Eye on Extremism: November 13

The New York Times: ISIS Leader Al-Baghdadi May Have Had U.S. Hostage Executed, Witness Says

“After the Islamic State declared that Kayla Mueller, a 26-year-old humanitarian worker from Arizona it was holding hostage, was killed in an airstrike in Syria in 2015, her parents became increasingly frustrated with the government’s slow hunt for answers about her death and turned to a former F.B.I. agent for help. Now, he has unearthed a clue: Ms. Mueller may have been executed on the orders of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the slain Islamic State leader, not in a Jordanian airstrike as the Islamic State long claimed. ISIS operatives killed Ms. Mueller because she knew the identities of Mr. al-Baghdadi and of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the group’s spokesman at the time who was believed to be the second-in-command, and could be a security risk for them, according to Umm Sayyaf, the wife of a close al-Baghdadi associate. She was interviewed by the former F.B.I. agent working with the Mueller family, Ali Soufan. Ms. Mueller, whom Mr. al-Baghdadi raped repeatedly, was moved from location to location in the final months of her life, Umm Sayyaf said. At one point, Ms. Mueller was moved because the oldest of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s multiple wives assaulted Ms. Mueller, breaking a watch that Mr. al-Baghdadi had given Ms. Mueller as a Ramadan gift and kicking her out of the home.” 

The Guardian: American Isis Suspect Stuck On Border 'Not Our Problem', Says Erdoğan

“An alleged American member of Islamic State, stranded for a second day on the border between Greece and Turkey after Turkey expelled him, is “not our problem”, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has said. The man, named by the Turkish news agency Demiroren as Muhammed Darwis B, is believed to be a US citizen of Jordanian descent. He was deported on Monday as part of Turkey’s controversial new policy to deport foreign jihadists in its custody. A Turkish official told AFP that he had refused to be returned to the US and instead asked to be sent to Greece. Athens said he was refused entry when he tried to cross the no man’s land between the two countries to the Greek town of Kastanies. He is reported to have spent the night outside and witnesses said he has been trying to shout to reporters on the Turkish side of the border. Asked to comment on the reports on Tuesday, Erdoğan said: “Whether [the deported Isis fighters] are stuck there at the border it doesn’t concern us. We will continue to send them. Whether they take them or not, it is not our concern.” Speaking to reporters in Ankara on Tuesday, Erdoğan threatened that Turkey could release all of its jailed foreign militants and send them to Europe.”

Associated Press: Trump Says US On The Hunt For New Islamic State’s Leader

“President Donald Trump said Tuesday that America now has its eye on a new Islamic State leader, telling the Economic Club of New York that “we know where he is.” Trump didn’t mention the name of the new target, but he is likely referring to Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the man who has been named to replace Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as head of the terror group. Al-Baghdadi took his own life last month as U.S. commandoes closed in on him in northern Syria. In a speech Tuesday, Trump said the U.S. got al-Baghdadi, then got “his second” and now, “we have our eye on his third. His third has got a lot of problems because we know where he is, too.” Little is publicly known about al-Qurayshi, and the group typically identifies its leaders using pseudonyms that refer to their tribal affiliation and lineage. The group does not have a clear hierarchy and few details are known about the remaining top leaders. U.S. Army special operations forces chased al-Baghdadi into a dead-end tunnel on a compound where he had been hiding, and he set off a suicide vest he was wearing. The “second” that Trump mentioned was likely Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, a close aide of al-Baghdadi and a spokesman for the group since 2016.”

POLITICO: Israel Targets Islamic Jihad Leadership, Sending Message To Iran

“Israel on Tuesday targeted two senior commanders from the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, killing one in the Gaza Strip and missing the second in Syria as it stepped up its battle against Iran and its proxies across the region. The death of Bahaa Abu el-Atta and his wife as they slept in their home in eastern Gaza set off the heaviest fighting in months between Israel and Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed militant group that is even more hard-line than Gaza’s Hamas rulers. Gaza militants fired scores of rockets into Israel throughout the day, some reaching as far as Tel Aviv, while Israeli warplanes responded with a series of airstrikes on Islamic Jihad targets. Eight others were killed, including at least seven militants. “Whoever thinks that it is possible to hurt our citizens and evade our long arm is mistaken,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a meeting of top security officials at Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv. He described Abu el-Atta as a “ticking time bomb” and “the main instigator of terrorism” from Gaza, responsible for many rocket attacks on Israel and planning more.”

The Washington Post: Fear Spreads Among Iraqi Protesters As Government Cracks Down, Keeps Death Toll Secret

“For more than a month, Iraq’s protesters have withstood bullets and stun grenades, tear gas and water cannons, as they chanted, danced and called for the ouster of the entire political system. The political class scrambled, then it closed ranks, and with crowds now shrinking and state violence undimmed, tendrils of fear are creeping through the protest movement. Strange men appear in the demonstrators’ tents, take photographs and then leave. Police tell the activists they manage to arrest that it is in their best interests to inform on friends. More than 319 people have been killed and 15,000 wounded since anti-government demonstrations began in Baghdad and southern cities on Oct. 1, according to the country’s human rights commission. As crowds start to thin, a broader crackdown is starting. Hundreds of protesters have been arrested. Volunteer medics have disappeared on their way to Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, not heard from since.”

