Eye on Extremism: March 14, 2019

Voice Of America: Islamic State Strikes Back In Last Stand At Baghuz

“Islamic State fighters launched new counterattacks against U.S.-backed forces Wednesday, as the militants clung to the terror group's last scrap of territory in northeastern Syria. An unknown number of IS fighters have been hiding in a small area by the town of Baghuz covered now by bullet-ravaged campsites and broken buildings. But officials with both the United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces say they have been taking cover from airstrikes and artillery fire in a complex system of caves and tunnels below ground. "Daesh (IS) carried out two counterattacks with heavy weapons, snipers, VBIED's [vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices] and suicide bombers," Zana Amedi, a media official with the Kurdish YPG militia, which has been supporting the SDF, tweeted Wednesday. "They're taking advantage of the smoke end [sic] dust," he added. The SDF press office told the Reuters news agency both attacks had been repelled. Earlier Wednesday, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali told Reuters that IS had tried using a group of suicide bombers to blunt the SDF's advance into the IS-held enclave, but failed. "There were suicide vest attacks by a group of bombers who tried to blow themselves up amidst our forces," he said.”

Reuters: Russian And Syrian Air Strikes Intensify On Last Rebel Bastion

“The Syrian army, aided by Russian warplanes, attacked rebel-held towns in northwestern Syria on Wednesday in the most extensive bombardment in months against the last remaining rebel bastion in the country, rebels, rescuers and residents said. Rebels who have fought to topple President Bashar al-Assad for eight years are now largely confined to the enclave in the northwest near the Turkish border. Around four million people now live there, including hundreds of thousands of opponents of Assad who fled there from other parts of the country. The enclave is protected by a “de-escalation zone” agreement brokered last year by Assad’s main international backers Russia and Iran, and Turkey which has supported the rebels in the past and has sent troops to monitor the truce. Residents said Russian planes conducted at least 12 aerial strikes on residential areas in Idlib city, including a civilian prison on its outskirts, where they said dozens of prisoners escaped. At least 10 civilians were killed and forty five injured.”

BBC News: Islamic State Women Defiant In Face Of Lost Caliphate

“As the battle against the Islamic State (IS) group in eastern Syria enters its final stages, the BBC's Jewan Abdi says the mood amongst many of the jihadists' supporters who have left the area, including many women, remains defiant. The encampment in the village of Baghuz is barely more than a few holes in the dirt covered with blankets. It is squalid and filthy. But above it flies the black Islamic State flag, fresh and clean. IS fighters had raised it only the day before, an act of defiance in the face of overwhelming odds. "That's a sign they will fight," says a soldier belonging to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the front lines battling the jihadists. Just 24 hours later the battle resumed. It was the end of a ceasefire that had seen more than 12,000 leave in the preceding few days. One day last week in the early morning, more than 20 trucks led by Humvees armed with machine guns went inside the tiny IS enclave to evacuate jihadist fighters and their families. I followed these vehicles on their return journey to the desert where they were checked, separated, and sent on to camps run by the SDF forces. One military commander told me the total number of people evacuated was about 7,000. The hunger and anger was evident on their faces.”

The Jerusalem Post: Iran’s ‘Road To The Sea’ Exposed On Golan- Analysis

“The threat posed by Hezbollah and Ali Musa Daqduq, a senior operative in Hezbollah, was unmasked by Israel on Wednesday. Daqduq was responsible for the “abduction and execution of five American servicemen in Iraq in 2007,” the IDF said. The role of Hezbollah members in neighboring states is an illustration of how groups allied with Iran are continuing to build a web linking Tehran to Beirut via a “road to the sea” that transits Iraq and Syria. According to the IDF, the role of Daqduq includes establishing terror cells in Iraq to fight the US in 2006, stints training in Lebanon in 2013-2018 and now putting down roots in Syria. “He then came back to Lebanon and to Syria, this time with a new mission. Now what we have today is an infrastructure masterminded by Hezbollah on Syrian soil using the local civilian infrastructure,” said Jonathan Conricus of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.”

The New York Times: The West Doesn’t Want ISIS Members To Return. Why Should The Syrians Put Up With Them?

