Eye on Extremism: December 18

The New York Times: Roadside Bomb Kills 10 Members Of Afghan Family

“A roadside bomb killed 10 members of one family, including three women and two children, in southeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, officials said. Halim Fidai, governor of Khost province where the incident took place, said the family was on their way to a neighboring province when their vehicle struck the device planted on the main road. Some 18 civilians were wounded in a similar incident in northern Balkh province, said Adil Shah Adil, provincial police chief spokesman. Although there is a winter lull in fighting due to heavy snowfall in the mountains, when militants use colder months to rest and regroup ahead of annual spring offensive, roadside bombs continue to be deployed across parts of the country. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham visited Kabul on Monday after U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad renewed talks with the Taliban this month on steps that could lead to a ceasefire and a settlement of the 18-year-long war. Graham said that U.S. troops abandoning Afghanistan would be a "strategic mistake", despite the recognition that numbers could be cut. "To reduce our forces this coming year is possible. The Afghan security forces are getting more capable and as they achieve capability, the number of U.S. forces necessary can go down," Graham told a news conference in Kabul.”

The Hill: Congress Set To Pass Bill To Help Terrorism Victims Win Compensation From Palestinian Authority

“Congress appears set to approve legislation intended to help American victims of terrorism win compensation from the Palestinian Authority. The Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act of 2019 would call on the State Department to facilitate negotiations on behalf of American victims and their families to settle multimillion-dollar claims with the Palestinian Authority. It also clarifies language on how U.S. courts can establish “personal jurisdiction” over the Palestinian Authority by providing guidelines for saying when the Palestinian governing body is subject to the American justice system. The final text was negotiated between Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and is expected to pass the House and Senate this week as part of the 1,800-page appropriations package meant to fund the government through the end of next year. The text was added to the appropriations package on Monday night. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have worked for over a year to craft the language, which is an amendment to the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA). That law passed last year and was meant to close loopholes that allowed the Palestinian Authority to avoid paying a $655 million verdict to American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks.”

Global News: Protest Camps In Lebanon Attacked By Hezbollah Supporters

“Assailants attacked several protest camps in north and south Lebanon early on Tuesday, according to state-run media, demolishing tents and burning down others as anger boiled over in the capital following a video deemed offensive to the country’s Shiites. The violence — some of it apparently carried out by Hezbollah supporters and their allies — threatened to plunge Lebanon further into chaos amid two months of anti-government protests and a spiralling financial crisis. In Beirut, charred remains of several torched cars were scattered on a main highway while faint smoke smoldered from a fire set in a building overlooking the epicentre of two-month-old protests after a night of rage by supporters of Lebanon’s two main Shiite groups, Hezbollah and Amal. It was the third consecutive night of violence in Lebanon, coming after the Lebanese president on Monday postponed talks on naming a new prime minister, further prolonging the unrest in the Mediterranean country.”

Deutsche Welle: Right-Wing Extremists In Germany To Face Amped Up Intelligence

“Germany has announced sweeping plans to restructure domestic intelligence and law enforcement agencies in 2020 to step up the fight against right-wing extremism. Measures include 600 new intelligence positions for weeding out potentially violent right-wing extremists and their networks, more targeted cyber investigations and increased coordination between state and federal intelligence services, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced on Tuesday. The restructuring follows two high-profile cases of right-wing terror over the past six months: The killing of Walter Lübcke, the president of the district council for the central German city of Kassel, who was shot in his home in June; and two deaths in the eastern city of Halle at the hand of a white supremacist who failed to enter a synagogue on Yom Kippur, a major Jewish holiday. "I'll never forget a young citizen in Halle calling through the silence that 'you all can't protect us,'" Seehofer recalled on Tuesday. "As a consequence of Halle, we want to confirm to the public: Many steps are being taken." Seehofer described those deaths as part of a slew of "terrible isolated incidents" and said they were casting shadows over Germany's sinking crime rates over the past two years.”