The Christian Science Monitor: Inside Hezbollah: How Lebanon Protests Are Breaking ‘Fear Barrier’ 

“The veteran Hezbollah fighter can’t count how many times he has been to Syria, and vivid and gruesome battle videos on his phone testify both to his efficiency as a warrior and how effective his units could be in producing corpses of Islamic State and other jihadists. But the fighter now refuses to return to Syria, and he curses the organization to which he has devoted his life. The Shiite militia founded to fight Israel has, he says, diluted its brand as it has expanded to battlefields as far away as Iraq and Yemen, lowered recruiting standards, and now faces a cash crunch that has kept its bedrock supporters poor. Indeed, by one count 1,250 Hezbollah fighters have lost their lives in Syria, with some estimates more than double that. If so, more have returned from Syria in coffins than lost their lives battling Israel since the “Party of God” was founded in 1982. “We drowned with their lies,” says the fighter, speaking on condition of anonymity amid Hezbollah rules forbidding contact with the media, his tired eyes set in a face thick with stubble. “The leaders are getting richer with corruption. I am willing to fight Israel, but … you die in Syria for nothing.”

United States

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Ex-Drexel Student Charged With Hiding Past Training With Anti-American Rebels In Yemen

“Federal terrorism investigators have charged a former Drexel University student with hiding his ties to the anti-American insurgency group that has embroiled Yemen in a protracted and devastating civil war. Prosecutors said Gaafar Mohammed Ebrahim al-Wazer — a 24-year-old Yemeni national who arrived in the United States five years ago — lied on his application for a student visa and later other immigration documents about his association with the Houthi rebel movement, also known as Ansar Allah or “Supporters of God.” Drexel officials first alerted the FBI in May 2016, after discovering a photo posted to his Facebook page depicting him in military fatigues and holding an AK-47-type rifle under the caption “He hates all Americans, death to all Americans, especially Jews,” according to court filings. Investigators would later discover other social media posts, including ones they say depict him undergoing military-style training with Houthi fighters in mountainous, barren regions of the Middle East. One photo, released by the Houthi movement’s official propaganda outlet, purportedly shows al-Wazer, mouth open in a triumphant yell, brandishing a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.”


Reuters: Islamic State Detainees In Syria A 'Ticking Time-Bomb': State Dept Official

“Some 10,000 Islamic State detainees held in prisons in northeastern Syria present a major security risk, a senior State Department official said on Tuesday, urging countries to take back their citizens who joined the group and were detained. “It’s a ticking time bomb to simply have the better part of 10,000 detainees, many of them foreign fighters,” the official, told reporters in a conference call. Islamic State has lost almost all of its territory in Iraq and Syria. Its former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. raid last month but it remains security threat in Syria and beyond. Allies have been worried that Islamic State militants could escape as a result of Turkey’s assault against Syrian Kurdish militia fighters who have been holding thousands of the group’s fighters and tens of thousands of their family members. The official said little progress was made on the repatriation of Islamic State detainees, with only some taken back by some Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. “Given that there are hundreds of people being held from Europe, we are very troubled by this and it’s a major issue of diplomatic discussion,” the official said.”

Fox News: Elite U.S. Military Panel's Warning About ISIS After Baghdadi: 'Let's Not Let Another One Emerge'

“A select panel of elite U.S. military special operators offered their insights and warnings for American policymakers after the Delta Force raid in northern Syria that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October. “Guys like you have been a part of missions, just like the one that killed Baghdadi,” said Fox News co-host and former reserve military officer, Pete Hegseth, in a special edition of Fox Nation's “Modern Warriors.” “I'd be remiss if I didn't take the opportunity to take our audience inside the team room as you're planning for an operation like this.” “I was on one that went into Pakistan where we thought the chances of dying were pretty high,” said former Navy SEAL Rob O'Neill, who is credited with killing Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden in a raid on his compound deep inside Pakistan in 2011. “No one's panicking. If you say you're not scared, you're lying,” he joked. “What an opportunity to go after this guy. To fly with all your badass brothers into Syria after the head of ISIS. I'm getting goosebumps right now.” “The word I'm getting is they did an outstanding job,” he continued. “I can hear the heavy metal music playing in the team room. A couple of hugs, a couple pats on the back and then, 'Let's go boys.'"

Military Times: American Troops At Syria Base Say They’ll Keep Pressure On ISIS

“At a base in eastern Syria, a senior U.S. coalition commander said Monday that American troops who remain in Syria are redeploying to bases, including in some new locations, and working with the Kurdish-led forces to keep up the pressure on the Islamic State militants and prevent the extremists from resurging or breaking out of prisons. The commander, Air Force Maj. Gen. Eric T. Hill, said even though Bradley armored vehicles have arrived in eastern Syria, the mission’s focus has not changed. He said the “force mix,” including the mechanized armored vehicles deployed in Syria for the first time since the war against IS, has an array of capabilities to deny IS the chance to regroup. “The mission still continues. And Daesh is trying to resurge wherever they can,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the group. He said the forces have captured 700 ISIS fighters since its last territorial holding fell in March. “We’ve destroyed many and war remnants, and we continue to do so as we find them.” Speaking at a remote base in Syria where the Bradleys arrived last week, he said “our primary way that we do that” is through working with the U.S. partners, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.”


