Eye on Extremism: August 30

Haaretz: Assad Offensive On Syria's Rebel-Held Idlib Reportedly Imminent, Despite Fear Of Mass Civilian Casualties

“Syrian government forces are preparing a phased offensive in the northwestern province of Idlib and surrounding areas, the last big rebel enclave, a source close to Damascus said on Wednesday. Russia, President Bashar Assad’s main backer from outside the region, said on Wednesday that militants there must be liquidated, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov describing them as “a festering abscess”. The offensive would initially target southern and western parts of the insurgent territory, but not yet Idlib city, said the source, an official in the regional alliance backing Assad. “The final touches for the first stage will be completed in the coming hours,” the official added, without saying when it would start.”

The Wall Street Journal: Declassified Interrogation Reports Show How Much Iran Shaped Iraq War

“Recently declassified U.S. interrogation reports shed new light on one of Iraq’s most prominent Shiite political figures and Iran’s role in training and arming Iraqi militias that attacked U.S. troops during the Iraq war. The interrogations of Qais al-Khazali, the leader of a major Shiite militia group that is trying to carve out a political role in Iraq, were conducted a decade ago after he was captured by the American-led coalition. The coalition accused him of organizing a 2007 attack that led to the deaths of five U.S. soldiers. The reports were declassified and approved for public release by the U.S. Central Command months ago as part of an effort to study the history of the Iraq war. Though they haven’t been officially distributed by the U.S. government, copies have been reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The reports have been circulating in Washington as lawmakers and Trump administration officials have been debating whether to designate Mr. Khazali and his militia group as terrorist entities.”

Fox News: More Iranians 'Buying' Passports In Other Countries To Evade US Travel Ban, Sanctions

“More Iranians are paying big money to buy passports in neighboring countries through bribery or fraudulent information, in a bid to evade U.S. sanctions and the Trump administration's travel ban on Iran and six other nations, multiple sources have told Fox News. “The proliferation of forged documents enables a host of illegal activities, like the travel of sanctioned or wanted individuals and other forms of illegal immigration. It is also a deliberate attack on the authority to secure its borders,” said David Ibsen, Executive Director of the not-for-profit, non-partisan policy organization Counter Extremism Project (CEP). “This is not surprising, as Iran will do what it can to circumvent sanctions.”

The Washington Post: One Of The World’s Most Dangerous Terrorists Is Now Dead. Few Seemed To Notice

“Amid all the controversies and scandals from Washington dominating our news cycle, a major counterterrorism success by the United States last week did not get the attention it deserved: Government officials are confident that Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, al-Qaeda’s chief bomb maker, was killed during a U.S. drone strike late last year. If the reports are true — and caution is in order since Asiri has been reported killed before, only to show up very much alive — he would be the most significant international terrorist removed from the battlefield since Osama bin Laden. Asiri was born in Saudi Arabia, but has been in Yemen as a leader of al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula for many years. He was the mastermind behind a number of explosive devices that were able to evade security checkpoints. He was well known as a master of his craft, and was as intelligent as he was evil. When I left government in 2013, I considered him the most dangerous terrorist on the planet. His removal leaves the world a safer place.”

Voice Of America: UN Urges Facebook To ‘Proactively’ Fight Hate Speech

“The UN human rights chief urged Facebook Wednesday to more proactively address hate speech but warned against excessive regulation, after US President Donald Trump accused tech giants’ platforms of bias against him. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s appeal follows a decision by Facebook this week to ban Myanmar’s army chief and other top military brass named in a UN probe linking them to a possible “genocide” against Rohingya Muslims. The social media network is the prime source of news and information for many in the country, but has also been a platform for the army and Buddhist hardliners to spread hate speech against the Rohingya and other minorities. The site aired support for the military’s bloody “clearance operations” last year that forced some 700,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.”

