Eye on Extremism: August 28

Business Insider: Here’s What’s Left Of ISIS — And Why They Still Pose A Major Threat

“While the Islamic State’s caliphate – the idea of a land ruled by its radical interpretation of Islamic law – ended with US-led coalition campaigns in Iraq and Syria, the group is very much alive and regrouping in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. And its alliances with extremist groups internationally show that the group is adaptable, strategic, and not going anywhere soon. US power vacuums in Syria and Iraq have allowed ISIS fighters to regroup, and they pose a renewed risk to the region’s stability. But it’s not just Iraq and Syria – ISIS is active in countries all over the world, and in some places it’s growing. The Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed group, was able to defeat a significantly weakened ISIS, which lost its de facto capital, the Syrian city of Raqqa, in 2017. At its peak, ISIS controlled major cities including Raqqa and Mosul and Fallujah, Iraq. It controlled more than 100,000 square kilometers and about 11 million people in Iraq and Syria during its peak in 2014, according to the RAND Corporation. A blistering Pentagon report blamed Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria and cut diplomatic staff in Iraq for the resurgence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. While the group looks different, it’s able to earn money and recruit combatants.”

Reuters: Syrian Rebels Push Back Against Army Advances In Idlib

“Syrian rebels on Tuesday launched a wide-scale attack against a five-month Russia-backed Syrian army campaign aiming to take back the opposition’s last major bastion, opposition officials, rebels and residents said. The push-back comes as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where Ankara, a major rebel backer, is expected to ask Russia to rein in Syrian army advances in the northwest. The rebel counter-attack sought to abort a push north from Khan Sheikhoun, which Syria’s Russia-backed army seized with the help of Russian ground troops last week, towards the rebel-held city of Maarat al-Numan. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledged that Russia had military personnel on the ground in Idlib province after his country initially downplayed its direct military role in the campaign that began in April.”

The Daily Beast: Ten Years Later, The ‘Gathering Storm’ Of White Supremacist Terror Is Here

“When Barack Obama took office in January 2009, white supremacists were fragmented and without charismatic leaders. That quickly changed with the arrival of Richard Spencer, Matt Heimbach and Milo Yiannopoulos, a generation of new leaders who created and captured a following that capitalized on white unease over a black president. The good news is that over time these leaders were marginalized and neutralized, finally demonized by the media and subjected to public humiliation for their neo-Nazi views. They were disrupted. But the sentiments they embraced had taken hold, bursting into full view in Charlottesville in 2017, with white supremacists carrying torches and chanting, “Jews won’t replace us.”  They’re fragmented again post-Charlottesville, and post-El Paso, seeking other social media platforms while law enforcement plays whack-a-mole, beating them back until they pop up somewhere else. The American people are left to wonder what more can be done to counter this growing threat that government has left unattended for too long, while keeping quiet what information it has collected, including a document showing that white supremacists were responsible for all race-based domestic terrorism incidents in 2018.”

Fox News: US And Taliban Could Be Forced Into Awkward Alliance To Take Out ISIS In Afghanistan

“In Afghanistan, the enemy of my enemy is my friend -- sort of. It may have seemed inconceivable 18 years ago following the September 11 terrorist attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan, but the United States is inching closer to a peace agreement with the Afghan Taliban, the group that provided safe haven for the Al Qaeda terror group responsible for the attack. Any peace agreement reached would require the United States being on the same side as the religious extremist group to fight a common enemy: The Islamic State. A negotiated settlement to end America’s longest war and bring U.S. troops home will not be easy, and an alliance between the former foes will only be feasible if the Taliban agrees to talks with the Afghan National Government and eventually enters into a power-sharing agreement. This coalition would incorporate Taliban insurgents into the Afghan National Army to fight against the Islamic State franchise in Afghanistan known as the Islamic State in Khorasan. Although ISIS lost its territorial Caliphate in Iraq and Syria, the group has splintered and remains a threat around the region with several local franchises sprouting up, including in Afghanistan. ISIS claimed responsibility this month for one of the deadliest suicide attacks in years, blowing up a wedding and killing 63 people while wounding nearly 200.”

