Eye on Extremism: November 6

Voice Of America: In Last Days, Al-Baghdadi Sought Safety In Shrinking Domain

“In his last months on the run, Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was agitated, fearful of traitors, sometimes disguised as a shepherd, sometimes hiding underground, always dependent on a shrinking circle of confidants. Associates paint a picture of a man obsessed with his security and well-being and trying to find safety in towns and deserts in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border as the extremists' domains crumbled. In the end, the brutal leader once hailed as “caliph” left former IS areas completely, slipping into hostile territory in Syria's northwestern Idlib province run by the radical group's al-Qaida-linked rivals. There, he blew himself up during an Oct. 26 raid by U.S. special forces on his heavily fortified safe house. For months, he kept a Yazidi teen as a slave, and she told The Associated Press how he brought her along as he moved, traveling with a core group of up to seven close associates. Months ago, he delegated most of his powers to a senior deputy who is likely the man announced by the group as his successor. The Yazidi girl, who was freed in a U.S.-led raid in May, said al-Baghdadi first tried to flee to Idlib in late 2017. She said one night she was loaded into a three-vehicle convoy that included the IS leader, his wife and his security entourage, headed for the province. The convoy reached a main road but then turned around, apparently fearing it would come under attack, said the girl, who was 17 at the time.”

The National: France Claims Death Of Top Extremist Leader In Mali

“France on Tuesday announced the death of a top extremist leader in Mali as it sought to reassure the West African nation of European support in the fight against militants. French troops killed Moroccan Ali Maychou, co-founder of a group named GSIM, in Mali last month. Defence Minister Florence Parly made the announcement aboard a government plane as she returned from an official visit to the region. Maychou was “the second most-wanted terrorist in the Sahel”, after GSIM's number one, Iyad Ag Ghaly, Ms Parly told AFP. A collection of extremist groups linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the GSIM was launched in 2017 and has claimed responsibility for the biggest attacks in the Sahel. Ag Ghaly is a Tuareg Malian who has been involved in militancy for nearly three decades. Mali's army has been struggling to contain the insurgency despite help from France, African neighbours and the UN. Deadly assaults have underscored the fragility of a region where extremist violence has claimed hundreds of lives. In the latest attack, claimed by ISIS-allied militants, gunmen on Friday shot dead 49 Malian troops at an army base near the border with Niger. Over the weekend, two more Malian troops and a French soldier were killed.” 

U.S. News & World Report: Man Charged In Terrorist Support Case Pleads Guilty

“A man who authorities said thought he was working with an Al-Qaida operative to scout locations for a July 4 terror attack in downtown Cleveland has pleaded guilty to federal charges. The U.S. Justice Department said 50-year-old Demetrius Pitts, of Maple Heights, pleaded guilty Tuesday to attempting to provide support to a terrorist group and for threats against President Donald Trump and his family. Authorities said Pitts between 2015 and 2017 wanted to recruit people to kill Americans. He met with an undercover FBI agent posing as an Al-Qaida operative in 2018 to discuss plans for a terrorist attack during July 4 fireworks. Pitts' attorney declined to comment about the plea. Pitts is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 11 and could face as many as 14 years in prison.” 

Foreign Policy: The Islamic State Will Outlive Baghdadi. Afghanistan Shows How.

“A couple of years ago, a conspiracy theory emerged alleging that the United States was backing the Islamic State in Afghanistan. It had a curious mix of propagators: former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Russian government, and large numbers of Pakistani Twitter handles, among others. In 2017, Karzai described the Islamic State as a “tool” of the United States and later claimed Washington was propping up the group in order to justify a long-term military presence in Afghanistan. The next year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested that unmarked U.S. helicopters were ferrying in weapons for the group. And in recent months, tweets from Pakistani accounts have asserted that at some point not long ago, U.S. forces airlifted Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi into Afghanistan. The idea wasn’t new. Observers from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to a group of university students listening to me give a guest lecture in the Indian state of Bihar have claimed that America was behind the very creation of the militant group. These assertions aren’t just attributable to psy-ops or hostility toward the United States; they’re also rooted in some relevant facts—such as past U.S. support for Islamist fighters in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation and the Islamic State’s emergence after U.S. forces invaded Iraq.”

The Washington Post: Two Men Plead Guilty To Acting As Illegal Agents For Iran In Surveilling Americans 

“Two men have pleaded guilty to acting as illegal agents of the government of Iran on charges stemming from monitoring a Jewish center in Chicago and Americans who are members of an exiled Iranian opposition group, the U.S. Justice Department and FBI announced Tuesday. Majid Ghorbani, 60, an Iranian citizen and U.S. permanent resident living in Costa Mesa, Calif., pleaded guilty Monday to one count of violating U.S. sanctions, according to court records. Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 39, a dual Iranian-U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty Oct. 8 to one count of conspiracy and one count of acting as an undeclared agent of the Iranian government, court filings show. Ghorbani was arrested in August 2018, and Doostdar that September, and both were accused of conducting surveillance and collecting information about Americans involved with the Mujahideen-e Khalq, or People’s Mujahideen of Iran, an Iranian dissident group that seeks regime change in Iran.”

