Eye on Extremism: July 24

The Hill: FBI's Wray Says Most Domestic Terrorism Arrests This Year Involve White Supremacy

“FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday that the agency has made about 100 domestic terrorism-related arrests since October, and the majority were tied to white supremacy. “I will say that a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we’ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence, but it does include other things as well,” Wray said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, referring to cases in fiscal 2019, which began Oct. 1. The FBI is “aggressively” investigating domestic terrorism and hate crimes, Wray said, noting that the bureau is focused on investigating the violence, not the ideology motivating the attacks. Wray distinguished between what he termed homegrown violent extremism, wording he said the FBI uses to refer to people in United States who are inspired by global jihadists, and domestic extremism, which Wray described as broader to include racially motivated extremists, anarchists and others.”

Reuters: Dutch Court Convicts Islamic State Militant Of War Crimes

“Dutch judges on Tuesday convicted an Islamic State militant of war crimes in Iraq and Syria and sentenced him to 7-1/2 years in prison after he posed with a crucified body and shared images of dead victims online. Netherlands-born Oussama Achraf Akhlafa, 24, was found guilty of membership of a terrorist organization. He fought alongside IS militants in Mosul in Iraq and in Raqqa, Syria, between 2014 and 2016. Prosecutors had sought a sentence of 7 years, 8 months.  The court said Akhlafa had posed smiling next to the crucified body of a man who had been executed by IS, and had posted the picture on Facebook. ”He violated the personal dignity of the deceased, thereby breaching the Geneva Convention”, the court said, in a reference to the treaties protecting the rights of war victims.  Akhlafa was tried under so-called universal jurisdiction, which enables war crimes to be prosecuted regardless of where they were committed, in the first trial in the Netherlands dealing with war crimes committed by an IS militant.  A second defendant, Dutch-born 24-year-old Reda Nidalha, was sentenced to 4-1/2 years in prison for membership of a terrorist organization.”

The Jerualem Post: House Passes Bill That Calls To Sanction Palestinian Terror Groups

“The House of Representatives approved a bill on Tuesday that calls to sanction Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups. House Resolution 1850, the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act, sponsored by Rep. Brian Mast (R-Florida-18) is asking “to impose sanctions with respect to foreign support for Palestinian terrorism, and for other purposes.” The bill directs the president to submit an annual report to Congress, identifying “each foreign person or agency or instrumentality of a foreign state that... knowingly assists in, sponsors, or provides significant financial or material support” for “Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad or any affiliate.” The legislation directs the president to impose at least two different financial sanctions on the people or agencies that are identified as assisting these terror groups. The bill also requires the president to report to Congress on each government that provides support for acts of terrorism and provides material support to Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or any affiliate organization. A foreign government that would support the terror organizations could face its foreign aid being cut off. The president could waive the obligation for imposing sanctions on a case-by-case basis.”

The New York Times: Indonesian Couple Carried Out Philippines Cathedral Bombing, Police Say

“A deadly cathedral bombing in the Philippines in January was a suicide attack carried out by an Indonesian couple who once tried to reach Islamic State territory and were deported from Turkey, the Indonesian police said on Tuesday. The married couple, identified as Rullie Rian Zeke and Ulfah Handayani Saleh, went to Turkey in 2016 with hopes of crossing the border into Syria, the police said. Instead, they were arrested in January 2017 and sent back to Indonesia. The bombing, consisting of two detonations, struck the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the southern island of Jolo, where the government has long fought Muslim insurgents. At least 23 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in the assault, which took place just as worshipers gathered for Mass. Through various online bulletins, the Islamic State claimed responsibility. Terrorism officials and independent experts have warned that Indonesia and other Southeast Asian nations face a serious threat from hundreds of returnees who traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State. The attack in January showed that they must also be wary of those who were deported from other countries before they could reach their destination.”

The Times Of Israel: Israel: Iran Smuggling Dual-Use Items For Hezbollah Weaponry Via Beirut Port

“Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday accused Iran of exploiting civilian companies and maritime channels to smuggle weapons manufacturing equipment to its Lebanese proxy group, Hezbollah. In the quarterly meeting on the Middle East, Ambassador Danny Danon told the Security Council that Israeli intelligence has uncovered evidence showing Iran’s Quds Force has been using the port of Beirut to ship items to the terror group since last year. “In the years 2018-2019, Israel found that dual-use items are smuggled into Lebanon to advance Hezbollah’s rocket and missile capabilities,” he said. “Iran and the Quds Force have begun to advance the exploitation of the civilian maritime channels, and specifically the Port of Beirut,” Danon said. “The Port of Beirut has become the Port of Hezbollah.” In a statement, the Israeli mission said “Syrian agents” purchased the dual use items from foreign companies under false pretenses, and handed it over to the terrorist group after picking up the shipments from the port.”

The Hill: Social Media Companies Are Failing To Stop The Spread Of Terrorism Online

“The Christchurch terrorist exploited the extraordinary power of social media to broadcast his message of violence and hate across the world. As he brutally murdered 51 people and wounded 49 more in two mosques in New Zealand, his livestream on Facebook ran uninterrupted—and before it was ultimately pulled down from Facebook, it was quickly posted and shared millions of times across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms. This is the new age of terrorism, defined by the rise of extremist communities online and terrorists who carry out real-life violence inspired by virtual content. And every time a successful terrorist attack is broadcasted online, it risks inspiring copycats attempting to unleash similar terror in their own communities. We as a nation need to adapt to this new reality. Which is why it is incumbent upon social media and tech companies to step up to the plate and take these threats seriously. Gone are the days of unicorns and The Next Big Thing—tech companies of today have become critical institutions in our society in the same way that banks, telecom and utilities matured in the last century.”

