Eye on Extremism: January 29, 2019

The New York Times: ISIS Bombing Of Cathedral In Philippines Shows Group’s Reach Into Asia

“A deadly bombing of a cathedral in the Philippines has brought fresh attention to the Islamic State’s ability to metastasize across the world, even as the militant group has been reduced to a sliver of turf in Syria. The attack, consisting of two detonations, struck the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the island of Jolo at the southern end of the Philippines, a region where Muslim insurgents have for decades battled the Catholic-majority state. At least 20 people were confirmed dead in the assault, which took place just as worshippers gathered for Mass on Sunday. Through various online bulletins, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, claimed responsibility. The violence showcased the ability of the Islamic State to graft onto faraway militant movements and fan the flames of local conflicts by striking a high-profile target like a cathedral, the premier church in a Catholic diocese. Fighters from Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia flocked to Iraq and Syria in recent years, and returnees from the Islamic State’s battles have strengthened the reach and tactical power of extremist groups back in Southeast Asia. The bombings in the Philippines occurred just after a Muslim-majority part of the island group of Mindanao, which includes Jolo, held a referendum on a delicate peace process.”

The Wall Street Journal: The Afghan Taliban Stage A Comeback

“I am from a remote mountainous province of Afghanistan called Badakhshan. Known for its stunning natural scenery and towering mountains, it’s also the only province in which the Taliban failed to make inroads during their reign from 1996-2001. Today it’s a different story. The Taliban and other terrorist groups, including ISIS, hold sway in several districts. The violent extremists were emboldened after 2014, when most of the U.S.-led coalition forces withdrew. Since the U.S. gave in to the Taliban’s demand for direct negotiations, bypassing the Afghan government, the extremists have been triumphant. Even though U.S. officials are announcing “agreement in principle” with the Taliban, the group continues to rely on terror to intimidate the country and get its way. Terror groups now are coming out of hiding and brazenly attacking Afghan security forces and government centers.”

Times Of Israel: Israel Alerts UN To More Hezbollah Tunnels In Lebanon, Heading Toward Israel

“The Israeli government has passed information to the United Nations detailing the existence of additional “underground infrastructure” belonging to Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanese border, The Times of Israel has learned, including tunnels headed toward Israeli territory that were not destroyed in the IDF’s recent Operation Northern Shield. Hezbollah’s construction work on these additional tunnels ceased last month when the terror organization realized its plans were known by the Israeli side. None of the new tunnels had reached the Israeli border, unlike the six tunnels that have been destroyed by Israel. The additional tunnels, all of which are in Lebanese territory, are known to Israeli intelligence and are within Israel’s operational reach, an Israeli official said. The official confirmed a similar claim to this effect made by the Israeli military earlier this month. “The IDF is monitoring and is in possession of a number of sites where Hezbollah is digging underground infrastructure that has yet to cross into Israeli territory,” the army said on January 13. On Sunday, former IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot said Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s assertion in a Saturday night interview that there are things Israel doesn’t know regarding Hezbollah’s tunnel program “is flat wrong.”

Associated Press: Top Pakistani Court Upholds Acquittal, Frees Christian Woman

“Pakistan’s top court on Tuesday upheld its acquittal of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, clearing the last legal hurdle and freeing Aasia Bibi to leave the country in a move that dealt a blow to radical Islamists who had demanded her execution. Following the landmark decision, Bibi will finally be able to join her daughters who earlier fled to Canada where they have been given asylum. Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook, who returned to Islamabad after fleeing the country amid death threats, called the decision a victory for Pakistan’s constitution and rule of law. The three-judge Supreme Court panel had “insisted on very strict proofs of blasphemy” and found none, Malook said, expressing hope that Bibi’s acquittal will deter false blasphemy allegations in the future. From her secret location, Bibi watched the decision reported live on local television, according to a friend who spoke to her as it was being announced. Bibi’s first thoughts were for her daughters, the friend said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he fears reprisals from radical religious militants.”

The Verge: Ireland Is Questioning Facebook’s Plan To Merge Messenger, Instagram, And WhatsApp

“Facebook’s plans to merge WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger are drawing the scrutiny of European data watchdogs. The New York Times first broke plans of the merger on Friday. The Irish Data Protection Commission is asking Facebook for “an urgent briefing on what is being proposed.” The commission, which regulates Facebook in the European Union, says it understands that the company’s plans are still in initial development and haven’t materialized yet. Still, the commission says it will be seeking “early assurances” that the plans will comply with the GDPR, the European Union’s far-reaching privacy regulation. In 2016, Facebook attempted to share personal user data gathered by WhatsApp with the larger business, but the plan was canceled after an investigation by the UK’s data protection watchdog. The proposed merging of the services has already drawn criticism from US officials, some of whom say that red flags should have been raised when Facebook initially acquired WhatsApp and Instagram. “Imagine how different the world would be if Facebook had to compete with Instagram and WhatsApp. That would have encouraged real competition that would have promoted privacy and benefited consumers,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), a lawmaker who represents much of Silicon Valley, said last week.”

