Eye on Extremism: August 28

CNN: US On Alert As Syrian Regime Prepares For Assault On Final Rebel Stronghold

“Amid increasing signs the Syrian regime is heading for an all-out assault on Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in the country, US military and intelligence officials are watching for any indications the regime is moving chemical weapons into the area for possible use against civilians, according to several US officials. They are worried the regime, faced with potential heavy resistance in the area, will turn to chlorine-filled helicopter-launched barrel bombs as it has in the past. Officials say they don't have confirmed evidence of chemical weapons movement yet. However, the regime has now moved some of its most highly trained and equipped elite infantry forces into an area just south of Idlib in addition to thousands of forces already in the region, according to US officials. One of the military concerns, US officials say, is if all-out fighting occurs, the area is so close to the Turkish border that combat aircraft from Syria, Russia, Turkey and even the United States could encounter each other. The level of concern has heightened over the last few days as Russia has increased social media activity claiming the US and its allies are preparing to carry out airstrikes under the pretext of chemical weapons use by the regime. In one tweet, the Russian Ministry of Defense said the US, France and United Kingdom were 'preparing" to carry out new strikes in Syria.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iran Signs Deal With Syria To Deepen Military Cooperation

“Iran said Monday that it had agreed to a deal to deepen military cooperation with Syria, reaffirming its intention to remain in the country despite moves by the U.S. and its allies to contain Tehran’s military reach. Iran and Syria reached the deal following meetings Sunday between their defense ministers and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, according to Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim News Agency. The report offered no further details. Syrian state-linked media said the two sides reaffirmed the need the develop long-term cooperation, but made no mention of a new deal. Iran has sent thousands of its own and allied forces to Syria to fight alongside Mr. Assad’s troops, and has also supported the Syrian regime with weaponry and oil. The move to further cement the partnership comes as the Trump administration and Israel amplify calls for Iran to withdraw completely from Syria. Beating back Tehran has been a central goal of U.S. foreign policy under President Trump, who withdrew the U.S. in May from the Iran nuclear deal and has started reimposing sanctions that had been lifted under the Obama-era pact.”

The Atlantic: Turkey Made A Bet Against Assad—And Lost

“Before the war in Syria broke out in 2011, a budding personal friendship between Bashar al-Assad, the leader of Syria, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the president of Turkey, augured close economic ties and an open border. That would be only the beginning: Turkey saw Syria as the launching pad for its plans to become the dominant economic force in the Arab world, a region it had largely retreated from after losing its vast Arab provinces with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. But the Syrian uprising forced Turkey to reconsider. Erdoğan severed his ties with Assad and cast his lot with the popular, predominantly Sunni opposition, making the bet that they would overthrow the minority Alawite-based regime. Meanwhile, Turkey gradually found itself on the outs with Washington, a close strategic partner for decades. Following the recent hostile rhetoric from the Trump administration and the imposition of sanctions on Turkey for detaining an American pastor, tensions have grown. Seven years into the war in Syria, as Turkey struggles to shield itself from the destabilizing spillover of regional turmoil, Erdoğan’s bet on the Arab world looks increasingly like a losing one. A Syria at war has become the graveyard for any dreams of the neo-Ottoman grandeur he may have nurtured. for Turkey’s Journalists? The rump state of the once mighty Ottoman Empire, Turkey has experienced numerous traumas over the past century, including repeated coups to suppress internal challengers.”

The Verge: It Took A Genocide For Facebook To Ban A Country’s Military Leadership

“The United Nations issued a report today alleging that the military in Myanmar had “genocidal intent” when it committed mass murders and gang rapes of the minority Muslim Rohingya population. It called for generals to be punished for human rights atrocities. And it also implicated Facebook. “The role of social media is significant,” the report’s authors wrote. “Facebook has been a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate, in a context where for most users Facebook is the internet. Although improved in recent months, Facebook’s response has been slow and ineffective.” The report went on: “The extent to which Facebook posts and messages have led to real-world discrimination and violence must be independently and thoroughly examined. The Mission regrets that Facebook is unable to provide country-specific data about the spread of hate speech on its platform, which is imperative to assess the adequacy of its response.”

The Washington Post: Why Your Favorite Bench Might Be There To Thwart A Terrorist Attack

“When landscape architects recently began redesigning a wide, red-brick sidewalk in Washington’s Chinatown, they initially ­focused on improving the storm-water runoff and making it easier for pedestrians to navigate safely. But last fall, after a driver plowed a truck into a bike path in Lower Manhattan and killed eight people, they added a new goal: to protect people from terrorists using vehicles as weapons. Instead of throwing up rows of bollards or concrete barriers, they plan to install trees, bike racks and raised planters that will double as benches. They’re designed to make the sidewalk more pleasant while creating obstacles to stop an attacking vehicle or, better yet, dissuade a potential terrorist from trying. “When you look at it, you won’t say, ‘That’s there to protect pedestrians,’ but that’s what they’re doing,” said Robb Berg, of Design Workshop. The Colorado-based landscape ­architecture firm is redesigning the sidewalk on I Street between Sixth and Seventh streets NW as a prototype for the American Society of Landscape Architects, which has its offices on the block.”

United States

Haaretz: U.S. Offered Assad To Leave Syria If Iran Withdraws From South, Report Says

“The United States offered the Assad regime to take its forces out of Syria in return for an Iranian withdrawal from the country's south, Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported Tuesday. Officials in Washington have not confirmed the report, which has not been published in U.S. media. In response to the report, the Syrians said that the U.S. forces are occupiers and must get out. The Lebanese daily, considered close to Hezbollah, reported that U.S. intelligence agency representatives met last month in Damascus with senior officials in the Syrian regime's security establishment. According to the report the meeting lasted four hours and the Americans set three conditions for their withdrawal, which would include leaving the al-Tanf base near the Jordanian-Syrian-Iraqi border triangle as well as the forces located east of the Euphrates River.”

