Eye on Extremism: January 15, 2019

The Wall Street Journal: Taliban Truck-Bomb Attack Kills Four People Near Kabul Complex Frequented By Foreigners

“A truck bomb exploded near a heavily fortified complex in eastern Kabul frequented by foreigners, killing four people and wounding scores of others, authorities said, as the U.S. pressed to get negotiations under way to end the 17-year war. The Taliban said that five of its fighters carried out Monday’s bombing. In a statement by its spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, Afghanistan’s largest insurgency also vowed more attacks in the capital in retaliation for President Ashraf Ghani’s recent appointment of a stridently anti-Taliban former intelligence chief as interior minister. The powerful blast damaged houses in the blocks surrounding the high-walled Green Village compound, Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said on Twitter. By early Tuesday, the count of wounded had climbed to 113, among them dozens of women and children, authorities said. The attack occurred as Zalmay Khalilzad, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, left Beijing for Kabul following talks with Chinese officials, part of a 14-day diplomatic tour to line up support among Afghanistan’s neighbors and regional powers for a negotiated settlement of the war. Beijing is a close ally of Pakistan, the Taliban’s main foreign patron.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Washington Vows To Counter Iran In Region, Hezbollah In Lebanon

“The file of Hezbollah’s tunnels in the south of Lebanon was the main item of discussion during meetings held Monday between Lebanese officials and US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, David Hale who said it was unacceptable to have a militia outside the control of the state. It was clear that Hale’s meetings in Beirut came as part of Washington’s policy to announce its new foreign strategy to counter Iran and Hezbollah. “It is unacceptable to have a militia outside the control of the state and unanswerable to all the people of Lebanon, digging attack tunnels across the Blue Line into Israel or assembling an arsenal of over 100,00 missiles with which to threaten regional stability,” Hale said following his meeting with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. The US official said his country is proceeding with its efforts to counter Iran's dangerous activities around the region, including the financing and activities of proxy terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah. Hale heard from President Michel Aoun that the demarcation process of the Southern Lebanese border has been delayed and that Lebanon hoped that this operation would be re-launched soon, while Speaker Nabih Berri spoke about Israel's incessant daily violations of Resolution 1701 and the Blue Line.”

Reuters: Iran Satellite Launch, Which U.S. Warned Against, Fails

“Iran’s bid to launch a satellite has failed, Telecoms Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said on Tuesday, after it ignored U.S. warnings to avoid such activity. Washington warned Tehran this month against undertaking three planned rocket launches that it said would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution because they use ballistic missile technology. The United States is concerned that the long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit can also be used to launch warheads.  Iran, which considers its space program a matter of national pride, has said its space vehicle launches and missile tests were not violations and would continue.  Under the U.N. Security Council resolution that enshrined Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers - which Washington pulled out of last spring - the country is “called upon” to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years.  Azari-Jahromi said that the satellite, named Payam, failed in the third stage of the launch because it “did not reach adequate speed”, according to a report on the ministry’s website.  The satellite was intended to be used for imaging and communications purposes and was mounted with four cameras, according to the report.”

The Express Tribune: Mosul Demolishes Iconic Building Used By Islamic State For 'Gay' Killings

“Authorities in Mosul have begun demolishing a one-time icon of modern Iraqi architecture used by the Islamic State group to throw men accused of being gay to their deaths. Labourers and bulldozers on Monday could be seen removing rubble and twisted metal from the gutted ruins of the National Insurance Company in the city’s west. It was designed by celebrated Iraqi architect Rifat Chadirji in the 1960s but became infamous under IS, which used the seven-storey structure to kill young men it said had violated Islamic law by being gay. The building was then ravaged by the months-long fight to oust IS from Mosul, which ended in the summer of 2017. “It’s prone to collapse because of the rockets, shelling, and explosions that hit it and destroyed large parts of it,” Mohammad Jassem, a municipal official representing Mosul’s nearby Old City, told AFP.  “A committee was formed to study the building and assessed it was no longer viable, and that any restoration at this stage would be futile.” He said discussions were ongoing to demolish other buildings damaged in the fighting, including Mosul’s branch of the central bank and the Nineveh governorate. The NIC building had been regarded as a prime example of modern Iraqi design.”

Birmingham Live: Social Media Fuelling Far-Right Hate Groups, Says Ex-National Front Member

“"Mr Ashcroft was a young National Front (NF) member in the 1990s but left after an influential secret agent diverted him from the group. He warned that far-right and neo-Nazi organisations had become a resurgent force in the digital age, illustrated in November 2018 by the convictions of six people belonging to banned terror group National Action (NA). Far more overtly racist, white supremacist and anti-Semitic material can also be found on YouTube, including a video named 'hail C18' – referring to banned terror group Combat 18 – and others using military symbols and imagery associated with the Nazis short of the swastika. The following month, a report by the US-based Counter Extremism Project found 'white supremacist movements continue to thrive.' The study, which took in far-right activities in Birmingham as part of the research, found Combat 18 alone had a presence in at least 18 countries.”