The Hill: Discontent In Iraq And Lebanon Is A Way To Expose Iran's Corruption

“The sanctions against Iran are obviously working as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has again called for the United States to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Instead, the U.S. should continue the policy of “The worse, the better” and use the recent protests in Iraq and Lebanon against Iran’s “system” to create additional leverage against the clerical regime. Highlighting how Iran’s meddling in their countries has enriched Iran’s local placemen and the clerics, security officials, and regime insiders will strike a chord with the young crowds yearning for justice and economic opportunity. Iran has been spending money on foreign adventures while ignoring urgent domestic needs, such as a deteriorating medical system, rapidly depleting ground water, and an environment “on the brink of crisis.” In Syria, Iran has spent over $15 billion (and over Iranian 2,300 soldiers lost their lives) propping up the Assad regime. Lebanon’s Hezbollah may get over $830 million annually, and Hamas receives about $360 million each year. Iran’s favorite militias in Iraq got as much as $1 billion a year. In Yemen, Iran’s Houthi proxies may get $30 million per month in Iranian fuel to fund their effort.”

Foreign Affairs: The Ayatollah’s Den Of Espionage

“Forty years ago last week, a group called Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took its staff hostage. Iran’s new revolutionary government, under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, dubbed the embassy the “den of espionage.” The ensuing hostage crisis cast a long shadow over Iran’s relations with the United States—one still visible today. Perhaps less remarked upon in Washington, however, is the lasting influence of the event and its symbolism on the Iranian government’s view of intelligence and counterintelligence. From the time of the embassy takeover, the Islamic Republic would spend decades looking for spies and infiltrators wherever there was a strong trace of the West. The mentality, which revolutionary ideology served to bolster, was one that ultimately directed the suspicions of the security apparatus toward individuals and institutions associated with the elected components of the postrevolutionary state—the “republic” part of the Islamic Republic, which derived its power from mechanisms that looked uncomfortably similar to those that prevailed in Western democratic states.”

Al Jazeera: Iran: Europeans Hypocrites For Condemning Steps Away From Deal

“Iran accused European nations trying to salvage the moribund 2015 nuclear deal of hypocrisy for criticising and threatening to reimpose sanctions after Tehran took a major step away from the historic agreement. Iran's president and foreign minister on Tuesday said the UK, France, Germany, and the European Union have failed to uphold their end of the bargain to protect Tehran from "maximum pressure" sanctions imposed by the United States in the wake of Washington's withdrawal from the deal in 2018. On Tuesday, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran only began scaling back its nuclear commitments a year after the US withdrawal to give the other parties time to uphold their pledges under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).”

The Hill: New Signs Iran Is Creeping Closer To Making A Nuclear Bomb

“Iran’s regime likes anniversaries. This month it celebrated 40 years since the U.S. embassy hostage crisis by unveiling new nuclear centrifuges and redoing anti-American murals at the site of the former embassy. In May, it marked one year since the United States left the 2015 nuclear deal by beginning its own steady departure from the agreement. But the past week’s anniversary surprise is much more momentous. On Nov. 5, Tehran announced it would reactivate its Fordow enrichment facility, almost exactly a decade after United Nations inspectors demanded Iran close the recently discovered, illegally constructed site. Just as Fordow rang alarm bells back then, this latest news must spur more concerted efforts to address Iran’s accelerating approach to nuclear weapons. This is the fourth in Iran’s unfolding series of ultimatums for Europe to offset the pain of U.S. sanctions, otherwise Tehran increasingly violates the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) every 60 days. The first escalations in May and July upped its uranium stockpile and enrichment level, initiating gradual reductions in the “breakout” time to produce enough fissile material for a bomb.”


Voice Of America: Life Under Islamic State: Child Slaves

“As Islamic State militants lost their territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria, VOA chronicled the events through the words of the victims, in a 12-part series called “Life Under Islamic State.” Now, three years later, we bring you voices of victims who were silenced until recently.  Officials estimate nearly 3,000 Yazidi people remain missing after being captured and enslaved by IS. Maher was 6 years old, Fadya was 5, and their mother, Basse, was pregnant when they were all taken. In recent months, the children were rescued in Syria individually and brought back to Iraq. The family tells their story in their own words, translated into English and edited for clarity. Basse: When my children were returned to me they didn't recognize anyone in the family. They had been taught by Islamic State militants that Yazidis are infidels. My daughter, Fadya, said, “You are not my family. I don't know you.” But she did remember my name. Fadya: I also remembered how to speak Kurdish. At first with IS, they would tell me to come and pray in Arabic and I wouldn't understand. Then I learned. Now me and my brother Maher speak Arabic to each other when we don't want other people to understand us. We talk about what it was like living with IS.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraqi Police Capture 4 Alleged ISIS Terrorists

“Iraqi police forces in Nineveh province on Tuesday arrested four alleged Islamic State militants in the city of Mosul, local authorities said. Mosul has been relatively stable since Iraqi forces regained control of the city about two years ago—although some Islamic State attacks have taken place amid worries by local authorities of continued terrorist sleeper cell activity. The Iraqi Interior Ministry said in a statement that among the four arrestees, one of them worked for the Diwan Al-Hisba (administration) while the other three were fighters in the Diwan al-Jund (armed units) during the Islamic State’s takeover of Mosul from 2014 to 2017. “They were arrested in the (Khazraj and Bab al-Baidh) area in eastern Mosul, based on accurate information,” the statement said. Although nearly two years have passed since Iraq declared a final victory over the terrorist organization, the group continues to carry out insurgency-style attacks in parts of the country. Such incidents, including attacks on security forces by the terrorist organization, have been on an uptick in recent weeks after months of relative quiet. On Sunday, a roadside bomb exploded on a convoy as it was driving through a remote area in Iraq’s disputed Kirkuk province, injuring two Peshmerga fighters and five Coalition members.”