The Wall Street Journal: In Arab Nation, Christians, Buddhists And Jews Emerge To Worship

“Every Friday, on the fourth floor of a hotel conference center in this Arab business hub, several thousand Christians arrive to worship in two-hour shifts at what may be the world’s best-hidden megachurch. There is no sign outside the center to guide people to Fellowship. The Protestant congregation sprang up roughly a decade ago in a place where Islam is the official religion, non-Muslim practice has long been closely monitored and sanctioned church buildings are limited and regulated. But restrictions on places of worship have gradually loosened in the United Arab Emirates. The government has designated 2019 the “year of tolerance” to reinforce the idea that, in a region torn by conflict, people of diverse cultures and religions can find common ground. The U.A.E. will display its more accommodating stance in February when it hosts Pope Francis for the first visit by a sitting pope to the Arabian Peninsula. The pope’s itinerary includes engaging in an interfaith dialogue and celebrating Mass at a sports complex with a capacity of around 120,000.”

United States

Bloomberg: Senator Seeks Strategy To Prevent Fentanyl Terror Attacks

“A U.S. senator wants to know if national-security officials are prepared for the “frightening prospect” that the potent opioid fentanyl could be used to attack Americans. Senator Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, wrote letters to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan Monday asking whether their agencies have devised strategies to deal with the potential weaponization of fentanyl. The drug is 50 times more potent than heroin, with which it is often mixed. In its strongest form, called carfentanil, it is used legally as an elephant tranquilizer. Fentanyl has assumed a central role in the opioid-overdose epidemic. Relatively easy to manufacture, the drug is turning up more frequently on the streets amid still-enormous demand for illicit painkillers in the U.S. American deaths linked to fentanyl increased more than 50 percent to 29,406 in 2017, from 19,413 in 2016, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Law-enforcement officers and first responders have been warned to handle fentanyl with extreme caution; some have fallen seriously ill after getting it on their skin or clothing.”

Fox News: US Announces Sweeping Sanctions Against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, State-Owned Oil Company

“The White House on Monday announced billions of dollars in new sanctions against disputed Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the country's state-owned oil monopoly PDVSA, less than a week after President Trump formally recognized Juan Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader. National Security Adviser John Bolton, meanwhile, warned that "all options are on the table" and that Venezuela would face a "significant response" if any harm came to U.S. diplomatic personnel, Guaido, or Venezuela's opposition-led National Assembly. Words on Bolton's notepad that were visible during the briefing -- "5,000 troops to Colombia" -- were related to the situation in Venezuela, White House officials confirmed to Fox News. One idea being debated may include pre-positioning U.S. forces in Colombia in case they are needed in Venezuela. The potentially devastating economic sanctions were aimed at increasing pressure on Maduro to cede power to the opposition. Venezuela is heavily reliant on the U.S. for its oil revenue, and sends 41 percent of its oil exports to the United States.”

Syria

Times Of Israel: Hundreds Of Civilians, Fighters Flee IS Stronghold In Syria

“Hundreds have fled the Islamic State group’s last major stronghold in Syria, including fighters who tried to sneak out among civilians, Syrian opposition activists said Monday. The Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed and Kurdish-led group, has intensified its offensive in the last area held by the extremists since US President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw American troops last month. The ground offensive is taking place under the cover of airstrikes by the US-led coalition. The radical Islamist group, which once controlled around a third of Syria and neighboring Iraq, is now besieged in a small area in eastern Syria where it has been relying on suicide attacks to stop the advance by SDF fighters. The area has been shrinking since the SDF began its offensive on September 10, and hundreds of fighters on both sides have been killed. Despite the intensity of the offensive and the airstrikes, some IS fighters holed up in two villages are refusing to surrender and have continued to inflict losses among the attacking forces while using civilians as human shields. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 2,000 people, including 300 IS gunmen, have left the area in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour since Sunday.”

