Eye on Extremism: January 9, 2019

The Wall Street Journal: Erdogan Rebuffs U.S. Call To Protect Kurds, Complicating Effort To Leave Syria

“President Trump’s plans for a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria were thrown into disarray when Turkey’s president rejected a request to protect U.S. allies fighting in the region and instead threatened military strikes against them. Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan declined on Tuesday to meet with Mr. Trump’s visiting national security adviser, John Bolton, who had called on Turkey not to target a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia that Turkey calls a terrorist organization. “John Bolton made a serious mistake,” Mr. Erdogan told lawmakers from his ruling Justice & Development Party on Tuesday. “Those who share the same view are also deeply wrong.” Mr. Bolton’s inability to forge a deal with Turkey raised the possibility that a U.S. pullout could be postponed indefinitely—and it opened a new rift between two North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies who have frequently clashed over the U.S.’s Middle East policies.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: ISIS Counterattack In East Syria Leaves 32 Dead: Monitor

“Extremists defending their last bastion in eastern Syria used the cover of bad weather to launch a deadly counterattack against a Kurdish-led force, a war monitor said Tuesday. The ISIS terrorist group was unable to hold on to the positions they attacked but the assault killed 23 members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and also left nine militants dead. ISIS fighters took advantage of poor visibility to unleash suicide attackers on SDF forces along the front line in the Euphrates valley late on Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "Twenty-three SDF fighters were killed and nine ISIS militants were also killed in fighting that lasted all night and into Monday morning," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. The terrorists often launch attacks under the cover of bad weather that cancels out their opponents' advantage of US-led coalition air power. The SDF launched what is meant to be the final offensive on the jihadist organization four months ago with air and ground support from coalition forces. The Kurdish-Arab alliance has deployed some 17,000 fighters for an operation aimed at clearing out ISIS from the last rump of its now-defunct "caliphate". ISIS fighters "launched deadly counterattacks in three different directions against the Syrian Democratic Forces, including in the villages of Sousa and Al-Shaafa," Abdel Rahman said.”

CNN: ISIS Is Far From Being Defeated As A Fighting Force Or Ideology

“On December 19, President Trump declared: "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency." US troops there, he said in a video the same day, are "all coming back, and they're coming back now." On January 7, the President revised "now" to "leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS," though he claimed it was no different from what he'd said before. But in between both statements, his Defense Secretary James Mattis and the US special envoy on fighting ISIS, Brett McGurk, had resigned. Senior Republican Senators had openly criticized the abrupt withdrawal. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that "there is no change in our commitment to the defeat of the caliphate or of ISIS globally," but has also maintained that it can be done without the 2,000 US troops that currently support the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northern-eastern Syria. For its part, the US Defense Department says the withdrawal is conditions-based and not subject to "an arbitrary timeline." The rest of this article could be spent trying to divine the US policy in Syria. But it's easier to ask whether ISIS is defeated or not.”

The Washington Post: Did Iran Plot Four Attacks In Europe? The Dutch Government Thinks So.

“The European Union imposed sanctions on Iran’s intelligence ministry and two Iranian nationals on Tuesday as the Dutch government accused Iran of likely involvement in two assassination plots in the Netherlands. The allegations were contained in a letter released by the Dutch government to parliament. The letter indicates Iran is suspected in at least four assassination and bomb plots in Europe since 2015, which will probably bolster the Trump administration’s calls for greater international isolation of Tehran. The investigations of the two killings led to the expulsion of two Iranian diplomats from the Netherlands in June 2018, the letter said, a move that was not disclosed at the time. The diplomats were not expelled over any confirmed personal involvement in the killings, the letter stated, “but as a clear signal that the Netherlands regards Iran’s probable involvement in these serious cases as unacceptable. According to the letter, signed by Foreign Minister Stef Blok and Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren, Iranian officials denied any involvement in the killings when contacted. AIVD, the Dutch domestic intelligence service, said the first incident occurred in the city of Almere, near Amsterdam, in December 2015.”

The Wall Street Journal: Jihadists Behind Bars Pose New Threats For Europe

“A terrorism trial starting here on Thursday highlights the difficulties Europe’s courts and prisons face containing the spread of jihadist ideology behind bars. Mehdi Nemmouche, a 33-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin, faces life in prison for allegedly shooting and killing four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014. But once in prison, law-enforcement officials warn, terror suspects and convicts breed even more plots and spread their ideology to other inmates. European prisons are fertile recruiting ground for new terrorists despite efforts in France, Belgium and other European countries to isolate dangerous and radicalized suspects in dedicated wards to prevent them from proselytizing. The perpetrators in several recent attacks were radicalized in prison, including Mr. Nemmouche and an alleged accomplice also on trial, say prosecutors. In Belgium, which has the highest per capita rate of returnees from Syria and Iraq in Europe, one third of 125 returnees were in prison in early 2018, according to the Egmont Institute, a Brussels-based think tank.”

CNBC: Inside Facebook's 'Cult-Like' Workplace, Where Dissent Is Discouraged And Employees Pretend To Be Happy All The Time

“At a company-wide town hall in early October, numerous Facebook employees got in line to speak about their experiences with sexual harassment. The company called the special town hall after head of policy Joel Kaplan caused an internal uproar for appearing at the congressional hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. A young female employee was among those who got up to speak, addressing her comments directly to COO Sheryl Sandberg. "I was reticent to speak, Sheryl, because the pressure for us to act as though everything is fine and that we love working here is so great that it hurts," she said, according to multiple former Facebook employees who witnessed the event. "There shouldn't be this pressure to pretend to love something when I don't feel this way," said the employee, setting off a wave of applause from her colleagues at the emotional town hall in Menlo Park, California. The episode speaks to an atmosphere at Facebook in which employees feel pressure to place the company above all else in their lives, fall in line with their manager's orders and force cordiality with their colleagues so they can advance. Several former employees likened the culture to a "cult.”

