Eye on Extremism: June 13

The Washington Post: Tankers Targeted Near Strait Of Hormuz Amid Iran-US Tensions

“Two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz were damaged in suspected attacks on Thursday, an assault that left one ablaze and adrift as sailors were evacuated from both vessels and the U.S. Navy rushed to assist amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran. The Navy and the ship’s owners offered no immediate explanation on what weapon caused the damage to the MT Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Iran, though all believed the ships had been targeted in an attack. It marks the latest mysterious incident to target the region’s oil tankers. The U.S. alleged that Iran used limpet mines to attack four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah last month. Iran has denied being involved, but it comes as Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen also have launched missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.”

The New York Times: Shelling Breaks Syria Cease-Fire Negotiated By Russia And Turkey

“A cease-fire negotiated between Syrian rebels and government forces in the country’s war-battered northwest was on shaky ground after intermittent bombing and shelling resumed overnight Thursday in Idlib Province, the country’s last piece of rebel-held territory. Russia and Turkey, two of the dominant foreign powers in the area, had negotiated the cease-fire between the groups. It took effect on Wednesday, and was aimed at ending more than six weeks of fighting, bombing and shelling as the Syrian government moved to reclaim parts of the northwest. But amid sporadic breaches of the agreement, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told reporters on Thursday that “it is not possible” to call it a “full cease-fire right now.” “Russia and Iran as guarantor countries should put pressure” on the Syrian government “for the attacks to stop,” Mr. Cavusoglu added. “They should fulfill their responsibilities.”

The Washington Post: Islamic State In Afghanistan Aims To Attack US, General Says

“The Islamic State group in Afghanistan is a “very worrisome” threat to the United States, and U.S. counterterrorism efforts have yet to shrink its extremist ambitions, a senior American general said Wednesday. Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie said IS would be hard pressed, however, to carry out an attack on the U.S. homeland because it is under strong military pressure. “ISIS in Afghanistan certainly has aspirations to attack the United States,” McKenzie said. “It is our clear judgment that as long as we maintain pressure on them it will be hard for them to do that.” McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command with responsibility for managing American military operations across the greater Middle East, spoke in Germany with reporters returning home with him from an eight-day trip that took him to Qatar, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. He also spent two days aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in the North Arabian Sea. He stopped at Germany’s Ramstein air base to refuel his airplane before flying to his headquarters in Florida. Earlier this week, the Associated Press cited U.S. and Afghan security officials In reporting that the Islamic State group in Afghanistan is expanding its footprint, recruiting new fighters and plotting attacks on the United States and other Western countries.”

Radio Farda: Saudi Warns Iran Over Yemeni Rebel Airport Attack

“Riyadh accused its arch-foe Tehran on Thursday of ordering a Yemeni rebel missile strike which wounded 26 people at a Saudi airport and warned of "grave consequences". "The continuation of the Iranian regime's aggression and reckless escalation, whether directly or through its militias, will result in grave consequences," deputy defence minister Prince Khaled bin Salman tweeted. Yemen's Huthi rebels hit the civilian airport in the popular mountain resort of Abha in the southwest of the kingdom on Wednesday, damaging the arrivals hall and forcing its closure for several hours. "We will confront the Huthi militia's crimes with unwavering resolve," said Prince Khaled, a son of King Salman. "Their targeting of a civilian airport exposes to the world the recklessness of Iran's escalation and the danger it poses to regional security and stability." Iran and the Yemeni rebels both follow arms of the Shiite branch of Islam but Tehran has always denied providing more than moral support to the rebels. Riyadh has accused the rebels of being Iranian proxies ever since it led its allies in launching a military intervention against them in March 2015. "The Iranian regime is the only party in the region that has been pursuing reckless escalation, through the use of ballistic missiles and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to directly target civilian installations and innocent civilians," Prince Khaled said.”

The Huffington Post: Deepfake Videos And The Threat Of Not Knowing What’s Real

“Experts are issuing increasingly urgent warnings about the advance of deepfake technology ― both the realistic nature of these videos, and the ease with which even amateurs can create them. The possibilities could bend reality in terrifying ways. Deepfake technology threatens to provoke a genuine civic crisis, as people lose faith that anything they see is real. “If you can synthesize speech and video of a politician, your mother, your child, a military commander, I don’t think it takes a stretch of the imagination to see how that could be dangerous for purposes of fraud, national security, democratic elections or sowing civil unrest,” said digital forensics expert Hany Farid, a senior adviser at the Counter Extremism Project. The emergence of deepfakes brings not only the possibility of hoax videos spreading harmful misinformation, Farid added, but also of real videos being dismissed as fake.”

