Eye on Extremism: May 8

The New York Times: Bombing Outside Revered Sufi Shrine In Pakistan Kills At Least 10

“A bombing outside one of Pakistan’s most revered Sufi shrines killed at least 10 people, including five police officers, and injured at least 20 other people, officials said, raising new concerns about militant violence targeting a moderate and nonviolent strand of Islam. The bombing took place Wednesday morning in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, near the shrine of an 11th-century Sufi saint, Abul Hasan Ali Bin Usman, more popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri. Police officials said the bombing destroyed a van carrying police commandoes who were providing security at the shrine. Investigators were trying to determine who was behind the attack, which they said was a suicide bombing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. “There were no specific threat alerts to the shrine, but it is always considered to be a high-security zone,” said Ashfaq Ahmad Khan, the deputy inspector general for operations of the Lahore police.”

Voice Of America: Fears Grow Islamic State's Foreign Fighters Ready To Carry On

“Even as the Islamic State’s caliphate was clinging to life with its last defenders cornered in a small town in northeastern Syria, the terror group managed to shock those who would eventually see it die. Instead of waiting out about 1,000 civilians and 300 or so hard-core IS fighters who had retreated to Baghuz, the U.S.-led coalition watched for weeks in late February and March, as upwards of 30,000 civilians and 5,000 fighters, slowly surrendered. “Very much unanticipated,” a senior U.S. defense official said at the time, describing what he called “the magnitude of humanity” flowing out of the terror group’s final shred of territory. “We continue to be surprised by the numbers,” the official added. But when it comes to the Islamic State terror group, numbers have always been a challenge for the United States and its partners, starting with their first efforts to measure the terror group’s appeal to would-be jihadists from across the globe. And it is that same uncertainty that has some officials and analysts worried that the narrative surrounding the demise of IS foreign fighters – that the majority are dead or in custody – may be wrong.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iran Plans To Pull Out Of Key Parts Of Nuclear Agreement

“Iran said Wednesday it would end some commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, putting Tehran on a collision course with Europe and the U.S. during a period of intensifying tension with the Trump administration. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would begin stockpiling heavy water and low-enriched uranium, dropping two key pieces of the accord that keep Iran from building an atomic bomb. Mr. Rouhani gave Europe, Russia and China 60 days to help it thwart American sanctions on oil sales and banking transactions or Iran would forge ahead with additional measures like enriching uranium and rebuilding a closed nuclear facility—moves that could jeopardize the deal altogether. Coming a year to the day after President Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, Iran’s move appeared calibrated to put pressure on France, the U.K. and Germany without provoking the U.S. by breaching the agreement entirely. But it puts European powers in an almost untenable position, forcing them to choose between its most essential ally, the U.S., and a historic nuclear pact they say underpins their national security.”

NBC News: Judge Says Coast Guard Officer Accused Of Plotting Domestic Terror Attack Can Be Released

“A Coast Guard officer accused of stockpiling guns and compiling a hit list of prominent Democrats and network television journalists can be released on strict supervision to one of his in-laws while he awaits trial, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. Judge Charles Day agreed to delay the release while prosecutorsappeal the decision. Christopher Hasson, 50, a Coast Guard lieutenant working in the nation's capital, was arrested Feb. 15 on drug and gun charges. Prosecutors later called Hasson a "domestic terrorist" in court filings and said he "intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country." But Hasson has not been charged with any terrorism-related offensesand prosecutors have said they don't plan to file additional charges. Hasson's lawyer has been seeking his pretrial release for several months. After initially denying the request, the judge agreed Tuesday to a strict release into the custody of Hasson's father-in-law or mother-in-law in Virginia, where he would have to be accompanied by someone else at all times. Hasson will not be released yet. The judge has laid out a lengthy list of conditions for his release, which court officers must confirm have been met, and the government's appeal must be processed.”

Fox News: UN Launches New Program To Disrupt Terrorist Fighter Travels

“The U.N. Office of Counter-Terrorism is launching a new program to help countries detect and disrupt travel by foreigners who have fought for extremist groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaida. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that the U.N. Countering Terrorist Travel Program uses a new "goTravel" software system to collect, process and share passenger information with national and international authorities. He said that after the defeat of IS in Syria and Iraq, many of the more than 40,000 foreigners estimated to have fought there are trying to return home or relocate to safe havens where they could carry out terrorist attacks and recruit new followers. Guterres says that "detecting and disrupting these terrorists and other high-risk criminals ... is a high priority for the international community.”

