Eye on Extremism: June 10

The New York Times: Times Square Terror Plot: Inspired By Bin Laden, Man Planned Bombing, Officials Say

“Around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks last year, Ashiqul Alam voiced his admiration for their mastermind, Osama bin Laden, and said he wanted to carry on Bin Laden’s legacy of violent extremism, court documents said. “He did what he is supposed to do,” Mr. Alam, 22, said, according to a criminal complaint. “Now it’s up to us.” That sentiment, expressed to an undercover law enforcement agent, kicked off a series of conversations about a potential terrorist attack in New York City that ultimately led to Mr. Alam’s arrest on Thursday, the authorities said. Mr. Alam, a green-card holder from Bangladesh who lives in Queens, was taken into custody after trying to buy two Glock pistols with defaced serial numbers from an undercover officer, officials said. His arrest was the culmination of months of work involving three undercover agents and several law enforcement agencies, which had begun monitoring him last August, the authorities said. In meetings with undercover agents over 10 months, Mr. Alam discussed the possibility of carrying out suicide bombings in Washington or in Times Square. He said he wanted to kill a government official, shoot police officers with AR-15 assault rifles and fire a rocket launcher at the new World Trade Center, the criminal complaint said.”

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Commander Weighs An Expanded Mideast Force To Counter Iran

“The commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said he may recommend a return to a larger U.S. military presence in the area after concluding that the deployment of this aircraft carrier and other capabilities helped curtail Iranian threats. Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, asked in early May that the carrier, bombers, troops and an antimissile system be sent to the region after learning of “specific” threats against U.S. and allied forces and interests in Iraq and elsewhere. The rapid U.S. buildup for now has stabilized the threat from Iran, Gen. McKenzie said during a swing through the region this week, but he said the dangers posed by Tehran remain real and an attack could be imminent. “We think this is having a very good stabilizing effect,” Gen. McKenzie said regarding the deployments.”

The Telegraph: Iran-Linked Terrorists Caught Stockpiling Explosives In North-West London

“Terrorists linked to Iran were caught stockpiling tonnes of explosive materials on the outskirts of London in a secret British bomb factory, The Telegraph can reveal. Radicals linked to Hizbollah, the Lebanese militant group, stashed thousands of disposable ice packs containing ammonium nitrate - a common ingredient in homemade bombs. The plot was uncovered by MI5 and the Metropolitan Police in the autumn of 2015, just months after the UK signed up to the Iran nuclear deal. Three metric tonnes of ammonium nitrate was discovered - more than was used in the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people and damaged hundreds of buildings.”

The Washington Post: Mystery Crop Fires Scorch Thousands Of Acres In Syria And Iraq — And ISIS Claims Responsibility

“This was supposed to be the year the farmers of eastern Syria and Iraq bounced back. For the first time in a decade, neither war nor drought had intervened to deter what promised to be a bumper harvest. Fields of golden wheat rippled across the vast lands once ravaged by militant fighters, the most fertile area of the region that in centuries past served as the breadbasket of the known world. Then came the mysterious crop fires — blamed on and claimed by the Islamic State, but perhaps not entirely the work of the militants. Starting in early May, tens of thousands of acres of farmland have been burned across an expanse of territory stretching from the Iranian border in the east to near the Mediterranean coast in the west. The scorch marks across the landscape are visible from satellites. The plumes of smoke rising on the horizon recall the U.S.-led airstrikes that pummeled much of the area a few years ago. The loss of income for farmers who have suffered years of deprivation and displacement heralds new misery and potentially new strife in communities that had hoped an end to war was in sight.”

Fox News: Islamic State Expands Reach In Afghanistan, Threatening West

“The Islamic State group has lost its caliphate in Syria and Iraq, but in the forbidding mountains of northeastern Afghanistan the group is expanding its footprint, recruiting new fighters and plotting attacks on the United States and other Western countries, according to U.S. and Afghan security officials. Nearly two decades after the U.S.-led invasion, the extremist group is seen as an even greater threat than the Taliban because of its increasingly sophisticated military capabilities and its strategy of targeting civilians, both in Afghanistan and abroad. Concerns run so deep that many have come to see the Taliban, which has also clashed with IS, as a potential partner in containing it. A U.S. intelligence official based in Afghanistan told The Associated Press that a recent wave of attacks in the capital, Kabul, is “practice runs” for even bigger attacks in Europe and the United States. “This group is the most near-term threat to our homelands from Afghanistan,” the official said on condition of anonymity to preserve his operational security. “The IS core mandate is: You will conduct external attacks” in the U.S. and Europe. “That is their goal. It's just a matter of time,” he said. “It is very scary.”

The Washington Post: YouTube’s Latest Fiasco Points To A Deeper Problem For Tech

“First, YouTube said a streaming star’s repeated homophobic remarks about a Vox writer did not violate the platform’s rules. Then, after a lot of furious people sent a lot of furious tweets prompting a lot of scorn-filled news stories, YouTube determined the remarks did violate its rules, and announced it would strip advertising from the offending videos. But wait — there was more. The writer, Carlos Maza, protested that the streamer, Steven Crowder, still sold T-shirts declaring that “Socialism Is for F*gs.” (A literal fig leaf took the place of the asterisk.) So YouTube said Crowder would have to quit his hawking. Observers were baffled that the bigotry apparently wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t branded on Hanes cotton, so YouTube tried again: It wasn’t just the T-shirts Crowder had to get rid of to stop being a rule-breaker. It was all that other awful stuff, too. Finally, at the end of this days-long debacle, YouTube published a blog post explaining its thought process. The platform’s promise? It would update its rules, of course.”

