Eye on Extremism: May 13

The New York Times: Gunmen Kill At Least 6 In Church Attack In Burkina Faso

“Gunmen killed a pastor and five congregants at a Roman Catholic church in northern Burkina Faso on Sunday, the authorities said, in the second attack on Christians in two weeks in a nation increasingly overrun by jihadists. Congregants were leaving the church around 9 a.m. local time in the town of Dablo, about 124 miles from the capital, Ouagadougou, when about 20 men circled them and opened fire, leaving at least six dead, according to a government statement. “These terrorist groups are now attacking religion with the macabre aim of dividing us,” the statement said. The mayor of Dablo said the attackers burned the church, looted a pharmacy and some others stores and left. A government spokesman said the gunmen also destroyed all places serving alcohol. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though violent Islamic extremism has been increasingly destabilizing the country. The killings come about a month after gunmen fatally shot a pastor and five congregants in April at a Protestant church, also in the north, suggesting the violence was taking a religious turn. Burkina Faso, in West Africa, has a history of tolerance and religious groups have historically lived together peacefully and intermarried.”

The Hill: Congress Must Act Against Extremist Social Media Content — Before Extremists Strike Again

“On the last day of Passover, an extremist attacked a synagogue in San Diego, murdered a woman, and posted a violent, anti-Semitic manifesto online just before the attack. In March, the Christchurch mosque attacker published a white supremacist screed online and then live-streamed his attack on Facebook. Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday; Pittsburgh six months ago. Heinous attacks on worshippers in their most sacred places on their most holy days. These and other acts of violence share common origins in hate. Their perpetrators also exploit all-too-common weaknesses in the technology platforms that are so ubiquitous in modern life. Social media platforms have failed to address the threat of extremist content, becoming at best complacent and at worst complicit in the transformation of tech platforms into breeding grounds for reaching and radicalizing violent extremists. For too long, the internet has seemed at times like the Wild West, lawless and beyond control.  The tech industry has consistently demonstrated that it is unable or unwilling to quickly and consistently identify and remove extremist content. Sadly, the U.S. Congress has thus far been unwilling to use its authority to hold tech platforms accountable, letting extremist content flourish and endangering American lives in the process.”

ABC News: 'Caliphate' Gone, But Militants In Iraq Strike From Hiding

“It was a chilly January evening, and Khadija Abd and her family had just finished supper at their farm when the two men with guns burst into the room. One wore civilian clothes, the other an army uniform. They said they were from the Iraqi army's 20th Division, which controls the northern Iraqi town of Badoush. In fact, they were Islamic State group militants who had come down from the surrounding mountains into Badoush with one thing on their mind: Revenge. Around 13 more gunmen were waiting outside. The fighters pulled Khadija's husband and his two brothers into the yard and shot them dead, leaving them in a pool of blood — punishment for providing information to the Iraqi military. "How can we live after this?" Khadija said. The three brothers were the providers for the entire family. "They left their children, their livestock, their wives, and their elderly father who doesn't know what to do now."

The New York Times: Inside Syria’s Secret Torture Prisons: How Bashar Al-Assad Crushed Dissent

“Syrian security officers hung Muhannad Ghabbash from his wrists for hours, beat him bloody, shocked him with electricity and stuck a gun in his mouth. Mr. Ghabbash, a law student from Aleppo, repeatedly confessed his actual offense: organizing peaceful antigovernment protests. But the torture continued for 12 days, until he wrote a fictional confession to planning a bombing. That, he said, was just the beginning. He was flown to a crammed prison at Mezze air base in Damascus, the Syrian capital, where he said guards hung him and other detainees from a fence naked, spraying them with water on cold nights. To entertain colleagues over dinner, he and other survivors said, an officer calling himself Hitler forced prisoners to act the roles of dogs, donkeys and cats, beating those who failed to bark or bray correctly.”

Associated Press: Why Does Facebook Fail To Fix Itself? It’s Partly Humans

“The question comes up over and over, with extremist material, hate speech, election meddling and privacy invasions. Why can’t Facebook just fix it? The latest revelation: Facebook is inadvertently creating celebratory videos using extremist content and auto-generating business pages for the likes of ISIS and Al Qaida. The company says it is working on solutions and the problems are getting better. That is true, but critics say better is not good enough when mass shootings are being live-streamed and online mobs are spreading rumors that lead to deadly violence. “They have been frustratingly slow in dealing with everything from child sexual abuse to terrorism, white supremacy, bullying, nonconsensual porn” and things like allowing advertisers to target categories such as “Jew hater,” simply because some users had listed the term as an “interest,” said Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California, Berkeley.”

The New York Times: New Zealand Seeks Global Support For Tougher Measures On Online Violence

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand will attempt this week to use the terrorist attack that killed 51 Muslim worshipers in Christchurch mosques in March to demand that the biggest internet platforms do more to stamp out violent and extremist content. Ms. Ardern will be in France with President Emmanuel Macron to sign an agreement they crafted called the “Christchurch Call” that asks the social media giants to examine the software that directs people to violent content, and to share more data with government authorities and each other to help eradicate toxic online material, according to officials from New Zealand and France involved in drafting the proposal. The accused gunman’s use of social media to live stream his rampage in New Zealand and to share a hate-filled manifesto crystallized the vulnerability of internet platforms to extremist and violent views. Ms. Ardern’s effort adds momentum to a global push to curb the power of the world’s largest internet platforms. But even as policymakers agree that something needs to be done, there’s little consensus on what to do.”

