Eye on Extremism: July 25

The New York Times: Suicide Bomber Kills Officials In Mayor’s Office In Somalia’s Capital

“A suicide bomber walked into the mayor’s office in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, during a high-level security meeting on Wednesday and detonated explosives, seriously injuring the mayor and killing at least six people, according to local authorities. The mayor, Abdirahman Omar Osman, was in critical condition with head and stomach injuries, officials said. James Swan, an American diplomat who is the United Nations’ special representative for Somalia, had visited the mayor’s office earlier Wednesday but left before the attack, the authorities said. The Shabab, an Islamist extremist group with links to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility and said that Mr. Swan was the intended target, according to Radio Andalus, the group’s radio station. The Shabab, which seeks to overthrow Somalia’s Western-backed government, often target government offices and other high-profile places in Somalia’s capital. It was not clear how the attacker was permitted to enter the room and detonate explosives. People familiar with the mayor’s office, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation, said that it was closely guarded and that the bomber must have been familiar with the guards in order to enter.”

France 24: Three Blasts Rock Afghan Capital, Govt Employees Killed

“Three back-to-back bomb attacks rocked the Afghan capital, Kabul on Thursday, with one hitting a bus carrying government employees, killing at least 12 people, officials said.  Five employees of Afghanistan's Ministry of Mines and Petroleum were killed and 10 wounded in the bus attack, the officials said, adding that seven people were killed and more than 20 wounded in the second explosion. “First a magnetic bomb pasted to a minibus exploded, then a suicide bomber blew himself near the bus attack site and the third blast happened when a car was blown up by unknown militants,” said Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman of the interior ministry in Kabul. “The death toll could rise from all the three blasts,” he said. Gruesome video footage posted on Twitter by the Afghan Tolo TV station showed at least one body lying on a blood soaked street next to the chassis of a destroyed minivan. Ambulances rushed to the scene, ferrying victims to city hospitals and the area was closed off by security personnel. The Taliban claimed one attack targeting “foreign invaders” in a message posted on Twitter by its spokesman, who uses the nom de guerre, Mujahid Zabihullah. The militant group denied involvement in the other two attacks in the city.”

The National: ISIS Affiliate Releases Video Of Nigerian Aid Workers Begging For Their Lives

“Six Nigerian NGO workers kidnapped in Borno state last week have appeared in a hostage video begging for their lives, identifying their captors as militants from the local ISIS affiliate, a group that has previously executed humanitarians. In a three-minute video shared online on Thursday, a woman wearing a blue abaya and identifying herself as Grace begged her employer and the Nigerian government to help free her and the five men kneeling silently behind her. Identifying herself as a Christian Nigerian who works for the aid organisation Action Against Hunger (ACF), she said she and her colleagues “were caught by this army called the Calipha.” The video was released through the same channels as previous videos from the ISIS-linked Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). “I beg Action against Hunger, we have families some of us have children,” she said. “Please do something to release us.”

France 24: Bombardment Kills 20 Civilians In Northwest Syria: Monitor

“Bombardment by the Syrian regime and its Russian ally killed 20 civilians including five children Wednesday in the latest violence to hit northwest Syria. The Syrian regime and Russia have stepped up their deadly raids on the Idlib region since late April, despite an international deal intended to prevent a full-scale offensive on the area of some three million people. In almost three months, 730 civilians have been killed there in air strikes and ground-to-ground fire by the Damascus government and its allies. The bombardment has also hit two dozen hospitals in the opposition area, which is made up of most of Idlib province as well as slivers of adjacent governorates. On Wednesday, Russian air strikes killed 10 people from the same family, including three children, on a farm near the town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Ten others lost their lives in regime air strikes and artillery fire in other parts of the jihadist-run bastion, the Britain-based monitoring group said. Among these, regime war planes killed five civilians including two children in the town of Ariha in Idlib province, it said.”

WTOP: The Hunt: What’s Behind British Airways Canceling Flights To Egypt?

“A 2016 explosion that killed 224 people aboard a plane leaving Egypt for Russia might be linked to British Airways’ recent decision to cancel flights to Egypt. CEP Senior Director Hans-Jakob Schindler joins host J.J. Green to discuss the suspension of flights and the reasons behind it.”