The New York Times: How Iran Justifies Its Violence

“Historians will record the blood-soaked days of November as some of the worst mass killings of protesters in modern Iranian history. A sudden increase in fuel prices led to protests across the country; the regime responded with brute violence. Amnesty International has verified “at least” 304 deaths between Nov. 15 and 18. Credible Iranian opposition sources have cited a preliminary figure of 366 while The New York Times reported that “180 to 450 people, and possibly more, were killed,” with “at least 2,000 wounded and 7,000 detained.” A statement from the Iranian Writers’ Association observed: “Every corner of Iran is mourning the atrocities.” Iranian artists, physicians, trade unionists and teachers have condemned the repression. The Islamic Republic is in damage control mode as it seeks to manage growing public anger and international demands for accountability. Reversing the regime’s early narrative that these protests were a foreign plot, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, has admitted the loss of innocent life. He said these citizens were “martyrs” who deserved financial compensation.”

CBS News: World Of Worship: Ancient Monastery In Iraq Survives Centuries Of Upheaval, But ISIS Threat Is Still Felt

“In recent years, Iraq has suffered terrible violence, often inflamed by religious differences. But in a country where worship can come at a heavy cost, CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata discovered an unlikely oasis hidden in the mountains: an ancient Christian monastery. The Rabban Hormizd Monastery, one of the oldest of its kind in the world, was founded almost 1,400 years ago. Carved into and out of the very rock on which it rests, the temple overlooks the vast plains of northern Iraq. Its namesake, Rabban Hormizd, traveled from Persia. He lived as a hermit for almost 30 years, living an austere life of isolation in the network of caves that push deep into the mountainside. Over time, more monks made the pilgrimage, settling in its labyrinth. "Christians are an important part of the community here in Iraqi Kurdistan," said 21-year-old Miriam Salih, who traveled to the monastery with other Iraqi history students. "They've been here for thousands of years." Over the centuries, the monastery has been more than a house of worship. It's been a sanctuary, a safe place in a region that has had more than its fair share of upheaval. The Mongols, the Kurds, the Ottomans and the Turks all overran the territory at one point or another, yet it somehow survived. But the biggest threat came in modern times.”

United States

The Wall Street Journal: Making ‘Maximum Pressure’ Multilateral Again

“Iran has violated the 2015 nuclear deal by exceeding its allotted stockpiles of plutonium and enriched uranium, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed earlier this month. The United Nations nuclear watchdog also found that Iran has purified uranium to a higher level than was agreed in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In response, European diplomats reportedly threatened to reapply sanctions that were lifted when the nuclear deal was signed. “There is no question the Europeans are getting tired of the Iranian regime’s tactics and lies,” a senior U.S. official told me. The threats are serious, he said, but Britain, France and Germany “are not there yet.” Asked about reimposing sanctions, European diplomats at the U.N. often retort, “Why don’t you ask the Americans?” The expectation that the U.S. must lead raises immediate legal confusion. Hasn’t America left the deal already? Not so fast. Remember, the JCPOA is a nonbinding road map or, as its name indicates, a mere plan of action. It isn’t a treaty ratified by Congress or the Majlis, Iran’s parliament. President Obama knew he couldn’t muster enough political support for the deal at home, so he turned to the U.N. Security Council. Resolution 2231 thus became the legal authority governing the nuclear deal.”

Al Jazeera: US Congress Takes Aim At Syrian War Crimes, Russian Aggression

“The United States Congress on Tuesday ratcheted up pressure on Syria, Russia and China while making it more difficult for the Trump administration to reduce commitments to allies from Europe to Asia. As part of a defence policy bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday, the legislation would impose sanctions on Syrian troops and others responsible for atrocities committed during Syria's civil war and fund war crimes investigations and prosecutions. The bill now goes to the White House, where President Donald Trump has said he will sign it.  The bill also registered strong congressional concern about Russia and China, will bind the US to support Ukraine militarily and bar the Trump administration from any move to recognise Russia's annexation of Crimea. In addition, it restricts Trump's ability to extract the US from NATO or draw down its troop presence in South Korea. It establishes funding for long-term emergency medical care for more than 40 American diplomats, other government workers and their dependents who were injured in mysterious circumstances in Cuba and China.”