“A fiery debate has raged around Hoda Muthana, an American woman, and Shamima Begum, a British woman, who joined the so-called Islamic State as teenagers and now want to return to their home countries. President Trump has refused to allow Ms. Muthana, who was born in New Jersey, back into the United States and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has insisted that she is not an American citizen. In Britain, Home Secretary Sajid Javid issued an order revoking Ms. Begum’s citizenship and Richard Walton, a former Scotland Yard counterterrorism chief, described women like Ms. Begum as “just as dangerous as male foreign fighters if ever allowed back into the country.” But the British and American refusal to take back these women and hundreds of other foreign fighters who joined the Islamic State means leaving them in Syria. Why should the Syrians, who suffered the terrible violence inflicted by these American and European Islamic State members, have to deal and live with them, when the United States and Britain wants to wash their hands of them?”

The New York Times: Facebook’s Data Deals Are Under Criminal Investigation

“Federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals Facebook struck with some of the world’s largest technology companies, intensifying scrutiny of the social media giant’s business practices as it seeks to rebound from a year of scandal and setbacks. A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, according to two people who were familiar with the requests and who insisted on anonymity to discuss confidential legal matters. Both companies had entered into partnerships with Facebook, gaining broad access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users. The companies were among more than 150, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Sony, that had cut sharing deals with the world’s dominant social media platform. The agreements, previously reported in The New York Times, let the companies see users’ friends, contact information and other data, sometimes without consent. Facebook has phased out most of the partnerships over the past two years.”

United States

Star Tribune: Minnesota Probe Finds No Proof Stolen Money Aided Terrorists

“Minnesota's legislative auditor said Wednesday that an investigation found no proof that money defrauded from a state child care program found its way to terrorist organizations overseas. Lawmakers asked Legislative Auditor James Nobles to look into the issue after KMSP-TV reported last year that the Minnesota Child Care Assistance Program was defrauded out of as much as $100 million per year. The station, partly citing unnamed sources, also reported that state and federal agents had determined that some of the ill-gotten money had gone overseas and that they believed at least some of it likely ended up with terrorists. The station's reports, which also cited Scott Stillman, a former computer forensics expert for the state Department of Human Services, which administers the program, suggested that fraudulently obtained money had gone to the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabab. In his report, Nobles said investigators couldn't substantiate that any of the money ended up with terrorists. He also said that while fraud in the child care program is a problem, investigators couldn't establish a reliable estimate of how much money has been defrauded from it, though they believe it's more than the $5 million to $6 million that prosecutors have been able to prove was stolen.”

Westword: Racist Group Identity Evropa Rebrands But Doesn't Lower Heat From Colorado

“Identity Evropa, a racist group whose propaganda war in Colorado last summer ramped up in December with a disturbing call to "DEFEND THE ROCKIES," is dead, at least officially. The organization has rebranded as the American Identity Movement in a transparent attempt to distance itself from communication obtained and leaked last week by Unicorn Riot that firmly established its ties to neo-Nazi activities, including the August 2017 riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, where an anti-fascist demonstrator was killed. But the shaky and unconvincing March 8 launch of AIM (the attempt to hijack the acronym of the American Indian Movement adds insult to injury) won't lower the heat directed at its members by those fighting against white-supremacist extremism on the Front Range, including an underground collective that worked to remove Identity Evropa messaging — and was instrumental in getting Twitter to suspend the IE account prior to the name change.”

Syria

Reuters: U.S.-Backed Syria Forces Advancing Into Islamic State Enclave

“U.S.-backed fighters besieging Islamic State’s final shred of territory in eastern Syria said they had pushed further into the enclave following clashes and air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition on Thursday. The Syrian Democratic Forces said this week the battle for Baghouz, a collection of hamlets and farmland near the Iraqi border, was as good as over, but the remaining hardline jihadists are waging last stand attacks which include groups of suicide bombers. “Our fighters advanced deep into areas controlled by the terrorist organization and established a number of new points, following clashes in which terrorists sustained a number of deaths and injuries,” a statement from the SDF press office said.  SDF media official Chiager Amed said Islamic State fighters had used the cover from smoke and dust in the air to attack SDF forces on Wednesday. “SDF thwarted their attacks and burned an arms deport,” he said. Live footage broadcast by Kurdish Ronahi TV showed large fires raging in Baghouz overnight. The SDF said 15 members of Islamic State had been killed on Thursday morning after they tried to attack SDF troops. Islamic State held roughly a third of Syria and Iraq at the zenith of its power in 2014, when its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself “caliph”, or leader of all the world’s Muslims.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: US-Backed Syrian Forces Push On As ISIS Extremists Fight Back

