Eye on Extremism: March 5, 2019

The New York Times: 2 American Children May Be Trapped In The Last ISIS Village

“As American-backed forces assault the final bastion of the Islamic State in Syria, two American children may be stuck inside, their father fears. “I am praying to my God that they will return to me,” said the father, Bashirul Shikder. “They are innocent. I am just hoping.” Four years ago, his wife fled their Florida home to join the Islamic State and took their two children with her. She was killed in an airstrike, but the children are believed to be in Baghuz, the last village held by the Islamic State in Syria. As the yearslong battle to destroy the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate draws to an end, Western governments have struggled to deal with citizens who joined the terrorist organization. The family of Shamima Begum, who left for Syria as a teenager, has said the British government intends to revoke her citizenship, and President Trump has vowed not to let Hoda Muthana, an American-born woman, return to the United States. But Mr. Shikder’s ordeal raises the question of what happens to children who ended up in the Islamic State through no fault of their own. Mr. Shikder, 38, told his story in phone calls from Iraq and Florida, and two lawyers involved in his case corroborated his account. “Mr. Shikder is a religious Muslim, but he is also very much an American,” said Charles D. Swift, the director of the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, who is helping Mr. Shikder.”

CNN: Iraq Defeated ISIS More Than A Year Ago. The Group's Revival Is Already Underway

“There is a different feel to the atmosphere in Baghdad these days, as if the chokehold that has gripped the Iraqi capital for the better part of the last decade and a half has started to ease. On the main road cutting through the Karada district, the sidewalks are crowded with vendors hawking designer knock-offs and sticky sweets. Restaurants lining the boulevard grill masgouf, a butterflied carp considered to be Iraq's national dish, over open flames. People sit at outdoor cafés, sipping tea and smoking shisha. Two and a half years ago, ISIS plowed a truck packed with explosives into a busy shopping area down the road during Ramadan, killing hundreds of people. Now, young men sporting skinny jeans, funky jackets and what we're told is the new “spikey” hairstyle hang around in groups. It's a look that once would have gotten them killed, back in the years of Iraq's sectarian bloodletting when Baghdad was a patchwork of brutal militias. Most of the checkpoints that once clogged traffic for hours in the city have been removed, more roads are open, and the power cuts aren't as bad as they used to be. At Baghdad's famed book fair, dozens of publishing houses from across the region have gathered to display their works, from poetry to history and terror literature.”

The Washington Post: Assad Must Release All Of His American Hostages

“President Trump has worked successfully to secure the release of many American hostages held abroad. But Americans might be surprised to know that Syria’s Assad regime likely holds more American hostages than any state or nonstate actor, according to officials, activists and the families of these missing Americans. Before U.S. troops leave Syria, before the United States accepts any political settlement to the Syrian crisis, before any U.S. aid flows for reconstruction — President Bashar al-Assad must return all American citizens he is holding in his prisons and account for the one he allegedly murdered. There are “around half a dozen” American citizens missing in Syria and suspected to be held by the Assad regime, according to a senior administration official, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. One is journalist Austin Tice, missing since 2012; the U.S. government has said publicly it believes the Assad regime is holding Tice. The other known cases are Syrian Americans, none of whom the regime has acknowledged detaining, the official said.”

The Wall Street Journal: Hateful Propaganda From White Supremacists Spreads

“White supremacist groups have ramped up their use of propaganda to spread racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic messages, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL recorded 1,187 incidents of white supremacist propaganda throughout the U.S. in 2018, up from 421 incidents in 2017. The group defines propaganda as the use of fliers, stickers, banners and posters for recruitment purposes. “It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the ADL. Mr. Greenblatt said white supremacist groups are attempting to boost their ranks but also want their identities hidden from the public. Using fliers and banners allows the groups to spread their messages anonymously and increase their profile on social networks like Gab, he said.”

