Eye on Extremism: March 11, 2019

CNN: Heavy Fighting Reported As US-Backed Forces Attack Last ISIS Stronghold In Syria

“Heavy fighting erupted Sunday as US-backed forces attacked the last ISIS stronghold in Syria amid a final push to clear the jihadist group from the war-torn country. A CNN team in Syria witnessed airstrikes, explosions and mortar fire in Baghouz after the operation by the Syrian Defense Forces began about 6 pm local time. SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said on Twitter Sunday that its forces were engaged in "direct violent clashes" and that its planes were targeting weapons depots. Earlier Sunday, Bali tweeted that "the timeline ... for ISIS to surrender themselves is over" and that SDF forces were ready to "finish what is left in ISIS hands." At its height, ISIS controlled huge swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. The US-led coalition has been working for years to oust the group from cities and towns. It was not clear Sunday how many fighters and civilians remained in the half-mile-square pocket under ISIS control in Baghouz.”

The Washington Post: ‘The ISIS Threat Will Remain,’ John Bolton Says

“National security adviser John Bolton said Sunday that the Islamic State remains a threat and that it is “growing in other parts of the world” besides Syria and Iraq. The statement by Bolton in an interview on ABC News’s “This Week” is at odds with claims by President Trump and Vice President Pence that the militant group, which is also known as ISIS, has been defeated. “The president has been, I think, as clear as clear can be, when he talks about the defeat of the ISIS territorial caliphate,” Bolton said. “He has never said that the elimination of the territorial caliphate means the end of ISIS in total. We know that’s not the case.” He added that Islamic State fighters are “scattered still around Syria and Iraq, and that ISIS itself is growing in other parts of the world. The ISIS threat will remain.” The White House has delivered mixed messages on the matter. On Friday night, at an outdoor fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., Trump said the caliphate was 100 percent destroyed, according to an attendee. In a December tweet, Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing from Syria, declaring, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

Newsy: Congress May Soon Unveil Major Data Privacy Legislation

“Tech giants will be under continued scrutiny this year as both Congress and presidential candidates advocate for major reforms to an industry operating without much federal regulation. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in early March that his company is committed to privacy writing about detailed plans to protect user data and reducing permanency in a blog post. But Hany Farid a senior adviser for the non-partisan  Counter Extremism Project -- argues Zuckerberg won't be able to make the needed reforms on his own. "We feel like a combination of academics and policy experts need to talk with him from our perspective," said Farid. "Not just from the legal and regulatory perspective [but] on what we see are deep fundamental issues with these platforms and how he and his industry as the whole. I don't want to just pick on Facebook this is really social media as a whole. This is twitter [YouTube], [Google] etc.”

Egypt Today: Hezbollah Cries For Donations, Considers Sanctions ‘War’

“The Iranian-backed Lebanon’s Hezbollah has called on its supporters to donate money as it suffers increasing pressure from Western sanctions intended to isolate it financially. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a Friday statement that Hezbollah supporters must remain steadfast in the face of these pressures and said the group's enemies would be "disappointed." "I announce today that the resistance is in need of its (popular base)," Nasrallah added. “The sanctions and the terror lists are a form of war ... we should deal with them as if they are a war.” On Friday, Hezbollah condemned the UK government for listing it as a terrorist organization, saying the move showed "servile obedience" to the United States. “Their actions will not be able to make us poor, hungry or isolated. Those that support us will continue in their support — be they countries, people or our people and the people of resistance in Lebanon,” Nasrallah said.”

The New York Times: How ISIS Is Rising In The Philippines As It Dwindles In The Middle East

“Across the islands of the southern Philippines, the black flag of the Islamic State is flying over what the group considers its East Asia province. Men in the jungle, two oceans away from the arid birthplace of the Islamic State, are taking the terrorist brand name into new battles. As worshipers gathered in January for Sunday Mass at a Catholic cathedral, two bombs ripped through the church compound, killing 23 people. The Islamic State claimed a pair of its suicide bombers had caused the carnage. An illustration circulated days later on Islamic State chat groups, showing President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines kneeling on a pile of skulls and a militant standing over him with a dagger. The caption on the picture sounded a warning: “The fighting has just begun.” The Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and Syria, once the size of Britain, has shriveled after four years of American-backed bombing and ground combat by Kurdish and Shiite militia fighters. What is left is a tiny village in southeast Syria that could fall any day. But far from defeated, the movement has sprouted elsewhere. And here in the Mindanao island group of the southern Philippines, long a haven for insurgents because of dense wilderness and weak policing, the Islamic State has attracted a range of militant jihadists.”

Wired: This Big Facebook Critic Fears Tech’s Business Model

“Longtime Silicon Valley investor Roger McNamee met Mark Zuckerberg in 2006, when the Facebook CEO was just 22 and his two-year-old company still only catered to university students. Facebook was young, but McNamee was already convinced it was “the next big thing,” he told WIRED editor in chief Nicholas Thompson on Sunday during a keynote conversation at SXSW 2019 in Austin. “The thing that had killed every attempt at social apps before that [was] essentially that the ability to be anonymous allowed trolls to take over. I was convinced that Mark’s requirement of authenticated identity was literally the holy grail, it was the thing that was going to unlock this opportunity.” There was no investment opportunity at the time; McNamee viewed their meeting as a way to offer advice—and a chance “to meet the young guy who had figured [social networks] out.” As McNamee admits, “I didn’t even have it in my head that a thing like Facebook could go bad. I was a technology optimist like everybody else.”