Dhaka Tribune: Facebook, Whatsapp: Major Recruiting Tools For Radicalization

“For persuading university students, radical groups  used messaging or texting in their recruitment efforts – particularly on Facebook and Whatsapp – in certain parts of Bangladesh. Radical groups largely use Facebook and Whatsapp to contact university students to persuade them to join extremist groups, according to a study conducted by the Center for Enterprise and Society (CES) at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB). The research, “Social Media and Radicalization of University Students in Bangladesh,” authored by Sajid Amit, director CES and Executive MBA (EMBA) at ULAB, and Lumbini Barua, CES research associate, was based on a quantitative survey of 470 university students in Dhaka, Sylhet, and Rajshahi as well as interviews of experts. The study finds that 17.2% of students reported being approached online to join a religious group. Although it is not clear if the groups have links with extremists, experts think that extremist groups may be active on social media.”

United States

CBS Pittsburgh: Syria Native Accused In Church Bomb Plot Arraigned On Terrorism Charges

“The young man from Syria facing federal terrorism charges for allegedly plotting to bomb a Pittsburgh church was back in court Wednesday for his arraignment. According to our news partners at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 21-year-old Mustafa Alowemer was arraigned in U.S. District Court on terrorism charges. He pleaded not guilty and requested a trial by jury. Attorneys on both sides asked for three weeks for the trial, the Post-Gazette reports. Alowemer is accused of planning to bomb the Legacy International Worship Center on the North Side. Investigators say an undercover agent reported that Alowemer told him he was going to set off a backpack full of explosives on the side of the church. Last week, U.S. Attorney Scott Brady announced that a federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment against Alowemer. He is charged with one count of attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIS, and two counts of distributing information relating to an explosive, destructive device or weapon of mass destruction. Alowemer remains in federal custody.”

The Hill: White Nationalist Whose Family Reported Him For Extremist Behavior Pleads Guilty To Gun Charge

“A Washington, D.C., man reported by his family for extremist behavior pleaded guilty to a federal gun charge on Tuesday, The Associated Press reports.  Jeffrey Clark Jr., 30, 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, according to the AP. Clark was arrested on gun charges in November after authorities said they found multiple guns and military equipment in his home, and said Clark made anti-Semitic threats online. He was denied bail. Clark reportedly told investigators he is a white nationalist after he was taken into custody. Clark's relatives notified authorities after he allegedly made anti-Semitic social media posts on the website Gab after the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.  His relatives told police Clark and his brother were involved in the alt-right movement and became interested in guns in 2016, believing there were could be a civil war. Relatives said Clark “fantasized about killing ‘Jews and blacks,' “ according to a court filing. Clark allegedly posted on Gab after the Tree of Life shooting: “Get used to it libtards. This was a dry run for things to come.””

CNN: US Navy Sails Warship Through Contested Waterway As Beijing Warns Taiwan

“The US Navy sailed a warship through the Taiwan Strait Wednesday, a move that came on the same day Beijing warned that it would not rule out using force against self-governed Taiwan to block any move toward formal independence. The "USS Antietam conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit July 24-25 (local time) in accordance with international law," Cdr. Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy's Seventh Fleet, told CNN in a statement. "The ships' transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific," he added, saying "The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows." The US routinely sails through the Taiwan Strait, last doing so in May, but Chinese military forces view the strategic waterway separating China from Taiwan as a priority area and often shadow US vessels that sail through the area.”

Iran

CNN: Iran's President Hints At Tanker Exchange

“Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appeared to signal Wednesday that his country might be willing to release a British-flagged oil tanker it seized—in return for the UK's release of a detained Iranian tanker. In a speech during a weekly cabinet session, Rouhani said Iran did not want to have continued “tensions with some European countries.” “And if they are committed to international frameworks and abandon some actions, including what they did in Gibraltar, they will receive a proper response from Iran,” he said during the session, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency. The UK and Gibraltar seized the Iran-flagged tanker Grace 1 in early July. UK authorities alleged the tanker was attempting to transport oil to Syria, a violation of EU sanctions.  Iran, in turn, seized the British-flagged Stena Impero last week, alleging that the ship had violated “international regulations.” Rouhani praised Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, saying the seizure ensured security in the Gulf. “The IRGC courageously seized the British ship because it had refused all the orders and warnings. They did a very accurate, professional and right job. and I believe that the whole world must be grateful to the Islamic Revolution Guards for ensuring the security of the Persian Gulf,” he said.”