Xinhua: Over 40 Including 3 Civilians Killed Within One Day In Afghan Fighting

“More than 40 people including three civilians have been killed in Afghanistan in a single day on Monday as fighting got momentum in the insurgency-battered country, officials said. In the latest waves of violent incidents, Taliban militants stormed the main bazaar of Yangi Qala district in the northern Takhar province Monday morning, killing three civilians and injuring seven others, a local official said on the condition of anonymity. Provincial police spokesman Abdul Khalil Asir confirmed the attack but said only two civilians lost their lives and seven more injured after the Taliban offensive repulsed within hours. Meanwhile, militants attacked a security checkpoint in neighboring Kunduz province's Imam Sahib district early Monday, killing 10 security personnel and injuring almost the same number, district governor Mahboubullah Sayedi reported. According to Sayedi, Taliban fighters had also suffered. Clash between security forces and the Taliban militants on a road linking Dawlat Abad district to Balkh district in the northern Balkh province early Monday claimed the lives of two security personnel and injured three others, deputy to provincial police chief Abdul Razaq Qadiri told Xinhua.”

The Independent: EU Elections Pose 'Inviting Target' For Cyber Interference

“Tech companies are not going far enough to protect political debate from interference ahead of the European elections, an EU Commissioner has warned. Julian King, the EU Commissioner on the Security Union, said the European elections in May were "quite an inviting target if you are interested in trying to sow disinformation... and interfere in democratic processes". "We are trying to put in place some defences to at least make it harder for anyone who would seek to do that; either from outside or indeed, as happens in some countries across Europe, from inside," he said. A code of practice agreed by social media giants Twitter, Google and Facebook looks to ensure that political material distributed online adheres to transparency so that people can see where information is coming from and evaluate it on its merits.”

United States

The New York Times: Why We Should Take Back Americans Who Fought For ISIS

“What do we do with Westerners who fought on behalf of, or at least traveled to and joined, the Islamic State? Some like Hoda Muthana, who left college in Alabama to join the Islamic State in Syria, have expressed the desire to return to their native country. As the Islamic State loses its last safe havens in eastern Syria and policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic confront the question of what to do with the Western “foreign fighters,” I thought I could add my voice and unique experiences to the discussion. I was the first American foreign fighter for Al Qaeda after Sept. 11. I was captured in Pakistan, turned over to United States law enforcement and brought back to New York. I served time for my actions and have tried to make amends. Others can do the same and contribute to our society and the fight against Islamic radicals — and giving them that opportunity can set a powerful example for our allies and for vulnerable people across the world. Raised on Long Island and a convert to Islam, I traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the fall of 2007 at age 24 because I was opposed to America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and went to defend Muslim lands from the West. It gave me a purpose, and my intention was to fight and die a martyr’s death on the battlefield as a brave Muslim warrior.”

CBS News: Judge Won't Expedite Case For “ISIS Bride”

“A federal court is denying 24-year-old Hoda Muthana an expedited case in her quest to return to the U.S. after running away from Alabama five years ago to join ISIS in Syria. Judge Reggie Walton found that there was not enough proof “to show that she would be irreparably harmed” by waiting for the legal process to play out.  Five years ago, in 2014, Muthana left Alabama for Syria and gave up her U.S. passport. She married three times in Syria -- her first two husbands were killed. Muthana has been detained by Syrian democratic forces in northern Syria since she surrendered to allies of the U.S. in January.  And now, the U.S. says she's not welcome back -- a sentiment expressed by President Trump himself. Muthana's father is suing the government to allow him to bring his daughter and her son back to the U.S. The ISIS bride argues that burning her passport did not mean she was giving up her U.S. citizenship. She told CBS News' Charlie D'Agata in an interview that aired over the weekend that if she could say anything to the president it would be this: “I would tell him to study the legal system, because apparently I am allowed back. I have papers. I have citizenship.” Muthana was born in New Jersey, to Yemeni parents.”

The National Interest: Did Trump Really Defeat The Islamic State?

