Eye on Extremism: July 18

Reuters: Syrian Rebels Say Moscow Deploys Ground Forces In Idlib Campaign

“Russia has sent special forces in recent days to fight alongside Syrian army troops in northwestern Syria where they have been struggling for more than two months to seize the last opposition bastion, senior rebel commanders said. Moscow, a staunch ally of President Bashar al-Assad, denied on Thursday that it had sent special forces to Idlib, maintaining that Russia has no ground troops in Syria. The rebel commanders said Russian officers and troops had been behind front lines directing the operation in northern Hama and adjoining Idlib province since it began in April, using snipers and firing anti-tank missiles. They said this was the first time Russian ground forces had joined in the battle to seize the strategic Humaymat hilltops which fell into rebel hands last week.”

The Guardian: Manchester Arena Bomber's Brother Held In UK After Extradition

“The brother of the Manchester Arena attacker, Salman Abedi, has been extradited from Libya to the UK to face multiple murder charges over his alleged role in the attack. Hashem Abedi, 22, landed at an unspecified London airport on Wednesday, escorted by British police officers. He has been charged with the murder of 22 people, the attempted murder of others who were injured, and conspiracy to cause an explosion. He remains in police custody in London and will appear at Westminster magistrates court. Abedi was arrested in Libya shortly after his older brother carried out the suicide bombing as thousands of pop music fans left an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017. Counter-terrorism officers had been granted a warrant for Hashem’s arrest but spent years negotiating his extradition with Libyan authorities. The chief constable of Greater Manchester police, Ian Hopkins, said: “Our thoughts have been with the families of those who lost loved ones and the hundreds who are struggling with serious physical injuries and deep psychological effects.”

The Jerusalem Post: Argentina Takes Step Closer To Naming Hezbollah A Terrorist Group

“Argentina took a step closer to declaring Hezbollah a terrorist group. The government announced Tuesday that it was creating “a public registry of persons and entities connected to acts of terrorism and its financing.” While neither Hezbollah nor any other group or person being considered for blacklisting are listed, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich indicated that Hezbollah will be added. The announcement comes two days before the 25th anniversary of the deadly bombing of the AMIA Jewish center that Argentina and other countries say was carried out by Hezbollah. President Mauricio Macri said last week that Argentina will consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The Argentine government and judiciary had been using the U.N. Security Council registry, which does not include the Iran-linked Shiite Muslim group. The United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, even though members of its political wing serve in the Lebanese government.”

The New York Times: Iran Says It Seized Foreign Oil Tanker, Escalating Regional Tensions

“The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran has seized a foreign oil tanker, Iranian news media reported on Thursday, days after a United Arab Emirates vessel disappeared, raising the stakes in the running conflict that has pitted Iran against some of its regional neighbors and the United States. Several state news organizations in Iran reported the seizure of the tanker, based on a statement from the Revolutionary Guards, which claimed that the ship was smuggling one million liters of oil. The Iranian state news agency Al Alam reported that the Revolutionary Guards seized the ship on Sunday. The reports did not identify the tanker or its nationality, so it was not immediately clear whether the statement referred to the Emirati ship, the Riah, which has not been heard from since it was traveling in the Persian Gulf late Saturday.”

Yahoo News: Militants Behead 4 People In Egypt's Sinai

“Egyptian security officials say militants have beheaded four people in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula. The officials say the militants attacked a group of people in the small town of Bir al-Abd on Wednesday, beheading four and kidnapping a fifth after accusing them of cooperating with security forces. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. Egypt is battling an Islamic State-led insurgency in the Sinai that intensified after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013. The militants have carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting the security forces and minority Christians.”

Reuters: From Iraq To Yemen, Drones Raise U.S. Alarm Over Iranian Plans

“The increased use of drones by Iran and its allies for surveillance and attacks across the Middle East is raising alarms in Washington. The United States believes that Iran-linked militia in Iraq have recently increased their surveillance of American troops and bases in the country by using off-the-shelf, commercially available drones, U.S. officials say. The disclosure comes at a time of heightened tensions with Iran and underscores the many ways in which Tehran and the forces it backs are increasingly relying on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in places like Yemen, Syria, the Strait of Hormuz and Iraq. Beyond surveillance, Iranian drones can drop munitions and even carry out “a kamikaze flight where they load it up with explosives and fly it into something”, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.”

United States

Fox 35 Orlando: Jail: Inmate Detailed Plan To Join ISIS, Made Bomb Threats In Note

“An inmate at the Volusia County Branch Jail is accused of threatening to bomb several government buildings in Florida and around the country.  Ethan Russell, 18, faces a felony charge of making written threats to kill after he handed a jail officer a five-page handwritten note detailing his plans to join ISIS, the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and bomb seven locations. Among his targets were the White House, the U.S. Capitol building, the Pentagon, Orlando International Airport, the Amway Center, Daytona International Speedway and the Volusia County Courthouse in DeLand. Russell was in jail, awaiting trial on unrelated charges.  He remains in custody without bond.”