United States

The Charlotte Observer: He Grew Up In York And Twice Tried To Join ISIS To Kill Americans. Now Comes Prison.

“Zakaryia Abdin grew up in York, where he went to York schools and worked washing dishes at his parents’ restaurant. Then Abdin twice tried to join ISIS to kill Americans, authorities said in several court cases related to Abdin’s case. The first time he was just 16 years old and still a student at York Comprehensive High School, The Herald previously reported. The second time came after law enforcement officials and others repeatedly tried to warn South Carolina parole officials that Abdin was a threat to Americans despite being caught, The Herald previously reported. Monday in federal court in Charleston, Abdin will be sentenced to as much as 20 years in federal prison. Abdin, now 20, is scheduled for court at 10 a.m. after pleading guilty in August 2018 to attempting to provide material support to the terrorist group ISIS, according to federal prosecutors and court documents. York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said that he and other law enforcement officials plan to be at the sentencing. “This is a person who has shown he is a threat to the public of York County, South Carolina and America,” Tolson said. Sheriff’s office detective Bob Hamilton, a former FBI agent who repeatedly warned that Abdin was a threat to the public and still wanted to join ISIS, also is expected to attend the sentencing hearing.”

Albany Times Union: Albany Mosque Imam Convicted Of Terrorism In Sting Deported

“Yassin Aref, an imam at an Albany mosque convicted of terrorism in a post-9/11 FBI sting, was deported Sunday night, his son and lawyer said. Aref, who is Kurdish, will return to Iraq after 13 1/2 years in federal prison and eight months in immigration detention in Pennsylvania. His son Salah Muhiddin said he received a call from his father around 3:45 p.m. Sunday telling him that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told Aref to pack up his belongings and prepare to leave. A little later, the messaging system that he uses stopped working and ICE's detainee locator stopped listing him as a detainee. Muhiddin was expecting a call anytime Sunday evening to confirm Aref was at the airport. "If everything goes smoothly, he should be back in his home country as a free man tomorrow," Muhiddin said.”

The Washington Post: He Always Hated Women: Then He Decided To Kill Them

“The first thing Kate Pierson did after unlocking the yoga studio that November afternoon was set the mood, plugging in the soothing waterfall, selecting a cheery lemongrass oil for the scent diffuser. The thermostat was turned up to 98 for the 5:30 class. Hot Yoga Tallahassee was styled as a calming haven for a mostly female clientele. The men who practiced there, Pierson said, were men at ease with the “light and love” mission of the place. But the man who walked in about 5:15 that Friday was different. Pierson was still alone in the lobby when he entered, a big guy whose maroon Florida State University T-shirt was stretched over a paunchy belly, the wrapper still on the yoga mat under his arm. A black Planet Fitness bag was strapped across his chest. Inside, she would learn soon, was a Glock 9mm pistol. The man wasn’t on the list of 11 students preregistered for the evening class, and he seemed disappointed so few were expected. Handing over a debit card for the $12 walk-in fee, he identified himself as “Scott . . . Paul,” hesitating between the two words.”

Syria

The New York Times: Syrian Soccer Star, Symbol Of Revolt, Dies After Battle

“A Syrian soccer star who became a symbol of the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad has died after being wounded in a battle with government forces, the rebels said Saturday. Abdul Baset al-Sarout, 27, rose to fame as a goalkeeper for his home city of Homs and won international titles representing his country. When peaceful protests broke out against Mr. al-Assad in 2011, Mr. al-Sarout led rallies and became known as the “singer of the revolution” for his ballads. When Syria slid into civil war, Mr. al-Sarout took up arms. He led a unit of fighters against government forces and survived the government siege of Homs. The government declared Mr. al-Sarout a traitor, banning him from soccer and offering a reward for information leading to his arrest. He remained an icon among Syria’s opposition as the rebellion came to be dominated by hard-line Islamist groups. Many activists and rebels came to refer to him as the “guardian of freedom,” a play on the Arabic word for goalkeeper. “He was both a popular figure, guiding the rebellion, and a military commander,” said Maj. Jamil al-Saleh, leader of the rebel group Jaish al-Izza, in which Mr. al-Sarout was a commander. “His martyrdom will give us a push to continue down the path he chose and to which he offered his soul and blood as sacrifice.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Syria Kurds Hand Over French Orphans From ISIS Families

“The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria has handed over 12 French orphans born to militant families to a French government delegation, an official said Monday. The children, the oldest of whom is aged 10, had been living in camps where tens of thousands of people who fled recent fighting against ISIS are still housed. Kurdish officials handed over “12 orphaned French children from ISIS families to a delegation from the French ministry of foreign affairs,” Agence France Presse quoted top foreign affairs official Abdulkarim Omar as saying in a statement. He said the transfer took place in the town of Ain Issa on Sunday and added that two orphaned Dutch children were also handed over to a government delegation from the Netherlands. France has one of the largest contingents of suspected militants who were captured or turned themselves in, together with their families, in the final stages of the US-backed Kurdish assault on the last fragment of the extremist group’s so-called “caliphate”. The terrorist proto-state eventually died in the village of Baghouz, on the banks of the Euphrates, in March this year, after a months-long US-backed Kurdish assault. Larger than expected numbers of families emerged from the ruins of the last ISIS enclave and the fate of tens of thousands of them remains unclear.”

