Eye on Extremism: August 29

France 24: UN Concern Mounts Over Civilians In Rebel-Controlled Syria

“Several UN Security Council ambassadors on Tuesday voiced concern over the fate of civilians in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib, as Damascus appears ready to militarily re-take the region. Following a council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria, Western nations warned of the dire consequences of an attack by the government of Bashar al-Assad. "There are alarming signs of a pending military offensive in northwestern Syria," said Carl Skau, Sweden's ambassador to the Security Council. "Increased military escalation," he warned, "would have catastrophic consequences and can lead to a humanitarian disaster." The strategically important northwestern province of Idlib borders on Turkey and is the last holdout of rebels in Syria.”

Associated Press: US Warns Russia, Syria Against Chemical Weapons Use

“Senior U.S. officials warned the Russian and Syrian governments Tuesday against chemical weapons use in Syria as forces allied with its President Bashar Assad prepare for an offensive on a rebel stronghold. The United States "will respond to any verified chemical weapons use in Idlib or elsewhere in Syria ... in a swift and appropriate manner," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters in Washington. Nauert said senior U.S. officials engaged with their Russian counterparts to "to make this point very clear to Damascus." She said the use of chemical weapons "will not be tolerated." She said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week that Moscow — a military ally of Assad — would be held responsible. The Syrian government is gearing up for an expected offensive in Idlib province, which is home to nearly 3 million people and has a large al-Qaida presence in addition to Syrian rebel groups. President Donald Trump has twice carried out airstrikes in Syria in response to apparent chemical weapons attacks there. Trump said the strikes were intended to deter Assad from launching chemical weapons attacks again.”

Voice Of America: US Says Airstrike Kills Islamic State Militant In Libya

“A U.S. airstrike killed a suspected Islamic State militant in Libya on Tuesday, the U.S. Africa Command said. The strike into the northwestern town of Bani Walid was carried out in coordination with the U.N.-backed government based in Tripoli, it said in a statement. It did not name what it called an "ISIS-Libya terrorist" but residents identified him as Walid Bu Hariba who hails from the central city of Sirte where Islamic State had its main base in the anarchic North African country until 2016. Residents had earlier reported an airstrike on a car in Bani Walid in which an Islamic State militant had been traveling. Photos on social media showed a white pickup truck purportedly hit by a projectile. Some militants have sought to regroup in Libya's vast desert and in towns such as Bani Walid, located some 150 km (93 miles) south of the capital Tripoli. In June, the United States said it had conducted two precision airstrikes near Bani Walid, killing four Islamic State militants and an al-Qaida fighter. The United States gave air support to Libyan forces that drove Islamic State from Sirte in 2016, and has continued to launch occasional strikes on suspected militants in Libya since the end of that campaign. The Tripoli administration exercises little control in the OPEC member country, which has been plagued by turmoil since rebels overthrew Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.”

Jerusalem Post: Kurds Who Fought ISIS, Now Hunted By Iran’s Regime

“Malek was a great guy, he was always laughing. When I heard he had been killed I teared up. It gutted me,” recalls one of the men who served alongside Said Kazim Kalhur, known as “Malek” to his friends and comrades in the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK). The small group of dedicated fighters in the PAK played a key role in fighting ISIS at several frontlines held by Kurdish forces between 2014 and 2017. Now some of those veterans have been kidnapped and killed by Iran’s regime, members say. Kurds who joined PAK are from Iran but fled the Islamic Republic’s repression, and found refuge in the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government areas of northern Iraq. According to PAK, four of their members have been targeted by Tehran in the last month. Malek was poisoned. Arman Ghafouri, an environmentalist, was also tortured and killed. Two others had returned to Kurdish areas in Iran and were kidnapped by the regime, accused of supporting revolts and protests that have rocked Kurdish towns over the last months. Malek’s story struck a cord with those who served with him at Bashiqa and later during the Mosul offensive in October 2016. They asked that their names not be used to protect their identity.

The Australian: Aussies Backed ISIS On Facebook

Four Facebook accounts in Australia have been identified as supporting Islamic State, despite the terror group losing swaths of territory in the past 18 months and technology companies vowing to crack down on extremist content. The accounts, which have been deleted, belonged to two “immigrants” from Somalia, one from Saudi Arabia and one Australian-born person, and were among 1000 analysed by ­researchers from the Counter ­Extremism Project between ­October and March. According to a CEP report released in May, they also had links to other sympathisers of the terror group from around the world. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is to discuss “the illicit use of online spaces” with counterparts from other members of the Five Eyes — the US, Britain, ­Canada and New Zealand — in Queensland this week. “We acknowledge the progress the digital industry has made, including through the industry-led Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, but we believe major players, such as Facebook, can and must do more,” a spokesman for the Department of Home Affairs said yesterday. “We strongly encourage industry to do more to curtail the spread of violent extremist content on their platforms by removing content that breaches the company’s terms of service in a timely fashion.”

