Eye on Extremism: December 5

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Administration Considers 14,000 More Troops For Mideast

“The Trump administration is considering a significant expansion of the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East to counter Iran, including dozens more ships, other military hardware and as many as 14,000 additional troops, U.S. officials said. The deployment could double the number of U.S. military personnel who have been sent to the region since the start of a troop buildup in May. President Trump is expected to make a decision on the new deployments as soon as this month, those officials said. Mr. Trump, facing an election next year, has long sought to exit foreign entanglements and avoid new conflicts. But on Iran—and partly at the behest of Israel—he is convinced of the need to counter the threat his aides say Tehran poses, the officials said. He also could approve a smaller U.S. deployment, the officials said. There is growing fear among U.S. military and other administration officials that an attack on U.S. interests and forces could leave the U.S. with few options in the region, officials said. By sending additional military resources to the region, the administration would be presenting a more credible deterrent to Tehran, which has been blamed for a series of attacks, including one in September against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Iran has denied involvement.”

The Times: YouTube Still Hosting Lectures By Islamist Hate Preacher Anwar Al-Awlaki

“Lectures by an Islamist hate preacher whose teachings helped to radicalise the London Bridge terrorist Usman Khan have been found on YouTube years after experts warned of the dangers they present. The Counter Extremism Project (CEP), which aims to combat the activities of extremist groups online, said at the time that it had found evidence of 90 cases of terrorists who attacked western targets after being influenced by Awlaki material online. David Ibsen, executive director of the CEP, said: “The London Bridge attack is yet another example of the consequences of inaction and negligence by online platforms. Somehow eight years after his death Anwar al-Awlaki remains a leading English language jihadist recruiter. Either YouTube’s technology or its commitment, is lacking.”

Fox News: Iranian Missile Parts Headed To Yemen Captured By US Navy Warship, Officials Say

“U.S. officials confirmed to Fox News on Wednesday that a U.S. Navy warship has intercepted a “significant cache” of what is thought to be missile parts from Iran headed to rebels in Yemen. This is the first time such high-level missile components have been seized en route to the four-year civil war in Yemen, officials said, where Iranians support the Houthi rebels. The U.S. has repeatedly accused Iran of smuggling arms to the rebels, who are battling the Yemeni government. A small Navy boat and a Coast Guard boarding team seized the weapons last Wednesday in the northern Arabian Sea. The weapons have been linked to Iran. The Yemeni civil war has been seen as a proxy conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and as a means to quell Iranian influence in the region. In light of the violence, 20 million people have been rendered food-insecure, with half of those suffering extreme levels of hunger, according to a United Nations report from February. The seizure came just as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss counterbalancing Iran.”

Haaretz: Iranian Weapons Warehouse Struck In Eastern Syria, Report Says

“An Iranian Revolutionary Guards weapons warehouse in eastern Syria was struck, Saudi news channel Al Arabiya reported Wednesday night. The warehouse is located within an airport near Al-Bukamal, on the Iraqi border. When asked if he authorized the strike on Wednesday during a press briefing ahead of his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "I never talk about that." In recent months, a series of strikes in Iraq have been attributed to Israel, some of them near the Syria-Iraq border and the Al-Bukamal-Qaim crossing. The attacks targeted Iran-backed Shi'ite militias and their convoys tasked with smuggling weapons into Syria. In September, the Israeli army said Shi'ite units led by Iran's Quds Force attempted to fire several rockets which failed to cross over to Israel. This came just two weeks after the Israeli army announced that Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was behind plans to carry out a drone attack on Israel from Syria.”

The New York Times: In Syria, Health Workers Risk Becoming ‘Enemies Of The State’

“The nearly 9-year-old conflict in Syria has been punctuated by repeated violations of what is considered acceptable in war, including the military’s use of chemical weapons, torture of prisoners and recurrent bombings of hospitals in rebel-held areas. Less attention has been paid to another outcome: the government’s criminalization of medical care. On Wednesday, Physicians for Human Rights, a group that has documented the collapse of Syria’s health care system, released a study asserting that over the course of the war, President Bashar al-Assad has successfully made medical assistance to his enemies a crime. Whether it is disinfecting a fighter’s wound or even supplying painkillers to clinics in an insurgent-held neighborhood, such acts are punishable under a counterterrorism law enacted by Mr. al-Assad’s government just over a year after the conflict began in March of 2011. A special court has tried tens of thousands under the law, including many medical workers.”

