Eye on Extremism: May 20

The New York Times: Syrian Government Starts Campaign To Retake Last Opposition Stronghold Of Idlib

“The Syrian military and its allies have begun a long, slow and violent campaign to recapture the last province in the country still under opposition control, where the government has gradually cornered rebels, extremists and civilians alike. A victory in Idlib Province, in Syria’s northwest, would help the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and his allies Russia and Iran consolidate what increasingly looks like an assured victory in an eight-year-old civil war. But it would almost certainly come at a high cost in life and property. Last Wednesday, with airstrikes splitting open the Syrian countryside near their home, the Esmail family was selling everything they could not carry: their carpets, their washing machine, their refrigerator. On Thursday, they packed up the rest. On Friday, they searched frantically for shelter outside the danger zone, knowing not where to flee, but only that they must. “People don’t want to end up in the fields, like we saw on TV and social media,” said Alaaeddine Esmail, a former journalist from Idlib. Over the course of the war, Idlib has become a repository for opposition fighters and supporters who were bused there after the government recaptured their areas and gave them a choice: surrender, or go to Idlib. The province’s population has more than doubled to about three million during the war.”

Voice Of America: Reeling In Syria, Iraq, Islamic State Tries To Surge Online

“While Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq have largely been forced underground, the terror group's other fighters along with its media operatives appear intent on surging, combining an increase in attacks with ramped-up output on social media. The strategy comes as little surprise to U.S. officials who have long warned the fight against IS would not end with the collapse of its self-declared caliphate in March. But the wave of propaganda, following the deadly Easter Sunday bombing in Sri Lanka and the release of a new video from IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, seems to be making an impact. "ISIS media, like Nashir News, has upped its production," according to Chelsea Daymon, a terrorism and security researcher at American University, using an acronym for the terror group.”

ABC News: Rocket Attack Hits Near US Embassy In Baghdad's Green Zone

“A rocket was fired into the Iraqi capital's heavily fortified Green Zone Sunday night, landing less than a mile from the sprawling U.S. Embassy, an Iraqi military spokesman said. The apparent attack, which Iraq's state-run news agency said did not cause any casualties, came amid heightened tensions across the Persian Gulf, after the White House ordered warships and bombers to the region earlier this month to counter an alleged, unexplained threat from Iran. The U.S. also has ordered nonessential staff out of its diplomatic posts in Iraq. It was the first such attack since September, when three mortar shells landed in an abandoned lot inside the Green Zone. No one claimed responsibility for the attack that took place after sunset when many Baghdad residents were indoors breaking their fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Associated Press reporters on the east side of the Tigris River, opposite the Green Zone, heard an explosion, after which alert sirens sounded briefly in Baghdad. Iraqi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul told The Associated Press that a Katyusha rocket fell near the statue of the Unknown Soldier, less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy. He said the military was investigating the cause but that the rocket was believed to have been fired from east Baghdad.”

The Washington Post: Trump’s Sanctions On Iran Are Hitting Hezbollah, And It Hurts

“The powerful Lebanese Hezbollah militia has thrived for decades on generous cash handouts from Iran, spending lavishly on benefits for its fighters, funding social services for its constituents and accumulating a formidable arsenal that has helped make the group a significant regional force, with troops in Syria and Iraq. But since President Trump introduced sweeping new restrictions on trade with Iran last year, raising tensions with Tehran that reached a crescendo in recent days, Iran’s ability to finance allies such as Hezbollah has been curtailed. Hezbollah, the best funded and most senior of Tehran’s proxies, has seen a sharp fall in its revenue and is being forced to make draconian cuts to its spending, according to Hezbollah officials, members and supporters. Fighters are being furloughed or assigned to the reserves, where they receive lower salaries or no pay at all, said a Hezbollah employee with one of the group’s administrative units. Many of them are being withdrawn from Syria, where the militia has played an instrumental role in fighting on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad and ensuring his survival. Programs on Hezbollah’s television station Al-Manar have been canceled and their staff laid off, according to another Hezbollah insider.”

Fox News: Egypt Says After Bus Attack, 12 Militants Killed In Cairo

“Egypt says security forces killed 12 members of a militant group with suspected links to the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in shootouts in Cairo, just hours after a roadside bomb struck a tourist bus near the Giza Pyramids, wounding at least 17. The Interior Ministry says seven of the militants were killed in a firefight when police raided their hideout in the Sixth of October suburb. The remaining five were shot and killed after opening fire on police storming their residences in Cairo's Shorouk suburb. The ministry says explosive devices, weapons and ammunition were found in the militants' possession. It says the militants belonged to "Hasm," an armed faction of the Brotherhood. Sunday's roadside bomb wounded at least 17 people including South African tourists. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.”

Irish Mirror: Deported ISIS Recruiter Allegedly Met Lisa Smith In Dublin Before She Went To Syria

“A deported ISIS recruiter is believed to have been in touch with Lisa Smith before she left for Syria. The Jordanian known as “Abu Alaa” operated as Irish suicide bomber Khalid Kelly’s link to the terror group’s leaders. In the weeks before her departure, the 38-year-old Dundalk woman is reported to have visited a house in the same area Abu Alaa lived. Chief of the Counter Extremism Project Dr Hans-Jakob Schindler said Smith’s meeting with the handler in Ireland follows an established pattern. He added: “ISIS had a specific online recruitment strategy. They worked long shifts on a very long-term drawn-out recruitment process. “They would isolate people from their real world contacts by telling them, ‘These are bad people, they will lead you down the wrong path.”