United States

Associated Press: Soldier To Plead Guilty In Trying To Help Islamic State

“A soldier based in Hawaii who is accused of pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group and fixating on videos of beheadings and suicide bombings planned to plead guilty Wednesday to attempting to support the terrorist group. Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang is set to plead guilty as charged in an indictment last year, defense attorney Birney Bervar said. He is agreeing to a 25-year sentence for charges that could have put him in prison for life. Kang met with undercover agents he believed were part of the Islamic State group, prosecutors said. He is accused of providing them with classified military information, a drone, military equipment and training in combat fighting. When Kang met with the undercover agents he thought were from the Islamic State group at a home in Honolulu, he pledged allegiance to the group and kissed an Islamic State flag, according to court documents. Kang was obsessed with videos depicting terrorism beheadings, suicide bombings and other violence, and he watched them in his bedroom for hours every day, a confidential informant told agents. The agents put a tracking device on the soldier’s car during an investigation that led to the indictment.”

Syria

Reuters: U.S., Syrian Security Officials Met In Damascus: Official, Report

“A U.S. delegation including security and intelligence officials visited Damascus in June and met Syria’s security chief, an official in the regional alliance backing President Bashar al-Assad said on Tuesday. Earlier on Tuesday the pro-Hezbollah Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported that the U.S. delegation had held a four-hour meeting with security chief Ali Mamlouk near Damascus international airport. Asked about the reports, two senior U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was an “ongoing dialogue with members of the Assad regime” about driving Islamic State from Syria, Damascus’ stockpile and use of chemical weapons, including chlorine, and the fate of journalist Austin Tice, who officials believe Damascus or its allies are holding.”

Voice Of America: US Casts Doubt On Islamic State's Staying Power

“A top U.S. military official is pushing back against the Pentagon's own estimates which suggest the Islamic State terror group has retained significant capabilities in Iraq and Syria, and is "well-positioned" to rebuild its lost caliphate. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, challenged recent estimates from both the U.S. Defense Department and a United Nations report, indicating IS still has anywhere from 20,000 to 32,000 fighters in the two countries despite the collapse of its self-declared caliphate. "I saw the recent reports of over 30,000 fighters," Dunford told reporters Tuesday during a rare news conference with Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon. "I don't have high confidence in those particular numbers. "We're focused on dealing with what remains a threat in [the] Euphrates River Valley. We know there are remaining residual pockets of ISIS inside Iraq," Dunford added, using an acronym for the terror group. "But I certainly would not say ISIS has the same strength that it had at its peak."  ​Defense and intelligence officials have long been wary of using numbers alone to measure the effectiveness of the campaign to destroy IS, calling any such effort, at best, an imperfect science. And some senior officials have likewise voiced concerns, internally, that the newest estimates may be misleading, possibly counting family members or others with strong connections to IS, though not themselves likely to fight.”

Iran

The Atlantic: Nikki Haley Warns That Iran Could Become ‘The Next North Korea’

“U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Tuesday that she “never thought the Iran deal could be fixed.” Even so, the Trump administration spent months consulting with other countries on ways to improve the agreement, before the United States withdrew from it entirely in May and reimposed sanctions on Iran. “You could change it to be a better deal, but you couldn’t change it to be a good deal,” she said during an appearance at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C. In explaining why she felt the Obama-era pact to restrict Iran’s nuclear-weapons program was so problematic, Haley described Iran as part of the Trump administration’s broader challenge of confronting nuclear proliferation among U.S. adversaries. “Look at North Korea. Look at how we’re pulling teeth to get them to stop” their nuclear-weapons program, she noted. “We’re not gonna get Iran to stop [once it acquires nuclear weapons]. Russia’s building up [their nuclear-weapons arsenal], China’s building up theirs. We have to defend America at every turn.” This is bigger than a meeting with Kim Jong Un. “You give literally millions of dollars” in economic relief to Iran “and they don’t stop their ballistic-missile testing, they don’t stop selling arms, and they continue to support terrorism,” Haley continued.”