United States

Time: A U.S. Soldier Has Pleaded Guilty To Trying To Help The Islamic State

“A soldier based in Hawaii pleaded guilty Wednesday to trying to help the Islamic State group, telling a judge he provided secret military information, a drone meant to track U.S. troops and other support to undercover agents he believed were members of the terrorist organization. Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang, 35, handcuffed and wearing a beige prison jumpsuit, spoke in a clear voice when he told a U.S. magistrate judge he’s guilty of all four counts against him. “Your honor, I provided unclassified, classified documents to the Islamic State,” Kang said, adding that he also provided the drone. He agreed when Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson described other support he provided to undercover agents Kang believed were part of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. By at least early 2016, Kang became sympathetic to the group, Sorenson said. The FBI gathered information from sources he knew, worked with or lived with when it opened an investigation in August 2016, Sorenson said. Kang provided voluminous, digital documents that included sensitive information including the U.S. military’s weapons file, details about a sensitive mobile airspace management system, various military manuals and documents containing personal information about U.S. service members, Sorenson said.”

STL News: Florida News: Miami Resident, Samuel Baptiste Indicted For Online Distribution Of Information Pertaining To Explosives And Attempting To Provide Material Support To A Foreign Terrorist Organization

“Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced today that that a Grand Jury sitting in Miami, Florida returned an indictment against Samuel Baptiste, 25, of Miami, Florida, charging him with four counts of distributing information pertaining to explosives, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 842(p)(2)(A), one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339B(a)(1), and one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorists, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339A. Baptiste, who is currently serving an 80 month prison sentence on federal firearms charges, had his initial appearance in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres on August 27, 2018. A detention hearing is scheduled before a U.S. Magistrate Judge, in Miami, on August 30, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.”

Al Arabiya: US Navy Seizes Hundreds Of Small Arms Onboard Sailboat In Yemen’s Gulf Of Aden

“A US Navy ship seized hundreds of small arms, including Kalashnikovs and AK-47s, from onboard a sailboat in the Gulf of Aden, a Pentagon official said. The official added that the boat was seized in an area where weapons were previously smuggled by the Houthi militias. He stated that the seized weapons were now being held on board the destroyer “USS Jason Dunam”. This comes as the Houthi militias targeted a relief truck belonging to the Red Cross near the Directorate of Tahita south of the province of Hodeidah. Meanwhile, the head of the Yemeni Higher Relief Committee, Abdul-Raqeeb Fath, strongly condemned the Houthi militias blocking international relief organizations from receiving and distributing aid in Durahmi and Al-Haitha in Hodeidah.”

Syria

CNN: Syria Reveals Fate Of People Thrown Into 'Slaughterhouse' Jails

“No man will see Huda Halasi's face or hear her voice while she goes through her four-month grieving period. She sits in a side room of her house in Aleppo province, surrounded only by her female relatives. Her eyes are fiery but her voice never rises above a whisper. For six years, she and her family agonized over her husband's fate. His whereabouts and conditions were shrouded in mystery. Until one day in early August, the Syrian government issued his death certificate. "We don't know when he died exactly," Huda says to her relative. Abdul Ghafour Halasi, an anesthesiologist, was arrested in the early years of Syria's war. He vanished into an abyss of prisons and military intelligence centers, and was one of around 82,000 forcibly disappeared people that local and international rights groups demanded the Syrian government return. Families scrambled to track down their imprisoned relatives and scraped together money to try to secure their release. Much of the time, their efforts were in vain. An old maxim resurfaced about the regime's arbitrary detentions: "Those inside the prisons have disappeared. Those who managed to get out, have a new lease on life.”

The Guardian: 'We ​Can’t Go Back': Syria's Refugees Fear For Their Future After War

“Each day for as long as he can remember, Abu Ahmed, a Syrian merchant, has hawked Qur’anic pamphlets in central Beirut, one eye out for a buyer and another for the police. He has been in the Lebanese capital for the past six years, as war consumed his homeland, casting more than a million refugees like him into near permanent exile. Now, however, as the seven-year conflict approaches what many believe to be an endgame in Syria’s north-west, Abu Ahmed fears his meagre, but so far safe existence is in jeopardy. The blazing guns of insurgency have largely been silenced in central and southern Syria, and politicians in Damascus, Beirut and Amman are claiming with increasing vehemence that a ruined country from which at least 6 million people have fled is now a safe for them to return.”

