Eye on Extremism: July 8

Reuters: Russian-Led Assault In Syria Leaves Over 500 Civilians Dead: Rights Groups, Rescuers

“At least 544 civilians have been killed and over 2,000 people injured since a Russian-led assault on the last rebel bastion in northwestern Syria began two months ago, rights groups and rescuers said on Saturday. Russian jets joined the Syrian army on April 26 in the biggest offensive against parts of rebel-held Idlib province and adjoining northern Hama provinces in the biggest escalation in the war between Syrian President Bashar al Assad and his enemies since last summer. The Syrian Network for Human Rights,(SNHR), which monitors casualties and briefs various UN agencies, said the 544 civilians killed in the hundreds of attacks carried out by Russian jets and the Syrian army include 130 children. Another 2,117 people have been injured.”

The Washington Post: Taliban Car Bomb Hits Intelligence Compound In Afghanistan, Killing At Least 12 And Wounding Schoolchildren

“For the second time in a week, Taliban insurgents Sunday greeted the opening of new peace discussions in Qatar with a deadly suicide bombing at home, this time killing 12 people and wounding at least 179 in an attack in conflicted Ghazni province.  The defiant message from the morning attack on a national intelligence compound, which wounded scores of children at a nearby school, drew a sharp contrast with optimistic statements by U.S. officials and negotiators, who expressed hope this week that a peace agreement — or at least the outlines of one — could be reached by Sept. 1.  Just as a delegation of Afghan leaders were finishing breakfast and heading to an ice-breaking “peace summit” with Taliban officials in Doha, the Qatari capital, word came that the insurgents had claimed responsibility for a rush-hour assault in Ghazni city, the provincial capital they besieged and shut down last August. A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, quickly claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack and said “dozens” of intelligence employees had been killed. Intelligence officials said two of its employees were dead and 80 others wounded. The Ghazni governor’s office said in a Facebook post that 12 people had been killed and 179 wounded, many of them schoolchildren.”

Voice Of America: US Call For Syria Troops Divides German Coalition

“Discord broke out in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition Sunday, after the United States urged the country to send ground troops to Syria as Washington looks to withdraw from the region. "We want ground troops from Germany to partly replace our soldiers" in the area as part of the anti-Islamic State coalition, U.S. special representative on Syria James Jeffrey had told German media including Die Welt newspaper. Jeffrey, who was visiting Berlin for Syria talks, added that he expects an answer this month. Last year U.S. President Donald Trump declared victory against IS and ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 American troops from Syria. A small number have remained in northeastern Syria, an area not controlled by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and Washington is pushing for increased military support from other members of the international coalition against IS.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iran’s Breach Of Nuclear Pact Tests European Resolve

“Iran confirmed it was enriching uranium at levels that breach the 2015 nuclear agreement, leaving France, Britain and Germany with delicate decisions in the coming days over how to respond. A spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy agency said Monday that the country had started enriching uranium at 4.5% on Monday morning, according to state media, above the 3.67% purity allowed under the deal. If confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversees Tehran’s nuclear work, it would be Iran’s second breach of the accord. “We are in the process of verifying this development,” an IAEA spokesman said. After Iran said Sunday that it would exceed the 3.67% limit, European countries said they were extremely concerned by the move and urged Iran to return to full compliance with the 2015 deal. Iran also threatened to take further steps in two months’ time to disregard its commitments under the accord.”

Africa News: Jihadist Attack In Mozambique Kills Seven

“Seven people, including a police officer, were killed in northern Mozambique in an attack claimed by the jihadist group Islamic State, local sources reported on Saturday. One police officer and six civilians, including two children, were killed in the attack, which took place on Wednesday evening in the village of Lidjungo, Nangade district, AFP was told by a local official based in Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique, without giving details of how the attackers operated.  Since October 2017, Islamist militants have targeted isolated communities in Cabo Delgado province, a gas-rich and predominantly Muslim province, killing more than 250 people and forcing thousands more to leave their homes despite a strong police and military presence in this region bordering Tanzania. Caliphate soldiers attacked Mozambican army barracks in the Nangade region of northern Mozambique two days ago, killing and wounding a number of them and forcing others to flee. According to SITE Intelligence, which monitors jihadist activities, the Islamic state group issued a statement on Friday evening, stating its involvement in the Wednesday attack. This is the second time he has claimed an attack in northern Mozambique.”

The Hill: Want To Support Victims Of Torture? Put The Squeeze On Iran

“June 26 marked the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, commemorated on the anniversary of the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Torture. For many imprisoned Iranians, it was yet another day of torture by the country’s repressive regime, which has never signed the Convention. If free democracies want to walk the walk in opposing torture, they should increase economic and political pressure on Tehran to stop this barbaric practice.”