WTOP: The Hunt: Terrorism Expert Says London Attack Proves ‘Hate Speech Can Kill’

“CEP Senior Director Dr. Hans Jakob Schindler discusses radical cleric Anjem Choudary's influence on London terror attacker Usman Khan. Schindler said Choudary was "one of the most radical and dangerous individuals in Europe, a virtual radicalization machine. This is a living demonstration that hate speech can kill.”

United States 

The Wall Street Journal: Nancy Pelosi Pushes To Remove Legal Protections For Online Content In Trade Pact

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing to strip out sweeping legal protections for online content in the new trade pact with Mexico and Canada, in what would be a blow for big technology companies. Internet firms lobbied hard to include the immunity language in the trade agreement, seeing it as a way to extend to Mexico and Canada the broad umbrella of legal protection they enjoy in the U.S. But the trade-pact language also could make it harder for Congress to withdraw the current federal online protections for internet firms in the future, some lawmakers fear. That is causing second thoughts about including the legal shield—regarded by tech firms as a pillar of the internet—in a trade pact. “There are concerns in the House about enshrining the increasingly controversial…liability shield in our trade agreements, particularly at a time when Congress is considering whether changes need to be made in U.S. law,” a spokesman for Mrs. Pelosi (D., Calif.) said.”

USA Today: Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard Shooting: Sailor Shoots Two Dead, Then Kills Himself

“A U.S. Navy sailor shot three people, then killed himself at Pearl Harbor on Wednesday, military officials said, three days before the anniversary of the attack that prompted the United States to enter World War II. Two victims are dead and one is hospitalized in stable condition, officials at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam said. The shooting at the naval shipyard happened at about 2:30 p.m. local time. Military forces responded to the scene and put the roughly 66,000 people who live at the base on lockdown for about an hour. The names of the victims, all male Department of Defense civilian workers, will be released after their families are notified. Officials identified the gunman as an active duty sailor assigned to the USS Columbia. “We are saddened by this incident, and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” said Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, the commander of Navy Region Hawaii. Any relationship between the gunman and the victims is under investigation, Chadwick said. The type of weapon fired was not immediately known, and personal weapons are not allowed on base. No motive has been identified. Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the White House has offered assistance from federal agencies and that the state is also ready to help if needed.”

Bloomberg: Trump Moves Toward Labeling Mexican Cartels As Terrorist Groups

“The Trump administration is moving forward on calls to classify Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations after the killing of nine U.S. citizens in Mexico, with top officials seeking to reach a decision this week, according to three people familiar with the matter. President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet Friday with top advisers at the White House to discuss whether to proceed with the move, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity. Under the plan, the State Department would be allowed to designate cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, putting them in the same category as U.S. enemies including Islamic State and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Key administration officials are in favor of allowing such designations for drug traffickers, said the people. At least nine members of a Mormon family were killed in northern Mexico last month in an apparent attack by drug cartels, prompting Trump to say America would help wipe traffickers “off the face of the earth.” Trump later tweeted that an army may be needed to fight the gangs. Trump told former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly last week that he had already offered assistance to Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador but that his counterpart had declined the offer.”

Syria 

The Telegraph: US Forces Kill Jihadist Leader In Syria With Precision 'Ninja' Missile That Chops Up Targets With Blades

“US forces are thought to have killed a senior jihadist leader in northern Syria using a rarely deployed “Ninja” missile which attacks targets with precision sword-like blades. The Hellfire missile, or AGM-114R9X, which has a set of six folding blades instead of a warhead for minimum collateral damage, is believed to have been used to take out a commander in the al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS) in the province of Idlib. The leader, named locally by his nom-de-guerre Abu Ahmad al-Muhajir, was reported to have been killed on Tuesday night when the car he was travelling in was hit by missiles in the town of Atmeh near the Turkish border, 10 miles from the US raid that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last month. He was said to be a high-profile foreign trainer of an elite force within HTS, known as "The Red Bands". Another, unidentified fighter who had been in car was also killed.”

Foreign Policy: The Fight For ISIS’s Old Territory Is Just Beginning

“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were symbolically important. His death bookends a five-year effort to defeat the Islamic State that involved more than 70 countries and comes amid a U.S. withdrawal from parts of Syria. The United States remains in other areas of eastern Syria in Deir Ezzor and Hasakah provinces, where it is keeping Islamic State sleeper cells on the run. However, the slow defeat of the group has left a vacuum in Iraq and Syria; areas once controlled by the group have been filled by forces linked to Iran, Turkey, the United States, and Russia. New conflicts are emerging, including the protests in Iraq and Turkey’s invasion of Syria. A conflict between Israel and Iranian proxies, such as Hezbollah, could even be unleashed. This is bad news for average people seeking to recover from the depredations of the Islamic State. It is a cliché that countries sometimes win the war but lose the peace. However, in Syria and Iraq, it is true. The Islamic State once occupied an area the size of Britain, and the war against it made millions of people refugees and led to the destruction of cities and the disappearance of thousands in the carnage. For instance, 3,000 Yazidis, members of a minority group in Iraq targeted by the Islamic State in 2014, are still missing.”