Reuters: Top Khamenei Aide Says No Talks With U.S. Under Any Circumstances

“The top military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that Tehran would not negotiate with the United States under any circumstances, an apparent hardening of its position as the Gulf tanker crisis escalates. The Swedish operator of a British-flagged oil tanker seized by Iran in the Gulf last week said it had been able to speak to crew members and all 23 of them were safe.  “We had direct contact with the crew on board the vessel last night by telephone and they’re all okay and in good health and they’re getting good cooperation with the Iranians on board,” Stena Bulk spokesman Pat Adamson said.  The company said it had no evidence that the ship had been involved in a collision, one of the reasons Iran has cited for sending commandos to capture it last Friday.  The tough remarks by Khamenei’s aide, Hossein Dehghan, a senior commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards whose views are seen as reflecting those of Khamenei, appeared to take a firm line in response to Western proposals to beef up security in the Strait of Hormuz in the wake of the seizure of the ship.  Dehghan said Iran would take action if the status of the strait were altered, and that no country would be allowed to ship oil through it unless all countries can.”

Iraq

Iraqi News: Iraqi Rapid Response Forces Arrest Four Islamic State Militants In Baghdad

“Iraqi rapid response forces announced on Wednesday the capture of four Islamic State terrorists in Baghdad. The arrests were made in al Tarmiyah district in Baghdad as part of a military operation, which was launched earlier this week to cleanse Iraq’s northern provinces from Islamic State terrorists. The four IS terrorists were arrested in line with article no. 4 of the anti-terrorism law. The second phase of the “Will of Victory” operation was launched on Sunday with an aim to attain security and stability in the desert area between Nineveh, Salahuddin and Anbar provinces on the Iraqi-Syrian border, in addition to preventing IS remains from sneaking into that region or even using it as a stronghold for their terrorist acts. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq. IS declared a self-styled “caliphate” in a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014. A government campaign, backed by a U.S.-led international coalition and paramilitary forces, was launched in 2016 to retake IS-held regions, managing to retake all havens, most notably the city of Mosul, the group’s previously proclaimed capital.”

Xinhua: IS Militants Attack 2 Villages In Iraq's Nineveh

“A local tribe leader and an Islamic State (IS) militant were killed Wednesday in separate attacks by the extremist militants on two villages in Iraq's northern province of Nineveh. One incident took place at dawn, when three IS militants infiltrated into a village near the town of Hammam al-Alil, some 20 km south of the provincial capital Mosul, and shot dead a local tribe leader after they broke into his house, Khalaf al-Jubouri, mayor of the town, told Xinhua. The attackers also wounded the nephew of the tribe leader, al-Jubouri said, adding that many of armed villagers clashed with the attackers and forced them to withdraw. Separately, IS militants attacked the Yazidi village in east of the town of Sinjar, some 100 km west of Mosul, prompting the security forces to repel the attack and killed one of them, Ziad Burjus from the local police told Xinhua. According to Burjus, reinforcement troops from the paramilitary tribal fighters and the provincial police arrived at the scene and launched a search campaign looking for the attackers in the area. The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017.”

Xinhua: Iraqi PM Meets European Delegation Over Counter-Terrorism, IS Foreign Captives In Iraq

“Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Wednesday discussed counter-terrorism efforts and the future of foreign Islamic State (IS) militants held captive in Iraq with a delegation from countries of the European Union (EU). During the meeting, Abdul Mahdi and the EU representatives “exchanged views over how to deal with large numbers of (foreign) Daesh militants (IS militants) captured in Iraq in order to punish them according to the law,” a statement by Abdul Mahdi's media office said. In recent months, Iraqi courts issued verdicts of death penalties to many foreign citizens involved in IS group. Thousands of fighters and supporters of various nationalities joined the extremist IS group when it took control of large areas in Iraq and neighboring Syria, but after its defeat in both countries, hundreds of IS loyalists were killed or captured.”

Turkey

Reuters: Turkey Has 'No Patience Left' With U.S. On Syria Safe Zone

“Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that new U.S. proposals for a safe zone in northern Syria fall short and Turkey was running out of patience as Washington appears to be stalling in efforts to seal an agreement.  U.S. special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey held talks in Ankara this week on the zone and other issues, including progress on a roadmap agreed last year for the northern town of Manbij to be cleared of the Kurdish YPG militia.  The militia has been the main U.S. ally on the ground in Syria during Washington’s fight against Islamic State.  However, Turkey has been infuriated by U.S. support for the YPG, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization, and has repeatedly demanded that Washington cut its ties.  Following the U.S. decision to withdraw from northern Syria, the NATO allies agreed to create the safe zone, which Turkey says should be controlled by its forces and also cleared of the YPG. But at a news conference in Ankara on Wednesday, Cavusoglu said that the two countries had failed to agree on how deep the safe zone would be, who would control it and whether the YPG would be completely removed from the area. ”We got the impression that they want to enter a stalling process here as in Manbij,” Cavusoglu said.”

