Eye on Extremism: June 11

Fox News: ISIS Sleeper Cells Burn, Blow Up And Slaughter Hundreds In Uptick Of Attacks Across Iraq And Syria

“It has been months since the Islamic State was expelled from its territorial control in Iraq and Syria, but the brutal terrorist outfit continues to wreak havoc in the lands it once deemed its “caliphate.” Between May 5 and June 3, the U.S-led Combined Joint Taskforce’s Operation Inherent Resolve – the name given to the mission to defeat ISIS – conducted 11 strikes consisting of 34 engagements against ISIS targets in Iraq. More than 20 caves, two vehicles and a one-bedroom infrastructure were decimated. At least three ISIS terrorists were killed in tunnels 40 miles west of Ramadi, Iraqi defense officials reported. And across the war-ravaged nation, the ISIS bloodletting goes on. The Iraqi Civil Defense Directorate affirmed last week that more than 6,100 acres of agricultural crops were incinerated in less than two weeks in 136 separate incidents, with the at-risk area spanning almost 120,000 acres of Iraqi land. ISIS has claimed responsibility for numerous blazes in recent weeks, justifying their targeting of wheat crops as retaliation against those refusing to pay them taxes. Iraq’s security forces last week also opened fire on two alleged ISIS suicide bombers that were preparing to detonate at security forces positioned in the Abar area near Fallujah.”

The Washington Post: At Least 95 Slain In Mali Village Amid Surge In Ethnic, Extremist Violence

“At least 95 people were killed in central Mali when gunmen stormed a village overnight, carrying out an especially bloody attack in the West African nation, which has been gripped by surging extremist violence and ethnic tensions. Nineteen other villagers are missing, the Malian government said in a statement Monday, as authorities continued to search for bodies. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the massacre in Sobame Da, a rural community populated mostly by people of the Dogon ethnic group. The Malian government blamed “armed men, suspected of being terrorists,” who it said “launched a murderous assault on this peaceful village.” The assailants also torched dwellings and killed livestock, officials said. The latest violence follows a March ambush that killed more than 150 Fulani people in the same region, stoking concerns that the ambush was motivated by revenge.”

The Jerusalem Post: Syrian Opposition Documents Iranian Missile Caches In Country - Report

“Syrian opposition officers have documented the site of several Iranian missile caches in the country, including in areas Israel has demanded that Iran vacate. According to a report in the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, the National Liberation Front, which is made up of 150 dissident officers, documented the presence of Iranian Fateh-110 and Zulfiqar short-range ballistic missiles and Russian-made Scud missiles. The group also found that Toophan-1 anti-tank missiles are being stored in the strategic T-4 airport in Syria’s Homs province with other rocket caches in Jubb el-Jarah east of Homs, in Aleppo’s al-Safira, and south of Damascus. In the early 1990s, Iran began developing the Fateh-110, a mobile short-range ballistic missile reportedly capable of carrying nuclear or biological warheads, and has since developed five variants with various ranges and payloads.”

The Washington Post: Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Launch Attack Drones Into Saudi Arabia

“Yemen’s Houthi rebels have launched at least two drones targeting a southwest Saudi city that’s home to an air base. The Houthis’ Al-Masirah satellite news channel reported early Tuesday the rebels launched Qasef-2K drones to strike the city of Khamis Mushait. The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Tuesday, quoting military spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki, that soldiers “intercepted” two drones launched by the Houthis. The Iranian-allied Houthis increasingly have targeted the kingdom with bomb-carrying drones. Khamis Mushait, some 815 kilometers (510 miles) southwest of the capital, Riyadh, is near the kingdom’s border with Yemen. A Saudi-led coalition launched a war against the Houthis in March 2015. Yemen’s long-running war has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country has killed an estimated 60,000 people.”

France 24: Attack On Village In Burkina Faso's Volatile North Leaves Many Dead

“Nineteen people died in an attack on a village in the troubled north of Burkina Faso, a security source said Monday.  “Several dozen armed men carried out an attack on the district of Arbinda, shooting several people dead,” on Sunday, a local official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. A security source said “19 bodies have been found”. The official said the attack took place “between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm (local and GMT) when a group of assailants opened fire on locals”. An emergency meeting was under way Monday to discuss the situation, the official said. The security source said on Sunday morning three vehicles had been stopped and burnt and a driver killed before the attack. Arbinda has witnessed a spate of deadly violence in recent months despite an operation to clear the area of jihadists. At the start of April, 62 people were killed in jihadist attacks and ensuing ethnic clashes in Arbinda. Burkina Faso has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. The raids began in 2015 in the north before targeting the capital Ouagadougou and other regions, notably in the east.”