United States

The Week: Why White Supremacist Terrorism Is Surging

“This year, there's been a horrifying spate of killings driven by racial and anti-Semitic hate. In February, prosecutors said, a white Coast Guard lieutenant in Maryland stockpiled an arsenal of weapons and researched how to get access to Democratic lawmakers, liberal Supreme Court justices, and TV journalists; the alleged perpetrator had also done an internet search for "white homeland" and "when are whites going to wake up." In April, the 21-year-old son of a deputy sheriff was charged with burning down three black churches in Louisiana. Later that month, a white man shot up a synagogue in Poway, California, after posting a manifesto online that said "Every Jew is responsible for the meticulously planned genocide of the European race." He cited as among his inspirations the white supremacist who in March killed 51 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. President Trump has downplayed white supremacist killing sprees as the work of a few bad apples — "a small group of people." But the FBI says otherwise, announcing last week that it has 850 ongoing investigations into possible domestic terrorists, including both anti-government and white supremacist individuals and groups.”

Fox News: Trump Says War Will Mean 'Official End Of Iran,' Warns 'Never Threaten The United States Again'

“President Trump fired a social media broadside at the Iranian regime Sunday afternoon, vowing that war between Washington and Tehran would result in "the official end of Iran" before warning, "[n]ever threaten the United States again!" Trump tweeted hours after a rocket landed less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, the first such attack since September. An Iraqi military spokesman told reporters the rocket appeared to have been fired from east Baghdad, which is home to several Iran-backed Shiite militias. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have risen in recent weeks after the Trump administration ordered warships and bombers to the Middle East earlier this month to counter threatened attacks against U.S. interests by Iran or Iranian-backed forces. The U.S. also ordered nonessential staff out of its diplomatic posts in Iraq days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Baghdad told Iraqi intelligence that the United States had been picking up intelligence that Iran is threatening American interests in the Middle East. Two Iraqi officials told the Associated Press that Pompeo had offered no details of the alleged threat.”

USA Today: GOP Lawmaker On Iran Threat: Directive Was To 'Kill And Kidnap American Soldiers'

“A top Republican lawmaker said Friday that the threat from Iran picked up by U.S. intelligence – which sparked a U.S. military deployment to the Middle East and heightened tensions across the region – was very specific and involved the possible kidnapping and killing of American soldiers.  "To the extent I can discuss it, it was human intelligence," Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told USA TODAY on Friday. He was referring to intelligence information that prompted the Pentagon to deploy an aircraft carrier, along with B-52 bombers and other military forces, to the Middle East. Trump administration officials said the move was made to counter what they described as credible threats from Iran to U.S. forces in the region. McCaul said U.S. intelligence officials learned that the head of Iran's Quds Force, a unit of Iran's military force, met with Iran's proxy militias and said: "We are getting ready to have a proxy war and target Americans.”

CBS News: Trump Issues Harsh Warning To Iran, Tweeting It Would Meet Its "Official End" If It Fights U.S.

“President Trump warned Iran early on Monday not to threaten the United States again or it would face its "official end," shortly after a rocket landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad overnight. Mr. Trump's tweet came after he seemingly sought to soften his tone on Iran following days of heightened tension sparked by the sudden deployment by the U.S. of bombers and an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf over still-unspecified threats. In the time since, officials in the United Arab Emirates allege four oil tankers sustained damage in a sabotage attack. Yemeni rebels allied with Iran launched a drone attack on an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia. U.S. diplomats relayed a warning that commercial airlines could be misidentified by Iran and attacked, something dismissed by Tehran.”

The Washington Post: The ‘American Taliban’ Will Be Free After 17 Years. Is The U.S. Ready To Welcome Him Back?

“John Walker Lindh’s eyes, dark and wild, were ubiquitous across magazine covers and cable news channels, alongside militants in Afghanistan, after he was captured in November 2001. He was a long-haired guerrilla with a California address — a traitor to some, a misguided kid sucked into Islamic jihad to others. Dubbed the “American Taliban,” Lindh was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to supporting militants who harbored al-Qaeda as it planned the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But in a surprise move, Lindh will be released from federal prison on Thursday, three years early. Lindh and other incarcerated American supporters of the Islamic State present a quandary with growing urgency: Is the United States prepared to try to rehabilitate extremists and foreign fighters, and welcome them back into society?”

Syria

Al Jazeera: Syria Bombings: UN Says 'Worst Fears Are Coming True' In Idlib

“The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Syria's northwest province of Idlib, as Western powers challenged Syria and its ally Russia to provide assurances that attacks on hospitals and schools would stop. Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on Friday, UN humanitarian affairs coordinator Mark Lowcock said there had been concern about the escalating situation in Idlib for months. "Last September, he (UN secretary-general) stressed that it was absolutely essential to avoid a full-scale battle in Idlib, and he warned that would unleash a humanitarian nightmare unlike any we have seen in Syria," said Lowcock. "When I briefed you here on September 18, I said a full-scale military onslaught could result in the worst humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century. Despite our warnings, our worst fears are now coming true.”