Syria

Haaretz: Syria, Turkey, Russia And U.S. To Square Off In Idlib With Millions Of Civilians In The Crosshairs

“Turkey's foreign minister said last Friday it would be disastrous to seek a military solution in the northern Syrian region of Idlib, a rebel-held enclave which the Syrian government says it aims to recapture. Idlib is a refuge for civilians and rebels displaced from other areas of Syria as well as for powerful jihadist forces. It has been hit by a wave of air strikes and shelling this month in a possible prelude to a full-scale government offensive. Turkey has backed some rebel groups in the region and set up a dozen military observation posts. It is trying to avert an attack by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Moscow. "A military solution here would be a disaster, not just for the Idlib region, but a disaster in terms of Syria's future," Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. The two ministers met in Ankara 10 days ago and Cavusoglu then gave a similar message, saying it would be a "massacre" to bomb Idlib, even though there are militants there. Where will some 3.5 million civilians go to?" Cavusoglu said on Friday. "It is important for all of us to neutralise these radical groups," he said. "But we have to distinguish the civilians from the terrorist groups." Idlib is controlled by an array of insurgent groups, with Sunni Muslim jihadists believed to be the dominant force there.”

Reuters: Driven From Home, White Helmet Rescuers Start Over In North Syria

“Syrian rescue worker Samir Salim found his mother’s body under their collapsed house, but there was no time for a funeral. “We buried her and went back to work. There were a lot of people under the rubble,” he said. Months later, he can no longer even visit her grave. When Syrian government forces clawed back his eastern Ghouta hometown, near the capital Damascus, Salim followed hundreds of thousands of others who had fled to the northwest under rebel surrender deals. Now, he and “White Helmet” workers driven from different parts of Syria have come together in the rebel-controlled town of Azaz to try to rebuild their lives near the Turkish border. Their work has changed drastically: with no warplanes cruising overhead, they help the opposition authorities put out fires, clean the streets, and plant trees. Azaz falls within a de facto buffer zone which Turkey has carved out since 2016. The northwest corner remains Syria’s last major insurgent stronghold and is now in President Bashar al-Assad’s crosshairs. The White Helmets have often said they worried about reprisals as government forces defeated rebel enclaves with Russian and Iranian help. The civil defense service, which receives funding from Western governments, pulls people from the rubble of air strikes in rebel territory. Assad has accused it of being a Western-sponsored front for al Qaeda’s branch in Syria.”

Iran

The Washington Post: Iran Asks UN’s Highest Court To Suspend US Sanctions

“Iran warned Monday that re-imposed U.S. sanctions would cripple its economy and plunge the volatile Middle East deeper into crisis as it urged the United Nations’ highest court to suspend the Trump administration’s economic pressure on Tehran. In a written statement about the case at the International Court of Justice, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Iran’s claims “meritless” and defended the sanctions as a way of keeping Americans safe. The world court’s wood-paneled Great Hall of Justice in The Hague is the latest backdrop for Washington and Tehran’s high-stakes dispute about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. President Donald Trump said in May that he would pull the U.S. out of a 2015 agreement over Iran’s nuclear program and would re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Washington also threatened other countries with sanctions if they don’t cut off Iranian oil imports by early November. Iran filed a case with the court in July challenging the re-imposition. Tehran alleges that the sanctions breach a 1955 bilateral agreement known as the Treaty of Amity that regulates and promotes economic and consular ties between the two countries.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iran Tries To Escape Its Stifling Crisis By Turning To Qatar

“Iranian President Hassan Rouhani proposed to the Emir of Qatar on Sunday that Tehran help Doha in the construction of infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup that is hosted by the Gulf state. Rouhani made the suggestion during a telephone call with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad. The diplomatic and economic of Qatar boycott by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates has left a negative impact on its ability to host the world’s top football tournament. The four countries announced their boycott in June 2017 over Doha’s support and financing of terrorism. The ensuing crisis resulted in delays in meeting construction deadlines for the World Cup.Qatar used to rely significantly on importing its building material from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

Reuters: Iran's President Vows To Defeat 'Anti-Iranian' Officials In The White House

“Iran will overcome newly reimposed U.S. measures against Tehran, sanctions that will only serve to unify the nation, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday. In a speech broadcast live on state television, Rouhani said his government would overcome the economic challenges and show "the anti-Iranian officials in the White House" that the sanctions would fail. "The economic problems are critical, but more important than that is that many people have lost their faith in the future of the Islamic Republic and are in doubt about its power," said Rouhani, who was attending a parliamentary session to answer lawmakers' questions about his handling of the economy, amid rising prices and unemployment. "We are not afraid of America or the economic problems," he said. "We will overcome the troubles." It was the first time the parliament summoned Rouhani, who is under pressure from hardline rivals to change his cabinet after a deterioration in relations with the United States and Iran's growing economic difficulties.”