The Washington Post: Detroit Chief Says Neo-Nazis Sought Gay Pride Event Violence

“Detroit police officers prevented violence by a neo-Nazi group that wanted to spark “Charlottesville No. 2” during a gay pride festival over the weekend, the city’s police chief said Monday. Chief James Craig said five people among about 15 white supremacists were openly carrying firearms — which is allowed under Michigan law — while they traded barbs with 15-20 counterprotesters during the Motor City Pride festival in downtown Detroit. Officers worked to keep the two groups separate after getting word that the neo-Nazi group wanted to spark violence similar to the deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Craig said. “It was their intent, at least through our intelligence sources, that they wanted Charlottesville No. 2,” he said. Members of both groups shouted racial epithets at each other and toward police officers in an attempt to bait them into a violent response but officers took no sides, Craig said. No shots were fired during the confrontation.”

United States

CNN: Lawmakers Try To Save DHS Lab That Prepares First Responders For Terror Threats

“Lawmakers are again attempting to keep a Department of Homeland Security laboratory that specializes in first-responder technology and assistance from shutting its doors.  The House overwhelmingly passed a bill Monday evening that would permanently authorize the New York City-based National Urban Security Technology Laboratory, which has been at risk of losing funding over the past couple of years and was not included in the administration's latest DHS funding request. The lab “is constantly developing and testing new tools for our brave first responders to use in the event of a terrorist attack, industrial accident or natural disaster and closely collaborates with law enforcement agencies like the FDNY, NYPD and the Nassau County Police Department in my district,” Rep. Kathleen Rice, a New York Democrat who cosponsored the bill, said Monday on the House floor, urging her colleagues to pass the legislation. The final vote was 395-3.  She said the administration has proposed closing the lab in each of the last two federal budgets. The potential funding cut comes amid budget battles between the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill, as the administration has shifted its funding and influence to the department's immigration missions.”

Bloomberg: U.S. Weighs More Iran Sanctions Over Potential Trade With Europe

“The Trump administration is weighing sanctions against the Iranian financial body set up as a go-between for humanitarian trade with Europe, a move likely to sever the economic and humanitarian lifeline that France, Germany and the U.K. have sought to create for Tehran. The U.S. measures would target the Special Trade and Finance Institute, which Iran established as a counterpart to the European mechanism known as Instex, according to a senior administration official who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations.”

Stars And Stripes: 20 Years For South Carolina Man Who Tried To Fight For ISIS

“A South Carolina man who pleaded guilty to trying to fight for the Islamic State has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Outlets report a federal judge on Monday handed down that sentence for 20-year-old Zakaryia Abdin. It was the maximum possible time. Abdin pleaded guilty in August to attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization. He was arrested at Charleston's airport in 2017 as he tried to board a plane for Jordan. Authorities say Abdin told an agent posing as an ISIS recruiter he wanted to torture an American. At age 16, authorities say Abdin talked about robbing a gun store to get weapons to kill soldiers. He was arrested, pleaded guilty, and a parole board agreed to his early release after a year.”


The Guardian: Orphans Of French Isis Fighters Fly Home From Syria

“Twelve orphaned children of French jihadists were flown home on Monday from Syria, along with two Dutch orphans who will be handed over to the Netherlands, the French foreign ministry has said. The latest wave of repatriations of foreigners from crowded camps in north-east Syria targeted a group of children who were “isolated and particularly vulnerable”, the French ministry said, adding that some were ill or malnourished. They were handed over to French and Dutch officials by Syrian Kurdish authorities, according to Abdelkarim Omar, a senior Kurdish official. The transfer is the latest small step in efforts to resolve the problem posed by the huge numbers of foreign jihadists and their families stranded in Syrian camps. The children, the oldest of whom is 10, had been held together with tens of thousands of people who fled recent fighting against Islamic State. Omar said the transfer took place on Sunday in the town of Ain Issa, near Syria’s border with Turkey. France has one of the largest contingents of fighters who were captured or surrendered along with their families in the final stages of the US-backed Kurdish assault on Isis. The group’s self-declared caliphate was finally destroyed in Baghuz in March.”

