Eye on Extremism: August 30

Associated Press: Trump: Taliban Deal Close, US Troops To Drop To 8,600

“President Donald Trump said Thursday the U.S. plans to withdraw more than 5,000 American troops from Afghanistan and then will determine further drawdowns in the longest war in American history. Trump’s comment comes as a U.S. envoy is in his ninth round of talks with the Taliban to find a resolution to the nearly 18-year-old war. The president, who campaigned on ending the war, said the U.S. was “getting close” to making a deal, but that the outcome of the U.S.-Taliban talks remained uncertain. “Who knows if it’s going to happen,” Trump told Fox News Radio’s “The Brian Kilmeade Show.” Trump did not offer a timeline for withdrawing troops. The Pentagon has been developing plansto withdraw as many as half of the 14,000 U.S. troops still there, but the Taliban want all U.S. and NATO forces withdrawn. “We’re going down to 8,600 (troops) and then we’ll make a determination from there,” Trump said, adding that the U.S. is going to have a “high intelligence” presence in Afghanistan going forward.”

The New York Times: Syria, Russia Step Up Assault On Rebel Stronghold-Opposition, Residents

“Syria and its ally Russia have stepped up an offensive against the last big stronghold of Syrian rebels, mounting more air raids and deploying ground reinforcements including Iranian-backed militias, army defectors and residents said on Friday. The Russian-led alliance is pushing into densely populated parts of Idlib province in the northwest where millions of people who fled fighting elsewhere in Syria have taken refuge. The northwest offensive has prompted U.N. warnings of a new humanitarian crisis amid the gains by Damascus and its partner Moscow, which has helped President Bashar al-Assad turn the tide in the eight-year-old conflict since intervening in 2015. Moving deeper into territory along the Turkish border, the advance took the town of Tamaneh after earlier capturing Khwain, Zarzoor and Tamanah farms, the defectors and residents said.”

The Washington Post: Israel: Iran, Hezbollah Intensifying Missile Efforts

“Israel’s prime minister on Thursday accused Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah of racing to build a missile-production program in Lebanon, vowing to destroy the ambitious project and issuing a stern warning to his enemies to “be careful.” The threats ratcheted up an already tense standoff that has pushed the bitter adversaries closer toward open, armed conflict in recent weeks. “Today we uncovered part of Iran and Hezbollah’s precision missile project. We know a few other things,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a news conference. “We are determined to eliminate this dangerous project. The aim of the publication today is to convey a message that we will not sit by and allow our enemies to arm themselves with deadly weapons directed at us,” he said. “Today I say to them: ‘Dir Balak,” he added, using a popular Arabic phrase that means “be careful” and is often used as a warning or threat in Hebrew slang. Hezbollah denies harboring missile factories. While the group’s leader boasts about having highly accurate missiles, he denies that the group produces them. Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy and has identified Hezbollah as the most potent military threat on its borders.”

CNN: Authorities Arrest A Queens Resident For Allegedly Plotting An ISIS-Inspired Attack

“Authorities have arrested a 19-year-old man who they say texted undercover agents that he planned to conduct a terror attack in the name of ISIS in Queens, a law enforcement official said Thursday. The 19-year-old is a Queens resident who was born in Pakistan, the official said. Authorities allege he was inspired by ISIS and planned to conduct a stabbing or bombing attack in Queens. According to the official, the man was under constant surveillance by law enforcement authorities and did not pose a danger to the public. “An individual was arrested in New York today as part of a national security investigation. Further information will be released when appropriate. There is no current public safety issue as a result of the arrest,” a Justice Department spokesman told CNN. The suspect is expected to appear in court in Brooklyn federal court on Friday.”

Fox News: US Labels Lebanon Bank With Hezbollah Ties A 'Global Terrorist,' Sanctions Iranian Networks Linked To Regime

“The U.S. designated Lebanon-based Jammal Trust Bank a “global terrorist” Thursday over its ties to the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, one day after it slapped sanctions on Iranian networks it claimed facilitated “tens of millions of dollars' worth” of activities that benefited Iran’s military and regime. Washington, in partnership with Oman, also announced sanctions against four individuals accused of moving tens of millions of dollars between Iran's elite Quds Force and the military wing of the Islamic militant group Hamas in Gaza. “Treasury is targeting Jammal Trust Bank and its subsidiaries for brazenly enabling Hezbollah's financial activities,” Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker said in a statement. ”Corrupt financial institutions like Jammal Trust are a direct threat to the integrity of the Lebanese financial system. Jammal Trust provides support and services to Hezbollah's Executive Council and the Martyrs Foundation, which funnels money to the families of suicide bombers.”On Wednesday, the Treasury Department sanctioned two Iranian networks that it says engaged in “covert procurement activities benefitting multiple Iranian military organizations.”

