Eye on Extremism: May 21

The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers Call On Trump For A New U.S. Policy In Syria

“Hundreds of lawmakers led by senior members of the House and Senate foreign policy committees have written to President Trump calling for a new U.S. strategy in Syria to counter Russia and Iran, deter terrorists and safeguard Israel. The letter, sent Monday and which was signed by a bipartisan complement of nearly 400 members of the House and Senate, warns “pockets of ungoverned space have allowed terrorist groups, such as [Islamic State], Al-Qaeda, and their affiliates, to keep parts of Syria in their stranglehold.” The lawmakers also ask Mr. Trump to boost U.S. support for Israel against threats along its border with Syria. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Mr. Trump late last year vowed to withdraw all of the more than 2,000 U.S. military personnel from Syria, then backpedaled after concern from allies. Defense officials now plan to keep about 1,000 U.S. troops there, although the administration has struggled to get support from other countries for a broader plan.”

Fox News: ISIS Claims Bomb Attack Targeting US-Backed Force In Syria

“A spokesman for a U.S.-backed force in Syria says a suicide bomber from Islamic State detonated his explosives on a road in northern Syria, targeting a joint convoy belonging to the force and the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition. Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said Monday’s attack near the town of Shaddadeh caused material damage but no casualties. ISIS claimed responsibility in a statement and said the blast killed or wounded eight people in the convoy. There was no immediate comment by the U.S. military or the anti-ISIS coalition. Bali tweeted that the attack was an attempt by ISIS to disrupt the campaign to root out ISIS sleeper cells that are staging attacks in Syria despite their group’s territorial defeat earlier this year.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iran Says It Is Poised To Exceed Limits On Nuclear Stockpile

“Iranian officials said Monday that within weeks they could exceed an internationally agreed cap on their stockpile of low-enriched uranium, as tensions between Iran and the U.S. escalated. Iran threatened earlier this month to step up its nuclear program, saying it would initially stop respecting limits set on its stockpiles of enriched uranium and heavy water, both of which can be used in the production of nuclear weapons. Tehran warned that without economic help from Europe to buffer the effect of renewed U.S. sanctions, it would take further steps. Tehran’s move came as the Trump administration deepened already sharp sanctions against Iran and increased the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf. While President Trump has said in recent days that Washington wasn’t seeking war with Iran, on Twitter over the weekend he warned if there is a conflict, “that will be the official end of Iran.”

The New York Times: Man Accused In Christchurch Mosque Shootings Now Faces Terrorism Charge

“The Australian man accused of fatally shooting dozens of Muslim worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, has been charged with carrying out a terrorist act, the police said Tuesday. Brenton H. Tarrant, 28, already faced 50 counts of murder after the massacre on March 15. An additional murder charge was lodged against him Tuesday, in relation to the death in Christchurch Hospital earlier this month of another man who was shot in the attack. Mr. Tarrant also faces 40 attempted murder charges. It is rare for the authorities to invoke New Zealand’s Terrorism Suppression Act to charge a suspect, and a police spokesman said in a statement that the decision to bring forth a charge of engaging in a terrorist act was made after police officials consulted government lawyers. Officers would not say why they pursed a terrorism charge against Mr. Tarrant when he already faces so many counts of murder. If he is found guilty, both the murder and terrorism charges are punishable by life in prison.”

The National: Yemen's Houthi Rebels Launch Missiles Towards Makkah And Riyadh

“Saudi Arabia intercepted two Houthi ballistic missiles launched towards Makkah and Riyadh on Monday after the Yemeni rebels said they planned to strike at hundreds of Saudi and UAE targets. Air defences destroyed the missiles above the western cities of Taif and Jeddah, Saudi media reported. Yemen’s internationally recognised government condemned the rebel attack and accused Iran of ordering the strikes. “The attempt to target Makkah will drag the region into a dangerous scenario. It also shows Iran’s full control over the rebels,” the government said in a statement. “The attack on a Muslim holy site is a terror crime,” it said. The rebels have launched scores of missile attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent years. Monday's launches came a day after the Houthis' Saba news agency quoted a rebel military source as saying they planned to strike 300 Saudi and UAE targets, including military headquarters and bases in both countries and their bases in Yemen.”

Bloomberg: Technology: Facebook Executive Warns AI Video Screening Still A Long Way Off

“Facebook Inc.’s chief artificial intelligence scientist said the company is years away from being able to use software to automatically screen live video for extreme violence. Yann LeCun’s comments follow the March livestream of the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand. "This problem is very far from being solved," LeCun said Friday during a talk at Facebook’s AI Research Lab in Paris. Facebook was criticized for allowing the Christchurch attacker to broadcast the shootings live without adequate oversight that could have resulted in quicker take-downs of the video. It also struggled to prevent other users from re-posting the attacker’s footage. LeCun said livestreams of violence presented numerous problems for automated systems, in particular the disturbing audio that accompanies videos of extreme violence, such as shootings or beheadings.”