United States

CNN: About A Dozen Non-US Citizens On Terror Watchlist Encountered At Southern Border In Fiscal Year 2018

“Roughly a dozen individuals who are not US citizens and are on the terror watchlist were encountered by federal officials at the US southern border from October 2017 to October 2018, according to an administration official familiar with data from Customs and Border Protection. The number of individuals encountered at the southern border is a very small percentage of the total known or suspected terrorists who tried to enter or travel to the US in fiscal year 2017. That much larger number has been touted by the administration as it seeks to gain support to build a wall on the border. The official adds there are not significant numbers of known or suspected terrorists crossing the southern border but the number went from "zero to a small increase" over the last couple of years. But the official said that while the number of potential terrorists trying to cross the border is minimal, the Department of Homeland Security is concerned that terrorists could try to exploit immigration patterns. It was not immediately clear how many US citizens who are on the terror watchlist were encountered at the border in the same period.”

Reuters: U.S. Withdrawal From Syria Does Not Jeopardise Efforts To Counter Iran, Pompeo Says

“The U.S. decision to withdraw troops from Syria will not jeopardise Washington’s efforts to counter threats in the region, which come from Iran and Islamic State, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday. Pompeo was in Jordan, making his first visit to the Middle East since President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement that he will pull the 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, which caused alarm among U.S. allies in the region and prompted the resignation of Defence Secretary Jim Mattis. The U.S. troops in Syria have been fighting against Islamic State and also served as a counterweight to the Syrian government, which is backed by Iran and Russia. Many of Trump’s domestic and international critics have said that withdrawing the troops abruptly could expose Washington’s Kurdish allies to repression from Turkey, and also allow Iran to solidify its influence in Syria. But Pompeo said Washington was not stepping down from its efforts to challenge Iran. American policy makers were “redoubling not only our diplomatic but our commercial efforts to put real pressure on Iran,” he said.”

The Atlantic: The U.S. Isn’t Really Leaving Syria And Afghanistan

“President Donald Trump caused a political furor when he announced in December that he would quickly withdraw all 2,000 American troops in Syria, together with half of the 14,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Democrats (and many Republicans) condemned the exit strategy as a boon for America’s enemies. Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned in protest, as did the special envoy for the counter-isis campaign, Brett McGurk, and the Pentagon chief of staff, Kevin Sweeney. Other prominent voices praised the drawdown. In The New York Times, for example, Robert Kaplan called the campaign in Afghanistan “a vestigial limb of empire, and it is time to let it go.” These critics and defenders of Trump’s decision have one thing in common: They share the assumption that Washington is actually getting out of Syria and Afghanistan. But that’s not true. In conventional campaigns against foreign countries, such as World War II, war and peace are clearly defined. The United States gears up for the fight and battles the enemy, there’s a surrender ceremony, and then the troops come home and Americans close the book. But in the modern era of complex civil wars and counterterrorism operations, a world power like the United States never really leaves.”

Voice Of America: Iran, Islamic State On Agenda As Pompeo Visits Middle East

“U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is focusing on Iran and Islamic State as he makes a week-long visit to the Middle East. Pompeo said ahead of his first stop Tuesday in Jordan that he wants to "send a clear message" that the United States is committed to the region, defeating Islamic State and countering what he called "Iran's destabilizing activities." In his talks with Jordanian leaders, Pompeo was expected to discuss the situation in Syria, where the Trump administration is planning to withdraw 2,000 U.S. forces, as well as Jordan's economic links with neighboring Iraq. Other stops on the top U.S. diplomat's trip include Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait. Pompeo is due to give a speech in Cairo that the State Department says will focus on "U.S. commitment to peace, prosperity, stability and security in the Middle East." Ten years ago, it was President Barack Obama making a major address in Cairo, where he sought "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." Since taking office at the end of Obama's term, President Donald Trump has taken different foreign policy paths than those of his predecessor, including abandoning the nuclear agreement the United States and five other nations struck with Iran to limit the Iranian nuclear program.”

ABC Columbia: Would-Be Islamic State Fighter To Be Sentenced After Plea

“A South Carolina man who pleaded guilty to trying to fight for the Islamic State group faces the possibility of decades in federal prison when he’s sentenced later this month. Zakaryia Abdin is expected to be sentenced Jan. 24 in federal court in Charleston, according to federal court documents. He faces a possible 20-year prison sentence, as well as a fine of $250,000 and the possibility of being on supervised release for the rest of his life. Abdin, 20, pleaded guilty in August to attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Arrested at Charleston’s airport in 2017 as he tried to board a plane for Jordan, authorities have said that Abdin told an FBI agent posing as an Islamic State recruiter that he wanted to torture an American and would attack a U.S. site if he couldn’t get out of the country. Abdin has been under government monitoring for years. At age 16, authorities have said, he talked about robbing a gun store to get weapons to kill soldiers. He was arrested before any robbery took place and pleaded guilty, and a parole board agreed to his early release after about a year in jail. Before his most recent arrest, Abdin knew that authorities were still watching him but apparently didn’t realize that the “recruiter” with whom he communicated online was a federal agent, according to authorities.”

Syria

The Washington Post: Fate Of Detained IS Fighters Uncertain As US Exits Syria

“What to do with hundreds of foreign Islamic State fighters captured in Syria has become a critical and growing problem for the Trump administration as it prepares to pull troops out of the country. A senior administration official said Tuesday that resolving the fate of these prisoners is a top priority as the government lays the groundwork with allies to comply with President Donald Trump’s Dec. 19 order to withdraw the 2,000 American troops from Syria, where they have been working alongside the U.S.-backed Syrian Defense Forces to fight the Islamic State group since 2015. But there are no easy answers. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said releasing the fighters, among them Europeans and some U.S. citizens, would be “unacceptable” since they could simply rejoin the remnants of Islamic State fighters in Syria or elsewhere. “This matters because SDF holds hundreds of IS fighters, including many European citizens, and they might go free if no solution is found,” said Bobby Chesney, a national security law expert at the University of Texas. European nations have been reluctant to take back citizens with ties to the Islamic State, not wanting the legal challenge of prosecuting them or the potential security risk if they are released.”