“US-backed Syrian forces said on Wednesday that ISIS extremists are putting up a desperate fight against their advances and staged a counterattack overnight from the tiny speck of land the extremists still hold in eastern Syria. The counterattack began from the west of a riverside pocket in the Syrian village of Baghouz where the ISIS group has been making its last stand, said a commander with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. Clashes were underway as the Kurdish-led forces tried to repel the ISIS attack, he said, adding they were also fighting to secure an area taken late on Tuesday. Another commander said at least four SDF fighters were killed in the fighting since early in the morning. Both commanders spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. A third commander, Dilbrin Nargiz, said the ISIS counterattack began just before dawn. ISIS extremists usually operate in daylight as they lack night vision weapons and goggles. The weeks-old push on Baghouz has also taken a toll on the Kurdish forces, some of whom have been battling ISIS for the past six years. “We’ll die long before this war is over,” said Simone Awad, a 22-year-old fighter whose friend was shot in the head next to him in the fighting earlier in the morning. It was not clear if the friend, who was taken to hospital, survived.”

Fox News: Yazidi Sex Slaves Set Fire To Their Burqas After Being Freed From ISIS

“As the last patch of the ISIS “caliphate” in Syria crumbles, thousands of civilians have been fleeing the final battle zone in recent weeks – among them, more than a dozen Yazidi women who have spent years in the torturous confines of sexual slavery. “I wish I could bring (ISIS) and burn them like I burned my clothes,” one Yazidi survivor Israa, 20, said last week as she stripped off her mandated black burqa, joining several other Yazidi survivors in burning the black garb. “Now I’ve arrived and I’ve taken it off and burned it and finished with it, thank God.” For those women, the escape from such oppressive rule is a bittersweet one – the road to recovery is long, and many of community remain at-large. In the summer of 2014, soon after ISIS overran large swaths of Iraq and Syria, ISIS swarmed Iraq’s Sinjar Mountain – the ancestral home of the Yazidis, an ethnic minority hardline Islamists had long considered to be “devil worshippers.” Thousands of girls and women were captured and sold off as sex slaves to ISIS fighters, disappearing into the dark pockets of ISIS territorial control. Furthermore, thousands of men were slain and dumped into mass graves now littering the Iraqi landscape. Boys were taken in and brainwashed into being ISIS fighters – often drugged, indoctrinated and used as human shields as battles intensified.”

Iran

The New York Times: Her Crime? Defending Women’s Rights In Iran

“In their perverse way, dictatorships know full well they’re doing wrong when they imprison dissidents. They betray this by the absurdity of the accusations they make against their critics, as if trying to conceal the real intent of their persecution. The result, of course, is the opposite — the silenced dissenter emerges as the righteous accuser, the tyrant as crook. The latest proof of this is the new prison sentence handed down against Nasrin Sotoudeh, the Iranian human rights lawyer in jail since June, on charges of “colluding against the system” and “insulting” the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. She had already been convicted, in absentia, of belonging to a human rights organization and stoking “corruption and prostitution” — an apparent reference to her defense of women arrested on charges of  removing the mandatory Muslim head scarf. A few years earlier, Ms. Sotoudeh had been imprisoned for “activities against national security” and “propaganda against the regime.”

Iraq

Iraqi News: Iraqi Police Arrest 9 Islamic State Militants In Different Parts Of Mosul

“Iraqi authorities announced on Wednesday the capture of nine Islamic State terrorists in different parts of Mosul, the group’s previously-proclaimed capital. “Acting up a tip-off, Nineveh police arrested nine terrorists of Islamic State militant group, for whom arrest warrants were issued for fighting security forces and targeting citizens,” Baghdad Today quoted Spokesman for the Interior Ministry Saad Maan as saying in a statement. “The arrests were made in different parts of Mosul’s eastern and western sides,” the statement read. Iraqi authorities regularly announce the capture of Islamic State extremists across the country since the collapse of the group’s territorial influence in December 2017. The jihadist group had seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, when it proclaimed a “caliphate” and imposed its rule over some 10 million people.”