The Japan Times: Backs To The Euphrates: Islamic State In Syria Is Boxed In To Shrinking Pocket Of Land

“Kurdish-led fighters pressed their assault against the Islamic State group in eastern Syria Monday, boxing the jihadis into a tiny last pocket of land along the Euphrates River. Bad weather and reduced visibility delayed the launch of yet another push to flush out the few hundred die-hard jihadis battling to defend the remnants of their once-sprawling “caliphate. With support from a U.S.-led military coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces are in the final stages of an assault launched more than four months ago against the jihadis’ last bastion. A dwindling number of IS fighters, led mostly by Iraqi commanders, are now defending only a handful of hamlets in the Euphrates Valley, SDF commander Heval Roni said. “Geographically speaking, there are only 4 sq. km left under IS control, stretching from Baghouz to the Iraqi border,” he told AFP in the Baghouz area. “There are some high-ranking IS leaders among them … but we don’t know who exactly,” said Heval Roni, who heads SDF operations in the area. The SDF is a Kurdish-led force that also includes Arab fighters from the region and which has spearheaded the fight against IS in Syria since it was formed in 2015.”

Al Jazeera: Erdogan: Safe Zones In Syria Will Allow Refugees To Return Home

“Ankara is aiming to form safe zones in northern Syria so that Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey could return to their home country, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. Speaking in Istanbul on Monday, Erdogan also said nearly 300,000 Syrians had already gone back to areas controlled by Turkish-backed rebels in northern Syria, adding that he expected millions of Syrian nationals to return to the proposed safe zones. Turkey hosts about four million Syrian refugees. In a surprise move last month, President Donald Trump said he would withdraw the 2,000 US troops from Syria, and Erdogan subsequently said the two leaders had discussed setting up a 32km-deep safe zone in the war-torn country along the border with Turkey.  On Friday, Erdogan said that Turkey expected the safe zone to be set up within a few months, otherwise, it would establish a buffer area without the help of other nations.  He added that the zone will aim to protect Turkey from “terrorists”, referring to the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia that controls areas in northeastern Syria along the Turkish border. Ankara wants the zone to contain the fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which the United States has armed and trained to fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).”

National Post: ISIL Supporters Upset About Capture Of Prominent Canadian Jihadi, Say It's Demoralizing

“The National Post reported Sunday that an ISIL-linked media outlet confirmed one of their fighters captured in Syria is a Canadian who “waged jihad with his voice and weapon” as the narrator of ISIL’s English-language news and propaganda. The Al-Muhajireen Foundation, an outlet with known links to ISIL, distributed a poster praising the man as a “hero” on Sunday. It showed a photograph of a man who identified himself as Mohammad Abdullah Mohammad, a Canadian from Toronto who was captured by Kurdish forces on Jan. 13 after a firefight with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-supported coalition of militias. An English-language version of the Al-Muhajireen poster was later distributed, saying the Canadian’s capture was “sad news for all mujahideen of the Islamic State.” It dubbed him “our media mujahid.” (Mujahid and mujahideen are the singular and plural form of the Arabic word for someone involved in jihad.) The announcement identified the fighter by his nickname Abu Ridwan Al-Kanadi and said he “was translating publications and reading Islamic State news in English.”

Bloomberg: Syria Sanctions Bill Advances In Senate After Shutdown Delay

“The Senate advanced legislation that would impose new sanctions on Syria, more than a month after President Donald Trump said he would withdraw American forces from the conflict there. The measure would direct the Trump administration to impose sanctions on entities that do business with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, such as selling petroleum products or aircraft parts. It also would let state and local governments refuse to do business with anyone who boycotts Israel. The Senate voted 74-19 to take up the bill, which was introduced by Florida Republican Marco Rubio and is supported by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Democrats voted three times to block the measure during the five-week partial government shutdown that ended over the weekend, saying they wouldn’t agree to consider it until the agencies reopened. “This is an important piece of legislation,” McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor before Monday’s vote. “It comes at an urgent time.” The legislation, S. 1, came after Trump’s surprise announcement in December that he would withdraw U.S. forces from Syria after the president declared victory over Islamic State in the war-torn country.”

Foreign Policy: The Unintended Consequences Of Trump’s Decision To Withdraw From Syria

“Russia is emerging as the unrivaled powerbroker. The Kurds are facing an existential threat. And Iran is solidifying its position in a country far from its borders. Those are just some of the unintended consequences of the hasty decision last month by U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw American troops from Syria, a decision that triggered broad opposition in Washington and prompted the departure of his defense secretary and another top official. Though the withdrawal is not in full swing—and might not be as comprehensive as Trump envisioned—the decision is already prompting a shift in alliances and interests in country wracked by years of civil war and long the focus of regional rivalries. “By saying we are leaving unconditionally and immediately, all of those parties will make all of their own deals,” said Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies during a Jan. 23 event in Washington. “U.S. interests and U.S. ability to influence what endures was reduced overnight from a reasonable amount to virtually zero.” Moscow has a strong interest in maintaining influence in Syria, both from an economic and a political perspective, said Dana Stroul, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.”

