Eye on Extremism: May 9

The Washington Post: Facebook Auto-Generates Videos Celebrating Extremist Images

“Facebook likes to give the impression that it's staying ahead of extremists by taking down their posts, often before users even see them. But a confidential whistleblower's complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission obtained by The Associated Press alleges the social media company has exaggerated its success. Even worse, it shows that the company is inadvertently making use of propaganda by militant groups to auto-generate videos and pages that could be used for networking by extremists. Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California, Berkeley, who advises the Counter-Extremism Project, a New York and London-based group focused on combatting extremist messaging, says that Facebook's artificial intelligence system is failing. He says the company is not motivated to tackle the problem because it would be expensive. "The whole infrastructure is fundamentally flawed," he said. "And there's very little appetite to fix it because what Facebook and the other social media companies know is that once they start being responsible for material on their platforms it opens up a whole can of worms.”

CNN: FBI Is Investigating 850 Domestic Terrorism Cases

“The FBI has 850 open domestic terrorism investigations, 40% of which are cases of racially motivated violent extremism, Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Michael McGarrity said Wednesday. Testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee, McGarrity said a "significant majority" of those racially motivated cases involved white supremacist extremists, and he called the threat posed by domestic terrorists in the US "persistent and evolving." "The FBI assesses domestic terrorists collectively pose a persistent and evolving threat of violence and economic harm to the United States. In fact, there have been more arrests and deaths in the United States caused by domestic terrorists than international terrorists in recent years," McGarrity said. The hearing, which focused on the domestic terror threat in the country and also featured senior officials from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, came just days after two separate back-to-back attacks in California, as well as a foiled plot in that state, which all appear to have been religiously motivated. The numbers around the domestic terror threat in the US, and whether they are trending upward, have been scrutinized in recent weeks in light of the attacks, and as political rivals of President Donald Trump have seized on his attitude toward the subject and white nationalism.”

Voice Of America: Even In Defeat, Islamic State's Foreign Fighters Expanding

“It was March 2018, approximately five months after U.S.-backed forces had declared victory in the battle for the Islamic State terror group's Syrian capital of Raqqa. And Afghan officials had reason to worry. Intelligence suggested the fallout from that victory had been making its way, slowly but surely, to their country. "There has been a growth in the number of the foreign fighters in the country," then-Afghan national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar said during a visit to Washington. "We're talking about hundreds of them coming from the Middle East through Pakistan." The warning did not go unnoticed. Soon, the concern was being shared by a growing number of countries. IS fighters were coming in increasing numbers, a United Nations report warned in August, adding that those making the journey were "bringing with them skills in handling weaponry and improvised explosive devices, and knowledge of military tactics." "Central Asian fighters tend to feel most comfortable relocating among Afghans of Uzbek and Tajik ethnicity," the U.N. report said. The trend has not slowed.”

NBC News: U.S. Officials: Iran Official OK'd Attacks On American Military

“The U.S. decision to surge additional military forces into the Middle East was based in part on intelligence that the Iranian regime has told some of its proxy forces and surrogates that they can now go after American military personnel and assets in the region, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. The intelligence shows that an Iranian official discussed activating Iranian-backed groups to target Americans, but did not mention targeting the militaries of other nations, the officials said. Among the specific threats the U.S. military is now tracking, officials say, are possible missile attacks by Iranian dhows, or small ships, in the Persian Gulf; attacks in Iraq by Iranian-trained Shiite militia groups; and attacks against U.S. ships by the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The U.S. has accused Iran of moving missiles and missile components through the region's waterways for years, shipping missiles to the Houthis in Yemen and others. And Shiite militia groups like Baghdad Katib Hezbollah (BKH) have been in Iraq for years, acting essentially as sleeper cells. What is new and what has alarmed U.S. military officials, sources say, is the call to awaken and activate these existing threats.”

Reuters: Syrian Government Captures Strategic Town From Rebels-Residents, War Monitor

“The Syrian has government captured the town of Qalaat al-Madiq in northwest Syria, some of its residents and a war monitor said on Thursday, as it pushes into the biggest remaining rebel territory under a massive bombardment. Syria’s army, backed by Russian air power, launched ground operations this week against the southern flank of the rebel zone consisting of Idlib and parts of adjacent provinces. The area is nominally protected by a Russian-Turkish deal agreed last year to avert a major new battle. Qalaat al-Madiq was the rebel area closest to the Russian Hmeimim airbase at Latakia, which insurgents have previously targeted with rocketfire. It was also the entrance point into rebel territory for many insurgents and civilians who were evacuated from territory captured by the army under surrender deals negotiated with the government over recent years.”

