Eye on Extremism: February 7, 2019

CNN: US Officials Say New Al Qaeda Leader Video Shows Terror Group Is Still A Threat

“The latest message from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri urging supporters to unite against enemies may be, at first glance, a fairly routine statement from an aging leader seeking to remain relevant. Zawahiri warns "Muslims face enemies from many sides" including Shiite Muslims, Americans, Russians, French and Chinese, in a video released Tuesday, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. But the timing of the video has a deeper significance to US intelligence and military officials. The latest US intelligence assessment on al Qaeda released last week is that senior leaders are "strengthening the network's global command structure," as part of its effort to inspire and encourage attacks against the West. Zawahiri, for his part, remains a very visible international symbol of the group, eight years after the US killed Osama Bin Laden. While Bin Laden and Zawahiri are perhaps regarded by younger jihadists as leaders of a by-gone era of the 9-11 attacks, US intelligence is not ready to write off his influence or ability to inspire a younger generation through al Qaeda's current networks. The group's "command and control is agile, active and able to respond," one US official who tracks the group told CNN.”

The Washington Post: Cornered In Syria, IS Lays Groundwork For A New Insurgency

“The Islamic State gunmen came out of hiding in the middle of the night and set up a checkpoint on a rural road in eastern Syria. For several hours, they stopped those passing and searched through their mobile phones to check their allegiances, until they vanished again into the desert. One young man, an education worker, got through the checkpoint safely. But when he got to his destination in the next village, the threat was waiting for him. An IS loyalist told him: Don’t remove pro-IS graffiti from school walls or you will pay the price. The incident, one of many similar ones in past weeks, sent a bigger message — the Islamic State group may have lost almost all its territory, but it hasn’t left. The group’s once-sprawling caliphate has been reduced to a remote scrap of land in Syria’s eastern desert, where a few hundred battle-hardened fighters are making a final stand against U.S.-backed forces. But in liberated areas across Syria and Iraq, sleeper cells are carrying out assassinations, setting up flying checkpoints and distributing fliers as they lay the groundwork for an insurgency that could gain strength as U.S. forces withdraw. President Donald Trump has vowed to withdraw American forces from Syria, saying the militants are all but defeated.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: UN Experts: North Korea Seeking To Arm Houthis

“United Nations sanctions monitors have accused North Korea of violating a UN arms embargo and attempting to sell weapons to armed groups in the Middle East, including Yemen’s Houthi rebels. North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs "remain intact,” the experts said in a new report to the Security Council. The panel found that Pyongyang “is using civilian facilities, including airports, for ballistic missile assembly and testing with the goal of effectively preventing 'decapitation' strikes." It also found evidence of a consistent trend on the part of North Korea “to disperse the assembly, storage and testing locations."  The experts said the country continues to defy UN economic sanctions, including through "a massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal." A huge increase in such transfers "render the latest United Nations sanctions ineffective by flouting the caps” on North Korea's import of petroleum products and crude oil as well as the coal ban imposed in 2017 by the Security Council in response to Pyongyang's unprecedented nuclear and ballistic missile testing," the experts said.”

The Independent: Trump's Secretary Of State Pompeo Says Hezbollah Is Active In Venezuela

“Hezbollah is active in Venezuela, the US secretary of state has said, as the Trump administration ratchets up pressure on the Latin American nation amid a crippling political and economic crisis. “People don’t recognise that Hezbollah has active cells” in the country, Mike Pompeo told Fox Business. “The Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America. We have an obligation to take down that risk for America.” The US has long considered the Iranian-backed Lebanese group a terrorist organisation, and sanctions on people in Venezuela linked to Hezbollah have been imposed as far back as the George W Bush administration. Washington also believes Latin America has served as a base of fund-gathering for the group for some years, including through drugs and money-laundering schemes, according to past reports. Venezuela’s former president Hugo Chavez formed tight links with Iran under Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s leadership. Mr Pompeo’s claim came as the US, the UK and other EU countries put pressure on Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, to cede power and call new elections.”