Iran

Haaretz: Iranian Commander Threatens To 'Eliminate' Israel If It Tries To Attack Tehran

“A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander on Monday threatened Israel with destruction if it attacks Iran, state media reported.  The comments by Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy head of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, followed an Israeli attack on Iranian targets in Syria last week - the latest in a series of assaults targeting Tehran's presence there in support of President Bashar al-Assad's government. ”We announce that if Israel takes any action to wage a war against us, it will definitely lead to its own elimination and the freeing of occupied [Palestinian] territories,” Salami said, quoted by state television. Iranian officials have previously said Tehran, which does not recognize Israel, would respond swiftly to any Israeli attack.  Israel backed U.S. President Donald Trump's move to back out of the 2015 international deal on Iran's nuclear program and welcomed Washington's reimposition of sanctions on the country.  Israel sees Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs as a threat to its existence. Iran says its nuclear work is for peaceful purposes only.”

U.S. News & World Report: Iran Strikes Economic Deals With Syria During VP Visit

“Iran struck economic and trade deals with Syria on Monday, as it widens its role there after helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reclaim most of his country. Tehran has reached “very important agreements on banking cooperation” with Syria, Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said in the Syrian capital Damascus. Iran will also help repair power stations across Syria and set up a new plant in the coastal province of Latakia, he added. During Syria's eight-year conflict, Tehran has dispatched forces and allied Shi'ite militias, including Hezbollah, to provide Damascus with vital military support. Experts say Tehran is now looking to reap a financial dividend. Shunned by Western powers, the Syrian government has looked to friendly states such as Iran, Russia and China to play a major role in rebuilding the country. Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis said Syria and Iran signed a “unique” agreement on Monday for long-term economic cooperation which includes industry, trade, and agriculture. The two countries signed several memorandums of understanding during Jahangiri's visit to Damascus which Khamis described as “historic”. Officials said they covered education, housing, public works, railways, investment, and other fields, without providing further details.”

Iraq

Iraqi News: Security Forces Arrest Wanted Islamic State Militant In Mosul

“Iraqi security forces arrested on Monday an Islamic State militant in Mosul city, the Security Media Center said. “The troops of the Counter-Terrorism Service have arrested a wanted Islamic State militant in the western side of Mosul,” Almaalomah news website quoted the center as saying in a statement. The center added that all legal procedures were taken against the terrorist. Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of military operations against Islamic State in Iraq on December 9, 2017 three years after the militant group captured about a third of Iraq’s territory. The jihadist group had seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, when it proclaimed a “caliphate” and imposed its rule over some 10 million people. Despite the group’s crushing defeat at its main havens across Iraq, Islamic State continues to launch sporadic attacks against troops with security reports warning that the militant group still poses a threat against stability in the country.”

Military Times: Iraqi Militia Leader Wants US Troops To Leave

“The leader of one of the most powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq said Monday that he expects a vote in the coming months by Iraq’s parliament calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, underscoring the jostling for power between Iran and the U.S. in this key Middle Eastern country. Qais al-Khazali, who rose to prominence as a leader in the Shiite insurgency after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, said there's no longer a justification for thousands of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq now that the Islamic State group has been defeated. He suggested U.S. troops may eventually be driven out by force if they do not yield to the will of the Iraqi people. “I think more than half the members of parliament reject the presence of American military forces as a matter of principle,” he said. “If the United States wants to impose its presence by force, and to bypass the Iraqi constitution and parliament, Iraq can treat it the same way and drive it out by force... But the first phase is political,” al-Khazali said. It is the president's first conflict zone trip since taking office. The 45-year-old head of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, spoke with The Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview at one of his group's offices in a highly-fortified area in the Iraqi capital, just across the Tigris River from the U.S. Embassy.”

Haaretz: Haunt For Artifacts Looted By Islamic State Builds Up At EU Workshop In Baghdad

“Before Islamic State militants were dislodged from Iraq in 2017, they stole thousands of ancient artifacts. Most are still missing, and an international team of archaeologists is turning detective to recover as many as possible. In 2014 and 2015, during its occupation of most of the country, the jihadist group raided and wrecked historical sites on what UNESCO called an “industrial” scale, using the loot to fund its operations through a smuggling network extending through the Middle East and beyond. “We’re trying to recover a lot of artifacts and need all local and international resources to work. Iraq cannot do this on its own,” said Bruno Deslandes, a conservation architect at the UN cultural agency. He spoke at a workshop at Baghdad’s National Museum convened to coordinate international retrieval efforts. Video that went viral after it was released by Islamic State in 2014 showed militants using bulldozers and drills to tear down murals and statues the 3,000-year-old Assyrian site of Nimrud near Mosul. What they did not destroy they smuggled and traded. With the battle raging just kilometers away, he and his team had to work quickly to assess damage to the site, using 3D scanning and satellite imagery. Within minutes, they gathered a trove of data he says will be critical in tracking lost items down.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: This Man Is Revered Among The Taliban. Can He End The Afghan War?

