Eye on Extremism: December 5, 2018

CNN: Terrorism Deaths Down In 2017, But Far-Right Terrorism Rising, Report Says

“Deaths from terrorism declined in 2017 for the third straight year, but far-right extremism was on the rise, according to a new report released Wednesday. The 2018 Global Terrorism Index found that deaths resulting from terrorism decreased 27% worldwide last year. Ninety-six of the 163 countries tracked by the index saw an improvement; 46 had declines. Sixty-seven countries had at least one death from terrorism in 2017 -- a drop from 2016's record high rate of 79 countries, according to the report. The report was produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace, a nonpartisan think tank that develops metrics to study peace and its economic impact. It defines terrorism as "the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation" and pulls its data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. There was a sharp decrease (52%) in deaths from terrorist attacks attributed to ISIS. Syria and Iraq -- where ISIS continues lose territory -- saw the most dramatic declines in numbers of deaths due to terrorism. Iraq saw 5,000 fewer deaths and Syria saw 1,000 fewer.”

Financial Times: ISIS Returns To Insurgent Roots After Battlefield Defeats

“Isis is carrying out a rising number of kidnappings, killings and bombings in Iraq and fighting fiercely in Syria as the extremist group returns to its insurgent roots having been driven out of almost all the territory it once controlled. A recent US Department of Defense report said an “effective clandestine Isis organisation appears to be taking hold” four years after the group controlled swaths of Syria, as much as a third of Iraq, and declared a caliphate. A suspected Isis roadside bomb in Mosul killed at least three schoolchildren late last month and a car bomb killed at least five people in the city of Tikrit in mid-November. Attacks in oil-rich Kirkuk province so far this year have more than doubled from 2017, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Between 2014 and 2017 Isis was driven out of areas it controlled in Iraq by the western-backed Iraqi army alongside Kurdish forces and Shi’i militias, many supported by Iran. Western jets also pounded Isis-held territory, reducing swaths of cities to rubble. But its re-emergence as a guerrilla force signals the continued threat posed by a group that inspired deadly terrorist attacks in Europe and shocked the world with massacres and beheadings in Iraq and Syria and the systematic sexual enslavement of women.”

Politico: Europe Hasn’t Won The War On Terror

“A recent lull in the number and severity of jihadist attacks in Europe might lead one to conclude the worst is over. But it’s far too early to declare victory in the fight against terror. The shock of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris jolted Europe into a new reality. Paris was hit again later that year, in attacks that killed more than 130. High-profile assaults in Brussels, Berlin and Barcelona soon followed, while a series of smaller-scale incidents in London and France killed dozens and created an atmosphere of fear that kept threat levels high. But more recently — with no major attack causing more than 10 deaths since the summer of 2017 — terror has slipped from the headlines and the minds of most ordinary European citizens. Indeed, jihadist attacks in Europe are down just over 60 percent since their peak last year, suggesting Europe has fought back against the onslaught of attacks inspired by Islamic State. Unfortunately, that is not the case. It’s a common mistake to measure the terrorist threat by the number of attacks carried out. To understand the scale and nature of the threat we must not only study successful attacks — but also look at the plots foiled by counterterrorism efforts. So far in 2018, Europe has seen at least 12 well-documented jihadist terrorist plots.”

NBC News: U.S. Soldier Who Tried To Help Islamic State Group Gets 25-Year Sentence

“A soldier based in Hawaii was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years in prison for trying to help the Islamic State group. Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang, 35, pleaded guilty in August to four counts of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. He provided classified military documents, a drone and other help, he said. “Your honor, I know what I did was wrong,” Kang said before Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway imposed a sentence that includes 20 years of supervised release. “When I'm released I won't do it again.” The sentence is part of a plea agreement. If convicted at a trial, Kang, 35, could have faced life in prison. He provided the support to undercover agents Kang believed were part of the Islamic State group, which is also known as ISIS. “The conduct that you committed was extremely serious,” Mollway said. “It had the potential to be disastrous.” More than six years ago, Kang became sympathetic to the group and to terrorism, Mollway said, and that by 2016 he talked about wanting to join and commit violence. Kang watched hours of videos daily of violence including beheadings, shootings, suicide bombings and child soldiers, Mollway said.”

BBC News: US Reopens Diplomatic Mission In Somalia After 28-Year Closure

“The US has established its first diplomatic presence in Somalia for nearly 30 years. The state department said the "historic event" reflected the progress the east African nation had made. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto is heading the embassy in Mogadishu. Previously it had been based in Nairobi, Kenya. The US closed its embassy in Somalia in January 1991 amid fighting between rebels and the government and had to airlift out its ambassador and staff. Commenting on the latest move, state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement: "This historic event reflects Somalia's progress in recent years and is another step forward in formalising US diplomatic engagement in Mogadishu since recognising the Federal Government of Somalia in 2013." She added: "Our return demonstrates the United States' commitment to further advance stability, democracy and economic development that are in the interest of both nations.”

Bloomberg: Facebook Faces Bare-All Moment in Bikini Photo-Finder Fallout

“Facebook Inc. touted itself as championing privacy four years ago when it decided to restrict outsider developers’ access to data about its users’ friends. But confidential documents that have spilled out of a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled developer tell a different story: That Facebook was quietly facilitating the commercial exploitation of user data to bolster its bottom line. And more evidence of Facebook’s marketing of user data may be exposed any day if a member of the U.K.’s Parliament goes ahead with his promise to release a trove of sealed documents from a U.S. court case. Facebook hasn’t disputed the authenticity of some records that have already been pried loose by the media, but contends that its court foe, the maker of a now-defunct app for finding photos of friends in bikinis, has mischaracterized the information to sensationalize the lawsuit.”

United States

CBS News: NYPD Counterterrorism Chief Says Today's Threats Are "Two Inches Deep But Miles Wide"

“Even though the territories held by extremist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS have been eroded, the groups' global propaganda reach is still proving to be an effective recruitment tool, inspiring uncomplicated but deadly terror attacks on U.S. soil, according to the head of the New York Police Department's Intelligence and Counterterrorism bureaus. "[T]he unintended consequence of our effectively smashing ISIS and al-Qaeda – the pieces scattered," said Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller in a recent interview with Intelligence Matters host and CBS News senior national security contributor Michael Morell. While the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011 and the organization's top propagandist, Anwar al-Awlaki, in 2012 were effective setbacks, the group and, more significantly, its regional successor, ISIS, have maintained a propaganda arm that reaches around the world and often across ideologies, Miller said.”

