Eye on Extremism: November 14, 2018

Al Jazeera: ISIL Continues To Wreak Havoc In Syria's Deir Az Zor

“A military operation by a United States-backed Kurdish coalition against the last pockets of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS, in northeast Syria seems far from ending soon. The ISIL is successfully absorbing the attacks of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish as well as Arab and Assyrian militias. Since the start of the SDF offensive in the northeastern province of Deir Az Zor on May 10, ISIL fighters have been blending in with the civilian population, making identifying the group's members difficult, according to an SDF commander. Despite the fact that ISIL seems doomed militarily, it has powerful sleeper cells who help it to forestall the coalition movements by strewing mines everywhere; in trees, on roads, in fridges, inside toys, and under blankets. Civilians in the area are paying the highest price. There are more than 255,000 Internally Displaced People (IDP) from Deir Az Zor city, living outside the area, under control of the Syrian army.  According to the United Nations, 800,000 civilians have returned to their villages in 2017, risking their lives because of mines and IEDs, while others choose to stay in makeshift homes, often with no food, medical care and humanitarian assistance. The Doctors Without Borders' hospital in Kurdish-controlled al-Hasaka, 185km north of Deir Az Zor, receives an average of one patient per day with injuries caused by landmines and IEDs. Most of the injured come from Deir Az Zor and more than half are children.”

The Washington Post: U.S. Blacklists The Son Of Hezbollah Leader

“The Trump administration levied new sanctions against the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah on Tuesday as part of a pressure campaign against Tehran and its proxy forces in the Middle East. The State Department designated Jawad Nasrallah, the son of Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah, a terrorist and accused him of trying to “activate a suicide bombing and shooting cell based in the West Bank” in January 2016. The department also designated Al-Mujahidin Brigades, or AMB, a group it accused of plotting attacks in Israel and cultivating ties to Hezbollah. “Today’s designations seek to deny Nasrallah and AMB the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks,” said a State Department release indicating that the two entities would be denied access to the U.S. financial system. Later on Tuesday, the department offered rewards of up to $5 million each for information leading to the identification or location of two Hezbollah leaders, Khalil Yusif Mahmoud Harb and Haytham Ali Tabataba’i, and Hamas leader Salih al-Aruri. The actions continue the Trump administration’s strategy of doubling down on America’s alliances with Sunni Arab and Israeli allies in the Middle East against Iran and the political and military units it supports. Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri and his mainly Sunni party is locked in a power struggle with Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group. On Tuesday, Hariri called the group a “big obstacle” to forming a new government. A person with ties to Hezbollah said Jawad Nasrallah does not have a rank in group’s military wing unlike his brother, who was killed by Israelis in a battle in Lebanon in 1997.”

Foreign Policy: Iran Was Closer To A Nuclear Bomb Than Intelligence Agencies Thought

“A secret Iranian archive seized by Israeli agents earlier this year indicates that Tehran’s nuclear program was more advanced than Western intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency had thought, according to a prominent nuclear expert who examined the documents. That conclusion in turn suggests that if Iran pulls out of the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal that U.S. President Donald Trump has already abandoned, it has the know-how to build a bomb fairly swiftly, perhaps in a matter of months, said David Albright, a physicist who runs the nonprofit Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, D.C. Iran would still need to produce weapons-grade uranium. If it restarts its centrifuges, it could have enough in about seven to 12 months, added Albright, who is preparing reports on the archive. Before the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal mainly negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, that would have taken only two months, but under the accord Iran was required to ship about 97 percent of its nuclear fuel out of the country and dismantle most its centrifuges.  Experts say the revelation that Iran had more advanced capabilities to make nuclear weapons themselves—as opposed to its ability to produce weapons-grade fuel, the main focus of the nuclear pact—is a surprising and troubling finding in the new intelligence.”

Associated Press: Montreal Man Convicted Of Terrorism For US Airport Attack

“A Montreal man who told investigators that his “mission was to kill and be killed” was convicted of terrorism and other crimes Tuesday in the stabbing of a Michigan airport officer. It was a slam dunk for federal prosecutors: Witnesses saw Amor Ftouhi attack Lt. Jeff Neville at the Flint airport in June 2017 and wrestled him to the ground. Ftouhi, 53, was convicted of three crimes. He’s a native of Tunisia who was living in Montreal at the time of the stabbing. “This isn’t a mystery. He was caught right there. He has the knife in his hand,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathleen Corken told jurors. Investigators say Ftouhi wanted to stab Neville , take his gun and start shooting people in the airport. He legally drove into the U.S. at Champlain, New York, and arrived in Flint five days later. He tried but failed to buy a gun at a gun show and instead bought a large knife. Witnesses said he yelled, “Allahu akbar” — God is great — during the attack. Neville survived but has lost feeling in part of his face as a result of being stabbed in the neck. “This is what a Muslim is born for,” Ftouhi said in a handwritten note to his wife that was found in his apartment. FBI agent Shadi Elreda told jurors about his interview with Ftouhi after his arrest. He said Ftouhi was upset that Neville might survive. “His mission was to kill and be killed. He said his mission was not over,” Elreda testified. Ftouhi’s lawyers didn’t offer an opening statement at trial and didn’t call any witnesses.”

ABC News: 'Every Reason To Believe' American Journalist Austin Tice Still Alive In Syria: US Envoy

“The U.S. government believes that journalist Austin Tice, missing for more than six years in Syria, is still alive, according to the Trump administration's top official for freeing hostages. The FBI is still chasing down leads, including from his fellow journalists, but the U.S. "has every reason to believe" Tice is still alive and being held captive in Syria, said Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O'Brien in his first public remarks on the case. Also on Tuesday, several groups announced a new effort to raise money to increase the reward for information leading to Tice's freedom. O'Brien would not say who the U.S. believes is holding Tice, but he blamed Iran for detaining several other U.S. citizens and not being helpful with Tice's case. The Iranian regime has supported the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with troops and weapons throughout its conflict. Tice is believed to have been kidnapped by pro-Syrian regime forces while he was covering the civil war in August 2012. Over a month after he was taken, a video was released, showing him blindfolded, removed from a car, and led by armed men up a hill, saying "Oh, Jesus.”