Associated Press: Christian Woman Acquitted Of Blasphemy Leaves Pakistan

“A Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan has left for Canada to be reunited with her daughters, Pakistani officials and others involved in the case said Wednesday. Aasia Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2009 after a quarrel with a fellow farmworker. The Supreme Court overturned her conviction last year, and she had been in protective custody since then. Islamic extremists have rioted over the case and threatened to kill her. The same radical Islamists, many of whom have been jailed for their threats, also urged the overthrow of the government following Bibi’s acquittal. Wilson Chawdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association told The Associated Press that he received a text message from a British diplomat saying “Aasia is out.” A close friend of Bibi also confirmed that she had left the country, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. Her lawyer, Saif-ul Malook, said she had already arrived in Canada.”

United States

Forbes: U.S. Sends B-52s To Deal With Threat Of Attack By Iran, Iran Says 'Despised' U.S. To Blame

“"If the U.S. doesn't feel safe, it's because they're despised by the people of the region — blaming Iran won’t reverse that," tweeted Javad Zarif, Iran's Foreign Minister, on Tuesday. "The B-Team is at it again. From announcements of naval movements (that actually occurred last month) to dire warnings about so-called 'Iranian threats'." The "B-Team" is Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman and the UAE's Mohammed bin Zayed. Tensions ramped up still further on Tuesday, with CBS News reporting that "four B-52 bombers are being deployed to the Middle East in response to what administration officials said earlier this week are threats of a possible attack by Iran or allied fighters on American troops in the region. Two of the bombers are expected to leave Tuesday from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, arriving at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar on Wednesday... CENTCOM is expected to request additional forces, including Patriot anti-missile batteries.”

Fox News: Robert Charles: Trump Is Responding Decisively To Iran’s Aggression And Terrorism

“In response to Iran’s increasingly bellicose foreign policy, which extends from military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to civil war in Yemen, terrorist attacks on regional American allies to supporting Hamas in dropping 600 rockets on Israel this week, the Trump administration has squeezed the Iranian economy. Team Trump first exited Obama-Biden-Kerry’s stillborn nuclear deal, which gave the West a deadened, one-sided, unenforceable promise to end nuclear research – which Iran did not do – in exchange for planeloads of cash. That was a year ago. In a confirmation of Iranian bad faith, Islamic leaders went full throttle testing long-range missiles, which could one day carry nuclear warheads. In response to Iran’s regional belligerence and overt support of anti-Western terrorism, Trump began ratcheting up sanctions.”

The Washington Post: Pompeo Makes Unannounced Visit To Baghdad Amid Rising Tensions With Iran

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a sudden, unscheduled trip to Iraq’s capital on Tuesday as U.S. officials warned that Iran was positioning missiles that could be used against American forces in the region. Pompeo’s surprise visit to Baghdad came on the eve of the first anniversary of President Trump’s withdrawal from a landmark nuclear agreement with Iran. Washington and Tehran have been exchanging increasingly belligerent rhetoric as the day approaches. The Pentagon has ordered the deployment of an aircraft carrier and Air Force bombers in the Persian Gulf while warning of the threat posed by small Iranian boats suspected of carrying missiles. Pompeo’s decision to break away from a European trip for the Middle East was cloaked in secrecy for security reasons. He abruptly canceled a visit to Germany, where he was scheduled to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, with the State Department initially saying only that “pressing issues” had arisen.”

The New York Post: Trial Begins For Man Feds Say Was Hezbollah ‘Sleeper’ Agent

“A Bronx man who is accused of working as a deep-cover “sleeper” agent for Hezbollah — appearing to lead an otherwise normal life while secretly conducting surveillance on New York City-area airports and military installations — went to trial this week. Federal prosecutors say that from 2009 to 2015, the Lebanon-born Ali Kourani, 34, ran surveillance on military and intelligence facilities in anticipation of an attack from the Islamic Jihad Organization, an arm of Hezbollah. The feds also allege that, in 2011, Kournai took a trip to Lebanon to receive weapons and combat training. According to court papers, Kourani immigrated to the United States legally in 2003. He obtained a degree in biomedical engineering from the City University of New York in 2009 and later obtained an MBA. Kourani had attempted to become an informant for the FBI, court papers state — he agreed to sit down with agents for five interviews with hopes that he could give up information in exchange for financial support and immigration benefits for his relatives. In one of his interviews, Kournai boasted that his family was akin to the “Bin Ladens of Lebanon.” But the feds say they made him no promises to Kournai for the information he provided and instead arrested him in 2017.”