Iraq

Iraqi News: 20 Islamic State Militants Apprehended In Mosul

“A security official has said that 20 Islamic State members, including five women, were arrested Monday in southern Mosul city. “Security forces managed to arrest 20 Islamic State militants in Hajj Ali village in Qayyarah district, 60 km south of Mosul,” Basnews website quoted Major Samir Aref as saying. “They worked for al-Hisbah (Vigilantism) department,” Aref said, adding that the security forces carried the arrestees into the Nineveh Operations Command for interrogation. Violence in the country has surged further with the emergence of Islamic State extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014. The surge in violence between armed groups and government forces has resulted in over five million internally displaced persons across Iraq and left more than 11 million in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced last year liberation of the second largest Iraqi city of Mosul from IS militants, who had captured it in 2014. More than 25000 militants were killed throughout the campaign, which started in October 2016. A total of 79 Iraqi civilians were killed and another 99 injured in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in Iraq in July 2018, according to casualty figures recorded by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Russia Postpones Peace Talks With Taliban: Afghan President

“Russia has agreed to postpone multilateral peace talks with the Taliban, a week after the insurgents accepted an invitation to go to Moscow for a Sept. 4 summit, the office of the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Monday. Russia invited 12 countries and the Taliban to Moscow for peace talks next month. But though the Taliban had accepted the invitation, Kabul turned it down on the grounds that peace talks with the insurgent group must be led by Afghanistan. Ghani spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “to iron out the differences and ensure talks with the Taliban happen in presence of the Afghan government,” a senior Ghani official told Reuters. Lavrov assured Ghani that the summit dates “will be changed to ensure Afghanistan’s participation,” the official said. “A decision has been made to postpone the Moscow meeting for more preparation and to make it effective so that Afghan and Russian governments together will manage and host the meeting,” Ghani said in a tweet. The United States had also declined to attend the Sept. 4 event.”

Khaama Press News Agency: Militants, Security Personnel Among 115 Dead, Wounded In Faryab Clash

“At least one hundred and fifteen people including militants and security personnel were killed or wounded during a clash in northern Faryab province of Afghanistan. The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North said a large convoy of the security forces was ambushed by the Taliban militants between Ghormach and Qaisar districts at around 9:30am local time on Monday. The source further added that ambush by the Taliban militants sparked heavy clashes that lasted for two hours, leaving at least 73 militants dead and 31 others wounded. According to Shaheen Corps, a shadow district chief of the Taliban for Qaisar Mullah Shirin and six other Taliban commanders identified as Mullah Qayoum, Qari Sur Gul, Mawlavi Jan Mohammad, and Mawlavi Noor Mohammad were among those killed. The Shaheen Corps also added that four security personnel also lost their lives in the attack and seven others sustained injuries. A Humvee armored personnel carrier and a Ranger vehicle were destroyed while three armored personnel carrier were damaged, the Shaheen Corps added. The Afghan Air Force and coalition forces based in Afghanistan also carried out numerous airstrikes during the clash.”

Yemen

Asharq Al-Awsat: Yemeni Army Downs Houthi Drone In Al-Baydha

“The Yemeni national army downed on Monday a drone operated by the Iran-backed Houthi militias. The drone was shot down over the Naaman district in the central al-Baydha province. A field source told the September.net website that the aircraft was loaded with explosives. After inspection, it was revealed to be made in Iran. Elsewhere in Yemen, the army announced that its forces killed in recent days a number of Houthi leaders during clashes with the legitimate forces in the al-Durayhimi district in the Hodeidah province, said a statement from the Amaleqa Brigades. Prominent Houthi leader Abdulwahhab al-Hussam and eleven of his aides were among the casualties, it added. Hussam played a major role in mobilizing members of his tribe to join the Houthis. He also succeeded in recruiting hundreds of members for the militias. Other casualties included Hussein Abad al-Rajehi, who played a role in mobilizing the militias, Mohammed Mohammed al-Washly, a Houthi cultural guide, and Fadel Sharaf, who was trained by Lebanese experts in Saada in 2014.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Yemeni Minister: Houthis Continue To Seize Relief Trucks

“Yemeni Minister of Local Administration and Chairman of the Higher Relief Committee Abdel Raqib Fatah called on UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen Lise Grande to intervene urgently and take the proper measures to allow the entry of medical teams to affected areas in Hodeidah. He urged her to provide support and care for the population in the province and immediately release relief trucks that were seized by the Iran-backed Houthi militias in the provinces of Hodeidah, Ibb and Dhamar. He called on her to condemn the militias clearly and explicitly and hold them fully responsible for obstructing the work of humanitarian organizations. He demanded that solutions be reached to prevent the recurrence of these violations that are exacerbating the suffering of the people. UN agencies and the Security Council must be presented with all the terrorist acts committed by the militias against relief and humanitarian work, he added to the Saba news agency. The minister denounced the militias’ barring of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) medical teams from entering the Durayhimi region in southern Hodeidah where they were seeking to provide humanitarian support to the people. He also condemned the Houthis’ continued seizure of a number of relief trucks in Hodeidah, Ibb and Dhamar and the establishment of checkpoints in regions under their control to capture these trucks and force relief organizations to pay high fees. Fatah slammed these "terrorist acts and violations of the international humanitarian laws,” demanding that the international community assume its responsibility in preventing them.”

Saudi Arabia

Reuters: Saudi Arabia Says Ballistic Missile Fired By Yemen's Houthis Intercepted

“Saudi Arabian air defenses intercepted a ballistic missile fired in the direction of the city of Najran by Yemen’s Houthi group, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday citing a military spokesman. “There were no casualties as a result of the interception,” said the spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis, Colonel Turki al-Maliki.”

