Eye on Extremism: February 5, 2019

Reuters: U.S. Calls On Countries To Take Islamic State Prisoners From Syria

“The U.S. State Department on Monday called on countries to take in foreign fighters captured by America’s Kurdish allies in Syria, two days ahead of a meeting in Washington of dozens of coalition partners fighting Islamic State to discuss the way forward in Syria. The department’s spokesman, Robert Palladino, did not say how many prisoners had been detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces - an alliance of militias dominated by the Kurdish YPG - but U.S. officials believe they number about 850.  The United States has long said it wants to see the fighters returned to their countries of origin in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa to face prosecution.  “The SDF has demonstrated a clear commitment to detain these individuals securely and humanely,” Palladino said in a statement, which gave no details of where the prisoners were being held.  “The United States calls upon other nations to repatriate and prosecute their citizens detained by the SDF,” he added.  U.S. officials say there has been a slight uptick in the number of foreign fighters in SDF custody as U.S.-backed forces retake the last remaining Islamic State-held areas.”

ABC News: Pentagon Report Warns About The Future Of ISIS In Syria, As Trump Says US Troops Can Return 'Very Quickly'

“A Pentagon report released on Monday indicated that the Islamic State remains an active insurgent group in Iraq and Syria and that, without sustained pressure, the group could reconstitute in Syria within six to 12 months. The report comes just one day after President Donald Trump said in an interview with CBS News' “Face the Nation,” that the U.S. would send troops back to Syria if needed, even as the administration continues its plan to withdraw 2,000 U.S. forces from Syria. “We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly, and I'm not leaving,” he said. In the same interview, the president also said the purpose of the U.S. military presence in Iraq includes “watching” Iran -- a comment that drew consternation from Iraqi leadership. “ISIS remains an active insurgent group in both Iraq and Syria,” U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) told the Pentagon's Office of Inspector General. The remarks were included in its quarterly report to Congress. “Currently, ISIS is regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria, but absent sustained [counterterrorism] pressure, ISIS could likely resurge in Syria within six to twelve months and regain limited territory in the [Middle Euphrates River Valley (MERV)].”

New Europe: We Have To Force Facebook To Be Responsible On Illegal Content

“It’s 15 years since Facebook was born and – like all adolescents – it’s getting into trouble. However, Facebook’s kind of trouble is a little more serious than most teenagers. We at the Counter Extremism Project are particularly concerned about the spread of illegal content on the platform. The use of Facebook by online extremists is dangerous and ever-present. The platform, with all of its resources and influence, is in a position of real power but has not put the requisite thought into its responsibility. Instead, the company chooses to do the bare minimum in order to negate public criticism. Artificial intelligence should be deployed in tandem with human intervention. Technology needs to be constantly reassessed and refined as terrorists find ways around it. Facebook needs to work in tandem with outside actors and regulators to ensure the real threat can be assessed and corrective measures put in place. It is crucial that Facebook and other platforms are required to do more to address extremist content on their platforms, and a one-hour time limit between upload and removal is particularly important. What needs to be avoided is a situation where Facebook is finally taking the necessary action on terrorist content only after a major attack that costs multiple lives. At more than 2 billion users and more than half a trillion dollars in market capitalisation, it should be is safe to say by now that Facebook has reached adulthood. Well, with maturity comes responsibility. 15 years into the world and it is time for Facebook to finally grow up.”

Cleveland.com: Man Who Tried To Create ISIS-Inspired Terror Cell In U.S. Gets 15 Years In Prison, Half Of What Feds Sought

“A man who tried to create a terrorist cell to carry out attacks in the U.S. in the name of the Islamic State was sentenced Monday to 15 years in federal prison, half the amount sought by federal prosecutors. Erick Jamal Hendricks, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was convicted by a jury in March of trying to recruit and train ISIS sympathizers. He vetted people to see if they were suitable to join him, espoused radical views, and instructed others to vet additional possible recruits through social media. The U.S. Attorney’s Office asked U.S. District Judge John Adams to sentence Hendricks, 38, to 30 years in prison, the maximum amount of time allowed for the two charges for which the jury found him guilty. However, Adams said a lesser sentence was warranted. Much of Monday’s hearing focused on the sentences given to five anarchists convicted in a plot to blow up the Ohio 82 bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in 2012. The U.S. Probation Office recommended sentences of more than 30 years for several of the men, but the most any of them received was 12 1/2 years. Adams repeatedly pressed lawyers on both sides whether it was fair for those men, who were found guilty in a plot that involved actually pressing a button on what they thought was a detonator, to get shorter sentences than Hendricks, who committed most of his acts online and did not participate in any attack.”

9News: The Neo-Nazi Book Revered By Far-Right That YouTube Won't Take Down

“YouTube has refused to take down a rare neo-Nazi manifesto, which is a beloved text of violent far-right groups who lionise Adolf Hitler and cult killer Charles Manson. Siege, written by American neo-Nazi James Mason and published in 1992, discusses violent race wars, terrorist acts against governments and is loaded with virulently racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Before playback of Siege begins, a large official YouTube warning appears on-screen advising viewers that the video has been identified "as inappropriate and offensive to some viewers". However, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), a Washington DC-based think tank, blasted YouTube's stance as "absurd" and dangerous. "Google's decision is patently absurd and emblematic of the typical reactionary half measures we see from tech companies in response to embarrassing revelations in the media," CEP executive director David Ibsen said. Mr Ibsen said Google's decision to deploy and display a significant warning about the content showed that Siege was clearly "harmful". "Nevertheless, YouTube will allow the content, which encourages violence and terrorism, to remain searchable and readily available.”