Syria

The Wall Street Journal: Thousands Of Syrians Flee Regime Attacks As Ramadan Gets Under Way

“Ibrahim Najjar and his family were preparing to spend the holy month of Ramadan fasting and praying when Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes pounded his village in northwest Syria, forcing them to flee to an olive orchard. The 35-year-old father and his extended family of 23 people initially slept on blankets spread over the orchard’s dirt until strangers in the nearby town of Sarmada offered them two free rooms on Sunday, on the eve of Ramadan. Despite the temporary shelter, Mr. Najjar worries over what they will do next. “We don’t know what we will do,” he said. “We have handed our fate to God.” Mr. Najjar’s family members were among the tens of thousands of Syrians who have fled their homes in recent days, as the regime and Russia escalated their bombardment on the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria in northwest Idlib province. The bombing has frayed a monthslong cease-fire agreement brokered by Turkey and Russia for the northwest area and renewed fears of an imminent ground assault.”

The Washington Examiner: FBI 'Not Giving Up' On Bringing ISIS 'Beatles' To Justice In US

“FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress today that the FBI is “not giving up” on bringing two British-raised ISIS terrorists, known colloquially as “The Beatles,” to the U.S. for prosecution.  El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, who are currently being held prisoner in Syria by the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces, were part of an ISIS terrorist cell believed to be responsible for the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, American humanitarian aid worker Peter Kassig, British humanitarian aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, and numerous other hostages.  Wray assured the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that the FBI’s goal is “to ensure that these folks can be brought to justice.” A complicating factor is that Elsheikh (known as “George”) and Kotey (known as “Ringo”), both captured in January 2018, were formerly British citizens, and so British courts must first OK their transfer to the U.S. custody.  Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Wray that he “wanted to make sure these people do not break out and are brought to justice.” And he asked Wray if he “could give this committee a status on those cases and what the plan is in terms of bringing them to justice.”

The National: Militants Interrupt Aid Deliveries As 150,000 Displaced In Idlib

“Over 100,000 civilians have been displaced in northern Syria’s Idlib in the last week, the United Nations said on Tuesday as hospitals, houses and first responders have been targeted in the ongoing week-long offensive. "We are alarmed by ongoing reports of aerial attacks on population centres and civilian infrastructure, resulting in hundreds of civilians dead and injured," said David Swanson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA. "More than 152,000 women, children and men have been displaced in Aleppo and Idlib governorates over the past week alone," he said. Fighting subsided early on Tuesday after pro-government forces thwarted several counter-attacks and consolidated new positions, head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul Rahman, said. But then air strikes and artillery shelling on Tuesday killed at least 13 civilians. Nine were killed in similar strikes on Monday. Opposition-linked first responders, known as the White Helmets, say warplanes bombed a market in the village of Ras El Ain on Tuesday, killing four people and wounding 20.  French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his "extreme concern" over the heightened violence.”

Kurdistan 24: Children Of ISIS Members Handed Over To Swedish Delegation In Syria

“Local authorities in northeastern Syria on Tuesday handed over seven children belonging to members of the so-called Islamic State to a Swedish delegation. The transfer was made at the Faysh Khabur border crossing, also known as the “Semalka” crossingwhich connects Syria’s northeast with the Kurdistan Region. The Swedish delegation met with the foreign relations department in northern and eastern Syria to receive seven children of Swedish nationality whose parents were killed in Syria fighting for the Islamic State, local Kurdish media reported. The delegation was received by the Deputy Head of the Department of Foreign Relations in North and East Syria, Sana Deham, and the Director of the Women’s Body for North and East Syria, Rokan Mullah Ibrahim. After the children were handed over, an extradition contract was signed. The Swedish delegation then returned to the Kurdistan Region with the children where they are expected to repatriate them to Sweden. In April, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström said the country wants to facilitate the return of children of Swedish nationals who traveled overseas to join the terror group.”

Iran

The Washington Examiner: Maduro Providing A 'Safe Haven' For Iranian Terrorists In The West, Pence Says

“Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro is partnering with Iran to establish a beachhead for terrorist groups in the Western Hemisphere, Vice President Mike Pence warned Tuesday.  “The Iranian regime has been working with Venezuela’s corrupt dictatorship to establish a safe haven for its terrorist proxies,” Pence said in an address before the Council of the Americas.  Maduro loyalists deny that Hezbollah, the preeminent terrorist subsidiary of Iran, has a presence in Venezuela, even though the regime’s top diplomat traveled to Beirut to meet with a Hezbollah leader last month. U.S. officials have contradicted those denials for years, but Pence’s State Department speech intensified the allegations just days after the dictator withstood an opposition-led call for a military uprising to overthrow the regime.   “Venezuela is a failed state,” Pence said. “And as history teaches, failed states know no boundaries. Drug traffickers, criminal gangs, terrorist groups seeking to destabilize the region and profit from the misery of the Venezuelan people every day.”

