Eye on Extremism: June 3

The Washington Post: Israel Attacks Syrian Base Hours After Hitting Other Targets

“Israel fired missiles onto a Syrian military air base in the country’s center late Sunday, killing a soldier and wounding two others hours after other Israeli attacks in southern Syria killed three soldiers and wounded seven, Syria’s state-run media said. The new wave of Israeli missiles struck the T4 air base in the central province of Homs before midnight Sunday, according to state-run Syrian TV. There was no immediate comment from Israel about striking the air base, which opposition activists said includes positions also manned by Iranian troops and Iran-backed militiamen. Syrian state TV quoted an unidentified military official as saying that one soldier was killed and two were wounded in the air base attack and that an arms depot was hit as well. Israel has attacked the T4 base in the past. Earlier Sunday, Israel’s military confirmed it targeted several military positions in southern Syria, including two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence posts and an SA2 air defense unit. It said it was responding to two rockets launched from Syria late Saturday, which caused no casualties. The army said one rocket fell within Israeli-controlled territory but didn’t explode.”

Voice Of America: Trump Tweets To Syria And Its Allies Stop 'Bombing The Hell Out Of Idlib'

“President Donald Trump is demanding Syria, Russia and Iran stop "bombing the hell out of Idlib province in Syria." Trump said in a late Sunday tweet that the bombings are "indiscriminately killing many innocent civilians." "The world is watching this butchery. What is the purpose? What will it get you? STOP!" he wrote. Trump, in comments to reporters at the White House Sunday, also noted his call last year for Syria and its allies to avoid an all-out offensive in Idlib due to humanitarian concerns. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed similar sentiment in late April, but his government has also warned that the presence of militants in Idlib was undermining attempts to end Syria's eight-year conflict. Idlib is in northwestern Syria along the Turkish border. It is the last major part of Syria still controlled by rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.”

The New York Times: Afghan Peace Marchers Take Cease-Fire Plea Directly To Taliban

“For almost a year, Taliban leaders in Afghanistan have consistently rejected calls for a cease-fire by officials working to negotiate peace. So a group of grass-roots Afghan activists is going to try asking them in person. Members of the People’s Peace Movement have been walking across Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan since Thursday, when they left the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. They are heading toward territory controlled by the Taliban. Most of them are fasting during the day for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan while enduring 100-degree temperatures. During their 100-mile journey to the district of Musa Qala, which has been under Taliban control for years, they stopped at villages where they were welcomed by crowds who echoed their calls for an end to the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan, its latest chapter since the United States invasion, in its 18th year. The activists are on the move as peace talks between the Taliban and the United States seem stuck. But it appeared unlikely they will get a better reception than the politicians in their pleas for a cease-fire. “We will not allow them to enter our territories,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said on Sunday.”

Fox News: ISIS Supporter Admits Beheading Scandinavian Hiker In Morocco: 'I Regret It'

“An ISIS supporter suspected of leading a jihadist cell has told a court he regrets beheading one of two Scandinavian backpackers found murdered in their tent in Morocco. Abdessamad Ejjoud, 25, made the admission Thursday in Morocco where he is on trial for the murders of Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, of Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, of Norway. “I beheaded one of them…I regret it,” he was quoted as saying, the BBC reported. "After failing to join the Islamic State, we decided to do jihad at home," the 33-year-old carpenter said, according to Sky News. The two women, roommates at Norway’s Bo University, were on a Christmas camping trip in Morocco when they were killed Dec. 17. A video of the beheading was shared widely on social media by ISIS supporters. In Denmark, charges have been brought against 14 people who shared the video.”

CNN: Hezbollah's Chief Says A US Strike Against Iran Will Spur Regional Conflict, Leading American Forces To Be 'Annihilated'

“Hezbollah's leader warned the United States against striking Iran, saying if it does “the entire region will burn.” US President Donald Trump “knows that when the region is on fire, a barrel of oil will be $200 or $300,” Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group, said Friday during a televised speech. “The US knows well that any war on Iran will not remain confined to Iran's borders. The entire region will burn, leading to all US forces and interests in the region to be annihilated.”  Nasrallah's comments came the same day Saudi Arabia called an emergency meeting of the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to counter what it says is Iran's growing influence in the region.  Tensions between the Washington and Tehran have steadily escalated since the US withdrew from a nuclear deal with Iran and slapped it with new sanctions. But the war of words hit critical mass this month when US National Security adviser John Bolton blamed Iran for the attack on four oil tankers at a port in the UAE.  The US, Israel “and others from the Gulf are inciting war against Iran,” Nasrallah said. But even so, he said, a US-led war against Iran was highly unlikely because of what it would mean for all parties.”

United States

The New York Times: Trump Administration Says It Will Negotiate With Iran With ‘No Preconditions’

“In a second major softening of American policy toward Iran in recent days, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that the Trump administration was ready to negotiate with the country’s clerical leaders with “no preconditions.” The statement followed President Trump’s comment last week that he was ready to talk to Iranian leaders and was not seeking regime change, overruling a longtime goal of his national security adviser. Mr. Pompeo’s statement also recalibrated his earlier position that the United States would not lift sanctions on Iran unless it complied with a dozen sweeping demands, suggesting that those demands could be part of negotiations instead of preconditions. Iran’s leaders consider the demands unacceptable. Tensions between the United States and Iran have escalated sharply in recent weeks, raising fears that the two countries were edging toward war. The less combative language does not change the fact that the Trump administration has tightened economic sanctions on Iran, ordered 1,500 additional troops to the Persian Gulf and revised military plans against Iran.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iran Puts Trump To The Test

“President Trump’s Iran policy has so far been effective at keeping the regime off balance. He especially distinguished himself by defying conventional opinion and withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, and imposing painful economic sanctions, which have undercut Tehran’s finances and exacerbated internal pressures. But American reliance on sanctions, which Iran has weathered in the past, signals an unwillingness for confrontation. Tehran is pushing back. First, it announced it would stop abiding by certain JCPOA restrictions on its nuclear program. Second, despite Mr. Trump’s warnings and swift deployment of U.S. assets to the region, Iran-backed forces sabotaged oil tankers off the Emirati coast and a Saudi pipeline, and launched a rocket that landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.”