U.S. News & World Report: Syrian Jihadists Press Attack On Turkish-Backed Rebels

“A jihadist assault gained ground on Tuesday against Turkish-backed rebels in northwest Syria, edging closer to frontlines with government forces, a rebel official and a war monitor said. The advance raises questions about the fate of September's demilitarization deal between Turkey and Russia, which staved off a Syrian army offensive against the Idlib region. Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS), spearheaded by al Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate, is expanding its grip over the insurgent enclave, which includes Idlib province and adjacent bits of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces. Idlib lies in Syria's northwest corner, the last opposition stronghold, where Turkish forces are stationed. It borders territory that Turkey-backed rebels control near the Turkish frontier. The main Turkish-backed rebel force, the National Army, has deployed along fronts close to the jihadists to repel any new militant advance towards them. National Army spokesman Major Youssef Hamoud said HTS militants seized four villages in al-Ghab plain from rival rebels on Tuesday. "We call on (the rebel factions) inside Idlib to launch an operation so that we can try to open a new front and relieve some pressure off them," he said. He said HTS jihadsists, who launched their offensive last week, were preparing to march towards the key towns of Ariha and Maarat al-Numan in Idlib.”

Al Jazeera: Two Largest Rebels Groups In Northern Syria Clash

“There has been more fighting between the two largest rebel alliances in northern Syria, killing more than 80 people, including civilians. The Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) has deployed fighters along the front lines in the western Aleppo countryside to stop the rapid advance of the Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) group. The HTS accused the FSA of killing some of its fighters and says it is advancing to stop the FSA, while Russia is bombing villages, claiming it wants to stop HTS's advance towards the agreed de-escalation zones.”

Military Times: Are We Leaving Syria Or Not?

“The U.S. military’s three-year mission in Syria shows no signs of ending or significantly changing anytime soon, U.S. officials now say, despite President Donald Trump’s announcement in December that the Islamic State was defeated and all troops would be withdrawn immediately. U.S. airstrikes in Syria have not slowed down based on strike reports released by the American-led coalition, showing that there are plenty of ISIS targets left in the area. And as of Tuesday, U.S.-backed Syrian fighters were still posting pictures and video of them training with coalition forces at the controversial base of al-Tanf near the Iraq-Syria border, contrary to rumors that the base will soon close. Additionally, military officials with U.S. Central Command say they are still fighting ISIS militants in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. “Our mission remains the enduring defeat of ISIS. As long as there are U.S. troops on the ground, we will conduct airstrikes in support of our forces,” Capt. Ava Margerison, an Air Forces Central Command official, told Military Times. The strike report for the second half of December showed 469 air and artillery strikes were conducted in Syria against ISIS tactical units, fighting positions, heavy weapons systems, improvised explosive device facilities, armored vehicles, an unmanned aircraft system and even a barge and a boat.”

Foreign Policy: The Problem With America’s Syria Policy Isn’t Trump. It’s Syria.

“President Donald Trump’s apparent confusion about what he wants the United States to do in Syriaone week he’s pulling out and the next he’s notis hardly unique. During his entire second term, President Barack Obama occasionally sounded and acted almost as confused about Syria as his successor has.  There’s a reason why two such disparate presidents have suffered this common dilemma: For Washington, the Syrian civil war is a no-win situation. If you want to back the rebels, you end up supporting radical Islamists who could exploit yet another dysfunctional Arab state and harbor anti-American terrorists. If you seek to support the only force capable of defeating the rebels, you end up backing a war criminal and Iran’s close friend, President Bashar al-Assad. On the whole, U.S. policy through both Obama and Trump has become one of tolerating Assad over the alternative while not saying so and looking the other way. Certainly one could argue the United States should be supplying more humanitarian aid, but there is not much else Washington can do. If the Russians and Iranians have no compunctions about propping Assad up, then they’re essentially doing America’s dirty workkilling radical Islamists (along with many thousands of innocents, tragically)and at little cost to the United States, except in terms of its image as a global benefactor.”

Iran

Forbes: Further Investigations Show Ties Of China's Huawei To Iran

“Huawei looks to have had its hand in conducting sanctions-breaking business with both Iran and Syria, a Reuters article reported after midnight in Hong Kong. Three Chinese individuals had signing rights to bank accounts in Iran for both Huawei and Skycom, a company U.S. prosecutors claim Huawei controlled, according to the report first published at 12:53 a.m. on Wednesday morning in the South China Morning Post. The discovery bolsters the case of the U.S. against detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada last month. Washington believes Meng Wanzhou lied to U.S. banks in order to clear dollar transactions with Iran, thus violating sanctions on the country. To do so, Reuters reported, she claimed the two companies were not subsidiaries of Huawei, when in fact their senior executives were picked by Huawei. The two companies in question are equipment seller Skycom and what appears to be a shell company, Canicula Holdings. Corporate filings and other documents in Iran and Syria showed that Huawei is more closely linked to both firms than previously known, Reuters reported.”

The Jerusalem Post: Former Cabinet Minister Gonen Segev Convicted Of Spying For Iran

“Disgraced former minister Gonen Segev was convicted by the Jerusalem District Court of spying for Iran on Wednesday in a plea bargain. A statement from the prosecution said that the sides would ask the court for an 11-year jail term. Sentencing arguments have been set for February 11. Other details in the case remain under gag order. Channel 10 previously reported that Segev admitted to the spying charges, but explained that he was trying to help Israel and return as a "hero" under the guise of spying for Iran. The former energy and infrastructure minister – who also spent time in jail for drug smuggling, forgery and fraud – was extradited from Equatorial Guinea and arrested in May on suspicion of assisting the enemy in a time of war, spying against the State of Israel and providing intelligence to the enemy. According to Channel 10, Segev was held in solitary confinement for nine days in a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) facility in the center of the country and was not allowed to contact his attorneys.”