Al Jazeera: Russian Jets Carry Out Deadly Bombings In Syria's Idlib

“At least 25 people have been killed in aerial bombardment carried out by Russian jet fighters in Idlib region, with schools and medical centres knocked down during a continued Syrian military offensive. The rebel stronghold of northwestern Syria despite being part of a buffer-zone deal has come under deadly regime bombardment in recent weeks, sparking fears for its roughly three million residents. At least 13 people were killed, including women and children, after Russian Sukhoi jets dropped bombs on the village of Jabala in southern Idlib province, residents and civil rescuers told Reuters news agency. Russian jets were also behind several raids that hit the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Kafr Battikh and several other villages that left at least another 12 civilians dead, according to another local rescuer.”


The Washington Free Beacon: Iran Claims Abducted American ‘Spy’ Was Handed To Hezbollah

“Iran claimed Monday afternoon that it had handed an imprisoned American accused of spying to the country's chief terror proxy group, Hezbollah, according to reports in the country's state-controlled press that have caught the attention of the U.S. State Department. Iran's state-controlled press reported that Iran was making preparations to extradite Nizar Zakka, an imprisoned dual American and Lebanese national, whom Tehran accused of spying and sentenced to a prison term. An “informed source” told Iran's Fars News Agency Monday that Zakka would be transferred to Hezbollah later in the day. “This will be done in the next few hours,” Fars quoted the source as saying. “Extradition of the American-Lebanese spy has been made only at the request and mediation of Hezbollah Secretary-General Seyed Hassan Nasrallah.” Tehran claims that no talks have been held with the U.S. or other parties regarding Zakka's imprisonment. Zakka “has been freed and extradited, thanks to Nasrallah's mediation and the respect Tehran pays to him,” Fars reported. A U.S. State Department official declined to comment “at this time” on the reports, but said the agency is aware of the latest developments.”

Reuters: Lebanese Man Held In Iran Expected To Go Home On Tuesday

“Lebanon’s general security chief Abbas Ibrahim told Reuters on Monday that Lebanese detainee Nizar Zakka, who has U.S. residency, would be freed by Iran on Tuesday and that Ibrahim would return with him to Lebanon. Lebanon’s president and foreign minister have urged Tehran to grant an amnesty to Zakka, who was detained in 2015 and sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine for “collaborating against the state”. “The release of Nizar Zakka will take place on Tuesday after the completion of the judicial proceedings, which are nearly done,” Ibrahim said. A photograph distributed on Lebanese media showed Zakka and Ibrahim sitting together and smiling, with Iranian and Lebanese flags displayed on a table next to them. Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, citing an unnamed source, earlier said Zakka would be handed to Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shi’ite group founded in 1982 by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps. Asked about the Fars report, Ibrahim said it had caused “confusion”. Hezbollah is the most powerful armed force in Lebanon as well as being part of the governing coalition in Beirut.”

The New York Times: Iran Bars Times Correspondent From Reporting

“The authorities in Iran have barred the Tehran-based correspondent for The New York Times from working for the past four months, the newspaper said Monday. The correspondent, Thomas Erdbrink, a Netherlands citizen, has reported for The Times from Iran since 2012. He resides in Tehran but has been unable to work since late February, when his press credential was revoked. The Times decided to make the issue public after recent speculation and comments on social media. Mr. Erdbrink’s absence from the news report has become increasingly conspicuous because of escalating tensions between the Iranian authorities and the United States. Officials of Iran’s Foreign Ministry have repeatedly assured The Times that Mr. Erdbrink’s credential would soon be restored but have offered no explanation for the delays or for why it was revoked, said the Times international editor, Michael Slackman. He added that there are some indications this will be resolved soon.”

The Jerusalem Post: Iran Has Accelerated Production Of Enriched Uranium, IAEA Says

“Iran has followed through on a threat to accelerate its production of enriched uranium, the head of the UN atomic watchdog said on Monday, departing from his usual guarded language to say he was worried about increasing tension. Recent weeks have seen the US-Iranian confrontation sharply increase, a year after the United States withdrew from an agreement between Iran and world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international financial sanctions. Washington tightened sanctions at the beginning of May, ordering all countries and companies to halt all imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system. The US has also begun discussing military confrontation, dispatching extra troops to the region to counter what it describes as Iranian threats. Iran has also responded with a threat to increase its enrichment of uranium, saying it was up to Europeans who still support the nuclear deal to save it by finding ways to ensure Tehran receives the economic benefits it was promised.”