“By declaring victory over the Islamic State President Trump meant to fulfill his most vociferous electoral pledges: to destroy “Islamic” terrorism “just as we have defeated every threat we faced at every age.” Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria was justified by victory over the Islamic State and by his desire to end the U.S. role of global policeman. This decision to leave was a pragmatic pre-electoral step and reflected the general U.S. trend of abandoning its paternalistic policy, and in this case, implies a reluctance to spend money on postwar reconstruction in Syria.  But was the Islamic State really defeated? For the first time in the last hundred years, the West faced a sudden intensive mobilization of thousands of fighters from the entire world under black banners of the Islamic State, which seized a large swath of land for an extended period of time. Essentially, what happened in Syria and Iraq was a global presentation of a transnational extremist project called the Islamic State, which declared war against the United States and a coalition of sixty nations. The Islamic State is not attached to a specific territory and might be reborn in any Muslim region of the world. In other words, the Islamic State poses a bigger danger as a global terrorist network.”


The Washington Post: Final IS Defeat Looms As Thousands Leave Last Area In Syria

“A spokesman for the U.S.-backed Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State group says thousands of people, including militants, have left the last area held by the extremists in Syria. Mustafa Bali tweeted that about 3,000 came out of the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria on Monday through a humanitarian corridor established by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces for those who want to leave or surrender. Bali says among those who left was a large number of IS fighters who “surrendered to our forces.” The evacuations came as the U.S. backed forces slowed down their latest push on Baghouz, which resumed last week, to allow civilians to leave the tiny enclave. It’s unclear how many IS militants and civilians remain inside, but the number is likely in the hundreds.”

Voice Of America: Yazidi Children In Syria Await Family Reunions

“U.S.-backed Syrian forces fighting Islamic State militants said they freed more than 12 Yazidi children from IS last week. The children were released when the Syrian Democratic Forces evacuated civilians from the town of Baghuz. The children had been held by the militant group for years. Mustafa Bali is a spokesman for the Kurdish-led alliance. He wrote in a social media tweet, "Among many children saved from [IS] territory today, a group of Yazidi children also arrived to safe areas." Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority who live mostly in northern Iraq. They are viewed as infidels by IS extremists.”

The Washington Post: Fire And Bombs Amid The Palm Groves: This Is What The Final Battle Against ISIS Looks Like

“Hundreds of fighters and civilians trudged out of the Islamic State’s final scrap of territory in eastern Syria this weekend after U.S.-led forces pummeled it from the ground and sky. Once the size of Britain, the self-declared Islamic caliphate is just a warren of tents and tunnels now. But the final battle has been grindingly slow. On Monday the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, said that its forces were advancing slowly on account of the number of civilians still trapped inside the village of Baghouz. Thousands have left the village in recent weeks, but an unknown number remain. Some are too scared to leave, escapees say. Others are refusing to abandon the cause, even in its dying days. After a 10-day truce to encourage more surrenders, the battle resumed this weekend with a ferocity previously unseen in the small corner of Syria. The earth and palm trees shook as bombs rained down. At night, fires framed the silhouettes of what remains of Baghouz. Victory, the SDF predicted, will come “in a short period”. But once the guns fall quiet and the battle is over, the challenge ahead will in many ways be more complicated. The Islamic State has already adapted to its loss of territory, melting back to its insurgent roots in Iraq and seeding sleeper cells across eastern Syria, too.”

Voice Of America: SDF: IS Using Suicide Attacks, Civilians To Slow Advance On Baghuz 

“In eastern Syria, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) say Islamic State is trying to slow the attack on the terror group's last scrap of territory in the town of Baghuz by using snipers, suicide bombers and civilians as human shields. A VOA cameraman traveling with Kurdish fighters spoke to several about what appears to be the final days of the battle. SDF officials said Monday the vast majority of civilians have already left Baghuz, but a small number are still trapped in the town by IS. “We don't have an estimate of how many civilians are still inside Baghuz,” Lilwa Abdullah, an SDF spokeswoman, told VOA. Other SDF officials said that IS fighters have increased their counterattacks on SDF fighters, using suicide bombers, explosive-laden vehicles and tunnels. “This is something that [IS] have done in previous battles, too,” Mervan Rojava, an SDF media officer, said. “But this time it is challenging for them because they have nowhere else to go.” He told VOA that the militant group now only controls less than 2 square kilometers inside Baghuz. “All the tunnels they have dug for a moment like this aren't really useful because they control a very small patch of territory. But they are taking advantage of sending a large number of suicide bombers toward us,” Rojava said.”


