Eye on Extremism: June 20

The Wall Street Journal: Accused Terrorists Use Loopholes To Tap Frozen Funds

“Loopholes in U.N. Security Council sanctions procedures are allowing blacklisted al Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists and their supporters to tap their bank accounts despite a U.N. asset freeze, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and people familiar with the matter. Those gaining access to their funds include Khalifa al-Subaiy, a Qatari financier who the U.S. says long provided financial support to senior al Qaeda leadership, including Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Mr. Subaiy was added to the United Nations terror blacklist in 2008, but the U.N. has allowed him since then to take up to $10,000 a month from frozen accounts for “basic necessities,” according to the documents and people familiar with the matter. Mr. Subaiy didn’t respond to requests for comment. U.N. records show that the Security Council allowed blacklisted individuals to access their accounts on 71 out of 72 requests between 2008 and 2018.  But that figure likely doesn’t fully capture the number of times blacklisted individuals have used their bank accounts: The Security Council has designated more than 250 individuals as al Qaeda or Islamic State members or supporters, suggesting many are being allowed by home countries to tap their accounts without even seeking Security Council permission.”

The New York Times: Iran Says It Shot Down a U.S. Drone, Escalating Tensions

“Iran shot down a United States surveillance drone early Thursday, both nations said, but they differed on the crucial issue of whether the aircraft had violated Iranian airspace, in the latest escalation in tensions that have raised fears of war between the two countries. Iranian officials said that the drone was over Iran, which the American military denied — an important distinction in determining who was at fault — and each side accused the other of being the aggressor. Both said the downing occurred at 4:05 a.m. Iranian time on Thursday, or 7:35 p.m. on Wednesday in Washington. The drone “was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz,” the United States Central Command said in a statement. “This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

Al Jazeera: UN Aid Chief: Syria, Russia Attacks On Civilians 'Deliberate'

“United Nations officials alleged that Syria's and Russia's forces may be deliberately targeting hospitals and schools in the rebel-held northwest of Syria as a tactic aimed at "terrorising" civilians. Both Syria and Russia denied the accusations on Tuesday. UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council since late April the World Health Organization had confirmed 26 incidents affecting healthcare facilities in the Idlib region. Civilian facilities often provide their exact coordinates to military officials involved in conflict zones to help protect them from inadvertent artillery or air strikes. Lowcock said some hospitals in northwestern Syria were now not sharing their locations with warring parties because it "paints a target on their back"."Hitting a facility whose coordinates were shared as part of the UN's deconfliction system is simply intolerable," said Lowcock. "A number of partners ... have drawn the conclusion that hospital bombings are a deliberate tactic aimed at terrorising people.”

The Wall Street Journal: Flight MH17 Prosecutors Charge Russians With Murder In Shooting Down Plane

“International prosecutors charged four suspects—including three Russians—with murder in a case that investigators said would show how a Russian missile system was used to shoot down a passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 on board and sparking international outrage. The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014—which came as Russia covertly poured men and military vehicles and equipment into eastern Ukraine in support of antigovernment rebels—added momentum to sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine. The Dutch-led investigation announced the charges on Wednesday for prosecution in the Netherlands. Most of the victims were Dutch. The suspects, including three with ties to Russian military and security services, are unlikely to stand trial. All four are in Russia or the part of eastern Ukraine not controlled by Kiev, investigators said.”

CNN: Syrian Refugee Arrested, Accused Of Plotting Attack On Pittsburgh Church For ISIS

“The FBI on Wednesday arrested a 21-year-old Syrian refugee living in Pittsburgh, accusing him of planning to bomb a church in the name of ISIS. Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, who was admitted into the country as a refugee in 2016, bought bomb-making materials and cased escape routes from the church, according to a criminal complaint. Alowemer also shared marked-up satellite maps of the area around the building and a multi-point plan for the attack he'd written out by hand with an FBI informant and undercover agent, the complaint says. Alowemer's arrest comes as ISIS' territory in the Middle East has been virtually eliminated, and the pace of arrests in the US of people inspired by the group to attack has also slowed. President Donald Trump made blocking refugees and immigration from Syria and other terror-prone countries a major initiative as he campaigned for the White House ahead of the 2016 election. His travel ban was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court, which deferred to the President's national security powers.”

