Eye on Extremism: November 22

U.S. News And World Report: Russia Encroaches On U.S. Stronghold In Syria, Threatening Conflict

“Russia has chosen to establish a new military base in a part of Syria perilously close to an area that American troops have been charged with defending, heightening the risk of a confrontation from either an unintentional skirmish or a deliberate provocation. Analysts believe the potential for new fighting in northeast Syria is particularly high as Russia seeks to test the resolve of the U.S. and its allies following President Donald Trump's hasty decision to withdraw from the region last month. "This is a new phase that the U.S. hasn't dealt with before," says John Dunford, a research assistant at the Institute for the Study of War, which tracks the movement of forces in the region. "As we move into a new phase of war, northeast Syria becomes more and more compacted with different forces." U.S. troops, under orders from the president to secure oil fields in northeast Syria, last week reportedly began patrolling near the strategically important Syrian town of Qamishli adjacent to the Turkish border, which essentially serves as a gateway into the region.” 

Reuters: Special Report: How Jihadists Struck Gold In Africa's Sahel

“People around Pama, a West African town on the edge of vast forested conservation areas, had long been forbidden by their government to dig for gold in the reserves, to protect antelope, buffalo and elephants. In mid-2018, men wearing turbans changed the rules. Riding in with assault rifles on motorbikes and in 4X4 trucks, they sent government troops and rangers fleeing from the area in eastern Burkina Faso bordering the Sahel, a belt of scrubland south of the Sahara Desert. The armed men said residents could mine in the protected areas, but there would be conditions. Sometimes they demanded a cut of the gold. At other times they bought and traded it. The men “told us not to worry. They told us to pray,” said one man who gave his name as Trahore and said he had worked for several months at a mine called Kabonga, a short drive northwest of Pama. Like other miners who spoke to Reuters, he asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. It was not safe for reporters to visit the region, but five other miners who had been to Kabonga corroborated his account.”

BBC News: Syria War: UN Appalled By Deadly Attack On Idlib Camp For Displaced People 

“Missiles struck the crowded facility in Qah, in opposition-held Idlib province, destroying tents and sparking fires, rescue workers and medics said. Most of the victims were children and women. A maternity hospital was also damaged, and four aid workers were hurt. Activists alleged that the missiles were fired by pro-government forces. Idlib, which is dominated by jihadist groups, is the last stronghold of the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The UN estimates that region is home to 3 million people, including a million children. More than 40% of them come from other previously opposition-held areas. Qah, which is close to the border with Turkey, is one of the most densely populated camps in Syria. "I find it sickening that missiles hit vulnerable civilians, including elderly people, women and children sheltering in tents and makeshift shelters in a camp for internally displaced people," said Mark Cutts, the UN's deputy regional humanitarian co-ordinator for the Syria crisis. "This horrific incident needs to be fully investigated," he added.”

The New York Times: Iran Declares Protests Are Over, But The Evidence Suggests Otherwise

“The Iranian authorities moved Thursday to project the appearance of normalcy after a week of violent protests over gasoline price increases, partly restoring internet access and decreeing that the mayhem that convulsed the country was really a foreign-backed failure. But other developments suggested that a severe crackdown was underway in response to the street clashes, rioting and destruction that had upended life in dozens of Iranian cities and towns — and that the uprisings had not been completely crushed. Doctors reported that hospitals were overfilled with people injured in the protests. They also said the Health Ministry had ordered all hospitals in Tehran and other cities to cancel elective surgeries because of the influx of emergency cases. Iran’s student union said plainclothes agents of the pro-government Basij militia, hiding inside ambulances to evade restrictions on entering campuses, had seized more than 50 students at Tehran University after protests there.” 

Voice Of America: Racist Attacks At Syracuse University Spark Controversy, Fear

“Students at Syracuse University, in northern New York state, have been given permission to leave campus early for next week’s Thanksgiving break, because of a spate of racist threats on campus that have left students, staff and faculty spooked about possible violent attacks. Meanwhile, a group of protesting students known as #NotAgainSU has staked out the student wellness center, calling for a stronger university response to the attacks. They say the school has a history of minimizing racial attacks. A group of 19 faculty members said the same, in a letter to the editor published in the university newspaper The Daily Orange. The attacks were varied. Racist graffiti attacking African Americans and Asians had been scrawled on two separate floors of a freshman dormitory. A Nazi swastika was found carved into the snow on campus. In all, a dozen instances of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti have been found on or adjacent to the campus serving about 22,500 students.”

The Washington Post: ‘Your Product Is Defective’: Sacha Baron Cohen Slams Facebook For Allowing Hate Speech

“In his roles as characters like Borat and Bruno, actor Sacha Baron Cohen is famed for tricking real people into making outlandishly bigoted comments on camera, turning their prejudice into the butt of his jokes. But on Thursday night, Cohen didn’t need any of his on-screen personas to rip into America’s biggest social media organizations for facilitating the kind of racism and hate he regularly lampoons. In a speech at the Anti-Defamation League’s Never Is Now summit, Cohen spoke in his own voice as he skewered social media companies he called “a sewer of bigotry and vile conspiracy theories,” taking aim at the leaders of Google, YouTube and Twitter for not more actively removing hate-speech from their platforms. But he reserved his most biting critique for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, whom he called “unaccountable” and compared to Julius Caesar during the Roman Empire. “I’m just a comedian and an actor, not a scholar,” said Cohen, who was accepting the ADL’s International Leadership Award. “But one thing is pretty clear to me: All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of Internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.”