The National: Raqqa Bomb Blasts Kill 10 In ISIS's Former Capital

“Two explosions killed 10 people in Raqqa on Saturday in the latest attacks to hit the city in northern Syria, opposition activists reported. The blasts occurred at two different locations in the city that was once the de facto capital of ISIS, the group that overran large areas of Iraq and Syria from 2014 onwards. The attacks occurred after iftar, the meal after sunset that breaks day-long fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the first blast was a roadside bomb in the city centre. It said the second blast was carried out by a suicide attacker driving a vehicle at a checkpoint of US-backed fighters in the central Naim Square, killing five fighters and five civilians. Sound and Pictures, an activist collective that covers ISIS atrocities, said 10 people were killed in the square. Another activist group also said that at least 10 people were killed in the infamous Naim Square – Arabic for “Paradise” – where ISIS militants displayed hanged bodies or heads, during their rule of the city that began in January 2014 and lasted for nearly four years. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts but such suicide attacks have been carried out in the past by ISIS members.”

The Guardian: Female ISIS Captive Reveals Role In Helping CIA Hunt For Baghdadi

“The most senior female Islamic State captive has played a central role in the hunt for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, helping identify safe houses used by the fugitive terrorist leader and in one case pinpointing his location in Mosul, the Guardian can reveal. The Isis woman, Nisrine Assad Ibrahim, better known by her nom de guerre, Umm Sayyaf, has helped the CIA and Kurdish intelligence officers build a detailed portrait of Baghdadi’s movements, hideouts and networks, investigators have disclosed. The claims have been confirmed by Umm Sayyaf in her first interview since being captured in a Delta Force raid in Syria four years ago that killed her husband, the then Isis oil minister.”

The Guardian: Ten Killed In Israeli Airstrikes In Syria In Reply To Rocket Attack

“Israel has carried out airstrikes in Syria in response to rare rocket fire from the neighbouring country. A war monitor reported that 10 people were killed, including Syrian soldiers and foreign fighters. Israel’s army said two rockets were fired from Syria at Mount Hermon, in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, late on Saturday and one was “located within Israeli territory”. In response, the army attacked two Syrian artillery batteries, a number of observation and intelligence posts on the Golan Heights and an SA-2 aerial defence battery, it said. The Israeli attack left three Syrian soldiers and seven foreign fighters dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. According to the UK-based monitor, they died in missile strikes close the capital, Damascus, where Syrian troops, Iranian forces and Hezbollah fighters are stationed. The observatory did not specify the nationality of the foreign fighters killed. Syria’s official news agency Sana quoted a military source as saying anti-aircraft defences fired against “enemy missiles” from Israel targeting positions in south-west Damascus. The Israeli army said its own aerial defence systems were activated due to the Syrian anti-aircraft fire, but none of the Syrian fire hit Israel.”

The Times Of Israel: Arab Israeli Woman Charged With Joining Terror Group In Syria

“The Shin Bet security service last month arrested a 22-year-old Arab Israeli woman suspected of having joined the al-Nusra Front terror group in Syria in March 2018. Rania Shenawi, of the Arab town of Makr, was arrested on May 7 upon her return to Israel from Syria, the Shin Bet said. Last Friday, Shenawi was charged in a Haifa court with contacting a foreign agent, attempting to join a terror group, illegally leaving the country and theft. She was also charged with attacking a police officer while in custody. According to the security service, Shenawi traveled to Syria last April, having crossed into the war-torn country from Turkey using a counterfeit identity card. In order to fund her trip, Shenawi stole approximately NIS 10,000 ($2,750) from her father, according to the indictment. In Syria, she allegedly joined al-Nusra Front, which has been connected off and on over the years to both the Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State terror groups. “The findings of the investigation of Shenawi show that she held an extreme ideological worldview, mostly in supporting the Islamic State terror group and in a deep hatred of Jews,” the Shin Bet said. According to the security service, she had made contact over the internetwith a Syrian national who invited her to come to the country and join al-Nusra Front.”

Kurdistan 24: ISIS Relatives Among 800 Women, Children Set To Leave North Syria Camp

“Syrian Kurdish authorities on Sunday revealed plans to transfer up to 800 women and children, including relatives of the so-called Islamic State, to their families from the sprawling Al-Hol camp in northern Syria. A member of the Kurdish administration’s executive council said the transfer is expected to be made on Monday and would be the first such group handed over to family members who live in other parts of Syria. Abd al-Mehbach, the co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), told AFP the transfer was made possible at the request of local Arab tribes following an agreement reached during a meeting last month. Mehbach said the second batch of roughly 800 women and children would be completed after the Islamic Eid holiday, which begins following the end of fasting in Ramadan. “Not all of those being released are relatives of ISIS fighters,” the Kurdish official was quoted as saying by AFP, noting most are displaced Syrians who had fled their homes during the months of fighting between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the terror group. According to Mehbach, many of the 800 are from the city of Raqqa – once the Islamic State’s de facto capital – and from the town of Tabqa, located 70 kilometers (43 miles) west of Raqqa.”