Reuters: 'The Corpses Were Lying On The Streets': Nigerian Refugees Flee Boko Haram

“Seconds after glimpsing Boko Haram gunmen leap out of vehicles brandishing weapons in the town of Rann, Nigeria, Abdul, 45, rushed inside the medical clinic where he worked.  Raising his eyes up to the ceiling, it seemed as if he was about to murmur a prayer.  Instead, he clambered atop a plastic worktable and hoisted himself inside a narrow concealed opening just below the roof.  “I hid there for hours,” said Abdul, one of more than 35,000 Nigerians who fled Rann for Cameroon.  He described the shooting he heard outside while militants shouted “we are the agents of Jihad!”  Later, after he began to smell burning and realised the clinic had also been set on fire, he shed his clothes, punched his way through the roof and rolled off into the grass, lying low until he could gather some belongings and flee.  Last week, Abdul, who works for international aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) and did not want to reveal his real name for safety reasons, escaped to Cameroon’s Far North region in search of safety. Nigerians have been sheltering in Cameroon for years, on the run from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. Following Boko Haram’s previous attack on Rann on Jan. 14, about 9,000 refugees crossed the border.”

Bloomberg: U.S. Erupts In Fury As Germany Deports Terrorist To Turkey

“The Trump administration escalated its dispute with Germany over the transfer of a terror suspect sought by the U.S., with American officials berating their German counterparts in a private meeting and Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker issuing an unusual rebuke of an ally for sending the man to Turkey. Senior U.S. and German officials had a heated argument over the fate of Adem Yilmaz, a Turkish man convicted of belonging to a terrorist cell, after he was deported to Turkey despite a U.S. extradition request. The dispute is the latest sign of mounting strain between the two allies under Donald Trump’s presidency. The back and forth, which occurred Wednesday at a meeting between Deputy U.S. Secretary of State John Sullivan and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Washington, was described by three people familiar with the event who didn’t want to be identified discussing private conversations. At the center of the debate was Yilmaz, who was convicted in 2010 of plotting to bomb American targets in Germany and sentenced to 11 years in prison. U.S. officials had filed an extradition request for Yilmaz over the killing of two American service members, but a German court allowed him to be deported to Turkey this month instead.”

United States

The New York Post: Afghan Extradited For Trying To Traffic Heroin To Fund Terrorism: Prosecutors

“An Afghan man was extradited to the United States to face charges that he tried to traffic thousands of kilos of heroin into New York and use the profits to help fund terror networks, prosecutors announced Wednesday. Haji Manaf, 53, was extradited from Estonia this week after his arrest in October for the alleged plot to funnel the money back to the Taliban and the Haqqani network, according to a criminal complaint. In August, Manaf allegedly unwittingly arranged for a sample sale of the drug with a DEA agent and four informants, the court papers say. Manaf’s lawyer did not immediately return a request for comment.”


The New York Times: Trump Seeks To Reassure Allies On ISIS Fight As Syria Withdrawal Looms

“President Trump sought to reassure nervous allies on Wednesday that his administration would continue an unrelenting hunt for Islamic State fighters “for many years to come,” even as the United States prepares to withdraw troops from the war zones of Syria and Afghanistan. Mr. Trump, speaking to international diplomats at the State Department, said he expected to soon announce that the United States and its partners, including Syrian Arab and Kurdish allies, will have reclaimed the last slivers of territory that Islamic State fighters control in Syria. But the president acknowledged that even after that happens, militants will go underground and continue to pose a serious threat wherever the extremist group operates. “Remnants can be very dangerous,” Mr. Trump said. “They’re sick. They’re demented.” His comments, echoing themes from his State of the Union address on Tuesday, was a notable departure from the bluster of his assertion in December that the Islamic State had been defeated. For a commander in chief who frequently ridicules international organizations — including the European Union and NATO — Mr. Trump was uncharacteristically solicitous of the 79 nations and international organizations that make up the global coalition to fight ISIS.”

CBS News: Trump Says Seizure Of "100 Percent" Of ISIS Territory Should Be Announced Soon

“President Trump told ministers with the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Wednesday he anticipates an announcement "probably" next week that "100 percent" of ISIS' territory has been captured. But the president, speaking at the State Department, added he doesn't want to announce that now because he wants to wait for the official word. "It should be formally announced sometime probably next week that we will have 100 percent of the caliphate," Mr. Trump told his audience of international leaders in brief remarks. "But I want to wait for the official word. I don't want to say it too early." But the president also said there will always be "sick" and "demented" people in the region, "no matter how well we do militarily."  "I just want to thank everybody in this room," the president said as he concluded. "This is a special group of brilliant people and it's been an honor to work with you and we will continue to work with you because unfortunately, this is not going to be something that, as brilliant as our military is, knocking out the big big sections, they'll still have tiny sections — can be so dangerous."  The president's remarks at the State Department come as he looks to withdraw troops from Syria rapidly, a move his own Pentagon says could allow for ISIS to reclaim ground.”