United States

The Huffington Post: The FBI Counted 100 Domestic Terrorism Arrests In The Past 9 Months

“Arrests of the FBI’s domestic terrorism targets are on the rise this year, bureau Director Christopher Wray indicated in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Wray said that about 100 targets of FBI domestic terrorism investigations were arrested in the first three quarters of the federal government’s 2019 fiscal year, which ran from October 2018 through June 2019. That would put the current year on track to outpace the 120 domestic terrorism arrests the FBI recorded in fiscal 2018, but potentially below the 150 domestic terrorism arrests of fiscal 2017. An FBI official said previously that about half of these arrested targets whose efforts the FBI seeks to “disrupt” are charged with state and local crimes, while others are charged with federal crimes that would appear on their face to be unrelated to terrorism. Wray told the Judiciary Committee that the individuals in the “majority” of the domestic terrorism cases investigated by the bureau “are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.”  The bureau takes domestic terrorism “extremely seriously,” Wray said, regardless of ideology. After the anti-Muslim terrorist attack in New Zealand in March, President Donald Trump said that he did not believe white nationalism was a rising global threat.”

CBS News: Behind The Scenes Of The Air Force's Anti-Terrorism Drone Program

“Amid reports that Iran shot down a U.S. Navy drone last month and that the U.S. downed an Iranian drone last week, remotely piloted aircraft are getting new attention. Many of the drones the U.S. Air Force flies overseas are piloted from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada – and “CBS This Morning” got a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the operations. Creech is in a remote stretch of the desert about an hour's drive from Las Vegas, and it's filled with a fleet of the Air Force's drones. The military doesn't like the word drone – it prefers remotely piloted aircraft. But whichever term you use, one specific aircraft – the Reaper – has become a major part of the military's anti-terrorism arsenal. Six hundred pilots and 350 sensor or camera operators work in teams around the clock, averaging six air strikes and 1,000 combat hours every day. “The act of taking a human life, the act of supporting guys on the ground, is as stressful as it was sitting in an F-16 regardless of the distance in between the two air frames,” one employee said. Major Bryce is a combatant in the sky eight hours a day, sometimes dropping hellfire missiles or precision guided bombs on high-value targets. “Our job is to be in the mental model knowing that we could jump right into the seat and something could happen,” he said.”

The New York Times: Why A Black Preacher Is Fighting For Control Of A Neo-Nazi Group

“A pitched leadership battle is taking place inside one of the country’s oldest neo-Nazi groups. On one side, a true believer is pushing to attract new members and expand the ranks. On the other, a black former Baptist preacher is hoping to destroy the hate-spewing group from the inside. James Hart Stern, the 55-year-old preacher from Los Angeles, took control of the group, the National Socialist Movement, in January. He is now struggling with Burt Colucci, 43, a longtime member, over leadership of the group. The fight has thrown the organization into upheaval during a time when far-right extremism is on the rise and other white supremacy groups are gaining ground. The two men are fighting over who has control over the group’s official website. That site is now more important than ever, as more hate groups recruit with memes than marches. The N.S.M., as the group is known, has struggled to keep up as its membership dwindles.”

NBC Washington: Extremist Reported By Family Pleads Guilty To Gun Charge

“A man whose relatives reported concerns about his behavior and far-right extremist rhetoric after last year's Pittsburgh synagogue massacre pleaded guilty to a federal gun charge Tuesday. Jeffrey Clark Jr., 30, of Washington, D.C., faces a maximum of 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of illegal possession of firearms by a person who is an unlawful user of a controlled substance. Estimated sentencing guidelines call for a sentence ranging from 10 to 16 months, but U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, who is scheduled to sentence Clark on Sept. 13, isn't bound by those guidelines. The judge refused to release Clark before sentencing. The FBI said Clark is a self-described white nationalist who followed Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers on the Gab social media platform and referred to him as a “hero” in a post after the Oct. 27, 2018, shooting. Bowers spewed anti-Semitic hatred on his Gab account before killing 11 people inside the synagogue, authorities said. Clark was arrested after relatives called the FBI on Nov. 2 to report their concerns that he could be a danger to himself or others. Relatives told FBI agents that Clark became “really riled up” after his younger brother, Edward, shot and killed himself within hours of the Pittsburgh attack.”

Syria

Reuters: Syrian State TV Reports Israeli Attack In Southern Syria

“Syrian state television said on Wednesday that Israel struck a strategic area in southern Syria overlooking the Golan Heights where Western intelligence sources previously said Iranian-backed militias are known to be based.  The newsflash on state-owned Ikhbariyah did not give details, but said the strike was directed on Tel Haraa, which had long been an outpost for Russian forces but was later taken by Iranian-backed militias, according to Western intelligence sources. State news agency SANA later said damages were only material and referred to the last Israeli attacks at the end of last month when it said its air defences repelled a major attack on some of its outposts on the outskirts of the capital and Homs province. Diplomatic sources familiar with Syria said at the time these overnight attacks outside Damascus on Iranian-backed forces, including bases of Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group, were among the largest strikes attributed to Israel in recent years.  They came only days after the national security advisers of Israel, the United States and Russia met in Israel, with Washington and Jerusalem demanding that Moscow ensure the withdrawal of Iran’s forces from the region, according to intelligence sources.”