Voice Of America: Why The Ghosts Of Islamic State Still Haunt Raqqa

“The water near the edge of the Euphrates River in downtown Raqqa reflects a strange mix of blues, like a tropical sea rushing through an urban riverbed. Men and boys splash near a bridge, newly built almost two years after the battle with Islamic State militants that left the city in ruins. This was the epicenter of the self-declared “Caliphate” that ruled parts of Syria and Iraq for three years, imposing their harsh version of Islamic law and attracting devotees from around the world. But as Raqqa slowly revives, emerging from a brutal war after years of extremist rule, an ever-present fear is growing. Will hiding militants return? Sleeper cells awake? Will supporters take their revenge on those that live in peace under the enemies of IS? “We are scared,” Abdullah, a 33-year-old father of five tells us, still dripping from his dip in the river. “If IS comes back they will kill us all.” A few blocks away, behind heavy cement walls, officials say attacks in the city are increasingly common, with four or five this month. Many other attempts were thwarted, says Khalid Barkal, Raqqa’s speaker of Parliament. After years of IS rule, he explains, devotion to the group runs deep among some people, and trauma and fear are widespread.”

United States

The Hill: Ohio Woman Pleads Guilty To Plotting Terror Attack On Toledo Bar

“An Ohio woman pleaded guilty to conspiring to launch a terrorist attack on a Toledo bar, the Justice Department announced Thursday. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio said Elizabeth Lecron had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists and another count of transporting explosives in interstate commerce. Lecron plotted with Vincent Armstrong from April to December 2018, a period in which Lecron introduced Armstrong to the online “True Crime Community,” according to the Justice Department. Prosecutors said she was particularly fascinated with the 1999 Columbine High School shooting and the 2015 Charleston, S.C., massacre, in which white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine African American churchgoers. Lecron and Armstrong allegedly began discussing and formulating a mass murder of their own, which they referred to as “D-Day.” The two planned to use an AK-47 Armstrong owned and a shotgun Lecron purchased, as well as a pipe bomb they researched how to construct. Lecron also discussed the planned massacre with an informant and undercover agents in 2018, according to the Justice Department.”

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Poker Player Indicted In Connection With Las Vegas Casino Threats

“A man who exposed himself during the World Series of Poker Main Event this summer was indicted Thursday on a terrorism charge in connection with threats posted on social media against a Strip casino. Chief District Judge Linda Bell ordered 45-year-old Kenneth Strauss held on $150,000 bail for one count of making threats or conveying false information concerning an act of terrorism. Prosecutors said that in social media posts Strauss threatened to destroy The Venetian. A spokesman for the resort could not be reached for comment Thursday evening. The judge called the allegations against Strauss “extraordinarily concerning.” When he was arrested July 27, Strauss mumbled to himself “kill them all,” according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Pete Thunell. Earlier that day, Strauss tweeted: “Shootings are taking place all over Las Vegas. Please leave me alone @VenetianVegas I have no place to go currently. And all Casinos that have me banned will be destroyed effective immediately. And @Rio, get my belongings together immediately when @POTUS declares safe I’m going.” The prosecutor compared Strauss’ behavior and threats to that of the Route 91 Harvest festival gunman, who killed 58 people in October 2017 before turning a gun on himself.”

Air Force Times: Convicted Air Force Veteran To Be Resentenced For Trying To Join ISIS

“A U.S. Air Force veteran was properly convicted on terrorism charges for trying to join the Islamic State group and die a martyr, an appeals court said Thursday, but it ordered a judge to resentence him and better explain his reasons behind any penalty. Tairod Pugh, 51, of Neptune, New Jersey, is serving a 35-year prison sentence, the maximum possible penalty he faced after a Brooklyn jury convicted him in 2016 of trying to provide material support to a terrorist organization and obstruction of justice. It was the first verdict in more than 70 cases the U.S. brought against Americans suspected of supporting the militant group.  Pugh’s lawyer Eric Creizman didn’t respond to requests for comment Thursday.  Prosecutors said Pugh, who was an airplane mechanic in the Air Force from 1986 to 1990, was seeking a route into Syria to join the Islamic State group in 2015 when he was stopped at a Turkish airport.  They said he had a laptop with information on Turkey-Syria border crossing points; 180 jihadist propaganda videos, including footage of an Islamic State prisoner beheading; and a letter declaring: “I will use the talents and skills given to me by Allah to establish and defend the Islamic States.”