Iraqi News: ISIS Executes Citizen After Abducting Him In Rutba

“An official source informed, on Wednesday, that the Islamic State group (ISIS) executed one of the citizens in Rutba District, 23 days after abducting him, Alsumaria News reported. The source revealed that the Islamic State group has executed one of the citizens in Rutba, 23 days after abducting him while he was gathering truffles in Jalabat areas in the District. The source, who asked to be anonymous, added that the terrorist group slaughtered the abductee. Meanwhile, a local source in Anbar Province, informed early this month that the Islamic State has executed five abductees of Rutba and Nakheeb areas, while pointed out that their bodies were found in the desert, west of the province. It is noteworthy that the Security Media Cell announced, in February, that 12 citizens were abducted from Nakheeb area, while they were collecting truffles in the deserted area, west of Nakheeb.”

Turkey

Reuters: U.S. Sees Turkish Offensive In Syria As Unnecessary: U.S. Official

“The United States is not discussing a Turkish offensive in northeast Syria with Turkey and believes no such operation is needed to address Ankara’s security concerns, a U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday, dismissing media reports to the contrary. A Turkish defense official was cited by Turkish state media on Tuesday as saying Ankara was discussing with the United States and Russia a potential offensive in a region of northeast Syria controlled by Kurdish-led fighters. “The U.S. is not discussing a Turkish offensive into northeast Syria with Turkey,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Turkey wants to set up a safe zone in the border area east of the Euphrates River after the majority of U.S. troops pull out of the country. The U.S. military has been supporting Kurdish-led forces there who are fighting Islamic State. Turkey, however, views the Kurdish YPG fighters who are the backbone of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as terrorists and has threatened to launch operations against them. “We have had repeated discussions on a security mechanism or ‘safe zone’ in northeast Syria that would address Turkey’s security concerns,” the official said.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Afghan Army Base Is Wiped Out By U.S. Airstrikes, Officials Say

“For the second time in a few days, an Afghan Army base was destroyed on Wednesday — but this time by American airstrikes that followed a firefight between the Afghans and Americans, Afghan officials said. A local Afghan official said six soldiers were killed and nine others badly wounded, out of 17 soldiers at the base. Qais Mangal, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, confirmed that the airstrikes had taken place after another Afghan unit attacked a joint convoy of Afghan Special Forces and American troops. He put the death toll at five soldiers, with 10 wounded. An American military spokeswoman said personnel at the Afghan Army post, which she described as a “checkpoint,” had opened fire on the convoy first. “This is an example of the fog of war,” said Sgt. First Class Debra Richardson. “The U.S. conducted a precision self-defense airstrike on people who were firing at a partnered U.S.-Afghan force.” The Defense Ministry spokesman said one Afghan commando had been wounded. There were no reports of American casualties, although the United States military rarely releases details on wounded soldiers.”

The Washington Post: In Taliban-Controlled Areas, Afghan Women Face Restrictions, But Some Find Ways To Push Back

“Several months ago, Taliban insurgents in western Faryab province stopped a young woman driving back to college, where she was a pharmacy student. They ordered her to go home and not resume her studies, or they would burn down her family’s house. The frightened student and her companions complied. Around the same time, a medical student traveling elsewhere in Faryab was accosted at a Taliban checkpoint. She stood her ground, suggesting that the Islamist enforcers would surely want their wives and daughters to be treated by a female doctor. After thinking it over, the gunmen waved her on. These two stories, related by a staff member at the Afghan Women’s Skill Development Center in Kabul, suggest that the Taliban, which controls more than half of all Afghan districts, is not always as rigid as when it held power in the late 1990s and routinely used cruel physical punishments to enforce extreme rules for women as well as men. While reports have surfaced of the Taliban lashing and stoning women for illicit sex in remote provinces, other accounts describe insurgents compromising on female access to school or health care and promoting sensible reforms such as banning extravagant dowries.”