United States

Bloomberg: U.S. Seeks To Stem Islamic State Networks After Baghdadi Death

“The U.S. is moving to contain the Islamic State’s regional networks in parts of Afghanistan and Africa, following the death of the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a State Department official said. Islamic State affiliates in West Africa, Greater Sahara and Khorasan province in Afghanistan remain “serious threats” that have to be “capped from metastasizing further,” said Ambassador Nathan Sales, the State Department’s counter-terrorism coordinator. “We have to be working closely with regional partners who share our concern about these threats to bring to bear all the tools of national power,” Sales speaking from Manila in a conference call Friday. The U.S. will establish a center in the Philippines to train Southeast Asian authorities on how to counter Islamic State sympathizers in the region and respond in case of terror attacks, the State Department official said. Southeast Asian nations will also get U.S. assistance to boost border security and cooperation to cut off the flow of fighters, weapons and money used for terrorism, Sales said. The U.S. stands ready to sanction and blacklist financial institutions like banks and companies that act as front for terror groups, he added.”

The Wall Street Journal: Heartbreak For Kurdish-Americans

“What does the U.S. want for the Middle East? As Kurdish-Americans, we always believed Washington was working with its regional allies to create the kind of democratic society our families found when they risked everything to come to the U.S. The Kurds—like people everywhere—seek lives of peace and opportunity. When we lost hope in our homeland, many of us flourished here in America. Hamdi Ulukaya immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey in 1994, after his advocacy for Kurdish rights drew unwanted government attention. He went on to create America’s best-selling brand of yogurt, Chobani. Heval Kelli became a refugee in Germany before moving to the U.S. after 9/11. He started as a dishwasher in Atlanta and became one of the nation’s most prominent cardiologists. Kurdish-American success stories like these, however, are inextricably linked to the heartbreak of abandonment. Over the years the U.S. has made and reneged on frequent promises to the Kurds. The most famous example was in 1991, when President George H.W. Bush called on Iraqi Kurds to rise up against Saddam Hussein, only to stand aside as regime loyalists slaughtered tens of thousands. Now it has happened again in northern Syria.”

CNN: The Department Of Justice Says A Chicago Gang Leader Was Radicalized By ISIS

“He is the purported leader of the “AHK Street Gang,” a gang in the Chicago area that traffics various narcotics throughout the city region, including heroin and cocaine, according to the Department of Justice. But Thursday, Jason Brown stepped into a federal courtroom not on drug charges, but for allegedly attempting to provide material support to ISIS. Specifically, the Department of Justice alleges that on three separate occasions this year, “Brown provided $500 to a confidential source with the intent that the $500 be wired to an individual Brown believed was an ISIS soldier engaged in active combat in Syria.” That individual was confidentially working with law enforcement, the DOJ says. The larger question now is: how might have an alleged Chicago area gang leader gotten wrapped up with ISIS? While Brown was serving time for a previous arrest in 2016, the criminal complaint alleges, he was “radicalized in prison.” An expert says Western prisons have become a key recruiting ground for ISIS over the past decade. “ISIS has manipulated its ideology to appeal to people with criminal backgrounds,” said Bennett Clifford, a research fellow at the Program on Extremism at the George Washington University. “This is one of the notable areas where the Islamic State has been able to recruit.” One of the aspects Clifford says ISIS has tried to hone in on is the idea that previous wrongdoings don't matter.”

CNN: A Woman Who Wrote Letters To Dylann Roof Is Going To Prison For Plotting 2 Terrorist Attacks

“An Ohio woman who wrote letters to Dylann Roof and admired the Columbine High School shooters was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday for her role in planning two terrorist attacks, according to the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio. Elizabeth Lecron was arrested last December, accused of plotting an attack at a Toledo bar and purchasing bomb-making materials to blow up a pipeline in Georgia. She pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in August. Upon release from prison, she'll be subject to lifetime supervision by a federal court as part of her sentence. An attorney for Lecron declined to comment. Lecron's co-defendant, her boyfriend, Vincent Armstrong, also pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his participation in the plot, the USAO said in a statement. He'll be sentenced on December 10. According to the USAO, Lecron and Armstrong were “immersed” in an online group called the “True Crime Community,” which “fixated and lionized mass murderers and posted extremely graphic images, videos, and sayings.” Lecron would routinely post about the gunmen in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, in which 13 people were killed, and Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, the USAO said in an August news release.”

The National Interest: Tales Of An American Lone Wolf Terrorist

“The FBI recently released a report on the fifty-two “lone wolf” terrorism cases and offenders that were involved in thirty-three acts of terrorism committed in the United States between 1972 and 2015. Because of these terrorist attacks, 258 people died and a total of 982 were injured. The report covered the gender, age, and level of education of the various offenders, among several other factors. However, these three in particular demand further consideration. To start, all of the offenders were males. While this obviously doesn’t mean that terrorism is solely a male domain, as incidents in the Middle East show, it raises the question of why all U.S. attacks have so far been done by males. The FBI report itself doesn’t talk about how and why gender has become irrelevant when dealing with domestic terrorism. This answer might be because of two factors. First, during the 1980s and 1990s, female participation in radical religious movements and other forms of indoctrination may have been far more limited. Social media didn’t exist then, and the active participation of women was likely to have been discouraged. There wouldn’t have been, for example, ISIS recruiters attempting to reach out directly and personally to female Muslims in the West via Facebook or the like.”


Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty: In Syria, A Mutilated Corpse, Video Evidence, And New Scrutiny For Russian Mercenaries

“The graphic video shows four men in camouflage gear exchanging jokes in unaccented Russian as they pour flammable liquid over a man's mutilated corpse strung up on two wooden beams. Before setting it alight and watching it burn as they pose for the camera, they scrawl a Russian phrase praising the country's airborne forces on its chest. The clip of the brutal murder in Syria, apparently filmed in the summer of 2017, resurfaced this week in the wake of an investigation by Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The newspaper ties the men to Vagner, a shadowy Russian mercenary group widely believed to be spearheading the expansion of Russian influence across Africa and the Middle East. In its report published late on November 20, Novaya Gazeta identified one of the men shown in the clip as a former police officer from the southern Russia region of Stavropol who promised to "represent the interests of Russia abroad" in a form he allegedly submitted to Vagner upon joining the organization in 2016. The newspaper identifies the man by his first name and the first letter of his surname but withholds his full name amid concerns for his family's safety. Questioned about the clip and Novaya Gazeta's report, the Kremlin denied any knowledge of the men depicted.”

The Jerusalem Post: ISIS In Syria: US-Led Coalition Keeps Strong Partnership With SDF

“The US-led Coalition and its Operation Inherent Resolve that is designed to defeat ISIS has continued a close partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces in eastern Syria, despite the recent crisis. A discussion with the spokesman for the coalition, Col. Myles B. Caggins III, reveals how the continued campaign in eastern Syria seeks to balance the control of critical infrastructure while dealing with a complex environment bordered by other countries. Caggins was recently in Syria where he saw first hand the results of shifting policy where the US withdrew from border areas in northeast Syria and closed several bases between Tabqa, Raqqa, Manbij and Kobani. That included an airstrip at Sarrin and a base near a cement factory. This is “re-balancing” of forces into other areas of eastern Syria where the coalition continues to partner closely with the SDF in Deir Ezzor and Hasakah provinces. “The partnership never broke or was severed,” Caggins says. This is important because the US decision on October 6 to withdraw from parts of Syria left many questions about what the coalitions role would eventually be. The coalition is made up of 81 partners, but most of them were not involved in eastern Syria. French and UK special forces were once involved, but their role today is unclear.”


The Washington Post: In Iran, “Rage Is Escalating” As Economic Stress Reaches New Level 

“A sudden move to raise fuel prices in Iran has sparked nationwide protests over the past week and, in turn, drawn a fierce crackdown by security forces, marking some of the worst violence in the country in years. Scores have been reported killed. The protests have flared in many of the same areas that experienced unrest two years ago, when demonstrators protested a similar proposal to slash state subsidies. Then, as now, lower-income Iranians rose up against a system that they said had failed them economically. But a wider spectrum of society may have joined the revolt this time around, analysts say, pointing to demonstrations in major cities and at universities, including the University of Tehran. Protesters have also clashed with police in urban centers such as Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz and Tabriz. Over the past two years, Iran’s economy has worsened because of U.S. sanctions and declining oil sales — revenue the government uses to pay salaries and fund imports. Iran’s economy is expected to contract by 8.7 percent this year, according to the World Bank.”

Associated Press: US Calls For Iran Crackdown Videos, Internet Slowly Returns

“Iranian authorities slowly eased up their sweeping blockage of internet access on Friday, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for Iranians to send the U.S. videos “documenting the regime’s crackdown” on protesters. “The U.S. will expose and sanction the abuses,” Pompeo tweeted early Friday, as pockets of Iran saw internet over landlines restored. Authorities have said the internet may be entirely restored soon, suggesting Iran’s government put down the demonstrations that began Nov. 15 over government-set gasoline prices rising. Amnesty International said Tuesday that protest unrest and a subsequent security crackdown killed at least 106 people. Iran disputes that figure without offering its own. A U.N. office earlier said it feared the unrest may have killed “a significant number of people.” The jump in gasoline prices represents yet another burden on Iranians who have suffered through a painful currency collapse. That’s a result of the reimposition of crippling U.S. economic sanctions as part of President Donald Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Tehran, following his unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Iran’s relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani has promised the fuel price increase will fund new subsidies for poor families. Rouhani declared victory Wednesday in the unrest, blaming “the Zionists and Americans” for the violence.”

The Hill: So Long As Iran Dominates The Middle East, A New Baghdadi Will Rise

“On the day after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death, President Trump identified an unlikely partner in the global fight against ISIS. “Iran is right there,” he said, along with Russia, Syria, Turkey and Iraq, all of which maintain close ties with Tehran. “They all hate ISIS,” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It’s a familiar refrain. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump argued that Iran, along with Syria and Russia, has played a positive role in combating the terrorist group. “I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS,” he said. “Russia is killing ISIS. And Iran is killing ISIS.” The Obama administration adopted a similar view. In 2014, as nuclear negotiations with Tehran proceeded in earnest, Obama sent a letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that floated the possibility of U.S.-Iranian cooperation to defeat ISIS if the two could reach a nuclear agreement. “The fact is,” Secretary of State John Kerry told the UN Security Council, “there is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran,” in defeating ISIS. Iran’s efforts to achieve hegemony in the Middle East have entailed the brutal suppression of Sunni Arab populations. In Syria, the relentless atrocities of the Assad regime reflected those of ISIS itself.”