United States

Foreign Policy: The Global War On Terrorism Has Failed. Here’s How To Win.

“The jihadi bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday are the latest reminder that terrorism is not driven by deprivation or ignorance. As with the 2016 cafe attack on foreigners in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the slaughter of churchgoers and hotel guests in Sri Lanka was carried out by educated Islamists from wealthy families. Two of the eight Sri Lankan suicide bombers were sons of one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen. Several of the attackers had the means to study abroad. One reason why these attacks keep taking place is that the U.S.-led global war on terrorism has failed—and that is because it has focused on eliminating terrorists and their networks, not on defeating the jihadi ideology that inspires suicide attacks around the world. The bombings in a place as unlikely as Sri Lanka—a country with no history of radical Islamist terrorism—underscore how far militaristic theology can spread and why the world needs to tackle it at its roots.”

CNN: American Nazis Protested A Holocaust Remembrance Event. A University's Scholarship Is Part Of The Reason Why

“For the past five years, Joyce Griffis and Congregation Chaim B'Derech have held a Holocaust March for Remembrance in Russellville, Arkansas. It's always been solemn and peaceful. This year's march was supposed to be like all the others; attendees would march down Main Street, listen to speeches and offer prayers to commemorate and remember the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II. Except white supremacists showed up holding Nazi flags, marching down an otherwise deserted sidewalk and signs that read, "The Holocaust didn't happen but it should have," while screaming references to Holocaust victims as "your imaginary 6 million." The white supremacists carried crosses -- at least one was stained red -- alongside a picture of Jesus. About 10 to 15 protesters tried to disrupt the event; they were outnumbered by the roughly 50 people attending the Holocaust Remembrance march.”

AL.com: Terrorist Training Camp Found In Alabama, Report States

“Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns Birmingham’s ABC 33/40, reported yesterday that land in Alabama has been linked to a terrorist training camp in New Mexico where malnourished children alleged they were trained to commit shootings. The information emerged in an FBI search warrant, according to the station. The land, located in Macon County, is owned by Siraj Wahhaj, according to Sinclair Broadcast Group. Wahhaj lived on a compound in New Mexico last year with several adults and children who said they were training to commit mass shootings. Investigators found the remains of Wahhaj’s 3-year-old son on the property. The Macon County property sits a few miles from downtown Tuskegee, according to Sinclair Broadcast Group. A federal grand jury indicted five adults living in the New Mexico compound on terrorism, kidnapping and firearms violations in March. “The defendants in this case allegedly were preparing for deadly attacks and their targets included law enforcement and military personnel, the very people who are committed to protecting all of us,” said Assistant Director McGarrity in an FBI statement. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to uncover and put a stop to acts of terrorism.”

Syria

Al Jazeera: Syria's War: NGOs Suspend Aid To Embattled Idlib Province

“UN-linked aid groups have suspended activities in parts of violence-plagued northwestern Syria, where escalating bombardments by the government and Russia are jeopardising the safety of humanitarian workers. "As of May 8, at least 16 humanitarian partners have suspended their operations in areas impacted by conflict," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, said on Friday. The World Food Programme [WFP] said it has suspended "deliveries to about 47,000 people in towns and villages ... [that] have come under bombardment". Speaking from Damascus, Marwa Awad, an officer at WFP, said that more assistance was required. "Since 2014, the World Food Programme and the entire UN body have been able to reach the northwest of Syria through our cross-border operations via Turkey," she told Al Jazeera.”

Haaretz: In Syria's 'Safe Spaces,' Tens of Thousands Are Held Hostage

“Displaced Syrian civilians who were supposed to find refuge in the country's de-escalated areas are held hostages in the unsolved dispute between Russia, Syria and Turkey. And the world stands by. The convoluted wording used to describe the Syrian front has created two ridiculous terms: de-escalation zones and demilitarized zones.”

The New York Times: They Were ‘Comrades In Arms’ Against ISIS. Now The U.S. Is Eyeing The Exit.

“Dressed in camouflage and sipping tea, the Syrian commander who emerged as America’s closest ally in the battle that defeated Islamic State looked to an unsettling future. The commander, the Kurdish leader of the Syrian Democratic Forces, known by the nom de guerre Mazlum Kobani, praised his alliance with the United States in a rare interview recently and said he hoped American troops would stay in Syria. But if they do not, he said, he is still fully prepared to defend his militia’s hard-fought gains during years of fighting the terrorist group. “We were comrades in arms — we are on the same front fighting ISIS,” he said of the Americans, sitting in a furnished trailer in a compound that once belonged to the Syrian state oil company. Now he is worried about a swift withdrawal, pointing to the American departure from Iraq in 2011, which was followed by the rise of Islamic State. “They must not make the same mistake,” he warned. As the commander of the American-backed militia that fought the Islamic State, Mazlum now oversees forces controlling one-third of Syria and sits at the nexus of clashing international interests in the jihadists’ former lands. The Syrian government has threatened to take the territory back — by force, if necessary.”