Reuters: Exclusive: U.S. Military Completes Pullback From Northeast Syria, Esper Says 

“The United States has completed its military pullback in northeastern Syria, settling into a more stable posture of about 600 troops in the rest of the country after repositioning and reducing forces, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said. Esper’s remarks in an interview with Reuters could signal the end of a period of turbulence and uncertainty surrounding the U.S. military presence in Syria after President Donald Trump’s initial withdrawal order in October. Since then, troop levels in Syria have fallen about 40 percent from around 1,000. Esper stressed he retained the ability to move in and out smaller numbers of forces as needed into Syria. But he suggested the number of troops will fluctuate around the 600-level for the foreseeable future. “It will be relatively static around that number. But if we see things happen ... I can dial up a little bit,” Esper said late on Wednesday during a flight back from the NATO summit on the outskirts of London.”

The Independent: Yazidi Women Rescued From Isis Captivity Nine Months After Fall Of Caliphate

“Three Yazidi women have been rescued from Isis captivity in Iraq and Syria this week, some nine months after the defeat of the terror group’s caliphate. A 17-year-old woman was found by Iraqi security forces in a desert hideout used by the jihadi group near the city of Ramadi, and two others aged 16 and 20 were found in separate locations in Syria, according to local media. The discoveries will fuel hopes that some of the thousands of Yazidi women still missing may yet be found in the territory formerly held by Isis. The three women have been held in captivity by the terror group since 2014, when Isis fighters carried out a murderous rampage against the Yazidi people in their traditional homeland of Sinjar in northern Iraq. The attackers killed thousands, and took more than 6,000 women and children as slaves. The group officially sanctioned the rape and enslavement of Yazidi women. The United Nations would later declare the attack on Sinjar, and the ongoing enslavement, a genocide.”

Al Jazeera: Women Under ISIL: The Wives

“ISIL was like a disease, an epidemic like the flu that infects everyone. Unfortunately, it infected my home. It infiltrated it through my husband. He was an open-minded person. He loved life. He was liberal, sensible and well-educated. He was respected by all. Gradually, he became more religious, more devout. And then I noticed that his ideas had changed. I do not know how to explain it. It happened gradually. Suddenly one day, he went to visit his parents in the countryside. The next day, his mother called me and said: “He's gone, that's all. Forget about him. You no longer have a husband.” After 40 days, I was staying with relatives and had not returned home. One of them told me that he had just walked past my house and had seen my husband there. I went back home happy and hugged him. But it was not him any more. It was his face but it was not the same person. It was as if he was a stranger. He told me: “I made my decision and you have to accept it. This is your life now, you're ISIL whether you like it or not.”

Express: Jihadis Eliminated: ‘Ninja Bomb’ Slices Terrorists To Shreds In Syria

“The frightening, drone-deployed R9X, which is also referred to as the Flying Ginsu, referring to a knife used by chefs, was reportedly used in an airstrike in a city in northwestern Syria. It struck less than 10 miles from where a special ops team carried out the raid which resulted in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. According to US-based website the War Zone, the raid destroyed the vehicle, as well as killing its two occupants. The United States is yet to confirm any involvement but the War Zone suggested at least one of the victims was a member of Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, or HTS, a group which split with al- Qaeda in 2017. Nick Waters, a senior investigator at the Bellingcat website, tweeted: “This is an interesting strike: looks like the car was hit with either an inert/dud round or, possibly, the RX9 Hellfire: the missile with 6 swords sticking out of it.” Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FRPI) also tweeted: “A note used for crossing HTS checkpoints appears to confirm the identity of the person killed. “If true, this is the first Coalition strike against HTS in 2 years - the US increasingly shifted to targeting more radical factions (ISIS, AQ, Ansar al-Tawhid).”