Motherboard: The Far Right Has Found A Web Host Savior

“When Radio Wehrwolf, a popular podcast network among militant neo-Nazis, was shut down by its web host, the site was effectively homeless. Mere weeks later the podcast was back, and a simple WHOIS search reveals it’s registered by a little-known domain registrar called Epik. "As a registrar, Epik plays an important role in the online infrastructure necessary to keep far right extremists online, including those that advocate violence," Joshua Fisher-Birch, of the nonprofit Counter Extremism Project, told Motherboard in an email. Fisher-Birch said he wasn’t surprised to learn Radio Wehrwolf turned to Epik or that the web registrar has ongoing connections to far-right content. "This is potentially dangerous because it enables the further dissemination of extremist rhetoric and propaganda, including the promotion of violence, even after a site has been dropped by other companies," Fisher-Birch said. "While Epik portrays this as a noble exercise in anti-censorship, they’re making a business decision to continue to amplify voices calling for violence.”

United States

The Atlantic: The Flash Point Between America And Iran Could Be Iraq's Militias

“All the Americans could do was shake their heads as a Shiite militia flag waved above their base. The troops from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division were still getting used to living alongside an old enemy. It was the fall of 2016, the start of a U.S.-backed offensive to retake the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. Some Americans who’d come to aid the effort had also fought in the Iraq War, when the U.S. military suffered hundreds of deaths in battles with Shiite militia groups. Five years after that war ended, they found themselves at an airfield south of Mosul, where the Airborne was stationed in one section, and a militia outpost sat in another. Concrete blast walls separated the two sides. But someone had climbed a radio tower overlooking the U.S. barracks and tied a militia flag to its peak. An American soldier pointed out the flag one morning with a wry look that suggested he appreciated the troll. The global fight against ISIS created strange alliances—and the de facto one between the U.S. military and Iraq’s Shiite militias, some of whom are backed by Iran, was among the most striking.”

Fox News: Was NYC Man A Hezbollah Agent Or Just An Ugg Boot Salesman? Trial Will Decide

“As a trial begins for an accused Hezbollah spy living in the New York City borough of the Bronx, a Manhattan federal jury must decide if the man in question was indeed a terrorist, or merely just a counterfeit Ugg boots salesman on the brink of divorce. Federal prosecutors argue Ali Kourani, 34, worked as a “sleeper” agent for Hezbollah's Islamic Jihad organization, appearing to carry out a normal life while gathering intelligence on New York City airport and military facilities.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Houle said the Lebanese-born man received combat, weapons and intelligence training from the terrorist group since the age of 16.  “He was now a spy for Hezbollah. Ready to plan attacks in the United States,” Houle said. Kourani lawfully entered the U.S. in 2003, obtaining a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering in 2009 and a master's in business administration in 2013, court documents stated. The government argues Kourani moved to the Bronx on orders of Hezbollah leadership, became a U.S. citizen in 2009 and conducted surveillance on potential targets, including the Jacob K. Javits Federal Office Building, for future terrorist attacks, according to the New York Daily News.”

Fox News: Texas Man Pleads Guilty To Recruiting For Terror Group

“Federal authorities say an 18-year-old Texas man has pleaded guilty to recruiting fighters on behalf of a Pakistan-based terrorist group. Prosecutors say Michael Kyle Sewell entered a guilty plea in federal court Wednesday to conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Sewell admitted to trying to recruit another person to join Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group behind a 2008 attack in India's financial capital of Mumbai that killed 166 people. Prosecutors say Sewell put the person in contact with someone he thought would facilitate joining Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan but was, in fact, an undercover FBI agent. Sewell is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 12. He could face up to 20 years in prison.”

Syria

The New York Times: Is A Child Of ISIS Just A Child? Or A Time Bomb?