Reuters: Russia Warns U.S. Against 'Illegal Aggression Against Syria'

“Russia’s Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said he had told U.S. officials earlier this week that Moscow is concerned over signs that the United States is preparing new strikes on Syria and warned against “groundless and illegal aggression against Syria”. Antonov met this week with U.S. officials, including James Jeffrey, special representative for Syria, the Russia Embassy said in a posting on its Facebook page.”

Fox News: NATO Reports Russian Naval Buildup Amid Syria Tensions

“NATO says the Russian navy is building up its presence in the Mediterranean Sea amid growing tensions over the war in Syria. Russia has provided crucial military support for Syrian government forces, which are expected to mount an offensive in the northern Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the country. "We will not speculate on the intention of the Russian fleet, but it is important that all actors in the region exercise restraint and refrain from worsening an already disastrous humanitarian situation in Syria," NATO's chief spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, said Wednesday. She says several of the Russian ships are equipped with cruise missiles. Russian defense officials could not be reached for comment. At least eight ships, including a missile cruiser and two missile-carrying submarines, have joined the Russian flotilla over the past three weeks. Russian media reports indicate there are around 15 Russian navy vessels in the Mediterranean overall. Moscow has repeatedly alleged that Syrian rebels are preparing a chemical weapons attack in Idlib as a provocation to bring a Western attack on Syrian forces.”

The Los Angeles Times: Two Syrian Towns Once Lived Peacefully Alongside Neighbors. Three Years Under Siege Changed Everything.

“One morning last month, the residents of Fuah and Kfarya got word that it was time to leave. “I didn’t believe it at first,” said Jamal Faour, 33, who works for the Syrian army as a photographer. “We no longer believed anything.” For more than three years, the towns — whose residents support the government — have lived under a siege imposed by rebels in Idlib province fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. Evacuations had been promised before, only to be called off. But on July 18, a total of 121 buses pulled into Fuah and Kfarya. The 6,900 townsfolk, carrying little more than suitcases, crammed onboard. As the convoy trundled through rebel-held territory, people on the sides of the streets lobbed rocks and shoes. When the ragged evacuees finally reached Al Eis, the last rebel-controlled area before entering the government-held city of Aleppo, an Al Qaeda member carrying an AK-47 entered one bus and launched into a tirade. “You have no place in Idlib, you rawafidh!” Abu al Yaqthan al Masri shouted in a scene captured on video and posted on social media by pro-rebel outlets.”

Iran

The New York Times: For Foreigners Imprisoned By Iran, An Uncertain Plight

“When a British-Iranian charity worker was abruptly released from a Tehran prison last week on a three-day leave and allowed to see her daughter, joy erupted among supporters in Britain, where her case has received extraordinary attention. But when her request for an extension was denied, the elation turned to despair and anger. Then on Wednesday, the prisoner collapsed and was hospitalized over what her husband described as recurrent panic attacks. The plight of the prisoner, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 40-year-old representative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in Iran more than two years ago, is not unique. Critics of Iran’s opaque judicial system say foreign citizens — particularly Britons and Americans of Iranian descent — are often subject to capricious prosecution on vaguely defined political offenses. Here are some questions and answers about Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe and some other high-profile foreign citizens known to be incarcerated in Iran.”

Bloomberg: Making Iran Sanctions Hit Harder This Time

“While the Trump administration’s reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran earlier this month grabbed the headlines, a more significant date is Nov. 4, when the truly crippling penalties — including those on Iranian oil — are slated to return. If the sanctions are to have the desired effect on Iran’s economy and behavior, Washington has just weeks to lay the groundwork by issuing clarifications, plugging loopholes, and more actively helping U.S. partners find alternatives to Iranian oil. One of the primary challenges involves Iran’s high-volume sale of a type of ultralight oil known as condensates, which are byproducts of oil and natural-gas production. There are two types: Lease condensates are derived from the production of crude oil during the fracking process, while plant condensates come from natural gas and crude oil refineries. Both types are termed “petroleum products” by the U.S. for the purposes of Iran sanctions, but are not considered crude oil.”

