Eye on Extremism: November 2, 2018

The Wall Street Journal: Iran Ally Hezbollah Pays Syrian Rebels To Switch Sides

“The Iran-backed militia has recruited up to 2,000 fighters, these people said, most of them from rebel groups that lost U.S. funding last year, according to the former commander, who tracks recruitment in villages in southern Syria. The Syrian government and its military ally Russia are depending on Hezbollah and other Iran-allied militias to fight the remaining armed opposition in the south, chiefly Islamic State. Israel, which views Iran as an existential threat, has warned it won’t allow forces loyal to Iran to entrench near its border. Lebanon-based Hezbollah’s recruitment of fighters in southern Syria is “a highly destabilizing prospect,” said U.S. Syria Envoy Joel Rayburn. “The idea that Hezbollah would be expanding its presence down there on the Jordanian frontier, near the Golan Heights, near the Israeli frontier. This would increase the chance for conflict,” Mr. Rayburn said Friday during a conference in Manama, Bahrain. The Pentagon didn’t comment when asked about on U.S. support for the opposition. “We are aware of regime and allied forces recruiting former opposition members in the wake of reconciliation agreements in Southern Syria,” Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said, referring to deals in which rebels ceded territory amid intensifying assaults by Russian and Syrian forces. The U.S. has said the removal of Iran-allied forces from Syria is a central goal for its 2,000 troops there and a precondition for allocation of funds to rebuild the war-ravaged country.”

France 24: US, Turkish Forces Begin Joint Syria Patrols As Turkey Continues To Strike Kurds

“Turkish and US troops began joint patrols around the northern Syrian town of Manbij on Thursday, even as Turkey continued to shell nearby positions held by Washington’s Kurdish allies. Turkish military advances into northern Syria over the past two years have put US forces directly in the path of advancing troops from Turkey, Washington's main NATO ally in the region. The two countries have been working to avert direct confrontation, even as Turkey aims to crush the Kurdish YPG militia. Considered a terrorist group by Ankara, the YPG forms the main part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that Washington backs with arms, air support and around 2,000 special forces troops on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group. To avert more fighting, the United States and Turkey agreed three months ago to hold joint patrols around the strategic town of Manbij on the west bank of the Euphrates, under a deal that also saw Kurdish fighters withdraw from the city they had captured at great cost from the IS group.”

Associated Press: Ex-California Student Admits To Aiding Syrian Terror Group

“A former California college student has pleaded guilty to charges of aiding a terrorist organization after earlier arguing he was entitled to immunity because he hooked up with the kind of Syrian rebels the U.S. has backed. Twenty-five-year-old Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab admitted in a plea agreement Wednesday to flying from Chicago to Turkey in 2013, then traveling to Syria. The agreement says he joined Ansar Al-Islam, a precursor to the Islamic State group. The agreement calls for a prison sentence of up to 15 years. Al-Jayab told the judge he wanted to fight the Bashar al-Assad regime, but acknowledged the group he was joining engaged in terrorist actions. He returned to the U.S. in 2014 and settled in Sacramento, California, where he enrolled at a community college.”

CNN: US Accuses Russia Of Blocking Delivery Of Aid To Long-Suffering Syrian Refugee Camp

“The US military accused Russia on Thursday of blocking the delivery of critical aid to the Rukban refugee camp in Syria, a desert camp that the United Nations has described for months as in a "desperate" situation. "Russia has again refused to support a UN delivery of humanitarian assistance from Damascus to the Rukban internally displaced persons camp despite US security guarantees," US Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for US Central Command, told CNN in a statement. "Counter to the false claims made to the United Nations by Russia, conditions are ripe for this critical aid to be delivered to the people of Rukban, where conditions remain dire," he added. The camp sits within the 20-square-mile de-confliction zone that surrounds the US base in Al Tanf, Syria, which was established by the Russians and the US-led coalition to prevent the two sides from coming into accidental contact. On Wednesday, Russia's Ministry of Defense accused the US of intentionally blocking aid from reaching the inhabitants of Rukban in a bid to attract recruits to the Maghawir Al-Thawra, or MaT, a local group of fighters the US trains to fight ISIS. Russia and its Iranian and Syrian regime allies have long sought to expel the US from Al Tanf, and US officials believe that pro-regime forces have sought to use aid as leverage to help bring an end to the American presence there.”

BBC News: Private Messages From 81,000 Hacked Facebook Accounts For Sale

“Hackers appear to have compromised and published private messages from at least 81,000 Facebook users' accounts. The perpetrators told the BBC Russian Service that they had details from a total of 120 million accounts, which they were attempting to sell, although there are reasons to be sceptical about that figure. Facebook said its security had not been compromised. And the data had probably been obtained through malicious browser extensions. Facebook added it had taken steps to prevent further accounts being affected. The BBC understands many of the users whose details have been compromised are based in Ukraine and Russia. However, some are from the UK, US, Brazil and elsewhere. The hackers offered to sell access for 10 cents (8p) per account. However, their advert has since been taken offline.”