The Wall Street Journal: Treasury Sanctions Iraqi Firm Accused Of Smuggling Arms For Iran

“The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday imposed sanctions on an Iraqi company it said had trafficked hundreds of millions of dollars in arms for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force. Treasury’s blacklisting of the South Wealth Resources Company, or Manabea Tharwat al-Janoob General Trading Company, is part of the Trump administration’s broader pressure campaign against Tehran that the White House says is meant to coerce the government into a nuclear and regional security pact. The latest sanctions also affect two Iraqi men the U.S. accuses of aiding the IRGC’s weapon imports. “Treasury is taking action to shut down Iranian weapons smuggling networks that have been used to arm regional proxies of the IRGC Qods Force in Iraq, while personally enriching regime insiders,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The secretary said Iraq’s financial system must bolster efforts to counter illicit Iran-directed activity. The sanctions block any property the firm and men may own within U.S. territory, and the exposure of the alleged activities could hinder the operations going forward.”

United States

The Wall Street Journal: Suspect In Louisiana Church Fires Faces Federal Hate-Crime Charges

“The son of a Louisiana sheriff’s deputy is facing federal hate-crime charges in connection with three fires that destroyed African-American churches earlier this year. Holden Matthews, 21 years old, was charged in a six-count federal indictment that was unsealed Wednesday. The indictment charges Mr. Matthews with three counts of “intentional damage to religious property,” which the Justice Department said is a hate crime under the U.S. Church Arson Prevention Act. He’s also charged with three counts of “using fire to commit a felony.” Mr. Matthews is white and the churches served black congregations. The indictment, however, doesn’t mention race. It says the fires were set “because of the religious character” of the properties. The indictment is dated June 6 and was handed up by a grand jury in Lafayette, La."

Syria

The Hill: Reintegrating ISIS Militants And Families Is A Global Problem

“With the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in war-battered Iraq and Syria, governments around the world — including the United States — are struggling with a new challenge from the terrorist group: What to do about thousands of family members of dead or captured ISIS fighters? Thousands of women from around the world — America, Western and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and beyond — traveled to Iraq and Syria at the height of ISIS's power, marrying into its ranks and bearing children. Others were taken as captives from Kurdish, Yazidi, Christian and other Iraqi and Syrian religious-minority communities overrun by IS and eventually absorbed into the terrorist organization, in one form or another.  Many of those women want to return to their home countries, along with their children, since the IS "caliphate" is no more, and Iraq and Syria are not eager to accept them as citizens. Whether or how they can be reintegrated is an incredibly difficult issue, with enormous potential security implications, especially for Central Asia nations that face their own ethnic, religious, political and security issues.  Uzbekistan recently announced the repatriation of 156 IS survivors, mostly women and children who had been living in parts of Syria controlled by Islamist groups.”

Iran

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Assists Tankers Near Iran After Suspected Attacks

“Two tankers were damaged in attacks off the coast of Iran early Thursday, sending oil prices sharply higher amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran following assaults on vessels last month. Damage to one of the ships was extensive, including a fire and a hole at the water line that was consistent with a hit by a torpedo or other projectile, according to early assessments. The Japanese government said the other ship, operated by a Japanese company, sustained multiple attacks, including at least one hit from an unidentified projectile. Both ships were carrying crude oil products headed for Asia. U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain, which oversees U.S. naval operations in the region, received two distress calls about the attacks on the tankers in the Gulf of Oman, one at 6:12 a.m. local time and another one at 7 a.m., according to a statement from Cmdr. Josh Frey, a spokesman for the command. The USS Bainbridge, a destroyer, is rendering assistance.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iran Presses Japan To Break With U.S. Sanctions On Tehran

“Iran’s president pressed Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, to break with U.S. economic sanctions on Tehran, highlighting the challenge Mr. Abe faces in trying to help ease a military standoff between the U.S. and Iran. Mr. Abe arrived in Tehran on Wednesday hoping that his close relationship with President Trump and warm ties with Iran would enable him to help defuse a crisis triggered by Mr. Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 international deal to cap Iran’s nuclear program. After giving Mr. Abe a military guard of honor followed by talks at an ancient royal palace in northern Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani offered his guest his formula for progress. “Japan’s interest in continuing to purchase oil from Iran and solving financial issues…can secure the expansion of our relations,” Mr. Rouhani told reporters following the meeting.”

