Eye on Extremism: January 3, 2020

The Washington Post: Pentagon Launched Airstrike That Killed Iranian Commander Qasem Soleimani, Defense Sec. Mark Esper Says

“An airstrike near the Baghdad airport has killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and another senior Iranian-linked figure in Baghdad, Iraqi state television reported Thursday. No one immediately asserted responsibility for the strike, which Iraqi television said also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi militia commander. But the death of Iran’s most revered military leader appeared likely to send tensions soaring between the United States and Iran. Soleimani, who is closely linked to Iran’s foreign proxy groups, has taken on an enhanced role in Iraq as the country’s Shiite militias have gained new clout in recent years. Pentagon officials declined to comment on the airstrike. The attack comes amid already increased friction between Washington and Iran over what U.S. officials say is a campaign of sustained aggression against the United States and its allies. Earlier Thursday, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Iran and its proxies may be preparing renewed strikes on U.S. personnel in Iraq, even as the Trump administration increases the number of troops in the region. “There are some indications out there that they may be planning additional attacks,” Esper said at the Pentagon, a day after members of an Iranian-linked militia, Kataib Hezbollah, withdrew from the area around the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad following their assault on the diplomatic facility.”

Reuters: U.S. Sees Signs Iran Or Proxies May Be Planning More Attacks: Pentagon Chief

“U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Thursday there were indications Iran or forces it backs may be planning additional attacks, warning that the “game has changed” and it was possible the United States might have to take preemptive action to protect American lives. “There are some indications out there that they may be planning additional attacks, that is nothing new ... we’ve seen this for two or three months now,” Esper told reporters, without providing evidence or details about the U.S. assessment. “If that happens then we will act and by the way, if we get word of attacks or some type indication, we will take preemptive action as well to protect American forces to protect American lives.” Iranian-backed demonstrators hurled rocks at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad during two days of protests, then withdrew on Wednesday after Washington dispatched extra troops. U.S. President Donald Trump, who faces a re-election campaign in 2020, accused Iran of orchestrating the violence. He threatened on Tuesday to retaliate against Iran but said later he did not want war. Iran has rejected the accusation. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi criticized American officials, in a statement, saying they have “the astounding audacity” to blame Iran for protests sparked by U.S. air strikes.”

The New York Times: After Embassy Attack, U.S. Is Prepared To Pre-Emptively Strike Militias In Iraq

“The United States military will pre-emptively strike Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria if there are indications the paramilitary groups are planning more attacks against American bases and personnel in the region, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Thursday. The strong warning comes less than a week after Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-supported militia, killed an American contractor in a rocket attack near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, and is the latest round of escalating language leveled at Tehran by officials in Washington. “If we get word of attacks, we will take pre-emptive action as well to protect American forces, protect American lives,” Mr. Esper said. “The game has changed.” The American military responded to the rocket attack last week by bombing Kataib Hezbollah outposts in Syria and Iraq, killing some of its fighters. The airstrikes set off a chain of events that culminated Tuesday with many members of the same militia attacking the American Embassy in Baghdad. The group that attacked the embassy was distinct from those Iraqis who have been protesting the Iraqi government for months, demonstrations in which hundreds have been killed by the country’s security forces.”


The Washington Post: UN Council To Hear Latest On Offensive In Syria’s Idlib

“The U.N. Security Council is going to receive a closed briefing on the ongoing offensive in the last rebel stronghold in Syria at the request of France and the United Kingdom. Vietnam’s U.N. Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy, the council president for January, told a news conference Thursday that U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo and U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock will report to the council Friday on the current situation in Idlib province. Syrian troops have captured more than 40 villages and hamlets over the past two weeks in Idlib, the rebel stronghold in the northwest. Idlib is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants and is also home to 3 million civilians. The United Nations has warned of the growing risk of a humanitarian catastrophe in the region, which lies along the Turkish border. The Security Council meeting is taking place following the council’s rejection on Dec. 20 of rival resolutions that would continue the delivery of humanitarian aid across borders to more than 1 million Syrians every month in mainly rebel-held areas. The current mandate ends on Jan. 10 and ambassador Dang said he thinks all council members will try their best to resolve differences and allow aid deliveries to continue.”


