Eye on Extremism: December 2

The Wall Street Journal: London Attack Reflects Problems In Tracking Convicted Terrorists

“The killing of two people by a convicted terrorist on early release from prison has highlighted a growing challenge for security services in the U.K. and across Europe: the return into the community of people who have served time in jail for terrorism offenses. The attack in the London Bridge area on Friday—by a knife-wielding man who was convicted in 2012 for being part of a group that was plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange—has thrust the sentencing of terrorists to center stage in the campaigning in the Dec. 12 general election. It is the second consecutive general-election campaign that has been interrupted by a terrorist incident: In 2017, a nearby attack that left 11 people dead raised questions about cutbacks in funding for the police. The question of how to monitor convicted terrorists returning into society is a growing issue for stretched counterterrorism police and security agencies in the U.K. and across Europe—a parallel with the challenge they face from jihadists returning from the Syrian conflict. Usman Khan, the attacker, was released early from prison in December 2018 under a set of conditions that included an internet ban, a curfew and limitations on his movements and meetings.”

Reuters: The Al Qaeda-Inspired 28-Year-Old Militant Who Launched London Bridge Attack

“Nine years before Usman Khan killed two people in a stabbing spree on London Bridge, he was overheard by British security services discussing how to use an al Qaeda manual he had memorised to build a pipe bomb. It was a snippet of conversation, along with other intelligence about a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange, that prompted British police to arrest Khan - then 19 years old - and a group of older men on Dec. 20, 2010. Sentenced to a minimum of eight years in prison in 2012 with a requirement that the parole board assess his danger to the public before release, he was set free in December 2018 - without a parole board assessment. On Friday, he strapped on a fake suicide vest, armed himself with large kitchen knives and went on the rampage at a conference on prisoner rehabilitation beside London Bridge. Confronted by bystanders, including a Polish man brandishing a narwhal tusk he had grabbed from the wall of Fishmongers’ Hall, Khan was wrestled to the ground. Three armed police officers surrounded him. They fired twice. He was dead. “This individual was known to authorities,” said Britain’s top counter terrorism officer, Assistant Police Commissioner Neil Basu. “A key line of enquiry now is to establish how he came to carry out this attack.”

The Guardian: Iraq Risks Breakup As Tribes Take On Iran’s Militias In ‘Blood Feud’

“Iraq’s parliament will today begin the process of electing a new leader after the prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, resigned last week. His successor will have to cope with the severe unrest that is spreading across the country and which has pitched security forces against demonstrators for nearly two months. Fears are mounting that the country could unravel altogether. Security forces killed at least 45 civilians who were protesting around the southern city of Nasiriyah on Thursday in one of the worst incidents in the recent outbreak of anti-government protests. The government’s actions were intended to be a show of brute force following the firebombing of the Iranian consulate in Najaf on Wednesday, an attack that was the strongest expression yet of the anti-Iranian sentiment by the Iraqi demonstrators. But the crackdown has only fuelled growing resentment across central and southern Iraq and the standoff between defiant street protesters and an embattled political class has become more entrenched. At stake now is whether the post-Saddam Iraq constructed by the US remains viable 16 years after the invasion that overturned the country’s regime and reset the balance of power in the region.”

The New York Times: With Brutal Crackdown, Iran Is Convulsed By Worst Unrest In 40 Years

“Iran is experiencing its deadliest political unrest since the Islamic Revolution 40 years ago, with at least 180 people killed — and possibly hundreds more — as angry protests have been smothered in a government crackdown of unbridled force. It began two weeks ago with an abrupt increase of at least 50 percent in gasoline prices. Within 72 hours, outraged demonstrators in cities large and small were calling for an end to the Islamic Republic’s government and the downfall of its leaders. In many places, security forces responded by opening fire on unarmed protesters, largely unemployed or low-income young men between the ages of 19 and 26, according to witness accounts and videos. In the southwest city of Mahshahr alone, witnesses and medical personnel said, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps members surrounded, shot and killed 40 to 100 demonstrators — mostly unarmed young men — in a marsh where they had sought refuge. “The recent use of lethal force against people throughout the country is unprecedented, even for the Islamic Republic and its record of violence,” said Omid Memarian, the deputy director at the Center for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based group.”

Yahoo News: Nearly 70 Dead In Syria Regime Clashes With Idlib Militants

“Two days of clashes between regime forces and armed groups in Syria's last major opposition bastion have killed nearly 70 on both sides, a war monitoring group said Sunday. The battles in the northwestern province of Idlib are the most violent there since a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement went into effect in late August, said the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. On Sunday morning, clouds of smoke rose over the Maaret al-Numan region as warplanes pounded jihadists and allied rebels in positions they had recently recaptured from regime forces, said an AFP correspondent. Residents of affected villages fled north to escape the fighting, adding to the tens of thousands who have already flooded out of the province's violence-plagued south since an escalation started earlier this year. The Observatory on Sunday put the death toll from fighting at 69 combatants since battles started the previous day. At least 36 regime forces were among those killed. It said an attack led by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate on several regime positions had initially sparked the fighting. Overnight, the Syrian army backed by Russian warplanes launched a counter-push to reclaim territory it had lost in the battles, according to the Britain-based war monitor.”

WTOP: The Hunt: Managing Terrorism In Refugee Camps

“CEP Senior Director Hans Jakob Schindler discusses the problem of radicalized individuals leaving Syrian refugee camps. "Every nation that has foreign fighters, men or women, in these camps, particularly these camps in Syria which are maintained by Kurdish forces at the moment, is running a massive risk that this will keep happening.”

United States 

Reuters: U.S. Accuses Russia Of Helping Syria Cover Up Chemical Weapons Use

“The United States on Thursday accused Russia of helping Syria conceal the use of banned toxic munitions in the civil war by undermining the work of the global chemical weapons agency trying to identify those responsible. The comments by the U.S. representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Kenneth Ward, drew a rapid denial from Moscow and came as Western powers and Russia clashed at the agency’s annual conference in The Hague. Moscow has for months cited dissent by two former OPCW employees who leaked a document and an email as evidence that the OPCW doctored the conclusions of a March 1 report which found that a toxic chemical containing chlorine was used in a 2018 attack near Damascus. More than 40 people were killed in that attack in Douma, a town on the outskirts of the capital then held by rebels, on April 7, 2018.”

The New York Times: New Jersey Grapples With Far-Right Extremism After Arrests

“New Jersey investigators were looking into a routine complaint from a woman who said her ex-boyfriend was harassing her, when they uncovered something far more dire: The 25-year-old man had stockpiled weapons and far-right propaganda and had talked about shooting up a hospital. Two months later, New Jersey State Police responding to a crash in the same county discovered illegal assault weapons in the back seat of a car. Later, they found 17 more firearms, a grenade launcher and neo-Nazi paraphernalia in the driver’s home. The arrests of the two men rocked law enforcement officials in Sussex County, raising fears that far-right extremism is growing in this sleepy, rural area in New Jersey. It is impossible to know if the two arrests so close together are a fluke or signal of a growing white supremacist movement in the county, law enforcement officials said. The two men appear to have no connection to one another. Sussex has lately been seeing ugly signs of increasing racism and anti-Semitism. Vandals have scrawled swastikas in schools, and in a highly-publicized incident last fall, supporters of a Jewish congressman had their Sussex County home vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti.”