CBS News: Syrians Trapped By Assad's Ruthless Russian-Backed Barrage In Idlib Beg For Help

“More than three million people are trapped under a Syrian bombing campaign as Bashar Assad battles to reclaim the last enclave held by rebels in his country. Idlib is the only remaining opposition stronghold after eight grueling years of civil war. CBS News correspondent Holly Williams got rare access to the region, where some people are begging the U.S. to help stop the relentless bombing campaign by the Syrian regime and its ally, Russia. Williams said things in Idlib on Wednesday were normal; there were warplanes overhead, airstrikes and reports of at least nine civilians killed. For many civilians left in the region, there's nowhere left to run - they're impotent against the faceless killers in the sky.  The guides leading Williams through the devastation showed her a local hospital they said was hit by an airstrike early Wednesday morning.  The regime has attacked hospitals, as well as schools, markets and bakeries. For those who survive the strikes, the destruction of such vital infrastructure makes life unlivable — and that's the whole point. CBS News visited one of the few remaining hospitals, now a last resort for about half a million people. The Syrian regime and its Russian backers have pushed the local population to breaking point.”

Voice Of America: Could Move By US Against IS Trio Weaken Terror Group?

“The United States is offering rewards of up to $5 million for information about three Islamic State (IS) leaders, a move analysts say could place more pressure on the terror group. The cash bounty, which is part of the U.S. Rewards for Justice program, lists three prominent IS leaders — Mutaz Numan Abd Nayif Najm al-Jaburi, Sami Jasim Muhammad al-Jaburi and Amir Muhammad Said Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla — the U.S. State Department announced last week. “As ISIS is defeated on the battlefield, we are determined to identify and find the group's leaders so that the global coalition of nations fighting to defeat ISIS can continue to destroy ISIS remnants and thwart its global ambitions,” a statement by Rewards for Justice said, using another acronym for IS. Experts say the three militant leaders have been playing a key part within IS's organizational hierarchy. “These individuals have had a major role in regrouping the terror group after it lost control of territory in Syria and Iraq,” said Watheq al-Hashimi, director of the Iraqi Group for Strategic Studies, a Baghdad-based research center. “In the past few months, [IS leader] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has heavily relied on them to organize the group and reach out to smaller jihadist groups after most of his first-rank officials were killed in the [the U.S.-led] war,” he told VOA.”

VOA: UN Considers Cease-Fire For Syria's Idlib

“Three U.N. Security Council members have put forward a draft resolution calling for a cease-fire in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, which has been enduring an intensified Russia-backed Syrian government military campaign since April. "Over the last four months the ongoing military campaign, using continuous airstrikes, shelling and reportedly barrel bombs, has caused immense human suffering and took an enormous toll on the population," Belgium Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve said Thursday. He and the ambassadors of Germany and Kuwait oversee the council's work on humanitarian efforts in Syria and jointly called for the council to act. "Today we call for the council to urgently take a unified stance with us against this violence that has caused so much human suffering," he said. "This situation cannot continue."


Fox News: Satellite Images Suggest Iranian Rocket Blew Up On Launch Pad

“Iran apparently has now struck out in its attempts to launch a satellite this year. Images taken from space Thursday appear to show that a rocket exploded at an Iranian space center that was gearing up for a satellite launch, suggesting the Islamic Republic suffered its third failed launch this year alone. "Whatever happened there, it blew up and you're looking at the smoldering remains of what used to be there," David Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said after analyzing the images. State media and officials did not immediately acknowledge the incident at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran's Semnan province, some 150 miles southeast of Iran's capital, Tehran. Aerial images of the space center provided to Fox News by Maxar’s WorldView-2 satellite show gray and black plumes of smoke emanating from its launch pad.”