Fox News: US Updates Iraq Travel Warning Following 'Iranian-Backed Terrorist Attacks' On Baghdad Embassy

“The U.S. State Department has updated its travel warning for Iraq in the wake of this week's siege of the American embassy in Baghdad, notifying travelers that its operations there have been affected because of “damage done by Iranian-backed terrorist attacks.” The update comes as The Associated Press released stunning photographs showing the extent of the destruction at the embassy, which was targeted Tuesday by angry mobs who were protesting recent U.S. airstrikes. “On December 31, 2019, the Embassy suspended public consular services, until further notice, as a result of damage done by Iranian-backed terrorist attacks on the Embassy compound,” the State Department says in its latest travel warning. The U.S. continues to advise Americans not to travel to Iraq due to “terrorism, kidnapping and armed conflict.” “Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians,” the State Department says.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraq Forces Capture ISIS Members In Charge Of Recruitments In Mosul

“Iraqi security forces announced on Thursday the arrest of two Islamic State members who were in charge of recruitments for the terror group in Mosul. The suspects were members of the “Diwan al-Jund,” or the Soldiers’ Bureau, an entity that oversees the recruitment and placement of fighters in the so-called Islamic State’s ranks, an Interior Ministry statement read. The two were captured in an operation in the village of Al-Ibtisheh, in the Al-Hadr District, located southwest of Mosul. On Wednesday, Iraqi security forces detained two other members of the Islamic State in Mosul. One of the members was working in the terror group’s “Al-Hisbah (Accountability)” office during its control of Mosul while the other was in charge of booby-trapping vehicles in the city. Last week, Iraqi security forces announced the arrest of an alleged Islamic State financier during an operation in the western Anbar governorate. A few days later, on Dec. 25, Iraq’s military announced it had dismantled an Islamic State sleeper cell in Anbar, arresting 14 suspects. Although Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State in December 2017, the extremist group continues to launch regular attacks, including bombings, kidnappings, and ambushes against both Iraqi security forces, Kurdish forces, and civilians in areas liberated from its control as well as in major cities it never took over, such as Baghdad and Kirkuk.”


Xinhua: Turkey Deports 3 Suspected Swiss IS Militants

“Turkey has deported 3 suspected Islamic State (IS) members of Swiss nationality to their home country, the Turkish Interior Ministry said Thursday. The ministry made the announcement in a brief statement, without providing details or identifying the suspects. Turkey earlier said it would send thousands of captured IS militants, including those from Europe, back to their countries even if their citizenship was revoked. Ankara started to send suspected foreign IS captives back to their countries of origin in November, 2019. More than 70 IS suspects have been deported so far.”


The Diplomat: Taliban Target Afghan Security Forces, Killing 26

“Days after Taliban officials told the Associated Press that a temporary ceasefire was in the works, the Taliban unleashed a new wave of attacks in northern Afghanistan, targeting members of the country’s security forces and killing at least 26, local officials said Wednesday. The insurgents quickly claimed responsibility for all of the attacks. The Taliban today hold sway over practically half of Afghanistan, staging near-daily attacks that target soldiers, security forces, and government officials but also kill scores of civilians. In northern Kunduz province, at least 10 among the Afghan forces were killed and four others were wounded in an attack on a police checkpoint in the district of Dashti Archi late on Tuesday night, according to Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, the head of provincial council. And in Balkh province, the Taliban killed nine police officers in an attack on their checkpoint. The fate of four other policemen who were at the checkpoint was unknown, said Mohammad Afzel Hadid, head of the provincial council. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed that the insurgents in the Balkh attack had infiltrated police ranks a while ago, and were waiting for a chance to strike. Although the Taliban often exaggerate their claims, the insurgents also on occasion disguise themselves in Afghan uniforms to get easier access to their targets.”

Voice Of America: US Chief Negotiator To Meet Taliban In Qatar

“U.S. lead negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad is expected to meet Qatar-based Taliban envoys later this week to find out whether the insurgent group is ready to reduce violence in Afghanistan for the sake of resuming peace talks. An official at the American Embassy in Kabul, who requested not to be identified, made the disclosure Thursday, nearly three weeks after Khalilzad paused the dialogue as retaliation to a major Taliban attack on the largest U.S. military base north of the Afghan capital. The U.S. embassy official, while referring to recent Taliban statements, noted the Taliban leadership has debated the issue in internal deliberations, and Khalilzad wants to learn the outcome at the upcoming meeting. In his last interaction with insurgent negotiators in Doha on December 12, the Afghan-born U.S. envoy had asked them “to consult their leadership” about observing a temporary cease-fire, or a reduction in violence, before the two sides could return to the negotiating table. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid earlier this week confirmed its leaders have conducted internal consultations, saying they focused solely on a U.S. request for easing “the scale and intensity of violence” against foreign troops.”