“On Thursday, the Taliban appointed Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who founded the movement with Mullah Mohammad Omar in 1993, as the chief negotiator in the peace talks with the United States, being held in Qatar. Mr. Baradar, who was also appointed as deputy to the Taliban chief Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, is expected to travel soon to Doha to join the peace talks with the American peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad. Mr. Baradar is revered among the Taliban as a charismatic military leader and a deeply religious figure who still reflects the origins of the Taliban movement, when it was founded to end the Afghan civil war and warlordism in the mid-1990s. He was the first senior Taliban leader to see the futility and waste of war and held secret peace talks in 2009 with the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai and indirectly with the United States and the NATO forces. Pakistan, then the principal backer of the Taliban, brought these tentative negotiations to an end by arresting Mr. Baradar in February 2010 in Karachi and exposing the interlocutors. In arresting him, Islamabad sent out a harsh message to the Taliban and the Afghan government not to engage in political processes that contradicted its policy in Afghanistan.”

The Wall Street Journal: The Afghan Taliban Stage A Comeback

“I am from a remote mountainous province of Afghanistan called Badakhshan. Known for its stunning natural scenery and towering mountains, it’s also the only province in which the Taliban failed to make inroads during their reign from 1996-2001.  Today it’s a different story. The Taliban and other terrorist groups, including ISIS, hold sway in several districts. The violent extremists were emboldened after 2014, when most of the U.S.-led coalition forces withdrew. Since the U.S. gave in to the Taliban’s demand for direct negotiations, bypassing the Afghan government, the extremists have been triumphant.  Even though U.S. officials are announcing “agreement in principle” with the Taliban, the group continues to rely on terror to intimidate the country and get its way. Terror groups now are coming out of hiding and brazenly attacking Afghan security forces and government centers. One of these groups is led by Qari Najib, a Taliban-linked al Qaeda loyalist who for many years intentionally kept a low profile. He has recently launched attacks in Raghistan district, an area where I have helped build schools and women’s health centers. Not long ago Raghistan seemed like a promising place for children to grow up with the ideals of freedom.”

The New York Times: Taliban Talks Raise Question of What U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan Could Mean

“President Trump’s headway in Afghan peace negotiations with the Taliban raises the same question that has bedeviled other presidents who extracted American troops from foreign wars: Will the departing Americans end up handing over the country to the same ruthless militants that the United States went to war to dislodge? A hasty American withdrawal, experts said, would erode the authority and legitimacy of the Afghan government, raising the risk that the Taliban could recapture control of the country. Short of that, it could consign Afghanistan to a protracted, bloody civil war, with Taliban fighters besieging the capital, Kabul, as they did in the 1990s. These scenarios now seem possible because of the progress in direct talks between the United States and the Taliban. The chief American negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Monday that American and Taliban officials had agreed in principle to the outlines of a deal in which the insurgents would guarantee that Afghan territory is never used by terrorists, setting the stage for a total pullout of American troops.”

The Washington Post: U.S., Taliban Move Closer To Deal On American Troop Exit

“U.S. and Taliban officials have moved closer to an agreement that could meet a Taliban demand for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, officials here indicated Monday, a potential step toward ending more than 17 years of American involvement in the country’s long conflict. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking from his palace in Kabul, addressed what appeared to be a significant breakthrough in talks between American officials and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, calling on insurgents to begin “serious talks” with his government and embrace a “speedy peace.” The tentative agreement for a framework to pull out U.S. troops, in exchange for Taliban promises to deny al-Qaeda and the Islamic State a foothold on Afghan soil, comes as Washington races to clinch a deal just weeks after President Trump ordered the withdrawal of up to half of the 14,000 American troops in the country. But both U.S. and Afghan officials said several major issues remain to be resolved before a peace agreement can be reached, including U.S. demands for an extended cease-fire and the Afghan government’s insistence on being included in talks about the Taliban’s future role in government and society.”

Xinhua: Airstrike Kills 19 Militants In S. Afghanistan

“Some 19 militants were killed and 11 others injured after Afghan warplanes targeted a Taliban training center in southern Kandahar province on Monday, provincial government spokesman Aziz Ahmad Azizi said. “Acting upon intelligence report, the fighting aircraft pounded Taliban terrorist training center in Sarasahano area of Spin Boldak district along the border with Pakistan early this morning, killing 19 rebels and injuring 11 others,” Azizi told Xinhua. The Taliban group used to train suicide bombers in the center, the official said. Taliban militants have not commented on the airstrike.”