Reuters: Exclusive: Iran-Based Political Influence Operation - Bigger, Persistent, Global

“An apparent Iranian influence operation targeting internet users worldwide is significantly bigger than previously identified, Reuters has found, encompassing a sprawling network of anonymous websites and social media accounts in 11 different languages. Facebook and other companies said last week that multiple social media accounts and websites were part of an Iranian project to covertly influence public opinion in other countries. A Reuters analysis has identified 10 more sites and dozens of social media accounts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. U.S.-based cyber security firm FireEye Inc and Israeli firm ClearSky reviewed Reuters’ findings and said technical indicators showed the web of newly-identified sites and social media accounts - called the International Union of Virtual Media, or IUVM - was a piece of the same campaign, parts of which were taken down last week by Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc.”

USA Today: Day Four: Talk Of Iran's Economic Malaise And Whispers Of Whom To Blame

“Iranians are fed up with collapsing economic prospects at the hands of what looks to them like systemic regime mismanagement. A currency in free fall. Jobs evaporating. Businesses forced to sell their goods on the black market. The authorities typically say they have a plan or are making changes to address these problems. Sometimes the plans materialize. Sometimes not. Either way, nothing changes. Meanwhile, it is difficult to know how much of Iran’s economic malaise can be attributed to decades of sanctions, how much to government malfeasance and corruption – the latter being most often cited by people on the street – and how much is a result of good old-fashioned bureaucratic incompetence. There are regular clashes between protesters and police in Iran. I did not, however, witness any protests or other forms of social unrest in Isfahan, where I spent the fourth full day of travels, or anywhere else during my time in Iran. And a group of soldiers on leave in Isfahan, known as Iran’s most-popular tourist destination because of its elegant boulevards, Islamic architecture and picturesque gardens, were more interested in talking about why Americans (in their view) were so obsessed with pornography than about the return of sanctions or the reasons for demonstrations.”

The Wall Street Journal: You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide From Iran Sanctions

“As the U.S. begins to reimpose tough sanctions on Iran, defenders of the 2015 nuclear deal are peddling myths. They say Russia, China and India will evade sanctions. They claim oil prices will skyrocket. And they predict Europe will establish a “sanctions free” payment channel to Iran. None of these warnings should slow President Trump’s campaign to impose maximum pressure on the Islamic Republic. Since the U.S. withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May, major companies like Siemens , Total and Maersk have announced their intention to stop doing business with Iran. But not only European firms must avoid the risk of sanctions. Chinese banks are highly exposed to the U.S. financial system. With China’s economy cooling, and the country’s banks potentially overextended on credit, state planners in Beijing can ill afford additional risk. As the U.S. considers financial sanctions on Russia for its use of a nerve agent on British soil, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently declared that sanctions targeting his country’s banks would be considered a “declaration of economic war.” Why then would Russia seek to trigger mandatory U.S. sanctions on Russian banks by conducting transactions with Iran? The State Bank of India , meanwhile, has announced it will stop processing payments for Iranian oil beginning in November.”

The Guardian: Iranian Activist Jailed Over Hijab Protests Goes On Hunger Strike

“Human rights activists in Iran have said they are worried about a man on hunger strike who was reportedly jailed for protesting against rules requiring women to wear a hijab. Farhad Meysami, 48, a doctor and publisher before becoming a civil activist, was arrested in his office in July and taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. After a wave of hijab protests, Iranian authorities cracked down on activists. Meysami was accused of possessing badges stating: “I am against the compulsory hijab.” In recent months, a number of women have been arrested for defying hijab rules in public; standing on telecom boxes, taking off their headscarves and waving them on a stick. It has sparked a nationwide debate about the obligatory nature of the rules, drawing in previously silent members of the Iranian parliament. Meysami has been accused of “collusion and conspiracy to threaten national security”, “disseminating propaganda against the establishment” and “insulting the hijab, an essential sacrament of Islam”, according to Iran’s Human Rights Activists news agency (HRANA).”