RadioLiberty: Iranian Pop Singer Gagged, Under Fire Over Antiwar Video

“Iran's Culture Ministry says it is considering action against an Iranian pop singer and his recording company amid accusations that Mehdi Yarrahi sullied the "martyrs" and ideals of past conflicts. The ministry last week dismissed reports that it had already blacklisted Yarrahi, saying it was awaiting a response from the company that produced the clip in question for the song Torn Rock. But Yarrahi suggested this week that he was already under a temporary ban following criticism from hard-liners and a semiofficial news agency, telling Radio Tehran on January 6 that ministry officials told him by telephone that he and Green Cup Production were prohibited from working "until further notice." There was no comment from Green Cup Production, and its website was inaccessible on January 8.”

The Wall Street Journal: EU Imposes Fresh Sanctions On Iran Over Assassination Plots

“The European Union imposed its first sanctions against Iran since the nuclear accord was implemented three years ago, as European diplomats warned their Iranian counterparts that the bloc wouldn’t tolerate further alleged Iranian attacks and assassinations in Europe. Tuesday’s sanctions, which add two Iranian individuals and a unit of the Iranian intelligence services to the bloc’s terror list, follow alleged plots against Iranian opposition figures in Denmark and France. The targets’ assets will be frozen and other restrictions put in place. The move comes as the EU faces conflicting pressures over ties to Iran, with the bloc seeking to salvage the nuclear deal while confronting hostile Iranian behaviour in its region and beyond. Some European officials back U.S. calls for a tougher response to Iran’s ballistic missile tests and its role in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, but the bloc is split on that. “Very encouraging that EU has just agreed on new targeted sanctions against Iran in response to hostile activities and plots,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said on Twitter. “EU stands united—such actions are unacceptable and must have consequences.”

The Washington Post: U.S. Lawsuit By Post Journalist Seeks $1 Billion In Damages From Iran To Deter Taking Of Hostages

“Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian asked a federal judge Tuesday to impose $1 billion in damages against the government of Iran to deter future taking of American hostages, saying his ordeal began when one of three Iranian security agents pointed a gun at his head in the parking garage of his Tehran apartment building at about 8 p.m. on July 22, 2014. “Are you Jason Rezaian?” the gunman asked. When he answered yes, the security officials forced their way on to the elevator carrying Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who were heading to her mother’s birthday party, Rezaian testified Tuesday in federal court in Washington, D.C. Over the next 18 months, Rezaian and family members said on the witness stand, the recently wed couple were arrested; placed separately in solitary confinement; and threatened with execution, physical mutilation and dismemberment. In Rezaian’s case, he testified, he also was convicted of espionage after a “sham trial” with no witnesses, and evidence that consisted of his newspaper articles and an earlier unsuccessful application for a U.S. government job.”

CNN: Images Show Iran Prepping Satellite Launch Despite Pompeo's Threat

“New images obtained by CNN Tuesday indicate Iran is preparing to launch a remote sensing satellite into space, the latest sign that the Islamic Republic is moving ahead with the planned mission despite recent warnings from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  The high-resolution satellite images, captured by Planet Labs on January 4, 6 and 7, show activity at the Imam Khomeini Space Center consistent with steps that were taken prior to a previous launch in 2017, according to researchers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.  There are no indications the launch is for military use despite Pompeo's argument that the launch vehicle incorporates technology used in ballistic missiles. Several Iranian media outlets have recently suggested that a launch is imminent and the new images appear to show preparations are already underway to send the satellites into orbit using a Simorgh space launch vehicle.  "The Simorgh is a two-stage space launch vehicle that uses a cluster of four Shahab-3 engines in its first stage and smaller steering engines in its upper stage," according to according to Jeffrey Lewis, of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.”

Al Arabiya: Al-Qaeda Mufti Abu Hafs Sheds Light On Iran, Qatar Influence On Extremist Groups

“Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, known as “Abu Hafs al-Mauritani,” the former Mufti of al-Qaeda, revealed in an interview with Al Arabiya English what he described as the balanced relationship pursued by both the Iranian regime and Qatar with armed extremist groups. According to his interpretation, the two countries’ relations with al-Qaeda, the Takfir, Hijra, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and other armed groups are part of the agenda to maintain “political interests”. “There is no doubt that Iran was present with al-Qaeda for more than one reason, including the geographical location adjacent to Afghanistan. Qatar also had a partial presence, as it wasn’t in the face of the Taliban, and I think it is the only country that did not send troops to Afghanistan during the American war,” he told Al Arabiya English. Abu Hafs added: “Qatar had a certain policy towards Islamic trends and it was less hostile than the rest of the other countries. This led armed groups and organizations to exclude Qatar from the rest of the Gulf countries, despite its involvement in what is known as the war on terrorism.” Abu Hafs – the negotiator who finalized the deal to house al-Qaeda and other armed terrorist organization in Iran after the war on Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks – said: “Iran was keen not to clash with Islamist groups and was really doing politics.”

Iraq

Al Arabiya: Car Bomb Blast Kills Two Police In Iraq’s Tikrit

“A car bomb killed at least two police officers and injured five civilians in the Iraqi city of Tikrit on Tuesday, a hospital source said. The blast - described by the military as an extremist attack - went off at a checkpoint at the northern entrance to Tikrit, 150 km (95 miles) north of Baghdad. Al Arabiya’s correspondent reported earlier that a strong explosion was heard near the northern entrance to the Iraqi city of Tikrit. In the past, similar incidents of explosions have been rare in Tikrit, about 100 miles north of Baghdad, since the ISIS extremist group was defeated in Iraq in 2017. ISIS militants have switched from controlling territory to insurgency tactics such as bombings and attacks on security forces since their military defeat.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Warplanes Kill Four Islamic State Extremists In Diyala

“Four Islamic State militants were killed Tuesday in an air raid that was launched by the Iraqi Air Force to target terrorist hotbeds in Diyala, a well-placed provincial official said. “Iraqi warplanes targeted several hotbeds of Islamic State in Balkana village, 90km northeast of Baqubah, leaving four IS extremists killed,” Sadeq al-Husseini, the head of Diyala provincial council’s security committee, told the Baghdad Today news website. Al-Husseini added that several airstrikes were launched over the past period across the rugged terrain in Diyala to target Islamic State militants, who are still active in some villages. 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. 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. 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.”