United States

The Hill: A Terrorist's Bioweapon Could Kill Millions — And There's Little We Can Do To Stop It

“The nuclear weapons programs in Iran and North Korea have been a primary concern to world security for more than a decade. But there is another significant worldwide threat to consider — bioweapons. And with the advent of genetic editing — where the DNA or RNA of a virus or bacteria can be modified to form a deadly weapon — the terrorist arsenal of weapons could be about to change for the worse. Biological agents have long been a concern for national security. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to five news media outlets and two Senate offices, killing five people and infecting 17. That case led to a focus on anthrax as a weapon and, at first, to fears that Al Qaida, Iraq or another foreign enemy was behind the anthrax attacks.  The threat of further “anthrax letters” or a wider foreign attack never materialized, however. And in fact, as I wrote in “False Alarm: the Truth About the Epidemic of Fear,” there are reasons that an anthrax threat is limited, beginning with the fact that the bacteria is not contagious. Not only that, but a warhead containing anthrax would destroy the bacteria on impact because of the amount of heat released in the explosion.”

The Guardian: Atlanta Prosecutors Accuse Iranian Scientist Of Violating US Sanctions

“An Iranian scientist coming to the US for a prestigious visiting scientist position was arrested on arrival and remains in detention eight months later. When Professor Masoud Soleimani left Tehran last fall, he planned to complete the final stage of his research on treating stroke patients as a visiting scholar at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. His lawyers say Soleimani, who works in stem cell research, hematology and regenerative medicine, saw a former student’s plans to travel from the US to Iran in September 2016 as a chance to get recombinant proteins used in his research for a fraction of the price he would pay at home. But he was arrested on landing in Chicago and prosecutors in Atlanta have accused him and two of his former students of conspiring and attempting to export biological materials from the US to Iran without authorization, in violation of US sanctions. The two counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.”


Al Arabiya: Syria Kurds Host Conference On ISIS Detainees

“Dozens of international experts gathered in northeastern Syria on Saturday to discuss how to manage thousands of suspected ISIS group members crammed into Kurdish-run prisons and camps. French lawyers and US-based analysts were among those attending the three-day conference on the challenges still facing the region after ISIS’s territorial defeat, organizers said. Officials of the autonomous Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria, which is hosting the conference in the town of Amuda, were also due to take part. In March, Kurdish-led fighters overran the last pocket of the extremists’ cross-border “caliphate” with support from a US-led coalition. Now, the Kurds are struggling to cope with the thousands of alleged ISIS members they detained during the battle. They include around 1,000 suspected foreign fighters held in jail, and some 13,000 family members in overcrowded camps. With no local court equipped to deal with the large number of extremist suspects, the Kurds have pressed their home countries to take them back. But Western governments have been reluctant to repatriate them or put them on trial at home. “There is global consensus that action urgently needs to be taken to deal with the thousands of foreign ISIS fighters and affiliates, plus ISIS-linked children, currently detained in northeast Syria,” the organizers of the three-day conference said, using another acronym for ISIS.”


The New York Times: Iran Announces New Breach Of Nuclear Deal Limits And Threatens Further Violations

“Iran said on Sunday that within hours it would breach the limits on uranium enrichment set four years ago in an accord with the United States and other international powers that was designed to keep Tehran from producing a nuclear weapon. The latest move inches Iran closer to where it was before the accord: on the path to being able to produce an atomic bomb. President Trump withdrew the United States from the accord last year and in May dealt a crippling blow to Iran’s economy by implementing sanctions intended to cut off its oil sales any where in the world. In recent weeks, Tehran has retaliated by making deliberate but provocative violations of the accord as part of a carefully calibrated campaign to pressure the West into eliminating sanctions that have slashed the country’s oil exports and crippled its economy. Last week, Iranian officials broke through similar limits on how much nuclear fuel the country could stockpile. The steps Iran has taken are all easily reversible. Yet the new move Iran said it was taking on Sunday — to increase enrichment levels beyond the 3.67 percent purity that is the ceiling under the deal — is the most threatening. Speaking at a news conference on Sunday in Tehran, the deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, said Iran would take additional steps over the limits of the accord in 60-day intervals unless international powers provide sanctions relief as detailed in the deal.”

The Washington Post: Iran Surpasses Uranium Enrichment Limit In First Major Breach Of Nuclear Deal

“Iran has surpassed the cap on uranium enrichment set by a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said Monday, warning that Tehran would take further steps to reduce its commitments under the accord.  Behrouz Kamalvandi, speaking to local news agencies, said Iran has exceeded the 3.67 percent limit and is now enriching uranium at 4.5 percent, a rate far below the 90 percent needed to produce a nuclear weapon. The move was designed to pressure Europe to reset the terms of the nuclear agreement following a U.S. withdrawal from the pact last year. The deal curbed Iran’s atomic energy activities in exchange for widespread sanctions relief. Iran says European nations have failed to compensate Tehran for economic losses now that the United States has reimposed trade and other restrictions lifted under the deal.  The International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that its inspectors were still verifying the boost in enrichment levels, news agencies reported. The IAEA, a U.N. nuclear watchdog, monitors Iran’s nuclear activities. “We are aware of Iran’s announcement related to its uranium enrichment level. We are in the process of verifying this development,” an agency spokesman said, Reuters news agency reported.”