Voice Of America: Parents Of Missing US Journalist Appeal To US, Syria

“The parents of an American journalist kidnapped in Syria six years ago appealed on Tuesday for the United States and Syria to work together to find their son and said they had applied for Syrian visas to lobby there for his release. Austin Tice was 31 years old when he was detained in August 2012 at a checkpoint while reporting in Damascus on the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He has not been heard from publicly since a video posted online weeks after he disappeared showed him in the custody of armed men, though both Washington and his parents say they believe he is alive. "We urge both the United States government and the Syrian government to work together to resolve this humanitarian issue," Marc Tice said at a conference in Beirut. This is the eighth trip Debra and Marc Tice have made to Beirut in their quest to seek their son's release and they say they have increased hope that the administration of President Donald Trump could make progress in the case.”

Fox News: Global Study: Threat Of Terror Falling Worldwide, Far-Right Violence Rising In North America, Western Europe

“A new global study is showing the threat of terror is falling worldwide. The Global Terrorism Index reported that deaths from terrorism have decreased by 27 percent in 2017 to 18,814 globally — the third consecutive year of improvement. The fall in global terrorism is reflected in the index: 96 countries improved this year, with 46 countries diminishing — the highest number of countries to improve year-over-year since 2004. The global economic impact of terrorism was $52 billion in 2017 — a decrease of 42 percent from the previous year. The study, which ranks 163 countries, and accounts for 99.6 percent of the world’s population, has been conducted by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) for the last 17 years. The new report noted nearly all terrorist attacks have taken place in countries where political violence by governments is widespread. Steve Killelea, IEP’s executive chairman, explained the outcomes in a statement: “IEP’s research finds that conflict and state terror are the principal causes of terrorism — of the 10 countries most impacted by terrorism, all were involved in at least one violent conflict and eight were involved in a major war with at least 1,000 battle deaths.”

USA Today: Terror-Related Deaths Decline Worldwide For Third Straight Year: Report

“Terror-related deaths have fallen for the third consecutive year around the globe, while far-right political terrorism is on the rise in North America and Western Europe, according to a report released Wednesday. After peaking at about 34,000 deaths in 2014, terrorism-related deaths fell by 44 percent last year to 18,800, according to Steve Killelea, Executive Chairman of the London-based Institute of Economics & Peace, which publishes the annual Global Terrorism Index. Military defeats of the Islamic State, or ISIS, in Iraq and Syria, and the Nigerian government “breaking the back” of Boko Haram are seen as the main reasons why there was a significant drop in deaths related to terrorism, Killelea said. Afghanistan recorded the highest number of terror-related deaths among all countries. Iraq, the country where ISIS first emerged, saw a 56 percent decline in terror-related deaths from 7,368 to 3,554, marking the largest year-to-year reduction of a single country and the lowest number of deaths from terrorism the country has seen since 2012.  Overall, deaths at the hands of ISIS dropped by 52 percent in 2017, according to the report. Killelea predicts that the group will no longer rank as the deadliest terrorist organization in 2018. “I think if there’s one thing which I’d have people to take away from the study, it would be simply that the back of ISIL is broken,” Killelea said, referring to ISIS by a common acronym that stands for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.”

The Hill: 9/11 Commission Leaders: Turning The Tide On Extremism In Fragile States

“Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act (HR 5273) with a large majority but little fanfare. Buried under news about party and committee leadership races, the legislation signals an important bipartisan consensus on the need for a different approach to tackling some of our most pressing national security challenges. Over a decade and a half ago, as chairs of the 9/11 Commission, we called for a strategy that would prevent the creation of a new generation of terrorists, in addition to safeguarding the homeland and defeating organized terrorist groups. Nearly 20 years later, we are still waiting for both this strategy and necessary preventive actions. Our nation has devoted trillions of dollars to protecting the homeland and confronting insurgencies since 9/11, yet the threat of violent extremism to the U.S. is greater than ever before. Violence has increased, and new generations of terrorists have emerged in fragile states across the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. In these fragile states — many of which lack adequate governance, effective and responsible security forces, and other basic services — extremist groups are easily able to recruit fighters, hide out and, worse still, capture and hold territory. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) grew out of fragile states. Although it has lost much of the territory it once held, thousands of active foreign terrorist fighters remain in Iraq and Syria.”

The Hill: US Embassy Reopens After ISIS Threat

“The U.S. Embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reopened Tuesday after being closed when U.S. operatives obtained intelligence that an ISIS affiliate may be planning an attack on American assets in the region, a representative from the State Department told The Hill. U.S. officials told CNN that while the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria does not operate in the DRC, the terror group might enter the country for the attack. The State Department confirmed to The Hill that the embassy reopened after being closed since November 24 because of “credible and specific information of a possible terrorist threat against U.S. Government facilities in Kinshasa,” according to a statement on the embassy's website. The threats in the DRC coincide with the second-largest Ebola outbreak in modern history. Some 426 cases have been reported, as well as 245 fatalities.”

ABC Chicago: Rare Extradition In Works For Chicago's Mumbai Terror Plotter

“Ten years after India's most traumatic terror attack, U.S. officials are prepping extraordinary plans to send a Chicago man to Mumbai to face charges there, the ABC7 I-Team has learned. Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a former Pakistani Army doctor turned Chicago travel agent, is being held in federal prison for plotting overseas terror strikes. Rana, 57, helped scout attack locations in India, according to U.S. and Indian law enforcement. He teamed up with convicted Mumbai plotter David Coleman Headley, another Chicagoan who pleaded guilty in the case and cannot be extradited under the terms of his agreement with prosecutors. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India has been pressing for Rana's extradition for years. U.S. officials declined to comment on plans for Rana's shipment to India, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week underscored America's commitment to justice in the Nov. 26, 2008, attack that left nearly 170 people dead. "The barbarity of 26/11 shocked the entire world. It is an affront to the families of the victims that, after 10 years, those who planned the Mumbai attack have still not been convicted for their involvement," Pompeo said. "The United States is committed to seeing that those responsible for this attack face justice." "It's unusual. It just doesn't happen very often," said former federal prosecutor and ABC7 legal analyst Gil Soffer of the plans for Rana's extradition.”

Syria

Voice Of America: IS Clings To Last Stronghold In Eastern Syria

“Despite losing most of the territory they once held, Islamic State (IS) fighters are now holding their ground against U.S.-backed forces in their last stronghold in eastern Syria. Fierce clashes have been taking place around Hajin, in the Syrian province of Deir el-Zour, for three weeks, with Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) trying to close in on the remaining IS militants in the town. But local sources say IS fighters have been putting up a tough fight in Hajin, taking advantage of foul weather. ”In the last 24 hours, the SDF has brought additional reinforcements to add more pressure on [IS] fighters in the area,” Rami Abdulrahman, director of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told VOA.  Abdulrahman added that several hundred local tribal fighters had joined forces with the SDF to combat IS. The “al-Shaitat tribe, which is one of the largest Arab tribes in Deir el-Zour, has shown determination to battle [IS] militants,” Abdulrahman said.  Tribe members slain  In 2015, IS killed nearly 700 male members of the al-Shaitat tribe because they refused to pledge allegiance to the terror group. Ever since, tribe members have been seeking revenge against IS.  In late November, at least 50 SDF fighters were reportedly killed after IS militants counterattacked two villages in Deir el-Zour that recently had been liberated from the group.”