Radio Farda: King Salman Accuses Iran Of Supporting 'Terrorist Militias'

“In one of his harshest attacks yet on Iran, King Salman of Saudi Arabia accused Tehran of supporting “terrorist militias” that he said were a threat to global oil supplies and regional security. The king, speaking on June 1 at a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Mecca, described a recent attack on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and an armed drone assault on Saudi pipeline facilities as “terrorist acts.” “We confirm that these subversive terrorist acts are aimed not only at the kingdom and the [Persian] Gulf region, but also on the security of navigation and energy supplies to the world,” the king told the gathering. He said the drone attack on the pipeline was carried by Huthi rebels in Yemen, which he described as a “terrorist militia backed by Iran.” Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, backed by the United States, is an archrival of Shi’ite-majority Iran and competes for influence in the region. In recent weeks, tensions have risen in and around the Strait of Hormuz, a key petroleum shipping route at the mouth of the Persian Gulf that Iran has threatened to block.”


Bloomberg: Iraqi Court Sentences 2 French IS Member To Death

“A court in Baghdad on Sunday sentenced two French citizens to death for being members of the Islamic State group, including one who last week said he was subjected to torture while in detention, an Iraqi judicial official said. The sentencings in Iraq come amid controversy about the legal treatment of thousands of foreign fighters who had joined IS at the height of its power in Syria and Iraq, when the militant group declared its self-styled caliphate. Human rights groups are concerned these defendants are being rushed through Iraqi counterterrorism courts in trials that raise questions over whether justice is being done. Convictions are often based on confessions that defendants and rights groups say are extracted by intimidation, torture and abuse and without due process. The judicial official said the court sentenced to death Fadil Hamad Abdallah, 33, of Moroccan origin and Vianney Jamal Abdelqader, 29. Abdallah, who was known within the group as Abu Mariam, told the court last week that he was subjected to torture. He was then referred to a medical committee that, after examining him, said he had made false claims about torture.”

The Guardian: Inside The Iraqi Courts Sentencing Foreign ISIS Fighters To Death

“When Mustapha Merzoughi, a French citizen of Tunisian origin, left France for Syria in 2015, he hoped to start afresh in the so-called Islamic State and leave behind a life plagued with what he called social and financial problems. But as he faced a judge in Iraq’s capital Baghdad last week, he wished nothing more than to return to France. “All I want is to go back home,” he implored the court with a shaky voice. “If there’s anyone from the French embassy here, I’m asking you to take care of my case and bring me back to France.” Merzoughi was captured by the US-backed Syrian opposition forces during the final push to defeat Isis in eastern Syria. After France refused to take him back, he and 11 other Isis suspects of French origin were handed over to Iraqi authorities and charged under Iraq’s sweeping counter-terrorism laws. Wearing yellow jumpsuits and plastic slippers, eight of the Frenchmen appeared in a Baghdad court last week. In the presence of journalists, French diplomats and UN observers, they listened to the accusations levied against them: joining Isis and taking part in military operations. Videos set to dramatic music charted out their journey to Syria and their role in the terror group. “I made a mistake. I joined a terror organisation,” Merzoughi admitted.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Intelligence Arrest Four Islamic State Terrorists In Diyala

“Iraqi military intelligence forces arrested on Saturday four Islamic State terrorists during a military operation in Diyala province. In a press statement, the Iraqi Military Intelligence Directorate said that its troops have arrested four members of the Islamic State terrorist group in Diyala province, including a fugitive who was sentenced to death in absentia for committing terrorist acts. Their arrest was based on intelligence reports, the statement read. Iraq’s anti-terrorism law empowers courts to convict people who are believed to have helped jihadists even if they are not accused of carrying out attacks. Experts estimate that Iraq is holding 20,000 people in jail over suspected IS membership. However, there is no official figure with the Iraqi government declining to provide estimates about the number of the foreign detained militants or those who have Arab or Iraqi origins.”

Iraqi News: Falcons Cell Kills 6 IS Militants West Of Mosul

“An official source informed, on Saturday, that the Falcons Intelligence Cell forces killed six Islamic State militants, west of Mosul. The source said in a press statement that the forces from the Falcons Cell killed 6 militants from the Islamic state in al-Ayadiya area, west of Mosul, and seized their weapons. The source didn’t mentioned any further details, the statement added. It is noteworthy that security forces in Nineveh frequently announce either killing or apprehending a number of the Islamic state militants in different areas of the province. Islamic State insurgents took control over the city of Mosul on June 2014, after defeating the Iraqi army. An estimated 500,000 civilians fled from the city, due to the conflict. In October 2016, Iraqi Army and al-Hashd al-Shaabi launched an offensive to liberate Mosul City from the IS control. Former Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi announced the liberation of the city on July 2017, after nearly nine months of urban warfare.”

Radio Farda: Attorney, Rights Defender Sentenced To 30 Years, Flogging In Iran

“An Iranian lawyer has been jailed for 30 years after setting up a channel on the popular social media platform Telegram, highlighting human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic. Amir Salar Davoudi was convicted by a revolutionary court for “propaganda against the state” and “insulting officials” and is set to be flogged 111 times. According to his lawyer Vahid Farahani, Davoudi was also accused of “collaborating with an enemy state” after giving an interview to Voice of America Persian-language television. Speaking to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran in April, Farahani warned his client was accused of “forming a group to overthrow the state.”