The Wall Street Journal: Stop Indulging Javad Zarif

“Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has often found itself on the regime’s sidelines. To be sure, its diplomats have done their part: They tirelessly distribute anti-American and anti-Semitic propaganda, provide diplomatic pouches and logistical assistance to Iranian operatives, and deny and whitewash deadly operations. Yet Westerners have usually been willing to exempt Iranian diplomats from damning censure if they seem “moderate” in manner. Shaking a woman’s hand, a smile, a bit of wit, a willingness to be in the presence of alcohol—Americans and Europeans appreciate it when Islamists behave. That forgiving disposition has never been more egregiously on display than in the way Western VIPs treat Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who has proved a faithful factotum of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and a handmaiden to terrorism. Typical was Mr. Zarif’s response to French accusations that a thwarted bombing of an Iranian opposition group’s large June 2018 rally in a Paris suburb had been planned in Tehran. Mr. Zarif claimed the regime “unequivocally condemns all violence and terror anywhere, and is ready to work with all concerned to uncover what is a sinister false flag ploy.”

The New York Times: In Iran’s Hierarchy, Talks With Trump Are Now Seen As Inevitable

“In the power circles of Tehran, where “Death to America” is regularly chanted, the idea has taken hold that Iran must eventually negotiate with President Trump, according to several people with knowledge of the shift. These people said Iran’s leadership had concluded that Mr. Trump could be re-elected and that the country cannot withstand six more years of the onerous sanctions he has imposed. It is a remarkable turnabout for the political establishment in Tehran, which for the past 40 years has staked its legitimacy on defiance of the United States but has been particularly hostile toward Mr. Trump. President Hassan Rouhani of Iran teased a possible meeting with Mr. Trump earlier this week, indicating he would be willing if it would benefit Iranians.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraqi Judiciary Sentences 11 ISIS Members To Death

“The Babel High Criminal Court has sentenced 11 ISIS members to death for a deadly 2014 attack on a bridge in Jarf al-Nassir district, south of Baghdad. The latest verdicts are part of a series of trials and death or life sentences involving more than 18,000 terrorism suspects since 2005, according to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR). The media office of the Supreme Judicial Council issued a statement saying the provincial criminal court examined the cases of 11 “suspects who confessed being ISIS members.” The terrorists admitted to staging an attack they called “al-Fadhilyah raid” on a strategic bridge located in Jarf al-Nassir, previously known as Jarf al-Sakhr, north of Babel. The attack destroyed the bridge, and killed three security forces and injured 19 others stationed nearby, said the statement. The terrorists also confessed to committing other crimes at different locations and different times, according to the court. The court held a public trial in the presence of the public prosecutor, the lawyers of the defendants, and issued a sentence of execution by hanging against the 11 convicts. Jarf al-Nasr, which is about 40 kilometers from Karbala province, was a major stronghold of terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and later ISIS.”

Xinhua: IS Local Leader Killed, 6 Captured By Paramilitary Force In Western Iraq

“Iraq's paramilitary Hashd Shaabi force killed Thursday a prominent leader of Islamic State (IS) militant group and arrested six of his bodyguards in Iraq's western Anbar province. An online statement by the Hashd Shaabi said a force from the 18th brigade conducted an operation in the desert area of Wadi Hauran in western Anbar province and killed Abdul-Salam Hamad, nicknamed Abu Nour, believed to be the IS leader for the capital Baghdad. The force also captured Hamad's six bodyguards and wounded his aide, who blew up his explosive belt before being captured, the statement said without giving further details. IS militants are known for exploiting the gorges of Wadi Hauran to set up hideouts and arms depots and use the area as a launching pad for attacks on civilians and security forces. The operation came a day after the Iraqi forces backed by Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition aircraft concluded a major offensive dubbed “Victory Will” to hunt down remnants of IS militants in central Iraq. The security situation in Iraq has been dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated IS in late 2017.”


The New York Times: Taliban Peace Talks Cast Uncertainty On Presidential Vote

“On one track is the American negotiations with the Taliban over a troop withdrawal, possibly days away from a breakthrough. On the other is the Afghan presidential election, set for just a month from now. They’re both races against time, but also effectively against each other — clashing priorities that have set President Ashraf Ghani and American officials at odds, and have pushed Afghanistan’s political future into one of its greatest periods of uncertainty since 2001. American diplomats are pushing hard to reach a troop withdrawal deal with the Taliban that would immediately lead to the opening of direct talks between the insurgents and Afghan officials. The goal of those talks would be to hammer out what a political reconciliation would look like — and the Taliban have bluntly stated that holding the presidential election in that atmosphere would ensure that the war continued. But Mr. Ghani, who is seeking another five-year term, is insisting that the vote, set for Sept. 28, must go ahead. He says the country’s democracy must not be made a hostage to uncertain talks with the insurgency that could take years to resolve, even if they don’t fall apart. The uncertainty has cast a deep shadow over the election, with many of the 16 candidates challenging Mr. Ghani not bothering to hold big rallies just weeks before the vote.”