Asharq Al-Awsat: 24 Relatives Of Bosnian Militants Return Home From Syria

“Wives and children of former extremist insurgents in Syria who are Bosnian citizens will return home to Bosnia this weekend, its presidency chairman Zeljko Komsic said on Wednesday. Hundreds of Bosnian citizens are believed to have left Europe to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and many are now in detention camps waiting to be handed over to their countries of origin. “This week the return of 24 citizens of Bosnia is expected..., namely women and children of former fighters in Syria...This is a humane act, these are our people who stayed there,” Komsic told reporters during a visit to Slovenia. He said some children coming back were orphans, and that Bosnian authorities had done security checks on all returnees. In October, Bosnia's security minister said the country was preparing to take back and try nine of its nationals suspected of fighting for ISIS in Syria. Their return was postponed after Turkey launched a military incursion into northeast Syria to fight Kurdish militia. Under Bosnia's criminal code, citizens who leave to fight in foreign wars must be prosecuted under terrorism charges. Bosnia's state court has tried and convicted 46 people who returned from Syria or Iraq over the past few years.”

Iran 

CNBC: Iran’s Brutality Is Getting Another Pass From Europe

“Every hunter and hiker knows that one of the first rules of the wild is to beware a wounded animal. It’s also pretty good lesson to remember in foreign relations. These days, the world would be hard-pressed to find a more dangerous wounded animal than Iran. The Islamist regime has spent most of this year ramping up its violent attacks on its neighbors in the Middle East and on oil tanker traffic along the Persian Gulf. But over the last few weeks, the Iranian government’s brutality has been refocused on its own people. The regime’s decision to scrap gasoline subsidies sparked massive protests across the country, and the shocking crackdown on those protesters is providing stunning news stories almost daily. As of now, the human rights group Amnesty International has confirmed a number of those stunning items. They include 208 protesters confirmed killed, a “shoot to kill” policy in place against demonstrators, and the absolutely most stunning revelation of all: in some cases, Iranian security forces are returning the bodies of killed protesters to their families and demanding to be paid for the price of the bullets used to kill them. If you think that’s as perverse as it gets, be prepared for further disbelief. Because just as Iran’s belligerence is increasing, much of the Western world is going out of its way to appease the Islamist regime.”

Iran Has Launched ‘Malicious’ New Malware That Wipes Windows Computers, Warns IBM

“Iran’s state-sponsored hackers have deployed a new strain of malicious malware, warns IBM, which has been aimed at the “industrial and energy sectors” in the Middle East. No specific companies have been identified, but there’s no surprise in the nature of the attack. For Iran, its ongoing hybrid conflict with the U.S. and its allies has made these sectors a target. IBM has attributed the latest “destructive attacks” to Iran’s hyperactive APT34 “and at least one other group, [also] likely based out of Iran.” APT34 has hit the headlines a few times this year, including with a phishing attack using LinkedIn. But it’s the identity of that “one other group” that’s arguably more interesting. The sectoral targets and use of wiper malware points towards Iran’s APT33, arguably the best known of its threat actors.”

Iraq

Kurdistan 24: ISIS Attack Kills 3 Peshmerga Forces In Iraq's Disputed Diyala Province

“Three Kurdish Peshmerga forces were killed repelling an Islamic State attack late Wednesday night in Iraq's disputed province of Diyala. The onslaught began with mortar shells being fired at Peshmerga forces and developed into a ground assault on Kulajo, located in the Garmiyan administrative district, which is protected by Peshmerga forces.  A statement from the Ministry of Peshmerga confirmed the attack which was “in Kulajo area, which is the Peshmerga's frontline position between Khanaqin and Garmyan,” adding that, despite their casualties, the Kurdish forces foiled the attack. “Previously, we have warned against ISIS increasing its activities and resurging in the area to the public and to the International Coalition against ISIS,” it continued, saying that the attack was proof that the extremist group still poses a dire threat. “We are requesting that the international coalition against ISIS intensify their support and coordination with Peshmerga forces to prevent the resurrection of the terrorist group ISIS in certain areas.” Separate Islamic State attacks in Diyala on Sunday left at least five people dead and dozens more injured. A source in Garmiyan told Kurdistan 24 that Islamic State fighters attacked the Islah village near Jalawla, where they clashed with Iraqi forces.”

Turkey

France 24: Macron Says 'No Consensus' With Turkey Over Definition Of Terrorism 

“French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that no consensus could be reached with Turkey on defining terrorism, amid a row with Ankara over Kurdish militia groups. “I don't see any possible consensus,” Macron said after a NATO summit marred by the spat with Turkey over its demand that allies brand as “terrorists” the Kurdish militias of northeastern Syria that helped a US-led coalition defeat the Islamic State group. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had threatened to block an update to defence plans for the Baltic republics and Poland unless NATO recognised the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) as terrorists. After meetings between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump, as well as Baltic and Polish leaders, Turkey dropped its objections, but the fractious mood continued even after the summit ended. Macron rejected Ankara's assertion that the YPG is an offshoot of the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has waged a long insurgent campaign against the Turkish state and is widely acknowledged internationally as a terror group. “We do not agree to classify the YPG-PYD as a terrorist group,” he told reporters.”