Iran

Voice Of America: UN Should Investigate 1988 Iran Mass Executions, Amnesty Says

“Iran is guilty of crimes against humanity for covering up the mass executions of at least 5,000 political prisoners 30 years ago, according to a new report from Amnesty International. The human rights group wants the United Nations to open an inquiry into the killings and disappearances in 1988 which targeted supporters of Iranian opposition groups. Many families still do not know what happened to their loved ones since the disappearances. Tehran has never admitted to the killings, revealed the whereabouts of the bodies or the fate of those who disappeared. “That crime is still alive and active until the state in question, Iran, accounts for what happened to those people,” Kumi Naidoo, secretary-general of Amnesty International, told VOA. Through hundreds of interviews and documents, Amnesty details how thousands of jailed political activists were executed or disappeared following a "fatwa" or religious order given by then-Supreme Leader Rouhollah Khomeini.”

The Hill: Don’t Trust The Intel When It Comes To Iran’s Nuke Program

“Washington officialdom believes Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons based on little more than wishful thinking. Two years ago, senior Reagan and Clinton administration officials warned that Iran probably already has nuclear weapons. As they wrote in “Underestimating Nuclear Missile Threats from North Korea and Iran” in the National Review on Feb. 12, 2016. “Iran is following North Korea’s example — as a strategic partner allied by treaty and pledged to share scientific and military technology. Iran sacrificed its overt civilian nuclear program to deceive the Obama administration, to lift international sanctions, to prevent Western military action, while a clandestine military nuclear program no doubt continues underground. That is why Iran, under the nuclear deal, will not allow inspection of its military facilities and prohibits interviewing scientists — it is concealing the dimensions and status of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.”

Defense News: Scrapping Nuclear Deal Hasn’t Slowed Iran, Says CENTCOM Nominee

“America’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year has not slowed Tehran down, according to the incoming commander of U.S. Central Command. “Iran’s malign behavior hasn’t abated since before during or after the nuclear deal in the domains in which I see — which is their development of ballistic missiles, their activities in Syria and Yemen, and in other [Mideastern] nations,” the nominee, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., told lawmakers Tuesday. McKenzie has served as the director of the Joint Staff since August 2017, and is likely to be confirmed before year’s end. He called Iran the region’s “most significant long- and short-term threat.” At McKenzie’s Senate Armed Services Committee’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and a likely presidential contender in 2020, pushed back on President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal negotiated under his predecessor.”

Iraq

NPR: Iraqi And U.S. Militaries Step Up Operations In Iraq Against ISIS

“In Iraq, ISIS was forced from cities and towns over a year ago and largely defeated. But U.S. and Iraqi forces are still trying to track down the remnants of the group in remote areas. AILSA CHANG, HOST: The Iraqi and U.S. militaries are stepping up operations in Iraq against ISIS. Yes, the militants were driven out of Iraq's cities a year ago and were largely defeated. But since then, some have dug into remote areas in the mountains. NPR's Jane Arraf went out with Iraqi forces in northern Iraq. JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: An Iraqi army officer has just launched a drone. They're looking for ISIS fighters here in the Badush mountains in northern Iraq. The mountains are dotted with dozens of man-made tunnels. A lot of them are more than 300 feet long and as wide as a house. The military says ISIS sleeper cells are there. GENERAL RASHEED ABID RASHEED: (Foreign language spoken). ARRAF: General Rasheed Abid Rasheed is standing on a ridge briefing the commanding general, Nijm al Jabouri, on what his troops are doing.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: US Report: ISIS Is Regrouping In Iraq

“Despite hard-fought victories to retake ISIS territory, there are three major signs that the terrorist militants are regrouping, taking advantage of ongoing instability and refocusing their campaign against the Iraqi government, said a recent report. The report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) stated that although victory over ISIS was declared in 2017, there are several indicators that suggest the group remains a persistent threat and is refocusing its tactics and attacks against government targets. The terrorist organization lost 99 percent of its territorial control, however, it was still carrying out an average of 75 attacks per month in 2018, including a doubling of attacks year over year in Kirkuk province. Based on the report’s statistics, fatalities from attacks were down significantly from 6,217 in 2016, to 5,339 in 2017 and 1,656 in 2018 through October. Data showed that attacks in Kirkuk and Salaheddine are at all-time highs through October 2018. CSIS said that the number of ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria peaked in 2016, with an estimate of 10,000 to 15,000 in Iraq. The report stated Iranian-backed Shiite militias continue to exacerbate Shiite-Sunni tensions in Iraq, and their connection to Iran poses a useful recruiting tool for a sectarian-fueled ISIS insurgency. It pointed out that ISIS propaganda published online continues to be the most important source for the terrorist organization to widely share statements promoting its extremist narrative.”

Daily Mail: UN Team To Begin Probe Of IS Crimes In Iraq In Early 2019

“A UN team authorized over a year ago to investigate the massacre of the Yazidi minority and other atrocities by jihadists in Iraq will finally begin work early next year, the head of the investigation said Tuesday. The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in September 2017 to bring those responsible for Islamic State group war crimes to justice -- a cause championed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney. The team, led by British lawyer Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, was deployed to Baghdad in October, but has since focused on administrative and technical details to lay the groundwork for the probe. “The investigative team now looks forward to continuing preparations in Iraq with a view to commencing investigative activities in early 2019,” Ahmad Khan told the council during his first report. The Iraqi government had resisted calls for the UN probe and the head of the investigative team stressed that much effort had been deployed to ensure cooperation from Baghdad. Ahmad Khan told the council that “the realization of our investigative activities is dependent on securing the cooperation, support and trust of all elements of Iraqi society.” The United Nations has described the massacre of the Yazidis by IS jihadists as possible genocide and UN rights investigators have documented horrific accounts of abuse suffered by women and girls.”