Arab News: Arab League Condemns Iran For Handing Yemen Embassy To Houthis

“Iran handed over the state’s Yemeni embassy to the Houthi militia, a move condemned by the Arab Leauge, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday. The Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit condemned Iran’s step considering it a flagrant violation of diplomatic norms and of the United Nations Charter, the Vienna Convention, and the relevant Security Council resolutions. The move, he said, also reflects an Iranian insistence to destabilize Yemen’s conditions, and threaten the security of its neighbouring countries.”


Daily Sabah: Daesh Terrorists Kill 2 Police Officers In Northern Iraq

“Two police officers were killed in an armed attack carried out by Daesh terrorists in Iraq's Kirkuk province, while another was injured, a security source told Anadolu Agency on Friday. The incident took place at a security checkpoint in Rasheed village, the source added. The assailants managed to escape. In mid-2014, Daesh overran roughly one-third of Iraq, including the northern city of Mosul. By late 2017, the Iraqi army – with the help of the U.S.-led military coalition – recovered most if not all the territories lost to the terrorist group. Although officials in Baghdad say Daesh's presence in the country has been largely eradicated, the terrorist group has continued to stage sporadic attacks in Iraq's Nineveh, Kirkuk, Diyala, Saladin and Anbar provinces.” 

The Guardian: 'Even Isis Wouldn't Shoot At Us': Medics On Frontline Of Baghdad Protests

“Then demonstrators took to the streets of Baghdad in early October, two military medics, Abbas and Ahmad, saw people beaten back by police and soldiers, cut down with canisters and bullets and overcome by noxious gases designed for use on the battlefield. Later in the month they left their homes, ignored their orders and joined the demonstrators in the heart of the Iraqi capital, and they have been treating those wounded in the clashes ever since. “We couldn’t just stay at home and pretend nothing was happening,” said Ahmad. “We had to get out and look after the injured.” Baghdad is familiar with war and insurgency but far less so with protests led by unarmed citizens demanding a change to the terms of the contract between citizen and state. In unprecedented daily demonstrations, up to 200,000 protesters at a time have called on Iraq’s leadership to hand over power to officials who would end the structural corruption and patronage networks that have whittled away the country’s vast oil wealth. At the same time, they have demanded that Iran’s extensive role in Iraqi affairs be pared back. Neither Iraqi officials nor their overlords in Iran appear inclined to compromise. Instead, a tolerance of the protests over the first fortnight has given way to a violent crackdown.”


The Washington Post: Turkey: Captured IS Figure Planned Russia, Germany Attacks

“Turkey’s interior minister has identified a key Islamic State suspect captured by the country’s forces in Syria as the alleged mastermind behind attacks in Russia and Germany, according to a newspaper report on Friday. Turkey had announced last week that it detained an “important” IS figure but did not name him. In an interview published in Hurriyet newspaper, Suleyman Soylu identified the man as Yusuf Huba, describing him as a high-ranking IS member. Soylu said the man allegedly planned and ordered a bomb attack in Russia in 2018 as well as an attack at a supermarket in Germany. Turkey has been highlighting what it says is its fight against IS, in the face of accusations that the Turkish military offensive last month to drive Syrian Kurdish fighters from northeast Syria would allow for a resurgence of the militant Islamic group. The interior minister said the suspect is also known as Abu Jihad al-Din al-Nasır Ubeyde and is being held and questioned in Syria, in an area controlled by Turkey. “We have captured a very senior IS member who is known as a bomber, bomb-maker and mastermind of suicide bomb attacks,” he told Hurriyet. It was not clear which attack in Russia in 2018 the minister was referring to. In a 2017 attack in the northern German port city of Hamburg, a 26-year-old Palestinian man killed one person and wounded six others in a stabbing spree at a supermarket.”


Bloomberg: Prisoner Swap May Pave Way For Fresh U.S.-Taliban Talks

“The release of three senior Taliban members in exchange for two western hostages is not a gateway to peace talks or even a temporary cease-fire with the Afghan Government, but it may help resume stalled negotiations with the U.S. and ultimately lead to an agreement on the withdrawal of foreign troops, the militant group said. “Perhaps the prisoner swap can help build mutual trust between the U.S. and Taliban in order to restart discussion on a nearly-finalized troop withdrawal deal that can end the U.S. occupation,” Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed said in a phone interview. “It’s baseless to say the release can help begin direct talks or a temporary truce with the government. The occupation must end first as that’s a major roadblock to any government-Taliban talks.” The statement is a setback to President Ashraf Ghani’s hopes that the prisoner-hostage swap -- Taliban members freed in return for American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks -- would bring the Taliban to the table for direct talks. The militants who now control or lay claim to half the country have repeatedly rejected Ghani’s calls for talks calling his government illegitimate and a U.S. puppet. U.S. President Donald Trump spoke to Ghani and expressed appreciation for his support in freeing the hostages, according to a White House readout of the call Thursday.”