Al Jazeera: Syrian Attacks On Civilians Continue Amid Rebel Counterattack

“Heavy fighting raged in northwestern Syria on Friday after rebels launched a counterattack to repel an  offensive by government forces in the war-torn region. Syria and ally Russia ramped up deadly air raids and artillery fire on the rebel-controlled northwest in late April against Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a former al-Qaeda affiliate whose fighters dominate the area. Thursday's push back by HTS troops and allied rebel groups against the village of Jibeen follow a series of Syrian government advances in recent weeks, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said on Friday. "The insurgents are launching a counter-attack … They are making strategic advances," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP news agency. Rebel factions said they seized three key villages in the Hama countryside in Thursday's counterattack.”

The Guardian: Assad Demolishes Refugee Homes To Tighten Grip On Rebel Strongholds

“Amjad Farekh’s shops had survived Syria’s long civil war, but not the new, unsteady peace that has settled in some parts of the country. The government recently blew up several properties in the industrial zone of Qaboun, a former opposition stronghold just outside the capital, the exiled businessman said. The destruction and loss echoed dozens of other clearance operations around the country documented by activists and analysts, who say they see a worrying pattern. They fear the government is taking advantage of the messy aftermath of war to tighten its grip on towns and cities, targeting neighbourhoods and communities that rose up against President Bashar al-Assad for demolition, under the guise of military clearance operations. Between September and December of 2018, a report for the European Institute of Peace thinktank tracked government announcements of 344 explosions, ostensibly to clear the aftermath of war.”

Iran

Fox News: Iran Won't Talk Missiles, Only Nuke Deal As Officials Visit

“Iran's Foreign Ministry says nothing else but the country's landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers will be discussed during high-stakes diplomacy meetings in Tehran this week. Iranian state television quotes spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, as saying that visiting "European officials are not in a position to comment on Iran's issues beyond the nuclear deal." The remarks came after German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called Iran's ballistic missile program problematic during a visit Sunday to the United Arab Emirates. Maas is now in Iran amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran. The tensions recently soared over America deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf over a still-unexplained threat it perceives from Tehran.”

The Jerusalem Post: Iran Claims To Have New Air Defense System

“Iran said Sunday that it had unveiled a new domestically produced air defense system, called the Khordad 15 and inaugurated by Defense Minister Amir Hatami. It is named for a protest in 1963 against the arrest of Ayatollah Khomeini. This is the latest in a series of local Iranian military endeavors, including new ships, missiles and drones that the country boasts to have built. The new defense system supposedly can intercept up to six “incoming hostile targets simultaneously,” according to Iranian state media. Hatami said the system can detect targets up to 85 km. away and hit them at distances up to 45 km. It uses a Sayyad 3 missile, Press TV reported. According to Tasnim News, it is under the command of Alireza Sabahifard, head of Iran’s air defense systems. Iran previously was using a system linked to the S-200, which is antiquated but which Iran upgraded in 2013.”

Associated Press: Top Iran Diplomat Warns US It Cannot ‘Expect To Stay Safe’

“Iran’s foreign minister warned the U.S. on Monday that it “cannot expect to stay safe” after launching what he described as an economic war against Tehran, taking a hard-line stance amid a visit by Germany’s top diplomat seeking to defuse tensions. A stern-faced Mohammad Javad Zarif offered a series of threats over the ongoing tensions gripping the Persian Gulf. The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump’s decision over a year ago to withdraw America from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Trump also reinstated tough sanctions on Iran, targeting its oil sector. “Mr. Trump himself has announced that the U.S. has launched an economic war against Iran,” Zarif said. “The only solution for reducing tensions in this region is stopping that economic war.” Zarif also warned: “Whoever starts a war with us will not be the one who finishes it.” For his part, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas insisted his country and other European nations want to find a way to salvage the nuclear deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. But he acknowledged there were limits.”

Iraq

Iraqi News: Iraqi Troops Kill Two IS Terrorists, Destroy Seven Tunnels In Nineveh

“Iraqi security forces on Sunday killed two Islamic State terrorists and destroyed seven tunnels during a military operation in Nineveh province. The Iraqi Security Media Cell, in a press statement, said that security forces in the Nineveh Operations Command found seven Islamic State tunnels and a locally-made explosive charge during a military operation in Shaikh Ibrahim town in Nineveh. The troops are now working on destroying the seven tunnels, the statement read. In the Old City of Mosul, the troops killed two Islamic State terrorists, include a suicide bomber, during a crackdown to purge the area surrounding the Great Mosque of al-Nuri from Islamic State terrorists. The Islamic State group appeared on the international scene in 2014 when it seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, declaring the establishment of an Islamic “caliphate” from Mosul city. Later on, the group has become notorious for its brutality, including mass killings, abductions and beheadings, prompting the U.S. to lead an international coalition to destroy it. Despite the group’s crushing defeat at its main havens across Iraq, Islamic State continues to launch sporadic attacks against troops with security reports warning that the militant group still poses a threat against stability in the country.”

Arab News: Daesh’s Demonic Second Coming … Stronger Than Ever Before?