CNN: Syrian Army 'Kills Terrorists' In Idlib Countryside

“The Syrian army is launching "intensive strikes on dens of Jabhat al-Nusra," a group formerly affiliated with al Qaeda, in a village in southwestern Idlib province Sunday, Syrian state media is reporting. SANA, the country's state-run news agency, also stated Saturday that the army's operations had destroyed multiple sites purportedly belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra in the southern Idlib countryside.  The army killed and injured "a number of terrorists who had breached the de-escalation zone agreement through repeated attacks on military points and safe towns," SANA reported. Syrian government forces, which are loyal to the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, are also tracking "terrorist" movements between the Idlib province in the north of the country and the Hama province directly to the south.  According to UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), there has been a heavy escalation of shelling and barrel bombs targeting Hama and Idlib in the last few days.  SOHR also reports that against the backdrop of the heavy bombing, Jabhat al-Nusra are worsening the situation for displaced civilians by preventing them from putting up tents. The UN announced Friday that since April 28 fighting has escalated between government forces and non-state armed groups (NSAGs) in northwest Syria.”

Iran

Reuters: Iran May Attack Israel If U.S. Standoff Escalates: Israeli Minister

“An Israeli cabinet minister warned on Sunday of possible direct or proxy Iranian attacks on Israel should the stand-off between Tehran and Washington escalate. The United States has increased economic and military pressure on Iran, with President Donald Trump on Thursday urging its leaders to talk to him about giving up their nuclear program and saying he could not rule out an armed confrontation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which supports Trump’s hard tack against its arch-foe, has largely been reticent about the spiraling tensions. Parting with the silence, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said that, in the Gulf, “things are heating up”. “If there’s some sort of conflagration between Iran and the United States, between Iran and its neighbors, I’m not ruling out that they will activate Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad from Gaza, or even that they will try to fire missiles from Iran at the State of Israel,” Steinitz, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, told Israel’s Ynet TV. Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad are Iranian-sponsored guerrilla groups on Israel’s borders, the former active in Syria as well as Lebanon and the latter in the Palestinian territories.”

Arab News: More Proof Of Cooperation Between Iran, Al-Qaeda

“It is a common misconception that since Iran’s theocratic establishment is Shiite, it will not cooperate with non-Shiite terrorist groups and militias. For example, some policy analysts, scholars and politicians continue to promote the argument that Tehran and Al-Qaeda are not natural allies due to their religious differences. Analyses that view the Iranian regime solely through the prism of religion are extremely simplistic. Tehran pursues a sectarian agenda in the region, pitting Shiite against Sunni in order to divide and conquer. But the sectarian division between Sunni terrorist groups and the Iranian regime was never an issue for the latter as long as these groups shared common strategic and geopolitical interests with it. Tehran has always been willing to shake hands with terrorist groups as long as they can help accomplish its revolutionary principles (such as anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and opposition to Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia), destabilize the region and achieve its hegemonic ambitions.”

CNBC: Iran Is An Active Threat — But We’re Willing To Talk With Them, Says US Secretary Of State

“Iran is an active threat to American interests as it sows chaos in the Middle East, but the White House would “of course” welcome the opportunity to negotiate with Tehran, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday. Speaking with CNBC’s Hadley Gamble, America’s top diplomat said he’s seeing increased threats from Iran, and that President Donald Trump’sadministration is reinforcing its capacity to respond to any offensive action from Iran. That’s why, according to Pompeo, the U.S. deployed a carrier strike group and other weaponry to the region. “We’ve done all the right things to increase our security posture to the best of our ability,” Pompeo said, “but we also want to make sure that we had deterrent forces in place, so in the event that Iran decided to come after an American interest — whether that be in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Yemen, or any place in the Middle East — we were prepared to respond to them in an appropriate way. ” We’re not going to miscalculate: Our aim is not war, our aim is a change in the behavior of the Iranian leadership. Despite the greater military presence in the region, the secretary of state stressed that the U.S. isn’t looking for a fight — and it wouldn’t stumble into one either.”

Iraq

Iraqi News: Iraqi Troops Kill 3 Islamic State Suicide Bombers In Salahuddin

“Iraqi troops killed on Sunday three Islamic State suicide bombers and destroyed 10 terrorist hotbeds in Salahuddin province. “A joint force of Salahuddin Operations Command and al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) carried out a preemptive military operation in the depth of Hamrin Mountains in Salahuddin province, killing three Islamic State suicide bombers,” Al-Madar News quoted the media center of al-Hashd al-Shaabi as saying in a press statement. The troops “also destroyed 10 Islamic State hotbeds containing explosive belts, ammunition and foodstuffs,” the statement added. 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. Despite defeat in Iraq in late 2017, many IS remnants remain at large in the hideouts of the Arab country.”

Voice Of America: Iraqi Foreign Fighters Lurk In Syrian Shadows

“By late February and early March, it had become a common scene on the far outskirts of the northeastern Syrian town of Baghuz: evacuees from the Islamic State terror group's final scrap of territory huddled on the desert floor, empty water bottles littering the ground as they waited to be vetted and taken to a displaced persons camp. Only something had changed. These huddled masses were no longer civilians trapped by the terror group's steady retreat or those who had been held as slaves or prisoners. These women and children were the families of the IS fighters, many of them from outside Syria and Iraq. And they were unabashed in making one thing clear. "I don't want to go back," Dorothée Maquere, the wife of French foreign fighter Jean-Michel Clain, told television cameras for the French news agency AFP. "Let France leave me alone," she added. "They killed my husband, my children, my family. That's it. It's finished." Maquere had plenty of company. By the time Baghuz finally fell, U.S.-backed forces had captured more than 2,000 foreign fighters and nearly 8,000 of their wives, children and relatives, many of whom had chosen to stay. More may still be at large.”