Haaretz: Hezbollah Planning 'Calculated Strike' Against Israel

“Hezbollah is preparing a “calculated strike” against its enemy Israel after drones crashed in Beirut but it seeks to avoid a new war, two sources allied to the heavily armed Shi'ite Muslim movement told Reuters on Tuesday. A reaction “is being arranged in a way which wouldn't lead to a war” that Hezbollah does not want, one of the sources said.  “The direction now is for a calculated strike, but how matters develop, that's another thing.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier on Tuesday that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah should “calm down” after Nasrallah said his Iranian-backed movement would respond to the crash of two drones in a Beirut suburb. Israel has not claimed responsibility for the drones, including one that had exploded. But in a speech on Sunday, Nasrallah described it as the first Israeli attack in Lebanon since the two sides fought a month-long war in 2006. ”I say to the Israeli army on the border from tonight, stand guard. Wait for us one, two, three, four days,” Nasrallah said. One of the drones blew up near the ground, causing some damage to Hezbollah's media center in the southern suburbs which it dominates. Israeli officials have declined to comment when asked if Israel was responsible.”

The New York Times: Telegram Pushes Ahead With Plans For ‘Gram’ Cryptocurrency

“While Facebook’s big cryptocurrency plans have hit a wall with regulators, another big social network, Telegram, is charging ahead with its own digital currency. Telegram has told investors that it is planning to send out the first batches of its coin, the Gram, within the next two months, according to three investors who have spoken with Telegram recently. Telegram is also planning to make Gram digital wallets available to the 200 million to 300 million global users of Telegram’s messaging application, said the investors, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed nondisclosure agreements. Echoing Facebook’s hopes for its Libra token, which was unveiled this year, Telegram has said the Gram will become a new online currency and a way to move money anywhere in the world.”

United States

The Washington Times: Trump Fumes As Allies Reject ISIS Captives: 'They Didn't Come From The United States'

“The Trump administration’s push for allies to take custody of foreign-born Islamic State fighters held in makeshift prisons in Syria is yielding only limited results, fueling mounting anger in Washington in the effort to secure long-term defeat of the terror group. President Trump’s frustration over the matter boiled over in recent days, with the president telling reporters at the recent G-7 summit in Biarritz, France that America won’t foot the hefty bill of jailing the jihadists at the U.S. detainee center at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S., Mr. Trump suggested, might be forced to “release” hardened ISIS detainees back into their homelands if countries such as France and Germany continue to balk at taking them back. “It’s unfair for the United States to take them, because they didn’t come from the United States,” Mr. Trump said. U.S. officials say the provocative comments were meant to add public pressure to what has actually been an intense behind-the-scenes diplomatic campaign during recent months to convince resistant allies to first house, then prosecute the fighters — hundreds of whom are believed to hold European Union citizenship. Syrian Kurdish officials say some countries, including Russia, Sudan and Malaysia, have agreed to take back their nationals, but for others, it’s an appeal that has fallen mostly on deaf ears.”

Syria

Foreign Policy: ISIS Is A Survivor

“Back in February, U.S. President Donald Trump declared that the Islamic State was “100 percent” defeated and took full credit for the alleged victory. Unfortunately, the president and the truth seemed to be on different planets once again. National Security Advisor John Bolton quickly corrected Trump’s boast, telling ABC News that “the ISIS threat will remain.” U.S. Defense Department reports emphasized that remnants or offshoots of the group remained active in several places, including Afghanistan, and last week, a lengthy New York Times article reported that the group was regaining strength in Iraq and Syria. Trump was obviously wrong to claim the Islamic State had been totally defeated, but its persistence and partial recovery are not surprising at all. On the contrary, to believe that such a group could be totally defeated in the short to medium term was never a realistic goal. Eliminating the Islamic State’s territorial control over a significant part of Iraq and Syria (much of it empty desert) was a feasible objective, and the United States and its local partners did that job pretty effectively. Eradicating the organization in its entirety was never in the cards, at least not anytime soon. In fact, history is filled with examples of radical political and/or religious movements that enjoyed a brief vogue, suffered setbacks for one reason or another, but nonetheless hung around for decades.”