The New Arab: Houthi Missiles Target 'Saudi Soldier Gatherings' Along Border

“Yemen's Houthi rebels fired two missiles toward the Saudi kingdom on Sunday, according to the rebel-run al-Masirah TV. The rebel group shot Zelzal-1 missiles targeting "gatherings of Saudi soldiers" in Jizan and Najran, al-Masirah TV said in a tweet on Sunday. Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition battling the rebels in Yemen, has yet to confirm the attacks. Last week, the Saudi-led coalition denied it had been hit by a Houthi rebel attack saying it had foiled a booby-trapped boat attack by Yemen's rebels in the Red Sea weeks, after the rebels hit a Saudi oil tanker. A statement cited by state-run al-Ekhbariya news channel did not identify the target of the attack but the rebel-run Saba news agency, said the Houthis hit a Saudi military target inside the kingdom's territorial waters. The coalition statement said "the terrorist attack by a booby-trapped boat was launched from the shores of Hodeida", a city off the strategic Bab al-Mandeb straits. The coalition, which has been fighting the Houthi militias since March 2015, accused the rebels and the Iranian revolutionary guards of continuing to threaten international navigation routes and world trade. It also reaffirmed that the protection of the Bab al-Mandeb waterway is an international responsibility. Last month, the Houthi rebels hit a giant Saudi oil tanker in the strategic waterway off Yemen coast causing minor damage.”

Lebanon

Al Bawaba: Hezbollah Vows To Respond If Iran Attacked

“Hezbollah and the Jewish state this month marked the 12th anniversary of the end of Israel’s 34-day war on Lebanon in July 2006 with threats to destroy each other if a new round of hostilities erupted. The Israel-Hezbollah war of words, which reached alarming levels in the past few weeks, heightened fears of a new military confrontation. In 2006, the two archfoes fought a devastating war in which more than 1,200 Lebanese, the majority civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed. However, despite the saber-rattling and exchange of threats – coupled with serious military preparations for battle – a new war between Israel and Hezbollah does not appear to be imminent or inevitable, at least for now, political analysts said. But some warned that this situation could suddenly change if the United States or its strategic ally Israel decided to carry out a military strike against Iran, either over its nuclear program or in response to Tehran’s threat to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the volatile oil-rich Gulf region. “Any American or Israeli military strike on Iran will risk igniting the generally calm southern Lebanese front and prompt Hezbollah to launch missiles at Israel,” a source close to Hezbollah said. “Furthermore, Iranian officials have warned that U.S. military bases and warships in the Gulf region would be targeted if Iran was attacked.”

Middle East

Reuters: UAE Denies Report Of Houthi Drone Attack On Dubai Airport

“The United Arab Emirates (UAE) denied reports on Monday that the Iranian-aligned Houthis in Yemen had attacked Dubai airport with a drone, and said operations were unaffected. The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority “has denied Houthi media claims on the Dubai International Airport, affirming that the UAE air traffic operates business as usual,” the authority said in a statement by state news agency WAM. Houthi-run media said earlier that a Sammad-3 drone had targeted the facility, but did not provide any evidence and there were no reports of damage or casualties.”

Egypt

Asharq Al-Awsat: 5 Suspected ISIS Terrorists Killed In Shootout South Of Egypt Capital

“Five suspected ISIS terrorists were killed on Monday in a shootout in a southern Egyptian province, police said. The Interior Ministry said in a statement the fighting broke out Monday when police raided a suspected terrorist hideout in the Akhmim district in Sohag province, 390 kilometers (244 miles) south of the capital Cairo. The statement added that police seized weapons during the raid. Egypt, which has been under a state of emergency since April of last year, has been battling terrorist groups for years. Their activity spiked after the 2013 ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi. In February, Egypt launched a nation-wide security operation against the terrorists, focused particularly on the northern Sinai region.The military says that over 250 suspected terrorists and at least 35 soldiers have been killed in the "Sinai 2018" operation.”

Libya

Al Jazeera: Libya: Armed Groups Vie For Control In Deadly Tripoli Clashes

“At least four people have been killed and seven others wounded in clashes that broke out between rival armed groups in Libya's capital, Tripoli, as they attempt to take control of the city. The health ministry declared a state of emergency on Monday, according to local media, after the Sunday evening clashes continued to escalate. The fighting erupted between local militias and al-Kani tribal fighters from Tarhouna, southeast of Tripoli, who are sending reinforcements to the country's north.  Both sides technically operate under Libya's UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). Heavy weapons, including artillery, have been used in the fighting, according to witnesses. Residential areas have been hit by what seems to be random shelling and several families have had to evacuate their homes. Roads were blocked, while tanks and armoured vehicles were seen at several places across the city. The Presidential Council (PC) responded by condemning the GNA for the eruption of violence in Tripoli. "We warn these gangs and outlawed groups that have terrorised civilians and residents; there is no space for such lawlessness and chaos," said the PC in a statement. "We have given orders to the interior ministry to counter these attacks. "Anyone who is found to be involved in these incidents will face justice." The National Committee for Human Rights in Libya said in a statement on Monday that it was deeply concerned over the outbreak of the violence, Libya News reported.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: ‘Boko Haram Have Given Us Their Last Warning’ — Nurses Abducted In Rann Beg Buhari For Help