CBS News: U.S. Rejects Court Challenge, Insists Iran Sanctions Legal And Needed

“The United States on Tuesday defended its re-imposition of sanctions against Iran as a legal and justified national security measure that cannot be challenged by Tehran at the United Nations' highest court. U.S. State Department legal advisor Jennifer Newstead urged judges at the International Court of Justice to reject an urgent request by Iran to order the suspension of sanctions re-imposed by President Donald Trump in May. "The United States does intend, lawfully and for good reason, to bring heavy pressure to bear on the Iranian leadership to change their ways," Newstead told judges in the court's wood-paneled Great Hall of Justice. "We do this in the interests of U.S. national security as well as in pursuit of a more peaceful Middle East and a more peaceful world." Iran filed a case with the court in July challenging the re-imposition. Tehran alleges that the move breaches a 1955 bilateral agreement known as the Treaty of Amity that regulates and promotes economic and consular ties between the two countries, which have been sworn enemies for decades.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iran’s Oil Exports Dropping Faster Than Expected Before U.S. Sanctions

“Iran oil shipments are declining at a faster-than-expected pace ahead of U.S. sanctions set to begin in November. Iran expects crude exports to fall by a third in September, according to people familiar with purchasing plans, potentially posing an unforeseen supply risk to markets. Officials at the state-run National Iranian Oil Co. provisionally expect crude shipments to drop to about 1.5 million barrels a day next month, down from about 2.3 million barrels a day in June, say people familiar with the country’s ports loading program. Many experts had expected oil shipments to decline by about 1 million barrels by year's end. Now some of them say that fall may have already happened. Iran hasn’t yet announced its exports this month or its forecast for next month. The developments reflect in part a reluctance of tanker companies to ship Iranian oil. Oil companies have until Nov. 4 to adjust to a U.S. ban on buying Iranian oil following President Trump’s decision in May to pull out of the nuclear agreement with Tehran. The Europe Union, China and other countries have vowed to resist the unilateral U.S. sanctions and are trying to find ways to keep buying crude from Iran. But they have struggled to find banks, shipping companies and insurers that are willing to risk running afoul of the U.S.”

Voice Of America: Iran’s Zarif Draws Ire For Saying Iranians 'Chose' To Live With Pressures

“Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has drawn a social media backlash from Iranians for saying the pressures they face are a result of the life they have chosen to live. Zarif made the comment while appearing Sunday on a live Iranian state television talk show. At one point during the program, show host Reza Rashidpour asked Zarif why Iran appears to face more global pressures than other nations. “We have chosen to live in a different way [compared to other countries],” Zarif replied. “We do not want someone telling us how to live. We want to secure our people’s rights based on our laws. We want a system of government that we prefer.” By late Monday, Iranian Twitter users posted at least 5,000 tweets with hashtags rejecting Zarif’s assertion that Iran “chose” to live as an Islamist theocracy that has pursued nuclear and other activities that have sparked international criticism and economic sanctions.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Yemeni Official: Iran's Arming Of Houthis Intensified During Suspension Of Hodeidah Operation

“A local Yemeni official said that Iran had doubled its supply of arms to Houthi militias in Yemen during the suspension of the military operation to liberate Hodeidah. He also revealed that several militia leaders have escaped the city following strikes launched by the Saudi-led Arab Coalition forces. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, the governor of Hodeidah, Dr. Hassan Al-Tahir, said that Iran had supplied weapons to the Houthis during the past period, through large boats, taking advantage of the period during which the national army stopped its march towards the city center. He added that the militias have brought in a large amount of weapons across the sea, or through mercenaries from African countries, exploiting their poor financial situation. On the political consultations to be held under the auspices of the UN in Geneva next month, he said that these consultations should result in the departure of the militias from Hodeidah and its port.  He stressed that the legitimate government had no choice but to confront the Houthis militarily to force them out of the city, noting that the army was ready for the military operation to resume.”

Iraq

Iraqi News: Three Islamic State Members Arrested In Operation, West Of Anbar

“Security services have arrested three Islamic State members in an operation, west of Anbar, a source from the province said on Tuesday. “Security troops managed to carry out an operation in each of Rutba, Hit and Qaim towns, west of Anbar, during which three Islamic State members were arrested,” the source told Almaalomah website. Moreover, the troops “defused several bombs and booby-trapped bodies,” the source said. Security reports indicate that the militant group still poses threat against stability in the country. The group still has dormant cells, through which it carries out attacks, across Iraq like it used to do before 2014. On Friday, three soldiers were wounded in a bomb blast in Hit city. A commander from Anbar police was killed on Thursday, while two others of his bodyguards were wounded as a bomb, placed on the side of the international highway at the Kilo 120 region in west of the province, went off. Last week, five Islamic State members were killed while they were booby-trapping the road which links Wadi al-Qathf to the kilo 160 region in Rutba town. Thousands of Islamic State militants as well as Iraqi civilians were killed since the government campaign, backed by paramilitary troops and the coalition was launched in October 2016.”