Afghanistan

CBS News: U.S. Envoy Visits Kabul, Touts “Effective Operations” By American Forces And Taliban Against ISIS

“Washington's special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was in the Afghan capital and will “rejoin talks with the Taliban,” the State Department said Wednesday. Khalilzad's visit comes just days after President Donald Trump visited U.S. troops in Afghanistan for the Thanksgiving holiday, when he hinted at a resumption of peace talks with the Taliban. Khalilzad will travel from Kabul to Doha, where he will “rejoin talks with the Taliban to discuss steps that could lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a peaceful settlement of the war, specifically a reduction in violence that leads to a ceasefire,” the State Department said. Khalilzad tweeted earlier Wednesday that a recent military campaign targeting the ISIS was an example of an “effective operations by U.S./Coalition & Afghan forces as well as the Taliban.” A Taliban official said the group has held informal talks with the Americans, without specifying where or who participated. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the talks. Mr. Trump said the U.S. and Taliban have been engaged in peace talks and insisted the Taliban want to make a deal after heavy U.S. fire in recent months. The Taliban official said the U.S. has been pressing for a cease-fire, even a temporary one during the time of an agreement signing.”

The New York Times: ‘He Showed Us Life’: Japanese Doctor Who Brought Water To Afghans Is Killed

“The people he helped called him “Uncle Murad.” Dr. Tetsu Nakamura left his home in Japan in the 1980s to treat leprosy patients in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He later found, however, that severe drought was killing more people than his clinics could save. So he discovered a new calling: irrigation. In the 2000s, adapting old Japanese techniques that required little technology, he helped villagers displaced by drought build a network of canals that has transformed an area of nearly a million residents. “A doctor treats patients one by one, but this helps a whole village,” Dr. Nakamura had said. “I love seeing a village that’s been brought back to life.” On Wednesday, Dr. Nakamura was attacked by gunmen while driving to work in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar Province, in eastern Afghanistan. Five members of his organization’s staff were killed, and Dr. Nakamura was wounded fatally. He was 73. “He was operated on in Nangarhar hospital, but he had received several bullet wounds,” said Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the province’s governor. Dr. Nakamura died as they were rushing him to the local airport to fly him to the medical facility at the American military base in Bagram, Mr. Khogyani said.”

Military Times: ISIS Is Taking A Beating In Afghanistan Setting The Stage For Potential US Troop Withdrawal

“Sustained U.S. and Afghan operations combating the Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State has led to a near-collapse of the jihadist group in eastern Afghanistan — helping clear a hurdle for an American withdrawal from the country. President Donald Trump touted success of recent operations against the Islamic extremist group during a Thanksgiving Day surprise visit to American troops at Bagram Airfield detailing that U.S. forces were “wiping” out ISIS militants “left and right.” “There’s almost nothing left in this area. And al-Qaida, the same thing. And tremendous progress,” Trump told U.S. troops during the visit. “And we — we’ve got them down to very low numbers. We’ll have that totally taken care of in a very short period of time.” The New York Times, citing a Western official, reported that the number of ISIS militants had dwindled down to roughly 300 from previous estimates that claimed the group was fielding several thousand fighters. A recent UN report said ISIS terrorists in Afghanistan numbered between 2,500 and 4,000 fighters. A 2019 DoD report on Afghanistan estimates the size of the terrorist group to be less than 2,000 fighters.”

Long War Journal: Turkistan Islamic Party Touts Captured Equipment, Training Camp In Afghanistan

“The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), a largely Uighur jihadist group that is affiliated with al Qaeda and also operates in Syria, released a new video earlier today showcasing it’s men fighting in Afghanistan. The video, dated for November 2019, is largely a photo montage featuring its fighters and their families. However, it also serves to tout its spoils taken from the Afghan military. Dozens of TIP’s men can be seen with captured Afghan military vehicles, including several Humvees. Captured weapons, including M16 and M4 variant rifles, can also be seen in the hands of the jihadists. In several photos, child soldiers, a recurring theme within TIP propaganda, are also shown with the older militants. This is not the first time the TIP has highlighted captured Afghan equipment and vehicles. Last year, it released a combat video from Afghanistan which showed several captured Humvees in the aftermath of the battle. In 2015, a similar video was released in which another Humvee was captured in skirmishes with the Afghan military. Additionally, photos from a training camp are also featured prominently in today’s propaganda film. The camp appears to be an established facility, as it is maintained within a fortified perimeter.”