“The nurse and two midwives abducted by Boko Haram on March 1, 2018, have begged President Muhammadu Buhari to vindicate them by rescuing them from captivity. The three health workers — Mrs. Alice Loksha Ngaddah, a nurse and mother of two; Hauwa Mohammed Liman (midwife) and Saifura Husseini Ahmed (midwife) — urged the President to do whatever he can do “for the sake of Allah”, to save them in the interest of their children and the nation. In an audio obtained by Ahmad Salkida, the Nigerian journalist with the deepest knowledge of Boko Haram and the insurgency, they could be heard tearily saying: “We were there for the vulnerable, now we are vulnerable. “For the sake of God, for the sake of Allah, President Muhammadu Buhari, come and help us. Come and vindicate us from this captivity. We need your help; we need your help. Have mercy and help us.” In the audio, produced just before mid-August, they said: “To all our fellow Nigerians, we are pleading for God’s sake, come and vindicate us from this captivity. “We are children of the nation. Today, being Saturday, the 13th of August [Saturday was 11th August] come and vindicate us. Our organizations, we were there for the vulnerable, but today we are vulnerable. “Come and hear our cry for mercy. Our family, our children, the nation at large needs us back. They have given us their last warning, that after this they will take action that will shock everyone. For the sake God, for the sake of Allah, President Muhammadu Buhari come to our rescue and help us and vindicate us.”

Daily Post: Leah Sharibu Reportedly Speaks From Boko Haram Captivity, Begs Buhari

“The only Christian girl among the students Boko Haram abducted from Government Girls Secondary School in Dapchi, Yobe State, Leah Sharibu has reportedly spoken from the den of the terrorists. Sharibu appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to save her from the terrorists. Following the public outcry that followed the abduction of the students, Boko Haram had released the girls but refused to set Sharibu free over her refusal to renounce Christianity. However, in a 35 seconds audio obtained by TheCable, the abducted student said, “I am Leah Sharibu, the girl that was abducted in GGSS Dapchi. I am calling on the government and people of goodwill to intervene to get me out of my current situation. “I also plead to the members of the public to help my mother, my father, my younger brother and relatives.”

Daily Trust: Boko Haram Fuelled By Dried Lake Chad – UN

“UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has attributed the Boko Haram terrorism in Northeast Nigeria largely to the drying up of the once thriving Lake Chad, which provided millions with livelihood. Mohammed stated this in Stockholm in her remarks to the opening plenary of 2018 World Water Week  with theme:  ‘Water, Ecosystems and Human Development, at the Heart of the Global Agendas’. The deputy UN scribe recounted her experience as Minister of Environment of Nigeria and Chair of Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council. According to her, she saw first-hand the disastrous human consequences of badly-managed water resources and ecosystems, noting the importance of protecting the environment and conserving resources for sustainable development. She said: “I was raised in north-eastern Nigeria, where lack of access to clean water and sanitation is a major challenge.”

Somalia

Xinhua: Two Soldiers Killed In Blast In Somalia's Mogadishu

“At least two Somali soldiers were killed in a road blast at Al-Baraka junction in Mogadishu's Hodan district, police said on Monday. A police officer who declined to be named told Xinhua that a bomb placed along the road exploded as a military vehicle was passing by. "We can confirm that two soldiers died in the blast and we are establishing more details on the incident," the officer said. Residents said that they also heard huge blast at the scene. "The blast was huge and we have leant that military vehicle was hit by roadside bomb. Heavily armed security forces arrived at the scene." a resident, Muna Ahmed, told Xinhua. The residents said the blast resulted from an explosive device fitted into a vehicle. The police later cordoned off the scene and launched an investigation into the incident but no arrest has been made. No one has claimed responsibility for the latest attack although the al-Shabab militant group often stages such attacks in Mogadishu. The incident took place despite heavy security in Mogadishu on Monday where security officers blocked some major roads. Security forces were deployed on the main roads, blocking public transport and private vehicles from using the roads. The motive behind such lockdown remained unclear as public commuter buses could be seen stuck on the main roads and many people walking along city roads. Somali forces backed by AMISOM ousted al-Shabab from the capital Mogadishu in August 2011, but the terror group is still in control of several areas in southern Somalia and capable of conducting attacks.”

Africa

The Defense Post: Mali: Two Civilians, ‘Senior ISIS Official’ Among 4 Killed In French Airstrike

“A senior official of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, a bodyguard and two civilians were killed in northeastern Mali in a French airstrike, the French Armed Forces said in a release. “On August 26, 2018 in the region of Menaka (Mali), units of the Barkhane force carried out an action against an armed terrorist group, neutralizing Mohamed Ag Almouner, one of the main officials of the State Islamic in the Greater Sahara,” the Monday, August 27 statement said. The night operation consisted of an airstrike by two Mirage 2000 jets followed by a ground action to seize the position. “The commandos deployed confirmed the death of Mohamed Ag Almouner and one of his bodyguards. They found that two civilians, a woman and a teenager, had also been killed,” the statement said. Two other civilians and another ISGS member were injured. The statement expressed regret at the civilian casualties and said an investigation is underway to determine how civilians were hit during the strike. “The proven presence of civilians near the target would have led to the cancellation of the mission,” the statement said. It was unclear what Almouner’s role was in ISGS. French army spokesperson Colonel Patrik Steiger told AFP he was “a lieutenant to the ISGS chief.””

The Star: KDF To Acquire US Equipment As Uhuru, Trump Bolster War On Terror

“President Uhuru Kenyatta and US' Donald Trump have agreed to deepen cooperation on matters defence and security for efficient war against terror. Al Shabaab has in the past launched attacks in Kenya targeting civilians, in revenge for Kenya moving its troops into Somalia in 2011. Read: Mandera al Shabaab attack victim speaks of horrific killings. Speaking during a joint conference, the two presidents pledged to build on acquisition of military equipment made in the United States. President Trump committed to further enhance Kenya Defence Forces capabilities to enable fight the enemy. "We have had very strong and excellent cooperation with the US in security and defence, especially in the fight against terrorism. Most important, we are here looking to enhance our partnership in trade and investment," Uhuru said. President Trump said Kenya and the US will continue to work together to grow their partnership in trade, investments and security. "We do a lot of tourism, we do a lot of trade and defence. And we working very much in security right now. We appreciate very much your being with us here," Trump said. Trump commended the Kenya Defence Forces for their service and sacrifice in combating al-Shabaab and ISIS in Somalia. He also lauded Kenya for taking a leading role in the East African fight against terrorism and for its sustained dedication to this effort.”