“Allow me to make a bold prediction: Within a few years, not only will Daesh return to prominence, but it will become exponentially more vigorous and difficult to defeat. Daesh continues to be the wealthiest terrorist organization in history, with hundreds of thousands of dollars stashed away in readiness for its re-emergence. Tens of thousands of Daesh personnel may still be at large, or deployed as sleeper cells across Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, about 100,000 detainees with various levels of Daesh affiliation languish in mass camps. Their status is problematic, because of their multinational character: Should their home countries reluctantly accept them back, or leave them to rot or hang? Let us not forget that Daesh perpetrated the worst crimes known to humanity: Burnings, stonings, beheadings, rape, genocide and other systematic atrocities. Yet its ideology remains potent, with wide-reaching propaganda capabilities: A few symbolic victories (the recapture of a town, a spectacular terrorist attack…) could inspire thousands of confused and sick individuals to flock back into its ranks.”

The National: Iraq Seeks French Compensation For ISIS Trials And Commuting Death Sentences

“Iraq and France have been negotiating for months on a deal to commute the death sentences of 11 French citizens and a French resident convicted of joining ISIS in exchange for millions of euros, a security official told The National. “There have been diplomatic and security leaks regarding this development that Baghdad has requested €2 million [Dh8.3m] and for France to leave behind its military equipment as a gift to Baghdad,” the source said. Baghdad is dealing with thousands of foreigners and citizens accused of supporting or fighting for the terror group. Many are in detention in Baghdad awaiting trial. Iraqi law says that those convicted of joining the group should be executed by hanging, even if they did not take up arms. France has been trying to spare its citizens from execution but is refusing to repatriate the insurgents captured in Syria and Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi raised the issue of payment with President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to Paris last month, Le Figaro reported. Iraq sentences two more suspected ISIS French nationals to death Iraq gives three Frenchmen death penalty for joining ISIS The Iraqi government is seeking €1m for each foreign fighter transferred from Syria and sentenced to death, and €2m each for those whose sentences are commuted to life in prison, the paper said.”

Kurdistan 24: ISIS ‘Alive And Well’ In Iraq And Other Regions, Canadian General Warns

“A former Canadian commander in Iraq on Sunday said the so-called Islamic State continues to pose a threat in the Middle East and across the world despite its territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria. Brig.-Gen. Colin Keiver, who previously served as Commander Joint Task Force Impact between June 2018 to May 2019, made the comments in an interview with The Canadian Press. “Da’esh or ISIS in Iraq or northeast Syria has been defeated in the sense that they are no longer a quasi-state,” Keiver said, referring to the terror group’s former de-facto capitals in Iraq’s Mosul and Syria’s Raqqa. “They no longer hold any ground, but they are absolutely still alive and well in the background,” he added. “[ISIS seeks] to expand their influence and undermine the governments of Iraq and other nations.” Despite Baghdad having declared a military defeat against the terror group in 2017, the Islamic State continues to wreak havoc across parts of the country, especially in formerly liberated areas and even places it never controlled. Indeed, senior Kurdistan Region officials have often called on all sides to address the underlying causes which led to the rise of the Islamic State so its ideology can be effectively defeated once and for all.”

Kurdistan 24: 'Speculation' Of International Court In Iraq To Try Foreign ISIS Fighters: French Minister

“France’s Minister of Justice told the media this week that she was in discussions with other European governments about the possibility of setting up an international court in Iraq to try foreigners who are accused of traveling to Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State. Nicole Belloubet made the comments to Radio Monte Carlo, stressing that such a plan was in its earliest stages, saying, “This is speculation voiced by many of my counterparts, interior ministers and justice ministers alike, at the European level.” European states have been reluctant to repatriate their citizens being charged with becoming Islamic State members or fighters who are now being held in camps in Syria run by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as well the detainees' children. Many nations in the EU fear that due to the lack of evidence, Islamic State supporters could be quickly released once they appear in court after returning home. As such, the notion of an international criminal court to try them either in Iraq or Syria appears to be an attractive solution for them.  Belloubet added that the discussions were being held in the “Vendome” group, which includes justice ministers from the governments of France, Germany, Spain, and Italy, and that, before such a court was established, “Conditions like the Iraqi state’s approval and a ban against the death penalty need to be met.” 

Iraqi News: Iraqi Troops Apprehend Islamic State Militant In Anbar

“An Islamic State militant was arrested Saturday during a military operation in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. The Iraqi Military Intelligence Directorate said, in a press statement, that the IS terrorist was arrested in al-Karma district in Anbar. “He was involved in collecting money from farmer for the Islamic State terrorist group,” the statement read. Iraq declared victory over Islamic State in December with the help of a US-led alliance, having retaken all the territory captured by the extremists in 2014 and 2015. Isolated cells believed to be linked to the Islamic State group remain active in some parts of the country.”

Turkey

Associated Press: US Warns Turkey It May Lose Jets For Buying Russian System

“The Pentagon on Friday told Turkey that it is cutting off Ankara’s purchase of F-35 fighter jets if the Turkish government goes ahead with plans to buy a Russian missile defense system, ratcheting up what has been a lengthy, heated dispute between the two NATO allies. In a sharp two-page letter, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the training of Turkish pilots will end July 31 and Turkey would not be allowed to take final possession of the four F-35 aircraft it bought. Shanahan also warned that Ankara’s purchase of the Russian system could hamper America’s future relationship with Turkey, which has been a critical U.S. partner and base for combat operations, including for the war in Syria. “Turkey’s procurement of the S-400 will hinder your nation’s ability to enhance or maintain cooperation with the United States and within NATO,” Shanahan said in a letter to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar that was released Friday. The S-400 purchase, he added, will “lead to Turkish strategic and economic over-dependence on Russia.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Afghan Peace Marchers Meet The Taliban And Find ‘People Just Like Us’