ABC News: New York City ISIS Supporter Busted For Allegedly Providing Information For Terrorist Attacks 

“A New York City man was arrested for allegedly providing material support to the Islamic State, federal prosecutors announced on Wednesday. Since April 2019, Zachary Clark allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS twice -- first in July 2019, to then-leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and again after Baghdadi's death in an American raid in October 2019, to new leader Abu Ibrahim al-Sashemi al-Quarayshi, according to the criminal complaint filed by prosecutors with the Southern District of New York. Clark, 40, is expected to be arraigned in Manhattan Federal Court on Wednesday for attempted provision of material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, distribution of information relating to explosives and destructive devices and weapons of mass destruction charges. “Clark championed his support for ISIS, disseminated hate-filled messages via encrypted chat rooms, and encouraged like-minded individuals to carry out vicious attacks in the name of jihad,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney said in a statement. If convicted, he could face 20 years in prison, prosecutors said. Clark, of Brooklyn, New York, disseminated ISIS propaganda through encrypted online forums, “distributed bomb-making instructions ... with the intent that the information be used for, and in furtherance of, the use of a weapon of mass destruction,” the complaint said.”

The New York Times: Mexican Leader Draws Line On Trump Terrorist Plan: ‘Interventionism: No’

“A border wall. Mass deportations. Punishing tariffs. A halt to foreign aid. An end to a decades-old trade deal. For years, President Trump has pressured or wielded threats against Mexico, hoping to force a policy change, excite his political base, or both. This week, he did it again, announcing that he planned to designate Mexican drug trafficking groups as terrorist organizations. Mr. Trump, who made the remarks in an interview with the former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, didn’t specify which of the mosaic of criminal groups he intended to slap with the label. But the reaction in Mexico has been swift — and negative — as the nation considered the implications. Mexican officials have suggested that the terrorist designations could challenge their nation’s sovereignty, and the foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, is seeking high-level talks with Trump administration officials about the matter. Some analysts raised the specter of armed drone strikes on Mexican soil, or other covert American actions against drug traffickers, potentially without the knowledge or consent of the Mexican government. Speaking on Wednesday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador mostly demurred on the subject, but hinted that he did not welcome the prospect of secret American operations on Mexican territory.”


The Wall Street Journal: U.S., Europeans Clash Over How To Handle Islamic State Detainees

“Washington and its European allies are at odds over how to prosecute and detain about 2,000 foreign Islamic State fighters being held in Syria, eight months after U.S.-backed forces seized the last sliver of the group’s self-described caliphate there. The problem became urgent in October when Turkish forces intervened in northern Syria, spurring fears that the fighters might escape detention in the confusion. Fewer than 200 prisoners have fled, according to the U.S. military, and the fears abated after a U.S.-arranged cease-fire took effect. But U.S. officials say a lasting solution is needed in case the region’s tenuous stability collapses. “My experience is even small cells of these people are quite dangerous,” said John Allen, the retired Marine Corps general who served as the U.S. special envoy to the coalition that is fighting Islamic State militants. “Every day we wait on this, we’re one day closer to their release or getting loose.” There is broad agreement on the problem. The international coalition battling Islamic State called in November for establishing “accountability mechanisms” to deal with foreign terrorist fighters and their families in Iraq and Syria. But that is where the consensus ends.”

U.S. Department Of Defense: U.S. Forces Reset In Syria, ISIS Struggles To Re-Form 

“At an impromptu news conference outside his headquarters, the general said everything is going well. U.S. forces withdrew from an area 10 kilometers deep on the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey launched an incursion into the area in early October.  Already a complicated battlespace, the Turkish move made it even more chaotic, introducing Turkish-supported paramilitary groups, Russian forces and Syrian regime forces into the region, White said. U.S. service members remain in Eastern Syria to ensure that ISIS doesn't re-emerge and get money from oil fields in that part of Syria. White said the command will reduce the number of U.S. forces in the area to around 600. “We are in the process of removing some of the soldiers and service members that were there, [and that will] probably take about another week, based on the austere environment that's there,” he said. “Most of them will return either to [the continental United States] or down into Kuwait.” The U.S. and coalition effort is focused on the mission to defeat ISIS, said senior Operation Inherent Resolve officials. The coalition effort is aimed at helping Iraqi and Syrian forces take on the terror group. The physical caliphate that ISIS established has been destroyed, and the mission now is to prevent it from reconstituting itself.”

France24: Violent Clashes Between Syrian Forces And Militant Groups In Idlib Despite Ceasefire

“The battles in the northwestern province of Idlib are “the most violent” there since a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement went into effect in late August, said Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Residents of affected villages fled north to escape the fighting, adding to the hundreds of thousands who have already flooded out of the province’s violence-plagued south since fighting escalated earlier this year. “I don’t want to see my children trapped under rubble,” said one of those driven from his home, Hafez, who escaped the flashpoint area along with his wife and three kids two days earlier. On Sunday morning, clouds of smoke rose over the Maaret al-Numan region as warplanes pounded jihadists and allied rebels in positions they had recently recaptured from regime forces, said an AFP correspondent. The Britain-based Observatory on Sunday put the death toll from fighting at 69 combatants since battles started the previous day. At least 36 in the regime forces were among those killed.”

Al Jazeera: Women Under ISIL: The Torturers 

“My name is Aisha. In ISIL, they called me Um Qaqaa. I lived in Raqqa. I went to ISIL to explain my situation to them. My husband was a martyr. I had no more money. I had no choice but to work for them. I started the paperwork to join but they said first I needed training in Sharia law. During the training, they taught us to recite the Quran. There were about 30 or 40 women. The mosque was full of trainees. And you had to recite it again and again until you passed the exam. It took me three months to pass. Some of the women were illiterate. They did not know how to read or write. They flogged them to make them learn. Some of them never succeeded so they kept them in prison. One day, two men from ISIL came to my house and said: “Tomorrow you start working.” When we signed up, they gave us guns. My unit consisted of 10 women. Three were assigned to the van, and the other seven were at the station in the torture room. They chose tall, huge, imposing women to scare people. They chose the cruellest women. Women who had no mercy for anyone. If a woman walked down the street unaccompanied, she was arrested. She had to be accompanied by her brother or husband. If a woman walked alone or took a taxi without them, she was arrested.”

Xinhua: U.S. Carries Out Airdrops In Syria's Hasakah, Kills 8 IS Militants 

“The U.S. forces carried out airdrops in Syria's northeastern province of Hasakah on Saturday, killing eight Islamic State (IS) militants, state TV reported. The U.S. carried out two airdrops in the villages of Hisso and Rajm al-Hajar, where the U.S. forces killed eight IS militants, said the TV, spelling no further details. The official media outlets have previously reported U.S. airdrops in northern Syria, mainly targeting IS militants. The IS has largely been defeated in Syria and many of its members and their family members are located in the al-Hol refugee camp, which is run by the Kurdish forces in Hasakah.”


The Wall Street Journal: Iran Takes Hard Line To Keep Protests Down

“Days after 32-year-old Hamid Rasouli joined demonstrations over Iran’s troubled economy, he was killed by security forces, according to a friend. They handed over his body to his family with two demands: Pay nearly $8,000 and say your son was a member of a state militia who died at the hands of protesters. Mr. Rasouli’s family put a lien on their house to pay for his body and were allowed only a small funeral in the presence of security forces and a government cleric, said Behzad Mehrani, an Iranian in the U.S. who has known the family for decades. Hamid Rasouli, 32, was killed by Iranian security forces during November protests, a friend of his family said. The treatment of Mr. Rasouli’s family couldn’t be independently verified, but it fits a pattern of intimidation by Iranian authorities trying to stop a resumption of protests that rippled through the country before they were quashed, according to activists and Iran experts.”