Afghanistan

Radio Free Europe: Afghan Official: Four Police Officers Killed In Taliban Attack

“An Afghan official says four police officers were killed and two others wounded when Taliban militants attacked a security checkpoint in the western province of Farah. Mohibullah Mohib, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said two militants were killed in the incident late on July 23. Mohib did not reveal where in the province the attack took place. In a statement, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The militants have launched near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces, even as peace efforts have been gaining momentum to put an end to Afghanistan's nearly 18-year war. The Taliban control or contest around half of the country, controlling more territory than any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 ousted the group from power. The Taliban controls large parts of Farah, which is located on the border with Iran. Farah has been the scene of fierce fighting between the militants and government troops in recent years.”

Radio Free Europe: Afghan Official: Taliban Can Take Part In Presidential Election If Peace Talks Start

“The Taliban can take part in the September 28 presidential election if they start negotiations with the Afghan government, a spokesman for Afghan chief executive officer Abdullah Abdullah told local media outlet Tolo News on July 24. Speaking four days before the presidential election campaign starts, the spokesman, Fraidoon Khwazoon, said “the door is open for the Taliban whenever they are willing to come and sit with the Afghan government and take part in democratic and national stages.” His comments came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said he will meet with the Taliban to try and persuade them start negotiations with the Western-backed government in Kabul. “Now I will meet the Taliban…to get them to talk to the Afghan government, and so that the election” can be inclusive, Khan said at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington on July 23. There are 18 candidates competing for the presidency including current incumbent Ashraf Ghani, who is seeking a second term. All of them are men, including a former warlord. The election comes at a time when militants are launching attacks on Afghan security forces almost every day despite peace efforts gaining momentum to put an end to the nearly 18-year war.”

The National: Afghan Authorities Alarmed By ISIS Recruiters At Kabul University

“An investigation by Afghanistan’s spy agency this month led to the arrest of four ISIS recruiters, three of whom were teachers at the country’s largest university, raising questions about the ability of extremists to operate in the capital and recruit from the country’s young students. Of the three suspects, Mubashir Muslimyar was a lecturer, while Zahir Daee and Mohammad Maroof Rasikh were teachers of religious studies at Kabul University, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a statement on July 8. The suspected insurgent recruiters were detained in Kabul and are believed to have played a role in a spate of recent attacks in the Afghan capital, including against a bus carrying civil servants on June 4 and the September bombings of a wrestling club in which 21 people died. Beyond their involvement in organising attacks, the NDS investigation raises questions about their efforts to radicalise and recruit students. The teachers’ alleged activities became known after former students of Mr Muslimyar were detained following the aforementioned attacks and identified him as a recruiter. One 24-year-old graduate who studied Information and Communication Technology under Mr Muslimyar in 2014 told The National that his former lecturer had exhorted students to “join jihad against the infidel government.”

Fox News: Afghan Women Fear Renewed Chapter Of Sharia Law And Regression Of Rights Under Taliban’s Thumb

“With the possibility of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal looming in the very near future – which would likely see the withdrawal of almost all American troops – Afghans are bracing for the next chapter of life in the war-ravaged nation. But with the Taliban in the driving seat, it’s women who have the most to lose. “This is not a good situation. Once there were good schools that had opened for girls and boys even in remote villages,” Ziba, a 28-year-old mother, and former school teacher – who lives under Taliban control in Logar province – told Fox News. “But now many have been shut down (by them) to become Taliban prisons.” She added: “Now there is just madrassa to teach religious subjects and for the boys, they learn to fight and at the madrassas for girls, they are taught they must stay at home in the future.” Ziba stressed that women are no longer permitted to go out alone in areas controlled by the group – which she equated with her memories of being a little girl growing up the 1990’s when the Taliban officially controlled the country before being usurped by U.S forces after the September 11, 2001 attacks. “The only change I see is that they aren’t destroying televisions anymore, but now music is allowed. I can’t see any other change in their actions, they are punishing civilians as always,” she continued.”

Radio Free Europe: Croatia Says One Soldier Killed, Two Injured In Afghanistan Attack

“A Croatian soldier was killed and two were seriously wounded in Afghanistan in a suicide attack on their convoy outside Kabul on July 24, Croatia's Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic told a news conference in Zagreb. The soldiers were en route to Kabul airport when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle slammed into one of their vehicles, Krsticevic said. It was the first fatality suffered by the Croatian military since it began deploying troops to Afghanistan in 2003. Croatia, which became a NATO member in 2009, currently has a 99-strong contingent in Afghanistan. Croatian General Kresimir Tuskan said the troops had been working as part of a British-led special operations advisory group. The Taliban has claimed the attack. About 20,000 foreign troops, most of them American, are in Afghanistan as part of the U.S.-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces.”