“Many of them were barely school age when their parents took them to the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Thousands of others were born there. The children of the group’s followers are the most vulnerable of the Islamic State’s human leftovers — the remainders of the more than 40,000 foreign fighters and their families who came from 80 countries to help build the caliphate. Many are now detained in camps and prisons across eastern Syria, Iraq and Libya. “What have these kids done?” said Fabrizio Carboni, a Red Cross official, after witnessing the misery surrounding him on a recent visit to Al Hol camp in Syria. “Nothing.” Yet even when it comes to the children, the foreign governments whose citizens are marooned in the camps and prisons have struggled with what to do with them. The Islamic State, researchers say, employed children as scouts, spies, cooks and bomb-planters, and sometimes as fighters and suicide bombers. Propaganda videos showed young children beheading and shooting prisoners. Some have had years of ISIS indoctrination and, in the case of older boys, military training. “They’re victims of the situation because they went against their will,” said Peter Neumann, director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London, “but that doesn’t mean that they’re not, in some cases at least, a risk.”

Voice Of America: Kurdish-Led SDF Transfers IS Relatives To Home Countries

“U.S.-backed Syrian forces have handed over more than 100 women and children of Islamic State (IS) fighters to their home countries, local officials told VOA. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led military alliance, said Wednesday that Kazakhstan and Sweden were the latest countries that had agreed to take some of their citizens held in northeast Syria.  "We handed over 70 children and 32 women to representatives of the Kazakhstan government yesterday," Kamal Akif, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led administration in northeast Syria, told VOA. "Sweden took seven children on the same day." Officials in Sweden confirmed the transfer of the children. SDF is holding more than 1,200 IS militants from nearly 50 countries, local officials said. There are also about 8,000 IS family members who have been settled in an overcrowded camp in northeast Syria, the same sources said.  The SDF declared victory over the so-called IS caliphate on March 23 after defeating the terror group in its last stronghold in eastern Syria.  But SDF officials said they could not bear the responsibility of dealing with IS captives alone and that other countries should step in by taking back their citizens, particularly those who have fought with IS.”

Iran

Fox News: More Evidence Emerges Of Iran-Al Qaeda Ties

“As the Trump administration doubles down on the contention that Tehran is cooperating with Al Qaeda, another former Iranian commander has reportedly come forward with allegations about an Iran-Al Qaeda link. Said Qasemi, a now-retired spokesperson for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), told Al Arabiya that IRGC deployed undercover soldiers to Bosnia-Herzegovina during its conflict in the 1990s under the pretense that they were members of Tehran’s state-endorsed Red Crescent. This is alleged to have been in cooperation with an Al Qaeda unit operating in the region, as confirmed by another IRGC official, whereby the two groups were able to engage in joint weapons training. IRGC has long and persistently denied long-running claims by the international community, however, of any associations between the two factions -- who view the U.S. as a staunch enemy – even as more claims and documents to the contrary have piled up over the years. The annual Country Reports on Terrorism issued by the State Department last year reinforced global assessments that not only does Iran enable Al Qaeda to conduct international operations from within its borders, it also remains “unwilling to bring to justice senior Al Qaeda members residing in Iran and has refused to publicly identify the members in its custody.”

The Wall Street Journal: Europe Rejects Iran’s Ultimatum On Nuclear Deal

“Europe rejected Iran’s 60-day ultimatum and said it viewed Tehran’s threat to abandon some of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear pact with “great concern.” In a statement Thursday, French, German, British foreign ministers and the European Union foreign policy chief said Europe is determined to preserve the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and plans to pursue steps to maintain some trade between Iran and Europe. “We strongly urge Iran to continue to implement its commitments under the JCPOA in full as it has done until now and to refrain from any escalatory steps,” the statement said. “We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran’s compliance” in light of its commitments under the deal and its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proflieration Treaty. France, Britain and Germany negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran, alongside Russia and China. The EU plays a key role in overseeing the agreement that President Trump withdrew the U.S. from a year ago.”

Reuters: Trump Administration Imposes New Sanctions On Iran's Industrial Metals

“President Donald Trump on Wednesday imposed new U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s revenue from export of industrial metals and threatened further action unless Tehran “fundamentally” changed its behavior. An executive order issued by Trump covers Iran’s iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors, the Islamic Republic’s largest non-petroleum-related sources of export revenue and 10 percent of its export economy, a statement from the White House said.”