France 24: Syria Ex Al-Qaeda Group Seeks Rivals' Help To Fight Regime

“The head of Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate has urged rival fighters allied to Turkey to take up arms against regime forces to ease the pressure on the jihadist bastion of Idlib. The northwestern region has come under increasing fire by the Damascus regime and its ally Russia in recent weeks, despite a months-old buffer zone deal intended to shield the area from any government offensive. Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) controls most of Idlib province as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces. HTS chief Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, in a video released Friday on the group's messaging app Telegram, said fighters backed by Turkey "could help us by launching an operation in Aleppo, for example". "Dispersing the enemy and opening up new fronts is in our interest," he added."

Iran

Associated Press: US: Iran Military Could Misidentify Airliners Amid Tension

“Commercial airliners flying over the Persian Gulf risk being targeted by “miscalculation or misidentification” from the Iranian military amid heightened tensions between the Islamic Republic and the U.S., American diplomats warned Saturday, even as both Washington and Tehran say they don’t seek war. The warning relayed by U.S. diplomatic posts from the Federal Aviation Administration, though dismissed by Iran, underscored the risks the current tensions pose to a region critical to both global air travel and trade. Oil tankers allegedly have faced sabotage and Yemen rebel drones attacked a crucial Saudi oil pipeline over the last week. Meanwhile on Saturday, Iraqi officials said ExxonMobil Corp. began evacuating staff from Basra, and the island nation of Bahrain ordered its citizens out of Iraq and Iran over “the recent escalations and threats.” However, U.S. officials have yet to publicly explain the threats they perceive coming from Iran, some two weeks after the White House ordered an aircraft carrier and B-52s bombers into the region. The U.S. also has ordered nonessential staff out of its diplomatic posts in Iraq.”

Daily Beast: Iran’s Qasem Soleimani Is The Mastermind Preparing Proxy Armies For War With America

“Two years ago, almost to the day, a convoy of 20 vehicles drove toward a stretch of desert in southern Syria, near the Jordanian border. This terrain was unremarkable but for the fact that it encircled a military base known as al-Tanf where 200 American soldiers, most of them Marines and Special Forces, were garrisoned alongside British counterparts and an Arab counterinsurgency group. Drawn from the ranks of Syrian rebels who first took up arms to fight Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the fighters of Maghawir al-Thawra, or the Revolutionary Commandos Army, were repurposed with the sole mission of helping the U.S.-led coalition hunt and kill ISIS jihadists. But the enemy convoy headed toward al-Tanf didn’t belong to ISIS; it belonged to a consortium of Shia militias, led by Lebanese Hezbollah, which were fighting on behalf of Assad. Al-Tanf was technically within a 55-kilometer “de-confliction” zone meant to keep out allies of Damascus.”

The Hill: Trump: 'I Will Not Let Iran Have Nuclear Weapons'

“President Trump said in a Sunday night Fox News interview that he doesn't want to go to war with Iran but emphasized he will never allow the nation to develop nuclear weapons. "I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons," Trump told Fox News host Steve Hilton. "I don’t want to fight. But you do have situations like Iran, you can’t let them have nuclear weapons — you just can’t let that happen.” Trump has reportedly grown frustrated with the hardline approach toward Tehran taken by national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and wishes to negotiate directly with Iranian leaders, but escalated his own rhetoric earlier Sunday afternoon, warning that a military engagement would mean “the official end of Iran.”

Iraq

The National: Iraq Accuses ISIS Of Setting Fire To Hundreds Of Acres Of Farmland

“Iraq’s Ministry of Commerce accused ISIS on Sunday of destroying hundreds of agricultural fields across the country, raising fears that the extremist group is stepping up activity.  The group allegedly set fire to 500 acres of wheat and barley farms in the eastern province of Diyala on Saturday and destroyed further further fields in the northern province of Nineveh.  Local media reported that the burning of fields was part of an extortion racket in which ISIS members demanded money from farmers. "We call for the urgent protection and security of civilians and their land," the trade and interior ministries said in a statement.  The ministries called on security forces in Nineveh to intervene to prevent such attacks from occurring in the near future.  Since its rise in 2014, ISIS has sabotaged hundreds of wells, destroyed orchards, and stolen machinery and livestock, Human Rights Watch reported last December. An Iraqi member of parliament Raad Dahlaki urged the government to compensate farmers for their loss. Earlier this month, ISIS fighters carried out several attacks in western Mosul, according to security officials. The insurgents burned down several houses in the village of Ibrahimia, west of Mosul, that caused dozens of families to flee.”