United States

AFP: US 'optimistic' France, Britain Will Join Stay-Behind Syria Force

“The United States is "very optimistic" that France and Britain will participate in a residual force that US President Donald Trump wants to leave in Syria, his national security advisor said on Sunday. "Certainly in conversations this past week with my British and French counterparts, I'm very optimistic that they're going to participate," John Bolton said, in an interview with ABC's "This Week." "It hasn't happened formally yet, but they're looking at it," he said, adding that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joe Dunford, is working to set up the force. Bolton insisted there was no contradiction between Trump's assertion that the caliphate declared by the Islamic State group has been eliminated 100 percent, and the assessment of the top US commander in the Middle East, who told Congress last week the fight is "far from over." "The president has been, I think, as clear as clear can be when he talks about the defeat of the ISIS territorial caliphate," Bolton said. "He has never said that the elimination of the territorial caliphate means the end of ISIS in total. We know that's not the case.”

The Washington Post: Arrests In Domestic Terror Probes Outpace Those Inspired By Islamic Extremists

“Most people arrested as the result of FBI terrorism investigations are charged with non-terrorism offenses, and more domestic terror suspects were arrested last year than those allegedly inspired by international terror groups, according to internal FBI figures reviewed by The Washington Post. As government officials and activists debate the best way to pursue violent extremists, the figures show how much of counterterrorism work goes undeclared and unnoticed. Thousands are investigated each year. Hundreds are charged with crimes. But the public and the media see only dozens. The debate centers on whether federal law and law enforcement are too focused on Islamic terrorism and not paying enough attention to the rise in far right-wing extremism. In fact, according to the data, more domestic terrorist targets are being charged, and in both categories, law enforcement officials often leverage simpler crimes, such as violations of gun or drug laws, to prevent violence. “It’s violence that we key in on,” said a senior law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive federal investigative work. “And sometimes, it’s the violence that motivates someone more than any particular ideology.”

The Washington Post: Families Of Americans Held Hostage In Iran Want Trump To Negotiate

“Relatives of Americans long held hostage in Iran gave heartbreaking testimony to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, as U.S. lawmakers look for new ways to reunite these families and deter the Iranian regime from its 40-year practice of turning innocent people into bargaining chips. A bipartisan group of senators also introduced a bill called the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-taking Accountability Act, named after a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran in 2007. Tehran is facing growing international pressure as governments are finally starting to refute the notion that the highly publicized arrests of foreign nationals by Iranian security forces have any merit. The U.K.’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, on Thursday took the extraordinary step of providing diplomatic protection to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-born British citizen and aid worker employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, who has been imprisoned in Iran for nearly three years on ridiculous charges that she was working in coordination with foreign intelligence services to overthrow Iran’s clerical ruling system.”


CNN: Heavy Fighting Reported As US-Backed Forces Attack Last ISIS Stronghold In Syria

“Heavy fighting erupted Sunday as US-backed forces attacked the last ISIS stronghold in Syria amid a final push to clear the jihadist group from the war-torn country. A CNN team in Syria witnessed airstrikes, explosions and mortar fire in Baghouz after the operation by the Syrian Defense Forces began about 6 pm local time. SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said on Twitter Sunday that its forces were engaged in “direct violent clashes” and that its planes were targeting weapons depots. Men suspected of being ISIS fighters wait to be searched by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces after leaving Baghouz last month. Earlier Sunday, Bali tweeted that “the timeline ... for ISIS to surrender themselves is over” and that SDF forces were ready to “finish what is left in ISIS hands.” At its height, ISIS controlled huge swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. The US-led coalition has been working for years to oust the group from cities and towns. It was not clear Sunday how many fighters and civilians remained in the half-mile-square pocket under ISIS control in Baghouz. Before the recent offensive started last month, SDF officials estimated that 1,500 civilians and 500 ISIS fighters remained, but as the assault got under way it became clear that the actual number was much higher.”

BBC News: SDF Attack Islamic State Group's Syria Enclave Baghuz

“The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have launched another assault on the Islamic State group's last enclave in Syria. Head of the SDF media office, Mustafa Bali, tweeted their troops were in “direct violent clashes.” Islamic State militants are centred in the town of Baghuz in eastern Syria. Once the village is taken, the US and its allies are expected to formally declare the end of the “caliphate” proclaimed by IS in 2014. Despite the loss of territory, the group is still seen as a major security threat capable of mounting attacks in the region and worldwide. The group once controlled 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) of territory stretching across Syria and neighbouring Iraq, imposed its brutal rule on almost eight million people, and generated billions of dollars from oil, extortion, robbery and kidnapping. After five years of fierce battles, local forces backed by world powers have driven IS out of all but a few hundred square metres near Syria's border with Iraq. Sunday's attack began at about 18:00 local time (16:00 GMT), with air strikes aimed at weapons stores. SDF and coalition planes are involved in the assault, and the militant camp is now ablaze.”

The Guardian: Syrian Camps: Vulnerable Children Of ISIS Ignored By The Outside World

“In a place the British government says remains too difficult for diplomats to reach, scores of its officials have been present for at least the past two years. MI6 officers, as well as SAS troopers and commanders have formed strong ties with local Kurdish officials in north-eastern Syria, where two refugee camps full of the remnants of Islamic State (Isis) are located. Away from the shrinking frontline, the rest of the province remains the safest in the war-torn country, where hundreds of aid workers, and reporters, operate relatively freely. Rojava, as the area is known locally, is a place where work can get done, as long as there’s a will. Vast distances on bumpy roads and stifling bureaucracy are the biggest impediments to entering the twin refugee camps that double as detention centres for Isis-linked men and women and their children. As the “caliphate” has crumbled, escaping men have been placed in the al-Roj camp, near the northern Iraqi border, while women have been moved to al-Hawl, south of the city of Hasaka. Both camps are overwhelmed with new arrivals as far greater numbers than anticipated streaming out of Baghuz, the last town held by the terrorist group in the far east of Syria. An estimated 25,000 people have been transferred to each camp in the last three weeks alone, among them many hundreds of children, a lot of them newborns.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: ISIS Extremism On Show At 'Miserable' Syria Camp