CNN: Trump Touts Gains Against ISIS, Glosses Over Syria Withdrawal

“President Donald Trump praised the US and its allies for progress made in the fight against ISIS in a speech that failed to discuss the diplomatic and policy implications of his sudden decision to pull US troops from Syria. In remarks to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS ministerial at the State Department Wednesday, the US President touted the territorial gains made against the terror group. "The United States military, our coalition partners and the Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated virtually all of the territory previously held by ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It should be formally announced sometime probably next week that we will have 100% of the caliphate," he said before cautioning that he wants "to wait for the official word." There is now a proposed plan for the President to possibly make an announcement next week from the White House that the coalition has regained 100% of the territory ISIS once controlled inside Syria, several defense officials say. The timing of the announcement depends on when and if the military tells the White House that the last bit of the very southern tip of Middle Euphrates River Valley is no longer in ISIS' hands. The President's speech at the State Department focused heavily on the military victories against ISIS.”

The New York Times: A Desperate Exodus From ISIS’s Final Village

“The men who emerge from the Islamic State’s last sliver of land are ordered to sit behind one of two orange lines spray-painted on the rocky desert floor: Syrians behind one and Iraqis behind the other. The women, wearing face-covering veils and clutching toddlers, huddle in a different spot, also separated by nationality. Several of the escapees are so badly wounded from incoming fire that they have to be carried to this open vista on mattresses to surrender to the American-backed coalition. By midmorning, United States Special Operations Forces arrive in a convoy of armored vehicles. The men suspected of being Islamic State fighters are ordered to approach in single file, their arms outstretched, as they are searched by troops and a sniffer dog. Then they are fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed. In the last two weeks, thousands of people have been streaming out of the village of Baghuz, the last speck of land under Islamic State control in Iraq and Syria, an area where the group once ruled a dominion the size of Britain. That state is all but gone. In the last month, the group went from holding three villages to two to just one. The militants are now trapped in an area about the size of Central Park. To the west, they are hemmed in by Syrian government forces.”

CBS News: Syria: CBS News Dodges ISIS Bombs Despite Trump Claim Group Is Almost Wiped Out

“President Trump said Wednesday ISIS should be wiped out in Syria by next week, with all the territory it once held re-taken by the U.S.-led coalition. But in eastern Syria, CBS News' Charlie D'Agata had to run from ISIS bombs. A whirring noise, feared to be the sound of an incoming ISIS mortar flew overhead, sending people scrambling and taking cover. Soldiers said CBS News had no choice but to run into the open, single file, to reach a safer place. U.S. forces and allies have now reduced ISIS territory to the point where everything has become close combat. Even getting to the frontline on Wednesday morning meant a dash through the desert at breakneck speed, quickly covering ground where ISIS could mount sneak attacks.  CBS News was not there long before twin airstrikes pounded positions straight ahead. In the distance, the ISIS dream of a caliphate in its dying days. After all the fighting and lives lost, this is what it comes down to: A terror group that once held territory around the size of Indiana has been reduced to an area just a couple square miles. Commander Khaled Baran said the final fight against ISIS has slowed to a grind because the terror group is holding those civilians as human shields.”

CBS News: Mike Pence Says U.S. Will Be "Prepared To Strike Back At ISIS" After Troop Withdrawal

“In December, President Trump announced the military would withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, claiming ISIS has been defeated. But a recent report found that without "sustained pressure" on ISIS, the terror group could re-emerge in Syria within six to 12 months.  In an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor, Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. would "stay in the region." "We're going to be prepared to strike back at ISIS. We're gonna engage our coalition partners to work with us to deal with the remnants of ISIS that are in the region. But I think every American can be proud of the progress that we have made in defeating the ISIS caliphate in the region. And they can be confident that the United States and our coalition partners will continue to lean into the fight against any resurgence of ISIS in the future," Pence said. Pence has also said ISIS was defeated, but he told Glor that it would be "a matter of weeks" before all of the group's territory was reclaimed. "The territory that's been reclaimed is 99 percent of what ISIS has claimed and frankly -- and we're informed that in a matter of weeks that all of the territory that ISIS has claimed," Pence said. "The simple fact is that more than a year ago, the capital of Raqqa of their so-called caliphate was captured by U.S. and coalition forces…”

