Eye on Extremism: June 25

Reuters: Belgium Arrests Man Suspected Of Plotting Terrorism Attack Against U.S. Embassy

“Belgian police have arrested and charged a man with planning a terrorism attack against the U.S. embassy in Brussels, prosecutors said on Monday. The man, identified only by his initials M.G., was arrested on Saturday. He denies accusations, the prosecutors said in a statement. Prosecutors said they had “converging indications” that led them to believe the man was plotting an attack. To protect the ongoing investigation, no more details will be released at this stage, the statement said.”

The Jerusalem Post: Iran Attempted Attack In Paris, Half A Ton Of Explosives Found - Report

“Half a ton of explosives was brought to Paris in a diplomatic suitcases in order to carry out a terror attack, before being foiled by French authorities, it was reported in the British media. The British newspaper "Independent in Arabic" quoted an intelligence source as saying that in 2018 Iran had delivered half a ton of TATP explosives in diplomatic packages to a civilian plane that was supposed to be transferred to Paris to carry out an attack in the city. According to the report, the plane arrived from Tehran to Geneva in June 2018, following an Iranian plan to carry out a terrorist attack during a meeting of the Iranian opposition. According to a report based on intelligence sources, the attack was supposed to be carried out by an Iranian intelligence official who worked at the Iranian embassy in Austria since 2014, but French intelligence thwarted the attack after the authorities arrested a Belgian couple of Iranian origin who had the explosives in their car on their way to Paris.”

France 24: Three Months On, Landless IS Still A Threat In Syria

“The Islamic State group may have lost its "caliphate", but three months later, experts have warned the jihadists are still attacking fighters and fields in Syria to show they remain relevant. The Syrian Democratic Forces announced they had expelled the extremists from their last patch of land in eastern Syria on March 23, after a months-long campaign backed by air strikes of a US-led coalition. The Kurdish-Arab alliance taking control of the riverside village of Baghouz spelt the end of the jihadist proto-state declared in 2014 in large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq. But even as the Kurdish-led force fights to quash sleeper cells in northeast Syria, IS continues to claim regular attacks there and in other parts of the war-torn country. "ISIS has never stopped being a threat in northern and eastern Syria," says Syria expert Nicholas Heras, using an alternative acronym for IS.”

The Wall Street Journal: U.S., Israel Look To Coax Russia Away From Iran Alliance

“The U.S. and Israel are working to convince Russia to join them in reining in Iran during an unusual gathering of the three countries’ national security advisers this week, part of a flurry of diplomatic activity amid tensions with Tehran. White House national security adviser John Bolton will huddle with his Israeli and Russian counterparts Tuesday in Jerusalem to discuss Middle East security, including Iran’s military position in Syria and its influence more broadly in the region, according to U.S. and Israeli officials. They expressed hope that the effort could widen cracks that have opened between Iran and Russia in Syria, where they are competing for the upper hand over the government in Damascus when the war there ends. The Jerusalem summit, announced last month, raises the prospect of Russia serving as an intermediary between Tehran and adversaries such as the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, as concerns over a military conflict deepen after Iran shot down an American drone last week. On Monday the U.S. said it sent another warship to the Persian Gulf, but President Trump has indicated he wants to resolve differences with Iran without military force, having aborted a retaliatory strike on Iran over the drone.”

NBC New York: NJ ISIS Supporter-Turned-U.S. Informant Faces Sentencing For Reneging On Deal: Feds

“A New Jersey woman who was an ISIS supporter later turned U.S. government informant — only to turn back to being an ISIS supporter. That according to federal prosecutors who made public today the terror-related case that dates to 2016. Sinmyah Amera Cesaer was in Brooklyn federal court to be sentenced in connection with her attempts to obstruct the material support for terror investigations linked to her. The FBI said she tried to recruit ISIS followers online and then she betrayed government handlers by trying to delete evidence and leads at the same time she said she was helping the feds. Cesaer was initially arrested by FBI agents at JFK Airport in November 2016 as she tried to leave the country, according to court documents, and pleaded guilty in 2017. As part of her plea agreement, Cesaer gave detailed accounts of her relationships and correspondents with ISIS supporters. She was later released in 2018 on bail after claiming the medical care at the Metropolitan Detention Center was inadequate, under the conditions she not use social media or communicate with members of terrorist organizations, according to court documents.”