Reuters: Chemical Weapons Team To Begin Assigning Blame For Syrian Attacks

“The global chemical weapons watchdog will in February begin to assign blame for attacks with banned munitions in Syria’s war, using new powers approved by member states but opposed by Damascus and its key allies Russia and Iran. The agency was handed the new task in response to an upsurge in the use of chemical weapons in recent years, notably in the Syrian conflict, where scores of attacks with sarin and chlorine have been carried out by Syrian forces and rebel groups, according to a joint United Nations-OPCW investigation. A core team of 10 experts charged with apportioning blame for poison gas attacks in Syria will be hired soon, Fernando Arias, the new head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), told the Foreign Press Association of the Netherlands on Tuesday. The Syria team will be able to look into all attacks previously investigated by the OPCW, dating back to 2014.”

United States

The Hill: Pompeo Accuses Newsweek Of 'Helping' Iran 'Spread Lies'

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took aim at Newsweek on Monday over a magazine article that he said suggested that the U.S. was preparing to sanction food being imported into Iran. In a tweet, Pompeo accused the magazine of "helping" Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif spread "lies" about the U.S. after Zarif tweeted a screenshot of the article and accused Pompeo of threatening to starve Iranians. "Shame on #FakeNewsweek for helping @JZarif spread lies," Pompeo responded on Monday. "The truth is: the U.S. does not, and never did, sanction food and medicine. They are exempt from sanctions, as are financial transactions related to humanitarian needs.”

The Wall Street Journal: Anti-Semitic Incidents Fuel 17% Rise In Hate Crimes, FBI Says

“Hate crimes rose 17% in 2017, the FBI said Tuesday, a jump that was partly driven by a spike in anti-Semitic incidents. The number of hate-crime incidents targeting Jews increased 37%, to 938 in 2017. Anti-Muslim crimes fell by 11% in 2017, to 273. Race or ethnic-based hate crimes jumped by 18% in 2017 to 4,131. Hate crimes targeting black people increased by 16% and were the most for any category of race, ethnic group, religion or sexual orientation. Overall, the Federal Bureau of Investigation recorded 7,175 hate crimes in 2017, compared with 6,121 for the year before. The rise in total hate crimes is the biggest since 2001, when incidents rose to 9,730, a 21% increase. “We are definitely at an inflection point,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. “We have now risen to the highest level in about a decade. That is a cause for concern.” Mr. Levin said a myriad of factors likely played a role in last year’s increase in hate crimes, including socio-political polarization, a rise in white nationalist activity and the explosion of online hate speech on sites like 4chan and the social-media site Gab. The report comes about two weeks after a man shot and killed 11 Jewish people inside a Pittsburgh synagogue. That suspect, who law-enforcement officials said made anti-Semitic remarks when he was apprehended and targeted Jews on social media, is being tried for hate crimes.”

Dayton Daily News: Terrorism Trial: Prosecution Cites Texts, Defense Says ISIS Communication Never Happened In Opening Statements

“In the hours before Laith Alebbini went to the Cincinnati airport to allegedly fly overseas to join ISIS in April 2017, he argued with family members who begged him not to go, a prosecutor said during Tuesday’s opening statements of Alebbini’s terrorism trial in Dayton’s U.S. District Court. In a purported text conversation with his sister, shown to U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice via television display, Alebbini’s sister Lina told her brother that she has a class on terrorism and that regarding ISIS, “I swear to God, this is terrorism.” In his final response, Alebbini texted back: “Do you think I am a criminal? “I am a terrorist. “I am mujahid.” Alebbini, 28, who moved to Dayton in 2017, is on trial for conspiracy and attempting “to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization in the form of personnel to work under ISIS’s direction and control.” One of Alebbini’s defense attorneys said his client “has not hidden his pro-Islamic State views from family, friends or government” but that Alebbini also has been deeply affected by the “systematic slaughter of Syrian neighbors” by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including the use of Sarin gas to kill people including babies. Alebbini’s attorney also told Rice during opening statements that Alebbini had “no firm intent or plan” other than getting to Istanbul to talk to refugees, that he never planned any terrorist attack against anyone, didn’t communicate with anyone with ISIS and that he denounced the killing of innocent people. Alebbini waived his jury trial and will have his case decided by Rice.”

The Hill: Terror-Crime 'Poisonous Brew' Requires A Calibrated Response

“Former CIA Director James Woolsey famously made reference in a 2003 speech to ties between terrorists and traffickers of drugs, arms and people as a “poisonous brew” that threatens international security. The crime-terror nexus has since become an increasingly popular paradigm, with practitioners identifying so much overlap between extremism and organized crime that it culminated in a U.N. Security Council resolution. But identifying the intersection has proved easy. The harder part is how to develop a well-calibrated response. The U.S. government took a step in the direction of nuanced policy on Oct. 15, when it named Lebanese Hezbollah among its top transnational organized crime targets. The announcement complements a task force of organized crime, drug and terrorism prosecutors established in January this year to take broader aim at the group’s finances.  Beyond solidifying Hezbollah as an American law enforcement priority, these actions show how Washington has matured in its approach to addressing highly complex hybrid threats after years of incremental adjustments. During the 2000s, Washington sporadically used sanctions to highlight cases with a pronounced crime-terror nexus. Several groups named as Foreign Terrorist Organizations under the Immigration and Nationality Act were re-designated as drug kingpins in actions primarily useful for public messaging. The move toward a more dimensional approach came in 2011 with a transnational organized crime strategy that prioritizes defeating crime networks to prevent them from facilitating terrorist activities.”

PJ Media: ISIS Threatens White House 'Soon Under Fire,' Depicts Rifle Aimed At U.S. Capitol

“A threat from ISIS supporters directed at the White House and U.S. Capitol was included in a barrage of post-Melbourne calls to violence from jihadists fired up about last week's deadly stabbing rampage in Australia. Sisto Malasspina, 74, owner of an Italian restaurant, was killed and two others were injured by Shire Ali, 30, who was shot and killed by police. ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the attack; acting deputy commissioner for national security Ian McCartney said "it's fair to say he was inspired" by ISIS. Several weeks before the Bourke Street attack, online threats circulated by ISIS-supporting media groups encouraged jihadists to concentrate on poisoning Australia's food supplies; they were inspired by Australia's strawberry contamination crisis in September when there were more than 100 reports of needles found inserted into berries. Quickly after Friday's stabbing, groups circulated images of the attack, which was filmed by numerous bystanders, with the vow, "We strike whenever we want, wherever we want, however we want #Australia" A new poster circulated by Muharir al-Ansar vows "soon" painted on the side of a white cargo truck like that used in the Nice, France, 2016 attack, with a masked jihadist popping out of the top. "Soon, the vehicle attacks will be witnessed on your streets, by Allah's permission," reads the text. The same group circulated another poster declaring "Soon: the White House under fire: Just Terror.”