“Packing umbrellas and spare sandals, Afghanistan’s quixotic band of peace marchers invaded the heart of Taliban territory earlier this month and finally succeeded in their long-delayed quest to sit down with the Afghan government’s enemy. Face to face, over innumerable cups of green tea and hard, round slabs of bread, they found the enemy looked much like themselves and had the same desire for peace that had brought these 30 marchers on their arduous and risky mission. But the marchers also said they found that both the Taliban and the Afghan government had the same sort of leaders — unwilling to make the kinds of compromises that could end the war, now in its 18th year, even when their followers wanted it. “Their leaders told us that we could persuade their fighters about peace, but their leaders will never change their minds until their demands are granted,” said the marchers’ leader, Iqbal Khyber. “They’re just like government leaders who insist on fighting.” American-led peace talks with the Taliban are at best stalled, with the sixth session ending more than a month ago after only a couple of days with no new progress. The chief American negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, expressed understated disappointment that “the current pace of talks isn’t sufficient.”

Associated Press: Taliban Attack Kills 14 Militiamen In Western Afghanistan

“An Afghan official says the Taliban have killed at least 14 members of a pro-government militia in an attack on checkpoints in the western Ghor province. Abdul Hai Khateby, the spokesman for the provincial governor, says seven other militiamen were wounded in the attack late Friday, with two of them in critical condition. Khateby says reinforcements pushed the Taliban back and inflicted casualties, without giving exact figures. The Taliban, who effectively control about half of the country, carry out daily attacks on Afghan security forces and government targets. The U.S. has held several rounds of talks with the insurgents in recent months aimed at ending the nearly 18-year war.”

Pakistan

Radio Free Europe: Two Pakistani Soldiers Killed In Another Attack In Waziristan

“Two Pakistani soldiers were killed and three others wounded on June 8 in a roadside bomb blast, the latest attack in recent weeks in the restive North Waziristan region. The soldiers were patrolling in the Boya Degan district when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device, the Pakistani military said.  Earlier, the Pakistani military said in a statement that four military officers were also killed and four others injured in a similar incident in the Data Khail area of North Waziristan on June 7. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the June 7 attack in an e-mail sent to RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal on June 8. In a separate incident on June 7, a Pakistani soldier was shot dead in the Garium area of North Waziristan tribal district by unknown gunmen. Pakistani forces have conducted a series of operations against militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban, in North Waziristan over recent years, although officials now say the area has largely been pacified. Problems have continued, however, and security officials said at least 10 soldiers have been killed and 35 wounded over the past month in the Khar Qamar area.”

Qatar

The Arab Weekly: Qatar Enters Third Year Of Crisis But No Lessons Learnt

“The way Qatar is dealing with a regional dispute that has left it weakened and isolated from its Arab neighbours is beyond strange. As Doha loses regional influence and sees its relationships with Arab countries dwindle, it continues to insist that all is well that ends well. Of course, this is largely because Doha has weathered the crisis by becoming economically self-sufficient, particularly through its dairy and fresh poultry products. Does an abundance of cows, chickens and hydroponic tomatoes really mean that the tiny Gulf emirate has emerged from a 2-year boycott victorious? Of course not, unless it is believed that a country needs only food to thrive and meet the needs of its people. The reality is that Qatar’s economy has taken a turn for the worse, with its real estate and retail sectors reeling from the effects of the boycott. Reports from inside Doha say shopping malls and hotels have been nearly abandoned in the absence of wealthy tourists from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”

Lebanon

Al Arabiya: Hezbollah Could Be A Fatal Ally For Future Lebanese Presidential Candidates

“In the murky world of Lebanese politics it is sometimes difficult to find rhyme or reason. But it is increasingly evident that the name of the game in Beirut today is an aggressive early bid for the Lebanese presidency. The few apparent candidates are fully aware of the importance of local alliances, but also realize that local players are eventually swayed by their regional sponsors and allies. Candidates who are quick to dismiss the influence of the United States in the selection of Lebanese presidents do so at their own peril. The leading candidates realize that a newly resurgent and assertive US policy to contain Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria will cast a long shadow over the next presidential election. Arab rapprochement with the Syrian regime seemed initially to have benefitted the pro-Syrian candidate Suleiman Franjieh. However, his chances have faltered with the hardening of the US position and the European Union’s intense hostility towards Syrian President Bashar al Assad, a close friend of Franjieh. The current leading contender is the Lebanese foreign minister, Gibran Bassil, President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law and protégé. Both Bassil and Aoun are political allies of Hezbollah. Given the escalating tensions between the US and Iran, it is unlikely that yet another pro-Hezbollah candidate for the Lebanese presidency will be tolerated by Washington once Aoun’s term is over in 2022.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: From Gaza To Iraq: Fire Is A New Weapon Of ISIS, Hamas And Others

“In 2018 Hamas hit upon a new way to terrorize Israel. Its activists and supporters began attaching incendiary devices to balloons and floating them over the border from Gaza. In Iraq Islamic State has also been burning fields across the center and north of the country to terrorize Iraqi farmers and to target various areas, including Sinjar where members of the Yazidi minority live. More than 2,000 fires have been set in southern Israel and 8,700 acres burned between May 2018 and May 2019, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center. The use of balloons to transport burning material over the border has increased according to the Meir Amit report. It is obviously an innovative strategy that Hamas set upon when it realized that its Great Return March mass protests and other activities, such as tunneling, had been thwarted. The relationship between ISIS using burning fields to terrorize people and Hamas using balloons is not clear, but in the past extremist groups have barrowed tactics from Hamas to use across the region and the world. For instance suicide bombings, vehicular attacks, mass stabbings and other attacks became common methods to attack Israel before they became as common abroad.”