Yemen

The Guardian: Yemen Ceasefire: Houthi Retreat Suffers Setback, Says UN Envoy

“Deadlines for a retreat of Houthi troops in Yemen, agreed in talks last month, have had to be delayed, the UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has said. He also conceded plans for prisoner exchanges have not gone to plan. Griffiths also had to deny that the retired general Patrick Cammaert, appointed by the UN to implement the ceasefire in the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, had quit due to disagreements with Griffiths’s team. Griffiths confirmed Cammaert, a retired Dutch general, was leaving after only weeks in the job, but said he had always been on a short-term contract and there had been no dispute between the two men after the general’s convoy was fired upon in Hodeidah. Cammaert had been struggling to persuade the two sides to attend a regional coordination committee, seen as central to building trust, and ironing out disagreements over what was agreed in peace talks in Stockholm last month.”

Nigeria

The Punch Nigeria: Boko Haram Attacks Borno Village, Kills Four Farmers

“Four farmers have been killed in a suspected Boko Haram attack in northeastern Nigeria, civilian militia and residents said on Monday. The attack, near Molai village some five kilometres (three miles) from the Borno state capital Maiduguri, was blamed on fighters loyal to factional leader Abubakar Shekau. “The four victims had their throats slit,” Ibrahim Liman of the Civilian Joint Task Force assisting the military with security told AFP. One of the militants used the mobile phone of one of the farmers to say they had killed four and abducted two others, local resident Usman Gana said. “They informed us we should come and collect their bodies,” he said. The attacks underline the persistent threat to civilians in northeastern Nigeria, where more than 27,000 people have been killed since Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency began in 2009. The military has succeeded in pushing the group out of urban centres but rural areas remain hard to secure. Farmers and those collecting firewoods have been repeatedly targeted. Molai has been hit several times during attempted raids on Maiduguri.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Convicted Briton Attacked By ISIL Members In Mogadishu Jail

“A British national serving term in Mogadishu's Central Prison survived an attack by ISIL members Sunday Anthony Thomas Cox, was wounded on the neck after the two men attacked him with razorblades as he watched a soccer match outside his cell room, according to prison guards who spoke to Radio Dalsan on condition of anononimity. Mt Cox is serving jailed term after a Mogadishu court convicted him of putting public safety in danger and for failing to reveal possession of the explosive materials in his suitcase to the security forces. He had been arrested at the Aden Adde Airport on January 19 with tears canisters in is suitcase trying to sneak them in to an Ethiopia bound aircraft. Sources within the prison said that some of the convicts within the correctional facility were Al-Shaba and ISIL Members waiting for their turn before the firing squad.”

United Kingdom

Vice: ISIS And The Fish And Chip-Loving Jihadists

“The litany of excuses given by captured western ISIS members is, by now, all-too familiar. I was tricked into going. I was just a cook. I was brainwashed. I didn't know what ISIS was. I went there by accident. I was drugged. I went to help. Just two weeks ago, American Warren Christopher Clark – who was captured on the 6th of January in Syria – told NBC News that he was curious to see “what the group [ISIS] was about”. Which was an odd thing to say, given that ISIS – since at least 2014 – has been all over social media telling the world, in blood-curdling rhetoric, exactly what it's about. “I wanted to learn more about the ideology. I'm a political science major, global business minor. I like politics. I like travel, world events. That's what I wanted to do,” he said, as though he was talking about a gap year building a school in India, rather than joining one of the world's most notorious terrorist groups. But of all the things to have come out of the mouths of captured ISIS members, the most ludicrous – the one that stretches credulity the most – is this: I miss fish and chips. A day before NBC's interview with Clark, Channel 4 News ran a short film on newly captured foreign ISIS wives and children from Hajin in eastern Syria.”

France

The Washington Post: French Yellow Vest Movement Dogged By Intolerance, Extremism

“Intolerance and conspiracy theories have haunted the margins of France’s “yellow vest” movement since the first protests over fuel taxes roused the discontented middle of French society. The men and women in fluorescent safety vests blocking traffic and intimidating shoppers on the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue vent a range of grievances against the government. But over 11 weeks of yellow vest protests, views from the fringes have bubbled through the diffuse and leaderless movement and have been amplified: anti-Semitic rants about banking, a Holocaust survivor harassed on the subway, assaults on journalists, and claims the government concocted terrorist attacks or deadly accidents to divert attention from the demonstrations. There has been scattered violence at the protests, with clashes between participants and riot police, and authorities worry that the extremists have taken over the center of the movement, risking a return to the darker episodes from France’s past. On Saturday in Paris, a man in a yellow vest turned toward a journalist filming at the sidelines of an otherwise quiet match, hurled a homophobic epithet and added: “You work for the Jews.” No one in the march joined in, but neither did they contradict him.”

