Eye on Extremism: November 8, 2018

Associated Press: US Syria Envoy Says US To Contest Iran Activities In Region

“Washington will focus on pressuring Iran financially and contesting its activities in Syria, Iraq and Yemen where the Persian nation enjoys broad influence, the U.S. envoy to Syria said Wednesday, adding that Tehran should eventually withdraw all Iran-commanded forces from Syria. Ambassador James Jeffrey told a group of journalists via a telephone conference that Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that President Donald Trump pulled America out of in May had a bad effect on Iran’s behavior that “accelerated its activities.” Iran enjoys influence in several countries in the region where it backs well-armed militias that are deployed in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. Speaking about Iran’s future in Syria, Jeffrey said: “Iranians are part of the problem not part of the solution.” Jeffrey said the Trump administration is now focusing on putting financial pressure on Iran and “secondly contesting more actively Iran’s activities particularly in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.” Washington this week imposed a new list of sanctions against Iran’s vital oil exports, banking and transport industries.”

Reuters: Clashes Between Taliban And Shia Minority Raise Fears Of Afghan Sectarian War

“The Taliban have infiltrated a strategic district in southeastern Afghanistan and fought with members of the Shi’ite Hazara minority, officials said on Thursday, a week after militants and a Shi’ite militia clashed in a central province. Insurgents raided the Jaghori district in Ghazni province on Wednesday, aiming to regain control of a Shi’ite-dominated region that allows women to move freely and encourages higher female participation in government. The attacks on Jaghori by the Taliban, a militant group made up mainly of ethnic Pashtun Sunni Muslims, have heightened fears of a new surge of sectarian violence in Afghanistan. The violence has also highlighted concerns that Hazaras, members of a mainly Shi’ite minority, may take up arms in frustration at a lack action by the central government.”

Al Jazeera: Houthi Chief Vows To 'Not Surrender' As Rebels Lose Ground

“The chief of Houthi rebels in Yemen has said he will "never surrender" to Saudi-backed pro-government forces as a fierce battle for control of a key port city deepens the humanitarian crisis. "Does the enemy think that penetrating this or that area, or seizing this or that area, means we will be convinced that we should surrender and hand over control?" Abdel-Malik al-Houthi said on Wednesday in a televised address. "This is not happening and will not happen ever," he said, according to AFP news agency. Hodeidah is a strategic port for humanitarian aid and is the entry point for over 70 percent of imports into Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world. Nearly 200 fighters have been killed in the fierce battle on the outskirts of rebel-held Hodeidah since last week, including at least 27 Houthi rebels and 12 pro-government fighters in the past 24 hours. The Houthi rebels appeared to acknowledge they have lost ground in the battle for Hodeidah and accused pro-government forces of provoking an escalation in violence. "The enemy benefits from its numbers, which it has increased even further to pressure the city of Hodeidah," said the chief of the Houthi rebels. His statement came shortly after Saudi-backed forces said they have pounded rebel positions with an air attack and a ground assault, and now control a major road leading to the port city. Yemeni military officials and witnesses on both sides of the Hodeidah front line on Wednesday said the alliance secured an urban area along 50th Street, which leads to the Red Sea port about 5km away.”

The New York Times: Gunman Kills At Least 12 At Thousand Oaks Bar

“A armed man dressed in black opened fire late Wednesday night inside a crowded country and western dance hall in Thousand Oaks, Calif., killing at least 12 people, including a sheriff’s deputy who had responded to the scene. The gunman is dead, officials said early Thursday, adding that there was no longer a threat to those at the bar, the Borderline Bar & Grill, which was filled with hundreds of people, many of them college students, at the time of the attack. Witnesses described a chaotic scene: A gunman opening fire, first at a security guard, as patrons dropped to the dance floor, hid under tables and broke windows to escape. The Ventura County sheriff, Geoff Dean, said there were “multiple other victims of different levels of injuries.” His voice cracking, he identified one victim as Sgt. Ron Helus, who was shot when he entered the building. “He died a hero because he went, he went in to save lives, to save other people’s lives,” Sheriff Dean said.”

