Eye on Extremism: May 30

The Wall Street Journal: Iran’s Fast Boats And Mines Bring Guerrilla Tactics To Persian Gulf

“A U.S. conclusion that Iran was behind recent strikes on oil tankers has reignited concern about Iran’s ability to wage guerrilla warfare in one of the world’s most vital waterways. The U.S. believes Iran used mines to strike four tankers in the Gulf of Oman this month, White House national security adviser John Bolton said Wednesday, without providing more details. Iran called Mr. Bolton’s allegations “laughable.” Both sides say they don’t want war. In response to U.S. efforts to halt Iranian oil exports, Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf. One-third of the world’s oil and liquefied natural gas is transported through the strait, and its closure would interrupt global energy supply and could trigger a naval conflict.”

The Jerusalem Post: IDF Destroying Hezbollah's Last, Largest Cross-Border Attack Tunnel

“Six months after the Israeli military declared an end to Operation Northern Shield, the IDF has begun destroying the final and largest cross-border tunnel dug by Hezbollah into Israeli territory. The tunnel began in the Lebanese village of Ramiyeh and stretched one kilometer before infiltrating several meters into northern Israel, close to the communities of Zarit and Shtula. It was the last one discovered by the IDF in early January, the largest and most strategic of the six cross-border tunnels dug by the Lebanese Shi’ite group. Hezbollah had planned to have dozens of armed terrorists attack the nearby communities in the next war with Israel. Unlike the tunnels dug by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, each one found by the military on the Lebanese border had different characteristics, with some strengthened by concrete while others were burrowed straight into the rock. The Ramiyeh tunnel had been dug at a depth of 80 meters and had 20 flights of stairs. The tunnel, which took Hezbollah several years to dig, also contained railroads to transport equipment and garbage, and was equipped with lighting equipment, air-conditioning and ladders. It will be filled with liquid concrete to remove the threat and prevent Hezbollah terrorists from using it.”

The New York Times: France Hands ISIS Suspects To Iraq, Which Sentences Them To Hang

“The seven French citizens, wearing sandals and yellow jumpsuits, were brought before an Iraqi judge in a Baghdad courtroom this week to answer for their offense: joining the Islamic State. Each admitted to having thrown in his lot with the militants, working as tax collector, Arabic teacher, military trainer, chicken seller, medical aide or fighter. If there was evidence that any had committed a violent crime, it was never presented. Most had not even seen a lawyer until moments before being escorted into the courtroom. And yet after seven trials over four days, Judge Ahmed Mohamed Ali delivered seven identical sentences: death by hanging. The Frenchmen were among the roughly 4,000 foreigners captured in Syria and Iraq after the rout of ISIS, and they pose an international dilemma: Most of their home countries don’t want them back. The trials have drawn world attention as a test of whether Iraqi courts can meet international standards for a fair trial, and provide a just solution to one of the most vexing problems left in the aftermath of the battle against the Islamic State: what to do with its legions of followers.”

Business Standard: US Cracks Down On Terrorist Groups, Blocks $46 Mn In Funds: Report

“The US blocked more than USD 46 million in funds of designated terrorist groups, including Pakistan-based outfits, until the last year as part of its crackdown on foreign terrorist organisations and individuals, according to an annual report. The report released by the US Department of Treasury states the US blocked nearly USD 400,000 in funds of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and USD 1,725 of the Jaish-e Mohammed. The Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is the leading US Government agency responsible for implementing sanctions against the assets of international terrorist organisations and terrorism-supporting countries. The federal body implements these sanctions as part of its general mission to administer and enforce economic and trade sanctions based on US foreign policy and national security goals. According to the report, till 2018, the US blocked more than USD 46.1 million in funds of designated terrorist groups and individuals, an increase of about USD 2.5 million than that of USD 43.6 million in 2017. The list includes the Haqqani network (USD 3,626), the Harkat ul-Mujahidin (USD 11,988) and the Hizbul Mujahideen (USD 2,287). For the Lashkar-I Jhangvi, the amount of funds blocked by the US dropped from USD 12,829 in 2017 to USD 10,962.”

The Washington Post: Pelosi Says Altered Videos Show Facebook Leaders Were ‘Willing Enablers’ Of Russian Election Interference

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that Facebook’s refusal to take down an altered video of her shows that the company’s leaders were active contributors to online disinformation and “willing enablers” of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Pelosi’s comments to KQED News, her first public response to the video since The Washington Post first reported its spread online last week, revealed a dramatic escalation of tensions between the Democratic leader and the world’s most popular social network. “We have said all along, ‘Poor Facebook, they were unwittingly exploited by the Russians.’ I think wittingly, because right now they are putting up something that they know is false. I think it’s wrong,” she said, according to a transcript of the conversation provided by Pelosi’s office. “They’re lying to the public. . . . I think they have proven — by not taking down something they know is false — that they were willing enablers of the Russian interference in our election.”