The Wall Street Journal: Employee Discontent Threatens Google’s Reputation

“Google has long prided itself on its unconventional culture and generous perks to convey the message that the company, from its products to its ambitions, was exceptional. And for years, employees bought in. On Thursday, however, workers of the Alphabet Inc. GOOGL -0.42% unit who took part in a walkout at the company’s offices around the world signaled a crisis in faith—one that, if widespread, could cause reputational harm, potentially affecting Google’s standing as an aspirational workplace, risk experts and analysts said. “I definitely thought Google was a company that was holding itself to a higher moral standard,” said Jon Cohen, a 28-year-old Google software engineer in New York, who took part in Thursday’s protest. “The last year or so, it’s just been shown to be untrue.” Employee activism at Google has risen of late in response to a New York Times article last week, which detailed how the company protected three senior executives over the past decade after they were accused of sexual misconduct, including one who received a $90 million exit package in 2014. Google declined to comment on details in the Times story.”

United States

The National: Heather Nauert Expected To Succeed Nikki Haley As US Ambassador To The UN

“Almost a month since US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley resigned, Donald Trump is expected to nominate State Department spokeswoman and acting Under Secretary for Public diplomacy Heather Nauert for the job. Both Fox News and the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Ms Nauert was offered the job, but any official confirmation will have to wait for a statement from the White House. Ms Nauert, a former Fox News journalist and commentator, met the US President on Monday. Since that meeting she was believed to be the front-runner for the position. However, a State Department official contacted by The National could not confirm the reports. Mr Trump has been keen on nominating a woman to succeed Ms Haley and has considered a list of candidates that include US ambassadors to Canada and France Kelly Craft and Jamie McCourt, as well as former ambassador Nancy Brinker. Former White House official Dina Habib Powell withdrew her name early in the process. Ms Nauert may not have a thick diplomatic resume and her background is mostly in media and communications, but she has good ties to both the State Department and the National Security Council.”

USA Today: He Was A KKK Member And Then A Nazi: How One White Nationalist Renounced Hate

“For years, Ken Parker lived in the world of bigotry and hate. He wore the green robes of a grand dragon in the Ku Klux Klan. He stood at podiums and shouted racist catchphrases. He posed shirtless in a photo posted on Facebook, a swastika tattoo on his chest and a gun cradled in his arm. He paid $30 to ride in a 15-person van from Jacksonville, Florida, to Charlottesville, Virginia, for the 2017 Unite the Right rally, where he marched as part of the National Socialist Movement contingent. They spit out slurs and anti-Semitic slogans, clashed with counter-protesters and celebrated the violence and chaos. When a neo-Nazi plowed into the crowd, killing Heather Heyer, who was there to stand against white nationalists, Parker and his crew were in a parking garage about a mile away, giddy over what they saw as a victorious day. Parker was immersed in white supremacist ideology, radicalized by a steady diet of racist propaganda. Like Dylann Roof, who killed nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. Like Robert Bowers, who police say gunned down 11 Jewish worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Like a growing number of disaffected white men.”

The Express: EU Terror Threat: US Demands Europe Allows 600 ISIS Widows To Return - ‘Take Them Back!'

“JIHADI brides who left Europe to marry ISIS fighters wreaking death and destruction across large swathes of Syria and Iraq should now be taken back by their home countries, according to US counter-terrorism chiefs. More than 650 European citizens, many of them children, have been held by US-backed Kurdish militias in three detention camps in Syria since ISIS was defeated last year. The Kurds say it is not their job to prosecute or hold the radicalised women indefinitely but the women and children are also causing a headache for officials in Europe. The US, Russia and Indonesia have taken custody of some of the detainees but now want Europe to do the same - fearing the camps are providing fertile breeding grounds for a new generation of militants. One senior US counter-terrorism official said: "We are telling European governments: 'Take your people back, prosecute them. They are more of a threat to you here than back home.’”

AM New York: ISIS Slogan Was Scrawled On Port Authority Bomb Suspect's Passports: FBI Agent

“Jury deliberations are expected to begin Monday after both sides rested in the federal trial of the man accused of detonating a pipe bomb inside a subway corridor beneath Times Square. The prosecution on Thursday wrapped up its case against Akayed Ullah, the electrician charged with making the bomb in his Brooklyn apartment, strapping it to his body and attempting to blow himself up in a passageway under 42nd Street on Dec. 11 during the morning rush hour. Ullah, 28, told police that he carried out the attack on behalf of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. He and three others were injured but there were no fatalities. After the prosecution rested, Ullah told U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Sullivan that he waived his right to testify in his own defense. His attorneys then rested their case without calling witnesses. Ullah, a Bangladeshi-born immigrant, is facing up to life in prison on a six-count indictment charging him with providing material support to ISIS, use of a weapon of mass destruction, committing a terror attack against a mass transportation system and other crimes. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Mental Health At Issue For Woman Accused Of Arson, Terrorism

“A competency hearing will be held for a 20-year-old Minneapolis woman who allegedly set fires on a college campus and tried to travel to Afghanistan to join al-Qaida. Tnuza Jamal Hassan was arrested in January after authorities say she set fires on the St. Paul campus of St. Catherine University, where she's a former student. No one was hurt, but one fire was set in a dormitory with a day care where 33 children were present. Prosecutors say the fires were a self-proclaimed act of jihad. Hassan faces three federal counts, including one count of attempting to support a terrorist organization and one count of arson. She's also charged with arson in state court. A hearing is scheduled for Friday to determine whether Hassan is mentally competent to stand trial.”