The New York Times: F.T.C. Said To Be Investigating Youtube Over Child Privacy Claims

“The Federal Trade Commission is in the advanced stages of an investigation into YouTube’s handling of videos aimed at children, according to two people with knowledge of the inquiry. The investigation, which could result in fines against YouTube, comes after complaints by parents and consumer groups that the video giant had collected data of young users. The groups also complained that YouTube allowed harmful and adult content to appear in searches for children’s content, said the two people, who were not authorized to speak about the investigation because it was private. In addition, misinformation and inappropriate content appeared in YouTube’s recommendation engines, according to the complaints. The F.T.C. is pursuing the investigation of YouTube as regulators and lawmakers in Washington are signaling their interest in curbing the power and influence of some of the biggest tech companies. The agency is poised to announce a settlement with Facebook over the social network’s handling of user data and potential violations of a 2011 consent decree with the agency over previous privacy violations.”

United States

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: FBI: Syrian Islamic State Sympathizer In Pittsburgh Planned To Bomb North Side Church

“A young Syrian refugee living in Pittsburgh plotted to blow up a North Side church next month in support of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham, according to the FBI. Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 21, who came to the U.S. in 2016 and recently graduated from a Brashear High School, was arrested Wednesday morning by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. He had been due in federal court Wednesday afternoon but the hearing was postponed until Friday so a lawyer could be appointed to represent him. Mr. Alowemer planned to blow up a tiny church called Legacy International Worship Center on Wilson Avenue, according to the FBI, with the help of someone he thought was another Islamic State member but who turned out to be an undercover FBI employee. He met with the employee and another FBI source several times in recent months as the plot developed and in June drove both of them to the church to show them the target and decide where to place a homemade backpack bomb, according to a federal complaint. His motivation was to support the Islamic State and inspire other sympathizers in the U.S. to join to together to commit similar crimes, the FBI said. After rejecting other potential targets in Pittsburgh, including a Shia mosque, Mr. Alowemer chose the Wilson Avenue church to “take revenge for our [ISIS] brothers in Nigeria,” the complaint said.”

The Verge: Bodies In Seats

“First, he served in the Coast Guard, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant commander. He married, had a family, and devoted himself utterly to his two little girls. After he got out of the military, he worked as a moderator for Facebook, where he purged the social network of the worst stuff that its users post on a daily basis: the hate speech, the murders, the child pornography. Utley worked the overnight shift at a Facebook content moderation site in Tampa, FL, operated by a professional services vendor named Cognizant. The 800 or so workers there face relentless pressure from their bosses to better enforce the social network’s community standards, which receive near-daily updates that leave its contractor workforce in a perpetual state of uncertainty. The Tampa site has routinely failed to meet the 98 percent “accuracy” target set by Facebook. In fact, with a score that has been hovering around 92, it is Facebook’s worst-performing site in North America.”

Fox News: South Carolina ‘Terrorist Sympathizer’ Placed Bomb Inside Teddy Bear, FBI Says

“A South Carolina ”terrorist sympathizer” hid an explosive device inside a teddy bear during a serial bombing spree last year, the FBI said Monday. Wesley Ayers, 26, had placed six devices – three bombs and three “hoax devices” – on roadways around Anderson County between January 24 and February 24, 2018, the agency said in a news release. A pipe bomb with nails was found inside a teddy bear sitting in a basket in the middle of a road on Feb 15, the release said. Bomb technicians were able to disable the device after a motorist reported the out-of-place stuffed animal to police. No one was injured. “This was deliberately placed where a child or passerby could have found it. Fortunately, someone saw it and knew to call us,” said Special Agent Christopher Derrickson. However, weeks earlier a bomb inside a wicker basket placed in the middle of a rural roadway in Anderson County had exploded after a passerby stopped to examine it, the release said. The man suffered minor burns to his leg. The agency said a note with Arabic writing referencing Usama bin Laden was found in one device. In another, a letter pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and threatened that the “community was no longer safe,” the release said.”

