Eye on Extremism: August 9

Gulf News: Syrian Troops Shell Idlib To Pave Way For Assault

“Syrian regime forces shelled rebel positions in the northwestern province of Idlib on Thursday, a monitor said, as reinforcements arrived ahead of an expected assault. The province is the largest piece of territory still in rebel hands, and President Bashar Al Assad has warned it would be his military’s next priority. On Thursday morning, artillery and rocket fire slammed into territory around Jisr Al Shughur, a key town in the southwestern part of the province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “The shelling is in preparation for an assault but there has been no ground advance yet,” said Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman. “Regime reinforcements including equipment, soldiers, vehicles and ammunition have been arriving since Tuesday,” he told AFP.”

The Daily Beast: How Assad, ISIS, And The Russians Cooperated To Carry Out A Massacre

“On July 25 in the Syrian province of Sweida a massacre began in the early morning. Ten jihadists from the so-called Islamic State entered Sweida town. They wore the traditional baggy trousers and loose-fitting overgarments of Druze men, but beneath the clothes they had hidden explosive vests. Three detonated in the main vegetable market, then one of them accompanied the many injured to the hospital and set off his explosive charge there. The other six suicide bombers were overcome before they could detonate, according to senior officials in the Druze community. At the same time, hundreds of ISIS fighters entered three nearby villages, moving house-by-house slitting throats and shooting to death men, women and children. Some reported that the killers left a witness from each family alive to tell their hideous story. In all, 273 Druze were killed and 220 injured, Druze officials told us. They strongly suspect that the attack by ISIS was carried out in cooperation with the Russian-backed Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and this is corroborated to some extent by ISIS prisoners we have interviewed who are being held by U.S.-allied Kurdish forces here in northern Syria.  The Druse politicians and officials came here to try to forge an alliance with like-minded Kurds for mutual self-protection, which is when they told us the details of the massacre.”

Al-Monitor: Watchdog: Islamic State Fighters Numbers Increase In Syria

“The Pentagon has more Islamic State fighters left to defeat in Syria than it has previously acknowledged, according to a US government watchdog. As US-backed forces begin targeting IS remnants near the Iraqi border, as many as 4,000 to 6,000 IS fighters remain in their former stronghold in northeastern Syria, a joint inspector general report to Congress on Monday revealed. The figure, attributed to a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) assessment, would accord IS significantly more troop strength than the Pentagon has publicly acknowledged. Pentagon officials estimated in December last year that as many as 2,000 IS fighters remained in Syria. The coalition has since stopped providing public estimates for IS remnants, but has not given a reason for halting estimates, even as it enters the final stage of so-called Operation Roundup that is aimed at clearing the city of Hajin near the border, where three divisions of Iraqi troops are holding a blocking position. Defense Department spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said DIA’s figure “speaks for itself” and in response to a question from Al-Monitor the Pentagon did not provide a reason for halting public estimates of IS fighters. US-led coalition spokesman Col. Thomas Veale told reporters in June that he had “nothing to add” to previous estimates that had ranged between 1,000 to 3,000 militants in Syria.”

Reuters: Houthi Missile Launched Into Saudi Arabia Kills One

“Fragments from a missile launched into Saudi Arabia from Yemen by Houthi forces killed one civilian and wounded 11, Saudi state media said on Thursday. The Houthis, an Iran-allied group that controls much of Yemen including the capital Sanaa, said it fired a missile at the Jizan Industrial City in southern Saudi Arabia, according to the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV. The kingdom's air defence forces intercepted the missile, Saudi state news channel al-Ekhbariya said late on Wednesday. State news agency SPA later said one Yemeni resident in Jizan was killed. "The interception resulted in projection of fragments throughout some residential areas, which caused the martyrdom of a Yemeni resident, and injuries among 11 civilians," the Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthis in Yemen's civil war said in a statement reported by SPA on Thursday. The Houthis have fired dozens of missiles into the kingdom in recent months, part of a three-year-old conflict widely seen as a proxy battle between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. Most have been intercepted by the Saudi military. The coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in Yemen's war in 2015 to unseat the Houthis and restore the internationally recognised government in exile.”

Evening Standard: Facebook 'Must Stop Migrants Being Lured To Their Deaths'

“Facebook was today accused of allowing migrants to be lured to their death in the Mediterranean as Britain’s top law enforcement body hit out over the tech giant’s failure to stop people smugglers advertising on its network. The National Crime Agency said it had found more than 800 Facebook pages that were linked to organised crime gangs involved in ferrying migrants into and across Europe for money. It said the pages included adverts for “vessels, documents and transport services” and instructions on where to meet to board boats used to send them across the sea. But it warned that despite the large number of occasions on which criminals were exploiting its network, Facebook was not doing enough to address the problem. The law enforcers’ rebuke will place fresh pressure on the social media network following growing controversy about its failure to stop fake news, hate speech and other unsuitable material from appearing on its site.”