United States

CNN: Father Of Slain CIA Officer Calls For Investigation Of Comments By 'American Taliban' Fighter Ahead Of Release

“The father of a former CIA officer killed in Afghanistan in 2001 has formally petitioned for an investigation of extremist comments allegedly made in prison by American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, who is scheduled to be released later this week. In a letter to a Virginia federal court, Johnny Spann said Lindh reportedly “ignored” conditions placed on him in a plea agreement he reached in 2002. Mike Spann was killed in an uprising of Taliban prisoners in 2001 at a detention facility in Afghanistan where Lindh was being held. After charges that touched off a debate in the early days of the war on terror, Lindh, who was dubbed the “American Taliban,” pleaded guilty in 2002 to aiding the Taliban. He is due to be released from prison this week after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence. Spann has protested the early release of Lindh and taken the issue up with lawmakers, including Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, who said last month that he raised the issue with President Donald Trump, who agreed that Lindh should serve his full sentence.  According to a National Counterterrorism Center document reported by Foreign Policy magazine in 2017, Lindh “continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts” from behind bars.”


Israel Hayom: Syrian Asylum Seeker In Denmark Gets 12 Years For ISIS Bombing Plot, Stabbings

“A Syrian asylum seeker in Sweden has received a 12-year prison sentence for planning to explode one or more bombs in Copenhagen and stabbing random people with kitchen knives. The Copenhagen City Court said Monday Moyed Al Zoebi, 32, acted on behalf of the Islamic State group. The court found him guilty last month. The man had an accomplice, Dieab Khadigah, who was sentenced in Germany in July 2017 to a prison term of six and a half years. After an internet chat, they were to gather in Copenhagen in November 2016 for the attack. However, Khadigah was arrested in Germany as he tried to enter Denmark with a backpack containing 17,000 matches, 17 batteries, fireworks, two kitchen knives and six walkie-talkies that Al Zoebi who lives in southern Sweden, had ordered.”

BBC News: Syria Trip Pair Jailed For Preparing Terrorist Acts

“Two men found guilty of trying to get into Islamic State-controlled Syria to commit terrorist acts have been jailed. Hanzalah Patel and Safwaan Mansur, both 23, were arrested at an Istanbul hotel in June 2017 after contacting a US agent posing as an IS sympathiser. The school friends denied preparation of terrorist acts, saying what happened was just “thoughts and banter”. Patel, from Leicester, and Mansur, from Birmingham, were each jailed for 14 years at Birmingham Crown Court. Patel, of Frederick Road, and Mansur, of Hampton Road, first travelled to Istanbul in 2016, with the aim of getting into Syria, their trial had heard.  They returned home after a contact failed to answer calls but went back the following year. In May 2017, Mansur was communicating with a user of the encrypted messaging site Telegram - who was in fact working for the US government - to discuss crossing the border into Syria. When the two men arrived in Istanbul, the contact told them he would send someone to help but, once they revealed their whereabouts, they were arrested. A search of their luggage revealed camping equipment and outdoor survival gear, the court heard.”


Asia Times: Gaza’s Islamic Jihad Re-Emerges, Looking To Iran

“The latest escalation in Gaza could be a blessing-in-disguise for the forgotten militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Slipping into oblivion and irrelevance in recent years, the once formidable Islamist group joined its longtime ally Hamas in repelling Israeli attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip earlier this month. No less than 600 rockets were fired, with Islamic Jihad boasting that at least one of them was its own production “tested on the Zionist enemy”. The group added that two of its members were killed by the Israeli offensive. Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s participation in the operation, and its back-to-back statements about rockets and martyrs, was intended to remind the Palestinian street that the group was still in operation — and part of the Iran-led “Axis of Resistance”, according to Palestinian political sources in Damascus informed about political machinations in the strip. The group had slipped out of the public eye in recent years, due to the illness of its former secretary-general and its decision to keep a low profile in inter-Arab feuds. It refused to take sides with Turkey and Qatar as Hamas had done and stood clear from a confrontation with both states due to its strong relations with Iran.”

Fox News: The Latest: Iran Presidents Seeks Wartime Executive Powers

“Iran's president has told a group of clerics that he is seeking expanded, wartime executive powers to better deal with an "economic war" triggered by the Trump administration's pullout from the nuclear deal and escalating U.S. sanctions. The state IRNA news agency reported late Monday that President Hassan Rouhani cited the 1980s war with Iraq, when a wartime supreme council was able to bypass other branches to make decisions regarding the economy and the war. The report didn't say what the new powers would entail but quoted Rouhani as saying that "today, we need such powers." Rouhani says Iran is facing unprecedented problems in "banking and selling oil" but that the country "is united that we should resist the U.S. and the sanctions.”