Associated Press: Reports: Iran Enriching Uranium To 4.5%, Breaking Deal Limit

“Iran began enriching uranium Monday to 4.5%, breaking the limit set by its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, semi-official news agencies in the country reported. The acknowledgement by the spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran comes a day after Iran pledged to break the deal’s limit of 3.67%. The decision to ramp up uranium enrichment came less than a week after Iran acknowledged breaking the 300-kilogram (661-pound) limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile. Experts warn higher enrichment and a growing stockpile could begin to narrow the one-year window Iran would need to have enough material for an atomic bomb, something Iran denies it wants but the deal prevented.”

Reuters: Iran's Defense Minister Says Britain's Seizure Of Oil Tanker Was Threatening Act

“Britain’s seizing of an Iranian oil tanker last week was a threatening act that will not be tolerated, Iran’s Defence Minister Amir Hatami said on Monday in a speech broadcast live on state television. Royal Marines impounded the tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday on suspicion it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. Iran denies the vessel was headed to Syria, where the government of President Bashar al-Assad is an ally of Tehran. Authorities in the British territory said the tanker can be held for up to 14 days. An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander threatened to seize a British ship in retaliation. “These days we witnessed a threatening act from the government of England in the Strait of Gibraltar against a tanker from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Hatami said. “This is an incorrect and wrong action, an action similar to maritime robbery...certainly these kind of robberies will not be tolerated."


Iraqi News: Iraqi Paramilitary Forces Kill Two Islamic State Terrorists In Nineveh

“An Iraqi paramilitary force said on Sunday that its personnel killed two Islamic State terrorists during a military operation in Nineveh province. In a press statement carried by Al Sumaria News TV channel, the pro-government Popular Mobilization Forces said its fighters “killed two militants of the Islamic State terrorist group” in al-Ba’aj district in Nineveh province as part of a wide-scale military operation, which was launched earlier in the day on the country’s border with Syria. The Joint Operations Command had launched the “Victory Will” operation on Sunday morning to pursue Islamic State remnants, who are still at large in Nineveh, Salahuddin and Anbar provinces. 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.”

The National: Iraq Begins Operation To Clear ISIS Militants From Syria Border

“Iraq's security and paramilitary forces on Sunday launched a military operation along the border with Syria to clear the area of ISIS militants that have remained since the group's territorial defeat, the military said in a statement. Although Iraq declared victory against ISIS in July 2017, the extremists have launched an insurgency and have carried out deadly attacks in the country.  The military said the operation that began at sunrise was being carried out by Iraqi troops and members of the Popular Mobilisation Forces that largely consist of Iran-backed militias. It said the operation will last several days and was the first phase of the Will of Victory Operation securing the western province of Anbar and the central and northern regions of Salahuddin and Nineveh. “We press on the hands of our heroic forces that will achieve victory with the will of its heroes against the gangs of Daesh,” said Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi using an Arabic acronym to refer to ISIS. “May God protect you and make you victorious.” ISIS once held large parts of Syria and Iraq where it declared a caliphate in 2014. The extremists lost in March the last territory they controlled in Syria. Anger in Sunni areas of Iraq laid the groundwork for ISIS to rise in 2014, when they captured the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.”


The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Envoy Points To Progress In Afghan Peace Talks With Taliban

“Since his appointment nine months ago as U.S. special envoy to the Afghan peace process, Zalmay Khalilzad has navigated the jealousy-ridden, backbiting corridors of the Kabul political establishment, crisscrossed Europe and Asia to solicit the support of American rivals and disgruntled allies, and wheeled and dealed through the secretive, paranoid world of the Taliban, a 25-year-old Islamist insurgency. Like a carnival plate spinner, the Afghan-born Mr. Khalilzad has kept these highly breakable undertakings whirling in the air simultaneously. That feat of diplomatic agility has achieved—as far as is publicly known about the annals of the Afghan war—unprecedented progress in reaching a negotiated settlement of the nearly 18-year conflict. But as the seventh round of talks in the Gulf state of Qatar between the U.S. and Taliban negotiators recessed over the weekend to make way for two days of discussion between the insurgents and a delegation of prominent Afghan political and civic figures flown in from Kabul, Mr. Khalilzad suggested the plates would soon be spinning faster and the risks of a stumble rising. The 68-year-old veteran American diplomat said on Saturday that he was aiming by Sept. 1 to reach agreement with the Taliban on a road map to complete negotiations on a comprehensive settlement of the war.”