Military Times: Cornered In Syria, ISIS Lays Groundwork For A New Insurgency

“The Islamic State gunmen came out of hiding in the middle of the night and set up a checkpoint on a rural road in eastern Syria. For several hours, they stopped those passing and searched through their mobile phones to check their allegiances, until they vanished again into the desert. One young man, an education worker, got through the checkpoint safely. But when he got to his destination in the next village, the threat was waiting for him. An ISIS loyalist told him: Don’t remove pro-ISIS graffiti from school walls or you will pay the price. The incident, one of many similar ones in past weeks, sent a bigger message — the Islamic State group may have lost almost all its territory, but it hasn't left. The group's once-sprawling caliphate has been reduced to a remote scrap of land in Syria's eastern desert, where a few hundred battle-hardened fighters are making a final stand against U.S.-backed forces. But in liberated areas across Syria and Iraq, sleeper cells are carrying out assassinations, setting up flying checkpoints and distributing fliers as they lay the groundwork for an insurgency that could gain strength as U.S. forces withdraw. President Donald Trump has vowed to withdraw American forces from Syria, saying the militants are all but defeated."


The Wall Street Journal: Trump’s Iran Terror Comments Draw Ire In Tehran

“Iran hit back at President Trump’s State of the Union address in which he called Tehran the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, saying the U.S. has a history of backing brutal regimes in the Middle East. “U.S. hostility has led it to support butchers & extremists, who’ve only brought ruin to our region,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted Wednesday. Responding to Mr. Trump’s allegations that Iran has threatened genocide against the Jewish people, Mr. Zarif said that all Iranians, including Jewish compatriots, were commemorating 40 years of progress despite U.S. pressure. The comments were the latest in a string of rhetorical attacks from Iranian officials using the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution on Feb. 11 to attack the U.S. for perceived aggression and imperialism around the world. The 1979 Iranian revolution, which toppled the authoritarian regime of the U.S.-backed shah, began four decades of hostility between Tehran and Washington. To the U.S., countering Iranian influence remains a primary objective of its presence in the Middle East. In his State of the Union address, Mr. Trump also noted that his withdrawal last year from the multination nuclear pact with Iran and the subsequent imposition of sanctions were to ensure Tehran never acquired nuclear weapons.”

Saudi Gazette: Iran’s Political Hierarchy Is Unified In Support Of Terrorism

“After a period of relative silence, terrorist operations sponsored by Tehran have resumed in the West. As 2018 was coming to an end, the Albanian government made a bold move by expelling the Iranian ambassador and another diplomat (reportedly the Iranian intelligence station chief) from that country for threatening the country’s security. The move by Albania drew praise from the Trump administration. In a letter to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Trump thanked him for standing up to Iran and countering “its destabilizing activities and efforts to silence dissidents around the globe.” The previous downturn on Iranian state-sponsored terrorism in the West was not the result of a change in the nature of the Iranian regime. It was the outcome of a relatively firm reaction to convictions in a German criminal court over the assassination of Iranian Kurdish leaders in Berlin in 1997. European countries summoned their ambassadors and warned Tehran against repeating terrorist attacks on European soil. But since then, Tehran has continued to carry out terrorist operations against Iranian dissidents outside Europe, especially in Iraq, where dozens of operations targeted members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) before the fall of the former Iraqi regime.”


The Washington Post: Iraqi Militia Says It Hit IS Targets Inside Syria

“Iraqi militias say they have launched dozens of missiles targeting Islamic State militants holed up in a Syrian village across the border. The state-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Forces said Thursday they fired 50 missiles at targets in Baghouz village, in the last speck of territory held by the extremists. Iraq’s military has bombed IS posts inside Syria before, but the militias — many of which are backed by Iran — rarely engage in cross-border shelling. Some PMF factions are fighting inside Syria. IS has lost virtually all the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq. Hundreds of militants are now confined to a small area where they are surrounded by Syrian fighters backed by U.S.-led airstrikes. IS claims to have downed a PMF-operated drone in Baghouz on Wednesday.”

The Washington Post: How Trump’s Comments On Iran Are Imperiling The Fight Against ISIS In Iraq

“Iraq’s top Shiite religious authority added his voice Wednesday to the chorus of criticism of President Trump’s plan to have U.S. troops stationed in Iraq “watch” neighboring Iran, raising fresh concerns that the idea is imperiling the fight against the Islamic State. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani broke tradition by commenting directly on Trump’s proposal — a move that is likely to put pressure on Iraq’s leadership to address the U.S. president’s comments, which have rankled both allies and foes. “Iraq . . . refuses to be a station used to harm any other country,” said Sistani, an extremely influential figure who typically delivers his opinions privately through intermediaries or through a representative during Friday prayer sermons. Several political factions that are usually at odds, including those backed by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and a coalition representing several Iran-aligned militias, have called for fast-tracking a bill that would recommend severely limiting the number and activity of U.S. forces in Iraq when parliament reconvenes next month. Any change to the approximately 5,200-strong U.S. military presence in Iraq could have dire consequences for years.”