Forbes: Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Evades Crackdown On Social Media Sites

“Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is still spreading his message over social media even though he and his website have been banned by YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. After Media Matters for America called YouTube out for failing to enforce its own rules, YouTube took down more than a dozen copycat accounts on Friday along with a channel run by InfoWars personality Harrison Smith, whom the site calls "an independent reporter." Meanwhile, YouTube channels associated with InfoWars personalities Kaitlin Bennett, Millie Weaver, and Paul Joseph Watson remain on line. Media Matters notes that the broadcasters "often post content specifically from InfoWars." In a statement, Bennett's Liberty Hangout channel disputed Media Matters' characterization of her relationships with Jones and InfoWars. "Every video on our YouTube channel is our own original content, filmed and produced by Kaitlin Bennett, Justin Moldow, and Michael Heil," the statement says. "We have been producing videos together as a team for multiple years, across various social media platforms. We will continue to produce videos for our channel and deny any accusations that we are evading a ban on somebody else.”

United States

The Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump’s Iran Show

“President Trump’s Iran policy over the weekend was both erratic and masterful. Doves and isolationists, panicked by what they see as the administration’s inexorable drift toward war, rejoiced when Mr. Trump announced that a military strike had been called back. Hawks criticized him for an Obama-like climb-down, but the announcement of cyberattacks and tightening sanctions helped smooth ruffled feathers. The result? Mr. Trump more than ever dominates U.S. Iran policy; contending political factions within the administration and outside it must jockey for his support. And the more he talks and tweets about Iran, the less clear anyone is about his ultimate intentions. None of this should be surprising. Consistently inconsistent on issues from trade with China and immigration from Mexico to Venezuela and North Korea and now Iran, Mr. Trump has been by turns more hawkish than any of his predecessors and dovish enough to thrill Sen. Rand Paul.”

Fox News: Trump Signs Executive Order Delivering 'Hard-Hitting' Sanctions Against Iran

“President Trump struck back Monday at Iran by issuing “hard-hitting” financial sanctions against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his associates. “Today's action follows a series of aggressive behaviors by the Iranian regime in recent weeks including shooting down a U.S. drone,” the president said in the Oval Office, calling Khamenei “responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime.” Trump said the sanctions “will deny the supreme leader and the supreme leader's office and those closely affiliated with him and the office access to key financial resources and support.” Speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions “lock up literally billions of dollars more of assets.”

The New York Post: New Jersey Woman Sentenced For Supporting ISIS — Again

“A New Jersey woman who was already busted for providing material support to ISIS went right back to her evil ways — even as she was supposed to be helping the feds fight the terror group, officials revealed Monday. Sinmyah Amera Ceasar, 24, cut a cooperation deal with the feds following her previous arrest for aiding the terror group — but flouted the deal by outing herself as a cooperator and resuming her ISIS rhetoric with potential recruits online, prosecutors said in Brooklyn federal court. She now faces up to life in prison. “She failed and washed out as a cooperator,” said Assistant US Attorney Josh Hafetz. “She has revealed her cooperation online.” Ceasar was charged with providing material support to ISIS in 2016 — which carries a potential sentence of life in prison — but she cut a deal with the feds a year later and was instead let go on supervised release, according to officials. But she raised red flags for investigators after posting defiant messages on social media that violated the conditions of her plea deal — and included references to Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, as well as knife, gun and bomb emoji. “I didn’t do anything wrong under Islam but stand up for my din,” she wrote in one post, using the Arabic word for “faith” or “religion.”

Syria

NPR: Thousands Of ISIS Fighters Must Be Tried Or Let Go, U.N. Rights Chief Says

“The U.N.'s human rights chief says there are only two options for dealing with the tens of thousands of suspected ISIS fighters currently detained in Syria and Iraq: They must be either tried or let go, and their families cannot be detained indefinitely. Some 55,000 suspected ISIS fighters and their family members have been swept up and detained since ISIS was effectively toppled and lost control of its territory, the U.N. says. “It must be clear that all individuals who are suspected of crimes — whatever their country of origin, and whatever the nature of the crime — should face investigation and prosecution, with due process guarantees,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said. She also warned that flawed trials “can only serve the narrative of grievance and revenge.” “And the continuing detention of individuals not suspected of crimes, in the absence of lawful basis and regular independent judicial review, is not acceptable,” Bachelet added. The U.N. official highlighted the ISIS detainee issue during her remarks at a session of the Human Rights Council, saying it was not receiving the attention it deserves.”