The Jerusalem Post: Iranian IRGC In Syria's Latakia? - Report

“Jorf News, a Syrian news site, reported that Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps began a naval combat training course in Latakia province in northern Syria. Latakia is where Russia’s Khmeimim airbase is located. A “source” told Jorf News that 100 men from the Afghan Fatemiyoun were involved in the training along with members of the Shi’ite Imam Muhammed al-Baqir brigade and also IRGC members. The report said it was the first course of its kind. The report claims that the “IRGC share many positions with the [Syrian] regime’s forces and its officers and members wear the uniform of the regime’ soldiers and raise the Syrian flag.” According to a second source, Iran and Syria already signed a protocol for the training of naval forces in Syria. In August 2018 Iran and Syrian signed several deals for military cooperation. Iran also leased air and ground bases in July 2017. In April of this year reports indicated Iran would lease part of Latakia port. Iran would gain access to the Mediterranean and get a container port. Use would begin this October, although paperwork posted online showed Iranian goods arriving in Latakia in February. Russia already leases part of Tartus port. Iran has hosted Russian aircraft at its Nojeh air base in Hamedan. Russian jets were supposed to use it for refueling.”

The Jerusalem Post: U.S. Sanctions Are Limiting Iran’s Ability To Fund Hezbollah – Report

“The latest wave of US sanctions has significantly curbed Iran’s ability to fund Hezbollah, The Washington Post reported on Saturday. The Lebanese terrorist group has traditionally been the best funded Islamic Republic’s proxy, with its fighters and affiliates benefiting from salaries and social services paid for by Tehran. However, speaking to several Hezbollah officials, the Washington-based newspaper revealed how the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration after the US pulled out from the 2015 nuclear deal a year ago had had a deep impact on the funding. According to the report, while maintaining expenses that are considered essential – such as salaries to full-time fighters and stipends to families of the militants who died in Syria, where Hezbollah militias have been instrumental in keeping Syrian President Bashar Assad in power – other programs have been slashed or canceled. These programs include extra benefits to militants and their families and the distribution of free medicines and groceries. Moreover, fighters have been pulled out from Syria or assigned to the reserves.”

Associated Press: Officials Say Iran Quadruples Production Of Enriched Uranium

“Iran quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production capacity amid tensions with the U.S. over Tehran’s atomic program, nuclear officials said Monday, just after President Donald Trump and Iran’s foreign minister traded threats and taunts on Twitter. Iranian officials made a point to stress that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67% limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, making it usable for a power plant but far below what’s needed for an atomic weapon. But by increasing production, Iran soon will exceed the stockpile limitations set by the accord. Tehran has set a July 7 deadline for Europe to set new terms for the deal, or it will enrich closer to weapons-grade levels in a Middle East already on edge. The Trump administration has deployed bombers and an aircraft carrier to the region over still-unspecified threats from Iran.”

Townhall: U.S. Policies Can Manage The Threat Of Iranian Terrorism But Iran’s People Can Eliminate It

“Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of over 50 members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced Resolution 374, highlighting the Iranian regime's persistent support for terrorism. The resolution expresses “support for the Iranian people’s desire for a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear republic of Iran.” It “calls on relevant… agencies to work with European allies” and to help “prevent the malign activities of the Iranian regime’s diplomatic missions, with the goal of closing them down, including the Iranian embassy in Albania.” As justification for this goal, it cites three of the several Iranian terror plots that were discovered and foiled by Western authorities over the course of last year, across Europe and North America. These plots have been reliably identified as part of an escalating pattern of provocation by the Iranian regime, and they certainly call for a proportional response from the U.S. The White House has acted accordingly, with the repeated imposition of new sanctions, as well as the unprecedented designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The listing may set the stage for Washington to take relevant action against the additional infrastructure of Tehran's terrorism.”


Al Arabiya: UN Team Unearths 12 Mass Graves In Iraq Probe Of ISIS Crimes

“A UN team investigating the massacre of Iraq’s Yazidi minority and other atrocities has excavated 12 mass graves and is collecting witness accounts that could be used in Iraqi and other national courts, according to a UN report seen by AFP on Monday. The Security Council agreed in 2017 to establish the UN probe to ensure ISIS faces justice for war crimes in Iraq and Syria – a cause championed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney. In the report sent to the council, the head of the team, British lawyer Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, said efforts were focused on three initial investigations: the 2014 massacre of Yazidis, crimes committed in Mosul from 2014 to 2016, and the mass killing of Iraqi military recruits in the Tikrit area in June 2014. The team began work in October, with the first mass grave containing ISIS victims unearthed in March and April in the Murad’s home village of Kojo in Sinjar in northwest Iraq. Ahmad Khan said “progress had been slower than hoped” in the investigation and stressed the need to establish “clear and effective channels” to use the evidence in Iraqi proceedings. The Iraqi government had resisted calls for the UN probe despite evidence of more than 200 mass graves in Iraq containing victims of ISIS, who swept across northern Iraq in 2014.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Troops Kill 3 Islamic State Fighters In Salahuddin

“Three Islamic State militants were killed Monday during a military operation in Salahuddin province, north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. Safaa al-Saadi, the commander of Salahuddin Operations at al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), said that the pro-government fighters, backed by security forces, launched a military operation to hunt for Islamic State remnants in Salahuddin province. The troops killed three Islamic State terrorists during the operation, al-Saadi said, adding that the operation will go on “until all planned targets are totally secured.” The Islamic State group appeared on the international scene in 2014 when it seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, declaring the establishment of an Islamic “caliphate” from Mosul city. Later on, the group has become notorious for its brutality, including mass killings, abductions and beheadings, prompting the U.S. to lead an international coalition to destroy it. The jihadist group had imposed its rule over some 10 million people.”