Syria

The Independent: Raqqa After ISIS: Mass Grave Reveals Horror Of City’s Final Battle

“The gravediggers lift the shrouded body delicately from the trench, just as they have done hundreds of times before. The routine is familiar by now, and yet a sombre mood falls over them as they pull back the cloth.  “You can tell the fighters by their clothes,” says forensic assistant Abd Arawf Al Ahmed, breaking the silence. “This is not a fighter.” The examination doesn’t last long. In under two minutes, Ahmed is able to determine that the deceased was a woman, in her late 20s, and that she was likely brought here from the hospital. The cause of death is unknown. Under normal circumstances, an exhumation would be the beginning of an investigation, rather than the end. But here in Panorama Park, the largest mass grave in Raqqa, there are too many bodies, and too little time.”

The National: Hawala: The Ancient Banking Practice Hezbollah Is Using To Fund Syria Fighters

“A Lebanese businessman sanctioned for ties to Shiite militia group Hezbollah whose trial began in Paris on Tuesday is accused of being part of a criminal money-laundering ring that used an ancient banking practice to fund the group’s arms in Syria. Hawala, the anonymous banking practice, is a common method of payment for foreign workers who use remittances to send money across the world. But nefarious actors are using the system as a conduit for their money to move outside of institutional global financial networks. Dating back to the spice trade, hawala – translated from Arabic as “transfer” – and the storefronts that serve the practice, known as hawaladars, act as a value transfer service that predates modern transaction methods. It is predominant in North Africa, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and south Asia. The system is based on iron trust in brokers who immediately receive and release money in another destination. Its speed, reliability and relative cover from the traces of security services have made it an attractive proposition for terrorist groups and militias alike.”

Iran

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Ramps Up Sanctions On Hezbollah As Part Of Iran Pressure

“The Trump administration on Tuesday targeted Iran-backed Hezbollah with fresh terrorism-related sanctions, as the U.S. moves to keep up pressure on Tehran and its tools of foreign-policy abroad despite resistance from European allies. The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on four men it says lead Lebanon-based Hezbollah’s operations in Iraq. In a separate but coordinated action, the State Department added Jawad Nasrallah, the son of the group’s leader, and the al-Mujahidin Brigades, a militia with alleged links to Hezbollah, to its list of individuals and groups designated as terrorists. The men named in the U.S. actions and the al-Mujahidin Brigades couldn’t immediately be reached to comment. Hezbollah didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment. “Iran has never been party to sectarian conflicts in the region,” said Iran’s spokesman at the United Nations, Alireza Miryousefi. Iran’s presence in Syria “is by invitation of its government—which is a member state of the U.N.—to fight terrorism and terrorist groups operating in Syrian territory,” he said.”

RadioLiberty: Concerns Raised Over 'Secret Executions' Of Arabs In Iran

“Amnesty International has urged authorities in Iran to immediately provide information about hundreds of members of the Arab ethnic minority who have reportedly being held incommunicado following a deadly attack in the southwestern city of Ahvaz in September. The London-based human rights watchdog made the call on November 13 following reports that 22 men have been executed "in secret" over the previous days. Iranian officials have dismissed those reports. If confirmed, the secret executions of these men would be "not only a crime under international law but also an abhorrent violation of their right to life and a complete mockery of justice," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa. Up to 600 ethnic Arabs have been detained without access to their families or lawyers since September 24, according to Amnesty International, following an armed attack that claimed at least 25 lives in Ahvaz, the capital of the southwestern oil-producing province of Khuzestan, two days earlier.”

Iraq

Associated Press: UN Envoy: New Iraq Government Plans To Uproot IS Extremists

“Iraq's new government plans to intensify efforts to uproot cells of the Islamic State extremist group and introduce "robust measures" to achieve sustainable security throughout the country, the country's U.N. envoy said Tuesday. Jan Kubis told the U.N. Security Council there are almost daily reports of the arrest or elimination of the militant group's "terrorists, their leaders, sleeper cells and hideouts." Iraq declared victory over IS last year, but the group continues to carry out scattered attacks, particularly in the north. The extremists have lost virtually all the territory they once ruled in Syria and Iraq, but still control small, remote pockets in eastern Syria along the border. Kubis said most IS movements in recent months have been to the western border with Syria and Iraq has responded by deploying thousands of troops on its side. But he said the group, also known as Daesh, remains active in other Iraqi provinces as well, notably Kirkuk, Salah ad Din and Diyala. Earlier this month, U.N. investigators reported discovering at least 202 mass graves in Iraq containing between 6,000 and 12,000 bodies believed to be victims of atrocities by IS during its three-year reign Kubis said the U.N. political mission in Iraq "continues to advocate for justice and accountability for international crimes," and he told the council the head of a U.N. investigative team promoting accountability for IS crimes, Karim Khan, arrived in Iraq on Oct. 30.”

Reuters: Iraq PM Says IS Militants Seeking To Cross To Iraq From Syria

“Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday hundreds of Iraqi Islamic State militants at Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria were trying to cross into Iraq. The militants have launched attacks in recent weeks against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces on the Syrian side of the border, prompting Iraqi militias that operate alongside the army to reinforce in the area. Abdul Mahdi said the militants were seeking to recapture territory they had once controlled on the Iraqi side, during Islamic State's self-styled caliphate that extended from eastern Syria to northern Iraq from 2014 to 2017. "But Iraqi forces are carrying out their duties to preempt any attempts by Daesh [Islamic State] to infiltrate the border and cross into Iraq," he told reporters at a news conference. Islamic State militants have since their military defeat in Iraq in 2017 reverted to insurgency tactics such as bombings and attacks on security forces, especially in northern Nineveh and northeastern Diyala provinces.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraq Forms Committee To Address ISIS Threats In Mosul