NPR: Thousands Of Refugees Returning To Syria End Up Detained, Imprisoned, Tortured

“President Bashar al-Assad has called on the millions of Syrians who've fled the brutal civil war to return home, but thousands who have come back end up imprisoned and often tortured. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: As the war in Syria winds down, President Bashar al-Assad is calling on the millions of Syrians who have fled to return home. PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: Of course they can come back without any action taken from the government against them. We would like - we want people to come back to Syria. SHAPIRO: Activists and human rights workers doubt Assad's words. They say many Syrians who have returned to areas under his control are being detained, imprisoned and often tortured. NPR's Ruth Sherlock reports.”

The National: Denmark Evacuates ‘Seriously Wounded’ ISIS Child From Syria

“Danish authorities have evacuated a “seriously wounded” child of captured ISIS fighters from Kurdish-controlled north-east Syria. The boy has been evacuated to another country for medical stabilisation and will eventually travel back to Denmark to be looked after relatives, Denmark’s foreign ministry said. A Danish delegation crossed from Iraqi Kurdistan through the Semalka border crossing into Syria and was handed the boy. “I am here today with a small team in order to conduct a medical evacuation of a seriously wounded Danish boy. The boy is in a stable condition but he certainly needs more fundamental medical treatment,” said Denmark’s Kristof Vifik in Syria. “And I would very much like to thank the self-administration for their excellent cooperation in handling this difficult, humanitarian case,” he added. The Kurdish-led administration in north-east Syria has been overwhelmed by the vast amounts of people to pour out of the last remnants of ISIS’s territory. Thousands of children of foreign fighters are said to be languishing in squalid, overcrowded displacement camps. In May UNICEF estimated roughly 29,000 foreign children were in the camps, most under the age of 12.”

Iran

The Wall Street Journal: Iran-Allied Houthis Expose Holes In Saudi Arabia’s Missile Defense

“Yemen’s Houthi rebels have accelerated missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, highlighting the kingdom’s military vulnerabilities in defending itself against an Iranian ally amid a crisis in U.S.-Iran relations. The Houthis have executed 10 missile or drone attacks since April on Saudi airports, a desalination plant, a major oil pipeline and other targets, escalating fighting on a key front in the regionwide confrontation between U.S. and Iran. The Houthi attacks have occurred around the same time as the tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman that the U.S. has blamed on Iran. U.S. officials and analysts say Iran has deepened its cooperation with the Houthis as the country seeks ways to harass its American and Saudi adversaries. Iran denies controlling the Houthis and says it wasn’t responsible for the tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iran Says New U.S. Sanctions End Any Chance Of Diplomacy

“Iran said Tuesday new U.S. sanctions on its supreme leader closed the door on diplomacy and threatened global stability, as American officials renewed efforts to build a global alliance against Tehran. President Trump on Monday signed an executive order designating Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a new round of sanctions aimed at top Iranian leaders, including Mr. Khamenei’s office and associates. Treasur. Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. would later this week sanction Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif as well. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the new sanctions “outrageous and stupid.” Mr. Khamenei, while the political leader of Iran, also is one of the world’s leading authorities for Shia Muslims. “Would any administration with a bit of wisdom [sanction] the highest authority of a country? And not only a political authority, a religious, social, spiritual one, and not the leader of Iran only, the leader of the Islamic revolution all over the world?” Mr. Rouhani said in a speech broadcast on state television."

Iraq

ABC News: Iraqi Special Forces Kill 14 IS Militants In Country's North

“Iraqi special forces say they have conducted an operation near the northern city of Kirkuk in which they killed 14 members of the Islamic State group. A statement from Iraqi Counterterrorism Forces on Monday says that during the operation, Iraqi forces received support from warplanes of the U.S.-led coalition The statement says the operation, just south of Kirkuk, lasted for two days and included Iraqi special forces rappelling from helicopters. Although Iraq declared victory against IS in July 2017, the extremists have since been trying to mount a guerrilla-style insurgency, going into hiding and staging surprise attacks in different parts of the country.”