ABC News: Afghan Forces Rescue 34 People Form Taliban-Run Prison

“The Interior Ministry says Afghan special forces have rescued 34 people from a Taliban-run prison in northern Baghlan province. Tuesday's statement from the ministry says 17 civilians and 17 members of the security forces — seven soldiers, seven policemen and three intelligence agents — were freed during the operation, which took place on Monday. The Taliban haven't commented yet on the raid in Baghlan. Last month, the U.N. expressed concerns, saying that Afghan captives held by the Taliban have been subjected to abuse, ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture. The U.N. mission made its assessment after interviewing 13 detainees from a group of 53 rescued in April by Afghan forces form a Taliban prison in southern Uruzgan province. Afghan forces, civilians and government officials were among the rescued.”

Military Times: US Envoy Launches New Push On Afghanistan Peace Talks With Taliban

“Renewed efforts are underway to jumpstart stalled peace talks with the Taliban as a U.S. envoy is in Kabul and Pakistani and Afghan officials are meeting in Islamabad. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad says he's holding meetings with Kabul officials on Monday, seeking to bring about a new round of Afghan-to-Afghan talks, which he describes as essential to resolving the country's nearly 18-year war. The Pentagon requested funding to cover the Taliban's costs for travel expenses to attend peace talks, according to a report. A defense spending bill approved by a House panel on Wednesday barred funds to reimburse the terrorist organization. The Taliban carry out near-daily attack, inflicting staggering casualties on Afghan forces, and now control about half of Afghanistan. Washington, meanwhile, has accelerated efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict and has been pressing for direct talks between the Taliban and Kabul. Meanwhile, Afghan and Pakistani officials from a group tasked with finding ways to cooperate on diplomatic, military and intelligence-sharing are meeting in Islamabad.”

The National: The Hidden Lives Of Children Of The Afghan Taliban

“Fahim, three, and Narges*, two, are playing in the courtyard of their family home when their father walks in, an AK-47 slung over his shoulder.  His face is barely visible under a tightly wrapped bandana – the “Taliban burqa,” he jokes later, referring to the traditional gown often worn in rural Afghanistan that covers women from head to toe. The children come running excitedly as Qary Khalid bends down to hug them with one arm, their colourful clothes pressed against his white tunic, his left hand holding on to the weapon. Khalid is a Taliban commander, but at home, the 25-year-old is a father, not a fighter. In his village deep in a Taliban area, he is well respected as one of the group’s local leaders and everyone knows his son and daughter. Fahim and Narges’s reality – a fighter father – is shared by thousands of children in Afghanistan amid an increasingly deadly war for non-combatants. The UN said 927 boys and girls were killed in 2018, the highest number of child deaths in a single year since it began recording casualties in 2009. Many families, including those of Taliban fighters, have left the country for just this reason over past decades. The Afghan refugee population of 2.5 million is the world’s second largest, surpassed only by Syria.”

Xinhua: Airstrikes Kill 11 Militants In E. Afghanistan

“At least 11 militants were confirmed dead as security forces' aircraft targeted Taliban hideouts in Zarmat district of the eastern Paktia province, said an army statement released Monday. Five more militants were injured as the air raids targeted the militants hideouts in Haider Khil and Patak areas of Zarmat district on Monday morning, the statement added. A weapon cache of the militants was also destroyed in the air strikes, the statement added. Taliban militants who are active in parts of Pakia and the neighboring Khost and Paktika provinces haven't commented.”


Xinhua: Egypt Upholds Jail Terms For 315 Muslim Brotherhood Loyalists

“An Egyptian court upheld on Monday jail terms from five to 25 years against 315 defendants, mostly loyalists of the currently outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, over acts of violence and sabotage in 2013, official MENA news agency reported. The country's top Court of Cassation refused the defendants' appeal for a retrial and upheld the previous rulings issued by a criminal court. The prosecution charged the defendants with riot, violence and sabotage in response to the security crackdown on pro-Brotherhood sit-ins in Giza and Cairo in mid-August 2013. The sit-ins were held following the popularly-backed military removal of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 in response to mass protests against his one-year controversial rule and his Brotherhood group. Egypt's post-Morsi leadership considers the Brotherhood the source of all evil and terrorism. Most Brotherhood leaders and loyalists who did not flee the country after Morsi's ouster are currently in jail, including Morsi himself and the group's top leader Mohamed Badie, over charges varying from terrorism, violence, sabotage, jailbreak to espionage.”