The New York Times: Afghan Talks With Taliban Reflect A Changed Nation

“When the Taliban met Sunday for the first time with Afghan officials, the delegates they faced formed a moving tableau of a new Afghanistan that has taken shape since the movement was toppled 18 years ago. Bloodshed and progress in those years have gone hand in hand, and many of the representatives at the table — from each side — came with stories of personal loss and grievance. The dialogue in Qatar, which continues on Monday, is the first in which Afghan government officials have participatedand aims to break the ice for direct negotiations on Afghanistan’s political future after an expected United States military withdrawal. “It is important to give all sides the opportunity to see how things have changed over the past 18 years,” said Sultan Barakat, the director of the Doha institute that organized the event with a German foundation. “Eighteen years is not a short time, but war tends to trap people into imperceptions.” Among the Afghan participants are current and former senior officials who lost family members to suicide bombings, and a media executive who saw a bus full of his employees go up in flames. When in power, the Taliban did not allow women to work or go to school.”

Reuters: Islamic State Says It Carried Out Attack At Shi'ite Mosque In Central Afghanistan

“Islamic State fighters claimed responsibility on Saturday for a deadly overnight attack in a mosque in central province of Ghazni in Afghanistan.  At least two people were killed and 20 others sustained injuries as a bomb planted by the hardline Islamist militants inside the Mohammadiya mosque, used by Shi’ites, went off on Friday night, said Aref Noori, a provincial government spokesman.  Islamic State frequently targets Afghanistan’s Shi’ite minority, which it calls “apostates”. The militant group said 40 people were injured in the explosion.  The explosive device was planted ahead of the Friday prayers, government officials said.  Ghazni has recently been the scene of heavy clashes between government forces and Taliban militants.  While Afghanistan’s wars have mostly been fought among Sunni Muslims, there have been increasing numbers of attacks on Shi’ite targets in recent years.  Islamic State increasingly claims responsibility for attacks on civilian targets even as talks for peace between U.S. officials and the Taliban to end the Afghan war intensify.  No reliable census information exists on the size of the Shi’ite community in Afghanistan, but estimates range around 10-15 percent, including most members of the Persian-speaking Hazara ethnic group and some Tajiks.”

Xinhua: Afghan Airstrikes Kill 25 Militants In Southern Province

“A total of 25 militants have been confirmed dead as fighting aircraft pounded Taliban hideout in Marof district of the southern Kandahar province, provincial police chief Tawdin Khan said Saturday. According to the official, the air raids, launched by the NATO-led Resolute Support mission's fighters in the early hours of Saturday, killed 25 insurgents on the spot. Taliban militants who have intensified their activities in the country are yet to make a comment.”


The Washington Post: Police Arrest Al-Qaeda Funder In Pakistan

“Authorities in Pakistan say counterterrorism forces have arrested a man who funding for al-Qaeda militants under the cover of a non-governmental organization. Officer Ilyas Khan of the provincial Counter-Terrorism Department said late Saturday Ali Nawaz was using multiple bank accounts linked with the NGO, Human Concern International. The official said federal investigators have monitored heavy transactions in the organization’s accounts in recent months. He said the counterterrorism forces in the northwestern city of Peshawar raided the NGO offices on Saturday, arresting its regional director Nawaz and three others. In recent months, Pakistani authorities have launched a heavy campaign against terrorism financing. The country is currently on the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list, denoting its status as a haven for money laundering. It has until October to avoid black listing.”


Bloomberg: Radio Station In War-Torn Yemen Raises $132,000 For Hezbollah

“A fundraising campaign on a Yemeni radio station affiliated with Iran-backed Houthi rebels has collected 73.5 million Yemeni rials for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. The campaign on the Sam FM station solicited donations from listeners in the Arab world’s poorest nation from May 25 to July 5, reported the rebel-held Saba news agency. It was the radio’s third fundraising campaign and the first for Hezbollah. Saba cited the value of the funds as equaling $132,000, likely using a black market rate for the currency. U.S. sanctions on Hezbollah’s backer Iran have strained the Lebanese group’s finances, prompting its leader Hassan Nasrallah to appeal for public assistance. Hezbollah has been accused of supporting the Houthis in their war against the Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition.”

