Eye on Extremism: March 12, 2019

The Washington Post: Islamic State Audio Calls On Followers To Avenge Syria Push

“An audio recording purportedly from the Islamic State group is calling on supporters across the world to stage attacks in defense of die-hard militants besieged by U.S.-backed forces in their last foothold in a village in eastern Syria. The brief, minute-and-a half recording, released by IS supporters on social media and reported by the SITE Intelligence Group late on Monday says men, women and children in the village of Baghouz are being subjected to a “holocaust.” In the audio, an unidentified IS militant calls on Muslim “brothers, in Europe and in the whole world” to “rise against the Crusaders and ... take revenge for your religion.” The recording’s authenticity couldn’t be independently verified. It comes as U.S.-backed Syrian fighters are making what’s likely the final push to take IS-held Baghouz.”

ABC News: As IS Fight Nears End, Violence Flares On Other Syrian Front

“While the final battle to retake the Islamic State group's last pocket of territory rages in eastern Syria, violence is escalating in the country's northwest, pitting al-Qaida-linked militants against Syrian government forces. The alarming violence in the Idlib region threatens to unravel a truce reached between Turkey and Russia last year that averted a bloody assault by the government to retake the province, the last major rebel stronghold in war-torn Syria. The escalation raises fears once more of a major assault by the forces of President Bashar Assad. Idlib has been in the hands of opposition forces for years, even as Assad's military has succeeded in retaking other rebel enclaves one after the other. The province is now home to some 3 million people, many of them displaced from other former opposition territory. Earlier this year, al-Qaida-linked militants took over the province, squeezing out most other factions after clashes with Turkey-backed opposition fighters. Since then, government forces have intensified airstrikes and bombardment of Idlib towns. Since mid-February, some 100,000 people have been displaced, largely by government bombardment, and have fled to villages deeper in rebel-held territory, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.”

The Wall Street Journal: Belgium Finds Men Guilty In Jewish Museum Terrorist Attack

“A French-Algerian man and his accomplice were found guilty of shooting four people in the Jewish Museum of Brussels five years ago, the first verdict against a European who joined Islamic State in Syria and returned to stage terrorist attacks. A Belgian jury on Thursday said Mehdi Nemmouche, a 33-year-old French national of Algerian descent, had shot and killed two Israeli tourists, an employee and a museum volunteer in fewer than two minutes in the May 2014 attack. His sentence, which could be life in prison, is expected to be read Monday. Jury trials are rare in Belgium, and the 12 jurors deliberated for two days before reaching their verdict after a two-month trial. Nemmouche’s co-defendant, Nacer Bendrer, a 30-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, was convicted of supplying weapons to and helping Nemmouche carry out the attack. Bendrer’s sentence, which could also be life in prison, is due Monday, too.”

The New York Times: Taliban Wipe Out An Afghan Army Company While Talking Peace With The U.S.

“Taliban fighters killed or captured an entire Afghan National Army company of more than 50 soldiers on Monday, Afghan officials said, the latest in a series of major attacks by the militant group even as it pursues a peace deal with the United States. The attack, in which the Taliban were reported to have killed 16 soldiers and taken 40 prisoner, took place in northwestern Badghis Province, close to the country’s western border with Turkmenistan. It came as Taliban negotiators entered a third week of talks with American diplomats in the Persian Gulf kingdom of Qatar. In the assault, a large force of Taliban insurgents surrounded a base in the Bala Murghab district. After four hours of fighting, the militants captured or killed all of the soldiers in their base, as well as others at two outposts nearby, according to Abdul Aziz Beg, head of the Badghis provincial council. The episode was the deadliest in a weeklong insurgent campaign that has killed, wounded or captured 70 soldiers in the district, Mr. Beg said. “The district is on the verge of collapse,” Mr. Beg said. “The fighting has gone on for a week, but the government is not paying any attention.” Qais Mangal, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, confirmed the attack and said that four security outposts were captured by the Taliban.”