Pakistan

Arab News: Taliban ‘Will Visit Pakistan If Formally Invited’

“The Afghan Taliban will visit Pakistan in the “coming weeks” if a formal invitation is extended, it said on Wednesday, after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said he would meet Taliban leaders to persuade them to hold negotiations with the government in Kabul. During an appearance at the US Institute of Peace on Tuesday, Khan said: “I will meet the Taliban and I will try my best to get them to talk to the Afghan government.” The US and the Taliban are getting closer to a deal expected to center on a US pledge to withdraw troops in exchange for a Taliban promise not to use its forces to interfere in US affairs. The group has refused so far to hold direct talks with the administration of President Ashraf Ghani, which it considers a “puppet” regime. Earlier this month, three Afghan government officials joined a delegation of over 50 people at an intra-Afghan conference in Doha, also attended by Taliban political envoys to discuss the future of the war-ravaged country. The Taliban insisted that the officials were only present in a personal capacity, and not as representatives of Ghani. Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Wednesday a visit to Pakistan could take place in the coming weeks.”

Yemen

Arab News: Video Shows Houthi Militia Beating Corpse, Chanting ‘Death To America’

“A video of purportedly recorded by Houthi militia was shared on social media this week, showing a corpse being beaten while men chant “Death to America! Death to Israel.” The footage showed a corpse being dragged on the ground by his left arm while the armed men chant the Houthi slogan: “Death to America! Death to Israel! Curse the Jews, and victory for Islam.” The video also showed the men kicking and stabbing the dead body. The man, identified as Mojahed Al-Ghuli, was from the Amran province in northwest of Yemen and helped the militants in local battles. There were however people in the video who were shouting that he was a traitor. “Houthis did not just kill him, they also mutilated his body and dragged it after they bombed his house,” Yemen’s Media Minister Moammar Al-Aryani said. Due to the graphic nature of the video, Arab News has opted to not show it. Such aggressions and violations are proof that Houthi militants could not be trusted as they did not follow moral rules and are bloodthirsty, he added. Yemen’s Deputy Minister of Information, Abdulbaset Al-Qaidi, said that the video showed that the Houthis are “more dangerous than Daesh.” “If this is how they deal with those who support them, how will they be with the rest of Yemeni people who are fed up with them,” Al-Qaidi said.”

Xinhua: Yemeni Houthi Rebels Claim Fresh Drone Attack At Saudi Air Base

“Yemen's Houthi rebels said they launched a drone attack at a Saudi air base early on Thursday, Houthi-run al-Masirah TV reported. The attack targeted King Khaled Air Base in the border city of Khamis Mushait in southwestern Saudi Arabia, said the television. However, Turki Al Maliki, spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition involved in the Yemeni war, denied the reports that King Khaled Air Base was targeted by the Houthis' bomb-laden drone. The drone was intercepted and destroyed without causing casualties, he was quoted by the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television as saying. Houthi rebels have recently stepped up drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, but most of the drones were intercepted by the kingdom's air forces. Saudi Arabia has been leading an Arab military coalition against Iran-allied Houthis in Yemen for more than four years in support of the exiled internationally-recognized government of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.”

Libya

Xinhua: Libyan Security Arrests Al-Qaeda Leaders In Tripoli

“Interior Ministry of Libya's UN-backed government on Wednesday announced arresting a number of leaders of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb on the outskirts of the capital Tripoli. “Within the framework the fight against terrorism and pursuit of those wanted locally and internationally, a raid was carried out and arrested internationally wanted terrorists classified as leaders of al-Qaeda, against whom arrest warrants were issued by the Office of Investigations of the Attorney-General,” the ministry said in a statement. “The operation has been carried out on the outskirts of Tripoli after those wanted had recently infiltrated into Tripoli, taking advantage of the deterioration security situation as a result of the war of the capital,” the statement said. Weapons, hand grenades, ammunition, and documents were seized with the arrested terrorists, the statement added. Since early April, the government has been engaged in deadly war against the eastern-based army over control of the capital.”