Fox News: Muslim Reformer Shireen Qudosi: We Must Protect Children From Radicalization By Extremists

“As a mother and as a Muslim reformer, I see no greater threat to humanity’s potential for peace than the perversion of childhood. As I write this, my own son is enjoying his summer vacation from school. He spends time daydreaming and building an imaginary world that he immerses himself in for hours at a time. But elsewhere, children are not so fortunate. Summer camps in Gaza are teaching children as young as 5 how to stab Jews. Move your finger a few inches on the map and ideological fanatics are exploiting a child’s unconditional ability to love by creating dangerous co-dependency to be deployed later as child soldiers and suicide bombers. The worth of children is not seen in their capacity for growth, but in their ability to comply and be turned into weapons of war. This perversion is not only happening in far-flung corners of the world. It’s happening right here in America. According to the FBI, there are active cases linking individuals to ISIS in all 50 states.”

NPR: Trump Administration Turns To South America For Help With Anti-Iran Coalition

“As the United States has struggled to build support among its traditional allies in Europe to combat what it calls Iran's aggression, it has been forced to look elsewhere for support, such as Latin America. This week, the Argentinian government plans to designate the militant group Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, giving the Trump administration another ally in its push to build an international coalition to confront Iran. Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon, is supported by Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will to travel to Argentina later this week to take part in events honoring the 25th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish Center in the Argentine capital, according to two sources familiar with details of the visit. "This is going to make the United States very happy," said Seth Jones, a former Pentagon adviser who studies counterterrorism at the Center for Security and International Studies. "The U.S. is having problems right now building a coalition against Iran." In Buenos Aires, Pompeo will participate in the second Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial, aimed at highlighting challenges of terrorism in the hemisphere.”

The Wall Street Journal: Russia, Iran, North Korea Launch Hundreds Of Cyberattacks On U.S. Political Groups, Microsoft Says

“Suspected nation-state hackers from Russia, Iran and elsewhere have launched nearly 800 cyberattacks against political organizations over the past year that have been detected by Microsoft Corp. , with the vast majority of the attempts targeting groups based in the U.S. Think tanks and nongovernmental groups that work with candidates or political parties—or on issues important to their campaigns—have suffered most of the attacks. The assaults could be a precursor to direct attacks on campaigns and election systems, a trend in recent election cycles in the U.S. and Europe, Microsoft said Wednesday. The findings are the latest indication that foreign governments are laying the groundwork ahead of the 2020 presidential election to potentially disrupt American politics, as senior U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly warned. Federal agencies have dedicated more resources to election security since 2016, but cash-strapped campaigns remain broadly vulnerable, and the Republican-controlled Senate isn’t expected to consider legislation tackling the issue before the election.”

The New York Times: U.S. Punishes Turkey By Canceling Sale Of Jets

“The White House informed Turkey, a NATO ally, on Wednesday that the United States would not sell it F-35 stealth fighter jets, in retaliation for the country’s purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. President Trump had said a day earlier that Turkey’s order for more than 100 American-made jets would be canceled. The S-400 system is one of Russia’s most advanced antiaircraft weapons and can target and attack aircraft at an average range of roughly 155 miles, flying to an altitude of 82,000 feet. “The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” the White House said in a statement. “Accepting the S-400 undermines the commitments all NATO allies made to each other to move away from Russian systems.” “This will have detrimental impacts on Turkish interoperability with the alliance,” the statement said.”

Syria

Daily Sabah: Travel Route Of Daesh Suspects To Syria Disclosed

“The travel route of three female Daesh suspects, who are on Interpol's Most Wanted list and were captured in Turkey in January, has been revealed following their hearings. Sought with a red notice, Houda Z., along with two other women, Malika B. and Fatıha T., who were sought under blue notices, were arrested in January by Turkish security forces in a counterterrorism operation. While the three women initially were arrested and sent to jail on charges of being members of a terrorist organization, they were released under judicial control after their first hearing. The judicial process revealed the route the three women followed to reach Syria. Houda Z. left Paris with her husband and two children to go to Syria by truck. The family traveled from Italy to Greece by ship and continued from Greece to Turkey via motorway, before finally entering Syria. Fatıha T. came to Istanbul from Saudi Arabia, and then traveled to Turkey's southern border province of Şanlıurfa and eventually into Syria. During the hearing, Houda Z. denied the accusations, saying she has no relation to the Daesh terrorist organization. “We lived in Syria with our husband. He did not say anything about Daesh. After he was killed, I came to Turkey with the help of smugglers,” she said.”

Iran

Associated Press: US Sets Tight Travel Limitations For Iran’s UN Diplomats

“The U.S. is tightly limiting travel by Iranian officials visiting or assigned to the United Nations, sparking concern from the world body. Representatives to the U.N. from Iran and some other countries have long had some limitations on their movements. But the new rules for Iranians — imposed as its foreign minister was preparing to arrive for U.N. meetings this week — are particularly strict. Visiting officials, Iranian diplomats posted at the country’s U.N. mission and their families now can travel only among Kennedy airport and three places in Manhattan: the mission, the Iranian ambassador’s residence and a six-block radius that includes the U.N. headquarters, according to a diplomatic note sent Saturday to Iranian officials and seen by The Associated Press. The diplomats can seek waivers for housing or hotels, but it is not known whether waivers would be granted or whether they could apply to doctors’ appointments, children’s schooling or other activities.”