Turkey

Al Jazeera: Turkey Puts 16 On Trial For Trying To Overthrow The Government

“A trial in Turkey for 16 people accused of “terrorism” charges and organising anti-government protests in 2013 has begun with rights groups calling the allegations baseless. The 657-page indictment claims the defendants “attempted to overthrow the government” - which carries a life sentence without parole - through organising and financing an “uprising”. The trial began on Monday in a prison complex on Istanbul's outskirts. Among the 16 are prominent civil society figure and philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been in pre-trial detention for 20 months, and Yigit Aksakoglu, who works for an early childhood education foundation, who has been imprisoned for eight months. The protests began in 2013 to protect Gezi Park in central Istanbul from development, but quickly transformed into wider anti-government demonstrations across Turkey. Outside the court, hundreds of supporters of the defendants gathered with riot police watching nearby. Starting his testimony, Kavala said there was no evidence against him to substantiate the charges that he planned an uprising. He told the court his activities in civil society have been transparent.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: Afghans Supported By U.S. Repel Taliban To Increase Leverage In Talks

“A semblance of peace has returned to this luxuriantly green farm district in southeastern Afghanistan. Farmers tend potato fields and grape vineyards lined by rows of poplar and copses of birch trees. A half-dozen boys sit atop the cement wall of an irrigation canal rushing with water, whiling away the hot, dry afternoon. Until two weeks ago, the fundamentalist Taliban controlled Khawja Umari. For nine months, they ranged through the district of about 16,000 residents, demanding food, ordering women to wear the head-to-toe burqa and warning men against styling their beards on the grounds that shaving facial hair is forbidden under Islamic law. Then, in an operation that signaled the avowed determination of the American-backed Afghan military and the country’s new defense minister, Asadullah Khalid, to take the fight to the Taliban, 300 government soldiers, including 60 commandos, recaptured the district in a morning of fighting. At least 500 Taliban fighters, including members of the insurgency’s vaunted “Red Unit,” were killed without a single loss of life on the government side, said Col. Abdul Mobin Mohabati, who led the operation. Those figures couldn’t be independently verified.”

Reuters: U.S., Taliban Aim To Firm Up Date For Foreign Force Exit From Afghanistan

“Upcoming peace talks between the United States and the Taliban will focus on working out a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S.-led troops from Afghanistan and on a Taliban guarantee militants won’t plot attacks from Afghan soil, sources said on Monday.  A seventh round of talks between the warring sides begins on Saturday in Qatar’s capital of Doha, where U.S. and Taliban negotiators have been trying to hammer out a deal to end to the 18-year-long war since October.  “Once the timetable for foreign force withdrawal is announced, then talks will automatically enter the next stage,” said Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha.  “We don’t need to wait for the completion of the withdrawal, both withdrawal and talks can move forward simultaneously.”  The focus of the talks has been a Taliban demand for the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign forces and a U.S. demand the Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for militant attacks.  Two other main issues in the process are a ceasefire and talks between the rival Afghan sides - the insurgents and the Western-backed government.  But the Taliban have long refused to talk to the Afghan government, denouncing it as foreign “puppet”, and fighting has seen no let-up.”

Al Jazeera: Taliban Threatens Media In Afghanistan

“The Taliban has said that Afghan media organisations should stop spreading what they call “anti-jihad and Taliban sentiments” or be targeted as enemies. The armed group issued a statement that gave “television, radio and other publishing media” one week to stop what they describe as anti-Taliban propaganda or be viewed as legitimate targets for attack. “In such a case, the journalist or employees of these so-called media organisations will not be safe,” the statement said. The Afghan government has regularly paid media outlets to air advertisements asking Afghans to contact authorities with any information regarding attacks or who carried them out.  The Taliban called it an attempt by intelligence forces to use the media to “distort the population's view of the Taliban”. The group has threatened and attacked journalists before. In January 2016, a Taliban suicide bomber rammed his car into a bus carrying employees of Tolo TV, the country's most popular private broadcaster, killing seven journalists. The Taliban had said it bombed the bus because it claimed Tolo was producing propaganda for the US military and its allies. Tolo was attacked for “promoting obscenity, irreligiousness, foreign culture and nudity”, the group said in a statement at the time.”