The Independent: More Than 11,000 Women And Children Related To Isis Suspects Held In 'Appalling Deadly Conditions' In Syria

“More than 11,000 foreign women and children related to Isis suspects are being held in “appalling” and “deadly conditions” in a locked desert camp in northeast Syria, a leading human rights organisation has warned. Human Rights Watch found overflowing latrines, sewage seeping into tattered tents, and inhabitants of al-Hol camp drinking wash water from tanks which contained worms. The organisation, which carried out several visits to the part of the camp which holds foreign women and children last month, urged countries to take back the thousands of foreign women and children being held by the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration for northeast Syria in the camp. At least seven thousand of the children are under the age of 12, most of whom are survivors of heavy fighting and are highly vulnerable. Human Rights Watch witnessed young children with skin rashes, emaciated limbs, and swollen bellies sifting through mounds of stinking garbage in the blazing sun or lying limp on tent floors. The United Nations estimate at least 240 children have died en route or upon arrival to al-Hol.  Aid groups and camp mangers said children are “regularly” dying from acute diarrhoea and flu-like infections, but warned the exact number may not be known as children are dying in tents rather than in hospitals and so may not be recorded.”

The Jerusalem Post: Hezbollah Operative Killed In Southern Syria Was Part Of Golan File

“The Hezbollah operative killed in Syria was part of the group’s clandestine “Golan File” which aims to establish and entrench a covert force in the Syrian Golan Heights that is designed to act against Israel when given the order. Mashour Zidan, a resident of the Druze village of Hader in the Syrian Golan Heights, was killed Monday after an IED planted in his car exploded as he was driving near the Syrian town of Sasa in southern Syria. While Syria’s official news agency SANA blamed his death on an IED, Syrian opposition reports stated that he was killed in an airstrike by an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle. Israel, which does not comment on foreign reports, has remained mum on his death. Hezbollah has also remained quiet and has not blamed Israel for his death. According to the Lebanese news site al-Modon, Zidan was believed to have been killed fighting in Syria’s eastern Ghouta after he “mysteriously disappeared four months earlier.” But, according to the report Zidan had been summoned to Lebanon before he returned to Syria with a new identity. His “mysterious” disappearance came around the time Israel announced that it uncovered Hezbollah’s Golan File network.”

Iran

Al Jazeera: Iran Warns Against International Naval Coalition In The Gulf

“Senior Iranian officials have warned against any attempt to form an international coalition to protect shipping in the Gulf, with the Islamic republic's first vice president saying the move will only bring insecurity to the region. The response comes after Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and France on Tuesday backed the UK's proposal for a European naval force after Tehran seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. Relations between the UK and Iran have been strained since British authorities detained an Iranian tanker earlier this month off the coast of Gibraltar on suspicion it was shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. Iran has accused the UK of acting at the behest of the US and demanded the immediate release of the ship. On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif congratulated Boris Johnson, who is set to take over as the next prime minister from Theresa May amid the diplomatic standoff between the two countries. “Iran does not seek confrontation. But we have 1,500 miles of Persian Gulf coastline. These are our waters & we will protect them,” he tweeted.”

The Jerusalem Post: UK Fears Iran-Backed Terror Cells Could Attack Europe In Case Of Escalation

“British intelligence fears that Iranian-supported terrorist cells in Europe could launch attacks on the UK and the rest of the continent if the situation in the Persian Gulf escalates, according to The Telegraph.  Iran ranks behind Russia and China as the nation posing the greatest threat to British national security, according to senior intelligence officers, and the seizure of the British flagged Sten Impero only deepened concerns about Iranian aggression in MI5 and MI6. Intelligence agencies believe that Iran has organized and funded sleeper terrorist cells throughout Europe, including the UK, and could order them to carry out attacks in response to an escalation in the Gulf conflict. The cells are linked to the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group, according to The Telegraph. One such cell was uncovered by counter-terrorism police in 2015, with tons of explosive materials at businesses on the outskirts of London. “Iran uses proxies and they have control of a network of individuals linked to Hezbollah,” said one source to The Telegraph. “Iran has Hezbollah operatives in position to carry out a terrorist attack in the event of a conflict. That is the nature of the domestic threat Iran poses to the UK.” Although MI5 and the Metropolitan Police are sure that raids in 2015 severely disrupted Iranian terrorist activities in the UK, there are still widespread cells throughout Europe.”

Al Jazeera: Iran Warns Against International Naval Coalition In The Gulf

“Senior Iranian officials have warned against any attempt to form an international coalition to protect shipping in the Gulf, with the Islamic republic's first vice president saying the move will only bring insecurity to the region. The response comes after Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and France on Tuesday backed the UK's proposal for a European naval force after Tehran seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. Relations between the UK and Iran have been strained since British authorities detained an Iranian tanker earlier this month off the coast of Gibraltar on suspicion it was shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. Iran has accused the UK of acting at the behest of the US and demanded the immediate release of the ship. On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif congratulated Boris Johnson, who is set to take over as the next prime minister from Theresa May amid the diplomatic standoff between the two countries.”

The New York Post: US ‘May Have Brought Down’ Second Iranian Drone In Strait Of Hormuz

“A US military commander said a Navy ship may have downed a second Iranian drone last week in the Strait of Hormuz. “​As always it was a complex tactical picture, we believe two drones. We believe two drones were successfully — there may have been more that we are not aware of ​— those are the two that we engaged successfully,” ​Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told CBS News on Tuesday. Speaking aboard the USS Boxer, the ship that ​targeted the drones, McKenzie said they are “confident we brought down one drone, we may have brought down a second.” CBS said the incidents took place about an hour apart after the Navy believed the two aircraft were flying too close to the ship. The USS Boxer was monitoring Iranian boats and helicopters in the region.​ Iran claimed the US brought down its own drone, a notion that President Trump dismissed by saying during a White House event Monday that the US used “new technology that’s actually quite amazing.”