Afghanistan

Asia News: Afghanistan’s War Comes To The Tajik Border With Airstrikes And Violent Clashes

“An unidentified plane bombed a forested area on the border killing eight Taliban. The strike follows a clash that left two Tajiks dead. Both Russia and Tajikistan have denied any involvement. Although clashes are rate on the Afghan-Tajik border, the security situation has worsened with dozens of checkpoints attacked and a dozen police officers killed over the past month. The Tajik-Afghan border had become a battleground. An unknown aircraft, possibly Russian or Tajik, carried out an air strike in Afghanistan’s Darqad District, Takbar Province, killing eight Taliban and wounding another six, Afghan officials said. This follows an incident on Sunday in which at least two Tajik border guards were allegedly killed by the Taliban trying to smuggle drugs into Tajikistan. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed the attack, saying that an aircraft bombed a forested area used by smugglers who had clashed with Tajik forest guards. However, both Russia and Tajikistan have denied any military involvement in Afghanistan. “We do not have the right to bomb the territory of another state. If such necessity arises, the staff of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation will be convened at first to consider an air strike,” Tajikistan’s National Security Committee said in a statement. On the other hand, Tajik authorities noted that a car carrying three Tajik citizens was attacked and two killed.”

Pakistan

Daily Times: Experts Say Pakistan Must Not Miss The Chance To Explain Its Viewpoint On Terrorism

“Last week, a congratulatory telephone conversation between United States (U.S.) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Prime Minister Imran Khan, stirred up disagreements as to what had actually been discussed between the two men, with Islamabad calling Washington’s account of the discussion ‘factually incorrect’. According to a U.S. State Department readout, Pompeo called Khan to express his eagerness to improve the bilateral relationship between the two countries and looked forward to working with Pakistan’s new government. However, the readout’s assertion that ‘Secretary Pompeo raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process’ led to the dispute. A tweet by Mohmmed Faisal, the spokesperson for Foreign Ministry, called the State Department’s readout as ‘factually incorrect’ and urged for an immediate correction. In response, the State Department’s spokesperson Heather Nauret, said, “we stand by our readout.” Despite the U.S. framing the call as a positive step in moving the U.S.-Pakistan relationship forward, Khan’s new government appears to have taken umbrage to the U.S. suggestion that terrorists continue to operate in Pakistan. Commenting on the matter, Cameron Munter, former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, says, “terrorism is sensitive to Pakistan because of the losses Pakistan has suffered, civilian and military, at the hands of terrorists.”

Yemen

Daily Star: Al-Qaeda Attack On Yemen Checkpoint Kills 5: Officials

“Yemeni tribal and security officials say a suspected Al-Qaeda attack on a checkpoint in a southern province has killed five soldiers and wounded four others. They say the attack took place late Tuesday in Ahwar district in Abyan province and targeted Security Belt forces – fighters trained and financed by the UAE, which is part the Arab coalition battling the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The officials spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media and the tribal leaders for fear of reprisals. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni affiliate is known, has long been considered the global network's most dangerous branch and has attempted to carry out attacks on the U.S. mainland.”

Lebanon

The Times Of Israel: Hezbollah-Linked Site Says US Offered To Leave Syria If Iran Withdrew From South

“The United States offered to leave Syria completely in exchange for a full withdrawal of Iranian troops from the southern part of the country, the Hezbollah-affiliated news outlet Al-Akhbar reported Tuesday. According to the report, senior US and Syrian intelligence and defense officials held a secret meeting in Damascus in June to discuss the offer. Part of the American offer required a guarantee from Damascus the US would receive “a share” of Syrian oil, as well as detailed information regarding terrorist organizations operating in the war-torn country. Syria’s national security chief Ali Mamlouk reportedly rejected the US offer, saying that Damascus viewed Americans in Syria as an “occupying power who entered our territory forcibly.” He went on to say that President Bashar Assad had repeatedly made clear Syria’s “strong relationship” with Iran, Hezbollah and other armed groups in the region.”

Egypt

News24: Egypt Sentences 6 To Death On Terrorism Charges

“An Egyptian court has sentenced six people to death for their roles in a 2016 militant attack on a security checkpoint north of Cairo that killed a policeman. Cairo Criminal Court on Tuesday also sentenced two defendants to life in prison and four others, including a 15-year-old, to between 3 and 15 years. All were charged with "establishing a terrorist group" among other charges for the attack on security forces. The death sentences came after the court received approval from the grand mufti, the country's highest Islamic authority. Egypt has cracked down on suspected Islamists since the military ousted an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013. Since then, hundreds of Islamists, including Muslim Brotherhood members, have been sentenced to death. The authorities have carried out dozens of executions.”