The New York Times: Navy Veteran Imprisoned In Iran Was Beaten, Family Says

“Michael R. White, the Navy veteran imprisoned in Iran since July, was beaten after his arrest, has no money to hire a lawyer and still does not know what charges — if any — have been filed against him, his mother said Monday. Joanne White also said that her son, a former cancer patient, had been taken to a court at least twice and that his health was deteriorating. A family spokesman, Jonathan Franks, said a GoFundMe page had been started to raise funds for Mr. White’s legal representation in Iran. Ms. White learned of her son’s travails after diplomats from the Swiss Embassy in Tehran visited him on Feb. 6 at the prison where he has been held, in the northeast city of Mashhad. The Swiss Embassy represents American interests in Iran. It was the first time the Swiss had been able to see Mr. White since he was seized in Mashhad last July and taken to Vakilabad Prison, after having visited a person his family has described as an Iranian girlfriend. He has still not been able to communicate directly with his family. Mr. White, 47, of Imperial Beach, Calif., served in the Navy for 13 years. He is the first American to be incarcerated in Iran since President Trump took office in 2017, adding a complication to what already was a severely strained relationship between the United States and Iran.”

Voice Of America: Dutch Recall Envoy From Iran In Murder Plot Row

“The Netherlands said Monday it has recalled its ambassador from Tehran after Iran expelled two Dutch diplomats in a dispute over an alleged plot to assassinate regime opponents. Dutch authorities accused Iran in January of involvement in the murder of two dissidents on Dutch soil in 2015 and 2017, and the European Union slapped sanctions on Tehran over the killings. Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a letter to parliament that the government "has decided to recall the Netherlands' ambassador to Tehran for consultations" over the row. Iran's decision to expel the Dutch officials -- which was not previously announced in public -- was "not acceptable and is negative for the development of the bilateral relationship," Blok said. He said Iran's move was itself a tit-for-tat response to the Netherlands' expulsion of two Iranian embassy workers in June 2018 "due to strong indications from (Dutch intelligence) that Iran has been involved in the liquidations on Dutch territory of two Dutch people of Iranian origin.”

The Jerusalem Post: Iran And Turkey Media Push Conspiracy Theories About Us, ISIS

“Iranian and Turkish media have pushed conspiracy theories about the US-led coalition and the defeat of Islamic State in Syria. As the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – the main partner of the coalition in the anti-ISIS battle – defeats ISIS in Syria, both Ankara and Tehran appear to have a different narrative. Iran has sought to highlight US “support” for ISIS in the past and claimed that Iran played the main role in its defeat. ISIS would have overrun Europe if not for Iran, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Sunday. Last year, Turkey argued that ISIS was no longer a threat and that the US was prolonging the war needlessly. Iran’s Press TV claimed last week that local sources had told them that the “US [is] giving Daesh [ISIS] a safe passage in east Syria under a gold deal.” The “local source” was actually the Syrian regime’s SANA media. “The gold has been carried away from the province’s Al-Baghouz area on board helicopters,” Iran’s media claimed. In return for the gold, the US allowed ISIS ringleaders to escape. The report also included a link to another report claiming that the US had “evacuated” ISIS militants and their families from Baghuz. Still, Press TV carried another story on February 28, claiming that “protected by the US, Daesh leader al-Baghdadi is traveling across Iraq’s western desert.”


Iraqi News: International Coalition Kills Eight Islamic State Militants In Anbar Province

“Eight Islamic State militants were killed Monday in an airstrike that was launched by the U.S.-led international coalition on a desert area in the Iraqi province of Anbar. “Acting on accurate intelligence reports, the Joint Operations Command, backed by warplanes of the U.S.-led international coalition, targeted a gathering of Islamic State militants in the desert of Kabisa in the Hīt district of Anbar,” Al-Madar News quoted the Security Media Center as saying in a statement. “The airstrike left eight IS militants dead,” the statement read, adding that an armored vehicle for the militant group was also destroyed in the operation. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence 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. IS declared a self-styled “caliphate” in a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014. A government campaign, backed by a U.S.-led international coalition and paramilitary forces, was launched in 2016 to retake IS-held regions, managing to retake all havens, most notably the city of Mosul, the group’s previously proclaimed capital.”