Daily Sabah: Houthis Kill 10 In Attacks In Hodeida, Yemen Officials Say

“Yemeni officials and witnesses say rebel attacks have killed at least 10 pro-government forces in the key port city of Hodeida. They say the clashes, which flared up Wednesday, wounded at least seven civilians when shells hit their residential areas in the contested Red Sea city. The officials demanded anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief reporters. Witnesses asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals. Yemen's internationally recognized government accused the Houthi rebels of using U.N. facilities in Hodeida to attack its forces. It says the attack killed at least 10 troops, and wounded 20 others. The Houthis claimed in May to have completed the long-delayed redeployment of their forces from Hodeida ports under a December cease-fire agreement. Yemen's internationally recognized government has accused the Houthis of handing the ports over to allied fighters.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Yemen: Houthis Commit 18,000 Human Rights Violations In 6 Months

“Houthis' violations of human rights had escalated this year in Sanaa and other areas under their control, confirmed security and human rights sources in Sanaa. They said militias committed about 18,000 violations over the past six months, basing their information on reports from state facilities. The violations varied between killings, kidnappings, house raids, confiscation of properties, and arbitrary arrests at the checkpoints deployed in streets and roads between the provinces. Human rights organizations expressed their deep concern over the Houthi escalation against civilians and innocent people, especially women and children. They asserted that such actions oppose human rights and constitute a flagrant violation of international conventions and laws, as well as the customs and traditions of the Yemeni society.” 


The Hill: US Has Given Lebanese Armed Forces A Pass With Hezbollah — Conditioning Aid Is Necessary

“American diplomats have been quietly mediating a resolution to the Israeli-Lebanese maritime border dispute, an important step to avoiding another war between these two countries. However, even if American mediators can resolve the dispute, Hezbollah’s presence in southern Lebanon keeps alive the possibility of a devastating war. In any future war with Israel, Hezbollah will likely rely on its growing arsenal of roughly 120,000 missiles and rockets that likely can overwhelm Israel’s air defenses. Both of us have participated in trips to the Israel-Lebanon border with the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) that demonstrated the next war between Israel and Hezbollah will yield unprecedented destruction on both sides.”

Middle East

The Arab Weekly: Israeli Attacks On Iranian, Hezbollah Targets In Syria Show No Sign Of Waning

“Tensions between Israel and Syria are escalating and show little sign of slowing. Suspected Israeli strikes June 30 in Syria killed 15 people, the UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said. Syria responded by firing anti-aircraft missiles, one of which crashed in northern Cyprus. A headquarters and a research centre of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in a southern suburb of Damascus were hit, along with a military airport and munitions warehouses, operated by Hezbollah forces near Homs in the Israeli suspected attack, the Observatory reported. Syria termed the attack as “state terrorism” and lodged a complaint with the United Nations. The strikes June 30 were the latest in a long series of attacks Israel is said to have undertaken against Iranian targets and those of Tehran’s allies in Syria as it seeks to push the Iranians back from its borders.”


Al Monitor: Egyptian Politicians Arrested, Accused Of Working With Muslim Brotherhood

“The Egyptian Interior Ministry announced that it had arrested several politicians and journalists suspected of planning to form a terrorist cell it named as Amal in cooperation with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is designated as a terror group by the Egyptian government. The Amal (“Hope”) Alliance is a nascent coaltion of liberal and leftist groups. In a June 25 statement, the ministry explained the case also involves the owners of 19 Egyptian real estate, development and service companies affiliated with the Brotherhood and with a combined capital of 259 million Egyptian pounds (about $15 million), which it alleges is intended to finance demonstrations against the Egyptian government. The defendants include Zyad al-Elemy, a former leader of the Egyptian Democratic Party and a 2012 member of parliament, and Hassan Barbari, the executive director of the Egyptian Labor Relations Forum, an international human rights organization. The arrests included two politically active journalists, among others. Hossam Mo’nis is the former leader of the presidential campaign of the 2014 presidential candidate Hamdine Sabah and Hisham Fouad is a leader in the Revolutionary Socialists movement in Egypt.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: ISIS Re-Emerges In Southern Libya To Pledge Allegiance To Baghdadi

“ISIS re-emerged in southern Libya, pledging its allegiance to the terrorist group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Dozens of masked gunmen appeared in a video released by ISIS media to renew their allegiance, vowing to carry out reprisals against the Libyan National Army (LNA). They announced that they will continue combating the LNA, threatening to launch more terrorist attacks against it. Local sources suspected that the video was shot in a remote desert region in southern Libya where dozens of ISIS gunmen, led by Mahmoud al-Baraasi, are located. Barassi, known as Abu Musab al-Libi, is the former founder of the ISIS affiliate in the eastern city of Benghazi. In May, ISIS had claimed responsibility for an attack on an oilfield in the town of Zillah, some 650 kilometers southeast of the capital Tripoli. The attack was seen as an escalation against LNA-held regions in the South.”