“The Iraqi parliament voted on Monday on the formation of a fact-finding mission to tackle the recent security unrest in the Nineveh province. The legislature began appointing members to a committee aimed at uncovering the shortcomings that led to the security breaches in Mosul and several other western regions that saw ISIS terror attacks. Former head of the parliamentary security and defense committee Hakem al-Zameli revealed that American forces deliberately left several border regions without proper security. “The recent days revealed suspicious terrorist activity along the Iraqi-Syrian border,” he said in a statement. “We had previously warned of this,” he added, citing the recent car bombing in Mosul. He also said that the rugged terrain near the border posed difficulties for authorities and made it suitable for terrorist infiltration. He therefore, warned of a possible spike in smuggling and trafficking operations, calling on the commander of the armed forces to draft an immediate plan to secure the region stretching from Mosul to the Syrian border. Armed groups expert Hisham al-Hashemi, meanwhile, noted to Asharq Al-Awsat that the ISIS threat in Iraq still stands. “ISIS’ military and organizational structure was permanently crippled, but it has not been destroyed,” he remarked. “The terrorists have shown a remarkable ability to recover and regroup after heavy losses in Iraq,” he added.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraqi Forces Announce Arrest Of Senior Islamic State Leader

“Iraq's Ministry of Interior (MoI) said on Tuesday that they had arrested a high-ranking leader of the Islamic State (IS) known as "Abu Ammar" southeast of Kirkuk Province amid the terrorist organization's continued sporadic attacks in the country. "Through field follow-up, the Intelligence Divisions of the Federal Police… were able to capture one of the leaders of the Da'esh (IS) terrorist organization," MoI Spokesman Maj. Gen. Sa'ad Ma'an said in a statement. The ministry added that "Abu Ammar" was wanted for his involvement in terrorist activity within the so-called Kirkuk Wilayah, an administrative territorial claim made by IS. The statement added that the suspect had been working for the Ministry of Education's "Office of Advocacy and Education." Ma'an added that "the arrest was made by employing secret sources and establishing temporary checkpoints in the sub-district of Laylan in the province of Kirkuk." The arrest came after the US-led anti-IS coalition announced on Sunday that Iraqi forces, with the support of coalition troops, killed dozens of IS militants in separate military operations across different parts of northern Iraq.  On Oct. 31 in the Makhmour Mountains, a joint operation involving Iraqi Special Operations Forces and coalition troops killed approximately 20 IS insurgents.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Considers Asking Afghanistan To Suspend Presidential Election

“The Trump administration is discussing whether to press the Afghan government to suspend coming presidential elections, according to people briefed on the discussions, as the U.S. seeks to engage the Taliban in talks to end the 17-year war. The possibility of such a step, one of several options being considered by U.S. officials, is a sign of the urgency the administration sees in trying to broker a political breakthrough in a conflict that has bedeviled three successive American presidents, according to these people. To urge a suspension of the April election, an idea these people said was raised by U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in talks with various stakeholders and intermediaries, would be a contentious move after the U.S. has long promoted democracy in Afghanistan. Mr. Khalilzad’s office declined to comment on his efforts. The idea would be opposed by a key player: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is expected to seek a second five-year term in the election. “Continuity in a democratic process is a must, and any other proposal than the will of Afghans, which is outlined in our constitution, is simply not acceptable,” said Mr. Ghani’s spokesman, Haroon Chakhansoori.”

Military Times: Afghan Leader Tells US Audience That Taliban Not Winning War

“The president of Afghanistan told a U.S. audience Monday that his country is not losing the war to the Taliban and is not at risk of collapse amid escalating attacks by the militant group and an expansion of the territory it controls. President Ashraf Ghani said his administration is intent on seeking a negotiated peace with the Taliban, which have shown no interest in direct talks with a government they see as illegitimate. "The Taliban are not in a winning position," Ghani said by video to an audience at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington as a suicide bombing in Kabul and a deadly militant assault on districts in eastern Afghanistan suggested government control was slipping further. Ghani said that more than 28,000 Afghan forces have been killed in the past four years but that the military will be able to retake territory as long as it has an air force and commando troops. He said most of the losses incurred by its security forces were in defending static positions, so the government was rethinking how it deploys its forces. Speaking on Veterans Day, the Afghan leader paid tribute to American sacrifices in Afghanistan, including the death of Brent Taylor, a Utah mayor serving as a major in the state’s Army National Guard who was training Afghan commandos. Taylor, 39, was fatally shot a week ago by one of his Afghan trainees. But Ghani also offered a rare public accounting of the scale of the Afghan losses.”

Associated Press: After 17 Years, Many Afghans Blame US For Unending War

“When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans. The United States has lost more than 2,400 soldiers in its longest war, and has spent more than $900 billion on everything from military operations to the construction of roads, bridges and power plants. Three U.S. presidents have pledged to bring peace to Afghanistan, either by adding or withdrawing troops, by engaging the Taliban or shunning them. Last year, the U.S. dropped the “mother of all bombs” on a cave complex. None of it has worked. After years of frustration, Afghanistan is rife with conspiracy theories, including the idea that Americans didn’t stumble into a forever war, but planned one all along. Mohammed Ismail Qasimyar, a member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, wonders how U.S. and NATO forces — which at their peak numbered 150,000 and fought alongside hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops, were unable to vanquish tens of thousands of Taliban. “Either they did not want to or they could not do it,” he said. He now suspects the U.S. and its ally Pakistan deliberately sowed chaos in Afghanistan to justify the lingering presence of foreign forces — now numbering around 15,000 — in order to use the country as a listening post to monitor Iran, Russia and China. “They have made a hell, not a paradise for us,” he said.”

Radio Free Europe: Afghan Taliban Wants What It Hasn't Been Able To Hold: Hazara Regions

“Tucked in a valley in the remote highlands of central Afghanistan, Jaghori has been a safe haven in recent years for members of the country's beleaguered Hazara minority. But the peace in Jaghori, a district in Ghazni Province heavily populated by the mainly Shi'ite Hazara, was shattered last week when Taliban militants launched a major offensive to seize it. Afghan special forces and pro-government Hazara militiamen continue to battle the militants, with clashes killing hundreds of people and forcing thousands to flee their homes. When asked why the Taliban would try to take an area that has long been considered unattainable, analysts suggest that the hard-line Sunni movement is emboldened by territorial gains made elsewhere in the country, and has something to prove.  Expanding its reach into a central region inhabited by an ethnic group renowned for its opposition to the Taliban could be a game changer in the battle for national influence. The Taliban terrorized Hazara during its oppressive 1996-2001 rule, when the militants wrestled control of central Afghanistan through brute force and a campaign of targeted killings. Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban has been unable to make inroads in Hazara-dominated areas. "The Taliban want to prove that they are capable of governing non-Pashtun territories," says Haroun Mir, a Kabul-based political analyst.”

