Eye on Extremism: July 11

The New York Times: Seeking Revenge, Taliban Target Afghan Soldiers’ Families

“Muhammad Didar Mukhlis Afghan, a sergeant serving at a remote Afghan Army base, was pleased when his nephew invited his wife and son to his wedding back home in eastern Afghanistan. The sergeant pitched in almost $400 to help with the nephew’s wedding costs. But instead of a wedding, the event became a murder scene. The nephew, Qari Aziz, was among a group of Taliban fighters who killed the sergeant’s wife and son inside Mr. Aziz’s home in May, according to Sergeant Afghan and government officials in Paktia Province. “They attacked my wife and son because I am serving in the ranks of the Afghan National Army,” Sergeant Afghan said. He did not know his nephew was secretly a member of the Taliban in Paktia, he said. “Today I buried them,” he said the day after the killing of his wife, Najiba, and their son Muhammad Wali Nisar, 13. “Now I just have my two daughters and son.” The killings were the latest in a series of retaliatory Taliban attacks against the families and homes of Afghan soldiers and police officers. They have continued even as American and Taliban negotiators have reported progress in talks aimed at reaching a lasting peace agreement. The wedding party killings shocked many Afghans because they were a grievous violation of a traditional code of hospitality — and because an Afghan had killed his own relatives.”

Sky News: Islamic State Still Dangerous Threat To UK And More Unpredictable, Security Minister Warns

“Islamic State poses a challenge to all countries in the world, while rival terrorist group al Qaeda is resurgent and could be plotting attacks in Europe, the UK's security minister said. Ben Wallace said the IS threat in the UK is “dangerous” and becoming more unpredictable following the collapse of the group's self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria this year. He also said 250 Britons, including fighters aligned to IS, remain in the two countries. A number of these individuals have been detained in camps but others are still at large. The group's ability to use the internet to attract recruits and inspire attacks enables its global reach, the minister told Sky News in an interview at the Home Office. “That means that everyone has potentially an ISIS problem in every country around the world and that that needs to be addressed collectively as a group of international nations but also in investing in countering harms online,” he said. Asked about the IS threat to Britain and whether it was changing following the group's defeat in Iraq and Syria, Mr Wallace said: “It is a different type of threat because at the moment it's manifesting itself in lone actors and people self-inspired from here who've never been to Syria.”

Rudaw: Iraqi Forces Target ISIS Bomb Factories In Sweeping Operation

“Iraqi forces have cleared several villages in Nineveh, Anbar, and Saladin of explosive remnants left by the Islamic State (ISIS) group and shut down workshops used to manufacture improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the Iraqi defense ministry said Wednesday. Dozens of IEDs were retrieved and destroyed on Wednesday as “Will of Victory” – a combined operation of the Iraqi Army and Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitias – enters its fourth day, paving the way for displaced civilians to return to their homes. The Iraqi Army’s brigade 60, supported by the Iraqi Air Force, destroyed seven suspected ISIS hideouts in Nineveh, according a Ministry of Defense statement released Wednesday. Nine IEDs were destroyed in a controlled demolition and 33 Katyusha rockets seized. Brigade 43 also destroyed 12 suspected ISIS hideouts in Nineveh, and disposed of six IEDs, according to the statement.”

The New York Times: Iranian Boats Tried To Block British Tanker In Persian Gulf, U.K. Says

“A British warship forced three Iranian boats to back off after they sought to block a British tanker from passing through the Strait of Hormuz, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday, in the latest escalation of tensions between Tehran and the West. “Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz,” the British government said. “We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region.” Iran denied any attempt to stop the tanker, according to Iranian news agencies. Last week, British forces seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar bound for Syria, on suspicion that it was violating European Union sanctions, which Iran called an act of piracy. Some Iranian officials spoke of retribution, and an officer in Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Mohsen Rezaei, wrote on Twitter that if the tanker were not released, Iran “will be duty-bound to take reciprocal action and seize a British oil tanker.”

Al Arabiya: Syria Regime Air Strikes Hit Hospital, Kills Seven Civilians: Monitor

“Regime air strikes on an opposition bastion in northwestern Syria on Wednesday killed seven civilians including children and knocked a hospital out of service, a monitor and a doctor said. The raids are the latest in an uptick in government and Russian bombardment since late April on the extremist-administered region of Idlib despite a months-old truce deal. Three civilians died after the hospital was hit, while four were killed elsewhere in the town, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. Rescue workers known as the White Helmets said missiles targeted the hospital and residential neighborhoods in Jisr al-Shughur. A doctor there said the health facility had been knocked out of service after the generators were hit, and the wounded had been transferred to another hospital for treatment. “We have no more generators to operate the hospital. It’s the only one for Jisr al-Shughur and neighboring villages,” Bassam al-Khattab told AFP. An AFP correspondent saw three destroyed generators and a damaged ambulance covered in debris. Idlib, home to some three million people, has since January been administered by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. But other extremist and rebel groups are also present in the area.”