Kurdistan 24: Wives Of ISIS Fighters Find Camps Safe Haven, Fear Violence From Iraqis Outside

“Many wives of Islamic State fighters in Iraq say displacement camps are the safest place for them to avoid violent retribution or other persecution at the hands of other Iraqis and also that they are very concerned about the fate of their children, many of which have been denied crucial identity documents. The Hassan Sham camp, located on the outskirts of the Kurdistan Region’s Erbil, is one of the facilities that host thousands of displaced Iraqis, among them a high percentage of the women. One who gave her name only as Menal was married in Mosul and had three boys and a daughter before the emergence of the Islamic State in 2014. After it took over the city, she said, various events led to her divorcing her husband and marrying an American fighter for the extremist group, with whom she had another daughter. “I had to marry him because I had no one to take care of my children,“ Menal told Kurdistan 24 on Friday. “My husband was an ISIS cleric and now he is arrested and sentenced by the court.”  She said that she has little hope for her future and that of her children because she cannot go back to Mosul as she could be murdered for being an Islamic State wife. Menal is also worried about her youngest child, stating that the girl has no official birth documents and as a result would be deprived of many rights, including being allowed to attend school.”

Turkey

Voice Of America: Al-Shabab Claims Responsibility For Targeted Blast

“The Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu says a Turkish citizen was killed Sunday following an explosion near the city’s busy K-4 junction. The embassy told VOA Somali the victim was an engineer working for a Turkish company. Witnesses told VOA Somali there was an explosion in the vehicle the victim was riding in. The explosion is believed to have been from improvised explosive device planted in the car. The al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming the engineer was working at the Turkish military training facility in Mogadishu. Al-Shabab also claimed a killing in the central Somali town of Galkayo. Major Khalif Nur Shil, commander of joint security forces in the town died from wounds suffered in an attack by gunmen armed with pistols as he left a mosque late Saturday.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Taliban Train Sights On Aid Groups, An Ominous Turn In Afghanistan

“A Taliban attack on two aid organizations last week, the deadliest episode in a recent surge of violence against humanitarian workers in Afghanistan, is a signal to many that as peace talks falter, the insurgents are lashing out against so-called soft targets. Wednesday’s attack killed three workers for CARE, the American aid group, and at least six others, most of them civilians. Aid workers said the true death toll was 13. In either case, it was the single biggest loss of life among the country’s 2,000 nongovernmental organizations in more than a year. The bombing, which struck CARE and Counterpart International offices, came as the sixth round of peace negotiations between the Taliban and Americans limped to an end in Qatar. The Afghan government was excluded from the talks, which ended after seven fitful days with a sense of fading optimism. The Taliban, meanwhile, vowed that the assault on the aid groups would not be their last. Even before the attack, casualties among aid workers had started to rise after several years of decline. Through April, five aid workers had been killed, 12 injured and 18 abducted this year in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator, Toby Lanzer.”

The New York Times: The Unspeakable War

“It’s easy to reach for metaphors to describe the war in Afghanistan — quagmire, money pit, a boulder that must be rolled up the Hindu Kush for eternity. John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told The Times this month that a recent decision by the Trump administration to stop releasing important metrics about the war — the size of the Taliban, for instance, or how many provinces they control — is akin to “turning off the scoreboard at a football game and saying scoring a touchdown or field goal isn’t important.” Put another way, the American people are being kept more in the dark about the dismal state of the United States’ longest-running war, now in its 18th year.”

Al Jazeera: US-Taliban Talks For Peace In Afghanistan: What We Know So Far

“Officials from the United States and Taliban representatives have held six rounds of direct talks since October in Qatar's capital Doha in a bid to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan. The talks hope to preserve the post-2001 progress made in the country after the Taliban government was overthrown by a US-led military coalition for sheltering al-Qaeda, the group blamed for the 9/11 attacks. The Afghan government, however, is not involved in the talks as the armed group has refused to negotiate with it, deeming it illegitimate and a "puppet" of the US. After the latest round of negotiations with the Taliban ended on Thursday, the US envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad announced that "faster progress" was needed as "the conflict rages" and "innocent people die". Analysts say peace has never been closer in Afghanistan since the talks with the US to resolve the conflict began. Also, three meetings have been held since 2017 in Moscow between the Taliban, delegations from Afghanistan's High Peace Council and senior Afghan politicians, including former president Hamid Karzai. Last month, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani conducted a grand council with politicians, tribal, ethnic and religious leaders meeting in Kabul to discuss the ongoing negotiations with the Taliban.”