Associated Press: Russia Raises Alarm About Islamic Extremists In Afghanistan

“Russia’s top security chief on Tuesday raised alarm about Islamic extremists massing on Afghanistan’s northern border. Alexander Bortnikov, chief of the main Russian intelligence agency FSB, said on a visit to Tajikistan that some 5,000 fighters of an Islamic State group affiliate have gathered in areas bordering on former Soviet states in Central Asia, saying that most of them fought alongside IS in Syria. Bortnikov, in comments carried by Russian news agencies, called for tighter border control to prevent a spillover. Russia has a significant presence in Central Asia including several military bases. The IS affiliate in Afghanistan emerged in 2014 and refers to itself as the Khorasan Province, an ancient term for an area that includes parts of Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia. It has pledged allegiance to the IS group in Iraq and Syria but consists mainly of disgruntled former Taliban and other insurgents from South and Central Asia. Russia has been expressing concern about the IS insurgency spilling over into Central Asia for several years. But some experts say the Kremlin is exaggerating the number of extremists to justify its outreach to the Taliban. In recent years, Russia has emerged as an influential power broker in Afghanistan where it fought a disastrous war in the 1980s.”

Fox News: Afghanistan Must Not Become A Terrorist Haven -- Here's A Road Map For Talks With The Taliban

“I have tremendous sympathy for Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy charged with negotiating a deal with the Taliban to bring peace to Afghanistan after decades of continuous conflict. How do you negotiate with people who provided material and spiritual support to a terrorist group that conducted the worst attack on U.S. soil in history and slaughtered close to 3,000 innocent civilians; who believe that women are inferior beings not worthy of even learning to read and write; who show no compunction about blowing up children on their way to school; who are responsible for and benefit from Afghanistan’s ignoble status as the world’s top producer of heroine; who have killed and wounded so many young American men and women in uniform? You swallow hard, grit your teeth, and apply every ounce of determination, patience and diplomacy you can muster for what will no doubt be a tough ride on the way to an agreement that will enable U.S. troops to come home after 18 long years. Any such agreement must be real and substantive, not just a cover for a rapid withdrawal.  It must be conditioned on the Taliban renouncing violence and terrorism, recognizing the Afghan constitution and its guarantees of human rights, and negotiating directly with the Afghan government for a role in the country’s political system.”

Xinhua: 12 Militants Killed In N. Afghanistan

“A total of 12 militants have been killed as government forces launched cleanup operations against Taliban fighters in Khan Abad district of the northern Kunduz province on Tuesday, provincial government spokesman Esmatullah Muradi said. The operations, according to the official, launched in the wee hours of Tuesday in parts of Khan Abad and the neighboring Aqtash district, and so far 12 insurgnets have been confirmed dead and over a dozen others sustained injuries. No security personnel has been hurt, the official asserted. Taliban militants who are active in parts of the restive Kunduz province, have not commented.”


News 18: Pakistan's Sindh University Cancels Admission Of 22-Year-Old Woman With ISIS Background

“The University of Sindh in Pakistan has cancelled the admission of a 22-year-old woman student, who received weapons training from the ISIS in Syria and was part of a failed plot to carry out a suicide attack on a church in Lahore. Naureen Leghari, a second-year student of the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS) in Jamshoro, Sindh, went missing in February 2017 from her native town of Hussainabad, a suburb of Hyderabad. She was arrested after two months from Lahore following an encounter in which her associate Ali was killed by security forces. After her arrest, LUMHS cancelled her admission. She then got admission in the English Department of the University of Sindh in November 2018 but when the varsity got knowledge of her background, it cancelled her admission, the News reported. Her father Dr Abdul Jabbar Leghari is working at the University as a professor in Dr MA Kazi Institute of Chemistry. Naureen and her father have approached Sindh High Court filing a joint constitutional petition against the University of Sindh, praying that according to article K-25 of Constitution, the University management could not deny her right of education.”


Al Jazeera: Houthi Drone Attack 'Hits Arms Depot' At Saudi Airport In Najran

“Yemen's Houthi rebels said they launched a bomb-laden drone into Saudi Arabia, targeting an airport with a military base - an attack acknowledged by the kingdom. It was not clear if there were any injuries or what the extent of damage was. The Houthis' Almasirah satellite news channel said early on Tuesday the attack targeted the airport in Najran with a Qasef-2K drone, striking an "arms depot". Najran, 840km southwest of Riyadh, lies on the Saudi-Yemen border and has repeatedly been targeted by the Houthis. A statement earlier on the state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted Saudi-led coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki as saying the Houthis "had tried to target" a civilian site in Najran, without elaborating. Al-Maliki warned there would be a "strong deterrent" to such attacks and described the Houthis as the "terrorist militias of Iran".Similar Houthi attacks in the past have prompted rounds of Saudi-led air raids on Yemen, which have been widely criticised internationally for killing civilians.”