Syria

The New York Times: Russian, Syrian Air Strikes Kill 17 In Rebel-Held Northwest: Rescuers

“Syrian government and Russian air strikes killed at least 17 people on Tuesday in rebel-held northwestern Syria in a spike in casualties from relentless daily strikes in recent months, witnesses and rescuers said. The northwest corner of the country, including the Idlib region, is the last significant swathe of Syrian territory still in insurgent hands after eight and a half years of war. Russia, which has backed President Bashar al-Assad against rebels and Islamist militants, and Turkey, long a supporter of rebels, co-sponsored a conflict "de-escalation" deal for the area earlier this year that has since faltered. Two members of local rescue services said at least four people were killed and scores hurt when aerial bombs fell on a major market in the rural town of Maasran. Another six civilians lost their lives when the town of Bdama was hit, they said. Videos posted on social media and confirmed by residents showed emergency crews pulling charred bodies along the debris-strewn streets of Maasran as ambulances were arriving. A further five people were killed in the nearby town of Telmanas in the southeastern part of Idlib province, according to Abdullah al-Halabi of the local rescue service. Air strikes on several villages in the area had killed another two dead two people and injured scores, he added.”

USA Today: I've Met The Children Of ISIS Fighters. Their Home Countries Can't Abandon Them Forever.

“The Islamic State terrorist organization drew men and women from all over the world, many bringing their children along, and many more giving birth to children and building families. Now that the caliphate has collapsed, and many of the male fighters were killed, what happens to the remaining children and mothers?  An estimated 49,000 children remain in dreadful conditions in the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria because their home communities or countries refuse to take them back. Additionally, about 1,300 children from European countries remain in Syria and Iraq. These countries are afraid that the children cannot be rehabilitated and pose too great of a risk to public safety. The recent stabbing in London by a convicted Islamist terrorist released after serving six years in prison underlines those fears. A relatively small number of children and mothers have been repatriated to their countries. The United States has accepted only about a dozen returnees. Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country and former Soviet republic, is an example to other countries, having repatriated hundreds of children and women. Kazakh officials told me they have returned more than 400 children and 100 mothers, along with 30 adult male fighters.”

BBC News: Syria War: Air Strikes And Shelling Kill 24 Civilians In Idlib

“Nine people, including three children, died when warplanes bombed the town of Talmenes, the White Helmets reported. Meanwhile the wife and three children of one of the group's volunteers were among six members of the same family killed when shells hit Badama village. An air strike on the town of Maasaran reportedly killed another six people. Idlib is the last major region still held by rebel fighters and jihadists opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. The United Nations estimates the region is home to three million people, including a million children. More than 40% of them come from other previously opposition-held areas. A ceasefire negotiated by Russia, whose military campaign in support of Mr Assad has turned the tide of the eight-year civil war in his favour, and Turkey, which backs the opposition, halted a government assault on Idlib in August. However, skirmishes and bombardments are still an almost daily occurrence. On 7 December, air strikes on opposition-held areas reportedly killed 20 people. Nine of the deaths were in the village of Balyoun, where a market was hit.”

Al Jazeera: Women Under ISIL: The Nurse

“My name is Yasmine. I was a maternity nurse during the time of ISIL. They said they were now in charge of the public hospital and told us that we had to show up for work. They had a list of our addresses so they forced us to come - whether we liked it or not. They handicapped us with their restrictions on clothing. I could not work properly. We could not move normally. I could not administer an IV to a baby. Imagine, putting an IV into a baby's vein with fully-covered eyes. I could not see a thing. Their instructions had to be followed to the letter. Makeup was forbidden. Our handbags had to be black. Our shoes had to be black, our socks black. Everything black. To be honest, we looked like rubbish bags. Black on black. One day, when I was nine months pregnant with my daughter, I went out to shop. They arrested me. They told me to get on the bus so they could take me to the religious police. They charged me 3,500 Syrian pounds ($7) for an abaya. Even though I was already wearing a long and wide one. They did not like the material. They were the exclusive suppliers. We were supposed to buy only from them. They even banned the sale of niqabs (veils) in regular shops so that they could only be bought from them.”