Associated Press: Burkina Faso Forces Kill 146 Jihadists After Village Attack

“Burkina Faso’s armed forces have killed 146 jihadists in three counterterror operations in the northwest near the border with Mali, the army’s commander general said. The army’s response came after armed men attacked Kain village in Yatenga province early Monday, killing 14 people, Gen. Moise Minoungou said on national television Monday night. The army response, including air support, included fighting in Bahn in the north region and Bomboro in the Boucle du Mouhoun region. The statement said there were light injuries and no deaths among security forces. Islamic extremists in recent months have increased attacks in Burkina Faso’s volatile Sahel region. A Canadian man was recently kidnapped and killed, and another Canadian and Italian are missing. Gunmen in the past week killed at least 14 people in attacks on a marketplace and military base in the Sahel region. The base in Nassoumbou, in Soum province in the northeast, also was attacked in December 2016, with 12 military personnel killed.”

United States

Fox News: Push To Label Drug Cartels As Foreign Terrorist Organizations Picks Up Steam

“They behead, dismember, kidnap for ransom, instigate deadly shootings and bombings and control entire communities –  yet Mexican cartels are not designated foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) in the United States. The classification issue previously gained little traction, despite increased concerns over U.S. border security, but a renewed vocal push by some retired law-enforcement officials shed light on the question once again. “The level of murders and disappearances in Mexico along with the terrorist activities like dumping heads on the roads, chopping people up and dumping humans in acid combined with unprecedented levels of death in America from the drugs justifies this designation,” Derek Maltz, former head of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)'s Special Operations Division, told Fox News. “Since the Mexican Cartels pose an immediate threat to U.S. national security and are to blame for the importation of synthetic opioids, which helped bring about the greatest drug epidemic in U.S. history, we need great authorities to deal with them.” Perhaps now more than ever, all eyes are on the U.S.-Mexico border amid the long-running debate over who is and isn’t authorized to come into the United States, and the security issues posed by Mexican cartels.”


CNN: Pentagon Says ISIS Likely To Retake Territory And Claim 'Victory' After US Syria Withdrawal

“ISIS will claim victory over the US and is likely to regain territory as a result of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria, according to a new report released Monday by the Pentagon's Inspector General. “ISIS may conduct opportunistic attacks on US personnel as they withdraw but will leverage the event as a 'victory' in its media,” the report said, citing information obtained from US Central Command, which oversees US military operations in the region. The report, the first of its kind since Trump announced plans to pull all troops from Syria, also says “ISIS remains an active insurgent group in both Iraq and Syria.” “ISIS is regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria, but absent sustained [counterterrorism] pressure, ISIS could likely resurge in Syria within six to twelve months and regain limited territory,” the report adds. However, a US official told CNN last week that some military and intelligence officials are concerned an ISIS resurgence could happen even sooner without the US counterterrorism presence. Trump acknowledged the possibility that ISIS and other terror groups could regain their strength in Syria if he withdraws or reduces troops in those countries and noted that he would send US forces back if they did.”

ABC News: Pentagon Report Warns About The Future Of ISIS In Syria, As Trump Says US Troops Can Return 'Very Quickly'

“A Pentagon report released on Monday indicated that the Islamic State remains an active insurgent group in Iraq and Syria and that, without sustained pressure, the group could reconstitute in Syria within six to 12 months. The report comes just one day after President Donald Trump said in an interview with CBS News' "Face the Nation," that the U.S. would send troops back to Syria if needed, even as the administration continues its plan to withdraw 2,000 U.S. forces from Syria. "We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly, and I'm not leaving," he said. In the same interview, the president also said the purpose of the U.S. military presence in Iraq includes "watching" Iran -- a comment that drew consternation from Iraqi leadership. "ISIS remains an active insurgent group in both Iraq and Syria," U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) told the Pentagon's Office of Inspector General.”

Fox News: Post-ISIS, Americans Join Kurdish Fighters In Syria And Promote “Anarchist” Ideology

“When ISIS overran swaths of Syria’s autonomous Kurdish region of Rojava in 2014, scores of Westerners and some self-proclaimed freedom fighters flocked to the region to volunteer with the local Kurdish militia, known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), even at the risk of being prosecuted in their homeland. And although ISIS is almost territorially defeated – reduced to a couple of villages near Syria’s borders with Iraq – the region remains a hub for Americans and other Westerners, even those without any formal military training, who are eager to volunteer their services. One American in the militia is Hunter Pugh, 25, who hails from the small Pennsylvania town of Bloomsburg. He had been working at what he describes as a “toxic” job in the restaurant industry, and was concerned about the growing sexism and “poisonous rhetoric” of the Trump era. So, he packed his bags and headed for Syria in May 2018. Despite having no prior military or weapons experience, Pugh told Fox News in an exclusive interview that he became a YPG “infantryman” -- enduring several weeks of combat training along with “ideological” training to attain a deeper understanding of the group’s beliefs, which stem from their jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan.”