Birmingham Live: White Widow Sally Jones And Son, 12, 'Killed By Airstrike In Retaliation For Manchester Arena Bombing'

“A jihadi from the so-called British 'Beatles gang' says Sally Jones WAS killed by an airstrike along with her 12-year-old son. Alexanda Kotey said the so-called 'White Widow' was killed in a 2017 air strike. They both died in bombardment that was 'retaliation' for Manchester bombing, he claimed. Jones began her deadly trajectory as one of the world’s most wanted terrorists after making her way to Syria in 2013. Jones has been profiled and tracked on Twitter by the US-based Counter Extremism Project, who have previously spoken to the Birmingham Mail about Hussain's poisonous legacy. The project lists her on its Global Extremism Registry as a “U.N-designated recruiter and propagandist for ISIS.”

United States

ABC News: American Hostage Mom Says Abusive Husband's Taliban Sympathies Led To 5-Year Ordeal

“It was a story that generated headlines around the world. A young pregnant American woman Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle captured by the Taliban while hiking in war-torn Afghanistan. Grainy hostage videos posted online showing two of their young children born into captivity. And in 2017, the sudden release and return of a family of five to Canada, where a baffled public was eagerly awaiting an explanation. But in the months following their liberation, they struggled to answer key questions – Why had a pregnant couple travelled to a dangerous region of Afghanistan, and why did they continue to have children even after they were taken prisoner there? – that had confounded even the closest observers of their case. Until now. Having finally fled from Canada to the United States with her four young children, Coleman can finally say what many previously suspected – that she was a prisoner not only to Islamic militants, but also to her own husband. In an exclusive interview airing tonight on "Nightline," Coleman told ABC News that Boyle was a Taliban sympathizer, and he gave her “no choice” but to accompany him to Afghanistan, where he subjected her to years of “extreme” abuse during their captivity in Pakistan.”

The Wall Street Journal: The Dollar Underpins American Power. Rivals Are Building Workarounds

“U.S. allies, looking to buck American control over international trade, are developing alternate systems that don’t rely on U.S. currency. The catalyst was the Trump administration’s decision last year to reimpose trade sanctions on Iran after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear-weapons deal. The U.K., Germany and France didn’t support the sanctions, which include a ban on dollar transactions with Iranian banks. So they are fine-tuning a system to enable companies to trade with Iran without using dollars. India wasn’t happy either. Iran is a longtime trading partner, and India wants Iranian oil. India began using a similar alternative system in November, and shipping records show it already is being used by international companies to trade with Iranian businesses subject to sanctions. China and Russia, also eager to break free of U.S. control, are promoting their own alternatives to the global bank-transfer system, which the U.S. effectively controls, and are striking deals to trade with yuan and rubles instead of dollars.”

Bloomberg: U.S. Directs 900 New Middle East Troops To Saudi Arabia, Qatar

“The U.S. sent additional troops directed to the Middle East to Saudi Arabia and Qatar as America’s standoff with Iran shows few signs of abating, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said. “I don’t see a change in any behavior,” Shanahan told reporters Wednesday en route to Indonesia, when asked about Iran. “The situation still remains tense. It is a high-threat environment.” President Donald Trump ordered more forces to the Middle East as the Pentagon blamed Tehran for recent attacks on ships and oil pipelines in the region. While the president vowed to bolster forces by about 1,500 troops, approximately 600 of them were already in the region. Trump said the deployment was for defensive purposes with a focus on missile defense, surveillance and keeping open shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf. The moves came after the Trump administration said it had evidence Iran was threatening other attacks on American interests or allies in the region, a claim officials in Tehran rejected. The administration earlier this month expedited the deployment of a carrier battle group to the Middle East along with a Patriot missile battery and additional bombers. That deployment “deterred attacks on our people in Iraq,” Shanahan said.”

Syria

Reuters: Islamic State Suspects Sent By U.S. From Syria To Iraq

“U.S. forces have quietly sent at least 30 suspected foreign Islamic State fighters captured in Syria last year and in late 2017 to stand trial in Iraq, interviews with the men, Iraqi sources and court documents show.  Three of the men have been convicted of IS membership and sentenced to death by Iraqi courts, while five have been given life sentences. Four of them told Reuters they were tortured in prison, a claim Reuters was unable to verify.  Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) denied that detainees were transferred to their custody from Syria in 2017 and 2018, and denied the detainees’ claims of torture.   While the fate of thousands of IS fighters captured in Syria remains unresolved, the roughly 30 suspected foreign jihadists were transferred to Iraq in 2017 and 2018 after they were captured by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), according to Iraqi court files, U.S. detention records, intelligence and judicial sources as well as people familiar with the matter.  The U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East, declined to comment on Reuters’ findings, but acknowledged the challenges posed by detainees captured by Kurdish militias, whose authority is not internationally recognized.”