Associated Press: Yemen Rebels Say Their Drone Hit Arms Depot At Saudi Airport

“Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi rebels said Tuesday they attacked a Saudi airport and military base with a bomb-laden drone, an assault acknowledged by the kingdom as Mideast tensions remain high between Tehran and the United States. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. The attack on the Saudi city of Najran came after Iran announced it has quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production capacity a year after the U.S. withdrew from its nuclear deal with world powers, though still a level far lower than needed for atomic weapons. Underlining the tensions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is seeking expanded executive powers to better deal with “economic war” triggered by the Trump’s administration’s renewal and escalation of sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic, the state-run IRNA news agency reported Tuesday.”

Saudi Arabia

Reuters: Saudi Arabia Says It Intercepted Houthi Missiles In Mecca Province

“Saudi Arabia said on Monday that it had intercepted two missiles in Mecca province fired by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis, who earlier denied having targeted Islam’s holiest site. The foiled strike comes at a time of heightened tensions between Tehran and Gulf Arab states and a roughly four-year conflict in Yemen largely seen as a proxy war between the two sides. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are leading a Western-backed coalition of Sunni Muslim states that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government ousted from power in Sanaa by the Houthis in late 2014. A Saudi coalition spokesman said, “Royal Saudi Defence Forces spotted aerial targets flying through restricted areas in the provinces of Jeddah and Taif and dealt with them as required by the situation,” according to Saudi’s state news agency SPA. In a tweet, Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Washington said the two missiles had been intercepted in Mecca province, which includes Jeddah and Taif.”

Middle East

The Wall Street Journal: Palestinians Need To Get Real About Israel

“As Palestinian officials nervously await the Trump administration’s peace plan, one fundamental reality shapes their long and bitter contest with Israel. Diplomatically, economically, militarily, Israel has never been stronger than it is today. By contrast, the Palestinian cause has never been in worse shape. Neither Hamas, which alternates between firing rockets and begging Israel to admit to Gaza the supplies it needs to stay in power, nor the Palestinian Authority, which is compromised by corruption and divided by factionalism, can find a viable policy either to defeat the Israelis or to make peace with them. One result—as I saw on a recent visit sponsored by the Philos Project, a nonprofit Middle East engagement organization—is that Palestinians, especially young people, are increasingly giving up on having a state of their own. Instead they favor a “one-state solution”—a single, binational state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Yet in meetings with senior Palestinian Authority officials and political observers, it was clear that this is more a cry of despair than a serious political program.”

The Times Of Israel: Former Terror Leader Charged With Carrying Out Fresh Shooting Attacks

“Israel on Sunday accused former Palestinian terrorist leader Zakaria Zubeidi of committing several fresh shooting attacks on Israeli buses in recent months, and indicated it will also prosecute him for attacks dating back years that had previously been excused under an amnesty deal. Zubeidi was arrested on February 27 in Ramallah, along with Palestinian attorney attorney Tarek Barghout, who often represents terror suspects. They were indicted in a military court on Sunday, but this was barred from publication for a day by the military censor. The full charge sheet was not immediately released to the public, but according to the Shin Bet security service it included shooting attacks in last several months as well as attacks dating from the Second Intifada in the early 2000s. According to the security agency, the two were responsible for two shooting attacks on buses outside the Beit El settlement in the central West Bank in November 2018 and January 2019, injuring three people in total. The security service said the pair also carried out a third such shooting in December outside the Psagot settlement, but failed to hit the bus due to inclement weather. According to the Shin Bet, the two had been planning to carry out another shooting attack on the night they were arrested.”


Al Jazeera: Egypt Kills Suspected Fighters A Day After Tourist Bus Bombing

“Egyptian security forces have killed 12 suspected fighters in Cairo, the interior ministry said on Monday, a day after an explosion blasted a tourist bus, wounding several people. A rudimentary device containing nails and pieces of metal detonated on the perimeter of the Grand Egyptian Museum near a bus carrying 25 South African tourists from the airport to the pyramids district on Sunday, wounding a number of people.  The ministry said in a statement carried by state TV that its national security forces had information that leaders of the armed Hasm group were planning “to carry out a series of attacks during the coming period to trigger chaos in the country”. The statement did not say whether the suspected fighters were connected to Sunday's attack, but said the Egyptian forces killed them during raids on their hideouts in the 6th of October and el-Shorouk districts of the capital.  Egypt accuses the Hasm group, which emerged in 2016 and has claimed several attacks, of being a wing of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood movement denies the claim and has distanced itself from the group. It says it seeks change through peaceful means only.”