The New York Times: As Iran Vs. West Tensions Rise, So Does Uncertainty Over Prisoners

“A Navy veteran from California seized in Iran a year ago has yet to speak with his mother. A British-Iranian woman held in a Tehran prison since 2016 has been moved to a hospital psychiatric unit, incommunicado with her family. A French-Iranian scholar has been arrested without explanation while visiting Iran, just as France is exerting diplomacy to help save the nuclear agreement. Each case is different, but all share the backdrop of an escalating confrontation between Iran and the United States, and fury among hard-line Iranian conservatives over what they see as Europe’s subservience to America. The United States has long contended, since the Tehran hostage crisis four decades ago, that the Iranians use foreign prisoners as pawns for political leverage. Rights advocates say the prisoners are plunged into a judicial system that is mysterious and arbitrary.”

The National Review: House Passes Measure Allowing Access To Iranian Funds To Families Of Over 200 Marines Killed In Terror Attack

“The House on Wednesday passed a bipartisan measure freeing up access to over a billion dollars in Iranian funds for the families of over 200 U.S. Marines killed during an Iran-backed terror attack in 1983. The Our Obligation to Recognize American Heroes (OORAH) Act passed in a 397 to 31 vote Wednesday evening as an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act. On October 23, 1983, two suicide bombers with the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah detonated two truck bombs, one at the Marine base in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 American soldiers as well as French military personnel and several civilians. The legislation, sponsored by Vice President Mike Pence’s brother, Indiana congressman Greg Pence, makes $1.68 billion in Iranian government assets kept in the Luxembourg-based bank Clearstream available as “compensatory damages” to the families of the victims. “I served my country as a United State Marine, and I understand what it takes to keep our nation safe,” Representative Pence told National Review. “This is the least we can do for the families of those brave 241 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our country."

Iraq

The New York Times: Gunmen Kill Turkish Diplomat And Two Iraqis In The Kurdish Region Of Iraq

“A Turkish diplomat and two Iraqis were killed Wednesday in a gun attack in a restaurant in the Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq, according to the Turkish and Iraqi governments. Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, confirmed the death of an official of the Turkish consulate, and said that one Iraqi had been killed and another seriously wounded. The second Iraqi died later. The two Iraqis worked for the consulate, said Dr. Ahmed al-Sahaf, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman. One was a guard for the Turkish diplomat. It was not immediately clear who carried out the shooting or why. Iraqi and Turkish authorities said they were investigating the attack. “The first thing that comes to mind is whether this is a terror attack,” Mr. Cavusoglu told reporters. “The fact that just on the next table two Iraqis were attacked, one killed and one gravely injured, the fact that it was an attack against them, too — to give clear, detailed information, everything has to be revealed.” He said there were three assailants, who had escaped. The second Iraqi citizen who was wounded in the shooting died later in the hospital, hospital officials said. The attack took place in the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, Erbil, reportedly at the Huqqabaz restaurant, between the city center and the main airport.”

The National: Iraq’s Yazidis Remain Displaced Five Years After ISIS Genocide

“Five years after ISIS launched its genocidal campaign against Iraq’s Yazidi, the religious minority remain displaced from their ancestral homeland. For centuries, the ethno-religious group – which emerged from Iran 4,000 years ago – lived in relative obscurity in an arid corner of northwest Iraq around the rugged Sinjar mountain. The closed faith has no written book and reveres a peacock angel, which ISIS interpreted as sacrilege. When the terrorists swept across northern Iraq in summer 2014, they killed about 1,280 Yazidi and kidnapped an estimated 6,400, mostly women and children. The rest of the population was forcibly displaced in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and beyond. Of the 550,000 Yazidis in Iraq before 2014, about 100,000 have emigrated and 360,000 remain internally displaced. ISIS and the war to drive it out destroyed much of the region’s infrastructure and agriculture, while hundreds of kidnapped women and children remain missing. Only a few thousand have been able to return to Sinjar, where most homes remain in ruins and services such as electricity, hospitals and clean water are scarce. More than 70 grave sites have been identified across Sinjar containing the remains of ISIS victims, 12 of which have been exhumed as part of an inquiry carried out by the UN, Iraq’s government and other agencies.”

Xinhua: 2 IS Militants Killed In U.S.-Led Coalition Airstrike In Northern Iraq

“Two Islamic State (IS) militants were killed on Wednesday in an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition aircraft in Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, the Iraqi military said. Acting on intelligence reports from Nineveh's Operations Command, the coalition aircraft attacked an IS tunnel at a desert in al-Baaj area near the border with Syria, the media office of the Joint Operations Command said in a brief statement. The airstrike resulted in the killing of two extremist IS militants and the destruction of the tunnel, the statement said. The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017. IS remnants, however, have since melted in urban areas or resorted to deserts and rugged areas as safe havens, carrying out frequent guerilla attacks against security forces and civilians.”