Reuters: Red Cross Says It Handed Over 10 Afghan Soldiers After Release By Taliban

“The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday it facilitated the release of 10 Afghan security force members detained by the Taliban and handed them over to Afghan authorities. It followed the release by Afghan Taliban on Tuesday of American and Australian university professors held hostage for more than three years, raising hopes for a revival of peace talks. “The 10 Afghan National Security Forces members were released and handed over to the ICRC in Helmand Province, in the District of Nahr-e Saraj,” Juan Pedro Schaerer, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Afghanistan said in a statement.  “We transferred them across the frontline to Lashkar Gah where we handed them over to the Afghan authorities at the governor’s office.”

Voice Of America: Islamic State Staggers In Afghanistan, But Survives

“One of the Islamic State's most feared affiliates has suffered a significant setback, though U.S. officials caution reports that the terror group was “obliterated” are overblown.  U.S. officials confirmed Thursday that Islamic State-Khorasan, as the terror group's Afghan affiliate is called, collapsed in the country's eastern Nangarhar province following months of fighting. “Afghan government and coalition operations against the group, along with the Taliban's campaign … led to ISIS-Khorasan's collapse in Nangarhar and the surrender of hundreds of fighters to Afghan forces,” a senior counterterrorism official told VOA, using an acronym for the group. “Surrendered [Islamic State] fighters said they were told to leave Nangarhar for Kunar [province], where we assess the group still maintains a presence, as well as the northern provinces of Afghanistan,” the official added.  The U.S. assessment contrasted with some more optimistic pronouncements from Afghan officials, who touted the victory in Nangarhar as conclusive. “No one believed one year ago that we would stand up and remain in Nangarhar, and thank God that today we have obliterated Daesh,” President Ashraf Ghani said Tuesday during a speech in Jalalabad, using an Arabic acronym for IS.” 

The National: With ISIS Gone, Afghan Villagers Struggle To Rebuild From Rubble

“After more than four years under ISIS, there is barely a house still standing in Pekha, a village in Achin district of Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province. Buildings are riddled with bullet holes and homes lie in rubble. On some of the walls still standing the extremist group’s black flag has been hastily scraped off. The government gained control over Pekha this year. But recently hundreds more ISIS fighters have surrendered to the government after military operations in Nangarhar, one of the group's main bases in the country. More are expected to surrender soon. “Daesh’s backbone has been broken,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared on Tuesday. Villagers in Pekha say their spirit has been broken, too. “Just look any direction – everything is in rubble,” said Nakibullah Sahir, 29, sitting amid the ruins of his home. “We have to start all over again. “Many of us left during ISIS control. The militants destroyed so much and countless American bombs were dropped at the same time. “It was unbearable then but it isn’t much better now. We came back to nothing.” In recent weeks, the men of the village have been meeting at the home of an elder, one of the few houses not destroyed, to discuss how to move ahead.”

Stars And Stripes: US, Allies’ Military Successes Drove Down Terrorism Deaths Almost Everywhere Except Afghanistan, Report Says 

“Military successes by the U.S. and its allies against terrorist groups helped drive down global deaths from terrorism in 2018 for the fourth consecutive year, a report released this week said. But even as terrorism deaths declined in most countries, they soared in Afghanistan, despite the U.S. launching peace talks with the Taliban that year to try to end decades of war in the country. Terrorism deaths in Afghanistan soared by nearly 60% to more than 7,300 in 2018, with most of those casualties blamed on the Taliban, which overtook the Islamic State group to become the deadliest terrorist organization in the world, said the Global Terrorism Index 2019 report released Wednesday. The Taliban killed 6,000 people last year in Afghanistan, said the report, issued by Australia’s Institute for Economics and Peace think tank. At the same time, military successes against ISIS caused it to sharply lose ground in Iraq and Syria, said the report, which has been compiled annually since 2013. U.S. airstrikes in Somalia also led to a decline in terrorism deaths there and a 24% fall in attacks by the al-Shabab terror group, the report said. As ISIS buckled under military pressure, terrorism deaths in Iraq fell by 75% in 2018, the report said.”

Xinhua: Afghan Forces Arrest 2 IS Militants In Eastern Nangarhar Province

“Afghan security forces in crackdown against militants have captured two militants affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) outfit in the eastern Nangarhar province, said an army statement released here Friday. The security forces, according to the statement, during routine checking and cleanup operations in Mohmand Dara district on Thursday arrested two IS fighters and handed them over to police for investigation. It also stressed that the security forces would continue to chase militants elsewhere in the country. The hardliner IS group has yet to make comment. More than 600 members of the Islamic State outfit and their families including women and children have surrendered to security forces in Nangarhar province over the past couple of weeks, according to officials.”


I24News: Report: Houthis Warn Could Hit Vital Targets Deep Inside Israel

“Yemen’s Houthi rebels warned they could hit vital targets deep inside Israel’s “occupied territories,” Press TV reported on Wednesday. In an event hosted in the capital of Sana’a by the Moral Guidance Department of the Houthi-led Yemen military, branded “Israeli ambitions in Yemen,” Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree claimed that Jerusalem plots to establish and permeate its control over strategic sites in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain and the Red Sea, as cited by Press TV. He elaborated on Yemen’s developed defense capabilities in the fields of missile technology and unmanned aerial vehicles. A second Houthi official participating in the conference, Brigadier Abdullah bin Amer, maintained that Israel has ambitions to occupy a number of Yemeni islands in the Red Sea, referencing various statements made by Israeli officials since 1966.”