Reuters: Syrian Rebels Push Back Against Army Advances In Idlib

“Syrian rebels on Tuesday launched a wide-scale attack against a five-month Russia-backed Syrian army campaign aiming to take back the opposition’s last major bastion, opposition officials, rebels and residents said. The push-back comes as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where Ankara, a major rebel backer, is expected to ask Russia to rein in Syrian army advances in the northwest. The rebel counter-attack sought to abort a push north from Khan Sheikhoun, which Syria’s Russia-backed army seized with the help of Russian ground troops last week, towards the rebel-held city of Maarat al-Numan. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledged that Russia had military personnel on the ground in Idlib province after his country initially downplayed its direct military role in the campaign that began in April. The Russian military have in the last few weeks sent more special forces that helped break months of stalemate on the frontlines, where rebels had been holding back the army from major advances, according to Western intelligence sources. Taking Maarat al-Numan in southern Idlib would take the Syrian army into densely populated rebel held parts of Idlib province, where millions of people who fled fighting elsewhere in Syria have taken refuge.”

CBC: 'They Are Going To Deliver This Oil To Syria': How An Iranian Supertanker Is Flouting Trump's Sanctions

“Last spring, the Grace I left a filling station in the middle of the Persian Gulf loaded down with 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude. Too large for the Suez Canal, the oil tanker made the long journey around the coast of Africa before showing up at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea last month. British authorities in Gibraltar impounded the ship and its cargo on suspicion it planned to deliver the oil it was carrying to Syria, which would violate EU sanctions against the country. Iran quickly retaliated and seized a British tanker in the Persian Gulf on a trumped-up charge. After six weeks in maritime purgatory, the Grace was eventually allowed to depart, on the assurance that it was not headed for Syria. But some experts are convinced that's not true.”

Iran

Haaretz: Beirut Strike Target: Vital Iranian Device For Hezbollah's Mass Missile Production

“The attack in Beirut early Sunday morning, which has been attributed to Israel, hit a central component of Hezbollah's missile program. It damaged a planetary mixer — an industrial-sized mixer weighing about eight tons, needed to create propellants that can improve the engine performance of missiles and increase their accuracy. The machine was hit, as far as we know, shortly before Hezbollah planned to move it to a secured site. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who accused Israel of carrying out this strike and a second one – which killed two Lebanese Hezbollah fighters near Damascus a few hours earlier – threatened retaliation for both strikes. The Israeli army is readying for a reprisal, possibly within the next few days. A Hezbollah reprisal is likely to include fire targeting Israel Defense Forces units on the Lebanese or the Syrian border, or even firing a missile deep into Israeli territory. The assumption is that Nasrallah will try to keep the response "below the threshold of war," but it's difficult to know whether he can fully control the consequences. In addition, Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, led by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, might try to carry out a retaliatory strike of its own.”

The Jerusalem Post: Bolton: For Iranian Sanctions To Be Removed, A Deal Must Be Reached

“T he US would only remove sanctions from Iran after a comprehensive deal was reached on its nuclear program, US National Security Advisor John Bolton told Radio Free Europe on Tuesday. He spoke just one day after US President Donald Trump spoke of a possible meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Such a high level event has not occurred since before the Iranian revolution. Rouhani appeared to douse cold water on the possibility of such a meeting, when he said that such face-to-face talk could only occur after US sanctions were lifted. "Regarding the US - unless the US lifts the sanctions and strikes a line over the wrongful path they selected, we will witness no positive development." Bolton said that the US would not just lift the sanctions to bring Iran to the table. “The idea that Iran would receive some tangible economic benefit merely for stopping doing things it should not have been doing in the first place is just a non-starter. If there is a comprehensive deal, then of course the sanctions will come off at that point,” Bolton said.”

