Eye on Extremism: November 28

USA Today: 3 American Service Members Killed In Afghanistan Roadside Bombing

“Three American service members died Tuesday when a roadside bomb exploded in central Afghanistan, the worst tragedy yet in a deadly month for U.S. forces in the war-torn country. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in the Shahbaz neighborhood just outside Ghazni, a city of more than 250,000 in a region where Taliban militants stepped up attacks in recent months. Lt. Ubon Mendie, a spokesman for U.S. forces, said in a statement that three other service members and one American civilian contractor were injured in the blast. The wounded were evacuated and provided with medical care, Mendie said. Mohammad Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor, told Reuters that an armored vehicle carrying U.S. troops hit a large roadside bomb. Identities of the victims will be released 24 hours after family members are notified, Mendie said.”

The Independent: Syrian And Russian Forces 'Weaponised Healthcare' By Deliberately Targeting Ambulances In Civil War, Researchers Say

“Syrian government and Russian armed forces deliberately and repeatedly targeted ambulances as part of a calculated strategy to gain the upper hand in the country’s civil war, a new study has claimed. Researchers analysed over 200 individual attacks involving 243 ambulances, more than half of which were deliberately targeted. Some 60 per cent of the attacks were carried out by Syrian government forces, while 29 per cent were blamed on Russia, which joined the conflict on the side of President Bashar al-Assad in 2015. The “weaponisation of healthcare” has been used throughout the conflict “to destabilise, intimidate, and demoralise”, the researchers wrote in BMJ Global Health, a peer-reviewed online journal. After studying data from individual reports submitted to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, they described Syria as “the most dangerous place in the world to be a healthcare provider”, where “no cadre of health worker or health facility is immune to the attacks”. “The intentional, highly destructive and repetitive targeting of ambulances throughout the Syrian conflict has had an immeasurable and devastating impact on the people of Syria and the healthcare system,” the researchers added in the paper, titled “Ambulances under siege in Syria”

The New York Times: A Hot Seat For Facebook, An Empty Chair For Zuckerberg And A Vow To Share Secret Files

“Officials from nine countries examining Facebook’s business practices have spent weeks trying to get the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, to face questions at a hearing. On Tuesday in London, Mr. Zuckerberg was represented by an empty chair. He skipped the session, which was organized by a British committee investigating Facebook and the spread of misinformation. In Mr. Zuckerberg’s absence, officials spent more than three hours grilling a Facebook executive who stood in for him, criticizing the company’s influence on democracy, its distribution of false news and its use of personal user data. “You have lost the trust of the international community,” said Charlie Angus, an official representing Canada. He was joined by policymakers from Argentina, Brazil, Ireland, Latvia, Singapore, France, Belgium and Britain. The hearing was built up by panel members as a moment of international accountability for Facebook.”

NPR: Critics Say YouTube Hasn't Done Enough To Crack Down On Extremist Content

“All this month, we've been reporting on toxic content - what it is, what's to be done about it, both questions that YouTube has thought long and hard about. For years, the YouTube videos of radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki inspired terrorists like the Fort Hood gunman and the Boston Marathon bombers. It's been trying to reassure people that it's addressing the problem of extremism on its website. But critics say YouTube, which is owned by Google, has not done nearly enough to prevent extremist videos, such as jihadist or white nationalist propaganda, from being hosted on the platform. Marc Ginsberg, an adviser to the Counter Extremism Project, a group dedicated to confronting extremist messaging online, was highly critical of YouTube for not doing enough to remove extremist videos. 'YouTube's management is insensitive, full of hubris, unwilling to be held responsible to the public for its failures to adopt necessary policies and procedures to remove extremist content.’”

BBC News: After The Caliphate: What Next For IS?

“A US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters is closing in on the last pocket of territory in eastern Syria controlled by the jihadist group Islamic State (IS). Four years ago, IS militants overran large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, proclaimed the creation of a “caliphate”, and imposed their brutal rule on almost eight million people. Now, they control only about 1% of the territory they once had. However, the US military has warned that while the jihadists are “in the final throes of their evil ambitions” they are “not yet defeated.” Between 1,500 and 2,000 militants are estimated to be holed up inside the area around the Syrian town of Hajin, in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, where the US says it has witnessed some of the most intense fighting in more than a year. The military campaign to push IS out of Iraq and Syria has been bloody, with thousands of lives lost and millions of people forced to flee their homes. In Syria, troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have battled the jihadist group with the help of Russian air strikes and Iran-backed militiamen. A US-led multinational coalition has meanwhile supported the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance and some rebel factions. In Iraq, security forces have been backed by both the US-led coalition and a paramilitary force dominated by Iran-backed militias, the Popular Mobilisation.”

The Wall Street Journal: The U.S.-Saudi Partnership Is Vital

“The Trump administration’s effort to rebuild the U.S.-Saudi Arabia partnership isn’t popular in the salons of Washington, where politicians of both parties have long used the kingdom’s human-rights record to call for the alliance’s downgrading. The October murder of Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey has heightened the Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on. But degrading U.S.-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the U.S. and its allies. The kingdom is a powerful force for stability in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is working to secure Iraq’s fragile democracy and keep Baghdad tethered to the West’s interests, not Tehran’s. Riyadh is helping manage the flood of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war by working with host countries, cooperating closely with Egypt, and establishing stronger ties with Israel. Saudi Arabia has also contributed millions of dollars to the U.S.-led effort to fight Islamic State and other terrorist organizations. Saudi oil production and economic stability are keys to regional prosperity and global energy security.”