The National: Iran Flexes Proxy Muscle In Escalation Involving Israel

“Tehran further flexed its regional muscle in response to the confrontation with the United States by apparently picking out Israeli targets yesterday, demonstrating the efficacy of relying on proxies to shield Iran from retaliation, as Washington renewed its offer to talk. Two rockets fired from Syria at the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights were met almost immediately by Israeli raids on Syrian territory that is officially under the control of President Bashar Al Assad. It was the first such development involving Israel since the US strengthened its military presence in the Gulf region last month in response to what Washington regards as Iranian threats to security. The Golan is a strategic plateau bordering Israel, Jordan and Lebanon. Israel occupied the area in 1967 and Washington this year recognised it as Israeli territory in a move that drew widespread condemnation and was seen as playing into the hands of Mr Al Assad.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraq’s Judiciary Determines Fate Of Over 1,000 Foreign ISIS Children

“Iraq’s judiciary is handling the fate of more than a thousand children whose parents of various nationalities had joined the Islamic State, a judge affirmed on Sunday. Most of the children are from Eastern European countries, as well as Tajikistan, Russia, and Turkey. The Central Criminal Court in Baghdad is working on repatriating them to their respective countries of origin, following the proper legal procedures. An investigative judge with the Iraqi Central Criminal Court specialized in terrorism cases, whose name was not mentioned, stated there are over 1,000 foreign children of the Islamic State in Iraqi rehabilitation centers.   “Some of the children who entered the country with their families from abroad have identification documents. Others do not have their papers for several reasons, and some were born on their way to Iraq,” the judge, who is handling the cases of foreigners and children in court, was quoted as saying in a statement released by the Iraqi judiciary. “The children’s ages range from a few months to 16 years of age,” the judge continued. “They are currently in Iraqi rehabilitation centers, with their mothers having been sentenced to death, or handed down life sentences or shorter ones for the crime of belonging to a terrorist organization, participating in terrorist operations, as well as other crimes.”


Associated Press: Turkey, Russia Face Conflicts Over Syria’s Push Into Idlib

“Ankara and Moscow are again facing an escalation of violence in Syria’s last rebel-held territory, a development that puts their cooperation to the test even as they support opposing sides in the eight-year war that has devastated Syria. An all-out offensive by Syrian government forces to capture Idlib in northwestern Syria from insurgents could unleash an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, for the area is home to 3 million people. Turkey, which is already hosting more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, is facing strong pressure from Syria, Iran and Russia to deliver on its pledge to control the armed rebel factions in Idlib.”


The Washington Post: Bombings In Afghan Capital Kill 2 People, Injure 2 Reporters

“Four explosions struck the Afghan capital on Sunday, killing at least two people and wounding 27 others, officials said. Among the injured were two Afghan journalists, according to a local non-governmental media organization. The first bomb hit a bus carrying university students in a residential area of western Kabul. It was followed 20 minutes later by two further detonations at the same location, said Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the interior ministry. Wahidullah Mayar, a spokesman for the public health ministry, said the three successive attacks injured 24 people, including four women. The first blast killed at least one person. Mayar added it was not immediately clear which explosion had caused the second death. A wave of attacks has rocked the Afghan capital in the last week, where both the Islamic State group and Taliban insurgents are active. Attacks by the Taliban have continued unabated despite peace talks with the United States as well as a fresh round of talks with Afghan notables last week in the Russian capital, Moscow. The Taliban have rejected repeated demands for a cease-fire in the decades-long civil war, demanding a U.S. and NATO troop withdraw from Afghanistan first. However, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for three of Sunday’s attacks in Kabul.”

Bloomberg: Afghan Peace Efforts Scuttled By Ghani Government, Taliban Says

“The leader of the Taliban said peace efforts are running into “diplomatic obstructions” by President Ashraf Ghani’s administration, sidelined in recent talks between prominent Afghan figures and the militant group. The Taliban “shall pay no heed to such futile efforts” to seek prominence, Hibatullah Akhundzada said in his annual Eid-ul-Fitr statement Saturday. He made the comments two days after a group including Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai met with the Taliban’s deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and a delegation of 13 members in Moscow to try to end war in the country. Those talks ended without palpable movement toward a Taliban cease-fire in a replay of a February meeting in the Russian capital. Several rounds of marathon talks in Doha in recent months brokered by U.S. Special Envoy on Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad also failed to produce results. Taliban leaders resisted international calls for a cease-fire during the three-day Eid celebration. The group has also rebuffed efforts by Ghani to engage in talks and called his rule illegitimate. Akhundzada reiterated demands for a U.S. military withdrawal as a condition of a cease-fire and direct talks with Ghani.”

Al Jazeera: US And Taliban To Hold New Talks In Doha After Month-Long Lull

“The US envoy negotiating with the Taliban will hold new talks this month with the group in Qatar, the US State Department has said, as momentum builds for a deal to end America's longest war. Zalmay Khalilzad, a veteran US policymaker who is leading President Donald Trump's push to broker a peace deal with the Taliban, left on Friday on a 17-day trip that will take him to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Germany, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates, the state department said on Saturday. In Doha, he will resume talks with the Taliban after a break of around a month “to move the peace process forward”, the department said in a statement. Khalilzad has already met six times with the Taliban in recent months as he looks to seal a deal under which the United States will pull out troops who were first deployed following the September 11, 2001 attacks. The US and the Taliban are believed to have largely agreed on a key demand of Washington: that the Taliban should not allow Afghanistan to be used by armed groups. But a major sticking point remains the refusal of the Taliban to negotiate with President Ashraf Ghani's government, which enjoys international support while the Taliban considers it a “puppet” of the West.”