Reuters: EU-Iran Trade Vehicle Unlikely To Meet Anti-Money-Laundering Norms: U.S.

“The United States said on Tuesday that European powers are unlikely to live up to a pledge to prevent their conduit for trade with Iran being used to launder money or finance terrorism, raising the prospect of further U.S. sanctions. France, Britain and Germany have set up the special purpose vehicle called Instex, a conduit for barter-based trade with Iran, in an effort to protect at least some of Iran’s economy from sweeping U.S. sanctions and keep alive a big-power nuclear deal that Washington is about to quit. The three European Union members have been trying to get Iran to keep its commitments under the deal to cut back its nuclear program - which Washington distrusts - by helping it to circumvent the trade sanctions that Washington has reimposed. They want Instex to meet norms for legitimate financing set by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, even though Iran as a country is not yet fully compliant with them.”

Iraq

The New York Times: Iraq’s Militias, Accused Of Threatening U.S., Pose A Quandary For Iraq

“When the United States said this week that American forces in Iraq faced threats from Iranian “proxies,” it was referring to the armed groups that helped fight the Islamic State and have bedeviled Iraq ever since. The Iraqi armed groups, some with ties to Iran, have a footprint in every Iraqi province. Whether they function as Iranian proxies, however, is far from settled. “The word ‘proxy’ implies that these are tools of Iran, and they aren’t,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “You have a range of groups in Iraq’s Popular Mobilization: Some are Sunni, some are pro-Iraqi government, some have ties to the Quds force and the Islamic Guard,” he said. The question is further clouded by the fact that these groups are recognized and funded by the Iraqi government. This week, the United States ordered an aircraft carrier and bombers to the Persian Gulf in response to what it termed as threats from the groups. There are roughly 30 of the militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, with at least 125,000 active-duty fighters.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Army, Tribes Kill 13 Daesh Militants In Anbar

“Thirteen Daesh (Islamic State) militants were killed in a raid by Iraqi army aviation and encounters with tribesmen province of Anbar, west of the country. A statement by the ministry of defense, quoted by local media, said one warplane was targeted with gunfire during a backup mission for Iraqi forces in the city of Qaem, a former Islamic State stronghold near the Syrian borders. The plane responded to the source of the firing, killing five Daesh (Islamic State) militants, and destroyed their truck besides a booby-trapped vehicle, according to the ministry. Meanwhile, Russi Today quoted a tribal source in Anbar saying that a force of tribesmen in Anbar killed eight Daesh members who were camping in al-Jazirah desert are, upon a tip from civilians. Iraq said it completely defeated Daesh, which controlled large areas of the country since 2014, but occasional encounters occur at desert areas, and the group has also targeted security forces and civilians across the country.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: Taliban Attack Aid Group Office In Afghan Capital, 9 Wounded

“The Taliban attacked the offices of an international NGO in the Afghan capital on Wednesday, setting off a huge explosion and battling Afghan security forces in an assault that wounded at least nine people, officials said. Public Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Mayar said that at least nine Afghans were wounded in the attack. It was not immediately clear if any foreigners had been wounded. A large plume of smoke rose from the area and the sound of sporadic gunfire could be heard. The attack targeted an international aid group called Counterpart International, which has offices near those of the Afghan attorney general, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group attacked the organization because it was involved in “harmful Western activities” inside Afghanistan, without elaborating. The insurgents stage near-daily attacks on Afghan forces, even as peace efforts have accelerated to find an end to the country’s 17-year war. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called for peace with the Taliban last week and promised to free 175 Taliban prisoners ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began Monday.”