NPR: 'Revenge Is For The Weak': Kurdish Courts In Northeastern Syria Take On Isis Cases

“Judge Amina, fuchsia sunglasses perched atop her long, blonde hair, commands the ISIS prisoner to enter. Mahmoud Amir, a 22-year-old Syrian, walks in, wearing slippers, sweatpants and a black, long-sleeved T-shirt. He lowers himself into an office chair, facing three judges seated behind a long desk. In his hands, he holds the black fabric blindfold that guards have just removed from his eyes. This is a terrorism court near the city of Qamishli, in the Kurdish Syrian region of Rojava in northeastern Syria. The region broke away from Syrian government control in 2012. Since then, this self-administered area, recognized by almost no country, has developed its own justice system aspiring to international human rights standards — a rarity in the region. The Rojava courts have already tried and sentenced 7,000 ISIS suspects — most of them Syrian, and some Iraqi. Six thousand more are awaiting trial. Earlier this month, NPR was one of the first two news organizations allowed to attend an ISIS trial in Qamishli. With the fall of the last remaining ISIS territory in March, thousands of accused fighters, including 1,200 non-Iraqi foreigners, are now in Kurdish Syrian custody in Rojava. At Amir's trial, a prosecutor summarizes the evidence, saying Amir had served as an aide to an Iraqi ISIS leader whose nom de guerre was Abu Faisal al-Iraqi.”

Al Arabiya: Syria Kurds Say Repatriating 148 Uzbek ISIS Women, Children

“Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria on Wednesday handed over 148 Uzbek women and children linked to ISIS extremist group to diplomats from the Central Asian country for repatriation, officials said. In total more than 300 Uzbeks were due to be sent home, spokesman Kamal Akef told AFP, as the Kurds look to transfer away thousands of foreign extremists trapped in camps following the defeat of the ISIS “caliphate” by US-backed forces. Hundreds of Uzbeks are believed to have joined militants fighting in Iraq and Syria including ISIS. Suspected ISIS fighters from the country who surrendered or were caught fleeing the extremists’ last redoubt are still being held in Kurdish-run jails. The women and children on Wednesday arrived in the Kurdish town of Qamishli on large white buses, an AFP correspondent said. From behind the vehicle’s blue drapes, some women pointed their index fingers to the sky in a gesture used by Islamists. The group, including some 90 children, would be taken by plane to Russia’s air base in Syria, from where they would then be transported to Uzbekistan, Akef said. A second batch of Uzbek women and children would be sent in the coming days, he said.”

Iran

The National: US-Iranian Escalation Tests Tehran's Militias In Iraq

“Rising tensions in the Gulf threaten to undercut the political dominance of Iraq’s Shiite militias as they tone down their anti-American rhetoric to avoid being targeted by the US but also seek to maintain close ties with Tehran. The escalation between Washington and Tehran thrust the issue of the 100,000-150,000 member Shiite-controlled militias to the fore. As Washington strengthens its forces in the region, some militia factions in Iraq have become an obvious potential early target for US forces seeking to hit Iran in a conflict scenario. Speaking on a visit to Abu Dhabi on Monday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton warned Iran against more of what he described as “indirect attacks” by its proxies. He was speaking in the wake of mine attacks against four tankers docked off the Emirati city of Fujairah, a drone attack on Saudi oil pumping stations and a rocket that landed close to the US embassy in Baghdad earlier this month. Iraq’s Shiite militias operate under a loose grouping called the Popular Mobilisation Forces, known by the shorthand of their Arabic name – the Hashd. The 40 or so distinct factions range in the strength of their ties to Iran as well as in their ideological leanings, which are linked to the Shiite religious authorities they follow in Iraq or Iran.”

Voice Of America: Study Finds Pro-Iran Social Media Deception Becoming ‘More Sophisticated’

“A U.S. cybersecurity company says a recently discovered pro-Iran social media network that engaged in deceptive targeting of Americans is more sophisticated than a similar campaign it identified last year. In a report published Tuesday, California-based FireEye said it recently uncovered a network of English-language social media accounts that engaged in “inauthentic behavior and misrepresentation” in support of “Iranian political interests.” It said it made the determination about the network’s support of Iranian political interests with “low confidence.” FireEye’s report said some of the network’s users adopted fake social media personas to pose as American journalists and activists espousing progressive and conservative political stances, while others “impersonated real American individuals, including a handful of Republican political candidates that ran for House of Representatives seats in 2018.”