Cincinnati Enquirer: Man Convicted Of Supporting Terrorism Says Propaganda Convinced Him ISIS Was Good

“Laith Alebbini admits he tried to travel to Syria to meet with the Islamic State group, also called ISIS, but he says he only did it because he wanted to fight Syria's Bashar al-Assad and help the Syrian people. Now, he is trying to avoid decades in prison. Alebbini, was arrested in April 2017 at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. He's been in jail ever since. In December, the Dayton, Ohio man pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support and resources to a terrorist group. Federal prosecutors have asked U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice for a sentence of 40 years in prison, but Alebbini and his lawyers would like his sentence to be the time he has already served. In a 27-page memorandum, Alebbini's lawyers called what he did a “thought crime,” and said he operated under the “erroneous belief that the Islamic State were not evil terrorists.” The document explained that Alebbini, a Jordan-born U.S. legal permanent resident, became obsessed with the conflict in Syria and felt compelled to do something about going as far as applying to join the U.S. Army in 2016. “Alebbini would not have been compelled to go to Syria if Bashar al-Assad was not murdering the Syrian people,” the document states. Alebbini came to America to follow his wife and, according to the document, the relationship quickly dissolved and he was set adrift in a foreign country.”

The New York Times: Top Universities Join To Push ‘Public Interest Technology’

“As technology becomes increasingly pervasive in American life, universities across the United States have been devising ways to teach students how to grapple with the consequences on society. Now, 21 leading universities are banding together to promote their various programs. On Monday, the schools announced that they had formed a new organization called the Public Interest Technology University Network. Members of the group include Arizona State University, the City University of New York, Harvard University, Howard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. Their goal is to train the next generation of software engineers, policymakers, civic leaders and social justice advocates to develop, regulate and use technology for the public good.”

United States

The Washington Post: Coast Guard Lieutenant Pleads Not Guilty In Case Tied To Alleged Domestic Terrorist Attack

“A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant accused of using his government computer to plot a domestic terrorist attack pleaded not guilty to drug and weapons charges during his latest court appearance Monday. Christopher P. Hasson, 49, appeared in U.S. District Court in Maryland almost two weeks after he was indicted on additional weapons charges related to what the government says were silencers found among a stockpile of weapons seized from his basement apartment. Hasson was arrested Feb. 15 on drug and gun charges after a computer program the Coast Guard uses flagged suspicious activity tied to his work devices, federal law enforcement officials said. Hasson has not been charged on any terrorism-related counts, but prosecutors allege that was planning an attack on politicians and media personalities to advance his white-nationalist views. Hasson created a spreadsheet of targets and “traitors,” studied the manifestos of mass attackers and conducted Internet searches of security protocols for liberal elected officials and of where members of Congress congregate, the government said.”

Fox News: US-Backed Fighters Make Limited Advances Against IS In Syria

“A spokesman for the U.S.-backed Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State group says they've made "limited advances" in the latest push on the last remaining area held by the extremists in Syria. Mustafa Bali of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces says there were still IS militants in the besieged village of Baghouz on Monday, mainly hiding in underground tunnels. The offensive on the last IS-held pocket in Syria's eastern Deir el-Zour province near the Iraqi border resumed on Sunday evening, after Bali said a deadline expired for IS gunmen in Baghouz to surrender. He says warplanes struck ammunition belonging to the extremists. Bali said that "if as we advance, we notice there are civilians, we will do all we can to evacuate them from the battlefield.”

The Economic Times: US Agents Faked Trail To Infiltrate As LeT Recruits

“US intelligence agents laid a cyber trail all the way to a fake terror camp in Pakistan, mastered idioms and style of Islamic terrorists giving a convincing portrayal of jihadis in a bid to infiltrate a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) recruitment ring. In what seemed to read like a spy-thriller their strategy led to the arrest of an American teenager, who was at the centre of an alleged conspiracy to recruit fighters for the Pakistan-based LeT, and a suspected co-conspirator, who was stopped on his way to join the terrorist group. The transcripts of their cyber interactions in court documents give chilling insights into the raging hate of the world of jihadis. The cases against the two, who were arrested, point to a disturbing trend that with the collapse of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, Pakistan-based terror organisations operating against India may become an attractive alternative for aspiring jihadis.”