Iran

Haaretz: Head Of Iran’s Quds Force In Yemen Who's Behind Saudi Oil Attack ‘Identified’

“Iran’s take on domestic security is increasingly reminiscent of the approach in China or North Korea, Norman Roule, a retired 34-year veteran of the CIA, told Haaretz in a conversation that echoed the fascinating analysis he recently published in the United States. As Roule puts it, despite the U.S.-led sanctions on Iran that are badly damaging its economy, the regime of the Islamic Republic is willing to invest huge sums to stay in power, even at the cost of severely repressing dissent. The sagging economy, which is one reason for the violent riots last month, hasn’t deterred the leaders. Iran’s government and private sector have invested about $400 million in technology for cutting the Iranian people off from the internet, Roule said. During the recent demonstrations, the regime did just that; the leaders have discussed setting up a separate Iranian internet like the one in China. The efforts at repression also include major investments to jam foreign television broadcasts, all in an attempt to isolate the country. Roule retired in September 2017 after serving in a number of key positions at the CIA.”

Quartz: Smuggling In Plain Sight: How Foreign Businesses Help Iran Violate US Sanctions

“The skies above Iran are looking pretty unfriendly right now. As of this summer, about half of the Islamic Republic’s civilian aircraft fleet, which is operated by 23 separate airlines, is grounded. That’s primarily because US sanctions prevent the carriers from purchasing spare parts. As a result, the state of Iran’s increasingly dilapidated commercial aviation industry has fallen behind Afghanistan’s. Iran has been under sanctions of one form or another since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. These days the United States sanctions Iran as punishment for its pursuit of nuclear weapons and support of terrorist organizations. The “nuclear deal” brokered by the Obama administration in 2015 briefly relieved Iran from the crippling sanctions. But last year, US president Donald Trump reinstated the sanctions, violating the agreement, and launched what he calls a “maximum pressure” campaign against the country. The Trump administration has so far blacklisted hundreds of banks, people, and companies working with Iran. Because of this, Iran has once again been forced to get what it needs on the black market. Airplane parts are high on its shopping list.”

Radio Farda: Iran's Paramilitary Basij Force Plans To Boost Presence In Every 'Neighborhood'

“The Basij paramilitary force under the command of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards plans to increase its presence in every “neighborhood”, in the wake of widespread protests in November when hundreds of protesters were killed and thousands arrested. The Basij plays a major role in suppressing demonstrations and its larger presence in urban areas will help it gather intelligence and deter would-be protesters. Fars news agency quoted head of Basij Organization, Gholamreza Soleimani December 17, who said there are also plans to expand women’s Basij, establish a “Basij University” and other new projects. In recent days there have been clear signs of a stronger Basij presence in urban areas. This follows an order by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last month for the Basij to adopt the model of Revolutionary Committees, of the years immediately following the establishment of the Islamic Republic in the 1980s. These committees were loyal followers of the regime, paid by the state, who intimidated and arrested citizens suspected of disloyalty to the new political system. Meanwhile, Tehran’s deputy Governor announced that the government has designated nine venues for groups and individuals to hold protests, “after they obtain a permit”.”

Iraq

Kurdistan 24: Nearly 100 Displaced By ISIS Return Home To Iraq's Disputed Kirkuk

“The Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MoMD) announced on Tuesday the return of dozens of people to their areas of origin in Kirkuk province, years after they were forced to flee from the Islamic State. The internally displaced persons (IDPs) are originally from the southwestern part of Kirkuk and had settled in displacement camps in the eastern part of the same province. According to a ministry statement, 91 IDPs who lived in the camps of Leylan I and Leylan II have returned to their original residences. Kirkuk is among the areas disputed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal Iraqi government. Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State two years ago, but many who were displaced by the terrorist organization’s onslaught remain in various camps throughout different parts of the country, with a significant portion of them located in the Kurdistan Region. The statement quoted the director of the displacement ministry’s Kirkuk office, Ammar Sabah, who said that the displaced people wanted to return to their homes and that they were taken there by government buses. The Iraqi government has repeatedly stated that its various return and repatriation schemes are voluntary, with the displaced people willing to go back to their homes.”