The Wall Street Journal: India Wants Access to Encrypted WhatsApp Messages

“Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp is facing pressure in India to let authorities trace and read the encrypted messages of its more than 200 million Indian users in a new attempt at constraining global tech giants. India’s telecommunications regulator has asked for feedback on new rules that—in the name of national security—could force “over the top” services such as WhatsApp, which use mobile operators’ infrastructure, to allow the government access to users’ messages. At the same time India’s Information Technology Ministry has proposed new intermediary guidelines that would force WhatsApp and others to trace messages and remove objectionable content within 24 hours. WhatsApp—which has more users in India than in any other country—has “pushed back on government attempts to ban or weaken end-to-end encryption and will continue to do so,” said a person familiar with the company’s thinking.”

United States

Vox: This Filmmaker Spent Months Interviewing Neo-Nazis And Jihadists. Here’s What She Learned.

“What’s the best way to fight racism and extremism? The impulse to dismiss extremists as unreachable fanatics is strong and at times justifiable. But perhaps it’s not always the most effective means of combating them. Deeyah Khan, a journalist and filmmaker, has decided to engage them directly as human beings. In two documentary films, White Right: Meeting the Enemy and Jihad: A Story of the Others (both of which are currently streaming on Netflix), Khan sits down with white supremacists and jihadists (respectively) and tries to understand what’s really motivating them. It’s an attempt to cut through the rhetoric and the ideological trappings and find out why so many young men — and yes, it’s primarily young men — are drawn to extremist movements. The results are stunning. At the beginning of White Right, for example, she says to Jared Taylor, a prominent white supremacist, “I am the daughter of immigrants. I am a Muslim. I am a feminist. I am a lefty liberal. And what I want to ask you is: Am I your enemy?” Taylor is an old hardliner and so he doesn’t buckle, but Khan’s interactions with other white supremacists go in surprising directions, and you learn quite a bit about who these people really are.”

Fox News: Wife Of US Scholar Imprisoned In Iran Speaks Out: ‘His Only Crime Is He's American’

“Three years ago, American Ph.D. candidate Xiyue Wang left for what he thought would be a quick trip to Tehran to research 19th-century Central Asian politics, with his wife and 2-year-old son waiting behind at Princeton. Instead, he was arrested by Iranian police and became what many consider to be the latest pawn in the Islamic Republic’s decades-long history of American hostage-taking. Wang is now one of at least four known Americans held prisoner in Iran, all accused of spying. Xiyue Wang’s wife spoke out on his conditions in a sit-down interview with Fox News – and rejected the regime’s allegations. “He is not a spy,” Hua Qu said at her home in Princeton University faculty housing. “He's just a history nerd. All he wanted to do is to do good research and then teach for the rest of his life.”


CNN: In A Syrian Cemetery, Kurds Contemplate War Without Their US Allies

“Every Friday, they come to the cemetery in Kobani, Syria, to hand out sweets and remember their loved ones, killed in the fight against ISIS. Toward the back are the fresh graves. On a recent visit, a group of mourning women stand by the grave of 27-year-old Mahmoud Rassoul, killed in an ISIS ambush near the town of Deir Ezzor less than two weeks ago. His mother, Najma, slumps down into the churned up earth and kisses the photograph on his headstone. "My son, my son, please get up, please," she wails. A family member steps in to lift her up from the mud. The family of 27-year-old Mahmoud Rassoul grieve by his grave in Kobani, northern Syria. Around 8,000 Syrian Kurds have been killed in the fight against ISIS. They have been the United States' strongest and most steadfast ally on the ground. While ISIS is close to defeat, the fighting continues in the east, near the border with Iraq. It's a battle the Kurds may soon be fighting alone, as the United States begins to withdraw its forces from Syria. Najma is bitter as she considers the American announcement and its impact on their future. "They got what they wanted," she says. "They used the Kurds to get rid of ISIS and now they're leaving us. America was supposed to have our back.”

Reuters: U.S., Turkey At Odds Over Kurdish Fighters In Syria

“The United States and Turkey sparred on Monday over the fate of U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria, with Washington insisting they not be harmed and Ankara rejecting a perceived U.S. threat to punish Turkey economically if it attacked them. The disagreement, played out in rival tweets, is the latest consequence of U.S. President Donald Trump's Dec. 19 decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, potentially leaving the Kurdish militia under threat as Turkey weighs a new offensive there. U.S.-Turkish relations have been strained by U.S. support for the Kurdish YPG, which Turkey views as a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has for decades waged a separatist insurgency in Turkey. The Kurdish YPG has been a U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists and it controls swaths of northern Syria. Erdogan has vowed to crush it in the wake of Trump's decision to pull troops out. On Sunday, Trump said the United States was starting the pull-out of U.S. forces that were deployed to Syria to help drive Islamic State fighters out of the country but it would continue to hit the militant group if need be. "Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone ... Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey," Trump tweeted.”

