Eye on Extremism: February 15

NPR:Flynn's Departure Signals Upheaval Inside National Security Council: CEP President Fran Townsend Discusses The Implications Of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn Resignation On National Security Priorities.

CNN: US Special Ops Chief: More Than 60,000 ISIS Fighters Killed

“The US Special Operations head said Tuesday that the US and its allies had eliminated more than 60,000 ISIS fighters. ‘We have killed over 60,000,’ Gen. Raymond ‘Tony’ Thomas, commander of US Special Operations command, told a symposium Maryland. Thomas oversees America's elite Special Operations troops, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets, which have played a large role in combating the terror organization, including raids against key leaders. His estimate represents a sharp increase over recent numbers provided by the US and its allies. A senior US military official told CNN in December that as many as 50,000 ISIS fighters had been killed, calling that figure a conservative estimate.”

Independent: ISIS Claims Propaganda 'More Powerful Than Atomic Bomb' As Groups Forms Strategy For Survival

“Isis’s propaganda will continue to radicalise followers and inspire terror attacks long after the group’s self-declared caliphate has been destroyed, a new report has warned. The terrorist group is losing swathes of territory in its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul as enemy forces advance on its de-facto capital of Raqqa in Syria, but continues to churn out online magazines, videos and continual updates on its “operations” to followers around the world. A document called “Media Operative, You Are a Mujahid, Too” that surfaced last year exposes Isis’s strategy for its propagandists in the Middle East and further afield.”

The Washington Free Beacon: Al Qaeda Likely To Absorb ISIS Amid Weakened Territorial Holdings

“While the Islamic State has engaged the United States and its Western partners in a protracted war in Iraq and Syria, al Qaeda has been quietly rebuilding its capacity to strike America, several terrorism experts testified Tuesday. Officials predicted that al Qaeda's resilience in the Middle East will only escalate amid ISIS's ongoing territorial setbacks, creating the conditions for a merger of the two terrorist groups voluntarily or through force. Bruce Hoffman, director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, warned that any type of cooperation between the two groups would escalate the threat of terrorism worldwide, particularly in western Europe and the United States.”

The New York Times: In Eastern Mosul, Liberated From ISIS, Battle Rages ‘Day And Night’

“Any sense of normalcy on Saturday afternoon was shredded, again, when Iraqi soldiers began opening fire, their rifle barrels aimed at a white object in the bright blue sky. ‘Tayara musaira!’ someone shouted — a drone! Residents of eastern Mosul sprinted home, terrified by the latest attack by the Islamic State, and demoralized by the certainty that more would be coming. Three weeks after Iraq declared the eastern half of this city liberated from the group, parts of the east bank of the Tigris River remain under siege. Residents say they are repeatedly targeted by Islamic State snipers, mortars and grenade-dropping drones that buzz overhead several times a day.”

Reuters: Russian Jets Pound Syrian City Of Deraa After Rebel Gains

“Russian jets pounded rebel-held areas of the Syrian city of Deraa on Tuesday for a second day in the first such intensive bombing campaign since Moscow's major intervention in Syria more than a year ago, rebels and witnesses said. Rebel groups on Sunday stormed the heavily-garrisoned Manshiya district in a battle dubbed ‘Death rather than Humiliation’ saying the campaign sought to obstruct any army attempts to capture a strategic border crossing with Jordan. The army's control of the rebel held crossing and swatches of territory in the southern strip of the city would sever the rebel link between the eastern and west parts of the city. The Syrian army said the ‘terrorists’ had failed to make gains and its troops had inflicted many casualties.”

Al Jazeera: Yemen Conflict: Seven Saudi Soldiers Killed On Border

“At least seven Saudi soldiers have been killed in the past week in clashes with Yemeni rebels, state media has said. In an unusual series of official reports, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported late on Monday that Mohammed al-Manjahi was the latest soldier to be killed "defending" the kingdom's southern borders in the fight against Houthi rebels. State media have previously reported on deaths of slain troops but since Thursday, SPA has carried photographs of funerals for the "martyrs" it said had died in battles.”