Haaretz: U.S.-Backed Syrian Fighters Capture Three ISIS Militants, Including German National

“U.S.-backed Syrian fighters say they have captured three foreign members of ISIS, including a German jihadi. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said in a statement Monday that they had detained a German citizen, who has adopted a jihadi alias, on February 1. The SDF says it also detained a Saudi Arabian and an Egyptian. The SDF has captured, with U.S. military support, wide areas in eastern Syria from the Islamic State group, which controls only a number of villages in Syria. The Kurdish-led force is holding more than 700 non-Syrian ISIS fighters from more than 40 countries. Few of them have been returned to their home nations.”


Reuters: Tehran Bats Away EU Criticism Of Iranian Missile Tests

“Iran dismissed European Union criticism of its missile program, regional policies and rights record on Tuesday, highlighting their increasingly testy relationship as both sides seek to salvage a troubled nuclear deal. Iran’s comments came a day after the bloc criticized the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile tests and expressed concern at Iran’s role in growing Middle East tensions.  The European Union has promised to abide by a 2015 nuclear deal under which Iran agreed to limit its atomic work in exchange for sanctions relief, even after U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the accord because it did not cover Iranian military activities.  The EU has stepped up criticism of Iran’s ballistic missiles program and its regional policies in a dual-track approach analysts say is designed to show Washington it is possible to contain Tehran while remaining inside the nuclear pact.  The Iranian foreign ministry said on Tuesday Iran would never negotiate over its missile program, which it said was defensive and designed as a deterrent.  “Clear threats against the Islamic Republic are not constructive, efficient or helpful, and they are not in line with regional security and the real interests of Europe,” the foreign ministry said in a statement published on its website.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iraqi Politicians Denounce Trump Plan To Use Iraqi Base To Monitor Iran

“Iraq’s president and many other politicians in the country denounced President Trump’s plan for U.S. troops in Iraq to monitor neighboring Iran, as Baghdad tries to balance ties to its two most important allies, Washington and Tehran. Mr. Trump, in an interview Sunday on CBS News, said he wants to maintain a military presence in Iraq to keep an eye on Iran “because Iran is a real problem.” The president said the U.S. had “spent a fortune” on a base in western Iraq he visited in December and should hold on to it. Reacting to Mr. Trump’s comments, Iraq’s President Barham Salih—who is considered friendly to the U. S.—said Baghdad’s permission hadn’t been sought for such a move and urged the Americans to stick to their mandate of helping counter Islamic State. “It is of fundamental interest for Iraq to have good relations with Iran,” Mr. Salih said, addressing the U.S. “Don’t overburden Iraq with your own issues.” Just last month Mr. Salih implored visiting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to maintain U.S. troops in Iraq.”

The Jerusalem Post: U.S. Ambassador To Germany: “Horrific Actions” Of Iran Equal To ISIS

“The most high-profile US ambassador in Europe, Richard Grenell, compared on Saturday the Islamic State's brutality with the execution sprees in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The US ambassador to Germany wrote in the federal republic's largest circulation paper BILD “The recent press reports, first carried by The Jerusalem Post, that the Iranian regime publicly hanged a 31-year-old man for being gay should be a wake-up call for anyone who supports basic human rights.  Politicians, the UN, democratic governments, diplomats, and good people everywhere should speak up – and loudly,” adding “Iran’s horrific actions are on par with the brutality and savagery regularly demonstrated by ISIS.”The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or the Islamic State has engaged in public executions of gay men, including tossing gay men from buildings. Iran's mullah regime and the Islamic State despise the LGBT community and both prescribe capital punishment for gays and lesbians. As of 2016, the LGBT human rights advocacy organization OutRight Action International (OutRight) documented murders carried out by the Islamic State. The number of lethal executions conducted by the Islamic State totaled 90 during the period 2014-2016, wrote OutRight.”


Iraqi News: Iraqi Troops Kill Dangerous Islamic State Warlord In Diyala

“Iraqi security forces killed on Monday a dangerous member of the terrorist Islamic State group during a security operation in Diyala, a security source was quoted as saying. Speaking to the Arabic-language Baghdad Today news website, the source said that a joint security force raided an agricultural land in Buhriz, 20km south of Baqubah, targeting a dangerous IS terrorist. “The troops killed the terrorist and destroyed his hideout,” added the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. In January 2015, Iraqi forces announced liberation of Diyala province from Islamic State extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014. The province has seen months of fighting between Iraqi troops and IS militants especially in the Jalawla and Saadiyah areas in the province’s north and areas near the town of Muqdadiyah.”

Gulf Times: Thirteen ISIS Elements Arrested In Northern Iraq

“Iraqi security forces have arrested 13 armed elements of ISIS in a security operation, north of the country. A security source said that security forces carried out a security operation in the district of Al-Ba'aj west of the city of Mosul, pointing out that 13 members of ISIS were arrested and transferred to the headquarters of Nineveh operations. At the same time, security forces found 14 explosive devices in Samarra and Kirkuk in northern Iraq. A statement issued by the security information centre said that the security forces found eight explosive devices of different types and sizes were planted by elements of ISIS in an island in west of Samarra, and another six devices in the province of Kirkuk. On the other hand, a joint security force managed to liberate the abductees hours after they were kidnapped by ISIS on the road of Baghdad-Kirkuk northern Iraq.”