CNBC: G4S And MTN Sued Over Alleged ‘Protection Payments’ To Terrorists In Afghanistan

“U.K. security giant G4S and South African telecoms provider MTN are among six multinational corporations named in a U.S. lawsuit over alleged “protection payments” to terrorists in Afghanistan. A complaint under the Anti-Terrorism Act was filed in a federal court in Washington D.C. on December 27 on behalf of 385 claimants, comprising U.S. military and civilian personnel injured or killed in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2017, and their loved ones. The plaintiffs span more than 100 service members killed and wounded during the period. The complaint, filed by law firms Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick PLLC, Sparacino PLLC and Willkie, Farr & Gallagher LLP alleges that G4S Holdings International and its subsidiaries, MTN and four American corporations provided funding for the Taliban, Haqqani Network, Pakistani Taliban and their allies. All of these entities were part of an Al-Qaeda led terrorist syndicate, according to the filing. The complaint alleges that the corporations either directly made, or turned a blind eye to, ‘protection payments’ to the terrorist organizations in order to preserve their business in Afghanistan and divert attacks away from their own business interests.”

Xinhua: 10 Taliban Militants Surrender In N. Afghan Provinces

“Ten Taliban militants have surrendered in two Afghan northern provinces, authorities said Thursday. “Five Taliban militants, who were members of Taliban Sarra Keta or the militants' special force squad, surrendered to Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in Qaysar district of northern Faryab province late on Wednesday,” Hanif Rezai, spokesman of army Corps 209 Shaheen based in the region, told Xinhua. In northern Badakhshan province, five Taliban gave up militancy and surrendered to ANDSF in Jurm district of the restive province Wednesday night, according to Rezai. The former militants also called on fellow Taliban members to join the peace and reconciliation process, the military official noted. They also handed over 10 AK-47 guns, one telecommunication radio and a motorcycle to military officials. The Afghan government set up a High Peace Council and launched the peace and reconciliation process in 2010, to encourage Taliban to disarm and give up militancy against the government. Since then, more than 10,000 Taliban militants have laid down arms and joined the process, according to peace officials, but the claim has been rejected by the armed outfit as “baseless.”


Reuters: Lebanon's Hezbollah To Continue Path Of Iranian Commander After U.S. Strike: TV

“Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday his powerful Shi’ite militia group would continue the path of Iran’s Major-General Qassem Soleimani after his death in a U.S. air strike, broadcaster Al Manar reported. Nasrallah said the United States would not be able to achieve its goals with this “big crime” and just punishment was the responsibility of all fighters, Al Manar reported.”

Middle East

Asharq Al-Awsat: Israel Seeks Truce With Hamas, Prepares For Escalation With Iran

“The Israeli cabinet continues to debate concluding a truce agreement with Hamas movement, as ruling coalition parties seem to be in consensus to support the army's position in favor of a speedy settlement with the movement, despite an objection from Israel’s Security Services, the Shin Bet. Political sources said that the army chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, convinced officials that reaching a truce with Hamas is a necessity, in order for the army to devote itself to facing the imminent danger from the north, hinting at Lebanese “Hezbollah” and Iranian forces and militias. Security and political leaders believe the situation in Gaza Strip must remain stable through extensive economic measures, according to Maariv military expert Tal Lev Ram. Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi seemed very excited about introducing a new formula; “truce with Hamas and escalation with Hezbollah.” In addition, the Defense Minister Naftali Bennett asked his staff to initiate persistent and continuous attacks against Iranian targets in Syria. The Defense Minister believes that it is time to change the strategy of attacking Iranian and Syrian targets only after finding out that military equipment was delivered to Syria.”