The EurAsian Times: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi – Head Of ISIS Is Alive, But Suffering From Lung Cancer: Reports

“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group is still alive and hiding “somewhere in the desert by the Euphrates River.” This information was presented on Tuesday by Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, nominated by US President Donald Trump for the post of head of the Central Command (CENTCOM) of the US Armed Forces. The US commander said “I think he is a very frightened man (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) fleeing somewhere in the desert by the Euphrates River,” said MacKenzie, responding to a question from Senator Bill Nelson about what is the latest information about Baghdadi. In addition, the lieutenant general expressed confidence that Baghdadi, who should now be 46 years old,  and incapable of organizing new attacks, since he has to spend all his strength and energy to stay in hiding. “I’ll just note: while you’re worried about whether you can survive the next hour or so, it’s hard to make a conspiracy to carry out attacks in Detroit,” said Mackenzie. Baghdadi’s fate and whereabouts are not known for certain. According to a number of Middle Eastern publications, he had long lost control of the ISIS grouping. According to one version, the terrorist leader suffers from a severe form of lung cancer, while others state that he is bedridden due to a severe injury. The last time Baghdadi appeared in public was in July 2014, when he declared the creation of a “Caliphate” in the Middle East during Friday prayers in Iraqi Mosul.”

Turkey

Haaretz: Cruel Dilemmas Keep 'ISIS Children' From Building New Lives

“After four years of separation, a Turkish citizen was reunited with her 7-year-old son. She thought that her child would immediately be able to make friends and play with his peers, and begin to return to a normal life. But when the boy saw other children, he picked up stones and started throwing them at the youngsters. Shocked, his mother asked him why he behaved that way. “I only wanted to play with them,” he said. Four years before that, the child's father, a Turkish citizen, had kidnapped him and the two moved to Syria in order to join the Islamic State. The father married another woman with children, who had left her husband in Turkey and moved to Syria to live a “proper Islamic life.” Within a short time the boy’s father was killed while participating in a terror attack. The stepmother was forced to marry an Islamic State member, and shortly afterward was also killed; the new stepfather decided to abandon the children. Fortunately for the Turkish boy, he found his way to an orphanage, and from there returned to his homeland, after many efforts were made to locate him. Now he is undergoing psychological therapy and may return to a normal life. His mother, who was interviewed by the website Middle East Eye, said the child doesn’t talk much about his experiences while living with Islamic State fighters, he still has nightmares and is unable to communicate with friends. But he did tell her that on one day, he was annoyed with his stepsister and wanted to kill her with his father’s rifle.”

Afghanistan

Townhall: US Military Dog Killed Alongside Army Ranger While Fighting Al-Qaeda

“It has been revealed there had been another U.S. casualty in Afghanistan for the month of November and it involves man’s best friend. Maiko, a Multi-Purpose Canine, was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and was killed on the same day as Sgt. Leandro A.S. Jasso. Maiko’s death and biography had been circulating on social media and was later confirmed to Stars and Stripes.  Maiko was originally born in Holland in 2011 and was brought to the U.S. to complete Regimental Basic/Advanced Handler’s Course. He was trained on “patrol, apprehension functions, explosive detection, and tracking.” In total, Maiko had deployed six times. “At the time of Maiko’s death, he was the most senior MPC assigned to 2/75 with the most training and combat experience,” his bio added. “Rest assured, Maiko never backed down from a fight with the enemy, training or combat. He embodied what it means to be a Ranger.”

Eurasia Review: Afghan Taliban’s Continued Symbiotic Relationship With Al Qaeda And International Terrorism – Analysis

“In a recent peace conference in Moscow, Taliban representatives from their office in Qatar sat in front of the Russian media cameras and gave interview to a select number of Russian women journalists. It was a message of change as compared to their brutal regime and their repressive policies towards Afghan women. The move was calculated and strategic; it was to send a message to the world that they have changed and no more a threat to regional and global security. Question is have they really changed and cut ties with Al Qaeda and its allies? Are they really different after almost two decades of fighting? Has the Taliban movement been fundamentally transformed or they have just become really good politicians i.e. pretenders and sugarcoating themselves into a new role only to change later on once they assume power. On the other hand – US and its NATO allies feel they are bear trapped in Afghanistan and are risk averse. They are in a rush to a graceful exit for its forces with a political cover as a successful conclusion to the Afghan war. This mindset has made them to pretend that the Afghan Taliban have changed and they are now effectively representing an insurgency against the Afghan government born out of corruption, warlordism and a lack of a broad-based government in Kabul.”

The Washington Post: US Envoy For Afghan Peace In Pakistan For Talks On Taliban

“The U.S. special envoy tasked with finding a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s bloody 17-year-old war met Tuesday with Pakistani officials, and a Taliban official said four members from the group’s political office in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar were also in the Pakistani capital. But the visit by the Taliban leaders, which included a former Taliban ambassador and a former governor who is also on a United Nations sanctions list, is “private,” the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media. Pakistan routinely tells a grumbling Washington that its influence over the Taliban is exaggerated, yet in the past has exhibited sufficient sway over the insurgent movement to summon its leaders to Pakistan for quiet talks. On this occasion, the Taliban official told the AP, the group’s Qatar office sent Shaha-ud-din Dilawar, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia; Zia-ur-Rahman Madani, former governor of Logar province who is on the U.N. sanctions list for providing funding for the Taliban; Suhail Shaheen, a former diplomat, and Sala Hanafi. There was no indication who the four might meet or how long they would stay in Pakistan, but it was expected their visit would be a prelude to further discussions in Qatar when U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad visits later this month. The resurgent Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan before U.S. forces invaded in October 2001, carry out near-daily attacks on Afghan army and police forces.”

NBC News: Afghanistan Becomes World's Deadliest Country For Terrorism, Overtaking Iraq

“Afghanistan has overtaken Iraq to become the world’s deadliest country for terrorism, according to a report released Wednesday. One-quarter of all worldwide terrorism-related deaths during 2017 occurred in Afghanistan, according to the latest Global Terrorism Index. It cited a surge in attacks by the Taliban and the Islamic State group. America's longest war began after the 9/11 attacks when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and toppled the ruling Taliban, which was sheltering Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The country still hosts around 14,000 U.S. troops, although President Donald Trump has expressed impatience with the military mission. In total, Afghanistan endured 4,653 fatalities across 1,168 terrorist incidents last year, the report said. The Taliban was responsible for 77 percent of them. However, worldwide deaths linked to terrorism fell for the third consecutive year, according to the report published by the Australian-based Institute for Economics and Peace think tank. U.S. officials are keen to bring the Taliban into an peace deal in case Trump pulls the plug on the current American military mission before the presidential election in November 2020. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis paid a surprise visit to Kabul Almost 2,400 Americans have died in Afghanistan since 2001.”