Russia

The Telegraph: Russian Claims That US And UK Are Plotting Syria Chemical Attack 'Ridiculous', Says British General

“The most senior British officer in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has denounced Russian claims that Britain and the US are about to stage a chemical attack in Syria. Major General Felix Gedney, the Deputy Commander of the international military force to defeat Isil, dismissed as "absolutely ridiculous propaganda" suggestions Britain and the US are about to launch chlorine-loaded missiles. "The UK is a proud coalition member with a proven track record [to defeat Isil]," Maj Gen Gedney said in a tweet. "All [coalition] members condemn the use of chemical weapons," he added. Earlier Major General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian defence ministry's spokesman, said that American cruise missile ships working in conjunction with "British secret services" will target the settlement of Kafr Zayta, to the south of Idlib, "as a pretext for missile strikes by the West and the United States.”

Newsweek: Is U.S. Going To Attack Syria Again? Russia Thinks So And It's Getting Ready For Action

“Russia has warned that the U.S. and may gearing up for a new round of military action against Syria, where Washington-led strikes against the Moscow-backed government have traditionally followed reports of the use of chemical weapons. The Russian Ministry of Defense issued a new warning Monday suggesting that the Pentagon was building up its naval capabilities in the Middle East in anticipation of a chemical weapons attacks that would be followed by U.S.-led missile strikes on pro-Syrian government forces preparing to storm the final rebel-held bastion of Idlib in northwestern Syria. The U.S. has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of using internationally-restricted toxic gas assaults and committing other war crimes against opposition fighters and civilians, but his Russian and Iranian allies have backed the Syrian leader in dismissing the claims and at times blaming his local and international detractors for staging such events. "The United States keeps building up the cruise missile carriers group in the Middle East as part of preparations for another provocation in Idlib Province to be presented as an alleged use of chemical weapons," Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson General Igor Konashenkov told media outlets, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.”

United Kingdom

Mirror: Theresa May Urges Firms To Pump Cash Into African Ventures To Help Fight Terrorism

“British firms should pump cash into African ventures to help fight terrorism, Theresa May urges today. In a major speech in Cape Town, the Prime Minister will urge UK companies to invest in the continent as way of thwarting extremism. The Conservative leader was due to land in South Africa early Tuesday morning for a three-day trip which also takes Nigeria and Kenya. Twenty-nine captains of industry, including bosses from Bombardier Transportation, JCB and the City of London, have joined the trade mission. Mrs May will unveil plans for the UK to overtake the US as the biggest investor in Africa from the G7 group of industrialised countries within four years and help boost jobs. She will warn: “The challenges facing Africa are not Africa’s alone. “It is in the world’s interest to see that those jobs are created, to tackle the causes and symptoms of extremism and instability, to deal with migration flows and to encourage clean growth. “If we fail to do so, the economic and environmental impacts will swiftly reach every corner of our networked, connected world. “And the human impacts – from a loss of faith in free markets and democracy as the best way to secure global growth and human rights, to greater conflict and an increased susceptibility to extremism – will be similarly global.” British officials fear terror groups prey on “a lack of prosperity” across the continent to lure jobless, vulnerable locals into waging war. Africa's soaring population means it needs to create 18 million a jobs a year by 2035 just to stand still, without cutting the unemployment rate.”

Birmingham Live: Inside Birmingham Neighbourhood That's Produced Tenth Of UK's Convicted Islamic Terrorists

“There is a sign that welcomes visitors to Sparkbrook. It reads: “If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it." It’s a quote from the legendary boxer Muhammed Ali, whose legacy has a special resonance in the district he visited 35 years ago and where 70 percent of its 32,000 residents share the former heavyweight champion’s Islamic faith. It is a vibrant community that last week found itself at the centre of unwanted international media attention, after one of its own was charged with attempted murder after driving his car into cyclists before smashing into a security barrier outside the Houses of Parliament. Salih Khater was arrested by armed police immediately after the incident on Tuesday morning, which left three people injured and Westminster on lockdown for several hours. He was charged with attempted murder on Saturday, and police say they are treating the case as terrorism. He is due to appear in court on Monday, reports the Huffpost . Khater, 29, a Sudanese immigrant, frequented the myriad Arabic coffee houses that line the main Stratford Road as it snakes through Sparkbrook and neighbouring Sparkhill. Islamic prayers echo from speakers, filling the air on any given Saturday on this particular stretch of the bustling thoroughfare – a Muslim enclave sitting just a couple of miles outside the city centre. The melodious calls serve as a serene backdrop to a busy high street packed with shoppers visiting halal butchers and Middle-Eastern sweet shops, or sipping coffee sat at the ubiquitous African coffee shops and shisha lounges.”