Arab News: Sahel Nations Need More Support To Fight Extremism: UN Chief

“UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the international community Wednesday to support West Africa’s fight against violent extremism, saying the region alone could not be expected to contain the spread of jihadism. A raging Islamist insurgency shows no signs of weakening in the Sahel, where armed groups have gained ground and displaced millions across a large swathe of the troubled region. Guterres said the problem was spreading beyond the region and the G-5 Sahel force — a joint military effort by Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania to battle the militants — needed greater outside backing than it was getting. “Unfortunately we are seeing that terrorism is progressing,” Guterres told reporters at the opening of a two-day conference in the Kenyan capital on the fight against extremism in Africa. “It started in Mali, it went to Burkina Faso, Niger and now, when we speak with the presidents of Ghana, Benin, Togo, and Ivory Coast, they say that terrorism is coming to their borders.” The UN chief said it was essential African forces had “the adequate mandate and the adequate financing” to do their job, and called for joint efforts to fight extremism beyond the G-5 Sahel.” 

Syria

Al Arabiya: Clashes Kill 56 Fighters In Northwest Syria: Monitor

“Regime and extremist-led forces were locked in clashes on Thursday on the edge of an opposition bastion in northwest Syria after an extremist-led advance that killed 56 fighters overnight, a war monitor said. Russian and regime aircraft have ramped up their deadly bombardment of the Idlib region - administered by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and home to some three million people - since late April, despite a months-old international truce deal. Clashes have also raged on the edges of the region, including in the north of Hama province. Late Wednesday, HTS and allied rebels took control of Hamameyat village and hilltop, in clashes that killed 32 regime fighters and 24 fighters within the insurgents’ own ranks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. “The fighting is ongoing as regime planes and artillery pound the area,” the head of the Britain-based monitor Rami Abdel Rahman said on Thursday morning. HTS spokesman Abu Khaled al-Shami said the extremist and rebel fighters attacked after dark, taking control of the “heavily fortified” hill from fighters loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Naji Mustafa, a spokesman for the allied National Liberation Front rebel grouping, said: “The hill is very strategic because it overlooks... supply routes to enemy forces.”

Kurdistan 24: SDF Official Says International Court Solution To Foreign ISIS Problem

“The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hold thousands of Islamic State fighters and their families. Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF press office, told Kurdistan 24 during a recent international forum that the solution is to set up an international court to try these foreign terrorists in Syria’s Kurdish-run northeast. Over 200 people, including experts from different countries, attended the three-day event on the so-called Islamic State which the Rojava Strategic Research Center (NRLS) organized in Syrian Kurdistan’s (Rojava) Amude. In an interview with Kurdistan 24 on the sidelines of the conference, Bali said the foreign Islamic State fighters who are held in SDF prisons “have asked to be transferred to their respective countries, and be tried at home.” “Yet, these fighters have committed crimes against humanity on our soil, and not in their countries,” he added. According to the SDF official, these foreign Islamic State fighters hope they will receive short-term prison sentences if they face trial in their home states. “An alternative that we have proposed since these fighters have committed crimes here in Syria, was to establish an international court here – either under the auspices of the United Nations or the [US-led] Coalition – provided that it will be an official international court, and legitimately supported by the international community.”

Reuters: Exclusive: New Chemical Weapons Team To Launch First Syria Investigations

“A new team established by the global chemical weapons watchdog to attribute blame for the use of banned munitions in Syria will investigate nine alleged attacks during the country’s civil war, including in the town of Douma, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was created in 1997 as a technical body to enforce a global non-proliferation treaty. Until now it had been authorised only to say whether chemical attacks occurred, not who perpetrated them. Last June, the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) was established by the OPCW’s member states during a special session, a move that has brought deeper political division to the U.N. -backed agency. Now it has identified the locations of its first investigations to be conducted in the coming three years. A document circulated to OPCW member states, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said the team “has identified a non-exhaustive provisional list of incidents on which it intends to focus its investigative work” between 2014 and 2018.”

Reuters: Assad Hits A Wall In Syrian War As Front Lines Harden

“President Bashar al-Assad’s assault in the northwest has been met with a painful rebel counterpunch that underlines Turkish resolve to keep the area out of his hands and shows why he will struggle to take back more of Syria by force. More than two months of Russian-backed operations in and around Idlib province have yielded little or nothing for Assad’s side. It marks a rare case of a military campaign that has not gone his way since Russia intervened in 2015. While resisting government attacks, the insurgents have managed to carve out small advances of their own, drawing on ample stocks of guided anti-tank missiles that opposition and diplomatic sources say have been supplied by Turkey. “They’re even targeting personnel with these missiles ... it means they are comfortably supplied,” a rebel source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing rebel military capabilities. Turkey’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on reports that Ankara has stepped supplies of arms to rebels.”

