Eye on Extremism: November 25

The New York Times: U.S. Resumes Operations Against ISIS In Northern Syria

“United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, nearly two months after President Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive. American-backed operations against ISIS fighters in the area effectively ground to a halt for weeks despite warnings from intelligence analysts that Islamic State militants were beginning to make a comeback from Syrian desert redoubts even though their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed during an American raid on Oct. 26. On Friday, American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters — the same local allies the Trump administration abandoned to fend for themselves against the Turkish advance last month — reunited to conduct what the Pentagon said was a large-scale mission to kill and capture ISIS fighters in Deir al-Zour province, about 120 miles south of the Turkish border. “Over the next days and weeks, the pace will pick back up against remnants of ISIS,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the commander of the military’s Central Command, told reporters on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain on Saturday.”

Reuters: Special report: ‘Time To Take Out Our Swords' - Inside Iran’s Plot To Attack Saudi Arabia

“Four months before a swarm of drones and missiles crippled the world’s biggest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia, Iranian security officials gathered at a heavily fortified compound in Tehran. The group included the top echelons of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite branch of the Iranian military whose portfolio includes missile development and covert operations. The main topic that day in May: How to punish the United States for pulling out of a landmark nuclear treaty and re-imposing economic sanctions on Iran, moves that have hit the Islamic Republic hard. With Major General Hossein Salami, leader of the Revolutionary Guards, looking on, a senior commander took the floor. “It is time to take out our swords and teach them a lesson,” the commander said, according to four people familiar with the meeting. Hard-liners in the meeting talked of attacking high-value targets, including American military bases. Yet, what ultimately emerged was a plan that stopped short of direct confrontation that could trigger a devastating U.S. response. Iran opted instead to target oil installations of America’s ally, Saudi Arabia, a proposal discussed by top Iranian military officials in that May meeting and at least four that followed.”

South China Morning Post: Isis Terror Tactics Being Exported To Southeast Asia, US Official Says

“Islamic State militants are not heading to Southeast Asia “in droves” following the fall of the Caliphate even though the terror group has been encouraging its fighters in Syria to take the fight to other regions, according to the US State Department’s top counterterrorism official. “We have seen a few indications of an interest in travelling to Southeast Asia, but truth be told, it’s not one of the regions that Isis fighters seem to be heading to in droves,” Nathan Sales told a press briefing in Manila on Friday. “So far we haven’t seen a huge problem, but we have to make sure we keep it that way,” Sales said. He added that the United States was working with the Philippines to boost cooperation on border security, to prevent people from exploiting the maritime environment to gain access to countries in the region. However Sales did warn that terrorist tactics from the Middle East, including suicide bombings, were being exported to Southeast Asia via local chapters, or inspiring copycat behaviour from regional groups. “Increasingly, we are seeing terrorist groups such as Isis [and] al-Qaeda come to rely on regional networks and affiliates around the globe,” Sales said. “Suicide bombing is not something that we’ve seen in … Southeast Asia until very, very recently, and we are concerned about groups like Isis and sympathisers of Isis emulating what they see in places like Syria and Afghanistan,” he said.”

Reuters: Lebanese Protesters Clash With Supporters Of Hezbollah, Amal In Beirut

“Clashes broke out between anti-government demonstrators and supporters of the Shi’ite groups Hezbollah and Amal in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, early on Monday, as tensions escalated when demonstrators blocked a main bridge. Lebanon has faced five weeks of anti-government protests, fueled by anger at corruption among the sectarian politicians who have governed Lebanon for decades. Demonstrators want to see the entire ruling class gone from power. Hezbollah and Amal were both represented in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who quit on Oct. 29 after the protests began. The heavily armed Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, had opposed Hariri’s resignation. Army soldiers and riot police formed a barrier separating the protesters from the supporters of the Shi’ite groups on a main road known as the Ring Bridge as rocks were thrown by both sides, television footage broadcast by Lebanese media showed. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse the crowds, three local television stations reported. Supporters of Hezbollah and Amal waved the groups’ flags. Earlier, they had chanted: “Shia, Shia” and slogans in support of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. On the other side, demonstrators chanted: “Revolution, revolution.”

Haaretz: Former Islamic Movement Leader Ra’ad Salah Convicted Of Incitement To Terrorism

“Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, the former head of the northern branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement, was convicted on Sunday of incitement to terrorism and support for illegal organizations. Salah was arrested during the summer of 2017 after police alleged he had praised a terrorist attack that summer on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and incited violence at the funeral of the three assailants in that attack, who were from the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm. Two Border Police officers were killed and another was wounded in the incident at the entrance of the Temple Mount. In court on Sunday, he was accompanied by dozens of supporters. While Haifa Magistrate’s Court Judge Shlomo Benjo accepted the sheikh’s argument that some of his remarks at the funeral had been mistranslated, the judge ruled that the translation errors did not alter the general meaning of his comments. “Despite the attempts to give the defendant’s statements a religious character, the conclusion is that the accused expressed praise, sympathy and support for the attacks,” the judge said in delivering his verdict. Freedom of expression “does not mean that a person can say whatever he feels like. There are limits, first and foremost, when it comes to state security,” the judge added. Salah had received a suspended sentence on a prior conviction and is therefore now expected to serve jail time.”