Al Jazeera: Gangs Kill Dozens In Series Of Attacks In Northern Nigeria

“Gunmen have killed dozens of people in a wave of attacks in northern Nigeria, the latest violence by criminal gangs raiding villages and stealing livestock. The series of attacks, carried out overnight Saturday to Sunday in northwestern Sokoto state, left at least 43 dead. “They opened fire on the village indiscriminately,” Abdullahi Dantani, from the village of Satiru where 18 people were murdered, told AFP news agency. In Sokoto state's Rabah district, gunmen rode into four villages - Rukunni, Tsage, Giire and Kalfu - killing 25 people. “Several domestic animals were rustled by the attackers,” Ibrahim Kaoje, Sokoto state's top police officer, told AFP. Four people were arrested in connection to those attacks, Kaoje said. In separate attacks in Satiru village, in Sokoto's Isa district, the raiders shot 18 people, and then stole animals. “We lost 18 people in the raid by the gunmen, who came into the village on motorcycles,” said Satiru village resident Umeh Na-Ta'ala. The gangs have long been a scourge of rural communities in northern Nigeria, raiding villages, stealing cattle, burning homes, looting food and kidnapping for ransom. The communities have taken up arms to defend themselves, although the vigilantes are often accused of extrajudicial killings of suspected bandits. President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killings, expressing “deep shock and sadness” in a statement issued late on Sunday.”

Xinhua: Nigeria Confirms Killing Of 9 Key Boko Haram Propagandists

“The Nigerian army confirmed on Monday it has halted the propaganda machinery of terror group Boko Haram, with the recent killing of nine key Boko Haram propagandists. In a statement, the army did not disclose where and when the operation leading to the deaths of the “social media personalities” occurred. The statement, issued by the army spokesman, Sagir Musa, however, said: “the annihilation of members of the Boko Haram media team further confirmed that the Nigerian Army has decimated the group and they no longer have freedom of action.” Boko Haram which launched attacks in Nigeria's northeast a decade ago is also known for its online media propaganda at the same time amid quest to maintain a virtual caliphate. The group launched its media strategy starting with a very traditional media approach through propaganda films mostly aimed at recruiting new fighters. In 2014, Boko Haram changed its strategy into effective use of social media platforms, creating multiple accounts to strengthen its outreach and using videos and photos to drive home its agenda.”


All Africa: Somalia: Al-Shabaab Claims Bomb Attack In Lower Shabelle Region

“Al-Shabaab has claimed the responsibility for an explosion near Wanlaweyn district in Lower Shabelle region, south of Somalia on Sunday. The blast which has resulted from a landmine planted along the road struck a water tank belonging to Somali national army, according to the local residents. In a statement, Al-Shabaab said the bomb attack has inflicted casualties on the Somali soldiers traveling in the convoy, but, it did not disclose the number of the fatalities. Al-Shabaab often carries out IED attacks against Somali and AU troops in Lower Shabelle region as the militant group faces joint military operations by SNA, AU and US forces.”

Xinhuanet: Two Senior Al-Shabab Leaders Surrender To Somali Gov't Forces

“Two senior leaders of militant group al-Shabab surrendered on Monday to the Somali government forces in the country's southern region of Gedo, officials said on Tuesday. Ali Mohamed Hassan, commander of Somali forces unit 49 section 43 in Bardhere town told journalists that Mustafa Ibrahim Isaq and Mohamed Hassan Madhaley, have joined the government forces following intensified military operation on the militants in recent days. "The two militants defected from al-Shabab extremists in Sakow town in Middle Juba region, one of them represents the militants in intelligence while the other represents prison guarding," Hassan said. He called on the other remaining cells in al-Shabab extremists to follow suit. The two senior al-Shabab leaders who spoke to the journalists said they were misled into joining the terrorists. "The militants misguided and preoccupied us to believe that the government members are apostates, but we don't believe that now," Isaq said.”