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis To Deliver NATO Message Of Support

“U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to deliver a message that the Trump administration stands behind its allies, but expects Europe to step up its defense contributions. However, the turmoil in Washington over the resignation of Michael Flynn as national security adviser has overshadowed the intended message by Mr. Mattis and other administration officials coming to Europe this week. While diplomats have steadfastly avoided commenting on Mr. Flynn, the sense of disarray has caused concern in Brussels about pinning down White House policy on key issues like Russia.”

Khaleej Times: UAE Ambassador Juma Al Kaabi Succumbs To Injuries

“The UAE Ambassador to Afghanistan, Juma Al Kaabi, passed away today. The ambassador passed away earlier on Wednesday from the injuries he incurred after a bomb blast in Kandahar, Afghanistan, which resulted in the martyrdom of five UAE diplomats who were attending the opening of an orphanage. It also wounded 17 people and left 6 more dead. The bombing targeted the guesthouse of provincial governor Homayun Azizi, who was also wounded in the incident. According to a tweet sent out by WAM Arabic, The Ministry of Presidential Affairs today announced it is mourning the death of Juma Mohammed Abdullah Al Ka'abi, UAE Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, who died from injuries he sustained in the recent terrorist bombing which targeted the headquarters of the Governor of Kandahar in Afghanistan.”

Associated Press: Spain Arrests 2 For Extremist Activities In Online Posts

“Spain's Interior Ministry said two separate arrests have been made in connection with Islamic extremism, bringing to 188 the number of people accused of jihadi links in Spain since 2015. Police on Monday arrested a 33-year-old Moroccan man in the Canary Islands who had allegedly stated his willingness to carry out attacks of ‘violent jihadism,’ according to a ministry statement on Tuesday. It said the police found photos of the suspect holding knives and posing with his wife and underage son in combat attire with emblems of the Islamic State group.”

The Guardian: Boko Haram Terrorists Kill Islamic Scholar, Injure Boy In Borno Village

“No fewer than 30 Boko Haram terrorists have killed an Islamic scholar and injured a teenage boy in Mifa village, Chibok Local Council of Borno State, a resident said yesterday in Maiduguri. He said the attack occurred at 9.30 p.m. on Monday before soldiers were deployed to the village yesterday morning.Confirming the incident in Maiduguri, a military source said the insurgents entered the village through the south flank of Sambisa Forest, shooting sporadically to scare away the villagers before killing the Islamic scholar. ‘Soldiers stationed in Chibok were quickly drafted and we were able to repel the attack and killed one of the terrorists,’ the source said. Residents of Chibok, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday on telephone, expressed fears that the community may be attacked again despite military’s presence in the area.”

The Press Enterprise: Marquez To Plead Guilty To Aiding San Bernardino Shooter's Plots

“Enrique Marquez Jr. will admit in court this week that he illegally purchased the rifles used in the deadly San Bernardino terrorist siege for friend Syed Rizwan Farook and that he helped Farook form plans for attacks on the 91 Freeway and Riverside City College that were later scuttled, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday, Feb. 14. Marquez, a 25-year-old Riverside resident, has agreed to a deal that could imprison him for the statutory maximum sentence of 25 years to life in federal prison and a $500,000 fine, a news release said.”

Daily Mail: Three People Including A 16-Year-Old Girl Are Charged Over Plans To Carry Out 'Imminent Terror Attack' In France 'After Police Found Explosives In A Flat' 

“Three people including a 16-year-old have been charged in southern France on suspicion of planning an 'imminent' terror attack, judicial sources said. The three - arrested on Friday near the coastal city of Montpellier - were identified as Thomas Sauret, 20; his partner, a 16-year-old minor named only as Sarah; and Malik Hammami, 33. They were indicted on Tuesday for 'criminal association in connection with a criminal terrorist enterprise', the sources said. Sauret and his partner were also charged with making and possessing explosives in an organised group. The case is being handled by anti-terrorism investigators, the sources said.”