Reuters: Boko Haram Kills At Least Five Soldiers In Northeast Nigeria - Sources

“Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram ambushed Nigerian soldiers in the northeast of the country, killing at least five and injuring more than a dozen, sources told Reuters on Sunday.  The sources said the death toll could increase as a number of soldiers were still missing after the attack on Thursday in Damboa, in Borno state in northeastern Nigeria.  The soldiers had gone to the area to clear a Boko Haram camp, but were ambushed, the sources said.  Boko Haram militants have killed thousands and displaced millions in Nigeria during the group’s decade-long insurgency against the government.  The general commanding officer, Brigadier General Bulama Biu, confirmed a confrontation between troops and Boko Haram, but said there was “no casualty on the part of troops.”  Three military sources and three fighters with armed vigilante group Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) said the bodies of five soldiers had been recovered, and that 16 fighters, including 14 soldiers and two civilians, were injured. The sources said multiple fighters were still missing.”

All Africa: Nigeria: Boko Haram Crisis Worsens, More People Affected Since October 2018 - Un

“The UN Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) says the humanitarian crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states needs renewed support in the face of the recent upsurge in violence and growing humanitarian needs. IASC, made up of senior officials from UN agencies and NGOs, said this in a statement in Abuja at the end of a five-day visit of the mission to Nigeria. The statement said the mission also raised the alarm on the development as the number of people facing food insecurity had recently increased to three million, up more than 10 per cent from October 2018. “During the mission's visit, the UN senior officials met with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, the Borno State Governor and a wide range of UN agencies, humanitarian NGOs and partners in Maiduguri. “They also visited several camps for internally displaced persons and some of the towns most affected by the crisis in Borno State- Damboa, Dikwa, and Rann,” it stated. It quoted Reena Ghelani, Director of the Operations and Advocacy Division for the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNCHA), as saying that “the crisis in the Lake Chad Region is far from over.” “This is not the time for the humanitarian community and the rest of the international community to spare any effort.”


Kashmir Reader: Somali Al-Shabaab Executes At Least 10 For Espionage: Reports

“Militants from the al-Shabaab group have reportedly executed at least 10 people in the south of Somalia over the past week. Radio France International Afrique reported late on Sunday that the first five, who were suspected of spying for Kenyan, Somali, and US intelligence, were killed on 3 July. According to the broadcaster, the other five suspected spies were executed the next day. The executions reportedly took place in the south of Somalia, where al-Shabaab militants control vast territories. Al-Shabaab, which reportedly emerged in Somalia in 2006, is allied with the al-Qaeda. Somalia has been engulfed in violence since the eruption of a civil war between clan-based armed groups in the early 1990s.”


Bloomberg: Africa Needs Greater U.S. Commitment To Fight Islamist Militants

“Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou called for greater U.S. involvement in the fight against mushrooming Islamist insurgencies in West Africa -- at a time when President Donald Trump is scaling back America’s military presence on the continent. Too little is being done to combat the fighters, Issoufou said Saturday in an interview in the capital, Niamey. Militants, some linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, have carried out attacks in Mali, Nigeria, Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger. Other countries in the region including Ivory Coast and Ghana have stepped up security in the face of the growing threat. Niger is already at the center of an international effort to fight the insurgencies in the Sahel, an arid area on the southern fringe of the Sahara. France and the U.S. both have a military presence in Niger -- the U.S. built a $110 million drone base in northern Niger and has deployed special forces on the ground. “I propose an international coalition, like you see in Syria or Iraq, to fight terrorism in the Sahel and the Lake Chad basin,” Issoufou, 67, said. “When I say an international force this also includes the U.S.” The extent of U.S. involvement in Niger was unclear until four American soldiers were killed in an ambush by more than 100 Islamist militants in the southwest of the country in 2017.”

United Kingdom

USA Today: Global Terrorism Is In Decline. For Victims, It Doesn't Feel Like It

“Moments after Christine Delcros was hit by a van that mounted a sidewalk during the London Bridge terror attack, she thought to herself: “That's how one dies.” Delcros, 46, was seriously injured in the 2017 vehicle assault that, along with a stabbing rampage, killed eight people. Her fiance wasn't as lucky. Xavier Thomas' body was later found in the River Thames, where it was knocked by the terrorists' speeding van. ”Where is Xavier?” Delcros, who is French, asked a passerby who was cradling her head as she regained consciousness, according to emotional testimony she gave recently to a British inquest court. A day before the incident, Delcros had a premonition: “Just as we reached the bridge I told (Thomas) we shouldn't go there. He replied: 'Why are you saying this to me now?' I told him: 'I do not know ... I can feel it.'“ Stories of terrorism include mass shootings at New Zealand mosques, bombings that struck churches and hotels in Sri Lanka; an attack in Paris by gunmen and suicide bombers on a concert hall, stadium and restaurants; and New York City's deadliest post-9/11 assault, when a man killed eight people as he drove a truck down a bicycle path.”