Turkey

The Jerusalem Post: Turkey And Qatar Give Warm Embrace To Hamas Leaders

“The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani smiled widely as he met Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh on Monday. Their meeting came days after Hamas got a warm welcome in Turkey, where its delegation met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkey and Qatar are key allies, both of which host Iranian delegations and are involved in supporting Hamas in Gaza and working on regional collaboration including supporting the Tripoli-based Libyan government. The Hamas visit to Turkey and Qatar appear more like a victory lap for the group than a random trip. The high-level reception the delegation received illustrates Ankara and Doha see Hamas as if it is a state, as opposed to a terror group based in Gaza. Qatar has hosted Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in the past. No other non-state actors in the world appear to receive the reception Hamas gets in Turkey and Qatar. The trip is part of a major Hamas delegation that is traveling the globe. According to reports it includes not only Haniyeh, but also wanted terrorist Saleh al-Arouri and Maher Saleh, Mousa Abu Marzouq, Nizar Awadallah and Izzat al-Risheq.”

Afghanistan  

Yahoo News: Captured Militants Displayed As Afghan Authorities Say Islamic State Cleared From Nangarhar

“The Afghan government says it has cleared Nangarhar province of Islamic State fighters, allowing displaced villagers to return home. However, video by Radio Free Europe shows how villagers were met with ruined buildings and destroyed crops. Afghan officials paraded captured militants before the media in November, RFE said, in a report released on December 17 that carried images of the captives. The province’s governor, Shah Mahmood Miakhel, told RFE that captured fighters came from a multitude of countries. “First, we will gather information from them to find out more about their links, how they came here, and what they’ve done,” he said. “Eventually, our judicial system will decide their fate, and if it’s necessary, we will prosecute them.” Islamic State militants declared the province to be part of their caliphate in early 2015. One captured fighter who spoke to RFE said that “religious scholars asked us to join the Islamic caliphate. They taught us enough [words of the prophet Muhammad and words from the Koran] that we believed it was our duty to obey orders.”

Xinhua: Over 80 Militants Killed In 24 Hours As Afghan Forces Step Up Operations

“More than 80 militants have been killed in the western, eastern and southern region of the conflict-battered Afghanistan over the past 24 hours as the government forces have stepped up operations amid peace efforts to gain more grounds ahead of winter, officials said Wednesday. In the latest crackdown, the security forces backed by fighting aircrafts stormed Taliban hideouts in Shahbaz, Qara Baghi, Asfandeh and Noghi areas outside Ghazni city the capital of the eastern Ghazni province early Wednesday killing 11 armed militants and wounding six others, provincial government's Spokesman Aref Nuri said. According to the spokesman, only two security personnel wounded during the operations. Similarly, Units of Special Forces launched operations against Taliban hideout in Samak village of Dawlat Yar district in the western Ghor province Tuesday killing 53 insurgents and destroying their trenches, Special Forces' Spokesman Abdul Ghafar Nuristani said. The security forces have also claimed killing 25 militants in Shah Walikot district of the southern Kandahar province over the past 24 hours. However, Afghan observers predict more crackdowns on the armed opposition groups to secure more grounds ahead of winter in the mountainous country.”

Xinhua: 3 Killed As Afghan Air Force Strikes Taliban Hideout In Restive Province: Military

“Three Taliban militants were killed and two others wounded after Afghan Air Force launched an airstrike on a Taliban position in southern Zabul province, the military said Wednesday. "The strike was launched in Arghandab district, Zabul province on late Tuesday, and an enemy's hideout was destroyed by the sortie," army's Corps 205 Attal said in a statement. The Afghan security forces have recently beefed up security operations against the Taliban militants who have been attempting to take territory and consolidate their positions in the countryside ahead of winter. In addition, a total of 46 different types of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) had been found and defused by the engineering teams of corps within the past 24 hours in Zabul and neighboring Uruzgan and Kandahar province, the corps based in the region said. Taliban militants have been using home-made IEDs to make roadside bombs and landmines to target security forces, but the lethal weapons also inflict casualties on civilians. On Tuesday, 10 civilians, including two women and three children, were killed in an IED explosion in eastern Khost province.”