PRI: When The US Pulls Out Of Syria, What Happens To ISIS?

“At the end of 2018, President Donald Trump boldly announced that the US had defeated ISIS in Syria and that he planned to pull back all 2,000 American troops stationed in the country. “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now. We won,” he said in a video message on Twitter. The decision shocked policymakers and US allies alike and resulted in Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigning. Since then, there have been contradictory statements from administration officials at the highest level. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the fight against ISIS actually continues and that America won't stop until ISIS is defeated and Iran is driven out of Syria. “This isn’t a change of mission. We remain committed to the complete dismantling of the ISIS threat and the ongoing fight against radical Islamism in all of its forms,” Pompeo said during his speech at The American University last week in Cairo. So, has ISIS really been defeated?”

Al Jazeera: Erdogan, Trump Consider Setting Up 'Security Zone' In Syria

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, have discussed the situation in northern Syria over the phone amid rising tensions over the fate of Kurdish fighters in the war-torn country. The conversation on Monday came a day after Trump threatened on Twitter that he would "devastate" Turkey's economy if its forces attacked the US-backed Kurdish fighters, who helped Washington in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group. The war of words between the two NATO allies is the latest consequence of Trump's surprising decision last month to withdraw US troops from northern Syria, potentially leaving the Kurdish militia under threat as Ankara weighs a new offensive there. In a statement, the Turkish presidency said Erdogan told Trump he had no problem with Kurds in Syria and that Ankara is only seeking to fight armed groups in the war-ravaged country which threaten its national security. The two leaders also "discussed the idea of creating a security zone cleared of terrorism in the north of the country", the statement added.”

Air Force Times: Airstrikes Up Against ISIS, Taliban

“The Air Force, other U.S. aircraft and allies dropped more bombs on Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq in November than in any month for the past year. Meanwhile, the number of weapons released in Afghanistan has already hit its highest point in years, according to new statistics released by U.S. Air Forces Central Command. In the November 2018 summary posted online Friday, AFCENT said that 1,424 weapons were released that month as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the campaign against ISIS. That’s far more than the previous 2018 record set in October, when 876 weapons were released. And its the most since October 2017, when 1,642 weapons were released. Overall, however, 2018 was on track to end with by far the lowest number of bombs dropped of any year since the anti-ISIS campaign began. This reflects how the war against the militant group in Iraq and Syria has ebbed since its peak in 2016 and 2017, when the coalition waged furious bombing campaigns to drive ISIS out of cities such as Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria. By the end of November, the coalition had released 6,499 weapons in 2018 against ISIS. That’s down from the 39,577 bombs dropped in 2017, and 30,743 weapons released in 2016.”

Kurdistan 24: Leader Of Former Al-Qaida Affiliate In Syria Endorses Turkey’s Threat To Syrian Kurds

“Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) leader Abu Mohammad al-Jolani said on Monday that he endorses Turkey’s goal to control the east of the Euphrates. However, he did not mention that the HTS would join such an offensive. In an interview with Amjad news agency, Jolani described the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who Turkey says has close ties to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as “an enemy of the revolution,” and said the HTS endorses the liberation of “areas in the East of the Euphrates.” The Turkish government continues to threaten to invade the East of the Euphrates that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control, which includes the YPG. Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian branch of the PKK, a claim the SDF denies, in turn, accusing Ankara of supporting extremist groups such as the HTS which the United States, Turkey, and Russia list as a terrorist group. On Thursday, the HTS forced Turkish-backed factions to accept its control over Idlib. “The main reason for any intra-factional conflict that can occur within the HTS arena is the fragmentation, dispersion, and the multiplicity of factions and projects carried in one geographic area,” Jolani told Amjad news.”

Montreal Gazette: Toronto Man Allegedly Fighting For ISIL Captured In Syria

“A man who says he is Canadian has been captured during a clash in Syria and accused of fighting for the Islamic State, according to Kurdish forces in the area. A 41-second video interview with a quiet spoken, bearded, dark-skinned man in seemingly good health was distributed Sunday by various Kurdish political and media outlets, saying he was captured in Deir al-Zour, part the remaining territory in Syria held by the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS. Under questioning from an unseen interrogator, the man says his name is Mohammad Abdullah Mohammad and that he entered Syria through Turkey at the Idlib border. “I am originally from Ethiopia and I came from Canada,” he says on the video, according to a translation prepared for the National Post. He names the Kurdish commander who caught him, at the encouragement of his interrogator. “And you were in the trench?” “Yes,” he answers. “You got out and you had a clash with our guys,” he is asked. “Yes,” he says. In the video, Mohammad is wearing a black shirt under a jacket with a camouflage pattern. He does not appear to be in particular distress. Amarnath Amarasingam, a university researcher who studies Western foreign fighters, said he was told Mohammad was born in Saudi Arabia in 1983, came to Canada in 1988 and studied computer networking at Seneca College in Toronto.”