BuzzFeed News: The White Supremacist Charged With Plotting To Blow Up A Colorado Temple Documented His Racist Activities On Facebook For Years

“The 27-year-old white supremacist charged with a federal hate crime for allegedly plotting to bomb a Colorado synagogue had been known to law enforcement for years due to his frequent, neo-Nazi postings on Facebook, including a video of himself urinating on a California temple. Federal authorities arrested Richard Holzer on Friday after he met with undercover FBI agents believing he would obtain explosives to bomb the Temple Emanuel Synagogue in the southern Colorado city of Pueblo. According to court documents, the suspect called the plan his “mountain” and referred to Jews and the synagogue as a “cancer." At a press conference Monday, authorities detailed how Holzer repeatedly expressed his hatred of Jews and, using multiple Facebook accounts, posted pictures of himself in neo-Nazi garb and blatantly advocated for racially motivated violence. In a blog post on Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League reported that its Center on Extremism had been aware of Holzer's online activities for years and had "shared information with law enforcement on several occasions ... citing concerns he might be dangerous."

United States 

Fox News: Ohio Man Pleads Guilty In July 4 Cleveland Terror Plot On Behalf Of Al Qaeda

“An Ohio man accused of scouting locations for a potential July 4 terror attack in downtown Cleveland on behalf of Al Qaeda pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges including attempting to provide support to a terrorist group and threatening to kill President Trump and his family. Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts, also known as Abdur Raheem Rafeeq, was busted by undercover FBI agents who met with him in 2018 under the guise of being "brothers" of the terror group who would help him plan the Independence Day attack, Justice Department officials said in a statement. “I’m trying to figure out something that would shake them up on the 4th of July," Pitts told an undercover officer, according to an affidavit filed in the case. “What would hit them at their core? Have a bomb blow up in the 4th of July parade.” 

The Hill: Collins, Warner Request Unclassified Assessment Of Impact Of Escaped ISIS Prisoners On US Security

“Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) wrote to the Trump administration Tuesday demanding an assessment of the threat ISIS poses to the U.S. amid reports that several detained members of the terrorist group escaped captivity in northeastern Syria.  Collins and Warner, who both serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire expressing “grave concern” over the escape of “several” ISIS detainees from detention facilities run by Kurdish groups that are currently embroiled in a standoff with Turkish forces in the area. “As the Kurds understandably shift their focus to defending themselves, their ability to securely detain these ISIS fighters will become increasingly uncertain. Already, press reports have indicated that senior U.S. officials say they have ‘no real idea’ how many fighters may have already escaped, and how many more are likely to do so,” the lawmakers wrote. “Therefore, please provide to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence an assessment of the impact the escape of ISIS detainees in SDF custody could have on the security of United States and our allies, including the detainees who have escaped and those still residing in SDF custody.”

The Wall Street Journal: Silicon Valley’s Congresswomen Want A New Tech Regulator

“Two lawmakers from Silicon Valley proposed a new U.S. agency to regulate the collection of Americans’ personal information, a signal of hometown support for heightened oversight of the technology industry. The proposed Democratic legislation unveiled Tuesday is one of many circulating on Capitol Hill as Congress discusses a federal online-privacy law. Those talks have dragged on for months without a bipartisan compromise, disappointing many who hoped for action this year after massive breaches of Americans’ personal information and the misuse of data by Facebook Inc. and others. Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren, California Democrats representing the region home to Facebook and Alphabet Inc. ’s Google, have been tech-industry allies. Their 132-page bill—the most detailed proposed privacy law yet from House Democrats—would give Americans new rights to control how online services use their personal information and create a U.S. Digital Privacy Agency to write and enforce privacy rules.”

The Washington Post: Nine Members Of Mormon Family, Dual U.S.-Mexican Citizens, Killed In Attack In Northern Mexico; Trump Offers Support

“Assailants killed at least nine members of a fundamentalist Mormon community in Northern Mexico, authorities said Tuesday, shooting and incinerating women and children in a brutal assault that highlighted the increasing grip of organized crime on parts of the country. Mexican Public Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo said three women and six children of the extended LeBaron family were killed in attacks on three vehicles Monday in the northern state of Sonora. The victims were part of a community of U.S.-Mexican dual citizens who have lived in Mexico for decades. Drug traffickers in the region came under immediate suspicion. But the massacre was barbarous, even for them. “There have been conflicts between the cartels of Chihuahua and Sonora,” family member Julian LeBaron said on Mexico’s Radio Fórmula. “But to open fire in broad daylight on women and children? This crime has no name.” The attacks on the women and children — some of whom were traveling to a wedding — stunned a nation reeling from a series of violent incidents in recent weeks. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been lambasted for the botched attempt last month to arrest a son of the former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer: A Philadelphia Navy Yard Worker Posted Racist Threats On Facebook. Is He Too Dangerous For Bail?

“His Facebook pages are littered with photos of him brandishing guns and knives under captions such as “coming to a synagogue near you.” He routinely shared disturbing right-wing memes, including one depicting a bleeding woman hanged for dating outside of her race. And when others online challenged Fred C. Arena, an avowed white supremacist and internet troll from Salem, N.J., he boasted of past successes doxxing and haranguing a rival until “he wanted to kill himself.” But now — nearly two weeks after the former Philadelphia Navy Yard employee was charged with lying to the FBI about his ties to white nationalist groups — a federal judge must decide whether that long record of racist vitriol and online harassment makes him an actual safety risk or just another blowhard with an internet connection and extremist views. Prosecutors are expected to push during a hearing Wednesday to hold Arena without bail until his trial, calling him a danger to the community and potential witnesses in their case. Arena’s attorney, Brian J. Zeiger, says government lawyers are seeking to jail his client solely for his distasteful beliefs. At a court hearing last week, Zeiger balked at prosecutors’ assertions that Arena’s racist Facebook posts and photos with guns were proof that he posed an imminent danger and argued that the alleged crime — lying to federal agents — was not serious enough to warrant pretrial detention.”