Yahoo News: Iran Warns Brazil Over Stranded Ship Barred From Refueling

“Iran has threatened to cut its imports from Brazil unless it allows the refueling of at least two Iranian ships stranded off the Brazilian coast, in a sign of the global repercussions of U.S. sanctions on the Islamic republic. Iran’s ambassador in Brasilia, Seyed Ali Saghaeyan, told Brazilian officials on Tuesday that his country could easily find new suppliers of corn, soybeans and meat if the South American country refuses to permit the refueling of the vessels. Brazil exports around $2 billion to Iran a year, mostly commodities like corn, meat and sugar. Tehran buys one third of all Brazil’s corn exports. “I told the Brazilians that they should solve the issue, not the Iranians,” Saghaeyan said in a rare interview at the Iranian Embassy in Brasilia. “If it’s not solved, maybe the authorities in Tehran may want to take some decision because this is a free market and other countries are available.”

Iraq

The Stars And Stripes: Iraqi Forces Clear Farmland Near Baghdad Of ISIS Militants

“Iraqi security forces were sweeping villages and farmland north of Baghdad on Tuesday as part of an operation aimed at clearing remnants of Islamic State from around the capital. A military helicopter soared overhead as troops searched for weapon caches and bombs in Tarmiyah and Iraqi river police combed the Tigris River. The area is about 30 miles north of Baghdad. The dragnet is part of the operation dubbed “Will to Victory,” which started two weeks ago along the border with Syria and was extended last week to areas north of Baghdad and in the Diyala, Salahuddin and Anbar provinces. Iraq declared victory against ISIS in July 2017, but the extremists, who once controlled much of northern and western Iraq, have continued to carry out attacks, including ambushes and kidnappings. Maj. Gen. Jalil al-Rubaie, commander of the Baghdad Operations Command, described it as a “well planned operation” and urged residents of Tarmiyah to cooperate with security forces. Much of the area is sparsely populated farmland, which militants have used to launch attacks on security forces. Al-Rubaie said the operation was meant to reassure the population in and around Baghdad about security in the region.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Court Sentences Two Men To Death For Joining Islamic State

“An Iraqi court has sentenced two men to death after finding them guilty of joining the Islamic State group, a judicial council said. One of them was found implicated in terrorist attacks against security forces near the Baiji oil refinery and the University of Tikrit in the Sunni-majority province of Salahuddin, Baghdad Today website quoted the Supreme Judicial Council as saying in a press statement on Thursday. The other convict confessed to running a workshop for booby-trapping Islamic State vehicles in 2014, the statement read. The court rulings were issued pursuant to article no. ¼ of the anti-terrorism law, it added. Iraq’s anti-terrorism law empowers courts to convict people who are believed to have helped jihadists even if they are not accused of carrying out attacks. The exact number of detained Islamic State militants is still unknown, however, it’s estimated to be at thousands. It’s also unclear how many members are likely to face death sentences. The UN, the European Union and international human rights groups always criticize mass killings in Iraq and call for abolishing the death penalty, which was suspended on June 10, 2003, but was reinstated on August 8, 2004.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Security Arrest 7 Islamic State Members In Mosul

“Iraqi security forces arrested seven Islamic State members in the group’s formerly-declared capital, as authorities continue to hunt for the extremist group’s vestiges across its former havens. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the seven were apprehended in three neighborhoods of Mosul. It explained that some of those arrested worked for the group’s Hisbah (religious vigilantes) division, while the others worked as personnel officers. Iraq declared victory over IS late 2017, but security continues to arrest and eliminate runaway members at the group’s former strongholds.”

Turkey

Al Jazeera: Turkish Banker Jailed In US Over Iran Sanctions Repatriated

“A Turkish banker convicted for plotting to help Iran evade United States sanctions on Iranian oil proceeds has arrived in Istanbul, according to state media in Turkey. Mehmet Hakan Atilla on Wednesday landed in the Turkish city following his departure from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport the previous day, Anadolu Agency said. The former deputy director-general of Turkish lender Halkbank was arrested in March 2017 and convicted the following year on five counts of bank fraud and conspiracy following a five-week trial in New York. He was sentenced to 32 months in prison, but was released from prison early, on July 19, due to good behaviour. Prosecutors had wanted a 20-year sentence for the 48-year-old banker. Atilla claimed that he had only played a minor role in the scheme and acted as executor of instructions by the bank's director- general - an argument accepted by the court.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: Pakistan PM Says Taliban May Soon Release 2 Hostages

“Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan says militants may soon release two Western hostages as negotiations on a peace deal for Afghanistan make progress with his country’s help. Khan, who was in the middle of a three-day U.S. visit Tuesday, has repeatedly said the men, an American and Australian, could be freed from the Taliban-linked militants who have held them for nearly three years. “We will be giving you good news about the two hostages,” Khan told President Donald Trump in their meeting Monday at the White House. The prime minister did not mention them by name at the White House but in a later interview said he was referring to an American and an Australian kidnapped by the Taliban. “Pakistan is playing its part,” he told Fox News with Brett Baier. “And I think we’re very close. We hope to give some good news in the next 48 hours.” In its ongoing negotiations with the Taliban, the U.S. has been pressing for the release of American Kevin King, 62, and Australian Timothy John Weeks, 50, of Sydney. It’s unknown where King grew up in the United States, but the FBI said he speaks both English and Thai. The men, both English teachers at the American University of Kabul, were abducted August 2016 as they returned to the campus in the Afghan capital.”