United States

Associated Press: Man Who Supported Islamic State Online To Be Deported

“A North Carolina man who declared support for Islamic State online will spend two years in prison and be deported. A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced Houcine Ghoul to 24 months in prison for immigration fraud and false statements on his tax returns. After his sentence, the Tunisian national will be deported. Ghoul entered the country on a visa in 2001 and married a U.S. citizen to obtain permanent legal resident status. He later was divorced. Prosecutors said Ghoul first attracted attention from federal authorities in 2014 after posting a photo online expressing support for the Islamic State. When Ghoul applied for citizenship, he made false claims to about his past to immigration authorities in 2017. Ghoul also underreported his income by $90,000 on his 2015 and 2016 tax returns.”

NPR: U.S. To Impose New Sanctions On Russia For Nerve Agent Attacks

“Bowing to congressional pressure, the Trump administration has announced new sanctions to punish Russia for a nerve agent attack in the U.K. on former spy Sergei Skripal. In a brief statement, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the U.S. had determined this week that Russia used the nerve agent Novichok to poison Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March "in violation of international law" – a move that triggers sanctions under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991. The law requires the president to terminate arms sales, deny U.S. credit and prohibit the export of sensitive technology to any country using chemical or biological weapons. The Associated Press, citing an unnamed State Department official, says that sanctions "include the presumed denial of export licenses for Russia to purchase many items with national security implications.”

Fox News: Teen Pleads Guilty Of Trying To Fight For The Islamic State

“A South Carolina teenager pleaded guilty Wednesday to allegations that he tried to fight for the Islamic State group. Zakaryia Abdin pleaded guilty during a hearing in Charleston to a charge of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, according to federal court documents. The charge carries a possible 20-year prison sentence. Abdin, 19, was arrested at Charleston's airport in March 2017 as he tried to board a plane for Jordan. According to authorities, he told an FBI agent posing as an Islamic State recruiter he wanted to torture an American, and would attack a U.S. site if he couldn't get out of the country. The teen has been monitored for years. At 16, authorities have said, he talked about robbing a gun store to get weapons to kill soldiers as revenge for American military action in the Middle East. He was arrested before any robbery took place and pleaded guilty. A parole board agreed to his early release after about a year in jail. Abdin knew that authorities were still watching him, but apparently didn't realize his "recruiter" was a federal agent. "We are most likely to contact an undercover agent than a real brother," Abdin told the undercover agent. "That is why I carry guns in my house, in my car and even I used to secretly take to school.”

Syria

Asharq Al-Awsat: Exclusive – Syrian Arms Trafficker Brokers Deals between N. Korea, Houthis, Libyans

“Experts on a United Nations sanctions committee recommended adding shipping vessels, individuals and companies to the North Korea sanctions list over their dealings with Pyongyang. They revealed in a report correspondence between North Korean officials and others from Arab countries on illicit arms deals. Asharq Al-Awsat exclusively obtained excerpts of the report that showed contacts between North Koreans and former head of the Higher Libyan State Council Khalifa al-Ghweil. Syrian arms trafficker Hussein al-Ali played a pivotal role as an intermediary between North Korean officials and others from Libyan Sudan, Yemen and Syria. North Korea "has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs and continued to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products," added the report sent to the UN Security Council on Friday. Correspondence and meetings with Libya The confidential report said that the experts continued its investigation in numerous attempts to establish military cooperation between North Korea and various Libyan authorities.”

The Atlantic Council: Is Syria Lost To Iran?

“The short answer is “No.” A family and an entourage that placed itself at the disposal of Iran while burning much of Syria to the ground will not prevail, provided the United States and its partners begin to push back. Yet termites are at work, and the fulfillment of this proviso is far from certain. The Trump administration, unlike its predecessor, claims to oppose Iran’s domination of what is left of the Syrian state. Unlike his predecessor, US President Donald Trump did not hesitate to strike militarily when Bashar al-Assad, supported by Iran and Russia, twice assaulted defenseless civilians with sarin nerve agent. When Russian “military contractors” sought, in February of this year, to cross the Euphrates River to attack American-held positions, there was no ignominious retreat. On the contrary, the Kremlin learned a hard lesson about testing American resolve east of the Euphrates de-confliction line. Iranian-led Shia militias and regime military units have been similarly educated. President Trump has verbalized his contempt for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a person whose criminal portfolio alone should give pause to those in government who would try to persuade Mr. Trump that Assad is a potential partner for the United States in the battle against Sunni Islamist extremism. This is a battle in which Assad’s civilian-centric brutality has aided and comforted Sunni extremists around the world, providing the grist for an Islamist recruitment mill.”