The Jerusalem Post: Turkey Hosts Iranian Tied To Jewish Center Bombing In Argentina

“Just days before President Donald Trump’s slated meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday at the White House, Ankara hosted an Iranian official linked to the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Erdogan declined to enforce an arrest warrant for the alleged terrorist Hadi Soleimanpour. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) first reported on its website in a detailed policy brief about Soleimanpour, who was Iran’s ambassador to Argentina at the time of the AMIA bombing and has an Argentine warrant out for his arrest. “Turkey’s activities antithetical to US interests go beyond hosting Soleimanpour. Erdogan provided refuge and hospitality to violent jihadists, including Saleh al-Arouri, the West Bank commander of Hamas’s Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, who boasted about the kidnapping and slaying of three Israeli teens,“ wrote Toby Dershowitz, senior vice president for government relations and strategy at FDD.” 

Voice Of America: Turkey Faces Growing Regional Tensions Over Syria

“Turkey's October military intervention into Syria is increasingly straining relations with its regional allies and neighbors, but the country is pushing back against mounting criticism of its Syrian incursion. In a recent editorial headlined "A threat against the Turkey-Qatar alliance," the Daily Sabah, which has close ties to the Turkish government, condemned coverage of Turkey's Syrian military operation by Qatari-owned news broadcaster Al-Jazeera English. The editorial called for the firing of journalists, warning of long-term consequences to Turkish-Qatar relations. "Although the two countries see eye to eye on many issues, any sustainable partnership must be firmly rooted in mutual interests. Without reciprocity, any relationship is at risk of falling apart," read last week's editorial. The Turkish military operation is on pause after agreements were brokered by Washington and Moscow with Ankara.”

The Wall Street Journal: Trump-Erdogan Rapport Tested By Tensions Over Syria, Russia

“Since taking office, President Trump has frequently extolled Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling him “a hell of a leader” despite Turkish policies that run counter to U.S. priorities and alarm some of Mr. Trump’s own advisers. The close personal relations between Messrs. Trump and Erdogan—one the Turkish president has been careful to cultivate—will be on full display at a White House meeting Wednesday. The meeting will occur despite strains between the two NATO members over Turkey’s purchase of Russian defense missiles and the country’s military assault on a key U.S. partner in Syria. The two leaders’ bond has resisted opposition from advisers in the White House, the Pentagon and the Department of State as well as from U.S. lawmakers, who object to Mr. Erdogan’s Syrian and Russia policies. Some U.S. officials have even privately described Turkey as “the new Pakistan,” a reference to the rift between Washington and Islamabad in the fight against al Qaeda.” 

The New York Times: Erdogan Warns That Turkey Will Keep Deporting Isis Detainees

“President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey warned Western nations that he would continue to release people who were thought to be members of the Islamic State and send them back to their home countries if governments continued to pressure Turkey with sanctions. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday shortly before leaving Ankara for a visit to the United States, Mr. Erdogan was mostly aiming the remarks at the European Union, which has proposed a system for imposing sanctions on Turkey over its unauthorized gas drilling in the eastern Mediterranean. The comments came a day after Turkey said it had begun deporting Islamic State fighters it had captured, starting a program to repatriate the detainees that has strained ties with European countries. Mr. Erdogan also took a tough line toward an American detainee who was deported by the Turkish authorities on Monday and became stranded at the Greek-Turkish border after being turned back by the Greek border police. Turkish officials said on Monday that the American was an Islamic State fighter captured last month in northeastern Syria.”

ABC News: Turkey Says It Captured 'Important' IS Figure In Syria

“The Turkish interior minister says Turkey has captured an “important” figure within the Islamic State group in Syria. Suleyman Soylu said on Wednesday that the suspect is still being interrogated but did not name the figure or provide further details. Turkey has said it captured and detained several members of the family of the slain Islamic State group leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, including one of his wives, his sister and a daughter. Al-Baghdadi blew himself up during an Oct. 26 raid by U.S. special forces on his heavily fortified safe house in the Syrian province of Idlib. Turkey has been publicizing its efforts to catch IS members, following criticism that its recent military offensive to drive Syrian Kurdish fighters from northeast Syrian would lead to an IS resurgence.”