United States

Bloomberg: Don’t Send Your Bitcoins To ISIS

“The thing is, if you go to the web page for ISIS, and you click the “Donate for Terrorism” button, and you type in $150,000 as the donation amount, and you click “pay by credit card,” and you type in your credit card number, your bank is not going to process that payment. This is so obviously the case that I assume that ISIS does not in fact have a website with a donate-by-credit-card button, though I have not actually looked for one and do not intend to, thank you very much. On the other hand if you want to buy Bitcoins on your credit card and send them to ISIS … look, really really really don’t do that, but it seems to … work? Actually it doesn’t even need to be your credit card; a faked or stolen credit card can work too: According to court filings and facts presented at the guilty plea proceeding, between March 2017 and the date of her attempted travel to Syria on July 31, 2017, Shahnaz engaged in a bank fraud scheme to raise money for ISIS. In furtherance of that scheme, she obtained a loan for approximately $22,500 through materially false representations, used more than a dozen fraudulently obtained credit cards to purchase approximately $62,000 in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies online and then wired over $150,000 to individuals and shell entities in Pakistan, China and Turkey that were fronts for ISIS.”

Fox News: Exclusive: 'Arsenal' Of Assault Rifles, Snipers, Nazi Memorabilia Found In Home Of O.C. Man

“Detectives found Nazi memorabilia and an “arsenal” of more than fifty firearms, including assault rifles and snipers, in the home of a Huntington Beach man who was arrested by police on Tuesday. Laguna Beach Police took 51-year-old Mitchell Todd into custody after serving a search warrant at the 15000 block of Cambay Lane Tuesday morning. Todd is the owner of an Orange County dove releasing business. LBPD told FOX 11 they had been investigating Todd since mid November after he allegedly began making physical threats to a man he had been having a business dispute with. The man had hired Todd to release doves at his son’s funeral, and there was a dispute about payment. “The suspect had made a verbal threat stating words to the effect of maybe you need to go be with your son,” said Sgt. Jim Cota of Laguna Beach PD. “You could tell the voicemails and text messages became more and more threatening and then the tip of the iceberg was hearing the releasing of a handgun slide, so at that point we knew we were dealing with somebody whose got the potential of extreme violence.” Detectives obtained a search warrant and arrested Todd on Tuesday. A search of his home would reveal a stockpile of weapons and ammo, including assault rifles and snipers.”

The Japan Times: Pentagon Warns Russia And Assad Against Tampering With Site Of Alleged Syria Chemical Attack

“The Pentagon warned Russia on Tuesday against interfering with the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria’s regime-held city of Aleppo. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has accused armed groups of carrying out a “toxic gas” attack Saturday that left dozens of people struggling to breathe and prompted government ally Russia to launch retaliatory air strikes against “terrorist groups.” Damascus has formally asked for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate the alleged attack. The Pentagon said Assad may try to interfere with the site of the incident and build a narrative to justify attacking the rebel-held stronghold of Idlib, which is currently protected under a 10-week-old truce deal in northern Syria. “It is essential to ensure that the Syrian regime does not seize on false pretexts to undermine this cease-fire and launch an offensive in Idlib,” Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said in a statement.”

CNN: Seattle Man Accused Of Hate Crime Attack Near Los Angeles Synagogue

“A Seattle man was charged Tuesday with a hate crime after prosecutors say he tried to run down two men outside of a Los Angeles synagogue. Mohamed Mohamed, 32, yelled religious epithets at the men out of his car window, and tried to hit them on Friday in the city's Hancock Park neighborhood, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office. The victims, who were walking on a sidewalk, were unharmed. Mohamed drove away and crashed into another vehicle shortly after, police said. He was arrested at the scene. Mohamed was arraigned on two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon -- his vehicle -- as well as the hate crime. He entered a not-guilty plea, according to Paul Eakins, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. His court-appointed public defender, Michael R. Enger, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Mohamed, who was being held on $500,000 bail, faces a possible maximum sentence of eight years and eight months in state prison if convicted, prosecutors said. Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore noted that the incident on Friday took place about a month after a gunman killed 11 worshippers and injured at least six more at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. That attack was believed to be the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history, according to the Anti-Defamation League.”

CNN: Democrats Ask Trump Administration For Answers On Rise Of White Nationalism In US

“Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee are gearing up to make the rise of white nationalism in the US a point of investigation when they take control of the gavel in January. In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and FBI Director Christopher Wray, incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler warned he wanted answers from the administration on a series of questions he has asked in the past about reports that Trump had intended to “overhaul the government Countering Violent Extremism program in a manner that would target and single out Muslim Americans” or whether additional services could be dedicated to investigate hate crimes. Nadler, a Democrat from New York, asked the administration to answer questions in detail to more than a handful of letters they have sent over the last two years. “As you are no doubt aware, Members of the House Judiciary Committee have written repeatedly to the Trump Administration and (current Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia) on matters related to domestic terrorism, countering violent extremism, domestic surveillance, and the unfair profiling of racial, religious, and ethnic minority groups. To date, we have received little or no substantive response to any of these communications,” Nadler wrote.”

Task & Purpose: US Military Says It Can’t Take Out Remaining ISIS Fighters Because They’re Hiding In Tunnels

“As 2018 draws to a close, it is unclear if U.S. troops and their Arab-Kurdish allies have made a dent in ISIS’ last stronghold in Syria. A spokesman for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Syria estimated in December 2017 that fewer than 3,000 ISIS fighters remained in both countries. Since then, defense officials have said consistently that roughly 2,000 ISIS fighters are trapped in Syria’s Middle Euphrates River Valley. Army Capt. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, repeated the 2,000 figure when briefing reporters on Tuesday. However, it is difficult to determine exactly how many ISIS fighters remain in their last enclave in Syria because they are dug in deeply and the terrain is difficult for combat operations, he said. “The numbers game is difficult to count because ISIS is underground – they’re in tunnels; they’re hiding,” Ryan said. “So it’s not like we watch them walk into to a building and we’re counting as they go in. They’re spread apart.”