Iraqi News: Islamic State Militants Set Fire To 12 Houses In Mosul

“An Iraqi security source said on Saturday that the Islamic State terrorist group burned several houses at a village in Mosul city. “Islamic State terrorists have set fire to 12 houses at the village of Tel Rumman in western Mosul, and then fled the scene into an unknown location,” the source told Alsumaria News TV channel. The source explained that the security forces cordoned off the area and took strict measures. Last week, an Iraqi mayor and five of his family were killed by Islamic State militants at the same village. The mayor was living at one of the burned houses. The mayor’s wife and one of his relatives were moved to a Mosul hospital, suffering from sever wounds. Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi announced in July 2017 liberation of the second largest Iraqi city of Mosul from IS militants, who had captured it in 2014. More than 25,000 militants were killed throughout the campaign, which started in October 2016. The campaign was backed by paramilitary troops and a U.S.-led international coalition. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in Iraq in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Military Destroys Islamic State Camp In Anbar

“The Iraqi Defense Ministry announced on Saturday that a camp of the Islamic State terrorist group was destroyed in Anbar province. The camp was used by Islamic State militants for the purposes of training and storing ammunition and explosive charges, Ayn Al Iraq news website quoted the ministry as saying in a press statement. The army troops also destroyed several terrorist hotbeds and seized a large cache of ammunition there, the statement read. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in Iraq in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq. Despite the group’s crushing defeat at its main havens across Iraq, Islamic State continues to launch sporadic attacks against troops with security reports warning that the militant group still poses a threat against stability in the country.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: US, Taliban Blame Each Other For Acting Against Afghan Peace

“Taliban and American military officials have taken to social media to accuse each other of acting against peace building efforts in conflict-torn Afghanistan. The spar between the two adversaries via Twitter comes as American and representatives of the insurgent group are engaged in a months-long dialogue to try to bring an end to the Afghan war. But the talks have failed to deter the Taliban from ceasing or reducing battlefield hostilities. Deadly battles between Taliban insurgents and U.S.-backed Afghan security forces in recent days have killed and wounded hundreds of people, including civilians. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted late Saturday that Washington, and not his group, is opposed to peace efforts. He reiterated the Taliban’s traditional stance that the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan is to be blamed for the 17-year-old war. “So long as you occupy our country through forces & and plots, no true Afghan will seek peace but will want to force you out,” the insurgent spokesman tweeted. He was responding to reported remarks by U.S. military spokesman Col. Dave Butler that the Taliban is hurting Afghans who want peace in the country.”

Radio Free Europe: Taliban, German Envoys Meet In Qatar Amid Peace Push

“The Taliban has met in Qatar with Germany's special representative for Afghanistan amid international efforts to end the nearly 18-year war. In a statement on May 19, the Taliban said Markus Potzel held talks with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's deputy leader who is leading the militant group's peace efforts. U.S. and Taliban negotiators have met for several rounds of peace talks since last year, and despite progress have been unable to finalize a peace agreement. Sohail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Qatar, said in a statement on May 19 that Potzel and Baradar discussed "various aspects" of a possible peace deal, and "efforts of Germany in this regard." Potzel, the ambassador to Afghanistan from 2014 to 2016, also met Baradar for talks on May 1. The latest talks between U.S. and Taliban representatives ended on May 9, with U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad saying that "steady but slow progress" was made. U.S. and Taliban negotiators have been trying to find agreement on four interconnected issues, including the Taliban breaking off ties with groups designated as terrorist by Washington, the timetable of a U.S. military withdrawal, a cease-fire in Afghanistan, and an intra-Afghan dialogue that would include the Taliban and government representatives. The Taliban has refused to negotiate with the Western-backed Kabul government, viewing it as illegitimate.”

Xinhua: 16 Militants Killed In S. Afghan Airstrikes

“Sixteen Taliban militants were killed following airstrikes in two Afghanistan's southern provinces, Afghan Ministry of Defense said Saturday. In one incident, 14 Taliban militants were killed and two vehicles loaded with explosives were destroyed after Afghan Air Force struck a Taliban position in Maywand district of Kandahar province Friday night, the ministry said in a statement. Two militants were killed following an airstrike on outskirts of Tirin Kot, capital of neighboring Uruzgan province on Friday, according to the statement. The statement came as daily violence and clashes have been continuing in the country. Warring sides in Afghanistan typically exaggerate the casualties of the opposite side and it is difficult to verify the figures by them with independent sources.”

Yemen

Al Arabiya: Yemen’s Government Forces Arrest Key Al-Qaeda Leader

“Forces loyal to the Yemeni legitimate government backed by the Arab coalition say they have captured a key al-Qaeda leader in the southwestern province of Taiz.The military said in a statement that special forces had arrested Bilal Muhammed Ali al-Wafi on Saturday in the mountain area of Habashi. Al-Wafi, in his 30s, is a key member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, and has helped to carry out several deadly attacks including the 2012 bombing of a Yemeni military parade that killed dozens of troops. The US designated al-Wafi as a terrorist in 2017. Al-Qaeda has maintained a foothold in the country throughout the chaos of Yemen’s four-year civil war, as the Yemeni legitimate government backed by the Arab coalition, battles Iran-aligned Houthi militia.”

The Jerusalem Post: Houthi Drone Attacks In Saudi Arabia: Might We See More?