The Jerusalem Post: Fighting Terrorism, A Human Right

“President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi of Egypt deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom award, for saving Egypt from a human rights catastrophe. Egypt is a prime location because it borders Israel, Libya and Sudan, and shares maritime borders with Greece, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, ISIS and other terror groups would be waging war, using Egypt as a staging area.  Only one man is responsible for preventing an Islamic State and a civil war in Egypt: President al-Sisi. For him to take on the Muslim Brotherhood in his own country was one of the most courageous acts of leadership in human history – indeed, an Arab “Winston Churchill” moment. You may recall that on January 25, 2011, thousands of protesters packed Tahrir Square in Cairo. As a result, Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammed Morsi was elevated to the role of president. He was ousted by Sisi in 2013. The world watched in horror as what was called the Arab Spring swept through Egypt. Millions of demonstrators took to the streets in every major city across the Middle East. More than 90 police stations were set afire. This was the same protest that plagued Syria, creating a human catastrophe, and costing the lives of more than 350,000 Syrians.”

Nigeria

BBC: Nigeria's Boko Haram Crisis: Father's Joy At Voice Of Abducted Daughter

“The father of a Nigerian schoolgirl being held by Islamist militant group since February has told the BBC he is delighted to hear her voice in a recently released audio recording. "It really is her voice. Before, I thought she wasn't even alive," Nathan Sharibu told BBC Pidgin. His daughter was kidnapped along with more than 100 girls from Dapchi town. The others were later freed but she was kept, reportedly because she refused to convert from Christianity to Islam. The 35-second audio recording, which is yet to be authenticated by Nigerian authorities, was published by Nigeria's cable newspaper on Monday. In it, the 15-yr-old girl calls on the government to help her. Her father said the recording had given the family hope: "I'm really encouraged that I heard the words of my favourite daughter." "We are very, very sad in the family. I hope they will put more pressure concerning her release." What happened in Dapchi? Militants stormed the north-eastern town of Dapchi on the evening of 19 February. They headed towards the compound of a girls' boarding school as they fired guns into the air. They then forced the girls into a vehicle and sped off.”

Daily Post: Boko Haram: How Terrorist Sect Expanded – UN

“United Nations, UN, Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed has attributed the rise of Boko Haram terrorism in Northeast Nigeria largely to the drying up of the once thriving Lake Chad. 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. “I was raised in north-eastern Nigeria, where lack of access to clean water and sanitation is a major challenge”, NAN quoted her as saying.”

Somalia

Africa News: Somalis Celebrate As AMISOM Hands Over National Stadium

“The African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has officially handed over the country’s national stadium to the government, which they had been occupying since 2011. VOA journalist, Harun Maruf, reported that cleaning up of the stadium that has not hosted any sporting event since 1991, has kicked off in earnest. The stadium in Mogadishu was captured from jihadist group Al Shabaab by AMISOM and the Somali Army during an operation to liberate the city in September 2011. Al Shabaab had banned all sporting activity as it used the stadium as a base for terror activities. During a pre-handover inspection of the stadium on Monday, Somalia’s president Mohamed Farmaajo thanked AMISOM for their continued support towards the restoration of peace.”

Russia

Al Jazeera: US, Russia Engage In War Of Words As Syria Attack Looms

“Russia has deployed a dozen warships to the Mediterranean Sea in what a Russian newspaper on Tuesday called Moscow's largest naval buildup since it entered the Syrian conflict in 2015. The reinforcement comes as Russia's ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is believed to be considering a major assault on the last rebel-held enclave in northern Idlib province. Russia has accused the United States of building up its own forces in the Middle East in preparation for a possible strike on Syrian government forces. On Saturday, the Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen frigates sailed through Turkey's Bosphorus towards the Mediterranean, Reuters news agency images showed. The day before, the Pytlivy frigate and landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov were pictured sailing through the Turkish straits that connect the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. The Vishny Volochek missile corvette passed through earlier this month.”