Reuters: Trump: U.S. Will Maintain Presence In Afghanistan Even If Deal Reached With Taliban

“President Donald Trump said on Thursday that U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan were being reduced to 8,600 but that American forces would remain in the country even if Washington reaches an agreement with the Taliban to end the 18-year war.  “Oh yeah, you have to keep a presence,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News radio. “We’re going to keep a presence there. We’re reducing that presence very substantially and we’re going to always have a presence. We’re going to have high intelligence.” Trump said the U.S. force level in Afghanistan was being reduced to 8,600 “and then we make a determination from there as to what happens.” Some 14,000 U.S. service members are currently in Afghanistan, among whom about 5,000 are dedicated to counterinsurgency operations. The Taliban said on Wednesday it was close to a “final agreement” with U.S. officials on a deal that would see U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for a pledge that the country would not become a haven for other Islamist militant groups. ”We hope to have good news soon for our Muslim, independence-seeking nation,” Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha said. Both U.S. and Taliban negotiators have reported progress in their talks in recent weeks, raising the prospect of an end to the conflict.”


The New York Times: Imran Khan: The World Can’t Ignore Kashmir. We Are All In Danger

“After I was elected prime minister of Pakistan last August, one of my foremost priorities was to work for lasting and just peace in South Asia. India and Pakistan, despite our difficult history, confront similar challenges of poverty, unemployment and climate change, especially the threat of melting glaciers and scarcity of water for hundreds of millions of our citizens. I wanted to normalize relations with India through trade and by settling the Kashmir dispute, the foremost impediment to the normalization of relations between us. On July 26, 2018, in my first televised address to Pakistan after winning the elections, I stated we wanted peace with India and if it took one step forward, we would take two steps. After that, a meeting between our two foreign ministers was arranged on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in September 2018, but India canceled the meeting. That September I also wrote my first of three letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for dialogue and peace.”


The National: From Latin America To West Africa, Hezbollah’s Complex Web Of Connections Is Fuelling Its Terrorist Activity

“When Paraguay announced it was designating Hezbollah as an international terrorist organisation last week, it created a new legal basis to take action against the Lebanese group’s money laundering and terror-financing activities. These fundraising operations span the globe, from Latin America and the US to West Africa. Hezbollah exploits existing smuggling routes, links to cartels and relies on family networks to boost its coffers, without having to develop a criminal infrastructure. With Hezbollah’s proscription, Asuncion can help reduce the group’s influence. The fight against Hezbollah needs to be global and Latin America, where much of the group’s illicit activities are concentrated, is a good place to start. Until recently, Latin American governments were unwilling to label Hezbollah a terrorist group. Last month, however, Argentina took the unprecedented step of doing so, noting Hezbollah’s responsibility for terror attacks against an Israeli embassy and a Jewish community centre on Argentinian soil in 1992 and 1994. The designations followed Argentina’s creation of a public registry for terror entities and individuals. Argentina’s actions clearly influenced Paraguay, its neighbour to the north, whose government previously refused to acknowledge the obvious.”

The Wall Street Journal: Israel Calls On Lebanon To Curtail Hezbollah’s Missile Program

“Israel accused Hezbollah of stepping up efforts to build precision-guided missiles inside Lebanon, as it urged Beirut to do more to prevent the Iran-backed group from being able to use the country to target it. The warning comes as Israel’s shadow campaign to challenge Iranian military entrenchment in the region has spilled out into the open, with attacks against Tehran and its allies in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria in recent days. On Thursday, Israeli military officials said Lebanon-based Hezbollah, with the help of Iran, has accelerated attempts to convert existing rockets into precision-guided missiles by smuggling the required components from Syria. Hezbollah is the most powerful military and political force in Lebanon.”