“The May 14 attack on an oil pipeline deep inside Saudi Arabia could indicate a major turn in the ongoing civil war in Yemen, particularly in the tactics and equipment used by Iranian-allied Houthi rebels. The attack, for which the Houthis claimed responsibility, appears to have involved numerous drones that flew north for hundreds of miles inside Saudi airspace before either crashing into, or launching weapons against, a key east-west pipeline, inflicting what the Saudis insist was only minor damage. The House of Saud and its allies are seeking to restore to power Yemen’s ousted president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, or at least install a government that can be relied upon to act as a bulwark against their arch-nemesis, Tehran. So it came as no surprise when the Saudis claimed that Iran had ordered the attack. Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-sponsored TV channel, quoted Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir as saying on May 16 that the Houthis were “an indivisible part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and are subject to the IRGC’s orders.”

Reuters: Yemen's Houthi Group Says Will Target UAE, Saudi Vital Military Facilities

“Yemen’s Houthi group said targeting Saudi Aramco’s installations last week was the beginning of military operations against 300 vital military targets, Houthi-controled SABA news agency said on Sunday, citing a source in the movement’s military. Targets included vital military headquarters and facilities in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, as well as their bases in Yemen, SABA quoted the source as saying. Saudi Arabia said armed drones struck two oil pumping stations last Tuesday, after Houthi-run Masirah TV earlier said the group had launched drone attacks on Saudi installations.”

CNN: CNN Exposes Systematic Abuse Of Aid In Yemen

“Issham Beshir is two years old. She's twig-thin and so badly malnourished she's yet to take her first steps. The world is trying to help her and nearly 16 million more hungry people in Yemen by sending food. But, according to UN reports and CNN reporting on the ground, some of that food is being stolen by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, on a scale far greater than has been reported before. Last year the United Nations found 1% of aid was going missing, acknowledging that the abuse could be more widespread. Now, a CNN undercover investigation has found dozens of areas in the war-torn country where -- on paper -- aid has been delivered. But in reality, many families are not being helped. The UN suspects that supplies are being diverted away from famished children toward fighters or supporters of the Iran-backed forces that control much of the country, though the Houthis and their officials deny this. One Houthi aid coordination director called the allegations "crazy.”

Saudi Arabia

The Hill: Foreign Minister Warns Saudi Arabia Will Defend Itself 'With All Force And Determination'

“A top Saudi official has said that the kingdom does not want war, but warned that it would defend itself defend itself "with all force and determination" against Iran if necessary as tensions rise between the Middle Eastern powers.  “The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not want war in the region and does not strive for that... but at the same time, if the other side chooses war, the kingdom will fight this with all force and determination and it will defend itself, its citizens and its interests,” said Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia's minister of state for foreign affairs, according to the Associated Press. His comments follow attacks on four oil tankers, two of which were Saudi, near the United Arab Emirates's coast.  It also follows an attack on a Saudi oil pipeline that was claimed by Yemeni rebels that are allies of Iran. Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for the attack, but Tehran has denied training the rebels or giving them weapons.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Ex-Fatah Prince, East Jerusalem Lawyer Indicted For Attempted Terror Attacks

“Former Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade Commander Zakariya Zubeidi and east Jerusalem lawyer Tareq Barghut have been indicted in the IDF West Bank Courts for attempted terror attacks in which they allegedly fired on Jews in the vicinity of Ramallah in the West Bank. The indictment of each man is explosive. Zubeidi at one point has been considered among the most powerful strongmen in the Palestinian Authority and was given amnesty for his role as one of the leader's of terror during the Second Intifada. Barghut is a well-known lawyer for Palestinians, is certified as an Israeli lawyer and his arrest and the arrest of his wife in February led the entire legal community defending Palestinians in the IDF West Bank Courts to strike, bringing the entire system to a halt. While not unprecedented, it is highly unusual for Israel to arrest top Fatah officials or a lawyer for Palestinians, who are generally considered off limits. The announcement came from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agnecy) on Monday which said, “Intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet pointed to the involvement of Zakariya Zubeidi and Tareq Barghut in a series of attacks in the Beit El area.” 

Gulf News: Bahrain Uncovers Iran And Qatar Cyber Terrorism Network

“Bahraini authorities said Monday they have tracked a network of destabilising electronic accounts operated in several countries including Iran and Qatar amid rising tensions in the Gulf over Iranian practices. The sites are aimed at inciting sedition, threatening social peace and destabilising security in Bahrain, the kingdom’s head of the economic and electronic security department said. The network, run by wanted fugitives, are implementing a “systematic plan” to harm the image of Bahrain and its people, the official added, according to Bahraini news agency BNA. The hostile network has been set up by Yousuf Al Muhafaza and Hassan Abdul Naby, who are wanted by Bahrain to face justice, the official said. Both fugitives are residing in Germany and Australia. “These accounts are being managed from Iran, Qatar, Iraq and a number of European countries including France and German, in addition to Australia.”