Iraq

The Jerusalem Post: Iraqis Remember ISIS Massacres Five Years Later

“The shocking takeover of a large part of central and western Iraq by Islamic State in 2014 haunts people today across the country.  With fires burning in Sinjar, an area ISIS targeted in August 2014 and the scene of its genocide of the Yazidi minority, people can’t help but remember that five years after ISIS blitzkrieged its way into Mosul, it is still a threat. Questions also remain about how the Iraqi army failed to stop the advance and whether the enemy will return. On Twitter local photographer and academic Ali Y. Al-Baroodi tweeted a photo of Mosul on June 10, 2014, when ISIS had attacked Iraq’s second largest city. He recalled the first morning under ISIS control. “The battle was still raging, the army did not fight. High ranking commanders were the first to flee.” Soldiers were left aimless, without orders or clarify of what to do.  Mosul is a large city that sits bestride the Tigris river.  On the western side is the old part of the city with its warren of alleys and also the airport. On the eastern side, what locals call the left bank, is the more modern suburbs, the ancient ruins of Mosul, the five-star hotels and the university. This city had been famous for its merchants and also for local support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Paramilitary Fighters Kill Two Islamic State Militants In Salahuddin

“Iraqi paramilitary Hashd Shaabi fighters killed on Wednesday two members of the Islamic State militant group in Salahuddin province. The two terrorists, identified as Abdullah Mohamed al-Jabouri and Bassam Mohamed al-Jabouri, were plotting to carry out terrorist attacks against civilians in al-Shirqat town in Salahuddin, according to a statement by the pro-government fighters. The operation, according to the statement, was carried out based on intelligence information. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq. IS declared a self-styled “caliphate” in a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014. A government campaign, backed by a U.S.-led international coalition and paramilitary forces, was launched in 2016 to retake IS-held regions, managing to retake all havens, most notably the city of Mosul, the group’s previously proclaimed capital.”

Kurdistan 24: ISIS Carries Out Rare Attack In Shingal Region

“The Islamic State on Wednesday claimed responsibility for an attack against the Shingal Resistance Units (YBS) in Sinjar, an armed group affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The semi-official Islamic State media outlet, Amaq, claimed itsfighters ambushed a “military unit of the PKK” on Tuesday and then detonated a car bomb against a group of PKK forces near the al-Jazira complex in the vicinity of Sinjar (Shingal) mountain. The terror group claimed it also targeted a house and detonated an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that targeted a YBS vehicle. Following the incident, the YBS deployed more forces to the area, prompting Islamic State fighters to withdraw, but not before they set-off another car bomb. Local media said the Islamic State fighters attacked a YBS position near the village of Hellus in Madiwan town at around 5:45 a.m. local time on Tuesday. The attack was carried out with four bomb-laden vehicles. However, the local media reported that the attack was repelled, and the car bomb was destroyed before it reached its target. The attack comes after wildfires plagued farmlands in Shingal, including the destruction of 79 mass graves that contain the remains of Yezidis (Ezidis) who suffered genocide in August 2014 at the hands of the terror group.”

Turkey

The Washington Examiner: Top U.S. Counterterror Official Nathan Sales Heading To Turkey For Talks Amid Tensions

“The State Department’s top counterterrorism official is heading to Turkey to discuss future U.S cooperation with Ankara, days after the Pentagon threatened to cut the NATO ally out of a key weapons program. State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Amb. Nathan Sales has been in talks with his Turkish counterparts on regional terrorism issues since Monday. The talks are focused on repatriation and prosecution of captured Islamic State and al Qaeda terrorists, border security and “countering the Kurdistan Workers Party” or PKK according to a department statement. The visit comes days after Pentagon officials terminated training programs for Turkish pilots aboard the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Defense Department officials made the move in protest of Ankara’s plans to buy the Russian S-400 missile system, which the U.S. and other European allies fear could compromise NATO’s defenses. Turkey has said it is determined to proceed with the Russian purchase, saying it turned to Moscow following Washington’s refusal to sell its Patriot missile system.”