TechCrunch: Where’s The Accountability Facebook?

“Facebook has yet again declined an invitation for its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to answer international politicians’ questions about how disinformation spreads on his platform and undermines democratic processes. But policymakers aren’t giving up — and have upped the ante by issuing a fresh invitation signed by representatives from another three national parliaments. So the call for global accountability is getting louder. Now representatives from a full five parliaments have signed up to an international grand committee calling for answers from Zuckerberg, with Argentina, Australia and Ireland joining the UK and Canada to try to pile political pressure on Facebook. The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee has been asking for Facebook’s CEO to attend its multi-month enquiry for the best part of this year, without success.”

United States

The Atlantic: An American Citizen Tried To Join ISIS. Does That Make Him An ‘Enemy Combatant’?

“A 13-month legal saga ended quietly last week when an American citizen accused of joining isis went free. For more than a year, the U.S. military had held him in Iraq without charging him. At one point the government offered to release him somewhere in Syria with a cell phone and a few thousand dollars, an outcome his lawyers said would amount to a death sentence. In the end,  he was transferred to a third country and let go. One case, then, is settled. The larger questions underlying it—the same ones that three successive presidents have failed to resolve—are very much not. Where exactly are the limits on the U.S. government’s authority to detain “enemy combatants,” including U.S. citizens? More fundamentally, where are the limits on America’s wartime powers in a war on terror that never seems to end? The case of the man court documents identify only as John Doe “was a really really important opportunity for clarification, and it ended after 13 months with none,” said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas who has followed the case closely.”

Business Insider: Here's What We Know About The US Military's Expanding Counterterrorism War Across Africa

“As the Pentagon was reviewing new plans for special operations missions in Africa, reducing overall troop numbers on the continent, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis designated three new named contingency operations. The most recent quarterly report from the Department of Defense Inspector General notes the creation of Operation Yukon Journey, a counterinsurgency operation, and counterterrorism operations in both northwestern and eastern Africa. Those were named in February, according to the report. The report covered activities in Operations Inherent Resolve from July to September. At the time and in the months afterward, details of the Defense Department investigation emerged in the October ambush of US soldiers in Niger that left four US and four Nigerien soldiers dead, leading officials to call for increased air support and changes in how special operations forces conducted missions.”

Haaretz: U.S. Hopes Russia Will Continue To Let Israel Hit Iran In Syria

“The United States said on Wednesday it hoped Russia would continue to allow Israel to strike Iranian targets in Syria, despite Moscow's supply of the S-300 air defence system to the Syrian government. "Russia has been permissive, in consultation with the Israelis, about Israeli strikes against Iranian targets inside Syria. We certainly hope that that permissive approach will continue," Ambassador James Jeffrey, Washington's Syria envoy, said in a conference call with reporters. Moscow said in October it had delivered the S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Syria, after accusing Israel of indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military jet by Syrian air defences following an Israeli air strike nearby. Like Russia, Iran is a key military supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Israel regards the Islamic republic as its most dangerous enemy and has staged repeated air raids against its military and allied militia deployed in Syria.”