The Washington Post: Syrian Forces Use Widespread Sexual Violence To Humiliate And Silence Male Prisoners, New Report Says

“Syrian government forces are using widespread sexual violence to humiliate and silence male prisoners, psychologists and a monitoring group said Monday, offering a rare window into a form of abuse rarely discussed by its survivors. Eight years after the start of Syria’s uprising, more than 100,000 detainees remain unaccounted for, most of them in Syrian government custody. According to the United Nations and human rights groups, torture and abuse are systematic, and thousands, if not tens of thousands, of those detainees are probably dead. But while many forms of abuse are well documented, the men who emerge from Syrian government cells — often after years of neglect in near-total darkness — rarely discuss the levels of sexual violence they encountered, and little psychological help is available for survivors.”

The New York Times: Last Islamic State Enclave In Eastern Syria Pounded In U.S.-Backed Assault

“Islamic State's final enclave in eastern Syria was pounded with air strikes and artillery on Monday in a U.S.-backed assault aimed at wiping out the last shred of its territorial rule that once spanned a third of Syria and Iraq. Fires raged after dark in the enclave at Baghouz near the Iraqi border as it was targeted with rockets and thick plumes of smoke rose from the area, Reuters TV footage showed. Heavy gunfire could be heard and flares lit up the night sky. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said earlier its fighters were encountering sniper fire and landmines and advancing slowly to avoid losses. The most hardened IS foreign fighters are still holed up in the area, the SDF has said. Air strikes destroyed IS stores and vehicles, the SDF said.”

The Wall Street Journal: Ragged But Alive: Yazidis Emerge From Life Under Islamic State

“The boy looked like all the other ragged children emerging from the last scrap of territory controlled by Islamic State. But unlike them, eight-year-old Maher is a Yazidi—kidnapped more than four years ago by the militants during a genocidal campaign against his community. He’s one of several dozen members of the Yazidi minority to surface among tens of thousands of people escaping the battlefield in eastern Syria as U.S.-backed forces try to dislodge the militants from the remnants of their caliphate. In some cases given up for dead, their sudden emergence has elated relatives. It has also heightened the mystery over several thousand missing Yazidis—many of them female victims enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters who deem them infidels. Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, who escaped Islamic State herself and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize last year for her work campaigning against sexual violence, has called on the coalition to do more to rescue others remaining in captivity.”

Reuters: SDF Kills 'Dozens' In East Syria Islamic State Battle: Spokesman

“The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) killed dozens in continuing clashes with Islamic State fighters at Baghouz in eastern Syria and captured a jihadist arms dump, said Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesman, on Twitter.  Four Islamic State fighters attempted suicide attacks and one SDF fighter was killed and four were wounded during the clashes, Bali added.”


Voice Of America: Report: Iran Preparing For Role In Syria's Reconstruction

“Iranian construction companies are to build thousands of residential units in the suburbs of Syria's capital, Damascus, an Iranian state-run news agency has reported. Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) recently quoted a business official with the country's investment association, who announced that Iran would build 200,000 residential units near Damascus. Iraj Rahbar, vice president of Iran's Mass Construction Society, said the massive housing project has come about after the Iranian and Syrian governments signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in January 2019. Tehran has been encouraging prominent Iranian developers to buy property in Damascus, analysts and construction industry sources in Iran said. “This is not the first time that officials encourage developers to invest in Syria,” Amir Reza Masoumi, a Tehran-based architect, told VOA. Masoumi, who has knowledge of ongoing discussions, said that instability in Syria has dissuaded many Iranian developers from investing in the war-torn country. “Even now, details on how to protect the interests of Iranian investors in Syria are still unclear,” he said.”

BBC: Nasrin Sotoudeh: Iran Human Rights Lawyer Jailed For 38 Years, Say Family

“A prominent Iranian human rights lawyer has been sentenced to a total of 38 years in jail and 148 lashes in Tehran, her family say. Nasrin Sotoudeh was charged with several national security-related offences, all of which she denies. Rights groups strongly criticised the "shocking" sentence against the award-winning human rights activist. Ms Sotoudeh is known for representing women who have protested having to wear the headscarf. "Nasrin Sotoudeh has dedicated her life to defending women's rights and speaking out against the death penalty," Philip Luther from Amnesty International said. "It is utterly outrageous that Iran's authorities are punishing her for her human rights work." Ms Sotoudeh's husband confirmed her sentence on Facebook, after a brief phone conversation with her from prison, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. Her lawyer said she was charged with spreading information against the state, insulting Iran's supreme leader and spying.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Rouhani In Iraq To Bypass US Sanctions

“Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to Baghdad appears to aimed at finding a “loophole” in the American sanctions against his country. A senior Iranian official accompanying Rouhani told Reuters that Iraq was “another channel for Iran to bypass America’s unjust sanctions ... this trip will provide opportunities for Iran’s economy”. Rouhani kicked off his first official visit to Iraq on Monday by holding talks with President Barham Salih, who stressed his country’s neutrality from regional and international conflicts. Salih stated that his country’s victory against the ISIS terrorist group was “incomplete,” urging more regional efforts to counter the phenomenon. “The victory that was achieved against ISIS group in Iraq was an important and huge victory, but incomplete as the eradication of that sick, deviated line of thought and extremism require more sustainable regional efforts and cooperation,” he said. Rouhani, for his part, said there were many opportunities for vast cooperation with Baghdad. Salih added that Baghdad's central location made it crucial to resolving regional issues, saying a “stable Iraq will lead to stability in the entire region.” “We want to be united countries, not against others, but attracting others to our unity,” he stressed.”


The Los Angeles Times: The People Of Mosul, Iraq, Find There’s Life After Islamic State, But It Isn’t Easy

“In the biblical book of Jonah, God wants to destroy the city of Nineveh because of its wickedness, but Jonah begs him to have mercy, and he relents. Today, what was once Nineveh is the eastern half of the Iraqi city of Mosul, where a version of the biblical story has played out again. In the siege that drove Islamic State militants from Mosul, the east side was largely spared. The west side is an entirely different story. If it were possible to stand at the center of the Tigris River where it bisects this ancient city, once the crown jewel of Islamic State’s conquests, the view might bring to mind an oft-repeated cliche: Mosul has become a tale of two cities. Looking east, you’d see crowded restaurants and “casinos,” the riverside cafes where men suck on water pipes as they play cards with gusto. The smoke of a dozen barbecue joints would waft over the area, and at night, cars would jostle for space on a brightly lighted thoroughfare. Look west at night, and you’d see very little. The west lacks electricity, and even if there were power, there are no street lamps left standing. Sunlight unmasks this “right bank” of Mosul as a topography of rubble, the crushed remains of the thousands of buildings that once stood here.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraq Investigates 14 ISIS French Nationals

“Iraqi judicial authorities announced that they have begun investigating 14 Frenchmen belonging to the ISIS organization and who were in Syria where they received military training. A special bulletin for the judiciary published Sunday reported that the Karkh Investigation Court on Terrorism investigated the suspects based on the Iraqi anti-terrorism law, noting that “among them is a French army soldier, who served in Afghanistan in 2009.” The Court stated that the terrorists, some of whom have Arab origin, received military training and Sharia education in Syria when they joined ISIS, according to their confessions. The announcement came a day after President Barham Salih said that terror suspects “will be tried in accordance to Iraqi law and may be sentenced to death if found guilty”, clarifying that the law allows for capital punishment. Iraqi legal expert Ahmad al-Abadi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the law stipulates that if an act is committed inside Iraq, has repercussions inside or intended to be inside Iraq, or planned abroad, then it will be tried according to Iraqi law. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) recently handed about 280 ISIS terrorists, including more than 500 wanted by Iraq. Among them are foreigners who committed or planned to commit criminal acts inside Iraq.”


France 24: Pakistan Insists Will Deal 'Firmly' With Militants: Trump Advisor

“Pakistan promises to crack down on militant groups attacking Indian rule over Kashmir, President Donald Trump's national security advisor John Bolton said Monday. Bolton tweeted that he had spoken with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and “the FM assured me that Pakistan would deal firmly with all terrorists and will continue steps to deescalate tensions with India.” India has long accused Pakistan of covertly backing attacks by guerrillas in Kashmir. In February, JeM, or the Jaish-e-Mohammed group, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 40 Indian paramilitary members, triggering cross-border air raids and a surge in political tension between the nuclear-armed neighbors. Bolton said that during his talks with Qureshi he'd set out “to encourage meaningful steps against JeM and other terrorist groups operating from Pakistan.” The latest Pakistani reassurances came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Washington with the Indian foreign secretary, Vijay Gokhale, and urged Pakistan to take “meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil,” Pompeo's spokesman said. Pompeo's spokesman said that during the secretary of state's talks with Gokhale they “discussed the importance of bringing those responsible for the (February) attack to justice.” 