The Guardian: Millions Without Water In Libya As Armed Group Cuts Off Supply

“Water supplies to the Libyan capital and surrounding cities have been cut off after an armed group stormed a control room, leaving millions of people without water as summer temperatures begin to climb. The gunmen arrived on Sunday at the control room in Jafara run by a consortium known as the Great Man-Made River project, which transports water via a vast underground network of pipes from the Sahara into Tripoli, a city of more than 2 million people, and other coastal areas. The group forced staff to shut down the water pipes connected to underground wells. The group claimed to be supporters of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA). Haftar’s force dominates the east and south of Libya and has been trying to take the capital from the UN-backed government of national accord (GNA). The link with Haftar has been disputed, with some claiming the armed group is operating independently and the GNA is making a link to undermine support for the controversial general. Haftar’s forces have been besieging Tripoli since 4 April with tacit support from countries including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but it is generally accepted that the LNA’s plans for a quick victory and the defeat of the GNA have been thwarted.”


France 24: How To Beat Boko Haram? Treat Women Better, Analysts Say

“Tens of thousands of women have been freed from Nigeria's brutal Boko Haram fighters, but providing a safe future for them is critical to winning the war, analysts warned Tuesday. “Their hardship is a humanitarian concern - but also could fuel the conflict,” the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a new report. Boko Haram's decade-long uprising to establish a hardline Islamic state in Nigeria's northeast has spilt into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon. A regional military coalition is battling the Islamist group. But success cannot depend on the armed forces alone, the ICG warned. They called on the government to “look beyond the military campaign”, in a report released on Tuesday, entitled “Returning from the Land of Jihad: The Fate of Women Associated with Boko Haram.” Those who have escaped the group are often now living among the same communities badly hit by violence, ICG said. Many women fleeing the jihadists are shunned by society and find it hard to marry -- leaving them vulnerable to assault, the report read. “The successful reintegration of former Boko Haram women can send a powerful signal to their fighter husbands, some of whom are eyeing the possibility of their own surrender,” the ICG said.”

Times Now: Boko Haram Kills Two In Nigerian Refugee Camp Attack

“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 (0230GMT) and opened fire on residents who were eating 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 IDPs (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 (CJTF), 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. In August 2014 Boko Haram seized Dikwa but it was retaken seven months later with the help of Chadian forces, allowing residents to return.”


Fox News: UN Chief: Somalia Making Progress But Must Tackle Extremism

“U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says Somalia is making progress toward building a functioning state but must tackle violent extremism, terrorism, armed conflict, political instability and corruption. He says in a report to the U.N. Security Council circulated Monday that these challenges “demonstrate the fragility of the gains made so far” and “threaten progress.” After three decades of civil war, extremist attacks and famine, Somalia established a functioning transitional government in 2012 and has since been working to rebuild stability. But Guterres said “the security situation remained volatile” between mid-December and early May. He said the al-Qaida affiliated Al-Shabab extremist group continues to be “the main perpetrator of attacks against government facilities, government officials and security forces as well as popular restaurants and hotels.”

IOL News: 18 People Killed As Al-Shabaab Attacks Army Base In Somalia

“Eighteen people were killed when Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab attacked an army base in southern Somalia, a local official said Monday. Among the dead were 14 militants and four soldiers, who had been manning the army base in Bakol province when al-Shabaab attacked with heavily armed vehicles in the early hours of Monday, Mohamed Abdi Toll, the governor of Bakol, told dpa via telephone. “The terrorists attacked the army base from three different directions before overrunning it. ... The attack is over and our troops recaptured the base this morning, killing 14 militants,” said Toll. Al-Shabaab said on pro-insurgent radio station Andalus it had killed 10 soldiers, seized the base and looted military equipment and weapons. The jihadist group, which is affiliated with the international al-Qaeda terrorist network, and launches regular attacks within the volatile East African nation.”


Stars And Stripes: Islamic State Group Emerges As A Political Force In Western Africa

“Islamic State militants in West Africa are gaining the upper hand, carving out a “proto-state” in northern Nigeria where government forces have been overwhelmed by attacks, U.S. military officials and security analysts say. ISIS-West Africa, which broke away from the militant group Boko Haram three years ago, continues to launch high profile attacks that have placed the Nigerian military “under tremendous strain,” according to Stuttgart-based U.S. Africa Command. Now, the group appears to be building on its battlefield gains in northeast Nigeria and the borderlands in the Lake Chad region, from where they have launched cross-border attacks in places like Niger. “Additionally, the group is also attempting to replace state institutions for the population under its control,” said Samantha Reho, an AFRICOM spokeswoman, in an updated assessment of the terrorist group. A concern is that the group’s affiliation with the Islamic State has the potential to provide access to “funds, fighters, weapons, or other assistance from other components of the self-described Islamic State,” Reho said.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Security Forces Arrest Terrorist Suspect West Of Tunis

“A security patrol in Hai al-Tadamon in western Tunis arrested a dangerous suspect, who has been wanted for committing terrorist acts, according to Tunisian security sources. They said the suspect had arrived in the capital from terrorist hideouts in the country’s western mountainous areas to reach Hai al-Tadamon, a densely populated neighborhood west of Tunis, to visit his family. The patrol arrested the suspect in an ambush and without resistance, sources added, crediting good planning for the success of the operation. He is expected to be referred to the relevant judicial authority for investigation over the details of how he managed to reach Hai al-Tadamon, traveling hundreds of kilometers and evading intelligence services and patrols deployed at the entrances of most cities. Counter-terrorism experts stressed that the arrest is an important security success, but more significantly, it revealed that besieged terrorist elements were falling one after to the other in the hands of military and security forces.On May 13, national security forces in the central city of Bouhajla arrested a terrorist fugitive, who is facing a prison sentence of 30 years.”