The Wall Street Journal: The Growing Menace Of The Moscow-Beijing-Tehran Axis

“Iran sabotages ships in the Persian Gulf and threatens to resume enrichment of uranium for its nuclear program. Russia dispatches troops to beleaguered dictator Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, while China sends logistical support. China resists a trade truce with the U.S. and seeks to drive a wedge between the U.S. and allies like Jordan and Saudi Arabia by selling them armed drones. Russia sends bombers and fighters into Alaska’s Air Defense Identification Zone. Iran, Russia and China all work tirelessly to keep Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in power. In the aftermath of the Iran nuclear deal in August 2015, I warned of a Moscow-Beijing-Tehran axis. Since then, these three authoritarian and revisionist powers have become bolder, more sophisticated and more global. Their effort to diminish and disrupt the influence of the U.S. and its allies extends from Syria and the Strait of Hormuz to North Korea and Latin America, as well as Central Asia and even the South Pacific.”

Iraq

Reuters: Iraqi Court Sentences One French Man And One Tunisian To Death

“An Iraqi court sentenced two men, a French citizen and a Tunisian, to death on Wednesday after finding them guilty of joining Islamic State, a prosecutor told Reuters.  The latest ruling brings the total number of French citizens facing the death penalty to seven, with another five French men due to stand trial next week on the same charges, and when they will likely face the same fate, he said.  “They all worked in the same terror group, the same evidence that was enough to convict the others is there to warrant the death penalty, but it is up to the judge,” said the prosecutor, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.  French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday that France was intensifying diplomatic efforts to prevent six of its citizens being executed in Iraq after they were sentenced to death for belonging to Islamic State. Iraq is conducting trials of thousands of suspected Islamic State fighters, including hundreds of foreigners, with many arrested as the group’s strongholds crumbled throughout Iraq. The French government has refused to take back Islamic State fighters and their wives, although a handful of children have been repatriated. It has called the adults “enemies” of the nation, saying they should face justice either in Syria or Iraq.”

Reuters: Iraq Hands Over 188 Turkish Children Of Suspected Islamic State Members

“Iraqi authorities handed over 188 Turkish children of suspected Islamic State members to Turkey on Wednesday at Baghdad airport, where they boarded a plane and prepared to fly home, officials from Iraq’s judiciary and UNICEF said.  Representatives of the Iraqi judiciary and the U.N. agency were present until the children got on the plane. UNICEF Regional Chief of Communications Juliette Touma told Reuters the aircraft had not yet taken off. An Iraqi judiciary spokesman said the group included several that had “come of age” and been convicted and sentenced for illegally crossing the border. Children can be held responsible for crimes in Iraq from the age of nine.  “The central investigations court, which is responsible for the terrorism file and foreign suspects, has handed the Turkish side 188 children left behind by Daesh terrorists in Iraq,” said the spokesman, Judge Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, in a statement.  Islamic State is known to its detractors as Daesh. An Iraqi foreign ministry official, a representative of the Turkish embassy in Baghdad and representatives of international organizations including UNICEF were present, Birqdar added.”

Iraqi News: 14 Islamic State Terrorists Killed In Clashes With Security Forces In Mosul

“Iraqi authorities announced on Wednesday that 14 Islamic State militants were killed in clashes with security forces in Mosul city. “As many as 14 Islamic State terrorists, including senior leaders and suicide bombers, were killed during clashes with the Counter-Terrorism Service’s air landing forces in Mosul,” Baghdad Today quoted the Security Media Cell as saying in a press statement. The operation, carried out based on intelligence data, targeted a terrorist hotbed of the Islamic State group in al-Hadar district in southwestern Mosul, the statement read. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq. IS declared a self-styled “caliphate” in a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014. A government campaign, backed by a U.S.-led international coalition and paramilitary forces, was launched in 2016 to retake IS-held regions, managing to retake all havens, most notably the city of Mosul, the group’s previously proclaimed capital.”