The Wall Street Journal: The Iran-Israel War Is Here

“Israel and Iran are at war. Israeli strikes this week in southern Syria, western Iraq and eastern Lebanon—and possibly even Beirut—confirm it. This war is a very 21st-century affair. For now it involves only small circles among the Israeli and Iranian populations. Parts of the air force, intelligence services and probably special forces are active on the Israeli side. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its expeditionary Quds Force and proxy politico-military organizations in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are engaged on behalf of Iran. The war marks a hinge point in Middle Eastern geopolitics. For the past decade and a half, the region has been engaged mainly with internal strife: civil wars, insurgencies and mass protests. These are now largely spent, leaving a broken landscape along the northern route from Iran to Israel. The three “states” in between—Iraq, Syria and Lebanon—are fragmented, partly collapsed and thoroughly penetrated by neighboring powers. Their official state structures have lost the attribute that alone, according to German sociologist Max Weber, guarantees sovereignty: “monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.” These nations’ territory has become the theater of the Iran-Israel war.”

Iraq

Iraqi News: Iraqi Interior Ministry Says Islamic State Terrorist Hotbed Destroyed In Kirkuk

“The Iraqi Interior Ministry said on Tuesday that its forces destroyed a hotbed belonging to the Islamic State terrorist group in Kirkuk province. “Acting on intelligence information, federal police forces destroyed a hideout of the Islamic State group in the village of Hashisha, south of Kirkuk province,” Iraqi news website Alghad Press quoted Maj. Gen. Saad Maan, the ministry spokesman, as saying in a press statement. “The troops also seized a weapon depot at al-Nawafla village in Kirkuk, containing an Austrian-made mortar shell and two boxes full of powerful C4 explosives,” the spokesman added. 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.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraqi Court Sentences 11 ISIS Members To Death For Terrorist Acts In Babil

“Iraq’s Babil Criminal Court on Wednesday announced it had sentenced 11 members of the Islamic State to death for their involvement in exploding a strategic bridge in the Iraqi province. The members confessed their membership to the jihadist group and participating in a terrorist act in Babil (Babylon) Province, the Court’s press office stated. “The terrorists confessed to carrying out an attack they called ‘Invading Fadhliya,’ on a strategic bridge in the area of ​​Jurf al-Nasr, north of the province, in 2014, which ended with a full explosion and led to the death of three people, wounding 19 security members stationed nearby,” read the statement. It also mentioned that experts had estimated the cost and value of the destroyed bridge at about 18 billion Iraqi dinars (US $15 million).”

Turkey

VOA: Russian, Turkish Leaders Meet Amid Divide Over Syria

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Tuesday with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow for talks aimed at bridging the deepening divide over the war in Syria. Russia supports the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey backs some rebel groups. News reports say that after the talks, both leaders said they hoped to work together to ease tensions in Syria's Idlib province. Erdogan has called for an end to a Russia-backed Damascus offensive against rebels in Idlib. The timing of the offensive comes after Turkey and the United States agreed on a military operation into Syria. Observers speculate Putin is seeking to undermine the deal. The agreement envisages creating a buffer zone in Syria to protect Turkey's border from the Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG. Ankara deems the YPG a terrorist organization linked to insurgents inside Turkey. The YPG, however, is a key Washington ally in the fight against the Islamic State terror group.”

The New York Times: Warplanes Strike Near Turkish Military Post In Northwest Syria: Monitor, Security Source

“Air strikes hit near a Turkish military position on Wednesday in northwest Syria, where the Russian-backed army has waged a fierce offensive against rebels, a monitor and local activists said. A senior Turkish security source told Reuters there were heavy clashes between Syrian government forces and rebel fighters about 500 meters from the Turkish observation post. "However, the conflict is taking place very close by and it is violent. Syrian forces bombed rebel positions," the source said. It was not immediately clear whether the Turkish position was the target, but the source said Turkish soldiers were not affected. President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia and Turkey had agreed steps to tackle militants in northwest Syria and "normalize" the situation there. Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan held talks in Moscow after Syrian army troops encircled another Turkish military post in the town of Morek in earlier this month.”