The Wall Street Journal: Tehran’s Assassination Playbook

“As Iran cracks down on mass protests at home, the Islamist regime continues to strike at dissidents who criticize it from exile abroad. Iranian opposition figure Massoud Molavi was gunned down as he walked on the streets of Istanbul this month, according to Turkish media reports. Thought to be in his 30s, Molavi ran a social-media channel on the Telegram messaging service. He claimed to have contacts within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and published allegations of corruption against regime elites. U.S. officials say they suspect the murder is the work of Iranian intelligence services. Iranian intelligence agents are active in Turkey, where many Iranian dissidents have moved. Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported Wednesday that Turkish police have arrested five suspects in the murder, but none have been publicly identified. Extraterritorial murders are a staple of Tehran’s strategy of spreading revolution. In 2018 European officials thwarted a bomb plot against Iranian dissidents in France. Later that year Danish officials narrowly prevented the assassination of an opposition figure in Denmark. Two Dutch citizens of Iranian descent, assassinated in the Netherlands in recent years, weren’t as lucky.”

The New York Times: What Iran Did Not Want You To See 

“Parts of Iran are back online, and videos suppressed by the nation’s internet shutdown are starting to trickle onto social media. In the Video Op-Ed above, Raha Bahreini sheds light on the eye-opening stories that Iran’s government did not want you to see. While internet service has been partly restored, many Iranians still do not have internet access on mobile phones, and government officials there have warned that connectivity may be blocked indefinitely. In a call for evidence of government repression during the blackout, the United States State Department says it has received almost 20,000 messages, videos and photographs. A small hike in fuel prices sparked protests across Iran. Ms. Bahreini exposes and analyzes footage of human rights abuses by Iranian security forces, including shootings into crowds of unarmed protesters. And she warns of what may come next — incarceration, torture and forced confessions that will further oppress the Iranian people. If the world does not take a stand, Ms. Bahreini fears, Iran’s internet blackout may foreshadow the nation’s darkest days.”

The Guardian: Iran Threatens To Step Back From UN Nuclear Watchdog

“Iran has warned it may “seriously reconsider” its commitments to the UN atomic watchdog if European parties to a nuclear deal trigger a dispute mechanism that could lead to fresh sanctions. The speaker for the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, told a press conference in Tehran on Sunday: “If they use the trigger [mechanism], Iran would be forced to seriously reconsider some of its commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency. If they think doing so is more beneficial to them, they can go ahead.” The threat to trigger sanctions has come after the Iranian government has taken a series of deliberate steps away from the 2015 nuclear deal, which it says are intended as a reprisal for Europe’s failure to deliver on commitments to boost trade. Iran has also been frustrated by Europe’s refusal to defy the threat of US sanctions against any European company that trades with Iran. A mechanism known as Instex developed by Europe to sidestep sanctions received a boost at the weekend when six more EU countries said they would join. Instex is a bartering system devised to avoid the reach of the US, but Iran is less interested in the number of EU countries signed up than the fact that no deals are being made under the mechanism.”

Daily Beast: Iran Crackdown On Mass Protests Leaves 180 Dead

“At least 180 people in Iran have been killed over the last two weeks as the regime cracks down on mass protests sparked by a 50 percent increase in gasoline prices. Within three days after the spike in gas prices was announced Nov. 15, demonstrators were vigorously demanding an end to the Islamic Republic’s government. Security forces responded by shooting unarmed protesters, many of whom are unemployed, low-income men between the ages of 19 and 26, according to witness accounts and videos obtained by The New York Times. At least 2,000 people were wounded and 7,000 arrested, according to international rights organizations, opposition groups, and local journalists. The Trump administration’s restrictions on exports of Iran’s oil are partially responsible for the country’s budget gap that led to the extreme spike in gasoline prices. Omid Memarian, the deputy director at the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, called the events “unprecedented, even for the Islamic Republic and its record of violence.” It is reportedly Iran’s worst political unrest since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.”


Voice Of America: Iraqi Parliament Accepts Prime Minister's Resignation

“Iraq's parliament accepted Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's resignation Sunday, but the move is not expected to end nearly two months of violent anti-government protests. Mahdi resigned Friday. President Barham Salih will now ask the largest bloc in parliament to nominate a new prime minister. But this could lead to weeks of deal-making because it is unclear which coalition of parties make up the largest bloc. Mahdi and his government have agreed to stay on in a caretaker role until a new prime minister is approved. Mahdi's resignation is unlikely to satisfy anti-government protesters who have said it is not enough for a new prime minister to take over -- they are demanding changes to the entire political system, which they call corrupt, inept, and does little to help impoverished Iraqis despite the nation’s oil wealth. "As you know, the political parties in Iraq engaged in corruption, not the person who is the prime minister," Iraqi lawmaker Ahmed al-Jburi tells VOA's Kurdish Service. "The political parties will put someone as the head of government and the political parties who start to engage in corruption and grip on the finances in various sectors.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iraqi Protesters Torch Iranian Consulate In City Of Najaf

“Iraqi authorities imposed a curfew on Najaf and deployed additional security forces after protesters stormed and burned the Iranian consulate in the southern Iraqi city in a show of anger against Tehran’s involvement in the country’s affairs. The escalation of violence in the Shiite Muslim pilgrimage city has raised the risk of a more forceful response from security forces to end a monthslong antigovernment uprising. Protesters broke into the consulate’s perimeter, tore down the Iranian flag and set fire to the building in the early hours of Thursday, according to Iraqi state TV. It said security forces responsible for protecting the consulate had evacuated diplomats from the compound and withdrawn before it was breached. The head of the city’s Civil Defense Force said protesters had prevented fire engines from reaching the consulate. Three protesters were killed and more than 40 were injured after inhaling tear gas fired by security forces, an Interior Ministry official said. Meanwhile, the southern city of Nassiriyah was the site of one of the deadliest incidents since the protests began. At least 20 people were killed when security forces attempted to disperse demonstrations there overnight using rubber bullets, tear gas and sound bombs, a local official and a medic said.”

Voice Of America: Protests Are Major Test For Iraq After Islamic State

“The ongoing protests and violence in Iraq have already transformed the political landscape of the country in a major shakeup that the nation has not witnessed since the rise of the Islamic State (IS) in 2014, Iraqi politicians and experts say. The recent unrest in Iraq began in October, when thousands of people in the capital, Baghdad, and major Shiite provinces in central and southern Iraq, took to streets to demand an end to corruption and misgovernance almost two years after the removal of IS. The protests soon turned bloody, with security forces opening fire on protesters, leaving nearly 400 people dead and over 14,000 injured so far. Ismail al-Hadidi, an adviser to the Iraqi Presidency Office, told VOA the wave of protests signal the need for the political establishment of the country to bring about sweeping reforms. “The law, the constitution and the entire system will change. A new phase will appear,” he told VOA. Such changes, he said, should prevent the political parties and armed militias from meddling in the government to advance their narrow interests at the expense of Iraq's 40 million population who live in worsening conditions despite the country's oil wealth. In a move to appease angry protesters, Iraqi President Barham Salih last month in a national address called for the drafting of a new election law and said he approved an early election once the law is enacted.”