Turkey

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Ejects Turkey From F-35 Fighter Program

“The Trump administration formally ejected Turkey from the American-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program over Ankara’s decision to purchase a Russian air-defense system, prompting a protest from Turkish officials. Pentagon officials on Wednesday said Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air-defense system was incompatible with participation in the F-35 program and declared an end to Ankara’s involvement. The White House earlier Wednesday said Turkey’s completion of the deal to buy the Russian system undermines its North Atlantic Treaty Organization commitments, adding new strain to the alliance and to Washington’s relationship with a longtime ally. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the U.S. decision didn’t comply with the spirit of the NATO alliance and lacked legitimate grounds. “We call on the U.S. to correct this mistake, which will irreparably damage our relations,” the ministry said.”

BBC News: Turkey Journalists And Activist Acquitted Of Terrorism Charges

“A Turkish court has acquitted two journalists and a human rights activist of terrorism charges. The three defendants had been accused of spreading terrorist propaganda for their work with a Kurdish newspaper, which has since been closed down. But the three maintained they were defending free speech amid a clampdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Applause erupted in the courtroom as the verdict was read out, the BBC's Mark Lowen reported from Istanbul. Erol Onderoglu, the Turkey representative for press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), journalist Ahmet Nesin, and Sebnem Korur Fincanci, chairwoman of Turkey's Human Rights Foundation, were arrested in June 2016. RSF's annual press freedom index ranks Turkey 157th out of 180 countries, in part because Turkey is the world's largest jailer of journalists.  Last year, Turkey imprisoned 68 journalists in total - the highest of any country in the world. Most of the imprisoned or accused are of Kurdish origin. Mr Onderoglu, Mr Nesin and Ms Fincanci guest-edited the Kurdish paper Ozgur Gundem in 2016, which saw them accused by the authorities of making propaganda on behalf of the banned Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK). They each faced 14 years in prison.”

U.S. News: Turkey Appears Poised To Retaliate Against The U.S., Prompting Pentagon Warning

“The Pentagon on Wednesday warned against new military action in an area of Syria where U.S. troops are deployed as Turkey appears to be massing for an incursion against American-allied Kurdish forces there. "Unilateral action into northeastern Syria by any party, particularly as U.S. personnel may be present or in the vicinity, is of grave concern. We would find any such actions unacceptable," Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. Sean Robertson says. The statement comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Turkey after the NATO member began receiving Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles last week in defiance of months of U.S. warnings that could result in new sanctions from the administration or from Congress. Analysts fear that Turkey considers the credible threat of a military strike as its only deterrent against U.S. retaliation and that roiling tensions may overwhelm both sides' ability to prevent conflict.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Taliban Kill 18 Afghan Soldiers In Overnight Clashes, Officials Say

“Taliban militants killed at least 18 Afghan soldiers in clashes that erupted overnight when troops were trying to capture a senior Taliban leader, government officials said on Wednesday.  The clashes started after several soldiers were airdropped into the Ab Kamari district of western Badghis province to conduct a night raid on Taliban hideouts and arrest a designate district governor of the hardline Islamist group.  Farid Akhizai, a provincial council member in Badghis, said the Taliban encircled the soldiers, killed 18 and captured 11. Ten were missing.  The district governor of Ab Kamari said a lack of coordination was to blame.  “The operation was conducted to raid a hideout used by several Taliban commanders, but the insurgents had evacuated the area two days before,” said Khudad, who goes by one name.  The Taliban in a statement confirmed that they had received a tip-off about the raid. They said their fighters killed 39 Afghan soldiers and captured 16.  The Taliban continue to stage major attacks against Afghan forces while they are engaged in a dialogue with the United States to negotiate an end to the 18-year long war.  President Ashraf Ghani said in January that more than 45,000 members of the security forces had been killed by militants since he took office in September 2014.”

NBC News: Why Afghanistan Peace Talks Between The Taliban And U.S. Have Promise — But More Potential Pitfalls

“The Korean War is sometimes called America’s forgotten war — but that title really now belongs to the Afghanistan conflict, soon to be 18 years old. Several hundred thousand Americans have served there since October 2001; more than 2,000 have died. The war has cost the United States roughly $1 trillion, and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ costs for the injured will add several hundred billion dollars more in the decades to come. About 15,000 Americans (and another several thousand foreign troops, most from NATO nations) still serve in uniform in Afghanistan, with an estimated additional annual cost to the American taxpayer of some $20 billion. We have been suffering 10 to 20 fatalities annually in recent years, as well. Afghan forces serve and fight bravely, and lose some 5,000 to 10,000 personnel a year. But they do not appear closer to being able to protect their nation on their own, due to weak institutions, high attrition rates and pervasive corruption in much of the country. Drug production is once again high. Cities and most major roads remain in government hands; much of the rural countryside is contested, and some is even in Taliban hands. Yet, we don’t talk much about this war on the cable shows or the campaign hustings or within the halls of Congress.”