The Jerusalem Post: French Payment Firm Closes Nazi Account With Hezbollah, Assad And Bds Ties

“The French online payment company leetchi closed the account of Germany’s neo-Nazi party The Third Way because the account violated France’s anti-discrimination law by calling for the boycott of the Jewish state. A spokesman for leetchi confirmed on Monday to The Jerusalem Post during a telephone interview that the company “deleted” the account because it was “against the terms and conditions” of the business. When asked specifically what the account violated, the spokesman said France’s law against hatred. The spokesman said leetchi was not aware of the The Third Way’s illegal activities until it was brought to the management’s attention. The Post exclusively reported on January 7 that the giant online payment service PayPal shut the account of The Third Way after the Post revealed in a series of investigative articles The Third Way’s links to the Hezbollah, Syrian President Bashar Assad and its support for the anti-Israel boycott, sanctions and divestment movement. After PayPal closed The Third Way’s account in January, the neo-Nazi party opened an account with leetchi. The Third Way did not respond to numerous Post press queries.”

Europe

Associated Press: Poland Opens Probe Into Anti-Semitic Incident At Auschwitz

“Polish prosecutors are investigating an anti-Semitic protest by dozens of far-right nationalists outside the gates of Auschwitz. The incident took place Sunday in Oswiecim, the southern Polish town where Nazi Germany operated Auschwitz during World War II. It happened as Holocaust survivors gathered nearby to commemorate the anniversary of the camp’s liberation, a day also recognized each year as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Piotr Rybak, a far-right activist with a past conviction for burning the effigy of a Jew in 2015, could be seen in TV footage saying “we must tell Jewish invaders ... that we are masters of this country.” Mariusz Slomka, a deputy district prosecutor in Oswiecim, said Monday that prosecutors are investigating. In Poland, it’s a crime to incite hatred based on religion or race.”

Australia

Daily Mail: ‘ISIS Supporter’ Accused Of Attempted Murder Over Brutal Hair Salon Stabbing Pleads Not Guilty And Claims He’s Insane

“A former alleged ISIS supporter who stabbed his neighbour with a hunting knife near his Sydney home has pleaded not guilty on the grounds of mental illness.    Ihsas Khan, 24, appeared in the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday, where he was charged with engaging in a terrorist act and wounding with intent to murder. The charges relate to the stabbing attack of Khan's neighbour Wayne Greenhalgh, 57, in the southwestern Sydney suburb of Minto on September 10, 2016. Ihsas Khan, 24, (pictured) appeared in the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday, where he was charged with engaging in a terrorist act and wounding with intent to murder Mr Greenhalgh was on his way home when Khan, then 22, allegedly came out of his house and chased the victim with a hunting knife, stabbing him in the doorway of a hair salon, news.com.au reported.  Crown prosecutor Caroline Davenport SC said during her opening address the alleged victim was walking near his house when Khan attacked him with a knife. When police arrived the former alleged self-radicalised Muslim was heard to say 'Allahu Akbar' and 'I want to die today', the court heard.”

Brazil

The Washington Post: Brazil’s Prison Gangs Are Launching Massive Terrorism Attacks. This Explains Why

“Just one day after his inauguration, Brazil’s right-wing populist President Jair Bolsonaro faced his first public-security crisis. On Jan. 2, prison gangs launched a terrorism campaign throughout Ceara state, paralyzing the capital city, Fortaleza. Although he has deployed federal troops, violence continues: 278 attacks in 55 cities over 26 days (and counting), with bridges and overpasses bombed, electricity knocked out in some neighborhoods, schools and gas stations set on fire, and dozens of buses burned. What triggered the attacks? Another New Year’s inauguration: Ceara’s newly reelected Gov. Camilo Santana installed a hard-liner as secretary of prisons, who promised to end segregation of prisons by gang, proclaiming he would not “recognize” them. In response, the gangs unleashed their attacks and made specific demands, as in this “Public Notice” to Santana:… We want this new secretary out of our state … All we want is for our rights to be respected and for everything to remain as it is without change.… We have in sight more than 20 bridges to explode, we will continue the attacks, until this new secretary is removed.”