Middle East Monitor: Rights Group: Houthis Killed More Than 3,800 Children In Yemen

“The Yemeni Network for Human Rights and Freedoms has accused the Houthis of killing 3,888 children since early 2015 and until the end of August. The group issued a statement on Wednesday saying that it has worked in cooperation with 13 international organisations and monitored 65,971 incidents of violations committed by the Houthis against children in 17 Yemeni governorates since the beginning of January 2015 until the end of August 2019. It accused the Houthis of injuring 5,357 children and inflicting permanent disabilities on 164 children by indiscriminate air strikes on densely populated neighbourhoods. The Houthis have abducted 456 children who are still detained in the prisons, and caused the displacement of 43,608 others, the statement said, adding that the group had recruited about 12,341 children. The network called on the international community to break its silence and “take serious action to stop these violations against children”.”


Voice Of America: Lebanon Faces Financial Collapse Amid Daily Anti-Corruption Protests

“In the parts of Beirut where protesters camp out, financial institutions remained shuttered this week, with cartoons of pigs with dollar-sign eyes spray-painted on the walls next to graffiti calling for revolution. In other parts of the city, the banks cautiously reopened, after being mostly closed for more than a month since daily anti-corruption demonstrations began in October. Lebanon is now on the brink of financial collapse, according to economists, and the only way out is to build a government and end the upheaval. But the current leadership remains unable to agree on a prime minister or hold legislative sessions. And protesters blame the chaos on corruption among the same stagnated political class, saying demonstrations will continue until they all resign and are replaced by nonpolitical "technocrats."


Asharq Al-Awsat: Egypt: ISIS Claims Attack In Sinai That Killed Officer

“ISIS terrorist group has claimed an attack this week in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula which left an office dead and wounded three others. The group released a statement late on Wednesday through a militant-linked website saying the group had targeted an armored vehicle carrying Egyptian forces with a roadside bombing the previous day in the town of Sheikh Zuweid. Egyptian officials had said a captain was killed and four members of the security forces were wounded in the roadside bombing, the Associated Press reported. Egypt has been battling an extremist insurgency in Sinai, led by the regional ISIS affiliate, that intensified following the ousting of former president Mohammed Morsi in 2013, who belongs to the “banned” Muslim Brotherhood organization. The militants have carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting security forces and minority Christians.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Egypt: Awqaf Ministry Vows To Terminate Services Of Imams Linked To 'Terrorist Groups'

“The Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf tightened its grip on imams of mosques and terminated the service of 10, preventing them from delivering sermons, adding that the measures aim to control the religious discourse away from extremism, according to a ministry source. The ministry issued directives to all mosques in Egypt, preventing them from enabling or supporting the 10 dismissed imams and prevent them from preaching ahead of the public. It asserted that it will not hesitate to terminate the services of any person who is affiliated or associated with any terrorist group or commit a crime against the homeland, asserting that it relies on the judicial rulings in such cases. The Awqaf has already taken control of mosques belonging to the fundamentalists and prevented anyone from collecting donations inside or around mosques. It also unified Friday sermons to avoid the discussion of political matters. The source told Asharq Al-Awsat, that the ministry has already warned imams and preachers in mosques against belonging to any organization or group, so as not to affect their independence in advocacy work, which addresses the public interest.”


Daily Post Nigeria: UN, EU To Help Nigeria Defeat Boko Haram

“Amb. Mohammed Ibn-Chambers, the UN Special Representative for West Africa and Sahel, has restated commitment to support Nigeria to combat insurgency in the northeast and Lake Chad Basin. Ibn-Chambas made the pledge on Monday, when a delegation of the UN and European Union (EU) officials paid a courtesy visit to Maj.-Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, the Theater Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole (OPLD) in Maiduguri. He said that he would mobilize global partnership to support Nigeria in the campaign against insurgency. Ibn Chambers noted that the UN condemned terrorism in its entirety globally, adding that the fight against Boko Haram was not for Nigeria alone but rather a global campaign that required support from international community. He added that terrorism in the region was a manifestation of international terrorism and stressed the need for collaborative effort to ensure it defeat,NAN reports. Ibn Chambers said that the visit was in pursuance to the UN Council resolution 2049 of 2017; which seek to promote partnerships between international actors and Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) States. “In this context we have been very supportive of the individual efforts of the LCBC member states to combat, defeat and eliminate terrorism in whatever form or shape it manifested itself in the region.”


The New York Times: Somali Canadian Peace Activist Was Killed By Stray Bullet

“Preliminary investigations show a young Somali Canadian peace activist was killed by a stray bullet earlier this week in Mogadishu, the peacekeeping mission in Somalia said Friday, while her family prepared her memorial. The statement by the African Union mission said Almaas Elman was hit while traveling in a car Wednesday inside a heavily defended base near the international airport where many diplomats and aid workers have offices. The former diplomat was the latest member of Somalia’s diaspora to be killed after returning home to help rebuild the country after decades of conflict, including a Somali Canadian journalist who died in a bomb blast in July. Elman’s family founded a prominent peace center in Somalia and her sister Ilwad was reportedly short-listed for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. In a brief statement Thursday, Ilwad Elman said “we will lay my sister Almas to rest” at a mosque in Mogadishu during Friday prayers. “Thank you for all of the love.”