Voice Of America: Taliban Shuts 42 Swedish-Run Health Clinics In Afghanistan

“An International relief agency says the Taliban has forced them to close dozens of clinics in an embattled central - eastern region of Afghanistan, depriving  hundreds of thousands of people, particularly women and children, of  receiving medical treatment and health services.  The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) said in a statement issued Wednesday the insurgents’ action in the Wardak province had stemmed from last week’s deadly attack by Afghan security forces against one of the agency’s health clinics. It noted that the condemnable raid killed four people, including SCA doctors, and one employee is still missing. “The Taliban forced SCA to close 42 out of 77 health facilities in six out of nine districts of Wardak province so far, and due to this closure, an estimated number of over 5,700 patients are affected on daily basis,” the aid agency lamented.  Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid justified their action, alleging the July 8th raid against the SCA hospital was jointly conducted by American and Afghan forces. He told VOA the relief agency’s health units have come under regular attack by pro-government forces but the SCA has not effectively protested nor has the Swedish government taken up the issue with Americans or the international community.”

Pakistan

The New York Times: Hafiz Saeed, Founder Of Group Behind Mumbai Attacks, Is Arrested In Pakistan

“Pakistan has arrested the founder of the terrorist group that carried out the deadly 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, seizing him on Wednesday just days before the Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, heads to Washington to meet President Trump. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the terrorism suspect, has been arrested before and then released. Critics of Pakistan’s government said his arrest on Wednesday was yet another superficial tactic to placate the United States and others who have grown frustrated with Pakistan’s halfhearted efforts to crack down on militant groups. “Arrest. Free. Repeat,” Taha Siddiqui, a Pakistani journalist living in exile, wrote on Twitter. On Tuesday, Pakistan decided to reopen its airspace, which had been closed since hostilities flared with India in February. The closure of the airspace had caused difficulties for many international airlines, including American ones, which canceled many long-haul flights because of the complications of flying around Pakistan. This, too, was seen as a good-will gesture by Pakistan before Mr. Khan sits down with Mr. Trump next week. Their discussions are likely to center on the Afghan peace talks between the United States and the Taliban that have been moving forward, in fits and starts, in Doha, Qatar.”

Yemen

Reuters: Yemen's Houthis Say They Launched Drone Attack On Saudi's Jizan Airport

“Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group said it launched a drone attack on Jizan airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia early on Wednesday, part of an escalation of cross-border assaults in the 4-year-old conflict. The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen said it had intercepted and downed a Houthi drone heading towards civilian targets in Jizan. Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saria said the attack disrupted operations at the airport. The Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa, have in the past few months stepped up their attacks against targets in Saudi Arabia. In response, the coalition has targeted military sites belonging to the group, especially around Sanaa. On Tuesday, the Saudi-led coalition said it intercepted and downed three Houthi drones launched towards the southwestern Saudi cities of Jizan and Abha near the Yemeni border.”

The Detroit News: Opinion: Houthi Militia, Mines Terrorize Yemen

“While much of the world is aware of the terrible humanitarian crisis that has enveloped the nation and people of Yemen, few have focused on a primary actor in this crisis -- the Iranian-backed Houthis. These extremists, whose flag calls for “Death to America," have inflicted every possible form of pain and suffering on the Yemeni people while largely escaping the world’s attention. Right now, in areas across Yemen controlled by the Houthis, innocent Yemenis are forced to pay black market prices and bribes or give in to other Houthi demands for just the hope of gaining access to supplies of food, medicine, and other staples that relief organizations strive to provide free of charge. KSrelief alone has distributed more than $2 billion in aid to Yemen over the past five years; however, the Houthis are blocking access to humanitarian assistance and have essentially turned food into a weapon to dominate and control the people who live in militia-controlled areas.”

The National: Houthis Launch Skirmishes In Hodeidah Days After Agreeing De-Escalation At UN Meeting

“The Houthi militia has launched a skirmish against pro-government forces in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah in a move described as a violation of the terms of a de-escalation agreement reaffirmed this week. The head of the Redeployment and Coordination Committee, Lt Gen Michael Lollesgaard, mediated a discussion between representatives of the government and the rebels on-board a UN ship in international waters between Hodeidah and Makah earlier this week. The two sides agreed to work towards implementing troop withdrawals from the city as laid out in December’s UN-brokered peace talks. But on Thursday, a military official in the pro-government Joint Forces in Hodeidah told The National that Houthi forces launched a push against their positions around Kilo-16, a key supply route between the city and the rebel-held capital of Sanaa. “The Houthi rebels tried to advance in the outskirts of Kilo 16 through an intensified attack using different types of weapons at 3 am on Thursday,” the official said. “The attack aimed to take positions controlled by our forces in Kilo 16 but was thwarted by our forces who clashed with the Houthi rebels as they attempted to advance, killing a number of them."