The Irish Times: More Than 30 Killed In Tajikistan Prison Riot Blamed On ISIS

“Three prison guards and 29 inmates have been killed in a prison riot in Tajikistan that the government blamed on Islamic State militants. Tajikistan’s justice ministry said the riot broke out late on Sunday in the prison in the city of Vakhdat, 10km east of the capital Dushanbe, as militants armed with knives killed three guards and five fellow prisoners. The militants then torched the prison hospital, took several inmates hostage and tried to fight their way out. Security forces killed 24 militants in the battle to restore order in the prison, the ministry said. The prison houses 1,500 inmates. Among prisoners who were killed were two senior members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), an Islamist party outlawed by the government of President Emomali Rahmon in 2015. Another was a prominent Tajik cleric convicted on charges of calls to overthrow the government.”

Egypt

Associated Press: Bomb Hits Tourist Bus Near Egypt's Giza Pyramids, Wounds 17

“A roadside bomb hit a tourist bus on Sunday near the Giza Pyramids, wounding at least 17 people including tourists, Egyptian officials said. The officials said the bus was travelling on a road close to the under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum, which is located adjacent to the Giza Pyramids but is not yet open to tourists. The bus was carrying at least 25 people mostly from South Africa, officials added. The attack comes as Egypt’s vital tourism industry is showing signs of recovery after years in the doldrums because of the political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Hosni Mubarak.”

Libya

Reuters: Three Killed In Suspected Islamic State Attack Outside Libyan Oilfield

“Two guards and a soldier were killed and four other people were kidnapped early on Saturday in a suspected Islamic State attack targeting Libya’s Zella oilfield, a security source said.  The death toll was confirmed by the National Oil Company (NOC) which condemned the attack in a statement on Saturday evening.  The attackers struck at an entrance gate to the field, which lies near the town of Zella about 760 km (470 miles) southwest of the capital, Tripoli, before fleeing, according to the source and local residents who asked not to be named.  Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through its Aamaq news agency later on Saturday.  The Zella field belongs to Zueitina Oil Company, which pumped 19,000 barrels per day on average in the last quarter of 2018 across all its fields. An engineer told Reuters workers at the field were safe and facilities had not been damaged.  Libya’s NOC chief said on Saturday continued instability in the country could cause it to lose 95 percent of oil production.  Speaking in Saudi Arabia ahead of a ministerial panel gathering on Sunday of top OPEC and non-OPEC producers, Mustafa Sanalla also confirmed the Zella attack.  Islamic State has been active in Libya in the turmoil since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.”

Nigeria

The Punch Nigeria: Boko Haram Kills Two In IDP Camp As Residents Observe Sahur Meal

“Boko Haram jihadists on Saturday killed two people and injured a dozen others in an pre-dawn attack on a refugee camp in northeastern Borno State, aid agency and militia sources told AFP Sunday. The militants sneaked into Madu Musaha camp, in Dikwa Town at around 3:30 am and opened fire on residents who were eating Sahur before sunrise ahead of their Muslim Ramadan fast. Dikwa which lies 90 kilometres (56 miles) from the state capital Maiduguri is home to more than 70,000 displaced people who live in several camps where they rely on food and humanitarian assistance from aid agencies. An aid agency member of staff in the town, who spoke on condition of annonimity, said militants “burst into the camp from the rear and opened fire on the internally displaced persons”.“The gunmen escaped before troops responded”, they added, with the swift attack sending refugees and aid staff scurrying away. Civilian Joint Task Force, an anti-Boko Haram militia group in the town, said the attack was “brief and unexpected”, ending before they or the military arrived at the scene. It was not clear whether the militants stole any food or supplies from the camp during the attack.”

Africa

The New York Times: Burkina Faso Wracked By Escalating Violence

“A mission to rescue kidnapped tourists that went fatally awry. A church burned to the ground, the priest shot at Sunday Mass. A day later, another attack; four more Christians dead. The fury that hit Burkina Faso this month left a dozen people dead and laid bare the yearslong unraveling of a once-stable country. It is now wracked with near-daily violence from extremists pouring over its northern border with Mali and Niger, restive farmers and herdsmen battling for land, and militias bent on vengeance for each attack. And as violence by Al Qaeda and violent groups tied to the Islamic State has moved from Mali and Niger to Burkina Faso, fears are rising that the unrest could spread even farther south, putting the entire Gulf of Guinea at risk. The terrorists appear to have shifted their goals from stoking conflict between farmers and herders to inducing a similar divide between Muslims and Christians, Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, said recently. “These terrorists have reorganized their way of operating,” Mr. Kaboré told a conference of Christian leaders in the capital, Ouagadougou, on Tuesday, according to local news reports. “They have developed their mode of operation,” he said, “seeking first to create an intercommunity conflict, and today an interreligious conflict.”

Voice Of America: Kenya, Cameroon Militaries Fighting Terrorism Through Development

“A delegation from the Kenyan military is sharing experience on how the Cameroon military engineering corps has taken over road construction projects in Boko Haram terrorism prone areas to use the example and develop areas of its territory threatened by Al-Shabab which they say is still a threat. The Kenyan delegation has been in Cameroon for several days. A Cameroon military engineering corps compactor is constructing a portion of the road linking its northern border town of Kousseri to the Chadian capital Ndjamena and Borno state in northeastern Nigeria. Colonel Jackson Kamgain, director of Cameroon military engineering corps, says they re-launched the World Bank-sponsored project in March 2018 after it had been abandoned for four years. He said since independence in 1961, the Cameroon military engineering corps has participated actively in the development of all localities and insures that major projects in conflict zones are not abandoned unlike in many other countries where military engineering departments concentrate only on making access easy for troops in areas of war or conflicts.” 