The Jerusalem Post: Shin Bet Head: Don't Allow Hamas To Turn Into Hezbollah

“As Israel moves toward a ceasefire agreement with Hamas in Gaza, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Nadav Argaman, has warned the Security Cabinet against allowing Hamas to turn into the second Hezbollah by not limiting the terror group’s military buildup as part of the arrangement. According to a report by Yediot Aharonot, during the security cabinet meeting on Wednesday that was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Argaman read an article that discussed Israel’s failure to stop Hezbollah’s intensive military buildup following the Second Lebanon War and warned of a similar possibility in Gaza. Most of the clauses in the ceasefire moderated by the Egyptians are reported to have already been agreed upon by defense and government officials and it is expected to be signed before Israel once again goes to the polls in March. As part of the agreement, Israel will reportedly increase the number of entry permits for Gazan laborers and merchants, as well as widen the fishing zone off of the blockaded coastal enclave, currently set at 14 nautical miles. Infrastructure projects, like the construction of a natural gas pipeline, and increased medical assistance and equipment for hospitals, as well as other goods are also reported to be part of Israel’s concessions.”


Sahara Reporters: Nigerian Army Rescues 165 Civilians From Militants Across Borno

“The Nigerian Army has said that had rescued 165 civilians, most of them women and children from camps of terrorists affiliated to Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province. Army spokesperson, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, said in a statement that the military had recovered ammunition and captured several terrorists. Iliyasu added that the operations were carried out in conjunction with the multinational joint task force. The strike team deployed to Super Camp 7 at Bama area of the state killed one terrorist, captured one alive and rescued eight women and six children at Tafana 1, 2 and 3 villages in Bama on December 27, 2019. According to him, troops also recovered Boko Haram flags, 16 arrows and 32 refilled rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition during the encounter. In another operation, 25 Task Force Brigade deployed at Super Camp 2 in Damboa arrested a Boko Haram informant/logistics supplier, Ibrahim Buba, and two others suspected to be his couriers at Shuwari Village in Damboa District. Troops of 242 Battalion in Monguno arrested suspected terrorists’ logistics suppliers, Abubakar Aisami and Modu Baba, with foodstuff and drugs concealed in a bag of smashed corn powder for delivery to the terrorists during a different raid.”


The Washington Post: Somali Mourners March Against Extremist Blast That Killed 79

“Hundreds of mourners and government officials in Mogadishu gathered at the capital’s Police School on Thursday to mourn the 79 people killed by a tragic truck bomb last week. Somali government officials and residents marched through Mogadishu’s streets to show solidarity with those who lost their loved ones in the bombing that was the country’s biggest and most deadly in two years. Several mourners said that they reject terrorism. Women and men carried flags and placards denouncing the killings. “Evil-doers are not our sons” and “Collaborate with the security forces” read some of the posters in the Somali language. Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamic extremist rebels claimed responsibility for the weekend bomb at a busy checkpoint in which many of those killed were university students. Mogadishu mayor Omar Filish, the mayor of Mogadishu who organized the event, told the crowd that the perpetrators of the attack failed to destroy the spirit of the Somali people and instead increased their anger at the extremist group. “We will not cry but we will take revenge for the blood of the innocents killed in that truck bomb,” said Filish. “We need to apprehend the al-Shabaab terrorists in their hiding places and assist each other to fight them,” said Dahir Jesow, a member of Somalia’s parliament.”

BBC News: Somalia Attack: Demonstrations Held In Mogadishu

“Hundreds of people have attended a local government-organised protest against militant group al-Shabab in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. The demonstration comes after the militants killed more than 80 people in a bomb attack on Saturday. On Monday, the group apologised for the attack and offered condolences to victims' families. The UN and African Union-backed government is battling al-Shabab for control of the country. Saturday's blast took place at a checkpoint at a busy intersection in the capital and was one of the deadliest the militants have carried out. The protest was organised by Mogadishu's local administration and was held at the secure General Kahiye police academy. The demonstrators carried placards with slogans demanding unity and warning that “those who kill our brothers, will also want to kill us”. “I have come here to share the pain and loss with my Somali people as we mourn the deaths of so many people,” protester Nasteha Mohamud Weliye told the BBC. “I pray to God that we see end of this continuous tragedy. I am calling for all of us to unite against the enemy.” A similar protest against al-Shabab was held in October 2017 following a vehicle bomb attack that killed more than 500 people in the city.”