The Guardian: Syrians Are Watching Their Crops Burn. These Crimes Of Starvation Must End

“In 2017, we started an agricultural project to help hundreds of families survive the blockade by the Assad government, as part of the Damaan Humanitarian Organization’s programme to support civilians in besieged eastern ghouta in Syria. The project not only provided sustenance to the besieged population, it offered employment opportunities for many people. Just before the harvest in 2018, our field was bombed by the Syrian regime. The crops, and our hopes, were destroyed. The siege had tightened and the cost of staying alive skyrocketed for hundreds of thousands of civilians in the besieged enclave. A briefing published last month by the Damaan Humanitarian Organization reveals in detail how the Syrian government, and to a lesser degree, other armed groups, intentionally and repeatedly deprived civilians of food, deploying hunger as a core weapon in their arsenal. It demands accountability for these starvation crimes and highlights the humanitarian catastrophe it caused.”

Iran

The Wall Street Journal: U.K. Navy Thwarts Iranian Attempt To Block BP Tanker

“A British warship trained its guns on three Iranian vessels that tried to block the passage of a U.K.-flagged oil tanker through the Persian Gulf, the country’s Defense Ministry said, a confrontation that comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran. The three Iranian ships tried on Wednesday to impede the British Heritage, a tanker carrying oil for British oil giant BP PLC, but were turned away by the HMS Montrose, the British Defense Ministry said in statement Thursday. The U.S. and U.K. have accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of mounting assaults on vessels carrying oil through the Strait of Hormuz in recent months. However, Wednesday’s incident marks the first time since tensions flared earlier this year between the U.S. and Iran that a Western warship has come close to military engagement with Iranian naval forces.”

Associated Press: US Urges World Powers To Reject Iran’s ‘Nuclear Extortion’

“The United States admonished world powers seeking to preserve a deal with Iran on its atomic program on Wednesday not to give in to “nuclear extortion” from Tehran, which has breached the pact’s limitations in recent days in an attempt to get them to provide economic incentives to offset American sanctions. The U.S. requested the special board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency after Iran announced last week that it had exceeded the amount of low-enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile under limitations set in the 2015 nuclear deal. Since then, it also announced it has started enriching uranium past the 3.67% purity allowed, to 4.5%, and IAEA inspectors verified both developments. By doing so, Tehran hopes to increase the pressure on the remaining members of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, to provide economic relief for American sanctions. It has set an early September deadline until it pushes limits further.”

The Daily Wire: Iran Threatens U.S.: Our Missiles Will Destroy American Bases And Aircraft Carriers

“On Tuesday, Iran threatened the United States, warning that it would destroy American military bases and aircraft carriers “if they make a mistake.” As The Counter Extremism Project has noted: The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is tasked with preserving the Islamic Republic of Iran and the ideals of the 1979 revolution. The IRGC combines traditional military roles with a relentless focus on supposed domestic enemies. The IRGC is Iran’s primary instrument for exporting the ideology of the Islamic Revolution worldwide. It is rigidly loyal to Iran’s clerical elite. The IRGC is Iran’s main link to its terrorist proxies, which the regime uses to boost Iran’s global influence.”

The National: US Sanctions On Hezbollah Raise Stakes With Tehran

“New US sanctions on senior Hezbollah figures on Tuesday, including two of the Shiite group’s parliamentarians, signalled a further escalation in the confrontation between Washington and Tehran over the nuclear deal. In Beirut, Hezbollah’s demands that the state responds in solidarity with the group is set to deepen an internal political crisis undermining confidence in the country’s economy and financial system. The Lebanese state has fallen increasingly under Hezbollah’s influence since the assassination 14 years ago of Rafic Hariri, the late Sunni statesman with worldwide stature and father of the current prime minister, Saad Hariri. Saad remains favoured by the markets over any outright or indirect Hezbollah, and by extension Iran-backed, replacement. This is partly because he has used his international connections to seek economic help for the country.”

CBS News: Iran News: U.S. Argues Its Case Against Iran To A Divided World At Global Nuclear Agency Meeting

“The U.S. presented its case on Wednesday for the international community to punish Iran for its recent breaches of the 2015 nuclear deal, and offered incentives if Iran agrees to negotiate a new one. But as the 35-member Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gathered in a boardroom in Vienna, Austria, for a closed-door meeting requested by the Trump administration, the battle lines were already drawn, and there was little hope of a unified stance. The IAEA is the United Nations-backed global nuclear watchdog agency. It's responsible for monitoring and verifying Iran's compliance with the nuclear agreement. Wednesday's special session of its board was called by U.S. Ambassador to International Organizations in Vienna Jackie Wolcott to discuss the "concerning" report by the agency's director general, Yukiya Amano. Wolcott said, "the international community must hold the Iranian regime accountable.”