France

The New Arab: Assad Staying In Power Would Be A 'Grotesque Error': Macron

“A return to normal life in Syria that left its leader Bashar al-Assad in power would be a "grotesque error", French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday, in comments seemingly directed at his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. "We can see those who would like to return to normal as soon as the war against Daesh (the Islamic State group) is finished: Bashar al-Assad would stay in power, the refugees... will return and Europe and few others would help with reconstruction," Macron said. But "such a scenario would be a grotesque error", he added. After coming to power in May last year, Macron shifted French policy towards prioritising the destruction of the Islamic State group rather than ousting Assad, warning of a "failed state" if the leader were forcibly removed. But he has previously called the Syrian leader an "enemy of the Syrian people" who should ultimately face a war crimes court. Macron's latest comments during a major foreign policy address to French ambassadors appeared to be a rebuke to Putin, who is Assad's biggest backer. On 18 August, Putin called on Europe to financially contribute to the reconstruction of Syria to allow millions of refugees to return home. After more than seven years of brutal war, Macron warned in Monday's speech that Assad was on the verge of creating a fresh humanitarian crisis in Idlib province. The regime says it is determined to retake the northwestern province on the Turkish border - Syria's last major rebel stronghold - amid speculation of a looming Russian-backed assault.”

Germany

Reuters: Thousands Of Far-Right Protesters Gather In East German City

“Germany will not tolerate "vigilante justice", Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said on Monday, after hundreds of far-right protesters staged a violent demonstration following a fatal stabbing that authorities blamed on a Syrian and an Iraqi. Sunday's protest in the eastern city of Chemnitz was the latest manifestation of unrest since Merkel's government allowed about 1 million asylum seekers to enter Germany in 2015, triggering a shift to the right in German politics. Television news channels broadcast amateur footage of skinheads chasing a foreign-looking man through the streets. Other clips showed hundreds of demonstrators shouting "We are the people!", a slogan used by far-right supporters. Police said around 800 demonstrators had taken to the streets on Sunday, hours after one man was killed and two other people were injured in the stabbing incident overnight. Local police were trying to avert further violence as dozens of far-right demonstrators and hundreds of leftist protesters staged separate rallies in the city on Monday evening. "We don't tolerate such unlawful assemblies and the hounding of people who look different or have different origins, and attempts to spread hatred on the streets," Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular news briefing.”

Europe

Agence France Presse: Dutch Jihadist Suspect 'Involved' In South African Kidnapping – Reports

“A suspected Dutch jihadist is believed to have been involved in the deadly kidnapping of a British couple in South Africa and of contacting a top Islamic State group official, Dutch media reported on Monday. The 29-year-old man, only identified as "Mohammed G", briefly appeared in the Rotterdam District Court where he was accused of "belonging to a terrorist organisation", Dutch news reports said. Earlier this year the bodies of renowned British botanists Rachel Saunders, 63, and her husband Rodney Saunders, 74, were discovered after they went missing during a trip to look for rare seeds in South Africa's northeast KwaZulu-Natal province. The two are believed to have been kidnapped by suspected jihadists, who raised an ISIS flag in a reserve in the region where the Saunders disappeared. Mohammed G, from Limburg province in the south of the Netherlands, is "suspected of involvement in the fatal kidnapping in South Africa", Dutch national news agency ANP said. 'Tried to buy bitcoins' Dutch prosecutors alleged Mohammed G "tried to buy bitcoins" using Rachel Saunders' credit card details, ANP said. "He also had contact with the highest ranking IS spokesman in Africa," the Dutch public broadcaster NOS reported, naming the official as Abu Fida, also known as Mohammed Abdi Ali.”

Newsweek: Russia, Iran, And Turkey Meet To Discuss Syria, Excluding The U.S.

“Leaders from Turkey, Russia, and Iran will meet next week to discuss the ongoing war in Syria and how to respond to radical Islamic groups who continue to hold territory there. The three leaders will gather in the Iranian city of Tabriz as the U.S. relationship with all three countries continues to deteriorate. Some analysts say it’s likely they are hoping to determine the future of Syria without the input of Washington. "Power abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of strong U.S. leadership on Syria, Russia and Iran have been more than happy to move in. It's a measure of just how much they've come to dominate the conflict that they'll be the only major foreign powers at the summit,” Chris Meserole, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, told Newsweek. "The White House has largely washed its hands of Syria. But with Iran entrenched in Damascus, and the Islamic State biding its time in the far countryside, it's likely only a matter of time before our hands are dirtied again. When that happens we'll likely look at these negotiations as a lost opportunity,” Meserole added.”

Australia

9 News: ISIS Accused 'Knew Of Deadly Attack On Police'

“An Adelaide woman accused of being a member of the Islamic State terrorism group knew about a deadly terror attack on a police station in Kenya before it occurred in 2016, a jury has heard. Zainab Abdirahman-Khalif, 23, appeared in the South Australian Supreme Court today after earlier pleading not guilty to membership of a terrorist organisation. In opening the trial, Commonwealth prosecutor Chris Winneke QC said Ms Abdirahman-Khalif was detained at Adelaide Airport carrying only hand luggage and less than $200. "The Crown case is that the defendant, in leaving Australia and going to Turkey, was ultimately going to make contact with Islamic State," he said. "(She was going to) commence to live in territory held by Islamic State as a member of that society and as a follower of the leader of that organisation." Ms Abdirahman-Khalif allegedly used online, encrypted chat rooms to talk with three women who stabbed a police officer and set of a petrol bomb at a Kenyan police station.”