The New Arab: Cost Of Syria War Destruction Almost $400 Billion, UN Estimates

“Seven years of relentless conflict in Syria have wreaked destruction that the United Nations said Wednesday had cost the country close to $400 billion. The figure was released after a two-day meeting of more than 50 Syrian and international experts in neighbouring Lebanon, hosted by the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). ESCWA said the "volume of destruction in physical capital and its sectoral distribution" had been estimated at more than $388 billion. It said the figure did not include "human losses resulting from deaths or the loss of human competences and skilled labour due to displacement, which were considered the most important enablers of the Syrian economy.”

Iran

Bloomberg: After Sanctions, Iran’s Economy Is Nearing A Crisis

“In the runup to the Aug. 7 resumption of U.S. sanctions against Iran, the country’s beleaguered president, Hassan Rouhani, got stern directives from a few corners of the Islamic Republic. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, urged him to deal with corruption. The powerful Revolutionary Guards commander told him to focus on Iran’s slumping currency, the rial, while a sizable chunk of Parliament summoned Rouhani to harangue him about the sinking economy. None of them, however, had any advice on how to ease the growing sense of despair and outrage in the streets. Over the past few weeks, record temperatures, power outages, and water shortages, along with a 50 percent rise in the price of some food items, have triggered scattered protests. One person was killed and 20 others detained in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran, in a protest on Aug. 3. In a nearby town, about 500 people used stones and bricks to smash the windows of a seminary and tried to set the building on fire, local media reported.”

Metro: Is Iran Really On The Brink Of Revolution As 100,000 Protest Against Leader

“An expert has warned that ‘revolution is a real possibility’ in Iran, where 100,000 people have taken to the streets in protest against their leader.  Tensions have been steadily increasing and the thousands who have flooded the cities have been chanting ‘death to the dictator.’ The protests erupted last week just before renewed US sanctions, which intend to stop Iran’s oil exports, came into force on Monday. Donald Trump described the embargoes as ‘the most biting sanctions ever imposed’. These have acted as a catalyst as further protests erupted over high inflation and the currency crisis, where money has lost 99% of its value. Hanif Jazayeri, from the National Council of Resistance of Iran told MailOnline: ‘We had protests in 2009 but these are different because people are calling for the death of the President and the Supreme Leader. They have broken a lot of taboos. ‘The demonstrations are not just over economic issues but very quickly turned political due to the regime’s repression of the Iranian people with regard to women’s rights, freedom of speech and other basic freedoms.”

The Spectator: Why Do We Support The Iran Regime When It Is Bitterly Hostile To Our Way Of Life?

“President Trump has ended US participation in the Iran deal and imposed sanctions. No doubt this is annoying to the British and other Europeans who mistakenly helped devise it, but why are they — especially we — clinging to it still? Without the United States, it cannot work. Trump’s move is supported by our allies in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Israel — who are constantly threatened by Iranian-backed terrorism. Inside Iran, once again (but little reported), people seeking freedom and work are protesting, yet we actively support a regime which has, for 40 years, been bitterly hostile to our interests and way of life. The EU has even gone so far as to threaten European firms which withdraw from dealings with Iran because of US sanctions with legal suits unless they have Commission authorisation. Some see the Iran deal as the embodiment of ‘European values’. Thank goodness we’re off.”

CNN: US General Criticizes Leader Of Iran's Quds Force

“In a blistering criticism of the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, the four-star US general in charge of US military of operations in the Middle East said Qasem Soleimani is behind much of Iran's destabilizing activities in the region. Speaking to Pentagon reporters Wednesday, General Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command, described Soleimani as "an individual who is perpetrating a lot of this destabilizing activity." otel called out the IRGC leader for "his very aggressive nature and wherever you see Iranian activity, you see Qasem Soleimani, whether it is in Syria, whether it is in Iraq, whether it is in Yemen, he is there and it is the Quds force, the organization which he leads, that I think is the principal threat as we look at this and the principle ones that are stoking this destabilizing activity." Votel emphasized that the US military can keep the Strait of Hormuz open for shipping despite Iranian threats to potentially shut it down. The Strait of Hormuz links the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea and is "the world's most important oil transit chokepoint," according to The US Energy Information Administration, with 20% of oil traded worldwide moving through the waterway.”