CBC: Trump Accuses Iran Of Secret Nuclear Enrichment, Threatens To Increase Sanctions

“U.S. President Donald Trump accused Iran on Wednesday of secretly enriching uranium for a long time and warned that U.S. sanctions will be increased soon, as the UN's nuclear watchdog held an emergency meeting on Tehran's breach of the nuclear deal. Washington used the session of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation board of governors to accuse Iran of extortion after it inched past the deal's limit on enrichment levels while still offering to hold talks with Tehran. Trump offered no evidence for his claims. UN inspectors have uncovered no covert enrichment by Iran since long before its 2015 nuclear agreement deal with world powers. Iran says it is reacting to harsh U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Tehran since Trump pulled out of world powers' 2015 nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic last year, and all its steps were reversible if Washington returned to the deal.”

Iraq

Al Jazeera: After ISIL, Children Try To Catch Up With School In Mosul

“It was the end of the school year and the students at Al Huda primary school in Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul were as spirited as ever, running around and playing with their friends. Many said they were sad to see school break for the summer holidays. Most of the 320 students at the school had missed out on their education when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) occupied the city in June 2014. The armed group took over government offices and schools, introducing a new curriculum focusing on their harsh interpretation of Islamic law and weapons training. Families that were not able to flee before ISIL's advance on the city said they kept their children out of school out of fear for their safety and that they might be indoctrinated. According to the United Nations' children agency in Iraq, thousands of children were deprived of formal education because of ISIL. “When ISIL came, I thought I would never come back to school again. I can't believe it,” said 12-year-old Najd Ayad Hamdi, a student at Al Huda. Most of Mosul's students returned to schools only after Iraqi forces recaptured the city in 2017, but many are now struggling at school after missing three years of education. Tawfiq Rafh, headteacher at Al Huda, said only children from ISIL families attended Mosul's schools during the group's reign in the city.”

Iraqi News: Iraq, Turkey Agree On More Security Cooperation To Face Terrorism

“Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali Alhakim on Wednesday chaired his country’s delegation at a security coordination meeting in Turkey. The meeting tackled a raft of important issues, including security cooperation, counter-terrorism efforts and mutual coordination to achieve aspirations of the Iraqi and Turkish peoples, Alghad Press quoted the Iraqi Foreign Ministry as saying in a press statement. The two sides agreed to step up the level of security cooperation in the coming period as an “essential pillar” to achieve development, the ministry added. They also stressed the importance of implementing the outcome of today’s meeting. According to the statement, the next round of talks between the two countries will be held later in Baghdad. Turkey regularly carries out air strikes against PKK targets in neighboring northern Iraq. The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast that has killed about 40,000 people.”

Afghanistan

NBC News: U.S.-Taliban Talks Inch America Closer To Withdrawing From Afghanistan

“America’s longest war may yet be inching toward a conclusion. Earlier this week, senior Taliban officials and Afghan notables issued a “road map to peace” after two days of talks in Doha, Qatar. Within hours, U.S. diplomats resumed talks with the fundamentalist fighters. Soon after, the U.S. envoy for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, was jetting to China ahead of a trip to Washington to report and consult on the process. Khalilzad said the latest round of U.S.-Taliban talks, which began June 29, has been the “most productive session” since they started last year. At best, these talks represent the first steps toward ending the war, but withdrawing U.S. troops would not guarantee an end to the fighting between the militants and the Afghan government. An end to decades of violence could not come soon enough for Qudratullah Zaki, a former member of Parliament who says he survived a Taliban attack March 7, 2018, but is nonetheless eager to make peace with his attackers. “About 200 Afghans are dying every day in this conflict — as civilians, security forces and also the Taliban,” he told NBC News. “We have to end this conflict — how long can we continue and sacrifice sons of this nation?”

Xinhua: Afghan Forces Kill 7 Militants In S. Afghanistan

“At least seven militants loyal to the Taliban group were killed and eight others wounded following an ambush by security forces in the southern Helmand province on Wednesday, provincial police chief Abdul Salam Afghan said Thursday. The security forces launched the operation late Wednesday, when a group of insurgents was going to attack a security post in Pul-e-Seyah area of the province, killing seven fighters including their commander Mawlawi Shabir on the spot and injuring eight others, the official said. No security personnel had been harmed during the fire exchange, the official added. Taliban militants fighting government forces in the region have not made comments on the report yet.”

Pakistan

The Telegraph: Al Qaeda Chief Calls For Unrelenting Kashmir Jihad Against India And Says Pakistan Cannot Be Trusted

“Al Qaeda's chief has called on jihadists in Kashmir to launch unrelenting blows against India as he also attacked Pakistan's army, saying it could not be trusted to liberate the territory. Ayman al-Zawahiri used a video statement to call militants to wage attacks “to bleed the Indian economy and make India suffer sustained losses in manpower and equipment”. The statement was an attempt by the group to stake a claim to Islamist jihad in South Asia after competition from Islamic State and other groups, analysts suggested. Militant groups have fought troops in Indian-administered Kashmir for decades, but violence has increased in recent years as Delhi has waged a heavy-handed crackdown against protestors. A car bombing in Pulwama claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) group killed around 40 paramilitary police in February, bringing Delhi and Islamabad close to war. Both sides claim the disputed territory in whole, and Pakistan's military has long been accused of sponsoring and supporting groups such as JeM to attack Indian troops. But in an outspoken attack on the Pakistani military Zawahiri said a history of “failures, defeats, corruption and treachery” showed they could not be trusted to free Kashmir.”