Reuters: Pakistan Prime Minister Khan Says He Will Try To Persuade Taliban To Meet Afghan Government

“Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said he would try meet with the Taliban in an effort to persuade the group to meet with the Afghan government, as the United States seeks to end the nearly 18-year old war.  “I will meet the Taliban and I will try my best to get them to talk to the Afghan government,” Khan said during an appearance at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington. Khan said a Taliban delegation had wanted to meet him a few months back but he did not because of opposition from the Afghan government. The United States and the Taliban are getting closer to a deal that is expected to be centered on a U.S. pledge to withdraw troops in exchange for a Taliban promise not to let Afghanistan be used as a base for terrorism, officials say. However, the Taliban have refused to negotiate with the government, denouncing it as a U.S puppet, but in an effort to foster Afghan reconciliation, a 60-strong delegation of citizens met the Taliban for two days of talks in Qatar from Sunday. Pakistan’s role in the peace negotiations is a delicate one. Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, a charge Pakistan denies, saying it has suffered heavily from the fighting. The United States has also pressed Islamabad to do more to curb militant groups based in its territory.”

Yemen

Gulf News: Arab coalition foils Al Houthi threats to shipping

“The Arab coalition fighting Iran-allied Al Houthis in Yemen has helped thwart the militants’ attempts to imperil sea navigation, an official said. “On July 7, there was an Al Houthi attempt to target a commercial ship through an explosive-loaded boat,” coalition spokesman Turki Al Maliki said in a press briefing in Riyadh. “The alliance forces tackled the boat before it could reach the ship.” In recent weeks, Iran has been accused of attacking commercial vessels in the region amid heightened tensions with the US.On Friday, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard seized Britain-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero and towed it to the Iranian port of Bandr Abbas for an investigation over an alleged incident with an Iranian boat. Iran is the sponsor of Al Houthis, who plunged Yemen in a devastating conflict in late 2014 when they unseated the internationally recognised government there and seized the capital Sana’a. In recent weeks, they have stepped up their attacks into neighbouring Saudi Arabia. “Al Houthi militias continue to violate the international humanitarian law, perpetrate grave violations that amount to war crimes and attempt to target civilians inside Saudi Arabia,” Al Maliki said.”

The National: Yemen Government Condemns Houthi Killing Of Tribal Leader

“Yemen’s internationally recognised government condemned on Tuesday the killing of a tribal leader by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Fighting between two tribal groups loyal to the rebels resulted in the deaths of at least 10 people in the northwestern Amran province on Sunday. Sheikh Mujahed Kashira, a tribal leader who once fought alongside the Houthis, was killed after being accused of defecting. A video shared online showed gunmen attacking Kashira's lifeless body as they dragged it through a street. “The assassination of Sheikh Mujahed Kashira and the abuse of his dead body is compared to ISIS and those extreme groups,” Yemen’s human rights minister, Mohamed Askar, said.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Saudi MASAM Clears 77,000 Houthi Landmines In Yemen

“King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center's (KSrelief) project for clearing mines (MASAM) announced that it had removed 1,318 landmines planted by Houthi militias in the third week of July. MASAM Program Manager Osama al-Gosaibi said that “the engineering teams had removed 599 anti-tank and three antipersonnel mines. The teams also removed 714 unexploded ordnance and 42 explosive devices.” Gosaibi pointed out that 3,014 mines and unexploded ordnance in total have been removed since the beginning of July. The total number of mines, explosive devices and unexploded ordnance cleared since the launch of the project until July 18 reached 77,129, he stressed. Further, scores of insurgents were killed and injured in clashes with the Yemeni National Army and Arab Coalition airstrikes on the fronts of Saada, which is the Houthi stronghold, and Maarib, east of Sanaa.”

Qatar

Gulf News: Revealed: Qatari Involvement In Somalia Bombing

“When a small car bomb exploded outside a courthouse in the bustling port city of Bosaso in northern Somalia, local news reports chalked it up to Islamist militants retaliating for US air strikes. At least eight people were wounded, and a local affiliate of Daesh claimed responsibility. Now, in an in-depth report, the New York Times has revealed that Qatar was behind the attack. In an audio recording obtained by The New York Times of a cellphone call with the Qatari ambassador to Somalia, a businessman close to the emir of Qatar said the militants had carried out the bombing in Bosaso to advance Qatar’s interests by trying to driving out UAE. DP World manages the port in Bosaso. “The bombings and killings, we know who are behind them,” the businessman, Khalifa Kayed Al Muhanadi, said in the call May 18, about a week after the bombing.”

Middle East

Express: Israeli Artillery And Aircraft Strike 'Iran-Backed' Militias In Syria

“The Ikhbariyah news report said the strike was in Tel Haraa in southern Syria where western intelligence believe Iranian backed militias operate. The area was previously used as an outpost for Russian forces.  Last month, the Syrian army said it she down a number of Israeli missile targeting the location. Israel is believed to have target the area before. The Benjamin Netanyahu Government has poor relationships with both Tehran and Damascus, neither of whom recognise Israel. Israel has launched strikes across the border into Syria during the current Civil War engulfing the state. The strikes have targeted both Iran and Lebanese militant and political group Hezbollah, whom it regards as a threat to its borders.”