Rolling Stone: The Anarchists Vs. The Islamic State

“On the morning of his first battle, Brace Belden was underdressed for the cold and shaky from a bout of traveler's diarrhea. His Kurdish militia unit was camped out on the front line with ISIS, 30 miles from Raqqa, in Syria. Fighters stood around campfires of gas-soaked trash, boiling water for tea, their only comfort besides tobacco. "I've never been so dirty in my life," Belden recalls. When the time came to roll out, he loaded a clip into his Kalashnikov and climbed into a makeshift battlewagon, a patchwork of tank and truck parts armored with scrap metal and poured concrete. Belden took a selfie inside its rusty cabin and posted it online with the caption "Wow this freakin taxi stinks.”

United States

Business Insider: Watch A US-Led Airstrike Knock An ISIS Vehicle Off The Road Near The Terror Group's Iraqi Stronghold

“As Iraqi forces prepare to advance on western Mosul, ISIS' last urban stronghold in the country, US-led coalition airstrikes continue to hit ISIS personnel and vehicles in other parts of Iraq. On January 23, a coalition airstrike took out an ISIS vehicle on a road near Mosul, as can be seen below in footage released by the US Defense Department. The January 23 strike was one of five airstrikes near Mosul that day. Coalition aircraft targeted four ISIS tactical units, an IED storage facility, an ammunition storage facility, two tactical vehicles, a fighting position, two mortars, and eight vehicles. The strikes also targeted 14 watercraft and three barges, modes of transport ISIS has used to maneuver up and down the Tigris River, which bisects Mosul, moving fighters and launching attacks.”

Syria

Reuters: Start Of Syria Talks In Kazakh Capital Delayed One Day

“Talks on the Syrian crisis involving Russia, Iran and Turkey that were due to start in the Kazakh capital Astana on Wednesday have been delayed by one day, Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry said without giving the reason. Syrian rebels have threatened this week to boycott the talks, accusing Russia of failing to get Damascus to comply fully with a ceasefire or take any confidence-building steps. However, a rebel official who had attended the previous round of Astana talks in January said on Wednesday a small delegation including military and legal representatives will attend to discuss the ceasefire plan put forward last month.”

Fox News: Don't Look Away... Syria Isn't Over Yet

“The bloody scenes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s scorched-earth campaign in Eastern Aleppo have faded from the news, yet the killing in Syria continues. As you read this, thousands of peaceful activists are still being murdered in the Assad’s regime’s industrial-scale torture system, and nearly 1 million Syrians are still trapped under siege. But even if you are unmoved by these crimes, you should still be paying attention. The events in Syria have consequences that are reshaping the modern world order: American credibility has been damaged, our allies have been weakened, our enemies have grown in strength… and Syria isn’t over yet. Over the past six years we have learned that when America – the strongest power in the world – fails to exercise leadership in the face of global crisis, malicious actors will gladly step in.”

Iraq

Reuters: Baghdad's Bloody Protests Mark Resumption Of Shi'ite Power Struggle

“Bloody protests in Baghdad over the weekend by followers of influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr signal the resumption of a power struggle between Iraq's Shi'ite leaders which had been put on hold to focus on the war against Islamic State. With Iraqi forces all but certain to defeat Islamic State in Mosul this year, Sadr has begun mobilizing his supporters ahead of two elections, for provincial councils in September and the crucial parliamentary vote, by April 2018. His main rival is former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a pro-Iranian politician who started positioning himself last year as a possible kingmaker or even for a return to the premiership itself.”