The National: Exiled Scientist Decries Relentless Campaign By Iran's Revolutionary Guards

“Six months after he fled his homeland, Kaveh Madani remains a marked man, dogged by the regime’s accusations that he is an agent of foreign powers. The research scientist and environmental expert quit as the deputy vice-president for the environment in the Rouhani government in April after suffering relentless harassment from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The propaganda against Mr Madani continues to this day. In recent weeks, the regime has suggested that Mr Madani is an agent of Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the US and British intelligence agencies. Given his academic specialism in water management, the Iranians have also suggested that Mr Madani was a member of a cabal that caused the water shortages that have provoked protests in Iranian cities throughout 2018. “They have claimed that I am of Jewish descent and was working for Israel,” he told The National. “Netanyahu’s recent comment on Iran’s water issues and his offer to help Iran made additional trouble for me. They think that I am the one advising Netanyahu and tell him what to say.”

Voice Of America: Report: Iranian Media Group Seeks Worldwide Influence

“Iran’s efforts to influence internet users around the world are larger than experts have thought, reports Reuters news agency. Reuters said that Iran has a group of anonymous websites and social media accounts in 11 important languages. Facebook and other companies said last week that social media accounts and websites were part of an Iranian campaign. The goal was to influence public opinion in other countries. Reuters studied 10 other websites and many accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. The American internet security company FireEye and the Israeli company ClearSky studied Reuters’s research. The companies said that technical evidence showed a web of sites and social media accounts called the International Union of Virtual Media, or IUVM.”

Al Bawaba: Defense Minister: Iran Will Maintain Presence In Syria

“Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami and his Syrian counterpart, General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, signed an agreement on defense and technical cooperation in Damascus on Sunday. The document "will define the areas of bilateral presence, participation, and cooperation” in defense ties, Hatami said, adding Syria has put the era of war behind it and has entered the era of reconstruction. "The continuation of presence of Iranian (military) advisors in Syria was one of the points of the defense and technical agreement between Tehran and Damascus," IRNA quoted Iran's military and defense attaché to Damascus, Brigadier General Abolqassem Alinejad, as saying on Tuesday. He added that the agreement was signed in line with the two countries' will to improve cooperation. He emphasized that the expansion of defense cooperation between Iran and Syria would help promote peace and stability in the Middle East. The Iranian commander said the accord also stressed the importance of support for Syria's territorial integrity and sovereignty, adding that it came into effect on the day of its conclusion. According the agreement, Iran will help Syria in clearing minefields in different parts of the war-ravaged country given the Islamic Republic's experience gained during the eight-year war imposed by the regime of Iraq's former dictator Saddam Hussein, he added. Iran also vowed to help Syria to reconstruct the military factories that were damaged in Syria's seven-year war and rebuild its infrastructure, Alinejad said. Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011.”

Euroactiv: Europe Should Counter Iran’s Cyber Espionage, Infiltration, Terrorism

“Both Facebook and Twitter recently announced that they had removed hundreds of accounts in the wake of revelations from the cybersecurity FireEye, which identified them as being linked to coordinated disinformation campaigns that originated with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The closure of more than 652 Facebook pages and nearly 300 Twitter timelines appears to confirm that, whereas Iranian efforts to influence public opinion in the West were already well known, they were in fact much more large-scale than previously suspected. The Iranian campaign was reportedly less sophisticated than its more widely publiciqed Russian counterpart, but it represents a steadily growing threat to the political integrity of the US and Europe, and perhaps also to the policy outcomes of those countries. To whatever extent this or other Iranian infiltration efforts proves successful, those outcomes could pose risks to Western security, global stability, and both the lives and political prospects for those Iranian activists who are working to change their country into something that is no more a danger to the world and more in line with the interests and values of democratic nations. This latter threat is evident from some of the specific topics that the newly-outed campaign had sought to address.”