Reuters: Turkey's Erdogan Says No Satisfactory Plan Yet On North Syria Safe Zone

“Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he had not yet seen an acceptable plan from the United States for the creation of a safe zone in northeastern Syria, three weeks after President Donald Trump suggested establishing the zone. “There is no satisfactory plan that is put before us concretely yet,” Erdogan told a parliamentary meeting of his AK Party. “Of course we are loyal to our agreements, our promise is a promise. But our patience is not limitless.” Turkey wants to set up the safe zone with logistical support from allies and says it should be cleared of the U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG militia which Ankara considers a terrorist group. Erdogan said that Turkey did not need not have to ask anyone for permission to implement its own plans in the area. “No threat can make us turn from this path, including a sanctions list,” he said.”


ABC News: Top US Commander: Political Talks With Taliban 'Absolutely' Key Part Of Any Endgame In Afghanistan War

“Gen. Scott Miller, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has taken over at a pivotal moment in America's longest war. The four-star general was here right after Sept. 11, 2001. “Did you ever think that right after 9/11 when you were here that you’d be here all these years later as commander?” asked ABC News and “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir, as the two traveled by helicopter from Kabul to Camp Commando, a few miles south of Afghanistan’s capital. “Absolutely not. I didn’t think it’d be 17, 18 years later,” Miller said. Miller took Muir and the ABC News team to the camp to see what the military deems could be a crucial part of any possible endgame in the war in Afghanistan. At the camp, U.S. Special Forces are training Afghan forces as the Americans keep watch. The Afghans -- with support from the coalition and under Miller -- have accelerated the fight against the Taliban. Negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban are ongoing in an attempt to end the war, even as special forces continue to move against the group with deadly force. In January, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, defended talks with the militant group.”

The Washington Post: Afghan Government Frozen Out Of Moscow Peace Talks With The Taliban

“Taliban representatives and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s political rivals plan to discuss the future of Afghanistan in Moscow on Tuesday, a move viewed here as a further blow to the authority of Ghani’s administration.  The two-day meeting will bring key Afghan power brokers together with the insurgents to discuss ending the war that began with the ouster of the Taliban from power in late 2001, and it follows up on an earlier such meeting in Moscow in November. Ghani’s government was invited to participate but declined to do so this time because the meeting did not provide for direct talks with the Taliban, and the attendance of Ghani’s rivals would put them on an equal footing with the government, officials said. The Moscow talks follow negotiations between Taliban members and U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad amid a renewed push by President Trump to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Officials in Ghani’s government were excluded from those meetings because of the Taliban’s objection to direct talks with an administration it regards as a U.S. puppet. According to two Afghan daily newspapers, Kabul’s absence from the Moscow gathering further “isolates Ghani” and “sabotages the authority of the government.”

The Seattle Times: Afghan Officials: Taliban Kill 11 Policemen, 10 Others

“The Taliban killed at least 21 people in their latest attacks in Afghanistan, including 11 policemen who were slain when the insurgents stormed a checkpoint in northern Baghlan province, provincial officials said Tuesday. The attacks were reported as representatives of the Taliban were to hold meetings in Moscow with prominent Afghan figures, including former President Hamid Karzai, opposition leaders and tribal elders — but not Kabul government officials. In the checkpoint attack, the Taliban targeted the local police force in the province’s Baghlani Markazi district on Monday night, triggering a firefight that lasted for almost two hours, said Safder Mohsini, head of the provincial council. Five policemen were also wounded and the Taliban seized all the weapons and ammunition from the security before reinforcements arrived, he said. “They arrived there late, fought back and managed to get the checkpoint under control,” he added. Earlier on Monday, the Taliban targeted a local pro-government militia in a village in northern Samangan province, killing 10 people there, including a woman, said Sediq Azizi, spokesman for the provincial governor. Four people were also wounded in that attack, in Samangan’s Dara-I Suf district, he said.”

Xinhua: Afghan Fighting Claims Over 2 Dozen Lives In Last 24 Hours

“At least 27 people including eight Taliban militants had been killed in Afghanistan over the 24 hours amid ongoing peace efforts in the conflict-strucken country, officials said Monday. In the latest fighting against armed opposition groups, the government forces stormed a Taliban hideout in Mardian district of the northern Jawzjan province early on Monday, killing four insurgents and injuring seven others, provincial government spokesman Farid Aneq said. Aneq has also confirmed the injury of three security personnel in the fighting which lasted for a few hours. Similarly, the government forces killed eight Taliban fighters and injured two others in Mizan district of the southern Zabul province on Sunday, an army spokesman in the province Ahmad Sadeq Marastyal said. The government forces in crackdown on militants also targeted a Taliban hideout in Miwand district of the neighboring Kandahar province on Sunday night, killing four insurgents and captured another, the provincial government said in a statement. Two militants affiliated with the hardlienr Islamic State group were also killed as their hideout came under drone attack in the eastern Nangarhar province on Sunday.”