The Washington Post: Islamic State Claims Massacre Of Troops In Mali, Where It Is Gaining Ground

“The Islamic State has asserted responsibility for an attack that killed 30 soldiers this week in the West African nation of Mali, where extremists are gaining ground in their bloody pursuit to seize territory. In a statement late Wednesday, the group’s self-described West Africa arm said it also wounded 30 soldiers in the attack while mentioning no deaths among its fighters. The Malian army, which routinely tangles with extremists in the country’s restive north, said Tuesday that 17 militants were killed in the fight at Tabankort in the Gao region, which borders Burkina Faso and Niger. U.S. officials say the Sahel region, which lies south of the Sahara Desert, threatens to become a safe haven for terrorists to plot and carry out attacks worldwide. Mali, which is about twice the size of Texas, is a particularly troubling hot spot. “The rapidly spreading instability in the Sahel threatens U.S. national security and undermines our diplomatic goals,” Whitney Baird, deputy assistant secretary of state for West Africa and security affairs, said at a congressional hearing this month. “It enables the spread of terrorism, stifles economic growth and thwarts democratic institutions,” she said. More than 100 soldiers have died in Mali since October in near-weekly clashes as the resource-strapped country tries to shake off a scourge that took root after the Libyan government collapsed in 2011.”

Long War Journal: Islamic State Claims Rare Attack In Algeria

“The Islamic State claims that its men killed eight Algerian soldiers during a counterterrorism raid in Tamanrasset, which is located in the southern part of the country. However, as of yet, no independent reporting confirms the military casualties. The Algerian military has reported other raids in the past 24 hours, but hasn’t indicated that it suffered significant casualties. The Islamic State issued the claim via its Amaq News Agency and in a short official message, saying that “two fighters refused to surrender” and then “clashed with the Algerian” security forces before being killed. Three helicopters were supposedly deployed as part of the raid, according to Amaq. In Nov. 2014, the Islamic State declared that it had a “province” in Algeria, making it one of the first countries outside of Iraq and Syria where the so-called caliphate had an official branch. A group known as Jund al-Khilafah established a beachhead for the group earlier that same year. The U.S. government designated Jund al-Khilafah as a terrorist organization in Sept. 2015, saying it consists of a group of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) “military commanders” who “broke away” to join the Islamic State.”

United Kingdom

Deutsche Welle: UK To Repatriate British Orphans Of 'Islamic State' Fighters

“The British foreign secretary said on Thursday that the UK had arranged for British orphans in Syria to be repatriated to the UK. The UK now joins Germany, Belgium and Australia in repatriating children whose parents were caught up in the Syrian conflict, including suspected members of the so-called “Islamic State” (IS).”These innocent, orphaned, children should never have been subjected to the horrors of war,” UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. “We have facilitated their return home, because it was the right thing to do. Now they must be allowed the privacy and given the support to return to a normal life,” he added. Raab did not specify how many children were returning and the British Foreign Office did not release further details.  The Kurdish administration in northern Syria posted on social media updates about three children headed to the UK. “Three British orphans from ISIS parents were handed over to a delegation representing the British Foreign Ministry,” said Abdulkarim Omar, the de facto Kurdish foreign affairs spokesman, on Twitter, referring to the IS. Figures from the charity Save the Children said in October that over 60 British children may be trapped in Syria.”


France 24: French Court Sentences Sister Of IS Group Propagandist To Nine Years

“A French court on Wednesday sentenced Anne Diana Clain, whose brother was a notorious propagandist for the Islamic State group, to nine years in prison for terrorist association. Paris's criminal courts handed down the sentence to Clain, 44, for having attempted between 2015 and 2016 to head to conflict-ravaged Syria with her husband and four children to join her brothers Fabien and Jean-Michel Clain. Fabien Clain has been identified as the voice in an audio recording claiming responsibility for the 2015 Paris attacks which killed 130 people and warning that they were just “the beginning of the storm”. His brother has also been accused of being an IS group propagandist in Syria. The court also found Clain's husband Mohamed Amri, a 58-year-old Tunisian, guilty and handed him a 10-year sentence as presiding judge Isabelle Prévost-Desprez highlighted the couple's determination to reach Syria. “That project failed but not because you wanted it to -- you never gave up on [the idea] of your own volition,” she said, recalling how Anne Clain's attempt to reach Syria failed when the convert to Islam was arrested at the Turkish border in July 2016. “You took your children off on a deadly trip as far as your arrest in Turkey on the Syrian border,” said Prévost-Desprez, saying the scheme was “extremely serious.”


The Independent: How Ukraine Became The Unlikely Home For Isis Leaders Escaping The Caliphate

“As far as extreme terror went, Al Bara Shishani had a reputation. Understood to have held the post of Isis’ deputy minister of war, head of a unit responsible for “special operations” and surveillance, the Georgian-born commander reportedly had a hand in it all: executions of “non-believers”; public beheadings; terror operations abroad. He also had a reputation for being dead – that is, until last Friday. Al Bara Shishani’s dramatic reappearance in the dock of a court room in central Kiev was shocking not only for the fact of how alive he was. As details emerged about his miraculous resurrection – how he dodged what had been reported as a fatal air strike in Syria, then used a fake passport to travel to Turkey and Ukraine, where he would live untroubled for two years – a number of questions came begging about Kiev’s capacity and willingness to deal with terrorists taking shelter within. According to the SBU, Ukraine’s admittedly unreliable security agency, Al Bara Shishani even continued to coordinate Isis terror operations from Kiev.”