Channel NewsAsia: Al-Qaeda's Shadow Still Hangs Over Syria's Idlib: Analysts

“The militant group now controlling Idlib province in northwest Syria claims to have broken with Al-Qaeda, but analysts say that despite several rebrandings there's no sign it has changed its stripes. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) sealed its hold on Idlib last week after signing a ceasefire with what was left of rival factions in the region. Over time, HTS has changed both names and leaders, and statements posted on the internet suggest it had severed ties with Al-Qaeda, the Sunni Islamist terror group founded by Osama bin Laden. But many experts dismiss such claims as smoke and mirrors, saying the organisation is simply attempting to muddy the waters and confuse intelligence agencies. Jabhat al-Nusra, the rebel faction which gave birth to HTS, announced in July 2016 it had broken with Al-Qaeda. But this was just "rebranding while maintaining a secret pledge of allegiance," said Hassan Hassan, who specialises in jihadist movements at the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. "Throughout its numerous iterations, HTS has not altered its ideology and is still widely thought to maintain links with Al-Qaeda," Hassan told AFP. "HTS maintained links with Al-Qaeda's loyalists in northern Syria and even allocated areas and resources for its supposed rivals," he added.”

Daily Mail: British Journalist John Cantlie - Captured By ISIS Six Years Ago - Could Still Be Alive, Kurdish Forces Say

“A British journalist who was captured by ISIS more than six years ago could still be alive, according to a senior Kurdish official in Syria. John Cantlie was taken by ISIS while reporting in Syria in 2012 and has been used by the depraved cult to create English-language propaganda.  He was last seen in a video recording during the early battle for Mosul in December 2016. Since the conflict for the Iraqi city, there have been conflicting reports regarding his wellbeing. One report suggested he escaped to Raqqa, while another said he was killed. ISIS are now surrounded near the Syrian town of Hajin, in the eastern province of Dier Ezzor, and has been under attack from Kurdish-led forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Mustafa Bali, a SDF spokesman for the US and British backed militia, said there was unconfirmed reports Cantile was 'still alive and moving around' in Hajin. He told the Times he was trying to substantiate the reports with 'special sources'. The whereabouts of at least three foreign journalists in Syria remain unknown. Along with Cantile, among the missing journalists are Austin Tice, thought to be held by the regime, vanished from Damascus in August 2012, and Shiraz Mohammed, a South African photojournalist who disappeared near the border with Turkey two years ago.”


The Washington Post: Iran Is At It Again: Another American Has Been Taken By The Regime

“Next month Iran will mark 40 years since the founding of the Islamic republic. But as the regime enters middle age, it continues to partake in many of the same criminal acts that first put it on the international map. Now on the verge of that revolutionary anniversary comes news of yet another American gone missing in Iran. This one was not a dual national, as many of the recent Americans captured by the regime were, but rather a veteran of the U.S. Navy who was in Iran visiting his girlfriend. Michael White, 46, went to Iran with a U.S. passport that held a valid Iranian tourist visa in it. He had visited and left the country multiple times in recent months. As a former long-term resident of Iran who hosted multiple American guests during years, I can say with high confidence that the Iranian government conducts elaborate background checks on all applicants from the United States. Anyone who is granted entry will find that their visits are heavily scrutinized, making it extremely hard to run afoul of the law.”

The Guardian: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Was Told To Spy For Iran, Says Husband

“Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman held by Tehran, started a hunger strike after her interrogators tried to persuade her to become a spy, her husband has claimed. Richard Ratcliffe revealed his wife was calm as she began an initial three-day hunger strike in protest at the Iranian prison authorities’ refusal to give her a clear written undertaking that she would receive medical help for a lump on her breast, as well as other concerns. He was speaking as the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, summoned the Iranian ambassador to demand the dual national, sentenced to five years in prison for espionage, was given proper medical help. Ratcliffe said it was “now or never” for Hunt to escalate the situation by saying the British government would give his wife diplomatic protection, a means by which the row would be elevated to a state-to-state dispute, making an international legal claim for her to be visited by UK authorities in prison more likely to be granted.”

The Express: World War 3: Iranian TV Shows Missiles Striking Popular Tourist Landmarks After US Threat

“SHOCKING footage broadcast on Iranian State TV has shown the country’s missiles striking tourist targets across the world in a terrifying warning to Western forces. Iranian State TV has aired a shocking animation to prove that the country’s military missiles can obliterate key global landmarks. The terrifying television report, broadcast on Iran’s Channel 1, was intended to showcase the Iranian missile capabilities. European capitals were among the targets pictured, as well as the Taj Mahal, the pyramids, and the Kremlin. In the animated video, the missile can be seen flying around the globe while a narrator describes the weapon’s capabilities. The Iranian narration says: “In 2015, Iran tested for the first time its long-range ballistic missile, which can be controlled and guided until it hits the target. “The Emad Missile has a range of 2,500 km and can easily hit targets in Russia, Eastern Europe, western China, north-eastern Africa and large parts of India.”