Bloomberg: Don’t Give In To Iranian Blackmail

“There are two ways to view Wednesday’s threats from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to abandon the 2015 nuclear bargain with his country. The first is through the lens of Europe’s establishment and President Donald Trump’s opposition: Look what you’ve done! After a year of maximum pressure, Iran has finally been pushed to start breaking its commitments to limit its stocks of enriched uranium. As an EU foreign policy official tweeted, Trump’s Iran policy “has now triggered Rouhani’s move towards less for less.” The second and better way is to see Rouhani’s threats as blackmail. Unless Europe agrees to violate America’s secondary sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors, Iran will keep the uranium it enriches and halt its project to redesign a plutonium reactor. Rouhani gave the Europeans, Chinese and Russians 60 days to figure out how to relieve the U.S. sanctions.”

CNBC: 'We Reject Any Ultimatums': Europe Responds Firmly To Iran's Nuclear Deal Threat

“The EU has responded firmly to Iran's threat to roll back its 2015 nuclear deal commitments, saying in a statement Thursday that it rejects any ultimatums but remained committed to the multilateral pact. "We reject any ultimatums and will assess Iran's compliance on the basis of Iran's performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA and the NPT," the joint statement from the EU high representative and the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the U.K. read, referring to the deal itself — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — and the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Weapons, respectively. In essence, the EU is saying that inspectors, not declarations, will determine how it approaches Iran going forward. And that may take some time: Data on Iran's nuclear activities will be unclear until the International Atomic Energy Agency publishes its quarterly report in August.”

The Washington Examiner: US Warns Tehran: Iranian Attack Would Be Met With 'Unrelenting Force'

“The chief of U.S. Central Command put Iranian leaders on notice Wednesday, warning: "If a fight is to be had ... it won't be a fair fight."  Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie's warning followed the military's recent deployment of a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Middle East. This deployment, according to the general, sends a clear message to adversaries and allies alike.  "First, it sends a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on U.S. interests will be met with unrelenting force," said McKenzie, speaking at a Foundation for Defense of Democracies conference in D.C. "If a fight is to be had, we will be fully prepared to respond and defend our interests. And it won't be a fair fight."  The U.S. does not seek war with Iran, McKenzie added, but he noted: "Iran should not confuse our deliberate approach with an unwillingness to act." He said that the military's ability to quickly move the carrier strike group from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf exhibited the the Trump administration's National Defense Strategy.  Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps was designated as a terrorist organization in April.”

Iraq

Asharq Al-Awsat: More than 500 Foreign ISIS Members Convicted in Iraq

“The Iraqi judiciary has tried and sentenced more than 500 foreigners since the start of 2018 for joining ISIS, the country's Supreme Court announced on Wednesday. It said "514 verdicts were issued, for both men and women, while another 202 accused are still being interrogated and 44 are still being tried." Another 11 were acquitted and released, it said. The statement referred to "different nationalities" but did not list any specific countries. It said interrogations were taking about six months for those simply accused of ISIS membership, but anyone accused of actively taking part in the extremist group's operations could be questioned for up to a year. Iraq declared victory over ISIS in late 2017 and began trying foreigners accused of joining the militant group the following year.  It has condemned many to life in prison, including 58-year-old Frenchman Lahcen Ammar Gueboudj and two other French nationals. It has also issued death sentences for other foreign ISIS members, although they have not yet been carried out. Among those awaiting trial in Baghdad are 12 accused French ISIS members, who were caught in Syria and transferred to Iraqi custody in February.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Intelligence Arrest Islamic State Terrorist In Anbar

“Iraqi military intelligence forces arrested on Wednesday a member of the Islamic State militant group in the western province of Anbar. The Iraqi Military Intelligence Directorate, in a statement, said that its troops “have arrested a terrorist who fought among the Islamic State’s security apparatus in al-Karma district in Anbar. The terrorist “was responsible for collecting information about security forces during the military operations to liberate Iraqi territory from Islamic State militants,” the statement read. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in Iraq in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq. 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.”

Iraqi News: Bomb Explosion Wounds Two Paramilitary Fighters In Iraq

“Two Iraqi paramilitary fighters were wounded Wednesday in a bomb attack in Diyala province, a security source was quoted as saying. “A bomb explosion targeted a patrol of the paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces on the outskirts of Miqdadiyah in northeastern Diyala,” the source told Mawazin News. “The explosion left two PMF members wounded,” the source said, adding that ambulances carried the pair into a nearby hospital for treatment. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State (IS) militant group, in most cases, is responsible for attacks targeting crowded areas, including markets, cafes and mosques across Iraq. 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.”