The Phoenix New Times: Teen Charged With Terrorism Shared Videos From Al-Qaeda And Alt-Right

“Months before Ismail Hamed declared allegiance to ISIS, before he brandished a knife at a Fountain Hills deputy on January 7, prompting the cop to shoot him to the ground, before he racked up a pair of terrorism charges for which he faces decades in prison, the 18-year-old texted a friend: “Islam is the red pilled faith.” Hamed's message stands out for its blurring of two extremist ideologies, both of which he appears to have immersed himself in prior to his alleged attack on Maricopa County Deputy Sergeant Brandon Wells.  On one hand, Hamed frequently expressed support for Islamic fundamentalism. In text messages with friends, he praised the Orlando nightclub shooter, he bemoaned his mosque for allowing women inside without head scarves, and he endorsed a propaganda video from Anwar al-Awlaki, a prominent Al-Qaeda cleric who was killed in a U.S. drone strike. At the same time, Hamed and his friends used rhetoric and consumed media associated with the alt-right, the online movement devoted to white nationalism, misogyny, homophobia, and yes, Islamophobia. Adherents to the movement often use the term “red-pilling,” a Matrix-inspired metaphor for the process of becoming indoctrinated with far-right beliefs.”

Iran

Jerusalem Post: Iran’s Grand Strategy Tests U.S. And Its Allies Yemen, Iraq, Syria - Analysis

“In air strike hit Tel al-Hara in Syria on June 12. The mountain contained an observation area for the Syrian regime and its allies, including groups linked to Iran. The next day, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are accused of attacking two oil tankers in the Gulf of Yemen. The incidents were several thousands of kilometers apart, and help us to understand the scale of the battlefield that links Iran and its allies, pitting them against America’s allies. The alliances in this contest are well known. On the one side are Iran, pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias in Iraq, the Syrian regime, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. On the other are US allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. The strategy of Iran is not a top-down approach controlling all its proxies. But the Islamic republic certainly encourages its allies in various ways, and likely also encourages them to exercise restraint at other times. For instance, after the US warned Iran against any attacks in early May, the regime in Tehran appeared to scale back some provocations. But it also attempted other probing attacks.”

The Wall Street Journal: Suspected Iranian Oil Caught In Sanctions Trap

“Italy’s oil giant Eni E 0.70% SpA has rejected a cargo of suspected Iranian crude, as energy companies grapple with sophisticated techniques used by Iran to evade U.S. sanctions. The cargo, which was intended for the Milazzo refinery in Sicily, remains on board a Liberia-flagged vessel named White Moon, after Eni said the specifications didn’t match those of its contract for Iraqi oil. The ship’s documents show that the cargo, which Eni bought from the trading arm of Nigeria’s Oando PLC, was Iraqi, an Eni spokesman said. Instead, it had properties which were consistent with Iranian crude, a person familiar with the matter said. The Eni spokesman said the company “is not aware if, or has evidence of, a precise geographical origin different from that indicated on the documents of origin and load.”

Fox News: Lindsey Graham: If Iran 'Attacks Shipping Again,' US Should Consider 'Taking Out Their Navy, Oil Refineries'

“The Trump administration should consider taking serious action if Iran further disrupts shipping activity, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The situation in the region is getting worse and American ally Israel would be in danger if Iran's nuclear program progresses much further, Graham told Bret Baier Wednesday on "Special Report." "It's getting more dangerous by the day," he claimed, adding Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei should not be allowed to "develop a nuclear bomb." "If the Iranians follow through on their threat to start enriching again... and basically take their enrichment program to a nuclear level in terms of weapons-grade production, Israel's in a world of hurt." The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman added that President Trump should create a "target list" in the case Iran's activities put the U.S. or its allies in danger.”

CNN: Iranian Military Official Claims Country's Missiles Can Take Out Aircraft Carrier

“One of Iran's top military commanders reiterated longstanding claims that the country has ballistic missiles capable of taking out an aircraft carrier, as President Hassan Rouhani said the country did not seek to wage war against any nation. Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, said the country's development of ballistic missile technology had changed "the balance of power" in the region. According to Salami, the Revolutionary Guards began tests using ballistic missiles as "a way to end the story of American aircraft carriers in the area" some 12 years ago. "If we got this technology, we could target the enemies," said Salami. "We tested it at sea to hit the target precisely, and that day we were able to change the balance of power." He later added that "diplomacy is not known without power and we are safe when we are powerful." Salami made the comments in a televised speech, a transcript of which was made available on semi-official FARS news.”