Xinhua: More Than 30 Militants Killed In Past 24 Hours In Afghanistan

“More than 30 militants had been killed in the conflict-battered Afghanistan over the past 24 hours as both the government and the Taliban outfit stepped up activities, officials said Wednesday. In crackdown against militants, the fighting aircraft from the government forces struck a Taliban hideout in Khanabad district of the northern Kunduz province on Wednesday morning, killing eight insurgents and injuring three others, district governor Hayatullah Amiri asserted. The government forces, similarly, initiated operations against the Taliban group in western Farah province and killed five militants including group commander Mullah Helal and injured six others since Tuesday, an army statement said. Ground and air operations against Taliban fighters in Nahr-e-Saraj district of southern Helmand province killed 11 militants and injured four others on Tuesday, said a statement released by provincial police headquarters on Wednesday. Government forces had also killed seven militants and injured 15 others in southern Kandahar province over the past 24 hours, an army spokesman Sediq Eisa said Wednesday. Taliban militants have yet to make comments on the claims. Since Afghan warring sides often exaggerate the casualties of their opponents, it is difficult to verify with independent sources.”

Pakistan

The New York Times: China Blocks U.N. Vote To Blacklist Pakistani Militant Leader

“China on Wednesday blocked a United Nations Security Council measure that would have blacklisted the Pakistani founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed, the militant group that nearly brought South Asia to the brink of war last month after one of its suicide bombers attacked Indian forces. The vote was the council’s fourth attempt to blacklist the founder, Masood Azhar, in a decade and was proposed by France with the support of the United States and Britain. Since 2009, the Indian government has tried to designate Mr. Azhar as a global terrorist for orchestrating the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament and the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, which killed more than 160 tourists and local civilians. But every attempt has been blocked by China, which has served as a shield for Pakistan internationally as the two countries strengthen their military and economic ties. A spokesman for the Chinese mission at the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the decision, which came during a closed Security Council meeting. When China vetoed previous attempts to list Mr. Azhar, it claimed India had not provided enough information to support the designation, a claim that New Delhi denied. As a permanent member of the Security Council, China has the authority to veto any measure.”

Yemen

The National: Yemen Government Calls For Investigation Into Alleged Acts Of Genocide By Houthis

“Yemen’s government accused the Houthi group on Wednesday of committing acts of genocide against civilians in Hajjah province. Members of the Hajoor tribe have been fighting the Iran-backed rebels in the mountain areas of Kushar district, in the northern province, for more than a month. “The Iranian-backed rebels are using heavy weapons such as ballistic missiles to target villages, killing at least 100 people and displacing more than 400 civilians,” Muammar Al Eryani, Yemen’s Information Minister, said on Wednesday. Houthi crimes against innocent civilians must be accounted for, the minister said in the Jordanian capital Amman. Mr Al Eryani called for an international investigation into what he called “Houthi genocide against the Hajoor tribe”. Houthi rebels imposed their control over Hajjah's northern districts after a local tribe took up arms against them.” 

Lebanon

France 24: Israel Says Uncovers Hezbollah Unit Led By Notorious Commander

“Israel's army said Wednesday it has uncovered a unit created by Hezbollah across the ceasefire line in the Syrian Golan Heights and led by a commander previously jailed over an attack on US forces. With President Bashar al-Assad regaining control of southern Syria with the help of Russia and Hezbollah backer Iran, Israel is concerned a front against it could be established there. Hezbollah, based in neighbouring Lebanon, has also been supporting Assad in Syria's civil war. The Shiite group is among Israel's main enemies and the two fought a war in 2006. Israel said the new unit had been established without Assad's knowledge, and some Israeli media reported that part of the aim in publicising it was in hopes Syria and Russia would move to stop it. It alleged the new unit, "masterminded" by Hezbollah, had been set up "to eventually control teams of Syrian operatives who will launch attacks against Israel". "We are not going to allow Hezbollah to establish a terror infrastructure on the Golan capable of striking Israeli civilians," said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, Israeli military spokesman. "We hold the Syrian regime responsible for anything that happens inside Syria aimed at Israel." The army said the unit was in the establishment and recruitment stage and was not yet operational. Hezbollah began establishing it in the summer of 2018, it said.”