Associated Press: Judge Orders Alleged Islamic State Propagandist Held

“A judge says a Chicago computer-science specialist accused of running online propaganda campaigns for Islamic State poses a threat and so must stay jailed until trial. At a Wednesday hearing in Chicago, the federal judge cited photos arresting agents allegedly found on Ashraf Al Safoo’s phone this month showing bomb-making components. The 34-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Iraq is charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. A conviction carries a maximum 20-year prison term. The propaganda allegedly included video showing a Christmas gift containing a ticking time-bomb. The complaint also describes the propagandists’ annoyance at becoming the butt of jokes after a text meant to warn about “beheading (President Donald) Trump” actually warned about “kissing and hugging” Trump. An app used to translate the Arabic apparently led to the error.”

Post-Tribune: Case Of Indiana Woman Accused Of Supporting ISIS 'Complicated' Due To Classified Material

“The case of a former Elkhart woman accused of providing funds and supplies to Islamic State fighters is going to involve classified information, which attorneys and a judge will have to sort through. “This is a totally new thing for me,” Judge Philip Simon said. Samantha Marie Elhassani, also known as Samantha Sally, appeared Thursday in Hammond’s federal court for a status conference. Elhassani, wearing a red jail uniform, was released from chains before she joined her attorneys. Elhassani, 32, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, and aiding and abetting individuals in providing material support to the Islamic State group. The government began investigating Elhassani “and her co-conspirators several years” before she was charged, court records state. Between fall 2014 and summer 2015, "within the Northern District of Indiana and later occurring elsewhere," Elhassani provided support and resources to the Islamic State group, knowing that the organization was a designated terrorist organization that engaged in terrorism, the indictment alleges. Elhassani also procured tactical gear and provided funds to support two people, identified in court records as Individual A and Individual B, who were personnel for the Islamic State group, the indictment states. Elhassani was previously charged with lying to the FBI, court records show. Before Elhassani goes to trial in January 2020, attorneys will have to sort through classified information in the case, they said. Simon said he guessed “this is going to be challenging and complicated.” “I’m trying to understand the process,” Simon said.”

Syria

The Washington Post: US, Turkey Begin Patrols Around Northern Syrian Town

“Turkish and U.S. troops on Thursday began jointly patrolling areas around the northern Syrian town of Manbij, part of a roadmap for easing tensions between the two NATO allies, Turkey’s defense minister announced. Responding to questions by legislators in Parliament, Hulusi Akar said the patrols began at 3:53 p.m. (1253 GMT) but did not provide further details. Sharfan Darwish, spokesman of the Manbij Military Council, told The Associated Press earlier that the patrols had started and were taking place on the front lines between his group and those of Turkey-backed rebels in the operation called Euphrates Shield. Ankara and Washington agreed on a roadmap in June amid Turkish demands for the withdrawal of the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia that freed Manbij from the Islamic State group in 2016. The U.S. and the Turks have been conducting independent patrols along the front line and joint patrols are considered a way to tamp down potential violence between the various groups in the region. The sides have conducted 68 independent patrols before the combined patrols started.”

Iran

Arab News: IMF: Iran Must Step Up Efforts To Stem Terror Financing

“The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Thursday that Iran should strengthen its anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing frameworks to comply with international standards by February 2019. “The reimposition of US sanctions will reduce economic growth by restricting Iran’s oil exports and Iran should implement policies to safeguard macrostability,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said. Harvard scholar and Iranian-affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh said money laundering and terror financing are deeply embedded in Iran’s political structure. “In fact, since 1979, it has been a core pillar of Tehran’s foreign policy to achieve its regional hegemonic ambitions and export its revolutionary principles. Financing terrorism is the raison d’etre of the Iranian regime,” he said. He said Iran will not clamp down on its terror financing and money laundering. “Iran is top state sponsor of terrorism in the world. According to my research at Harvard, the Iranian regime supports almost half of the world’s designated terrorist groups. It is absurd to believe that Tehran will meet any of the IMF’s requirements by February,” he said. According to Rafizadeh, the imposition of sanctions on the Iranian regime by global financial institutions is long overdue. “The IMF must immediately level appropriate action against Iran’s economy to cut off the flow of funds to terror groups.” In another development, Denmark said it was consulting with its allies about possible sanctions against Iran after accusing Tehran of plotting an attack against Iranian dissidents living in the Scandinavian country. “We are going to reach out to our European allies in the coming days to try to find a united response,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said during a meeting of Northern European leaders in Oslo. Meanwhile, Norway summoned the Iranian ambassador on Thursday over the suspected plot.”

The New York Times: Iran Accused Of Plot To Assassinate Dissident In Denmark

“Iran tried to assassinate an Arab separatist leader living in Denmark, the Danish authorities claim, adding that a suspect in the “unusual and very serious” plot was in custody. The accusations have set off anger and concern in Denmark, a nation that has experienced little political violence in recent years. Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen called the plot “totally unacceptable,” Denmark recalled its ambassador to Iran, and potential joint European action is on the agenda for a meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Nov. 19. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated the Danish government on Twitter on “its arrest of an Iranian regime assassin.” “There is sufficient basis to conclude that an Iranian intelligence service has been planning the assassination,” the Danish Security and Intelligence Service said in a statement. The Iranian Foreign Ministry denied the allegations, saying they “are in line with the conspiracies and plots of the enemies of Iran.” With the United States withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran and resuming economic sanctions, Iran’s government should be trying to shore up relations with Europe, not worsen them, said Alex Vatanka, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington.”