Fox News: At Least 40 Iraq Protesters Killed In 24 Hours As Violence Escalates

“At least 40 anti-government protesters have been killed in Iraq over a 24-hour period, government officials told The Associated Press late Thursday, as violence in Baghdad and the south of the country threatened to spiral out of control. Security and medical officials say five protesters were killed and 32 wounded late Thursday when security forces fired live rounds to repel them from setting fire to a mosque in the central city of Najaf. Protesters had torched the Iranian consulate in that city the previous night. Another 35 protesters have been killed by security forces in separate demonstrations in Nasiriyah and Baghdad since Wednesday evening. In all, at least 350 people have died since protesters first took to the streets on Oct. 1 to protest government corruption. The attack on the Najaf consulate one of the worst attacks targeting Iranian interests in the country since the anti-government protests erupted two months ago. The Iranian staff were not harmed and escaped out the back door. Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for Tehran's foreign ministry, called for a “responsible, strong and effective” response to the incident from Iraq’s government in statements to Iran’s official IRNA news agency.”


Reuters: Turkey Dismisses Macron's Syria Criticism, Says He Sponsors Terrorism

“Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday dismissed French President Emmanuel Macron’s criticism of Turkey’s offensive in Syria against the Kurdish YPG militia, saying the French leader sponsors terrorism. “He is already the sponsor of the terrorist organization and constantly hosts them at the Elysee. If he says his ally is the terrorist organization... there is really nothing more to say,” Cavusoglu said. “Right now, there is a void in Europe, (Macron) is trying to be its leader, but leadership comes naturally,” he told reporters in parliament. Last month, Macron met Jihane Ahmed, the spokeswoman for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of which the YPG is a big part, to express France’s solidarity with them in their fight against Islamic State in Syria. Turkey considers the YPG as a terrorist group and has been infuriated by the supports its allies have given the group. The Turkish assault, launched on Oct. 9, was condemned by Ankara’s NATO allies, including France.”


The New York Times: Trump Visits Afghanistan And Says He Reopened Talks With Taliban

“President Trump paid an unannounced Thanksgiving visit to American troops in Afghanistan on Thursday and declared that he had reopened peace negotiations with the Taliban less than three months after scuttling talks in hopes of ending 18 years of war. “The Taliban wants to make a deal, and we’re meeting with them,” Mr. Trump said during a meeting with Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, at the main base for American forces north of Kabul. “We’re going to stay until such time as we have a deal, or we have total victory, and they want to make a deal very badly,” Mr. Trump added even as he reaffirmed his desire to reduce the American military presence to 8,600 troops, down from about 12,000 to 13,000. Mr. Trump’s sudden announcement on peace talks came at a critical moment in the United States’ long, drawn-out military venture in Afghanistan, a time when the country is mired in turmoil over disputed election results and Americans at home are increasingly tired of an operation that began shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. The scope and prospects of any renewed negotiations remained unclear, and White House officials gave few details beyond Mr. Trump’s sudden revelation. On the flight to Afghanistan, Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, had insisted that the secret trip was “truly about Thanksgiving and supporting the troops” and “nothing about the peace process” with the Taliban.”

The New York Times: In Afghanistan, Trump Creates Confusion Over U.S. Policy On Taliban

“After abruptly axing nearly a year of delicate peace talks with the Taliban in September, President Trump put the negotiations back on the front-burner this week in a similarly jolting fashion by seeming to demand a cease-fire that his negotiators had long concluded was overly ambitious. Despite a sense of relief at the prospect of resuming talks to end the 18-year conflict, Western diplomats and Taliban leaders were scrambling to figure out whether Mr. Trump had suddenly moved the goal posts for negotiations. They were particularly confused by his remarks, made during an unannounced Thanksgiving visit to Afghanistan, that the United States was once again meeting with the Taliban to discuss a deal, but that “we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire.” Demanding a cease-fire would amount to a big shift in the American position and require a significant new concession from the Taliban — one that the Americans have little leverage to extract. For much of the yearlong talks, the Taliban and the United States were fundamentally on the same page: The Taliban wanted the Americans out of Afghanistan, and Mr. Trump has made no secret of his desire to end what he has called America’s unending wars. But agreeing upon the details of a deal proved complicated.”

The New York Times: ISIS Is Losing Afghan Territory. That Means Little For Its Victims.

“The Islamic State’s main stronghold in eastern Afghanistan collapsed in recent weeks, according to American and Afghan officials, following years of concerted military offensives from American and Afghan forces and, more recently, the Taliban. President Ashraf Ghani recently claimed that the Islamic State, often known as ISIS, had been “obliterated” in Nangarhar Province, the group’s haven in the east. And in an interview in Kabul on Sunday, Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of all American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the group’s loss of the terrain it stubbornly held for few years would severely restrict their recruitment and planning. But General Miller also warned that ISIS could remain a threat in Afghanistan even if it does not hold territory, with attention required to track militants on the move and the group’s remaining urban cells. “It was instructive in Iraq and Syria — when you take away big terrain from them, they move into smaller cells and they pop up in strange places,” General Miller said. General Miller’s reticence to affirm any type of major victory over the offshoot is indicative of the broader inroads Islamic State cells have made in Afghanistan — and of a long history of militant groups in Afghanistan bouncing back after seemingly unsustainable losses.”

Voice Of America: Tehran Hosts Taliban Leaders For Afghan Peace Talks

“Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has hosted leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency and discussed efforts aimed at finding a negotiated settlement to the Afghan war. A Taliban spokesman said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the political deputy chief and head of the insurgent group’s Qatar-based office, led the visiting delegation at the meeting. This is the second time Taliban officials have traveled to Tehran since their yearlong peace negotiations with the United States collapsed in early September. The latest visit also comes a week after the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) alleged that Iran continues to provide the insurgent group with military support in a bid to counter Washington’s influence in Afghanistan. Iranian official media reported Wednesday that in his discussions with Taliban visitors, Zarif underscored the need to launch an intra-Afghan peace dialogue for “the formation of an all-inclusive government” in the war-shattered neighboring country. The top Iranian diplomat is said to have voiced Tehran’s readiness to take part in efforts aimed at facilitating such a peace process that would be participated by the Taliban and government officials as well as representatives from other influential political forces in Afghanistan.”

Voice Of America: Taliban-Planted Bomb Kills Afghan Army General; Drone Strike Kills At Least 6 Civilians

“Officials in southern Afghanistan say a bomb explosion Saturday killed a senior military commander and wounded at least three other people, including a local journalist. Separately, an apparent drone attack in the southeast part of the country is said to have killed at least six civilians, including a newborn baby. The Taliban took responsibility for the roadside bombing in Helmand province, where most of the districts are either controlled or influenced by the insurgent group. The provincial police spokesman told VOA that Gen. Zahir Gul Muqbil, the commander of an army border unit, was heading to the volatile Marjah district along with a group of journalists to visit an ongoing counterinsurgency operation when the convoy struck a roadside bomb. Mohammad Zaman Hamdard said the slain general was directing the military operation. He added three security personnel and a reporter with Afghanistan’s mainstream Shamshad TV, were among the wounded. The journalist, Sardar Mohamad Sarwary, is said to have received multiple injuries. A Taliban statement said the attack also killed Muqbil’s two guards, though insurgent claims are often inflated. Helmand is Afghanistan’s largest province and a major opium-poppy producing region.”