CNN: At Least 95 Killed In Attack On Mali Village

“At least 95 people were killed Sunday evening when armed men attacked an ethnic Dogon village in central Mali, a mayor told CNN on Monday. The gunmen set fire to the village and fired shots, fleeing at around midnight, the mayor, Ali Dolo, said. The attack was carried out by Fulani men, he said. Ninety-five charred bodies had been counted among the village's 300 residents, the major said. Fulani men attacked the village last week but only stole cattle, he said. The Dogon and the Fulani have clashed in the past over access to land and water. Armed men in March killed 134 people, including women and children, during an attack on a village in central Mali, the United Nations said at the time.  A further 55 civilians were hurt in the attack in Ogossagou in the Mopti region, where violence has erupted repeatedly in recent months. Several soldiers also were killed in March in Dioura, while 10 people from the Dogon community were killed in February in an attack on the village of Gondogourou. The region's Fulani ethnic community is frequently targeted and accused of having ties to area jihadist organizations, according to the UN. Similarly, Mali army posts routinely come under attack by separatists and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the terror group's North African offshoot.”

Bloomberg: U.K. Issues Warning On Risk Of Militant Attacks In Ghana

“Islamist militants are likely to try to carry out attacks in Ghana as their influence is spreading in West Africa, according to the U.K. Foreign Office. Groups associated with the regional offshoots of al-Qaeda and Islamic State present a threat and have “demonstrated capability and intent by mounting attacks against security forces and civilians in several countries,” most recently in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali, the department said in a notice on its website. The threat also extends to a risk of kidnappings, it said. Some of West Africa’s biggest economies are increasingly vulnerable to attacks by militants, whose influence is spreading to the inland border of coastal nations. Heavyweights Ghana and Ivory Coast as well as smaller neighbors Benin and Togo are strengthening security along their boundaries with Burkina Faso, which has seen a surge of attacks this year.”

The Punch Nigeria: Three Cameroon Soldiers Killed In Boko Haram Attack

“Three Cameroonian soldiers and an unspecified number of civilians were killed during an overnight attack by Boko Haram on a military post manned by a multinational force, security sources said Monday. The raid in the village of Darak in western Cameroon’s Lake Chad region was followed by heavy fighting, a security source said. “Three soldiers and (some) civilians were killed,” the source said, confirming a claim from a member of a local self-defence militia. “Around 3:45 am, many heavily armed Boko Haram members targeted a post of the multinational force and a brigade. “It was followed by heavy fighting lasting several hours,” the source said. Boko Haram’s decade-long uprising to establish a hardline Islamic state in Nigeria’s northeast, which has killed more than 27,000 people and left 1.8 million homeless, has spilt into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon. An anti-Boko Haram force combining soldiers from Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria has been set up but has failed to rout the group from the restive Lake Chad region.”

Africa Center For Strategic Studies: Exploiting Borders In The Sahel: The Islamic State In The Greater Sahara

“The rapid escalation of violent activity by militant Islamist groups in the Sahel since 2016 has been primarily driven by three groups: Macina Liberation Front, focused around the Mopti-Segou region of central Mali, Ansaroul Islam, concentrated around the Djibo municipality of northern Burkina Faso, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). ISGS has been distinctive for the geographic expansiveness of its activity, extending some 800 km along the eastern Mali/western Niger border area as well as roughly 600 km down Burkina Faso’s eastern border with Niger. Roughly 90 percent of ISGS attacks have occurred within 100 km of one of these borders. ISGS has also emerged as one of the most dangerous militant groups in the region. ISGS was linked to 26 percent of all events and 42 percent of all fatalities associated with militant Islamist groups in the Sahel in 2018. At the current pace, ISGS will be linked to over 570 fatalities in 2019, more than any other Sahelian group. With ISGS’s push southward, worries are increasing that militant Islamist violence now threatens northern Benin, Togo, and Ghana. Two French tourists were abducted and their guide killed in early May from the Pendjari Park in northern Benin, in an attack attributed to the militant groups.”

North Korea

The Wall Street Journal: North Korean Leader’s Slain Half Brother Was A CIA Source

“Kim Jong Nam, the slain half brother of North Korea’s leader, was a Central Intelligence Agency source who met on several occasions with agency operatives, a person knowledgeable about the matter said. “There was a nexus” between the U.S. spy agency and Mr. Kim, the person said. Mr. Kim, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was killed in Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia in February 2017, when two women smeared his face with the nerve agent VX. U.S. and South Korean officials have blamed the attack on North Korea, which it denies. Many details of Mr. Kim’s relationship with the CIA remain unclear. Several former U.S. officials said the half brother, who had lived outside of North Korea for many years and had no known power base in Pyongyang, was unlikely to be able to provide details of the secretive country’s inner workings.”