Pakistan

France 24: Two Killed In Attack On Pakistan Polio Vaccination Security Team

“Gunmen killed at least two policemen in an attack on a polio vaccination security team in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, the latest setback in the nation's campaign to eradicate the disease. The personnel were part of a nationwide anti-polio drive launched this week, aiming to inoculate tens of millions of children in Pakistan -- one of only two countries where the crippling disease remains endemic. Two gunmen on a motorcycle carried out the attack in the Lal Qila area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, near the border with Afghanistan, as police were gathering at a health centre before heading out with polio vaccinators, said police official Arif Shahbaz. "The vaccinators were unhurt," added Shahbaz. Another police officer confirmed the incident and the toll. The attack comes during a devastating year in Pakistan's long fight against the disease, with at least 104 cases reported in 2019 so far. Last year, just 12 cases were reported. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday's killings, but the Pakistani Taliban and other militants have targeted polio vaccinators in the past. Vaccination campaigns have faced stubborn resistance for years in Pakistan, with many refusing to have their children inoculated because of misinformation and conspiracy theories.”

Lebanon 

Xinhua: Lebanon Arrests 2 Palestinians For Allegedly Joining Terror Group

“Lebanon's state security arrested on Tuesday two Palestinians in the southern city of Sidon for allegedly joining a terrorist group, a local media outlet reported. The two Palestinians were arrested over the charges of possessing explosive materials and transporting unlicensed weapons, said Elnashra, an online independent newspaper. In the past few months, Lebanon arrested a number of terrorists who were behind attacks in the country. The latest terrorist attack in Lebanon was carried out by Abdel Rahman Mabsout, an Islamic State militant who blew himself up in Tripoli in August, killing four members of the Lebanese army and internal security forces.”

Middle East

Arutz Sheva: 50 Terrorists Arrested As Massive Terror Cell Uncovered

“Israeli security forces operating in Samaria have uncovered a massive terrorist cell responsible for a string of terror attacks in the area, the Shin Bet internal security agency revealed Wednesday morning. Some 50 terrorists linked to a cell operated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have been arrested in the Ramallah area of Samaria, the Shin Bet said. The PFLP terror cell was discovered during operations carried out by the Shin Bet, IDF, and Israel Police. The terror cell’s members include the three terrorists responsible for the August bombing attack near Dolev, in western Samaria, which killed 17-year-old Rina Shnerb and injured her father and brother. Investigators also found that the terror cell was involved in the two shooting attacks near Beit El, north of Jerusalem, a year and a half ago. Security officials say the terror cell was planning major attacks, set to be carried out in the near future.”

Al Monitor: Israel To Further Tighten The Noose On Hamas

“Israel continues its attempts to tighten the noose on the Palestinians, mainly on Hamas, financially and economically by pursuing money smuggling networks and funders. Israeli Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett issued Dec. 3 a decision to economically pursue Palestinian and foreign figures whom Israel accuses of funding terrorism. The decision includes imposing restrictions on the accused to limit their ability to use their financial assets inside Israel and abroad to fund and support terrorist organizations. Mohammed Jamil Hersh, president of the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) in the United Kingdom, was the first target out of hundreds, whom Israel said would be added to an online database that anyone could access. Israel accused Hersh of being a member of Hamas. Israel expelled Hersh, who hails from Nablus city, to Marj Ez-Zouhour locality in south Lebanon in 1992, along with hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders. Subsequently, Hersh moved around several countries in the world and finally settled in the United Kingdom in the early 2000s.”