Al Jazeera: Taliban Leader Pledges To Keep Fighting In Eid Message

“The Afghan Taliban is unlikely to call a ceasefire any time soon, the group's leader has indicated, even though the “doors of dialogue” with the United States to end the 18-year-long war in the country remain open.  In his annual message on Saturday, ahead of next week's Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada pledged to continue fighting until the group's objectives were reached. ”No one should expect us to pour cold water on the heated battlefronts of Jihad or forget our 40-year sacrifices before reaching our objectives,” he said in the message, adding that the Taliban aimed for “an end to the occupation and establishment of an Islamic system”.  His statement comes days after a Taliban official said that ”decent progress” had been made during talks with a group of senior Afghan politicians in Moscow. A sixth round of US-led talks in Qatar also wrapped up last month with “some progress” made on a draft agreement for when foreign troops might withdraw from Afghanistan. “The doors of dialogue and negotiations have been kept open and at this very moment, the [Taliban] negotiation team ... is engaged in negotiations with the American side,” Akhunzada said.”

Xinhua: 9 Police Killed In Clash With Taliban In N. Afghanistan

“Nine policemen have been killed and three others wounded as Taliban militants attacked a local police camp in Afghanistan's northern province of Baghlan overnight, a provincial source said Saturday.”The clash erupted as a dozen of armed militants stormed an Afghan Local Police (ALP) base in Bagh-e-Shamal, an area on the outskirts of provincial capital Pul-e-Khumri city Friday night,” Bismillah Atash, a provincial council member, told Xinhua. He said nine ALP personnel were killed and three others wounded as the clash continued until Saturday morning. Several militants were killed and wounded during the gun battle, but the number could not be exactly specified, said the source. Local police is a local security entity composed of villagers to defend their community where the presence of the national army or national police is slim to ensure law and order. The Taliban-led insurgency has been rampant since early April when the militant group launched its annual rebel offensive in different locations, which had claimed hundreds of lives including militants, security personnel and civilians.”


Radio Free Europe: Pakistani Court Sentences Militants For Terror Financing

“A court in Pakistan has sentenced three militants to prison after convicting them on charges of financing terrorism. A statement issued May 31 by a counterterrorism department said the three men have begun serving their sentences. It said the three unidentified men were local leaders of the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammad group, which claimed responsibility for the February 14 suicide attack in the Indian-held portion of the disputed Kashmir region. The bombing at the time raised tensions between India and Pakistan and brought the two nuclear rivals to the brink of war. Since then, Pakistan has arrested several men as part of its crackdown on terror financing.”


Xinhua: Suspected Al-Qaida Gunmen Attack Military Checkpoint In SE Yemen

“At least two Yemeni soldiers were killed on Saturday during an attack launched by suspected al-Qaida gunmen in Yemen's southeastern province of Hadramout, a security official told Xinhua. The local official based in the province said on condition of anonymity that a group of gunmen believed to be members of the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch attacked a military post in Hadramout's Valley. He confirmed that the armed attack killed at least two newly-recruited soldiers and injured a number of others at the scene. The source pointed out that the gunmen clashed with the soldiers stationed at the military post for several minutes, and then managed to escape. Local media reports indicated that a terrorist attack targeted a military post of the 23rd Armored Brigade in Hadramout's Valley, killing and injuring a number of soldiers in the area. Various areas in the government-controlled province of Hadramout witnessed sporadic attacks by terrorist elements during the past months. Militant groups such as the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch and the Islamic State (IS) group have active presence in the country's southern and eastern areas, taking advantage of the bloody conflict raging in the impoverished Arab country since 2015.”

Reuters: Yemen's Houthis Launch Drone Attack On Saudi-Led Coalition Military Parade In Aden

“Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement launched a drone attack on a military parade for Saudi-led coalition forces in the port city of Aden, the group’s Al Masirah TV said early on Monday. The Saudi-owned Al-Hadath channel later quoted sources that the air defenses shot down a drone west of Aden. There was no official comment from Saudi Arabia or the coalition. Local officials told Reuters that the coalition foiled an attack targeting one of its military camps in Aden. No details were provided on any possible casualties.”

The National: Houthis Must Release Journalists Facing Trial Say Media Rights Group

“Yemen’s Houthi rebels must stop the planned trial of 10 journalists and release all detained media professionals detained as part of a campaign of intimidation of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Sunday. Ten Yemeni journalists have been in rebel detention since 2015 and were formally charged by the rebels in December 2018 on claims of spying and aiding the Arab-led coalition that has been attempting to restore the government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi. The journalists, all men, could face the death penalty if found guilty in the Houthi controlled courts that investigated and brought charges against them, the CPJ said. The body said that journalists have reported that Houthi authorities consider them indistinguishable from armed combatants – in contravention to the Geneva Convention. "The Houthis have demonstrated their brutality by holding at least 10 journalists in what by all accounts are deplorable conditions for nearly four years," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement."

Al Arabiya: IRGC Commander: We Help The Houthis As Much As We Can

“Iran helps the Houthis as much as it can but not as much as it would like to, due to the “blockade of Yemen”, Admiral Ali Fadavi, vice commander of the IRGC, said. “If the Islamic Revolution could come and go there [to Yemen]; imagine we could go to Yemen as we go to Syria, would the situation be as it is? no, it would not," Fadavi said in an interview with Iran’s Channel 3. The interview was reported by the BBC Persian. “Based on the Quran, we are obliged to help as much as we can, and we do,” he said. According to Fadavi, due to the “complete siege” of Yemen, the IRGC is not able to support the Houthis greatly and that “they [the Houthis] govern themselves.” “They get results like us because they act in accordance with the principles of the Islamic Revolution,” he said.”