Middle East

Vice News: Lake Urmia Was Once The Largest Salt Lake In The Middle East, But Now It Is Set To Vanish Altogether

“Iranian photographer Ebrahim Noroozi has made a career out of capturing the unseen in his homeland. The three-time World Press Awards winner is unafraid to focus on dark, heavy, troubling subjects, such as the spectacle of public execution, or the residual impact of extreme domestic violence. While these series have been focused on the immediate and visible, this week we’re looking at one of Noroozi’s most beautiful - but no less tragic - collections: The Lake on its Last Legs. Formerly the largest salt lake in the Middle East, Lake Urmia has receded at an astonishing rate in the last two decades, shrinking to 10 percent of its 1995 capacity on account of rising global temperatures - one of the worst ecological disasters to date across the continent. In Noroozi’s pictures, however, the tragedy is not emphasised: instead, the focus is turned towards joy, beauty, brightness, and the illimitable horizon that sets the receding Urmia in another world. The story of Lake Urmia’s recession is well-known and well-trodden - Leonardo DiCaprio has even made it an environmental cause célèbre - but Noroozi captures the human experience, and how in spite of forces we cannot control, we can cherish what is ours for as long as we still have it.”

Financial Times: ISIS Is Defeated But The Jihadism The West Has Engendered Is Not

“Syrian Kurdish fighters, supported by the US air force, will soon end the caliphate that, at its height only a few years ago, controlled a third of Syria and Iraq. Isis is about to lose Baghouz, its last enclave in the Euphrates valley, on Syria’s border with Iraq. The jihadist group’s survivors have melted away into the empty wastes, reverting to terror and suicide attacks, while some of their foreign fighters may bring the war back home. The priority for the world’s security services will be to avert a new rash of terror attacks of the type that have scarred Paris and Nice, Brussels and Berlin, London and Manchester, Istanbul and Ankara. But now that the territorial caliphate that menaced the region is at an end, there is urgent need for reflection on how to change the western foreign policy that has reliably engendered jihadism. It is only a matter of time before a more virulent strain emerges if the west keeps blundering about in the Middle East. Modern jihadism got its first leg-up at the end of the cold war, as a western auxiliary force. It was the US-backed mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s that laid the path for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s unholy war, and the attacks of 9/11.”

Nigeria

The Defense Post: Niger Says Army Killed 33 Boko Haram Fighters In Lake Chad Region

“Niger said it had killed 33 Boko Haram “terrorists” and seized vehicles and weapons in an operation in the Lake Chad region. “Offensive actions carried out on Tuesday inflicted heavy losses on the enemy,” a defense ministry statement read on state television said on Wednesday, March 13. “Thirty-three terrorists [were] killed” while there were no losses on the army’s side, it said. A vehicle up-armored to be used as a suicide vehicle bomb was destroyed, while two other vehicles, two motorcycles, a 120-mm mortar, 10 AK-47 assault rifles, two 60mm shells and 3,736 rounds of all calibers were seized, it said. The operation began on Saturday, it said – a day after seven police and 38 militants were killed near Gueskerou in the southeastern region of Diffa, according to a government toll. Diffa borders Nigeria’s Borno state, birthplace of Boko Haram, and has suffered a string of cross-border raids and population displacement. Nigeria’s Air Force said on Wednesday that NAF Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms and Alpha Jet attack aircraft in coordination with Niger’s Air Force ISR and attack aircraft supported ground troops from the Multinational Joint Task Force “to pursue and decimate” Islamic State West Africa province militants on the fringes of Lake Chad.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Army Kills 8 Al-Shabaab Militants

“Somali special forces killed eight al-Shabaab militants overnight in the country's Lower Shabelle region, state media said Tuesday. "Somali security forces conducted an overnight operation in Daru Salam village in Lower Shabelle and killed eight members of the Al-Shabaab terrorist group," the Somali National News Agency reported. Adow Mohamed, a Somali National Army captain in Lower Shabelle, confirmed the operation to Anadolu Agency by phone. "Our special forces alongside our international partners conducted an operation against al-Shabaab in Daru Salam in the Lower Shabelle region after we received intelligence and killed eight al-Shabaab fighters," Mohamed said. Meanwhile, al-Shabaab claimed it had killed one U.S. serviceman and wounded two others. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which is targeting al-Shabaab in Somalia, has not commented on the incident so far.”