“Foreign women with ISIS have tried to assault others they deem “infidels” at a camp where they are being held in northeast Syria, trying to impose their views even as the militants are facing territorial defeat, Reuters journalists visiting the site have found. “They yell at us that we are infidels for showing our faces,” said a Syrian woman at al-Hol camp, where women and children were transferred from Islamic State’s final bastion in eastern Syria. “They tried to hit us.” The Baghouz enclave is ISIS' last shred of populated territory after years of attacks have rolled back its ultra-radical “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq. But its impending defeat is confronting the US-allies Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with the problem of what to do with growing numbers of people, many of them ISIS followers, emerging from the enclave. Most have been sent to al-Hol camp, already overcrowded with uprooted Syrians and Iraqis. Camp officials say they do not have enough tents, food, or medicine. Aid workers warn of spreading diseases, and dozens of children have died on the way there. At least 62,000 people have now flooded the camp, the United Nations said on Friday, way above its capacity. More than 90 percent of the new arrivals are women and children.”


The New York Times: Iran Tries To Expand Business In Iraq To Blunt U.S. Sanctions

“From financing the expansion of the vast courtyards that lead into the Shiite shrines of the holy city of Najaf, to ensuring that a Tehran-friendly candidate gets the job of interior minister, Iran’s role in Iraq keeps growing. President Hassan Rouhani of Iran arrived in Baghdad on Monday for a visit to a place that his country has shaped in ways big and small over the past several years. Iran was the real winner of last year’s parliamentary elections in Iraq: The parties linked to the paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces, most of them with ties to Tehran, emerged as the kingmakers. “Iran is a small body with a big brain, and the United States is a big body with a small brain,” said Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Muslim who was a former speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, trying to explain how Iran seemed to have gained the upper hand in Iraq. Adnan al-Zurfi, a Shiite member of the Iraqi Parliament who has lived in the United States, put it succinctly. “There is no American presence in Iraq, only a military presence,” he said. By contrast, Iran has insinuated itself into Iraqi political life and the military, and now seeks to expand economically and culturally, he said.”

The Hill: 40 Years Of Iranian Threats Against Israel And Few Pay Any Attention

“Last month a conference in Warsaw brought together high ranking officials from 60 countries, called to discuss the current chaos in the Middle East, and to zero in on the threat posed to the region by the regime in Tehran. This year, as Iran observes the 40th year of its revolution, its geostrategic objectives remain unchanged. But one other constant that has been in place since the fateful day that a triumphant Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini left France for Tehran is Iran’s incessant call for the elimination of Israel. It didn’t take long for the regime in Tehran to send its message on this subject. I was involved in efforts in 1979 and 1980 to save the lives of Iranian Jewish leaders Habib Elghanian and Albert Danielpour, both of whom were summarily executed because of contact with Israel and Israelis. Among the charges against Elghanian was “friendship with the enemies of God;” against Danielpour it was working to form “the Zionist government in Israel.” Over these four decades, hardly a day has passed without threats against Israel. The level of vitriol has remained essentially the same over this period, spouted by religious and military leaders at the highest level.”

Egypt Today: Iran-Backed Houthis Commit 41 Violations Within 24 Hours

“The Saudi-led Arab Coalition fighting in Yemen announced Saturday that the Houthi militia has committed as many as 41 violations within 24 hours since the cease-fire agreement reached in Hudaydah. The statement came only hours after the Iranian-backed militia threatened to escalate the situation in Hudaydah as the group has intensified attacks against government troops and Arab Coalition soldiers east and south of the city. Houthi Defense Minister Mohamed al-Atefi has warned legitimate Yemeni forces that the militia is ready and possesses strong deterrent, defensive, and offensive options.” Observers in Yemen assume that militias lately received new types of missiles from Iran. Tehran has been accused of providing weapons, supplies and missiles to its armed militias in Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon. They said Iranian weapons were smuggled to Hudaydah and the western Yemeni shores, where Houthis still control a large part of land overlooking the Red Sea, including the ports of Hudaydah, Saleef, and Ras Issa.”


Iraqi News: Two Islamic State Terrorists Apprehended In Mosul — Interior Ministry

“The Iraqi Interior Ministry announced on Saturday that its forces captured two members of the Islamic State militant group in Mosul city. “Nineveh police arrested two members of Islamic State’s Jund (soldiers) Diwan, who fought against security forces in the province,” Alforat News quoted spokesman for the Interior Ministry Maj. Gen. Saad Maan as saying in a press statement. Law enforcement acted on precise intelligence data as they made the arrest in the western side of Mosul, the spokesman added. Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi announced in July 2017 liberation of the second largest Iraqi city of Mosul from IS militants, who had captured it in 2014. More than 25,000 militants were killed throughout the campaign, which started in October 2016. The campaign was backed by paramilitary troops and a U.S.-led international coalition. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in Iraq in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Bloody Bombings Rock Mosul, Raise Fear Of Political Clashes

“A wave of bomb attacks has swept through Mosul over the last few days, stirring fears of a political armed conflict breaking out at a time the traditional culprit of such attacks, ISIS, did not claim responsibility. Three days after the ISIS-staged ambush attack that targeted Popular Mobilization Forces units in southern Mosul, an assault which resulted in the death of six and the wounding of over 31 Iraqis, another explosion targeted a local eatery in the same area. But without ISIS claiming responsibility for any of the attacks, political parties in Nineveh province, located on the outskirts of Mosul in modern-day northern Iraq, resorted to exchanging accusations, saying that certain armed parties were out to settle scores. Nineveh province representative to parliament MP Ahmed al-Jubouri said: “The responsibility lies with the security leaders in Mosul who have to hold those responsible for the bombings accountable.” Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Local expert on the operations of paramilitary militia activity, Dr. Hisham al-Hashemi said the explosions denote the existence of undetected organized crime activity in Mosul.”