The Straits Times: Fears Of New Islamist 'Academies' As Iraqi Jails Fill Up With Extremist Militants

“As Iraq tries thousands of locals and foreigners accused of joining the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, experts warn that its jails could once again become "academies" for Islamist militants. Prison was a pivotal moment for many prominent Islamist militants - not least of them Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS' Iraqi supremo who remains at large despite the collapse of his "caliphate" in March. Baghdadi was held in Camp Bucca, a sprawling United States-run complex in the southern Iraqi desert, where he is thought to have essentially "come of age" as an Islamist leader. For many members of such groups, prison was one of multiple stages of extremism, said Mr Hisham al-Hashemi, an expert in Iraqi Islamist movements. They ran their own religious studies courses and even planned attacks on civilians or ordered assassinations of security forces from within the prison walls. "The cells become the equivalent of academies - even if there's just one prisoner with extremist thoughts, he can recruit the rest," Mr Hashemi said. Iraq has already condemned hundreds of its own nationals as well as scores of foreigners to life in prison for joining ISIS.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Taliban Attack Aid Group Office In Kabul, In Setback To U.S. Peace Talks

“Taliban militants attacked the compound of an American-run contractor in the Afghan capital on Wednesday, killing at least five people and sending a stinging message to the United States as it engages in peace talks with the group. The attack in Kabul, the capital, which the Interior Ministry said also wounded 24, was a clear signal about the state of the peace process even after the Taliban leadership met with American negotiators last week in the sixth round of peace talks in Doha, Qatar. “Today’s attack showed that the Taliban don’t believe in peace — it was a direct message to the Americans that the Taliban will be the winner of the Afghan war,” said Atiqullah Amarkhel, a retired Afghan Army general and military analyst. Mr. Amarkhel said the Taliban were declaring that “they are the leader of the peace talks and the Americans should listen to them and accept their demands.” Central to those demands is the United States’ agreement on a timeline for the withdrawal of American troops. The five-and-a-half-hour siege on Wednesday began with a car bomb and ended when security forces killed all four armed infiltrators, said Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.”

Yemen

The National: Dozens Of Houthi Fighters Killed In Blast At Hodeidah Arms Depot

“Dozens of Houthi fighters were killed and others injured in a large explosion at a weapons and ammunition depot on Wednesday. The rebel fighters were at the centre of Al Duraihimi city, south-east of Hodeidah, said Col Wathah Al Dubaish, spokesman for the pro-government forces. “The operations room of the joint forces received a call reporting a huge explosion at a weaponry and ammunition cache affiliated with the Houthis, who have held the centre of Al Duraihimi city since August 2018," Col Al Dubaish told the National. He said the depot was placed among the homes of citizens. A soldier from Al Amalikah Brigades told The National that he had heard the explosion and saw huge flames rise amid more blasts. “Later on, we saw many motorcycles taking casualties out of the neighbourhood,” he said. The neighbourhood is thought to be the last Houthi pocket in the city.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Gaza Terror Groups Say Fighting Could Soon Resume If Ceasefire Not Honored

“Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip warned Wednesday that violence could soon resume and Tel Aviv could be targeted if Israel does not honor a ceasefire that ended a major round of fighting over the weekend. In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also warned that Israel was preparing for more fighting with Gazan-based groups. Beginning early Saturday, some 690 rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel, killing three Israelis. A fourth Israeli man was killed by an anti-tank missile fired at his car near the border. In response, the Israeli military struck over 300 targets in Gaza, including a rare assassination of a terrorist operative whom the IDF said funneled money from Iran to terror groups in the Strip. The skirmish ended early Sunday when a Palestinian-announced ceasefire took effect that is thought to include measures to ease the Israeli blockade on the Strip. The fighting, which was some of the heaviest in Gaza since a 50-day war in 2014, came after a number of other flareups over the past year between Israel and the Strip’s Hamas rulers, leaving many analysts to speculate that renewed violence in the Palestinian territory was only a matter of time.”