Africa

Asharq Al-Awsat: Tunisian Student Sentences To 4 Yrs In Prison For Communicating With ISIS

“Tunisian Court of First Instance issued a four-year prison sentence against a Tunisian university student who had been communicating via Telegram with a Syria- based ISIS leader, known as Abu al-Baraa. The indictment said he received lessons that incite attacks against Tunisian security forces. It added that the ISIS leader urged him to kill his father, who is a member of the security forces. Security investigations also revealed that the accused was asked to carry out a terrorist attack in the Tunisian capital as a "Lone Wolf". He denied the accusations, claiming that the Telegram account did not belong to him. However, the court confronted him with messages he received from the leader and the latter’s insistence on carrying out a terrorist operation in Tunis. On the other hand, Tunisian Interior Minister Hisham al-Furati and Justice Minister Karim al-Jamousi held a working session to consider enhancing court security measures following repeated attacks on the country’s courts. The latest of these attacks took place last month when extremist Adel Ghandri seized the judge’s gavel and hit him on the head during his trial at a Tunis military court. Both officials agreed on the need to diagnose deficiencies and imbalances and take a set of urgent measures to ensure the proper functioning of the judicial facility.”

North Korea

Channel Newsasia: US Slams Rights Record Of China And Iran, Goes Easier On North Korea

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday (Mar 13) denounced China and Iran as Washington offered its annual human rights report, while going easier on other countries like North Korea in the name of "US interests." China, often seen as the main strategic adversary of the United States in the long term and locked in thorny trade talks with Washington, "is in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations," he said. "In just 2018, China intensified its campaign of detaining Muslim minority groups at record level," Pompeo told reporters, referring to Beijing's campaign of repression in the restive Xinjiang region. "Today, more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslims are interned in re-education camps designed to erase their religious and ethnic identities.”

Germany

The Jerusalem Post: Germany Slated To Allow Palestinian Terrorist To Speak In Berlin

“Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is prepared to allow convicted Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist Rasmea Odeh to speak at an event in Berlin on Friday organized by a reportedly antisemitic BDS alliance organization. German Green Party politician Volker Beck slammed Odeh’s planned participation. “Why isn’t a convicted terrorist like Rasmea Odeh’s entry in the Schengen Information System blocked? Why did one name the Residence Act hate preaching as an obstacle to entry if these laws are then not applied,” he wrote on Facebook. He added that “In Germany, the PFLP is not prohibited. I jointly demanded the [ban of the PFLP] with Yair Lapid [Yesh Atid Chairman] in 2017. “ Schengen Area is the region that encompasses 26 European states that have removed passports requirements at their borders. Odeh, a former member of PFLP which is classified by the US and EU as a terrorist organization, was responsible for a 1969 bombing that murdered two students – Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe – in a Jerusalem supermarket. She pleaded guilty in 2017 to US naturalization fraud, and was deported in September to Jordan because she had lied about her terrorism conviction when she entered the US.”

Europe

The Local Sweden: Sweden Democrats Call On Government To Strip ISIS Fighters Of Citizenship

“As Sweden continues to debate the fate of the roughly 150 citizens who have returned home after joining the terror group Isis, the government is under fire from critics who say it is not doing enough to address the problem. When the issue was debated in parliament on Tuesday, the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats (SD) called on the government to strip the foreign fighters of their Swedish citizenship so that they are either deemed stateless or are forced to apply for other citizenship.  "One solution is that they [Swedes who have fought for Isis, ed.] seek citizenship in another country that is willing to take them," SD MP Adam Marttinen said. The Sweden Democrats (SD) were not the only party to accuse the government of not doing enough to address the issue of returning foreign fighters. MPs from the Moderates and Christian Democrats also criticized the nation’s response. Johan Forssel of the Moderates said it was simply unacceptable that under current legislation those who have joined a terror group abroad face the same level of punishment as people found guilty of simple theft. "[The punishment] for having had a relationship with a horrible terrorist organization is provocatively mild," he told Aftonbladet.”