Al Arabiya: Arab Coalition Intercepts Houthi Drone, Launches Raids On Houthi Military Camps

“The Arab Coalition succeeded in intercepting a Houthi drone days ago, Coalition spokesperson Colonel Turki al-Maliki said on Monday. The spokesperson displayed pictures of the drone that he said indicated that it is Iranian made. The pictures of the intercepted and destroyed drone were released in the press conference that Maliki held in Riyadh on Monday. The Coalition also said that it’s targeting drone experts and storage sites near the capital Sanaa, while “constantly avoiding civilian casualties” in attacks on Houthis. According to the Coalition, Houthis set military camps east of Hodeidah in a breach to the Sweden deal. On the 23rd of January the Coalition targeted Houthi military camps in al-Mahwit governorate, killing 181 Houthis, the Coalition confirmed, while ensuring through intelligence that no recruited children were present at the military camp. The Coalition also renewed accusations of Houthis recruiting children in the ongoing conflict.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Houthis Reject Cammaert’s Hodeidah Plan As UN Urges Respect For Truce

“Representatives of the Iran-backed Houthi militias at the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) in Hodeidah rejected a UN plan to redeploy in the city, Yemeni government sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. Representatives from the legitimate government, on the other hand, have accepted the proposal, made by UN appointed chair of the RCC, retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, said the sources. Representatives from the government and Houthis had met for the second day on Monday with Cammaert’s UN team onboard a UN-chartered ship anchored in the Red Sea off Hodeidah’s port. The UN official had warned of the fragility of the ceasefire in Hodeidah. The sources said Cammaert, who is set to be replaced by former Danish general Michael Lollesgaard, suggested to both warring parties a detailed plan of redeployment and the withdrawal of the Houthis from Hodeidah's key ports.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Two Palestinians Throw Explosive At Idf Soldiers, One Terrorist Killed

“IDF forces shot and killed at least one terrorist who hurled an explosive device at soldiers at a West Bank crossing on Monday night. According to the IDF, two terrorists arrived at the Gilboa checkpoint, north of Jenin, and threw an explosive device at the forces. No soldiers were hurt in the incident. Initial reports said the terrorists arrived on a motorcycle. The IDF immediately returned fire, killing one of the terrorists, and injuring the second one. The killed terrorist was identified as Abdallah Abu Taleb from Jalamah, a small Palestinian village, north of Jenin.”

The Express: Al-Qaeda Returns: Experts Warn ISIS Is NOT The Problem - As Bin Laden's Terror Army Rises

“AL-QAEDA linked militants have exploited a cease-fire between Turkey and Russia to seize more than two dozen towns and villages in Syria, with the terror group make a resurgence just as ISIS nears defeat. Since the start of the year, the organisation founded by Osama bin Laden has been slowly strengthening its position in the region. The group is attempting to fill the void left by the weakening of ISIS in Syria and take advantage of peace efforts to bolster the area under their control. Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, the group linked to al-Qaeda which has made the advances, now control as much as 5 percent of Syria’s territory. Their resurgence coincides with Donald Trump announcing he intends to pull all US troops out of the war-torn country. Writing on Twitter in December last year, the President said: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”


U.S. News & World Report: Egypt Court Seeks Death Penalty For Sisi Assassination Plot Suspects

“An Egyptian court said on Monday it would seek the death penalty for eight alleged Islamist militants including two accused of plotting to kill President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and a former Saudi crown prince, judicial and security sources said. The military court will transfer the case to Egypt's top religious official, the Grand Mufti, whose non-binding opinion is required before executions can take place but who rarely challenges court decisions. The eight are among a group of nearly 300 people accused of belonging to Islamic State, some of whom plotted to kill Sisi in Egypt by targeting his motorcades, judicial sources have said. Two of the eight for whom the court is seeking capital punishment planned to target Sisi at a Mecca hotel where they mistakenly thought he was staying in 2014, and to plant a bomb to distract security forces while they targeted Sisi and the then Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, judicial and security sources said. The eight were tried in absentia. Of the 292 suspects, 151 are in custody. A court date has been set for March 6 following the Mufti's decision, when all 292 defendants will be handed sentences. Those in custody will then have one chance to appeal against the sentences.”

Reuters: Vatican And Al-Azhar Sign Document On Fighting Extremism: Arabia TV

“The Vatican and Egypt’s Al-Azhar mosque and university signed on Monday a document on fighting extremism, Al Arabiya TV reported. The document was signed in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi, during the historic visit of Pope Francis to the Arabian peninsula.”


Xinhua: Clashes With Militants Kill 6 Army Soldiers In Libya's Derna

“Clashes between the eastern-based army and militants in Libya's eastern city of Derna on Monday killed 6 soldiers and injured 10 others, a military source said. “Heavy clashes have been going on since yesterday in the remaining pocket of the terrorist groups in al-Maghar neighborhood and the old town in central Darna,” the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. According to the source, the clashes on Monday are the heaviest in months, causing great losses to the terrorists. “Their bodies are scattered all over the place” and the remaining terrorists are nearly eliminated, the source said. The army announced two weeks ago that it killed two of the most dangerous terrorists in an operation in Derna. The army, led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, is allied with the eastern-based government, as the country is politically divided between two governments in the east and the west, both competing for legitimacy.”


Premium Times: Nigerian Troops Repel Boko Haram Attack

“The Nigerian Army said troops of 159 Battalion, have repelled an attack by Boko Haram. The soldiers were deployed at Kanama, Yunusari Local Government Area of Yobe State. According to an army spokesperson, Injoka Irabo, the terrorists came on Monday evening in their numbers through the border town of Kanama and began to shoot sporadically. But they were engaged by the vigilant troops. In a press release sent to PREMIUM TIMES, he said although two soldiers sustained injuries in the battle, the troops inflicted heavy casualties on the attackers. He said the terrorists were overwhelmed. “Troops of 159 Battalion, Forward Operational Base (FOB), Sector 2, Operation LAFIYA DOLE, deployed at Kanama, Yunusari Local Government Area of Yobe State, have today evening thwarted Boko Haram terrorists’ attempted incursion into the border town of Kanama. “The terrorists came in at about 5:30 pm and started shooting sporadically. The vigilant troops of the FOB engaged them.”