Afghanistan

Gulf News: 18 Killed As Taliban Strike Near Historic Afghan Minaret

“Taliban fighters have stormed several security posts providing protection to Afghanistan's historic minaret of Jam, cutting access to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and killing 18 security forces, officials said Wednesday. The attack comes less than a week after the revered 12th-century minaret, located in a remote part of the western province of Ghor, was threatened by surging floodwaters. "The Taliban have captured some checkpoints around the minaret. We had to retreat because more fighting would cause damage to the minaret," Sayed Zia Hussaini, the deputy police chief of Ghor, told AFP. Abdul Hai Khatebi, the provincial governor spokesman, said 15 pro-government militias and three policemen had been killed in the attacks, which started Monday. "The Taliban have shut off telecommunication towers and have cut any access to the area," Fakhruddin Ariapur, the Ghor province director of information and culture, told AFP. "The cleaning-up work (from the flood) has stopped and we don't know what is happening there." Dramatic video footage from late last week showed brown torrents crashing up against the base of the brick minaret, which was built in about 1190. On Monday, the government said it had hired about 300 local workers to channel floodwaters away from the tower.”

Pakistan

The Washington Post: Pakistan Arrests 6 Men For Raising Funds For Outlawed Group

“Pakistan says it arrested six men accused of raising funds for an outlawed Pakistan-based group that claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing that killed 40 Indian troops in Kashmir earlier this year. Sarfraz Ahmad, an official at the counter-terrorism department, said on Wednesday that the six appeared before a judge in the city of Gujranwala. They were ordered held for two weeks for questioning. It’s unclear if they will face trial. The arrests were part of Pakistan’s ongoing government crackdown on terror financing. Ahmad says the suspects belong to the Jaish-e-Mohammed group, which said it carried out the Feb. 14 suicide attack in the Indian-administer part of Kashmir. The bombing raised tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors, bringing them to the brink of war. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan.”

Yemen

The Washington Post: Why The Houthi Drone Strikes Targeted Saudi Oil Facilities

“On May 14, Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen launched multiple drone strikes against Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities. These drone strikes targeted a major oil pipeline located just west of Riyadh and sparked fears of an escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf, where just two days earlier two Saudi oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, near the Strait of Hormuz. Although Houthi drone strikes can be plausibly explained by Iran’s desire to retaliate against Washington’s exclusion of Tehran from global energy markets, this argument tells us only part of the story. My research on the Yemeni civil war suggests that these drone strikes can be partially explained by internal insecurities within the Houthi movement, as numerous Houthi officials have defected to Saudi Arabia in recent months. By targeting Saudi oil facilities, the Houthis can increase their popular support in northern Yemen.”

NPR: In Yemen Conflict, Some See A New Age Of Drone Warfare

“In January, a group of high-level military commanders gathered at an air base in Yemen. It was far from the frontlines of the country's ongoing civil war. Then, without warning, a small drone appeared out of the sky and exploded, spraying the group with shrapnel. According to news reports, the blast killed several, including the Yemeni government's head of military intelligence. "It's pretty scary because it's clear that these guys had no idea what had just happened," says Nick Waters, a researcher with the U.K.-based online investigative group Bellingcat who has been tracking the Yemen conflict. Drones are nothing new in the Middle East. U.S. intelligence agencies and the military have been using unmanned aerial vehicles in the region for well over a decade. But smaller drones have begun proliferating, and they are increasingly finding a role on the battlefield. It's the clearest sign yet, Waters says, of a new era of drone warfare.”

Qatar

Islamist Watch: Tariq Ramadan's Qatari Links Exposed

“Religious leaders and thinkers frequently portray themselves as being beyond politics, with obligations only to the truth as they see it. Often, Western media figures eagerly accept this narrative when it suits them, particularly when the religious figure in question makes a convenient rebuttal to political views those media figures dislike. Such is the case with Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss-born Muslim thinker and Oxford academic, who was widely held up as an influential religious moderate before his 2017 arrest for rape. Perhaps it is this image of sage disinterestedness that makes it all the more shocking when a prominent religious voice is found to be on someone's payroll. But with Ramadan, it should come as less of a surprise.”

Saudi Arabia

U.S. News: Saudi Arabia Asks Nations To Respond To Iran With 'Firmness'

“Saudi Arabia's foreign minister on Thursday urged Muslim nations to confront with "all means of force and firmness" recent attacks in the Persian Gulf that U.S. and some Arab officials have blamed on Iran. Ibrahim al-Assaf made the comments at a preparatory meeting of foreign ministers of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, ahead of a trio of summits in the kingdom's holy city of Mecca. Saudi Arabia hastily called for the meetings in response to the spike in tensions with its key rival, Iran. That King Salman could quickly bring regional leaders and heads of state to Mecca so rapidly reflects the kingdom's weight in the region and its desire to project a unified position on Iran. The summits coincide with the final days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time of intense worship when Muslims believe the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad some 1,400 years ago.”