The Washington Post: Erdogan Sabotages Turkey’s Progress By Turning Away From The West

“For a scary snapshot of what a “post-American” world looks like, consider the rupture that has been developing through three administrations in the U.S.-Turkey relationship. Turkey has come to think it can call the shots, regardless of U.S. interests. The prime mover has been President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Over the past decade, he has altered Turkey’s political geography — undoing the Western-facing secular republic created by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and creating a neo-Ottoman Turkey that’s more aligned with its eastern neighbors, including Russia. “Ever since the end of the Cold War, this relationship has been in trouble, because the common threat of the Soviet Union has disappeared,” argues Bulent Aliriza, who heads the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. U.S. presidents have tried to coerce and cajole Erdogan, but to little effect.”


The Wall Street Journal: The Last Days Of Taliban Head Mullah Omar

“Mullah Mohammad Omar, the founder of the Taliban, lived in hiding near a U.S. base in southern Afghanistan until his death, according to a new research-group report that contradicts long-held theories by U.S. officials about the notorious one-eyed leader. The consensus among experts, including at the Central Intelligence Agency, was that Mullah Omar fled to Pakistan after the U.S. ousted the Taliban following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks orchestrated by al Qaeda, which operated in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s protection. The new report provides a detailed picture of Mullah Omar’s final years spent mostly in seclusion in Afghanistan, not Pakistan. The report contends he lived with his bodyguard, Jabbar Omari, receiving infrequent visits from a messenger who traveled every few months between his location and the Taliban’s decision-making body in Quetta, Pakistan. The report was published by the Zomia Center, a research group in New York affiliated with New America, a Washington-based nonpartisan think tank. The research relies on interviews with some previously inaccessible sources, including current and former members of the Afghan government, the Afghan intelligence agency, the Taliban and Mullah Omar’s bodyguard, Mr. Omari, who protected him until his death and now lives under house arrest in Kabul.”

Stars And Stripes: Mastermind Of Deadly ISIS Attack In Eastern Afghanistan Killed

“Afghan special forces have killed an Islamic State commander said to have organized a deadly attack last week on a private construction company in eastern Afghanistan. The commander, known only as Subhan, was the target of a raid Saturday night in Nangarhar province, an ISIS stronghold where U.S. forces are based, according to provincial governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani. "Our special forces have conducted a raid in Momandara district last night and killed Subhan, who was the commander of a group of Daesh fighters and also the mastermind of the attack on the construction company," Khogyani told Stars and Stripes on Sunday, using an Arabic name for ISIS. Several other suspects were arrested, and explosives were seized during the operation led by forces assigned to the National Directorate of Security — Afghanistan’s top intelligence agency — Khogyani said.”

The New York Times: 13 Civilians Reported Killed In U.S. Airstrikes In Afghanistan

“At least 13 civilians, including several children, were killed in American airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan that were carried out in support of an Afghan-led operation against the Taliban, local officials and tribal elders said on Sunday. Members of a C.I.A.-sponsored Afghan strike force called in air support after coming under fire on Saturday as they mounted an assault on Taliban fighters in the district of Hesarak in Nangarhar Province, the officials said. The airstrikes hit two houses in the village of Naser Khil, said a tribal elder, Ruzi Khan Maruf. In one house, the village’s lone doctor, his wife and their five teenage daughters were killed, Mr. Maruf said by telephone. In the other, the doctor’s brother, his wife and their four children — three teenage girls and a boy — reportedly died. The brother was an Afghan soldier, Mr. Maruf said. Shah Mahmood Miakhel, the governor of Nangarhar Province, said an important Taliban commander had also been killed in the airstrikes. The exact number of civilians killed was unclear, he said. A spokeswoman for the American-led NATO mission in Afghanistan confirmed the airstrikes but did not directly address the reports of civilian casualties, saying only that the coalition was looking into the matter.”

Arab News: Afghan Women Reach For The Veil As Taliban Re-Emerges

“As night falls in Afghanistan, many young Afghan men rush home for fear of falling prey to criminal activities, which are still rife in the country’s major cities that remain untouched by insurgency. Now and then, however, one can spot a few women driving in certain urban areas of the country. Their freedom to do so was won after the ouster of the Taliban. The hardline Islamist group held power over the majority of the country from 1996 to 2001, and imposed strict rules on women in that time, including banning them from education and outdoor activities. Those who opposed the group’s orders were publicly flogged. And even the liberties enjoyed by Afghan women since the Taliban were removed from power are in no way comparable to the freedom which they enjoyed for decades prior to the civil war in the 1990s when they were at the forefront in several areas. Today, Afghan women can run their own businesses, go to the gym and swimming pools allocated for women, and ride bicycles in public. Several have earned accolades for the country in the sports, fashion, and entertainment sectors. The number of women who hold senior government positions is unprecedented in Afghanistan’s history.”

Xinhua: Over 2 Dozen Fighters Including 4 Security Personnel Killed In W. Afghanistan

“At least 14 fighters including 10 Taliban militants and four security personnel have been killed following a fierce clash in Afghanistan's western Badghis province, an official said Monday. The clash erupted Sunday night after the Taliban militants stormed security checkpoints in Bala Murghab district of the province, leaving four government troops dead and four others wounded, Jamshid Shahabi, the provincial governor's spokesman, said. He added that at least 10 Taliban militants were killed and over a dozen others injured in the overnight conflict. Meanwhile, Abdul Azizbig, head of the provincial council, claimed that 16 army soldiers had been killed and 20 others wounded following a few days conflict in the restive Bala Murghab district. Azizbig has also warned that the beleaguered district may collapse if supportive forces fail to arrive at the site on time. Taliban militants have yet to make comments on the situation.”