Quartz: An Iranian Influence Campaign Has Been Targeting Indians On Twitter

“For nearly two years, Indians have been targeted by a digital influence campaign that has likely been orchestrated by the Iranian state, or by actors affiliated with it. On Oct. 16, Twitter released two large archives in order “to improve public understanding of alleged foreign influence campaigns.” One of the datasets contains around one million tweets from 770 now-deleted accounts that Twitter believes originated in Iran. The other consists of 9 million tweets thought to be linked to Russia’s now-notorious Internet Research Agency. While the Russian archive has received more press since the disclosure, the Iranian archive deserves close attention as well, especially because of how linguistically diverse it is. Twitter’s dataset on the Iranian influence campaign contained over 4,100 Hindi tweets. While Quartz counted 17 handles that had posted in Hindi at least once, the vast majority of the tweets were posted by two handles—one created in January 2017 and one created in May 2018. The tweets in Hindi stretch to the end of this August—the point where the entire dataset stops.”

Amnesty International: Iran: Hundreds Arrested In Vicious Crackdown On Ahwazi Arabs

“The Iranian authorities have waged a sweeping crackdown against the Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority, arresting hundreds of people in Khuzestan province, southern Iran, in recent weeks, said Amnesty International. The wave of detentions follows a deadly armed attack on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz in September, during which at least 24 people, including spectators, were killed and more than 60 injured. “The scale of arrests in recent weeks is deeply alarming. The timing suggests that the Iranian authorities are using the attack in Ahvaz as an excuse to lash out against members of the Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority, including civil society and political activists, in order to crush dissent in Khuzestan province,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “All those suspected of criminal responsibility for the horrific attack in Ahvaz must be brought to justice in fair trials, but carrying out arbitrary arrests is not the way to secure justice for victims.”

The Wall Street Journal: Satellites, Big Data Help U.S. Spy On Smugglers Of Iranian Oil

“Ships carrying Iranian crude have long used tactics like changing their flags of registration or switching off their radio signals to avoid detection amid Western sanctions. But when a new U.S. oil export ban begins on Nov. 5, many of the tricks of seaborne oil smuggling are less likely to be effective at helping Tehran circumvent the coming trade barriers. That is thanks to improved satellite tracking and big-data technology that weren’t widely available just a few years ago, according to current and former Western officials focused on sanctions. “Iran’s ability to turn its tankers truly into ghost-ships will be more limited,” said Richard Nephew, former deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the U.S. State Department. On a typical day last year, Iran exported some 2.2 million barrels a day of crude. U.S. officials have said their new ban is intended to stop every barrel of Iranian oil leaving the country. For that strategy to work, authorities are likely to rely on information from companies like Tel-Aviv-based Windward Ltd. Windward, along with firms such as U.S.-incorporated TankerTrackers.com and Paris-based Kayrros, track suspicious movements as part of a broader effort to assess global oil supplies.”

Iraq

Voice Of America: Iraqi Refugees In Syria Refuse To Return Home

“Despite their cities and towns being freed from Islamic State (IS) militants, many Iraqi refugees who have settled in Syria say that do not wish to return to their homes. Iraqi refugees interviewed by VOA at al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria voiced doubts about a possible return to their home country in the near future. "I have no money to move back to Iraq," said Jihan Najim, an Iraqi refugee who escaped in 2015 when IS took over her village in Iraq's Anbar province. "I don't have family left in Iraq. I only have some women relatives at the camp," she said. "It would be very difficult to go back and resettle in Iraq while there is no guarantee of livelihood," she added. Another female refugee said that while life in the Syrian camp is tough, it is still better than living under uncertainty in Iraq. "I have a disabled daughter who needs constant medical attention," said Um Fatima. "At least I can get her some medicine for free through aid organizations.”

Iraqi News: 11 Islamic State Members Killed In Operation, Northwest Of Salahuddin: Commander

“Eleven Islamic State members were killed in a security operation, northwest of Salahuddin province, a commander was quoted saying on Thursday. In a statement, Safaa al-Saadi, commander of Salahuddin within al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), said “troops, backed by army jets, carried out an operation in Wadi al-Therthar region, northwest of the province.” The operation, according to Saadi, “left 11 Islamic State members killed, a rest house destroyed and explosives and weapons seized.” Earlier today, two civilians were wounded in a bomb blast in the 600 region in Biji town, Salahuddin. Thousands of Islamic State militants as well as Iraqi civilians were killed since the government campaign, backed by paramilitary troops and the coalition was launched in October 2016. In December, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced gaining control on all the territories that were captured by Islamic State, since 2014. Islamic State continues to launch sporadic attacks across Iraq against troops. Security reports indicate that the militant group still poses threat against stability in the country. The group still has dormant cells, through which it carries out attacks, across Iraq like it used to do before 2014.”