Saudi Arabia

The National: Saudi King Invites Families Affected By New Zealand Terror Attack To Attend Hajj

“The King of Saudi Arabia has invited families and victims of the terrorist attack in New Zealand earlier this year to attend Hajj next month. In March, an armed Australian citizen stormed two mosques in the city of Christchurch, murdering more than 50 people and wounding dozens of others. King Salman instructed the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to co-ordinate with the families of the victims and those wounded to arrange their travel for Hajj. Several families told The National that they had been in touch with the Saudi officials and some said they planned to attend. Aya Al Umari, the sister of Hussein Al Umari who was killed in the attack, said her family had been contacted by a representative from the Muslim World League about the trip. She said she would love to go if she has the opportunity. She was initially hoping her mother, Janna Ezat, would join her, but she is unable to do so this year. Ms Al Umari had already told her boss she would probably need a few days off for the break. “You have to do it yourself before you can go on behalf of someone, so I said to Mum: ‘I’ll go this year and when Mum goes next time I’ll do it then for Hussein,’” she told The National. “But, honestly, Hajj is a distant dream and if it wasn’t for Hussein I would never have been able to go this year,” she said.”

The New York Times: U.S. To Send About 500 More Troops To Saudi Arabia

“The United States is sending hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia in what is intended as the latest show of force toward Iran, two Defense Department officials said Wednesday. The roughly 500 troops are part of a broader tranche of forces sent to the region over the past two months after tensions between Washington and Tehran escalated. Since May, a spate of attacks have left six oil tankers damaged in the Gulf of Oman, with Washington accusing Tehran of inciting them. Iranian officials have denied that claim. The downing of an American drone in June by an Iranian surface-to-air missile only heightened tensions, prompting President Trump to approve military strikes against Iran before abruptly pulling back. In recent weeks, Iran has deliberately violated parts of the 2015 international accord that restricted its nuclear program. Last year, Mr. Trump withdrew from the pact, calling it a “horrible deal.” CNN first reported the plans to deploy more troops on Wednesday night. Defense Department officials confirmed the plans, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because they were not yet public.”

Egypt

Asharq Al-Awsat: Egypt To Question Kuwait's 'Brotherhood Cell'

“Egyptian government is set to begin questioning eight wanted individuals belonged to a cell linked to the “Muslim Brotherhood.” Earlier, KUNA reported that Kuwaiti authorities handed over to Cairo eight Egyptians who it said had admitted to carrying out terrorist operations in their home country and had fled to Kuwait after being convicted in Egypt. Muslim Brotherhood officials and supporters denounced the move and defended the detainees while attacking the government for the arrest. The defendants received by the authorities, included some convicted who had already been sentenced and they will be retried as the Egyptian law stipulates, according to security and legal sources in Egypt. The sources explained that only three of the defendants are still wanted for investigation, while the remaining five face sentences that are not final because they fled the country before the authorities had the chance to finalize their trials. An Egyptian legal source pointed out that the cases in which the suspects are tried will take place within the courts of the Upper and Delta governorates. He added that further investigations will reveal whether the convicts are wanted in funding cases of the Brotherhood, which could bring to new charges if confirmed by authorities.”

Nigeria

Premium Times: Boko Haram: 2.8 Million In Dire Need Of Protection, Intervention- UNDP

“The United Nations Development Programme, (UNDP) has said about 2.8 million people are in dire need of protection and humanitarian intervention as the Lake Chad region continues to witness the ravages of the Boko Haram insurgency. The UNDP Regional Director, Bureau for Africa, Ahunna Eziakonwa, said this on Tuesday during a regional parley by representatives of the four affected nations in Niamey, Niger Republic. Security experts, however, believe the figure is much higher and is expected to increase. Eight governors and representatives from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad are currently meeting in Niamey, Niger, on Wednesday alongside several CSOs and stakeholders to deliberate on the crisis rocking the Lake Chad region. The governors include the Governor of Extreme North, Cameroon; Governor of North Region, Cameroon; Governor of Diffa, Niger; Governor of Adamawa, Nigeria; Governor of Borno, Nigeria; Governor of Yobe, Nigeria; Governor of Hadjer Lamis, Chad; and the Governor of Lac Region, Chad. The event, organised by the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), has technical support from the UNDP, African Union (AU) and the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI).”

Somalia

The National: Al Shabab Remains A Potent And Lethal Force In Somalia

“Check into any big hotel in Somalia, and it’s not unusual to meet a government minister in the dining room, an ex-warlord in the lift, and a presidential candidate and his campaign team in the lobby. This is not because of the quality of the hospitality. The average hotel in Mogadishu, for example, is no Burj Al Arab. But after nearly 30 years of war, car bombs and targeted assassinations, many VIPs feel safer in an anonymous, heavily guarded block than they do in their own home or office. Some live as guests for years. Yet, as last weekend's carnage at the Medina Hotel in Kismayo proved, the sense of security is sometimes illusory. In a combined suicide bomb and gun attack that lasted 14 hours, Al Shabab militants stormed the hotel compound and killed 26 people, including several foreigners and a number of local politicians and elders. “Somalis have long used hotels as homes and meeting places, and some of them almost feel like government ministries,” says Mary Harper, the BBC's Africa Editor and a regular visitor to Somalia. “But often it's a false sense of security, as Al Shabab now knows exactly who is in these hotels and targets them almost constantly.” Most big hotels in Mogadishu have been hit by the militant group least two or three times, as have many supposedly secure government compounds.”