Turkey

The New York Times: Erdogan Snubs Bolton Over Comments That Turkey Must Protect Kurds

“President Trump’s muddled plan to withdraw the United States from Syria fell into further disarray on Tuesday after Turkey’s leader rebuffed Mr. Trump’s emissary, John R. Bolton, and angrily dismissed his demand that Turkey agree to protect America’s Kurdish allies. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Mr. Bolton had made a “grave mistake” in setting that condition for the pullout of troops. “It is not possible for us to swallow the message Bolton gave from Israel,” Mr. Erdogan said in Parliament, after refusing to meet with Mr. Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, during his visit to Turkey. The failure of Mr. Bolton’s mission, which was intended to reassure allies that Mr. Trump would pull out of Syria in an orderly fashion, raised new questions about whether the United States would be able to come to terms with Turkey, a NATO partner, about how to withdraw 2,000 American troops who fought alongside the Kurds against the Islamic State. It was the latest, most vivid example of what has become a recurring motif in Mr. Trump’s idiosyncratic, leader-to-leader foreign policy: a senior American official humiliated by a foreign head of state who evidently calculated that he could extract a better deal by talking directly to Mr. Trump.”

Politico: Bolton Leaves Turkey On Sour Note Over Trump's Syria Plans

“National security adviser John Bolton left here in frustration Tuesday, with the U.S. and Turkey locked in a political standoff that threatens President Donald Trump’s plans for a troop withdrawal from Syria. Bolton left Turkey without seeing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who then publicly called earlier comments the top Trump aide had made about Turkey’s role in neighboring Syria a “serious mistake.” It was a rocky conclusion to Bolton’s overseas trip, which he undertook to explain Trump’s plans for Syria to key U.S. allies. The contretemps also illustrated the risk for Bolton in conducting diplomacy abroad — a role that is not traditionally part of a national security adviser’s portfolio, but one he seems to relish. On one of several trips abroad he has taken since assuming his job last April, Bolton also found himself casting an eye back home, denouncing media reports suggesting that he and the president were on different pages when it comes to Syria policy. Bolton, traveling in a U.S. government 757 jet often used by Vice President Mike Pence, left Turkey after Erdogan skipped an anticipated meeting with the Trump adviser and criticized him in a speech to his parliament.”

Reuters: Erdogan Says Syrian YPG Fight Against Islamic State 'A Huge Lie'

“The Kurdish YPG militia’s fight with Islamic State in Syria was “a huge lie”, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, as he criticized U.S. comments that Ankara must agree to protect Washington’s Kurdish allies. Turkey sees the YPG, which the United States has backed in the fight against Islamic State, as a terrorist organization and part of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Erdogan was making a speech to his AK Party lawmakers in parliament.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Afghan Taliban Cancel Peace Talks With U.S. Citing 'Agenda Disagreement'

“The Afghan Taliban said on Tuesday they had called off peace talks with U.S. officials in Qatar this week due to an “agenda disagreement”, especially over the involvement of Afghan officials as well as a possible ceasefire and prisoner exchange. Two days of peace talks had been set to start on Wednesday, Taliban officials told Reuters earlier, but the hardline Islamic militant group had refused to allow “puppet” Afghan officials to join.  The U.S. ambassador to Kabul, John Bass, tweeted that reports of U.S.-Taliban talks on Wednesday were “inaccurate” and added: “Taliban should talk to fellow Afghans as much as they talk to media.”  A separate tweet from the U.S. embassy in the Afghan capital stressed that intra-Afghan talks were “essential” to settling the conflict.  The State Department later announced that U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad would lead an interagency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan from Jan. 8–21 that would meet senior government officials in each country “to facilitate an intra-Afghan political settlement”.  It said Khalilzad continued to coordinate his efforts with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and other Afghan stakeholders.”

Yeni Safak: Afghan Forces Kill 50 Taliban Rebels

“At least 50 Taliban rebels, including two shadow governors, were killed in a joint Afghan and U.S. operation in northern Afghanistan, officials and local media confirmed on Monday. The Afghan National Army’s 209 Shaheen Corps noted in a statement that a total of 30 rebels including Mula Sarwar, the Taliban’s shadow district governor for Almaar; Mawlawi Habibullah, commander of the so-called red unit; and Qari Zikrullah, shadow governor for Qarghan district; have been killed in northern Faryab province following joint air and ground offensives. According to the local Salam Afghanistan radio, the operation in this restive part of the country began yesterday and security forces claimed to have killed a total of 50 rebels in two days of offensives. The Taliban have dubbed these offensives as ‘war crimes’. In a statement, Taliban spokesman Qari Yosuf Ahmadi asserted ‘multiple homes and defenseless civilians have been martyred and injured’ in Almaar district. Separately, fighting between the Taliban and security forces resulted in uprooting of the main electricity transmission towers in Baghlan province depriving most of the Afghan capital Kabul and seven more provinces of electricity.”

Yemen

Arab News: 15 Houthis Killed Attempting To Launch Ballistic Missile From Saada

“15 Houthi militants were killed attempting to launch ballistic missile towards Saudi Arabia from Al-Tayyar district in Saada province on Wednesday, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya News Channel reported. The United Nations envoy for Yemen held talks on Tuesday with the country’s president, as he sought to shore up a truce in key port Hodeidah. Martin Griffiths met with the Yemeni authorities after seeing Houthi militant leaders in Sanaa on a tour aimed at ensuring both sides make good on a ceasefire deal agreed in Sweden last month. Yemen’s internationally recognized leader Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi expressed his “support for the efforts and work” of Griffiths at the talks in the Saudi capital, the Saba news agency reported.”