The Jerusalem Post: U.K. Far-Right Extremist Sets Himself On Fire As He Attacks Synagogue

“London criminal court handed a far-right extremist that tried to set a synagogue on fire a hospital order without limit of time on Friday, CNN reported. On July 21, 2018, Tristan Morgan set the 18th century synagogue in the city of Exeter on fire. A clip released by the Devon & Cornwall Police on Twitter shows the 52-year-old man breaking a window with a hammer, then pouring something from a tank inside the building, before igniting it. The blast of the fire was so powerful that it backfired against Morgan himself, causing severe burns. The 52-year-old chose to attack the synagogue, the third oldest in England, on the day of Tisha Be' Av, which commemorates the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem and other tragedies of Jewish history. “Please tell me that synagogue is burning to the ground. If not, it's poor preparation,” Morgan said as he was put in a police van, according to the BBC. The British public broadcasting company also pointed out that Morgan had previously admitted arson and two terrorism-related charges, for encouraging terrorism by publishing a song entitled White Man to live-streaming website Soundcloud and possessing a copy of the White Resistance Manual. “Morgan is clearly very unwell and following multiple detailed medical assessments, it is clear that a hospital order is appropriate.”

The Guardian: Northern Ireland Terrorism Police Arrest Man And Woman

“A man and a woman have been arrested on suspicion of a range of terrorism-related offences. Detectives from PSNI terrorism investigation unit (TIU) arrested a 31-year-old woman when officers carried out a search operation at an address on in Glarryford, near Ballymena, Co Antrim, on Friday evening. A 33-year-old man was later arrested after police stopped a car on the Westlink in Belfast in a follow-up operation. DI Anthony Kelly said: “The proactive search at the property uncovered a range of suspected munitions and a quantity of ammunition. All items will now be subject to forensic examination.” The arrested pair have been taken to PSNI’s serious crime suite where they will be questioned under terrorism legislation.”

The New York Post: Woman Arrested At Gatwick Airport On Suspicion Of Terrorism

“A 40-year-old Swedish woman has been arrested at Britain’s Gatwick Airport on suspicion of terrorism, police said Friday. She remains in custody while inquiries continue, Counter Terrorism Policing South East said in a statement. The woman was detained on Thursday afternoon on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism after arriving on a flight from Italy. No further details were immediately available.”


The New York Times: A Political Murder And Far-Right Terrorism: Germany’s New Hateful Reality

“The death threats started in 2015, when Walter Lübcke defended the refugee policy of Chancellor Angela Merkel. A regional politician for her conservative party, he would go to small towns in his district and explain that welcoming those in need was a matter of German and Christian values. Hateful emails started pouring in. His name appeared on an online neo-Nazi hit list. His private address was published on a far-right blog. A video of him was shared hundreds of thousands of times, along with emojis of guns and gallows and sometimes explicit calls to murder him: “Shoot him now, this bastard.” And then someone did. On June 2, Mr. Lübcke was fatally shot in the head on his front porch, in what appears to be Germany’s first far-right political assassination since the Nazi era. The suspect — who made a detailed confession last month, only to retract it this past week under a new legal team — has a violent neo-Nazi past and police record, renewing criticism that Germany’s security apparatus, with its long track record of neglecting far-right extremism, is still failing to take the threat seriously enough. Far-right militancy is resurgent in Germany, in ways that are new and very old, horrifying a country that prides itself on dealing honestly with its murderous past.”


The Irish Times: Government Rejected Military Plan To Bring Home Suspected Isis Supporter Lisa Smith

“The Government rejected a plan from the Defence Forces to bring Irish-born suspected Islamic State supporter Lisa Smith home from Syria two months ago through co-operation with foreign intelligence agencies. The plan, which was drawn up by the Directorate of Military Intelligence, also known as J2, was presented to Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe in late April. It involved requesting US military intelligence personnel extract Ms Smith (37) and her two-year-old child from the Al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria. She would then have been brought south to the Jordanian border where Irish officials would have escorted her back to Ireland. US military intelligence officials had provisionally agreed to assist their Irish counterparts in the operation. However, the plan was rejected by the Government.”


Sydney Morning Herald: Islamic State 'Are Maintaining The Rage': Inside Australia's Fight Against Terrorism

“Like many a 20-year-old, Greenacre youth Isaak el Matari harboured big ambitions. But if allegations made against him in court this week prove correct, his dreams were far from the run-of-the-mill variety shared by most young men his age. Instead, they were of the deadliest kind: a self-aggrandising fantasy steeped in the bloody ethos of Islamic State. According to police, el Matari fancied himself as the “general commander of Islamic State Australia” with plans to create a “stronghold” in the Blue Mountains from which to launch “guerrilla-style” attacks against his fellow citizens. “We are terrorists,” he had allegedly proclaimed to others, boasting of his willingness to sacrifice himself for the jihadist cause.”