Iraq

The Jerusalem Post: Yazidi Genocide Survivors Say ISIS Supporters Returning To Northern Iraq

“Yazidi activists accused Baghdad of allowing people who “took part in the 2014 genocide” to return to villages near Sinjar in northern Iraq. On Tuesday, video and photos were posted online showing a long line of trucks and cars waiting near a checkpoint to return to a village east of Sinjar Mountain. “Yazidis concerned over return of families involved in Islamic State Shingal massacre,” tweeted one activist. “The return of these people will become a threat to the lives of people in Shingal, and bad things may happen which we do not accept.” In August 2014, Islamic State attacked the area around Sinjar mountain where hundreds of thousands of Yazidis, members of a religious minority, live. ISIS captured more than 10,000 people and systematically separated women and men, murdering the men and selling women and children into slavery. The horrific crime has been called genocide by international organizations. More than 3,000 Yazidi women and children are still missing. Since Sinjar was liberated in 2015, many Yazidis have not returned due to an unstable security situation and changing control of the area from Kurdish Peshmerga to Iraqi federal forces. However, since Iraq’s federal government and Shi’ite militias took control in October 2017, some Arab families who fled the area have returned. The Shi’ite militias are called Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU).”

Voice Of America: Car Bomb Claimed By Islamic State Kills 7 In Western Iraq

“Seven people were killed Wednesday in a suicide car bombing claimed by the Islamic State group in a former stronghold of the jihadists in western Iraq, a security official said. The attacker detonated his explosives-laden vehicle at a joint security checkpoint managed by the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilization Forces at the southern entrance to the town of al-Qaim, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the Syrian border, Maj. Gen Qasem al-Dulaimi said. He said four security forces and three civilians were killed in the blast. Al-Dulaimi blamed IS for the attack, and the group, through its Aamaq news agency, later claimed responsibility in posts it circulated on social media. Also on Wednesday, the Criminal Court of Anbar Province, which includes al-Qaim, sentenced three men to death by hanging, finding them guilty of carrying out terror attacks in the province. There was no indication the men were connected to Wednesday’s attack. Judge Abdelsattar Bayarqadar, spokesman for Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council, said the three men were members of IS. Al-Qaim is a former Islamic State group stronghold in Anbar province in western Iraq. A spate of kidnappings and guerrilla style attacks in desert areas in western and central Iraq this summer have stirred security concerns in the country as it seeks to rebuild from its three-year-long war with the militant group.”

Afghanistan

Xinhua: Taliban Destroys Key Bridge In S. Afghanistan

“Taliban militants have dynamited a key bridge in Afghanistan's southern Uruzgan province, a provincial government official Sayed Shah Habibi said Wednesday. "The Taliban insurgents in the latest attack against government interests dynamited a key bridge in provincial capital Tirin Kot city on Wednesday morning," Habibi told Xinhua. Describing the attack on the bridge as "enmity with people", the official said that the bridge was constructed in 2012 to connect provincial capital Tirin Kot city to several districts and villages. The destruction of the bridge had added to the suffering of people in the restive province, the official said. Taliban militants have yet to make comments.”

The National: It's Time To Talk Peace, Nato's Afghan Envoy Tells Taliban

“Nato's top civilian representative in Afghanistan has urged the Taliban to come to the negotiating table, saying an unprecedented ceasefire in June shows that the group can win political recognition and bring an end to the group's 17-year conflict with the government and western forces. In an exclusive interview with The National, Ambassador Cornelius Zimmermann, the military alliance’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, said there is a genuine chance of peace, given a sweeping desire among ordinary Afghans for an end to fighting. The three-day Eid truce in June opened up the potential for political acceptance of the Taliban, once thought highly improbable, he said, and consequently the insurgents and other parties must capitalise on this. "There is an overwhelming and universal demand for peace among the Afghan public. Afghans have suffered enough and the ceasefire showed that peace is possible," he said. "Now, the Taliban must show that they are genuinely willing to play their part to ensure lasting peace and security for the benefit of all Afghans. "They must understand that they cannot win on the battlefield, but that they can gain a place in Afghan society and politics at the negotiating table." The months that have followed the end of the ceasefire have been typically bloody, particularly in recent weeks when the Taliban laid siege to the southern city of Ghazni, killing hundreds and burning marketplaces and government premises.”