Egypt

Associated Press: Egypt Says Its Forces Kill 4 Militants In Sinai

“Egypt says security forces have killed 4 militants in the restive northern part of Sinai Peninsula. The Interior Ministry says the four were killed in a shootout with police south of the Mediterranean city of el-Arish on Saturday. It says the police seized automatic rifles, bombs and explosive belts. The ministry says the four were implicated in an attack earlier this week on a police checkpoint in northern Sinai that authorities say left eight policemen dead. On Thursday, authorities said security forces killed 14 suspected militants linked to the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group. The long-running insurgency in northern Sinai escalated after the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013, and is now led by an Islamic State affiliate.”

Nigeria

The Pulse Nigeria: Army Kills 9 Boko Haram Social Media Influencers

“The Nigerian Army has announced the death of nine key online media personalities working for Boko Haram faction, the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP). In a statement released by the Army on Monday, June 10, 2019, it revealed that the nine worked to maintain an online presence for the terrorist group. “The terrorist group is known for its online media propaganda and quest to maintain a virtual caliphate.  “The annihilation of members of its media team further confirms that the NA has decimated the group and they no longer have freedom of action,” the Army said. The names of the deceased are Abu Hurayra al-Barnawi, Ali al-Ghalam al-Kajiri, Abu Musab Muhammed Mustafa al Maiduguri, Abu Abdullah Ali al-Barnawi, Abu Musa al-Camerooni, Ahmed al-Muhajir, Abu Ali al-Bamawi, Abu Khubayb bin Ahmed al-Barnawi, and Abu al-Qa'qa' al-Maiduguri. Since the group's insurgency escalated in 2009, Boko Haram has killed around 30,000 people and displaced millions in the northeast region, with its operations also extending to border countries like Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Even though the powers of the Abubakar Shekau-led main faction of Boko Haram has been on the wane in the past couple of years, ISWAP, which broke off in 2016, has grown in influence and carried out several savage attacks on military bases last year.”

Somalia

Bloomberg: Al-Shabaab Captures Af-Urur Town In Somalia’s Puntland Region

“Al-Qaeda-linked militants captured a town in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland, after taking over a military base. Al-Shabaab fighters seized Af-Urur on Saturday after soldiers moved from the base due to a military tactic, Farah Ali, a military officer said by phone. Islamist Militants Seize Town in Somalia’s Puntland Region Puntland is situated on the Gulf of Aden, near the entrance to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest shipping channels. Like the rest of Somalia, the semi-autonomous region is battling militants from the al-Shabaab group, an al-Qaeda affiliate.”

Africa

The Washington Examiner: No US Troops Killed In Niger After Vehicle Hits Roadside Bomb

“A U.S. military vehicle that struck a roadside bomb in Niger while on the way to a training exercise Saturday did not kill any soldiers on board, according to U.S. Africa Command. The Defense agency said Sunday afternoon that none of the soldiers riding in a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle were killed in the Saturday incident near Ouallam, Niger. Military officials are nonetheless conducting medical examinations of those who were riding in the vehicle. An earlier report stated the explosion happened after the troops had pulled into a firing range, but U.S. Africa Command clarified in the Sunday afternoon statement that it happened outside the property. U.S. and Nigerian forces had been carrying out a training exercise at the time of the incident. U.S. forces are in the north-central African country assisting troops in their fight against violent extremist groups like Boko Haram. “U.S. Africa command is committed to our relationship with our Nigerien partner forces in our efforts to counter threats and foster prosperity in the region,” U.S. Africa Command said in a statement.”

The Guardian: In A World Full Of Wars, Why Are So Many Of Them Ignored?

“Cameroon, a central African state of 24 million people on the Gulf of Guinea, is rarely in the news – which is surprising, given the awful things happening there. In a warring world full of conflict, the country’s troubles barely rate a mention. That’s short-sighted. As Yemen shows, today’s local difficulties have a habit of becoming tomorrow’s international crises. Long-running tensions between Cameroon’s French and English-speaking communities came to a head last week with the arrest of at least 350 members of the main opposition party, whose leader has been jailed since January. Human Rights Watch accused security forces of using “excessive and indiscriminate force”. Political repression may be the least of Cameroon’s worries. According to a new Norwegian Refugee Council report, Cameroon is the world’s most neglected displacement crisis. Since 2016, conflict between government forces and non-state armed groups has forced 450,000 people from their homes.”

United Kingdom

CNN: One Of The ISIS 'Beatles' Says He's Sorry. Will Confessions Save These Fighters From Death Row?

“Two of the remaining members of the British ISIS cell known as ”the Beatles” have confessed their part in the ransoming of Western hostages in a rare interview that showed them broken and pleading for news of their fate. One of the fighters also offered an unprecedented apology for his actions with the group. Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh have been held in northern Syria by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for more than a year, and they recently consented to speak to CNN through a cameraman in their jail and a correspondent by remote video link from London. Their comments come amid a raft of activity by foreign governments and the SDF to resolve the destination of hundreds of Western ISIS fighters held in overcrowded Syrian prisons, including the transfer of a dozen French fighters to Iraq where they were sentenced to death in May. A visibly drained Elsheikh said: “I consider my role in this whole scenario, this whole episode as one of my mistakes that I would like to apologize for. [To] everybody involved and everybody who was affected, directly or indirectly.” Kotey -- whose year mostly in solitary confinement appears to have removed the arrogance he displayed when interviewed by CNN a year ago -- declined to offer an apology.”