Xinhua: 12 Militants Killed, 18 Arrested In E. Afghanistan

“At least 12 militants have been killed and 18 others captured alive as the government forces pounded Taliban hideouts in parts of the restive province, provincial government spokesman Aref Nuri said Wednesday. The government forces, according to the official, targeted Taliban hideouts from ground and air in several villages of Khogiani district over the past 24 hours, leaving a dozen insurgents dead and wounding four others. All the captured 18 suspected insurgents have been taken to Kabul for investigation, the official said. Taliban militants haven't commented on the report.”

The Indian Express: Afghanistan: Four Killed At Police Checkpoint In Taliban Attack 

“Afghan officials say the Taliban have attacked a police checkpoint in the western Herat province, setting off a battle in which a policeman and three civilians were killed. Police spokesman Abdul Ahad Walizada says six of the attackers were killed in the battle late Tuesday. The Taliban effectively control nearly half the country and carry out daily attacks that mainly target security forces. In the eastern Nangarhar province, meanwhile, the director of a local TV station was kidnapped. Attahullah Khogyani, the governor’s spokesman, says the TV director, known as Engineer Zelmia, was kidnapped late Tuesday. Zelmia’s driver was shot and killed. No one immediately claimed the abduction, but the Taliban and the Islamic State group are both active in Nangarhar.”

Task And Purpose: Once Described As On Its ‘Back Foot,’ Taliban Number Around 60,000, General Says

“The U.S. military and Afghan security forces face roughly 60,000 Taliban fighters, the Marine three-star general who has been nominated to lead U.S. Central Command told lawmakers on Tuesday. Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. initially testified during his confirmation hearing that the Taliban have about 20,000 fighters, but he later said he had misspoke. “I’d like to correct an earlier remark,” McKenzie told U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). “I noted the size of the Taliban in Afghanistan as being 20,000. I believe we’d actually say it’s around 60,000 vice that earlier number.” Neither Hirono nor the other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee asked McKenzie if the Taliban is growing in strength. Currently, about 14,000 U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan, along with roughly 8,165 troops from other countries, and approximately 312,328 Afghan troops and police, officials said. The U.S. military command for operations in Afghanistan declined to say how many fighters it believes the Taliban currently have, said Army Maj. Bariki Mallya, a spokesman for Operation Resolute Support. “Our estimates of the number of Taliban fighters have remained stable over time,” said fellow Resolute Support spokesman Army Col. David Butler.”

Pakistan

The Daily Caller: Asia Bibi Protest Organizer Charged With Sedition And Terrorism In Pakistan

“The Islamic cleric who has been calling for the death of Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi faces a potential life sentence in prison, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudry announced Saturday. Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a leader of the extremist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), was charged with sedition and terrorism after spearheading the protests that have roiled Pakistan since Bibi’s recent acquittal on a 2010 blasphemy charge. Rizvi’s deputy, Afzal Qadri, faces the same charges after calling for the murder of Pakistan’s Supreme Court judges and the overthrow of Pakistan’s army chief.   “Today, we have decided to take legal action against the TLP leadership,” Chaudry said at a press conference, according to Reuters. “All those who were directly involved in destroying property, who misbehaved with women, who set fire to buses, are being charged under laws of terrorism at different police stations,” he continued. Rizvi and other TLP leadership were first detained on Nov. 23, nearly a month after Bibi was released from prison. In the days before Rizvi’s arrest, mullahs were reported to be going house to house in search of Bibi and her family. A Roman Catholic, Bibi was charged eight years ago with blasphemy against Mohammed for words she allegedly said in an argument over a cup of water with Muslim women from her village.”

Yemen

The Guardian: UN Yemen Envoy Flies In With Houthis For Fragile Stockholm Peace Talks

“The UN’s special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is accompanying a Houthi negotiating team to Stockholm for the first peace talks on the war in the country since 2016, amid fears that one misstep could cause the fragile summit to collapse. Negotiators from the Saudi-backed government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi are expected to follow the Houthis to Sweden in time for talks to begin as early as Wednesday. An initial focus of the discussions will be confidence-building measures, including how to implement a massive prisoner-swap programme agreed in principle and to be overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The parties will also discuss the potential future UN administration of Hodeidah, the strategic port through which most aid travels. The talks are taking place against a backdrop of continued fighting. Iranian-backed Houthi fighters seized control of the capital, Sana’a, in March 2015 in protest at rising oil prices, ousting the UN recognised Hadi government. Supported militarily by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the Hadi government has been fighting to win back control of the country, leading to mass famine and tens of thousands of civilian deaths.”

Lebanon

The Washington Post: Israel Announces Operation To Destroy Hezbollah Tunnels Under Its Northern Border

“Israel launched an operation Tuesday to destroy tunnels it said Hezbollah had dug under its northern border, announcing the move with much fanfare at a time when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces multiple corruption investigations as well as accusations of being soft on security. The military said it had exposed one of the Lebanese militant group’s tunnels into Israeli territory in a mission it dubbed “Operation Northern Shield.” A spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, said the tunnel began in a house in Lebanon and extended more than 40 yards into Israel.  Netanyahu said in a televised address Tuesday night that the tunnels were built by Hezbollah but funded by Iran. “They were built with one purpose in mind — to attack and murder innocent Israeli men, women and children. This is a grave violation of Israel’s sovereignty and a gross violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701,” he said. The resolution, which Lebanon also says Israel routinely breaches by violating its airspace, dates to the end of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. Netanyahu said Lebanon would be held responsible for “all terror activity” emanating from its territory and urged the U.N. Security Council and countries around the world to condemn the group’s actions. Israel would defend itself against Iran’s attempts to entrench itself in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, he said. Tuesday’s development comes amid deep concern about the buildup of Iranian proxies in Syria in recent years.”

Middle East

U.S. News: Netanyahu: Hezbollah Dug Border Tunnels To Insert Militants Into Israel

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that the Iran-backed Shi'ite militia Hezbollah had dug cross-border tunnels from Lebanon to insert militants into northern Israel. Netanyahu spoke after the Israeli military said earlier in the day that it had launched an operation on the Israeli side of the border to "expose and thwart" the underground activity. Netanyahu said Israel took the decision to act against the tunnels "weeks ago" and moved into action on Tuesday morning. He said the operation would continue as long as necessary and was a "small part" of a deployment on all fronts to defend Israel.”