Iraqi News: Iraqi Troops Seize Three Islamic State Hideouts In Anbar

“Iraqi security forces seized on Monday three hotbeds of Islamic State group during a security campaign in Anbar province, a security source said. “A security force from al-Jazeera Operations Command, backed by fighters of the Tribal Mobilization Forces, carried out a security campaign in northwestern Anbar, during which three Islamic State hideouts were found and destroyed,” the source told Almaalomah news website. The source added that the troops found a huge amount of ammunition and bombs in the hotbeds. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in Iraq in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq. The Islamic State group appeared on the international scene in 2014 when it seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, declaring the establishment of an Islamic “caliphate” from Mosul city and imposing its rule over some 10 million people. Later on, the group has become notorious for its brutality, including mass killings, abductions and beheadings, prompting the U.S. to lead an international coalition to destroy it. Security reports indicate that the militant group still poses a threat against stability in the country.”


BBC News: Taliban Talks: Pakistan Arrest 'Sends Militants Message'

“Pakistan has detained a senior Afghan Taliban member in an attempt to put pressure on the militants amid talks with the US, sources in the group say. Hafez Mohibullah, religious affairs minister when the Taliban ran Afghanistan before 2001, was held in Peshawar, the sources told the BBC. The US has repeatedly called on Pakistan to end "safe havens" for the Taliban on its soil. Pakistan denies backing the group to retain influence in Afghanistan. The reported detention of Hafez Mohibullah comes ahead of a visit to Pakistan by US special representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, who has held a series of meetings with the Taliban's political office in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The US wants Pakistan to encourage the militants to reach a settlement in Afghanistan and bring the 17-year conflict to a close. There was no immediate response from authorities in Pakistan. Taliban sources say Hafez Mohibullah had been living in the city for a number of years. Two high-ranking Taliban figures, talking on condition of anonymity, suggested the former minister had been detained to put pressure on the group into meeting Mr Khalilzad in Pakistan this week, and crucially to agree to meet representatives of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.”

Voice Of America: Taliban Official Tells Voa Peace Talks With US Stalled

“The fledgling U.S.-initiated dialogue with the Taliban, aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan, has come to a halt, an insurgent spokesperson said Monday, apparently dealing a blow to renewed hopes for a much-needed Afghan peace. The disclosure comes as the chief U.S. negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, is visiting regional countries, including China, India and Pakistan, to work toward a negotiated political settlement to the 17-year-old conflict. “The (dialogue) process has halted for now so the venue and the date for a future meeting are not known,” a senior Taliban official privy to the developments confirmed to VOA when asked whether their peace talks with the U.S. are still on track. The insurgent official, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to share reasons behind the suspension of negotiations. The U.S. State Department had no immediate response. When contacted Monday, a spokesperson said the department press office is operating on a reduced status due to the partial U.S. government shutdown. The Afghan government is currently not participating in the peace talks, but American officials are eager to bring them to the table. It is widely perceived that the current deadlock is primarily over the Taliban's rejection of the U.S. insistence to speak directly with the Afghan government.”


Reuters: In Lebanon, U.S. State Department Official Calls Hezbollah 'Unacceptable'

“The U.S. State Department criticized Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group on Monday for digging tunnels into Israel and stockpiling rockets, as Washington steps up efforts to isolate Tehran.  In recent weeks, Israeli forces uncovered tunnels they said were dug by Hezbollah, and Lebanon complained about Israel’s construction of a barrier along disputed parts of the border. The United States, Israel’s closest ally, regards Hezbollah as a terrorist group and has pledged tougher steps to counteract Iranian influence in the region, but it has also reiterated its backing for the Lebanese government - which includes Hezbollah representatives - and army.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week vowed to expel “every last Iranian boot” from Syria, where Iran has been fighting alongside Hezbollah, and where Israel has been carrying out strikes against both.  “While Lebanon has the right to defend itself, that is the right of the Lebanese state alone,” said David Hale, U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, after meeting Lebanese prime minister designate Saad al-Hariri.  “It is unacceptable to have a militia outside the control of the state, and unanswerable to all people of Lebanon digging attack tunnels across the blue line to Israel or assembling an arsenal of over 100,000 missiles with which to threaten regional stability,” he added.”

Saudi Gazette: ‘Hezbollah Exploiting Gold Mines In Venezuela,’ Politician Reveals 

“Lebanese militant group Hezbollah controls gold exploration mines in Venezuela, opposition lawmaker Américo De Grazia revealed this week. In an interview with Miami-based Spanish newspaper Diario las Américas, De Grazia was criticizing President Nicolas Maduro’s Orinoco Mining Arc, a mega-mining project to explore 12 percent of Venezuela’s territory for non-renewable metals and minerals. Venezuela is known to have some of the world’s largest gold reserves, many of which are beneath the soil of the “mining arc,” along with diamonds, coltan, bauxite and other riches. De Grazia said Hezbollah, as well as the National Liberation Army – a Marxism-aligned armed group involved in the continuing Colombian armed conflict – are “exploiting the mega-mining project to dig for gold.” The politician, who serves as National Assembly deputy representing the mining state of Bolivar in southeastern Venezuela, said Hezbollah “controls a number of special mines to finance terrorist operation for the regime it serves,” in reference to Iran. De Grazia said Maduro’s mining project was a “government scam to satisfy Russian, Turkish or Chinese negotiators and get cash.” The legal basis of Maduro’s second presidential term following elections in May was declared as fraudulent by several nations, although not Russia, Turkey or China.”