United Kingdom

The New York Times: One Of U.K.’S Most Prolific Extremist Cells Is Regrouping

“Even as fellow European countries worry about hardened Islamic State fighters returning from Syria and Iraq, Britain has another problem: the re-emergence of a homegrown militant cell, Al Muhajiroun, one of Europe’s most prolific extremist networks, which was implicated in the London bombings of 2005. After those attacks, the British government passed a raft of counterterrorism laws and embarked on a crackdown against Islamist extremists. Many were sentenced to prison or restricted to halfway houses for 10 years and sometimes more. But on Monday, a co-founder of Al Muhajiroun, Anjem Choudary, was photographed near his East London home wearing a long white robe and a black electronic ankle tag. Government officials confirmed that Mr. Choudary, one of the country’s most notorious radical Islamist preachers, had been released from a probation hotel after serving more than half of a lengthy prison term for inciting support of the Islamic State. He remains under close monitoring, but he has begun the gradual process of becoming a free man. And he is not the only one. Having served their time, many members of Mr. Choudary’s old network are being released from detention.”

BBC News: Britons Could Be Banned From Syria Under Counter-Terrorism Laws

“Home Secretary Sajid Javid is to warn that he could use new powers to ban British nationals from Syria. A new counter-terrorism act came into force in February which allows the home secretary to ban people from travelling to, or remaining in, designated areas. Failure to comply can result in a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. Mr Javid will use a speech later to warn British nationals who are currently in Syria without good reason that they "should be on notice".  Speaking to senior security figures in central London, Mr Javid will set out for the first time how he expects to use the new Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act. He is expected to say: "I've asked my officials to work closely with the police and intelligence agencies to urgently review the case for exercising this power in relation to Syria, with a particular focus on Idlib and the north east. "So anyone who is in these areas without a legitimate reason should be on notice." The north-western Syrian province of Idlib is the last remaining stronghold controlled by forces opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. Mr Javid will say that the police and security services "have worked tirelessly" to identify people intending to join the Islamic State group overseas and prevent them from leaving the country.”

The Times: ‘Jihadi John’ Was A Self-Made Terrorist Impossible To Arrest

“Was Mohammed Emwazi — the Islamic State executioner known as “Jihadi John” — born or made a terrorist? Tonight’s Channel 4 film, The Hunt for Jihadi John, attempts to answer this question through the experience of hostages, families and Britain’s counterterrorism detectives and intelligence officers. It shines a light on Emwazi’s early education in a Church of England school, his subsequent radicalisation at a British university and the steps taken by the security services to try to halt his trajectory from extremist to terrorist. Ultimately these failed to stop him: Emwazi went on to become one of this country’s worst mass murderers.”

Europe

The Financial Times: Sweden Proposes International Tribunal To Try ISIS Fighters

“The Swedish government is seeking support from European allies for a new international tribunal to prosecute Isis fighters and military personnel for war crimes perpetrated in Iraq and Syria. Mikael Damberg, the country’s interior minister, has visited counterparts in London and the Netherlands to lobby support for the proposal, ahead of a summit in Stockholm in early June to discuss the plan. He has suggested that the tribunal — which would be based in Iraq — could be modelled on the international courts established to prosecute perpetrators of the genocides in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. “This is a moral and symbolic issue — will the world and Europe just treat this [Isis] as another thing that happened?” Mr Damberg said in an interview with the Financial Times in London. “Or shall we have it written in the history books that we considered these as very serious crimes?” The proposal could find support in countries such as the UK that are resisting the call to repatriate their own nationals who have spent several years fighting in the Middle East, and present a significant security risk on return. British home secretary Sajid Javid, who met Mr Damberg on Wednesday, has attracted particular criticism for his treatment of a London teenager who travelled to Syria four years ago to marry an Isis fighter.”

The Wall Street Journal: Swede Brings His Orphaned Grandchildren Home From ISIS Trauma

“The distant roar of jet engines sent 8-year-old Ibrahim scrambling for cover, his survival instincts borne of years living under bombardment on the battlefields of Syria. But the boy was no longer in a war zone. He was in a hotel in this northern Iraqi city, and the plane overhead was a commercial airliner, like the one that would soon take him home to Sweden, along with six younger siblings. Ibrahim’s parents, both from Scandinavia, joined Islamic State at the height of its power and were killed as U.S.-backed forces battered the group’s last redoubts in Syria this year. Swedish authorities, under pressure from humanitarian organizations and the children’s tenacious grandfather, Patricio Galvez, earlier this month evacuated the orphans from a camp in Syria. In anticipation of his seven grandchildren’s retrieval from a Syrian detention camp, Mr. Galvez moved in late April to a large hotel next to the Swedish hospital in Erbil and took a room with four single beds, a double bed and a bathtub.  The Wall Street Journal chronicled Mr. Galvez’s quest to find his grandchildren and bring them to safety in a front-page story earlier this year. The joy Mr. Galvez felt when the children finally made it to Iraq quickly collided with the reality of caring for seven young children.”