Pakistan

Xinhua: Army Chief Vows To Eliminate Terrorism In Pakistan

“Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited the northwest district of North Waziristan, once the safe haven of the terrorist groups, vowing to eliminate terrorism from the country, the military's media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) has said. Militant groups used to term North Waziristan, a tribal district bordering Afghanistan, as their headquarters from where they used to launch attacks across Pakistan. An intensive operation started in June 2014 by the Pakistani armed forces to wipe out all such elements and establish peace in the region. According to the ISPR, the army chief addressed a gathering of local tribal elders on Wednesday and appreciated the local population for their support and cooperation for the security forces during the operation. He told the tribal elders that terrorism and development cannot go together, urging them to continue to play their role to ensure that the unrest does not return and their area can attain maximum development in the post-militancy era. "No conflict ends through kinetic operations alone. There is always a post operations rehabilitation and development effort," said the army chief, while stressing on the continuation of the stability operations and progress on the socio-economic sector in the region. Tens of thousands of local people had to migrate and live in camps in different parts of the country following the launch of the military operations in the region. Following the success of the operations, the Pakistani government and army have been rehabilitating the area by reconstructing roads, government offices, schools, markets and houses which were destroyed during the operation.”

Yemen

Arab News: Yemeni Minister Lambasts Iran, Houthis For Killing 1,372 Children

“A senior Yemeni official has put Iran and Iranian-backed Houthi militias on notice, revealing for the first time that Houthis have ruthlessly killed 1,372 children and 814 women since war broke out in Yemen in 2014.  Mohammed Askar, the Yemeni human rights minister, said: “Hundreds of children and women have been killed also from March to August this year.” The killings are being documented by the ministry in the form of a report to be released soon, he said. Askar, while appreciating the support of Saudi Arabia and the Arab coalition, said: “The Kingdom and the UAE together have provided half of the humanitarian aid and assistance as per the target set by the UN for 2018.”

Al Arabiya: Yemeni Govt Condemns Houthis For Prohibiting Delivery Of Aid To Hodeidah

“Abdulraqeeb Fatah, Yemen's Minister of Local Administration and Chairman of the Higher Commission for Relief, condemned the Houthis for preventing relief organizations from delivering aid and distributing it in Ad Durayhimi and At Tuinternationalhayat Districts in Hodeidah. Fatah told the Yemeni News Agency (SABA) that these measures are terrorist and violate international and humanitarian law. Meanwhile, the Yemeni army forces, aided by the popular resistance, attacked Houthi posts in Al-Sharyga in north Lahij and in Ar Rahidah, southwest of Taiz. A military source told the armed forces’ media center that the national armed forces liberated some areas and plateaus that overlook Al-Sharyga- Ar Rahidah path amid collapses in the Houthis’ ranks.”

Libya

Reuters: U.S. Says Air Strike Kills Islamic State Militant In Libya

“A U.S. air strike 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 air strike on a car in Bani Walid in which an Islamic State militant had been travelling. Photos on social media showed a white pick-up 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 air strikes near Bani Walid, killing four Islamic State militants and an al Qaeda 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 Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.”

Nigeria

Associated Press: Britain, Nigeria Sign Defense Pact to Counter Boko Haram

“Britain and Nigeria signed a security and defense agreement during a one-day visit by Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday as Africa's most populous country struggles to defeat Boko Haram extremists and others linked to the Islamic State organization. The British prime minister is on a three-country Africa visit with a large business delegation as Britain seeks to boost economic ties ahead of a bumpy exit from the European Union in March. This is the first visit by a British prime minister to Africa in five years. May also stopped in South Africa, another of the continent's top economies, and she goes next to Kenya. After meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, May said the countries will work together on "shared security threats like Boko Haram and human trafficking." The defense aid includes more training and equipment for Nigeria's military, which has been criticized by human rights groups over alleged abuses that it denies. Last week, Buhari attracted headlines when he told troops in northwestern Zamfara state that "as your commander-in-chief, I want you to be as ruthless as humanly possible" against bandits in the region: "Nigerians deserve some peace." As elections approach next year Buhari is under pressure to deliver on promises to improve the country's security, in particular to defeat Boko Haram's years-long insurgency in the northeast.”