Forbes: The Deadliest Terrorist Groups In The World Today

“Of the 18,814 deaths caused by terrorists around the world last year, well over half were due to the actions of just four groups: Islamic State, the Taliban, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram. According to Global Terrorism Index 2018, compiled by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), these four organisations were responsible for 10,632 deaths in 2017. Their actions contribute to the instability of what are some of the most dangerous countries in the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and Syria. Over the past decade they have accounted for 44% of all terrorist deaths. Islamic State – 4,350 deaths in 2017. Also known in the Arab world as Daesh and by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL, Islamic State has been the deadliest terrorist group in the world for the past three years. It has been largely defeated in its home territory of Syria and Iraq but it remains capable of launching attacks in those countries and has also inspired individuals and affiliated groups to stage attacks in other parts of the Middle East as well as Europe and Asia. ISIS tends to prefer bombings or explosions – these accounted for 69% of its attacks last year. However, it also carries out hostage takings and assassinations. However, Islamic State’s powers now look to be on the wane. Last year it carried out 22% fewer attacks than the year before, with the number of deaths dropping from 9,150 in 2016 to 4,350 in 2017. The number of deaths per attack also dropped from eight in 2016 to 4.9 in 2017.”

Israel

The Times Of Israel: Shin Bet Thwarted 500 Terror Attacks In 2018, Netanyahu Says

“The Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security and counterintelligence service, thwarted 500 terror attacks in 2018, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday at an awards ceremony for the organization’s agents who excelled in intelligence operations in 2017 and 2018. “You have thwarted 500 terror attacks this year,” Netanyahu told assembled agents and staffers from the Shin Bet and other intelligence and defense agencies gathered for the biennial event at the Shin Bet’s northern Tel Aviv headquarters. “That’s an incredible number. It means that hundreds of Israeli citizens owe you their lives. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for continuing to shine this light, and for fighting each day with discretion, ingenuity, creativity and immense dedication,” the prime minister said. According to a statement from the agency, six operations over the past two years were recognized in the ceremony for their “high level of planning, professional and flawless execution, and a result that contributed significantly to the goals of the service in the fields of disruption [of terror attacks or enemy espionage] and national defense.” The operations recognized on Tuesday included several in the field of research and development, including in the cybersecurity realm, the agency said in a vague statement on Tuesday.”

Egypt

The New York Times: Italy Says 5 Egyptian Security Officials Are Suspects In Student’s Death

“Italian prosecutors said Tuesday that five Egyptian security officials are suspects in the killing of an Italian student in Cairo nearly three years ago. The announcement signaled a major escalation of tensions over a meandering investigation that has vexed relations between Italy and Egypt since early 2016, when Giulio Regeni, a doctoral student at Cambridge, was found dead on a roadside bearing marks of extensive torture. The five suspects, whose names were not formally announced by prosecutors, work for Egypt’s National Security Agency, and are thought to have followed Mr. Regeni and secretly taped him after his arrival in the country in late 2015. The decision by Italy to publicly identify them as suspects was made after a meeting between Italian and Egyptian officials in Rome last week. Pressure increased in recent days as the Italian Parliament severed its relations with Egypt’s legislature, and Egypt’s ambassador to Italy was summoned to discuss the case. The fate of Mr. Regeni remains a national preoccupation in Italy that can still command front-page attention. Rights groups say the case highlights the brutal methods employed by Egypt’s security services. The Egyptian government did not immediately respond to the prosecutors’ announcement, but it had already rejected Italian efforts to place its officials under investigation. “Charges should be based on evidence and not suspicions,” the State Information Service said on Sunday in a statement prompted by Italian news reports.”

Libya

U.S. News: Libyans Protest Against U.S. Air Strike In Southern Libya

“Dozens of Libyans protested on Tuesday against a U.S. air strike on suspected al Qaeda militants in the country's southwestern desert, saying civilians had been targeted, witnesses said. The U.S. Africa Command (Africom) on Thursday said it had killed 11 al Qaeda militants near the town of al Uwaynat in its third strike since March on the militant group’s North African branch - al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The strike close to the Algerian border, destroyed three vehicles, Africom had said in its statement last week, adding that at the time, they had assessed "no civilians were injured or killed".Members of the ethnic Tuareg tribe living in the area staged a protest on Tuesday, calling on the Tripoli-based government to launch an investigation into the strike. The protesters, among them women and children, held up pamphlets saying "Africom attacked civilians", and "Africom is killing our sons", witnesses and participants told Reuters.”

Long War Journal: US Strikes Target Al Qaeda In Libya, Somalia

“The US military hit al Qaeda’s branches in Somalia and Libya twice over the past several days, killing 20 fighters in strikes that appear to have targeted the groups’ military capacity. In Libya, the US killed 11 members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and destroyed three vehicles in “a precision airstrike near Al Uwaynat” on Nov. 29, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a press release. That strike is the third against AQIM so far this year. On June 13, one AQIM fighter was killed in an attack south of Bani Walid. And on March 24, AFRICOM killed Musa Abu Dawud, a high-ranking al Qaeda leader in Libya who was listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, in Ubari. Dawud’s experience in waging jihad spanned three decades; He rose in the ranks of Algeria’s jihadist movement and became a “senior leader” in the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), which merged with al Qaeda in 2007 and renamed itself al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. [See LWJ report, American forces kill senior al Qaeda leader in Libya.] AFRICOM said that the Nov. 29 strike was carried out “in coordination with the Libyan Government of National Accord” and the US “will not relent in its mission to degrade, disrupt, and destroy terrorist organizations and bring stability to the region. We are committed to maintaining pressure on the terror network and preventing terrorists from establishing safe haven.”

Nigeria

News 24: Nigeria Confirms Eight Soldiers Killed In Boko Haram Attack

“The Nigerian army on Tuesday said eight soldiers have been confirmed dead in a Boko Haram attack on a military base over the weekend in the country's restive northeast. Gunmen from the self-styled Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction of Boko Haram attacked the base in Buni Gari village, in Yobe state, on Saturday. Military sources initially said two soldiers and six insurgents were killed. Earlier on Tuesday, they told AFP the toll had risen to eight. “Eight of our gallant troops paid the supreme price while over 10 Boko Haram terrorists were killed by the troops during the encounter,” army spokesman Brigadier General Sani Usman told AFP by text message. A senior officer, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said six bodies had been taken to the Yobe state capital, Damaturu. A civilian militia member assisting the military in the counter-insurgency confirmed the recovery. “All the eight dead soldiers are now in the morgue at the State Specialist Hospital in Damaturu,” he said, also on condition of anonymity for fear of sanction. The insurgents destroyed an armoured vehicle and stole a truck during the attack. Sources said air support and reinforcements from a military base in the nearby town of Buni Yadi helped push the militants out. Buni Yadi district is a known ISWAP stronghold.”