Reuters: Ethiopia Relaxes Curbs On Political Gatherings With New Anti-Terror Law

“Ethiopia’s parliament on Thursday passed an anti-terrorism law that relaxed restrictions on political gatherings, broadening reforms introduced under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The legislation repealed the 2009 anti-terrorism law that said staging gatherings that could cause “serious interference or disruption of any public services” was an act of terrorism. The new legislation states: “If the disruption of public services was caused by a legally recognized protest, meetings or job strikes, the act will not be taken as a terrorist act.” Since coming to power in 2018, Abiy has implemented a series of reforms that have reshaped public life in Ethiopia. He made peace with Eritrea, freed political prisoners, and is opening up the economy to foreign investment by loosening state control. The country is due to hold a general election this year, which will test the popularity of Abiy’s reforms. Under the new law, Ethiopians who suffer abuses at the hands of law enforcement can receive compensation of up to 50,000 Ethiopian Birr ($1,500). For anyone convicted of terrorism, though, the new law maintains sentences of death or jail terms of 15 years to life.”

Stars And Stripes: Kenyan Officials Say Al-Shabab Attack On Bus Convoy Kills Four

“Kenyan officials say four people were killed on Thursday when a convoy of passenger buses was fired on by Islamic militants in the country's eastern coastal area. Somalia's al-Shabab rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack. The gunmen fired at a convoy of three buses and two vans that was being escorted by police to Lamu, said Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia. The four were killed when the vehicles were sprayed with gunfire by attackers in the Nyongoro area of Lamu county along Kenya's Indian Ocean coast, he said. The first bus was hit with bullets on its side and tires but the driver managed to speed away, he said. Other vehicles in the convoy stopped and the gunmen opened fire at passengers fleeing on foot into the bushes, he said. The police escort had been delayed and was behind the convoy but arrived in time to prevent a massacre, he said. Police escorts for passenger vehicles in the area became mandatory after 2014 when al-Shabab killed nearly 90 people in two attacks in Lamu county. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack on its Andalus radio station, saying its fighters spared Muslim passengers and only killed Christians.”

Africanews: 2019 Review: How Terrorists Unleashed Hell In The Sahel

“Active armed conflicts continues to ravage parts of Africa be it as a result of the state versus terrorist groups or infighting between political factions, a typical case of the latter being South Sudan. Some of the deadliest anti-terror campaigns are in West Africa specifically in the Sahel and Lake Chad regions. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, continues to make incursions into the Sahel with heavy death toll – on the part of combatants and civilians. Boko Haram, a decade on, continues to wreak havoc in the Lake Chad region, an area straddling Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Niger. Al-Shabaab is ever active in Somalia whiles Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique are all battling insurgencies in the east and north respectively. The area is an semi-arid zone that stretches miles from Mauritania, through much of northern Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso till Chad – it extends to as far as the extreme north of Ethiopia. The region is bordered to much of north and west Africa by the Sahara desert. In the case of the particular area that is hit by active terrorist activity, five countries are in line of the fire. Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, who form the G5 Sahel bloc.”

United Kingdom

The Telegraph: It Can Never Be Certain That Terror Attackers Have Been 'Cured', Warns Deradicalisation Psychologist

“The psychologist behind the UK's main deradicalisation programme for terror offenders has warned it can never be certain that attackers have been “cured”. Christopher Dean said some terror offenders who take part in his Healthy Identity Intervention (HII) scheme appear to regress due to complex reasons such as who they mix with. Mr Dean's comments come after HII participant Usman Khan stabbed two people to death near London Bridge on November 29. Khan was a convicted terrorist who had been a member of an al Qaida-inspired group that plotted to blow up the London Stock Exchange. The HII scheme involves offenders like Khan attending sessions with a psychologist who encourage them to talk about their motivations, beliefs, identity and relationship with society. Former senior Home Office official Ian Acheson said attention was drawn to shortcomings of the HII programme in 2016. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Dean said individuals can both progress and regress under healthy identity intervention. “Sometimes people move up two rungs, sometimes individuals may say I've had my doubts about this or that and they may be willing to speak to people, but equally they may go down rungs as well.”


Bloomberg: How Dangerous Is Germany’s Far Right?

“German pundits and politicians have a new favorite phrase: “Resist beginnings.” It comes from Ovid, who cautioned that “the remedy comes too late when the disease has gained strength by long delays.” But whereas Ovid was talking about the danger of love, Germans are warning against hate. More than probably anyone else, they’re anxious about rising far-right extremism, including neo-Nazism. In the home of the original Nazism, it’s always hard to tell if people are being hysterical about the threat or naive in belittling it. An increase in hate speech, anti-Semitism and racist violence certainly appears to be a trend that spans the whole West, from Britain to New Zealand and the U.S. But for obvious reasons, the same phenomenon resonates differently in Germany. So it did when a killer recently tried to force his way into a German synagogue to wreak carnage (the congregants successfully blocked him from entering, but he murdered two others). Or when the country’s president actually had to call on Germans to make Jews feel safe enough to wear kippahs in public. Or when a right-wing sniper assassinated a pro-immigrant politician as he was sitting on his front porch.”