The New York Post: Trump is right to face down Iran’s empty threats

“Know how you can tell the Trump administration’s tough approach on Iran is working? Tehran is acting out in a bid to remove the pressure. Iran’s rulers pointedly announced Monday that they’ll soon cross a red line of the 2015 nuclear deal by exceeding its limit on stockpiles of highly enriched uranium. This comes a week after an attack on two fuel tankers in the Gulf of Oman — attacks that the Trump administration has laid at the feet of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, though Tehran says it’s been framed. As Eli Lake noted in Wednesday’s Post, this is not a sudden aggressive turn by Iran: Tehran was intervening in both Yemen and Syria even as it was negotiating the nuke deal, and has kept it up since. The difference is that the latest moves more directly threaten European comforts. Breaching the nuke deal is plainly intended to freak out European leaders who desperately cling to faith in that accord (even though it gave Iran free rein to go fully nuclear within the decade). The Gulf attacks, meanwhile, are a transparent hint that Tehran stands ready to disrupt world oil markets if it’s not appeased.”

Iraq

The New York Times: 2 Rockets Strike Oil Fields In Southern Iraq

“Two rockets struck separate targets on Wednesday in oil fields just outside Basra, not far from the headquarters of many international and domestic oil companies. Though a bit more frequent in recent weeks, rocket attacks have been rare since the Islamic State was pushed out of Iraq more than 18 months ago, and oil fields generally have not been targets. Basra, in southwestern Iraq just above the Persian Gulf, is one of the richest oil production regions in Iraq. In the first attack, three employees of an Iraqi drilling company who were injured when a Katyusha rocket hit their sleeping quarters were taken to a hospital, said Khalid Hamza, the deputy director of the Basra Oil Company, an Iraqi firm. There were no injuries reported in the second attack. No other details were available about the strike, and officials would not say who they believed was responsible for the attacks. The rocket strikes come as tensions are escalating between the United States and Iran after attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, for which Washington blamed Tehran. Iran said on Monday that it would soon breach curbs on its stock of low-enriched uranium set out in the 2015 pact limiting its nuclear program.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Jet Fighters Kill Two Islamic State Jihadists In Diyala

“Two Islamic State militants were killed and a terrorist hotbed was destroyed in an airstrike conducted by Iraqi warplanes in the eastern province of Diyala. In a press statement carried by the privately-owned Baghdad Today news agency, the Iraqi security media cell said that jet fighters killed two Islamic State fighters and destroyed one of their hotbeds in al-Makhisa village in Diyala. No further details were given, the statement read. In January 2015, Iraqi forces announced liberation of Diyala province from Islamic State extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014. The province has seen months of fighting between Iraqi troops and IS militants especially in the Jalawla and Saadiyah areas in the province’s north and areas near the town of Muqdadiyah.”

Xinhua: 6 IS Militants Killed In Attacks In Iraq

“A total of six Islamic State (IS) militants were killed on Wednesday in an airstrike and an ambush in the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh and Diyala. In the northern province of Nineveh, a force from the paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units acted on intelligence reports and ambushed four IS militants in al-Baaj area, in the west of the city of Mosul near the Syrian border, a Hashd Shaabi statement said. The paramilitary members clashed with the IS militants and killed them all, the statement added. In Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, an Iraqi army's gunship carried out an airstrike in the village of Mkheisa, some 95 km northeast of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, a statement by the media office of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said. The airstrike resulted in the killing of two IS militants and the destruction of their vehicle and a hideout in the area, the statement added. Despite repeated military operations in Diyala, remnants of IS militants were still hiding in rugged areas near the border with Iran, as well as the sprawling areas extending from western part of Diyala to Himreen mountainous area in the northern part of the province. The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremists IS militants across the country late in 2017.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: UN Envoy: Goal Now Must Be Afghan-Taliban Peace Negotiations

“All peace efforts in Afghanistan including a new initiative by Germany and Qatar for talks among Afghans must be aimed at starting formal negotiations between the government and the Taliban, the U.N. envoy for the war-torn country said Wednesday. Tadamichi Yamamoto told the Security Council he’s encouraged by increasing support for a political settlement and called on countries “with direct contacts and with influence over the Taliban to intensify their efforts toward this goal.” Germany’s deputy U.N. ambassador Jurgen Schulz said there is “great support” from the Afghan government, other key political actors and civil society for an “Intra-Afghan Dialogue Conference” in the Qatar capital Doha. But he said there are still “obstacles,” stressing the need for a united international community to send the Taliban and other Afghan parties a clear message “that it is time to talk about a common future.” The first talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government were scheduled to start in late April in Qatar but were indefinitely postponed after a falling out over the delegations that should attend. Before the postponement, U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has met on several occasions with the Taliban and has pressed for Afghan-to-Afghan talks, had hoped the Qatar meeting would bring the sides closer to a “roadmap” for a future Afghanistan.”