United Kingdom

USA Today: ISIS Militant From Cell Dubbed 'The Beatles' Apologizes For Terror Role

“Two notorious Islamic State militants imprisoned in Syria have admitted to roles in ransom negotiations for Western hostages but denied U.S. claims of torture and murder. One of the men apologized for his actions. El Shafee Elsheikh, 30, and Alexanda Kotey, 35, are accused of membership in a murderous, four-man cell dubbed “The Beatles” because of their British accents. The duo recently spoke to CNN via a video link. “I consider my role in this whole scenario, this whole episode as one of my mistakes,” said Elsheikh, a native of Sudan. “I would like to apologize (to) everybody who was affected, directly or indirectly.” Kotey, who is British, said he extracted “proof of life” information and email addresses from European hostages so ISIS could contact family members with ransom demands. Elsheikh said he was a liaison between the prisoners and the ISIS officials who handled negotiations. “I was a fighter,” Kotey said. Some of the hostages ultimately were released but others were executed. Some were killed on video by Mohammed Emwazi, an infamous cell member known as “Jihadi John.” Emwazi reportedly was killed in a 2015 drone strike. The State Department says the group was responsible for holding captive and beheading approximately two dozen hostages, including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and American aid worker Peter Kassig.”

The Times Of Israel: BBC To Stop Using The Word ‘Terror’ To Describe Attacks – Report

“The British Broadcasting Corporation has decided to stop using the word “terror” in order to avoid being perceived as being biased in its reporting, the Daily Mail newspaper reported Sunday. The report quoted “well-placed BBC sources” as saying the worldwide network’s management is “eager to report terror attacks consistently, regardless of the terrorist’s political ideology.” Instead of calling all incidents “terror attacks” and risk accusations of bias, the BBC will be changing its editorial policy to remove the word “terror” from its lexicon unless it is contained in a direct quote. “It boils down to that phrase, ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,‘“ a senior news source told the Daily Mail. The world’s largest broadcast news operation has come under criticism in the past, accused of bias in reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for not calling attacks terrorism, and for suppressing a 2004 internal inquiry into its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Conservative member of parliament Andrew Bridgen criticized the reported move to stop calling attacks “terrorism,” telling the Daily Mail that “the BBC should not try to sanitize the behavior of terrorists by not calling it out.”

CNS News: British MP Asks If British Gov’t Covered Up Hezbollah ‘Bomb Factory’ Because Of Iran Nuclear Deal

“A British lawmaker is calling for answers after it was revealed at the weekend that authorities swooped on a Hezbollah “bomb factory” in London four years ago – just weeks after Britain, the U.S. and others concluded the nuclear deal with the regime in Iran, Hezbollah’s chief sponsor and patron. Joan Ryan, an independent member of the House of Commons, asked Home Secretary Sajid Javid in a letter Monday why details of the September 2015 raid had not been made public. “Can you confirm that nobody in Government ordered this information to be withheld from the public because of its sensitivity due to Iran’s funding and support for Hezbollah and the recent conclusion of the Iran nuclear deal?” she asked.”


The Wall Street Journal: German Foreign Minister, In Tehran, Seeks To Save Iran Nuclear Deal

“Germany’s foreign minister made a bid to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, reassuring leaders in Tehran of Europe’s commitment to the pact and showcasing European support for Iran at a time when the Islamic Republic is locked in a high-stakes battle with Washington. Tehran has accused the U.K., France and Germany—who are part of the 2015 accord—of failing to provide the pledged economic support to Iran in return for restrictions on the country’s nuclear program. The U.S. pulled out of the nuclear deal last year and imposed harsh new sanctions on Iran in a bid to curb what it called Tehran’s meddling in the region. Along with the European countries, China and Russia remain parties of the deal with Iran. On a visit to Tehran Monday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the Europeans would do their best to ensure that Iran receives economic benefit from staying in the agreement.”