Yemen

Asharq Al-Awsat: A Second Houthi Minister Defects

“Technical Education and Vocational Minister Mohsen Ali al-Nakib announced on Tuesday his defection from the Iran-backed Houtihi militias’ government. His decision drove more chaos in the ranks of the militant group, particularly as Saudi-backed forces made several advances in the strategic port city of Hodeidah. Following his arrival to Saudi Arabia, Nakib told Ashaq Al-Awsat that he had rejected the Houthis’ meddling in his work, revealing that he had obstructed their plans.  “Houthis exercised financial corruption at the Commerce and Industry Ministry after they drained its general revenues and monopolized oil and gas,” he added. Moreover, he remarked that the Houthis lost their popular and political cover after they assassinated former President and head of the General People's Congress party Ali Abdullah Saleh in December 2017. Nakib said the assassination had paved the way for his retreat from the government before he decided to flee to Riyadh and announce his defection.”

Lebanon

The National: 'Lebanese Connection' Drug Trial Of Hezbollah Agent To Open In Paris

“A crime ring with links to Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah accused of trafficking cocaine for a Colombian drug cartel and laundering the profits to buy weapons in Syria for the group is to go on trial in Paris on Tuesday. The main agent accused of being the cell’s ringleader as a middleman for Hezbollah is Mohamad Noureddine, a 44-year-old Lebanese businessman with interests in real estate and jewellery arrested after an international investigation that took in seven countries, including France, Belgium, Germany and Italy. Police arrested him in France in 2016 after a tip-off from US counter-narcotics agents. The US has sanctioned him for his alleged ties to Hezbollah and acting as a money launderer for its financial arm. The ring is alleged to have raised funds for Iran-backed Hezbollah fighters in Syria where they are fighting alongside the forces of President Bashar Al Assad. The financial arm of Hezbollah uses supporters in the Lebanese diaspora around the world to raise funds.”

Yenisafak: Lebanon's Hariri Blames Hezbollah For Obstructing Government Formation

“Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri said on Tuesday the process of forming a new government had hit a big obstacle and blamed Iran-backed Hezbollah for the stalemate. Hezbollah, a heavily armed group, has been pressing its demand for one Sunni lawmaker allied to it to get a cabinet portfolio, something Hariri refused.”

Middle East

CBS News: "Precarious" Gaza Truce Holds, But Puts Huge Pressure On Israeli Leader

“Children in Israel's south were heading to school early Wednesday as an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire took effect, putting an end to a brief yet intense flare-up with Gaza. The truce, announced Tuesday by Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip, came after nearly two days of heavy shelling from both sides that had threatened to descend into full-blown war. Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers said they would abide by the ceasefire as long as Israel did the same. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was under intense pressure on Wednesday for accepting the truce -- including from his long-time defense chief who has reportedly decided to resign his position and possibly stage a political challenge. Israel's Home Front Command removed late Tuesday all limitations on southern residents, sending children back to school after two days in shelters. At the United Nations Security Council held urgent consultations on Gaza Tuesday, and the U.N. Secretary-General's Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq told CBS News' Pam Falk that the global body had worked "very hard" with Egypt "to ensure that there is a return to the ceasefire arrangements of 2014.”

The Sun: Terror Comeback ISIS Is Back And ‘Expanding And Building Strength’ Around The World, Expert Warns

“ISIS is back and the terror group is actually “expanding and building its strength” around the world, an expert has warned. The extremist sect was believed to be on its knees when its stronghold in Raqqa was liberated in October last year. But last week's knife rampage in Melbourne by an Isis jihadi has served as a reminder that the threat is still real. Professor of global Islamic politics Greg Barton at Australia's Deakin University has warned the world not to be complacent. “We lulled ourselves into a false sense of security,” he told news.com.au. “They are not controlling a caliphate now but unfortunately they are still a very potent force.” While ISIS has lost all the territory it held in Iraq and remains in control of only 1 per cent of the territory it once held in Syria, the organisation has “rallied” and moved underground. The US Defence Department’s Inspector General released a report this month noting IS had transitioned to “clandestine insurgency” that would boost its “sleeper cells.”

Rudaw: Young Author Shines Spotlight On Child Victims Of ISIS

“A 17-year-old author has written a book telling the stories of Yezidi children who grew up under ISIS influence. “All I remember is when I woke up in the morning and everyone was screaming, crying, and packing. My parents ran towards me and my sister, picked us up, and we quickly ran outside the house. Suddenly, I don't know how, but we were surrounded by Daesh militants. They had very long beards and they looked like they had not taken a shower for months,” recounted Raji, who was just 5 years-old when she was abducted by ISIS (Daesh). Raji is one of the children interviewed by Sham Barham for the book 'You Are Just Watching: The story of Yezidi children who survived the Islamic State.' Barham spent a year interviewing Yezidi children living in camps. "Two Daesh militants came a pulled me and my mom outside and forced us to watch how they slaughtered 25 Yezidi captives, including a Peshmerga, all at once. Still every night I wake up having nightmares about what happened, sometimes I remember it all and can't eat for days,” another one of the children told her.  At a book launch in Erbil on Tuesday, Barham explained why it was important for her to tell the stories of these children.”

Reuters: Jordanian Court Sentences Nine Militants In Karak Shooting

“A court in Jordan on Tuesday sentenced nine militants to prison terms ranging from three years to life for a shooting rampage two years ago in an ancient castle in the southern city of Karak that killed 10 people, including a Canadian tourist.  The court said the group of nine were involved in helping Islamist militants in attacks on the area surrounding an ancient crusader castle. The gunfights also left four militants dead. The state security court found them guilty of “abetting terrorist acts that led to the death of human beings” and committing “terrorist acts using automatic weapons”.  Militants from al Qaeda and other radical jihadist groups have long targeted the U.S.-allied kingdom and dozens of militants are currently serving long prison terms.  King Abdullah, an ally of the Western powers against Islamist militancy and a defender of Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel, has been among the most vocal leaders in the region in warning of threats posed by radical groups.  Jordan plays a prominent role in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, providing military, logistical and intelligence support, according to Western diplomats and regional intelligence sources.  Jordan has been relatively unscathed by the uprisings, civil wars and Islamist militancy that have swept the Middle East since 2011, but it maintains a high level of vigilance.”