Xinhua: Afghan Fighting Claims Over 40 Lives Within 24 Hours

“More than 40 fighters with majority of them the anti-government militants had been killed elsewhere in the militancy-battered country over the past 24 hours, officials said Wednesday. The government forces in the latest crackdown against militants launched airstrikes against a Taliban hideout in Farah Rod district of the western Farah province on Wednesday, killing four armed insurgents on the spot, provincial police spokesman Mohibullah Mohib said. Similarly, a fighting between security forces and the Taliban fighters for the control of Shuhada district in northern Badakhshan province claimed nine lives including seven militants and two security personnel on the same day, an army spokesman Abdul Hadi Jamal confirmed. Five more militants sustained injuries in the fighting, according to the official. A clash between Taliban fighters and police in Yahya Khil district of eastern Paktika province on Wednesday morning claimed the lives of one police officer and three militants, police spokesman in the province Shah Mohammad Aryan said. According to Aryan, three more police and three militants were injured in the firefight which lasted for three hours.”

Pakistan

News 18: Pakistan Security Forces Kill 2 Suspected ISIS Terrorists Linked To Abduction Of Former PM Yousaf Gilani's Son

“Two suspected ISIS terrorists, who were allegedly involved in the abductions of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's son and a US national, were killed by Pakistani security agencies in Punjab province, police said on Thursday. The terrorists, identified as Muhammad Rizwan and Imran Saqi, were killed in a late night raid on a house in Multan district on Wednesday, the Punjab Police's counter-terrorism department (CTD) department said. They were also involved in the killing of three intelligence officers. In a statement, the CTD said it received information that five terrorists of banned terror group ISIS were hiding in a house in the district, around 350 km from Lahore.  It said a team surrounded the house and told the terrorists to surrender. “The terrorists instead of surrendering opened fire on the raiding team which returned fire, killing two terrorists on the spot while three of their accomplices managed to escape taking advantage of darkness,” the CTD said.  The terrorists had planned to attack personnel of intelligence agencies. Nine hand grenades, explosives and weapons were seized from the house, it said. They were involved in the kidnapping of US national Warren Weinstein in 2011 and Yosuf Gilani's son Ali Haider Gilani in 2013.”

Yemen

Arab News: Arab Parliament Classifies Houthis As A Terrorist Group, Calls On UN And Arab League To Do The Same

“The Arab Parliament announced on Wednesday that it has designated the Iranian-backed Houthi militia as a terrorist group for its role in deliberately targeting civilians and civilian installations, calling on the League of Arab States and the UN to take similar action. The resolution was issued during an Arab Parliament meeting in Cairo in the wake of the “terrorist attack on civilian installations in Saudi Arabia and commercial vessels in the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates and the Sea of Oman,” reported the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).  The Arab Parliament called on the UN and the Security Council to adopt a firm and immediate position to classify the Houthi militia as a terrorist organization; for its flagrant violation of international law and its deliberate targeting of civilian and vital installations in Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles and aircraft. It also called on the world body to also pursue its leaders, financiers and supporters, whether they are states or groups. Meshaal bin Fahm Al-Sulami, spokesperson of the Arab Parliament, said the Parliament will not condone any group targeting civilian areas, such as the Houthi attacks on neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia. “These attacks are a war crime,” he said.”

Saudi Arabia

The Wall Street Journal: Saudi Plant Struck By Missile, Apparently From Yemen

“A Saudi desalination plant was struck by a missile that appeared to come from within Yemen, according to a senior U.S. official. It wasn’t clear if there were any casualties in the attack, the official said. Senior officials from a range of U.S. government agencies were called back to the White House to meet Wednesday evening, the official said. “The President has been briefed on the reports of a missile strike in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday. “We are closely monitoring the situation and continuing to consult with our partners and allies.” Saudi Arabia has led a military intervention into a prolonged bloody civil war in neighboring Yemen, and has been in conflict with Yemen’s Houthi insurgency, which is believed to be backed by Iran. Hours after the statements from U.S. officials, Saudi Arabia confirmed the missile strike, saying it caused no damage or casualties. The spokesman for the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen, Col. Turki al-Maliki, called the attack an act of terrorism.”