NPR: 5 Arrested After Homophobic Attack On London Bus

“Five males between 15 and 18 years old have been arrested in connection with a homophobic attack on a London bus late last month, London police say.  Melania Geymonat posted about the violent incident on her Facebook page, describing what began as a date night with her partner Chris. On the way home, a group of boys began harassing them.  “They started behaving like hooligans, demanding that we kissed so they could enjoy watching, calling us 'lesbians' and describing sexual positions,” she wrote. The couple was beaten and bloodied by the group, who allegedly stole their belongings.  Her post went on to express frustration at the violence the LGBTQ community has had to endure. “I'm tired of being taken as a SEXUAL OBJECT, of finding out that these situations are usual, of gay friends who were beaten up JUST BECAUSE.” Four suspects were arrested Friday, and just as the month-long Pride celebration kicked off in London on Saturday, police arrested a fifth teenager in connection to the incident. All five are males between 15 and 18 years old.   Geymonat's post has prompted an outcry against homophobic violence on social media. London's Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted about the incident.”

The Guardian: MI5 Analysing Former Terror Suspects To Catch Potential Attackers

“MI5 has created a new category to rank terrorist suspects and is increasing the number of behavioural scientists it uses by 50% to improve the agency’s chances of catching former jihadists who re-engage with planning attacks, the Guardian has learned. The moves follow a series of attacks in the UK in 2017, two of which were carried out by former “subjects of interest”. In those cases, active MI5 investigations were dropped only for the suspects to later kill civilians. The measures are part of a package of changes introduced after the atrocities. Internal reviews led to 125 recommendations to improve counter-terrorism efforts by MI5, the domestic security service, and counter-terrorism policing. Whitehall sources claim the measures have already led to investigations being reopened on suspects previously thought to pose a lower level of danger. MI5 is under pressure to show it learned lessons after the attacks. That pressure is expected to grow this week after the agency’s deputy head of international counter-terrorism testifies for two days at the London Bridge inquest. Lawyers for the eight bereaved families claim “opportunities galore” were missed to thwart the attack. The ringleader, Khuram Butt, is believed to be the first suspect under live investigation by MI5 to have carried out an attack.”

The Jerusalem Post: UK Exposed Hezbollah Explosives In London In 2015, With Mossad Intel

“Radicals linked to Iranian-backed Hezbollah were caught stashing tonnes of explosive materials in north-west London in a secret British bomb factory, M15 and Metropolitan Police officers discovered in 2015, a matter of months after the UK signed up to the Iran nuclear deal.  Israeli media reports claimed that Israeli officials confirmed that the Mossad provided the intel for the operation. According to a breaking report by the Daily Telegraph, thousands of disposable ice packs were found in the factory that contained ammonium nitrate, an ingredient for homemade bombs. The report said that the raid was hidden from the public for years, including from MPs who were debating the Hezbollah ban earlier this year. It also questioned whether senior figures in the British government did so as to not impact the Iran nuclear deal. The raid, a joint operation by MI5 operatives and the Met Police included four properties overall and a man in his forties was arrested on suspicion of terrorist-related activity.  Ben Wallace, UK Minister for Security and Economic Crime, said, “The Security Service and police work tirelessly to keep the public safe from a host of national security threats. Necessarily, their efforts and success will often go unseen.”

Europe

The New York Times: Bulgaria Charges Teenager With Plotting Terrorist Attack

“Bulgarian officials said on Saturday that they had arrested and charged a 16-year-old student who had been radicalized by the Islamic State with planning a terrorist attack. The Islamic State had recruited the teenager, who is from Plovdiv, in a process that started over social media, Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev said Saturday at a news conference in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. “This is a classic example of recruitment and radicalization of an individual, in this case an underage person,” he told reporters, describing the case as a “personal tragedy.” Local news media reported that the youth, who has not been named, planned to attack Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, but prosecutors would not comment on the location. Plovdiv, known for its Roman-era ruins and Mediterranean climate, is a popular tourist destination for Bulgarians and foreigners alike, and has been in a flurry of activity this year as European Capital of Culture. The suspect was charged with terrorism but released to his family. He is to receive psychological counseling. Bulgaria, among the poorest members of the European Union, has been far from the Continent’s centers of recent terrorist activity.”

Al Jazeera: Kosovo Is Trying To Reintegrate ISIL Returnees. Will It Work?

“Laura Hyseni, a young green-eyed mother of four was a child when the war broke out in Kosovo in the spring of 1999, a conflict that forced her and her family to flee to neighbouring Macedonia, seeking refuge. Fifteen years later, she found herself in another war unfolding thousands of miles away - moving from one ISIL stronghold to the next in Syria and Iraq, from Raqqa to Mosul. Today, Hyseni, now 25, is under house arrest for three months in her parents' house in Ferizaj, Kosovo's third largest city. She returned to Kosovo from Syria on April 20 along with her two sons and two daughters - part of a group of 32 women and 74 children who came back on a US military aircraft that flew directly from Syria to Kosovo.  Four male fighters also returned on the plane and were arrested immediately at Pristina's airport.  The 110 Kosovars were taken from the sprawling al-Hol displacement camp in the Hassakeh province of northeastern Syria, following the fall of Baghouz, the last stronghold of ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group). Hyseni barely survived the battle of Baghouz before being taken to the Kurdish-run camp. Her daughter's face still bears the wounds caused by an explosion in March in the Syrian town.”