Al Arabiya: Taliban Fighters Double As Reporters To Wage Afghan Digital War

“Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s chief spokesman and editor-in-chief of the insurgent group’s daily news bulletin, starts every day by collecting reports of overnight fighting with US and Afghan forces. Mujahid says he gets his team of writers to cross-check facts shared by some of the hardline extremist groups’ fighters, who double as reporters in the 34 provinces across the country. The writers prepare press statements in five languages and gather footage and photographs shot on smartphones. The editor-in-chief then approves final drafts of the reports - highlighting the group’s claimed victories in its war aimed at toppling the US-backed Afghan government - before they are published by IT specialists based outside the country. While some Afghan journalists say its accuracy is patchy, and its opponents accuse it of spreading “fake news,” the Taliban’s slick media operation has emerged as a key weapon in the information war that often leaves the Western-backed government and its US partners struggling to catch up. Last month, for example the Taliban was swift to deny involvement in a suicide attack on the communications ministry in Kabul later blamed on ISIS, while information from the government was slower to emerge.”

Xinhua: At Least 13 Militants Killed In S. Afghan Clashes

“At least 13 Taliban militants were killed after clashes erupted between police and militants in Afghanistan's southern province of Kandahar on Saturday, Ministry of Interior Affairs said Sunday. "Afghan National Police came in contact with militants in Nadir Khan village, Maruf district, Kandahar province; the clashes left 13 militants dead and nine others wounded," the ministry said in a statement. There were no casualties on the side of national police, the statement added. Fighting rages across the war-torn country and clashes between security forces and Taliban have been continuing in at least 25 out of the country's 34 provinces since early April when Taliban launched a yearly rebel offensive. The militant group has not made a comment on the report so far.”

Pakistan

The Washington Post: Pakistan Hotel Attack: Navy Soldier, Four Employees, Three Gunmen Dead; Guests Safe

“Four hotel employees and a Pakistani navy soldier were killed in Saturday’s terrorist attack and gun battle at a luxury hotel in the southern port city of Gwadar, officials said Sunday. Three attackers were killed and six other people were wounded, officials said. All hotel guests were reported safe. A regional separatist group claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. The Balochistan Liberation Army seeks autonomy for ethnic Baloch tribes in the vast desert province of Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran and also touches the Arabian Sea. Gwadar, on the Balochistan seacoast, is the hub of a multibillion-dollar Chinese infrastructure project in Pakistan and a high-security priority for the government. The attack came several weeks after 14 Pakistani troops were ambushed and killed on a highway through the region. That attack was also claimed by militant separatists. Army officials said Sunday that gunmen stormed the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel late Saturday afternoon in an attempt to take guests hostage. Stopped by a hotel guard, they fled up a staircase while “firing indiscriminately” at hotel workers.”

India

Al Jazeera: ISIL Claims 'Province' In India, Officials Call It 'Propaganda'

“The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) has claimed for the first time that it has established a "province" in India, a claim that police in India-administered Kashmir have described as "pure propaganda". The ISIL claim followed a clash between armed rebels and security forces in the disputed Kashmir region in which a fighter with alleged ties to the group was killed on Friday. Late on Friday, ISIL's Amaq News Agency said in a statement that it called the new province "Wilayah of Hind", and also claimed the group inflicted casualties on Indian army soldiers in the town of Amshipora in India-administered Kashmir's Shopian district. The ISIL statement corresponded with an Indian police statement on Friday that an armed rebel called Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi was killed in an encounter in Shopian, Reuters news agency reported on Saturday. "This is pure propaganda. The militancy part of the ISIL is over in Kashmir completely. However, the ideological inclination is there to some extent," a senior police official in India-administered Kashmir told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity. The police officer added that Sofi was the last ISIL fighter in Kashmir. "One more was there but he joined another armed group," he said.”

Yemen

Associated Press: Houthi Rebels Claim To Begin Withdrawal From Key Yemen Ports

“Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Saturday began a long-delayed withdrawal of forces from the port facility in the key city of Hodeida, the group said, following the terms of a December cease-fire aimed at alleviating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The government described the Houthi claim as a “farce.” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the rebels’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said the pullout from Hodeida, as well as the two smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, began in the morning. But leading Yemeni negotiator Ahmed al-Kawkabani told The Associated Press late Saturday that his team “won’t recognize any redeployment outside what the U.N. proposed,” which includes the removal of land mines, inspections and and end of all military presence at the port.”

Saudi Arabia

Al Jazeera: Saudi State Media: Eight 'Terrorist Suspects' Killed In Qatif

“Eight members of what Saudi authorities call a terrorist cell were killed on Saturday in a police raid in Saudi Arabia's eastern Qatif region, a Shia minority stronghold, state media has reported. The recently-formed cell was preparing to carry out "terrorist activities" against the security of the country, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a state security spokesperson. The spokesperson said the men were killed after they fired shots at security forces, who had surrounded a residential apartment in the Sanabis neighbourhood. "They were called on to surrender, but they did not respond and opened fire at the security forces ... which resulted in their killing," said the spokesperson. No civilians or security forces were injured in the operation, he added. Earlier this year, the Saudi authorities announced they had killed several people after an exchange of fire in Qatif. According to local media, Saudi security forces besieged the town of Umm al-Hamam in Qatif for more than 15 hours, during which they raided several houses in search of wanted suspects. The Saudi authorities had accused them of committing acts of terrorism in the eastern region.”