Reuters: Turkey Removes Four More Kurdish Mayors Over Alleged Terror Links

“Turkey removed four more mayors on Wednesday as part of a widening government crackdown on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), bringing to 20 the number of mayors who have been dismissed after being elected earlier this year. President Tayyip Erdogan and his government accuse the HDP of having links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, leading to prosecutions of thousands of its members and some leaders. The HDP denies such links. Turkey’s interior ministry appointed local governors in place of the mayors in the two districts of Diyarbakir, the largest city in the country’s mainly Kurdish southeast. Two mayors from districts of Sirnak and Tunceli provinces were also removed. The HDP governs many cities in the southeast of Turkey and typically appoints one male and one female co-mayor to promote gender equality. The former co-leaders of the HDP have both been jailed since 2016 on terrorism charges, with several other prominent members accused of supporting terrorism over what the government says are links to the PKK. The moves against the HDP come amid a Turkish military offensive in neighboring Syria against the YPG Kurdish militia, which Ankara also accuses of ties to the PKK.”


The Washington Post: Bomb Attack Kills 3 Soldiers On Patrol In Northwest Pakistan

“Pakistan says a roadside bomb killed three soldiers and wounded another in a northwestern district bordering Afghanistan. The military statement Tuesday said the soldiers were on patrol in the North Waziristan region when the explosion hit their vehicle. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. North Waziristan is a former Taliban stronghold in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and has been a sanctuary for Islamic militants. The army claimed to have cleared the area of militants in recent years, but there have still been occasional attacks on security forces. The military statement says troops are conducting a search operation for the assailants.”


Anadolu Agency: Dozens Of Houthi Rebels Killed In Western Yemen Clashes

“Scores of Houthi rebels were killed and a commander was injured in clashes with government forces in western Yemen, the country’s army said on Wednesday. "Houthi commander Abu Jaffar al-Talbi was injured and tens of rebels were killed in a clash with the government forces in Al-Hudaydah province," the Yemeni army said in a statement. The Yemeni government accused Houthi rebels of "continuing their escalation and daily breaches of the UN truce by attacking various areas in Al-Hudaydah province." For its part, Houthis accused government forces of bombing a civilian's farm in Al-Hudaydah province, according to the Houthi-run Saba news agency. Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains. Since then, tens of thousands of Yemenis, including numerous civilians, are believed to have been killed in the conflict, while another 14 million are at risk of starvation, according to the UN.”


The Daily Star: Hezbollah Supporters Turn On Party In Demonstrations

“At a roadblock on the Beirut “Ring Bridge” in late October, Karim, a 19-year-old physical education student from Beirut’s southern suburbs, said the Lebanese uprising had made him realize that he had to cut ties with Hezbollah.”

Middle East 

International Policy Digest: The ISIS Hydra: The Implications Of The Death Of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi

“On October 26, after releasing the news on Twitter, President Donald Trump announced to the world that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former leader of ISIS and “the most wanted criminal in the world,” had been killed. The day before the announcement, U.S. Special Forces raided a compound in northern Syria, chasing al-Baghdadi into a tunnel underground before he took his own life with a suicide vest. The current administration is trumpeting the death of the Islamic State leader, but how much does al-Baghdadi’s death matter? Moreover, how much of a threat to both U.S. national security and international security is ISIS now?”  

The Washington Free Beacon: Hamas Claims It Has ‘Thousands Of Missiles,’ Miles Of Underground Terror Tunnels

“Top Hamas officials are claiming to have thousands of missiles pointed at Israel and miles of underground tunnels running into the Jewish state, offering these new disclosures amid a wave of renewed violence by the Palestinian terror group. Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar threatened to use many of the missiles the group has stockpiled to destroy the city of Tel Aviv in a recent speech broadcast on Hamas-run television and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “We now have hundreds of kilometers of underground tunnels,” Sinwar was quoted as saying in his Nov. 4 remarks. “We have many hundreds of control-and-command rooms, both underground and above ground.” Israel was deluged Monday evening by at least 150 rockets fired from terror outposts. A number of those rockets struck areas populated by Israeli citizens, prompting schools to shutter for the first time since the early 1990s. The major escalation hit after the Israeli Defense Forces assassinated a top Palestinian terror leader. Sinwar claimed in his remarks that the group, which is partially supported by Iran, has the ability to launch surprise attacks on Israel from underground.”

The Times Of Israel: Jordan Says It Thwarted Terror Plot Against US, Israeli Diplomats

“Jordanian intelligence foiled a plot by two Islamic State suspects to attack US and Israeli diplomats, as well as US troops at a base in the south of the country, the state-owned al-Rai newspaper reported on Tuesday. Two suspects, said to be in their 30s and 40s, allegedly planned to ram vehicles into targets, as well as using firearms and knives. They intended to attack Israeli and US diplomats, and American troops stationed at a base in Jafr, in the south of the country, the report said. According to indictments filed at the State Security Court, the defendants became adherents of IS ideology and its radical interpretation of Islam after following news reports about the terror group and reading its press releases on the social network site Telegram. The pair also allegedly tried to recruit family and friends into IS. Over the past year they decided to follow former Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s calls for attacks on targets around the world, prosecutors say, according to the report. They then allegedly obtained money to purchase the vehicles and weapons they planned to use in the attacks.The trial opened Sunday with both defendants pleading not guilty. Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994 and the two countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv and Amman.” 