Afghanistan

ABC News: Roadside Bomb Kills 6 Civilians In Southern Afghanistan

“An Afghan official says six people were killed when a civilian vehicle struck a roadside bomb in southern Kandahar province. Provincial councilman Yousof Younosi says all the victims were from a single family — two children, two women and two men. The attack took place on Tuesday in Dand district. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but Younosi blamed the Taliban who are active in the province and regularly stage attacks against Afghan forces and government officials. Meanwhile, Jawad Hajri, spokesman for the governor in northeastern Takhar province, said security forces repelled Taliban attacks on checkpoints in Khoja Ghor district on Tuesday. He says three pro-government fighters were killed as well as 15 insurgents. The Taliban claimed their fighters had overrun the Khoja Ghor district headquarters.”

Yahoo News: Afghan Government Says It Has Freed 490 Taliban Prisoners

“The Afghan government says it has freed 490 Taliban prisoners from jails across the country in a gesture of good will as part of efforts to move a stalled peace process forward. Feroz Bashari, government media center chief, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the freed Taliban insurgents were either ailing or had less than a year remaining on their prison sentence. He says they are part of a group of 887 inmates that President Ashraf Ghani ordered freed to mark the Eid-al-Fitr holiday that followed the end of the holy month of Ramadan earlier in June. He didn't say when the remaining prisoners would be released. The development comes as U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is in the Afghan capital of Kabul, trying to revive peace talks.”

Pakistan

Reuters: Militants Kill Five Indian Paramilitary Police In Kashmir Attack

“Militants killed five Indian paramilitary police on Wednesday in an attack on security forces deployed in a Kashmiri town, a senior police officer said.  Three paramilitaries, a local policeman and a woman bystander were wounded, and one militant was killed when the police returned fire, he said.  The attack in Anantnag town was claimed by Al Umar Mujahideen, an Islamist militant group based in Kashmir. It was the deadliest in Indian Kashmir since February, when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into a bus, killing 40 paramilitary police.  That bombing raised tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan, part of whose border runs through the disputed, Muslim-majority region. Separately on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet agreed to extend direct federal rule over the state of Jammu and Kashmir.  The Himalayan region has been being directly governed by New Delhi since 2018, after Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quit a regional coalition and called for federal authorities to take control.  Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by Pakistan, and Indian forces have struggled to quell a revolt there for decades.”

India

Reuters: Indian Police Raid Islamic State Cell With Links To Sri Lanka Bombing Mastermind

“Indian police raided seven locations in the southern city of Coimbatore on Wednesday in pursuit of a suspected Islamic State cell with links to the suicide bombers who killed over 250 people in Sri Lanka in April, officials said.  The National Investigation Agency (NIA) said it was questioning seven men from Coimbatore, aged between 26 and 38, on suspicion of propagating Islamic State ideology to recruit people for carrying out attacks in southern India.  Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombings in neighbouring Sri Lanka and has been looking to bolster its presence in the sub-continent after being driven out of its self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria.  Last month Islamic State claimed the establishment of a “province” in India after a clash between jihadists and security forces in the contested, northern Kashmir region.  “We had recently registered a fresh case against a new ISIS module in Coimbatore,” an NIA official told Reuters, using another name for Islamic State, explaining Wednesday’s raids during which a number of electronic devices were also seized.”

Saudi Arabia

Al Arabiya: UN: Terrorist Attack On Abha Airport Poses Threat To Regional Security

“The United Nations has expressed its concern over the terrorist attack carried out by the Iran-backed Houthi militia on Abha International Airport. In a press conference, UN spokesman Farhan Haq described the attack as a serious threat to regional security and undermining the political process in Yemen led by the United Nations. The United Nations is deeply concerned about the attack, deputy Haq told reporters in New York. “We urge all parties to prevent any such further incidents, which risk escalating the current situation, pose a serious threat to national and regional security and undermine the UN-led political process,” Haq said. There has been widespread reaction condemnation of Wednesday’s attack across the Gulf, Middle East, and internationally. Senior European Union diplomat Helga Schmid told Reuters in Abu Dhabi that Wednesday's attack was a “provocation that is unacceptable” and risked undermining the UN efforts. The UAE strongly condemned the Houthi terrorist attack against the airport, which resulted in injuries to civilians. In a statement, the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said the UAE strongly condemned this terrorist act, and deemed it as new evidence of the Houthi’s hostile and terrorist tendencies that seek to undermine security and stability in the region.”