The New York Times: Nazi Symbols And Racist Memes: Combating School Intolerance

“An 18-year-old senior at Battle Ground High School in Washington State was immersed in a fighting video game with a couple of online friends in March when news broke about a violent shooter targeting New Zealand mosques. The three friends, including one in Virginia and another in Britain, often frequented the chat platform Discord while playing Melty Blood, their favorite game. Sometimes they dabbled in extremist material — like videos claiming that Jews control America — that white supremacists have propagated via Discord in recent years, the senior explained. Intrigued by the attack, they quickly found the gunman’s lengthy manifesto and an Instagram account that appeared to be his, so the senior dashed off a message in the jargon of white supremacists. “WAR IS ON THE HORIZON WE SHALL NOT LOSE WE SHALL SURVIVE,” he wrote, according to a screenshot. Much to their astonishment, an answer popped up within 15 minutes: “This is my final message, this is my farewell.” Soon afterward, the account went dark. “I did make a stupid decision,” the senior later said in an interview, thinking, at the time, “Oh, God, I just messaged the shooter!” The Battle Ground student, who asked to remain anonymous, never committed violence.” 

United States 

CNN: There Have Been At Least 5 Hate Incidents Reported On College Campuses This Week

“A series of racist and anti-Semitic incidents have rattled college campuses nationwide as educators struggle to stop them from spreading. This week alone, at least five incidents have been reported on college campuses hundreds of miles apart from one another. Here's a breakdown: University of Georgia: Swastikas at residence halls: At the University of Georgia, student Ariana Dinberg said someone tore off her historically Jewish sorority's letters from her residence hall door twice in September. At the time, she wasn't sure it was someone targeting Jews. Later, someone wrote on the white board on her door, "All Heil" with a swastika underneath it. "They knew I was Jewish and then chose to attack me for it. It's definitely shocking to me," she said. The University of Georgia confirmed Thursday that someone drew swastikas on placards and message boards at two campus residence halls. It's unclear who the second victim was. University President Jere W. Morehead said the behavior has no place on the campus. "I am appalled by such offensive and outrageous displays of hate," Morehead said in a statement to the university community.”

The Washington Post: Man Involved In Extremist Groups Sentenced In Firearms Case

“A man involved in online extremist groups was given a two-year probationary sentence with 30 days intermittent confinement Friday in Alexandria federal court. Brian Baynes, 23, pleaded guilty this year to illegally buying guns as a marijuana user. Another man described by prosecutors as a member of the white-supremacist group Atomwaffen Division, Andrew Thomasberg, 21, pleaded guilty to similar charges this month. Thomasberg has yet to be sentenced. Federal law prohibits the possession of firearms while using or being addicted to controlled substances. In online chats, according to court records, Thomasberg and a friend with the initials “B.B.” discussed guns, drug use and neo-Nazism online. “Yo im gonna start tripping again,” Thomasberg wrote at one point. “Psychedelic Nazis.” B.B. went on to cooperate in the case. A defense attorney said in court Friday that Baynes had moved away from white-supremacist views on his own before his arrest in June. “He was on a path of self-motivated rehabilitation,” public defender Shannon Quill said. She said there has “never been any indication” Baynes was “engaging in any violence.” U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady said he gave Baynes “credit for stopping on your own.” He added that this was “a real potentially dangerous time for our community because of these associations,” referring to the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville.”

The Washington Post: U.S. Judge Orders Iran To Pay $180 Million In Damages To Detained Post Journalist Jason Rezaian And His Family

“A federal judge on Friday ordered the Iranian government to pay Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and his family $180 million in damages for his 18-month detention during U.S.-Iran nuclear talks in 2014, saying it was needed to deter future taking of American hostages. Rezaian, then The Post’s Tehran-based correspondent, and his newlywed wife were seized July 22, 2014; placed separately in solitary confinement; and threatened with execution, physical mutilation and dismemberment, his family testified earlier this year. He spent 544 days in custody. His wife was released after two months. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon of Washington entered a default judgment against Iran, which did not answer the lawsuit, following a two-day hearing in January. Leon granted Rezaian $23.8 million in compensatory damages for pain, suffering and economic losses; his brother Ali $2.7 million and their mother, Mary, $3.1 million for similar claims; and the family $150 million in punitive damages.”

Voice Of America: Report: Number Of Terror-Related Deaths Decrease, But Groups Still Pose Threat

“Despite a significant decrease in recent years of the number of deaths caused by terrorism, terror groups remain a major threat to peace and stability around the world, according to a new report on terrorism. According to the 2019 Global Terrorism Index (GTI), deaths from terrorism fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2018, after reaching a peak in 2014. Since that time, the number of deaths has fallen by 52%, to 15,952 in 2018. The annual report, published last week by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), focused on terror trends and activities around the world. Steve Killelea, executive chairman of IEP, said that “IEP’s research finds that conflict and state-sponsored terror are the key causes of terrorism.” In 2018, more than 95% of deaths caused by terror-related activities occurred in countries that were already in conflict, he said. “When combined with countries with high levels of political terror the number jumps to over 99%. Of the 10 countries most impacted by terrorism, all were involved in at least one violent conflict last year,” Killelea said in a statement to reporters. The GTI finds that the number of deaths from terrorism in Iraq fell by 75% between 2017 and 2018, with 3,217 fewer people being killed.”