Xinhua: Afghan Forces Kill 8 Militants, Arrest 4 Suspected Insurgents

“Security forces in crackdown against militants have killed eight Taliban fighters and arrested four others charged with involvement in subversive activities in Kandahar province, a security official, Nisar Ahmad Hand said Tuesday. Personnel of law enforcing agencies, according to the official, targeted the hideout of Taliban fighters in Buri area of Shah Walikot district in Kandahar province on Monday afternoon, killing eight insurgents on the spot. The four arrested suspected insurgents have been taken into custody for investigation, the official said. Taliban militants who are active in parts of Kandahar have not commented."


Reuters: Pakistan Vows Again To Act Against Militants On Its Soil As Global Pressure Grows

“Pakistan plans to take action against militant groups operating on its soil, a minister said on Monday, amid global pressure to act after a suicide bomber killed 40 Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir last month. But Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry denied Indian accusations that Pakistan was involved in the Feb. 14 attack, which led to a sharp rise in hostilities, saying it “had nothing to do with us”.  Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India both carried out aerial bombing missions last week and on Wednesday fought a brief dogfight in the skies over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, but they stepped back from the brink after Islamabad on Friday handed back a captured Indian pilot as a peace gesture.  Britain and the United States welcomed the pilot’s return but urged Islamabad to take action against militant groups carrying out attacks on Indian soil. Islamabad denies assisting the groups or using them as proxies in its rivalry with India. Previous vows by the Pakistan government to crack down on anti-India militant groups have largely come to nothing, with militant leaders living freely in Pakistan.  Pakistan’s powerful military dictates the South Asian nation’s security plans and foreign policy, including relations with India.”


The National: Yemen's Houthis Are Turning Sanaa Airport Into A Military Base

“Yemen’s Houthi rebels are using Sanaa airport as a military base and are storing ballistic missiles in the northern provinces of Saada and Omran, the Arab coalition said on Monday. The airport has been controlled by the rebels who have battled the internationally recognised government for nearly four years after they overran the capital, Sanaa, in 2014. “The coalition has targeted an air defense system set up by the Houthi militia at Sanaa airport,” Colonel Turki Al Maliki, spokesman for the Arab Coalition, said during a weekly press conference. During the UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden the government proposed reopening the airport to domestic flights and that airplanes must stop in the southern city of Aden or eastern city of Sayun for inspection. But the Houthis rejected the request. The government has accused the Houthis of smuggling arms from Iran through Sanaa airport and Yemen's many ports. “The Houthis are continuing to violate the UN-brokered deal that was reached in December,” Colonel Al Maliki said.  He also stressed that the rebels are storing ballistic missiles in the northern provinces of Saada and Omran that are being used to target Saudi Arabia. “The Houthis have so far launched 219 rockets towards the Kingdom’s territory,” he said.”

Arab News: Houthis Target Yemeni Civilians In Kushar District: Arab Coalition

“The Iranian-backed Houthi militia have targeted Yemeni civilians in Kushar district, the Arab coalition to support the legitimate Yemeni government said on Monday. “We are working to support the tribes in humanitarian and military terms to cut the supply lines of the Houthi militia,” said spokesperson Col. Turki Al-Maliki. Al-Maliki presented a video of landing operations to support the Hajjor tribes in their battle against the Houthis and displayed pictures targeting the militia’s missile sites. Speaking at a weekly press conference in Riyadh, Al-Maliki said that the coalition targeted an air defense system set up by the Houthi militia at Sanaa airport.” 