Defense Post: US Gives Control Center To Niger For Boko Haram Operations

“The United States turned over a communications and operations center to the Niger army to help the African nation battle Boko Haram, a statement said. The planning and operations control center, worth $16.5 million (€14.4 million), is designed to help Niger forces synchronize its operations through improved communications, U.S. Ambassador Eric Whitaker said during the handover ceremony on Monday, February 4. Niger has taken on an important geostrategic role in the U.S. fight against Islamist groups in Africa, and the center known as a C2 Node comprises two tactical operations units equipped with sophisticated communications material. It aims to “streamline pertinent battlefield information to commanders, so that they can best employ their forces,” a copy of Whitaker’s remarks said. The U.S. has already provided Niger with Cessna C-208 surveillance planes, armored personnel vehicles and small craft known as mud boats, along with other equipment and training. “We believe all these capabilities are critical to helping Niger defeat Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations,” Whitaker said.”


The New York Times: Attack At Somali Port Kills Manager At Dubai-Owned Operation

“Gunmen shot and killed a manager at a Dubai government-owned port operation in Somalia’s semiautonomous region of Puntland on Monday, a local government official said, and the Islamist militant group known as the Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. The Shabab were also suspected to be behind a car bombing at a shopping mall in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, later in the day. The blast killed 11 people and wounded 10 others, the police said. The attack at the port in Bosaso came when two men disguised as fishermen shot the executive, Paul Anthony Formosa, at a fish market as he was traveling to work, said Yusuf Mohamed, the governor of the Bari region of Puntland, where the killing took place. Mr. Formosa, a citizen of Malta, died of his wounds at a hospital. One of the attackers was shot and killed by security forces at the scene, and the other was detained, the Bari governor said. The Dubai-based port operator, P&O Ports, said three others were injured in the shooting. Abdiasis Abu Musab, a spokesman for the Shabab’s military operations, said the militant group was behind the killing. “We had warned him but he turned a deaf ear,” he said of Mr. Formosa. “He was illegally in Somalia.”

The Wall Street Journal: Terrorist Attacks Show Rising Risks For Business In Somalia

“An al Qaeda affiliate’s killing of a manager working for a major Dubai-based port operator in Somalia highlights the risks of doing business in the war-ravaged nation. DP World is one of the few international companies to invest in the country, whose coastline sits on the narrow passage that links the Indian Ocean to the Suez Canal. The canal is the fastest and most popular maritime trade route between Europe and Asia, carrying about 10% of the world’s seaborne trade each year. The killing on Monday of 52-year-old Maltese national Paul Anthony Formosa, who worked for a subsidiary of United Arab Emirates-owned DP World, comes weeks after the group killed more than 20 people, many employees of multinational firms. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the killing, as well as a bomb blast in the capital Mogadishu that claimed the lives of 10 Somali soldiers, in a statement using its communications channels, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks terrorist activity. DP World is the world’s third-largest ports operator and has been building up its presence on the African Red Sea Coast, just as competitors from elsewhere in the Middle East and China scramble for perches in the strategically important region.”

Deutsche Welle: Al-Shabab Claims Responsibility For Twin Attacks In Somalia

“Twin incidents of terrorism shook the African nation of Somalia Monday. The first incident took the life of Paul Anthony Formosa, a Maltese national who was the manager of the port of Bosaso in semi-autonomous Puntland state for P&O Ports, a subsidiary of the Dubai-based DP World. P&O Ports acknowledged that one of its employees was killed and three others injured in an “incident” Monday at its operations in Bosaso Port. The company said that an investigation is ongoing. “Three other employees have been injured in this morning's incident, and all are currently receiving medical treatment,” read the statement.  P&O Ports signed a 30-year, $336 million deal in 2017 to develop the Bosaso Port. The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group has taken claim for the attack. “We are behind the operation ... we had warned him but he turned a deaf ear. He was illegally in Somalia,” said spokesman for al-Shabab's military operations, Abdiasis Abu Musab. P&O Ports has sparked friction with Mogadishu over its development of ports in Berbera in breakaway Somaliland — whose independence is not recognized — as well as Puntaland. Many of Somalia's federal states have aligned with the United Arab Emirates, while the central government is perceived as pro-Qatar, in the Gulf crisis pitting Arab powers against each other.”

Xinhua: Somali Security Forces Kill 40 Militants In Southern Region

“Somali National Intelligence Service Agency (NISA) said Tuesday that it had killed 40 al-Shabab fighters in the country's southern region. Security forces launched a wide-scale operation in Farsoley village in Lower Shabelle region on Saturday, NISA said in a statement. Somali security forces are conducting operations against the al-Qaida-affiliated group, al-Shabab in central and southern regions. The terrorist group on Monday launched a car bombing attack on a shopping mall in the Somali capital Mogadishu, killing at least 12 people and injuring nine others. Somali National Armed Forces backed by African Union Mission in Somalia ousted al-Shabab from Mogadishu in August 2011, but the terrorist group is still in control of areas in southern Somalia.”