The New York Times: Saudi Arabia Says 2 Oil Tankers Damaged In Sabotage Attacks

“Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Monday that two Saudi oil tankers had been sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, raising new fears of growing tensions in the region involving Iran, the two Gulf countries’ avowed enemy. The tankers were damaged in an attack on Sunday, according to the Saudi minister, Khalid al-Falih, and sustained “significant damage.” The United Arab Emirates said a total of four vessels were sabotaged near the Strait of Hormuz, the gateway to the Persian Gulf. Neither country assigned blame, made public any evidence of an attack, or described the nature of the sabotage. The claim comes as the United States is deploying an aircraft carrier, bombers and an antimissile battery to the Gulf to deter what the Trump administration has said is the possibility of Iranian aggression. The Trump administration contends that Iran is mobilizing proxy groups in the Middle East to attack American forces, as the United States is ramping up economic sanctions.”

Middle East

Kurdistan 24: ISIS Threatens To Burn Makhmour Farmers’ Grain Fields If They Fail To Pay ’Taxes’

“As the harvesting season begins, Islamic State members have warned farmers in the disputed town of Mahmour that they would need to pay taxes to prevent their grain fields from being set on fire, a farmer told Kurdistan 24 on Sunday. A delegation of farmers from Makhmour on Sunday visited the parliament of the autonomous Kurdistan Region to present their concerns to the top Kurdish legislative body. “Now it is harvesting time, and Da’esh [ISIS] has become a source of threats on Mount Qarachukh,” Nasih Rahman, a farmer from Makhmour, told Kurdistan 24 at the Kurdistan Parliament. “They [ISIS militants] threaten our farmer brothers and those who own livestock of burning the grain fields in the area should the farmers refuse to pay a tax,” Rahamn said.”

The Telegraph: ISIL Extremists Using Instagram To Promote Jihad And Incite Support For Terror Attacks On The West

“Isil extremists are using Instagram to promote jihad and incite support for terror attacks on the West, an investigation by The Telegraph has found. They are circumventing the platform’s security checks to post images and text celebrating the killings of “kafir” (unbelievers) accompanied by images of dead soldiers and beheadings as well as threatening terrorist atrocities on the scale of the Sri Lankan suicide bombings that claimed 253 lives. Some posts brazenly use Isil’s logo or images of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as their profile pictures and urge followers to join jihad.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Australian-Lebanese Ordered Released In UAE Airliner Bomb Plot

“The lawyer of an Australian-Lebanese dual citizen on trial for an alleged plot to bring down an Emirati passenger plane said Saturday that her client has been ordered released on bail by a Lebanese military court. Joceline Adib al-Rai, lawyer of Amer Khayat, said the court's decision was delivered a day earlier. Prosecutors can appeal. Khayat has rejected the charges. Lebanese authorities have held Khayat in detention since 2017. They have accused him of planning to blow up an Etihad airline flight that was supposed to travel from Sydney to the United Arab Emirates. Khaled and Mahmoud, two of Khayyat's brothers, are on trial in Australia for plotting to blow up the plane with bombs hidden inside a Barbie doll and meat grinder. Australian authorities say Amer Khayyat had no knowledge of his brothers' plot.  Khaled’s sentence hearing has been set for July 26. The charges carry a maximum punishment of life in prison. The jury is still deliberating a verdict for Mahmoud. Another brother was unaware that he was carrying a bomb, disguised as a meat mincer, in his luggage, as he tried to check in at the airport, Australian police have said.”

Egypt

Reuters: Egypt Sentences Two To Death Over Church Attack

“An Egyptian court on Sunday sentenced two men to death and eight others to between three years and life in prison over an attack on a church and Christian-owned shop in Cairo that killed 10 people.  A gunman opened fire in December 2017 on Christians in a shop in the southern Cairo suburb of Helwan, killing two people, before firing on the entrance to the nearby Mar Mina church, where he killed seven Christian worshippers and a policeman.  The emergency state security court sentenced the main suspect, who is in custody, and another suspect, who is on the run, to death.  Two defendants were handed life sentences, four were given four years in prison and two were handed three years in jail. One suspect was acquitted and two others are still at large.  The authorities had said the gunman was wounded by security forces during the attack. Islamic State claimed responsibility.  The main suspect appeared in court on Sunday wearing death row prison clothes, having also been handed two death sentences in military trials after being convicted of attacking military buildings.  The main suspect embraced the other defendants in the court after the verdict.  Under Egypt’s state of emergency law, the defendants can appeal to have the sentence by the security court reduced.”

Libya

Gulf Today: Battle For Libya's Tripoli Gives Chance To Daesh

“The battle for Tripoli between rival Libyan forces both championing the fight against "terrorism" has created a security vacuum, allowing the Daesh group a chance to re-emerge, analysts warn. Libya expert Emad Badi says the fighting has given Daesh "the opportunity to reorganise, recruit and strike alliances with other groups (and organise attacks) to show they are still around.” Militant groups capitalised on Libya's descent into chaos after the 2011 uprising that killed veteran dictator Moamer Qadhafi to establish a presence in the North African country. Daesh had its main stronghold in Kadhafi's hometown of Sirte, east of Tripoli, until it was expelled from the Mediterranean coastal city in December 2016. The group's demise came at the hands of forces loyal to the Tripoli-based internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), especially fighters from the western city of Misrata. Those fighters are among pro-GNA forces now battling the self-styled Libyan National Army of military strongman Khalifa Haftar who launched an assault on Tripoli on April 4. Haftar has vowed to "cleanse" Libya of militants and presents himself as the country's saviour. In 2017, he drove hardline militants out of second city Benghazi after a three-year battle and ousted militants from Derna, also in the east.”