The Washington Free Beacon: The West’s Blind Approach To Hezbollah

“Guess who said the following: “Everyone knows that Hezbollah's political and military wings are one and the same.” No, it was not some Israeli or American hawk, eager to crush Iran's chief proxy force in Lebanon. On the contrary, Ammar Moussawi, the head of Hezbollah's international relations, uttered those words in 2013, when the European Union blacklisted the group's “military wing” as a terrorist organization, excluding its “political” activities as part of a separate, benign entity. Six years later, the EU still separates Hezbollah's so-called political arm from its militancy, drawing an arbitrary line between the two that does not exist. Apparently leaders in Brussels think they understand Hezbollah better than Hezbollah itself. They are not alone. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's administration also seems to see the mythical line neatly dividing Hezbollah's military and political wings. After the United Kingdom banned Hezbollah in its entirety last week, Berlin refused to follow suit. American sources familiar with Germany's thinking told the Jerusalem Post that Berlin does not ban the Shi'ite Islamist group's political arm because it is “linked to Israel-Palestinian peace talks.”


Associated Press: US Deploys Advanced Anti-Missile System In Israel

“The U.S. has deployed a highly advanced missile defense system in Israel for the first time, the American and Israeli militaries announced Monday, reflecting their shared concerns about Iran’s development of powerful missiles. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, as a testament to the strength of the two countries’ military ties, saying that it makes Israel “even stronger in order to deal with near and distant threats from throughout the Middle East.” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli army spokesman, told reporters that a THAAD battery, flown in from the U.S. and Europe, arrived Monday at an air force base in southern Israel. He said that the defense battery has only been installed a few times elsewhere in the world, and tested the U.S. ability to carry out accelerated deployment of such powerful and complex weapons.


Al Jazeera: Qatar FM: Doha Buying S-400s 'Not Anyone's Business'

“Qatar is still studying the purchase of Russia's S-400 missile air defence system, Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said, adding that the potential deal - reportedly opposed by Saudi Arabia - was none of Riyadh's business. Following a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Monday, Sheikh Mohammed also said there was no sign of a thaw in the Gulf crisis over allegations by Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states that Qatar supports terrorism. "There is a discussion for procurement of various Russian equipment but there is no understanding as of yet as to this particular equipment (S-400)," Sheikh Mohammed told a joint news conference with Lavrov. "With regards to Saudi or other countries, it is none of their business, it's a sovereign decision by Qatar." Ties between Qatar and Russia have stepped up since a blockade against Qatar was launched by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain in 2017.”

Middle East

Foreign Policy: The West Needs To Take The Politics Of Women In ISIS Seriously

“In recent weeks, the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have closed in on the last remaining Islamic State holdout in eastern Syria. The remains of the so-called caliphate occupy less than half of a square mile of a small village called Baghuz, and all but a few hundred remaining insurgents have been driven out of the area by U.S. airstrikes and Kurdish ground operations. Over a thousand fighters and civilians, including many Islamic State militants’ wives and children, have fled. The SDF houses them in camps such as al-Hol, where humanitarian conditions are dire and the application of international law is ambiguous at best. In the camps, the muhajirat, that is, Western women who joined the Islamic State, are easy to find. And tales of muhajirat like the American Hoda Muthana and the British Shamima Begum “begging to come home” have dominated headlines over the last two weeks.”

The Cable: Islamic State ‘Sacks’ Al-Barnawi, Factional Boko Haram Leader

“The Islamic State has sacked Abu Mus’ab Al-barnawi as the leader of Islamic State West Africa Province, a faction of the Boko Haram insurgent group. Ahmad Salkida, a journalist known to have access to the leadership of the group, disclosed this on Monday night. According to him, the new leader of the group is Abu Abdullah Ibn Umar Albarnawi. Salkida said no reason was given for the development. “The Islamic State has sacked Abu Mus’ab Albarnawi as the leader of its West African affiliate (ISWAP),” Salkida wrote on Twitter. “The new Wali, according to an 18:13 audio recording, is Abu Abdullah Ibn Umar Albarnawi. No reason was given for the sack of Abu Musab (Habib)."