NBC News: India Asks Nuclear Rival Pakistan For Crackdown On Terror Groups As Tensions Ease

“India on Saturday demanded that Pakistan take concrete steps against terrorists operating from its territory, while at the same time returning its top diplomat to Islamabad amid an easing of tensions between the nuclear rivals. Pakistan announced earlier this week that its high commissioner to India was returning to New Delhi, weeks after the two countries recalled their top diplomats for consultations as tensions flared after a suicide attack on a convoy of Indian paramilitary soldiers in the Indian-held Kashmir that killed 40 soldiers. India blamed that attack on a Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and launched a retaliatory airstrike inside Pakistan. Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said Saturday that a reported Pakistani crackdown this week on seminaries, mosques and hospitals belonging to outlawed groups and arrest of dozens of people was not enough. He said Pakistan should take concrete steps “against terrorists and terror infrastructure” on its territory. Kumar said a recent United Nations statement also called for “perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of terrorism to be held accountable and brought to justice.”


Associated Press: Clashes Break Out In Yemen’s Key Port City After Cease-Fire

“Fighting erupted in Yemen’s key port city of Hodeida on Sunday, the first significant clashes since warring sides agreed to a U.N.-brokered cease-fire deal in December, security officials and eyewitnesses said. Fires burned on the main front lines in the city’s east and south, while exchanges of artillery fire shook buildings in combat that broke out overnight, they said. Both the Shiite Houthi rebels who hold the city and the government-backed troops who oppose them have been seen erecting barricades and digging defensive trenches. “All night long, we hear the loud roar of machine guns and artillery, which had been silent for the past two weeks,” said resident Ahmed Nasser, adding that he was worried for relatives who had returned to the July 7 neighborhood on the city’s eastern front. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to brief journalists, while witnesses did so for fear of their safety. Ambulances were heard in the city after shelling hit residential neighborhoods, but it was unclear what casualties had resulted.”

Arab News: Human Rights Center Records Over 25,000 Houthi Violations In Taiz

“The Human Rights Information and Training Center in Yemen exposed thousands of violations and crimes committed by the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Taiz since the start of Yemen’s war, Saudi press agency reported Friday. The report, titled “Taiz – the longest siege in history,” documented thousands of Houthi violations and crimes from March 21, 2015 to Jan. 31. The report, which was discussed during the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, said Houthis committed around 27,607 violations during the 1441-day siege. The militias killed around 3,279 civilians and injured around 16,402. The team also recorded around 196 civilian hostages taken by Houthis. The report said the international indifference despite all the violations by Houthis increases the tragedy.” 


Al Jazeera: Lebanon's Hezbollah Appeals For Donations To Combat Sanctions

“Lebanon's Hezbollah movement has called for donations from its popular base because it says it is coming under financial pressure as a result of Western sanctions. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's appeal on Friday came days after Britain announced on February 25 that it would seek to make membership of the Shia movement or inviting support for it a crime. It also follows the United States ramping up sanctions against the group, with its latest raft of measures in November targeting Nasrallah's son Jawad, among other individuals. “The sanctions and terror lists are a form of warfare against the resistance and we must deal with them as such,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech. “I announce today that we are in need of the support of our popular base,” Nasrallah added. “It is the responsibility of the Lebanese resistance, its popular base, its milieu,” to confront these measures. Hezbollah was established in 1982 during Lebanon's civil war and is now a major political party in the country, holding three cabinet posts. The movement has been designated a “terrorist organisation” by the US in 1997 and the group's armed wing fights alongside the government of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the country's civil war.”

The New York Post: Europe’s Delusions On Hezbollah

“Britain did this month what the European Union and its most important power, Germany, refuse to do: outlaw the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. Specifically, London imposed the ban on Hezbollah’s so-called political wing following Britain’s 2008 ban against Hezbollah’s military wing. In doing so, the British government rejected the notion that Hezbollah is a “two-winged” group without unified command and control over its terror activities. Berlin still clings to that delusion. On Friday, the German government rebuffed requests from the US, Israel and a number of Arab countries to outlaw all of Hezbollah. Europe’s split-personality approach to Hezbollah puts it at odds with reality — not to mention Hezbollah leaders’ own view of their group. In 2012, Hezbollah operatives blew up an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria, killing five ­Israelis and a Muslim bus driver. In ­response, the EU banned Hezbollah’s military wing but not its political wing. The partial ban prompted Hezbollah spokesman Ibrahim Mousawi to repeat what other top officials of the group have stressed over the years: “Hezbollah is a single, large organization. We have no wings that are separate from one another.” 


The Arab Weekly: Fallout Expected On Egypt’s Sinai Branch From ISIS Collapse In Levant

“There are questions about what the collapse in Syria of the Islamic State (ISIS) organisation will mean for its affiliates, such as the militants in the Sinai who face a loss of material support but perhaps will gain reinforcements as battle-hardened jihadists return to their home countries, including Egypt. “The local ISIS branch used to receive sizeable support from the mother organisation in Syria and Iraq,” said Nabil Naeem, a former leader of Islamic Jihad who renounced violence and has since become an expert on terrorist groups. “This support included financial and technical aspects.” While Egyptian security forces have reduced the capabilities of ISIS in the Sinai, the group remains a threat that could increase if veterans of Iraq and Syria were to seek to bolster the group in Egypt. Originally made up of local Salafist jihadists, ISIS Sinai was known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and an affiliate of al-Qaeda before it swore allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014. Those who remained loyal to al-Qaeda were commanded by former Egyptian Special Forces officer Hesham al-Ashmawy. He operated predominately in Libya but orchestrated terrorist operations inside Egypt. Ashmawy was arrested by the Libya National Army last October and handed over to Egypt.”