Nigeria

News 24: Boko Haram Kills At Least 16 Farmers In Latest Attacks In Nigeria's Borno State

“Boko Haram jihadists have killed at least 16 farmers and left dozens missing in the latest attacks in restive northeast Nigeria's Borno state, militia and residents said on Wednesday.  The civilian militia fighting the Islamists found 15 bodies in fields around Kazaa and Daraa villages, 5km outside the garrison town of Monguno on Tuesday. A farmer was also shot dead while working near Gremari village, 13 kms from the state capital Maiduguri.  "Yesterday our members recovered 15 bodies from farms around neighbouring Kazaa and Daraa villages who were killed by Boko Haram on Monday," militia leader Ibrahim Liman told AFP.  "Another 35 people have not been seen and a search will continue today (Wednesday) to find them," he said.  The farmers were mostly from camps in Monguno housing people displaced by the nine-year Islamist insurgency.  Monguno resident Mari Bulama said the jihadists opened fire on farmers at work, shooting them as they fled. "We buried 15 of them yesterday before I left Monguno," said Bulama who arrived at Maiduguri on Tuesday from Monguno, 140 kms away.  The ISIS-affiliated faction - Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) - operates a camp near the town of Zulum, 20kms from Monguno, and residents said they believed the attack was launched from there. On Tuesday two jihadists on a motorcycle opened fire on farmers outside Gremari village killing one, militiaman Umar Ari told AFP. ”

The Guardian: Military Attacks Militants, Pirates, Destroys Illegal Oil Facilities In Niger Delta

“The military has attacked militants, pirates and destroyed illegal oil facilities in the Niger Delta. The ongoing Operation Crocodile Smile III in 6 Division Area of Responsibility (AOR) of the Nigerian Army achieved the mission. The Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, disclosed yesterday in Port Harcourt that a weekend search on Awonikiri in Bille, Degema Local Council of Rivers State led to the discovery of a hideout for militants and sea pirates. He listed the recovered items to include 24 rounds of 9 mm calibre bullets, a pair of camouflage uniform, a camouflage face cap and a camouflage T-Shirt. Others are two gas cookers, a DSTV dish and two Samsung Plasma television sets. The rest were a battery charger, two generating sets, two ladders and a Sesco mobile handset. The spokesman said the troops also discovered and destroyed six illegal oil sites during the exercise. The raid equally claimed four large reservoirs containing stolen crude as well as seven Cotonou boats used for the illicit act. In Akwa Ibom, he said the military located and destroyed illegal dumpsites in Eket and Ibeno council areas of the state. According to him, a total of 500 drums and two surface tanks were annihilated in the course of the operation. He explained that in the same vein, troops of Sector 1, Joint Task Force Operation Delta Safe (JTF OPDS) in their anti-illegal oil bunkering patrols last week in Yokri near Funkoro Forest of Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State discovered and destroyed three refining camps with four large dug out pits and 12 surface tanks.”

Africa

Voice of America: 3 Civilians Killed In Attack Targeting Foreign Troops In Mali

“Three Malian civilians were killed and around 30 people were wounded in a suicide attack late Monday in the country's violence-hit north, officials said, as a diplomat said some of the injured were sub-contractors for the U.N. The attack took place in the city of Gao when a 4x4 vehicle blew up in a residential area, the security ministry said in a statement. The blast was claimed by the GSIM, the main jihadist group operating in the Sahel region. It has ties to al-Qaida and was blacklisted by Washington in September. The GSIM — the Group to Support Islam and Muslims — said the attack had targeted "invading crusader forces" in central Gao in an area "where there are British, German and Canadian troops." A local official told AFP the fatalities were Malians who lived in the area. The government gave an initial toll of just two injured, but a French security source told AFP on Tuesday that the number of wounded had risen to "around 30." A Western diplomatic source also said four foreigners were among the wounded — two Cambodians, a South African and a Zimbabwean. They were working for an organization subcontracted by the U.N.'s mine-clearing operation, UNMAS, which has a field office in the city, the source said. The attack was condemned by the French and German defense ministers as they visited Gao on Tuesday. "The attack last night in Gao was despicable.”

Africa News: U.S. Ready To Remove Sudan From Terror-Sponsored States List

“The United States says it is ready to begin processes to remove Sudan from the list of terror sponsored state. The US State Department said Tuesday, this underlines its commitment to international standards against fighting terrorism. ‘‘As part of this commitment, the United States is prepared to initiate a process of resending Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism”, said Steven Koutsis from the U.S Embassy in Khartoum. A Sudan that has settled all outstanding claims in the United States and fully complies about North Korea, is a Sudan that is in a much better position internationally than it is now. The presence of Sudan on the terror list means banks and international institutions are reluctant to guarantee commercial transactions with the country.  ‘‘A Sudan that has settled all outstanding claims in the United States and fully complies about North Korea, is a Sudan that is in a much better position internationally than it is now”, Koutsis added. Sudan has welcomed the development. Khartoum is expected to improve its human rights situation and resolve internal conflicts as part of an undertaken in the fight against terrorism. Washington put Sudan on the blacklist in 1993, accusing it of supporting extremist Islamist groups. Al-Qaeda’s founder, Osama Bin Laden, lived in the country between 1992 and 1996.”

Al Jazeera: How Not To Solve Tunisia's Extremism Problem

“On October 29, Mouna Guebla, a 30-year-old unemployed English graduate with no criminal record, detonated a homemade explosive device in downtown Tunis and left 20 people - most of them police officers - injured.  However, the attack, makeshift in nature and limited in scope, did not cause much of a disruption in the daily lives of Tunisians. After all, Tunisians have been living in a state of emergency since 2015 and are highly accustomed to the news of deadly attacks.  Last month's suicide bombing was only the latest in a string of similar attacks targeting civilians and security officers in Tunisia since 2015. In March 2015, armed men stormed the National Bardo Museum in Tunis and killed 21 people. In June same year, another gunman killed 38 people in the coastal resort of Sousse. In November 2015, a bus packed with Tunisian presidential guards in Tunis was blown up, killing 12 people. More recently, in November 2017, a man attacked two police officers with a knife, killing one, near the parliament building in the capital. This year, on July 7, six police officers were killed in Ain Soltane, Jendouba, in the northwest. The Ministry of Interior also contributed to a quick return to normalcy after the latest attack by announcing that the suicide bombing was "an isolated act" and none of the victims had any life-threatening injuries.”