NBC News: Iraqi Strikes Kill ISIS Commanders, Fate Of Leader Al-Baghdadi Unknown

“A wave of airstrikes targeting ISIS commanders at a meeting in Iraq has killed scores of militants, including several senior figures, the country's military has said. The strikes, carried out Feb. 11 by an Iraqi F16, resulted in the death of 77 extremists, including 13 senior commanders, in Anbar province near the border with Syria, the Iraqi military said in a statement on Monday. One of the airstrikes also targeted the terror group's supreme commander, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — but officials have been unable to verify if he was at the location at the time of the attack and there was conflicting information about his status.”

Reuters: 'Choose Life, Not Death' Reform Center Tells Iraqi Teenage Militants

“Wearing funky beads, Laith Abbas comes across as just another Iraqi teenager trying to look cool, until he describes how he clutched an AK-47 assault rifle at checkpoints along with other Islamic State militants who terrorized Mosul. Abbas is one of 54 teenagers Kurdish authorities are trying to de-radicalise at a reform center in the northern city of Dohuk for youths and women suspected of aiding Islamic State. The idea is to prevent the hardline Sunni group from brainwashing a new generation of suicide bombers and fighters into threatening Iraq's stability again after an ongoing army offensive in their stronghold of Mosul ends.”

Turkey

Reuters: Turkey Targets Erdogan Critics In Austria Via Informer Network - Lawmaker

“An Austrian opposition lawmaker accused Turkey on Tuesday of operating an informer network via its embassy in Vienna that he said targets critics of President Tayyip Erdogan, promotes his policies and receives payments from Ankara. Peter Pilz, from the Austrian Greens, said he had sent documents to the police detailing the activities of the ATIB, an umbrella organisation headed by the religion attache at Turkey's embassy that oversees dozens of mosques in Austria. ‘The ATIB umbrella group is an instrument of hard, ruthless and, in my view, legally unacceptable Turkish government politics in Austria,’ Pilz told a news conference.”

Deutsche Welle: 'Disaster': Amnesty Slams EU Over Refugee Deal With Turkey

“Human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Monday criticized an EU-Turkey deal on refugees, saying it undermines their rights under international law. ‘The EU-Turkey deal has been a disaster for the thousands who have been left stranded in a dangerous, desperate and seemingly endless limbo on the Greek islands,’ said Gauri van Gulik, the organization's deputy director for Europe. The proposal outlines the repatriation of one migrant from the EU to Turkey in exchange for each Syrian refugee the 28-nation bloc accepts from Turkish camps. The deal also stipulates the possibility of the swap given that Turkey is a ‘safe country.’”

Voice Of America: In Turkey, Crackdown On Academics Heats Up

“Academics and students protested Tuesday outside Istanbul's Marmara University, criticizing the latest wave of firings of scholars under emergency rule. The university saw some of its top staff fired this month, under an emergency decree that removed 330 academics nationwide, along with 4,000 civil servants. Among those dismissed is Marmara University's internationally renowned professor Ibrahim Kaboglu, one of Turkey's foremost constitutional law experts. ‘There is no reason for my sacking,’ said Kaboglu, adding that ‘as a law person I cannot give you any reason, because every judicial process, even the tiniest one, should have a reason and justification. And as a person who made calls for our students to be against violence, and to be for peace all my life, I cannot see any reason for my dismissal.’”

Voice Of America: Turkish Police Arrest Alleged Planner Behind Nightclub Attack

“Turkish security forces on Tuesday said they had arrested a French citizen of Turkish origin who was allegedly one of the planners behind a New Year’s Day nightclub bombing in Istanbul that killed 39 people and wounded 65. Prosecutors identified the 22-year-old man by the initials A.S. and said he was arrested in Istanbul on February 12. He allegedly signed the lease on a home rented to nightclub attack suspect Abdulkadir Masharipov, who is an Uzbek national. Nine other suspects are also in custody — all linked to the Islamic State group, Turkish authorities say. The Turkish Daily Sabah said the suspect was born in Turkey and had been living in France and Turkey. He was charged with being affiliated with a terrorist organization. Prosecutor Sadi Doğan told Turkish media that A.S. helped orchestrate the attack.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Afghan Official: Taliban Attack Kills 5 In Northern Village