Southeast Asia

The Business Times: One Killed, Dozens Wounded In Philippines Bombing

“A bomb blast tore through a crowd at a festival in the southern Philippines on Tuesday, killing one person and wounding dozens more in the second deadly attack in under a month in the region, authorities said. The powerful bomb in the town of Isulan went off near a night market that was part of local celebrations, sending people running in terror. "It was loud, we immediately left the area but I can't forget the images of a young girl carried by her father, her shirt covered in blood," said witness Judy Sapto, an area resident. The attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, is the latest violence in the south of the majority Catholic archipelago, where Islamist militants have been fighting a decades-long insurgency. "It's obvious that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) with links to ISIS (Islamic State) has the strongest desire to initiate these kind of attacks", said Army Captain Arvin Encinas. The local mayor's office said two other bombs were discovered in the area and defused by authorities. One person was killed and at least 36 were hurt in the blast, the mayor's office added. There was no immediate word on the victims' conditions. Local police officials said the bomb went off near a petrol station as Isulan was celebrating the 61st anniversary of its founding. The attack comes less than a month after a van bomb ripped through a military checkpoint on the neighbouring island of Basilan, killing 10 people.”

Germany

Speigel Online: Right-Wing Mob Wreaks Havoc On German City

“The neo-Nazi goes on the attack. He throws his arms above his head, yells and waves toward the parade of demonstrators in an attempt to get his comrades to follow him. Then, along with a group of 10 to 12 others, he storms up the stairs to a terrace in front of the Stadthalle, an event venue in the heart of the city of Chemnitz. On the terrace are cameramen, onlookers and counterdemonstrators -- and they don't see the attackers coming. The neo-Nazi grabs a young man from behind, jerks him to the ground and hits him. Over and over again. Only then do four police officers show up and push the neo-Nazis back. The officers are clearly overwhelmed, just as the entire police force had been throughout the demonstrations on Monday evening -- demonstrations that eventually turned into a riot. A riot fueled by xenophobic hatred.”

Australia

ABC: Alleged Islamic State Member Admitted To Being Caught 'Red Handed' By Police, Court Told

“A woman accused of being part of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group told police she was unaware of how images of beheadings ended up on her mobile phone, an Adelaide court has heard. Zainab Abdirahman–Khalif has pleaded not guilty to knowingly being a member of Islamic State  prosecutor said she told police she didn't know how images of beheadings got onto her phone The prosecutor said she was heard saying she was caught "red handed" Zainab Abdirahman–Khalif, 23, is on trial in South Australia's Supreme Court after pleading not guilty to knowingly being a member of the Islamic State terrorist organisation between July 2016 and May 2017. The court was told she was heard on audio recording admitting she was caught "red handed" by police with a photo on her phone, although it was not specified what that particular photo depicted. The court heard she was detained at Adelaide Airport in July 2016 after buying a one-way ticket online to fly from Adelaide to Istanbul. It heard she took only carry-on luggage and $170 in savings, which the prosecution alleges was not enough to return home. She was interviewed by detectives and placed under arrest for attempting to enter a declared area, but the court heard she was never charged with that offence and was released from custody the following morning.”

Technology

The New York Times: Trump Accuses Google Of Burying Conservative News In Search Results

“President Trump, in a series of early morning Twitter posts on Tuesday, attacked Google for what he claimed was an effort to intentionally suppress conservative news outlets supportive of his administration. Mr. Trump’s remarks — and an additional warning later in the day that Google, Facebook and Twitter “have to be careful” — escalated a conservative campaign against the internet industry that has become more pointed since Apple, Google and Facebook removed content from Alex Jones, a right-wing conspiracy theorist who runs the site InfoWars and has been a vocal supporter of Mr. Trump. “Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter at 5:24 a.m. “In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent.” Mr. Trump added that “they are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!”

The New York Times: Dozens At Facebook Unite To Challenge Its ‘Intolerant’ Liberal Culture

“The post went up quietly on Facebook’s internal message board last week. Titled “We Have a Problem With Political Diversity,” it quickly took off inside the social network. “We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views,” Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer, wrote in the post, which was obtained by The New York Times. “We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack — often in mobs — anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.” Since the post went up, more than 100 Facebook employees have joined Mr. Amerige to form an online group called FB’ers for Political Diversity, according to two people who viewed the group’s page and who were not authorized to speak publicly. The aim of the initiative, according to Mr. Amerige’s memo, is to create a space for ideological diversity within the company. The new group has upset other Facebook employees, who said its online posts were offensive to minorities. One engineer, who declined to be identified for fear of retaliation, said several people had lodged complaints with their managers about FB’ers for Political Diversity and were told that it had not broken any company rules.”