Australia

The Guardian: Three Men Guilty Of Christmas Day Terrorism Plot In Melbourne

“Three men have been found guilty of conspiring to prepare a Christmas Day terrorist attack in central Melbourne. Hamza Abbas, 23, his cousin Abdullah Chaarani, 27, and friend Ahmed Mohamed, 25, were found guilty in the supreme court on 2 November of acts in preparation for an attack targeting Federation Square, St Paul’s Cathedral and Flinders Street Station in December 2016. The verdict, made public on Wednesday after legal delays, followed seven days of deliberations and eight weeks of evidence including from Hamza’s older brother Ibrahim Abbas, 24, who confessed his involvement to police and pleaded guilty earlier this year. Mohamed and Chaarani laughed and smiled at each other as their verdicts were read. Mohamed gave his family a big grin while Hamza gave them a thumbs up. Police left court carrying two machetes bought by Chaarani and Ibrahim in preparation for the attack. The group also had the makings for pipe bombs - sparkler dust, hundreds of match heads and chemicals including hydrogen peroxide - that were intended, as Ibrahim put it, to “wage violent jihad”. They got the recipe from the infamous al-Qaida magazine article “How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom”. Ibrahim revealed during the trial that he believed it was “fine for me to kill Australians” because Muslims have been killed in wars involving Australia. “It’s not hard to kill a person with a machete. It just takes one slice to the neck,” he said in his police interview.”

United Kingdom

The Independent: British Army Officer Was Recruiting Soldiers For Neo-Nazi Terrorist Group

“A British Army officer who vowed that he would “die committed to the white race” has been jailed for being a member of a neo-Nazi terrorist group. Lance Corporal Mikko Vehvilainen had been trying to recruit fellow soldiers for National Action in preparation for a race war to “cleanse our lands”. The 34-year-old was one of eight members of the terrorist group to be convicted in a series of trials that dismantled its Midlands cell. But terror police warned that the threat would not go away and predicted that “peripheral” figures would start chapters under new names. When police raided Vehvilainen’s accommodation in Sennybridge Camp, Powys, in September 2017 they found swastika flags, Nazi memorabilia, CDs of Third Reich music and stockpiles of knives, guns and other weaponry. He had constructed a “crudely made device" which resembled a homemade electromagnetic pulse (EMP) - intended to disrupt electronic equipment. Birmingham Crown Court heard that he had also written notes on terror attacks, sparking civil disorder and the destruction of national infrastructure and drafted a magazine called Extinction, which urged readers to be “ready to fight and die for your race.” Through his work as an army trainer, he tried to bring what he called “committed Nazis” over to National Action, introducing at least three soldiers to encrypted chat groups including one called “Triple K Mafia”, the jury was told.  As well as racist, antisemitic and genocidal comments in chats with his fellow National Action members, he used a pseudonym to post vile rants online.”

The Sydney Morning Herald: Britain Needs Australia's Terror Laws Says MP

“A member of the British parliament's home affairs committee is calling for the introduction of Australia's tougher counter terrorism laws to deal with the recently released Islamist hate preacher Anjem Choudary. Choudary was convicted for in 2016 for inciting support of Islamic State. He was released mid-way through his sentence last month. He will be monitored round-the-clock and face heavy restrictions on his use of the internet and phone. John Woodcock, a former Labour MP and member of the Commons Home Affairs select committee has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, urging him to follow Australia’s “common sense” approach, saying further detention would keep the community safer and save the authorities an estimated £2 million in surveillance costs. But in an extraordinary attack on the leader of his former party, the now independent MP doubted May's government would be able to rely on Labour to copy the Australian Labor party's approach to national security, saying that under Jeremy Corbyn, British citizens would be at greater risk of harm because of Corbyn's far-left extremism. Under Australia’s Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 high risk terrorist offenders who are considered to present an unacceptable risk to the community can be kept in jail longer. Under the law, the federal Attorney-General can seek from the Supreme Court the further detention of a terrorist offender for up to three years, after which a new application is required. A judge must be satisfied to a high degree of probability that the offender poses an unacceptable risk of committing a serious terrorism offence if released.”

Europe

The Local: UK Warns Of 'Increased' Terror Threat In Sweden

“The British foreign ministry has increased its level of travel warning for Sweden related to the threat of terrorism. The ministry updated its assessment, placing Sweden at the highest level of terror threat among the Nordic countries, as Expressen was first to report. "Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Sweden," the travel notice says, and advises British tourists in the country to be "vigilant". The update was made on Tuesday, "based on updated information and advice on the threat from terrorism in Sweden, reflecting an increased threat", according to the ministry. "We are aware that the change has been made, but we don't comment on assessments made by other countries," Dag Enander from Swedish security police Säpo told Expressen. "They've gone from one formula to another, but we can't review that assessment." The British foreign ministry has also declined to comment on the change. Säpo's own assessment of the threat level on Sweden places the country at three on a scale of one to five, or "elevated". It has remained unchanged at this level since March 2016, when it was reduced after being placed at "high" or "four" on the scale for a brief period in 2015.”

Technology

The Guardian: EU Plans Mobile Terror Alerts To Counter Spread Of Fake News

“Europeans will be sent official alerts on their mobile phones if they are near a terrorist attack or natural disaster under an EU plan to replace the traditional emergency siren and reduce the risk of fake news causing chaos. The lack of early warning for passersby at the time of the Westminster and Paris attacks, and the risk to lives posed by unofficial and inaccurate communications, prompted the move. MEPs are expected to pass legislation on Wednesday obliging EU member states to implement the so-called Reverse 112 system which will alert people to threats and advise how to stay safe. Similar systems exist in the US, but many European countries still use the same emergency sirens used in the second world war to alert citizens of an impending danger. Where there have been moves to introduce modern systems by national governments, it is said to have been painfully slow. The budget of the French authorities for alerting people via telephone networks was just €1.78m in 2017. The budget for updating the siren system that year was over €35m. In a large-scale emergency, a lack of official instructions, fake news and rumours are said to be a threat to rescue operations. European governments will be asked to work with mobile phone providers to bring in the new public warning system in which text messages will tell people the nature of the threat, its location, and the best next steps to take.”