“Taliban insurgents attacked a village in northern Faryab province on Wednesday, killing five members of the local police force, an Afghan security official said. Karim Yuresh, spokesman for the provincial police chief, said After a surprise early morning attack, the Taliban gained control of the village, located in the Shirin Tagab district, he added. Five insurgents were also killed and two others were wounded in the battle. Qari Yusouf Ahamdi, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack. In neighboring Jawzjan province, insurgents abducted about 50 local farmers in Darzab district. Mohammad Reza Ghafori, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the tribal elders are trying to secure their release. He added that the motive behind the kidnapping isn't yet clear.”

Fox News: Angry Mob In Afghanistan Kills Lovers Who Eloped

“A young couple eloped in Afghanistan and was later killed by an angry mob, the New York Times reports. Police caught the couple Saturday and held them on suspicion of adultery, and the mob descended on the police station within hours, eventually dragging the couple away and killing them as well as injuring three police officers, one seriously, in the process. The 250- to 300-person mob was said to have been made up mostly of the woman's legal husband's family, but it also reportedly included her own brothers and cousins.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Israel Talks Iran With A National Security Team In Disarray

“Efforts to synchronize US and Israeli policy on Iran ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week were spearheaded by Michael Flynn, US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, who had planned to usher both leaders through a critical discussion over the country’s nuclear program in the Oval Office. Flynn was the president’s ‘point person’ for the meeting, according to Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, who described Netanyahu’s visit as a ‘big week’ for the new national security adviser.”

CNN: Netanyahu, Trump Rekindle US-Israel Bond As Mideast Tensions Loom

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington on Valentine's Day to renew the US-Israel romance after eight strained years during the Obama administration. The Israeli leader and President Donald Trump could both use a boost when they meet Wednesday, particularly before strains develop. Though both men have declared their mutual support and outlined similar views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the realities of the region and entrenched positions on all sides are likely to intrude on the relationship at some point. For now, though, they're still in the honeymoon phase.”

Germany

Deutsche Welle: Merkel Seeks Speedier Deportations To Tunisia

“In a meeting with her Tunisian counterpart Tuesday in the Federal Chancellery in Berlin, German Chancellor Angel Merkel pushed for ways to encourage rejected Tunisian asylum seekers living in Germany to depart the country and return home. Germany plans to offer stronger support for measures facilitating voluntary return, such as educational incentives and financial support for entrepreneurs. In addition, Merkel emphasized that the German government would seek to deport individuals who refuse to return to Tunisia of their own violition. ‘We must make it clear: whoever does not choose to return of their own free will then have to be returned involuntarily,’ Merkel said. ‘We will speak with the Tunisian government about this, and we must be faster.’”

Reuters: Germany Raids Apartments Of Four Turkish Imams Suspected Of Spying

“German police on Wednesday raided the apartments of four imams suspected of conducting espionage on behalf of the Turkish government against followers of U.S.-based cleric Fetullah Gulen, accused by Ankara of organizing a failed coup last July. The raids, in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, could further strain relations between the two NATO allies, which need each other to tackle issues ranging from militant Islamist attacks to Europe's migrant crisis. The Federal Public Prosecutor's Office (GBA) said in a statement that the imams had acted on an order issued on Sept. 20 last year by the Turkey-based Diyanet religious authority which said the Gulen movement was behind the putsch attempt.”

France

Reuters: France Wants U.N. Security Council Action On Syria Chemical Weapons' Use

“France said on Tuesday the United Nations Security Council had to respond over the use of chemical weapons in Syria with a resolution that would punish those responsible for repeated attacks. Syrian government forces used chemical weapons in opposition-controlled parts of Aleppo during battles to retake the city late last year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report published on Monday. The findings add to mounting evidence of the use of banned chemical weapons in the six-year-old Syrian civil war and could strengthen calls by Britain, France and the United States for sanctions against Syrian officials. While not confirming the report, a French foreign ministry spokesman said in a daily briefing the allegations were ‘extremely serious.’”