Voice Of America: High-Ranking Taliban Official Killed In Northern Afghanistan

“A high-ranking Taliban official has been killed in clashes with security forces in Jowzjan province in Afghanistan's north, a local official said Saturday. Qari Nuriddin and his four bodyguards were killed in the district of Mengajik, where the militant group has a strong presence, provincial government spokesman Abdul Maaruf Azar told RFE/RL. Four other militants were wounded in the clashes that erupted overnight, the spokesman said. There was no immediate comment from the Taliban. Azar also confirmed local reports that more than 25 members of the Taliban in Mengajik had recently cut ties with the militant group to return to civilian life. Azar told RFE/RL that all of them were young men from the Mengajik district. Most of them had left for Iran and Turkey in search of work, Azar said. He didn't provide further details.”

Radio Free Europe: Afghan Officials Say Is Militants Surrender After Defeat In Nangarhar

“Afghan military officials say 113 members of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group surrendered to Afghan government forces on December 1 in the Achin district of Nangarhar Province. A statement from the 201st Corps of the Afghan National Army said those who surrendered included 49 IS fighters along with 21 women thought to be the wives of IS fighters and 43 children. The statement said IS militants also handed over 35 weapons to the security forces. Dozens of IS fighters and their families have been living in the Shinwari district and other nearby areas of Nangarhar Province since the group announced its presence in Afghanistan in 2014. Those areas are mostly between the Afghan city of Jalalabad and the nearby border with Pakistan. IS militants have fought against both Taliban militants and Afghan government forces in Afghanistan, as well as claiming responsibility for numerous bomb attacks against civilians in the country. In recent months, Afghan government forces have been conducting operations against the IS extremists in the Achin district. Afghan officials say that offensive formally ended on November 30. They say more than 1,000 IS fighters and their family members have surrendered since the offensive began.”


Asia Times: ISIS Schemes With Jihadist Groups In Pakistan

“Following the killing of its chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria last month, the Islamic State (ISIS), also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, is eying Pakistan’s tribal areas and the province of Balochistan to enhance its presence in South Asia. Multiple interviews with security and government officials from the region reveal that yet to be located ISIS sleeper cells exist in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan. The development comes in the aftermath of security forces recently busting ISIS-affiliated cells in the two most populous provinces of Punjab and Sindh. In May this year, the Islamic State unveiled its new wilayah (provinces) in India and Pakistan within the then-Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), which had been based along the Af-Pak border. The announcement came immediately after the group led gun raids in Shopian district of Indian-administere Kashmir. In the month leading up to the announcement, the Islamic State claimed two terror attacks in Balochistan’s cities of Mastung and Quetta. “The idea behind creating the new wilayah was to separate it from Daesh’s base in the region, which is Afghanistan.”


Reuters: Yemen's Houthis Say They Shot Down Saudi Helicopter, Pilots Killed: Spokesman

“Yemen’s Houthi movement said it shot down a Saudi Apache helicopter near the border with Saudi Arabia on Friday, killing its two pilots. “A Saudi Apache helicopter was shot down by a surface-to-air missile... and its two pilots were killed as it was completely burned,” the group’s military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, said in a Twitter post. There was no immediate confirmation from a Saudi-led coalition that has been battling the group for more than four years.”


Foreign Policy: Untouchable No More: Hezbollah’s Fading Reputation

“It was the sort of chant that, only a month or so ago, would have been all but unthinkable in Lebanon. “Terrorists, terrorists, Hezbollah are terrorists,” yelled some of the hundreds of anti-government protesters who stood on a main road in Beirut early Monday morning, in a tense standoff with supporters of Hezbollah and another Shiite party, the Amal Movement.  Other protesters told the chanters to stop, but as widespread economic discontent and anger engulf Lebanon—and with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah defending the government—the sanctity around Hezbollah’s reputation is clearly broken. “Hezbollah is being seen as part and parcel [of] the main hurdle to change in Lebanon,” said Mohanad Hage Ali, a fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center. The demonstrations have been mostly peaceful and unilaterally against the whole ruling class—all sects, all political parties. And until recently Nasrallah, who doesn’t have an official government position, was seen as above the endemic corruption that has helped push the country toward a collapse, particularly among Hezbollah’s Shiite support base. Hezbollah’s expulsion of Israeli troops from Lebanese territory in 2000 earned the group the moniker “the resistance” among Lebanese of all sects and political affiliations.”

Middle East

Reuters: Global Death Toll Of Landmines Rises Due To Mines Laid By Militants

“The global casualty toll of landmines doubled in 2018 from a 2013 low due to conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and Mali and mostly due to the increased use of improvised landmines set by militant groups such as Islamic State. Representatives from affected nations, non-governmental organizations and donor countries are gathered in Oslo this week to discuss how to achieve the stated aim of making the world free of landmines in 2025. Landmines killed or injured some 6,897 people in 2018, according to the Landmine Monitor report by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Some 71% of the casualties were civilians, and of these, over half were children, it said. In 2018, most casualties were due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) laid by non-state groups, the report added. The lowest globally recorded number was set at 3,457 casualties in 2013. Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said that in order to reduce the casualty toll it was necessary to engage with non-state actors, acknowledging that it was “very difficult” to do. “We have to take on that challenge,” Soereide said in an interview. The Nordic country is one of the top donor countries for demining work, with $40 million pledged to 20 countries in 2018 and 2019 respectively.”


The New York Times: Egypt Sentences High-Profile Islamist Militant To Death 

“An Egyptian court sentenced one of the country’s most high-profile militants to death Wednesday for his participation in scores of attacks on government targets. The military court said in a statement that it convicted Hisham el-Ashmawi, a former special forces officer turned Islamist militant, on terror charges and sentenced him to hang. Last year, the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by strongman and close Egypt ally Gen. Khalifa Hifter, captured and extradited el-Ashmawi. For years, Egypt’s security forces considered el-Ashmawi the country’s most wanted militant for his intelligence value as Egypt fights Islamist militant groups in the restive north Sinai Peninsula and the vast Western Desert. Egyptian authorities linked el-Ashmawi, 41, to several major attacks, including a 2013 attempt to assassinate the interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, along with devastating assaults on security forces near Egypt’s porous desert border with Libya. While in Egypt, el-Ashmawi mobilized a tiny jihadist group into a well-organized guerrilla band that launched deadly ambushes on military checkpoints in northern Sinai. After fleeing to Libya, he tried to establish himself among Islamic militants and extremists in the country’s east.”


France 24: Nigeria Army Frees Hundreds Of Cleared 'Boko Haram' Suspects

“Nigeria's army on Wednesday released nearly 1,000 detainees, some of whom had been held for years, after clearing them of having links to the Boko Haram jihadist group. A total of 983 people incarcerated in a military facility in the northeast city of Maiduguri were handed over to civilian officials for “rehabilitation and integration”. Commander Olusegun Adeniyi said at a ceremony that those released had been “screened, investigated and cleared”. The freed inmates, including five women, were handed over to the Borno state governor Babagana Umara Zulum at Giwa military barracks in the city. Zulum said those released were not Boko Haram jihadists but suspects who “after due diligence and investigation” were “cleared of the offenses they were accused of committing”. Rights groups have accused the military of indiscriminate mass arrests of innocent citizens during the decade-long fight against the jihadist insurgency in northeast Nigeria. Activists have criticised conditions inside the detention centres as overcrowded and unsanitary and alleged some detainees have been tortured or even summarily executed. The release on Wednesday represented one of the single biggest batches of detainees to be freed by the military in one go.”