Xinhua: Taliban Militants Blow Up Bridge In Northern Afghanistan

“Taliban militants blew up a bridge in northern Takhar province, cutting the way between provincial capital Taluqan city and hundreds of villages on Tuesday, provincial police spokesman Abdul Khalil Asir said. “A group of Taliban rebels blew up a main bridge in Chanzai area this morning and thus cut the way between provincial capital Taluqan city and hundreds of villages,” Asir told Xinhua. Confirming the incident, local villager Mohammad Hashim told Xinhua that the villagers had to walk several hours to reach Taluqan city. Taliban militants, who according to the officials had destroyed at least three main bridges in Kunduz and Takhar provinces, are yet to claim responsibility for the latest attack.”

Yemen

The Defense Post: Houthis Recruit 50,000 Yemen Child Soldiers In 3 Months, Minister Says

“A gun, a comic magazine about jihad and qat to chew – for many kids in Yemen, these are integral parts of their childhood. About 50,000 children have been recruited in the past three months by the Houthi rebels to fight in the country’s bloody civil war, with around 10% of them being girls, according to Yemen’s Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani. With the difficult economic situation in the country when salaries are mainly being paid only to those willing to fight, families have to find a way to survive. “Most of the kids go with the consent of their family, some are kidnapped … some are brainwashed,” Al-Eryani said during a media roundtable this week in Washington, D.C. At the same time, many children have been recruited to the rebel cause from orphanages, he claimed. According to the United Nations, the situation on the ground in Yemen is getting more violent as the civil war continues into its fifth year.”

Al Jazeera: UN: Yemen's Houthi Rebels Block Food For Tens Of Thousands

“Yemen's Houthi rebels blocked a food shipment earmarked to feed 100,000 families in the impoverished nation that has been pushed to the brink of starvation by more than four years of war. A World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Tuesday the aid was prevented from reaching civilians after the UN body partially suspended relief efforts last week, accusing the rebels of looting it. The suspension follows a dispute over control of biometric data that WFP uses to ensure food aid was not being diverted from its intended recipients. The Houthis, who control northern Yemen, said the WFP's insistence on controlling the data breached Yemeni law and launched a fierce media campaign against the UN organisation, accusing it of sending spoiled food.”

Middle East

Gulf News: Why Political Islamists Target National Armies

“One of the by-products of the wave of change in the Middle East in the last decade, known in the media as the Arab Spring, was the empirical consolidation of a theoretical argument: Political Islamists seeking power target national armies. Continuous carnage in Libya, Syria and other trouble spots is due to the struggle between the so-called Islamist groups with their terrorist militias and national armies trying to regain the state. These wars go along with propaganda campaigns trying to distort the image of national armies in the eyes of its citizens. This is easily picked up by NGOs and western media to further undermine the armies’ efforts in fighting terrorism by magnifying what’s claimed to be human rights violations. Yet, this is not about defending military in such countries rather than stressing their just mission of eradicating terrorism. No wonder that such groups and militias get the support of two regional powers, claiming “religious” leadership: Turkey and Iran. The third regional power aiding some groups is also claiming to be a “religious state”: Israel. Islamists can’t accept any other loyalty order than what their command structure stipulates, thus the army should be scrapped to have only one disciplinary system augmented by religion.”

The Daily Wire: Chilling: Alleged Leader Of ISIS Group That Murdered Bicycling Couple Tells Why They Murdered Them

“At the end of July 2018, an American man who believed that “Evil is a make-believe concept” and his girlfriend were stabbed to death by five men who had reportedly sworn allegiance to ISIS as the couple bicycled in Tajikistan. Now an interview with the man who was the alleged ringleader in the attack reveals a chilling portrait of a terrorist loyal to the radical Islamist sect. Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan had bicycled thousands of miles through various countries before they were brutally murdered in Tajikistan, where the five men who had pledged their allegiance to ISIS ran them down on a highway and stabbed them to death. In an episode of The New York Times “The Weekly” titled “Collision,” interviewer Rukmini Callimachi spoke with an alleged member of ISIS who reportedly orchestrated the murderous attack in which the two touring bicyclists were killed on the side of a highway in Tajikistan. As The New York Times noted of the show, “Investigators show Rukmini the evidence they collected, including the ISIS ringleader’s cellphone, which contains his communication with Islamic State leaders abroad before, during and just after he and his men killed the cyclists.”