Middle East

CBS News: Deliberate Crop Burning Blamed On ISIS Remnants Compounds Misery In War Torn Iraq And Syria

“It was looking to be a good year for farmers across parts of Syria and Iraq. The wettest in generations, it brought rich, golden fields of wheat and barley, giving farmers in this war-torn region reason to rejoice. But good news is short-lived in this part of the world, where residents of the two countries struggle to cope with seemingly never-ending violence and turmoil amid Syria's civil war and attacks by remnants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group. Now, even in areas where conflict has subsided, fires have been raging in farmers' fields, depriving them of valuable crops. The blazes have been blamed alternately on defeated ISIS militants seeking to avenge their losses, or on Syrian government forces battling to rout other armed groups. Thousands of acres of wheat and barley fields in both Syria and Iraq have been scorched by the fires during the harvest season, which runs until mid-June.”

Egypt

Asharq Al-Awsat: Egypt: Court Upholds Execution Of 17, Life Sentence Of 19 In Church Bombings

“A military court in Egypt rejected Tuesday the appeals in the bombing of three churches. It upheld the death sentences of 20 convicts, life sentence of 17, 15-year imprisonment for one and 10-year for another. They were convicted of killing up to 80 persons in three terrorist bombings. The first targeted a church linked to the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo in Dec. 2016, and was followed by two consecutive blasts in churches in Tanta and Alexandria in April 2017. The charges include establishing two ISIS cells in Cairo and Qena. The indictment also included attacking security forces in the Negev, killing police officers, possessing and manufacturing ammunition and firearms, ISIS membership and receiving military training at ISIS camps in Libya and Syria. The Alexandria military court issued in Oct. 2018 verdicts giving 17 defendants death sentences and 19 life sentences, nine received 15-year jail terms and one a 10-year rigorous imprisonment sentence. ISIS increased its presence in Egypt five years ago after pledging allegiance to the extremist Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which carried out terrorist operations mainly in north Sinai before launching other attacks in Cairo and the rest of Egyptian provinces.”

Nigeria

Voice Of America: Ethnic Clashes In Nigeria Send 20,000 Fleeing Into Niger

“The U.N. refugee agency says an upsurge in violence in northwest Nigeria since April has driven an estimated 20,000 people to seek safety in neighboring Niger. U.N. refugee spokesman Babar Baloch says the jump in violence is not linked to the Boko Haram insurgency, which has displaced 2.4 million people in the Lake Chad Basin since 2009. "People are fleeing due to multiple reasons, as far as we understand, including clashes between farmers and herders of different ethnic groups, vigilantism, as well as kidnappings for ransom in Nigeria's Sokoto and Zamfara states," he said. Baloch says the majority of those fleeing are women and children, and new arrivals in Niger's Maradi region describe the horrors they have witnessed.They say civilians were the victims of ferocious violence, including machete attacks, kidnappings and sexual violence. Aid agencies do not know what is driving the inter-ethnic violence, Baloch told VOA. "We know there is the general sense of insecurity in these areas and that is the reason that this is out of reach for humanitarians so far," he said. "So, we will need to try to analyze and understand. ... The worry is this adds a new dimension into the ongoing conflict that is already affecting Nigeria.”

News 24: Nigerian Troops Repel Boko Haram Attack On Key Town

“Nigerian soldiers on Wednesday repelled an attack by Boko Haram jihadists on the northeast city of Maiduguri, security sources and residents told AFP. The attack, the latest in a wave of assaults by Islamist gunmen, was repulsed hours before President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn into office for a second term in power. Soldiers intercepted a "huge number" of fighters from Boko Haram on the outskirts of Maiduguri on Tuesday night, beginning a night-long battle that continued until close to dawn on Wednesday. "Our troops did an impressive job, and fought off the terrorists," said a military source, who asked to be named. Troops fought all night, and "forced them to withdraw by dawn," the source said. A member of a self-defence militia, that fights alongside regular troops, said Boko Haram forces were spotted as they moved towards the city in the dark. "Luckily they were sighted by soldiers, who fought them all night long," the militia fighter said. Residents of the city reported the sounds of a heavy battle." We kept hearing explosions and the sound of gunfire throughout the night," Maiduguri resident Nasiru Fannami said. It was not clear if there were any casualties.”

All Africa: Nigeria: Politicians Blamed For Fueling Boko Haram Growth

“Rising poverty, poor education and unemployment have been cited as major factors exposing youth to recruitment by the Boko Haram terror group in Nigeria. Civil society organisations said by failing to address these issues, political leaders were complicit in the illegal recruitment of the youngsters by the Islamist sect. "Politicians in the northeast region have leveraged religion as a tool to recruit the unemployed," said Isioma Nkemakolam, a researcher at the West African Network for Peace-building (WANEP). She was speaking at a workshop on countering violent extremism, held in the capital Abuja. "Such politicians have been complicit in the arming of Boko Haram," Nkemakolam said. She stressed the need to empower the youth to be economically independent. "When youths are gainfully employed, the chances of them being used as perpetrators of violence will greatly reduce," Nkemakolam said. She urged government to ensure perpetrators of violence by the Boko Haram are held accountable. "This should be done through the strengthening of judicial and legal processes."