The Punch Nigeria: Boko Haram Terrorists Hijack Ambulance, Attack Yobe Town

“Suspected members of Boko Haram on Wednesday attacked Babbangida town in Yobe State. The group launched the attack on the town in an ambulance, which they had earlier seized from a team of immunization officials at nearby Muri Mafa village in Tarmuwa Local Government Area of Yobe State. The immunization staff were said to have left Babbangida, the headquarters of Tarwuma LGA for a routine immunization exercise before they were attacked by the insurgents who carted away their ambulance. According to residents of Babbangida, the insurgents subsequently used the ambulance belonging to the primary health centre in the Local Government to move into the town at top speed.They were said to have shot indiscriminately in Babbangida and carted away foodstuffs from the town. Some of the residents of the town, who spoke anonymously to our correspondent on phone, said, “The attackers, who came to the town through Mafa village of Tarmuwa local Government area were in an ambulance.” They added that the insurgents shot indiscriminately on arrival at Babbangida, scaring many off the streets. A source in the town said the insurgents, however, escaped through the desert part on sighting the NAF jet that flew over the area moment after the siege.”

Xinhua: Nigerian Troops Kill 13 Boko Haram Militants

“At least 13 Boko Haram militants were killed when troops thwarted an attack by the terror group in Nigeria's northeastern state of Borno, the army said on Friday. The attack by Boko Haram was thwarted by Nigerian troops and Chadian forces on Thursday, at Duguri Island in Borno, according to Aminu Iliyasu, a spokesman for the army in the country's northeast region. Four gun trucks were mounted by the Boko Haram group with the intention of overrunning the troops' harbor position from the rear, Iliyasu said. This sparked a gunfight, as troops repelled the attack. Four soldiers were wounded in the gunfight, he said. The wounded soldiers are currently in a military medical facility and are positively responding to treatment, Iliyasu said, adding the troops will continue keeping the pressure on the criminal Boko Haram elements until they are totally wiped out. Boko Haram, which launched attacks in Nigeria's northeast region a decade ago, is known for its agenda to maintain a virtual caliphate in the most populous African country.”


Xinhua: Somali Army Kills Six Al-Shabab Militants In Southern Region

“Somali National Army (SNA) on Saturday killed six al-Shabab militants in a gun battle in the country's southern region of Gedo, a military officer confirmed. Mohamed Ali Abdullahi, commander of Somali National Army (SNA) in Bardhere town told journalists that they have launched an attack on al-Shabab militants in the area following a tip-off from the locals. “Residents informed us that the militants were forcing them to give compulsory taxes, and our army attacked the area, there was a stiff confrontation, but we finally drove them out of the town and killed six of them during the gunfight,” the military commander said. He added that their forces also burnt two battle vehicles from the militants. “Al-Shabab militants entered our village ordering us to pay mandatory taxes, but the government army suddenly attacked them, both sides fought for hours, but the militants are now out of the city,” Mulki Afrah, a resident told Xinhua via phone. Southern regions of Somalia have become the battleground of clashes between government forces and al-Shabab extremists after the militants were chased out from the capital Mogadishu in August 2011 by Somali army and African Union forces.”


Associated Press: Islamic State Group Affiliate Claims French Crash In Mali

“An Islamic State group affiliate claimed responsibility Thursday for a helicopter collision that killed 13 French soldiers earlier this week in Mali, while France said it will reassess its military operation in West and Central Africa after its deadliest toll in nearly four decades. The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara statement, with no evidence, came almost three days after the low-flying helicopters collided on a moonless night while pursuing extremists near the border with Niger. An investigation has begun into the cause of the crash and the flight data recorders have been found. French military spokesman Col. Frederic Barbry said the military would not comment on the claim. Shortly after the crash, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Francois Lecointre said the helicopters had been supporting French forces on the ground pursuing fighters with the IS affiliate. A national memorial ceremony will take place Monday in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that “our mission there is important, yet what we are now living in the Sahel leads us to look into all strategic options.” He said the government and military will work on the issue in the coming weeks. Macron this week defended France’s largest overseas military mission, which involves 4,500 troops, saying it is aimed at enhancing France’s own security and providing support to African countries.”

Reuters: Suspected Islamists Kill At Least 19 In Latest East Congo Attack

“Suspected Islamist rebels have killed at least 19 people in east Congo, an official said on Wednesday, the latest in a series of attacks causing anger at the perceived inaction of the army and U.N. troops. The raid occurred overnight in the village of Maleki, near the city of Oicha in a forested region near the Ugandan border, said Donat Kibwana, the administrator of Beni territory. Kibwana blamed the attack on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a jihadist rebel group originally from Uganda that has operated for decades in Congo. They have killed at least 80 people in 14 raids since the army launched an operation against them late last month, according to U.N figures. He said that many family members of the victims were afraid to return to the scene for fear of being attacked, but that an initial search had found 19 people dead. “This assessment remains provisional as the search continues,” Kibwana told Reuters by phone. ADF personnel were not reachable for comment. Several previous ADF attacks have been claimed by Islamic State, but the extent of their relationship remains unclear.”

Reuters: At Least 14 Killed In Attack On Burkina Faso Church

“At least 14 people were shot dead in an attack on a church in eastern Burkina Faso on Sunday morning, the government said. The identity of the gunmen was not immediately clear and further details on the attack had yet to emerge. Burkinabe armed forces were caring for the wounded and searching the area, the government said in a statement. This year an Islamist insurgency has ignited ethnic and religious tensions in Burkina Faso, rendering large parts of the country ungovernable, especially in northern areas bordering restive Mali. The attack took place in the village of Hantoukoura near the border with Niger in the Est region, an area known for banditry that has come under attack over the past year from suspected jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State. On Nov. 6 gunmen opened fire on a convoy of buses carrying mine workers in the Est region, killing 39. The timing of the latest incident, during hours of worship, mirrored other attacks on Christians this year — a new phenomenon in a West African country that has long prided itself on its religious tolerance.”

Al Jazeera: ISIL Is Not Dead, It Just Moved To Africa

“Illegal armed groups are opportunistic by nature. They usually start their operations and recruit followers in countries where there is poverty, corruption, religious conflict or ethnic strife, and where the security forces are unable to keep the public safe and illegal formations under control. The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in the Middle East was a textbook example of this trend. Since the occupation of Iraq by US forces in 2003, the region has been stuck in a vicious cycle of conflict, sectarianism and regime change. It is in the shadows of this crumbling landscape that ISIL first began to emerge, nourished by the increasing frailty and incompetency of Arab states in revolt or at war. Over the last few years, regional and global powers, aided by non-state actors, managed to eliminate ISIL from most of Iraq and Syria. Today, ISIL does not control any major city or township in these states and many of the group's fighters in the region are either dead, in captivity or on the run. Despite the collapse of its so-called “caliphate” in the Middle East, and the killing of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria, however, ISIL remains a growing and evolving threat in other parts of the world, especially in Africa's restive Sahel region.”

North Korea

Associated Press: North Korea May Deploy ‘Super-Large’ Rocket Launcher Soon

“North Korea said Friday the latest test-firing of its “super-large” multiple rocket launcher was a final review of the weapon’s combat application, a suggestion that the country is preparing to deploy the new weapons system soon. South Korea’s military earlier said North Korea fired two projectiles, likely from the same “super-large” rocket launcher, on Thursday. It expressed “strong regret” over the launches and urged North Korea to stop escalating tensions. On Friday, the North’s Korean Central News Agency confirmed the launches were made with the presence of leader Kim Jong Un and other top officials. “The volley test-fire aimed to finally examine the combat application of the super-large multiple launch rocket system proved the military and technical superiority of the weapon system and its firm reliability,” KCNA said. It said Kim expressed “great satisfaction” over the results of the test-firing.”