Syria

NPR: Thousands Of ISIS Militants' Family Members Are Being Held In Syrian Detention Camps

“European women in prison camps in northern Syria talk about how they followed their husbands, who were members of ISIS, there and how they are now languishing with no future in sight. Audie Cornish, host: In northeastern Syria, hundreds of women from western countries and their children are in detention camps. They moved to Syria with their Isis husbands back when the group was powerful. Now with ISIS mostly defeated and its so-called caliphate gone, the big question is what to do with these women and children. NPR's Ruth Sherlock went to northeastern Syria to understand how they ended up there. Um Mohammed: I came to Syria in 2015 to live in the caliphate. Ruth Sherlock, byline: Um Mohammed says she was in search of a happier life when she decided to bring her family from Holland to live under ISIS. Um Mohammed: I came with my husband and with my children. Sherlock: she says she sometimes felt discriminated against as a Muslim in her home country. Reading ISIS' propaganda online, she developed this fantasy of what it would be like to live in their territory. Um Mohammed: that it's perfect, like utopia. Now we know that it's not. I don't think it's what most people expected. I regret going and having, you know, to go through this. Sherlock: Um Mohammed is 32 and too afraid to give her full name because she is one of thousands of foreign women and children who now languish in detention camps in northeast Syria after ISIS' defeat. Her husband is in a prison nearby.”

NPR: Thousands Of ISIS Militants' Family Members Are Being Held In Syrian Detention Camps

“European women in prison camps in northern Syria talk about how they followed their husbands, who were members of ISIS, there and how they are now languishing with no future in sight. Audie Cornish, Host: In northeastern Syria, hundreds of women from Western countries and their children are in detention camps. They moved to Syria with their ISIS husbands back when the group was powerful. Now with ISIS mostly defeated and its so-called caliphate gone, the big question is what to do with these women and children. NPR's Ruth Sherlock went to northeastern Syria to understand how they ended up there. Um Mohammed: I came to Syria in 2015 to live in the caliphate. Ruth Sherlock, Byline: Um Mohammed says she was in search of a happier life when she decided to bring her family from Holland to live under ISIS. Um Mohammed: I came with my husband and with my children. Sherlock: She says she sometimes felt discriminated against as a Muslim in her home country. Reading ISIS' propaganda online, she developed this fantasy of what it would be like to live in their territory.”

NPR: After Months Stuck Living In Airport, Syrian Finds Refuge Half A World Away

“When Hassan Al Kontar posted his first videos to Twitter, slouched in a chair in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, his hair was clipped short. His beard was trimmed neatly, his sweatshirt freshly laundered. Only his eyes, for the moment, betrayed a certain creeping despair. That was in March. When Kontar finally arrived at his destination Monday night, landing in Vancouver, British Columbia, more than eight months later, the Syrian refugee looked like another man — skinny, bedraggled and half-hidden by a thicket of hair. It was understandable. After all, he had just spent most of those months stuck in a Malaysian airport's transit area and the remainder detained by local authorities. Between those opening videos and his arrival in Canada, where he was greeted by the volunteers who had fought for his release, Kontar had little choice but to wait. His three-month tourist visa to Malaysia had expired. He had already been ejected from the United Arab Emirates, where the former insurance manager had been working illegally after the country declined to renew his visa. And he said Turkish Airlines had turned him away without explanation from his planned flight to Ecuador.”

Reuters: Syria Must Account For Thousands Of Detainees Who Died In Custody - U.N.

“U.N. war crimes investigators called on Syria on Wednesday to tell families what happened to their relatives who disappeared and provide the medical records and remains of those who died or were executed in custody. No progress can be made towards a lasting peace to end the nearly eight-year-old war without justice, the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said. After years of government silence, Syrian authorities this year released “thousands or tens of thousands” of names of detainees alleged to have died, mostly between 2011 and 2014, it said in a report released before delivery to the U.N. Security Council. “Most custodial deaths are thought to have occurred in places of detention run by Syrian intelligence or military agencies. The Commission has not documented any instance, however, where bodies or personal belongings of the deceased were returned,” it said. In nearly every case, death certificates for prisoners that were provided to families recorded the cause of death as a “heart attack” or “stroke”, the independent panel led by Paulo Pinheiro said.”

OilPrice.com: Stopping Syria’s Oil Smuggling Scheme

“The civil war in Syria has resulted in government-controlled areas being deprived of domestic oil. Before the war, Eastern Syria produced 95 percent of the country’s oil. Today, Syrian government forces have been forced to source oil from external actors to power the country. Last week, the Trump administration exposed a complicated scheme involving companies and individuals in Russia, Iran, and Syria working together to transport oil to the necessary areas. Sanctions have now been announced concerning those accused of participating in this complicated Iranian-Russian plan to smuggle oil. This oil smuggling scheme has, allegedly, been in place since 2014, transporting millions of barrels of oil to war-torn Syria. Damascus, in turn, has facilitated the transfer of hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Quds Force to Hamas and Hezbollah. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared “Today we are acting against a complex scheme Iran and Russia have used to bolster the Assad regime and generate funds for Iranian malign activities.”

The Independent: Hundreds Of Bodies Exhumed From ISIS Mass Grave In Syria

“Hundreds of bodies have been exhumed from one of the largest mass graves near the Syrian city of Raqqa -once the capital of Isis‘s self-declared caliphate. Concerns about the preservation of bodies and evidence for possible war crimes trials, have led local groups and first responders to work around the clock to exhume the bodies.  “We’re in a race against time,” said Sara Kayyali, of Human Rights Watch.” These bodies are decomposing at an exponential rate.” A devastating US-backed air and ground offensive drove Isis from Raqqa more than a year ago, but rescuers and recovery teams continue to locate mass graves in and around the city. At least nine graves have been found in and around the city. The bodies have been recovered are a mix of victims of US-led coalition airstrikes, Isis fighters and civilians. The Panorama mass grave, named after the neighbourhood where it was found, is one of the largest of nine discovered so far. It is believed to contain around 1,500 bodies. Hammoud al-Shawakh, a local official involved in the work, said 516 bodies believed to be of Isis fighters and civilians have been exhumed.  The work is pain-staking and the task is huge. A team of Raqqa-based first responders and a forensic doctor carefully shovel dirt to search for the bodies, which are believed to have been buried there in the last days of the four-month campaign to liberate Raqqa.”