Washington Examiner: ISIS Encouraging Followers To Light Forest Fires In US

“The Islamic State is telling its followers to ignite destructive forest fires in the United States and Europe. As California continues to grapple with powerful fires that have forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate, a pro-ISIS media outlet called Quraysh has reportedly released propaganda posters urging adherents to “ignite fires.” According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, the first of the posters began circulating in April and the latest appeared on Monday. The institute, which monitors and tracks communications in radical groups, said the translation on the April poster read, “Oh monotheists [ISIS followers], ignite fires in the forests and fields, and we are addressing especially those who live in Europe and America, for they are painful to them.” The latest poster singled out individual countries in Europe as well, telling followers to “Ignite fires in the forests of America, France, Britain, and Germany, for they are painful to them.” Last week, Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency over the spate of fires. Pacific Gas and Electric has used targeted blackouts in high-wind areas as a way to stop more forest fires and millions have been left without power.”

Syria

The Washington Post: The Death Of Baghdadi Isn’t The End Of ISIS

“On Oct. 26, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, arguably the most wanted terrorist in the world, detonated a suicide belt to avoid capture by U.S. forces. His death, an important and symbolic event in the fight against the Islamic State, was soon followed by the announcement of a successor last Thursday. ISIS has suffered significant setbacks over the past two years, losing most of its territorial control, and has returned to its roots as an insurgent organization. Although the group no longer operates as a proto-state governing vast amounts of land, it remains active, with estimates of between 10,000 and 15,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria. According to the Global Terrorism Database, ISIS has carried out thousands of attacks since 2014. Given the recent successes in the fight against ISIS, many analysts and government officials are optimistic that Baghdadi’s death will result in substantial weakening and perhaps the demise of ISIS. Advocates of this view argue that Baghdadi is irreplaceable, given his claim of lineage to the prophet Muhammad, religious credentials and education in Koranic studies, and operational success in creating an Islamic State.”

NBC News: Senators Ask How Many ISIS Prisoners Have Escaped Since Trump Cleared Way For Turkish Military Action

“Senators from both parties are demanding answers from the Trump administration about how many ISIS detainees have escaped from Kurdish-run detention centers in Syria after the president cleared the way for Turkish military action in the region. In a letter Tuesday to Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican on the committee, said they had “grave concern” that “numerous Islamic State detainees from detention facilities that had been run by America's Kurdish partners in the Syrian Defense Forces” had escaped. The largely Kurdish Syrian force, known as the SDF, had been holding more than 10,000 captured ISIS fighters, including 2,000 “foreign fighters,” committed jihadists who traveled from Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere to join ISIS, the senators noted. “Many of these individuals are hard-core terrorists, with the kinds of expertise — bomb-making, leadership and propaganda — that had made ISIS such a threat to the United States and our allies.” After President Donald Trump cleared the way for Turkish military action against the Kurds, Kurdish officials told NBC News that staffing the detention camps would no longer be a top priority.”

Iran

Reuters: U.S.: Iran's Expansion Of Uranium Enrichment 'A Big Step In The Wrong Direction'

“Iran’s expansion of uranium enrichment activities in defiance of key nuclear commitments is “a big step in the wrong direction,” a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday, after Tehran announced it would start injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at its underground Fordow enrichment facility. “We fully support the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in conducting its independent verification role in Iran and look to the IAEA to report on any developments,” the spokesperson said in a statement.”

Military Times: Iran Threatens US Forces And Allies Who Host American Troops

“A spokesman for Iran’s armed forces has threatened a “crushing response” against any U.S. aggression and allies who host American troops. “Any place and any point of any territories which host the US and its allies’ interests will be threatened (in case of any war) and the Islamic Republic has proved that it has the capability to do so,” Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi said during a Sunday interview with Iranian Fars News Agency. “Even if a country does not directly participate in any possible war but its territories host the enemy, we consider that country as a hostile territory and will treat it as an aggressor,” he said during the interview. “If an aggressor makes a strategic mistake, that aggression will be confronted with the strongest and the most crushing response.” Meanwhile, Iranian President President Hassan Rouhani announced Tuesday that Iran would move a step closer to enriching uranium by injecting gas into more than 1,000 centrifuges, according to the New York Times. The comments from the Iranian commander came a day before the 40th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis. In 1979, Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 98 people captive for 444 days.”

Iraq

Associated Press: Protests In Iraq Reveal A Long-Simmering Anger At Iran

“The shoes are coming off again in Iraq. In years past, Iraqis have beaten their shoes against portraits of Saddam Hussein in a sign of anger and insult. In 2008, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at a ducking President George W. Bush during a news conference to vent his outrage at the U.S.-led invasion. Now protesters in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square are using their shoes again — slapping them against banners depicting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. More violent demonstrations of their fury have erupted in southern Iraq, where protesters have torched the headquarters of parties and militias linked to Iran and thrown firebombs at an Iranian Consulate. The anti-government protests that have convulsed Iraq in the past month are fueled by economic grievances and are mainly directed at Iraq’s own political leaders. But they have also exposed long-simmering resentment at Iran’s influence in the country, with protesters targeting Shiite political parties and militias with close ties to Tehran. The uprising in Iraq, and similar anti-government protests underway in Lebanon, pose a threat to key Iranian allies at a time when Tehran is under mounting pressure from U.S. sanctions.”