Lebanon

The Washington Post: In Lebanon, Syrian Refugees Face New Pressure To Go Home

“Lebanese authorities are making their most aggressive campaign yet for Syrian refugees to return home and are taking action to ensure they can’t put down roots. Mirroring the rise of anti-migrant sentiment in Europe and around the world, some in Lebanon say that after eight years of war in neighboring Syria they have had enough of the burden of the highest concentration of refugees per capita in the world — 1 million amid a Lebanese population of nearly 5 million — especially at a time when they are facing austerity measures and a weakened economy. Anti-refugee sentiment in Lebanon has waxed and waned in the past. It’s been persistent but limited among a public torn by conflicting feelings — resentment over past domination by Syria and worry over the refugees’ impact on their country’s delicate sectarian balance, but also sympathy for the refugees amid memories of their own displacement during Lebanon’s long civil war.”

Middle East

Gulf News: Qatar Exploiting UN Loopholes To Facilitate Terror Financing

“Blacklisted terrorists from Al Qaida and Daesh have been able to tap into their bank accounts despite a UN asset freeze, according to documents reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. The reason for this, the documents showed, are loopholes in the the current UN Security Council sanctions procedures. Qatari financier, Khalifa Al Subaiy, is among those who have accessed their funds. The US believes Al Subaiy to be a longtime funder of Al Qaida’s senior leadership, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The UN has allowed Al Subaiy to take up to $10,000 a month from frozen accounts for “basic necessities”, despite being placed on the terror blacklist in 2008. Astonishingly, the Security Council has approved 71 out of 72 requests, the documents show. While blacklisted terrorist are, in theory, not allowed any access to their financies, a loophole in the sanctions policy allows their home crountries to applied for exemptions to give them access to small amounts of money for food, housing and basic necessities. But member countries are not properly monitoring the blacklisted terrorists living within their borders. Some UN officials who spoke to the Wall Street Journal say the exemptions procedure is too loosely structured and lacks oversight. A more selective process is needed because practically anyone who asks for the exemption now is being granted it.”

The Mirror: Battle-Hardened Female Soldiers Fighting ISIS After Vowing To Eradicate Caliphate

“Barely out of their teens, these are the Syrian female soldiers fighting against IS. Brave and battle-hardened, they have a strong feminist spirit that is rare among other cultures in this region. Every bit as skilled as their male counterparts, they have vowed to die to protect their Kurdish community. They are YPJ fighters, part of the People’s Protection Unit, whose male soldiers are called YPG – they are all now part of the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Force. Many of them join the YPJ for life, vowing to purge the region of Islamic State. We met them at their base near the town of Hasakah in north-eastern Syria. Arianne Zargoz, 21, was part of the YPJ and YPG military operation to smash the IS HQ in Raqqa. Asked about being a soldier, Arianne says: “We want to be in the same place as the men. To be equal."

Egypt

Long War Journal: Islamic State’s Sinai Province Renews Allegiance To Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi

“The Islamic State’s Sinai Wilayah (or “province”) has released a short video in which a small cadre of jihadists renew their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Their ringleader is identified as Abu Jafar al-Ansari, a masked man seen at the center of the screen shot above. Al-Ansari is defiant, saying that regardless of the losses suffered by the “brothers” in Iraq and Syria, he and his comrades will remain steadfast. He portrays the Islamic State as a source for unity, citing a Koranic verse about holding fast by using the “rope” Allah has provided to believers to avoid internal divisions. The same verse is frequently used by jihadists to emphasize their supposed unity. Al-Ansari’s speech is spliced together with footage of the group’s members fighting, training and carrying out terrorist attacks. Toward the end of the footage, al-Ansari leads his men in a ceremonial renewal of their bayat (or oath of allegiance) to Baghdadi. Screen shots of the scene are included below.  The Sinai Wilayah’s short video was released four days after a similar production by the Islamic State’s West Africa Wilayah. Indeed, Al-Ansari’s performance mimics that given by Abu Salmah al-Mangawi – the jihadist who led his West African comrades in renewing their oath of fealty to Baghdadi.”