The National: Iranian Diplomat Accused Of Running Web Of Spies Across Europe

“Iran is running a wide-ranging espionage network across Europe with the aim of procuring technology to boost the country’s missile arsenal, disrupt opposition groups and carry out targeted assassinations, intelligence reports and opposition groups have disclosed. Opposition sources revealed on Wednesday that Asdollah Assadi, the Iranian diplomat arrested in Germany in June for orchestrating a bomb plot against an opposition rally in Paris, headed the Tehran-run European-wide network. Assadi remains in detention in Germany pending an extradition request from Belgium where the alleged bombers were intercepted. Activists said the decision to authorise the attack in Paris was taken by Tehran’s Supreme National Security Council in January this year and that the head of Foreign Intelligence and Movements in the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), Reza Amiri Moghadam passed control of the plot to Assadi in March. Half-a-kilo of home-made explosives TATP and a detonator was seized from the car of a married couple who were identified as being residents in the Belgian city of Antwerp. Another alleged facilitator of the plot was arrested and extradited from France to face trial.”

The Washington Post: U.S. Military Warns Iran Over Naval Activity In The Strait Of Hormuz

“The United States is closely monitoring Iranian naval activity to ensure no disruptions occur to global shipping, a top U.S. general said Wednesday, as tensions with Tehran intensify over renewed economic pressure from the Trump administration. Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, said a recent Iranian naval exercise appeared to be linked to President Trump’s decision to reimpose trade sanctions in the wake of the U.S. exit from the 2015 nuclear deal. “We are paying attention,” Votel told reporters at the Pentagon. “We’re extraordinarily vigilant and watching for changes in the environment.” The Iranian government described the exercise in the Strait of Hormuz, a key commercial passageway off the Iranian coast, as a routine exercise by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

Iraq

Al Bawaba: Iraqi Security Hot-On-Trail Of ISIS Militants In Mosul With More Senior Arrests

“Iraqi forces have detained a senior Daesh militant in the northern city of Mosul, according to the Interior Ministry on Wednesday. The militant was rounded up during a raid by Rapid Response forces in western Mosul, ministry spokesman Saad Maan said in a statement, without providing further details. Military officer Colonel Ahmed al-Jabouri said the raid was part of a security campaign to hunt down Daesh militants in the western part of Mosul. “The campaign aims to restore security and stability to western Mosul,” he told Anadolu Agency. Last December, officials in Baghdad declared that Daesh's military presence in Iraq had been all but dismantled over operations backed by the U.S.-led International Alliance. However, from time to time, Iraqi officials announce operations against Daesh-affiliated "sleeper cells" in certain parts of the country.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Troops Kill 14 Islamic State Militants, Destroy 4 Armored Vehicles In Anbar

“Up to 14 members of the Islamic State group were killed and four of their armored vehicles were destroyed during a security operation in Anbar, a military commander was quoted as saying. Colonel Shaker Obeid al-Rishawy told BasNews website on Wednesday that security forces received intelligence reports about the presence of a group of IS terrorists in a desert area, south of A-Rutbah district in western Anbar. “Immediately, the troops clashed with the IS terrorists, killing 14 of them and destroying four of their armored vehicles,” al-Rishawy pointed out. He added that three underground hotbeds that were used by the militant group for storing ammunition were destroyed as well. The Islamic State group appeared on the international scene in 2014 when it seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, declaring the establishment of an Islamic “caliphate” from Mosul city. Later on, the group has become notorious for its brutality, including mass killings, abductions and beheadings, prompting the U.S. to lead an international coalition to destroy it. Despite the group’s crushing defeat at its main havens across Iraq, Islamic State continues to launch sporadic attacks against troops with security reports warning that the militant group still poses a threat against stability in the country.”

Turkey

The Wall Street Journal: Talks Fail To Break Impasse On U.S. Pastor Held In Turkey

“The U.S. failed to secure assurances on Wednesday from Turkey to immediately free an American pastor held for nearly two years on disputed terrorism charges, U.S. officials said, deepening a crisis between the two countries and setting stage for the Trump administration to take new punitive steps. During high-level talks in Washington, U.S. and Turkish officials were unable to produce a breakthrough in an impasse that has pushed Turkey’s economy into turmoil, the officials said. Turkey’s currency has plunged amid the crisis amid fears that the U.S. could take tougher steps before the standoff is resolved. The Trump administration is now positioned to impose new penalties on Turkey for refusing to free Andrew Brunson, an evangelical North Carolina pastor who was detained in Turkey as part of a sweeping crackdown after a failed July 2016 coup. Mr. Brunson’s fate has become the most polarizing issue dividing the U.S. and Turkey, two North Atlantic Treaty Organization members that have repeatedly clashed over Washington’s policy in the Middle East.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Afghanistan Says Surrendered Islamic State Fighters Are War Prisoners: U.S. General

“Afghanistan told the United States that Islamic State fighters who surrendered last week will be treated as prisoners of war, and not honored guests, despite the warm welcome they had initially received, a top U.S. general said on Wednesday. While pressure has been building for peace talks between the Western-backed government in Kabul and the Taliban insurgency, U.S. officials say Islamic State's branch in Afghanistan is not part of any reconciliation push and instead must be wiped out. Even by the bloody standards of the Afghan war, Islamic State has gained an unmatched reputation for brutality, routinely beheading opponents or forcing them to sit on explosives. But last week, an Afghan governor's office floated the possibility of amnesty for a large group of Islamic State fighters, including two senior commanders, who gave themselves up after being driven from their strongholds by Taliban insurgents. U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. military's Central Command, said the Afghans acknowledged the surrender, the largest of its kind so far by Islamic State, "could have been handled better.”