Middle East

The New York Times: Hamas Arrests 10 Suspects In Gaza Suicide Bombings

“Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, said Thursday that it had arrested 10 people responsible for suicide bombings that killed three police officers in Gaza City on Tuesday. The suspects, according to two Hamas security officials briefed on the investigation, included current and former members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a rival militant group that often works in concert with Hamas, especially against Israel. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation, said the suspects also belonged to an extremist movement, known as Salafi jihadism, that is at odds with the more moderate Hamas and has clashed repeatedly with it in recent years. Salafi jihadists view Hamas as insufficiently pious and overly interested in politics at the expense of violent struggle. A spokesman for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Dawoud Shehab, said that it condemned the bombings and that it eschews violence except against Israel. He did not respond to questions about the arrests of present or former members, saying only that the group was cooperating with the investigation. A spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday night.”


The Washington Post: Egypt Says Militant Arrested, Search Underway For 80 Others

“Egyptian security officials say they arrested a suspected militant and are pursuing 80 others in a province west of Cairo for plotting an imminent attack. The officials said on Thursday the home of 25-year-old Hammad Mohamed Shafei was raided in Senofar village in Fayoum province. They say he’s a member of the militant Hasm group, which authorities have linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter with reporters. They didn’t elaborate on the planned attack. The Hasm group has been tied to a massive explosion earlier this month in Cairo, when a car filled with explosives crashed outside the county’s main cancer hospital, killing at least 20 people. Egypt has long battled militants led by an Islamic State affiliate in Sinai.”


All Africa: Nigeria: 'Boko Haram - Why Army Adopts New Strategy'

“The Acting General Officer Commanding 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Abdul Khalifa has said that the adoption of new strategy by the Nigerian Army is aimed at forcing the remnants of the Boko Haram terrorists to surrender. Further making explanation on the “ Super Camps” just adopted by the Army, he said is a concept in warfare, whereby the Army strongly hold position where it will be able to have reasonable resources within the “ Super Camps “ , and from the “ super camps “ the Army will be able to project power. Brigadier General Khalifa who just took over Command of the 7 Division Nigerian Army, reveled two more concepts as Response Area ( RA ) and Strong Response Area ( SRA ) which he said will heat up the insurgents to surrender . The new Acting GOC made the revelation yesterday in Maiduguri while on operational tour of Army units within the 7 Division and 7 Division Garrison, especially 211 and 251 battalion. He said the essence of the response area and strong response area is for Soldiers to be able to carry out patrol, raids and ambush from these areas”. Brigadier General Khalifa noted that over sometimes, the Army has discovered that the criminal Boko Haram terrorists have the kind of mobility, because the Army were in defence.”


Yahoo News: Six Countries Block UN Sanctions Against Somalia's Al-Shabaab

“Six UN Security Council members on Wednesday blocked a move to include Somali jihadist group Al-Shabaab on a list of organizations such as Al-Qaeda that are under international sanctions, diplomatic sources said. Several NGOs and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recently stepped in to oppose the classification, which would have effectively kept humanitarian aid away from millions of Somalis living in Al-Shabaab-controlled areas. Germany, Belgium, Poland, France, Kuwait and the United States were the six countries whose votes blocked the implementation of the new sanctions. Kenya, on the other hand, has pushed for tightening sanctions against Al-Shabaab since late last year, and especially since an attack by the group at a Nairobi hotel in January left 21 people dead. The country had wanted an amendment to UN Resolution 1267, which sanctions Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group and their affiliates. A large portion of the population in Somalia relies on international aid after three decades of conflict and economic ruin. Critics of the defeated sanctions have said including Al-Shabaab in the Resolution 1267 designations would have effectively criminalized UN and other assistance to people in Somalia who depend on it.”


The National: Spanish Police Arrest Moroccan Who Provided Support To ISIS Plotters

“National police in Spain have arrested a 25-year-old of Moroccan origin accused of being part of a fraud and counterfeiting operation that provided support to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). Spain’s national police said in a press release on Thursday that the man was detained in the Alicante town of Elda on charges of document falsehood, tax fraud and fraud. The man’s arrest came as part of an European Order of Detention issued by Germany. Police outlined how the man was identified during investigations into the logistical networks supporting ISIS terror attacks and the group’s recruitment activities. During 2016 European security services uncovered a plot to carry out attacks on civilians Paris. Like the November 2015 ISIS attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were killed, the aspiring militants planned on using assault rifles in an attack on the French capital. The plot never came to fruition because of police intervention. During the investigation into the plans for the attack three individuals in Germany were identified as providing false documents and logistical support to the operational members.”