Yemen

Xinhuanet: Yemeni Gov't Threatens To Halt Prisoner Swap Talks With Houthis Over Death Sentences To Political Activists

“Yemen's internationally-backed government on Wednesday threatened to suspend prisoner swap negotiations with the Houthi rebels in protest against death sentences handed to 30 detainees in Sanaa. "The death sentences issued by the illegitimate Houthi court against 36 political activists in Sanaa are considered illegal," said Hadi Haig, head of the prisoner swap committee, on Twitter. "The Houthi actions may lead to suspending the negotiations of implementing the prisoner swap deal or a complete collapse," he warned. Meanwhile, the Yemeni government official also called on the UN envoy to "stand against these illegal Houthi actions." On Tuesday, a court in the Yemeni rebel-held capital Sanaa sentenced 30 people to death over charges of espionage for Saudi Arabia and its allies in the anti-Houthi military coalition fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen.”

Middle East Monitor: Yemen Calls On UN To Prevent Houthis From Executing 30 Activists

“The Yemeni government yesterday called on the United Nations to intervene “by all means” and prevent the Houthis from executing 30 political activists in Sanaa. In a letter sent by Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Hadrami to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet and UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, the official discussed “the need to intervene by all possible means to stop the Houthi militias from executing a group of civilian, activists and journalists”. He added that this was “part of a series of sham trials in which the militias are blatantly violating the human rights guaranteed by all international covenants and norms”. “The Houthi militia’s mock trials and the issuance of death sentences against innocent citizens mentioned in the prisoner exchange deal in the Stockholm agreement, represent extrajudicial killings,” Hadrami said.”

Khaleej Times: Arab Coalition To Present Evidence Of Houthis' Attack On Ship In Red Sea

“The Arab Coalition to restore the legitimate government in Yemen said on Tuesday it would counter the terrorist attempts of the Iranian-backed Houthi militia, which target the maritime shipping and international trade, Saudi Press Agency, SPA, reported on Tuesday. Col. Turki Al Malki, the official spokesman of the Coalition Forces said the Coalition would present the international community the irrefutable evidence of Houthis' foiled attempt to attack a commercial vessel through a booby-trapped boat in the southern Red Sea on Monday, the SPA quoted Al Malki as saying. He said the Houthis' act was a violation of international humanitarian law.”

Lebanon

Al Jazeera: Lebanese President Regrets US Sanctions On Hezbollah Lawmakers

“Lebanon regrets the US imposition of sanctions on two Hezbollah members in the Lebanese parliament and will pursue the matter with American authorities, President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday. The United States announced new sanctions against the two lawmakers from the Hezbollah movement on Tuesday, as well as on one of the group's top security officials, drawing expressions of concern from Lebanese officials. Hezbollah, a heavily armed movement allied to Iran, is a party in the Lebanese coalition government and considered a “terrorist” group by the US. “No doubt, it has taken a new direction,” Hariri said of the US move.  “But this will not affect the work we are doing in parliament or the ministers. It is a new matter that we will deal with as we see fit... The important thing is to preserve the banking sector and the Lebanese economy and, God willing, this crisis will pass sooner or later,” he said in a statement. Lebanon's parliament speaker earlier slammed the new US sanctions targeting Hezbollah officials as an assault against the whole country. Amin Sherri and Muhammad Raad, members of Lebanon's parliament, as well as Wafiq Sada, who coordinates with Lebanon's security agencies were sanctioned.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: After Israel Visit, Un Official Spearheads Anti-Terrorism Conference

“The U.N. announced an up-and-coming conference that will focus on those victimized by terrorism around the world, a Wednesday press release reported. The idea emerged after Vladimir Voronkov, the UN Deputy Secretary General for Counterterrorism, visited Israel. The conference will bring together citizens of 121 countries who were effected by terrorism. The UN “understands terrorism is not just a part of the Middle East,” Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said, adding that it is “a global threat that must be dealt with in a wide range of tools and swift force.” 

Libya

BBC News: Libya Conflict: French Missiles Found On Pro-Haftar Base

“France has denied breaching a UN arms embargo after four of its anti-tank missiles were found on a base loyal to a rogue Libyan general. The country's defence ministry says the “unusable” US-made Javelin missiles were never intended to be passed to any group, and were due to be destroyed. However, they were discovered in a camp south of the capital Tripoli, used by forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar. Gen Haftar's forces are currently fighting for control of the city. The battle for Tripoli - home of the internationally recognised government - began when Gen Haftar's forces launched an attack in April, with hundreds killed in the months since. The four missiles were discovered in June when forces loyal to the UN-backed government overran the camp, prompting an investigation in Washington. France admitted the weapons - which can be used against tanks and other vehicles - belonged to them in a statement on Wednesday. “These weapons were for the protection of forces undertaking intelligence and counter-terror missions,” the defence ministry statement said. It added the missiles were “damaged and unusable” and “being temporarily stocked at a depot ahead of their destruction”. France has always denied arming Gen Haftar's forces, but has offered diplomatic support.”