Daily Caller: Qatar’s ‘Spiritual Leader’ Prompts World Cup Fears Over Calls For New Holocaust

“The spiritual leader of Qatar’s royal family has called for a Muslim holocaust against Jews, prompting concern about the security of Israelis, Jews, Americans and other “non-believers” during the 2022 World Cup in Doha, Qatar. Yusuf al Qaradawi, in a Jan. 30, 2009 speech that aired on Qatar’s state-owned Al-Jazeera TV network, said, “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler.” Qatar’s spiritual leader then went on to praise Hitler saying, “By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place.” Following this, he called for an Islamic holocaust against the Jews. “This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.”

Middle East

The National: Hezbollah’s Plea For Donations Shows Sanctions Are Working

“On Friday, Hassan Nasrallah made a direct appeal to Hezbollah supporters. Speaking on the Lebanese militant group’s TV station Al Manar, he urged them to wage “jihad with money”. It appears to be no coincidence that this plea for donations comes just a few months after the latest wave of US sanctions against Iran. Clearly, both the nation and its proxies are feeling the pinch. It also coincides with increased international efforts to isolate Hezbollah. Just last month, the British Home Secretary Sajid Javid made the decision to ban all membership of Hezbollah in the UK as part of an amendment to the 2000 Terrorism Act, ending a previously established distinction between the group’s political and military wings.”


The Washington Post: Egypt Says 3 Troops, 46 Militants Killed In Sinai

“Egypt says three troops and 46 suspected Islamic militants have been killed in recent days in the northern and central Sinai Peninsula. There were no details on the circumstances that led to the casualties in Sinai. The military also said in its statement on Monday that Egyptian forces destroyed 15 hideouts, and dismantled 204 explosive devices. Troops also found weapons caches, including explosives, in Sinai, the Western Desert and southern Egypt. Egypt regularly boasts of successes in the battle to defeat an Islamic State affiliate based in northern Sinai but those claims can’t be independently verified since access to the area is heavily restricted. Last year, Egypt launched a nationwide operation against IS militants.”


The Nation: Air Force Strikes Boko Haram In Lake Chad

“The Nigerian Air Force said on Monday that it has launched successful air strikes on Boko Haram terrorists at the fringes of Lake Chad, destroying their structures in the process. Its spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola said in a statement that the attacks were carried out after intelligence reports indicated their presence in the area. Air Commodore Daramola said :”The Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation LAFIYA DOLE has destroyed Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists’ vehicle and some logistics infrastructure at Tumbun Sale and Tumbun Allura on the fringes of Lake Chad in Borno State. “The operation was conducted on 8 March 2019 on the heels of intelligence reports indicating the presence of ISWAP fighters along with some vehicles and logistics support items well camouflaged under the dense vegetation within the settlements. “Accordingly, a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Alpha Jet, supported by an Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform, was dispatched to attack the terrorists’ hideouts in successive strikes resulting in damage to several structures as well as the destruction of one of the terrorists’ vehicles, which was seen engulfed in flames.”

The New Times: Two Suicide Bombers Die In Failed Attack On Nigerian Church

“Two suspected suicide bombers died on Sunday when they attempted to attack a local church in northeastern Nigeria, the police and rescue officials said. Three suicide bombers were on a mission to attack a local Seminary Church in Gulak area of Adamawa state when the improvised explosive devices on two of the attackers exploded midway, Othman Abubakar, spokesman for the state police, told Xinhua on Sunday adding that the third attacker ran away. The police suspected the terror group Boko Haram of being responsible for the failed suicide attack. Secretary of the Adamawa State Emergency Management Agency, Muhammed Suleiman, said the incident occurred at 8:30 a.m. local time when the church was having its weekly meeting. No other casualty was recorded from the failed attack, Suleiman said. Boko Haram has been trying since 2009 to establish an Islamist state in northeastern Nigeria, and it is reported that the group has killed some 20,000 people and displaced millions of others.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Tunisia Arrests 2 Suspects For Gathering Intel On ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorist Attacks