Southeast Asia

Al Jazeera: Philippines Vows To 'Crush' Attackers After Deadly Church Bombing

“President Rodrigo Duterte visited the southern Philippines where twin bomb blasts at a Roman Catholic cathedral killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 100. Duterte met top defence, military and police officials inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu province, before proceeding to a mass wake for victims of the bombing, according to photos posted by a former senior aide of the president.   Before Duterte's visit on Monday, Oscar Albayalde, the country's police chief revealed that the brother of a slain Abu Sayyaf leader is a suspect in the attack on Jolo, an island in Sulu province in the restive south.  He identified the person by his alias, Kamah, brother of Abu Sayyaf leader Surakah Ingog. The suspect, who the police said is a known bomb-maker, was caught on security camera footage near the church shortly before the attack. Kamah is still at large, the police chief said, adding that about 4kg of explosives were used in the bombing. The attack came six days after a referendum on expanded autonomy for the mainly Muslim region returned an overwhelming “yes” vote amid hopes the plan would bring development, jobs and peace to a region long plagued by poverty and instability.”

Technology

The Washington Post: The Islamic State May Have A New Propaganda Haven

“Even after the Islamic State lost massive swaths of territory in the past few years, there’s one place where it still has survived: the Internet. It hasn’t been an easy existence, especially in the past year. Messenger and social media platforms have become increasingly aggressive against the group’s online propaganda machine, perhaps to a breaking point. Telegram, the group’s current media headquarters, is removing Islamic State channels and chat groups at a rate previously unseen. Equally unwelcoming are social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, all of which the group once relied upon as its loudspeakers. But now, the Islamic State may have found a solution that could make it virtually immune from removals online. It’s called ZeroNet, and it could completely change the way we fight the group online. ZeroNet was created in 2015 as a way to get around Internet censorship. It does so by building what’s known as a ”peer-to-peer” network. Typical websites on the Internet are hosted by a single server somewhere, but sites on ZeroNet are decentralized. ZeroNet websites can be created by installing the network’s software on an initial host computer.”

Terror Financing  

Al Ain: Saudi Arabia Implements New Anti-Terrorist Financing System

“Saudi Arabia has just launched an important step to curb terrorism and its financing networks through an arsenal of specified legislation that went into effect on Saturday. This important new step for the Kingdom includes the implementation of 26 articles of executive regulations just one day after they were published in Saudi Arabia's official gazette. The publication of the new regulations comes about two weeks after their approval by the Saudi cabinet, on January 8th. The executive regulations provide an explanation for some of the clauses and articles in the anti-terrorism and financing system, which includes 96 {a total of} articles, published a year ago. The rules and regulations together constitute a comprehensive legislative arsenal that combats terrorism, tightens its funding networks, and dries up terrorism through preventive measures, strict controls and effective efforts.”

ISIS

Iraq Akhbar: Security Expert: ISIS Still Possesses Weapons And Funds In Iraq

“Moayad Al‑Jiheshi, an Iraqi military and strategy expert, disclosed that scores of ISIS militants have recently started to infiltrate into Iraq from Syria. These Jihadists settle mainly in the desert areas where they can move easily due to the lack of security presence. Al‑Jiheshi also noted that ISIS still possesses weapons, funds and militants, combining the essential requirements for sustaining this terrorist group. Instead of decimating ISIS completely, the battle against the terror organization was aimed only at driving it out of Falluja towards Ramadi, and then on to Mosul and, from there, to Syria, the security expert explained. ISIS continues to own funds along with warehouses of arms and ammunition in Ramadi and Mosul, as it succeeded in seizing this booty from the 14th Armored Division, Al‑Jiheshi concluded.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Elbalad: Egypt: Postponed Trial Of Muslim Brotherhood Businessmen Indicted For Harming National Economy

“Presided over by Counsellor Mohammed Sherin Fahmy, the State Supreme Security Criminal Emergency Court decided to postpone, till February 13th, the trial of prominent Muslim Brotherhood businessman Hassan Malek. The notorious financier of the banned Islamist group, along with his son, and another 22 co-defendants, including businessman Abdel-Rahman Al-Seoudi, face charges of belonging to and financing the Muslim Brotherhood, attempting to topple the regime, assaulting police, army personnel and public utilities, in addition to harming the national economy of Egypt. The abovementioned court delayed the trial, since the suspects were unable to be present at the court house.”

Houthi

News Yemen: Houthis Control The Commercial Banking Sector In Yemen

“The Houthis, the Iranian arm in Yemen, control the commercial banking sector in the country, after disarming its tools and mechanisms through which it conducts its banking activities. Thus, the sector has become unable to fulfill its obligations and carry out even basic functions. Over the past four years, the Houthis have mobilized commercial bank funds amounting to YR2.15 trillion ($8.6 billion) to finance its war activities and establish its sectarian state. Of these, YR 264 billion ($1.056 billion) was taken out of government bonds, accounting for 59% of the total deposits in commercial banks by the end of 2015. Houthi militants also drained the legal reserves of commercial bank deposits in the Central Bank. These reserves, at the end of 2015, stood at YR354 billion ($1.4 billion), representing 17% of total deposits in commercial banks.”