacks across Iraq and Syria, retooling its financial networks and targeting new recruits. The terrorist group has mobilised as many as 18,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria.”


Punch Nigeria: Boko Haram Burnt 73 Houses, 28 Shops In Konduga —Borno Govt

“Boko Haram insurgents have set ablaze 73 houses and 28 shops in Thursday’s attack on three Borno State villages, the state government revealed on Saturday. The Governor of Borno State, Prof Babagana Umara Zulum, had on Friday complained to President Muhammadu Buhari about the increased attacks by insurgents in the state, noting that three local government areas; Gubio, Magumeri and Konduga, were attacked in the last one week. The governor, who arrived the state capital, Maiduguri, on Friday evening after meeting with Buhari, revealed he was informed of the loss by the Chairperson of the State Emergency Management Agency, Hajiya Yabawa Kolo. Kolo said that a total of 73 houses and 28 shops were torched in the attack by Boko Haram in three villages of the Konduga LGA on Thursday night. In Borri, one of the three villages torched by the insurgents, Kolo told Zulum that around 8:00pm of August 22, the insurgents attacked and set ablaze 17 houses and four shops in the village. Kolo also told the governor that in Wanori Village, 34 houses and 18 shops were set ablaze and in Kaleri-Abdule Village, 22 houses and six shops were torched.”


Al Jazeera: Twelve Dead In Boko Haram Niger Attack: Official

“A night raid blamed on Boko Haram has left a dozen villagers dead in southeast Niger on the frontier with Nigeria, according to a local official. The attack on Friday night in the border district of Gueskerou is the latest to hit the Diffa region near Lake Chad, which is crisscrossed by fighter groups and traffickers. ”Twelve villagers were killed on Friday at around 8:00pm (19:00 GMT) by Boko Haram elements,” a local elected official told AFP on Saturday.He said 11 of those killed had been shot but did not give further details. The Gueskerou area, abutting the Komadougou Yobe river that provides a natural frontier between Niger and Nigeria, has been exposed to years of killings and kidnappings at the hands of the Boko Haram. In March, two attacks in the area left eight civilians and seven police dead. Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden”, has waged an armed campaign in northeast Nigeria since 2009. The group wants to establish an Islamic state which will follow a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Some 30,000 people have been killed and more than two million displaced since Boko Haram launched its armed campaign. The fighting has since spilled over to neighbouring Niger, Cameroon and Chad.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: New PM Seeks To Remove Sudan From US List Of Terror Sponsors

“Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said Sunday that ending his country's international pariah status and drastically cutting military spending are prerequisites for rescuing a faltering economy. Hamdok, a well-known economist, told The Associated Press in an interview that he has already talked to US officials about removing Sudan from Washington's list of countries sponsoring terrorism and portrayed their reaction as positive. He said that “a democratic Sudan is not a threat to anybody in the world.” Hamdok was sworn in last week as the leader of Sudan's transitional government. His appointment came four months after the overthrow of president Omar al-Bashir, who ruled the country for nearly three decades. An 11-member Sovereign Council was also sworn in last week. The civilian-majority Council replaces the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that took charge after months of deadly street protests brought down Bashir in April.  Sudan was designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 under former US President Bill Clinton, cutting it off from financial markets and strangling its economy.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Terrorism: Two Arrested In Bomb Investigation Released

“Two men arrested by detectives investigating the attempted murder of police officers have been released unconditionally. A 39-year-old and 35-year-old had been arrested under the Terrorism Act following searches in the Lurgan and Craigavon areas. It is part of the investigation into the attempted murder of officers in County Armagh and County Fermanagh. The men had been taken to Musgrave Serious Crime Suite for questioning. The first incident happened in the Tullygally Road are of Craigavon on Friday 26 July.  Officers attending the scene found a “booby-trap device” which was designed to go off when moved.  Police said an eyewitness had seen a man running away form the scene of the attack. The attack in County Fermanagh near Wattlebridge, close to the border, saw officers and soldiers lured to the scene with a hoax device. No one was injured in the attack. The PSNI said it believed the Continuity IRA was behind the “deliberate attempt” to kill police officers. The attack at Wattlebridge was the fifth attempt to murder police officers so far this year.”

The Independent: Government Putting Britons At Risk By Stripping ISIS Members’ Citizenship, Former Defence Minister Warns

“The government is putting Britons at risk by depriving Isis members of their British citizenship, a former defence minister has said. Tobias Ellwood told The Independent the detention of thousands of jihadis and their families in Syria was creating conditions for an Isis resurgence. “We’ll see Daesh 2.0,” he warned. “We’ll see a repeat of al-Qaeda regrouping and becoming a very real threat, and that threat won’t just pose itself in the Middle East, but also to Britain.” The former soldier, whose brother was killed in the 2002 Bali bombings, said more British victims had been killed in terror attacks abroad than in the UK. “We’ve still got attacks taking place, we’ve still got the ideology alive,” said Mr Ellwood, who was sacked as defence minister by Boris Johnson. “We’ve done well to stand up as a lead nation on the battlefield in defeating Daesh and the caliphate, but the last piece of the jigsaw is 20,000 or so fighters that nobody really wants. “They will regroup to fight another day – we’re already seeing it.” Mr Ellwood said the UK had not “concluded our mission” to defeat Isis, adding: “We need to complete it rather than allowing it to haunt us in the future. “We stepped forward because we had a sense of duty, of values and standards, and if we just give up on that we’ve forgotten what we were fighting for.”