Arab News: International Condemnation Of Houthi Attack On Saudi Arabia’s Abha Airport

“Leaders from around the Arab world have condemned a Houthi missile attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha International Airport. In the early hours of Wednesday, the Iranian-backed Houthi militia targeted the airport in southern Saudi Arabia, which injured 26 civilians, an Arab coalition spokesman said. The UAE, in its condemnation of the attack, said the act was proof of the Houthi militia’s attempts to “undermine regional security.” In a statement, the Emirati foreign ministry renewed its “full solidarity” with Saudi Arabia and said it “stands with Riyadh against any threat to the Kingdom’s security and stability.” The UAE also renewed its support for all measures taken to combat extremism and Houthi terrorism to preserve the Kingdom’s security and the safety of its citizens and residents on its territory.”

Lebanon

Algemeiner: Rep. Zeldin To Present Bill Linking Lebanon Military Aid Tied To Combating Hezbollah

“US Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) is expected to introduce a bill this week stipulating US military assistance to Lebanon in order to counter the terrorist group Hezbollah’s control in the nation. If enacted, the Countering Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Military Act of 2019 would consist of conditions associated with “20 percent of American military assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces,” or (LAF), according to Jewish Insider, which first reported the development. “To comply, it must show that the government and military are working to limit Hezbollah’s role in the Lebanese army, with the US secretaries of state and defense expected to ‘actively engage’ in discussions to keep officials from the terrorist organization out of key leadership roles in the military,” continued the article. As of 2005, the United States has given the LAF at least $2.29 billion in military aid.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Report: Hezbollah Planned Huge, Game-Changing Attacks On Israel Targets Globally

“For three and a half years, Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency played a cat-and-mouse game with the Hezbollah terror group to stymie its efforts to establish explosives storehouses from Thailand to New York, an Israeli intelligence official confirmed this week. The largest cache, containing some three tons of ammonium nitrate, a key ingredient for some types of explosives, was found at four locations in north London, sites raided by the Metropolitan Police in September 2015. Other caches planted by Hezbollah cells were discovered in Cyprus, Thailand and as-yet unnamed European countries, according to reports. The Hezbollah plot to establish infrastructure in London in preparation for future attacks was revealed Sunday in the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. That report, based on sources in Britain, the US and Cyprus, noted that a foreign intelligence agency, unnamed, had tipped off Britain’s MI5 and the Metropolitan Police about the explosives. On Monday, an unnamed senior Israeli official told Israel’s Kan public broadcaster the warning had come from the Mossad. On Wednesday, a report in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily expanded on the revelation, citing unnamed Israeli intelligence officials offering new details about the Israeli effort to stymie Hezbollah’s activities — which police in London, Cyprus and Thailand have concluded were ultimately directed at Israeli assets in those countries.”

The New York Times: Tankers Attacked Again In Gulf Of Oman, Raising Fears Of Wider Conflict

“Two oil tankers came under attack on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, forcing their crews to abandon ship and setting at least one vessel ablaze, a month after four tankers were damaged in the same waterway, a vital thoroughfare for much of the world’s oil products. The early morning attacks escalated tensions in an already tense region, where Iran has long been at odds with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and they are backing opposite sides in the civil war in Yemen. Relations between the United States — allied with the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia — and Iran have also worsened. Frictions have become so intense that other nations have pleaded with all sides to stay calm rather than provoke an all-out war. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, who was visiting Iran and trying to bridge the gap between Iran and the United States, warned of the risk of stumbling into military conflict.”

Egypt

Fox News: Egyptian Court Sentences 296 To Prison On Terror Charges

“An Egyptian military court has sentenced 32 people to life in prison on terror charges including plotting to assassinate President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. The court in Cairo Wednesday said the defendants attempted the president's assassination twice, including when he was on pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia in 2014. The court also sentenced 264 other defendants, to three to 15 years in prison, all on terror charges, including militant attacks in the Sinai. Two were acquitted, and one defendant died during the trail, while a minor was referred another court. Nearly half of the defendants were tried in absentia. The verdict can be appealed. Rights groups have repeatedly criticized such mass sentencings in Egypt and have called on authorities to ensure fair trials.”