The Straits Times: China Says Uighur Award Nomination Is 'Supporting Terrorism'

“Beijing slammed on Thursday (Aug 29) the nomination of a jailed academic from China's Uighur minority for one of Europe's top human rights awards, saying it equated to “supporting terrorism”. Europe's top rights body has shortlisted Ilham Tohti, an economics professor who was sentenced to life in prison in September 2014 after being convicted of separatism. The 49-year-old economics professor “has worked for over 20 years on the situation of the Uighur minority and on fostering inter-ethnic dialogue and understanding in China”, the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly said in a statement after meeting on Monday in Prague. But China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Thursday called Tohti a “separatist who supports extreme terrorism” and urged the Council of Europe to withdraw its nomination. “This nomination is an attempt to whitewash his criminal activities and fool the human rights community,” Mr Geng said at a regular briefing. “We urge relevant agencies to withdraw their nominations and stop supporting separatist activities and terrorism.” Tohti is one of three nominees for the 2019 Vaclav Havel prize, along with Tajik human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov and a youth group promoting post-war reconciliation in the Balkans.”

The New York Times: China Expels A Wall Street Journal Reporter In Sign Of Tougher Line

“China has effectively expelled a reporter working for The Wall Street Journal after he wrote an article about the cousin of the country’s top leader, Xi Jinping, in the latest sign of a government clampdown on media freedoms. The Chinese authorities declined to renew the press credentials of Chun Han Wong, a reporter in Beijing for The Journal, a spokesman from Dow Jones, the parent company of the newspaper, said in an emailed statement on Friday. Mr. Wong, a Singaporean national, had reported on Chinese politics from Beijing for The Journal since 2014. Mr. Wong’s expulsion comes amid a widening crackdown on journalists, both foreign and domestic. The government has threatened others with expulsion or made reporters wait for months, and sometimes years, before their visas were approved.”

Southeast Asia

The New York Times: Tensions Over Kashmir Rise As India Tightens Security

“The Indian government imposed fresh restrictions on the disputed Kashmir region on Friday, telling people to stay off the streets as the crisis there dragged into its fourth week. According to reports in the Indian media — foreign journalists have been barred from entering Kashmir — security forces set up barricades, more businesses closed down, and public transportation had ground to a halt. The Indian government is coming under more criticism for the intensifying restrictions it has imposed in Kashmir since Aug. 5, when the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi unilaterally scrapped the autonomy that the disputed region had held for decades. Indian security forces have cut off internet and phone service to millions of Kashmiris and rounded up more than 2,000 people, including nearly the entirety of Kashmir’s elected leadership, who are being held without charges.”


BoingBoing: YouTube Reinstated These Extremist And White Nationalist Channels, Apologized To Them

“YouTube reinstated video channels for a European white nationalist grifter and a British nationalist grifter, and apologized for the temporary pause of their channels -- describing the removal of racist garbage a “wrong call.” YouTube says it was a "mistake" to remove the channels of Martin Sellner and another extremist right-wing online personality known as "the Iconoclast," but the company won't tell reporters what happened. A YouTube spokesperson said: "With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it's brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it. "We also offer uploaders the ability to appeal removals and we will re-review the content.””

The Wall Street Journal: Facebook Said It Aced Brazil Elections. Internally, There Were Doubts

“Facebook Inc. executives last year publicly touted their efforts ahead of Brazil’s presidential election as evidence of the company’s progress in combating misinformation on its platforms. Inside Facebook, the picture was more complicated. Facebook’s own analysis found the social-media giant wasn’t able to uncover and stamp out suspicious behavior or misinformation on a large scale after the assassination of Brazilian politician Marielle Franco in March 2018, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Facebook still relied on third parties, including the media, to flag issues bearing on that year’s October election because it hadn’t yet developed tools for “proactive detection” of certain problems, the documents show. Facebook took four months to dismantle a network of accounts spreading disinformation about Ms. Franco after her murder, an event that further polarized the country ahead of the hotly contested presidential election. The company also found that a right-wing group in Brazil that supported Jair Bolsonaro, the election’s winner, was encouraging its Facebook followers to use a third-party app that enabled the group to post on their behalf twice a day.”