“The Tunisian Court of First Instance is looking into the case of two young Tunisians suspected of belonging to terrorist organizations after authorities found in their possession videos on how to manufacture explosives and mines, as well as information on “lone wolf” terror attacks. The judiciary charged them with contacting leaders affiliated with ISIS in Syria and planning to travel there to join terrorist organizations that have attracted thousands of young Tunisians following Syria’s 2011 revolution. One of the defendants admitted during preliminary investigations that he contacted ISIS terrorists, such as Abu al-Buraq al-Tunisi, who is in Syria, and Abu al-Gharib al-Libi. However, he later denied all the information he provided. The second defendant admitted to agreeing to join terrorist organizations. He said that his ties with them were virtual, claiming he only established contact out of simple curiosity. One of the suspects has been in prison for about nine months, which prompted his lawyers to request his release after he refused to join terrorist organizations and carry out a so-called “lone wolf” terrorist attack in Tunisia.”

North Korea

NBC News: U.N. Investigating Suspected North Korean Arms Dealers In Iran

“The United Nations is investigating two North Korean missile and arms companies suspected of operating in Iran in possible violation of internationalsanctions, according to a report by a U.N. panel of experts. The presidents of top North Korean regime arms firms, KOMID, which exports equipment for ballistic missiles and other weapons, and Green Pine, which sells conventional arms, recently traveled to Iran, according to air passenger documents cited by the report by the U.N. panel. A U.N. member state informed the panel that the two North Korean arms firms — which are both blacklisted by the United Nations — are “extremely active in Iran now,” Hugh Griffiths, coordinator of the U.N. panel assessing sanctions on North Korea, told NBC News in an exclusive television interview. “There's an active investigation into who exactly is at the North Korean embassy in Tehran and what they're doing there,” Griffiths said.”


The Sydney Morning Herald: 'Take Responsibility' For Your Islamic State Fighters, America Urges Morrison Government

“The United States has urged the Morrison government to “take responsibility” for Australian Islamic State fighters captured in the Middle East and bring them home to prosecute or rehabilitate them. The US position stands in contrast to the views of senior government ministers, who have insisted they want to keep Australian so-called “foreign fighters” at a distance including by stripping them of their citizenship when possible. Several Australian members of the so-called Islamic State are in the custody of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force, which has decimated the terrorist group with the backing of US special forces. When asked whether the United States would prefer Australia repatriate and prosecute its jihadists in Kurdish custody, a US embassy spokesman said that “repatriating foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin is the best solution to prevent them from returning to the battlefield”. “The US government’s policy is to encourage nations to repatriate and prosecute their citizens and take responsibility for their [foreign fighters] through rehabilitation programs or other measures that sufficiently prevent detainees from re-engaging in terrorism,” the spokesman said.”


Reuters: Bosnia Will Take Back And Try Two Captured Islamic State Fighters

“Bosnia is preparing to take back two of its nationals who are suspected of fighting for Islamic State in Syria and are now in detention in a Kurdish-run camp in the north of that country, its security minister said on Monday.  Hundreds of people are believed to have left Europe to fight for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq but, with the Islamist militant group down to its last shred of territory, more and more of them are asking to come home. U.S. President Donald Trump has asked the European allies to take back more than 800 IS fighters who have been captured and to put them on trial. But many countries, citing security concerns, are unwilling to allow their return. Dragan Mektic said that security agencies had checked the identity of some people captured and detained in Syria, and that two of them were confirmed to be the Bosnian nationals. ”Interpol international warrants have been issued for them,” said Mektic, who declined to reveal their identity.  Sarajevo-based Klix.ba news portal reported that the two men could be Ibro Cefurovic, 24, from the northwestern town of Velika Kladusa, and Armin Curt, 22, from Sarajevo, who both were detained by the Kurdish militia more than a year ago.”