Reuters: Afghan Civilians Killed In Air Strikes On Taliban Drug Labs, Local Officials Say

“Air strikes in western Afghanistan this week destroyed a number of Taliban drug labs and also killed dozens of civilians, according to reports from local officials that were rejected by the Afghan government.  The Afghan defense ministry said coalition air strikes in three locations in the western province of Farah late on Sunday destroyed 68 Taliban drug labs and killed 150 insurgents, as part of an air campaign aimed at cutting off one of the movement’s key sources of revenues. However Abdul Ghafoor Mujahid, the governor of Bakwa district, where the attacks took place, said many of those killed were civilians working in the labs. He said at least 45 civilians were killed in the strike, along with around 18 Taliban fighters. Several civilians in neighboring houses were wounded, he said.  “The civilians were hired by the Taliban to work in their heroin processing labs and were unfortunately killed during the air strikes,” Mujahid told Reuters. Defense Ministry spokesman Qais Mangal denied any civilians were killed in the strikes in Farah, a remote and sparsely populated area where hundreds of police and soldiers have been killed in months of heavy fighting.”

Radio Free Europe: Afghan Women Activists Fear Return Of Taliban-Era Repressions

“Khalida Khorsand, a 35-year-old rights activist from the western Afghan city of Herat, is skeptical about Taliban claims that it has dispensed with its strict rules against girls' education and women working. The militant Islamic group made the declaration in the midst of recent peace talks with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad aimed at bringing an end to the long U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. But Khorsand still remembers the notorious repressions under Taliban rule as a teenager in the western city of Herat when she risked the death penalty to study literature in a class disguised as a women's sewing group. "After nearly 18 years without the Taliban in power, we now see that the Taliban are coming back in Afghanistan and there haven't been big changes for women's lives -- especially in rural areas," says Khorsand, who has dedicated much of her life since 2001 to advancing women's rights in western Afghanistan. Even without the Taliban in power in Herat, Khorsand says, many hard-fought gains for women since the collapse of the Taliban regime already are under threat.”

Yemen

Gulf Times: Drone Strike 'Kills 4 Qaeda Suspects' In Yemen

“A suspected US drone strike killed four alleged Al-Qaeda militants in central Yemen on Tuesday, a security official in the area said. The strike targeted the men's vehicle as they were heading to a farm in Marib province, according to the official, who did not want to be named. The United States considers Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to be the radical group's most dangerous branch. A long-running US drone war against AQAP has intensified since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. AQAP and other jihadist groups have flourished in the chaos of the country's civil war, which pits the government -- backed by a Saudi-led military coalition -- against Shiite Huthi rebels. On Sunday, four suspected Al-Qaeda members were killed in a suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State group in Bayda province, a local official told AFP. The more than four-year conflict in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, relief agencies say. The fighting has triggered what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with 3.3 million people still displaced and 24.1 million -- more than two-thirds of the population -- in need of aid.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Griffiths Fails To Convince Houthis To Lift Restrictions On Lollesgaard’s Movements

“UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths has failed to pressure Houthi militias in Sanaa to allow the head of the UN Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC), Lieutenant-General Michael Lollesgaard, in reaching government-controlled areas in Hodeidah, where he should sit down with representatives of the government. “The UN envoy has failed to convince Houthis to withdraw from Hodeidah and its ports, as he failed to push the militias to lift restrictions on the movements of Lollesgaard,” West coast liberation operations spokesman Waddah al-Dbish told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday. He revealed that the ongoing Houthi intransigence compelled Lollesgaard to send a letter to the legitimate government's representative in the RCC, Saghir bin Aziz, asking him to choose another location for the meeting, either in Aden or in Riyadh next Sunday or Monday.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Islamic Jihad Leader Expects War With Israel To Break Out Next Summer

“A leader of the Islamic Jihad said in a televised interview that he expects a war with Israel to break out by next summer. Speaking to Al Mayadeen, a Lebanese news channel, on Tuesday night, secretary general of the Islamic Jihad Ziad al-Nahala described the most recent escalation against Israel as “just preparation for the greater battle”.  “The resistance in Gaza is fully prepared for any war,” Nahala said, adding that when the ceasefire was reached they were about to shoot rockets at Tel Aviv. The Islamic Jihad leader further said that the weekly protests at the border with Israel will continue. He explained that a first test for the ceasefire will take place next Friday, which marks the commemoration of “Nakba Day,” Day of the Catastrophe, as Palestinians refer to the foundation of the State of Israel. He vowed that if the demonstrators are hurt, there will be retaliation.  The Palestinian terror group has strong ties with Iran and with the Lebanese group Hezbollah, and they are sometimes seen as a rival faction to Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.”