The Washington Post: Do U.S. Troops Have A Future In Iraq?

“During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Trump offered a defense of two recent and controversial foreign-policy decisions: His attempt to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and the administration’s peace talks with the Taliban, which could lead to a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. “Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he said. Yet, Trump glossed over Iraq, another country where the United States is fighting a seemingly endless war. Nearly 16 years after the United States invaded Iraq, there remain about 5,200 U.S. troops stationed there. When Trump visited them in December, in his first trip to a conflict zone as commander in chief — and shortly after his unexpected announcement that he planned to withdraw troops from Syria — it was seen as a reinforcement of the U.S. mission in Iraq. Trump confirmed no immediate plans to withdraw from Iraq. “In fact, we could use this as the base if we wanted to do something in Syria,” he said during his stopover. But while the president and his national security team may want U.S. troops to stay, his words and actions seem to be decreasing the country’s tolerance for hosting American forces.”


The New York Times: Taliban Peace Talks In Moscow End With Hope The U.S. Exits, If Not Too Quickly

“After two days of talks in Moscow, the Taliban and prominent Afghan politicians, many of them former enemies, said on Wednesday that they had charted a broad road map for ending Afghanistan’s 18-year war, structured around the withdrawal of American forces from the country and the Taliban’s commitment to citizens’ fundamental rights. Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan and the leader of the politicians’ delegation, declared the talks a “big achievement” that would help push toward “peace, stability and an Afghanistan free of foreign forces.” The meeting, at the Kremlin-owned President Hotel, was the first significant public contact between the Taliban and prominent Afghans in years, with the Islamist insurgents presenting more detail on some of their positions, including on women’s rights. At best, however, the event was a brainstorming session because of a conspicuous absence at the table: The government of President Ashraf Ghani was not represented, meaning none of the agreements would carry any weight of implementation. Officials close to Mr. Ghani’s administration have said such meetings undermine the fragile Afghan state. nd the final statement released on Wednesday evening lacked details and, reflecting the conflicting views of the participants, proposed no timeline for an American withdrawal.”

ABC News: Taliban Official Says US Promised To Withdraw Troops In Afghanistan By April

“A Taliban official on Wednesday said the United States has promised to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by April, a claim the U.S. State Department immediately disputed. The official, Abdul Salam Hanafi, made the comments in Moscow where he was part of a Taliban delegation attending peace talks with senior Afghan political figures. Afghanistan government officials did not attend the delegation. "The Americans have agreed to us that half of American forces will start leaving from beginning of February till end of April," Hanafi told reporters Wednesday, saying the promise had been made during breakthrough talks with U.S. negotiators in Qatar's capital Doha last month, which he had taken part in. A State Department spokesperson though disputed that, telling ABC News, “We have not agreed to any timeline for a possible drawdown of troops and are not going to get into any other specific details of diplomatic conversations." Hanafi's comments come a week after Taliban and U.S. negotiators at the Doha talks announced that they had in principle agreed to a framework for a deal which could potentially lead to full peace talks, raising hopes that an end to Afghanistan's 18-year war could be closer.”

Al Jazeera: Understanding The Taliban Will Be Key To Peace In Afghanistan

“On January 28, following six consecutive days of talks in Qatar's capital Doha, Washington's main negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad announced that the US and the Taliban finally have a "draft framework" in place for a deal which could pave the way for peace talks with the Afghan government. Khalilzad's comments undoubtedly ignited hopes of a breakthrough in the grinding 17-year conflict, but neither the US nor the Taliban officials offered any details on the specific of the framework. Historically, due to its strategic location, Afghanistan often served as a battleground on which global and regional powers settled their rivalries. Series of invasions, interventions, wars and long-term confrontations caused major devastation and loss for all involved parties, with the highest price inevitably being paid by the Afghan nation. Over the years, the warring parties participated in countless rounds of talks and negotiations, at times creating cautious optimism. However, due to decision-makers' short-sightedness, overconfidence and refusal to learn from past mistakes, peace always proved evasive and the suffering of millions continued.”