Nigeria

The Punch Nigeria: Troops Rescue 95 Boko Haram Captives, Recover Four Terrorist Flags

“Troops of Operation Lafiya Dole have rescued 95 men, women and children who were abducted by the Boko Haram terrorists in Kobe, Boboshe, Dubula and Tafana villages of Borno State, during an extended clearance operation. The troops, attached to 112 Task Force Battalion and 22 Brigade in collaboration with members of the Civilian Joint Task Force, discovered the victims in some camps at Kobe and Boboshe villages on Saturday. According to the army on Monday, the troops recovered four terrorists’ flags, two copies of Quran, one generator and two bicycles from the villages. Meanwhile, in Dubula and Tafana villages, troops retrieved two boxes filled with Quran, five bicycles and assorted clothing materials. The military said 24 of the rescued children were administered with polio vaccines by the Nigerian Army Regimental Medical Officers and officials of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency. The villages had been previously unreached in the polio vaccination exercise. The acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col Sagir Musa, in a release on Monday, said some of the terrorists fled the camps on sighting troops while a few others were shot dead.”

Premium Times: Nigeria: 25,794 People Killed In Nigerian Attacks During Buhari's First Term - Report

“At least 25,794 people were killed in various attacks during the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari between May 2015 and May 2019, a report analysed by PREMIUM TIMES indicates. According to available data from the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa programme which documents violence in Nigeria, “these attacks were motivated by political, economic, or social grievances”. The data used was taken from weekly surveys of Nigerian and international media reports. The report noted that this state of insecurity intensified from May 29, 2011, the inauguration date of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. It said the event “highlighted the increasing division of the country on regional and religious lines.”

All Africa: Nigeria: Depressed Soldiers Drugged In Fight Against Boko Haram

“Some soldiers battling the Boko Haram terrorist northeast of Nigeria are reportedly suffering mental illness in silence and using drugs to cope with pressures of fighting the militants. A retired officer has made the revelations at a workshop in the capital Abuja. Brigadier General Gbenga Okulate said this problem presented a ticking time bomb for Nigeria when the war against the Boko Haram was eventually won. “It has been noted soldiers are relying on drugs for agility, competence and boldness during battle,” Okulate, now a mental and psychological expert, said. He highlighted rumours that some army commanders gave soldiers drugs before they faced the Boko Haram. “We are going to have a serious mental issue after the war like we had after the civil war where hospitals were filled with psychiatric patients,” Okulate warned. It is reported Nigeria took 15 years to address the crisis, which emanated from the civil war of 1967-1970. “There will be a repeat of the post-civil war problem Nigeria faced if nothing urgent and drastic is done to address the mental disorders of soldiers and drug use,” Okulate warned.”

Africa

Gulf Today: 15 Killed In Two ‘Terrorist’ Attacks On Burkina Villages

“Two attacks by “armed terrorists” on villages in northern Burkina Faso left 15 people dead, the country's Defence Minister Cheriff Sy said on Monday. The gunmen attacked the villages of Sagho and Toekodogo, in the Barsalogho district, on Saturday, Sy said in a statement, describing them as members of “armed terrorist groups”. “These attacks unfortunately caused the death of 15 people, 13 of them in Sagho and two in Toekodogo,” he said. The attackers also set fire to three shops and around 10 motorcycles. Once alerted, soldiers and members of the security forces were deployed who put the assailants to flight, Sy added. Burkina Faso has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of militant groups, including the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Daesh in the Greater Sahara. More than 1,000 people have fled their homes because of the unrest in the region, finding refuge in the capital Ouagadougou, in the centre of the country. The north of the former French colony, near the borders with Mali and Niger, has been particularly hard hit. The raids began in 2015 in the north before spreading to Ouagadougou and other regions, notably in the east. The attacks have killed more than 460 people, according to an AFP tally.”

Daily Nation: Al-Shabaab Waning As Kenya Takes Fight To Their Home Bases

“The ragtag Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militia remains a security threat, with active cells in Kenya’s northeastern counties although its capacity to stage regular attacks has been diminished, the Nation can reveal. The organisation has in the past few weeks focused on targets in the border regions of Mandera, Wajir and Garissa where it has killed police officers and soldiers with home-made bombs. The militants’ areas of operation include Sheikh Barrow, Arabia, Fino, Damasa in Lafey, Alungo, Warankara, Falama, Elrhamu and Garsesala in Mandera County. And in Wajir County they are active in Kotulo, Mansa, Boji, Diif, Konton and Khorof Harar. In Garissa, areas prone to terror attacks include Liboi, Kulan, Hulugho, Bodhai, Boni forest, Galmagala, Amuma and Hamey. The Yumbis Border Patrol base in Garissa was the latest to be attacked, last Friday. Police, with the help of special forces, killed three of the attackers and repulsed the terrorists. “Security agencies remain on high alert to suppress and counter Al-Shabaab’s heightened activity along our common border with Somalia,” said National Police Service Director of Communication Charles Wahong’o in a statement.” 