Asharq Al-Awsat: Egypt: Trial Of 12 ISIS-Linked Suspects Adjourned

“Judicial authorities in Cairo on Monday adjourned the trial of 12 ISIS suspects who are involved in several terrorist cases, including the targeting of public offices. The trial was postponed until November 24th. The case at hand includes six arrested suspects, five fugitives and a suspect who was released on parole. Three of the suspects are accused of forming a terror group aimed at harming social peace and harmony. The three, according to court orders, had been radicalized by ISIS ideology and sought advancing their agenda through violence against individuals and public institutions. On another note, three people, including two Egyptian policemen, were shot dead on Monday in an agricultural area in Qalyubia, north of the Egyptian capital Cairo. A security source said that unknown gunmen opened fire and escaped. Armed groups have been targeting Egyptian police as well as the military, especially in northern Sinai, for years. The number of attacks, however, has increased since the ouster of former Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi in 2013.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Egypt Mediating To Ease Gaza Flare Up After Israeli Strike Kills Jihad Commander

“Egyptian officials said Cairo is attempting to de-escalate tensions between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza amid the worst bout of fighting there in recent months. The officials said Egypt's general intelligence agency has stepped up communications and has “opened channels” with the US and the European Union, reported The Associated Press. Egypt often acts as a mediator between Israel and Gaza factions, and brokered a ceasefire deal in May. That deal appeared threatened Tuesday after a pre-dawn Israeli airstrike in Gaza killed senior Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata. Syrian state media said a separate missile attack had hit the home of a Jihad official in Damascus, killing two people including one of his sons. Syria said Israel carried out the Damascus strike. Israel did not comment. Factions in Gaza have responded with rockets fired into Israel, reaching as far as Tel Aviv. The Israeli military has carried out a number of airstrikes in Gaza. Jordan's foreign ministry condemned the strike that killed Ata. In a statement Tuesday, Daifallah al-Fayez, a spokesman for the Jordanian foreign ministry, blamed Israel for the ensuing escalation in violence.”


Sahara Reporters: Boko Haram Tried To Convert Me, Says Winners Pastor Held Hostage For 7 Months

“Moses Oyeleke, a pastor with the Living Faith Church Worldwide, known as Winners’ Chapel, has regained freedom seven months after he was kidnapped by the Boko Haram insurgents. Oyeleke is a pastor in Maiduguri, Borno state, where he was kidnapped, alongside a National Youth Corps (NYSC) member last March. The two were released after interventions by the state government and two non-governmental organizations, the Kalthum Foundation for Peace, and Initiative for Peace Building. Speaking on his release, Oyeleke said they were taken to Sambisa after they were kidnapped on Chibok road in March. “We were on our way to Chibok when they caught us and took us to Yale; from there, they took a detour and finally took us to Sambisa.”


Voice Of America: UN: Al-Shabab Remains 'Potent Threat' In Somalia And Region

“Al-Shabab extremists in Somalia remain "a potent threat" to regional peace and are now manufacturing home-made explosives, expanding their revenue sources and infiltrating government institutions, U.N. experts say. The panel of experts' report to the Security Council, circulated Tuesday, said a significant escalation of U.S. airstrikes targeting al-Shabab militants and leaders has kept the al-Qaida-linked group "off-balance" but has had "little effect on its ability to launch regular asymmetric attacks throughout Somalia." The report said al-Shabab's assault on Jan. 15 on a commercial business complex in Nairobi, Kenya, containing the DusitD2 Hotel "illustrates the danger the group continues to pose to regional peace and security." That attack killed 21 people as well as four gunmen. The experts also cited "an unprecedented number" of attacks across the Kenya-Somalia border by al-Shabab in June and July, "possibly in an effort to exploit strained relations between the two countries." 

All Africa: Somalia: Al-Shabaab Targets AU Troops' Convoy With IED Blast In Somalia

“Reports from the Lower Shabelle in southern Somalia indicate that Somali government forces are conducting operations in many parts of the region on Tuesday morning. The operation came after Al-Shabaab targeted AMISOM convoy with IED blast in Muuri area of Lower Shabelle region on Monday night, according to the residents The explosion has led to a direct confrontation between the AU troops and Al-Shabaab militants, though the casualties were not confirmed. Al-Shabaab, which claimed responsibility for the attack, said the bomb explosion damaged one of AMISOM's armored vehicles. The situation is currently tense and military activities are being felt in some areas of Lower Shabelle in southwest Somalia.”

Africa Times: AFRICOM Says Somalia Air Strike Targeted Al-Qaeda-Linked Terrorist

“In Somalia, the United States says it conducted another air strike near Jilib on Tuesday and successfully targeted one al-Shabaab terrorist who, the U.S. Africa Command said, “had direct ties to the al-Qaeda terror organization.” The strike “is an example of the successful incursions our Somali partners are making into al-Shabaab territory,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, director of operations for U.S. Africa Command. “Together, with the Federal Government of Somalia, we remain resolute to maintain pressure on al-Shabaab’s network and levels of leadership while countering violent extremist intentions and actions.” No civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike, the U.S. statement added. It comes just weeks after the most recent human rights investigation from Amnesty International on the issue, which has drawn attention to concerns that the U.S. strikes are killing civilians in Somalia. The Amnesty investigation focused on three deaths reported in March in the Lower Shabelle region. The human rights NGO said it shared its information on those deaths with AFRICOM in August but the U.S. authorities continued to maintain that only terrorists were targeted.”