The Post And Courier: FBI Analysis Shows Average Lone Terrorist Looks A Lot Like Dylann Roof

“The FBI has released a comprehensive overview of the lone terrorists who’ve committed attacks in the past four decades, painting a portrait of an offender who closely resembles Dylann Roof.The findings aren’t a surprise to law enforcement. The 52 terrorists the FBI had significant data on are all men and mostly white, with histories of criminal behavior and hatred. Like Roof, about half were single, used drugs, had been arrested several times and lacked steady employment. From 1972 to 2015 — the year Roof murdered nine worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston — each of the subjects worked alone to plot attacks against the public. Roof, 25, was convicted of 33 federal and 13 state charges stemming from the massacre, and sentenced to death. “One key concept is there is no one demographic profile,” said Special Agent John Wyman, chief of FBI’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Center, which conducted the research. “As a result, there’s no checklist or score sheet someone can use to say whether this person’s a threat or not,” he added. That means every threat has to be taken seriously, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said. Cannon’s department is already following most of the report’s recommendations for law enforcement agencies, including being receptive to online tips and building relationships with mental health professionals who may notice warning signs in their patients.”

Syria 

CNBC: ‘They Will Destroy Everything Here’: Turkish Advance Forces Syrians To Flee Homes As Winter Looms

“Sleman Alshallah, 40, gathered his wife and five children outside his home with what little they owned — cooking pots, blankets and a rug — in the small northern Syrian farming village of Am Alkef last week. “We are ready to leave at any hour,” said Alshallah. It would be difficult to abandon his grandparents’ farm and only source of income, he said. He looked north, in the direction of Turkey and dull thuds of fighting, where a mile away was the last defense against the advancing Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA). The shelling often reaches his village, where bombs can land in an open field or someone’s home during the daily back-and-forth barrage.  “They will destroy everything here like in other villages,” he said of the TFSA. His was the last inhabited village before the frontline and the latest border of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. Residents expected the village to fall, maybe within the week. After that, the town of Tal Tamr, where thousands more reside, would be in the TFSA’s crosshairs.”

Foreign Policy: Life On The Front Lines In Northern Syria

“I would rather go back to my village, to be killed in my village, than live here as a refugee,” said Fatima Shlo, 43, as she sat on the ground of her family’s new home. It was early November, and she and her family were living in an abandoned school, destroyed by the Islamic State. A line of pine trees provided little shade from the burning midday sun. Her children played in the concrete ruins of classrooms, and a chalkboard between two concave walls revealed writing from years before: “The Islamic State will remain.” In the last few weeks, fighting between the mainly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Syrian army, and the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army had reached Shlo’s village of Malkef on the outskirts of Tal Tamr in northern Syria. Her small community of Arab Muslims had lived amicably alongside their Kurdish and Christian neighbors for generations. But as the sounds of shelling and airstrikes drew nearer, most families there left for the city of Hasakah, some 25 miles from Tal Tamr. They escaped in rented cars or on foot, some children without shoes, holding what belongings they could carry and facing an uncertain future. Shlo’s family was among those who fled.”

The Washington Post: The Latest: US, Kurds Target Islamic State In Joint Action

“American-led forces and their Syrian Kurdish allies have carried out their biggest joint operation against the Islamic State in Syria since President Donald Trump ordered a pullback of U.S. forces there. The U.S.-led coalition said Saturday that hundreds of U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish forces took part in Friday’s action. Coalition officials say the operation captured dozens of militants. The news comes on the same day Vice President Mike Pence visited Iraq and worked to reassure America’s Kurdish allies in the region. The Trump-ordered pullback of American forces in Syria opened the door for a cross-border offensive by Turkey last month, leaving Syrian Kurds to face a bloody Turkish assault. Pence says the U.S. commitment to both Syrian and Iraqi Kurds remains unchanged. The U.S. wants Iraq to show restraint as widespread anti-corruption protests in the country have killed more than 320 people in the past two months. Vice President Mike Pence spoke by phone to Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi from Al-Asad Air Base on an unannounced trip to the region. Pence expressed support for a free, sovereign and independent Iraq — a subtle warning against Iranian influence in the country, which has weakened cooperation between the U.S. and Iraq.”