The Sydney Morning Herald: Top British Cop Demands More Help From Tech Giants On Terrorism, Crime Gangs

“One of Britain’s top police officers says intelligence-sharing allies including Australia need to join forces and push technology giants harder for help to decrypt the messages of terrorists, tackle crime gangs and fight child exploitation. Lynne Owens, the director-general of Britain’s National Crime Agency, has also warned there is a risk that the impact of terrorism through social media and 24-hour news means fighting organised crime is under-resourced even though it kills more people. Ms Owens, who is roughly equivalent to the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, was speaking to Fairfax Media in the wake of the Bourke Street attack and as federal Parliament considers far-reaching legislation to make tech companies help authorities access encrypted messages used by criminals and terrorists. She said tech giants, who are based largely in the United States, had been slow in putting research and development efforts into countering child exploitation or finding ways around encryption, which is being used increasingly by crime gangs and terrorists. “For years, we’ve expected the public to assist law enforcement … I don’t think we’ve been as demanding as we should be with industry, both in the [United Kingdom] and here,” she said.”

The Verge: Another Facebook Vulnerability Could Have Exposed Information About Users And Their Friends

“The security company Imperva has released new details on a Facebook vulnerability that could have exposed user data. The bug allowed websites to obtain private information about Facebook users and their friends through unauthorized access to a company API, playing off a specific behavior in the Chrome browser. The bug was disclosed to Facebook and resolved in May. In technical terms, the attack is a cross-site request forgery, using a legitimate Facebook login in unauthorized ways. For the attack to work, a Facebook user must visit a malicious website with Chrome, and then click anywhere on the site while logged into Facebook. From there, attackers could open a new pop-up or tab to the Facebook search page and run any number of queries to extract personal information. Some examples Imperva gives are checking if a user has taken photos in a certain location or country, if the user has written any recent posts that contain specific text, or checking if a user’s friends like a company’s Facebook page. In essence, the vulnerability exposed the interests of a user and their friends even if privacy settings were set so interests were only visible to a user’s friends.”

Financing of Terrorism

Gulf365: Algeria: Financial Handouts For African Migrants Reach Terrorist Groups

“The Ministry of the Interior of Algeria is calling on Algerian citizens to "stop granting financial alms" to African migrants residing illegally in Algeria. "Security investigations have concluded that such funds are being directed to criminal networks that have been implicated in crimes of human and drug trafficking as well as smuggling weapons and abetting terrorist groups in the Sahel," the Ministry said in a statement. It stressed the need for citizens to contribute to efforts in combating the phenomenon of trafficking African children by stopping the flow of financial handouts. The Ministry revealed that "strict instructions have been issued by Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia following recommendations submitted by Interior Minister Noureddine Badawi – to begin fighting criminal gangs that trade in African children as young as 10 years old.”

Combating Terrorist Financing

Oman Daily: Oman: Forum On The Role Of NGOs In Combating Terrorist Financing

“The Ministry of Social Development in the Sultanate of Oman yesterday organized a forum on the role of civic organizations in combating money-laundering and terrorist financing transactions. The forum, held under the auspices of Al Sayyid Marwan bin Turki Al Said, Member of the National Committee for the Prevention of Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism, discussed ways of enhancing awareness and developing capabilities among employees of NGOs in countering money-laundering and terrorist financing. Dr. Yehia bin Badr bin Malek al Mewali, Undersecretary of the Social Development Ministry, attended the symposium accompanied by a number of officials and representatives of civic organizations. For his part, Salem Bin Abdullah Alyehmadi, Assistant Director of the NGOs Department at the Ministry, stated that the forum is aimed at increasing awareness and responsibility for public security among directors of NGO in the realm of money-laundering and terrorist financing.”

Counter Extremism

Gulf365: Former Egyptian Minister Urges Legislation To Criminalize Those Who Accuse Others Of Apostasy

“Former Egyptian Minister of Culture, Helmy El-Namnam, disclosed new details as to how to counter the banned Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islamic groups. He mentioned that these groups exploit religion in order to achieve political and ideological gains and use violence and terrorism to achieve their goals. El-Namnam explained that combating the Muslim Brotherhood necessitates security and military confrontation to curb its armed affiliate groups. In addition it is vital to ideologically confront the outlawed Islamist group by renewing the religious discourse and promoting the true message of Islam. The former minister underscored the need for new legislation that would criminalize any person who declares another to be an apostate. The "Fatwa" (religious ruling) of takfir (declaring someone to be a disbeliever) simply entitles extremists to kill others (e.g. Copts); therefore, the issuance of such rulings must be criminalized by a new special law, El-Namnam said.”

ISIS

Iraq Akhbar: ISIS Militants Attempt To Extort Citizens And Merchants To Obtain Funds

“An Iraqi security source in Nineveh Governorate revealed that remnant ISIS militants, who have recently attempted to extort local residents and merchants, received a major blow following proactive security operations based on precise intelligence. The same source added that ISIS militants extorted residents and traders in Nineveh in an attempt to obtain funds for financing their terrorist and criminal activities. ISIS militants use mobile phones and bogus social media accounts {e.g. Facebook and Twitter} in order to threaten and frighten citizens in the event they fail to extort sufficient funds, the source further noted.”

Houthi

Alwatan News: Houthis Intensify Kidnapping Operations And Arrests

“In recent days, the Iranian-backed Houthi militia has stepped up kidnappings and arbitrary arrests of hundreds of Yemeni youths in areas under its control. According to a local source: "The recent arrest campaigns which intensified recently reflect the state of extreme disintegration experienced by the Houthi rebels. This is as a result of the overwhelming defeats they incurred, particularly on the Hudaydah and Saada fronts." The source, who asked not to be named, asserted that "the militants are trying through these arrests, carried out under various pretexts, to brainwash young detainees through sectarian lectures delivered by so-called "social awareness supervisors.”