The Wall Street Journal: France Can Lead Europe And Save Syria’s Kurds

“Nothing remains to be said about the American abandonment of Syrian Kurdistan. But what about Europe? Is not Europe also responsible for the fate of our most dependable allies in the war against Islamic State? Is it not at least as affected by the strategic and moral disaster of leaving the field open for Turkey, Iran, Russia and the thousands of jihadists the Kurds had been holding, who are now in the hands of Bashar Assad and Recep Tayyip Erdogan? And does Europe not possess the means, with its 500 million inhabitants and 28 national armies, to take up the gauntlet, to step in for the 2,000 Special Forces troops the U.S. is withdrawing, and, for the first time, to begin to assure a share of its own defense while standing up for its values? That is the proposal I made in January after President Trump’s first withdrawal announcement. At the time, I floated the idea of a European military unit made up of as many of the 28 European Union members as were willing to recognize the geopolitical significance of the event unfolding on the Turkey-Syria border.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: France To Take Back 11 Suspected Extremists From Turkey

“France will take back 11 suspected French extremists from Turkey, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Tuesday, a day after Ankara said it was deporting foreign citizens linked to the group. Turkey’s unilateral offensive has angered Washington and Turkey’s main European NATO allies who fear a return of ISIS in the region. European countries are especially concerned about foreign ISIS fighters and adults returning to Europe. France, which has between 400-500 nationals held in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria, including about 60 fighters, has been adamant that it will not take back adults that had joined ISIS in Syria. It wants to seal an agreement with Iraq on taking and prosecuting its nationals from Syria. However, as part of a 2014 agreement with Turkey, French nationals arrested by Turkish authorities have previously been deported back to France in coordination with French authorities. “It is within this framework that we are looking at repatriating 11 French nationals,” Castaner told lawmakers in parliament. He declined to give details about the individuals, but said that they were known by France and would be handed over to judicial authorities when they arrive.”


Anadolu Agency: Germany, Netherlands To Take Back Daesh/ISIS Terrorists

“Germany and the Netherlands have agreed to take Daesh/ISIS terrorists back into their home countries, Turkey’s interior minister said on Wednesday. “I would like to thank two countries, Germany and the Netherlands,” said Suleyman Soylu during a village guard training meeting in Turkey’s eastern Van province. He said that the two countries have shown a constructive attitude after several days of talks with officials from both, confirming that as of last night that they will allow the return of “Daesh terrorists with their spouses and children.” Soylu said that he expects the same cooperation from other countries in the fight against terrorism. “We're not a hotel or a guest house for terrorists from any country,” Soylu added. “We recently captured a very important Daesh man in Syria,” Soylu said, adding that the suspect’s interrogation is still ongoing and “his testimony tells what he has done” Soylu did not provide further details on the suspect. The issue of the handling of Daesh/ISIS members and their families detained in Syria -- including foreign members of the terror group -- has been controversial, with Turkey arguing foreign-born terrorists should be repatriated to their countries of origin.”

Reuters: Germany Detains Three Islamic State Suspects Over Attack Plan

“German police detained three people in the western city of Offenbach on Tuesday on suspicion of planning a bomb attack for the Islamic State militant group, prosecutors said. The three suspects wanted to kill as many “infidels” as possible in the planned attack in the Rhine-Main region, Frankfurt prosecutor Nadja Niesen said. No specific attack targets were yet known but evidence seized from raids of three homes in Offenbach should shed some light, she added. German intelligence agencies and police have been on high alert for potential attacks by Islamist militants since a rejected asylum seeker from Tunisia killed 12 people by ramming a truck into a Berlin Christmas market almost three years ago. The main suspect arrested on Tuesday is a 24-year-old German of Macedonian origin who wanted to manufacture explosives and tried to buy a weapon online. His two suspected accomplices are Turkish nationals aged 22 and 21. The suspects are believed to have told people they were IS supporters, Niesen said, adding she thought all three were known to police. Substances that could be used to make explosives and equipment were found at the main suspect’s home, she said. The authorities also secured written documents and electronic data.”


The Moscow Times: Russia Jails 6 Crimean Tatar Activists For Terrorism, Sparking Condemnation

“A Russian court has jailed six Crimean Tatar activists to jail terms between seven and 19 years on charges of terrorism Tuesday, a move that has sparked condemnation from abroad. Some Crimean Tatars have accused Russia of locking up its ideological opponents as religious extremists in the wake of the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Moscow says it is purely acting to prevent acts of terrorism within the mainly Muslim ethnic minority that lives in Crimea. A military court in southern Russia found activist Emir-Usein Kuku and five other defendants guilty of organizing terrorist activities and plotting a violent overthrow of the Russian government. It sentenced Kuku to 12 years behind bars, drawing a strong rebuke from Amnesty International. “This decision brings to a close what can only be described as a sham trial,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s head of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “It is devastating that [Kuku] has fallen victim to the overt repression of the occupying power.” Kuku and his five co-defendants were arrested in February 2016 and charged on suspicion of being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist movement that is banned as a terrorist organization in Russia but not in Ukraine.”