The Jerusalem Post: British Gov’t Probes Qatari-Owned Bank Due To Hamas Terrorism Links

“Qatari regime-owned bank, Al Rayan, operating in the United Kingdom with ties to the US- and EU-classified terrorist entity Hamas, has been placed under investigation for financial crimes, including money laundering. The British newspaper The Times, which first reported on the probe into Al Rayan on Thursday, wrote Al Rayan notified its shareholders this year that its “anti-money laundering [AML] processes and controls have been placed under formal review by the Financial Conduct Authority [FCA], which has led to ongoing investment in enhanced AML processes.” The Jerusalem Post reported in early August that Al Rayan’s account with the Hamas-connected NGO Interpal revealed pro-BDS notices targeting Israel on its website. The Times wrote in its early August report that Interpal is “A Palestinian aid charity identified in a 2015 government review as part of the British infrastructure of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. It was designated as a terrorist entity by the US Treasury over alleged Hamas funding links, a charge it strongly denies.” The Times’ second report on Thursday said “Restrictions have been placed on the operation of Al Rayan, the UK’s oldest and largest Islamic bank, pending the outcome of the [FCA] investigation.”


Deutsche Welle: German State Fights Islamist Extremism With YouTube Satire

“The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has launched a satirical YouTube channel in the hope of stopping young people from becoming radicalized via the video sharing platform. The project launched by the NRW Office for the Protection of the Constitution has two parts: a satirical YouTube channel and an accompanying factual channel. The comical "Jihadi Fool" channel, launched on Thursday (22.08.2019) at the Gamescom computer games trade fair in Cologne, is a sketch comedy format that in NRW Interior Ministry words "satirically addresses the absurdity of radicalization, terrorism and Islamism," while the educational channel refers to the satirical videos and counters Salafist propaganda with facts. It will be launched on Tuesday. The name is a reference to the subculture "Jihad Cool," used by extremists to rebrand jihadism as a fashionable lifestyle. Over the course of a year, 32 satirical videos and 16 factual videos will be released through the €500,000 ($557,000) project. One satire shows a right-wing populist and an Islamic extremist bonding over sexism and homophobia while trying to convert passersby; another shows a fictional TV show titled "Goodbye Syria," in which a former extremist adapts to the mundane struggles of life back in Germany.”


The Arab Weekly: Europe Grapples With ISIS Returnees And Their Families

“With the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate off the map, European countries are struggling to deal with hundreds of foreign fighter recruits and their families who are seeking to return to their home countries. Since 2011, some 13,000 European nationals have joined the Islamic State (ISIS), posing unique legal and security challenges for their home countries. Today, with many held in overcrowded Kurdish-controlled prisons, European governments must decide how to proceed: Should they strip the terror suspects of their nationality, repatriate and prosecute them at home or leave them at the mercy of their captors? Even more thorny is the status of their children and other family members who were taken to ISIS territory against their will. While governments bear some responsibility for ensuring their safe return, this often requires the expenditure of significant resources and comes at a high political cost. So far, various governments have taken different approaches. In Central Asia, countries such as Kosovo, Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have been the most proactive in returning fighters and their families home.”


Yahoo Finance: Telegram’s Upcoming Blockchain Network: A Safe Haven For Terrorists?

“A 253-page report detailing how terrorists use cryptocurrencies concludes that the imminent release of Telegram's TON (Telegram Open Network) blockchain network and associated Gram cryptocurrency is a major security threat to the U.S. government. The report, released this week by the Washington, DC-based Middle Eastern Media Research Institute (MEMRI), produces new evidence that shows how terrorist groups including ISIS, Al-Qaida, Hamas, and Muslim Brotherhood rely on Telegram to raise cryptocurrency and coordinate attacks. “Telegram is the number one source for terrorist organizations online,” Steven Stalinsky, executive director of MEMRI told Decrypt.  TON, the encrypted messaging app's new blockchain network, raised almost $1.7 billion in a private ICO sale last year and is expected to be released in the next few months. Gram will thus launch as one of the most valuable cryptocurrencies ever, and every user—estimates suggest there’s more than 365 million of them—will automatically receive their own wallet.  But that means terrorists will, too. “Every different group that is already using [Telegram]—which is every main terrorist organization—will all have access,” said Stalinsky.”

The Wall Street Journal: Google Puts Curbs On Political Debate By Employees

“Google issued new guidelines limiting employee discussion of politics and other topics not related to work, in a major shift for a company that has long prided itself on open debate and a freewheeling internal culture. The Alphabet Inc. unit said in a public memo on Friday that staffers should avoid spending time hotly debating matters unrelated to their jobs and refrain from name-calling, among other discouraged behavior. Google also said it would appoint employees to moderate the company’s famously raucous internal message boards, rather than allowing volunteers to do so—in effect acknowledging that the discussions have spiraled out of control. “This follows a year of increased incivility on our internal platforms, and we’ve heard that employees want clearer rules of the road on what’s OK to say and what’s not,” a Google spokeswoman said.”