Egypt

The Wall Street Journal: Egyptian Families Accuse Security Forces Of Killing Detainees

“Egyptian security forces arrested Mohamed Abdelsatar at the school where he worked as a teacher in April 2017. Another man, Sabry Salah, was arrested the next month. Mr. Salah’s wife and Mr. Abdelsatar’s school asked the government for information about their whereabouts in the days after their arrests. None was forthcoming. The month after each man disappeared, however, the government said they were dead—killed by security forces in exchanges of gunfire. Those deaths and others like them are fueling allegations that Egypt’s security forces are killing detainees and later claiming they died in clashes with police, according to the accounts of Western security officials, victims’ relatives and documents seen by The Wall Street Journal. The killings are among hundreds carried out by the Egyptian Interior Ministry as it wrestles with attacks by Islamic State and other militant groups. Those attacks have claimed the lives of hundreds of Egyptians in recent years. The militant attacks and the increasingly lethal response by security forces have resulted in more scrutiny on the human rights record of the Egyptian government, a key U.S. ally and the recipient of billions in American military aid.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Sisi: We Can Curb Terrorism, Defeat Hotbeds Of Terrorism

“Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said that the threat of terrorism was at the top of challenges faced by his country during the past years. Sisi was addressing military graduates on the anniversary of the revolution of July 23rd, 1952. “The threat of terrorism was at the forefront of the challenges we faced over the past years, but thanks to the sacrifices of the great Egyptian army and its valiant police, we were able to besiege it, destroy its infrastructure and defeat extremists’ hotbeds,” he said. Egypt has been witnessing since the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi, in 2013, terrorist attacks targeting mainly the army and police forces, killing hundreds of people. Most of these attacks are limited in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, but some have extended to Cairo and other cities. Sisi said that the graduation ceremony came in conjunction with the anniversary of the July Revolution, “which represents the beginning of a new phase in the Egyptian history.” “It defended the nation’s future… making a radical change in the history of modern Egypt,” he stressed, referring to late President Gamal Abdel-Nasser’s revolution. The president also praised the Egyptian people for their steadfastness and commitment to preserve their country throughout all difficult stages.”

Libya

Bloomberg: Libya Chaos Is Threat To West Africa, Niger Minister Says

“The chaos in Libya, where strongman Khalifa Haftar has vowed to capture the capital from the internationally recognized government, is threatening to further destabilize its West African neighbors, Niger’s interior minister said. Several countries in the Sahel, a semi-arid region on the southern fringe of the Sahara desert, are already struggling to cope with Islamist militant violence and a surge in inter-communal conflict that’s being stoked by the jihadists’ presence. The conflict in Libya is “fuel on the fire,” Niger Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum said in an interview in the capital, Niamey. “The situation in Libya boosts the development of transnational border crime and the circulation of arms that reinforces armed actors and feeds into the conflicts across the Sahel,” Bazoum said in his office in a neighborhood protected by police checkpoints and spike barriers. The rapid spread of Islamist militant insurgencies in West Africa was triggered by the 2011 ousting of Libyan leader Moammar al-Qaddafi and the subsequent disintegration of the state. Weapons and ammunition from Libyan stockpiles, including anti-aircraft artillery and explosives, were smuggled into Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, mainly by former soldiers in the Libyan army that originally hailed from Mali and Niger.”

Nigeria

All Africa: Africa: Where Will Boko Haram Go Next After Ten Years Of Moving Around?

“The August 2011 Boko Haram bombing outside the UN building in Nigeria's capital Abuja killed at least 21 people. Credit: Gbemiga Olamikan. Ten years ago in July 2009, Nigeria's security forces cracked down on what was then a relatively little-known Islamic group in the north east of the country. At the time, that group's focus was preaching, although it believed al-Qaeda's path would bring Nigerian Muslims out of their abyss. The military operation led to the deaths of hundreds of its members, including the group's leader and cleric Muhammed Yusuf. Following this deadly attack, few expected Boko Haram to rebuild. Even fewer could have predicted that a decade later, the group would have the capability to raid military barracks not just in Nigeria but across the Lake Chad region. In the past year alone, the Islamist militants have attacked bases in Baga, Nigeria, Darak, Cameroon, and Dangdalla, Chad, while attacks in Niger continue to escalate. In the ten years since the insurgency began, the death toll from the conflict is at least 30,000 people, though observers suggest the real total could be closer to 70,000. Today, a decade since it was almost wiped out, Boko Haram has an estimated 6,000 fighters broken into two factions.”

Anadolu: Boko Haram Abducts 5 Women In Troubled Nigerian Town

“At least five women and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram in Nigerian troubled northeast town. Multiple security sources and residents told Anadolu Agency that some Boko Haram insurgents in a 4-wheel vehicle attacked Dikwa town, some 90 kilometers (about 53.4 miles) to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, on Tuesday morning. "The insurgents came at about 8:30am (local time), abducted seven women but found out one of them was a lactating mother, another one also escaped, while five were forcefully taken away," a military source in the area said. Ali Bulama, a resident, said the insurgents fired several shots while escaping the area. "The woman that ran away from the Boko Haram as they were going was hit with gunshot on her back," Ali said in a message. Military did not immediately respond to request for confirmation from Anadolu Agency in Maiduguri. The General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division of the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri could not be reached on his telephone.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Al-Shabaab Clash With Somali And AU Troops In Central Somalia

“Heavy fighting reported between Somali troops backed by Djibouti peacekeepers and Al-Shabaab in Hiran region of central Somalia on Tuesday, residents, and officials said. The battle erupted after the militants ambushed a military camp outside Bulo-Burde airstrip which is protected by Djibouti soldiers serving under AU mission in Somalia [AMISOM]. Al-Shabaab, the Al-Qaeda-linked militant group has claimed responsibility for the military base attack, saying it killed two government soldiers during the clash. The allied troops have launched operations against Al-Shabaab militants in southern Somalia, in an attempt to drive out the group from the entire regions of the country. The death toll in the Monday Bombing in the vicinity of Mogadishu airport has increased to 21.”