ABC News: Catholic Priest In Hospital After Knife Attack In Poland

“Authorities in Poland say that a Roman Catholic priest is hospitalized in serious condition after a man attacked him with a knife. Krzysztof Zaporowski, police spokesman in the southwestern city of Wroclaw, said the attacker approached the priest early Monday in front of the city's Holiest Mary church. The attacker has been detained. Monika Kowalska, a spokeswoman for Wroclaw Univesrity Hospital, said the priest underwent surgery for chest wounds and is in stable condition. The circumstances surrounding the attack was not immediately clear. It comes at a time when Poland's influential Catholic Church is confronted with allegations about sex abuse of minors by some priests, and faces questions about the practice of moving the perpetrators among parishes rather than meting out proper punishment.”


ABC News Australia: Former Neo-Nazi And Counter-Violent Extremism Experts Issue Warning To Australia

“For Arno Arr Michaelis, anti-social behaviour became a kind of addiction as a kid. “Hate was just another part of the thrill,” he says. “Really what I craved was to repulse civil society and nothing appals people more than a swastika.” He joined a neo-Nazi skinhead group in the US for seven years and was part of the worldwide Hammerskin Nation movement.  By 1994, Mr Michaelis was a single parent to his young daughter in Wisconsin. He decided to leave the group after a friend was shot dead in a street fight and others were jailed. “It finally hit me that if I didn't change my ways, death or prison would take me from my daughter,” he says. “The violent extremist person needs to get to the point where they think, 'this is f***ed up, I can't do this anymore'.” Now, Mr Michaelis is one of several former extremists leading efforts to reform those attracted to far-right or Islamic terrorism around the globe. “We want to get them talking about it, that's basically like therapy 101,” he says. Mr Michaelis believes governments, including Australia's, aren't doing enough to learn from experiences like his to confront rising far-right extremism. “The States is just as far behind as Australia if not more so. Mainly our Government doesn't see white nationalism as a threat.” 


Business Insider: YouTube's Crackdown On Extremist Videos Has Inadvertently Shut Down Educational Channels Featuring Old Nazi Footage

“In its attempt to crack down on videos promoting hate speech and extremist ideologies, YouTube has inadvertently blocked some channels featuring archival footage of Nazis and Adolf Hitler.  The Guardian reports that some history teachers have seen their channels deleted, with YouTube citing “content that promotes hatred or violence against members of a protected group.” The teachers says their channels featured footage of Nazi-era Hitler speeches and clips from old documentaries, which are used for educational purposes and shown in classrooms.  “It's absolutely vital that YouTube work to undo the damage caused by their indiscriminate implementation as soon as possible,” Romanian teacher Scott Allsop told the Guardian. “Access to important material is being denied wholesale as many other channels are left branded as promoting hate when they do nothing of the sort.” The actions taken against these educational channels come after YouTube's announcement last week it was further cracking down on “videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion.” YouTube said the updated policy included a ban on content promoting or glorifying Nazi ideology.”

BuzzFeed News: Facebook Turned Off Search Features Used To Catch War Criminals, Child Predators, And Other Bad Actors

“When Alexa Koenig learned of Facebook’s abrupt decision to turn off a set of advanced search features last week, she thought of a Libyan military commander named Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli. In August 2017, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Werfalli for allegedly participating in or ordering the execution of 33 people in Benghazi, Libya. At the core of the evidence against him are seven videos, some of which were found on Facebook, that allegedly show Werfalli committing crimes. His case marked the first time the ICC issued a warrant based largely on material gathered from social media. Now that kind of work is being put in jeopardy, according to Koenig, executive director of the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley. She said Facebook’s recent decision to turn off the features in its graph search product could be a “disaster” for human rights research.”

The New York Times: Anger At Big Tech Unites Noodle Pullers And Code Writers. Washington Is All Ears

“Oracle and the Handpulled Noodle would seem to have little in common. One is a multibillion-dollar software company in Silicon Valley with tens of thousands of employees all over the world. The other is a small Harlem spot that serves Chinese comfort food and is known for its tasty dumplings. But they both say Google is unfairly hurting their businesses, and they have a new audience in Washington eager to hear about it. After years of showing little interest, Congress and regulators at the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department plan to scrutinize the power, influence and market dominance of Google, as well as fellow tech giants Amazon, Apple and Facebook. “Obviously there is something going on in terms of monopoly,” President Trump said about large tech companies in an interview on CNBC on Monday.”