The Defense Post: Mali Police Killed In Attack In Koury Near Burkina Faso Border

“Four civilians, two Malian police officers and a customs officer were killed in an attack on a border post on Mali’s frontier with Burkina Faso, security sources and government officials said Monday, May 20. “Armed men attacked the border post at Koury on Sunday night,” said a local police officer, who asked not to be identified. “Two gendarmes, a customs officer and four civilians, including two Ghanaians, were killed.” Koury, in Mali’s southern Sikasso region, lies about 480 km (300 miles) east of the capital Bamako near the border with Burkina Faso and is a major crossing point for goods entering or leaving Mali. Another security source confirmed the toll and said the two Ghanaians were lorry drivers. “The assailants arrived on three motorbikes and in a car,” the source said. “They fired at the gendarmes, the customs officers and the civilian truck drivers.” “Right now, we can’t confirm who the attackers were. They arrived in Koury from two directions,” a government official said. “We were told that they took the soldiers’ boots as they left.” The attack comes a day after a United Nations peacekeeper was killed and another injured in Timbuktu in central Mali. In March, French and Malian troops launched a major counter-terror operation in the Gourma region near the Mali-Burkina Faso border.” 

United Kingdom

The Guardian: UK Pair Who Planned Syria Journey On Tripadvisor Jailed

“Two friends who planned their journey to Syria on TripAdvisor have each been jailed for 14 years for preparing to join Islamic State. Safwaan Mansur and Hanzalah Patel, both 22, used the travel review site to check out an area near the Syrian border before travelling to Turkey in 2016 and 2017. Prosecutors claimed the men tried to explain away their travel plans as an “innocent camping holiday”. The pair were sentenced at Birmingham crown court on Monday after they were convicted of preparing for terrorist acts in support of Isis. On their first trip to Turkey, in 2016, the pair took a 24-hour bus to Hatay province, an area near the Syrian border described in court as a “transit area” to the country. Mansur claimed he went there to “have a look” like “lots of other tourists”. They were arrested at an Istanbul hotel in 2017 and spent nine days in a Turkish jail before being returned to the UK.”

Sky News: UK Security Services Foiled 19 Major Terror Attacks Over Past Two Years, Says Sajid Javid

“UK security services have foiled 19 major terror attacks over the past two years, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has revealed. During a speech in which he confirmed plans to look at designating parts of Syria and possibly West Africa as terror no-go zones for British citizens, Mr Javid described how “the tempo of terror activity is increasing”. The Home Office will also look to introduce new laws and refresh treason legislation to combat activity by hostile states' agents. Mr Javid said: “Each and every day our security services fight against terror, from large international terrorist groups to radicalised individuals. “And in the past two years they have foiled 19 major terrorist attacks - 14 of them Islamist and five of them motivated by extreme right-wing ideologies. “But those are just the headline figures. For each attack prevented, there are dozens more that never have the chance to begin in the first place. “And, despite this impressive work, the tempo of terror activity is increasing.” Mr Javid said he has asked Home Office officials and counter-terror police to “urgently review” the case for designating Syria as a terrorist hotspot, with a particular focus on Idlib province in the north-west of the country and others areas in the north-east.”


The New York Times: The New German Anti-Semitism

“One of Wenzel Michalski’s early recollections of growing up in southern Germany in the 1970s was of his father, Franz, giving him some advice: “Don’t tell anyone that you’re Jewish.” Franz and his mother and his little brother had survived the Holocaust by traveling across swaths of Eastern and Central Europe to hide from the Gestapo, and after the war, his experiences back in Germany suggested that, though the Nazis had been defeated, the anti-Semitism that was intrinsic to their ideology had not. This became clear to Franz when his teachers in Berlin cast stealthily malicious glances at him when Jewish characters — such as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” — came up in literature. “Eh, Michalski, this exactly pertains to you,” he recalls one teacher telling him through a clenched smile. Many years later, when he worked as an animal-feed trader in Hamburg, he didn’t tell friends that he was Jewish and held his tongue when he heard them make anti-Semitic comments. And so Franz told his son Wenzel that things would go easier for him if he remained quiet about being Jewish. “The moment you say it, things will become very awkward.”