The National: Calls To Shut Swedish School Where 'ISIS Teachers' Taught In Classrooms

“Calls are mounting for the closure of a leading state-funded Islamic school in Sweden that was accused of hiring ISIS fighters as teachers after their return from Syria. The chancellor of Vetenskapsskolan school in Gothenburg, Abdel Nasser El Nadi, has been caught up in a scandal involving the transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars to bank accounts abroad. El Nadi was arrested in May with four other top clerics in a clampdown linked to extremism. Last month Swedish authorities accused him of being a threat to national security, which he denies. There have been calls to deport him to his native Egypt but legal actions based on human rights laws have ensured this did not happen. Now politicians are seeking to close the school he ran and owned until September this year. It has since been renamed the Sapphire School. Reports claim four former ISIS fighters have taught in the school, along with another man who has been accused of soliciting funds for terrorism. Swedish authorities have faced increasing domestic and international criticism for failing to arrest and prosecute returning ISIS fighters, amid suggestions that the country could be regarded as a sanctuary for terrorists.”

Daily Sabah: Deaths From Far-Right Terror Attacks Increase As Number Of Terror Victims Fall Globally

“While the number of deaths from attacks launched by terrorist organizations globally has fallen, deaths by far-right terrorist attacks has increased this year in many countries, according to the Global Terrorism Index 2019, published Wednesday by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). The report by the think tank noted a huge leap in the deaths caused by far-right terrorism in Western Europe, North America and Oceania, with the number of deaths growing by 320% over the past five years. It cited the March attacks on two mosques in New Zealand's Christchurch, which killed 51 people, as an example of far-right ideology spreading to a country with “almost no prior history of terrorist activity.” There was a total of 77 deaths attributed to far-right terror between January and September 2019, a 52% increase from 2018 when 26 people were killed in far-right attacks and 11 deaths in 2017. Meanwhile, deaths from terrorism totaled 15,952 globally, a 15.2% decrease in 2018. The number has significantly decreased, compared with a high of 33,555 deaths in 2014, according to the report. It attributed the fall in terrorism-related deaths to the fall of the Daesh terrorist group and victories in Somalia over al-Shabab insurgents.” 

Southeast Asia 

Business Insider: Malaysia Has Freed A Terrorist Notorious For Making Biological Weapons – Here’s What We Know

“After spending two years in a Johor jail, Yazid Sufaat is now a free man – though authorities will continue to watch him closely given his close links to militant groups Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Jemaah Islamiyah. The US-trained biochemist was detained under Malaysia’s Prevention of Terrorism Act for two years – the maximum duration allowable under the Act, which permits police to jail suspects without trial. This is the 55-year-old’s third time being released, bringing his total duration behind bars to 12 years. Yazid was freed from Simpang Renggam Detention Centre on Wednesday (Nov 20), The Star quoted Bukit Aman’s counter-terrorism division head Ayob Khan as saying. He will have to wear an electronic monitoring device, remain within Kuala Lumpur’s Ampang district, and report to the Ampang police station twice a week, The Star’s report added. In addition, Yazid will be under police surveillance and cannot access the Internet, The Straits Times (ST) reported, adding that authorities would re-evaluate his situation in two years’ time. Quoting an intelligence source, ST added that Yazid’s release was secured in part because the Prison Department indicated that he appeared to have repented for his crimes.”

The Philippine Star: ‘Local Terrorists Lack Support From ISIS’

“For lack of support from their foreign counterparts, terrorists in Mindanao are capable of mounting only small-scale attacks, according to the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM). In an executive summary submitted to the Inspector General of the US Department of Defense, the USINDOPACOM said Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS)-inspired terrorists in Southeast Asia also lack strong internal leadership, a factor that has impeded their ability to launch attacks outside their base or carry out large-scale attacks. “ISIS-East Asia is... only capable of conducting... suicide attacks in Jolo, Sulu and... islands in Southern Philippines,” it said. The Hawaii-based US military command, through its newly created unit –Operation Pacific Eagle Philippines (OPE-P) – has deployed an anti-terror contingent  in parts of Mindanao. The US anti-terror unit is  training and providing intelligence information to Filipino soldiers hunting down members of the Abu Sayyaf, Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, particularly in Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao provinces and Central Mindanao. The OPE-P replaced the former US Pacific Command Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines based in Zamboanga City.”

The Straits Times: ISIS Militants Not Flocking In Droves To S-E Asia, Says Top US Counter-Terrorism Official

“Islamic State militants who fought in Syria and Iraq are not flocking to Southeast Asia “in droves”, as they opt instead to press their fight closer to the Middle East - in Africa - a top United States counter-terrorism official said on Friday (Nov 22). “We know that an ISIS core, the remnants of ISIS in Syria, had been encouraging their fighters to leave and fight again, to take the fight to other regions,” Mr Nathan Sales, who leads the US State Department's counter-terrorism bureau, told reporters in Manila. He said there had been “a clear indication of an interest” among militants to head to South-east Asia. “But truth be told,” he said, “it's not one of the regions that ISIS fighters seem to be heading to in droves.” Mr Sales said west Africa's Sahel region - a semi-arid zone south of the Sahara that includes parts of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger - presents a more pressing concern for the US-led global coalition against ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this part of the world “would be a preferred initial area of focus” for the coalition. Across the Sahel, a combination of porous borders, intercommunal tensions and ill-equipped domestic armies has exacerbated a problem that regional and international forces are now struggling to contain.”