Newsweek: 'No ISIS In Syria,' Turkey Claims As U.S. Sends Troops To Border To 'Defeat ISIS'

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed there is no Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in neighboring Syria, just as the U.S. military sent troops to his country's border as part of a stated mission to defeat the jihadis. During a parliamentary meeting Tuesday with members of his ruling Justice and Development Party, Erdogan said that “there is no Daesh in Syria, there are only a small number of gangs who are kept in reserve, trained and equipped, allowed to mix in this country and the region under the guise of Daesh.” Turkey has been hit in recent years by a number of attacks originating from both ISIS and a decades-long Kurdish insurgency. A number of Kurdish militias, such as the People's Protection Units (YPG), have also actively fought ISIS in Syria with U.S. support. Ankara considers these groups linked to banned organizations at home such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party and has stepped up operations against these groups on the border. Erdogan has demanded that the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS end its support for the YPG, saying Tuesday that “this is an opportunity for those who say that they are allies, that they are strategic partners, and who want to carry our relations to the future by strengthening our ties politically, economically and militarily.”

Iran

Reuters: Some Countries Trying To Harm Iran By Manipulating Oil Market: Iran Minister

“Some countries are trying to harm Iran by manipulating the oil market, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said on Wednesday, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency. Zanganeh did not name a country but Iranian officials have accused Saudi Arabia of trying to take Iran’s share of the oil market in recent months. The United States restored sanctions targeting Iran’s oil, banking and transport sectors this month. “Some countries are trying to strike a blow against Iran by interfering in the oil market and its supply,” Zanganeh said.”

Al Monitor: Iran Hard-Line MPs Gird To Impeach Zarif

“Only a few weeks after a fresh Cabinet reshuffle triggered by multiple impeachments, a group of Iranian hard-line lawmakers is going out of its way to unseat four ministers. The foreign, interior, science and education ministers are now on the list. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif seems to be the main target of the campaign; the lawmakers are demanding explanations on issues ranging from his "money-laundering accusations against the Islamic Republic" to "failures in economic diplomacy" to "weakening the country's defenses." A request to summon him has reached the parliament's presiding board and will be decided by the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission. Driving the hard-liners' move were the controversial and pointed remarks Zarif made earlier this month putting the spotlight on money laundering as a problem in the Islamic Republic, opening up a can of worms. The comments, considered to be baseless and offensive by a large majority of conservatives, are being used a pressure tool against the foreign minister, who has been a thorn in their side the past five years.”

I24 News: Exclusive: 10,000 Iran-Trained Syrian Soldiers Posted On Israel Border

“The move could explain PM Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to maintain government amid political crisis. Two new Syrian military divisions, trained and led by officers of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard special forces, the Al-Quds Forces, have been mobilized on Syria’s borders, i24NEWS could reveal on Monday night.Each division numbers more than 10,000 men, said i24NEWS French service’s defense correspondent Mattias Inbar. One has been sent to the border with Iraq, the second is currently at the border between Syria and Israel. According to i24NEWS, these troop movements, which represent "a real danger on the northern border", is understood to be one of the reasons Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced calls for early elections last week as "irresponsible.”

Turkey

Bloomberg: Erdogan’s Uneasy Peace With U.S. At Risk As Syria Tensions Flare

“As night falls in Akcakale, Turkish armored vehicles rumble into position behind thick walls of protective sandbags, diverting their guns from a town just across the Syrian border controlled by U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters. The dust-churning maneuver ends another day of a tense truce between NATO’s second-largest army and a militia it considers a mortal enemy. The adversaries are separated only by untended fields of cotton, barbed wire and tracks of the Berlin to Baghdad railway that was conceived more than a century ago to further imperial claims on territory. Turkey says its military is confronting another attempt to redraw the region’s maps. Seen from Ankara, the Syrian Kurds have been joined by their armed Turkish brethren to better pursue a long dreamed of Kurdish state that can’t be countenanced. The standoff at the frontier could easily explode. In his latest saber-rattling intervention, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Turkey can’t stand by while it’s menaced by the Kurds. The “days when we will crush terrorists are very near,” he said. The president then chaired a five-hour meeting of the National Security Council.”

Afghanistan

The Hill: U.S. Service Member Killed In Afghanistan 'Likely Accidentally Shot'

“The U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan on Saturday was “likely accidentally shot” by NATO’s Afghan partner force, according to a statement from the alliance’s Resolute Support mission. Army Sgt. Leandro Jasso, 25, from Washington state, was killed Nov. 24 in Afghanistan's Nimroz province — in the southwestern part of the country — while conducting an operation to eliminate al Qaeda militants, the statement notes. “An initial review indicates Sgt. Jasso was likely accidentally shot by our Afghan partner force. There are no indications he was shot intentionally.” The partner force, Afghan Security Forces, work in conjunction with the U.S. and NATO troops. The statement adds that early interviews “indicate the tragic accident occurred when the partnered force became engaged in a close-quarter battle during an assault on one of multiple barricaded al Qaeda shooters.” Gen. Scott Miller, the new head of Resolute Support and U.S. Forces, Afghanistan, said Jasso “was killed defending our nation, fighting al Qaeda alongside our Afghan partners.”