All Africa: Somalia: One Wounded In A Car Bomb Blast In Somali Capital

“A witness says at least one civilian was wounded when a bomb fitted into a vehicle detonated in Mogadishu, the Somali capital on Wednesday morning. The explosion occurred outside Waberi police station along the busy Makka Al-Mukarama road in the capital, the scene of frequent car bombings by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab group. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack which comes as police set up additional checkpoints in the seaside city to enforce the security. The UN-backed Somali government is facing security challenges as it is battling Al-Shabab militants with the help of African Union forces [AMISOM] for a decade.”

Africa

Al Arabiya: ISIS Video Calls For Attacks In Tunisia

“The ISIS group has called for more attacks in Tunisia in a rare propaganda video purportedly filmed by the militants in the North African nation. It comes three weeks after a twin suicide attack against police in the capital Tunis claimed by ISIS killed two people. The video, shared on ISIS social media channels on Tuesday night, shows armed men in balaclavas who pledge allegiance to the ISIS’ leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “Your soldiers and your sons in the land of Kairouan are doing well,” said one of those filmed who gave the pseudonym Abou Omar al-Tounsi. The holy city of Kairouan lies in central Tunisia. Another militant using the name Abou Khaled al-Tounsi called for people to “sow terror” in Tunisia. The video, which was circulated on messaging app Telegram and could not immediately be verified, was said to have been filmed inside the country. Following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, the country saw a rise in extremism and deadly attacks hit soldiers, police, civilians and foreign tourists. While the security situation has improved in recent years, the state of emergency implemented in 2015 is still in place.”

All Africa: Kenya: State Says Mombasa Terror Suspect Was Going To Join Isis

“The Kenyan government now claims that a suspected Al-Shabaab member Salim Mohamed Rashid, who was arrested on May 14, 2019, was on his way to join the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (Isis) when he was intercepted by Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU) officers at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa. Through an affidavit seeking to deny Mr Mohamed bond, the State says that investigations have established that the suspect was in the process of travelling to Syria using an Ethiopian Airlines flight via Sudan to join Isis. “Through intelligence reports, the suspect is believed to be in contact with people allied to Al-Shabaab and Isis terror groups. Releasing him on bail might lead him to abscond court and proceed with his earlier plan,” Police Constable Onesmus Kiema, who is investigating the matter, told the court. In addition to the gravity of the offence, which the State argues is serious and attracts grave penalties, it (State) also asked the court to take judicial notice of the numerous terror attacks at the Coast and around the country. Mr Kiema, who is attached to the ATPU, asked Mombasa Resident Magistrate Rita Amwayi to find that the reasons advanced seeking to deny the suspect bond are compelling and order that he be held in custody until the conclusion of his case.” 

United Kingdom

The Telegraph: Driver Guilty Of Terror Attack Outside Parliament

“A student has been found guilty of trying to kill cyclists and police officers outside the Houses of Parliament. Salih Khater, 30, ploughed his Ford Fiesta into a pedestrian and a group of cyclists who had stopped at a red light in Parliament Square on August 14 last year. He then careered into a security lane and crashed into barriers as two police officers jumped out of the way. The attack was caught on CCTV footage which was played in court. The Old Bailey heard Khater, of Highgate Street, Birmingham, wanted to cause maximum carnage and it was “miraculous” that no-one was killed. But Khater claimed he came to London to find the Sudanese embassy to get a visa, “got lost” around Westminster and panicked. The jury deliberated over two days before rejecting his explanation and finding him guilty of two charges of attempted murder. During the trial, prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said Khater's attack was “premeditated and deliberate”. She said: “He caused widespread fear and chaos but miraculously, and contrary to his intentions, he did not kill anyone that day. “Those who were faced with a vehicle being driven at them at high velocity somehow, and largely by their quick responses, managed to avoid death or very serious injury.”

Reuters: UK Arrests Manchester Bomber's Brother After Libya Extradition

“The brother of a suicide bomber who attacked a concert in the British city of Manchester in 2017 was extradited from Libya on Wednesday and arrested in London on suspicion of helping plan the blast, police said.  Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old Briton born to Libyan parents, blew himself up at the end of a show by U.S. singer Ariana Grande in the deadliest militant attack in Britain for 12 years.  The explosion killed 22 people and injured more than 500.  London had sought the extradition of his brother Hashem after police issued an arrest warrant for murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to cause an explosion. But Tripoli had long stalled on the request, made in November 2017.  “He has today been successfully extradited, for offences relating to the Manchester Arena attack,” Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said in a statement.  “He was handed over by Libyan authorities to British police officers this morning. They escorted him on the flight back and he landed in the UK a short while ago.”  Police said Hashem Abedi, 22, would appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday. A spokesman for the Tripoli-based Special Deterrence Force (Rada), who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the case, said he was extradited in accordance with a court verdict.”