The Defense Post: Seven Niger Soldiers, Dozens Of Militants Killed In Boko Haram Attack In Diffa Region

“Seven soldiers and 38 militants died in an assault by the Boko Haram jihadist group in southeastern Niger, the defense ministry said. “Armed forces … strongly repelled an attack by the terrorist group Boko Haram on the outskirts of Gueskerou,” the ministry said in a statement read on state television on Saturday, March 10. Gueskerou in the Diffa region is in the Lake Chad basin, close to the birthplace of Boko Haram in neighboring northeastern Nigeria. According to a provisional toll, seven soldiers and “38 terrorists” were killed. One was taken prisoner. Five vehicles belonging to the attackers and “a large quantity of weapons (four AK47 rifles, eight machine guns, two RPG rocket launchers, ammunition) were recovered,” the statement added. ActuNiger reported that the incident occurred in Woulwa, around 5 km from Gueskerou. The Multinational Joint Task Force, which comprises troops from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria, said in a statement published by the Nigerian Army that ”Boko Haram Terrorists operating along the Kamadougou River, between Niger and Nigeria, attacked troops location in Gueskerou, about 30 kilometers from Diffa.”

Punch Nigeria: Breaking: Two Die As Boko Haram Launches Bomb Attacks In Adamawa

“A bomb blast in Shuwa in Adamawa State on Sunday morning while Christians are preparing for Sunday mass has killed two persons. The bomb blast attack is suspected to have been launched by Boko Haram using a rocket-propelled launcher, a day after the governorship elections were held. Mohammed Sanusi, the District Head of Duhu, told PUNCH that one of the two female suicide bombers planning an attack on churchgoers failed in her tracks as the bomb went up with her before she could reach her target. He said, “There’s a bomb blast in Shuwa. Two female suicide bombers carried out the attacks. A little girl affected by the blast has been taken to Shuwa Missionary Health Center. The female bombers had planned to launch the attacks on churchgoers but the bomb detonated prematurely killing the female bombers.” He added that there’s a probability of an unexploded bomb lurking around. “There’s a probability of another unexploded bomb in the area which the security forces are trying to unearth,” he said. According to him one of the suicide bombers died in the attacks while a little girl was also injured in the attacks had been rushed to Shuwa Missionary Health Center.”


The New York Times: U.S. Airstrikes Kill Hundreds In Somalia As Shadowy Conflict Ramps Up

“The American military has escalated a battle against the Shabab, an extremist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, in Somalia even as President Trump seeks to scale back operations against similar Islamist insurgencies elsewhere in the world, from Syria and Afghanistan to West Africa. A surge in American airstrikes over the last four months of 2018 pushed the annual death toll of suspected Shabab fighters in Somalia to the third record high in three years. Last year, the strikes killed 326 people in 47 disclosed attacks, Defense Department data show. And so far this year, the intensity is on a pace to eclipse the 2018 record. During January and February, the United States Africa Command reported killing 225 people in 24 strikes in Somalia. Double-digit death tolls are becoming routine, including a bloody five-day stretch in late February in which the military disclosed that it had killed 35, 20 and 26 people in three separate attacks. Africa Command maintains that its death toll includes only Shabab militants, even though the extremist group claims regularly that civilians are also killed. The Times could not independently verify the number of civilians killed. The rise in airstrikes has also exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the country, according to United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations working in the region, as civilians are displaced by conflict and extreme weather.”


Arab News: Morocco Repatriates Eight Alleged Militants From Syria

“Morocco said Sunday it had repatriated eight of its nationals from Syria, who will be investigated for “suspected involvement in acts linked to terrorism.” “The competent Moroccan authorities proceeded on March 10 to repatriate a group of eight Moroccan citizens who were in conflict zones in Syria,” the interior ministry said in a statement. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces launched a final offensive against the Daesh group’s last redoubt in the east of the war-torn country a month ago. Backed by an international military coalition, the SDF has arrested thousands of Daesh extremists who have fled the shrinking stronghold. Many of those flooding out of Daesh territory are foreign fighters and their families — including some Moroccan women, according to AFP journalists on the ground. The SDF wants foreign fighters and their families to be repatriated by their countries of origin. Sunday’s operation had a “humanitarian character” and allowed the Moroccans to return to their home country safely, the ministry added. In 2015, the number of Moroccans in extremist ranks in Iraq and Syria was estimated at more than 1,600.”

Voice Of America: UN Expert: Recruitment Of Child Soldiers By Extremist Groups Rising

“A United Nations expert finds the use of children by violent extremist groups to fight their battles is growing and becoming internationalized. The findings come in a report on Children and Armed Conflict submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, considers children to be the primary victims of war. While children continue to be recruited as soldiers by governments and rebel armed groups, she notes the emergence of several disturbing new trends. Speaking in Geneva, she said the transnational nature of violent extremist groups has seen the emergence of transnational recruitment and involvement of children as foreign fighters. “It is estimated that since 2011, between 30,000 and 42,000 foreign fighters from some 120 countries have travelled to Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic to join groups affiliated with Islamic State and/or al-Qaida. Those numbers include a significant proportion of children,” she said. Gamba said a growing number of children are being detained for their alleged association with violent extremist groups that operate across borders. She said these children who have been exposed to some of the worst atrocities are treated as criminals instead of as victims.”

North Korea

The Wall Street Journal: U.N. Report Finds North Korea Eluding Sanctions

“North Korea has punched a hole in the web of United Nations sanctions intended to pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear-weapons programs and long-range missiles, accelerating its import of petroleum products through illicit ship-to-ship transfers and stepping up coal exports, according to a report to the U.N. Security Council by a panel of international experts that is expected to be issued this week. Pyongyang has also defied sanctions by selling small arms and other military equipment to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and to Libya and Sudan. They made the arms shipments through foreign intermediaries, including a Syrian arms trafficker in the case of the Houthis. The report is a comprehensive assessment that is generally prepared twice a year for the Security Council, which has imposed tough sanctions on North Korea because of its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.”