Al Jazeera: US Embassy In Nairobi Warns Citizens Of Possible Attack In Kenya

“The United States warned its citizens in Kenya on Monday that “credible information indicates Westerners may be targeted by extremists”. The warning comes just weeks after a deadly al-Shabab attack on an upmarket hotel in the capital, Nairobi, in which at least 21 people, including a US citizen, were shot dead. Sixteen Kenyans and a British citizen were also killed in the siege that lasted more than 19 hours. The US embassy in Nairobi said targets could include several parts of the East African country, listing Nairobi, Naivasha, Nanyuki and coastal areas, all popular with foreign tourists. “The US Embassy reminds the public of the continued need for heightened vigilance throughout Kenya, especially in public spaces such as shopping malls, hotels, and places of worship,” the statement said. Meanwhile, the government of the UK updated its travel advisory to the country saying Britons should avoid areas near the Somalia-Kenya border and parts of the coastal region. According to the UK's foreign and commonwealth office “there's a heightened threat of terrorist attacks across Kenya, including Nairobi and the coast and resort areas around Mombasa and Malindi, and northern border counties”. “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Kenya,” the travel advisory said.”

Eyewitness News: 14 Civilians Killed In Jihadist Attack In Burkina Faso - Army

“Fourteen civilians were killed in a jihadist attack in northern Burkina Faso near the Mali border, the military said on Monday. The army conducted raids in three northern provinces in response and said it had “neutralised” 146 militants, according to a report that AFP could not immediately confirm from an independent source. The jihadist attack, which took place in the town of Kain in the Yatenta province bordering Mali, is one of the most serious recorded in the country and came on the eve of a G5 Sahel summit in Ouagadougou. Army spokesman Colonel Lamoussa Fofana said in a statement: “On the night of Sunday 3 February to Monday, 4 February, 2019 a terrorist attack in Kain left 14 civilian victims. “In response to this attack, the national defence and security forces immediately began operations in the Kain, Banh (Loroum Province, north) and Bomboro (Kossi Province, northwest) areas. “This counterattack... resulted in a land and air operation which neutralised 146 terrorists in the three areas,” the statement said. A military source confirmed to AFP that the term “neutralise” meant kill. The army said it suffered “light casualties” but “no loss of life” during the retaliations, adding that security operations were continuing in the affected areas.”

United Kingdom

Sky News: IS Suspects Say They Are Desperate To Return To Their Former Lives In UK

“Sky News has been given special access to British and Irish citizens being held in eastern Syria who are accused of fighting for Islamic State (IS). None of the three - including a doctor who has worked in dozens of NHS hospitals - have been seen or heard on British television since they were arrested by the US-led coalition forces who are fighting IS in the region. Two are British medics - one being the doctor, the other a pharmacist from Birmingham - and the third is an Irish citizen who encouraged his wife and child to join him with the extremists. All three are now begging their governments to intervene to get them out of jail in the war zone where they are being held and take them back home. The plight of thousands of foreigners accused of joining the caliphate is a major headache for their home countries, as many of the governments view them as a potential danger after years spent under the control of extremists. But all three insist they pose no risk and are simply desperate to resume their former lives. Interviews with them were conducted separately and at different times in two separate locations, both on Kurdish bases with a coalition presence throughout. Sometimes one, two or three men in uniform were in the room and we were instructed not to film them.”


Huffington Post: Hate Groups Showed Up At Canada’s Oldest Mosque, Reigniting Familiar Fears

“Members of far-right hate groups recently entered the Al Rashid Mosque in Edmonton, Canada, and gathered outside to harass worshippers on their way to Friday prayers. The incident evoked memories of the shooting, two years ago almost to the day, that left six people dead and 19 injured at a Quebec City mosque. It also served as yet another illustration of growing anti-Muslim bigotry in the country. “Over the last three years we’ve seen a rise in two far-right movements in Canada, and those are the anti-Muslim and the alt-right neo-Nazi groups, which sometimes overlap but are two distinct things,” said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “We have had regular anti-Muslim demonstrations in cities across Canada, mostly in our largest cities, at least every month going back at least two years. This isn’t just an isolated incident. It’s just constant.”

Southeast Asia

South China Morning Post: 5 Militants Linked To Deadly Church Bombing Surrender In The Philippines

“Five suspected Abu Sayyaf militants accused of involvement in the deadly bombing of a Roman Catholic cathedral in the southern Philippines have surrendered to authorities, the national police chief said on Monday.Top of Form  Bottom of FormComplaints for murder and attempted murder were filed against the five, as well as several other suspected Abu Sayyaf fighters who remain at large, for their role in the January 27 attack at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Sulu province’s Jolo town, which killed 23 people and wounded nearly 100 others. Before the bombing, the suspects taken into custody had escorted the two Indonesians thought to have carried out the suicide attack around Jolo and to a meeting with an Abu Sayyaf commander, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who has been accused of plotting and funding the attack, Police Director-General Oscar Albayalde said. Police said the five suspects were led by a suspected local militant identified as Kammah Pae, who has denied any involvement in the bombing. Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Pae may have known about the planned attack but was not directly involved, adding that the military will coordinate with police to sort out differences in their findings.”

Arab News: Philippines ‘Facing A New Wave Of Terror’

“The Philippines is facing the threat of a new wave of terror attacks following the recent cathedral bombing which killed 23 people, security experts have warned.  A new counterterrorism strategy is urgently required to combat an influx of Daesh-inspired foreign fighters who are expected to launch further raids over the coming months. Rohan Gunaratna, a professor of security studies at Nanyang Technological University, in Singapore, told Arab News that since the five-month siege of the Philippine city of Marawi in 2017, the threat from Daesh-linked militants has spread to other regions of Mindanao. The Philippine authorities declared victory against Daesh in the country after government forces won a bloody battle to liberate Marawi from insurgents led by the Maute Group. But Gunaratna said that, since then, the regeneration of Daesh in the Philippines has created an environment for the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into the country. And unless the government immediately addresses the situation, he warned of more attacks like last month’s deadly bombing of the Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, on the southern province of Sulu, which also injured more than 100 people. “The Philippines is facing a new phase of threat influenced by foreign fighters, ideologies, and funding,” Gunaratna said.”