Turkey

The Wall Street Journal: Trump, Turkey’s Erdogan Discuss Syria As Tensions Thaw

“President Trump spoke with his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Thursday, in a sign of easing tensions between the two countries after the release of an American pastor from Turkey last month. The White House said Mr. Erdogan “expressed his condolences for the tragic loss of life at the Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Both leaders discussed a desire to work together particularly on their coordination in Syria.” Last month, Turkey released American pastor Andrew Brunson, after two years detention on terror charges, as political and economic tensions clouded the relationship between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. Following Mr. Brunson’s safe arrival back in the U.S., Mr. Trump said the U.S. was now on track to have “a terrific relationship with Turkey.” Mr. Trump invested considerable strategic capital in freeing Mr. Brunson, using a mix of economic sanctions, public pressure and face-to-face talks with Mr. Erdogan. He also resorted to pressure, imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, among other countries. Turkey had also played a key role in the investigation into the disappearance of a Saudi journalist, who had entered Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, never to be seen again. An investigation later revealed that Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the consulate.”

Reuters: Turkey-U.S. Start Joint Syria Patrols But Turkey Strikes At Kurds

“Turkish and U.S. troops began joint patrols in northern Syria on Thursday aimed at averting clashes between Turkey and Washington’s Kurdish allies, but Turkey pressed on with a new threatened offensive nearby to crush the Kurds. Turkish military advances into northern Syria over the past two years have put U.S. forces directly in the path of advancing troops from Turkey, Washington’s main Muslim NATO ally. The two countries have been working to avert direct confrontation, even as Turkey aims to crush the Kurdish YPG militia. The YPG forms the main part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that Washington backs with arms, air support and around 2,000 special forces troops on the ground in the fight against Islamic State. To avert more fighting, the United States and Turkey agreed three months ago to hold joint patrols around the town of Manbij on the west bank of the Euphrates, under a deal that also saw Kurdish fighters withdraw from the city. But even as the joint patrols were due to begin this week, Turkey announced a new offensive against the Kurds on the opposite bank of the river, into territory where the SDF has U.S. troop support.”

Afghanistan

Foreign Policy: For Them, Afghanistan Is Safer Than China

“Afghanistan’s borderlands have long been a refuge for ethnic minorities fleeing persecution in China. In the 18th century, when the Qing empire conquered Xinjiang, Uighurs who rebelled against Qing rule escaped to Badakhshan. Today, China’s campaigns and restrictions against the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority group in the western region of Xinjiang, have spurred an exodus into Afghanistan, especially after Beijing and the local authorities intensified their crackdown on Uighur freedoms, religion, and culture. Beijing claims that terrorism is spilling over from Afghanistan into Xinjiang. But in reality, Chinese oppression and ethnic conflict in Xinjiang are helping to further destabilize Afghanistan and turn young Uighurs, increasingly targeted by the Chinese state, toward violent resistance. Many Uighurs have been opposed to rule from Beijing since China seized the region in 1949, and resistance to Chinese control goes back centuries. In the 1990s, after the Central Asian republics gained independence following the Soviet Union’s collapse, Beijing feared Uighur ambitions to create their own state of “East Turkestan.” Especially after the 9/11 attacks, China attempted to characterize Uighur ambitions as terrorism, beginning the “anti-three evil forces” (extremism, terrorism, and separatism) campaign.”

Voice Of America: Afghan Gov't Losing Ground To Taliban, Watchdog Says

“Afghanistan's government continues to lose ground to the Taliban, a Pentagon watchdog says, noting Kabul now controls or influences just 56 percent of the country's districts. That is the lowest level recorded since the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, began tracking district control in November 2015. The figures suggest President Donald Trump's strategy for Afghanistan, unveiled 14 months ago, is not resolving the U.S. stalemate with the Taliban. The Taliban now controls or influences 12 percent of Afghanistan's districts, with 32 percent of the districts controlled by neither the Afghan government nor the insurgents. The situation looks slightly better when viewed through population control: 65 percent of Afghans live in areas controlled by Kabul, according to SIGAR. U.S. and Taliban officials have been engaging in preliminary talks aimed at resolving the 17-year-old conflict. But it's not clear how much progress has resulted from those talks, and the violence has not stopped. The U.S.-led coalition continues to drop an unprecedented number of bombs. If trends continue, 2018 likely will see the heaviest U.S.-led aerial bombing campaign since the start of the war. Last month, Scott Miller, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, survived a Taliban attack that killed Abdul Raziq, a top police general in Kandahar. Afghan forces have been the hardest hit, taking on so many casualties that U.S. and Afghan officials decided last year to stop releasing the number of Afghan forces killed and wounded. Though that data is still withheld, U.S. officials told SIGAR that the average number of Afghan casualties from May 1 to October 1 2018 "is the greatest it has ever been during like periods.”

Pakistan

Hindustan Times: United States Says Pakistan Must Bring Law For Terror Tag On Jud

“The US has called on Pakistan to enact legislation to formally ban the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) and and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF), both fronts for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founded by Hafiz Saeed, following the lapse of a presidential ordinance that proscribed the groups earlier this year. A top Pakistani law officer confirmed the ordinance lapsed last week while the Islamabad high court was hearing a petition filed by Saeed challenging the ban on JuD and FIF, which have been designated terror groups by both the US and the UN Security Council. “The expiration of the ban on JuD and FIF runs counter to Pakistan’s commitment to work with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to address weaknesses in its counter-terrorism financing regime,” a US state department spokesperson told reporters in Washington. The development highlighted the importance of Pakistan “urgently enacting legislation that formally proscribes” the JuD and FIF, the spokesperson said. There was no formal response in New Delhi from the external affairs ministry to the state department’s stance, though a government official said Pakistan’s decision on allowing the ordinance to lapse without it being ratified by Parliament reflects the “lack of sincerity on the part of Islamabad to meet its international obligation to fight terrorism”. Saeed, who was placed under house arrest for almost 10 months last year, has continued to raise funds for JuD and FIF and call for jihad in Kashmir at public rallies and meetings. Pakistan’s failure to ban JuD and FIF after they were sanctioned under UN Security Council resolution 1267 prompted several Western powers to put the country on its “grey list” of nations that aren’t doing enough to counter terror financing.”