France

The Hill: Marine Le Pen Goes To Trial Over Tweets On ISIS Atrocities

“A French judge has ordered Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s right-wing Rassemblement National party, to stand trial over gruesome images of atrocities committed by ISIS she shared on Twitter, according to The Local France. In December 2015, the French politician sent three tweets showing the decapitated body of American reporter James Foley, a man on fire in a cage and a victim being driven over by a tank. The images were captioned “This is Daesh,” another name for ISIS.  In 2017, she was stripped of legal immunity by the European Parliament, and in February 2018 Le Pen was charged with circulating “violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity" that can be seen by a minor. "This only shows French citizens what the EU is, what the European Parliament is and that it's all part of the system that wants to stop the French people's candidate that I am," Le Pen said in response to being stripped of immunity, according to the site.   Le Pen refused to attend a police interview during a law enforcement investigation into the tweets, telling AFP "I am being charged for having condemned the horrors of Daesh” and that “in other countries this would have earned me a medal.”

Germany

Asharq Al-Awsat: AE, Germany Underline Commitment To Fighting Terrorism

“The UAE and Germany have reaffirmed their joint commitment to the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, in all its forms, at both regional and international levels. In a joint statement issued Wednesday on the occasion of the visit of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to Germany, the two countries expressed their shared view that terrorism and violent extremism are threats to the international order.  They reiterated their unequivocal rejection of all forms of terrorism that represents a threat to international peace and stability and ensure security cooperation in this regard, reported the UAE news agency (WAM). German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Sheikh Mohammed held in-depth talks on the current security situation in the Gulf, on issues relating to regional security, as well as increasing political, economic, humanitarian and cultural cooperation between Abu Dhabi and Berlin. The UAE and Germany said that terrorism and violent extremism are threats to the international order. They underscored their unequivocal rejection of all forms of terrorism, that represents a threat to the international peace and stability, and ensure security cooperation in this regard.”

Europe

Iran Focus: Hezbollah European Drug Trade Revealed

“Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah is bypassing US sanctions against Iran by laundering many millions of dollars in the drug trade in Europe. This news comes as the result of a study about how Hezbollah’s political wing serves its military wing and further enshrines that there is no real distinction between the two. It showed that Hezbollah acts as intermediaries in the global drug route from South America to West Africa to Europe, with only 5-10% of total drugs being intercepted. Daniel Cohen of the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya said: “We are showing how all the drug distribution works and supports money laundering… Our study links Hezbollah’s political wing with its military wing, and we went down to the field level and are showing how all the drug trafficking system supports money laundering. At least 20%-25% of the [profit] goes back to Hezbollah and is used for arming, weapon purchases, salaries and more.”

Australia

The Guardian: Two Men Shot By Police In Victoria Were Of Interest To Counter-Terror Unit

“Two brothers of interest to counter-terrorism police have been shot and seriously wounded by officers near the Victoria-New South Wales border. Counter-terrorism officers were in north-eastern Victoria on Wednesday gathering intelligence when they sought assistance from local police to locate the two men. Officers tried to pull over the brothers, aged 19 and 30, near a camping ground at Barnawartha North about 3pm on Wednesday. The pair allegedly rammed the police car then lunged at the officers with a knife and a tomahawk. Both men were shot by police and taken to Albury hospital with serious injuries. The 30-year-old was later flown to Melbourne. Police said the encounter was not being treated as a terrorism-related attack and there was no ongoing threat to the community. A Victoria police acting assistant commissioner, Clive Rust, said officers had begun pursuing the brothers at the request of counter-terrorism detectives in the area. Police said the pair had recently relocated to Victoria from NSW, and the counter-terrorism detectives wanted to speak with them as part of “standard procedure.”

New Zealand

Reuters: New Zealand Massacre Suspect Set To Enter Pleas, Face New Terrorism Charge

“Suspected white supremacist Brenton Tarrant is expected to enter pleas, and will face a new terrorism charge, when he appears in court on Friday over the mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch. In an attack on March 15 that was broadcast live on Facebook, a lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons targeted Muslims attending Friday prayers in Christchurch, killing 51 worshippers and wounding dozens of people. Tarrant already faces 50 counts of murder for the attack and when he appears in the Christchurch High Court on Friday will be charged under a terrorist act, the first time such a charge has been brought in New Zealand. The police announced its plans to bring on terrorism charges and an additional murder charge last month. A minute issued to the media by Christchurch High Court Judge Cameron Mander last week said Tarrant is expected to enter a plea to the charges.”