Reuters: Car Bomb Kills At Least 10 People Near Syria's Border With Turkey 

“At least 10 people were killed and 25 wounded when a car bomb exploded on Saturday in a Syrian border town seized by Turkish-backed forces last month, witnesses and a rescuer said. Tel Abyad was one of two border towns that saw some of the heaviest fighting when Ankara launched its cross-border offensive on Oct. 9 targeting Kurdish YPG forces in northeast Syria. The YPG — which Ankara considers a terrorist group because of its ties to PKK Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey — had for years been allied to the United States in the fight against Islamic State. Turkey began the incursion after President Donald Trump pulled U.S. troops out of the area. Saturday’s blast caused extensive damage to a main street in Tel Abyad, sending thick smoke into the air above the wreckage, videos posted on social media showed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, said four civilians from the same family were among those killed by the explosion, which the local council said residents blamed on the YPG and PKK. Turkey’s Defence Ministry also accused the YPG of carrying out the attack, which it said had killed three people and wounded 20, while a senior spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) accused “Turkish-backed mercenaries” of being responsible.”    

Washington Examiner: ‘The Refugee Camp Is Burning’: American Aid Worker Reports Assault By Turkey-Backed Forces In Syria

“Turkish-backed militias on Saturday attacked a Syrian refugee camp guarded by Kurdish and Arab fighters, an on-scene aid worker said. “The refugee camp is burning,” said David Eubank, an American whose Free Burma Rangers provide humanitarian relief in war zones. “We are here giving medical help as we can," he told the Washington Examiner. "The Turk/FSA forces are close.” The Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army attacked the Ein Issa camp, which is guarded by the Syrian Democratic Forces, Eubank and multiple local sources reported. "Turkish forces launched attacks with tanks, artillery, and a large number of mercenaries on several axis to invade Ain Issa since the morning," the SDF announced on Saturday. "The cease-fire agreement is once again being violated by Turkish army."

The Independent: Western Leaders, Ignore The Fall Of Isis At Your Peril – There’s Still Every Possibility Of A Second Uprising

“A startling trove of leaked documents from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence detailed Iranian activities inside Iraq in 2014 and 2015, during the first months of the war against Isis. As outlined this week by The Intercept, which obtained the documents some three years ago, and The New York Times, the documents showed how thoroughly Iran had penetrated the country in the years after the US withdrawal from the country, including its successful recruitment of cashiered Iraqi CIA operatives looking for work. But the leaked documents also chronicled one dimension of a broader trend: the vast changes the Isis war has wrought on the region. After all, it was Isis’s takeover of Mosul and its lunge eastward from Syria that drew Iran to engage so deeply in Iraq in the first place, reinvigorating the Shia militias that had been largely sidelined by President Nouri Maliki. Those armed forces now lord over Iraqis, representing a powerful political and military force that is violently suppressing a pro-democracy movement. The Isis conflict, which lasted nearly five years, thoroughly changed regional dynamics, leaving behind a swath of human and material devastation. Entire cities were levelled, including Mosul and Fallujah in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.”

France24: Showdown Looms Over Syria Chemical Weapons Probe

“Russia and the West are braced for a fresh showdown at the world's chemical weapons watchdog this week over a new team that will name culprits for attacks in Syria for the first time. The investigators' first report identifying perpetrators is expected early next year, and tensions are already rising at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Moscow is threatening to block next year's budget for the OPCW at the annual meeting in The Hague if it includes funding for the new team, which could effectively shut down the watchdog. But the United States, Britain, France and other allies believe they have enough support for it to pass with a large majority. Despite fierce objections from Syria and its allies, OPCW member states agreed in 2018 to give the organisation new powers to pin blame on culprits for the use of toxic arms. Previously the watchdog -- which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 and has eliminated 97 percent of the world's chemical weapons -- only had a mandate to say whether or not an attack had occurred. "Everyone is waiting for the IIT (Investigation and Identification Team) results," a senior diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.”

Kurdistan 24: Kurdish-Led Forces Bust ISIS Human Smuggling Ring In North Syria

“A local counter-terrorism unit in the northern Syrian city of Manbij on Saturday arrested members of an Islamic State cell allegedly involved in smuggling at least six women connected to the extremist group from a camp under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to Turkish-held areas along the country’s northern border. The SDF-affiliated Manbij Military Council's media office claimed in a statement that a man named Abu Naji, a leader of the Turkish-backed Ahrar Al-Sham paramilitary group, was responsible for smuggling “ISIS elements and their families to areas controlled by the Turkish occupation.” It continued, “After investigating this cell, it was found that ISIS members who are currently fighting in the ranks of the Turkish occupation mercenaries are trying to smuggle their families out of the Al-Hol camp.”  The sprawling facility was built to house 40,000 individuals but currently houses some 68,000 women and children from multiple nations, many of whom are related to Islamic State fighters. “The Turkish intelligence commissioned ‘Abu Naji’ to carry out this task, the person is known to have carried out several bombings in the city of Manbij and Hasakah, and caused the death of dozens of civilians,” the statement claimed.”

Iran 

The Wall Street Journal: Iran Restores Internet Access As Protests Subside, But Threatens More Arrests

“Iran restored internet access in large parts of the country after a weeklong shutdown aimed at stifling nationwide protests, but threatened more arrests in a brutal crackdown that exposes the challenges facing a government struggling to cope with harsh U.S. sanctions. Iran has accused the U.S. and other rivals of fomenting the unrest, as it justified using force that left more than 100 people dead, according to rights groups. Hundreds have been detained as they protested higher fuel prices. Tehran’s response to the unrest indicates its willingness to resort to deadly force to push back against what it sees as U.S. attempts to weaken and eventually oust the country’s leaders. It also comes amid a growing pushback in the region, where Iraqi and Lebanese protesters have railed against the influence of Iran and its local allies. “We have caught all the mercenaries who explicitly confessed that they are mercenaries of the U.S. and the MeK,” Ali Fadavi, deputy commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, told reporters in Tehran on Sunday, referring to an exiled opposition group that seeks to overthrow the leadership in Tehran.”