Terror Financing

Voice Of Iraq: Iraq: License Of Two Companies Implicated In Terror Financing To Be Revoked

“The Iraqi Central Bank announced on Tuesday the revocation of the license of two companies implicated in financing of terrorism. It also urged the Trade Ministry to revoke their certificate of incorporation. The bank said in a statement that it "decided to withdraw the broker license for sale and purchase of foreign currencies granted to Baba Karkar Company." It added that "the company committed serious offenses such as transferring remittances out of Iraq and receiving remittances from abroad. It also transferred money to citizens living in the areas under ISIS control." The Bank declared it had "also decided to cancel the working permit of "Gold Chain for Money Transfer Company" due to its inclusion on the US black list, according to US law, adopted by the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the US Treasury.”

ISIS

Libya Akhbar: Libya: ISIS's Funding Sources In Sirte

“An ISIS leader in the Libyan city of Sirte admitted that the terrorist organization takes its fatwas from Dar al-Ifta, which is affiliated with the Tripoli-based government. It also receives military support and arms through the Military Council of the Misrata-affiliated Al-Farouq Brigades. The ISIS leader explained that the organization's funding in Sirte relies on what it steals from public and foreign companies operating in Sirte. These companies include the Man-Made River Agency, the Electricity Company, the Public Services Company, Water Co. and Sirte's Gulf power station. These revenues are augmented by royalties imposed on shopkeepers and public housing rental fees. He added that all the looted equipment and machinery from those companies are being sold mostly in the city of Misrata through the Al-Farouq Brigades.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Rassd Alwatan: Egypt: Legal Source Denies Arrest Of Brotherhood-Affiliated Ex-Soccer Player Abu Treika Upon His Return From Abroad

“A legal source familiar with the issue of Muslim Brotherhood financing asserted that when ex-Al Ahly Soccer Club and national team star Mohammed Abu Treika returns to Cairo he will be allowed to go home without fear of arrest. The former player was abroad in his capacity as a commentator during the recent Africa Cup. The source explained that the Egyptian legend has not been detained so far because the charges against him were raised by the Brotherhood Asset Freeze Committee {and not by a legal entity with authority to arrest him}. These charges are currently under investigation. Authorities will probably set a date for questioning Abu Treika upon his return in order to hear his version.”

Alwafd: Egypt: Pharmacist Interrogated On Charges Of Funding Muslim Brotherhood

“The East Cairo General Prosecution, presided over by Counsellor Islam Al-Jawhari, and under the supervision of its Attorney General, Counsellor Ibrahim Saleh, is set to hear the version of a pharmacologist accused of financing the "new organizational structure of the Muslim Brotherhood". This is part of a nationwide investigation into the 1,538 individuals charged, in case No. 653 of the year 2014, with Brotherhood financing. All of them were added to Egypt's terror list based on the Cairo Criminal Court's decision issued on January 12th.”

Almasry Alyoum: Egyptian Interior Ministry Accuses Muslim Brotherhood Of Trying To Incite Workers And Disrupt Production

“Egypt's Interior Ministry issued a statement Tuesday, announcing the "arrest of several Brotherhood leaders who had received instructions from the acting leader of the group to destabilize the labor sector and incite workers to disable production lines." The ministry disclosed that "available information indicates that several Brotherhood leaders were plotting to hold a {secret} meeting to prepare the scheme, aimed at infiltrating trade unions, in order to stir up the labor sector and incite workers to disrupt operations over the next few weeks." The statement added: "Our information confirms that the suspects were instructed by the fugitive leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mahmoud Ezzat, to intensify their efforts to infiltrate labor unions in an attempt to fulfill their subversive schemes to disrupt production, harm the country's economy and provoke a state of chaos.”