The New York Times: Egyptian Photojournalist Is Released After 5 Years In Prison

“Egypt on Monday freed a prominent photojournalist who had spent five and a half years in prison for taking pictures during a crackdown in 2013 that culminated in the killing of more than 800 protesters. The photojournalist, Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, was returned to his family home in Cairo, where he vowed to continue working despite a five-year probation that requires him to spend every night at a police station. “I can’t describe how I feel,” he told Reuters soon after his release at dawn. “I am free.” Mr. Abou Zeid was probably the best-known of the dozens of Egyptian journalists jailed under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has slowly suffocated free speech since he came to power in 2013. Mr. el-Sisi has muzzled critical news outlets and, of late, expelled or refused entry to foreign reporters. While in prison, Mr. Abou Zeid has received numerous international awards; last year, he won the Unesco Press Freedom Prize. That award drew fury from the Egyptian authorities, who said Mr. Abou Zeid was suspected of being a terrorist; the Foreign Ministry blamed Qatar for promoting his cause — a common Egyptian response to outside criticism. r. el-Sisi’s disregard for international criticism appears to have grown in the absence of any censure from President Trump, who has disparaged the news media as “enemies of the people” and hailed the Egyptian leader as a “fantastic guy.”


Bloomberg: Islamic State Could Rise Again In Libya, Interior Minister Says

“Libya needs more help from the United States to overcome its political divisions, the country’s interior minister said, warning that Islamic State was taking advantage of the chaos to regroup. While the Washington-backed fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has reduced the territory the self-styled “caliphate” holds, its militants are using the Libyan desert to regroup despite a 2016 U.S.-backed anti-terror campaign that pushed them from the coastal city of Sirte. The United States should now throw its weight behind a push to end Libya’s political divisions, said Fathi Bashagha, the top security official in the internationally recognized government in Tripoli. “The danger is grave, because we’re not capable of fighting them in an ideal way so long as the divisions remain,” Bashagha said in an interview in the Tunisian capital, Tunis. While the Sirte campaign damaged Islamic State’s infrastructure there, “the truth is many Daesh members sneaked into the desert before the battle for Sirte was over,” he said, using the movement’s Arabic acronym. “Members from Iraq and Syria have joined them and they began to move around in the desert and organize themselves.” Islamic State first emerged in Libya’s east, an area that was rife with extremist movements after the 2011 ouster of Moammar Al Qaddafi.”


All Africa: Somalia: Three Militants Nabbed In Mogadishu Operation

“Somali security forces have arrested three al-Shabab militants in the Amniyat, al-Shabab's intelligence wing in an operation in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, officials said on Sunday evening. Mohamed Abdullahi Tulah, deputy mayor for security in the Benadir region told journalists in Mogadishu that three al-Shabab militants were apprehended Sunday in an offensive conducted by Somali national forces in Wadajir district in Somalia's capital. “Our forces nabbed three al-Shabab extremists as they were trying to assassinate female member of electoral delegation committee,” Tulah said. He noted that they will intensify their operations against the extremists. The militants paraded by the government pleaded guilty and asked the people to forgive them. The arrest comes as assassinations in Mogadishu increased. On Feb. 20, militants shot Mohamed Mursal, a Somali deputy attorney general, while on Feb. 24, suspected al-Shabab fighters gunned down Osman Elmi Boqore, a member of federal parliament in Mogadishu's Karan district. On Thursday evening, the al-Qaida linked group al-Shabab launched an attack on Makka Al-Mukarama hotel in the capital, killing at least 36 people and injuring more than 60 others.”


Daily Beast: U.S. Spent Millions Training Cameroon Forces To Hunt Boko Haram. They’re Hunting Gays Instead.

“The U.S. State Department announced in early February it was halting some military assistance to Cameroon—terminating a C-130 aircraft training program, stopping deliveries of four Defender patrol boats and nine armored vehicles, and terminating the upgrade of a Cessna surveillance aircraft for the notorious Rapid Intervention Battalion, known as by the French acronym BIR. The reason: allegations of gross human rights violations by Cameroon’s armed forces in the western and far northern regions of the country. Over the last five years, the U.S. gave more than $220 million to Cameroon in security assistance—including $700,000 spent this year already under the rubric “international military education and training.” Much of the U.S. assistance to the nation at the center of the African continent has gone to the BIR, an elite military force. In 2016 the American ambassador to Cameroon heaped effusive praise on the unit. “In their training, conduct, and leadership, the BIR exhibited all of the values we expect in our own armed forces—professionalism, protection of the civilian population, and respect for human rights.”  But international human rights organizations were compiling records of shocking brutality toward civilians not only in their war against the Al Qaeda linked terrorists of Boko Haram–the reason for U.S. support–but in actions specifically against gay men.”