Libya

Reuters: Three Killed In Suspected Islamic State Attack On Southern Libya: Official

“Three people were killed on Thursday in a suspected hit-and-run attack by Islamic State militants on a town in southern Libya, residents and a military official said, the second such attack within days.  Gunmen stormed the town of Ghadwa, opened fire before retreating back into the desert, residents said. The attack came after nine soldiers were killed on Saturday in an attack claimed by Islamic State on a training camp belonging to the eastern Libyan forces of commander Khalifa Haftar. Haftar has concentrated his forces in the northwest, where they have been embroiled for the past month in a battle for the capital Tripoli with fighters allied to the divided country’s internationally recognized government. Islamic State is active in the south to where it retreated after losing its stronghold in the central city of Sirte in December 2016. Separately, two boats carrying 214 migrants were intercepted by the Libyan coast guard late on Wednesday and taken back to the shore, the U.N. migration agency said "As clashes continue in the capital, we are concerned about the return and arbitrary detention of migrants in #Libya," the International Organization for Migration said in a tweet. IOM spokesman Joel Millman said the 107 people on the first boat included 12 women and 7 children, while the 107 people on the second boat were all men, 92 of them Sudanese, and there had been no reports of missing people or bodies retrieved.”

Nigeria

Daily Nation: Boko Haram Kills Nine In Nigeria Attacks, Torches Village

“Boko Haram fighters have killed nine people in two separate attacks in northeastern Nigeria, looting and torching a village and ambushing three farmers, officials and local militia forces said Wednesday. Fighters packed in trucks stormed into the village of Molai just before sunset on Tuesday, when villagers were preparing to pray and break their fast for the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan. The jihadist gunmen, loyal to Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau, killed six people and burned dozens of homes. Usman Kyari, who heads the state Emergency Management Agency, said six bodies were collected after the attack. All had been shot dead. "The insurgents burnt around 40 homes and looted goods," Kyari said. Molai, which is five kilometres (three miles) from Borno state capital Maiduguri, has been repeatedly attacked by the jihadists. A member of a militia force, which fights alongside regular government soldiers, said the Boko Haram fighters were too many and they were overpowered.”

Somalia

The Washington Times: Robust U.S. Military Campaign To Defeat Al-Shabab In Somalia Lacks Political Will, Analyst Says

“President Trump has declared that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is “100%” defeated. It seems unlikely he will ever say the same about Somalia’s al-Shabab. Words such as “eradicate” and “eliminate” — staples of the lexicon used by the Obama and Trump administrations when laying out their ultimate goal in the battle against the Islamic State — are largely absent from the discussion surrounding al-Shabab, the al Qaeda affiliate estimated to control roughly 20% of Somalia and boasting at least 5,000 trained fighters. Analysts say America’s limited policy will never result in a declaration of total victory in the little-understood war, and measuring tangible success in one of the most historically unstable, unpredictable corners of the world will be difficult. The result: Al-Shabab is not seen as strong enough to make a serious effort to supplant the U.S.-allied government in Mogadishu, but there is also little immediate prospect of ousting the group from its strongholds in southern Somalia and in small pockets of neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia. “They’re not making the effort to fully beat them,” said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who closely tracks the war in Somalia.”

Africa

Bloomberg: Nearing Jihadist Threat Prompts Ivory Coast, Ghana To Lift Guard

“Some of West Africa’s biggest economies are increasingly vulnerable to attacks by Islamist militants, whose influence is spreading to the inland borders of coastal nations. Heavyweights Ghana and Ivory Coast as well as smaller neighbors Benin and Togo are strengthening security along their boundaries with Burkina Faso, which has seen a surge of attacks by al-Qaeda and Islamic State-linked insurgents this year. The raids have spread so fast that the Burkinabe government has imposed a state of emergency in several regions and replaced most senior military commanders earlier this year. Two French tourists went missing last week and their guide was killed in a nature reserve in northern Benin, a country that’s never experienced Islamist militant violence before. While the fate of the tourists remain unknown, their burnt-out vehicle was found across the border in Burkina Faso. After destabilizing Burkina Faso, the militants’ next step could be “to open up new spaces of influence” in its southern neighbors, according to Rinaldo Depagne, project director for West Africa at the International Crisis Group. “These groups are likely seeking to establish footholds in those countries as they’re either launching or fleeing attacks,” he said.”