Turkey

Reuters: Turkey's Erdogan Says Kurdish YPG Have Not Left Syria 'Safe Zone'

“Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday the Kurdish YPG militia had not withdrawn from some Syrian border areas and that U.S. forces were still carrying out joint patrols with the group, contrary to an agreement between them. He was speaking as Turkish and Russian soldiers in armored vehicles held their second joint ground patrol in northern Syria near the town of Kobani, under a deal to push the YPG some 30 km (19 miles) away from Turkey’s border. Nearly a month ago, Turkey and Syrian rebel allies launched a cross-border incursion against Kurdish YPG fighters, seizing control of 120 km (75 miles) of land along the frontier. Turkey subsequently struck two separate deals with the United States and Russia for the YPG to withdraw from the “safe zone” it plans to form in the region, in return for Ankara stopping its offensive against the group. While Washington and Moscow have said the fighters had left the border region, Erdogan said this was not the case. “These areas are not cleared of terrorists. Terrorists have not been taken out of either Tel Rifaat or Manbij,” Erdogan said, referring to two towns in the western border area where he said YPG fighters remained.”

Al-Monitor: Baghdadi's Death Complicates Turkey's Plan In Idlib

“Although Turkey is trying to curb operations against Syrian opposition groups in Idlib, back-to-back American operations hunting down notable Islamic State (IS) members have complicated Ankara’s efforts to maintain the status quo. The United States has ceded control of northeastern Syria to Turkey and Russia, but the operation that ended the life of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi put Turkey in a tough position. Baghdadi's death — particularly the location of the raid — turned the tables in favor of the Kurds, who have long said that Turkey does not effectively fight IS militants in regions under its control. The compound where the erstwhile caliph died was located in the small northwestern Syrian village of Barisha, only some 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the Turkish border. A day after his death, on Oct. 26, IS spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir was killed in the village of Ain al-Baydah near Jarablus, which has been under the control of the Turkish army since Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016. There are also unconfirmed reports that US troops rounded up several jihadis in separate airborne raids conducted in Jarablus.”

Deutsche Welle: Turkey And 'Islamic State' — Is Ankara Doing Enough?

“It came as a great relief to many Western governments when Washington announced last week that the leader of the “Islamic State” (IS) terrorist militia, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed during during a US military raid in the northern Syrian region of Idlib. Among the Turkish public, however, al-Baghdadi's whereabouts has raised a serious question: How can one of the most wanted terrorists in the world go unnoticed only a few kilometers from Turkey's border? The terrorist leader's 65-year-old sister was also located around 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the Turkish border, Ankara reported on Tuesday. She is said to have been arrested by Turkish authorities near the northern Syrian town of Azar. The news has many people in Turkey wondering whether the country's border region has become a hideout for high-ranking IS terrorists, and what sort of relationship the country's government has with jihadist groups. The fact that high profile terrorists have sought refuge near the Turkish border, despite Anakara's declared goal to eradicate terrorism from northern Syria, comes as a surprise to Erk Acarer, a Turkish journalist and expert on IS terrorism. “Through the military operation in Idlib, 3,000 Syrians invaded Turkey and the authorities did not even look,” he said, lamenting the lack of scrutiny directed toward people who could pose a threat and easily enter the country from Syria.” 

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Key Islamic State Affiliate Appears To Back New Leader

“The reign of new Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi is getting a boost, thanks to the apparent endorsement of one of the terror group's more influential affiliates. IS media officials Tuesday released photos of fighters with IS-Khorasan, the affiliate in Afghanistan, giving bay'ah (oath of allegiance) to Qurashi. According to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist communications, the series of 16 photos appears to show several groups of fighters, from different locations, carrying IS banners and raising their fists or their guns as they pledge their loyalty. “Their message seems to be that it's business as usual and that nothing has changed except for their leader,” said Raphael Gluck, co-founder of Jihadoscope, another company that monitors online activity by Islamist extremists. “They want to show they can mobilize and fast, and that the caliphate is still there,” he said. IS-Khorasan has been of the most resilient of the IS affiliates, surviving repeated attempts by U.S. and Afghan forces to annihilate its leadership and fighters. At one point, in April 2017, the United States dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal — a GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast — on an IS cave and tunnel system in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province to little avail.”

Yahoo News: Five Taliban Terrorists Killed In Afghanistan's Logar Province

“At least five Taliban terrorists were killed by Afghan police in an operation launched in Shena Qala village of Barak-e-Barak district in Afghanistan. Five Taliban members were killed in an operation carried by special police forces in central Logar province on Monday, Tolo News reported. The police officials also seized weapons during the operation in Barak-e-Barak. So far, the Taliban has not commented on the Afghan police operation. Meanwhile, Afghan security forces found two Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) in the Jaghatu district of Ghazni province and safely detonated them.”