Egypt

Al Arabiya: Egypt Court Upholds Death Penalty For 13 Militants

“An Egyptian court Tuesday upheld the death sentences of 13 militants for attacks against security forces, a judicial official said. The defendants were charged with forming a militant group, Ajnad Misr (Soldiers of Egypt), which has claimed responsibility for lethal attacks on security forces in and around the capital Cairo. Egypt’s Cassation Court rejected an appeal against initial rulings passed by a Giza criminal tribunal in December 2017. The accused were found guilty of “making and possessing explosive materials, bombs and firearms, and of receiving training outside the country”. They were also convicted of “terrorist acts against police forces and public facilities from late 2013 to May 2015”. Apart from the 13 death sentences, 17 defendants were handed life prison terms, and nine to between five and 15 years in jail, while five were acquitted. Ajnad Misr claimed several deadly attacks against security forces and bombings outside key buildings such as the Supreme Court and the cabinet offices. In 2015, the group’s leader Hammam Mohamed Attiyah was shot dead in a Cairo gunfight with police. Police said Attiyah belonged to Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the Egyptian branch of ISIS before he broke away in 2013 to found Ajnad Misr.”

Nigeria

Premium Times: Boko Haram Attacks Travellers, Villagers Near Maiduguri

“Gunmen believed to be Boko Haram members Tuesday evening staged an attack on a convoy of travellers near Molai, a village at the outskirts of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.  The convoy of travellers was guarded by soldiers, but this did not deter the insurgents. The gunmen reportedly travelled from Damboa to the outskirts of Maiduguri before they began the attack near Molai village.  Molai is a community known for such frequent attacks.  Residents of the community said the attack started at about 6.30 p.m. when Muslims were about to break their fast. The attackers, according to a witness, Bulama Aji, were in their large numbers. “They were in large number driving in more than a dozen vehicles. No one suspected that they were Boko Haram until they were about entering into Maiduguri. I wonder where the soldiers were when such a large number of gunmen invaded their convoy. “Suddenly we saw one of the vehicles pull out in full speed and ram into a military escort van and a bomb went off.  “From then on, the other gunmen who embedded in the different parts of the convoy started shooting at the passengers as everyone scampered into safety.  “The gunmen made their way to Molai where they continued to shoot while setting houses and vehicles on fire, ” Mr Aji said.”

Africa

Asharq Al-Awsat: Tunisian Takfiri Jailed For Inciting Women To Join ISIS

“The court of first instance has sentenced a Tunisian takfiri to 18 months in prison for inciting young people to join ISIS terrorist organization. The counter-terrorism agency had placed the takfiri fighter called “Emir of Tajerouine” under surveillance. Tajerouine refers to the city where he lived. Investigators said he contacted a group of four girls via social media, encouraging them to adopt extremist thinking. They said he asked the girls for marriage and then invited them to head to Syria to join ISIS. After his arrest, the man denied his intention to travel to Syria or wanting to send the girls there by urging them to join the terrorist organization. However, he admitted to his desire to marry the girls. In other news, Tunisian security sources confirmed the arrest of Tunisian terrorist Raed Touati during a recent operation in the Sidi Ali Ben Aoun area of Sidi Bouzid, a city in central Tunisia. The operation allowed security forces to have access to very important information on the terrorist elements in the mountainous areas, especially in al-Kasserine, Jendouba, and el-Kef. Investigators were able to gather clear and accurate data on the number of terrorists killed in the mountains and their burial places.”

United Kingdom

The Toronto Sun: ISIS Hate Preacher Getting The Gang Back Together?

“British intelligence services fear that notorious hate preacher Anjem Choudary is getting the old gang back together. Choudary — who was recently released from prison — served three years for being one of ISIS’s biggest cheerleaders in the U.K. Now, experts are worried the bile-fuelled fanatic could galvanize fellow Islamic State travellers. Among those Choudary helped radicalize and encourage was London Bridge terror attack ringleader Khuram Butt, soldier Lee Rigby’s killers and members of the banned terror group al-Muhajiroun. The 52-year-old smiled as he strolled a London street as his seven devoted followers — called the Hateful Eight by British tabloids — are once again gathering around him, sources said.”

The Jerusalem Post: UK Police To ‘Intervene’ If Hezbollah Flags Flown On Quds Day In London

“The Metropolitan Police Service for London appears ready to confiscate flags, banners and other items bearing the insignia of the Hezbollah terrorist paramilitary organization during the annual Quds Day demonstration, stating on Tuesday that it will ‘intervene’ if it sees such things publicly displayed. Quds Day is an Iranian sponsored anti-Zionist event which takes place in several international cities, including London, at the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. This year it falls on June 2. The event typically sees many expressions of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiment, as well as the flying of Hezbollah flags and the display of the organization’s insignia. In February, the House of Commons voted to ban all wings of Hezbollah, including its political branch which had previously not been proscribed, due to its destabilizing influence in the Middle East, classifying the movement as a terrorist organization.”