Voice Of America: Cameroon: Hundreds Of Militants, Terrorists Surrender

“Authorities in Cameroon say 165 Anglophone separatists and Boko Haram terrorists have voluntarily surrendered in the past two months, while hundreds of other separatists have stopped fighting.  Cameroon's military and groups loyal to the government have been been circulating a video for the past week of an alleged former separatist fighter named Yannick Kawa. The video, divided into two parts, first shows Kawa saying he would never stop commanding his fighters to crush the military. However, the second part shows Kawa telling a crowd that a stranger online convinced him to surrender to the military's Rapid Intervention Battalion, the BIR.  "I was in touch with one man online, he started encouraging me," Kawa said in the video. "Then I decided to surrender myself to the BIR. From that day up 'til today, I am free." Cameroon's National Committee on Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (NCDDR) said 56 of the militants who surrendered were from Cameroon's two English-speaking regions, while 109 were from Mora on the border with Nigeria.”

The Defense Post: Islamic State Claims Attack On DR Congo Military Base Near Kamango

“Islamic State claimed that fighters from its Central Africa Province affiliate attacked a military base in Bunduguya in Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern North Kivu province, near the border with Uganda, the third ISIS-claimed attack in three weeks. In statement released on Wednesday, ISIS said ISCAP fighters on Tuesday, May 7 clashed with Congolese soldiers, “injuring a number of them” while others fled.” It said “various munitions” had been captured. DR Congo news outlet Actualite.cd reported an attack on a military position Bunduguya which it said was carried out by members of the Allied Democratic Forces militia on Tuesday. It said the attack began at around 8 p.m. and shooting was heard until 10 p.m. According to Actualite.cd, Bunduguya is less than 7 km (4 miles) north of Kamango in Beni territory. In a briefing note released on May 2, the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs cited humanitarian sources as saying more than 12,000 people had moved to Kamango and Nobili near the Uganda border on April 21, following armed attacks elsewhere.”

North Korea

The New York Times: North Korea Fires Two Short-Range Ballistic Missiles, South Says

“North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday, the South Korean military said, an escalation from the North’s most recent weapons test just five days ago. The two missiles were launched eastward from the country’s northwest, with one flying 260 miles and the other about 170 miles, the military said in a statement. It said officials from the South and the United States were jointly analyzing flight data to determine what type of missiles they were. “Our military has stepped up our surveillance and monitoring in preparation for possible additional launches by North Korea,” the statement said. “We remain fully prepared in close coordination with the United States.” The statement did not say where the missiles had landed, but the reported distances would put them in the sea between North Korea and Japan.”

Southeast Asia

Foreign Policy: ISIS’s Church Attacks Break Mohammed’s Own Pledges

“The attacks by an Islamic State-affiliated group against Christians on Easter morning in Sri Lanka last month fall into a long-established pattern. Back when the Islamic State was expanding in northern Iraq in 2014 and 2015, the region’s 1 million Christians were some of its main targets, as well as Yazidis, Shiite Muslims, and other religious minorities. Churches were razed and Christians issued with an ultimatum: exile, conversion, or death. The end result has been a brutal and depressingly thorough religious and ethnic cleansing. For the Islamic State, destroying churches and killing Christians came second only to its top priority of killing other so-called apostate Muslims—Shiite and Sufi Muslims in particular. But although the Islamic State claimed to be acting in the name of Islam, its actions were not only horrific but also clearly and universally recognized as blasphemy.”

The Wall Street Journal: Singapore Escalates Fight Against Spread Of False Information On Social Media

“In an effort to combat misinformation online, Singapore has passed a law requiring Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Twitter Inc. and other social-media companies with regional headquarters here to rapidly issue corrections when users post items the government deems false. The law, passed by Parliament late Wednesday, goes further than existing or proposed restrictions in many other countries by giving power directly to politicians to distinguish truth from falsehoods. Lawmakers dismissed criticism from technology companies and rights groups, and had earlier solicited public input on the legislation in a series of hearings. Singapore’s leaders have said the Southeast Asian city-state is especially vulnerable to such abuse of social media because of a diverse religious and racial mix. Echoing concerns raised by politicians and governments in other countries, the island nation’s leaders have accused tech companies of not doing enough to rein in damaging content.”