Daily Sabah: US Does Not Recognize YPG As Terrorist Group: Syria Envoy Jeffrey

“The U.S. does not recognize PKK's Syrian affiliate People's Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist organization, U.S. Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey said Wednesday. Jeffrey's statement came after a question about the U.S.' conflicting approach as Washington, which considers the PKK a terrorist organization, announced a combined $12 million reward for senior PKK leaders while backing its Syrian offshoot YPG by providing training, arms and military equipment. On Tuesday the U.S. Department of State's Rewards for Justice program authorized up to $5 million for information on PKK's acting leader Murat Karayılan, $4 million for Cemil Bayık and $3 million for Duran Kalkan. Jeffrey said that while the U.S. "understood" Turkey's security concerns regarding the ties between the PKK and YPG, it does not consider YPG to be a terrorist group. "Our position on PKK is clear, but we do not classify YPG as a terror organization. We never did," Jeffrey said. "We understand Turkey's security concerns. We understand the concern over ties between PKK and YPG. That's why we are acting very, very carefully. We inform Turkey about what we do and why we do it." In regards to U.S.-Turkey joint patrols in Syria's Manbij, Jeffrey said Washington would do everything to thwart any potential threats toward Turkey. "We will do everything to stop any threats from northern Syria toward Turkey. We are very, very carefully eliminating arms we supplied to the (Syrian Democratic Forces) SDF over Turkey's concerns," Jeffrey said.”


Agence France-Presse: Islamic State Suffers Heavy Syria Losses Despite Kurd Forces Pause: Monitor

“At least 65 Islamic State group fighters have been killed around their last enclave in Syria despite a pause in a two-month Kurdish-led assault, a monitor said Wednesday. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces announced a pause in its offensive in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor last week in protest at Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions along Syria’s northern border. But waves of U.S.-led airstrikes since Monday have killed 48 jihadis, including during two IS assaults on oilfields north of the Hajin enclave, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. On Tuesday the jihadis launched an assault on the Azrak oil field, followed by an attack Wednesday on the Tanak oil field, where U.S.-backed SDF fighters are based, it said. A coalition spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The SDF killed another 17 IS fighters while defending a base in the village of Al-Bahra just outside IS-held territory on Monday, the Britain-based monitoring group said. Alliance spokesman Kino Gabriel had stressed that the pause in offensive operations did not mean SDF fighters would not defend themselves. The SDF launched its assault on the IS enclave around the Euphrates valley town of Hajin on Sept. 10. But after making slow progress, it suffered a major setback last month when IS used cover provided by sand storms to launch a series of counter-attacks. By the end of the month, the jihadis had recaptured all of the territory the SDF had won.”


Associated Press: US Warns Nations Not To Allow Iranian Oil Tankers

“The United States is warning other countries not to allow Iranian oil tankers into their territorial waters or ports, saying such access may run afoul of U.S. sanctions and not only incur penalties, but also result in catastrophic economic and environmental damage should an accident occur. The State Department reminded the global shipping and insurance industries Wednesday that as part of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” to get Iran to change its behavior, insuring Iranian tankers will now incur penalties under U.S. sanctions reinstated this week. Brian Hook, the special U.S. representative for Iran, said that as major insurers withdraw coverage from Iranian vessels, Iran will likely turn to domestic insurance companies that will not be able to cover losses for maritime accidents that could run into the billions of dollars.”

Associated Press: US Will Push Back At Iran Activities In Region, Says US Envoy To Syria

“Washington will focus on pressuring Iran financially and contesting its activities in Syria, Iraq and Yemen where the Persian nation enjoys broad influence, the U.S. envoy to Syria said Wednesday, adding that Tehran should eventually withdraw all Iran-commanded forces from Syria. Ambassador James Jeffrey told a group of journalists via a telephone conference that Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that President Donald Trump pulled America out of in May had a bad effect on Iran’s behavior that “accelerated its activities.” Iran enjoys influence in several countries in the region where it backs well-armed militias that are deployed in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. Speaking about Iran's future in Syria, Jeffrey said: "Iranians are part of the problem not part of the solution." Jeffrey said the Trump administration is now focusing on putting financial pressure on Iran and “secondly contesting more actively Iran’s activities particularly in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.”