The Wall Street Journal: Months Of U.S. Strikes Have Failed To Curtail Taliban Opium Trade

“American efforts to cripple the Taliban drug trade in Afghanistan have fallen short of expectations, U.S. officials say, creating new challenges for the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken the insurgency as the warring parties try to jump start peace talks. Nine months of targeted airstrikes on opium production sites across Afghanistan have failed to put a significant dent in the illegal drug trade that provides the Taliban with hundreds of millions of dollars, according to figures provided by the U.S. military. “We’re not where we want to be with that, but we’re generally moving in the right direction,” said Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the war strategy in Afghanistan. The U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan launched the new campaign against the Taliban’s drug-running operations last November as part of President Trump’s strategy for ending the 17-year-old war.”

Pakistan

Bloomberg: Pakistan Will Add 60,000 Troops To Patrol Afghan Border

“Pakistan will add as many as 60,000 troops to boost its patrols along its disputed border with Afghanistan in an effort to curb the flow of insurgents passing between the two nations, according to military officials familiar with the matter. Forty percent of the troops have already been recruited in the exercise, which is expected to take two years, the officials said, asking not to be identified so they could discuss sensitive troop movements. About 13 percent of a fence planned along the 1,456 mile-long disputed border has also been completed, they said. The armed force’s media department didn’t respond to a request for comment. The move will consolidate Pakistan’s border operations, which have been beefed-up in recent years after widespread insecurity wracked the country following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Domestic terror-related violence is now at its lowest in more than a decade. The army, which has 661,000 regular and paramilitary troops, have previously been more focused on the country’s eastern border with arch-rival neighbor India, with which it’s fought three wars against since British India’s partition in 1947. The two continue to contest the disputed region of Kashmir. Pakistan has come under increasing pressure to act against the Afghan Taliban and the affiliated Haqqani network since President Donald Trump accused Islamabad of allowing them safe haven.”

Yemen

The Washington Times: Pentagon Denies Reports Of U.S. Allies Bribing, Recruiting Al Qaeda Fighters In Yemen

“Pentagon officials are adamantly denying reports that U.S.-supported allies have bribed — and at times recruited — members of al Qaeda’s Yemeni cell to support their ongoing campaign against Iranian-backed Shia paramilitaries in the country. “That is false, patently false,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said regarding the claims, first reported by the Associated Press, that members of the Saudi and Emirati-led Arab coalition battling Houthi rebels in Yemen have co-opted al Qaeda members into the fight. “We do not pay al Qaeda, we kill al Qaeda,” he told reporters at the Pentagon this week, declining to comment further. His comments come amid signs the Arab coalition’s campaign to retake the key Yemeni port city of Hodeidah from the Tehran’s proxy forces has stalled. Houthi militias have received direct support from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Quds Force — the IRGC’s directorate responsible for advising Shia paramilitary forces in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere across the globe.”

Al-Arabiya: Houthi Commander, Militiamen Killed In Yemen’s Hodeidah

“A top Houthi commander and several militiamen were killed in a battle in the city of Hodeidah during clashes with the Yemeni army in the al-Duraihmi governorate. A military source said that the commander was Mansour al-Soudi, also known as Abu Hmeid, who leads what the source called “quick operations” by Houthi militias in al-Duraihmi. He was killed along with several Houthi militiamen. Meanwhile, over 330 sheikhs and dignitaries from the Hajjah province held their first conference on Wednesday, announcing their rejection of Houthi violations and Iranian interference in their country. They reaffirmed their support of the Yemeni army, and called on the province’s residents to stand with the legitimate army and kick out the militias from their neighborhoods.”

Lebanon

The New York Times: In Lebanon Town, Refugees And Locals Agree On 1 Thing: Time For Syrians To Go

“The mayor was tired. Asleep-at-3, awake-at-6 tired. Tired the way you cannot help but be after years of the Islamic State squatting in your town, killing your citizens and forcing the army to quarantine you from the rest of the country. Tired of Syrian refugees from just across the border growing so numerous that they eclipse your actual constituents — and of your constituents growing so sick of the refugees that they mutter about taking the town back by force. All this fell to the mayor of Arsal, Lebanon: checkpoints to negotiate, refugees to manage, townspeople to appease. And now even his wife complained that he was neglecting her. “At night, I go back home and I listen to people’s problems again,” said the mayor, Bassil Hujeiri. “It’s not like my shift ends and I get to close the door.” And yet the mayor has recently had cause to believe that the arc of his town’s ordeal was at last bending toward a little less misery — if only for the Arsalis. The refugees, for their part, were still living a nightmare. Seven years of war in Syria has displaced more than half the country’s population, leaving millions of refugees shipwrecked between the wasteland of home and the void of exile. Among the many Lebanese and Jordanian towns that received them was Arsal, where rented rooms and tent cities overflowed at one point with 120,000 Syrians — quadruple its Lebanese population.”