Saudi Arabia

Arab News: At Islamic Summit, King Salman Slams Terror, Extremism

“Extremism and terrorism are “the most serious scourge” facing the world, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said on Friday at the 14th Islamic Summit, organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Makkah.  The summit’s theme was “Hand in Hand Toward the Future,” and was chaired by the king, who received leaders and heads of Muslim-majority countries. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal also received the guests. In his speech, King Salman thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his efforts as chairman of the previous summit. The king also thanked OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen for his efforts to promote Islamic cooperation. “The Palestinian cause is the cornerstone of the OIC’s work, and is the focus of our attention until the brotherly Palestinian people get all their legitimate rights,” King Salman said. Efforts must be made to combat extremism and terrorism, expose their supporters, and dry up their financial resources in all available ways, he added.”


Haaretz: Israel Strikes Iranian Base In Syria And Kills Two, State Media Reports

“Israeli missiles were fired toward a Syrian military base in Homs, state media reported late Sunday overnight, a day after Israel struck Syrian targets on Saturday in retaliation for rocket fire toward the Golan Heights. Two people are said to have died in the strike, and two more were injured. According to a military source cited by Syrian media, Syrian air defenses "intercepted" some of the missiles. The assault had hit several buildings, including ammunition warehouses and equipment that was stored at the T-4 airbase.”


Haaretz: Nasrallah Says Hezbollah Has Precision Missiles That Could Strike Targets Throughout Israel

“Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that his Shi'ite organization has enough precision missiles to hit all the targets it has marked throughout the State of Israel. Speaking at a nightttime rally in Beirut to mark Quds, or Jerusalem day, the leader of the Lebanese group said that the missiles could “change the face of the region.” The Islamic Republic initiated Jerusalem Day in 1979, and it marks it annually on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan. The day's goal is to express solidarity with Palestinians as well as resistance to Zionism and to Israel. Nasrallah claimed that Israel does not attack his group's missile arsenal because it knows Hezbollah will react forcefully. “We will respond directly and forcefully to any Israeli attack on sites or facilities of the organization in Lebanese territory,” he threatened.  He denied that the group has facilities to build precision missiles in Lebanon, and said that if he had such facilities he would declare it openly, “because we have a right to defend ourselves, and the forces of the resistance have a right to have rockets and missiles.” Nonetheless, he stressed that Hezbollah has the ability to set up such factories and clarified that the group will do it in the future. He also noted that he could sell the precision missiles to the Lebanese military.”

Middle East

The Wall Street Journal: Rejuvenated Hamas Tests Israel In High-Stakes Brinkmanship

“Palestinian militant groups have restocked an arsenal of rockets to levels reached just before the last war with Israel, current and former Israeli officials say, part of a pressure campaign to ease Israel’s punishing blockade on the Gaza Strip. Through a combination of smuggling and local manufacturing, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have replenished their stock of roughly 10,000 rockets. Most of the rockets in Gaza are believed to be short and medium range, although hundreds may be capable of reaching major Israeli population centers. Many are made with pipes and basic explosives—crude materials that can be smuggled through Egypt’s Sinai region via tunnels into Gaza. Hamas leaders confirm the military buildup, saying they want to dislodge Israel from occupied Palestinian land. “The region…will not enjoy calm as long as the enemy is on Palestinian land and Gaza is besieged,” Khalil al-Hayya, deputy head of Hamas in Gaza, said recently. The buildup shows Hamas engaged in a high-stakes campaign of brinkmanship, current and former Israeli officials said. The militant group, which rules Gaza and is deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel, is trying to pressure Israel just enough to agree to ease fuel, fishing and other restrictions, but not enough to spark another war and heighten tensions across an already volatile Middle East.”

The Times Of Israel: IDF Revamps Anti-Terror Strategies In West Bank After Attacks

“The Israeli military on Sunday unveiled plans to improve the operations of its West Bank division, including increasing the level of intelligence gathering and sharing, and better preparing troops before deployments in the region. These changes came after a spate of terror attacks in the West Bank in late 2018 and early 2019, in which terrorists opened fire on civilians and troops, catching soldiers off guard and allowing the gunmen to flee the scene. The military expects the coming months to be potentially volatile ones in the West Bank, due to the ongoing efforts involved in the US-led “deal of the century” peace plan, which has attracted the ire of the Palestinian Authority and terror groups. On December 9, a terrorist opened fire at a bus stop outside the Ofra settlement in the northern West Bank, hitting seven people, including a pregnant woman whose fetus was killed. Four days later, the brother of the Ofra shooter shot up a bus stop near the Givat Assaf outpost, killing two soldiers and seriously injuring two people. On March 17, an Israeli father of 12 was killed in a shooting attack near the Ariel settlement in which the terrorist used a gun that he’d stolen from a soldier whom he’d stabbed to death earlier in the day.”

Jerusalem Post: Merkel Allows Al-Quds Day March Amid Rising Jew-Hatred

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration declined to stop the annual pro-Iranian regime al-Quds Day march in downtown Berlin on Saturday amid growing antisemitism in Germany. Merkel’s inaction means that march went ahead, including with the participation of Hezbollah members. The march, attended by estimates ranging from several hundred to 1,000 protesters, called for Israel’s destruction. Israel’s Ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, spoke at a demonstration on Saturday against the al-Quds march attended by some 400 people. He wrote on Twitter: “Speaking in Berlin against the Al Quds Day and its Iranian sponsors. This blatantly antisemitic and hateful event should be banned. Iran as the leading sponsor of terror, a serial abuser of human rights that seeks to undermine any chance for ME [Middle East] peace has no place in Berlin.”