The Washington Post: Danish Court Jails Repatriated Islamic State Fighter

“A foreign fighter from Denmark has been jailed in pre-trial custody for 27 days, a day after the man was deported from Turkey, which has begun to send home people who fought for the Islamic State group. Prosecutor Sidsel Klixbull told the Copenhagen City Court on Tuesday that it was “a very serious case.” Ahmad Salem el-Haj was held on preliminary charges of violating Danish terror laws. He denies the charges. He was arrested upon arrival at the Copenhagen airport late Monday. Copenhagen police say Denmark in 2017 had asked Turkey for his extradition but in vain. Danish officials also said el-Haj had been found guilty in Turkey and sentenced to four years in prison for joining the Islamic State group. No date for his trial was immediately announced.”

PRI: Europe Is ‘Terrified’ ISIS Fighters Will Go Free If Repatriated

“Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Saturday that Turkey would send captured ISIS members back to their home countries, and he complained about European inaction on the matter. “That is not acceptable to us. It's also irresponsible,” he said of Europe leaving Turkey to deal with the prisoners alone. “We will send the captured Daesh members to their countries,” he told reporters, using another name for ISIS. Turkey has captured some escaped ISIS members in northeastern Syria over the last month after it launched a military incursion there. Anne Speckhard, director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, spoke to Marco Werman about what these deportations may mean for the receiving countries.  Marco Werman: Can you tell us a little bit about your work with ISIS detainees and the governments involved? Anne Speckhard: I've interviewed 211 ISIS fighters, most of them in prisons in Iraq and Syria. Most have given their permission to have their interview shared with their home government because they're hoping that their government will take them home and they know they're going to face prosecution. I've been working with a number of EU governments directly, and Australia, as well, to try to get these people repatriated.”

Express: Terrorism Warning: FCO Warns Of Terrorist Threat At European Christmas Markets

“Christmas is fast approaching and with that comes a flood of themed markets popping up around Europe to welcome the festive season. A popular haunt to help tourists and European residents get into the spirit of the season, Christmas markets attack millions of visitors every year. Data from ABTA shows that 4.7 million Britons jetted off on holidays during the Christmas and New Year period alone last year. Unfortunately, devastating incidents in the last few years have meant that they also carry with them the risk of terrorism. In order to keep everyone as safe as possible, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued their latest travel updates for the year. Markets are a main feature in most UK cities and across the wider continent. However, while the UK has been safe from terrorist attacks at its festive offering, other countries in Europe have been targeted causing fatalities and serious injuries. Today the FCO issued updates for hotspots including France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Czech Republic, Denmark, Belgium and Austria. The same warning was quoted for each of the destinations, stating: “There is a general threat from terrorism.”

Southeast Asia 

Reuters: Indonesia Urges Public To Report Civil Servants Over 'Radical' Content

“Indonesia launched a website on Tuesday that would allow the public to report “radical” content posted by civil servants, as authorities in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country push to combat hardline Islamist ideology permeating government. Indonesia is officially secular but has seen a rise of conservatism with some politicians demanding a larger role for Islam, and some groups calling for an Islamic state. Indonesian Communications Minister Johnny G. Plate told reporters the intention of the website was “to bring together and improve the performance of our civil servants, as well as to foster higher levels of nationalism.” According to a frequently asked questions section, radical could refer to content containing elements of hate, misleading information, intolerance or anti-Indonesian sentiment. This could also include civil servants liking or commenting positively on content deemed radical on social media. Users can set up an account on the website - aduanasn.id - and report contents by providing screenshots or links.”

Xinhua: Indonesian Police Nab Five Alleged Terrorists Engaged In Militant Training

“The Indonesian National Police's anti-terror squad has arrested five alleged terrorists who have undergone a military-style training at a forest area in Riau province on Sumatra Island. Four of the five were captured in the forest and another one was nabbed in his house in Kuapan village, Kampar district, eyewitness Syukri who is a local villager said on Tuesday. Another alleged militant escaped the operation carried out by the squad and local police over the weekend, he said. The militants set up a military training camp three months ago in the forest about 60 km from the provincial capital of Pekanbaru, local media reported. One of the five militants was a villager of Kuapan village with an initial of ED, according to the eyewitness. “ED has frequently undergone training in the camp together with his friends and he usually returns home at night,” said Syukri. The police found facilities for training at the camp in the forest, and in a raid at the house of one of the suspects, the police seized scores of bows, pipes believed to be used in assembling bombs, big knives, books outlining holy war or jihad and other materials. So far, the police have yet to release any information about the arrest.”


The Washington Post: The Key To Defeating The Far Right’s Online Hate

“Recent shootings — from the attempted attack on congregants observing Yom Kippur at a synagogue in Halle, Germany, in October, to the killing of 51 worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, six months ago — have been tied to the promotion of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and hate-fueled violence on the Internet. When far-right extremism goes viral online, the contagion infects flesh-and-blood human beings capable of materializing their hate by force. So what do we do? While restricting Internet hate speech is important, we might also consider devising a counterattack. Almost a century ago, when Jewish advocacy groups confronted the spread of fascist propaganda in the United States, they cooperated with other organizations and American mass media to produce counterpropaganda. This history shows that when social activists and media industry professionals join forces, they can mount a formidable challenge to the toxic rhetoric of the far right. American anti-Semitism reached an apogee in the 1930s, spurred by the radio diatribes of the known anti-Semite Father Charles Coughlin and the scapegoating of Jews for the Great Depression. In response, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) established the Survey Committee, made up of professionals in fields including advertising, Hollywood filmmaking, broadcasting and academia.”