Egypt

Egypt Independent: Egypt Drops Out Of List Of Top 10 Countries Affected By Terrorists

“Egypt has departed the list of top 10 countries affected by terrorism this year in the 2019 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) – which measures the impact of terrorism and is devised by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). Last year, Egypt ranked among the top 10 in the report. Egypt had the third largest total fall in deaths and one of the largest percentage decreases, with deaths from terrorism falling 90 percent in a single year. This fall in deaths came as the result of reduced activity from the Islamic State’s Sinai Province group, following extensive military operations by the Egyptian government. Egypt saw the number of terror attacks fall from 169 to 45, as a result of increased counter-terrorism activities directed at the Sinai Province group, the report added. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region also recorded a substantial advancement last year with 17 countries improving, while only Iran and Morocco deteriorated. Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt and Iraq had the largest improvements in score in the region. Terror attacks in Lebanon have fallen consistently since peaking in 2014, with only two deaths from five incidents recorded in 2018. In 2018, Lebanon did not record a single attack by ISIS, the first year since 2013.”

Africa

South China Morning Post: ‘Poor Man’s Bomb’ Reaps Bloody Toll In African Jihadist Hotspot

“They are cheap, made from components that are easily obtained – and murderously effective. Security experts say that in the arsenal of jihadist groups whose insurgency is shaking the Sahel state of Burkina Faso, the improvised explosive device (IED) is one of the deadliest weapons. “With 15,000-20,000 CFA francs (US$25), you’ve got an IED that can destroy something worth a thousand times more,” a security source said. “It’s a poor man’s weapon in an asymmetrical war.” Thousands of civilians and soldiers have died in violence across the Sahel which began when armed Islamists revolted in northern Mali in 2012. The conflict has since spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso as well as Niger, two of the world’s poorest and most fragile countries. “IEDs appeared in (Burkina Faso) in mid-2018. Since then, we have recorded 33 attacks with IEDs, claiming hidden in plastic to thwart metal detectors, packed with nails for a shrapnel effect, the IED is increasingly used in roadside ambushes. On November 6, an attack on a convoy of Canadian mining company Semafo killed 38 people. The IED blew up a military escort vehicle before jihadist forces emerged from behind cover to machine-gun the buses.”

United Kingdom

Express: Police Ramp Up Security Around Christmas As Fears Rise Of 'Copycat' Terrorism Attacks

“Police are ramping up their presence and tactics, and planning extra armed patrols in potential target areas. Football fans should also expect to see extra barriers and checks at matches with the measures also being put in place at other key events. Counter terror teams will also be using sniffer dogs to sniff out any explosives and guns as they watch for any unusual activity. London Bridge terror: Jack Merritt’s father speaks out on attack. Amid these measures police have also been looking for any indication from past cases and have 700 inquiries underway. Speaking to the Daily Star Online security expert Will Geddes said: “Attacks at Christmas are symbolic, but it's also due to the open crowded public spaces. “They can target people who are distracted, who are preoccupied with Christmas shopping, and where it may be dark. “And we have to remember the one thing about any terrorist or criminal, they will always want it to be easy and simple.” At the end of November, members of the public were killed in a terror attack on London Bridge. The attacker Usman Khan, who was revealed to be wearing a hoax suicide vest was shot dead by police on the scene. He was attending an offender rehabilitation conference when he attacked armed with knives.”

Southeast Asia

Xinhua: Indonesian Police Nab 8 IS-Affiliated Militants In Papua, Probe Plots

“The Indonesian anti-terror squad of the National Police's Detachment 88 have arrested eight IS-linked militants in the country's easternmost province of Papua and are investigating their terrorist plots, a police officer said here on Tuesday. The militants have escaped from the chase of the squad in the country's western parts of North Sumatra province and Lampung province, National Police's spokesman Senior Commissioner Asep Adi Saputra said. Papua province is home to the separatist Free Papua Movement and has been hit by a series of unrests in recent months. The police are deepening their investigation on the terrorist plots set up by the militants grouped in an outlawed Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) which has been affiliated with the IS group in Iraq and Syria, according to Saputra. Authorities will beef up security during Christmas and New Year to prevent possible terrorist strikes, according to the police. Over 117,000 police personnel and soldiers will be dispatched during the events. Militants had made the events their targets in 2000 that killed dozens of people, they said.”