Xinhua: District Police Chief Killed In Afghan Taliban Pre-Dawn Attack

“A district police chief was killed and three police officers wounded after Taliban militants launched a pre-dawn attack on a district headquarters in Afghanistan's northern Balkh province on Wednesday, a local government official said. “Maj. Qalaumuddin, police chief of Chahar Bolak district, was martyred during clashes with Taliban militants early Wednesday morning,” provincial government spokesman Munir Ahmad Farhad told Xinhua. According to the official, the clashes started roughly at 4:00 a.m. local time Wednesday after militants armed with guns and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) attacked Chahar Bolak district center from separate locations. “The security fought back the attackers and three district police officers were also wounded during the fighting,” Farhad noted, adding that the injured were shifted to a district hospital after the fighting. Several militants were also killed and wounded during the gun battle, but their number could not be exactly specified as the militants evacuated their casualties, he said. The Taliban militants, controlling parts of the mountainous province, use rugged terrains and mountains as hideouts and frequently launch hit-and-run attacks against the security forces.”

Pakistan

Xinhua: 3 Killed In Terror Attack In NW Pakistan

“A terrorist attack on a vehicle of security forces in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Tuesday left three people dead, including two security personnel, police said. District Police Officer of Dera Ismail Khan district of the province Dilawar Bangash said that two terrorists armed with automatic guns opened fire at the personnel of Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force, in the Bacha Abad area of the district. Two security personnel were killed and two others injured, while the driver of a passing-by rickshaw was also killed in the attack, the officer said. The terrorists riding on a motorcycle managed to escape from the site after the firing. The wounded personnel were shifted to a nearby military hospital where they are reportedly in a stable condition. No group has claimed the attack yet. Earlier in the day, security forces killed three terrorists in southwestern Balochistan province when they were trying to transfer an explosive-laden vehicle to the provincial capital of Quetta.”

Newsweek Pakistan: Pakistan ‘Disappointed’ At Annual U.S. Terrorism Report

“Pakistan on Tuesday expressed disappointment at a report issued by the U.S. State Department, which criticized Islamabad’s counter-terrorism efforts. In a statement issued by the Foreign Office, Islamabad said the Country Report on Terrorism 2018 “completely overlooks the factual situation on the ground and the tremendous contribution made and sacrifices rendered by Pakistan over the last two decades in the international struggle against terrorism.” It said that Pakistan’s efforts had helped eliminate Al Qaeda from the region, making the entire world “a safer place” as a result. The U.S. report, released on Nov. 1, acknowledged Pakistan’s progress in adhering to international standards to reduce money laundering and terror financing but noted “implementation remains uneven.” It also criticized Islamabad for taking limited steps to tackle groups staging terror attacks from its soil, specifically identifying Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed as continuing to operate in Pakistan without any issues. It also noted that even though Pakistan had criminalized unlicensed money transfer systems such as hawala and hundi, they continued to be utilized across the country “and were open to abuse by terrorism financiers operating in the cross-border area [between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Yemen

The New York Times: Yemen’s Government Signs Peace Deal With Southern Rebels

“Yemen’s Saudi-backed government signed an agreement with southern separatists on Tuesday to end a power struggle in southern Yemen. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, hailed the agreement as a step toward a wider political solution to end the multifaceted conflict. The standoff had opened a new front in the four-year war and fractured a Saudi-led coalition that has been battling the Houthi movement in northern Yemen. The Iran-backed Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government from the capital, Sana, in late 2014. Saudi Arabia’s envoy to Yemen told reporters that the agreement would allow the separatists and other southerners to join a new Yemeni cabinet and would place southern armed forces under the control of the Yemeni government.”

Middle East

The New York Times: Jordan Stabbing Attack Leaves At Least 8 Wounded At Roman Site

“An assailant stabbed at least eight people at the popular archaeological site of Jerash in northern Jordan on Wednesday, according to the authorities, who said the individual had been arrested. The motive for the attack remained unclear. Four foreign tourists and four Jordanians — a tour guide, a truck driver, and two police officers, one of whom tried to stop the attack — were wounded and taken to a hospital, a spokesman for the Jordanian police said. Three of the foreign victims were Mexican, the police said, and the other Swiss. One of the police officers and the Swiss tourist were in serious condition, while the others were in stable condition, the police said.”

Egypt

Al Jazeera: Two Suspected Suicide Bombers From Egypt Killed In Philippines

“Soldiers in the southern Philippines have foiled what the army called an attempted suicide bombing in an urban area, the latest in a series of attacks blamed on the ISIL-aligned Abu Sayyaf armed group. Troops manning a checkpoint on the island of Jolo, Sulu province, engaged in a short gunfight with three men, include two Egyptian nationals on a motorcycle late on Tuesday afternoon, the military said in a statement on Wednesday. The attackers were killed and bomb vests, a handgun, a grenade and detonators were seized. The intended target was an urban area of Jolo, the island's capital, and two of the men were Egyptian, the statement said. The other man was Filipino and a member of Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) and is notorious for piracy and kidnapping foreigners. He was identified as alias Dems. Cirilito Sobejana, military commander of Western Mindanao, identified the two Egyptians as Abduramil and his son, Abdurahman, according to the Manila-based TV station, GMA News. Corleto Vinluan Jr, military commander in Sulu, was quoted by news reports as lauding the “superb planning and careful execution” to stop the operation.”