The New York Times: U.S. Commander Warns Of Iranian Attack In Middle East

“The deployment of 14,000 additional American troops to the Persian Gulf region since the spring has probably not dissuaded Iran from planning a major attack on the scale of the recent missile and drone assault on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, the commander of American forces in the Middle East says. The officer, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the head of the military’s Central Command, said the additional troops, fighter jets and air defenses that the Pentagon has dispatched might have deterred Iran from attacking American targets — like Iran’s downing of an unmanned surveillance drone in June. But he said strikes against Gulf nations were another matter. “My judgment is that it is very possible they will attack again,” General McKenzie said in an interview this past week ahead of an international security conference on Saturday. “It’s the trajectory and the direction that they’re on,” he added in a second interview later in the week. “The attack on the oil fields in Saudi was stunning in the depth of its audaciousness,” he said of an assault in September that the United States and its European allies blame Iran for.”

Voice Of America: As Internet Restored, Online Iran Protest Videos Show Chaos

“Machine gun fire answers rock-throwing protesters. Motorcycle-riding Revolutionary Guard volunteers chase after demonstrators. Plainclothes security forces grab, beat and drag a man off the street to an uncertain fate. As Iran restores the internet after a weeklong government-imposed shutdown, new videos purport to show the demonstrations over gasoline prices rising and the security-force crackdown that followed. The videos offer only fragments of encounters, but to some extent they fill in the larger void left by Iran's state-controlled television and radio channels. On their airwaves, hard-line officials allege that foreign conspiracies and exile groups instigated the unrest. In print, newspapers offered only PR for the government or had merely stenographic reporting at best, the moderate daily Hamshahri said in an analysis Sunday. They don't acknowledge that the gasoline price hike Nov. 15, supported by its civilian government, came as Iran's 80 million people already have seen their savings dwindle and jobs scarce under crushing U.S. sanctions. President Donald Trump imposed them in the aftermath of unilaterally withdrawing America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.”

The Telegraph: Iranian Officials 'Stealing Bodies' From Morgues To Hide True Scale Of Government Crackdown 

“Mehdi Nekouee should have been fighting for his life on a hospital ward. The 20-year-old law student was one of the first of hundreds shot by Revolutionary Guard in spontaneous anti-government protests that swept across Iran last week. But instead of lying in a hospital bed - or the rack of a morgue - Mr Nekouee's family believe he was spirited away by intelligence officers removing dead and injured protesters to hide the true scale of the government’s brutal crackdown. "He was critical but alive when he arrived at the hospital,” said his uncle, Ahmed. “We have heard nothing since,” he added tearfully.”

Iraq

Voice Of America: At Least 13 Killed In Southern Iraq Protests

“Security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protesters in southern Iraq Sunday, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens more. Anti-government protests have been erupting all across the oil-rich south since October as demonstrators continue to demand an end to corruption and improved services. In Basra Sunday, seven people were killed in what one security official called “one of the worst'' days of the protest movement. Four others were killed in Nassiriya province, and one person was killed in both Najaf and Diwanieh provinces, Iraq's state news agency said. The protests have become increasingly violent, with demonstrators burning and destroying properties and security forces using live fire, tear gas and water cannons to gain control. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iraqi officials that Washington would consider imposing sanctions on officials responsible for violence or corruption. “The United States will use our legal authority to sanction corrupt individuals that are stealing Iraqis' wealth and those killing and wounding peaceful protesters,” Pompeo said.” 

Kurdistan 24: ISIS Gunmen Kill 4, Including Iraqi Soldiers, And Wound 3 More In Disputed Jalawla: Official

“Alleged Islamic State gunmen clashed with Iraqi security forces in a remote area in Diyala province on Sunday evening, killing a civilian and three soldiers and wounding three others, a police official from the area said. The incident occurred on the outskirts of the Islah village of Jalawla subdistrict, located in Diyala’s Khanaqin District, Simko Ali, assistant director of the nearby Koks security forces department (Asayish), told Kurdistan 24. The settlement is close to rough terrain that so-called Islamic State sleeper cells have frequently exploited as hideouts from where they planned attacks on nearby areas. Ali said one civilian, as well as an Iraqi military officer with the rank of major, had been killed in the attack. He also reported that a captain and two other soldiers had been wounded. The official added that locals at Islah village had come to the aid of the Iraqi army unit, and Islamic State militants had vacated the area. The region is part of territories disputed between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq, which continue to be the site of terrorist attacks. Kurdish Peshmerga commanders have warned that Islamic State sleeper agents could continue to exploit a security vacuum between the Kurdish and Iraqi forces in disputed areas.”