The Guardian: Suspected ISIS Recruit Can Return To Ireland, Says Leo Varadkar

“An Irish woman detained in Syria on suspicion of association with Islamic State can return to Ireland with her two-year-old child, the country’s prime minister has said. Leo Varadkar said he did not believe removing Lisa Smith’s citizenship was the “right or compassionate thing to do”, but warned she would face investigation and potentially prosecution if she had been involved in any crimes. His approach will further highlight the controversy surrounding the decision by Sajid Javid, the UK home secretary, to strip Shamima Begum of her citizenship. A TV crew working for ITV News visited the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria two weeks ago and interviewed a woman wearing a burqa, who claimed to be British but had an Irish accent. Smith, like Begum, recently fled from Baghuz, the final Isis stronghold in Syria. She was a member of the Irish Defence Forces until 2011, but quit after converting to Islam. Varadkar told reporters on Monday: “We really need to get to the bottom of the facts here … [and] carry out a security assessment to see if the Syrian authorities want to carry out a prosecution or not. “But ultimately, this is an Irish citizen, and we don’t believe that removing an Irish citizen’s citizenship from her or her family, rendering them stateless, would be either the right or compassionate thing to do.”

The Local Switzerland: Switzerland Wants To Strip ISIS Fighter Of Passport

“The Swiss justice minister on Monday confirmed that the country was looking at revoking the passport of a Swiss citizen who fought for the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). Speaking in the lower house of the Swiss parliament, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter confirmed that one case was currently in process while several others were being considered. The minister said that to date there had been no cases of ISIS fighters being stripped of their Swiss passport. “But you can be certain that we will exhaust all of our powers when it comes to citizenship,” she said. The minister went on to say that cases involving dual nationals would be given preference. “We cannot create stateless people,” she was quoted as saying in Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger. Under international law, it is illegal to deprive someone of citizenship it doing so leaves them stateless. According to Swiss Federal Intelligence Service figures from November 2018, 93 jihadists had travelled from Switzerland to conflict zones since 2001. Of these, 31 have a Swiss passport and 18 are dual nationals. Switzerland has had legal measures in place allowing for dual nationals to be stripped of their Swiss passport for a number of years.”

Euronews: Former ISIL Women 'Losing Hope' After Belgium Court Refused Their Bid To Return Home

“Two Belgian women who joined the so-called Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria said on Sunday they were losing hope of ever going back home after a Belgian court overturned a ruling to repatriate them and their six children. Tatiana Wielandt and Bouchra Abouallal, 26, both left ISIL after they saw how militants murdered people, including foreigners, who had joined the cause. They are now living in the Ain Issa camp in northern Syria. Last year, a judge ordered Belgium to allow the two women and their children to return but the state decided to fight against the ruling and won the appeal back in February. In the first interview since Belgium won the appeal, Wielandt told Reuters her children couldn’t continue living in a refugee camp. “They have no education. They have nothing,” she said. Belgium said it would abide by a 2017 decision to receive all children — of Belgian nationals — under 10 from Iraq and Syria but it is no longer required to act in the case of the six children. Both mothers said they were ready to send their children back to Belgium alone if it was the only way to secure them a better life. Many European nations are struggling to decide whether to allow back women who left to join ISIL and the children they’ve had with militants as the self-declared caliphate disintegrates.”

Southeast Asia

Al Jazeera: Malaysia Offers Citizens Conditional Return As ISIL Crumbles

“When bombs started falling around her in the ISIL-controlled territory in Syria, Lidia decided it was time to leave. For the first time in more than four years, the 29-year-old Malaysian longed to return home. The Mandarin-speaking medical lab technician disappeared from the Southeast Asian nation with her infant son and husband in October 2014 to travel secretly to Syria. Two weeks ago, she sent a text message to her father in the southern state of Johor to tell him she had fled the territory of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) and asked him to help her return to Malaysia. “I never lost hope that one day Lidia would tell me she wants to come home,” her father, a Johor-based businessman who declined to be named, told Al Jazeera on phone.  Lidia is one of the 13 Malaysians now wanting to come home as an offensive by the United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) enters its final stage in the last ISIL enclave in the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria, and the authorities are working out how to repatriate them. “We are trying to bring them home … yes, it includes Lidia. But you know, the situation is difficult as it involves many parties from different countries,” Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, head of counterterrorism for Special Branch, the intelligence arm of the Malaysian police, told Al Jazeera.”