Africa

Asharq Al-Awsat: Hezbollah Agent Arrested In Uganda

“Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has contributed to the arrest of a Lebanese Hezbollah agent in Uganda, Ugandan media reported this week. Hussein Mahmood Yassine, an undercover agent working for the Iranian-backed group, was arrested on July 7 by a Ugandan security team at Entebbe International Airport before boarding a plane to Lebanon, the Kampala Post reported. Yassine, who had worked in Uganda since 2010, was held incommunicado, the Post reported, according to Israeli media. He was reportedly tracked for months before his arrest. According to an intelligence source, Hezbollah instructed Yassine to identify potential US and Israeli targets for attacks in Uganda and to recruit other Lebanese nationals for the party. The source also revealed that Yassine had already identified at least 100 Lebanese citizens living in the country for potential recruitment. Media reports in southern Lebanon had said earlier this month that Yassine’s family lost contact with him on July 7 while he was returning to his home country. Another family member named Ali Yassine has also gone missing, they said.” 

United Kingdom

BBC News: UK Terror Threat Level: Risk From Right-Wing Extremists To Inform System

“Risks posed by right-wing extremists in the UK are to be included in the terror threat level system from now on. Previously the system only assessed the threat from “international terrorism”. Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the assessment will now cover all forms of terrorism “irrespective of the ideology that inspires them” - including right-wing, Northern Ireland, and Islamist. The changes do not affect the current threat level of “severe”, meaning an attack is “highly likely”. The threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Northern Ireland is also currently “severe”. It remains separate from the national threat level. Both levels are determined independent of government ministers. Mr Javid said the purpose of a threat level system is to allow security services and police forces to determine what security measures to undertake, and to help the public understand why these measures are necessary. He said the levels are kept under constant review and are based on “the very latest intelligence, considering factors such as capability, intent and timescale”. “There remains a real and serious threat against the United Kingdom from terrorism and I would ask the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to the police regardless of the threat level,” Mr Javid added.”

The National: UK Denounces ‘Appalling’ Day Of Attacks Killing Scores Of Civilians In Syria’s Idlib

“The UK government condemned “appalling attacks” in which more than 50 civilians died in Syria’s north-west Idlib province on Monday. Britain’s special envoy to Syria, Martin Longden, said the attacks on markets in Maarat Al Numan and Saraqeb were “one of the deadliest days” in the months’ long offensive by the Syrian regime and its allies against Idlib. Idlib is one of the last remaining enclaves under the control of fighters opposed to the regime of President Bashar Al Assad. “We have continuously called on Russia and the regime in the UN Security Council to explain the repeated attacks on civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools – all places in which civilians should be safe," Mr Longden said. "We are yet to receive an adequate or reasonable explanation." Over 24 weeks, Damascus and its Russian allies have regularly bombed schools, hospitals and other civilian buildings in Idlib. The onslaught has caused an outcry from the international community and activists.”

Australia

The Washington Post: Australian Parliament To Ban Extremists From Coming Home

“Australia is set to pass laws as early as Wednesday that would allow the government to prevent suspected extremists from returning home for up to two years while Australian supporters of the Islamic State group are demanding to be repatriated from crowded Syrian refugee camps. The bills based on British law are scheduled for debate in the Senate on Wednesday after they were passed Tuesday night in the House of Representatives where the conservative government holds a majority. The center-left Labor Party opposition wants the legislation made more consistent with the British model with amendments that would allow a judge rather than Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to decide which Australians are banished. But the opposition supported the legislation in the House, indicating that their misgivings were not sufficient to attempt to block its passage. Dutton argues he needs the flexibility to act quickly to prevent extremists returning. He also argues that some of Labor’s proposed amendments set the threshold for preventing Australians from returning too high. The so-called Temporary Exclusion Order was “designed to ensure that authorities can manage these returns in a way that keeps the Australian community safe,” Dutton told Parliament.”

7News.Com.Au: Terrorists Jailed For More Than A Decade Over Melbourne Mosque Firebombing

“Three convicted terrorists will spend more than a decade each behind bars for firebombing a Melbourne mosque in an attack motivated by hate, intolerance and malevolence. Ahmed Mohamed and Abdullah Chaarani attempted once to burn the Imam Ali Islamic Centre at Fawkner in November 2016, before succeeding in a second attempt a month later, helped by Hatim Moukhaiber. Mohamed and Chaarani must serve at least 17 years of a 22-year sentence, while Moukhaiber will be eligible for parole after 12 years of his maximum 16-year prison term. The trio was found guilty in the Victorian Supreme Court in May of engaging in a terror act by firebombing the Imam Ali Islamic Centre at Fawkner in December 2016. Mohamed and Chaarani were previously convicted for their roles in planning a terror attack for Christmas Day 2016, targeting Melbourne's Federation Square, St Paul's Cathedral and Flinders Street station.”

New Zealand

Homeland Security Today.US: Far-Right Terrorism And New Zealand’s ‘Loss Of Innocence’

“The Counter Extremism Project has identified European Ethno-nationalist and white supremacy groups. Its report found that: “More than 70 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, ethno-nationalist and white supremacist movements in Europe continue to thrive. They include far-right political parties, neo-Nazi movements, and apolitical protest groups. Some groups openly espouse violent white supremacy, while others have propagated their radical stances under the guise of populism. Such populist groups claim that they are striving to protect average hardworking Europeans by preserving their livelihoods and heritages from economic and cultural threats posed by immigrants and ethnic minorities.”