Nigeria

Reuters: Islamic State Says It Killed 12 Nigerian Soldiers In Borno State Attack: Statement

“Islamic State said on Wednesday its West African branch carried out an attack on a Nigerian army base in northeastern Borno state and that its fighters killed 12 soldiers.  A military source put the toll higher, saying up to 25 soldiers were killed after insurgents traveling on trucks mounted with guns attacked the base on Monday around 5:30 p.m. (1630 GMT). He said fighting lasted for about three hours. A local resident said he saw the bodies of six dead Nigerian soldiers.  The attack in the town of Gajiram, in which the insurgents said the barracks were burned, followed a similar assault on a base last week and suicide bombings that killed 30 people on Sunday. The attacks raise questions about government assertions to have almost defeated the insurgents.  “Twelve Nigerian soldiers were killed and others injured following an attack by Islamic State fighters on their barracks in the northern Nigerian town of Gajiram,” Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) said in a statement published on the SITE Intelligence website.  A Nigerian army spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”

Africa

Bloomberg: Kenya Court Finds Three Guilty For 2015 University Terror Attack

“A Kenyan court found three people guilty of orchestrating one of the deadliest terror attacks in the East African nation. The men were found culpable for conspiring to, committing the attack and being members of a terrorist group that raided Garissa University in April 2015, Kenyan Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi said Wednesday in the capital, Nairobi. “I come to the conclusion that they knew of the plot and were therefore part of the attackers,”Andayi said. The sentencing is scheduled for July 3. The dawn incident at the university, about 145 kilometers (90 miles) from the Somalia border, killed 147, mostly students. The militant group al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, claimed the raid that marked the worst terror attack on home soil since the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing that left 224 people dead. Kenya has experienced a spate of deadly raids by Islamist militants, with the most recent targeting an upmarket hotel and office complex in the capital in January. In 2013, members of al-Shabaab burst into a busy high-end Nairobi shopping mall and randomly executed at least 67 people.”

Al Jazeera: Mali Attack: Forces Deployed As Survivors Recall Killings

“The attackers behind the latest attack to have hit central Mali identified victims one by one before executing then, survivors have said. Monday's attack on the Gangafani and Yoro villages in the Mopti region was the last in a cycle of apparent tit-for-tat violence between the Dogon and Fulani communities. At least 38 people were killed in the villages where survivors and officials say Fulani gunmen arrived by motorbike before attacking villagers in “revenge” for suspicions that they had collaborated with the Malian army. Abdoulaye Goro, a security guard, had been travelling by truck to his father's funeral near the two villages, when about 40 armed men intercepted the vehicle and forced the passengers into the bush. “They did identity checks and they only looked for the people from Yoro and Gangafani, and all those who were from those two villages were set apart,” Goro said. “They killed them in front of us, with rifles, and released us afterwards.” The raids followed a massacre of dozens of people earlier this month in another Dogon village, Sobane Da. That attack came months after suspected Dogon militiamen in late March killed more than 150 Fulani in two villages in central Mali, one of the worst acts of bloodshed in the country's recent history.” 

United Kingdom

The New York Times: She’s On A Hunger Strike In An Iranian Jail. He’s Joining In, From London

“A British-Iranian woman held in a Tehran prison for years and her British husband began a joint hunger strike this week to demand her unconditional release, even as the relationship between the two nations has grown increasingly strained. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, began their campaign on Saturday, and Mr. Ratcliffe set up a small campsite on the sidewalk outside the Iranian Embassy in central London. He remained there on Wednesday, despite embassy staff members erecting metal barricades between his tent and the front door, and intermittently sanding the railings behind him. “Being here is meant to be a very visible presence to say, ‘This is unacceptable. You are holding an innocent person,’ ” he said in an interview on Tuesday evening. “They have effectively kidnapped my wife.” He sat in a folding chair on the sidewalk in front of the embassy in a yellow waterproof jacket, slowly sipping bottled water as rain streamed from his cap onto his jeans, already soaked from a sudden downpour. He said he hadn’t eaten in four days.”

Germany

The Daily Beast: How Deeply Has Germany’s Murderous Far Right Penetrated The Security Forces?