Somalia

Military Times: US Airstrikes Interrupt ISIS And Al-Shabaab Battleground

“The U.S. appears to be stepping up airstrikes in northern Somalia’s Golis Mountains, where the country’s Islamic State affiliate and al-Shabaab have been battling for territorial control. On Sunday, the U.S. conducted an airstrike that killed three al-Shabaab militants in the Golis Mountains. This was the sixth airstrike in the last month against IS-Somalia and al-Shabaab in the region. “We constantly assess and exploit intelligence sources as they develop,” U.S. Africa Command spokesman John D. Manley said in an email. “In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, the last few days presented opportunities to successfully reduce terrorist influence and activity in the Golis Mountains." AFRICOM maintains that the airstrikes help to keep militant leadership and recruiting efforts in a state of flux, though al-Shabaab remains a lethal insurgent group in many rural areas across the country. In April, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that extended the U.S. military mission to Somalia for another year. “Airstrikes create additional time and space for continued incremental progress in Somalia,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Huston, AFRICOM’s deputy director of operations, said in a press release.”

Africa

Stratfor: As Terrorists Settle Into The Sahel, West Africa Prepares For Battle

“As global terrorism shifts away from battlefields in the Middle East, jihadists and other militants — including those affiliated with al Qaeda and the Islamic State — have begun seeking out unstable regions in sub-Saharan Africa as their next home. The Sahel, a vast space stretching from Mauritania's Atlantic coast to Eritrea, has been particularly vulnerable to this shift due to its perennial tumult and poverty. But now, there are signs that the region's militant spell has begun seeping into the West African countries to its south as well, which could have drastic consequences for some of the continent's most prosperous economies, such as Ivory Coast and Ghana, and their chief military partner, France. Despite years of French military support across the region through Paris' Operation Barkhane strategy, an effective mechanism to improve the increasingly dire situation in the Sahel has yet to emerge. France's Group of Five (G5) Sahel Joint Force — a regional counterterrorism force comprised of roughly 4,000 soldiers from Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso — still suffers from funding and operational setbacks, rendering it essentially ineffective. Meanwhile, multinational efforts to invest in the region's floundering local economies remain either insufficient or nonexistent.”

Africa News: Eritrea Says US Terror Blacklisting Was 'Erroneous', Welcomes Removal

“Eritrea says the May 29 lifting of security related blacklisting by the United States government was welcome despite being an erroneous move in the first place. The BBC quoted Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel as saying the “categorisation was erroneous” in the first place, before adding that Asmara viewed today’s move as a case of being “better late than never.” “Eritrea’s track record on fighting terrorism has been impeccable throughout the past decades,” he said. Washington classed Eritrea under its list of Counterterror Non-Cooperation nations in May 2017. Eritrea was the only African country listed at the time. The US based its decision on allegations of Eritrean government support for Somalia-based insurgent group, al-Shabab. The US is actively involved in combating the group listed as a terrorist organisation under its laws. The quartet of nations that remain on the said list are: Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela. Observers had largely held that dropping Eritrea from the list was only a matter of time especially after the United Nations Security Council, UNSC, voted to lift targeted sanctions on Eritrea over similar allegations.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Security Council Freezes Assets Of 26 Tunisian Terrorists, 3 Organizations

“The UN Security Council froze the assets of 26 Tunisians and three organizations involved in terrorism cases. Those included in the council’s list are Ansar Al-Sharia, Uqba ibn Nafi battalion, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Jund al-Khilafah. The list also mentioned a group of dangerous terrorists: Saif Allah Bin Hussein, founder of Ansar al-Sharia who is also accused of several terrorist cases, including the political assassinations in Tunisia in 2013. It also included Mohammed al-Awadi, the military commander of Ansar al-Sharia. Notably, this group has been prohibited in the country since 2013.  The court sentenced Awadi to 20 years in prison for his implication in terrorist activities and planning for political assassinations. Tunisia’s National Counter-Terrorism Commission President Mokhtar Ben Nasr has announced, since November, the third batch of decisions on freezing funds and economic resources against terrorists. Omar Hanin, assistant undersecretary of the republic at Ben Arous, denied that the three suspects of the attack on Rades are related to the extremist intellect as rumored by media.” 