Al Jazeera: Two Afghan Journalists Killed In Attack On Radio Station

“Two journalists were shot and killed when gunmen stormed their radio station in northeast Afghanistan, officials said. Shafiq Aria and Rahimullah Rahmani, both in their 20s, were shot on Tuesday inside the studios of Radio Hamsada, a private broadcaster based in Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack so far and an investigation was under way, provincial spokesman Jawad Hejri told the AFP news agency.  "Two unidentified gunmen entered the radio station's office at around 6pm on Tuesday. They opened fire on two reporters who were behind their mics during a live programme. Both reporters died at the scene," he said. Journalists under attack The attack is the second this year in war-torn Afghanistan targeting journalists. Last month, Afghan citizen journalist Jawid Noori was snatched from his car and murdered by the Taliban in Farah province in the country's west. Taliban and other armed groups have repeatedly attacked Afghan journalists, killing 15 in 2018, the deadliest year yet for the country's media, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).”

Voice Of America: Landmine Victims In Afghanistan Increase As Taliban Plants Explosives

“U.N. de-miners say the number of people being killed and maimed by landmines in Afghanistan is rising due to explosives newly planted by the Taliban.  The United Nations has been involved in clearing landmines in Afghanistan for 29 years. Over that period, the U.N. and its partners have cleared some 730,000 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines at a cost of $1.5 billion. The U.N. estimates landmines and explosive remnants of war have killed and maimed some 30,000 civilians, with young children accounting for the largest number of victims. While casualties had been steadily dropping, the U.N. says there has been an increase in recent years. Patrick Fruchet, program manager of the U.N. Mine Action Service in Afghanistan, said there were an average of 36 casualties a month in 2012, but that number increased to more than 150 casualties a month in 2017. "The United Nations established as of about 2010 that the Taliban movement was manufacturing improvised landmines inside Afghanistan and deploying them inside Afghanistan," Fruchet said. "That has been denied by the Taliban movement, but we stand by the statement."  British photographer Giles Duley lost both legs and an arm when he stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan in 2011.”

Radio Free Europe: Afghan Taliban Open To Women's Rights -- But Only On Its Terms

“With increased talk of peace in Afghanistan, the Taliban is projecting itself as a more moderate force, pledging to grant women their rights and allow them to work and go to school. The Taliban said in a February 5 statement that it was committed to guaranteeing women their rights -- under Islam -- and "in a way that neither their legitimate rights are violated nor their human dignity and Afghan values are threatened." However, in the same statement, issued during talks between Taliban representatives and an Afghan delegation led by former President Hamid Karzai in Moscow, the Taliban also suggested it wants to curtail the fragile freedoms gained by women since the U.S.-led invasion ousted the militants in 2001, prompting concern among Afghan rights campaigners.  The statement comes after U.S. and Taliban officials, meeting in Doha in late January, agreed in principle to the "framework" of a peace deal aimed at ending Afghanistan's 17-year war. 'Immorality, Indecency' The Taliban ruled Afghanistan in 1996-2001 with a fundamentalist and often brutal interpretation of Islamic law. The extremist group was notorious for its treatment of women, banning most of them from working or going to school and lashing those who broke their strict edicts.”


ABC News: Hezbollah Leader Says In Event Of War, Iran Won't Be Alone

“The leader of Lebanon's militant Hezbollah said Wednesday the organization would defend Iran in the event of war, saying the Islamic Republic would not be alone in a confrontation with America. Hassan Nasrallah said the Islamic Republic is currently the strongest state in the region, and the so-called axis of resistance led by Iran is the strongest it has ever been. The axis groups the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad with Shiite militias in Iraq and Hezbollah. Nasrallah was speaking to supporters at a rally marking the 40th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution and the overthrow of the shah. "If America launches war on Iran, it will not be alone in the confrontation, because the fate of our region is tied to the Islamic Republic," he said. Speaking via a large screen, Nasrallah said America is set to retreat from the region and has no real option to squeeze Iran except with sanctions. "We see the struggle in the region may escalate and may take different forms but in all cases, today the Islamic Republic is the strongest state in the region ... and America is headed for more withdrawals and retreats from the region," he said. Nasrallah spent over an hour extolling Iran and the Islamic revolution's political and economic accomplishments.”

Times Of Israel: Hezbollah Leader Calls On Lebanon To Accept Arms From Iran To Confront Israel

“The leader of Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah said Wednesday that he is willing to ask Iran to supply the Lebanese military with weapons and aerial defense systems to confront Israeli warplanes and called on Beirut to accept the offer. “Will the Lebanese government dare to accept the Iranian proposals? Why should Lebanon remain afraid to cooperate with Iran?” Nasrallah said in a televised address marking the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution and the overthrow of the Shah. “I’m a friend of Iran and I’m willing to bring the Lebanese Army air defense systems from Iran to confront Israel,” Nasrallah said according to Lebanon’s Naharnet news site. Nasrallah spent over an hour extolling Iran and the Islamic revolution’s political and economic accomplishments. The Shiite group was formed in 1982 under the guidance of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to combat Israel. It has been Iran’s most successful investment abroad, serving as the Islamic Republic’s arm at Israel’s doorstep. The group dominates the political and military landscape of Lebanon and possesses tens of thousands of trained fighters as well as an array of sophisticated armaments.”