United Kingdom

BBC News: UK Stealth Fighter Jets Join Fight Against Islamic State

“The UK's new F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter jets have joined the fight against Islamic State in their first operational missions. The jets, based in Cyprus, have carried out more than 14 armed reconnaissance missions over Iraq and Syria, the Ministry of Defence says. The RAF said the F-35s had not carried out any attacks and that the operations had gone “exceptionally well”. Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt called it “a really historic moment”. Britain currently has 17 F-35Bs and has pledged to purchase 138 in total from US aviation giant Lockheed Martin. The aircraft - which cost almost £100m - can land vertically, similar to the Harrier Jump Jet, and combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds. Six of the jets have been deployed at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus since May for training exercises, in an operation known as Exercise Lightning Dawn. As part of their training, the jets carried out 95 missions and flew in pairs for 225 hours, the MoD said. They have now joined the hunt for militants under Operation Shader, the UK's contribution in the ongoing military action against IS. Speaking from the Cypriot RAF base, Ms Mordaunt said she was “very proud that these are now flying in defence.”

The Guardian: London Bridge Inquest: 'Extremist' Denies Close Links To Attackers

“A man described as having a “strong historical extremist pedigree” has said he had limited contact with the ringleader of the London Bridge terror attackers, despite owning both the gym and school where he worked and the existence of hundreds of text messages between the pair’s phones. Sajeel Shahid, who has repeatedly refused to be questioned by police about the attacks, set up Ummah Fitness Centre (UFC) and Ad-Deen primary school, both in Ilford, east London. Khuram Butt, who with Rachid Redouane and Youseff Zaghba killed eight people on the night of 3 June 2017, worked at both locations. Redouane also worked at the gym and Zaghba worked at the school. All three men also trained at UFC, where it is suggested they may have planned and prepared the attack. Shahid’s links with the trio have come under scrutiny during the inquest at the Old Bailey into the eight victims because of his past membership of the extremist group al-Muhajiroun (ALM), with an MI5 boss describing him as having a “strong historical extremist pedigree”. Additionally, in the 2007 “fertiliser” trial of men accused of plotting to blow up Bluewater shopping centre and the Ministry of Sound nightclub, Mohammed Junaid Babar, a US terrorist turned FBI supergrass, accused Shahid of setting up the Malakand camp in Pakistan, where the 7 July bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan is said to have trained.”

Russia

The Moscow Times: IS Claims Gun Attack On Police Near Chechen Leader's Residence

“The Islamic State (IS) terror group has claimed responsibility for a gun attack on security officials in Russia’s republic of Chechnya, the online monitor Site Intelligence Group reported on Sunday. IS has claimed a series of attacks over the past year in Chechnya, a predominately Muslim republic in Russia's North Caucasus. An estimated 3,400 Russians fought in Syria and Iraq on the side of Islamic State and around 400 have returned home. Chechen police said the suspect had stabbed and wounded a traffic police officer and a member of the Russian National Guard on Sunday before being shot and killed. The Baza Telegram channel reported that the attack took place outside Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s residence in the republic's capital of Grozny. Police said the suspect carried out the stabbing after refusing to hand over his documents while being pulled over. A shotgun was recovered at the vehicle, Chechen police said. Baza reported that the suspect was driving a rented car and that the National Guard soldier fatally shot him after witnessing the attack as he was passing by. Police identified the killed suspect as a resident of Chechnya who was born in 1997.”

Venezuela

The Washington Post: Maduro’s Ex-Spy Chief Lands In U.S. Armed With Allegations Against Venezuelan Government

“In a palace said to be filled with plotters, turncoats and thieves, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro could count on the loyalty of at least one man: Gen. Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera.  The muscular 55-year-old was one of the revolution’s true believers, having spent a decade as security chief for the late Hugo Chávez, the father of Venezuela’s socialist state and Maduro’s mentor. He studied the art of intelligence with the masters in communist Cuba. He reached the zenith of his power in October with his appointment as head of Maduro’s intelligence police — the feared SEBIN. And yet, when the U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó announced his uprising April 30 to oust Maduro, Figuera emerged as a surprise conspirator — and, as the uprising failed, a man suddenly sprinting for his life into the hands of U.S. operatives in neighboring Colombia.”