Afghanistan

ABC News: Taliban Storm Checkpoint In Western Afghanistan, Killing 14

“An Afghan official says Taliban insurgents have stormed a checkpoint in western Herat province, killing 14 pro-government militia members. Police chief spokesman Abdul Ahid Walizada said on Wednesday that seven others were wounded in the Tuesday night attack in Robat Sangi district. He said an unspecified number of Taliban fighters suffered casualties. Separately, in eastern Nangarhar province, governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogynai said a university professor was killed and two others wounded on Tuesday when a bomb attached to their vehicle detonated in Jalalabad, the provincial capital. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack in Herat but no one has claimed responsibility for the attack in Nangarhar, where both the Taliban and the local affiliate of the Islamic State group are active.”

Bloomberg: The Real Risks Of Allowing Terrorist Safe Havens

“For nearly two decades, the fundamental premise of America's counterterrorism strategy has been to prevent extremist groups from establishing territorial safe havens — spaces in which they train and plot, free from interference. With a prospective U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on the horizon, General David Petraeus warned recently that a precipitate pullout could allow al-Qaeda or the Islamic State to rebuild “a terrorist platform.” A growing number of experts have argued, however, that a preoccupation with safe havens is really an unhealthy obsession that produces unnecessary — and unending — military crusades.  So, do safe havens matter or not? The truth is that denying such sanctuaries is critical to effective counterterrorism, so long as some key caveats and distinctions are kept in mind. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the fight against terrorism has been, in substantial measure, a fight against safe havens. President George W. Bush declared that the U.S. would make no distinctions between terrorists and the nations that harbored them, the thinking being that access to territorial sanctuaries allowed groups like Qaeda to organize, operate and grow. Since then, this idea has driven U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere.”

The Washington Post: The Taliban Decimated Afghanistan’s Film Industry. This Is What Survived.

“A young woman lounges in a meadow, daydreaming about her love. Her friend sings and decorates her long hair with freshly picked flowers. Suddenly, she perks up to the clip-clop of an approaching horse. “Sharif is coming!” she cries out, jumping up to run toward him. In Afghanistan, movie scenes like this one — released just before the outbreak of civil war in 1992 — were once an essential part of the country’s rich culture. Then, in the mid-1990s, the Taliban banned them — destroying some reels of film and leaving others to decay in storage. Now, an elite team of film archivists here is working to conserve them as part of a years-long government program that aims to digitize about a century’s worth of Afghan documentaries and films over the next six months. The project coincides with negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, which have raised both hopes for an end to the 18-year war and fears the Taliban could return to power. Once finished, some clips from the digitized movies will be made available to download online and others will be screened at mobile theaters across Afghanistan — even, the archivists hope, in some of the many areas that remain under Taliban control. “Archives are the identity of a country,” said Sultan Mohammad Istalifi, 72, a longtime employee of Afghan Film, the state-run film company, who is part of the digitization team.”

Yahoo News: Deal Nears In Talks With US, Say Taliban

“US and Taliban negotiators held productive talks Tuesday, the insurgent group said, as potentially decisive discussions to enable Washington to draw down its deployment to Afghanistan entered their fifth day. Despite the Taliban's upbeat assessment, the ninth round of talks in Qatar appeared to have lost some of its earlier momentum as negotiators wrangled over individual words and phrases in a draft deal. “We have progress in this round so we are finalising the remaining points,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told journalists outside the up-market Doha members' club where the talks are taking place. He said a deal could be expected “as soon as the remaining points are finalised.” The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11 attacks, toppling the Taliban from power. Washington wants to withdraw thousands of troops and bring an end to 18 years of war -- but only on condition the group renounces its connections to Al-Qaeda and curbs attacks. The Doha talks are being held against a backdrop of persistent violence in Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed on Saturday to have killed seven members of the US military in an attack on a convoy near Bagram airfield north of Kabul. American officials dismissed the claims as “lies.”