Africa

The Defense Post: Morocco And Spain Arrest 4 Suspected ISIS Supporters In Joint Raids 

“Moroccan police said Wednesday, December 4, that they had disrupted a jihadist cell and arrested three suspected supporters of Islamic State, in a joint operation with Spain. Three men were detained in Morocco’s northern Nador region “in coordination with Spanish national police,” while the head of the group was “arrested simultaneously” near Madrid, a statement by Moroccan anti-terror police said. The suspects, aged between 24 and 39, followed Islamic State group propaganda and organized meetings to “plan terrorist operations in response to repeated calls from ISIS leaders,” the statement said. Spanish police said a man was arrested in Guadalajara northeast of Madrid. He is accused of organizing meetings with other radical Islamists around the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Morocco’s north coast and being in contact with jihadists in Syria and Mali, Spanish police said. The operation also netted electronic equipment, mobile phones, balaclavas and extremist literature, Moroccan anti-terror police said. Morocco was long spared from jihadist violence, until last year when two Scandinavian tourists were beheaded by ISIS supporters in the High Atlas mountains.”

Xinhua: Kenyan Police Thwart Al-Shabab Attack In Border Region

“Kenyan police said Wednesday they foiled al-Shabab's aim to disrupt communication services and later carry out an attack in the northeast region of Garissa. Mohamed Birik, northeastern regional commissioner said the militants suspected to have crossed from Somalia only managed to destroy a diesel generator that powers telecommunication mast after they struck at around 1 a.m. in Diiso village. “I want to confirm that all our officers have been accounted for, not even one of them has also been injured or kidnapped as it is alleged by some quarters and on the social media,” Birik said on phone. “I want to appeal to people to kindly stop spreading rumors and unverified information because doing so only serves to create unnecessary tension and fear,” he added. Initial reports had indicated that the 21 police officers attached at the camp were missing and that the mast belonging to the mobile firm, Safaricom, had been completely been destroyed. Birik said that the militants' mission was to completely destroy the mast but a quick response by the security officers repulsed them. A police officer attached to the camp who spoke in confidence said that their quick response saved the situation.”

United Kingdom

The Telegraph: London Bridge Terrorist Was Upgraded To A 'High Risk' Category A Prisoner After Threats To Staff 

“London Bridge terrorist Usman Khan was upgraded to a “high risk” category A prisoner after making threats to senior prison staff, The Telegraph can reveal. Prison officials increased the convicted terrorist’s threat level in prison from “standard risk” after he breached security and put staff in danger.  Only the most serious offenders have such a classification, requiring a constant watch and armed police escort when moved from prison. Prison sources claim it was one of a number of incidents including violence early on during the eight years he served for a terror plot to blow up the London stock exchange. He remained “high risk” until released on licence from Woodhill high security jail last December into the hands of probation and police who were responsible for supervising him in the community. The disclosure challenges suggestions he was consistently a model prisoner who had reformed his beliefs, ultimately resulting in him being allowed to go unescorted to a prisoner rehabilitation conference at London Bridge where he stabbed to death two Cambridge University graduates. It also raises further questions about the system that allowed him to be automatically released halfway through his 16-year sentence without any assessment of his threat to the public by the parole board.”

Sky News: Right Wing Terrorism Investigation: Somerset Man Charged With 12 Offences

“A 22-year-old Somerset man has been charged with 12 offences following an investigation into suspected right wing terrorism online. Andrew Dymock, of Weymouth Street in Bath, was arrested on Wednesday morning, Counter Terrorism Policing North East said in a statement. He has been charged under the Terrorism Act with five offences of encouraging terrorism, four offences of disseminating terrorist publications, two counts of terrorist fundraising, and one count of possessing material that is of use to a terrorist. He is due to appear in Westminster Magistrates Court later.”

Europe 

Associated Press: Europeans Rap Iran For Working On Nuclear-Capable Missiles

“France, Germany and the United Kingdom say “Iran’s developments of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles” go against a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on Tehran not to undertake any activity related to such missiles. Ambassadors from the three European nations urged U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a letter circulated Wednesday to inform the council in his next report that Iran’s ballistic missile activity is “inconsistent” with the call in a council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The letter cites footage released on social media April 22, 2019, of a previously unseen flight test of a new Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile variant “equipped with a maneuverable re-entry vehicle.” It says: “The Shahab-3 booster used in the test is a Missile Technology Control Regime category-1 system and as such is technically capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.” The Europeans noted that a 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program concluded “that extensive evidence indicated detailed Iranian research in 2002-2003 on arming the Shahab-3 with a nuclear warhead.” Officials in the Trump administration also have said Iran is working to obtain nuclear-capable missiles, something the Iranians deny.”