The Independent: Taliban Claims Roadside Bomb Attack That Killed Three US Soldiers In Afghanistan

“The Taliban has claimed a roadside bomb attack that killed three US soldiers and left at least three wounded in Afghanistan. The incident involved an improvised explosive device (IED), which detonated near the southeastern city of Ghazni, according to a statement from the US military. It is believed to be the worst loss of life for US military personnel in the country this year. An additional US defence contractor was also wounded in the roadside explosion and was evacuated to receive treatment alongside the soldiers. The identities of the deceased have not been released as yet, per US military policy to wait 24 hours after the next of kin have been notified. Three days ago another US soldier was killed in a similar incident in another southeastern province, Nimroz, the Resolute Support Mission led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) said in the statement. Sergeant Leandro AS Jasso’s death occurred during a fight with militants linked to al Qaeda, however, it was determined he died as a result of friendly fire from an “Afghan partner force”. The military indicated “there were no indications he was shot intentionally”.  Major Brent Taylor of the Army National Guard, who was also the mayor of North Ogden, Utah, was killed in another apparent friendly fire incident on 4 November after a member of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces shot him.”

NBC News: Trump's Envoy 'Tests All Channels' With Afghan Taliban In Bid To Launch Peace Talks

“President Donald Trump's envoy to Afghanistan is reaching out to many top Taliban figures as he tries to launch peace negotiations to end the war before Trump can simply pull the plug and order U.S. troops home, say foreign diplomats. U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has moved at a rapid pace and ventured beyond the official Taliban office in Qatar to meet other members of the insurgency, two foreign diplomats and three former U.S. officials told NBC News. His outreach included a meeting in the United Arab Emirates with a militant claiming to be an associate of Mullah Yaqub, son of late Taliban leader Mullah Omar and now one of two deputies to the current Taliban leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, two foreign diplomats said. Khalilzad is “testing all channels,” said one Western diplomat, who was not authorized to speak on the record. Although it remained unclear if the Taliban member was indeed a representative sent by Yaqub, the meeting reflected how Khalilzad is moving with a sense of urgency and casting a wide net to try to persuade different elements of the insurgency to come to the table to talk peace, former officials said. Keenly aware that President Trump has expressed impatience with the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan and that time is limited, Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan and served as U.S. ambassador to the country after the 9/11 attacks, has pressed ahead with his diplomacy at a swift tempo, former officials and foreign diplomats said.”

Xinhua: Taliban Attack Kills Civilian In N. Afghan Province

“At least one civilian was killed and two others injuried after Taliban militants ambushed a military vehicle in the northern Kunduz province on Tuesday, provincial police spokesman Inamudin Rahmani said. When Taliban militants opened fire on a military vehicle on Ali Abad road leading to Kunduz city, the vehicle escaped but a passerby lost his life on the spot, the official said, adding that all the victims were civilians. Taliban militants, who are active in parts of Kunduz province, have not commented on the attack.”

Yemen

Arab News: Houthis To Discuss ‘Handing Over Hodeidah’ To The UN

“The Houthi militia has agreed to discuss handing over Hodeidah port to the UN, the Saudi ambassador to the US said on Tuesday. Yemen’s main port has been held by the Iran-backed militants since the start of the conflict in 2014. Fighting has centered on the city as pro-government Yemeni forces backed by the Arab coalition, which includes Saudi Arabia, have pushed to capture the city. The port is the main conduit for supplies and aid to large parts of the country. “After stalling for months, the Houthis agreed to talk about handing some control of Hodeidah port, to the UN,” Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, said in a tweet. “This comes as they are on the verge of being pushed out by force. Proof that only consistent pressure on the Iran-backed militia will lead to a political settlement.” The Houthis have previously refused to discuss handing over control of the port to the UN. Fighting increased this month as the pro-government forces advanced into the city and edged closer to the port.”

Arab News: Yemeni Human Rights Minister Urges UN To Help Uncover Houthi War Crimes

“The Yemeni Minister of Human Rights called on the United Nations on Tuesday to support the internationally recognized government to help uncover the war crimes committed by the Houthi militia. Dr. Mohammed Askar met in Aden with the UN delegation headed by UN Under-Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour, to access the human rights situation in Yemen. During the meeting, Askar reviewed the humanitarian situation suffered by Yemenis as a result of the Houthis, SPA reported. The UN official said he would convey to the Secretary-General of the United Nations all human rights issues as well as challenges arising from the current situation.”

Qatar

The National: Qatari Who Murdered British Teacher Lauren Patterson 'Sees Death Sentence Quashed'

“A Qatari who murdered an English teacher before burning her body in the desert has seen his death sentence quashed and could instead be free in under five years, according to the victim’s family. Lauren Patterson, 24, was brutally killed in October 2013 following a night out in Doha. Badr Hashim Khamis Abdallah Al Jabr was found guilty and sentenced to death for the killing. He had stabbed Lauren, who was working at the Newton British School in the Qatari capital, before attempting to dispose of her body by burning it on charcoal bricks in the desert. Her badly-burned remains were discovered shortly afterwards and were identified through DNA testing. The death sentence, handed down in 2014, was later quashed and a retrial ordered, following an appeals process, but the original verdict and sentence was reimposed in 2017. However, at a further hearing at the Qatari appeal court, held on Monday, the sentence was reduced to just 10 years in jail, according to Alison Patterson, Lauren’s mother. The time Al Jabr has already served behind bars will be taken into account, she said, meaning he has already served half of his new sentence.”

Libya

The Libya Observer: Tazirbu Mayor Confirms Killing Of 14 ISIS Members

“The Mayor of Tazirbu Ibrahim Jadallah said on Monday that the security services and locals of Tazirbu have killed about 14 members of ISIS during two days, in an area of 500 square kilometres. Jadallah explained in a press statement that the manhunt operation ended after members of ISIS barricaded themselves in the mountains of Harouj, which made the task more difficult in the absence of any logistical support. ISIS attack on Tazirbu police station on Friday left at least 8 dead and 13 wounded in the town.”