The Washington Post: Roadside Bomb Hits Police Convoy In Egypt’s Sinai, Kills 1

“Egyptian security officials say a roadside bomb has hit a police convoy in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, killing a conscript and seriously wounding four others. The officials said the attack Monday took place in the town of Rafah on the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack bore the hallmarks of the local Islamic State affiliate which spearheads a militant insurgency in northern Sinai. The officials also said that security forces raided early Monday the homes in el-Arish, northern Sinai’s largest city, of four members of an IS cell. All four were taken into custody, they said. They said the four were planning attacks.”

Times Of Israel: Egypt Deports Second German In A Week For Alleged Islamic State Links

“Egyptian officials said authorities have deported a German teenager they say had come to Egypt with the intention of joining Islamic State militants fighting security forces in the Sinai Peninsula. They said the Giessen resident was put on a flight to Germany early Monday. They said he was detained at Luxor airport on December 17 when police found maps of Sinai and a compass in his possession. Earlier reports named him as 18-year-old Isa El Sabbagh. They said questioning him revealed that he subscribed to IS ideology and was in online contact with members of the militant group. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters. The teenager was the second German citizen to be deported from Egypt for alleged links to IS. Last week, authorities repatriated a 23-year-old Goettingen resident.


Reuters: Islamic State West Africa Insurgents Overrun Northeast Nigerian Town -Security Sources

“Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) insurgents overran the town of Rann in northeastern Nigeria on Monday evening, security sources said. Nigerian government forces fled during ISWA’s attack, along with residents of the town, the sources said, adding that the jihadist militants were setting buildings ablaze.”

Daily Post: Army, Terrorists In Gun Battle As Boko Haram Invades Rann Again

“Suspected members of the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, ISWAP, have invaded Rann, the Kala Balge Local Government headquarters in Borno State, northeast Nigeria. DAILY POST gathered that there is currently heavy gun battle between the terrorists and the Nigerian troops on Monday evening. Report from Rann says, some houses have been set ablaze while shooting is ongoing. Meanwhile, our reporter could not ascertain if there was any casualty in the latest attack; but residents were said to have fled their homes.”

All Africa: Nigeria: Turning The Tables On Boko Haram

“Identity - for both individuals and groups - is shaped by a mix of elements including ethnicity, religion, culture and personal experiences. Much of this is historical in nature. Violent extremist groups drawn on such elements of historical identity in their narratives to further their objectives. But can this history also be called on to counter violent extremism? Examining how this can be done could offer policymakers ideas at a time when creativity and moving beyond more traditional approaches to addressing violent extremism are needed. In Nigeria, when Boko Haram's first leader Mohammed Yusuf was alive, his movement drew inspiration from the writings of 13th-century Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya. Yusuf and his followers met regularly at a centre they called Markaz Ibn Taymiyyah in Borno State. Boko Haram aims to establish a caliphate and exploits a key phase in Nigeria's pre-colonial history to justify this. The group's leaders invoke the legacy of the 19th-century Sokoto caliphate - the foundation of contemporary northern Nigeria. The caliphate was the product of a popular jihad - one that appealed to the people of its time and which Boko Haram uses to strengthen its call for a new caliphate today.”


Defense Post: Mozambique: Islamist Militants Suspected In Cabo Delgado Killings

“Militant Islamists are suspected to have killed 12 people in northern Mozambique as they shift attacks to vehicles despite increased army patrols on main roads. Most of the victims died in attacks on cars and buses in the gas-rich, Muslim-majority Cabo Delgado region where militants have carried out attacks in remote communities for more than a year. The murders mark a shift in strategy that had previously targeted isolated homes. Four people were killed and four others wounded early on Saturday while driving near the town of Manilha, according to a police officer based near Mocimboa da Praia, in one of the worst-hit zones. On January 6, seven others were murdered in nearby Ulumbi after their bus was ambushed by a group of gunmen who torched the vehicle, local sources said. Another person was murdered and cut into pieces in the rice-growing area of Nailwa, five kilometres (three miles) from Palma, a district capital. The military has begun to escort public transport vehicles but they have nonetheless come under attack, said the police officer who asked not be named because he had no authority to speak to the media. Drivers and their passengers now prefer to travel without soldiers because it makes them a more likely target, the police officer told AFP.”