The Financial Times: UK Far-Right Extremism: Hate Spreads From The Fringe

“The day after a far-right extremist murdered 51 worshippers in two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, Mohammed Kozbar received a chilling telephone call 12,000 miles away in London. “The caller said ‘your congregation will be next’,” says Mr Kozbar, chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque. “Imagine something like that. Maybe he was serious or maybe he wasn’t, but we couldn’t take any risk.” For the hundreds of Muslims who regularly attend the north London mosque, which tightened security after the threat, the Christchurch attack in March brought back memories of their own deadly experience of far-right extremism. Almost two years ago, and with the UK on high alert after a series of Islamist-inspired attacks in London and Manchester, Darren Osborne, a 47-year-old who had been radicalised online, drove a van into a crowd of people — killing one man and injuring others. He was jailed for 43 years in February. The threatening phone call to Mr Kozbar is not the only thing that links the two attacks. The man accused of the Christchurch killings, an Australian neo-Nazi called Brenton Tarrant, cited Osborne and other far-right murderers including Anders Breivik who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011, in a rambling 74-page “manifesto” he posted online before the attack.”

BBC News: UK Terror Threat: How Has It Changed?

“The terrorist threat to Britain is radically different today from what it was at the outset of the Islamic State group's caliphate five years ago, according to senior Whitehall officials. While the threat from far-right extremism and dissident Irish Republicans has grown substantially, officials believe that IS has lost one of its major appeals - that of a physical territory with which to attract recruits from Europe and elsewhere.  The threat to Britain from international terrorism is still judged as severe.  That is the second highest out of a list of five, as assessed by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) which makes its recommendations independent of government.  It has been at that level or higher since August 2014 and means that a terrorist attack is judged to be highly likely. And counter-terrorism police and MI5 are currently handling over 700 investigations, a record number.  The Security Service, MI5, has more than 3,000 subjects of interest (SOI's) on its watch list, more than it is capable of monitoring around the clock, as well as a pool of over 20,000 former SOI's, some of whom are thought capable of moving to violent action.”

Europe

Reuters: U.N. To Malta: Drop Terrorism Charges Against African Migrants Accused Of Hijacking Tanker

“The United Nations human rights office called on Malta on Tuesday to drop terrorism charges against three African teenage migrants arrested for hijacking a small commercial tanker that rescued their vessel off the coast of Libya.  The three, who have pleaded not guilty, were among 108 Africans rescued by the El Hiblu 1 tanker in late March. They are accused of threatening the crew to try to force the boat to go to Malta and not take them back to Libya.  Many of the migrants, including several children, had been dehydrated and exhibiting “clear signs of torture”, U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. The three youths - one from Ivory Coast and two from Guinea - are due to appear in court on May 20, she said. “The accused, aged 15, 16 and 19, have been charged under Maltese laws for allegedly hijacking the ship and forcing it to go to Malta. Some of the charges are punishable by life imprisonment,” Shamdasani told a news briefing.  While the circumstances around the captain’s decision to finally steer the ship to Malta are disputed, the U.N. is deeply concerned by the severity of the charges. Even though two are minors, all three of the accused were held in the high-security division of an adult prison, amid reports that they were interrogated without being appointed legal guardians, Shamdasani said.”

Southeast Asia

Fox News: Indonesian Authorities Arrest Suspected Members Of ISIS-Affiliated Group, Thwart Planned Terrorist Attack: Report

“Two suspected terrorists were killed and six others were detained during weekend raids in Indonesia aimed at thwarting a potential terror attack, according to a report. Police said the ISIS-linked group was planning an attack on a crowd later this month. One of the suspected terrorists was shot and killed by Indonesia’s anti-terrorism squad, Special Detachment 88, while the other died after blowing himself up to avoid capture near Jakarta in a separate incident, Reuters reported. Authorities said the six arrested were linked to the radical Islamist group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which is the largest ISIS-affiliated group in Indonesia. The group was disbanded last year for terrorist activities and its affiliation with ISIS, Reuters reported. A police spokesman said the group was planning an attack on a large crowd later this month that is tied to Indonesia’s recent contested election. “They were planning to take police firearms and use them to commit terrorism, whether by becoming suicide bombers or performing other attacks that could be fatal for protesters,” the spokesman said.”