Nigeria

Daily Post: Boko Haram: Army Kills Teenage Bomber In Adamawa

“The Nigerian Army on Tuesday disclosed that its troops have killed a suspected teenage female suicide bomber at Gulak in Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State. The army, in a statement on its Twitter handle, said the suicide bomber was killed by the troops while she was trying to infiltrate the Dar community to detonate an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) vest strapped to her body. “Troops of 143 Battalion deployed at a checkpoint in Gulak, Adamawa, neutralised a girl with Person-Borne Improvised Explosive Device, who tried to infiltrate Dar village to detonate her explosive vest in the early hours of Nov. 26, 2018. “The gallant troops, in conjunction with hunters and vigilantes, immediately cordoned off the area and subsequently conducted perimeter patrol around the community to ensure the area is cleared and to also exploit the area for BHT activities,” the statement read.”

Africa News: Nigeria Air Force Bombards Terrorist Zone In Lake Chad Region

“The Nigerian Air Force has as at Tuesday launched an office on terrorists in the Lake Chad islands where terrorists elements belonging to a faction of Boko Haram are based. According to journalist Ahmed Salkida who reports on the insurgency in the Lake Chad region, the bombardments have “disoriented” the insurgents. The target group is the Islamic State in West Africa Province, ISWAP, a faction led by Al Barnawi. Widely known leader, Abubakar Shekau, is head of the other main faction. The offensive comes a week after the deadliest terrorist attack that killed over 100 soldiers in the town of Metele located in the northeastern Borno State, birthplace of Boko Haram. The army had in the wake of the attack launched a similar onslaught on Metele. The deaths have been top of media engagements as Nigeria’s elections loom in February 2019. Salkida adde that even as the Air Force bombarded the ISWAP positions, the Shekau group attacked military positions last night in Mararaban Banki and issued a statement of claim few hours after the attack.  The army has yet to confirm the latest purported Boko Haram attack whiles the Air Force has also yet to disclose details of its bombardments.  The Boko Haram insurgency affects four countries linked to the Lake Chad. Nigeria’s northeast, Cameroon’s Far North region as well as parts of Chad and Niger. There is a multinational task force coordinating to combat the insurgents.”

Somalia

Voice Of America: Analysis - Ex-Militant Tests Somalia's Fledgling Democracy

“Last year Mukhtar Robow had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head. Now the former Islamist al-Shabab militant has downed his guns and donned the garb of a democrat. While Robow is not the first ex-militant to enter Somali politics, the momentum behind his bid to become a regional leader has turned his effort into a watershed moment in the stand-off between the federal government and Somalia’s seven semi-autonomous regions. How Mogadishu and those states ultimately find ways to share power — including via elections such as the Dec. 5 vote in the South West state where Robow is running — is critical. "It’s a pivotal point in the confrontation between the government and federal member states, which is probably a much greater threat to Somalia” security than al-Shabab itself,” said Matt Bryden, head of the Nairobi-based think tank Sahan Research. That confrontation is now being played out through Robow, a key figure in the country’s troubled recent history.”

Africa

Reuters: Cameroonian Separatists Risk Death Sentence Following Terrorism Charges

“Ten Cameroonian separatist leaders extradited from Nigeria earlier this year will face trial next month on terrorism charges that could lead to the death penalty, one of their lawyers said after a court hearing on Tuesday. The accused include Julius Ayuk Tabe, the leader of an Anglophone separatist movement in western Cameroon fighting to break away from the Francophone-dominated central government.  Hundreds of people, including civilians, separatist fighters and Cameroonian security agents, have been killed in the past year’s violence, which has emerged as the most serious security threat to President Paul Biya, in power for 36 years. ”Ten charges have been brought against them, including terrorism, advocating terrorism, secession, civil war and revolution,” lawyer Christopher Ndong told Reuters after the charges were read out at the capital Yaounde’s military court.  The trial is scheduled to begin on Dec. 6, Ndong added.  Tabe and his co-defendants were among 47 Anglophone Cameroonians arrested in Nigeria and deported to Cameroon in January. The remaining 37 suspects are still being held by the authorities and have not been charged, said Ndong. Cameroon’s government spokesman was not immediately available for comment. A separatist insurgency gained pace in 2017 following a government crackdown on peaceful protests by Anglophones, who complain of being marginalized by the French-speaking majority.”

News 24: 11 Accused Of KZN Mosque Attack, ISIS Links Receive Bail

“It was all smiles in the Verulam Magistrate's Court on Tuesday after bail was granted to all eleven men accused of attacking a Shia mosque and placing several explosive devices in public places across Durban. Farhad Hoomer, Ahmed Haffejee, Mohamad Akbar, Iddy Omari, Mahammed Sobruin, Abubakar Ali, Ndikumana Shabani and Abbas Jooma were granted bail ranging from R200 000 to R500, while Seiph Mohamed, Thabit Mwenda and Amani Mayani were released on a warning. Part of their bail conditions is that they don't leave KwaZulu-Natal unless they inform the investigating officer. They were expected to return to the court on February 22, 2019, while further investigations continue.  The courtroom was packed with heavy security as the men appeared before Magistrate Irfan Khalil who delivered his day-long judgement. Khalil often highlighted that many of the accused were in police custody for merely occupying the property where initial arrests had been made 53 days ago.  He said that evidence before him could not connect the accused directly to terror links. Khalil said that the first accused and businessman, Hoomer, could not be specifically linked to any bombings or planting of devices.  “The evidence simply does not support him being denied bail on a prima facie level.”