Voice Of America: Latest Arrest Spurs Rights Group To Demand Iran Journalists' Release

“Authorities in Iran’s capital have arrested a journalist who wrote about government corruption, in the latest of a series of Iranian journalist detentions that have drawn international concern. The first word of journalist Masoud Kazemi’s arrest came from his fianceé, Shima Tadrisi, in a Monday tweet. She said neighbors told her that several people entered the couple’s Tehran home that morning and took Kazemi away. “We do not know which entity arrested him or the reason for the arrest,” Tadrisi said, adding that those who took her fiancé also confiscated laptop computers, hard disks and flash drives from the home. Kazemi is a former reporter for Iran’s reformist Shargh daily newspaper. An Iranian journalist who identified himself as a friend and former colleague of Kazemi, Sobhan Hassanvand, also posted a tweet saying Kazemi had been arrested Monday.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iran’s Underground Efforts In Syria’s South Hope To Reestablish Foothold

“A delegation of senior Tehran representatives close to the Iranian Supreme Leader visited Syria’s southwestern province, Daraa. Their trip was carried out under the banner of reconstruction and empowerment of locals. Including Khamenei’s personal representative, dubbed Abu Fazzel Tabtabai, the team congratulated Daraa for being freed from the grip of terror groups, Syria pro-regime media outlets reported. Daraa officials tagged along for the delegation’s tour of the governorate. The Iranian delegation accredited Iranian and Hezbollah forces for helping achieve the eradication of “terrorism,” in the southern province, private sources said. Promising to put the best interest of Daraa locals first, Iran pledged to launch reconstruction projects in the southern region in the coming months. Iran is slowly finding its way back into Syrian southern territories after it had confirmed its withdrawal in favor of a reconciliation pact struck between rebels and the Syrian regime, South Syria resident Samer Al Musalma told Asharq Al Awsat. The deal stipulates removing Iran forces and affiliate proxies from Syria’s southern regional border area. “Iran is trying to grow its activities in Syria’s south whether it is of a civilian or military nature, even though it is trying hard to play the “reformed man’s” role away from arms and closer to culture and civil services,” Musalma said.”


Reuters: Islamic State Put Up To 12,000 People In Mass Graves, U.N. Says

“More than 200 mass graves have been uncovered in parts of Iraq formerly controlled by Islamic State fighters, according to the United Nations. The graves contain the remains of thousands of people who are believed to be the victims of the Sunni militant group. The dead include women, children, the elderly and disabled, as well as Iraqi soldiers and police officers, a U.N. report said Tuesday. ISIS overran swaths of northern Iraq in 2014 and declared it part of their so-called caliphate. They were defeated by Iraqi forces supported by a U.S.-led coalition in December 2017. The United Nations has said previously that almost 33,000 civilians were killed by the group in Iraq, with more than 55,000 injured. The United Nations estimates that 6,000 to 12,000 bodies are contained in the 202 graves documented in the report. But exact numbers were difficult to establish, it said, since only 28 mass graves have been excavated so far, with just 1,258 bodies exhumed. The deaths occurred in what the United Nations has called a systematic and widespread campaign of violence, "which may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide." During its three-year rule, the group terrorized local residents, conducting well-publicized executions of people targeted for their perceived opposition, government ties, sexual orientation and more. The militants also targeted members of ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis. The smallest mass grave, found in Mosul, contains eight bodies. The biggest, the Al Khasfa sinkhole south of Mosul, is thought to contain roughly 4,000 bodies. The United Nations said the sites must be protected from interference or contaminatic3on to ensure justice and accountability.”

Iraqi News: Two Islamic State Members Arrested During Operations, West Of Mosul

Two Islamic State members were arrested in west of Mosul, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said on Wednesday. In a statement, Maj. Gen. Saad Maan, spokesperson for the ministry, said Nineveh police, in collaboration with citizens, “managed to arrest two Islamic State members, wanted for judiciary.” The militants, according to Maan, “were hiding from security troops since the liberation operations in the province.” On Monday, Maan said the Iraqi federal police arrested nine Islamic State militants during security operations in Mosul city. Six of them were members of Islamic State’s Jund (soldiers) Diwan, who fought against security forces during operations to liberate Mosul from terrorism. Thousands of Islamic State militants as well as Iraqi civilians were killed since the government campaign, backed by paramilitary troops and the coalition was launched in October 2016.[ In December, the former Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced gaining control on all the territories that were captured by Islamic State, since 2014. However, Islamic State continues to launch sporadic attacks across Iraq against troops. Security reports indicate that the militant group still poses threat against stability in the country. The group still has dormant cells, through which it carries out attacks, across Iraq like it used to do before 2014.”