The New York Times: Iran Is Secretly Moving Missiles Into Iraq, U.S. Officials Say

“Iran has used the continuing chaos in Iraq to build up a hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq, part of a widening effort to try to intimidate the Middle East and assert its power, according to American intelligence and military officials. The buildup comes as the United States has rebuilt its military presence in the Middle East to counter emerging threats to American interests, including attacks on oil tankers and facilities that intelligence officials have blamed on Iran. Since May, the Trump administration has sent roughly 14,000 additional troops to the region, primarily to staff Navy ships and missile defense systems. But new intelligence about Iran’s stockpiling of missiles in Iraq is the latest sign that the Trump administration’s efforts to deter Tehran by increasing the American military presence in the Middle East has largely failed. The missiles pose a threat to American allies and partners in the region, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, and could endanger American troops, the intelligence officials said.”

The New York Times: Inconvenient Murders

“Two years ago, a 27-year-old man named Kobili Traoré walked into the Paris apartment of a 65-year-old kindergarten teacher named Sarah Halimi. Mr. Traoré beat Ms. Halimi and stabbed her. According to witnesses, he called her a demon and a dirty Jew. He shouted, “Allahu akbar,” then threw Ms. Halimi’s battered body out of her third-story apartment window. This is what Mr. Traoré told prosecutors: “I felt persecuted. When I saw the Torah and a chandelier in her home I felt oppressed. I saw her face transforming.” One would think that this would be an open-and-shut hate crime. It was the coldblooded murder of a woman in her own home for the sin of being a Jew. But French prosecutors decided to drop murder charges against Mr. Traoré because he … had smoked cannabis. If France’s betrayal of Sarah Halimi is shocking to you, perhaps you haven’t being paying much attention to what by now can be described as a moral calamity sweeping the West of which her story is only the clearest example. A crisis, I hasten to add, that’s perhaps less known because it has been largely overlooked by the mainstream press.”

Reuters: IS Detainee Deported From Turkey Charged After Return To Ireland

“Irish police charged a woman aligned to Islamic State on Wednesday, three days after she was arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences when she returned to Dublin from Turkey. The police gave no details of the charges against Lisa Smith, an Irish citizen who had gone to Turkey from Syria and denies involvement with any terrorist-related activity. Smith, 38, was due to appear in court later on Wednesday, the police said in a statement. Ireland agreed to repatriate Smith and her two-year-old daughter after Ankara began deporting foreign citizens linked to Islamic State last month. Turkey says it has captured 287 militants in northeast Syria, where Turkish troops launched an offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia last month, and has hundreds of jihadist suspects in detention. Dublin had said for months that it had a responsibility to bring Smith back to Ireland but that police may be in a position to charge her upon her return. She was arrested on Sunday at Dublin airport. The government’s main concern was for the safe repatriation of her daughter, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said. The girl was now being cared for by relatives, police said.”

The Hill: Graham Knocks Macron's 'Cavalier' Comments About European ISIS Fighters 

“Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) knocked French President Emmanuel Macron for “cavalier” comments about ISIS fighters who traveled from Europe to join the terrorist group. “Very disturbed by the cavalier remarks made by President Macron about how the number of European ISIS fighters in Syria is a small problem in the grand scheme of things,” Graham, a well-known foreign policy hawk, tweeted. “There are hundreds of European ISIS fighters currently imprisoned in Syria. They are committed jihadists and killing machines. We must never forget what a handful of ISIS fighters did in the Paris and Nice attacks, and attacks in other European nations,” he added, referencing terrorist attacks by ISIS in France that killed more than 200 people combined. The remarks come after a tense meeting on Tuesday in London between Macron and President Trump in which Trump complained that European countries have been unwilling to accept ISIS fighters the U.S. had captured. “Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you,” Trump said. “You can take every one you want.” “Let’s be serious,” Macron replied, noting that most ISIS fighters came from Syria, Iraq and Iran and that the number of European ISIS fighters was a “tiny” part of the overall problem of addressing turmoil in the Middle East.”