Africa

The Guardian: West Papua: Conflicting Reports Surround Attack That Killed Up To 31

“Deadly violence has escalated in West Papua following the shooting deaths of up to 31 construction workers in a central district of the region and the reported killing of an Indonesian investigator. The West Papuan liberation army has claimed responsibility for the attack – the deadliest in many years in the ongoing independence conflict – but there are otherwise differing versions of events from Indonesian authorities. There are fears of reprisals and violent crackdowns. There were mass arrests of hundreds of West Papuan protesters across the region who were marking the 1 December “independence day”, a date considered by some West Papuans as marking their independence from the Dutch two years before the region was taken over by Indonesia. Indonesian media reported the construction workers were attacked by a group of armed separatists on Sunday, with differing reports of between 24 and 31 people killed. Police and Indonesian military (TNI) were sent to the area but came under fire, local police said, with one soldier killed and another injured. The separatist military arm TPNPB claimed responsibility, under commander Egianus Kogeya, and put the number of dead in the initial attack on Sunday at 24. Another five TNI soldiers were killed in further attacks over following days, it claimed. TPNPB also claimed TNI forces had launched military actions in response, including bombs dropped on TPNPB areas.”

Daily Maverick: Warning Of Possible Islamic State Holiday Terror Attacks In SA Carries Little Weight

“The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued global travel advice for several countries, including South Africa, on 3 December 2018 warning of terror attacks this holiday season. The travel advice identifies that the primary “security threat” emanates from South African Islamic State fighters who have returned from Syria, Iraq and Libya. The statement is at best vague and begs for accurate contextualisation. The phenomenon of travelling for jihad, commonly referred to as Hijrah, completely changed with the Syrian and Iraq battlefield. First, it attracted more foreign fighters from a vast array of nations that hadn’t participated in the calls to jihad for Afghanistan or Bosnia. Second, it attracted a “tourist jihadi” who went for the fun of fighting rather than because of a devotion to the cause. But, perhaps more uniquely, the battlefield of ash-Sham attracted entire families.  While previous jihads involved solo males — either single or having left their family behind — the Syrian and Iraq wars saw men bringing young children and wives to live in compounds with other foreign fighters. And while many of those who went to Syria and Iraq originally went to join various groups, many ended up pledging allegiance to Islamic State. Thus, Islamic State had more foreign nationals than any other group fighting in ash-Sham.”

TRT World: The Tunisian Youth Who Say No To The Culture Of Extremism

“Stop, Wait, Rethink” reads a poster inside the auditorium at Tunis Business School. Some students are coming in, others are hanging around by the coffee shop. In the great hall, on stage, three young people are ready to give an opening speech and introduce the first guest of their event entitled No Labels: Humanize.  Less than a month after the suicide attack in central Tunis, a group of young enthusiastic change-makers named Gravel the Label stepped forward and organised a cultural event to raise the voice of tolerance in a society where extremism is starting to take a violent turn. “We realised that young people are not engaged on the issue of extremism. We felt like we would take the lead and speak up on that”, said Hamdi Abidi, co-founder of the youth movement.  “Terror attacks are to instil a culture of death in the community. I insist on fighting for a culture of life,” said Anis Couchène, a renowned artist performing slam poetry. On October 29, he was on Habib Bourguiba Avenue near where the suicide bomber blew herself up. Showcasing some of his poems, he charmed the audience with his words of peace and tolerance switching between Tunisian dialect and classic Arabic.  His wise and moving lyrics in Peace be Upon You speak out against racism and fanaticism.”

Germany

The Independent: Germany Admits Hundreds Of Neo-Nazis At Large Despite Arrest Warrants Being Issued

“Hundreds of neo-Nazis are at large throughout Germany despite active arrest warrants for them, it has been reported.  The number of people wanted for being neo-Nazis has doubled in the last four years with a total of 467 neo-Nazis are currently free in Germany, the government has admitted.  The figures were provided in response to a parliamentary request for information by the opposition party in Germany, according to Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.  Of the 467 suspects, more than a quarter are wanted for a violent crime.  “The security authorities must finally come up with a way to get hold of fugitive Nazis faster,” Die Linke MP Ulla Jelpke told the newspaper. The German government has claimed one of the reasons for the increase was the influx of refused in the country.  There has been an increased presence of the far-right in Germany in recent years and on the weekend officers were forced to shut down a far-right music concert after members of the audience began chanting a Nazi slogan in Ostritz, a town in the eastern state of Saxony. “Two far-right bands played in front of several hundred participants,” Saxony police said in a statement.  “Around 11.20pm, the policemen guarding the event heard 'Sieg Heil' chants. Several locals also reported to police about it.” “Sieg Heil” is a Nazi-era greeting meaning “hail victory.”

Australia

ABC News Australia: Ahmed Kilani Is Using Islam To Rehabilitate Extremists

“Imran became one of Supermax's youngest inmates when he was imprisoned on terror-related charges. Disowned by his father, who refused to visit him, Imran was consumed by rage and hatred. But then he met Ahmed. Ahmed Kilani is one of four Muslim chaplains employed across NSW prisons to counter extremist doctrines and provide spiritual guidance to the small population of Muslim inmates. Every month, he drives hundreds of hours across the state to visit Goulburn Supermax, Long Bay, Lithgow, Bathurst and Oberon prisons. Our 10-minute phone call is strictly monitored by Corrective Services New South Wales and took more than two months to be approved. His work is controversial, but Mr Kilani believes it's life changing. When Mr Kilani finally convinced Imran's father to visit, Imran asked the chaplain to place his hand through the small opening in his cage. Mr Kilani hesitated — the young inmate had previously threatened to kill him, denouncing him as an “apostate”. He tentatively offered his hand, fearing Imran might break his wrist. Instead, he kissed and stroked it, a sign of great respect in Muslim culture.  Inspired by Mr Kilani's positive ethos, Imran has asked for forgiveness and started praying. And he's not the only inmate. When Mr Kilani first started as a chaplain he met a wall of resistance from some of the inmates, particularly those with extremist beliefs.”

Europe

The Independent: Number Of Far-Right Terror Attacks Increases As Overall Deaths From Terrorism Fall, Report Finds

“Far-right political terrorism is on the rise in western Europe and north America, a report on global terror has cautioned. Right-wing groups and individuals killed 66 people between 2013 and 2017, with 17 deaths and 47 of those attacks occurring last year, according to the 2018 Global Terrorism Index. “There has been a real and significant increase in far-right terrorist activity, particularly in the last two years,” Tom Morgan, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Economics and Peace, which produced the report, told The Independent. The UK suffered 12 far-right terror attacks last year, including the attack outside Finsbury Park mosque, where 47-year-old Darren Osborne drove a van into Muslim worshippers, killing one person and injured at least nine others. Sweden saw six attacks and Greece and France had two each. The majority of those attacks were carried out by “lone actors with far-right, white nationalist or anti-Muslim beliefs”, the report concluded. “The kind of social conditions which help produce this kind of activity don’t seem like they’re going away anytime soon,” Mr Morgan said, citing a volatile political climate and economic instability as examples of conditions which could lead to far-right activity.”