Pakistan

Eurasia Review: Strategies To Combat Terrorism: A Case Study Of Pakistan

“Since the last two decades, Pakistan has been in the eyes of storm due to the rampant rise of terrorism. This created continuous political turbulence, social fragmentation, and internal security disorder in society. 9/11 attacks, the fatal and most terrible event of the 21st century, shifted the paradigm of the global security system. It’s extremely baffling that despite having the world’s most advanced defence technology and intelligence sharing network, the US administration was unable to follow some pre-emptive measures to stop the 9/11 attacks. The consequences were unmanageable, detrimental due to thousands of causalities of civilians and security forces, security threats and large-scale infrastructure destruction. The new wave of terrorism has jeopardized the credibility of national and international security, to curb the brutality of terror acts every country participated to eliminate the menace of terrorism. Though the incidents of such a brutish terror act occurred worldwide, but the South Asian region has suffered the most, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan. The invincible wave of terrorism affected more than 70 countries and thousands of people lost their lives on the name of extremist ethos, sectarianism, violence, xenophobia, and discrimination across the globe.”

Saudi Arabia

The National: Saudi Arabia Destroys Two Houthi Drones Aimed At Kingdom

“Saudi Arabia’s air force shot down two Houthi drones in Yemen on Tuesday, the country's state news agency said. The first drone was launched from the capital, Sanaa, but was destroyed in Yemeni airspace on Tuesday morning, the Saudi Press Agency quoted Arab coalition spokesman Col Turki Al Malki as saying. “The repeated failed attacks are a desperate measure by the Houthis to increase their terrorist acts at the expense of human lives,” the Saudi official said.  Col Al Malki denounced the attacks, saying the Houthis’ “hostile and terrorist acts have been rated as war crimes according to international humanitarian law”. “The operations launched by the Houthi militias are doomed to fail and the coalition aims to prevent civilian casualties when responding to any threat,” he said. The second drone was launched from the Harf Sufyan District in Amran Governorate, northwest of Sanaa, on Tuesday afternoon, but was also destroyed in Yemeni airspace. “The Houthis are continuing to violate international laws by launching ballistics missiles that threaten the lives of dozens of civilians,” Col Al Malki said.  The development comes as coalition forces intercepted dozens of Houthi drones launched towards the Kingdom from Yemen during the last few days.”

Lebanon

The Daily Star: Hezbollah Planning "Calculated Strike" Against Israel After Drones: Sources

“Hezbollah is preparing a "calculated strike" against Israel in response to two drones that crashed in Beirut at the weekend, two sources close to Hezbollah told Reuters Tuesday. A reaction "is being arranged in a way which wouldn't lead to a war that neither Hezbollah nor Israel wants," one of the sources said. "The direction now is for a calculated strike, but how matters develop, that's another thing."

Middle East

The New York Times: Deadly Explosions Target Hamas Police Checkpoints In Gaza

“Two explosions that ripped through Hamas police checkpoints in Gaza City late Tuesday killed three police officers and wounded three civilians, security officials said on Wednesday, in an uncommon attack believed to have been carried by forces within the territory. Hamas, the Islamist militant group that governs Gaza, has been mostly engaged in cross-border clashes with the Israeli military. But at times it has faced internal opposition from more stringent Islamist militants aligned with Al Qaeda or the Islamic State. The Interior Ministry of Hamas declared a state of emergency throughout Gaza, putting security forces on alert. Eyad Al-Bozom, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said that security forces were investigating the explosions but did not disclose further details, according to Reuters. He said later that a number of suspects had been arrested. “The sinful hands that carried out this crime will not escape punishment,” Mr. Al-Bozom was quoted as saying. A spokesman for the Israeli military said he knew of no involvement by Israel in the blasts. Several reports, citing security officials, said the blasts were believed to have been the work of suicide bombers aligned with the Islamic State group, but that information could not be independently verified.”

Xinhua: Jordan, Albania Discuss Efforts To Combat Terrorism

“Jordanian and Albanian foreign ministers on Tuesday held a meeting in Amman over efforts to uproot terrorism and enhance cooperation in various arenas. During the meeting, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and Albanian Acting Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj discussed means of broadening joint cooperation and the latest regional developments, according to a statement by the ministry, a copy of which was obtained by Xinhua. Cakaj commended Jordan's vital role in bolstering regional security and stability, noting his country's keenness on furthering bilateral ties in various fields. He also mentioned the important role of the Aqaba meetings in rallying the efforts of the international community to establish a holistic approach to combat terrorism. Terrorism is a common enemy that does not belong to any civilisation or religion and contradicts the values of peace and respect of others, said Safadi. The talks also covered the latest regional developments topped by the Palestinian cause and the Syrian crisis, according to the statement.”