Australia

Human Rights Watch: What Next For Australian ISIS Suspects?

“The Australian government is taking an important step by helping eight Australian children of suspects of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) return home from northeast Syria. The children were held for months without charge under horrific conditions in Syria’s al-Hol Camp. The youngest is two years old. To ensure their release, the government sent diplomats into northeast Syria. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that, “children should not be punished for the crimes of their parents.” He’s right, and it’s time other governments put forward similar efforts to ensure protection for these children. But questions remain about what to do with Australian adults in northeast Syria suspected of ISIS crimes. Some countries have reportedly been negotiating the transfer of their nationals to Iraq for prosecution, but Australia should resist this option. At least 11 French nationals have been transferred to Iraq and sentenced to death. Human Rights Watch has monitored Iraqi trials of ISIS suspects and has serious concerns about due process, allegations of torture, use of the death penalty, and access to justice. Some trials of ISIS suspects in Baghdad have lasted just five minutes, often relying on coerced confessions, with no effective legal representation.”

Southeast Asia

The Independent Singapore: Malaysian Police Chief Warns Of Suicide Attacks If ISIS Members Are Back

“A top Malaysian police officer warns of suicide attacks as Isis fighters return home, saying those coming from Syria and Iraq could attempt to spread the word through social media. Inspector-general of police Abdul Hamid Bador, in an interview with South China Morning Post says Malaysian returnees from Syria and Iraq are frustrated with their failure to achieve martyrdom with the collapse of the Islamic State’s caliphate and could attempt to continue their holy mission in their homeland by staging suicide attacks. Bador says there has been a lot of hype that these returnees are frustrated fighters. “They have not been able to implement all their ideals, practise what they have been trained for … so they want to do this [holy mission] back home to release their frustration.” The paper says more than two dozen Malaysians are holed up in refugee camps in northern Syria after the fall of Isis in March. According to Bador, all these possibilities are there when they return, based on the experience of countries who have dealt with returnees, assuring, “We will cover all these angles. We will deal with it cautiously.” He blamed tech giants for failing to identify and remove extremist messages swiftly claiming this has allowed impressionable young people to easily access harmful material, which ended up radicalising them.”

Asia News: Extremism Growing Among Rohingya Children In Cox’s Bazar Camps

“Abdur Rahaman, 12, a Rohingya refugee has lived in a camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh for more than two years. When he was home, in Myanmar, he wanted to be a doctor, but now everything has changed. “Here I cannot go to school. My parents enrolled me in a madrassa. Now I will never be a doctor.” Like Abdur, thousands of other children cannot go to regular school and are increasingly becoming  “prey” to Islamic radicalism taught in 1,200 Islamic schools. Together with his parents, Abdur fled Myanmar after the outbreak of the violence in August 2017. At present, about 740,000 Muslim refugees live n various camps along the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Abdur currently lives in Camp 3 in Ukhiya where he attends the Majida Arafat Madrassa. “I enjoyed my school in Myanmar. There, I was in grade three,” he told AsiaNews. Now he has to go an Islamic school because he can’t go to a regular school. Bangladesh doesn’t allow refugee children to attend local schools along with Bangladeshi pupils. Local and international NGOs run pre-schools or child friendly spaces where they learn Burmese and English.  But according to parents, what is offered is not up to the task of providing a real education.”

Technology

Bloomberg: Facebook Must Face Lawsuit Over 29 Million-User Data Breach

“Facebook Inc. failed to fend off a lawsuit over a data breach that affected nearly 30 million users, one of several privacy snafus that have put the company under siege. The company’s disclosure in September that hackers exploited several software bugs to obtain login access to accounts was tagged as Facebook’s worst security breach ever. An initial estimate that as many as 50 million accounts were affected was scaled back weeks later. A federal appeals court in San Francisco on June 21 rejected the company’s request to block the lawsuit, saying claims against Facebook can proceed for negligence and for failing to secure users’ data as promised. Discovery should move "with alacrity" for a trial, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said in his ruling. He dismissed breach-of-contract and breach-of-confidence claims due to liability limitations. Plaintiffs can seek to amend their cases by July 18.”