Yemen

Al Jazeera: Saudi-UAE Alliance Attack Airbase, Missile Sites In Yemen Capital

“The Saudi-UAE military alliance at war with Yemen's Houthis says it bombed Sanaa International Airport and an adjoining airbase which were allegedly being used to launch drone and ballistic missile attacks. Colonel Turki al-Malki, the alliance's spokesman, said on Friday that aviation at the airport and international aid efforts were not affected. He told the kingdom's al-Ekhbaria TV that a press conference would be held later in the day to provide evidence that the airport was being used by the Houthis to launch attacks. The Houthi-affiliated Al-Masirah news outlet did not address the alliance's claims, instead reporting that more than 30 raids targeted the al-Dulaimi airbase in Sanaa and its surrounding areas. Sources in the capital, however, told Al Jazeera that the number of attacks was closer to 20. The air raids came just hours after Yemen's internationally recognised government said it was ready to re-start peace talks with Houthis. The Yemeni government said on Thursday that it welcomed "all efforts to restore peace" after the US and UN called on the warring parties to enter into negotiations planned for Sweden later this month.”

Saudi Arabia

Khaleej Times: Saudi-Led Coalition Attacks Houthi Missile Sites In Sanaa Airport

“The official spokesman of the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, Colonel Turki Al-Malki, stated that the coalition forces conducted a targeted operation of legitimate military targets in Al Dailami airbase. Col Al-Malki clarifies: "This operation includes targeting of ballistic-missile launch and storage locations, UAV ground stations, bomb-making and assembly workshops and their support locations in Al-Dailami Airbase in Sanaa." He indicated that the targeting operations were conducted following an accurate intelligence operation, monitoring Houthi militia's activities, with the aim of destroying and neutralising the capabilities that threaten regional and international security. Col. Al-Malki concluded his statement by reaffirming that Sanaa International Airport is still open to UN and relief air traffic, and that all preventative measures were taken in the targeting operation. This operation was carried out in accordance with the International Humanitarian Law, its customary rules, and the Joint Forces Command of the Coalition Rules of Engagement.”

Lebanon

Asharq Al-Awsat: Lebanon Government Crisis Strains Aoun-Hezbollah Ties

“Obstacles hindering the formation of the new government have become a source of dispute between “Hezbollah” and President Michel Aoun, who said on Wednesday night that the independent Sunni deputies demanding a cabinet seat “do not form a bloc." Through his announcement, Aoun indirectly backed the stance of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who has refused to sign a decree forming the government if it includes a Sunni representative from the March 8 (Hezbollah’s allies) coalition. Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat Thursday that there have been ongoing efforts to remove the “Sunni obstacle.” However, the sources said there was still no direct contact between Hezbollah and Aoun following his announcement on the independent Sunni deputies’ representation. "These are individuals who have recently come together to formulate claims. How would they be represented in the government when they each have a different political affiliation,” Aoun said when asked by journalists about the issue.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Israel Said To Warn Beirut It Will Strike Hezbollah Rocket Factories

“Israel has reportedly sent a message to the Lebanese government via Paris demanding that it act against the Hezbollah terror group’s rocket factories in the country, saying if Lebanon refused to do so, Israel could take military action. The message was delivered by Israel’s deputy national security adviser Eitan Ben-David to Orléan la-Chevalier, a top adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron, during the latter’s visit in Jerusalem on Monday, according to Israel’s Channel 10 news. “The Lebanese government must be careful when it comes to Hezbollah’s rocket factories. If the issue isn’t dealt with through diplomatic means by the Lebanese government, Israel will act on its own,” the message read, according to the report, which cited unnamed “Western diplomatic sources.” Ben-David asked that la-Chevalier deliver the message to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. France has close longstanding ties with Lebanon, and is considered close to Hariri. The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment Thursday on the report. Ben-David said Israel would be patient, and was willing to wait to see if Lebanon took steps against the factories, but said it would not allow their construction to continue undisturbed. Largely funded by Iran, Hezbollah remains popular in Lebanon, where it has transformed into a potent political force allied with President Michel Aoun. Many politicians have balked at calls to force Hezbollah to disarm.”

Task And Purpose: Why Jordan May Be The Next Battleground Against ISIS

“The Islamic State may be receding in Iraq and Syria, but its militants may soon find safe harbor nearby—in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Jordan’s reputation as a stable nation and a key ally in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria has positioned it at the forefront of the U.S.-led “War on Terror.” But growing signs within the Kingdom suggest that the country, for all of its ties to the West, could soon become a serious post –Syrian target for the Islamic State. In August 2018, a terrorist attack in the city of Al-Salt killed four Jordanian security officers and injured sixteen civilians. Five Jordanian nationals subscribing to the radical ideology of the Islamic State were arrested following the attack. The attackers had large amounts of homemade explosives buried nearby, which were intended for future attacks on civilians and security installations. The incident shattered the tenuous calm that has prevailed within the kingdom in recent years. But it may also be a portent of things to come. That is because extremist activity in Jordan has been on the rise since 2015, as the Syrian war steadily bled over into the country, triggering a growing number of terrorist cells and attempted attacks.”