Somalia

Voice Of America: Suicide Attack Kills 6 People, Injures Mogadishu Mayor

“A suspected al-Shabab suicide bomber killed at least six people Wednesday and injured six others, including the mayor of the Somali capital Mogadishu, witnesses and security officials said. The attack took place at local government headquarters in Mogadishu, where Mayor, Abdirahman Omar Osman — who is also the governor of Banadir — was meeting with his deputies and the city's district chairpersons about security challenges, Deputy Mayor Mohamed Tulah told state-run Radio Mogadishu. Al-Shabab is claiming responsibility for the attack, and the terrorist group says it was targeting the U.N. Special Envoy to Somalia James Swan, an American national who had met with the mayor prior to the attack. Swan strongly condemned the attack, saying, "I deplore this heinous attack which not only demonstrates a violent disregard for the sanctity of human life, but also targets Somalis working to improve the lives of their fellow Somalis in the Mogadishu-Banadir region. The United Nations stands with the people and government of Somalia in their rejection of such terrorist acts, and our thoughts are with the victims of this attack.”

Africa

Saudi Gazette: Delegation Of Islamic Anti-Terror Coalition Visits Mali

“A delegation of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) has visited the Republic of Mali to assess the mechanism for the implementation of support for G5 Sahel Joint Force, submitted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday. Head of the delegation and Representative of Saudi Arabia to the Coalition Maj. Gen. Muhammad Bin Abdulkhaleq Al-Ghamdi visited the office of Commander of the Force Lt. Gen. Hassan Ould Sidi, where they discussed the importance of the support. The Commander of the Joint Force expressed his thanks for the support being provided by the IMCTC in general and by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in particular.”

Xinhua: UN Envoy Calls For Approach To Prevent Terrorist Threat Expansion In West Africa, Sahel

“The West Africa and the Sahel's UN envoy on Wednesday called on the governments to redouble their efforts in defining a concerted approach to prevent a further expansion of the terrorist threat in the region. Speaking at the Security Council semi-annual briefing on West Africa and the Sahel, the special representative of UN secretary-general for the region Mohamed Ibn Chambas said that the region recently has witnessed an even more visible and significant rise in violent attacks directly related to violent extremism. Chambas said that the security situation remains volatile in the entire Sahel, where escalating violence and insecurity have sparked an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, leaving a total of 5.1 million Burkinabe, Nigeriens and Malians in need. According to Chambas, in Burkina Faso, a total of 226 security incidents contributed to an accelerated displacement from 47,000 in December 2018 up to 220,000 internally displaced people and more than 25,000 refugees in June 2019, representing an almost five-fold increase. Chambas said the past six months has shown a rapid deterioration of the security situation in Burkina Faso. While talking about the situation in the Lake Chad Basin, he said that attacks by Boko Haram splinter groups continue to threaten the peace and stability of the region.”

United Kingdom

Sky News: Islamic State Supporter Farhad Salah Jailed For 15 Years Over Remote-Controlled Car Bomb Plot

“An Islamic State supporter who watched “utterly depraved and sickening” extremist footage, has been jailed for 15 years for plotting to detonate a bomb inside a remotely-controlled vehicle. Farhad Salah, 24, from Sheffield, had been in the early stages of testing small improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in preparation for an attack when he was arrested in December 2017, jurors heard. Sentencing him to 15 years in jail and three on licence, Judge Paul Watson said Salah had “become wedded to an extremist ideology and was preparing to take action to give effect to those views”. He said the risk of him causing death or serious injury by his planned use of explosives was obvious. The judge said Salah's viewing of “utterly depraved and sickening” extremist footage showed how committed he was. He said: “Your attitude to extreme violence and loss of life, sometimes in unimaginably horrifying circumstances, indicates clearly to me that you, had you carried your preparations through to conclusion, would have had no hesitation in causing loss of life or the infliction of terrible suffering.” Anne Whyte QC, prosecuting, said during the trial: “The intention was to manufacture a device which would be placed in a vehicle but controlled remotely so that no one had to martyr themselves in the process.”

Vice News: The UK Now Considers Far-Right Terror As Dangerous As Islamic Extremism

“The British government has overhauled the way it assesses terror threat levels to include homegrown and right-wing extremists, putting them on an equal footing with foreign and jihadist threats. Until now, the terror threat system — which assesses the likelihood of an attack in the UK on a scale from”low” to “critical” — has only addressed the threat from international terrorism, which the Home Office said had become largely synonymous with jihadist attacks. Announcing the changes Tuesday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the new system reflected the growing terror threat from the far-right. “While the Islamist threat remains, we have recently seen an increase in terrorist activity motivated by the extreme right-wing,” he said. “Our approach to stopping terrorists is the same, regardless of the twisted ideology that motivates them.” The Home Office said the changes resulted from a wide-ranging review of Britain’s counter-terror approach following a spate of attacks in 2017: three jihadist attacks at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, and London Bridge, and a far-right car-ramming attack outside a London mosque. It said the old classification system was outdated, as Islamist terrorism could be homegrown, while far-right terror could also have an international dimension.”