Associated Press: EU Nations Endorse Venezuela Opposition Leader Over Maduro

“More than a dozen European Union countries endorsed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president Monday, piling the pressure on embattled President Nicolas Maduro to resign and clear the way for a new presidential election. Maduro stood defiant, rejecting a U.S offer of humanitarian aid that has shifted attention to Venezuela’s western border with Colombia, where opponents were gearing up to try to bring emergency food and medicine into the country. “We are not beggars,” Maduro said in a speech to troops broadcast on Venezuelan state TV. Spain, Germany, France and Britain delivered diplomatic blows to Maduro’s rule by publicly supporting Guaido after a Sunday deadline for Maduro to call a presidential election passed without action. Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Poland and Portugal also lined up behind Guaido, who last month declared himself interim president with the support of the United States and many Latin American nations.”


CNN: Early Facebook Investor Blasts Company In New Book 'Zucked'

“Facebook is bad for democracy and its executives have put profits over their civic responsibilities, an early investor in the company charges in a new book. Tech investor Roger McNamee makes these claims in "Zucked: Waking up to the Facebook catastrophe," due out on Tuesday. McNamee has said he served as a mentor to CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Facebook's early years and discouraged the young entrepreneur from selling the business for $1 billion to a bigger tech company. Facebook is currently worth about $500 billion. McNamee argues in the book that the business models of Facebook (FB) and other tech giants are bad for society due to their reliance on advertising. He says platforms need to keep people on their sites as long as possible and often the most polarizing, divisive, and emotive content is what keeps people engaged. "Facebook and Google designed their products to create habits that for many people become an addiction," McNamee told CNN Business on Monday. "They manipulate attention for profit and enable bad actors to manipulate some users in ways that harm them and others.”

Counter Terrorism

Seventh Day: Egypt: Rental Property Law To Be Amended To Counter Terrorism

“Dr. Mohammed Khalifa, Member of the Egyptian Parliamentary Legislative Committee, stated that he has been preparing a new proposal for the parliament to amend the current rental law. The new amendment aims to regulate the relations between landlords and tenants of the furnished rental apartments in Egypt, which were recently discovered to be accommodating terrorists and criminals, MP Khalifa stressed. He added that the existing property law is too old and inconsistent with the latest changes, particularly the unprecedented increase in terrorist and criminal acts. MP Khalifa went on to say that he, along with other parliament members, will soon submit a draft law to modify the controversial law dealing with furnished rental apartments in order to combat terrorism and crime. Property owners will be able to easily and promptly report to the authorities any suspicious renter via WhatsApp, MP Khalifa noted.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Alweeam: Documents Implicate Muslim Brotherhood In Attempts To Seize Libya's Oil

“Colonel Ahmed Al-Mesmari, Spokesman of the Libyan National Army (LNA), disclosed that the army has recently uncovered highly important documents which implicate the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya in attempting to seize control of the country's oil resources. During a TV interview on Sunday, Al-Mesmari stated that the last battle of the Libyan army is aimed at cleansing the southern part of Libya of terrorists from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and Al-Qaeda. All militants will ultimately be forced out of Libya, the Libyan National Army spokesman stressed.”


Gulf365: Hamas Obtains Bitcoin Donations Via Portfolios On Coinbase And Binance Platforms

“Recently circulated media reports show that the Palestinian Hamas Movement, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the USA and the EU, obtained Bitcoin donations. The same sources explained that the Gaza-based terror group received monetary contributions from its supporters abroad via portfolios operating at prominent crypto exchanges such as Coinbase and Binance. However, Coinbase, a San Francisco-based American digital currency exchange, recently detected and foiled Hamas' attempts to obtain cryptocurrency donations, the source added.”


Nasiriyah News Network: Iraq: Attempt To Supply Funds, Explosive Belts And Firearms To ISIS Thwarted

“On Sunday, the commander of the border guards in the Second District of Anbar, Major General Ammar al-Kubaisi, announced a botched attempt to transport $500k and three explosive belts {enroute} to ISIS, originating from Syria. Al-Kubaisi said that "the attempt to smuggle $500k, three explosive belts and a gun to ISIS, enroute from Syria to the Iraqi territory west of Anbar, was thwarted." Al-Kubaisi added that "the smuggling operation was foiled thanks to accurate intelligence information. One terrorist was killed and another injured during the effort to thwart the operation.”


Arabyoum: A New Report Reveals The Extent Of Houthis’ Corruption

“A report issued by the Joint Operations Room to monitor the transfer and distribution of cooking gas in Yemen revealed the extent of the corruption practiced by the Houthis. It showed that the Houthis have been manipulating the quantities of cooking gas allocated in the areas under their control, especially in the capital Sana'a. According to the report, the Houthis have been stealing cooking gas in addition transferring large quantities of gas to the black market to obtain profits at the expense of the citizens. A report previously issued by the Capital Media Center revealed more than 800 black markets in the capital, Sana’a, run by influential leaders of the Houthi group.”