“On June 2, Walter Lübcke was found dead in his garden with a bullet wound in the head. In his home town of Kassel, in the heart of Germany, the affable 65-year-old politician was a well-known member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center right party who had welcomed immigrants when she opened the country’s doors to refugees in 2015—and who had weathered a storm of hatred on social media as a result. At first, police insisted there was no political connection to the murder, and several investigators dismissed the possibility the killer came from the far right. But this week they arrested a suspect with neo-Nazi associations and a history of racist crimes. Now, the federal prosecutor’s office has taken over the case, which means it will be treated as an act of extremism and, in effect, of terrorism. Why were the cops so reluctant to make such a connection? Court reporter Annette Ramelsberger noted Tuesday in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung that extreme right perpetrators “appear to see police not so much as opponents, but as potential allies.” And this is not just their wishful thinking. The far-right riots in Chemnitz last year were notable for neo-Nazis chasing and threatening counter-protesters, while the police, outnumbered, just ran away.”

Australia

Fox News: Analyst Says Australian Teen Was Islamic State Propagandist

“A security analyst says the eldest of three orphaned Australian siblings pleading for repatriation from a Syrian refugee camp has been an Islamic State group propagandist who could potentially face terrorism charges at home. Australian National University counterterrorism researcher Jacinta Carroll said Wednesday that Zaynab Sharrouf was taken from Sydney to Syria at the age of 13 in 2014 by her extremist parents and became both a victim and supporter of terrorism in a case that was legally and morally complex. The Australian government has said it is working with the Red Cross to repatriate 17-year-old Zaynab, her two children, her 16-year-old sister and 8-year-old brother from a Syrian camp. Carroll has discovered that Zaynab became a prominent Islamic State group propagandist making social media posts supporting atrocities.” 

Europe

Al Jazeera: Western Europe Must Repatriate Its ISIL Fighters And Families

“Western European intransigence on ensuring that citizens detained abroad as ISIL suspects or their family members can return home made world headlines recently when an Iraqi court sentenced nine French citizens to death following trials tainted by allegations of torture. Countries including France, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands insist that logistical challenges and security risks make it practically impossible for them to help their citizens accused of membership in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). But others, like Kosovo, Turkey, Russia, and especially Central Asian countries are showing that where there is a will to bring citizens home, there is a way. Three Central Asian states - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan - have repatriated 756 nationals so far, most of them women and children. Kyrgyzstan is discussing possible repatriations as well. In stark contrast, repatriations by Western European countries have been piecemeal, despite far greater resources and, in many cases, fewer numbers of ISIL-linked detainees. Their focus, such as it is, has been on children.  Norway, for example, in early June repatriated five orphans from northeast Syria but left 35 other children behind.”

Southeast Asia

The New York Times: Four To Face Murder Charges In Downing Of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

“Five years after a missile shot down an airliner over a war zone in Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, international prosecutors on Wednesday indicted three men with ties to Russian military and intelligence agencies, and implicated — but did not charge — a senior aide to President Vladimir V. Putin. The criminal charges and the emergence of ever more detailed evidence against the Russian government, which has denied any role in downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, could further cool already icy relations between Moscow and the West. At a news conference in the Netherlands, the Dutch-led investigative team announced charges against Igor Girkin, a former colonel in the F.S.B., the successor agency to the K.G.B.; and Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, both of whom have worked for the Russian military intelligence agency known as the G.R.U.”

Technology

The Independent: Facebook Libra Cryptocurrency Could Become Haven For Terrorists, French Finance Minister Warns

“Facebook's plan to launch a global currency to serve the world's unbanked is already facing severe scrutiny over how it will be used, with European officials claiming it risks becoming a “shadow bank”. France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called for central bank governors to make assurances that the new Libra cryptocurrency will face appropriate regulation to avoid it being used as a tool for money laundering and financing terrorists. Speaking on Europe 1 radio, Mr Le Maire said it was “out of the question” that Libra be allowed to become a sovereign currency. “It can't and it must not happen,” he said. Other figures to raise concerns about Libra included Markus Feber, a German member of the European Parliament, and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. “Anything that works in this world will become instantly systemic and will have to be subject to the highest standards of regulation,” Mr Carney said at the European Central Bank's annual symposium in Sintra, Portugal. With more than 2 billion users around the world, Mr Ferber added that financial regulators should work to ensure Facebook does not become a “shadow bank”. He said companies “must not be allowed to operate in a regulatory nirvana when introducing virtual currencies.”