The Washington Post: Philippine Forces Kill Several Militants In New Offensive

“Officials say Philippine troops, backed by airstrikes and artillery fire, have killed several militants aligned with the Islamic State group in a new offensive in the marshy heartland of the country’s south. Army Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana says several key militant commanders, including a long-wanted Singaporean, were among the more than 100 militants who came under attack Monday near Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao province. One soldier was killed and seven others were wounded in the firefight. Sobejana said Tuesday that troops were checking if Singaporean militant Muhamad Ali Abdul Rahiman, who is also known as Muawiya, along with local commander Esmael Abdulmalik and bomb-maker Salahudin Hassan were among the wounded or slain militants.”


The Wall Street Journal: U.S. To Withdraw Remaining Embassy Staff, Families From Venezuela

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would withdraw all remaining staff from its embassy in Venezuela due to the “deteriorating situation” there after several days of power outages sent the country deeper into chaos. Critical health services, food supplies and businesses have been crippled by the blackout that has killed at least 15 people and continues across the country despite efforts to restore power. The outages have escalated the standoff between the U.S. and Venezuela’s embattled leader, Nicolás Maduro, who has accused Washington of playing a role in the chaos. The U.S. has denied involvement in the blackout and said the blame lies with the government for neglecting the energy system. “This decision reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on U.S. policy,” Mr. Pompeo said in a statement.”


Axios: What Google Knows About You

“For all the many controversies around Facebook's mishandling of personal data, Google actually knows way more about most of us. The bottom line: Just how much Google knows depends to some degree on your privacy settings — and to a larger degree on which devices, products and services you use. Google is the undisputed leader in the tech giants' race to accumulate user data, thanks to its huge array of services, devices and leading share of the digital ad business (37% to Facebook's 22%). It likely knows everything you've ever typed into your browser’s search bar and every YouTube video you’ve ever watched.”

The Guardian: Social Media Polarises And Radicalises – And Mps Aren’t Immune To Its Effects

“Barely a week goes by without government ministers or MPs warning Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube (a subsidiary of Google), Instagram or WhatsApp (both owned by Facebook) that they must do more to prevent radical or dangerous ideas being spread. A “crackdown” is always just around the corner to protect users from harmful content. Oddly, MPs never wonder whether they might be victims of the same effects of these tools that they, too, use all the time. Why not, though? We keep hearing that it’s a big problem for people to be repeatedly exposed to radical ideas and outspoken extremists. It’s just that for MPs, those tend to be within their own parties rather than on obscure YouTube channels. If you look at the literature around radicalisation, and then at our politics, it’s hard not to think that social media – in particular WhatsApp, the messaging service that lets you communicate with one or many people in closed “groups” – is not helping.”

The New York Times: If Stalin Had A Smartphone

“I feel bad for Joseph Stalin. He dreamed of creating a totalitarian society where every individual’s behavior could be predicted and controlled. But he was born a century too early. He lived before the technology that would have made being a dictator so much easier! In the first place, he’d have much better surveillance equipment. These days most interactions are through a computer, so there is always an electronic record of what went on. The internet of things means that our refrigerators, watches, glasses, phones and security cameras will soon be recording every move we make. In 2017, Levi Strauss made an interactive denim jacket, with sensors to detect and transmit each gesture, even as minimal as the lifting of a finger. Soon prosecutors will be able to subpoena our driverless cars and retrieve a record of every place they took us.”

The Wall Street Journal: Google Agreed To Pay $135 Million To Two Executives Accused Of Sexual Harassment

“Google agreed to pay $135 million in exit packages to two top executives who left the company after being accused of sexual harassment and covered up the reasons for their departures, according to a complaint filed in a lawsuit unsealed Monday. The former executives, Andy Rubin and Amit Singhal, oversaw some of the company’s most important and profitable arms. Mr. Rubin, who left in 2014, created the company’s crucial Android software, while Mr. Singhal, who departed in 2016, headed search. Mr. Rubin was accused by a subordinate of pressuring her into oral sex, among other claims, according to the lawsuit. Mr. Singhal was accused by a female employee of groping her at a “boozy off-site event,” according to the suit. The board of Google’s parent, now called Alphabet Inc. approved the payments with little dissent, according to the lawsuit.”