United Kingdom

The Washington Post: She Joined ISIS As A Teen, And Britain Wouldn’t Let Her Back. Now Her Baby Has Died.

“She was 15 when she sneaked away from home in East London with two friends and joined the Islamic State. Then, four years later, Shamima Begum showed up in a refugee camp in Syria, pregnant and asking to return home. Her request sparked national debate in Britain about what the government owed the young woman, who willingly joined the group as a minor and in media interviews seemed to show little remorse, even as she begged to be let back home. Her family members later said the British government informed them that it planned to strip Begum, now 19, of her citizenship. But now British Home Secretary Sajid Javid is under fire after Begum’s infant son, born around three weeks ago, fell ill and died in the Syrian camp. “The tragic death of Shamima Begum’s baby, Jarrah, is a stain on the conscience of this government,” said Diane Abbott, a leader in the opposition Labour Party. “The home secretary failed this British child and he has a lot to answer for.” Begum’s wish to return home was met with major controversy in Britain. Some thought she posed an imminent threat to national security, while others argued that she joined the terrorist group as a naive teenager and deserved the chance to come home.”

BBC News: Leeds Man In Court In 'Extreme Right-Wing' Terror Probe

“A man has appeared in court charged with terror offences linked to “extreme right-wing activity”. Pawel Golaszewski, 33, is accused of possessing materials containing information likely to be useful in committing or preparing an act of terrorism. He faces a total of six charges under the Terrorism Act. Mr Golaszewski, of Leeds, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Saturday. Assisted by an interpreter, Mr Golaszewski spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth, address and that his nationality is Polish. His lawyer, Frances Hertzog, indicated not-guilty pleas on his behalf and made no application for bail. Mr Golaszewski was remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on Friday.”

The Express: Fears Over Returning Jihadis As Briton Who Came Back To UK Is Suspected Al-Qaeda Chief

“A BRITON who was welcomed home after allegedly being trained as a terrorist in Syria has been accused of being a leading member of al-Qaeda, sparking fears over returning jihadis. Samiun Rahman, a minicab controller from London, said he was travelling between the UK and the Middle East for aid work. But the 28-year-old is now awaiting trial in India over terrorism offences. Indian authorities claim Rahman, who was using a false identity when he was caught, was ordered by the leader of al-Qaeda in Syria to set up a terror cell in Delhi to carry out attacks and recruit other jihadis. He has also been accused of links to terrorists in Africa, The Times reported. Rahman is believed to be the highest-ranking British member of the feared terror group. He was radicalised when he was serving an 18-month prison sentence in the UK for an unrelated offence.”

Cherwell: Wadham Student Suspended Over Work For Radical Islamist Group

“A student at Wadham College was suspended by the university after revealing he tried to recruit Oxford students for Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist extremist organisation. Danial Farooq, a third year engineer, described his wish to “rebuild” the organisation in Oxford to an undercover Daily Mail reporter, stating that he was “close” to getting other students involved in the group. The Counter Extremism Project describes the group as ‘Islamist’ and ‘Jihadist’, seeking to “unite Muslims under one Islamic Caliphate”, but the Home Office has previously ruled that the group does not advocate violence, but described it as “‘anti-Semitic, homophobic, and anti-Western.”


Reuters: Germany Won't Classify Iran Ally Hezbollah As Terrorist: Spiegel

“Germany will not follow Britain’s lead in declaring Iran-backed Hezbollah a terrorist organization, a senior official was quoted as saying on Friday, a decision that may fuel tensions with Saudi Arabia and the United States. Minister of State Niels Annen told weekly news magazine Der Spiegel that the Shi’ite Muslim Islamist movement remained a relevant factor in Lebanese society and the European Union had already added its military wing to a list of proscribed groups in 2013. Britain last month said it would ban all wings of Hezbollah for destabilizing the Middle East. Long the most powerful group in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s influence has expanded at home and in the region. It controls three of 30 ministries in the government led by Western-backed Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, the largest number ever. Iran and Hezbollah, founded in 1982 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, are big players in the Syria war allied with President Bashar al-Assad. Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel have pressured allies to ban Hezbollah in its entirety. Annen, who spoke to Spiegel after a visit to Lebanon, said Germany was interested in Lebanese stability and Britain’s decision would have no direct impact on the position of Germany or the European Union.”

The Independent: German Military Have Kicked Out More Far-Right Soldiers Than Previously Disclosed, Report Reveals

“More soldiers have been removed from the German military for right-wing extremism than previously disclosed, it has been reported. The agency responsible for investigating extremism in the Bundeswehr armed forces admitted it had underreported the figure to the German parliament by only revealing the number of “clearly recognised right-wing extremists”, according to Der Spiegel. The figure is believed to be significantly higher with the inclusion of suspected cases. The Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) previously reported that just four soldiers in 2018 and six in 2017 were removed from the military for right-wing extremism. However, a MAD official said those figures “came up short” against the full number of far-right soldiers who were removed. The official told Der Spiegel the agency had uncovered 10 more “suspected extremists” each year. MAD is currently investigating around 450 suspected cases of right-wing extremism in the military, according to news agency DPA, including 64 cases related to the white nationalist identitarian movement and 64 cases for possible far-right Reichsbürger members. The Reichsbürger movement rejects the modern German state and claims that the German Reich still exists in its pre-Second World War borders.”


The Washington Post: An Irish Woman Is Believed To Have Joined ISIS. Ireland’s Justice Minister Says He’ll Make ‘Every Effort’ To Bring Her Home.