Nigeria

Xinhua: Nigerian Troops Kill 10 Boko Haram Militants In Attack

“A total of 1o Boko Haram militants were killed and several others fled with bullet wounds as Nigerian troops repelled an attack in the country's northeastern state of Borno early Tuesday, the army said. Two other Boko Haram militants were captured during the gunfight which lasted about three hours along the Monguno-Ngolom-Marte road, said Bulama Biu, a commander of the army in Nigeria's northeast region. A group of Boko Haram fighters had laid an ambush for troops who were on deployment to the Marte area of Borno, launching an attack with several gun trucks. Biu told Xinhua that the troops successfully repelled the attack. According to him, the wounded militants fled due to the superior firepower of the troops. On Monday, he said some Boko Haram militants had earlier attempted to launch an attack on Gajiganna, a different location in Borno, but troops pushed them back, forcing the militants to also flee in disarray. The army commander said troops had cordoned off the attacked areas in search of the fleeing militants.”

Somalia

The Washington Post: In Somalia, Can Al-Shabab Be Defeated? Here’s Why A Nonmilitary Option Might Succeed.

“On Oct. 13, al-Shabab sent mortar rounds into the United Nations base at the Mogadishu airport, one of the most fortified areas in Somalia. A July hotel attack and car bombing in a Somali port town left more than 26 dead. In May, al-Shabab detonated a car bomb near the presidential palace in Mogadishu, killing nine people. Al-Shabab is an Islamist extremist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, seeking to oust the Western-backed federal government of Somalia and install an Islamic government instituting sharia law. Despite coalition efforts to counter this militant group, al-Shabab continues to demonstrate resiliency and the ability to launch attacks both domestically and cross-border into Kenya. The U.S. government estimates al-Shabab has 7,000 to 9,000 fighters. The counterinsurgency campaign focused on militarily defeating the group is a coalition that includes the Somalian government, an African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) deployment of more than 20,000 troops and the Somali National Army (SNA), supported by U.S. airstrikes. In Somalia, al-Shabab targeted U.S. and E.U. forces. Here’s what these troops are doing there. The coalition has had some success liberating al-Shabab-controlled territory in south-central Somalia but has been unable to eradicate the group.”

Voice Of America: Al-Shabab Chief Partially Seen On Video For First Time

“Somalia's al-Shabab militants have released a video that for the first time gives a partial view of the group's leader, Abu Ubaidah. The video, released Tuesday, shows Ubaidah meeting with Shabab fighters in a forest before the group's failed Sept. 30 raid on Ballidogle, an airbase used by U.S. forces in Somalia. The video shows Ubaidah’s hands and shoulders but blurs out his face. His voice his heard addressing the would-be attackers, telling them to target U.S. military personnel in the attack. “Our biggest target today is the Americans, not the apostates,” he says. “The only reason we have exerted all this effort and undertaken all this preparation today is to attack the American troops.  Therefore you must carry out the operation with great efficiency.” The U.S. has offered a reward of up to $6 million for information leading to Ubaidah's capture. Ubaidah, previously known as Ahmed Diriye, became al-Shabab's emir in 2014 after the death of the previous leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane. Godane was one of many al-Shabab fighters and leaders who were killed in attacks by U.S. aircraft and drones. The new video does show the faces and names of about a dozen militants who participated in the Ballidogle attack.”

Africa  

The Washington Post: Stuck On US Terror List, Sudan Turns To Wealthy Gulf For Aid

“Sudan’s reformist prime minister has repeatedly urged the West to end his country’s international pariah status, arguing it’s the only way to save the nation’s three-month-old democratic transition from a plunging economy. Abdallah Hamdok, who came to power following a power-sharing deal between protesters and the military that removed longtime President Omar al-Bashir from power, said in September he was expecting a “big breakthrough” that would remove Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and unlocking desperately needed foreign aid. But nothing changed — except that Hamdok is now turning to two wealthy Gulf Arab monarchies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to secure the funds to keep his government afloat. Both countries are known for bankrolling military rulers in Egypt, Libya and, previously, Sudan.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Terrorist Cell Linked To ISIS Leaders Uncovered In Tunisia 

“Tunisian National Guard units uncovered a four-member terrorist cell that has pledged allegiance to ISIS. They said defendants were in contact with elements who joined extremist organizations in hotbeds outside Tunisia. Security probes have shown that one of Nabeul city’s residents downloaded posts and videos on his account on social media to glorify ISIS. The defendant also contacted terrorist elements in Tunisia and made virtual contacts with a number of Tunisian extremists abroad, who were found to have joined militant groups. While pursuing movements of extremist groups, counterterrorism teams stepped up their investigations until confirming there were three other elements who belong to the same cell, adopt the same ideas and communicate with the same ISIS leaders. Tunisian security sources stressed that counterterrorism teams have arrested the four defendants and opened a judicial case against them for glorifying and inciting extremism and for belonging to a militant organization. In this context, the country’s Interior Ministry announced last week's arresting five other operatives within the so-called ‘solo wolves’ that adopt radical ideas.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Terror Accused Durham Teen 'Had Neo-Nazi Alter-Ego'

“A boy accused of planning a terrorist attack developed a neo-Nazi “alter-ego” to make him feel superior to other people, a court has heard. The 16-year-old, from Durham, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, denies six terror offences. He told Manchester Crown Court the “persona” was limited to his diaries and online activity. Michelle Nelson QC, prosecuting, said the defendant was “lying and attempting to manipulate” the jury. She asked why he chose to adopt an “extreme right-wing, fascist persona”. “Because that was the most extreme I could think of”, the defendant replied, adding it tied-in with looking down on other people. Ms Nelson said the boy had a history of racism pre-dating 2017, when he said he created the persona. Asked about the similarity between his diary and those kept by the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre in the US, the defendant said he copied their tone and “that was the start of building an alter-ego”. Under cross examination, he accepted that racist jokes he told at school - which other students had complained about in 2016 - were him and not his “persona”. Mrs Nelson asked if “the problem you had at school was that you were a racist, an anti-Semite, and a homophobe?”