The Sun: Facebook Is As ‘Addictive As Tobacco’ And Just As Deadly, Says Original Founder Aaron Greenspan

“FACEBOOK is as "addictive as tobacco" and has caused "countless deaths", claims the man behind the first Facebook. Aaron Greenspan – who created Harvard's social network "The Face Book" while studying there alongside Facebook's current head Mark Zuckerberg – says the world's most popular social network was designed to get people hooked. "Facebook's addictive qualities may not kill anyone directly as cigarettes do every day but it is now established that the site has led to countless deaths," Greenspan told The Daily Telegraph, effectively reigniting his long-running feud with Zuckerberg. He cited a leaked memo by top Facebook exec Andrew "Boz" Bosworth which revealed the "ugly truth" behind Facebook's relentless quest for growth over user safety. “We connect people. Period. That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified,” wrote Boz in the 2016 memo, which was kept secret until earlier this year.”

Counter Terrorism

Elwatan: A Large Wireless Communication-Device Shipment Intercepted Enroute To Terrorists In Sinai

“The General Department for the Suez Canal Security captured a container at Port Said carrying a large shipment of cargo that necessitates a prior special security permit. The container stored a wireless transmission installation, including all of its auxiliary equipment, 113 manual wireless devices and relevant spare parts. On his part, Colonel Hatem Saber, an international counter-terrorism expert, noted that this large number of wireless devices suggests that the Egyptian army and police have managed to decipher all other messaging techniques used by terrorists. As a result, the militants are ultimately obliged to resort to wireless communication. In addition, the seizure of this forbidden communications equipment indicates that an intelligence agency is behind the shipment, since terrorists alone are incapable of encoding and importing such a huge amount of communication devices, Colonel Saber assessed. The seizure of this cargo is a major blow to the terrorists' logistics network, the international counter-terrorism expert underscored.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Ahram Alyoum: Funding Sources Of Muslim Brotherhood

“The major funding sources of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood comprise such business practices as the establishment of factories and import-export companies. These financial sources also consist of donations and remittances by sympathizers from abroad, particularly from Europe and the USA. In addition, the funding sources of the banned Islamist group include membership fees from businessmen and traders affiliated with the group, and even ordinary members, who are required to contribute 10% of their income. Sources assert that the blacklisted organization has succeeded in recruiting several businessmen into its ranks, who either fully or partially own contracting companies and banks inside and outside Cairo.”

Sout Al-Omma: Expert: Financial Crunch In Turkey Negatively Impacts Media Channels Of Muslim Brotherhood

“The media channels of the Muslim Brotherhood abroad are continuously facing acute crises due to the prolonged internal disputes among the group's leaders. These crises have recently worsened following the scarcity of funding sources resulting from the financial turmoil in Turkey and Qatar, the two primary sponsor countries of the group. Mukhtar Noah, a dissident Brotherhood leader, asserted that the Muslim Brotherhood's media outlets, in Turkey in particular and abroad in general, are currently suffering severe blows due to the ongoing rift among the group's leaders. Noah added that the lack of funding caused by the recent financial crunch in Turkey has deepened the internal problems of these media channels.”

Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)

MENAFN: Role Of Drug-Trafficking Gangs Linked To The IRGC Uncovered

“A research study based on international reports exposes the role of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the smuggling and distribution of drugs inside and outside the borders of Iran. These activities are intended to obtain huge sums of money which would help fulfill Iran's goals of exporting terrorism and spreading war in the region, as well as {its mission} of acquiring nuclear equipment. The research, prepared by the Iranian opposition, indicates it was based upon reports by sources inside Iran on the drug trafficking activities being carried out by the Quds Force and the IRGC forces at the regional and international levels. The research investigated the geographical scope of the Quds Force drug-trafficking activity, indicating that the terrorist Quds Force plays a role in the military, intelligence and diplomatic entities of the regime, not only in the processing and distribution of narcotics in the country but also in the operation of an international network for the procurement and transfer of drugs, whose revenues reach billions of dollars.”

Houthi

Yemen Akhbar: Houthi Group Carries Out Forced Conscription At Gunpoint

“Houthi militants carried out forced conscription at gunpoint in the Abs District of Hajjah province. Local sources said that the militants took several of the district's sons under the instruction of the province's supervisors, who turned to a Houthi-linked security official in the District of Abs. As a result, dozens of families have abandoned the district center, fleeing their homes in fear of the militants. According to the sources, Houthi leaders paid secret visits to the district administration in Al-Miftah, Al Mahabishah and Ku'aydinah, Aflah Al Yaman and Hajour. They explained that the visits were aimed at pleading with the sheikhs to endorse the conscription. The Houthis carry huge sums of money with them in a desperate attempt to "buy the lives of innocent people." Houthis pay more than YR100K ($400) for each person offered to "recruitment brokers.”