North Korea

The Wall Street Journal: North Korea Still Using Uranium-Enrichment Facility, U.N. Agency Says

“North Korea is still using a uranium-enrichment facility at the heart of last week’s summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the United Nations atomic agency said. In a quarterly report released Monday, Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said a five-megawatt reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex that has produced plutonium for North Korea’s nuclear program appeared to have been shut since early December. But construction work continued at Yongbyon on an experimental light-water reactor and there were “indications of the ongoing use of the reported nuclear centrifuge enrichment facility,” he said. Mr. Amano said the agency couldn’t confirm the purpose of the activities. Since North Korea expelled IAEA inspectors in 2009, the agency has had only limited insight into North Korea’s nuclear program.”


The Wall Street Journal: Chinese Hackers Target Universities In Pursuit Of Maritime Military Secrets

“Chinese hackers have targeted more than two dozen universities in the U.S. and around the globe as part of an elaborate scheme to steal research about maritime technology being developed for military use, according to cybersecurity experts and current and former U.S. officials. The University of Hawaii, the University of Washington and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among at least 27 universities in the U.S., Canada and Southeast Asia that Beijing has targeted, according to iDefense, a cybersecurity intelligence unit of Accenture Security. The research, to be published this week, is the latest indication that Chinese cyberattacks to steal U.S. military and economic secrets are on the rise. The findings, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, name a substantial list of university targets for the first time, reflecting the breadth and nature of the ongoing cyber campaign that iDefense said dates to at least April 2017.”

New Zealand

The New York Times: New Zealand Won’t Revoke ISIS Member’s Citizenship, But He May Face Charges

“A New Zealand native who joined the Islamic State should not lose his citizenship but may face charges if he returns home, the country’s prime minister said on Monday, outlining a milder approach than Britain and the United States have taken toward citizens with ties to the group. The New Zealander, Mark Taylor, was widely ridiculed when he forgot to turn off Twitter’s location tagging function in 2014, and inadvertently gave away the positions of Islamic State fighters in Syria. On Monday, the ABC, Australia’s public broadcaster, quoted Mr. Taylor as saying that he had fled the Islamic State in December and surrendered to Kurdish forces because living with the terrorist group had become too difficult. The ABC said he was being held in a Kurdish prison. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters on Monday that New Zealand had plans in place for any Islamic State fighters who try to return. “Mr. Taylor only holds New Zealand citizenship, and the government has an obligation not to make people stateless,” she said, adding that Mr. Taylor was among a small number of New Zealanders who had joined the Islamic State. (She declined to say precisely how many.)” 


PJ Media: ISIS Supporters Around The World Rally For Steep Escalation In Online Jihad

“ISIS-linked media groups are calling on supporters to help expand the virtual caliphate by escalating media jihad on a variety of popular platforms. In a propaganda poster distributed online in English and Arabic, Muntasir Media, showing a grenade wrapped in computer keyboard letters, directed followers to “Support Your State”: “Help to expand, transfer and share the official contents of the Islamic State to other platforms.” Arrows direct users to go to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter -- platforms that have tried to crack down on Islamic State content for years, chasing many online jihadists to Telegram channels and lesser-known platforms to distribute propaganda and recruit members. Muntasir's previous releases include a six-minute, Spanish-language video released in December showing images of bodies in the August 2017 Las Ramblas attack and declaring that “the cells are ready” to strike “designated” targets again. It showed photos of veiled Muslim women being taken into custody by police in various situations, calling for a “new attack in revenge for our sisters.” Other ISIS-supporting media groups have also been spreading the word for jihadists to take the campaign online now as never before.”