Southeast Asia

Asian Correspondent: Duterte Orders Troops To ‘Destroy And Kill’ Islamic State Terrorists

“Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the military to destroy and kill terrorists, especially those from the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda amid the government’s push to weed out extremism from the country’s restive south. After visiting wounded soldiers in Jolo, Sulu, on Saturday, Duterte assured soldiers they are not alone in their fight to defend the country, according to the Inquirer. “I assure you that you have my full support as you conduct intensive military operations against these terrorist groups, particularly those who subscribe to the extremist ideologies of the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda,” the president said in a speech at Camp Teodulfo. In boosting the morale of the troops, Duterte called the ideologies of the extremist groups “bankrupt” and “inutile”. “They only know how to destroy and kill, destroy and kill. So my order to you: Destroy and kill also. Why be at a disadvantage?” he said. “With your bravery, selflessness and patriotism, I am optimistic that we will one day defeat all threats to our democratic institutions and secure a brighter future for our beloved country,” he said. In May last year, IS-inspired rebels from the Maute group laid siege on the southern city of Marawi in a conflict that destroyed much of the city’s centre and displaced some 300,000 people. The war, which lasted more than five months, left over 1,000 people dead and thousands more injured. Despite Duterte’s announcement on the end of the war in October, gun battles raged on in other parts of the south.”

Irish Times: Myanmar’s Military Accused Of Genocide In Damning UN Report

“A damning UN report has accused Myanmar’s military of genocide against the Rohingya in Rakhine state, and alleged that the army were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity against minorities across the country. A fact-finding mission on Myanmar compiled conclusive evidence that what its military, known as the Tatmadaw, had carried out “undoubtedly amounted to the gravest crimes under international law” in Rakhine, home to the Muslim Rohingya, but also in Kachin and Shan states which are riven by internal conflicts. The UN investigators were denied access to Myanmar by the government but interviewed many who had fled the country. They found that the military were “killing indiscriminately, gang raping women, assaulting children and burning entire villages” in Rakhine, Shan and Kachin. They also carried out murders, imprisonments, enforced disappearances, torture, rapes and used sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and enslavement – all of which constitute crimes against humanity.”

Countering Terrorist Financing

Alalam: Bahrain Hosts Training Workshop Entitled “Best Practices In Investigations Into Terrorism & Terrorism Financing”

“The Bahraini Ministry of Interior Affairs is holding a training workshop entitled “Best Practices in Investigations into Terrorism & Terrorism Financing.” The event is being organized in collaboration with the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance & Training, in addition to representatives of the FBI. On his part, Bahrain's Chief of Public Security, Maj-Gen Tareq Al-Hassan, stated that alone Bahrain cannot combat terrorism that is being sponsored and funded from abroad. Countering terrorism necessitates joint national and international efforts, which demonstrates the importance of such workshops, the Bahrain official further noted. A total of 28 employees from various departments of the Interior Ministry are attending this gathering aimed at exchanging know-how with the USA in uncovering the means of terrorist financing and investigating terrorist financing.”

Aljone: Kuwait: Precautionary Measures Against Companies Violating The Terrorist Financing Law

“The Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Department of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued 104 precautionary measures in July against companies, subject to the provisions of Law 106 of 2013. The measures included sending written warnings to nine real estate companies, one currency exchange company and two jewelry companies, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a press release on Monday. The measures also included an order to force 55 real estate companies, four currency exchange companies, four insurance companies and 25 jewelry companies to follow specific procedures to comply with the law and avoid offenses. The AML / CFT Department completed all procedures before the Ministry's relevant departments issued 52 licenses for incorporation applicants during the same month, including 35 real estate companies, one currency exchange company and 16 jewelry companies.”

Seventh Day: Egypt: Detention Of Four Terror-Financing Suspects Renewed

“Chaired by Judge Shaban Al-Shami, the Cairo Criminal Court decided on Monday to renew the detention of four suspects for 45 days, pending investigation. The defendants face the charge of financing terrorism in reference to case No 316 of 2016, in which the daughter of Yousef al-Qaradawi, the notorious Qatar-based cleric, is also implicated. In addition, the suspects are accused of joining a terrorist organization, leading an illegal group, supporting a terrorist group with foreign funding, financing and supporting terrorism in Egypt, attempting to topple the Egyptian state, inciting violence against police, army and judiciary, creating chaos, inciting demonstrations, targeting public institutions, jeopardizing public safety, and aiding and abetting in the purchase of weapons and explosive materials for terrorist operations.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Sout Al-Omma: New Financial Dispute Erupts Between 'Old Guard' And Jailed Muslim Brotherhood Leaders

“A new crisis has recently surfaced inside the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood on the backdrop of the prolonged internal rift among the group's leaders {that has been going on} for several years. The dispute, this time, erupted between the jailed leaders of the banned Islamist group and its so-called "old guard" in exile. Via his official Facebook page, a fugitive media figure affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood revealed that the organization's leaders in prison accuse their counterparts abroad of wasting the group's funds on maintaining lavish living standards in Turkey and other countries. They also accused them of completely neglecting the group's members in prisons. The youth members of the Muslim Brotherhood abroad have been encountering many hardships, since the senior leaders of the group have been withholding funds from them, the imprisoned Brotherhood leaders added.”

Houthi

Al-Sahwa Net: Houthi Group Imposes Royalties On IBB Private Schools

“The Houthis have imposed new royalties and levies on private schools in Ibb province. Local sources disclosed that the Houthis demanded that all the private schools in Ibb city hand over money collected by each school. This comes after the Houthis forced the schools to prepare a list of students enrolled during the past year. The sources added that the deputy governor for financial and administrative affairs, appointed by the Houthis, then obliged all the private schools in the province to pay a sum of YR200 ($0.4) per student, to "lift the spirits of its militants by providing an Eid gift." According to these sources, after each school informed the Houthis of the number of enrolled students, they were compelled to pay the amounts specified "in support of the war effort.”