The Atlantic: ‘It Can Happen To Anyone’: How ISIS Radicalized My Son

“In June 2015, 19-year-old Rasheed Benyahia left for work at the engineering firm in Birmingham, England, where he was an apprentice. He never returned home. “I immediately knew something was very, very wrong,” says Rasheed’s mother, Nicola Benyahia, in Noémi Varga’s short documentary And It Was the Same With My Son. “He was the type of boy that, even if he was going to be 10 minutes late, he would always phone me.” Ten weeks would pass before Nicola learned of her son’s whereabouts. When Rasheed sent a text to notify his mother that he was in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa—at the time, the de facto capital of the Islamic State—Nicola “knew he had a death sentence.” Six months later, she was notified that her son had been killed by shrapnel in a coalition air strike, less than a week after he arrived on the front lines of the war zone. In Varga’s award-winning film, premiering on The Atlantic Selects today, Nicola recounts the harrowing story of her son’s radicalization by ISIS. Where another documentarian might have turned to talking-head interviews, Varga instead depicts Nicola’s emotional journey through poetic re-creations that emphasize her grief and isolation. “I knew I didn’t want to make a traditional documentary,” Varga told me.”

The National: UK Removes Al Qaeda-Linked Group From Terrorism List

“The UK government has removed a “defunct” Al Qaeda-linked Libyan group from a list of terrorist organisations just 18 months after it was forced to apologise for handing over a former leader to the regime of Col Muammar Qaddafi. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) was a “brutal terrorist organisation” but was disbanded in 2010-11 during the final days of the Qaddafi regime and was no longer concerned in terrorism, according to the UK government. The decision was only the fourth time that a terrorist organisation has been taken off the list since terrorist laws to ban international groups were introduced in 2000. It ends the threat of a ten-year jail term for members of the organisation. The group was headed by Abdul Hakim Belhaj who secured an apology from the UK government last year after he was snatched in a CIA-led operation in southeast Asia in 2004 based on intelligence supplied by the UK. He was held in a Libyan jail for six years where he was questioned by UK officials and also suffered from torture. The British government said that “we sincerely regret our failures” after refusing for years to apologise for its role in his rendition.”

Germany

The Jerusalem Post: New Head Of German Pro-Israel NGO Wants Merkel To Sanction Iran, Hezbollah

“The German-Israeli Association (DIG) elected as its new director the Christian Democratic Union Party politician Uwe Becker, who pledged in late October a more aggressive posture toward Chancellor Angela Merkel’s largely pro-Iranian regime and Hezbollah policies. Becker immediately called for a full ban of the terrorist entity Hezbollah in Germany and new sanctions targeting the Iranian clerical regime. “We must also come to a clear classification of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in Germany and prohibit it, since one cannot distinguish between a terrorist and a political arm of this terrorist organization,” Becker said. Merkel’s administration vehemently opposes a terror designation of Hezbollah’s entire movement, and Germany has merely banned the so-called military wing of Hezbollah. Merkel has also rejected appeals from Central Council of Jews in Germany and the US government to outlaw the antisemitic organization Hezbollah amid rising Jew-hatred in the central European country. Becker, who is widely considered one of Israel’s strongest political supporters in Germany, currently serves as the deputy mayor and treasurer for the city of Frankfurt, as well the commissioner to combat antisemitism for the German state of Hesse where Frankfurt is located.”

Vice: The German Branch Of A U.S. Neo-Nazi Group Has A 'Kill List' Of Left-Wing Politicians

“Last year, a German offshoot of the U.S. neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division announced its existence to the world with a chilling video declaring “National Socialism is alive.” Now, it’s issuing death threats to left-wing German politicians. Two lawmakers from Germany’s Green Party have revealed they have received death threats from the group, warning that they were the first and second names on the group’s kill list. “At the moment, we are planning how and when we will execute you. At the next public rally? Or will we get you in front of your home?” read the email to 53-year-old Cem Özdemir, a veteran politician of Turkish descent, who co-chaired the Greens for a decade before stepping aside last year. Fellow Green MP Claudia Roth received an email the same day — Oct. 27 — warning that she was second on the list. The messages, which have been passed to police, are just the latest far-right death threats to stir concern in Germany, amid a climate of rising right-wing extremism. Germany’s government condemned the threats Monday, vowing to crack down on the perpetrators. “The German government clearly condemns any kind of threats or violence against politicians,” Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer told reporters.”