Africa

Associated Press: U.S. Doubles Rewards For Info About Al Qaeda Leaders Charged For Embassy Bombings

“The United States is doubling rewards for al Qaeda leaders charged for their roles in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa. The reward for information leading to the location, arrest or conviction of Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah and Saif al-Adel is now $10 million each — up from $5 million offered since 2000, the State Department announced on Wednesday. The two leaders were charged by a federal grand jury for the Aug. 7, 1998, attacks in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. The bombings killed more than 250 people, including 12 Americans, and nearly 5,000 others were injured. Tuesday marked 20 years since the bombings, which were the first major al Qaeda attack on U.S. targets. They took place three years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people.”

Reuters: Suspected Al Shabaab Militants Kill Five Soldiers In Kenya's Lamu: County Official

“Five Kenyan soldiers were killed in an attack claimed by the Somali group al Shaabab in Lamu County on Kenya’s north coast on Wednesday, a senior official said. The local government official in the county, who asked not to be named, said the attack occurred between the areas of Majengo and Bodhei. He said five soldiers were killed after their truck ran over an improvised explosive device. “We heard a blast. Shortly after, KDF (Kenya Defence Forces) choppers were patrolling in the air,” the official told Reuters. Kenya Defence Forces spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paul Njuguna told Reuters that six soldiers were injured, two critically, in the explosion but none were killed. It was not immediately clear why the accounts of the KDF and the county official differed. Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s spokesman for military operations, said the group was behind the attack on the KDF convoy, and put the number of those killed at nine. Kenyan officials say the group often exaggerates casualty figures.”

North Korea

The Telegraph: North Korea Revives 'Axis Of Evil' Ties With Iran As Denuclearization Talks Falter

“The arrival of North Korea's foreign minister in Tehran just hours after Donald Trump had reinstated sanctions against Iran was “no coincidence”, analysts believe, and is designed to send the message that Pyongyang is reinforcing its alliances as denuclearisation talks with the US stall. Ri Yong-ho held talks with Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, on Tuesday, the same day that economic sanctions went back into force against Tehran. The meeting was held at North Korea’s request, Iranian media reported, and the two officials used the two-day visit to express their “satisfaction” with existing bilateral relations and seek better ties in the future.”

Russia

Newsweek: Is Russia Ready For Another War? Libya And Yemen Leaders Ask For Vladimir Putin's Help

“Leaders of influential armed movements in Libya and Yemen have appealed for Russian intervention to solve the crises that have ravaged their respective countries in the wake of a regional uprising years ago. The spokesperson for the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, which is led by General Khalifa Haftar and represents one of two rival factions attempting to claim control of the country, said Wednesday that Russian support was needed to better equip his forces and help establish a unified national government. Under longtime leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, Libya and Russia enjoyed a strong military relationship, but this fell out after a West-backed 2011 insurgency and a subsequent international ban on selling arms to the Libyan armed forces. In a statement sent to Russia's state-run Sputnik News, Libyan National Army spokesperson Brigadier General Ahmed al-Mesmari said that "the Russian-Libyan military relationship goes back a long time," adding that "the Libyan National Army is currently completely armed with Russian weapons and its military doctrine is Eastern, therefore Libya's need for Russia is increasing more and more as the war on terror continues.”

Germany

Deutch News: Germany: Man Arrested For Spying On Mosque For Jordan

“The German national is accused of sharing information on people planning to travel to Syria to join the “Islamic State.” German authorities shuttered the mosque in Hildesheim last year, saying it attracted extremists. German prosecutors on Wednesday ordered the arrest of a 33-year-old man for allegedly spying on a mosque for Jordan. The German national, identified only as Alexander B. in accordance with the country’s privacy rules, was detained on Tuesday. The prosecutors did not specify where he was detained. The suspect worked in 2016 for a Jordanian intelligence agency, the prosecutors said in a statement. He is accused of spying on a mosque in the central German city of Hildesheim. Alexander B. is said to have passed on information about people planning to travel to Syria to join the “Islamic State” or those who had already traveled there. The Hildesheim mosque was shuttered by authorities last year on suspicions that it was attracting extremists. They also banned the organization, known as the German-speaking Islamic Circle in Hildesheim e.V. (DIK), that ran the mosque. Anis Amri, perpetrator of the deadly Berlin Christmas market attack, had been a member of Salafist circles in the city.”