United Kingdom

The New York Times: Stabbings Around London Bridge Kill 2 In ‘Terrorist Incident’ 

“The police shot and killed a man wearing a fake bomb on London Bridge on Friday, after two people were fatally stabbed in what the police called a terrorist incident, jolting Britain’s capital two weeks before a general election and three days before world leaders were to gather here for a NATO summit meeting. The chaotic eruption of violence drew in several police officers and civilians, sent scores of panicked pedestrians fleeing from the bridge and nearby streets on both sides of the Thames, and evoked memories of an eerily similar terrorist attack on the same bridge in 2017 that killed eight people. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who halted his campaign to rush back to 10 Downing Street, declared “this country will never be cowed or divided or intimidated by this sort of attack.” He paid tribute to the bravery of the passers-by who he said intervened to prevent further bloodshed. Dramatic video posted on social media showed a crowd surrounding a man, whom they appeared to have tackled. As they wrestled with and held the man to the ground, at least three police officers responded with their guns drawn.”

The New York Times: London Attack Spurs Heroism And Questions About A Prisoner’s Release

“It was midafternoon when Mike Finnerty, who sells cheese at his Borough Market shop just south of London Bridge, realized that something was wrong. An unusual flow of people had suddenly gathered in front of his stall, he said, and they seemed “alarmed.” What he did not know was that a man dressed in black and armed with knives had gone on a murderous rampage in a grand meeting venue called Fishmongers’ Hall on the opposite side of the bridge, just north of the Thames River. But Mr. Finnerty sensed the danger on Friday, he would later tell the BBC and write on Twitter. So he and another employee rushed some customers — a couple from Vancouver and a young American man — into a cheese refrigerator and locked the door. Then he called the police. The “operator said it was an attack and not to move,” he wrote. He said he could hear shouting outside the door, but he and the group huddled together in “pretty close quarters.” Susan Vinn, 57, was smoking outside her office adjacent to Fishmongers’ Hall about 2 p.m. when she saw people running over the bridge. And Craig Heathcote, a filmmaker, was walking there when, he told the British broadcaster Sky News, someone said: “Get out of the way. Someone’s got a knife.”

Reuters: Islamic State Says London Bridge Attack Carried Out By One Of Its Fighters

“Islamic State said the London Bridge attack on Friday was carried out by one of its fighters, the group’s Amaq news agency reported on Saturday. The group did not provide any evidence. It added that the attack was made in response to Islamic State calls to target countries that have been part of a coalition fighting the jihadist group. British police on Friday shot dead a man wearing a fake suicide vest who stabbed two people to death in London and wounded three more before being wrestled to the ground by bystanders, in what the authorities called a terrorist attack.”

Reuters: The Al Qaeda-Inspired 28-Year-Old Militant Who Launched London Bridge Attack

“Nine years before Usman Khan killed two people in a stabbing spree on London Bridge, he was overheard by British security services discussing how to use an al Qaeda manual he had memorised to build a pipe bomb. It was a snippet of conversation, along with other intelligence about a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange, that prompted British police to arrest Khan - then 19 years old - and a group of older men on Dec. 20, 2010. Sentenced to an minimum of 8 years in prison in 2012 with a requirement that the parole board assess his danger to the public before release, he was released in December 2018 - without a parole board assessment. On Friday, he strapped on a fake suicide vest, armed himself with large kitchen knives and went on the rampage at a conference on prisoner rehabilitation beside London Bridge. Confronted by bystanders, including a Polish man brandishing narwhal tusk he had grabbed from the wall of Fishmongers’ Hall, Khan was wrestled to the ground. Three armed police officers surrounded him. They fired twice. He was dead. “This individual was known to authorities,” said Britain’s top counter terrorism officer, Assistant Police Commissioner Neil Basu. “A key line of enquiry now is to establish how he came to carry out this attack.”

CNN: Hundreds Of Former Jihadis Are Set To Be Freed From Jail. London Terror Attack Shows The Risks

“The stabbing attack in London on Friday has thrust the issue of what to do with former terrorists back into the public spotlight, especially as hundreds more convicted offenders across Europe are due for release in the coming years. It has also revived perennial questions for law enforcement and intelligence agencies -- who is at risk of re-offending? And can they be effectively monitored? How effective are deradicalization and rehabilitation programs? Usman Khan had been out of jail for a year after serving part of a sentence for his involvement in a terrorism plot in 2010. On Friday, the 28-year old stabbed to death two people on London Bridge before being shot dead by police. Although he was wearing an ankle bracelet, he'd been able to travel to London from his home in the English Midlands. Khan's lawyer, Vajahat Sharif, said there were no signs that he would re-offend. He had been a teenager when charged in 2010. He told CNN he was “completely shocked” that his former client carried out Friday's attack as he had seen signs over the years that he wanted to veer away from radicalism. A letter obtained by CNN shows Khan writing from prison in 2012 asking to join a deradicalization course.”

CNN: London Terrorist Attack Brings Home A Chilling Reality

“The terrorist attack in London on Friday -- in which two people were killed by what appears to be a lone suspect, according to British authorities -- is bound to raise questions about the UK Home Office's decision earlier this month to lower the terrorism threat level from “severe” to “substantial,” the lowest point since August 2014. The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which works closely with UK intelligence services, made the recommendation to lower the threat based on an evaluation of available intelligence along with an analysis of terrorist capabilities and intentions, according to the Home Office. Surely the destruction of ISIS's physical caliphate in Syria and Iraq, the last vestiges of which were expunged in March, played a role in the assessment. Indeed ISIS has seen a dramatic decline in the recruitment of “foreign fighters.” In 2017, the US military said as many as 40,000 people from 120 countries including the UK had joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Today, that number has slowed to a trickle. Very few want to join the losing team. There has also been a sharp drop in terrorism deaths in Europe, from 150 in 2015 to 13 in 2018, according to European Union figures.”

BBC News: Woman Jailed Over Extremist Magazines On Phone

“A woman who collected extremist magazines with instructions on how to carry out terrorist attacks has been jailed. Saria Saugir Hamid, 39, from Manchester, downloaded magazines published by the Islamic State group on to her mobile phone, police said. She pleaded guilty to possessing a record of information likely to be useful to terrorism. The 39-year-old was jailed for 28 months at Manchester Crown Court. She was ordered to serve a minimum of 14 months and given a one-year extended licence period. Hamid, of Boyle Street, Cheetham Hill, was stopped by officers at Manchester Airport on 18 July as she attempted to fly to Turkey with her family, Greater Manchester Police said. Counter terrorism officers seized her phone and found she had downloaded “numerous magazines providing instructions on planning terrorist attacks” and “contained articles which encouraged the reader to engage in acts of terrorism”, the force added. Det Supt William Chatterton said: “As terrorist propaganda can be used as a tool in the radicalisation of others, it is a real and serious threat which we remain committed to tackling.”