Nigeria

Al Jazeera: Nigeria: ISIL Claims Killing 11 Soldiers In Borno State

“ISIL fighters killed 11 Nigerian soldiers in an attack on the northeastern town of Gajiganna, the group has claimed through its news agency AMAQ. The armed group said on Saturday the attack on the soldiers took place in the town in northeastern Borno state on Friday. It published pictures of burned barracks and dead bodies it claimed belonged to the soldiers. Three sources, including one hospital source, confirmed the attack to the Reuters news agency. The sources said the fighters stormed the town on a motorbike at roughly 6:30pm (17:30 GMT) and opened fire on residents and the military in sporadic shootings. The fighters fled after the military called in air force support and reinforcements from a battalion in a neighbouring town. Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), an affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) has carried out a string of attacks in Nigeria in recent months. The group split in 2016 from Nigeria-based Boko Haram, which has waged a decade-long insurgency in northeast Nigeria that has killed some 30,000 people and displaced a further two million.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Army Kills Militants During Operation, Says Commander

“Somali National Army (SNA) has said its troops have killed 15 al-Shabaab militants in confrontation with Somali army in Middle Shabelle region. The commander of the 27th battalion of Somali National Army (SNA), Mohamed Ahmed Teredishe said the troops defeated al-Shabaab fighters in deadly battle which took place on Saturday. He stated they destroyed al-Shabaab bases during the operations against the group's fighters in the region. The commander called on the public to collaborate with forces in the fight against al-Shabaab fighters. Al-Shabaab has not commented on the destruction of its bases in Middle Shabelle region. In recent Months, Somali forces backed by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have stepped up offensives against al-Shabaab in Lower and Middle Shabelle regions. The forces had successfully managed to take control of two villages in Lower Shabelle region last month following covert operations to annihilate the group. The allied forces hope to force out al-Shabaab fighters ahead of AMISOM exit.”

Africa

The Washington Post: No Nationality Heeded The Call To Come Fight For ISIS Like Tunisians Did. Now They’re Stuck.

“When the leaders of the Islamic State declared their caliphate in Iraq and Syria, no nationality from outside those countries heeded the call to come fight for it like the Tunisians did.  Now, weeks after the caliphate’s defeat, Tunisia is confronting that legacy. Thousands of Tunisian fighters and their family members are believed held in Syria and Iraq, as well as in Libya. Their status represents part of the unfinished business of the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State and a daunting challenge for this small North African country. As their relatives try to bring them back to Tunisia, government authorities here are resistant, fearing that even the tiniest offspring of Islamic State militants could plant the seeds for future radicalism. Tunisian officials say they are hampered in bringing home the detainees by a weak diplomatic presence in Syria and Libya and are overwhelmed by the logistics of repatriation amid the ongoing unrest there. But with Tunisia grappling with its own social turmoil and militant groups on its own soil, there is little political will to bring families back, according to relatives, officials, activists and counterterrorism experts. For the past 16 months, Tahiya Sboui has struggled to be united with her young grandchildren, whom she has never met.”

Xinhua: Terrorist Killed In Northern Algeria: Defense Ministry

“The Algerian army on Sunday killed an armed terrorist in the northern province of Tizi-Ouzou, some 100 km east of Algiers, the defense ministry said. "As part of the fight against terrorism and intelligence exploitation, a detachment of the army shot dead a terrorist today in an ambush in the town of Zraib and seized a Kalashnikov rifle, two magazines and a pair of binoculars," said a ministry statement. The security situation in Algeria has remarkably improved in the last decade but clashes between security forces and terrorist groups are still occasionally reported.” 

United Kingdom

Associated Press: Britain Warns US-Iran Conflict Could Break Out ‘By Accident’

“Britain warned Monday that conflict might break out “by accident” between the United States and Iran amid rising tensions, as European Union powers gathered to thrash out ways to keep afloat the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic. The warning came after the United States announced the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf to counter an alleged but still-unspecified threat from Iran, the latest in a long line of such deployments to the strategic region. “We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters in Brussels. “What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking,” Hunt said. He added that he would “be sharing those concerns” Monday with European partners and visiting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”

France

CNN: Two Soldiers Killed In French-Led Rescue Of Four Hostages In Burkina Faso

“French forces freed four hostages, including an American and South Korean, during a night-time rescue in Burkina Faso in which two soldiers were killed, according to a statement from France's Elysee Palace on Friday. The US military supported the French-led operation between Thursday and Friday in the northern Sahel region, according to two US officials. The Elysee statement added that two of the hostages were French citizens, named as Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas. The identity of the kidnappers is still unknown, and the American and South Korean hostages, who are female, remain unnamed. Picque and Lassimouillas were kidnapped on May 1 while in the neighboring West African country of Benin, according to the Elysee. Their safari guide was found dead in Pendjari National Park and their vehicle was burned, Reuters reported.”