Al Jazeera: Kenya's New Security Conundrum After Ousting Al-Shabab

“High-profile attacks in Kenya by the armed group al-Shabab at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in 2013 and a university in Garissa in 2015 killed more than 200 people. The events changed the way the government deploys ground forces and carries out counterterrorism activities. The Kenyan army took over control of the porous border with Somalia from police. Since then, Kenyan soldiers have spearheaded a large-scale ongoing operation in the Boni National Reserve, pushing al-Shabab fighters back into Somalia, greatly reducing the group's capacity to recruit and operate inside Kenya. For years, the forest in the national park was easy cover for fighters moving between the countries. Analysts say Kenya's success in taking the fight to al-Shabab has made it a blueprint for dealing with violent groups in the region.”

Religion News Service: In Northern Kenya, Al-Shabab Militants Target Christian Teachers

“After the militant group al-Shabab killed three of his colleagues in a recent attack on Christian schoolteachers here, Jared Nyanchong’i packed his few belongings and boarded a bus to the capital, Nairobi. “These people call us black Satan, devil and kafir,” said Nyanchong’i, 40, a father of three. “The life of teachers is very important. We love teaching and we can teach in all parts of the country — but only when our lives are not threatened.” Nyanchong’i is one of more than 1,100 Christian teachers who have fled since al-Shabab began coming across the border into northern Kenya from Somalia in 2017, mostly targeting non-Muslim teachers. While about 85 percent of Kenya is Christian, the country’s north is occupied predominantly by Muslim ethnic Somalis. In October, the militants hurled an improvised explosive device into one of the two apartment blocks housing Christian teachers at the Arabia Boys Secondary School, killing two. Now, the non-local teachers in the region want to be transferred to safer areas for security reasons. “I’m very lucky to be alive,” said Elijah Nderitu, who teaches English and literature at the school. “I had a chilling encounter with the militants but I hid under my bed.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Man Faces Terrorism Charge For Uploading Song To Soundcloud

“An alleged far-right extremist has appeared in court accused of uploading a song named 'White Man' to a music streaming website. Tristan Morgan, 51, from Exeter, appeared at the Old Bailey charged with two terrorism offences. He is charged with encouraging an act of terrorism on or before 21 July last year. Mr Morgan, of no fixed abode, spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth, and that he was British. The first charge states he uploaded "the song White Man to the website Soundcloud". He is also accused and collecting information likely to be useful for the purposes of terrorism, namely the White Resistance Manual. He was remanded in custody to appear in court again on Friday 1 February. The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, set a date of July 1 for the trial, which is expected to last up to three weeks.”

BBC News: Former Cardiff Postman Admits Terror Charges

“A former postman has admitted to spreading terrorist information, on the first day of his trial. Sajid Idris, 36, was sentenced to 21 months, suspended for two years, at Kingston Crown Court. In July 2017, Idris, 36, from the Grangetown area of Cardiff, was charged with four counts of disseminating a terrorist publication online. He was due to be prosecuted at a two-week trial, but on Monday he pleaded guilty to all counts. Idris was described as a devotee of radical Islamist Omar Bakri Mohammed - who is banned from the UK – and had uploaded a number of his talks to YouTube channels, advocating terrorism and violence. His Honour Judge Paul Dodgson said earlier: "There is no doubt when one looks at the contents of these four channels, represented by the four counts, that you and those like you were at that time inciting others within our country to perform acts of violence for terrorist purposes. "You lived in our society and yet it was a society which you were encouraging others to fight and obliterate." After searching devices seized from his Cardiff home, police also found evidence that Idris had been sending money to convicted terrorists. One copy of his Islamic marriage contract was signed by radical preacher Anjem Choudhary.”


Radio Free Europe: Far-Right German Journalist Implicated In Firebombing Of Hungarian Center In Ukraine

“A Polish man accused of involvement in the firebombing of a Hungarian cultural center in western Ukraine last year says he received instructions on the attack from a German journalist who has worked as a consultant for a German parliament deputy with the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Michal Prokopowicz, 28, told a Krakow court on January 14 that German journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter provided instructions for the February 4, 2018, attack on the headquarters of the Hungarian Cultural Association in Uzhhorod, the capital of the Zakarpattya region in western Ukraine. A representative for Ochsenreiter called the claim "false." No one was injured in the attack, but the incident -- and another fire attack on the building weeks later -- exacerbated already strained relations between Kyiv and Budapest over a Ukrainian education law that Hungary says restricts the right of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine to be educated in their native language. Prokopowicz is one of three Polish suspects with links to far-right movements who went on trial in Krakow on January 14 for the attack. Ukrainian authorities investigated the case and passed it along to their counterparts in Poland, where the three men were subsequently detained.”