Technology

The Atlantic: Tech Companies Are Deleting Evidence Of War Crimes 

“If grisly images stay up on Facebook or YouTube long enough, self-appointed detectives around the world sometimes use them to reconstruct a crime scene. In July 2017, a video capturing the execution of 18 people appeared on Facebook. The clip opened with a half-dozen armed men presiding over several rows of detainees. Dressed in bright-orange jumpsuits and black hoods, the captives knelt in the gravel, hands tied behind their back. They never saw what was coming. The gunmen raised their weapons and fired, and the first row of victims crumpled to the earth. The executioners repeated this act four times, following the orders of a confident young man dressed in a black cap and camouflage trousers. If you slowed the video down frame by frame, you could see that his black T-shirt bore the logo of the Al-Saiqa Brigade, an elite unit of the Libyan National Army. That was clue No. 1: This happened in Libya. Facebook took down the bloody video, whose source has yet to be conclusively determined, shortly after it surfaced. But it existed online long enough for copies to spread to other social-networking sites. Independently, human-rights activists, prosecutors, and other internet users in multiple countries scoured the clip for clues and soon established that the killings had occurred on the outskirts of Benghazi.”

Vice News: 8chan Is A Mysterious Place To U.S. Anti-Terrorism Officials

“On the evening before a shooter opened fire on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, he announced his plans on 8chan and shared a link to his manifesto. Less than six weeks later, a student in California shared his own manifesto on 8chan before opening fire on a synagogue near San Diego.  Posters in 8chan’s /pol section immediately celebrated both attacks, and discussed the shooters’ “scores.”  Sites like 8chan and others where racists can get radicalized online are key to counterterrorism efforts, experts say, but in a Wednesday hearing on domestic terrorism, U.S. intel officials from the FBI, DOJ and DHS seemed fairly unfamiliar with those platforms — or what to do about them.  The purpose of the hearing, convened by the House Committee on Homeland Security, was to assess the nature of the threat posed by domestic terrorism and determine whether current counterterrorism infrastructure was adequate to combat it.  “Do you have any recommendations about what can be done to address the violent hate speech and incitement of violence found on fringe sites like 8chan and Gab,” asked Rep. Mike Rogers, the ranking Republican member of the committee from Alabama, early on in the hearing.  His question was met with silence.”

The New York Times: It’s Time To Break Up Facebook

“The last time I saw Mark Zuckerberg was in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. We met at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., office and drove to his house, in a quiet, leafy neighborhood. We spent an hour or two together while his toddler daughter cruised around. We talked politics mostly, a little about Facebook, a bit about our families. When the shadows grew long, I had to head out. I hugged his wife, Priscilla, and said goodbye to Mark. Since then, Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes — the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention — dominate the headlines. It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade. But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility.”

The New York Times: Now For Sale On Facebook: Looted Middle Eastern Antiquities

“Ancient treasures pillaged from conflict zones in the Middle East are being offered for sale on Facebook, researchers say, including items that may have been looted by Islamic State militants. Facebook groups advertising the items grew rapidly during the upheaval of the Arab Spring and the ensuing wars, which created unprecedented opportunities for traffickers, said Amr Al-Azm, a professor of Middle East history and anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio and a former antiquities official in Syria. He has monitored the trade for years along with his colleagues at the Athar Project, named for the Arabic word for antiquities. At the same time, Dr. Al-Azm said, social media lowered the barriers to entry to the marketplace. Now there are at least 90 Facebook groups connected to the illegal trade in Middle Eastern antiquities, with tens of thousands of members, he said.”

The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers Differ On Remedies For Facebook Privacy Breach

“A consumer-data privacy breach by Facebook Inc. FB is spurring Congress to rewrite rules for how tech companies safeguard personal information, but a hearing with regulators Wednesday highlighted the hurdles ahead. All five members of the Federal Trade Commission told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that Congress should pass a law addressing data privacy. Lawmakers of both parties agreed, but nevertheless appeared divided over key points that legislation might address. The FTC has taken center stage in the debate as it weighs a penalty of up to $5 billion on Facebook for allowing illicit access to users’ data by the political-data firm Cambridge Analytica. Democrats, who hold a majority in the House, favor giving the FTC—the main federal cop on the privacy-protection beat—far greater authority to set rules and levy fines. But Republicans are leery of expanding the FTC’s power substantially, fearful that greater bureaucratic sway could stifle innovation and even increase the market power of dominant Silicon Valley firms. Republicans also appear more willing than Democrats to adopt a federal standard that overrides state laws.”