Southeast Asia

Asia Times: Al Qaeda Vs ISIS For Indonesia’s Terror Crown

“The arrest of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) leader Para Wijayanto, a supposedly non-violent member of the regional terrorist network who has been on the run for the past 17 years, is a timely reminder that terror groups affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS) are not the only persistent threat to Indonesia’s security. Wijayanto, 54, was detained at a hotel in eastern Jakarta following the arrest of 12 JI members, including eight who had either gone to Syria or had been involved in sending other militants there for training with the al Qaeda-affiliated an-Nusra militia, now known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS). Despite JI’s professed peaceful approach, the training in Syria is a throwback to the terror outfit’s early history in the mujahedeen training camps of Afghanistan during the Russian occupation and presents another long term security risk as the radical Muslim world adjusts and adapts to the collapse of the ISIS caliphate. Among other senior JI leaders now in custody are Taufik Teguh Prasetyo, 46, who returned from Syria in 2013, Agus Suparnoto, 43, who arranged travel to Syria, and Joko Supriyono, 47, owner of an eyeglass kiosk and a motorcycle repair shop and the coordinator of all JI training in Central Java from 2016-19.”

This Week In Asia: Why A Resurgent Jemaah Islamiah In Indonesia Is Also Bad News For Malaysia And Singapore

“For the past five years, little was heard of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the Southeast Asian offshoot of the international terror network al-Qaeda. While JI was responsible for some of Indonesia’s deadliest terror attacks, including the devastating 2002 Bali bombings, the group kept a low profile as counterterrorism police focused on countering threats from militants linked to Islamic State (Isis). That was until last weekend. On Monday, Indonesian police announced the capture of JI’s leader Para Wijayanto, 54, who had been on the run since 2003. His wife and three of his associates were also detained. Para’s arrest revealed a resurgent JI, actively recruiting members and building up a clandestine paramilitary wing in an effort to regenerate and consolidate itself. Police discovered it had transformed from a radical group living off donations and robberies to a budding business enterprise with interests in palm oil plantations on the islands of Sumatera and Kalimantan.”


BBC News: Is There A Growing Far-Right Threat Online?

“Far right activity on the internet threatens to spill over into violence in the real world, according to some observers. But are governments and tech companies doing enough to counter the danger? Two days before the attack, Australian Brenton Tarrant tweeted images of the weapons he was going to use. Half an hour before, he outlined what he was going to do in an online forum. A few minutes before, he emailed a manifesto explaining why. And as he began, he switched on a Facebook live stream for people around the world to watch. The attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which more than 50 people were killed, was an act of violence foreshadowed online.  Tarrant, who appeared in court in June to deny the charges, was a lone individual. But he was also someone who inhabited an internet-based international subculture, one whose ideology is moving from the darker reaches of the internet into the political mainstream.  The fear is that security services and tech companies have been slow to deal with this growing new threat. In late 2018, Tarrant was a long way from his New Zealand home, driving around Austria.  He had spent the past few years travelling the world, venturing as far afield as North Korea and Pakistan.”

Yahoo News: Removing Extremist Groups From Social Media Limits Their Impact – Report

“Removing extremist groups from major social media platforms such as Facebook is an effective way to limit their impact and reach, new research suggests. A report by the Global Research Network on Terrorism and Technology says the example of far-right group Britain First and its removal from Facebook in 2018 shows that removal can cut the level of exposure such groups receive. It claims that since being removed from Facebook, its number of followers has dropped from the 1.8 million it had on the site to around 11,000 on a smaller, alternative platform – Gab. The page of Britain First and those of its leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen were removed from Facebook last year for what the social network said were violations of its community standards. The platform has since gone further – banning a number of far-right groups permanently under its dangerous organisations policy. In February, Facebook also announced a permanent ban for far-right activist Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, for behaving “in ways that violate our policies around organised hate”. The new report encourages social media companies to continue removing extremist groups and urges the UK and US governments to work with smaller, more fringe social networks in order to better regulate content on those sites.”

The New York Times: Your Data Could Be At The Center Of The Fight Against Big Tech

“Germany’s top antitrust enforcer, Andreas Mundt, recently asked a room full of lawyers, academics and regulators to imagine a wall filled with their personal information collected by Facebook and Google. He told them to picture it stocked with their data broken up into categories like finances, location, relationships and hobbies. “That is you,” Mr. Mundt said. “And I promise you this wall knows you better than your wife.” Few listened to Mr. Mundt when, a few years ago, he began raising alarms about the data collected by the tech giants. While online services like Facebook and Google did not charge a dime, people paid a high price by giving the companies so many personal details, he argued. And the people had no choice, because the companies had no real competitors. But in February, his agency ruled that Facebook had broken the country’s law, and demanded that the company stop automatically sharing data among the services it owns, like Instagram and WhatsApp, or websites that use its “like” and “share” buttons. It was the first such ruling in Europe, putting in practice ideas that had never fully escaped academic and think-tank debates.”