Nigeria

Yahoo News: Jihadists Kill 11 Construction Workers In NE Nigeria

“Gunmen from an IS-affiliated jihadist group on Tuesday shot dead 11 local construction workers in northeast Nigeria, a militia leader and resident told AFP. The fighters belonging to Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) opened fire on the workers as they were laying telecom fibre optic cables in Wajirko village, 150 kilometres (93 miles) outside Borno state capital Maiduguri, they said. “The insurgents came in the morning and opened fire on the workers, killing 11 and injuring many,” militia leader Mustapha Karimbe told AFP. He said the victims were locals contracted as casual labourers by a telecom firm. “The attackers had warned the labourers to stop working on laying the cables but they ignored the warning because they needed money to feed their families,” Karimbe said from the town of Biu, 50 km away. Those injured were taken to a hospital in the nearby town of Damboa, he said. The jihadists “came around” on three separate occasions and warned the men to stop the work which the group saw as a threat, said resident Bukar Maduye. “Our people are starving and the laying of the cables provides some of us a good source of income which was why we ignored the warning,” said Maduye, who gave the same toll.”

Africa

Yahoo News: Chad Jails 243 Rebels Over February Incursion From Libya

“Chad has handed down jail terms to 243 rebels who crossed into the country from Libya in February before their incursion was halted by French air strikes, the government said Tuesday. Out of “267 people who were arrested, 12 were sentenced on Monday to 20 years in prison and 231 others to terms ranging from 10 to 15 years,” Justice Minister Djimet Arabi told AFP. Charges included terrorism and involvement in terrorism. Twenty-four minors who had been detained were released, Arabi said. The sentences were pronounced by a “special criminal court,” which also handed down life terms in absentia against nearly a dozen rebel leaders living outside Chad, including their chief Timan Erdimi, he said. They had been charged with terrorism and recruitment of children, he added. Chad, an impoverished country in the heart of the Sahel, has been chronically unstable since it gained independence from France in 1960. An armed group opposed to Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno, the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR), is based in the lawless deserts of southern Libya. Erdimi, its leader, is Deby's nephew. In February, UFR fighters crossed into northeastern Chad in a column of 40 pickups before they were halted by several strikes from French Mirage warplanes based near the Chadian capital N'Djamena.”

Egypt Independent: Aid Groups Warn Against Kenya’s UN Bid To Sanction Al-Shabaab

“Kenya is urging the UN to list Al-Shabaab under the same sanctions as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, but foreign donors say the move could leave millions in drought-stricken Somalia without aid. The proposed listing — which could take effect as soon as Thursday — comes at a critical time in Somalia, where 2.2 million people, or nearly 18 percent of the population, face the risk of severe hunger. Al-Shabaab is already targeted under broader sanctions imposed by the United Nations on Somalia, which is heavily aid-dependent after three decades of conflict and economic ruin. Right now, UN agencies and humanitarian organizations are exempt from these sanctions, which enables them to deliver urgent aid without prosecution when they venture into territory controlled by Al-Shabaab. But Kenya wants to tighten the screws on the jihadi group after several deadly attacks on its soil, and the sanctions regime it proposes would remove that safeguard. “A measure like this will have the effect of criminalizing humanitarian aid,” Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, told AFP. “Any measure that would impact the current provision of aid would have extremely serious and substantial implications.”