Turkey 

Daily Sabah: Turkey Seizes Daesh Terrorist Recruitment List By Country

“Turkish intelligence and security forces seized recruitment lists containing the names of Daesh operatives and their nationalities in a counterterror operation targeting the terrorist group in southern Turkey. The operation was launched by Mersin's Chief Public Prosecutor's Office to capture a Syrian suspect. The suspect was arrested in the Tarsus district. Police confiscated thousands of folders and digital data, including lists of Daesh operatives, in the operation. He was reportedly transferred to the court along with 13 other Daesh suspects who were detained on Nov. 14. Police investigation revealed that there were names of 3,846 individuals who joined the terrorist group from 81 countries. There were 700 recruits from Saudi Arabia, 650 from Tunisia and around 400 from Morocco. There were also around 300 suspects from European countries, including Germany and Spain. Police continue to analyze the data obtained during the operation, reports said. Turkey has been actively conducting counterterrorism operations against Daesh since 2016. Since then, 4,517 of the 13,696 suspects detained in 4,536 operations have been arrested. Over the course of the operations, 1,018 terrorists were either killed, injured or surrendered.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: American Aid Worker For U.N. Is Killed In Afghan Capital

“An American national working for the United Nations in Afghanistan was killed and two others were wounded in a blast targeting a U.N. vehicle in Kabul on Sunday, officials said, underscoring a growing threat to aid workers. The attack led U.N. agencies in Afghanistan to impose lockdowns on Monday, while other major international organizations restricted their movements as a precaution. Officials said the U.N. also canceled flights, even though many smaller aid organizations rely on air travel to get to parts of the country not accessible by roads increasingly plagued by fighting. The latest attack further complicates humanitarian work at a time of dire need in the country and as a harsh winter looms. The U.N. estimates that about one million Afghans are “on the move,” having been either internally displaced by the intensifying conflict or because they are refugees in need of humanitarian assistance.”

CNN: Trump: 'We're Working On An Agreement Now With The Taliban'

“President Donald Trump on Friday seemed to suggest that formal negotiations with the Taliban were back on -- months after the peace talks with the militant group collapsed. “We're working on an agreement now with the Taliban,” Trump said on Fox News' “Fox & Friends.” “Let's see what happens.” His comments come several days after the Taliban released an American and Australian professor in exchange for the release of three Taliban prisoners by the Afghan government. The Taliban also released 10 Afghan soldiers this week. The US praised the release of the professors, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, with Trump tweeting on Tuesday, “Let's hope this leads to more good things on the peace front like a ceasefire that will help end this long war.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Tuesday, “We see these developments as hopeful signs that the Afghan war, a terrible and costly conflict that has lasted 40 years, may soon conclude through a political settlement.” CNN has reached out to the White House about Trump's comments. Formal talks between the US and the Taliban collapsed in early September 2019 after a Taliban-claimed attack in Kabul that killed a dozen people, including an American soldier.”

The Washington Post: Blast Targets UN Vehicle In Afghanistan, Kills 1 Foreigner

“A United Nations vehicle was targeted in a bombing Sunday in the Afghan capital Kabul and initial reports indicated at least one foreign citizen was killed, an Afghan official said. Nasrat Rahimi, Interior Ministry spokesman, said five others, including two Afghan U.N. workers, were wounded in the attack. The vehicle was heavily damaged. The blast targeted the vehicle on one of the busiest roads in the city, in police district 9, according to Rahimi. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but both Taliban and the Islamic State group are active in the capital and have repeatedly claimed previous attacks. The Taliban control or hold sway over about half of Afghanistan, staging near-daily attacks that target Afghan forces and government officials across the country. In central Daykundi Province, at least eight soldiers were killed when Taliban fighters stormed their checkpoint, said provincial Gov. Anwar Rahmati. He said four other soldiers were wounded in the hours-long gunbattle. Rahmati said reinforcements were dispatched early Sunday to the area in Kajran district, driving off the insurgents, killing at least 20 of them. Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the checkpoint attack.” 

Voice Of America: UN Foreign Worker, 8 Afghan Soldiers Killed In Separate Attacks

“More than three dozen people are reported dead in a series of security-related incidents in Afghanistan, including a fatal attack on a U.N. vehicle in the capital, Kabul. Several of the dead were civilians. Afghan officials said Sunday that Taliban rebels assaulted a security outpost in central Daykundi province overnight, killing eight soldiers and wounding four others. Senior provincial authorities claimed the ensuing firefight also killed at least 20 assailants, though the Taliban disputed those claims. Meanwhile, doctors and residents in western Farah province said an Afghan government air strike has killed at least nine civilians and injured several others. The mainstream local TOLO news channel reported Sunday relatives took to the streets with bodies of the victims to protest and demand an immediate investigation into the deadly incident. In Kabul, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said one foreign national was killed and five people were injured by a hand grenade hurled at a U.N. vehicle in the Makrorayan area of the city. The spokesman did not provide details but local news reports suggest the death toll may climb. The United Nations condemned the attack and confirmed the death of an international employee in the Sunday night attack.”