United Kingdom

The Guardian: London Bridge Attack: Inquest Hears How Terrorists Prepared

“The London Bridge terrorists started preparing their atrocity more than two weeks before they struck, while the ringleader Khuram Butt was under MI5 investigation, an inquest has heard. Three 12-inch knives used in the attack on 3 June 2017 were bought 19 days earlier from a Lidl supermarket in east London. During the attack a rented van was used to run over people on London Bridge, killing two, before three terrorists sprinted out to stab to death six people. The inquest heard new details of the attack and preparations, including that Oxford Street in central London may have been the original target. It also heard that a bungle by the terrorists meant they missed out on hiring a large seven-and-a-half-tonne lorry, which almost certainly would have caused more deaths and inquires.”

France

France 24: Lyon Bomber Finally Confesses To French Police

“The suspect in the Lyon bombing finally confessed after 48 hours of intense questioning by French police, admitting that he planted the device that left 13 injured on May 24.  The 24 year-old IT student admitted to fabricating the parcel bomb, stating that he planned the attack weeks ago. He claims to be a lone wolf attacker, with no outside assistance. In late March, he bought the explosive triacetone and steel ball bearings, before purchasing electric wiring in early April. He bought a remote control device and batteries two weeks later in May. It was one of these purchases that gave the police the critical clue. “We have enough evidence – including his DNA – to get him,” a police source told Reuters Jihad documents found. Investigators also searched his computer, finding documents about jihad. The suspect reportedly admitted having links to jihadist groups during his interrogation. According to French law, he can be detained without charge until Friday morning. The police are currently still questioning his parents and one of his brothers. Bomb planted in heart of historic city The package bomb was placed in front of a bakery near a busy corner of two commercial streets at around 17:30 pm (1530 GMT) on a sunny Friday evening.”

Southeast Asia

The New York Times: He Incited Massacre, But Insulting Aung San Suu Kyi Was The Last Straw

“Ashin Wirathu, a radical Buddhist monk in Myanmar, has been charged with sedition over what prosecutors say are defamatory remarks he made about the nation’s civilian leader, the Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The most notorious of a band of extremist monks, Ashin Wirathu has been traveling the country delivering diatribes against Myanmar’s minority Muslims and accusing Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s government of foiling the military’s efforts to defend the Buddhist-majority nation against what he calls a Muslim onslaught. In one speech this month, Ashin Wirathu said that the civilian government was funded by foreigners and that a member of the government was “sleeping with a foreigner.” Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was married to a British academic who died of cancer in 1999 while she was under house arrest by the military junta that controlled the country for nearly half a century. For years, Myanmar’s military has systematically persecuted members of the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. A 2017 campaign of murder, rape and arson constituted genocide, according to United Nations experts. Most Rohingya have since fled from Myanmar’s far western Rakhine State to neighboring Bangladesh.”

The Star Online: Malaysian Among Three Suspected IS Militants Arrested After Anti-Terror Swoops

“Three suspected Islamic State (IS) militants have been detained following anti-terror swoops in three states, says Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador. The Inspector-General of Police said the three men - a local, an Indonesian and a Bangladeshi - were nabbed by the Counter Terrorism Division (E8) between May 17 and 30 in Selangor, Kedah and Sabah. "A 42-year-old Malaysian contractor was the first arrest made at KLIA on May 17. "He was planning to head to Egypt to join the Sinai's IS cell before securing safe passage to head to Syria," Abdul Hamid said in a statement Thursday (May 30). "The suspect is a staunch believer in the Salafi Jihadi teachings, so much so that he has rejected the parliamentary democracy system. "He does not recognise the Malaysian government and any religious organisations," he said, adding that the suspect believed that any Muslims who took part in the nation's elections could be killed as well." The country's top cop said the next arrest was a 20-year-old Indonesian man, who is believed to have been a facilitator for Indonesian IS militants, who transited in Sabah before heading to southern Philippines to launch suicide bombings. "The suspect was arrested in Keningau, Sabah, on May 26.”

Technology

The Wall Street Journal: Pelosi Slams Facebook Over Altered Video

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) denounced Facebook Inc. for its refusal to take down a doctored video of her, saying the decision demonstrates the platform’s disregard for the truth. “Right now they are putting up something that they know is false. I think it’s wrong,” she said in an interview Wednesday with San Francisco news station KQED. The video in question—which was widely shared on social media, including by Rudy Giuliani, one of President Trump’s attorneys—is of a recent speech by Mrs. Pelosi that had been slowed down and altered in tone, making her appear to slur her words. Mrs. Pelosi likened the social-media company’s handling of the altered video to its failure to prevent Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections. “We have said all along, ‘Poor Facebook, they were unwittingly exploited by the Russians,” she said. “I think they have proven—by not taking down something they know is false—that they were willing enablers of the Russian interference in our election.”