Southeast Asia

NPR: The Philippines' Marawi City Remains Wrecked Nearly 2 Years After ISIS War

“Olowan Magarang recalls the moment he knew it was time to flee his home in Marawi, on the southern Philippines' island of Mindanao. It was in May 2017, two days into a siege by militants aligned with the Islamic State. "I spotted ISIS fighters moving up my brother's four-story house, carrying long guns and high-caliber weapons," he says. Magarang was living in what became ground zero — the epicenter of months of fighting — when Philippine troops waged house-to-house combat against hundreds of ISIS-affiliated fighters in Marawi. Authorities allowed him to see the ruins of his concrete house for the first time last August. "I couldn't even recognize it. The second floor is destroyed. It has no roof or walls. I will renovate," he says. "As long as I have money." Magarang is one of about 100,000 displaced residents — a number about half the size of Marawi's population — waiting to return home, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The largest Muslim-majority city in this mostly Roman Catholic country, Marawi has a rich cultural and architectural heritage. But more than a year and a half after the government declared victory, the battle scars in the city are as prominent as ever and residents displaced by the conflict chafe under sluggish reconstruction.”

Technology

The Washington Free Beacon: House Reps Demand Twitter Ban Hamas Accounts

“Members of Congress petitioned Twitter on Wednesday to ban accounts linked to several foreign terrorist groups, including the Palestinian Hamas organization, according to a letter sent to the social networking site. The 16 lawmakers urged Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to remove "all content promoting terrorist activity," including banning "senior Hamas officials and associates from Twitter who radicalize individuals to incite violence against Israelis," according to a statement issued by the members. Twitter has emerged as a leading platform for militant groups and their leaders to communicate their radical messages. While the social networking site has worked to crack down on speech it considers hateful and dangerous, including the banning of radical political figures on both the far left and right, it has a mixed record when it comes to Islamic radicals who use the service to promote terrorism. Some lawmakers and advocates have argued that Twitter could be providing material support to these terror groups by allowing them a platform, which is prohibited under federal law. "Congress has already determined that providing material support, resources, and intangible assistance to a [Foreign Terrorist Organization] is a federal crime," wrote the lawmakers, led by Republican Reps. Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.), Doug Lamborn (R., Colo.), and Joe Wilson (R., S.C), co-chairs of the House Republican Israel Caucus.”

The Wall Street Journal: Facebook Worries Emails Could Show Zuckerberg Knew Of Questionable Privacy Practices

“Facebook Inc. uncovered emails that appear to connect Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg to potentially problematic privacy practices at the company, according to people familiar with the matter. Within the company, the unearthing of the emails in the process of responding to a continuing federal privacy investigation has raised concerns that they would be harmful to Facebook—at least from a public-relations standpoint—if they were to become public, one of the people said. The potential impact of the internal emails has been a factor in the tech giant’s desire to reach a speedy settlement of the investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, one of the people said. Facebook is operating under a 2012 consent decree with the agency related to privacy, and the emails sent around that time suggest that Mr. Zuckerberg and other senior executives didn’t make compliance with the FTC order a priority, the people said. It couldn’t be determined exactly what emails the agency has requested and how many of them relate to Mr. Zuckerberg.”

Vice: Facebook In India Is Drowning In Anti-Muslim Hate Speech

“At the end of February, Facebook launched an ad campaign in the Indian state of Maharashtra that was designed to inform users about resources available to protect against harassment and hate speech. But instead of informing the public, it enraged them. Facebook’s mistake: portraying a troll as a member of the lower Dalit caste, an oversight that essentially reinforced ugly stereotypes against the very group that is most discriminated against on its platform. Hundreds of users reported the ad as hate speech, and within a day the ad was removed. But the incident symbolized Facebook’s mounting failures in its biggest market, particularly when it comes to the spread of harassment and hate speech. In fact, despite Facebook’s efforts, it’s barely made a dent in that department: 93 percent of all hate speech posts reported to Facebook by monitoring group Equality Labs remain on the platform — including content advocating violence, bullying and use of offensive slurs, according to a new report from the South Asian advocacy group, which is dedicated to ending caste-based discrimination, Islamophobia and religious intolerance.”