Europe

BBC News: Barcelona Attack: The Jihadists And The Hunt For A Second Gang

“A neighbour had just walked past when an explosion tore through a small, white house in the Spanish coastal town of Alcanar last August. Debris was flung hundreds of metres by the force of the blast and the bodies of two men landed in nearby gardens. A third man who had been on a roof terrace talking on his phone survived. The next day a van attack was launched on pedestrians in Barcelona's central tourist avenue, Las Ramblas. Hours later there was another attack, in Cambrils, a coastal town. Sixteen people died and more than 130 were injured. Catalonia had come under attack from a jihadist gang of 11 people. Investigators believe they had planned to target Barcelona's Sagrada Familia and the Camp Nou stadium, home to Barcelona football club. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was another target. The Alcanar blast late on 16 August had changed all that and the key figure, Abdelbaki Es Satty, lay dead in the rubble. But this is also a story of missed clues and intelligence failings, because Es Satty had been known to the authorities for years. And the BBC has learned that his gang of extremists was plugged into a network that, according to a surviving cell member, could have included another imam with a second cell of eight or nine young men in France. A year on, investigators in France have requested information from 10 countries and are still trying to break up that network and identify a possible French cell.”

Australia

Fox News: Australia Strips Citizenship From Islamic State Supporters

“Five former dual nationals have been stripped of their Australian citizenship due to their involvement with the Islamic State group overseas, a government minister said Thursday. A total of six people have now lost their Australian citizenship since the law was changed in 2015 to enable dual nationals to lose their citizenship rights for actions contrary to their allegiance to Australia, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said. "I can confirm that five more individuals have ceased to be Australian citizens because of their involvement with Islamic State offshore," Dutton said in a statement. Dutton did not identify the five. The Daily Telegraph newspaper in Sydney said they were three men and two women who had flown to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State group fighters. It is not clear when they traveled to the Middle East and when they lost their citizenship. Australia Broadcasting Corp. said they were aged in their 20s and 30s and might not be aware that they were no longer Australian. Intelligence agencies began investigating them last year, the ABC said. "We've arrived at a position now where it's clear through their own conduct these people have renounced their Australian citizenship. They don't deserve to be Australian citizens and in our judgment they would pose a great threat if they were to return to Australia," Dutton told ABC.”

Technology

The Telegraph: Facebook Apologizes After Confetti And Balloons Appear On Earthquake Posts

“Facebook has been forced to apologise after users posting about Sunday’s deadly earthquake on the Indonesian island of Lombok saw their messages trigger animations of celebratory balloons and confetti. A 6.9 magnitude quake struck the island, a popular destination for foreign tourists, on Sunday evening, killing at least 131 local people and leaving about 150,000 homeless. Some aid agencies have given much higher figures for the toll, but the National Disaster Mitigation Agency says those figures are unverified. Many Indonesian speakers took to Facebook either to tell friends and family that they were safe or to enquire about others. However, the word ‘selamat’, which can mean both “safe” and “congratulations”, automatically generated joyful illustrations. "The feature, (automatic animations for 'congratulations' in posts) is widely available on Facebook globally," a spokesman for the world's largest social network said in a statement.”

The New York Times: With Alex Jones, Facebook’s Worst Demons Abroad Begin To Come Home

“To Americans, Facebook’s Alex Jones problem might seem novel, even unprecedented. When does speech become unsafe? When can it be limited? Should those decisions be up to a private company at all? And if a company shies away from acting, as Facebook did with Mr. Jones until Apple moved first, where does that leave the rest of us? But to activists and officials in much of the developing world, both the problem and Facebook’s muddled solutions will be old news. Before there was Alex Jones, the American conspiracy theorist, there was Amith Weerasinghe, the Sri Lankan extremist who used Facebook as his personal broadcast station. Mr. Weerasinghe leveraged Facebook’s newsfeed to spread paranoia and hatred of the country’s Muslim minority. He enjoyed near-total freedom on the platform, despite repeated pleas from activists and officials for the company to intervene, right up until his arrest on charges of inciting a riot that killed one Muslim and left many more homeless. Before there was Mr. Weerasinghe, there was Ashin Wirathu, the Myanmar extremist, whose Facebook hoaxes incited riots in 2014. Three years later, Mr. Wirathu would contribute to a wave of Facebook-based rumors and hate speech that helped inspire widespread violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority. And so on. “Facebook doesn’t seem to get that they’re the largest news agency in the world,” Harindra Dissanayake, a Sri Lankan official, said a few days after Mr. Weerasinghe’s arrest.”