Xinhua: Algeria Calls For Drying Up Financial Resources Of Terrorism

“Algeria's Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel on Tuesday said that drying up financial resources of terrorist groups is still a major challenge for the international community. Messahel made the remarks at the second meeting of the West Africa Working Group of the Global Counterterrorism Forum held in Algiers. This group is chaired alternately by Algeria and Canada. The forum was opened by Messahel, with the participation of David Dreke, special advisor on Counter-terrorism, Organised Crime and Intelligence in the Canadian Foreign Ministry. In his opening notes, Messahel urged for deeper international coordination to dry up financial source of terrorist groups. The minister said terrorists have raised huge sums of money from trafficking drugs and arms under cooperation with trans-border organized crime gangs. These huge sums of money are used by terrorists to recruit new elements, said Messahel. The meeting is attended by more than 100 experts in the fields of prevention, combating terrorism and violent extremism.”

North Korea

The Wall Street Journal: Fake Signals And Illegal Flags: How North Korea Uses Clandestine Shipping To Fund Regime

“Over the past two years, the U.S. and United Nations have unveiled the tightest sanctions ever applied to North Korea, aiming to cripple Pyongyang’s trade with the outside world. Yet ships continue sailing to and from North Korean ports, carrying hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of fuel, coal and other products. They do so through a shifting array of tactics obscuring the ships’ links to Pyongyang. Crews use fake customs manifests and paint over hulls with false names. At sea, they turn off tracking devices to make it harder to follow the vessels or manipulate signals to convey fictitious identification. Some have succeeded in making cargo ships appear to be other countries’ boats on tracking monitors. Reviews of confidential U.N. documents and interviews with U.S. officials uncovered dozens of ships and companies that international authorities link to illegal North Korean trade. The behavior of the vessels and changes in their ownership reveal an expanding toolbox of strategies designed to keep North Korea’s shipping, and economy, afloat.”

Germany

Deustche Welle: Borussia Dortmund Bus Attacker Handed 14-Year Prison Sentence

“The 11-month trial of the Borussia Dortmund bus bomber came to a close on Tuesday with a Dortmund court sentencing him to 14 years in prison. Sergei W., a 29-year-old Russian-born German national, was found guilty of 28 counts of attempted murder for setting off roadside bombs targeting the team's bus on April 11, 2017. The vehicle was on its way to the club's home stadium, Signal Iduna Park, ahead of a Champions League match against AS Monaco at the time. He confessed to building and setting off the bombs but maintained that he had not intended to harm anyone, rather to spread fear and terror, thereby bringing down Borussia Dortmund's share price. Sergei W. allegedly stood to gain more than half a million euros if he'd triggered a severe dip in the club's stock market value. Prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Sergei W. while the defense had applied for a prison sentence “in the single-digit range” for causing an explosion. The club did not to comment on Tuesday's ruling in a press conference ahead of its Champions League match with Club Brugge. Multiple Borussia Dortmund players and coaches who were on the bus during the attack testified in the trial, along with explosives and stock experts.”

Asia

Philstar Global: Senate Tackling Proposed Shutdown Of Terrorists’ Social Media Accounts

“Shutting down Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts of suspected terrorists and their supporters is among the provisions of the anti-terrorism bills being discussed at the Senate. During the continuation of the hearing on the anti-terrorism bills, the Senate committees on public order and dangerous drugs and national defense and security backed the government proposal to empower the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to take down social media accounts that are “inimical to national interest” or are linked to terrorism. Sen. Panfilo Lacson, public order committee chair; and Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, national defense committee chair, yesterday said the proposal would be included in the consolidated bill seeking to amend Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007. The two senators acknowledged that such provisions would be “contentious.” Lacson said the committee consulted a resource person from UP (University of the Philippines) who said that as long as the state exercises its police power to preserve itself, then it is not constitutionally infirm.”

Radio Free Europe: Terror Trial In Kazakhstan Adjourned After Defendants Cut Themselves

“The high-profile trial of three Kazakh men charged with propagating terrorism was adjourned after two of the defendants cut themselves with sharp metal objects in the courtroom in the city of Almaty. Gulnara Zhuaspaeva, a lawyer for one of the defendants, told RFE/RL that Almat Zhumaghulov and Oralbek Omirov inflicted deep cuts to their arms after the judge rejected the defendants' motion to summon additional witnesses and experts to the stand.  The two defendants received medical treatment before the trial was adjourned until an unspecified date, Zhuaspaeva said. Zhumaghulov, 44, Omirov, 48, and Kenzhebek Abishev, 52, were arrested in November 2017 and charged with propagating religious extremism and terrorism.  Zhumaghulov was also charged with inciting ethnic hatred. All three are residents of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.  Investigators say the three men planned an armed holy war, or jihad, by propagating the ideas of the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement founded by Mukhtar Ablyazov.  Ablyazov, a fugitive tycoon, has been a vocal critic of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and his government.  All three defendants pleaded not guilty when the trial started on October 1 and called the case against them politically motivated.”

Technology

CNBC: Former FTC Official Says Facebook Representative Made False Statements To International Leaders About How The Company Handles Personal Data

“A former Federal Trade Commission official claimed a Facebook official mislead and international committee of parliamentarians Tuesday in a hearing about the company’s privacy policies. The allegation centers around whether third-party developers had access to information on private Facebook profiles in the early days of the platform. In response to a question from Damian Collins, chair of the U.K. culture, media and sport select committee, about Facebook’s changes to its developer policies in 2014, Facebook Vice President of Policy Solutions Richard Allan said there were two distinct versions of the platform at the time. Facebook was transitioning developers onto the newer platform with more limited information, Allan said. “What developers had under the first version was the ability to ask you to install their application, and if you agreed to it and agreed to certain permissions, then they could also access some of the information that your friends shared with you. Version two stopped that,” Allan said. “So in neither version was it full access to data. In version one it included some access to friends’ data where they’d given permission, in version two, that access was removed.” “This is false,” former Obama-era FTC Chief Technologist Ashkan Soltani told the committee later in the day.”