Australia 

The Guardian: Far-Right Extremist Phillip Galea Found Guilty Of Plotting Terror Attacks In Melbourne

“A Melbourne man has been found guilty of plotting terror attacks targeting buildings including Trades Hall and creating a handbook for would-be attackers. Far-right extremist Phillip Galea, 35, was charged with doing acts in preparation or planning a terrorist act and attempting to make a document to facilitate a terrorist act. He was found guilty by a Victorian supreme court jury after deliberating for about two days following a seven-week trial. Galea was accused plotting attacks on Melbourne anarchist and socialist groups between August 2015 and 2016 to “eliminate the leaders of the left”. He was accused of working on a terror how-to document he called the Patriot’s Cookbook, prosecutors say. But Galea – who was associated with the far-right group Reclaim Australia – insisted he was making a “satirical document” for people to enjoy, inspired by another “hilarious” parody book. “I intended it to be taken as a joke,” he said. Galea has been in custody since his arrest in August 2016. Arson and explosive experts raided Galea’s home in November 2015 and seized five cattle prods and 362.1 grams of mercury. Computer equipment was also seized, and it was alleged Galea researched homemade bombs, ballistic armour and guns.”

BBC News: Sydney Police Charge 21-Year-Old With Plotting Terror Attack 

“Australian police have arrested a 21-year-old man in Sydney on three separate terrorism charges. Police allege that the man, who has not been named, was a member of Islamic State and was in the early stages of preparing for “terrorist acts”. He is also accused of posting extremist content online, and of attempting to radicalise two teenagers. It comes days after two were killed in a London knife attack, carried out by a man convicted of terrorism offences. Australian police said their arrest was carried on Wednesday morning at a home in Riverwood, where the Australian-born man lived with his parents. Authorities allege that, while planning for the attack, the man downloaded a dossier on weapons and tactics to use in a terrorist attack. Police said his arrest was the result of a six-month investigation, but added that the attack had not been imminent. The man is expected to appear in court on Thursday and faces life imprisonment if found guilty.”

Southeast Asia 

Xinhua: Indonesia's Anti-Terror Squad Nabs 6 IS-Linked Militants

“The anti-terror squad of the Indonesian National Police known as Detachment 88 has arrested six alleged militants believed to be members of a cell affiliated with the IS group, a senior police officer said on Wednesday. The six persons had engaged in recruitment and activities preparing for terrorist plots before being captured separately in Indonesia's province of West Nusa Tenggara, provincial police chief Inspector General Nana Sudjana said. The police chief said the persons allegedly grouped themselves in an outlawed Jemaah Anshorut Daulah (JAD) which is loyal to the IS group in Syria and Iraq. So far, Sudjana said that the police had found out an activity to spread radicalism teachings among residents in the province and persuade them to join the militant group. Activities with tendency to terrorist acts have also been detected, the police chief said. “The activities include a military-style training,” he said. The six persons were arrested by the Detachment 88 on Friday and Saturday in the province, local media reported. The Christmas and New Year Eve celebrations had been frequently targeted by the militants in Indonesia, prompting the authorities to beef up security.”

Technology

The Guardian: Ex-Facebook Worker Claims Disturbing Content Led To PTSD 

“A former Facebook moderator is suing the company, alleging that his work scouring the site of violent and obscene content caused his post-traumatic stress disorder. Chris Gray, who now works as a tour guide, is seeking damages from both Facebook Ireland and CPL, the contracting firm that directly employed him. The case, filed on Wednesday in the Irish high court in Dublin, is thought to be the first time a former moderator has taken the social network to court. According to court documents, Gray’s work required him to review “approximately a thousand tickets per night”, initially focused on pornography, and later “on content that had been reported as being threatening, hateful, bullying, or otherwise dangerous”. Two years on, a number of specific pieces of content remain “particularly marked” in his memory, the legal writ says, including “a video in which a woman wearing an abaya is seen being stoned to death”, “a video in which persons, who appear to be migrants in Libya, are tortured with molten metal”, and “video footage of dogs being cooked alive”.”

ABC News: After A Decade Of Explosive Growth, Silicon Valley Grapples With 'Unintended Consequences' And 'Responsibility'

“The technology that connects us has revolutionized the world over the past decade -- at times moving faster than we could keep up with, irrevocably changing how people interact and in many ways changing our lives for the better. But as the decade comes to a close, some say the most significant development in tech was its unintended consequences -- including impinging on privacy and presenting new opportunities for criminals and those who wish to sow political chaos and discord and at times taking a toll on health and relationships. Robert Scoble, a longtime tech evangelist at Microsoft who currently works as the chief strategy officer at the spatial computing agency Infinite Retina, said that those largely unanticipated consequences have manifested themselves in a variety of ways, like weaponizing a social media platform that had innocuous beginnings for political purposes. "There are always unintended consequences of technology, I didn't see that the presidential campaigns or Russia would use Facebook, for instance, to advertise to people," Scoble said. "I didn't even think about that, and I don't think most people thought about that.”