Europe

Radio Free Europe: Russian Supreme Court Upholds Sentence For Ukrainian Convicted Of 'Promoting Terrorism'

“Russia's Supreme Court has upheld a six-year prison sentence given to 20-year-old Ukrainian national Pavlo Hryb. The North Caucasus Regional Court on March 22 convicted Hryb of “promoting terrorism,” a charge he contends was fabricated by the Federal Security Service (FSB). Hryb’s lawyers appealed the verdict, but in a ruling on July 23 the Supreme Court said it found no grounds to reverse the verdict. Hryb’s father, Ihor Hryb, condemned the March verdict as a “death sentence for Pavlo...who needs an urgent medical operation in order to live.” Ukraine denounced the verdict, calling it “unlawful,” and Hryb announced a hunger strike to protest the ruling as well as his treatment in jail. Hryb said he had been “denied medical treatment” while in custody. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry demanded the “immediate reversal of the unlawful sentence” and called for Hryb's “release and unimpeded return to Ukraine.” Hryb went missing in August 2017 after he traveled to Belarus to meet a woman he met online. Relatives believe he walked into a trap set by the FSB, which later told Ukraine that Hryb was being held in a detention center in Russia on suspicion of promoting terrorism.”

Southeast Asia

Reuters: Indonesia Says Militant's Arrest Reveals Plots, New Islamic State Links

“Indonesian police said on Tuesday a suspected militant arrested last week was plotting Independence Day bomb attacks and they suspect he was part of a network behind violence in the Philippines that also has ties to Islamic State in Afghanistan.  Officers from Indonesia’s anti-terrorism unit, Densus 88, arrested the suspect in the province of West Sumatra last Thursday, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told a news conference.  The suspect, identified as Novendri, was a member of the Islamic State-inspired Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) group, which was banned in Indonesia last year for “conducting terrorism” and being affiliated with foreign militants.  Authorities believe Novendri was planning bomb attacks including two police headquarters in the city of Padang in West Sumatra province and other police posts on Independence Day on Aug. 17, Prasetyo said. Police displayed a chart at the news conference, setting out the suspected foreign links of Indonesian militants including a leader, identified as Saefulah, who is believed to be based in an area of Afghanistan where Islamic State militants operate. According to Prasetyo, some Indonesian militants had tried to reach Afghanistan after the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.”

The Straits Times: Foreign Terrorists In Mindanao Grooming Suicide Bombers

“Philippine security officials yesterday confirmed that at least seven foreign terrorists were training local militants for suicide attacks in the country's restive south, and there could be dozens more. “They are doing the usual. They are training bombers, grooming suicide bombers, as manifested by the recent incident. They are also training (Filipinos) on other terrorist actions,” Lieutenant-General Cirilito Sobejana, head of the military's Western Mindanao Command, told reporters. He said these foreign extremists were behind the first suicide attack carried out by a Filipino. On June 28, 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, Sulu province. Three soldiers manning the camp's gate were killed, along with three civilians. Lt-Gen Sobejana said the seven foreign terrorists were scattered across war-torn Mindanao Island, which is the size of South Korea. They were with the small but brutal Abu Sayyaf group in the island provinces of Sulu and Basilan, 1,000km south of Manila, or the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in central Mindanao. Both groups have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group.”

Technology

The Wall Street Journal: Facebook Settlement Requires Mark Zuckerberg To Certify Privacy Protections

“Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg will have to personally certify that the company is taking steps to protect consumer privacy under a settlement expected to be announced with the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday, a person familiar with the matter said. The deal includes a requirement that Mr. Zuckerberg make the certification to the FTC quarterly based on his personal knowledge, the person said. A false statement in such a certification would be subject to potential penalties, this person said. Another person familiar with the matter said Mr. Zuckerberg will have to certify that Facebook has privacy controls in place. The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that the settlement includes a roughly $5 billion fine for Facebook and other requirements around how Facebook treats users’ privacy. Facebook doesn’t admit or deny guilt for previous privacy missteps as part of the deal, according to people familiar with the matter.”

CNBC: Facebook And Amazon Lead Tech Lobbying Spend As Antitrust Scrutiny Mounts

“Facebook and Amazon each spent more than $4 million on lobbying in the second quarter of 2019 as antitrust regulators have taken steps to scrutinize Big Tech. The two firms outspent their tech peers including Google, which was the biggest tech lobbying spender of 2018. Google reported $2.9 million in lobbying spend for the quarter, according to newly released lobbying disclosures, continuing a trend of reduced spending on such activity. Earlier this year, Google fired several of its biggest lobbying firms as it restructured its policy operations, The Wall Street Journal reported in June. Facebook spent $4.1 million on lobbying activity in the second quarter of 2019, outspending almost all other tech firms. Amazon followed closely behind, spending just over $4 million, although its filing does not include lobbying spend for its cloud division, Amazon Web Services, which could put it in the lead.”

The New York Times: Justice Department Opens Antitrust Review Of Big Tech Companies

“The federal government has turned its full investigative powers toward examining the world’s biggest technology companies, building on a backlash against the industry that has been growing for over a year. The Justice Department said on Tuesday that it would start an antitrust review into how internet giants had accumulated market power and whether they had acted to reduce competition. Similar inquiries are underway in Congress and at the Federal Trade Commission, which shares antitrust oversight responsibilities with the Justice Department. The action is the clearest sign yet that the longtime arguments that helped shield the tech giants from antitrust scrutiny are eroding. Since the 1970s, a consensus in antitrust circles has been that if companies were focused on consumer welfare — for example, by offering low prices — they were not likely to attract federal intervention. Since companies like Google and Facebook largely provide free services, the thinking went, they were not subject to federal antitrust examination.”