Nigeria

Al Jazeera: The Brave Women Fighting Boko Haram In Nigeria

“Boko Haram killed the two most important people in Komi Kaje's life within two days. In November 2015, Komi Akaji, her 46-year-old brother, was shot dead by Boko Haram fighters.  “There were seven students killed. When I got there, I saw he was shot twice in the head,” Kaje said. The days of mourning followed according to tradition. Kaje was broken but Peter Adam, her 35-year-old boyfriend, provided some relief. On a Saturday afternoon, Adam observed mourning rites with Kaje's family and shared lunch with her. But Boko Haram attacked again, turning a visit of solace into sorrow. “They shot him in his chest and head and he fell inside a ditch. The bullet touched his brain,” said Kaje, her eyes in tears. Kaje has tried hard to forget the killings but military sirens, the sound of gunfire, and constant exposure to the areas where her loved ones were shot dead were enough to provoke new trauma. If she moved to a new city, her parents thought, it might help her heal. Kaje relocated to Abuja, Nigeria's capital, to spend some recovery time. But Kaje realised the solution wasn't to run, “because Boko Haram was everywhere”.  Maybe, Kaje thought, if she could play a role in defeating the fighters some healing would come.”

NPR: Girls Captured By Boko Haram Brought Into Focus In 'Beneath The Tamarind Tree'

“The British Sierra Leonean journalist Isha Sesay led CNN's Africa reporting for more than decade — covering stories ranging from the Arab Spring to the death of Nelson Mandela. But now, in her first book, titled Beneath the Tamarind Tree, Sesay has a chance to explore, in depth, the story most important to her career and closest to her heart: the ISIS-affiliated terrorist group Boko Haram's 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from the northern Nigerian town of Chibok. Sesay broke the story and followed it for years, despite government obfuscation and waning international interest after a wave of social media activism (remember #BringBackOurGirls?). For two years, 219 of the girls remained in captivity and 112 are still imprisoned. In Beneath the Tamarind Tree, Sesay combines the released Chibok girls' stories with her own journalistic experiences to powerful effect.  Sesay is a briskly opinionated writer, and from the first chapters Beneath the Tamarind Tree presents a forceful combination of reportage and social analysis. Having left CNN, Sesay is free to ground her book in her own advocacy for girls' education — and in her determination that the Chibok girls' story not be left in “a Nigerian vacuum.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Somali Troops Retake Small Villages From Al-Shabaab Militants

“A senior Somali military commander says the troops have launched a massive operation against Al-Shabaab militants in Bakool region, south of the country. The commander of the Army infantry division, General Odowa Yusuf Rageh told the state media that they have pushed Al-Shabaab out of two areas near Hudur, the region's capital during the operation. Recently, Somali and AU forces intensified pressure on the Al-Qaeda-linked group as part of efforts to regain control of the entire country which is set to hold first one person, one vote polls in 2020-2021. Al-Shabaab has been driven out of Mogadishu in 2011, but, the militants still capable of staging attacks in the government-controlled areas in Somalia.”

Africa

Morocco World News: Lisbon Court Sentences Moroccan Man For Recruiting For ISIS

“On July 9, the Court of Lisbon sentenced Moroccan national Abdessalam Tazi to 12 years in prison for his involvement with ISIS. The judge sentenced Tazi after the Portuguese court found the defendant guilty of recruiting young Moroccans to fight for ISIS. Most of the young men recruited by Tazi were of Moroccan nationality. The 65-year-old Moroccan national was convicted on seven charges. Besides recruiting fighters for ISIS, he was found guilty of providing financial support to the terrorist group via forged credit cards. However, the public prosecution office failed to find evidence proving Tazi’s direct affiliation with the leaders of ISIS. During the hearing, the prosecutor recognized that Tazi was a highly intelligent person who had been able to bring Moroccan citizens to Portugal with the intention of sending them to Syria.”

United Kingdom

The Sun: ISIS Fanatics Warn Londoners To Prepare For ‘Invasion Of Caliphate Cubs’ In Sick Poster Showing Big Ben In Flames

“TWISTED ISIS supporters have released another threatening poster, this time advising London to "stay tuned for the invasion of the cubs of the caliphate." The threat comes after their supporters released three posters last week picturing attacks on Big Ben, Manhattan Bridge and a burning aeroplane. "Cubs of the caliphate" pose a threat to London in the near future, the poster claims. The latest poster depicts a morbid scene - a lone young boy who looks no older than eight, sat grasping a rifle while a dystopian-looking London burns. Leafless trees frame a bleak image of the Houses of Parliament as the young boy stares into the distance. The poster was shared on twitter by an account claiming to belong to a "Geopolitical, National security and intelligence analyst focusing on Jihadism and monitoring terrorist organizations.”