Australia

ABC News Australia: Sydney Man Accused Of Australian Passenger Jet Terror Plot To Be Released In Lebanon

“An Australian-Lebanese man in custody on terrorism charges in Lebanon will be freed on bail this week, after the Australian Government agreed to hand over crucial documents. Amer Khayat, 41, is accused of plotting to blow up an Etihad plane on a flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi in July 2017 using two bombs — one hidden in a meat grinder and another hidden in a Barbie doll. He has pleaded not guilty. The former Sydney resident was freshly shaven and dressed in a white t-shirt, jacket and jeans as he appeared at a military tribunal in Beirut.  The chairman, Brigadier General Hussein Abdallah, was expected to hand down his verdict in Mr Khayat's case.  But in a surprise move, General Abdallah revealed the Australian Embassy in Beirut was willing to hand over important documents about the investigation, so he reserved his decision. Australia had previously told the tribunal it would not provide assistance in cases that could result in death penalty.  "We shall wait for these documents as they could be positive for Amer Khayat," General Abdallah said. "We all want to know the truth.”

ABC News Australia: Australian Jihadi Bride Who Fled Islamic State Wants To Bring Her Children Home From Syrian Refugee Camp

“An Australian woman trapped with her two young children in a refugee camp for Islamic State group families says her daughter needs urgent medical care and she wants to come home. The woman refused to confirm her identity, but it is believed she is 24-year-old Zehra Duman from Melbourne. She is being held at Al Hawl refugee camp in north-east Syria. In an interview exclusively obtained by the ABC, the woman said she wants to bring her two-year-old son and six-month-old daughter back to Australia. "Both of my kids are sick. [My daughter is] very malnourished, she's … very skinny," she said. "I have no money, I'm not allowed to have money, they don't give us food here and they don't let us contact our families." The Australian woman said her daughter's life was in peril. "My daughter needs milk and I don't have money to buy her milk. I don't know what to do now," she said. She also said that she wants to come back to Australia. "I want to go back to my country. I think everybody's asking for that because I'm an Australian citizen. "I understand the anger that they have towards a lot of us here, but the kids don't need to suffer. My kids have a right at least to be treated like normal kids," she said.” 

Technology

Buzzfeed News: The WhatsApp Cofounder Who Sold To Facebook For $19 Billion Tells Students To Delete Facebook

“WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton defended his decision to sell his company to Facebook for $19 billion and encouraged students to delete their accounts from the social network in a rare public appearance at Stanford University on Wednesday. As one of the guest speakers for Computer Science 181, an undergraduate class focused on technology companies' social impact and ethical responsibilities, Acton, a 47-year-old Stanford alumni, explained the principles behind founding WhatsApp and his fateful decision to sell it to Facebook in 2014. In doing so, he also criticized the profit models driving today’s tech behemoths, including Facebook and Google, as well as the Silicon Valley ecosystem in which entrepreneurs are pressured to chase venture capital and large exits to satisfy employees and shareholders.”

Bloomberg: Facebook’s Crisis Management Algorithm Runs On Outrage

“Last year, a Facebook user in Sri Lanka posted an angry message to the social network. “Kill all the Muslim babies without sparing even an infant,” the person wrote in Sinhala, the language of the country’s Buddhist majority. “F---ing dogs!” The post went up early in 2018, in white text and on one of the playful pink and purple backgrounds that Facebook Inc. began offering in 2016 to encourage its users to share more with one another. The sentiment about killing Muslims got 30 likes before someone else found it troubling enough to click the “give feedback” button instead. The whistleblower selected the option for “hate speech,” one of nine possible categories for objectionable content on Facebook. For years nonprofits in Sri Lanka have warned that Facebook posts are playing a role in escalating ethnic tensions between Sinhalese Buddhists and Tamil Muslims, but the company had ignored them. It took six days for Facebook to respond to the hate speech report. “Thanks for the feedback,” the company told the whistleblower, who posted the response to Twitter. The content, Facebook continued, “doesn’t go against one of our specific Community Standards.”