Southeast Asia

Reuters: Marawi's Ruins A Reminder Of Islamic State's Devastating Reach

“It had only been a week since Mohammad Ali Acampong finished renovating his house when bombs and bullets struck Marawi City. Two years ago, pro-Islamic State militants took over in a bid to carve out their own “Wilayah”, or province, forcing nearly 100,000 people to flee in what became the Philippine military’s toughest and longest conflict since World War Two. Acampong, a local government official, left his three-storey lakeside house with his family of eight.  ”When the chaos began, our life suddenly became really difficult,” Acampong, 42, told Reuters. ”We had a comfortable life before. Now we live in between shelters, enduring heat, the lack of water, the lack of everything.” Marawi was once one of the most picturesque cities in the Philippines. About half of it is now charred concrete and skeletons of buildings, the effects of 154 days of air strikes and artillery by the military, and booby traps the rebels laid everywhere to keep them at bay. The Acampongs now live in a tiny temporary housing unit on the city’s outskirts, competing with thousands of families for water and other basic utilities. At least 500 other families live in plastic tents, like Asnia Sandiman, 25, who produces made-to-order clothing with a government-issued sewing machine.”

Voice Of America: 3 Guards, 29 Inmates Killed In Tajik Prison Riot

“Tajikistan's Justice Ministry said three prison guards and 29 inmates, including several Islamic opposition members, have been killed in a riot that broke out in a maximum-security prison, the second deadly prison clash to hit the country in the last six months. The Interior Ministry on May 20 released a list of the 29 inmates killed in the riot the previous night in the Vahdat district, some 15 kilometers east of the capital, Dushanbe. According to the list, 17 of the slain inmates were members of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, a claim that cannot be independently verified. The list said five others were from the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), a major opposition group that authorities outlawed in 2015 in a move widely criticized as unjustified and politically motivated. Earlier, the Justice Ministry said five of the inmates were killed by rioters, while 24 others were “liquidated” during the authorities' “measures to quell” the riot, which occurred late on May 19 in the prison, locally known as the Kirpichniy jail. The ministry said in a statement on May 20 that the clashes started when some 30 inmates convicted of membership in various militant groups, including the Islamic State (IS), killed three prison guards.”

New Zealand

CNN: Christchurch Mosque Shooter Faces Terrorism Charge

“The man accused of killing 51 worshipers at two Christchurch mosques has been charged by New Zealand police with engaging in a “terrorist act,” the first time such a charge has been laid inside the country.  Australian citizen Brenton Tarrant, 28, faces an additional 51 charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder for the March attack which was New Zealand's worst mass shooting in modern history, New Zealand police said in a statement Tuesday.  A Turkish citizen died in hospital earlier this month, bringing the total death toll to 51. Tarrant, who allegedly wrote an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim manifesto, also faces one charge under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, the first time anyone has been prosecuted under the act, a police spokesperson confirmed to CNN. The charge of committing a terrorist act carries a possible life sentence. Andrew Geddis, a law professor at New Zealand's Otago University, said that if Tarrant was convicted, the additional terrorism charge wouldn't result in a heavier punishment. Instead, the charge was about labeling the alleged shooter's action as terrorism.  “It's using the legal process to send a message,” he said.”


Gizmodo: Scammers Are Using Facebook To Trick People Into Thinking They Accidentally Donated Money To ISIS

“Scammers are using Facebook Messenger and other apps in an attempt to convince Americans that they accidentally gave money to terrorist groups like ISIS, according to a new warning from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General. The scammers initially make contact with someone through a messaging service like Facebook Messenger or even Words With Friends, and it all seems harmless at first. Sometimes the scammers even fake a romantic interest in their victims, but soon enough, the scammer makes up a story of hardship and they request a small amount of money. After the victim sends the money, the scammers pose as law enforcement and call the victim the following day in an effort to convince them that they donated to a terrorist organization like ISIS or Al Qaeda, according to DHS. The scammers then tell the victim that they’re entitled to a lawyer and put them in contact with another scammer who requests $1,000 as a “retainer.”  The fraud scheme sometimes succeeds, DHS says, because it involves multiple steps that lend it credibility—the scammers take time to establish a relationship before setting the trap, and the victims truly don’t know where they ultimately sent the money.”

The Verge: Using AI To Screen Live Video Of Terrorism Is ‘Very Far From Being Solved,’ Says Facebook AI Chief

“When faced with hard questions about how Facebook will remove terrorist content from its platforms, CEO Mark Zuckerberg offers a simple answer: artificial intelligence will do it. But according to Facebook’s chief AI scientist, Yann LeCun, AI is years away from being able to fully shoulder the burden of moderation, particularly when it comes to screening live video.  Speaking at an event at Facebook’s AI Research Lab in Paris last week, LeCun said Facebook was years away from using AI to moderate live video at scale, reports Bloomberg News.  “This problem is very far from being solved,” said LeCun, who was recently awarded the Turing Prize, known as the Nobel Prize of computing, along with other AI luminaries.  Screening live video is a particularly pressing issue at a time where terrorists commit atrocities with the aim of going viral. Facebook’s inability to meet this challenge became distressingly clear in the aftermath of the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand this year. The attack was streamed live on Facebook, and although the company claims it was seen by fewer than 200 people during its broadcast, it was this stream that was then downloaded and shared across the rest of the internet.”