The National: The Libyan City Crucial To Khalifa Haftar's Counter-Terror Battle

“A double car bombing against a unit belonging to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army early on Sunday has raised the spectre of a prolonged battle against extremism in Derna, the eastern city crucial to his counter-terror efforts and a population centre that his forces had appeared to have brought under control. In June last year, General Haftar declared the city fully liberated from local fighters that he has accused of being allied with Al Qaeda. But the latest attack, despite no immediate claim of responsibility, shows the security threat is far from finished. The city of around 100,000 people, situated on the emerald waters of the Mediterranean, has played host to fighters sympathetic to Al Qaeda, an ISIS occupation and one of Egypt’s most wanted militants. The Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive on the city in 2016 to liberate the city from ISIS, which conducted summary executions, crucifixions and beheadings in the city. Once ISIS was removed, it sought to remove a coalition of groups known as the “Derna Protection Force” it says are “terrorists” with links to Al Qaeda. It also provided the most Libyan fighters for Al Qaeda in Iraq during that country’s war from 2003 onwards.”


All Africa: Nigeria: Boko Haram Slaughter Worshipper At Borno Mosque

“Armed Boko Haram insurgents stormed a mosque at Sajeri, near Ngomari at the outskirts of Maiduguri last night, slaughtering a worshipper. Eyewitnesses say the insurgents stormed the Sajeri community during the RamadanTahajjud prayer (early morning prayer), shooting sporadically before concentrating on the Mosque. Details are still sketchy though, sources told Daily Trust that the armed insurgents opened fire on the congregation, causing a stampede with the worshippers and the entire residents of the community fleeing in different directions for dear lives, several of them sustaining injuries in the process. “They grabbed a male worshipper and slaughtered him in the open, as majority of the worshipers fled towards Ngomari,” a reliable source confirmed to Daily Trust. “So far, none of the several casualties has been taken to any hospital in Maiduguri for treatment, but a few of them are receiving minor treatments at home,” another source confirmed. Security agencies have not issued any statement on the incident yet.”

Al Jazeera: Nigeria's 'Mega Schools' For Boko Haram Victims

“So-called "mega schools" have been opened in northeast Nigeria to take in around 50,000 orphans of war. Boko Haram fighters have destroyed classrooms, killed teachers and kidnapped students in 10 years of fighting. As the public school system is rebuilt in Borno State, experts say children need other help too.”

Sahara Reporters: President Buhari Thanks Islamic States For Helping In Nigeria's Terrorism Fight

“President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed his appreciation for the role the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has played in the war against insurgency in Nigeria. President Buhari made the commendation when he read the collective statement of African countries at the 14th Summit of the OIC in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on Saturday.  He said: “The robust interventions of the various OIC Institutions and principally the Islamic Development Bank Group, have been effective in such key sectors as trade and investment, agriculture, rural development and food security, science, technology and innovation, poverty alleviation as well as women and youth empowerment. “In particular, Nigeria acknowledges the support of OIC Member States in countering the menace of terrorism and armed criminality in West Africa, the Lake Chad area and the Sahel Countries. We appreciate their contributions in the alleviation of the humanitarian crisis arising from the insurgency but urge them to do more. “We appreciate their contributions in the alleviation of the humanitarian crisis arising from the insurgency but urge them to do more.”


Stars And Stripes: ISIS In Somalia Recruiting Up As US Airstrikes Continue

“Islamic State militants holed up in northern Somalia are recruiting fighters fast enough to offset battlefield losses despite an uptick in U.S. airstrikes in the country, U.S. Africa Command said in a new analysis of the group’s force strength. Since April, AFRICOM has launched about eight airstrikes against ISIS-Somalia, killing roughly 20 militants, including the group’s second-in-command. But while some past estimates by security analysts have put the size of the militant group at between 100 and 200 fighters, military officials now say the group could be larger. “ISIS-Somalia probably has up to 300 adherents, with the majority of fighters operating across northern Puntland,” said AFRICOM spokeswoman Samantha Reho, referring to the country’s northeastern region. “Although airstrikes have removed ISIS-Somalia terrorists from the battlefield, recruitment efforts in the region may offset some of the terrorist group’s losses.” ISIS-aligned militants have been a small but persistent presence in Somalia for several years. The group is concentrated in the Bari Region of Puntland, a semi-autonomous region on the tip of the Horn of Africa.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Homemade Army Drones Successfully Strike Terror Targets In Algeria

“Algeria’s Defense Ministry published a statement revealing that Algerian-made army drones struck terror targets near the country’s southern borders. This is the first time the ministry publicizes operating locally-made drones since it first declared war on terror in the mid-90s. In a statement, the Ministry of Defense said the flights were ordered by Algerian Army Chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who paid a visit to the “sixth military zone” (near borders with Niger) in the last four days. It also highlighted the role of Algerian-made drones in counterterror operations, adding that the aircrafts were capable of operating both nighttime and daytime missions effectively.  Despite saying targets were successfully struck, the statement did not mention the toll inflicted on terrorist formations. In a related context, the Ministry of Defense announced that the army had discovered a weapons and munitions depot north-east the In Amenas town which lies on southeastern borders with Syria. The weapons cache included rocket launchers and RPG-7 missiles, as well as machine guns, pistols, and ammunition.”


RFI: French Parcel Bomb Attacker Charged With 'Attempted Terrorist Murder'

“A man suspected of planting a parcel bomb that wounded 14 people in Lyon, central France, was charged Friday with “attempted terrorist murder”, a prosecutor said. He was also charged him with criminal association and building an explosive for terrorist purposes, prosecutor Remy Heitz said. A magistrate ordered the detention of Mohamed Hichem Medjoub, 24, in custody since his arrest on Monday. Medjoub, who is of Algerian origin, told investigators he had pledged allegiance “in his heart of hearts” to the Islamic State (IS) group, Heitz said in a statement issued Friday.Police arrested him after a manhunt that began last Friday when a homemade bomb containing screws, ball bearings and acetone peroxide, or APEX, exploded on a busy pedestrian street in central Lyon. APEX is the volatile compound used in the deadly Paris terror attacks of November 13, 2015. Police identified Medjoub via video surveillance cameras that caught him fleeing the scene on a bicycle. Investigators found traces of his DNA on the homemade bomb, which was detonated by remote control, a source close the case has told AFP.”