The New York Times: Rules Won’t Save Twitter. Values Will

“This week, Alex Jones, the persistently mendacious conspiracy-theory spouter — yeah, that’s a real job in 2018 — finally became the ultimate swipe left of the social media age. Apple, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Spotify and most other major internet distributors banished Mr. Jones, either permanently or for some unspecified star-chamber-determined amount of time, for hate speech and other violations. But not Twitter. Instead, Jack Dorsey, the chief executive, founder and tweet inventor himself, took to his own platform to explain in the high-minded tone that one takes with small children that Mr. Jones wasn’t suspended from Twitter because he “hasn’t violated our rules.” In his multipart-tweet summer shower — it was not really a storm — he tried to make an exceptionally complex issue seem super simple, which is just like Mr. Dorsey. Of the recent crop of internet moguls, he is the most iconoclastic, employing elegant stylings and far-off stares that seem more hipster academic than the talented technical geek he is. Unlike others of his ilk who cannot hide their social awkwardness, Mr. Dorsey takes his inherent shyness and tries hard to make it look like he is floating serenely above the fray.”

Counter-terrorism

Tahrir: Report: Al-Qaeda Poses The Primary And Most Serious Threat To North African Countries

“Egypt's Dar Al Iftaa's Observatory for Anomalous and Takfiri Fatwas recently issued a study on the expansion of al-Qaeda in North and West Africa, especially in the Sahel countries. It includes a map of the terror organization's most prominent networks. The Observatory pointed out that the study relied on abundant evidence indicating the growing role of the terrorist organization since 2017 after having rebuilt its capabilities quietly over the past few years. It is expected that the organization will be more active and dangerous to the national security of several regions and certain countries in North and West Africa. The Observatory warned in a statement on Wednesday that al-Qaeda is the primary and most serious threat to the security and stability of this Africa region. It asserted that despite the decline al-Qaeda in several areas, especially the Middle East following the rise of ISIS in 2014, the organization's networks in the Maghreb and West Africa still maintain a presence there.”

Dostor: Expert: Terrorist Groups Exploit Drugs To Lure Addicted Youth Into Their Ranks

“Colonel Mohammed Hani Zaher, an international counter-terrorism expert, stated that there is a solid linkage between drugs and terrorism. Drugs can create extremist ideologies by controlling one's thoughts and actions. Therefore, terrorist groups exploit narcotics to lure youth into their ranks by turning them into addicts. Once they are addicted, individuals can easily commit criminal and terrorist acts due to negative patterns of behavior, Colonel Zaher explained. The anti-terrorism specialist urged the relevant authorities in Egypt to eliminate hashish/cannabis cultivation, particularly in Sinai, to restructure the customs system and use advanced electronic drug-detection devices.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Seventh Day: Egyptian Court Renews Imprisonment Of Al-Qaradawi's Son-In-Law On Charges Of Financing Muslim Brotherhood

“Chaired by Counsellor Mohammed Sherin Fahmy, the Cairo Criminal Court decided on Wednesday to renew the detention of Hossam Khalaf, son-in-law of the Qatar-based Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi, along with 10 other suspects. The court, which convened at the Police Cadets Institute, renewed the detention of these individuals for 45 days. The suspects face charges of joining, leading and financing a banned organization {The Muslim Brotherhood} in addition to plotting terrorist acts against the security of public institutions with the aim of toppling the Egyptian state. They are also accused of providing foreign funds to militants belonging to the outlawed group to purchase necessary weapons and explosives for launching terrorist attacks aimed at destabilizing Egypt.”

Almasry Alyoum: Muslim Brotherhood Exploits Charities To Achieve Its Goals

“Dr. Mohammed Mokhtar Gomaa, the Egyptian Minister of Awqaf (Religious Endowments), stated that the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood doesn't engage in any activity unless it serves its own benefit and goals. The use of money as a "weapon" is a good example of that, whereby the banned organization took over numerous charitable associations in Egypt and utilized them to accomplish its own goals, the Minister stressed. Dr. Gomaa explained that the Muslim Brotherhood usually exploits charities by either using them to collect financial donations under the pretext of social activities or employing these charitable entities to help its militants perpetrate their heinous criminal and terrorist acts.”

Houthi

Alarab-News: Houthis Lure Tribal Elders With Jobs And Money In Exchange For New Recruits

“Tribal and partisan sources in Sana'a disclosed that the Houthis have intensified their efforts to seek new recruits by 'tempting' tribal elders with jobs and money. This comes after the militants began to feel the severity of the shortage of militants, following the mounting defeats and losses in recent weeks on the western coast, in al-Bayda, Saadeh and al-Jouf, which have forced the terror group to intensify its {recruitment} efforts. The sources said that the Houthis suffered a major setback due to their failure in the past few months to lure ex-soldiers to return to their ranks despite threats, temptations and intensive meetings with tribal elders and local officials.”