Somalia

The State: US Military Airstrike In Somalia Against Al-Shabab Kills 3

“The U.S. military says it has carried out an airstrike in Somalia against al-Shabab extremists, killing three fighters. The U.S. Africa Command statement says the strike was carried out on Monday about 40 kilometers (24 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu. The U.S. has carried out 21 such strikes this year against the Somalia-based al-Shabab. The al-Qaida-linked group is the deadliest Islamic extremist organization in sub-Saharan Africa and it often targets Mogadishu with deadly attacks. The U.S. since late last year also has carried out a number of drone strikes against a small presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State organization in the northern part of the Horn of Africa nation.”

Voice Of America: Somali Stadium Refocuses On Sports, Not Combat

“The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has withdrawn from Mogadishu’s largest sports village, vacating what once served as a main training base for Islamist militants and returning the site's focus to athletics. “We are extremely happy that African Union troops have finally heard the youth requests for vacating the national stadium so it can be used again for sports events,” Khadiijo Mohamed Diirie, minister of youth and sports, said at a handover ceremony Tuesday. She also announced the government's plans to start rebuilding the war-damaged complex "to contribute to the country’s sports, peace and youth integration.” Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said the government would spare no effort on the restoration "in order for Somalia to regain its sporting status in Africa and at the international level.”

Malaysia

Channel Newsasia: Malaysian Al Qaeda Scientist Who Tried To Produce WMD To Be Released From Jail Next Year

“A Malaysian scientist who once led Al Qaeda’s quest to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Afghanistan will be released from prison next year, according to Malaysian police, who warn that he remains a security risk. Yazid Sufaat, 54, an Al Qaeda operative who helped set up a laboratory in Kandahar, Afghanistan where he tried to cultivate anthrax, has been jailed three times by Malaysian authorities for terror-related offences in the past 16 years. “He (Yazid) will be released in the middle of next year,” Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, head of Malaysian police's Special Branch counterterrorism division, told the International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals (IACSP) on Monday (Aug 27). The Special Branch is the intelligence arm of the Royal Malaysian Police and the leading agency in counter-terrorism operations in the country. Yazid, a former army captain, was detained for eight years under the Internal Security Act (ISA) between 2002 and 2010. The ISA was replaced by the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) in 2012.”

Technology

Vanity Fair: Inside Facebook, A Conservative Backlash Against The Liberal “Mobs”

“About a year after a Google engineer published—and was subsequently fired over—a 10-page screed decrying a “politically correct monoculture” at Google, and criticizing the company’s efforts to increase diversity, a similar push is reportedly underway at another tech giant. Last week, senior Facebook engineer Brian Amerige posted a message to one of the company’s internal groups titled “We Have a Problem with Political Diversity,” in which he, too, presented Facebook’s environment as a “political monoculture.” “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,” he wrote. “All the talk of ‘openness to different perspectives’ does not apply to causes of ‘social justice,’ immigration, ‘diversity,’ and ‘equality.’ On [these] issues, you can either keep quiet or sacrifice your reputation and career.” (Amerige did not respond to the Times’s requests for comment.) The post took off internally, and now more than 100 of Facebook’s over 25,000 employees have reportedly formed a group with Amerige called FB’ers for Political Diversity, which professes to be “a space where you can talk about these issues without fear of the mob,” as well as a possible solution to Facebook’s so-called hegemonic culture.”