“Charlie Flanagan, the Irish minister for justice and equality, said Sunday that “every effort” would be made to bring an Irish woman believed to be detained in northern Syria back to Ireland. Lisa Smyth, formerly of the Irish Defense Forces, is believed to have been radicalized and gone to Syria a few years ago. She allegedly has ties to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. She is also believed to have a young son. Speaking to Irish public broadcaster RTE, Flanagan said. “I understand there is an Irish citizen. … She’s keen to come home. Every effort will be made by Irish authorities to ensure she gets home.” “If there are children involved, of course, we need to ensure there’s an element of compassion there,” Flanagan said. The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed it was aware of reports of an Irish person in Syria but said that no request for consular assistance had been made and that “it is not feasible at present for Irish consular officials to enter such a conflict zone.” Still, Flanagan’s initial reaction stands in contrast to many high-profile cases in Europe and the United States regarding Islamic State fighters and their families. British Home Secretary Sajid Javid initially said he would revoke the British citizenship of 19-year-old Shamima Begum, who left for Syria at 15 to marry an Islamic State fighter.”

Reuters: Exclusive: Islamic State Fighter Wants To Return To Italy, Warns Of 'Sleeper Cells'

“An Islamic State fighter detained in Syria urged Italy on Saturday to let him come home to start a new life, saying he had abandoned the self-styled jihadist “caliphate” after growing disillusioned with its rulers. Mounsef al-Mkhayar, a 22-year-old of Moroccan descent who grew up in Italy, spoke to Reuters in his first interview since surrendering to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) two months ago. He has been in prison since emerging from Baghouz, a tiny village in eastern Syria where the SDF is poised to wipe out the last vestige of Islamic State rule - which once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria. Mkhayar gave an account of growing chaos among jihadists on the brink of defeat, and of disputes in the ranks as top commanders fled Syria. But he said Islamic State was also planning for the next phase, smuggling out hundreds of men to set up sleeper cells across Iraq and eastern Syria: “They said ‘We must get revenge.’” Mkhayar is one of thousands from all over the world who were drawn to the promise of an ultra-radical Sunni Islamist utopia overriding national borders.”

Radio Free Europe: Bosnia To Bring Back, Put On Trial Two Nationals Suspected Of Joining Is In Syria

“Bosnia-Herzegovina says it will bring back two nationals who fought for the Islamic State (IS) militant group and who are being held in a Kurdish-run camp in Syria. Security Minister Dragan Mektic on March 9 said the men will be tried in Bosnia on suspicion of membership in a terrorist group. The names of the two men were not released. Officials said the two are expected to be transferred to Bosnia by the end of March. They said one of the men went to Syria and joined in 2013. He married there and is now the father of two children. Bosnian media said he was recruited by Bosnian Salafist leader Bilal Bosnic, who was sentenced in 2015 to a seven-year prison term in Sarajevo. No information was immediately available about the second suspect. According to the klix.ba website, Bosnian authorities have warrants issued for 11 other Bosnians suspected of having joined and fought for IS. According to official Bosnian statistics, 241 adults and 80 children left from Bosnia or the Bosian diaspora in 2012-16 for Syria or Iraq, where an estimated 150 more children have been born. The statistics show that at least 88 have been killed or died, while some 100 adults, including 49 women, remain in the region. About 50 have returned to Bosnia, including seven children.”

Southeast Asia

The Straits Times: Kuala Lumpur Says Foreign Militants Eyeing Malaysia As Safe Haven

“Malaysian police said yesterday that it has uncovered a plan by foreign militants to use the country as a “safe haven” transit and logistics centre, following the collapse of terrorist outfit Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Middle East. The militants plan to marry local women to get spousal visas to enable them to live in Malaysia, or to remain in the country by using education facilities, or by being involved in business, Malaysia's police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement yesterday. His statement accompanied the announcement of the deportation of seven foreigners, some of whom he said were planning to launch large-scale attacks in several countries. Several suspected foreign militants were captured in Malaysia in recent months, including last month. They were registered as students of colleges or as lecturers. Two Malaysians were also nabbed by anti-terror police in the raids last month. Inspector-General of Police Fuzi said that investigations by the Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division found that the foreign terrorists were trying to make Malaysia a base. “We view seriously the infiltration of foreign terrorist fighters in the country due to the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” he said.”

ABC News: Malaysia Deports Egyptians, Tunisian For Alleged Terror Ties

“Malaysian police said Sunday that six Egyptians and a Tunisian man believed to be linked to an African-based terror group have been detained and deported. One of the Egyptians and the Tunisian national are suspected members of Ansar Al-Sharia Al-Tunisia, which is based in North Africa and listed as a terrorist group by the United Nations, national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement. Fuzi said the two were detained in 2016 for trying to illegally enter an African country. He said they used fake passports to enter Malaysia in October last year and were planning to sneak into a third country to launch attacks. Five other Egyptians and two Malaysians were detained last month for providing food, shelter, air tickets and employment for the two suspected terrorists, Fuzi said. He said authorities are concerned with the entry of foreign terrorist fighters as investigations showed they may use Malaysia as a “safe haven” or a logistics hub to launch attacks in other countries. The six Egyptians and the Tunisian were reported March 5 and blacklisted from entering Malaysia, Fuzi said.”


The New York Times: The Man Deciding Facebook’s Fate

“The Federal Trade Commission has no shortage of critics who say it cannot protect Americans from the prying eyes of Big Tech. Instead of forceful action against the likes of Facebook and Google, they say, the F.T.C. leans on rules that make it hard to impose penalties bigger than rounding errors for the companies. Those critics have an unusual champion: Joseph J. Simons, the man running the agency. “We have this over 100-year-old statute that is our main authority,” Mr. Simons said in his first sit-down interview since becoming chairman 10 months ago. “And clearly legislators who approved that were not thinking about data security and privacy issues.” In the deregulatory era of the Trump administration, Mr. Simons, 60, a Republican lawyer who has jumped between the public and private sectors for more than 30 years, is a rare voice for strengthening the government’s hand.”