Germany

Deutsche Welle: Kyrgyzstan-Born German Sentenced For Joining Militants In Ukraine

“A German court found Kyrgyzstan-born Alex D. guilty of “jeopardizing state security” on Wednesday over his participation in the east Ukraine conflict. The 43-year-old factory worker had spent two years among the pro-Russian rebels. German laws forbid mercenaries from taking part in military conflicts abroad. However, Alex D.'s punishment for his illegal adventure in Ukraine is little more than a slap on the wrist: the court has taken into account his admission of guilt and sentenced him to two years parole. He even hopes to keep his job in the furniture factory in the town of Löhne in northwest Germany. Alex views it as a “chance of a normal life.” While in Donbass, the militant's life was far away from any idea of “normal.” On one of the photos presented during trial, Alex is seen posing on a tank, others show him with an AK47, or with other mercenaries in uniform. It is hard to tell for sure what exactly the 43-year-old was doing for almost two years in the conflict zone. This is what has saved him from prison. Prosecutors in Dortmund are confident that Alex directly took part in combat. “We see the defendant with a sniper rifle in the photo,” prosecutor Christoph Köster said in his final statement. “He says he was only defending a hospital. You don't need a sniper rifle to do that.”

Australia

ABC News Australia: Islamic State Recruit From Melbourne Languishes In Kurdish Prison As His Father Begs For His Release

“In the middle of Islamic State's chaotic last stand in Syria, a 26-year-old Australian man made a desperate call to his father in Melbourne.  Should he stay in the besieged enclave of Baghouz, or surrender with other members of the extremist group? “He said, 'the truck is here, what should I do?',” said Jahangir Alam.  As the caliphate crumbled around Mahir Absar Alam, his father had been seeking advice from the Australian Federal Police (AFP).  “I said, 'I talked to the AFP, they tell you to jump on [the truck] and go where they take you.' After that it was very hard for me to continue to talk to him,” Mr Alam said, his voice cracking.  It has been five years since Mahir deceived his family and left Australia for Syria to find an Islamic utopia.  Now he is being held in a Kurdish prison, and his father is begging for Australia to bring him, his Syrian wife, and their two children home.  “The Government should bring them back and deal with them under Australian law. “From my son's perspective, [he] is not as bad as everyone thinks,” Mr Alam said.”

Europe

The Spectator: The European Fighters Who Battled Isis – And Were Abandoned By Their Governments

“Foreign fighters are returning from the battlefield — not Islamists but the Americans, Europeans and South Americans who fought to rid the world of Isis. But for all their bravery, their homecoming is a tricky one because their home countries do not want them back. I have now interviewed more than a dozen volunteers. Many of them share similar stories of arrests and detentions. They have been stripped of their ability to travel, have their movements monitored, their bank accounts closed. One of them, an American, has since committed suicide. One fighter, who wishes to be known as Max, tells me in an email that he has left his home country of Denmark. He had returned for a short while after enlisting for a six-month tour in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) of north-eastern Syria where he fought to rout Isis from its de facto capital and caliphate. During Max’s time there, the Danish government issued a law that made his mere presence in Syria illegal. He hadn’t heard about the change until he left Rojava, the north-eastern semi-autonomous Kurdish region where the SDF is based, to return home. ‘Being back in Denmark… has been mentally tiring and challenging, mainly because of my fear of the police suddenly showing up on my doorstep,’ he says.”

Southeast Asia

Vice: Terrorist Group Behind Bali Bombings Use Palm Oil Plantations To Fund Terrorist Activity

“Twelve years ago, a Jakarta court banned Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) for ties to terrorism, but the organization didn’t disappear. Just last month, the Indonesian police force’s anti-terrorism Special Detachment 88 detained five JI members in Bekasi, West Java. Among them was Para Wijayanto, a JI emir or unquestioned leader, who has been a fugitive since 2003. Wijayanto himself was involved in the deadly 2002 Bali bombings that killed 200 people, as well as several other attacks. Despite his arrest however, JI remains a significant threat not just to Indonesia, but the rest of the region. This, especially after police discovered palm oil plantations owned by the group, which they use to fund their operations. The group is said to run two palm oil farms in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Most Indonesian terror cells fund their operations through foreign donors and donations. While JI is also supported by various educational and research institutions, palm oil farms as sources of funding is a new development.  “The palm oil farm generates income to fund their activities and their officials’ salaries and other individuals in their network,” police spokesperson Dedi Prasetyo said in a press conference. The discovery stoked fears of the group regaining its strength.”