The Guardian: Red Cross Criticises UK For Stripping Isis Recruits Of Citizenship 

“The head of the international Red Cross has sharply criticised Britain’s policy of stripping the citizenship of people held in Syria after the fall of Islamic State, saying it is “not conducive” to long-term peace in the region. Peter Maurer said the UK and other western countries also needed to consider repatriating children held with their mothers in Syria’s overcrowded refugee camps – at a time when the UK Home Office has said no more returns of British minors are in the pipeline. Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told the Guardian that he “failed to see” how denying people such as 19-year-old Shamima Begum their nationality would help a crisis made more complex by the recent Turkish invasion. “There are things which are probably not conducive to a solution and I fail to see at the present moment how stripping citizenship and making people stateless or just pushing or betting on a second nationality which should deal with the issue brings more clarity,” he said. The UK has repeatedly stripped citizenship from people who travelled over to join Isis where it believes they have a valid second nationality, although Begum – who left east London when she was 15 – has challenged such a decision in the British courts, arguing that she has in fact been rendered stateless.”

The Times: London Bridge Attack: I Told Ministers We Were Treating Terrorist Prisoners With Jaw-Dropping Naivety. Did They Listen?

“I know a bit about the threat management of violent extremists. In 2015 Michael Gove, who was then justice secretary, asked me to conduct an independent review of Islamist extremism in the prisons and probation system in England and Wales. With the help of a small expert team, we visited dozens of prisons at home and abroad. More than 1,000 prison staff corroborated our findings in a survey that was originally opposed by Michael Spurr, then chief executive of HM Prison and Probation Service, who had to be overruled by Gove. What we found was so shockingly bad that I had to agree to the language in the original report being toned down. With hindsight, I’m not sure that was the right decision.”


Financial Times: Twenty People Charged Over 2015 Paris Terror Attacks

“French anti-terror prosecutors formally indicted 20 suspects for the Islamist attacks that killed 131 people in the Bataclan concert hall and Paris cafés in 2015. In a 562-page indictment released on Friday, prosecutors requested that 14 people currently in prison or under judicial supervision and another six who are the subject of arrest warrants stand trial for their involvement in the attacks. Those charged include Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the alleged group of terrorists who directly took part in the killings on the evening of November 13 2015. The other 19 cited in the indictment are accused of helping organise or fund the attacks. They include members of a France-Belgian jihadi cell behind the 2016 Brussels bombings and Oussama Atar, a Belgian national who rose through the Isis ranks in Syria. Atar may have been killed there in 2017, according to press reports. The final decision to proceed with a trial, provisionally scheduled for 2021, will be taken by French judges. A group of suicide bombers and gunmen affiliated to Isis targeted the Stade de France stadium in the north of Paris, bars and restaurants in the centre and killed 90 concertgoers in the Bataclan. It was the deadliest terror attack in western Europe since the Madrid train bombings in 2004.”


Deutsche Welle: Germany Denies It Will Ban Hezbollah In Its Entirety

“An Interior Ministry spokesman has denied that an outright ban of Hezbollah by Germany was on the cards. Steve Alter clarified on Twitter that reports about a so-called “ban on activities” of Hezbollah — which is a less stringent legal measure — “cannot be confirmed.” Earlier, Der Spiegelmagazine had reported that Germany's Interior, Justice and Foreign Ministries had agreed to move towards outlawing Iran-backed Hezbollah. It said that the decision was to be announced at the German interior ministers' meeting next week. The news agency dpa had also reported that Germany was close to announcing a ban on the group's activities, a move that would allow banning certain activities or people, but would not constitute an outright ban. Reuters news agency merely reported that Germany's attorney general had been given full power of attorney to investigate Hezbollah's activities in September. The reports came barely two months after US ambassador Richard Grenell renewed pressure on Germany to ban the Lebanese-based organization, which the US has classified as a terrorist organization. Most European Union states, including Germany, so far only consider Hezbollah's military arm as a terrorist group.”


The New York Times: Irish Ex-Soldier Who Married ISIS Fighter Is Arrested

“A former Irish soldier who converted to Islam, traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State and married a British jihadi fighter, was arrested at Dublin Airport on Sunday for questioning about possible terrorism crimes, having been deported from Turkey. The former soldier, Lisa Smith, 38, was deported with her 2-year-old daughter on a Turkish Airlines flight with the cooperation of the Irish government, after she had been detained by Turkish forces during their recent incursion into Syria. A small number of Irish diplomatic personnel and a contingent from the Irish Army’s elite Ranger Wing flew to Turkey to escort Ms. Smith and her daughter home. They were met at the steps of the plane by detectives from the police section that is responsible for internal security affairs in Ireland. Photographs showed a woman descending the steps, her face hidden by a pink blanket. Ms. Smith was questioned at a police station in the south of Dublin, according to the authorities. Several European governments have resisted the repatriation of citizens who joined the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, because of the potential security risk. But Dublin has said it accepted the right of Ms. Smith and her daughter — an Irish citizen by virtue of her mother’s nationality — to return to Ireland.”

The Guardian: Former Soldier Who Fled To Syria Arrested On Her Return To Ireland 

“A former member of the Irish defence forces who moved to Syria to live under Islamic State has returned to Ireland and been arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences. Police met Lisa Smith upon her arrival in Dublin on Sunday on a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul and took her away for questioning. The former soldier, 38, flew from Turkey with her two-year-old daughter plus three Irish consular officials, members of the Army Ranger Wing and a Turkish security officer. Smith, from Dundalk in County Louth, converted to Islam about a decade ago and travelled to Syria in 2015 to live in Isis’s self-declared caliphate. She married and had a child with a British jihadist, Sajid Aslam, whom she said later died in the conflict. After the terror group’s defeat this year, Smith and her daughter stayed in refugee camps run by Kurdish forces. After Turkey invaded last month an Ankara-backed militia handed the pair to Turkey, leading to negotiations with Irish officials for her repatriation. Irish authorities want to determine whether Smith committed terrorist acts. She is being questioned at a Garda station in south Dublin under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Denmark: 3 Men Guilty For Buying Drones For ISIS

“A Copenhagen court found on Thursday three men guilty of helping a terror organization by buying drones and components on behalf of ISIS. The items were meant to be used in combat actions in Syria and Iraq. The Copenhagen City Court said the men, two of whom are Danish citizens, bought hobby planes, drones and thermal cameras as well as components, tools and accessories in Denmark between 2013 and 2017. The items were shipped to ISIS. All were cleared of terror charges and face prison terms of up to six years. Sentencing is expected next month. The identities of the men, who claimed their innocence, were not released by the court.”


The Guardian: Three Men Jailed For 28 And 16 Years Over Christmas Terrorism Plot On Melbourne's Federation Square

“Two men will spend at least the next 28 years in jail and another at least 16 years after conspiring to plot a terrorist attack in Melbourne’s Federation Square. Ahmed Mohamed, Abdullah Chaarani and Hamza Abbas are three of four men convicted over the plot to behead people and set off bombs on Christmas Day in 2016. The fourth was Hamza Abbas’ brother Ibrahim Abbas, who is already serving up to 24 years after pleading guilty to the plot last year. The group had bought machetes, carried out reconnaissance in the Melbourne CBD and built practice bombs while conspiring to develop the potentially deadly plan. They were arrested and taken into custody three days before Christmas. At the supreme court of Victoria on Friday, Justice Christopher Beale sentenced Mohamed and Chaarani to 26 years’ jail over the conspiracy. But 16 years of that sentence will be served cumulatively with a 22-year sentence they are serving for a firebomb attack on a Melbourne mosque in December 2016. Beale gave them a new non-parole period of 28 years and six months.”