Nigeria

Reuters: Suspected Boko Haram Militants Kill 15 In Northeast Nigeria: Residents

“Suspected members of the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency killed at least 15 people in an attack on a group of villages in northeast Nigeria late on Wednesday, residents told Reuters. The villages lie on the outskirts of the militarized city of Maiduguri, the heart of government in the northeast and the headquarters of efforts to defeat Boko Haram and the related Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) insurgency. The conflict has lasted almost a decade. Despite the Nigerian government's statements since late 2015 that Boko Haram has been largely defeated, the militancy is still able to attack in and around Maiduguri and throughout much of the northeast. In the village of Kofa, a Reuters reporter counted five bodies burned inside the remains of their house. A village chief in nearby Dalori said one person in the camp for displaced people had been killed, while two residents of Bulabrin said nine people had died there. Nigeria's military said in a statement one civilian was found dead, after Boko Haram had ransacked Dalori's market, setting buildings ablaze and fleeing when soldiers approached.”

Africa

Daily Post: Boko Haram: What We Are Doing About Leah Sharibu’s Release – FG

“The Federal Government on Thursday said it was doing its best to ensure the safe release of Leah Sharibu, one of the kidnapped Dapchi school girls who is still held captive by the Boko Haram insurgents. According to NAN, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, gave the reassurance at the 100 years celebration of St. Andrews Catholic Church, Oro, Ilorin, Kwara state. Speaking to newsmen after the Centenary anniversary thanksgiving Mass, Mohammed said Leah Sharibu is dear to the government. He said, “Nigerians should appreciate that any of our citizens, either boy or girl, Moslem or Christian is dear to us. “We do not look at Leah Sharibu either as Christian or Moslem, but as a precious daughter of the country. “We are doing our best to ensure her safe release and be reunited with her family members,” he said. Recall that the violent sect had after killing Hauwa Leman, an aid worker with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) last month, also vowed to enslave Leah in their custody forever.”

Stars And Stripes: Islamic Militant Attacks Up Overall, But ISIS Incidents Down In Africa

“Attacks by Islamic militants in Africa increased slightly in 2017, with violent incidents from groups in western Africa spiking and Islamic State actions waning, according to a new report. In Africa’s Sahel region — a swath of territory that includes several western African countries in the greater Sahara — violent events linked to militant Islamist groups tripled during the past 12 months, according to a report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The center, a U.S. Defense Department-affiliated think tank that tracks attacks in Africa, reported 377 violent episodes in the Sahel and 895 fatalities during a 12-month period that ended Sept. 30. Most of the incidents were concentrated in Mali. “Expansion of violent events linked to an array of militant Islamist groups in the Sahel highlights the growing scope of security challenges facing this region,” the report said. The U.S. military is building a new drone base in Niger to better monitor militant groups and U.S. troops also serve as advisers to local forces in the region. The dangers were brought into focus when four American soldiers were killed in an October 2017 ambush by Islamic militants near Niger’s border with Mali.”

Russia

The Times: Russian Trolls’ Priority In UK Is Stirring Hatred Of Islam

“Encouraging division over Islam has been the primary tactic of Russian trolls targeting Britain on Twitter, according to research. Tweets about Islam far outnumbered those about Brexit and were also more widely shared, an analysis of nine million posted by a troll factory in St Petersburg found. Last month Twitter released the dataset of the tweets, which had been posted by 3,841 blocked accounts affiliated to the notorious Internet Research Agency. Initial investigations highlighted the prevalence of pro-Leave messages, including a co-ordinated push on the day of the 2016 vote. However, Demos, a cross-party British think tank, has since found that the messages most widely shared related primarily to Islam and stirring up Islamophobia.”

The Jerusalem Post: Russia Warns Of 'Provocation' In Syria, Hints At Israeli 'Hot Heads'

“Russian sources confirmed Thursday that a Defense Ministry briefing warning against “provocations” in Syria was directed towards Israel. Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov warned Wednesday against “hot heads” provoking Syria and intimated that the S-300 had been deployed to defend against such action. Although Israel wasn’t mentioned, the reference to the S-300 is pointed at Jerusalem. The statement, also tweeted by the Russian embassy in Israel, appears to reference the accidental downing by Syria of a Russian IL-20 aircraft in Syria in September following an Israeli air strike, an incident that led to a brief crisis with Moscow. The wide-ranging Defense Ministry presentation focused on the situation in northern and eastern Syria. Russia claimed that Syrian rebel groups in Idlib may be preparing a “false flag” chemical weapons attack. In mid-September Russia and Turkey signed a deal that prevented a battle in Idlib, and called for extremists to withdraw from a demilitarized zone in the northern province that has been held by Syrian rebels for five years. Turkey is a key backer of some of the rebel groups and has sought to prevent a massive flight of refugees from Idlib. Moscow now said the “Turkistan Islamic Party”, a rebel group, is preparing a “false flag” attack. Russia said the Idlib agreement has gone well so far.”