Europe

The New York Times: Sweden Charges Iraqi Man With Spying For Iran

“A 46-year-old Iraqi man was on Wednesday charged with spying for Iran by gathering information on Iranian refugees in Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands. Prosecutor Hans-Jorgen Hanstrom said the man, who was not identified, collected "personal information" about Iranian Arabs, known as Ahvazis, for Iran "under the cover of representing an Arabic online newspaper." The man is suspected of "having photographed and filmed Ahvazi conference delegates and demonstration participants in Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden," Hanstrom said in a statement. The man was active during a four-year period ending February 2019, and also allegedly infiltrated online forums for opposition supporters, and gathered login information for routers, he said. Hanstrom added the man allegedly communicated with Iranian intelligence agents via the internet or at personal meetings, including in Tehran. Iran's Persian-dominated government is often accused of discriminating against its ethnic Arab minority.”

NPR: Russian Court Sentences Jehovah's Witness To 6 Years In Prison For 'Extremism'

“A Russian court has sentenced a man to six years in prison. His crime? Being a practicing Jehovah's Witness. Sergei Klimov was sentenced Tuesday in the Siberian college town of Tomsk. He is one of a number of Jehovah's Witnesses to be convicted in the two years since Russia's Supreme Court banned the religious group as an extremist organization. The court said that Klimov had continued heading a regional Jehovah's Witnesses branch in defiance of the government's ban. Russian state media referred to Klimov's group as a “cell of an extremist organization.” Russia effectively considers Jehovah's Witnesses on par with the Islamic State. Human Rights Watch says the group has been increasingly persecuted as part of an “escalating crackdown on Jehovah's Witnesses, who are targeted simply for practicing their faith.” Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin described pressure on Jehovah's Witnesses as “complete nonsense.” However, Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday that Klimov's sentence was simply the court following the rule of law. Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty says that when Peskov was pressed by reporters about whether there were plans to change the controversial law, he responded that there were “no new developments.”

Asia

Business Standard: India Calls For 'Meaningful Collective Response' Against Terrorism

“Terrorism has emerged as one of the worst forms of violation of human rights yet any meaningful collective response to address the menace continues to remain elusive, India told the UN, stressing on cooperation among nations to deny safe havens to terrorists and extradite perpetrators of terror acts. Speaking at the General Assembly session on Report of the Human Rights Council', India's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador K Nagaraj Naidu said India appreciates the role of the Council in advocating a balanced approach that considers the impact of terrorism on the enjoyment of human rights while espousing international cooperation to combat the menace of terrorism. "Terrorism has emerged as one of the worst forms of violation of human rights. Despite terrorism being acknowledged as one of the foremost global challenges, any meaningful collective responses to address this menace continues remain elusive, Naidu said.”

Reuters: Militants Attack Tajik Border Post, 17 Killed: Security Officials

“Masked Islamic State militants attacked a border post on the Tajik-Uzbek border overnight, triggering a gun battle that killed 15 of the militants, a guard and a policeman, Tajik authorities said on Wednesday. There was no immediate announcement from the militant group, which has claimed responsibility for a series of assaults in Tajikistan in recent months. Five of the gunmen were captured after the attack on the Tajik side of the border, 50 km (30 miles) southwest of the capital Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s National Security Committee said. It released a photograph showing the badly burned bodies of three men in black military-style outfits, lying on the ground next to a wrecked car. The committee said the gunmen had entered the former Soviet republic earlier this month via its border with Afghanistan and were “on a special mission”. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the killing of four Western cyclists in Tajikistan last year and for a prison riot in May which left dozens dead. The jihadi group, whose main stronghold was in Iraq and Syria before its territorial defeat, has recruited thousands of fighters from Central Asia, where Sunni Islam is the dominant religion.”

CNN Philippines: 3 Suicide Bombers' Foiled Plan In Sulu Linked To ISIS Leader's Killing

“The planned suicide bombing of three foreign terrorists killed in an encounter with government troops in Sulu could be to retaliate for the recent death of top ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a raid by US Special Forces, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Wednesday. Cirilito Sobejana”The foiled suicide bombing among 3 terror member, 2 of whom are foreigners, could be a retaliation to the recent killing of the ISIS leader in Syria,” said AFP Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom),Commander LtGen. Cirilito Sobejana in a phone message to CNN Philippines. Sobejana said soldiers set up a checkpoint at Sitio Itawon, Barangay Kan Islam, Indanan after receiving a report on a planned suicide bombing in Jolo. The Westmincom also reported the three suspects were on board a motorcycle when they saw the solders and fired at them. The exchange of fire lasted for five minutes. The report said two of those killed were Egyptian terrorists identified as “Abduramil” and “Abdurahman.” Sobejana said the third suspect is a Filipino. The Westmincom chief also noted that the alleged suicide bombers were under an Abu Sayyaf group led by Hatib Sawadjaan, the alleged mastermind in the bombing of a Catholic cathedral in Jolo last January. “[They are] under ASG Sub-leader Hatib Sawadjaan.” 

Bloomberg: Thailand Probes Southern Attack That Killed At Least 14 People

“Thailand began a probe into an attack that killed at least 14 people in its restive deep south, one of the worst such incidents in recent years. An unknown number of assailants attacked two checkpoints in Yala province just before midnight Tuesday, a government report showed. Five people were injured apart from those killed. The report said the attackers sprayed gunfire at the checkpoints and were trying to provoke unrest in the region. It described the toll of dead and injured as preliminary. “We’ve received information about the incident and have begun investigating,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha told reporters in Bangkok on Wednesday. Separatists in the southern provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and Songkhla have fought for an independent state since Thailand formally annexed the autonomous Malay-Muslim sultanate in 1902.”