Australia

France 24: Families Of Islamic State Fighters To Sue Australia Over Repatriation

“Australia faces a lawsuit aimed at forcing the government to repatriate Islamic State fighters' wives and children from a Syrian refugee camp, lawyers for their families told AFP Thursday. The threat of a lawsuit comes the same day as parliament passed legislation to prevent Australian citizens who have fought for the Islamic State from returning home for up to two years under so-called “temporary exclusion orders”. Lawyers for the Australia-based families of nearly 30 women and children currently held in Syria's Al-Hawl camp said the firm was preparing to refer their case to the Federal Court in coming days. Sarah Condon, of the Melbourne law firm Stary Norton Halphen, said the government had a legal obligation to protect Australian civilians abroad and called for a timeframe for the extraction of the families living in conditions she described as “increasingly volatile and dangerous”. “The urgency therefore arises from the hellish conditions of the camp, and the psychological damage that is caused to children when they are being indefinitely detained,” Condon told AFP. Eight orphans of two Australian IS fighters were removed from the camp in June into the care of Australian officials. “We understand that it is not an easy logistical task, and that it may take time,” Condon said of repatriating the remaining families.”

Europe

Reuters: Two Charged With Terrorism Over Bulgaria's Biggest Data Breach: Lawyer

“Prosecutors have charged two workers at a cyber security company with terrorism as part of an investigation into Bulgaria’s biggest-ever data breach, a lawyer for the defendants said on Wednesday. Georgi Yankov, a manager at the company Tad Group, has been charged and released from custody, Georgi Stefanov said. Earlier charges of crime against information systems against Kristian Boykov, a 20-year-old cyber security worker at the same company, have been changed to terrorism, he added. Both deny wrongdoing, Stefanov said. Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment. “We are very surprised with these charges,” Stefanov told Reuters. “How do you charge someone with terrorism but let them go?” he added. On Tuesday, police raided the offices of Tad Group, seizing computers and detaining a manager over last month’s cyber attack on the tax agency, in which nearly every Bulgarian adult’s personal data and financial records were compromised. Boykov was conditionally released from custody last Wednesday, but banned from leaving the country. Prosecutors have said they believe Boykov did not act alone and were looking for others in connection with the attack. Prosecutors believe Boykov was behind an email sent from someone purporting to be a Russian hacker who was offering stolen tax agency files to local media.”

The National: After ISIS: How Kosovo Is Rehabilitating Women And Children Repatriated From Syria

“Visar never expected to see his grandchildren again after his daughter took them with her when she followed her husband to Syria to join ISIS in 2014. Now, five years later, Visar – not his real name – stands watching his five grandchildren playing in the inner courtyard of his simple home surrounded by rolling hills and cornfields in a remote village 20 kilometres north of the Kosovan capital Pristina. “The youngest was six-months-old when they went to Syria and the last [grandchild] was not born yet”, he says, lighting one cigarette after another. If he had known of his daughter’s plan to follow her husband, “I would have done everything to stop them,” he says. “My daughter was threatened by her husband and she was forced to follow him. They made a mistake. “Was it better to leave them in Syria or try to correct their path? If my daughter was wrong, she will pay for her mistakes, but my grandchildren are innocent creatures” he says.  Visar’s daughter, Edina (also not her name), was married to Arbenin Demolli. He was one of the 316 Kosovars who joined ISIS but was killed in a US airstrike in Aleppo in a few months after their arrival. After he was killed, his wife and children remained in Syria, moving across ISIS territories first to Hasaka in the northeast and then to Raqqa.”

The Wall Street Journal: European Governments Struggle To Build Coalition To Secure Persian Gulf

“European governments are struggling to build an international coalition to protect oil tankers in Middle East waterways while pursuing diplomatic solutions after last week’s seizure of a U.K. tanker by Iran. The U.K. is spearheading a European maritime initiative that would be separate from a parallel U.S.-led plan. But London doesn’t yet have a specific proposal for securing commercial shipping, and there are signs France and other European countries have a more modest mission in mind, European diplomats said. Russia and Iran are proposing Persian Gulf protection plans of their own. Officials in the U.K. and France say they have talked to German, Italian, Spanish and other European governments about a mission. There is broad agreement that freedom of navigation must be safeguarded, they say, but that a mission must not escalate tensions and would be separate from the U.S.’s pressure campaign against Iran.”