The New York Times: Polish Mayor Dies After Being Stabbed Onstage At Charity Event

“The mayor of Gdansk, Poland, a leading liberal critic of the populist, right-wing national government, died on Monday after being stabbed at a public charity concert Sunday night, the minister of health told reporters. Mayor Pawel Adamowicz, 53, the mayor of the northern port city since 1998, was known as a supporter of gay rights, and he had campaigned for the rights of immigrants in a country whose governing party has leaned heavily on anti-immigrant rhetoric. “It was impossible to win against everything that had happened to him,” Lukasz Szumowski, the health minister, said of the stabbing. “God rest his soul.” The attack stunned a nation that is increasingly divided politically. Tens of thousands of Poles joined rallies all over the country on Monday evening to condemn violence and hate speech. Police officials said the assailant was arrested at the scene, and described him as a 27-year-old, mentally disturbed man with a history of violence and no clear political motive. The attack took place at the nation’s largest charity event, held every year to raise money for medical equipment. It was just before 8 p.m. Sunday, and tens of thousands of people had gathered for a concert to promote the charity.

Seattle Times: Bosnia Charges Man With Fighting With Islamic State Group

“Bosnian prosecutors say a suspect who has fought alongside Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq has been charged with terrorism. A statement Monday from the prosecutor’s office identified the man as Munib Ahmetspahic, who was born in 1990 in the Bosnian town of Zenica. Prosecutors say Ahmetspahic traveled twice to Syria and Iraq between 2013 and 2018 where he joined the Islamic State group and other extremist organizations in those countries. The statement added that Ahmetspahic has “joined terrorist organizations and taken part in fighting and terrorist activities.” It said that the man, who had been seriously wounded in Syria, has been charged with “organizing a terrorist group.” Ahmetspahic was detained in Bosnia last year.”

Balkan Insight: Kosovar Pictured With ISIS Flag Detained For Threatening PM

“A Kosovo court on Monday detained a suspect named only as B. Elshani for 30 days, for posting a photograph with a threatening message to the Prime Minister and an ISIS flag in the background. The prosecution has accused Elshani of preparing terrorist or criminal offences against the constitutional order and security of the Republic of Kosovo. The Pristina court decision reads that there are well-founded suspicions that the suspect was engaged in preparing terrorist acts between end of 2018 and early 2019. “On January 10, 2019 ... [B.E.] published threatening photos against the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, with a description and a background that shows the flag of the terrorist organisation ISIS, with an intent to seriously intimidate the population and seriously destabilize the basic political and constitutional structures of the Republic,” the court said. It clarified that when police intervened, the same photograph was found on his phone, as well as a knife, which were both confiscated. The defendant told court on Monday that his comments were not intended as threats, and were motivated by his belief that PM Haradinaj does not like Islam.”


Bloomberg: Facebook’s Privacy Problems Get Real In Germany

“Germany is about to remind Facebook Inc. that the tribulations of 2018 are far from over. In fact, they’re about to get even more real. The country’s Federal Cartel Office intends to ban Facebook from collecting user data from third parties, the newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported. This will also prohibit data sharing between WhatsApp and Instagram, which Facebook owns. Germany is concerned that Facebook users didn’t know they agreed to be tracked across the internet when they signed up for the firm’s offerings. The regulator’s move could be a major obstacle to the social networking giant’s plans. With user growth and engagement stagnating, Facebook is increasingly focusing on improving the value of what it offers advertisers. That means doing a better job targeting ads to individual users in order to generate a better return on investment for brands.”

Combating Terrorist Financing

Al-Sharq Times: French Amendments Tighten Control Over Mosques’ Funding

“Since the beginning of the current week, the French authorities, direct by President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Edouard Phillippe, and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, have been conducting extensive consultations with the French Council of the Muslim Religion. These talks are chiefly aimed at discussing the proposed amendments of Law no. 1905 on the separation of church and state. These amendments seek, first and foremost, to redefine the relationship between the French state and all religions in its jurisdiction. The new modifications enable greater control {specifically} of the religious affairs of Muslims in France by assuring higher transparency and better regulation of the places of worship. The authorities are encouraging local administrative associations to abandon the basic system of establishing associations, which is cultural in nature and currently regulates nearly 90% of all mosques in France, in favor of new Law no. 1905. Such a move would allow the government to assume better control of the funds used by the associations that run the mosques.”


Gulf 365: Syrian Archeologist: More Than 10,000 Archaeological Sites Have Been Desecrated By ISIS And Other Terrorist Groups

“The Director General of Syrian Antiquities and Museums, Dr. Mahmoud Hamoud, said that what the Syrian cultural heritage has suffered {at the hands of terrorists} has not been witnessed anywhere else in the world. He asserted that the scale of the disaster inflicted on this sector is immense, especially due to the actions of ISIS and other extremist groups. He disclosed that more than 10,000 archaeological sites have been taken over by terrorist groups. In an interview with Al-Ghad TV, Hamoud noted that these sites were subjected to seizure, excavation, looting, theft, smuggling and utter destruction in cases such as in Palmyra, where they could not sell the artifacts. He stated that satellite images of archaeological sites still under the terrorists’ control show mass destruction. According to Hamoud, in the ancient city of Aleppo, a huge proportion of the archaeological buildings were destroyed and no longer exist, after being demolished with large quantities of explosives.”