Qatar

CBS News: U.S. Envoy Working On Qatar Dispute Resigns From State Department

“Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine Corps general and former head of U.S. Central Command who has been working as an envoy for the Trump administration to resolve a dispute with Qatar, has resigned from his position with the State Department. He is the latest four-star general to exit the administration. Zinni resigned after realizing he could not help resolve the Qatar dispute "because of the unwillingness of the regional leaders to agree to a viable mediation effort that we offered to conduct or assist in implementing," he told CBS News. Zinni also felt there was no need for his involvement with the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) concept — a NATO-style security alliance — that he was asked to introduce to regional leaders, since other members of the administration are carrying it forward. A senior State Department official described Zinni's departure as a "soft resignation." Zinni had originally agreed to work as a special adviser to the secretary of state on Middle East issues at the request of then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — both of whom have since left the administration in the wake of significant policy differences with Mr. Trump.”

Lebanon

The Daily Star: Hezbollah Says Still Backs Hariri As PM

“Hezbollah is clinging to Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri as its choice to form a new government, a senior Hezbollah official said Tuesday. Hussein Khalil, a top political aide to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, told local daily Al-Akhbar that the party is “still convinced” that Hariri should be the prime minister at this stage. Khalil’s comments come even as Hezbollah has stymied government formation efforts, now in their eighth month of deadlock. The party has backed the call for representation made by a group of six Sunni MPs not affiliated with Hariri’s Future Movement, refusing to submit the names of its Cabinet ministers until the demand is met. However, both the prime minister-designate and President Michel Aoun have stated that the six MPs do not merit representation, because they did not belong to a single parliamentary bloc. The six MPs, who are also pro-Syrian, are members of blocs affiliated with Hezbollah and the Amal Movement. Officials within Hezbollah - both religious and political - have blamed Hariri for the prolonged government impasses. In November, Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, a member of Hezbollah's central council, said: “The governmental crisis in Lebanon ... is becoming more complicated because of the designated premier’s denial of the results of the parliamentary elections.”

Middle East

Times Of Israel: Hamas Arrests 45 ‘Collaborators’ In Israeli Special Forces Op That Went Awry

“Gaza’s Hamas rulers said on Tuesday that its security services had arrested dozens of Palestinians since an Israeli raid inside the Strip that went awry, accusing them of aiding the Jewish state. The November 11 special forces operation, details of which the Israeli military has kept largely under gag order, turned deadly when the undercover soldiers were spotted near Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. The ensuing firefight claimed the lives of an Israeli army officer and seven Palestinian terrorists, including a local commander from Hamas’ military wing. “The security services were able to arrest 45 agents after the security incident east of Khan Yunis last November and they are under investigation,” Hamas interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozum said in a statement. He did not say if any of those arrested were suspected of involvement in the November incident. Following the Khan Younis shootout, Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, published photos of eight people and two vehicles it said were linked to the Israeli operation, prompting the Israeli army censor to appeal to the public and media not to republish the images. “Hamas is attempting to understand and analyze the incident that occurred in Gaza on November 11 and any information, even if it seems harmless by those who distribute it, can endanger lives and put state security at risk,” the army said at the time.”

Nigeria

News 24: Nigeria's Buhari Accepts Setbacks In Boko Haram Fight

“Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has acknowledged setbacks in the fight against Boko Haram, as the jihadists launched fresh attacks in the restive northeast. The 76-year-old head of state was elected in 2015 on a promise to end the Islamist insurgency, which has killed more than 27,000 people since 2009 and left 1.8 million homeless. But as he seeks a second term in elections next month, a wave of attacks, including against military bases, has undermined his repeated claim that the group is virtually defeated. Soldiers have also complained that Boko Haram fighters are better armed and that morale is low, particularly because of a lack of rotation and support. In a recorded interview broadcast late on Monday on Arise TV, Buhari conceded that troops had come under pressure from the Islamists' guerrilla warfare. Buhari, a former army general who became military ruler after ousting the elected government in a coup in 1983, said the "question of morale is correct". Efforts were being made to address the issue, he said. Relentless hit-and-run raids, as well as suicide bomb attacks, were hard to deal with by conventional means, he argued.”

Premium Times: Breaking: Nigerian Troops Close Maiduguri-Damaturu Highway Amidst Fresh Boko Haram Attacks

“Nigerian troops have closed the only safe highway that leads into Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, following a series of attacks on the route by Boko Haram insurgents in the last 48 hours. It is not yet clear how long the closure will last, but motorists said they were stopped from plying the route early Wednesday. There are six major highways that takes travellers in and out of Maiduguri. But with the capture of territories and displacement of residents from their communities in 2014, all the five roads were closed by the military due to security concerns. At the peak of its attacks, Boko Haram bombed bridges on the major routes leading to Maiduguri, except the Maiduguri-Kano highway that links the state capital with the Yobe state capital, Damaturu. Since 2014, soldiers and the police have battled to prevent Boko Haram from attacking the Benishek Bridge which is the only bridge on the 135km-long road linking Maiduguri and Damaturu. Benishek is the headquarters of Kaga local government area of Borno state. The military and residents feared that should the Maiduguri-Damaturu Road fall under the control of Boko Haram, the insurgents would have effectively won the war because the Borno State capital would have been practically cut off from all access by land.”

Pulse Nigeria: Air Force Jet Destroys Boko Haram Gun Trucks In Borno

“The Nigerian Air Force has announced that it has destroyed some gun trucks belonging to Boko Haram in Auno, Borno state. According to Vanguard, this was made known to newsmen by the Air Force spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, in Abuja. Daramola said that the air strike, which was carried out Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation Lafiya Dole was conducted on Monday, January 7, 2019. The statement reads: “The attacks were executed yesterday, Jan.7, whilst providing close air support for ground troops who were responding to an attack on their location.  “The ATF scrambled a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Alpha Jet and a Mi-35M Helicopter Gunship supported by an Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to locate and engage the group of terrorists’ gun trucks.  “Overhead the target area, the ground troops were seen engaging the terrorists who were in a convoy of gun trucks in a fierce gun battle. “After deconfliction, the Alpha Jet and Mi-35M took turns in engaging the terrorists causing them to beat an immediate retreat. “The ball of fire from exploding munitions in one of the gun trucks was visibly seen. “Some of the survivors, who were seen attempting to flee the location, were taken out in follow-on attack.”

Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram: Military’s Biggest Opposition Not Insurgents – FG

“Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, has claimed that the biggest problem the military has is probably the social media and not Boko Haram. Segun Adeyemi, media aide to the minister, quoted Mohammed as saying this at a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday. The minister said the federal government was planning to launch a national campaign to rally support for the military. Nigerians, he said, irrespective of political affiliation, should join in supporting the war against the insurgency. “I think the biggest opposition probably today that the military has is probably not Boko Haram, it’s probably the social media because it’s so uncontrolled,” the minister said. “Today, video clips are doctored and clips of happenings in other lands are now reported and sent out as if they are happening in Nigeria. Unfortunately, there is no one to hold responsible. This is very discouraging and it demoralises the military. “That brings me to the bigger issue of overall support for our military. Recent developments are disturbing. The activities of a section of the media and some opposition political parties are demoralizing the military and strengthening the insurgents. “Without seeking or waiting for official clarification, outrageous casualty figures are prominently reported.”

Somalia

News 24: US Says Airstrikes In Somalia Kill 4 Al-Shabaab Extremists

“The United States military says it has carried out two airstrikes in Somalia that killed four al-Shabaab extremists. The US Africa Command statement on Tuesday says Monday's airstrikes were in the vicinity of Baqdaad after the military's Somali partners "were engaged by al-Shabab militants." It does not say whether any of the partners were killed. Another US airstrike on Sunday killed six al-Shabab members near Dheerow Sanle in Lower Shabelle region. The US military says no civilians were injured or killed in any of these airstrikes. The US carried out at least 47 such airstrikes last year in the Horn of Africa nation. The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab continues to control large parts of Somalia's southern and central regions and carry out deadly bombings against high-profile targets in the capital, Mogadishu.”

Africa

The North Africa Post: Counter-Terror: Morocco Captures Another Three ISIS Operatives

“Moroccan authorities announced on Tuesday the arrest three members of the ISIS terror group who were operating in the cities of Nador and Driouch, eastern Morocco. Aged between 18 to 31, the nabbed the jihadists were planning terrorist attacks to undermine the security and stability of the North African Kingdom. This home-grown terror cell was busted by Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ). Search carried out in their homes led to the seizure of knives, hunting rifles, military suits, firearms, extremist propaganda documents, batteries, and electric wires. According to Moroccan Ministry of the Interior, the dismantling of this new cell shows that the country is still facing terrorist threats and there are some fanatics who have been indoctrinated by extremist ideology and stand ready to execute ISIS’s agenda. Morocco has a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy that includes vigilant security measures, regional and international cooperation, and counter-radicalization policies. The Moroccan authorities have placed counterterrorism at the top of priorities following the Casablanca terror attacks in 2003 and the two subsequent attacks of 2007 and 2011.”

Europe

The Wall Street Journal: Jihadists Behind Bars Pose New Threats For Europe

“A terrorism trial starting here on Thursday highlights the difficulties Europe’s courts and prisons face containing the spread of jihadist ideology behind bars. Mehdi Nemmouche, a 33-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin, faces life in prison for allegedly shooting and killing four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014. But once in prison, law-enforcement officials warn, terror suspects and convicts breed even more plots and spread their ideology to other inmates. European prisons are fertile recruiting ground for new terrorists despite efforts in France, Belgium and other European countries to isolate dangerous and radicalized suspects in dedicated wards to prevent them from proselytizing. The perpetrators in several recent attacks were radicalized in prison, including Mr. Nemmouche and an alleged accomplice also on trial, say prosecutors. In Belgium, which has the highest per capita rate of returnees from Syria and Iraq in Europe, one third of 125 returnees were in prison in early 2018, according to the Egmont Institute, a Brussels-based think tank.”

Irish Times: Alleged ISIS Fighter Could Face 10 Years In Prison In Ireland

“An Irish citizen being held in Syria, who is alleged to have been fighting for Islamic State, could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years if he is returned to Ireland and convicted of having been an active member of the group while living here. However, Ireland is not fully in compliance with an European Union directive on terrorism which makes it an offence to travel to a third country to conduct terrorist acts there. Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev (45) is a native of Belarus who was naturalised as an Irish citizen in 2010 and is believed to have left Ireland to fight for Islamic State, also known as Isis, in 2013. He is being held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), who say he was fighting for Islamic State. The SDF is holding a number of European citizens who were fighting for Islamic State and whom the SDF would like to send back to their home countries. Although Islamic State is not a proscribed organisation in the Republic, the State has a strong body of law designed to suppress domestic terrorism and this has more recently been amended so that it applies to international terrorist groups, according to a spokesman for the Department of Justice. Section 5(2) of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) 2005 Act explicitly provides that the Offences Against the State Acts apply to any terrorist group as if it were an unlawful organisation, the spokesman said.”

Australia

Associated Press: Australia Police Examining Packages Left At Consulates

“Several foreign diplomatic missions were evacuated in the Australian cities of Melbourne and Canberra on Wednesday after they received packages containing suspicious substances. Police, fire crews and ambulances were seen at a number of foreign consulates in Melbourne, including those of India, Germany, Italy, Spain and South Korea. Officials at the U.S. and Swiss missions in the city said they had also received packages. The Vic Emergency website, the collective body of emergency agencies in Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, noted at least 10 “hazardous material” incidents in the city, though by Wednesday night none of those incidents was listed as ongoing. There were no reports of anyone being injured at the targeted missions in both cities. Victoria Police said they believed the incidents were targeted and did not impact the general community.”