Morocco World News: France Strips Moroccan Man Convicted Of Terrorism Of Citizenship

“French authorities have stripped a defendant of Moroccan origin convicted for conspiring to join terrorists in Afghanistan, of his French nationality. AFP reported that the dual national was sentenced in 2014 to five years in prison for planning to join jihadists in Afghanistan. The defendant was arrested in Pakistan in 2012 along with two other French nationals. It is possible for French authorities to deprive people of citizenship if the individuals have acquired French citizenship for specific reasons including treason and terrorism. AFP said that deprivation of French citizenship could occur if the alleged acts occurred “within 15 years after the acquisition of the citizenship.” Quoted by the news outlet, French Ministry of the Interior said that there have only been 13 cases of citizenship deprivation between 1996 and 2016. The individuals who were deprived from French citizenship were convicted of terrorism, including five sentenced in 2015. Authorities, however, would be helpless to deprive individuals individuals born in France. The Economist reported in February 2016 that the French government has “undertaken a raft of counter terrorism measures” after November 2017 attacks in Paris. The proposal to strip French-born dual citizens of French nationality in the case of terror crimes, according to the news outlet, “divided French political parties.”


Reuters: Northern Ireland Police Discover Bomb Under Officer's Car

“Police in Northern Ireland discovered a bomb under a police officer’s car in Belfast on Saturday that they said was probably planted by militant nationalists intent on killing one of their officers had it not been detected in time. While a 1998 peace deal largely ended three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, police officers are sporadically targeted by small splinter groups still active in the British-run province.  The suspicious object was detected in the east of the city on Saturday and declared a viable improvised explosive device following examination by ammunitions officers.   “Our belief is that this attempted murder was carried out by violent dissident republicans. They don’t care who they attack, they don’t care who they kill. They are simply anti-peace and anti-democracy,” Sean Wright, the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Head of Terrorism Investigation Unit said in a statement.  Militant nationalists from the New IRA group placed a car bomb which detonated outside a courthouse in Londonderry in January. No one was injured in the blast.  The killing of a journalist by members of the same group during a riot in the city last month has raised fears militants are trying to exploit political tensions caused by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.” 


The Guardian: Facebook And Twitter Are Growing Into The Mainstream

“In the first three months of 2019, Facebook removed about 2bn fake accounts from its servers. This is roughly equivalent to all the legitimate accounts the company has on its platform. The figures are in one sense incomparable: legitimate accounts on social media are (at least supposedly) real people. Fake accounts can be proliferated at such volume and speed, and removed as quickly, because they are both auto-generated and auto-deleted. In other words, robots arguing with each other, and the Facebook robots prevailing. Contrast the efficiency of this type of content decision with another, where robots are not so skilled: nuanced political and cultural decisions, such as should we remove a video which is “not real”? Or an even more wide open question, should neo-Nazis have access to advertise their views? Both are the latest detonations in an ongoing battle around how public debate and discourse should be regulated.”

The New York Times: Google And Amazon Are At The Center Of A Storm Brewing Over Big Tech

“Google and Amazon have thrived as American regulators largely kept their distance. That may be changing. Politicians on the right and left are decrying the tech companies’ enormous power. President Trump and other Republicans have taken swipes at Amazon over taxes and at Google over search results they say are biased. Democrats have focused on whether the companies stifle competition. And now, the two federal agencies that handle antitrust matters have split up oversight of the two companies, with the Justice Department taking Google and the Federal Trade Commission taking Amazon, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. The decisions do not mean that the agencies have opened official federal investigations, the people said. But by staking claims over the two tech giants, the agencies are signaling the potential for greater scrutiny.”

The Wall Street Journal: Court Tells Facebook To Open Its Records On Data Privacy

“A Delaware corporate law court has ordered Facebook Inc. to hand over records to shareholders investigating the data privacy breach that fed information to now-defunct data miner Cambridge Analytica. There is sufficient evidence that Facebook’s board of directors failed in its duty to protect data privacy to justify an expanded shareholder investigation, Joseph Slights, a vice chancellor of the Delaware Court of Chancery, ruled on Thursday. Facebook is still dealing with fallout from revelations about its ties to Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that mined data on millions of the social media site’s users. Public pressure is also mounting on the company over its role in spreading false information. This week, Canadian lawmakers issued a summons for Facebook top executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, who failed to appear to answer questions from a Parliamentary panel. This week in the U.S., Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, publicly criticized Facebook for refusing to remove videos that were altered to make her appear drunk.”

The Wall Street Journal: Google Gets Ready For Legal Fight As U.S. Mulls An Antitrust Probe

“As Google cemented its powerful position in recent years, the tech giant’s executives said they believed they were helping web users get information and letting publishers and advertisers connect more efficiently. Rivals saw a more sinister goal, and the question now is whether U.S. regulators will determine that the firm’s efforts squelched competition. The Justice Department is preparing to launch a fresh antitrust probe into Google, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, setting up a potential clash over how to regulate one of the world’s most powerful companies and perhaps the tech industry more broadly. Within Google, each new product or feature it rolled out in recent years was billed as a way to help web users search for information without hunting all over the web, and let advertisers and publishers make swift connections without too many middlemen. In Google’s parlance, the goal was to eliminate “friction.”