CNet: Why Washington Is So Angry With Facebook, Twitter And YouTube

“Silicon Valley can't do anything without stepping in it these days. Nowhere is that more visible than Washington, where politicians of every stripe have found a reason to complain about the tech industry. The left says tech companies have created virtual safe spaces for hate speech and harassment. The right says they're doing just the opposite, censoring conservative voices by arbitrarily enforcing vague terms of service. It isn't just political tub-thumpers that are railing against tech. The intelligence community says websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube have become launchpads of choice for Russian election interference. Law enforcement agencies say the encryption technology protecting the data in our apps and phones stifles their investigations.”

ISIS

Sputnik: Iraq: Capture of official in charge of collecting funds when ISIS controlled Mosul

“Iraq's Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Saad Maan said in a statement Tuesday that "the second Rapid Reaction Brigade of the Nineveh Police Command, based on tips received from Intelligence sources, arrested 11 members of ISIS gangs. They include the official responsible for collecting funds in the right side of Mosul during ISIS's control of the city of Mosul. Also captured was a media official who had been in charge of filming, publishing and presenting various terrorist crimes through the {group's} media outlets, as well as a terrorist in charge of stealing sheep and livestock belonging to the people of Nineveh." The spokesman added that additional detainees include ISIS militants who were involved in battles against Iraq's security forces.”

Anadolu Agency: Syria: PYD/PKK Releases 40 ISIS Terrorists In Exchange For Large Sums Of Money

“The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian affiliate of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), recently released 40 ISIS militants in exchange for large sums of money paid by the terror group. Informed sources disclosed that leaders of the PYD had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in return for freeing the terrorists. The sources further noted that the militants, who were released from the Tal-Abyad city prisons in northern Raqqa, departed to an unknown destination.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Almasry Alyoum: Egypt: Beni-Suef University Combats Muslim Brotherhood Sleeper Cells

“Dr. Mansour Hassan, President of the Beni Suef University, demonstrated his determination to combat the so-called "Sleeper Cells" of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in all departments of his university. Dr. Hassan disclosed that several sleeper cells of the banned Islamist group continue to operate within some of the university's faculties. These covert cells, which spread their extremist ideologies among students, are more dangerous than the protestors who are quite familiar to the security forces, the Chairman of the Beni Suef University further noted. A number of pro-Muslim Brotherhood students were recently uncovered by the data center of the university, Dr. Hassan revealed. Those students, and other ones from the law faculty, who were implicated in violent activities, have been dismissed from the university, the university president stated.”

Dostor: Libyan Activists Demand Freeze Of Libyan Funds Deposited In Turkish Banks By Muslim Brotherhood

“Many Libyans are worried today about the fate of public funds that were recently deposited in the Turkish banks by the Central Bank of Libya, which is claimed to be highly influenced by the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood. What concerns the Libyans most is the fact that the exact value of these deposits, which are being directed at helping Turkey ride out its currency crisis, is unknown, since no appropriate debentures were issued, according to Libyan human right activists. It's noteworthy that one of the deposits was estimated at $1.5 billion, according to some analysts. The activists submitted a legal notice to the Prime Minister Office demanding a freeze on all Libyan public funds deposited in Turkish banks. The freeze demand aims to avoid 'messing' with these funds, according to the activists, who also suggested regarding the exchange of Libyan currency into the Turkish Lira as a "betrayal.”

Houthi

Akhbar Alasr: Houthi Group Seized A Khat Truck Worth YR40 Million  

“There have been numerous accounts surrounding the disappearance of a large quantity of khat loaded on a gigantic truck traveling from Sana'a province to Marib province on Sunday. The bodies of the truck driver and one of his associates were found in the northeastern province of Al Jawf on Monday. The total value of khat on the truck was roughly SR40 million ($160,000 dollars), the sources estimated. There are multiple accounts of the incident, most notably that Houthi militants at one of the checkpoints in the Al Jawf province commandeered the khat truck and drove it to the group's militants on the fronts. The sources explained that it is likely Houthi militants wanted to loot part of the khat shipment, but were refused by the driver, prompting them to seize the entire truck, kidnap the driver and later kill him.”