Technology

US News & World Report: Facebook Rebuts Vietnam Claims Over Alleged Illegal Content

“Facebook was defending itself Wednesday against allegations that it allows illegal content in violation of Vietnam's new cybersecurity law. The social media giant said it has restricted illegal content and is in discussions with the government. "We have a clear process for governments to report illegal content to us, and we review all those requests against our terms of service and local law," the company said in a statement. "We are transparent about the content restrictions we make in accordance with local law in our Transparency Report ," it said. The comments were in response to Vietnamese state media reports that the Ministry of Information and Communication had complained Facebook was allowing users to upload slanderous content and anti-government comments, among other alleged violations of a cybersecurity law that took effect Jan. 1. The law requires service providers such as Google and Facebook operating in Communist-ruled Vietnam to store user data locally, open local offices and remove offending content within 24 hours if requested by the authorities.”

Time: Some Samsung Users Are Finding They Can't Delete Facebook From Their Phones

“Nick Winke, a photographer in the Pacific northwest, was perusing internet forums when he came across a complaint that alarmed him: On certain Samsung Electronics Co. smartphones, users aren’t allowed to delete the Facebook app. Winke bought his Samsung Galaxy S8, an Android-based device that comes with Facebook’s social network already installed, when it was introduced in 2017. He has used the Facebook app to connect with old friends and to share pictures of natural landscapes and his Siamese cat — but he didn’t want to be stuck with it. He tried to remove the program from his phone, but the chatter proved true — it was undeletable. He found only an option to “disable,” and he wasn’t sure what that meant. “It just absolutely baffles me that if I wanted to completely get rid of Facebook that it essentially would still be on my phone, which brings up more questions,” Winke said in an interview. “Can they still track your information, your location, or whatever else they do? We the consumer should have say in what we want and don’t want on our products.”

The Wall Street Journal: Facebook, Twitter Turn To Right-Leaning Groups To Help Referee Political Speech

“The world’s biggest social-media companies, under fire for failing to police content on their sites, have invited an array of outside groups to help them figure out who should be banned and what’s considered unacceptable. That solution is creating a new set of problems—public fights, complaints and legal battles. Silicon Valley giants Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Google’s YouTube unit have made a concerted push to seek out input from hundreds of groups, a growing number of which lean to the right. The companies have become receptive to behind-the-scenes lobbying as well. Among the initiatives, Facebook has privately sought advice from the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian public-policy group, and its president Tony Perkins, according to people familiar with those meetings. Twitter’s Chief Executive Jack Dorsey recently hosted dinners with conservatives, including Grover Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, which advocates for lower taxes. Advisers on the left include the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights group that keeps a list of hate groups.”

Counter-Terrorism

New Arab: Tunisian Minister: Terrorist Groups Alter Their Modus Operandi

“Tunisia's Interior Minister, Hisham al-Furati, said during a press conference held in parliament on Monday that in 2019, the security apparatus will be augmented by 7700 new security agents {hired} to fight crime and terrorism. "Terrorist groups have deliberately altered their modus operandi by adopting new ways to mislead the security forces, like {the incident} on Habib Bourguiba Street, where a female suicide bomber, who was part of a sleeper cell, blew herself up." He pointed out that an exchange of data and information exists with friendly countries for tracking down recruits to the hotbeds of tension, as well as terrorist and extremist groups.”

Gulf 365: Morocco Dismantles Terrorist Cell

“Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) announced on Tuesday the dismantling of a terrorist cell consisting of three members aged 18-31. The three suspects were operating in the cities of Nador and Driouch. During the security crackdown, BCIJ officers seized knives, hunting rifles, army uniforms, firearms, brochures glorifying extremism, batteries, and electric cords, according to an official statement. Initial investigations show that the captured cell members, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, were plotting terror attacks to undermine the security and stability of Morocco, after acquiring the skills necessary for manufacturing explosive devices and toxins, BCIJ added.”

Al-Watan: Report: War On Terrorism Is Complicated And Demands Multi-Disciplinary Work

“A report entitled "The Enemies of Life," recently published in the UAE-based Al-Watan newspaper, pointed out that the war on terrorism is complicated and necessitates work across multiple disciplines. The report stated that the war on terrorism must eliminate all of the {root} causes of this scourge. These causes are mainly poverty, crises, illiteracy, lack of law enforcement, "chaotic Fatwas" especially the ones made by unqualified religious scholars, and unregulated religious discourse. The terrorist groups, particularly the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which is the "head of the snake," and all of its affiliated violent offshoots, have long exploited this fertile ground to perpetrate murder, criminality and brutality, the report said.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Okaz: Expert: Sleeper Cells Of Muslim Brotherhood Obtain Continual Domestic And Foreign Financial Support

“An Egyptian security expert warned that sleeper cells of the banned Muslim Brotherhood are plotting terrorist assaults in several governorates in Egypt. Therefore, he urgently called to beef up the security measures at the vital utilities and institutions, which are typically targeted by terrorists. The expert also cautioned that the sleeper cells are mostly unknown to the security forces; therefore, it is difficult to detect them. These cells continue to receive both domestic and foreign financial support, the specialist disclosed during an interview with the Saudi Okaz newspaper. He added that the recent bomb attack that hit a tourist bus near the pyramids in Cairo, and the defusing of a bomb near a church in the Nasr City district of Cairo, are proof that sleeper cells still exist and pose a potent threat to the national security of Egypt.”

Houthi

Khabar New Agency: Houthis Impose New Fees On Oil Tankers

“The Houthis have imposed new fees on all tankers carrying oil and gas derivatives enroute from the city of Hodeidah to the capital Sana'a. The driver of an oil-laden truck told Khabar News Agency that two months ago, the Houthi militants set up a new checkpoint in the Sabaha area, at the entrance to Sana'a, to collect illegal financial levies on all trucks laden with oil and gas derivatives originating from Hodeidah. It is noteworthy that 70 such trucks enter the capital Sana'a daily. This means that YR3,500,000 ($14k) per day is collected from 70 trucks, which comes to a total of YR105,000,000 ($420k) per month.”