North Korea

Associated Press: 3 European Nations Condemn North Korea’s Missile Launches

“Three important U.S. allies on Tuesday condemned the “repeated provocative launches” of ballistic missiles by North Korea, saying they violate U.N. Security Council resolutions banning any such activity. The United Kingdom, France and Germany issued a joint statement after a closed council briefing by U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo that they requested because of serious concerns at the series of missile launches in recent weeks by North Korea. The three European council members urged North Korea “to engage in meaningful negotiations with the U.S.,” as President Donald Trump and its leader Kim Jong Un agreed to on June 30 at their meeting in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas. “Serious efforts by North Korea to re-engage diplomatically and make progress on denuclearization are the only way to guarantee security and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region,” their statement said.”

United Kingdom

The Guardian: New Law Needed To Take On Far-Right Extremism, Says Blair Thinktank

“A new law allowing for hate groups to be designated and punished before they turn to violence is needed in order to tackle far-right extremists, according to a report by Tony Blair’s thinktank, which also seeks powers to ban marches and media appearances. Generation Identity, a racist movement that promotes a conspiracy theory that white people are being replaced by non-whites in Europe, would be among the groups targeted by new legislation, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change report said. The law could sit alongside proscription powers, banning groups concerned with terrorism, but would not be directly linked to violence or terrorism. Rather, it would designate hate groups as organisations that spread intolerance and antipathy towards people of a different race, religion, gender or nationality, the report said. Offences related to designation as a hate group should be treated as civil, not criminal, the thinktank recommends. The authors acknowledge that the issue of linking violent and nonviolent extremism is contentious and steps would need to be taken to protect free speech. The recommendations and conclusions are based on analysis of the overlap between four “nonviolent” far-right groups – Britain First, For Britain, the British National party (BNP) and Generation Identity England – and the ideology of the terrorist Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011.”

Technology

Bellingcat: Hashtaggers For Hezbollah? How Social Media Fundraising Can Skirt The Rules

“An ostensibly independent activist group has been boosting Hezbollah messaging and fundraising on social media — this is occurring amid increased scrutiny of Hezbollah’s use of Facebook and other platforms. An April 19, 2019 New York Times article highlighted how Hezbollah is among U.S.-designated terror groups that “learned how to stay a step ahead of the social media giants” by getting “supporters to publish images and videos” propagating the groups’ stances “that do not set off the alarm bells of the social media platforms.” In addition to this strategy, the report said that Hezbollah, Hamas, and Al-Shabaab post non-violent content such as images of “festive parades and religious celebrations,” which allows the groups to “proliferate largely unchecked on social media.” The Attansakiyeh group in Lebanon, which operates a news website and maintains accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram and YouTube, often posts media supportive of Hezbollah.”

Reuters: Researchers Studying Facebook's Impact On Democracy Threaten To Quit

“A group of philanthropies working with Facebook Inc to study the social network’s impact on democracy threatened on Tuesday to quit, saying the company had failed to make data available to researchers as pledged. The funders said in a statement that Facebook had granted the 83 scholars selected for the project access to “only a portion of what they were told they could expect,” which made it impossible for some to carry out their research. They have given Facebook until Sept. 30 to provide the data. Their concerns focus on the absence of data that would show which web pages were shared on Facebook as far back as January 2017. The company had yet to say when the data would be made available, the funders added. Facebook said in a statement that it remained committed to the project and would “continue to provide access to data and tooling to all grant recipients - current and future.”

The Verge: YouTube May Push Users To More Radical Views Over Time, A New Paper Argues

“YouTube’s difficult summer rolls on. Recent stories have revealed that the company might be accidentally generating video playlists for pedophiles; the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the site’s targeting of ads toward children; and the New York Times linked the site’s popularity to the rise of right-wing extremism in Brazil. But nothing has defined YouTube’s summer more than the conflict between Vox.com video host Carlos Maza and right-wing pundit Steven Crowder. The conflict — over whether someone with millions of followers should be allowed to repeatedly call another YouTuber a “lispy queer” — highlighted the gap between what YouTube’s community guidelines say is allowed, and what is actually allowed. (Crowder got away with almost everything; his newfound fame almost certainly compensated for any lost revenue from his channel being demonetized.) Today, in her quarterly letter to YouTubers, CEO Susan Wojcicki took the occasion to defend the idea of a website that lets almost anyone upload a video — even offensive ones.”