New Zealand

The Washington Post: New Zealand Mosque Massacre Suspect First To Face Country’s Anti-Terrorism Laws

“The man accused of carrying out the twin massacres at New Zealand mosques in March will become the first suspect charged under the country’s anti-terrorism laws passed after the 9/11 attacks. The decision will be closely watched around the world as a test of bypassing regular criminal statutes for an apparent hate crime and opting for terrorist charges, which opens the door for examinations of ideology and political motivations during the trial. Critics say a prosecution case based on “engaging in a terrorist act” would add no more years to the possible sentence for the suspect, 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant. Instead, they argue, it could potentially allow him to use the trial as a platform for white supremacist views and other extremist beliefs — which would challenge efforts by New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, to keep the spotlight away from Tarrant and his views. The Australia-born Tarrant is expected on Friday to enter a plea for the March 15 slayings, which claimed 51 lives in the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in New Zealand history. Tarrant — who appeared in court in April — will hear an announcement on his fitness to stand trial after a mental health assessment. He plans to represent himself at the trial, whose date has not been set.”

Southeast Asia

The Washington Post: India, Sri Lanka Agree To Step Up Anti-Terrorism Efforts

“Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid homage Sunday to the more than 250 Sri Lankans killed in the Easter suicide bombings, and agreed with Sri Lanka's leaders to step up cooperation to combat terrorism. Modi, on his first overseas tour since being reelected this spring, emphasized India's “neighborhood first” policy during weekend visits to the Maldives and Sri Lanka. Before commencing official talks in Sri Lanka, Modi visited St. Anthony's Church in Colombo — one of three churches targeted by bombers on April 21 — to pay respects to those killed in the attack. The bombings on three churches and three luxury hotels left 258 people dead. The suicide attacks also dealt a severe blow to Sri Lanka's economy, hitting the Indian Ocean island nation's vital tourism industry particularly hard. “I am confident Sri Lanka will rise again. Cowardly acts of terror cannot defeat the spirit of Sri Lanka. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka,” Modi tweeted after visiting the church. Nearly 253 people were killed and hundreds wounded in multiple blasts that hit different locations, including churches and five-star hotels, in and around Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Easter Sunday on April 21, 2019.”

Technology

The New York Times: The Making Of A Youtube Radical

“Caleb Cain pulled a Glock pistol from his waistband, took out the magazine and casually tossed both onto the kitchen counter. “I bought it the day after I got death threats,” he said. The threats, Mr. Cain explained, came from right-wing trolls in response to a video he had posted on YouTube a few days earlier. In the video, he told the story of how, as a liberal college dropout struggling to find his place in the world, he had gotten sucked into a vortex of far-right politics on YouTube. “I fell down the alt-right rabbit hole,” he said in the video. Mr. Cain, 26, recently swore off the alt-right nearly five years after discovering it, and has become a vocal critic of the movement. He is scarred by his experience of being radicalized by what he calls a “decentralized cult” of far-right YouTube personalities, who convinced him that Western civilization was under threat from Muslim immigrants and cultural Marxists, that innate I.Q. differences explained racial disparities, and that feminism was a dangerous ideology. “I just kept falling deeper and deeper into this, and it appealed to me because it made me feel a sense of belonging,” he said. “I was brainwashed.”

CNBC: Google Is Tech’s Top Spender On Lobbying — Facebook And Amazon Are Also At Record Levels

“As the biggest U.S. technology companies face increasing scrutiny from regulators related to privacy practices and market control, they’re spending a lot more money to try and influence lawmakers. No company in America is pouring more money into those efforts than Google.  Last year, the company spent $21.7 million on lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. For two straight years, it’s been the top corporate spender, outranking traditional front-runners like Boeing and AT&T. Amazon and Facebook also reached record levels of lobbying expenditures in 2018. For years, with their market caps climbing alongside their consumer influence, the largest U.S. tech companies have prepared for the day when their business practices would be more thoroughly scrutinized. It appears that time is now. Between last Friday and Monday, reports surfaced that the Justice Department is preparing an antitrust probe of Google and has been given jurisdiction over Apple as part of a broader review into the tech industry. The Federal Trade Commission has assumed oversight of Amazon and Facebook.”

Reuters: Russian Disinformation On YouTube Draws Ads, Lacks Warning Labels: Researchers

“Fourteen Russia-backed YouTube channels spreading disinformation have been generating billions of views and millions of dollars in advertising revenue, according to researchers, and had not been labeled as state-sponsored, contrary to the world’s most popular streaming service’s policy. The channels, including news outlets NTV and Russia-24, carried false reports ranging from a U.S. politician covering up a human organ harvesting ring to the economic collapse of Scandinavian countries. Despite such content, viewers have flocked to the channels and U.S. and European companies have bought ads that run alongside them. The previously unpublished research by Omelas, a Washington-based firm that tracks online extremism for defense contractors, provides the most comprehensive view yet of the Russian government’s success in attracting viewers and generating revenue from propaganda on YouTube, which has 2 billion monthly viewers worldwide.”