Europe

Associated Press: Norway Holds Muslim Cleric For 4 Weeks After Italy Trial

“An Iraqi-born Muslim cleric has been ordered held in custody for four weeks after he was sentenced to 12 years in prison in Italy for terror offenses. The Oslo District Court said Wednesday there is a risk that Mullah Krekar could flee. Norwegian broadcaster NRK said an Italian extradition request is expected soon. Krekar, who earlier refused to travel to Italy, fearing extradition to Iraq, was Monday found guilty in Bolzano of attempting to overthrow the Kurdish government in northern Iraq and create an Islamic caliphate. “I have no ties to terror. ... This is a political case,” Krekar said upon arriving at the court in Norway, calling the Italian case “fake.” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told the VG newspaper on Wednesday that the reason for the arrest is so that Krekar can be sent out of the country.”

Latin America

Fox News: Emanuele Ottolenghi: To Fight Hezbollah, Latin American Countries First Need To Acknowledge It Exists

“As Argentina prepares to commemorate Hezbollah’s terror attack in July 1994 in Buenos Aires, the time has come to call a spade a spade. Brazil and Paraguay need to join their neighbor in naming Hezbollah a terror organization and passing measures to combat it illicit finance networks within their territories. Later this week U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Buenos Aires to attend a Western Hemisphere ministerial conference dedicated to the fight against terrorism, Hezbollah and its nefarious presence in the region will take center stage. Argentina, the host nation, is creating a public registry that will enable its government to blacklist terrorist and terror financing entities. Argentina’s president, Mauricio Macri, will reportedly blacklist Hezbollah in time for the summit. Argentina will be the first Latin American country to do so. Others should follow its example, and the summit will be a test for all other countries in attendance, to match words with action. Argentina has good reasons to designate Hezbollah. Twice, in 1992 and 1994, Hezbollah agents struck civilian targets in Buenos Aires. In February 1992, they blew up the Israeli embassy, killing 29. Then, instructed by Iran and aided by local Hezbollah cells, on July 18, 1994, a Hezbollah suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden truck in front of the AMIA building, the local Jewish cultural center, in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and wounding more than 200.”

The Buenos Aires Times: Government Creates Anti-Terrorism Database

“The government created today the “Public Registry of Pesonas and Entities Linked to Terrorism and it’s Financing,” or (RePET), a tool that will permit Hezbollah’s designation as an extremist group in the country.  Through the Decree 289/2019, published this Tuesday in the Boletiín Oficial, modified an existing policy from June 2012, and established the creation of the registry. Until now Argentina only abided the United Nations Security Council list of terror groups, which does not include the Iran-linked Shiite militant group that blew up the Israeli embassy in 1992 and the headquarters of Jewish-Argentine Mutual Association in 1994. The government remarked that RePET will “guarantee the correct identification and individualisation” of terrorist groups. The registry will operate within the Justice Ministry and intends to offer access and exchange of information about people, representatives and entities tied to acts of terrorism and its financing, faciliting domestic and international cooperation to prevent, combat and erradicate terrorism and its financing.”

Asia

Radio Free Europe: Beware Of Extremists -- And Women! Uzbeks Get Islamic Sermons At Airport Before Flying To Russia

“Airport passengers in the eastern Uzbek city of Namangan who are flying to Russia are being force-fed Islamic sermons about loyalty, the dangers of religious extremism -- and Russian women. The main aim of Uzbekistan's campaign of “airport preaching imams” appears to be to keep people from joining terrorist or extremist groups. A video on Uzbek social media on July 15 shows an imam addressing passengers at a departure gate before they board a Russia-bound plane. Accompanied by a uniformed airport worker, the imam, Abduvosit, warns the passengers against terrorist organizations that he describes as “one of the greatest threats of our time.” He tells the crowd to be “vigilant against terrorist groups who act in the guise of” Islam and try to brainwash and recruit people, especially those looking for religious knowledge online. “It has happened especially among [migrant workers] in Russia,” Abduvosit says. “If you need information about Islam or want to expand your religious knowledge, you can easily find such information on the Uzbek [state-approved] websites, such as muslim.uzislom.uz, or our own ravza.uz,” the imam explained. Muslim.uz is the official website of the state-backed Islamic Affairs Department, while ravza.uz is run by the agency’s regional office in Namangan.”

Technology

The New York Times: Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Faces Second Day Of Critical Hearings

“Lawmakers said in a House hearing on Wednesday that Facebook’s plan to enter the world of cryptocurrency and global finance could threaten sovereign currencies or even destabilize governments. A day after a similarly critical Senate hearing, it was the House Financial Services Committee’s turn. David Marcus, a Facebook executive, faced over four hours of questions about Facebook’s plans for a cryptocurrency called Libra. As was the case on Tuesday, Mr. Marcus was dogged by his company’s controversial reputation as well as skepticism of the legal uses of cryptocurrencies. “This is the biggest thing this committee will deal with this decade,” said Representative Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California. “This is a godsend to drug dealers and tax evaders.” When Facebook announced Libra in June, it said it wanted to create a new global financial system. The initiative, if successful, could put digital wallets in the hands of the more than two billion people who use Messenger and WhatsApp, the messaging platforms owned by Facebook.”