The Financial Times: ISIS Fighters Struggle On Return To Balkan States

“In a village in the Kosovar countryside, Edona Berisha Demolli’s family have gathered to celebrate her return from Syria where she and her husband fled to six years ago to fight for Islamic militants Isis. “I am exhausted,” said Ms Demolli, as her relatives served guests slices of celebratory chocolate and vanilla cake and children played in the yard. “I thank God, the Kosovo state, and the US for bringing me home,” she said, referring to the pressure Washington put on countries to take their fighters back from camps across the Middle East and the logistical assistance they provided to that end. Ms Demolli, 31, and her five children are among 110 Kosovars who returned to the small Balkan state in April this year after the collapse of the caliphate across Syria and Iraq over the past year. Her husband was killed in US-led strikes on Aleppo and she has since remarried. Happy as she is to be back, she worries about how she will reintegrate into Kosovo society after so many years away. “I have to think about sending my children to school and of their future,” she said. Her case is emblematic of the security, political and legal difficulties facing many European countries as they consider whether to take back former Isis fighters and how to integrate them when they do. The Swedish government has suggested setting up an Iraq-based international tribunal to prosecute them.”

Asia

The New York Times: Violence Involving ISIS Prisoners Leaves Dozens Dead At Tajikistan Prison

“Three guards and 29 inmates were killed in an outbreak of violence involving Islamic State militants at a high-security prison in Tajikistan, the Justice Ministry said on Monday. The ministry said rioting broke out late Sunday at the prison in Vakhdat, about six miles east of the capital, Dushanbe, after militants armed with knives killed the guards and five fellow prisoners. Security forces responded to the violence, killing 24 militants and restoring order at the prison, which holds 1,500 inmates, the ministry added. Two of the prisoners who were killed were senior members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, an Islamist party outlawed by the government of President Imomali Rakhmon in 2015. Another was a prominent Tajik cleric who had been convicted on charges of calls to overthrow the government. One of the instigators of the riot was Bekhruz Gulmurod, a son of Gulmurod Khalimov, a Tajik special forces colonel who joined the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in 2015 and, according to the Justice Ministry, has since been killed in Syria. The fate of Bekhruz Gulmurod after the riots was not publicly known. Hundreds of people from Tajikistan, an impoverished former Soviet republic of nine million, are believed to have joined Islamic State, which at one point controlled large swathes of land in Syria and Iraq."

News 18: After 30 Suspected Militants Arrested, US Embassy In Indonesia Issues Security Alert

“The US embassy in Jakarta has issued a security alert ahead of election results due on Wednesday, as Indonesian authorities have arrested nearly 30 suspected militants, including some who police say are able to detonate bombs using Wi-Fi networks. The embassy advised US citizens to avoid areas where large demonstrations may occur in Jakarta, and in other cities including Surabaya in East Java and Medan in North Sumatra, in a statement that was dated on Friday, May 17. Indonesian authorities have said they are heightening security ahead of May 22, when the official result of last month's presidential election will be announced. Indonesian National Police spokesman, Muhammad Iqbal, told reporters in a briefing on Friday that police this month have arrested 29 suspects linked to Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) - the largest Islamic State-linked group in the country - and confiscated at least five homemade bombs in various locations across Java and North Sulawesi. Some of the suspects have had paramilitary training and went to Syria as foreign fighters, Iqbal said.Indonesian police also revealed that some of the suspects have learned how to use Wi-Fi to detonate explosive devices, but it was not immediately clear how advanced their plans were.”

Technology

The New York Times: Facebook’s A.I. Whiz Now Faces The Task Of Cleaning It Up. Sometimes That Brings Him To Tears

“Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, was tearing up. For half an hour, we had been sitting in a conference room at Facebook’s headquarters, surrounded by whiteboards covered in blue and red marker, discussing the technical difficulties of removing toxic content from the social network. Then we brought up an episode where the challenges had proved insurmountable: the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. In March, a gunman had killed 51 people in two mosques there and live streamed it on Facebook. It took the company roughly an hour to remove the video from its site. By then, the bloody footage had spread across social media. Mr. Schroepfer went quiet. His eyes began to glisten. “We’re working on this right now,” he said after a minute, trying to remain composed. “It won’t be fixed tomorrow. But I do not want to have this conversation again six months from now. We can do a much, much better job of catching this.”

Fox News: Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg Pushes Back On Calls For Breakup Of Tech Giant

“Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said recent calls for the tech giant to be broken up won't address the issues that have prompted a backlash against Big Tech. “You could break us up, you could break other tech companies up, but you actually don’t address the underlying issues people are concerned about,” Sandberg said in an interview with CNBC. A range of 2020 Democratic candidates have called for stricter regulation of Silicon Valley companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has laid out a proposal to break up several firms on antitrust grounds. However, Sandberg said that Facebook's engineering and privacy teams now have their own safety and security functions focused solely on people's privacy. Sandberg isn't the only Facebook executive to push back against calls for the company's breakup.”