France 24: French Report Calls For More Access To Facebook Algorithms As Macron Meets Zuckerberg

“French authorities should have more access to Facebook’s algorithms to audit its policies on hate speech, a report concluded. The French report was published hours before Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and President Macron met Friday. It comes after Facebook has been heavily criticised by politicians and the public for its failure to more rapidly remove footage of the March shooting attack in Christchurch, New Zealand from its network. Fifty people were killed in the assault, with the shocking footage of it circulating online for days. French president Emmanuel Macron, who met Facebook founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, commissioned the report. He wants France to take a leading role in tech regulation, seeking to strike a balance between what he perceives as the United States' laissez-faire stance and China's iron grip on the Internet.”

Southeast Asia

Reuters: Sri Lanka Blocks Social Media After Worst Anti-Muslim Unrest Since Easter Bombings

“Sri Lanka on Monday temporarily blocked some social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, after attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses in the worst unrest since Easter bombings by Islamist militants.  The island nation has ramped up security as fears grow that minority Muslims among its population of 22 million could face sectarian violence after Islamist bombers blew themselves up in four hotels and three churches, killing more than 250 people. “Social media blocked again as a temporary measure to maintain peace in the country,” Nalaka Kaluwewa, director general of the government information department, told Reuters on Monday. On Twitter, Sri Lanka’s leading mobile phone operator Dialog Axiata Plc said it had also received instructions to block the apps Viber, IMO, Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube until further notice. Several dozen people threw stones at mosques and Muslim-owned stores and a man was beaten in the Christian-majority town of Chilaw on the west coast on Sunday in a dispute that started on Facebook, police sources and residents told Reuters. Authorities said they arrested the author of a Facebook post, identified as 38-year-old Abdul Hameed Mohamed Hasmar, whose online comment “1 day u will cry” people said was interpreted as threatening violence.”

New Zealand

Newshub: Christchurch Attack: The Dark Truth About New Zealand's White Supremacists

“Phil Arps' family says he's a good husband and father. Some of his workers say he's a good boss. But there's another side to Arps. He's a white supremacist - and Newshub has obtained a video of him delivering a box containing a severed pig's head to the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch in 2016. "White power," he can be heard saying in the video. "Don't go to a mosque often. Like I said, it should be molotovs." In the Islamic faith, pork is considered unclean and eating it is prohibited. In the video, Arps holds the pig's head and says: "Our Muslims gonna love this. See? You see that?" His delivery came complete with Nazi salutes at the door of the building.”

Venezuela

The Arab Weekly: Leaked Files Expose Hezbollah’s Secret Dealings In Venezuela

“Files leaked to the New York Times from Venezuela’s security services apparently confirm Hezbollah’s presence in the country and its ties to one of embattled President Nicolas Maduro’s closest confidantes. Venezuelan Industry Minister Tareck El Aissami has been investigated for his alleged ties to the country’s criminal underworld and Hezbollah, which is thought to have expanded its presence in the Triple Frontier area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to include operations within Venezuela. The leaked documents say El Aissami and his family helped move Hezbollah operatives into Venezuela, worked with a drug lord and shielded 140 tonnes of chemicals believed to be used for cocaine production from authorities. Testimony of informants in the files, reportedly provided to the New York Times by one of Venezuela’s most senior intelligence officials, claimed El Aissami and his father recruited Hezbollah members to expand spy and drug trafficking networks in the region.”

Technology

The New York Times: Jacinda Ardern: How To Stop The Next Christchurch Massacre

“At 1:40 p.m. on Friday, March 15, a gunman entered a mosque in the city of Christchurch and shot dead 41 people as they worshiped. He then drove for six minutes to another mosque where, at 1:52 p.m., he entered and took the lives of another seven worshipers in just three minutes. Three more people died of their injuries after the attack. For New Zealand this was an unprecedented act of terror. It shattered our small country on what was otherwise an ordinary Friday afternoon. I was on my way to visit a new school, people were preparing for the weekend, and Kiwi Muslims were answering their call to prayer. Fifty men, women and children were killed that day. Thirty-nine others were injured; one died in the hospital weeks later, and some will never recover. This attack was part of a horrifying new trend that seems to be spreading around the world: It was designed to be broadcast on the internet. The entire event was live-streamed — for 16 minutes and 55 seconds — by the terrorist on social media. Original footage of the live stream was viewed some 4,000 times before being removed from Facebook. Within the first 24 hours, 1.5 million copies of the video had been taken down from the platform. There was one upload per second to YouTube in the first 24 hours.”

Rights Info: Human Rights Are Integral To Tackling Terrorism With Technology

“In all instances, these sites became a breeding ground for ideas which had severe consequences. Shamima Begum was groomed online as a teenager and convinced to fly to Syria and join ISIS. Elliot Rodger murdered six people in Isla Vista, California, and became an “incel hero“. Just two months ago, a man entered a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand and live streamed himself shooting and killing 51 people. However, it would be wrong to ignore its role in breeding terrorism, explained the executive director of the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), David Ibsen: “It is also a medium that can be misused to spread hate and violence. In the last decade, we have seen a surge in terrorist content online linked directly to the growing importance of social media. Platforms such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, which allow their users around the world to communicate, have also created a platform of expression for radical and extremist ideologies,” Ibsen told RightsInfo.”