Newsweek: Jehovah’s Witness Leader In Russia Faces Criminal Charges For ‘Extremism’

“Another Jehovah’s Witness leader has been targeted by Russian authorities in a criminal probe into “extremism” charges, amid an ongoing crackdown on the religious group within the country. On Tuesday, the country’s Investigative Committee announced that an investigation into the man had been launched in the far eastern Kamchatka region, The Moscow Times reported. Jarrod Lopes, a communications representative for the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, told Newsweek that the case had been initiated against 44-year-old Sergey Ledenyov. “On December 2, 2018, two raids on Jehovah’s Witnesses occurred,” Lopes said. “One home was raided by special police forces.… Several of the officers were armed and wearing masks,” he explained. “One of the operatives was carrying a chainsaw in order to breakdown the door. The operatives searched the home and took all 13 Jehovah’s Witnesses present to the police station for questioning.” Although there are about 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, a Supreme Court ruling in 2017 banned the Christian denomination. Members and leaders of the religious group are now classified as “extremists” the same as those who join organizations such as ISIS.”

Southeast Asia

The Japan Times: Trial Begins For Eight In Islamist Terrorist Attack On Bangladesh Cafe That Left 22 Dead, Including 7 Japanese

“A special tribunal has begun the trial of eight suspected Islamic militants in an attack on a restaurant in Bangladesh’s capital in which 22 people were killed, including 17 foreigners, seven of which were Japanese. Twenty hostages, including 17 from Japan, Italy and India, were killed when five militants attacked the Holey Artisan Bakery on July 1, 2016. The militants were killed by commandos inside the cafe during a 12-hour standoff. Two security officials died later in a hospital. The trial began Monday with testimony by a police official, Ripon Kumar Das, who described events as he and other officials responded when five young men stormed the cafe and held the diners hostage. Defense lawyers are to cross examine Das on Tuesday. The suspects face various charges, including murder, and if convicted could receive capital punishment. The cafe attack followed several years of smaller attacks targeting scores of individuals deemed by extremists to be enemies of radical Islam, including secularists, writers, religious minorities, foreigners and activists. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the cafe attack, but the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rejected the claim and said the domestic group Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh was behind it and numerous other attacks. The government insists IS has no presence in the country.”

Technology

The Guardian: Facebook Removed Post By Ex-Manager Who Said Site 'Failed' Black People

“Facebook removed a post from a former employee who accused the company of “failing its black employees and its black users”, saying the memo about racial discrimination violated its “community standards”. Mark S Luckie, who recently stepped down as strategic partner manager, published the piece on Facebook last week detailing his experiences as a black employee at a tech corporation that largely excludes African Americans, saying the company has also unfairly censored black people on the platform. Facebook appeared to prove Luckie’s point this week by removing the letter before eventually reinstating it. “My first reaction was shock that it happened,” Luckie told the Guardian after he saw that Facebook had flagged his post, saying it “goes against” the site’s standards. “Then I kind of wanted to laugh. I’ve been on so many phone calls and email threads with people having this issue … In an ironic twist, I am dealing with this.”

Wired: Foreign Trolls Are Targeting Veterans On Facebook

“I first came across the imposter Facebook page by accident. The page was made to look like that of my employer, Vietnam Veterans of America, complete with our organization's registered trademark and name. As an Iraq veteran and the office’s designated millennial policy guy, I was helping run VVA's social media accounts. The discovery kicked off what would become a 15-month-long amateur investigation into digital trolls in Bulgaria, the Philippines, and 27 other countries—all running Facebook pages targeting American troops and veterans with political propaganda. Last year, an Oxford study revealed that military veterans are ripe targets for exploitation by foreign powers seeking to undermine American democracy. The report concluded that veterans are more likely than the average person to be community leaders and that their political opinions have significant influence on those around them.”

Daily Mail: Apple Boss Tim Cook Says Hate Speech Has 'No Place' On The Company's Platforms In New Swipe At Google And Facebook

“Apple boss Tim Cook said hate speech has 'no place' on the company's platforms in a new swipe at Google and Facebook. Speaking after being named the inaugural winner of the Anti-Defamation League's Courage Against Hate Award, Mr Cook said the technology company would not tolerate anyone trying to spread hate using the company's products. Earlier this year Facebook, Google and Twitter were forced to delete more than 30 million posts in just three months following reports of illegal and offensive content. 'We only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division, and violence: You have no place on our platform. You have no home here,' he said. 'From the earliest days of iTunes to Apple Music today, we have always prohibited music with a message of white supremacy. Why? Because it's the right thing to do. 'And, as we showed this year, we won't give a platform to violent conspiracy theorists on the App Store. Why? Because it's the right thing to do.”

Counter Terrorism

The Seventh Day: Algeria: Arrest Of Five Individuals Abetting Terrorist Groups In Médéa, Oran And Melilla

“A detachment of the National People's Army, on Monday, arrested five individuals for abetting terrorist groups in Médéa, Oran and Melilla. At the same time, other detachments destroyed 12 terrorist hideouts in Tizi Ouzou and Batna, which contained clothes, mattresses, pharmaceuticals and various other items, a defense ministry statement said Tuesday. According to the statement, as part of the fight against organized crime and of border protection, a military patrol seized, in the vicinity of Bordj Badji Mokhtar (south of the country), a Kalashnikov automatic rifle, full magazines in addition to three four-wheel drive vehicles, five generators and a satellite phone device.”

Combating Terrorist Financing

Sahara Media: Central Bank Of Mauritania Undertakes New Procedures For Combating Terrorist Financing

“On Tuesday, the Central Bank of Mauritania announced that it utterly prohibits conducting money-transfer transactions via associations which are unlicensed by it. The transfer of funds through entities not authorized by the bank might be categorized as acts of terrorist financing and money laundering, the bank warned. In an official statement, Mauritania's Central Bank also announced that due to the lack of regulation, carrying out money transfers without its permission might be used for illicit purposes such as terrorist financing and money laundering. These unregulated and unlawful transactions are deemed a threat to national security, the bank reiterated.”

ISIS

Erem News: ISIS Weapons Facilitator Captured In Mosul

“The Iraqi Ministry of Interior Affairs announced, on Tuesday, the capture of an ISIS weapons facilitator in Mosul. The Military Intelligence Directorate stated that thanks to precise intelligence information, one of its units {1st Armored Division} arrested an ISIS figure who was tasked with stockpiling arms for the terrorist group. The man was arrested in a well-organized ambush at a store on the left side of Mosul. It's noteworthy that the ministry refrained from specifying the name of the suspect, who was placed on the "wanted list" of the Iraqi justice system in accordance with Article no. 4 of the Counter- Terrorism Law.”