NPR: Reporter's Notebook: Uighurs Held For 'Extremist Thoughts' They Didn't Know They Had

“When it comes to Chinese authorities' eagerness to manage perceptions of the way they treat Muslim citizens in the Xinjiang region, it would be hard to beat a recent musical performance staged for an audience of foreign journalists. On the fifth day of a government-sponsored media tour last month, at a detention facility in the far-western city of Kashgar, two dozen Uighur detainees belted out the American children's song "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands." The group of adults, some as old as 40 and dressed in colorful ethnic Uighur costumes, stumbled over the English lyrics. From the front of a classroom, their teacher guided them to stand up, sing and — at the song's cue — clap their hands in unison: an attempt to show the visiting group of skeptical reporters that, despite the circumstances, they were living up to the lyrics. It was a tough sell. The detainees have been locked away for months — for being, as authorities put it, "infected with extremist thoughts." The U.S. and United Nations estimate that China has detained hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other Muslims in internment camps in the vast, predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang.”

France 24: Bangladesh Arrests Suspected IS Militant Back From Syria

“Bangladesh's counter-terrorism police have arrested a suspected Islamic State member who returned to the country after fighting for the militant group in Syria, police said Wednesday. Dhaka launched a major crackdown against homegrown extremist outfits following an attack by a local outfit on a cafe in the capital in 2016 that killed 22 people, including 18 foreigners. Police said Motaj Abdul Majid Kafiluddin Bepari, 33, joined IS in Syria after he travelled to the war-torn country from Saudi Arabia, where he was born to a Bangladeshi parent. He returned to Bangladesh in February and made contact with a new faction of local IS-inspired Islamist extremist outfit Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), blamed for a series of attacks, including the 2016 cafe attack, counter-terrorism official Wahiduzzaman Noor told AFP. Officers arrested Bepari near a mosque in Dhaka's Uttara neighbourhood on May 5, and he has been charged under anti-terrorism laws for alleged plans to establish a caliphate in the moderate Muslim-majority country, Noor added. "He went to Syria in 2018 and fought for the IS." Bepari's arrest came after counter-terrorism police alerted airport authorities about the possible return of more than 50 Bangladesh-origin IS extremists after the group's defeat in Syria, deputy commissioner of Dhaka police Mohibul Islam Khan told AFP.”

Venezuela

The Wall Street Journal: Russian Collusion In Venezuela

“‘I had a very good talk with President Putin — probably over an hour,” President Trump said on Friday. “And we talked about many things. Venezuela was one of the topics. And he is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela. And I feel the same way.” Mr. Trump added: “I thought it was a very positive conversation I had with President Putin on Venezuela.” It’s also the opposite of what the rest of his Administration and nearly every outside observer believes. Since the mid-2000s Mr. Putin has made it a priority to strengthen economic, military and diplomatic ties with Venezuela. Moscow has sold more than $10 billion in weapons—assault rifles, jet fighters, tanks and missile systems—to Caracas. In 2008 Mr. Putin sent two Russian Tu-160 bombers on a training mission to Venezuela. The late dictator Hugo Chávez celebrated their arrival, declaring “Yankee hegemony is finished.”

Technology

The Wall Street Journal: Facebook Penalty Sparks Partisan Wrangling

“Federal Trade commissioners will appear at a House hearing Wednesday as they complete a settlement with Facebook Inc. over privacy violations, in a session likely to see sparring between Democrats and Republicans over who is better positioned to police Big Tech. The Federal Trade Commission—made up of three Republican and two Democratic members—is poised to levy a fine of as much as $5 billion on the Silicon Valley giant in what would be its biggest such penalty ever. With that as a backdrop, all five commissioners will testify before a House Energy and Commerce panel about its work broadly. “Facebook violated the law and the terms of its 2011 consent agreement with the FTC,” Rep. Kathy Castor (D., Fla.), who sits on the House panel, said in a statement. “The fines and penalties should reflect that serious breach and ensure that penalties are not viewed simply as the cost of doing business.”

The New York Times: Google Says It Has Found Religion On Privacy

“Google, the company that may know the most about our digital lives, is now preaching the gospel of privacy. Speaking at an annual conference for developers on Tuesday, Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, delivered a message that seemed cognizant of today’s consumer privacy concerns but out of step with the company’s history of intensive online data collection. “We think privacy is for everyone — not just for the few,” Mr. Pichai said. “We want to do more to stay ahead of constantly evolving user expectations.” Google introduced a set of tools spanning a range of its products to provide users with more control over their data and make it more difficult to track their online activities.”