Southeast Asia

Yahoo News: 4 Dead In Southern Thailand Attack On Military Outpost

“Four people were killed in an attack on a military outpost in southern Thailand, where Muslim rebels are active, Thai police said.An unknown number of assailants carried out the attack Tuesday night using firearms and explosives, triggering a gunfight that left four dead and three injured, said Pol. Col. Yanapong Ubolbarn, chief of the Muang Pattani police station. Two people who were part of a village defense unit were killed immediately, while a soldier and a volunteer officer died in a hospital. The attack also left three other volunteer officers wounded. A Muslim separatist insurgency has left about 7,000 people dead since 2004 in Thailand's three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala. Police said the attackers Tuesday were riding on motorcycles as they threw explosives at the outpost. They waited for the explosions to subside before opening fire on the outpost and security officers. A firefight took place for several minutes before the attackers retreated. The unidentified assailants also scattered nails on the road to intercept incoming vehicles that came to help the attacked security officials, police said. Separately, rebel groups in Thailand's deep south issued statements Tuesday to condemn an incident in which a suspected insurgent was allegedly taken from his home for interrogation by officials and within 24 hours was rushed to a hospital in critical condition with brain injuries.”

Al Jazeera: Sri Lankan Investigator: No ISIL Link To Easter Bombings

“Sri Lanka's Easter attacks that killed more than 250 people were carried out by local groups who drew inspiration from, but were not directly linked to, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group, a Sri Lankan investigator has said. Ravi Seneviratne, head of the Sri Lankan police Criminal Investigation Department (CID), made the remarks on Wednesday in a meeting with the country's parliamentary panel investigating the security and intelligence lapses that led to the April 21 bombings. Seneviratne said the suicide bombers who targeted three churches and three hotels had no direct link to the foreign armed group. “They followed the IS ideology, but our investigations have not shown any link between them,” Seneviratne told the parliamentary panel.  He noted that remnants of the National Thowheeth Jamath (NTJ), the armed group that was held responsible for the Easter attacks, had persuaded ISIL to claim the attack two days after the deadly events in Sri Lanka. NTJ leader Zahran Hashim made a video with fellow NTJ members pledging allegiance to ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi. The video was released by ISIL two days later. Another investigator, Shani Abeysekara, told the same parliamentary panel that the CID found 105 kilogrammes of explosives from an NTJ hideout earlier this year.”

Technology

The New York Times: Facebook Antitrust Inquiry Shows Big Tech’s Freewheeling Era Is Past

“Facebook came under siege on multiple fronts on Wednesday, agreeing to new layers of oversight and two fines to settle privacy and disclosure violations, even as it acknowledged that it was under investigation from the Federal Trade Commission for antitrust concerns. Early in the day, the company was penalized by the F.T.C. with a record $5 billion fine for deceiving users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal data. As part of a settlement, the company was also ordered to create a new privacy committee on its board and to make other structural changes to increase the transparency and accountability of its data practices. But the agreement was criticized for failing to limit Facebook’s gathering, sharing and use of people’s personal information, a practice that has repeatedly raised privacy questions. And the F.T.C.’s commissioners were divided on partisan lines this month when they voted 3-to-2 to approve the measures, which provide immunity to Facebook’s officers and directors and shield the company from known claims of violations through last month — essentially giving it a pass on its past.”

The New York Times: Facebook Agrees To Extensive New Oversight As Part Of $5 Billion Settlement

“Facebook was ordered on Wednesday to create new layers of oversight for its collection and handling of users’ data by the Federal Trade Commission, as the agency detailed a privacy settlement with the social network that became a referendum on how aggressive American regulators would be against big tech companies. Under the agreement, the F.T.C. mandated that the Silicon Valley company add new positions and practices to increase the transparency and accountability of how it treats people’s information. The agency also formally imposed a record $5 billion fine against Facebook for deceiving users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal data. Yet the measures, which the F.T.C.’s commissioners approved in a 3-to-2 vote this month, drew sharp criticism for not going far enough in curbing the data habits of the world’s largest social media company. Republican and Democratic lawmakers pilloried the settlement as a drop in the bucket for Facebook and said the F.T.C. failed to limit a core practice that has repeatedly raised privacy questions: the company’s gathering, sharing and use of people’s personal information.”