Australia

New York Post: Brothers Jailed In Australia For ISIS-Inspired Plot To Blow Up Plane

“Two brothers were sentenced Tuesday to a combined 76 years in prison by an Australian court for plotting to blow up an Etihad Airways flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi with a bomb carried in a meat grinder by their unwitting brother. Australian-Lebanese brothers Khaled and Mahmoud Khayat were convicted of terrorism offenses for trying to bring down the plane in July 2017 under instructions from ISIS, according to Reuters. Khaled, 51, was sentenced in New South Wales Supreme Court to 40 years with no possibility parole until 2047, while Mahmoud, 34, received 36 years with no possibility of parole until 2044. The two men, who were arrested after police raids in Sydney, were convicted of planning two terrorist attacks: the bomb and a chemical gas attack on the flight. Khaled was found guilty in May, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict against Mahmoud, whose retrial also ended with a guilty verdict in September. Authorities had said that high-grade explosives used to make the bomb were flown from Turkey as part of a plot “inspired and directed” by the terror group. The plotters disapproved of their brother Amer “because he drank, went clubbing, gambled and was gay, which they regarded as bringing shame on the family,” Judge Christine Adamson said, according to Agence France-Presse.”

Technology

CNBC: Facebook Fails To Convince Lawmakers It Needs To Track Your Location At All Times

“Facebook told two senators why it tracks users’ locations even when their tracking services are turned off. The lawmakers now say Facebook should give users more control over their data. Facebook was responding to an inquiry from Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who asked Facebook last month to “respect” users’ decisions to keep their locations private. In a letter dated December 12 that was released Tuesday, Facebook explained how it is able to estimate users’ locations used to target ads even when they’ve chosen to reject location tracking through their smartphone’s operating system. Facebook said that even when location tracking is turned off, it can deduce users’ general locations from context clues like locations they tag in photos as well as their devices’ IP addresses. While this data is not as precise as Facebook would collect with location tracking enabled, the company said it uses the information for several purposes, including alerting users when their accounts have been accessed in an unusual place and clamping down on the spread of false information.”

The Wall Street Journal: The Imperial Powers Of The Tech Universe

“Over the past decade, five big technology companies morphed into five great technology empires. The stock market values this group— Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com Inc., Google parent Alphabet Inc., and Facebook Inc.—at more than $4 trillion, while the six surviving men behind four of those companies are together worth nearly $450 billion, according to Forbes. Both valuations have quintupled since “Avatar” was in theaters. Such an accumulation of wealth is unparalleled perhaps since Standard Oil. And the impact these companies have had on society may be just as revolutionary. It starts with the billions of smartphones packed in pockets world-wide. We have outsourced so much of our daily lives to these mini-supercomputers, equipped with GPS chips, fast 4G connections and powerful cameras, they have become appendages, a third hemisphere of the brain. Social media, internet search and online shopping were old news as the aughts rolled into the teens, but the mobile revolution was just starting, making our hand-held devices increasingly powerful. Witness the birth of the “gig economy,” whose wildly popular services, from ride- and home-sharing to food and grocery delivery, barely existed 10 years ago but now employ millions.”

ABC News Australia: Licence To Hack: Using A Keyboard To Fight Islamic State

“Her life at work is so secret, not even her family knows what it involves. So when Sarah sat down with the ABC for an exclusive interview she couldn't use her real name. "My family doesn't know what I do, so I would not let adversaries or terrorists know what I do," she said. For the first time, the 30-something hacker has revealed her role in infiltrating — and then tearing down — Islamic State's propaganda unit. It was seen as a critical assignment. Islamic State's ability to recruit online through its sophisticated videos and glossy magazines written in several languages allowed the group's hateful messaging to metastasise across the world. It was turning susceptible citizens into menacing warriors of a demented ideology. In this battle, Sarah's computer skills were as powerful and as consequential as an SAS soldier who eliminates enemies with lethal force on the ground. Her staging post was a windowless room in Canberra at an undisclosed location. She led the Australian team on a top-secret operation alongside American operatives in 2016. Operation Glowing Symphony was established to hack into Islamic State's online system. The mission was to isolate its network, lock out users and then obliterate its contents.”