Middle East

Jerusalem Post: An Emerging Threat: Family Terror Networks

“Family terror networks (or alternatively, family-affiliated terrorism) involve two or more people from the same clan who support the threat or use of terrorism. Kin terrorism has appeared across diverse views, from religiously motivated precepts to national liberation, and from hate-based ideologies to other viewpoints. Family structures enable higher instances of conversion to radical beliefs, given the imprimatur of credibility and trust that attaches within the family unit as opposed to unaffiliated networks. This subset of terrorists comprises a full range of socioeconomic, racial, religious, ethnic, national-origin and foreign-affinity ties. Terrorists aligned with hierarchical and network groups and unaffiliated cabals are represented in this form of terrorism as well. Family-affiliated terrorists include group leaders, operational cadres, active supporters and passive supporters. They use terrorist tactics including bombings, suicide bombings and gunfire, among others, with variances in operational stages. Noteworthy family-linked terrorist attacks in the United States include Boston Marathon bombers, San Bernardino attackers and two sets of brothers who performed as hijackers on 9/11. Additionally, three cousins participated in the 9/11 incidents.”


U.S. News & World Report: Eastern Libyan Forces Take Over El Sharara Oilfield

“Eastern Libyan forces loyal to Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar captured the closed El Sharara oilfield on Wednesday, officials said in a challenge to the Tripoli government. El Sharara was taken over on Dec. 8 by groups of tribesmen, armed protesters and state guards demanding salary payments and development funds. But some tribesmen demanding development funds remained at the 315,000 barrel-per-day oilfield, one of their protest leaders told Reuters. Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) group, which is based in the east, called oil firm NOC to lift force majeure, a contractual waiver, it had declared when it shut down production. NOC declined to comment. The LNA said it had met no resistance. "Our forces arrived safely at the field," a spokesman for the forces, Ahmed Mismari, told a news conference in Benghazi, where the LNA is headquartered. A tribal protest leader told Reuters: "With the army (LNA) we can find an understanding as they are military people." He did not elaborate and it was impossible to get more details. Libya's oil industry has faced disruption since unrest began, with rival power centers in the west and east. Protesters and armed groups have often targeted oilfields and energy infrastructure.”


Africa News: Somalia Innovators Inspired By War On Terror

“Millions of dollars are being spent to fight terrorism in Somalia. For years, Al shabaab has been terrorizing Somalis but the ultimate price to end this is paid by the hundreds of people dying. It is no wonder that young minds in the country are being inspired by this war. One man in the capital, Mogadishu, is designing military style vehicles out of scrap metal. The handy work is done at his workshop, where he is originally a mechanic. 27-year-old Abdullahi Mohamed Ali is helped by equally brilliant and talented youth who spend hours putting together pieces of what could be a game-changer in the war against terror. Mohammed Ali and team use the same tools as those in a normal car garage to build a tank prototype. The parts can be easily found in Mogadishu scrap yards. A motorcycle engine to power the vehicles, Mohammed Ali also collected a drum, an improvised pipe, and car tyres, but he needs more accessories before his ingenuity can translate into a fully fledged fighting vehicle. “I tell the young Somalis we can build factories and manufacturing companies with your hands. If we stand united, we can really do extraordinary developments in our beloved homeland”, Mohamed Ali. The global arms industry is worth billions of dollars.”

United Kingdom

The Irish Times: Stansted 15: No Jail Time For Activists Convicted Of Terror-Related Offences

“Fifteen activists convicted of a terrorism-related offence for chaining themselves around an immigration removal flight at Stansted airport have received suspended sentences or community orders. The judge decided not to imprison them after he accepted they were motivated by “genuine reasons”. Amid an outcry over what human rights defenders branded a heavy-handed prosecution, the group, who have become known as the Stansted 15, were convicted last December of endangering the safety of an aerodrome. They had broken into Stansted airport’s airside area in March, 2017 and chained themselves together around a Boeing 767 chartered by the Home Office to deport 60 people to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. At Chelmsford crown court in Essex on Wednesday, Judge Christopher Morgan QC, dismissed submissions in mitigation that the group should receive conditional discharges for the direct action protest, which briefly paralysed the airport, saying they did not reflect the danger that had been presented by their actions. He said such action would “ordinarily result in custodial sentences”, but that they “didn’t have a grievous intent as some may do who commit this type of crime."