Stars And Stripes: Afghan Official: Taliban Storm Army Checkpoint Killing Eight

“An Afghan official says Taliban insurgents have stormed a checkpoint in a central province, killed at least eight Afghan soldiers. Anwar Rahmati, the governor of Daykundi province where the attack took place, says four soldiers were also wounded in the hourslong gunbattle. He said reinforcements were dispatched early Sunday to the area in Kajran district, driving off the Taliban and killing at least 20 of their fighters. Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the checkpoint attack. He disputed the Taliban casualty figures provided by the governor, and said the insurgents had seized weapons and ammunition. The Taliban control or hold sway over half of Afghanistan, staging near-daily attacks that target Afghan forces and government officials across the country.”

Xinhua: 2 Soldiers, 24 Militants Killed In Clashes In Northern Afghanistan

“Two Afghan security force members and 24 militants were killed in fresh clashes in Darzab district of northern Jawzjan province during Friday night, a spokesman of provincial government said Saturday. “The militants clashed with troops who were involved in an ongoing cleanup operation in Darzab. The clashes also left 16 militants wounded,” spokesman Maruf Haazar told Xinhua. The security force members cleared five villages in Darzab from militants within the past 24 hours during the operation which kicked off about seven days ago, the source said, adding the two soldiers lost their lives when their vehicle detonated a Taliban landmine on Friday night. According to the spokesman, eight diseased militants were members of the Taliban's so-called Sara Qeta or militants' Special Forces who arrived from neighboring Sari Pul province to support Taliban in Darzab fighting. No civilian was hurt during the clashes, he said. The Taliban militant group fighting the government for the past 18 years has not made comments on the report so far.”

Libya 

Stars And Stripes: Libya’s Civil War Creates An Opening For ISIS To Return

“Eight suspected ISIS members were captured in this scarred city in recent weeks, Libyan commanders say. Militant sleeper cells, they say, lurk in some neighborhoods. Other militants have set up desert camps to the south, where ISIS reportedly hides fighters and weaponry, as Libyan militias that once worked closely with U.S. counterterrorism forces on the ground no longer patrol the area. These are signs of how the expanding civil war in Libya has created a potential opening for ISIS to revive itself in the country, according to Libyan commanders and Western officials. Today, the militias that targeted ISIS are themselves targets of airstrikes by the forces of eastern warlord Khalifa Hifter, who is seeking to oust the United Nations-installed government. The small contingent of U.S. troops that coordinated with the militias left Libya months ago. “We used to have eyes in the south,” said Brig Gen. Nas Abdullah, the top military commander in Sirte. “Now we can’t go out there. The planes will bomb us.” Since Hifter launched his offensive on the capital of Tripoli in April, the militants have staged nine attacks, mostly in the south, said U.S. military officials. Those included one that killed nine in the city of Sabha and another that targeted an oil field, killing three.”

Nigeria

The Punch Nigeria: Borno Gov Deploys 150 Cameroonian Vigilantes Against Boko Haram 

“Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Umara has deployed 150 Cameroonian vigilantes to flush out remnants of Boko Haram from his state.The newly-engaged Cameroonians are to collaborate with Nigerian hunters and vigilantes currently assisting the military in the ongoing battle against Boko Haram in parts of northern Borno. The Cameroonians, who are mainly from the Kesh-Kesh vigilante group, were presented with four surveillance vehicles and other fighting equipment on Saturday at a brief ceremony in Damasak, headquarters of Mobbar Local Government Area, on the fringes of the Lake Chad. Conducting the ceremony were Borno State commissioner for local governments and emirate affairs, Sugun Mai-Mele and a member of the Borno State House of Assembly, representing Mobbar State constituency, Usman Moruma and other officials of the State Government. The governor, who had expressed his willingness to fight insurgency in the State had in August ordered the recruitment of thousands of hunters and vigilantes from different parts of northern Nigeria. He had also supported the military’s deradicalisation and reintegration of repentant insurgents programme.”

France

The National: French Extremist Gets 28 Years For Prison Attack

“A Paris court has sentenced a jailed ISIS foreign fighter to 28 years imprisonment for the attempted murder of two prison wardens in September 2016, the first extremist attack in a French prison. Bilal Taghi was serving a five-year sentence for attempting to travel to Syria for jihad when he stabbed two prison guards at Osny prison northwest of Paris using the hinge of his cell window, which he had sharpened. He also etched the symbol of ISIS on a metal door and drew a heart on a window with the blood of his victims. After the attack the 27-year-old said he had wanted to kill a representative of the French state on behalf of ISIS and would do so again if given the chance. He boasted about hoodwinking his jailors into believing he was someone “who could be reintegrated into society” by “being chatty”. During his trial however he appeared contrite, apologising for his actions and vowing that he had renounced extremism.The prosecution dismissed his expressions of regret, describing him as a compulsive liar who was “irrevocably committed to radical ideology”. His attack, which took place in a prison wing dedicated to combatting extremism, led to a review of the way in which radicalised prisoners are managed.”