United Kingdom

The Telegraph: British 'Isil' Doctor Claims He Was  Victim Of An Elaborate Kidnap Plot And Wants To Come 'Home'

“He is one of thousands of suspected foreign members of Isil captured in northern Syria but the instant we meet, it is clear that Muhammad Saqib Raza is no ordinary member of the jihadist caliphate. Erudite and well-spoken with unaccented English, Raza is at pains to present himself as a liberal Muslim, not afraid to shake a woman’s hand and hold eye contact, unlike many of the more fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) suspects held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The act - if that is what it is - seems to come easily to Raza, a Pakistani-born former NHS doctor who is among a handful of UK citizens detained in Syria and accused of links to Isil.But unlike other Britons...”

Southeast Asia

Al Arabiya: Terror Groups That Continue To Target The Philippines And Its ASEAN Neighbors

“A year after the Philippine military finished off at least 800 ISIS-inspired militants in the Islamic city of Marawi, four terror groups continue to remain a security threat for the Southern Philippines region, particularly the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and its ASEAN neighbors. Military authorities identify four terror groups – Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the Maute Group, the Ansar al-Khilafa and the Abu Sayyaf group operating in the islands – as existing security threat to the region. With this growing threat, the Philippine Police and the Philippine Army in the ARMM region this week signed a working agreement during a meeting at Camp Siongco, Maguindanao province, to secure areas from vulnerable attacks by terror groups who pledged allegiance to ISIS. Major General Cirilito Sobejana of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and General Graciano Mijares of the Police Regional Office of ARMM represented the Army and Police organizations respectively to sign the collaborative security agreement. The collaboration is part of the government strategy to eliminate all forms of terrorism particularly in the southern Philippines to comply with the President’s order. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year directed the military to “destroy and kill” extremists who described them as supporters of “bankrupt” ideology.”

Asia Times: Islamic State Finds Safe Haven In The Philippines

“Despite Islamic State’s failure last year to establish a caliphate in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, foreign militants continue to flock to the island of Mindanao, waiting in the wings to strike anew. Security analysts and military officials say at least 100 foreign terrorist fighters are now holed up with a range of local armed groups that have pledged their allegiance to Islamic State. Filipino troops needed five months to flush out Islamic State-allied Maute and Abu Sayyaf fighters from their positions in Marawi, which one year later has yet to rise from the ashes of the urban war that left its core in ruins. Rommel Banlaoi, chair of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, claims in an interview with Asia Times that Islamic State foreign fighters are now streaming into Mindanao and that the situation is “getting worse.” His claim is based on information he collected over several months from state security agencies. “The entry of FTFs (foreign terrorist fighters) to the Philippines continues despite the liberation of Marawi,” Banlaoi told the Asia Times on October 30. He also says that at least 60 have been identified by state agents through their aliases, while nearly 30 others are unidentified. The figure is significantly higher than the 48 foreign fighters that the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ intelligence unit said were operating in Mindanao as of January 2018.”

Technology

CNN: Facebook Promised To Fix Political Ads On Its Platform. It Hasn't

“Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, pledged to fix how it handles political and issue ads in the wake of Russian meddling in 2016. But just days before the midterm elections, a key part of Facebook's effort is broken, and it's unclear if the company is doing anything to fix it. The company has touted new rules for political ad-buyers as a major component of its work to combat disinformation on its platform. In 2016 Russian trolls with links to the Kremlin bought ads targeting Americans in the run-up to the presidential election. They were able to do so without giving any information to Americans seeing those ads about who was paying for them. Political ads on the platform are now supposed to say who paid for them, but Facebook allows buyers to fill in that information themselves. And if anyone or any system at the company is supposed to be ensuring that the information these ad-buyers submit is the truth, they appear to be asleep at the wheel. Earlier this week, Vice News, posing as a political ad-buyer, got approval from Facebook to run ads in the name of every single one of the US' 100 senators. Vice News did not end up buying the ads. This came after Vice News had previously received approval from Facebook to run ads "Paid for" by Islamic State and Vice President Mike Pence. On Thursday, ProPublica reported it had identified issues with how private interest groups use the Facebook disclaimer. Separately, CNN Business found one advertiser breaking Facebook's rules twice in one week. Facebook missed both violations and only acted in both instances after CNN inquired about it.”

CNN: Online Hate Is A Deadly Threat. When Will Tech Companies Finally Take It Seriously?

“As soon as #BlackLivesMatter began trending on social media in 2013, the death threats against me began. Since then, not a week has gone by where I don't receive some threat against my life online. So when pipe bombs were discovered across the country, and Cesar Sayoc was arrested in Florida after two harrowing days, I was not surprised the suspect fit into the mold of my worst online harassers: a white supremacist Donald Trump supporter targeting people he considered critics of his leader's agenda. Then, as if that weren't enough, we learned of horrifying killings at a Kroger in Kentucky and a synagogue in Pennsylvania. As people began investigating the backgrounds of the three suspects in these hate-fueled crimes, many in the media and elsewhere finally realized something organizers have known for years. Online harassment is a predictor for this kind of racialized violence. For so many black and other marginalized users, tech platforms have long been hostile and toxic environments, but enough is enough. Tech companies must do much more to protect underrepresented communities and combat online hate, and they must start now. It shouldn't take tragedies to get tech companies to address hate speech and online harassment proactively."