The Wall Street Journal: Russia Jails Jehovah’s Witness After Banning Group As Extremist

“A Russian court sentenced a Jehovah’s Witness to six years imprisonment for organizing activities associated with an outlawed extremist group, in a case that indicates a widening crackdown on members of the banned faith group and tests Russian tolerance for religious freedom.  Dennis Christensen, a 46-year-old carpenter from Denmark, was found guilty Wednesday of violating a Russian law that bans activities by groups deemed to be terrorist organizations, according to information published by the court. The law barred Jehovah’s Witness groups from operating in the country in 2017. “It suggests that dark times are approaching in Russia, when you can be imprisoned for believing in God,” Yaroslav Sivulsky, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, said of the ruling. “Jehovah’s Witnesses are not extremists. There is nothing, no signs of extremism, not in their teaching, not in their way of life, or their ideas.” In 2016, Russia passed amendments to antiterrorism laws that included tighter restrictions on the activities of religious groups, particularly smaller sects, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Terror Financing 

Hakaek Online: Tunisia Freezes Funds That Might Be Used For Terror Financing

“The Central Bank of Tunisia has frozen funds worth hundreds of millions {of dollars} originating from Libya, Qatar and other countries because of the fear they are destined for money laundering activities and abetting terrorist organizations, according to a reliable source inside the Central Bank. The source said that the Financial Analysis Committee has frozen funds from several countries, including Qatar and Libya, which were directed to accounts in Tunisian banks, without divulging further details. The source noted that the freezing decisions were based on receipt of statements and complaints against dozens of bank accounts, claiming that these frozen funds belong to foreign entities and individuals. In 2018, the Financial Analysis Committee of the Central Bank of Tunisia froze 30 bank accounts on suspicion of financial corruption. Most of these accounts are owned by foreign entities and companies whose relationship with certain Arab countries implicated in suspicious funding was proven.”


Libya Akhbar: Financing Strategy Of ISIS In Libya – Outlook

“The greatest concern of extremist groups, particularly ISIS, lies in securing the necessary funds to carry out their hostile attacks. These militant movements desperately need money to procure weapons, explosives, shields, clothing and other supplies. In Libya, ISIS had, initially, infiltrated mosques, schools and universities and recruited the most brilliant scientific minds for manufacturing their own arms. Then, ISIS militants sneaked into military compounds and stole arms from there. Afterwards, those extremists applied a new strategy consisting of stealing oil and re-selling it on the black market in return for huge profits. Yet, most of these ISIS attempts to obtain funds were foiled and caused the organization heavy material and human losses, which prompted the terrorist group to seek new funding sources. Finally, the terrorists resorted to looting local museums, exhibitions and archaeological sites, which enabled them to gain substantial amounts of money by selling priceless archaeological artifacts via international markets.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Seventh Day: Expert: Muslim Brotherhood Trades In Drugs And Currencies Abroad

“Tharwat El-Kherbawy, a former Muslim Brotherhood member and present-day researcher on Islamic movements, recently unveiled information surrounding the businesses of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood abroad. El-Kherbawy explained how the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood used to conduct illicit trade activities in order to maximize its wealth and that of its leaders. In 1987, the banned Islamist group issued a unique fatwa (religious ruling) via a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated International Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence) Academy. This fatwa permitted the practice of illegal trade activities with the aim of boosting the organization's financial resources, the ex-Muslim Brotherhood figure disclosed. Subsequently, the leaders and members of the blacklisted movement extensively engaged in diversified illicit trade practices including drugs, currencies and antiques. It's worth mentioning that this fatwa is one of the key factors behind the Muslim Brotherhood's accumulation of wealth, El-Kherbawy stressed.”


Gulf 365: Because Of Houthis' Extortion ... A Global Telecommunications Company Is Considering Departing Yemen

“The global mobile phone company MTN has been facing theft and extortion by the Houthis. These practices threaten {to spur} the company's imminent departure from the country. This comes as the Houthis are pressing the judiciary under their control to issue judicial rulings against the company, with the aim of collecting as much money as possible. MTN has faced several rulings from the Court of First Instance in the Houthi-controlled Sana'a Municipality. These provisions imposed an executive seizure of any balances or amounts belonging to MTN Yemen. These funds are estimated at tens of billions {of riyals}. Sources said that the Houthis in Sana'a are currently lobbying to issue a court order against MTN for the confiscation of roughly $200 million.”