Germany 

Deutsche Welle: Germany Takes Back 'Islamic State' Mother And Her Three Children From Syria

“Syria's Kurds completed the handover of three German children and their mother, as well as a toddler from the US, to their respective ministries, a Kurdish official confirmed on Saturday. Abdelkarim Omar, a senior official with the Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria, said the transfer of the individuals had taken place on Friday. “An American child and three German children with their mother were handed over to their governments,” he said in a statement on Twitter. German authorities had previously ordered for the mother, who Der Spiegel news magazine identified as 30-year-old Laura H. from central Germany, to be returned to her home country from a Syrian camp, saying that she left the country and joined the jihadi militia in 2016. She and three of her children were reportedly living in the Kurdish-run prisoner camp al-Hol in northern Syria. On Friday, German officials confirmed that three “German children who were detained in northern Syria, would be able to leave for Iraq together with their mother.” According to media reports, German authorities have been investigating the mother on suspicion of membership of a terror organization and child neglect.”

Southeast Asia

Associated Press: IS-Linked Philippine Militant Behind Suicide Attacks Killed

“Philippine troops have killed a “high-value” but little-known Filipino militant who acted as a key link of the Islamic State group to local jihadists and helped set up a series of deadly suicide attacks in the south that have alarmed the region, military officials said Saturday. Talha Jumsah, who used the nom de guerre Abu Talha, was killed Friday morning in a clash with troops in the jungles off Patikul town in Sulu province, which has been rocked by three deadly suicide bombings this year, including the first suicide attack known to have been staged by a Filipino militant. “One by one, we will hunt you down,” Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., the commander of military forces in Sulu, said in a warning to the militants. “I am reiterating my appeal to them to surrender and live a normal life instead of being hunted down as fleeing criminals.” Jumsah’s body was found by troops Saturday nearly a kilometer (about half a mile) from where troops clashed with his group near the mountain village of Tanum in Patikul, provincial military spokesman Lt. Col. Gerald Monfort said. U.S. and Australian anti-terrorism units have been helping monitor Jumsah, who had laid low but played a key role in plotting attacks, training militants and arranging the entry of Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian militants to the southern Philippines, military officials said.” 

The Washington Post: Couple Kidnapped By Islamists In The Philippines Are Freed In Military Operation 

“The Philippine military said Monday it rescued a British national and his Filipino wife who had been kidnapped by local militants linked to the Islamic State. Allan Hyrons, 71, and Wilma Hyrons, 59, were abducted last month by Abu Sayyaf fighters at a beach resort the couple owned in the southern Philippines. They were rescued around 8 a.m. Monday in the island province of Sulu after a 20-minute firefight, said regional military commander Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, who attributed the operation’s success to support from the public. “The valuable [information] they shared to us led the troops to the hideouts of the [Abu Sayyaf] bandits,” he said in a statement. He added that Abu Sayyaf militants were still holding three Indonesians captive. Kidnapping for ransom is a common practice for Abu Sayyaf, which the U.S. State Department lists as a terrorist organization. The group was previously linked to al-Qaeda before aligning itself with the rival Islamic State.”

Arab News: Bangladesh Arrests 15 Islamist Suspects In Major Sweep

“Bangladesh police arrested 15 suspected members of a banned extremist group from the country’s second-largest city, officials said Saturday. Chittagong police conducted multiple arrests across the port city, including the regional commander and activists of the outlawed Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) group, police spokesman Shah Abdur Rouf said.”The militants were being reorganized in the city,” he said, adding police recovered laptops, mobile phones, militant books, and cash to be used for “subversive activities.” The group was banned in the South Asian nation in 2009 for carrying out “anti-state and anti-democratic” activities. The London-based HT, which calls for a caliphate for all Muslims, has been operating for decades around the world. It was banned in Bangladesh in 2009 for carrying out “anti-state and anti-democratic” activities. Bangladesh has seen a spate of fatal violence caused by Islamist extremists in recent years, including the 2016 Daesh-claimed cafe attack in Dhaka which killed 22 people, mostly foreigners. Sheikh Hasina’s government launched a major nationwide crackdown following the cafe attack, killing over 100 alleged Islamist extremists and rounding up hundreds of suspects.”

Technology

The New York Times: I Invented The World Wide Web. Here’s How We Can Fix It.

“My parents were mathematicians. My mother helped code one of the first stored-program computers — the Manchester Mark 1. They taught me that when you program a computer, what you can do is limited only by your imagination. That excitement for experimentation and change helped me build the World Wide Web. I had hoped that 30 years from its creation, we would be using the web foremost for the purpose of serving humanity. Projects like Wikipedia, OpenStreetMap and the world of open source software are the kinds of constructive tools that I hoped would flow from the web. However, the reality is much more complex. Communities are being ripped apart as prejudice, hate and disinformation are peddled online. Scammers use the web to steal identities, stalkers use it to harass and intimidate their victims, and bad actors subvert democracy using clever digital tactics. The use of targeted political ads in the United States’ 2020 presidential campaign and in elections elsewhere threatens once again to undermine voters’ understanding and choices. We’re at a tipping point. How we respond to this abuse will determine whether the web lives up to its potential as a global force for good or leads us into a digital dystopia.”