BBC News: Facebook And Its ‘Black People Problem’

“When it rains, it pours - and Facebook’s utterly sodden year continues to be flooded by accusations of bad governance. Mark Luckie, a black, former Facebook employee whose job it was to handle the firm’s relationship with “influencers”, put it quite plainly: “Facebook has a black people problem.” His 2,500-word note, posted on Tuesday, outlines what he sees as a culture that talks about inclusion, but does not practise it. In some buildings at the company, Mr Luckie said, there were “more ‘Black Lives Matter’ posters than there are actual black people”. He goes on to outline how he, and other black employees, often felt uncomfortable at work. “Black staffers at Facebook know that by raising our voices we risk jeopardizing our professional relationships and our career advancement,” he wrote. Beyond those who work for Mark Zuckerberg, Mr Luckie said he felt Facebook’s black users are also being unfairly treated.”

CNN: UK Lawmaker Hopes To Publish Secret Facebook Documents Within A Week

“The British lawmaker who seized a cache of confidential Facebook documents says he could make them public within a week. Damian Collins, the chairman of a British parliamentary committee investigating disinformation, told reporters he would release the documents once they had been reviewed and stripped of personal data. "I can't give you an exact date, but I would hope we would be in a position to publish them very soon," he said Tuesday. "Certainly within the next week or so, that would be my hope." Facebook (FB) has fought for months to keep the documents private. They are part of a court case in California between Facebook and a small app developer. Collins was able to obtain copies of the documents just days before his committee was joined by lawmakers from eight other countries for an unusual hearing related to Facebook and disinformation in London on Tuesday. The inaugural hearing of the "International Grand Committee on Disinformation" was attended by lawmakers from Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, Latvia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.”

Counter Terrorism

Asharq Al-Awsat: 100 Experts Attend Global Counterterrorism Forum In Algeria

“Addressing the 2nd plenary session of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) in the Algerian capital yesterday, Algeria's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdelkader Messahel, noted that his country had devoted tremendous efforts to ensuring the security of its territories and borders. Messahel added that Algeria is looking forward to sharing its counterterrorism expertise with all nations of the region. The minister also called for deeper international coordination to dry up the financial sources of terrorist groups. Messahel made these remarks at this 3-day assembly, which reviewed ways for bolstering police cooperation among West African countries in order to effectively combat terrorism. The Algerian official added that the anti-terrorism and violent extremism campaign in West Africa has advanced remarkably thanks to recent local, regional and international efforts in that regard. It's noteworthy that nearly 100 experts on counterterrorism and violent extremism are attending the gathering. The participating experts are debating, primarily, the evolution of terrorist threats in the Sahelo-Saharan region, the management of border security, the return of foreign militants, the financing of terrorism, the prevention of radicalization and extremist violence, and for the first time, the role of women in the fight against these plagues.”

ISIS

Almada: Iraq: ISIS Recovers Its "Lost Treasure"

“At last, ISIS remnants in Iraq have found their lost treasure after months of searching for it in the Nineveh desert. This came through a settlement with the people who had stolen this treasure, which is essentially composed of assets amassed by the terror group through taxes and money belonging to Iraqi banks. These funds will now help to finance terrorists who have been facing financial troubles since Baghdad's declaration of victory over the organization at the end of last year. The renewed flow of funds to the remnants of the extremist organization signals the resumption of its activity in Mosul and nearby areas. This comes especially amid reports on the return of families affiliated with ISIS to the outskirts of the city, and the growing incidents of bribes being paid to members of the security forces. Ali Zobaie, one of the most prominent clan leaders in Nineveh, said: "Over the past few weeks, ISIS has come to an agreement with certain shepherds, who had stolen its money buried in the desert, to share {part of} it with them, pledging to protect them.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Albawabh News: Source: Funds Of Convicted Muslim Brotherhood Affiliates Transferred To The Egyptian State Budget

“A judicial source at the governmental committee tasked with confiscating and managing the funds and assets of the entities and persons classified as "terrorist" confirmed that all funds belonging to leaders and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who were convicted {without possibility of appeal} on terrorism-related charges, were appropriated. The same source went on to say that these funds were transferred to the general state budget and that the state is eligible to manage them in any way it chooses. The governmental committee is willing to prepare a special list of all confiscated money and properties of all terrorist groups, the source added. Once the Urgent Matters Court issues its verdict concerning all the seized entities, the final list will be submitted to the Ministry of Finance.”

Seventh Day: Egypt: Postponement Of Appeals By 219 Muslim Brotherhood-Linked Suspects Against Placing Them On Terror Lists

“Chaired by Judge Osama Tawfiq, the Egyptian Court of Appeals postponed till February 12th, 2019 its review of the appeals that were filed on July 24th, 2017 by 219 Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated suspects. They appealed earlier court rulings which had placed them on the terror lists for three years. The appellate court elaborated that it needs that period to obtain additional relevant documents. It's noteworthy that the defendants are facing numerous charges including establishing the Muslim Brotherhood's military arm, financing violent activities, and attacking policemen, soldiers and judges.”

Hezbollah

Makan: Secret Report Reveals The Extent Of Hezbollah's Control Over Lebanon's State Institutions

“The Emirati Roya website claimed it had obtained the results of a secret international investigative report, involving Western and Middle Eastern intelligence agencies, with Lebanese assistance. And these results revealed the scope of the Lebanese Hezbollah organization's infiltration and control over the institutions of the Lebanese state. The investigation indicated, for the first time, intensive activity within the state institutions by Hezbollah's "Unit 900", also known as the "Security Unit." It is led by the organization's senior leader Yusuf Nader known also as "Ezzedine". The investigative team was able to compile a long list of senior agents operated by "Unit 900", who fill high-level posts, including directors of ministries and government offices, bank managers, officers at various ranks in the military and security forces, as well as judges and officials in the justice system.”