Deutsche Welle: Don't Ignore Far-Left Extremists, German Police Say After Leipzig Attacks

“The violence that broke out between police officers and members of the far-left scene in the eastern German city of Leipzig  on New Year's Eve triggered plenty of heated political reaction. “This act shows that inhuman violence also comes from the left-wing extremist scene,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told the dpa news agency on Thursday, before adding that a strong state needed a strong police force. The point was echoed by Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung, a Social Democrat who has faced criticism from right-wing parties in the past for failing to crack down on the city's left-wing extremists. “The New Year, unfortunately, did not begin peacefully at all, but started with a serious criminal outbreak of violence,” Jung told dpa. “My thoughts are with the injured policeman and his family, and I wish him a speedy recovery.” A 38-year-old police officer had to undergo an emergency operation after being attacked in the city's Connewitz district, known for its left-wing scene. According to the police statement released in the early hours of New Year's Day, a group of people pushed a burning shopping cart into a group of police just after midnight then threw a barrage of fireworks at the officers. A total of 10 people were arrested, with police launching an investigation for attempted murder.”


Radio Free Europe: Islamic State Claims Responsibility For Deadly Attack In Ingushetia

“The Islamic State (IS) extremist group has claimed responsibility for an attack in Russia's North Caucasus region of Ingushetia, in which a police officer was killed. Two young men rammed their car into a police officer on December 31, and then attacked other police officers with knives in the Ingush capital, Magas. Regional authorities said one police officer died and three others were wounded in the incident. One of the attackers, 18-year-old Mikail Miziyev, was killed while another, 23-year-old Akhmed Imagozhev, was wounded and is currently in hospital. The IS group said in a statement dated January 1 that it was responsible for the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks the online activity of jihadist organizations. Ingushetia's leader, Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov, publicly criticized police for what he called “insufficient measures to beef up security on New Year's Eve.” Attacks on police and authorities have persisted for years in the volatile North Caucasus region after Russia drove out a separatist government in one of the region's provinces, Chechnya, in the second of two devastating post-Soviet wars.”


The Brussels Times: Belgian Authorities Worried About Online Radicalisation

“Federal Prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw is constantly on the alert for terrorism in Belgium, but is particularly concerned about “inspired terrorism,” such as online influence and radicalisation of people in front of their computer screens, he explained on Thursday to Sudpresse. “What is holding our attention from now on is not structured terrorism as we know it,” Van Leeuw said. “In the future, we have a better chance to intercept and control that, especially since the original base, the physical Caliphate, has fallen. What worries us more is ‘inspired terrorism’, with people who become radicalized in front of their computers (…) Single individuals are harder to spot than structures.” The Office of the Federal Prosecutor operates like a fire service, he explained. “We try to put out the fire. We need to make sure the fires no longer break out and that they are easier to put out. It requires resources (we have received them) but it also requires the grass in our society to be less dry and for fewer people to be radicalized,” he said.”


The Wall Street Journal: Police Tracked A Terror Suspect—Until His Phone Went Dark After A Facebook Warning

“A team of European law-enforcement officials was hot on the trail of a potential terror plot in October, fearing an attack during Christmas season, when their keyhole into a suspect’s phone went dark. WhatsApp, Facebook Inc. ’s popular messaging tool, had just notified about 1,400 users—among them the suspected terrorist—that their phones had been hacked by an “advanced cyber actor.” An elite surveillance team was using spyware from NSO Group, an Israeli company, to track the suspect, according to a law-enforcement official overseeing the investigation. A judge in the Western European country had authorized investigators to deploy all means available to get into the suspect’s phone, for which the team used its government’s existing contract with NSO. The country’s use of NSO’s spyware wasn’t known to Facebook. NSO licenses its spyware to government clients, who use it to hack targets. On Oct. 29, Facebook filed suit against NSO—which has been enmeshed in controversy after governments used its technology to spy on dissidents—in federal court in California, seeking unspecified financial penalties over NSO’s alleged hacking of WhatsApp software. It also sought an injunction prohibiting NSO from accessing Facebook and WhatsApp’s computer systems.”