The Straits Times: Indonesia To Assess Whether ISIS Fighters' Kin Can Return

“Indonesia may be made to choose between being humane and protecting its security as it considers whether to take back more than 100 of its citizens believed to be family members of Indonesians who joined the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These Indonesians have been stranded in a refugee camp in Syria since the failed caliphate was ousted by US-led coalition forces in March. Indonesia's counter-terrorism agency BNPT chief, Inspector-General Suhardi Alius, said on Monday night that Indonesia is open to letting all of them return, but was quick to set a condition: Each must first be thoroughly investigated in Syria, as they have reportedly burned their Indonesian passports and all forms of identification. The government has set up a task force at the political, legal and security affairs coordinating ministry that will decide Indonesia's stance on this, but no timeframe has been set on when a decision would be taken. “I will propose in the task force's meeting that we go and do our assessment there, so we know the clusters of networks (they were supported by)... (and) how radical they are,” General Suhardi said at a discussion organised by Indonesia's Tempo magazine. His remarks in Monday night's discussion came amid heated debate among Indonesians over whether to receive these Indonesians back home, following reports that the group of mostly women and children were at the Al Hol refugee camp in north-eastern Syria, where they went to after ISIS lost Baghouz, its last stronghold in the country.”

The Straits Times: Philippine Officials Confirm First Suicide Attack By Local Militant

“Security officials confirmed yesterday the first-ever case of a suicide attack carried out by a Filipino, in what they said marked an escalation in the deadly tactics used by militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In a news briefing, military spokesman Brigadier-General Edgard Arevalo said Norman Lasuca, 23, set off one of two bombs that exploded inside a temporary camp of a special army counter-terrorism unit in Indanan town, on Jolo island in Sulu province, on June 28. Three soldiers who were manning the camp's gate were killed, along with three civilians who were nearby. Lasuca and another attacker had explosives strapped around their torsos. Both died. Tissue samples taken for DNA testing confirmed that Lasuca was the son of a woman who belonged to a Filipino-Muslim ethnic group known as the “Tausug”. Colonel Bernard Banac, the police spokesman, said in the same briefing that the identity of the other militant could not be ascertained, as no kin had come forward to claim his remains. ISIS had claimed responsibility for the Sulu attack, but Col Banac said it was “locally initiated”. He tagged the Abu Sayyaf, founded in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, as behind it. “There is no evidence linking ISIS,” he said."

The Jakarta Post: Islamic State-Linked Group Behind Murder Of Father, Son: Sulawesi Police

“Central Sulawesi Police said that the East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT), a terrorist group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) movement, was allegedly behind the murder of a father and his son in Batu Tiga, Parigi Moutong regency, Central Sulawesi. Chief Brig. Gen. Lukman Wahyu Hariyanto confirmed on Tuesday that the suspects, members of MIT, are on the police's wanted list. The victims, named Tamar, 50, and his son Patmar, 27, were residents of Poso, which borders Parigi Moutong in the north. Both were found dead with their throats slit, police reported. The police said the suspects and the victims had run into each other several times in Poso and the suspects had intimidated the victims each time. Police said the MIT members often demanded the farmers give them food. They moved to neighboring Parigi Moutong, likely because they were afraid something bad would happen to them, Lukman said. The murder of Tamar and Patmar happened on June 25, taking place in the Tinombala Task Force’s operational area. The force happened to be pursuing MIT members on the wanted list at the time. The members were assumed to roam in the border areas between Parigi Moutong and Poso.”

Technology

PC Magazine: Human Help Wanted: Why AI Is Terrible At Content Moderation

“Every day, Facebook's artificial intelligence algorithms tackle the enormous task of finding and removing millions of posts containing spam, hate speech, nudity, violence, and terrorist propaganda. And though the company has access to some of the world's most coveted talent and technology, it's struggling to find and remove toxic content fast enough. In March, a shooter in New Zealand live-streamed the brutal killing of 51 people in two mosques on Facebook. But the social-media giant's algorithms failed to detect the gruesome video. It took Facebook an hour to take the video down, and even then, the company was hard-pressed to deal with users who reposted the video. Facebook recently published figures on how often its AI algorithms successfully find problematic content. Though the report shows that the company has made tremendous advances in its years-long effort to automate content moderation, it also highlights contemporary AI's frequent failure to understand context.”

Vice: We Analysed More Than 1 Million Comments On 4chan. Hate Speech There Has Spiked By 40% Since 2015

“On 4chan you'll find anime, porn, and sports chatter. You'll also find an endless stream of racist threats, stomach-churning memes, and misogynistic vitriol — and it’s getting worse, according to a VICE analysis of more than 1 million comments on one of the site’s most popular message boards. On the heavily trafficked “politically incorrect” board, slurs against racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual or gender minorities have increased by 40% since 2015, while neo-Nazi propaganda has proliferated. And users on the forum are increasingly making violent threats against minority groups: Comments that include both hate speech and violent language have increased by 25% over the same period. After a wave of recent attacks by white nationalists across the world, social media platforms have begun cracking down on hate speech. But anonymous online forums like 4chan — a comment board designed to facilitate discussions between users posting threads of text, images, and memes — have remained a toxic, anonymous mixture of hate, bigotry, and misogyny, and have given violent extremists a kind of digital safe space.”