Al Monitor: Iraq, Syria Lay Plans To Reopen Border

“In an interview with Russia's Sputnik Nov. 1, Syrian Transportation Minister Ali Hammoud said Syria is preparing to open checkpoints on its border with Iraq now that security has returned and is looking forward to working with Iraq on logistics. The Iraqi government received a request from Syria at the end of October to send a special delegation headed by Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem to discuss reopening the border crossings. Baghdad reportedly welcomed the idea. Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and his Syrian counterpart decided to open the border crossings, especially the strategic Al-Bukamal border crossing, in a Oct. 15 meeting. Jaafari said the crossings between Iraq and Syria had been closed because of “exceptional circumstances” after the Islamic State seized Al-Bukamal city in the Deir ez-Zor countryside. The Syrian army recaptured El-Bukamal Nov. 11, 2017, the most important crossing in the region, linking key Iraqi cities like Haditha and Hit to Syrian cities like Palmyra, Al-Mayadeen and Deir ez-Zor. Spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and Baghdad Operations Saad Maan told Al-Monitor that despite the presence of IS fighters on the border, “The Iraqi-Syrian borders have indeed been liberated completely.”


HAARETZ: Turkey: U.S. Must Break From Syrian Kurds After PKK Reward Offer

“Turkey gave a guarded welcome on Wednesday to a U.S. decision to offer millions of dollars to help capture three top Kurdish PKK militants but said Washington must also break its alliance with Kurdish militias in northern Syria. Washington pledged up to $5 million for information which could lead to the arrest of PKK military commander Murat Karayilan, and lesser rewards for two other leaders of the group which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 34 years. The surprise move followed a series of steps in the last month which have eased a diplomatic crisis between the two NATO allies. However they remain deeply divided, including over U.S. support for Kurdish YPG fighters in north Syria. Turkey says the YPG is indistinguishable from the PKK, which is designated a terrorist organisation by Ankara, Washington and the European Union, and demands the United States stop support for the militia - a U.S. ally against Islamic State in Syria.”


TOLO News: Taliban Launches Group Attacks On Ghazni’s Jaghori District

“Taliban for the first time on Wednesday morning launched group attacks from a few directions on Jaghori district, one of Afghanistan’s most secure districts in Ghazni province, and according to Ministry of Interior clashes are still ongoing. Mohammad Arif Noori, Ghazni governor’s spokesman said Taliban attacked Jaghori from Gailan district. “Last night the armed anti-government group (Taliban) attacked two border check posts of local police in Angory area of Jaghori from Rasanai area of Gailan district,” Mohammad Arif Noori, Ghazni governor’s spokesman said. Interior ministry said six police soldiers have been wounded so far in the clashes.  Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said security forces have withdrawn from two outposts after clashes intensified but said additional troops have since arrived along with equipment in the district.  “Enough equipment has arrived via air to our forces and backup forces have been deployed there. The situation is under our control, but clashes are still ongoing,” said Danish. Ghazni MPs in the Wolesi Jirga (the Lower House of Parliament) meanwhile accused government, especially security departments, of being negligent regarding the Jaghori attack. The MPs said although they repeatedly urged government to send backup forces to Jaghori and save people from Taliban’s attacks, security departments did nothing to help.  “Government must defend the lives and properties of the people,” MP Abdul Qayyum Sajjadi said.”


Associated Press: Pakistani Christian Woman Asia Bibi May Flee Pakistan Amid Islamist Threats After Blasphemy Acquittal

“A Christian woman acquitted after eight years on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy was released but her whereabouts in Islamabad on Thursday remained a closely guarded secret in the wake of demands by radical Islamists that she be publicly executed. Aasia Bibi was with her family and under heavy security after being transferred to the Pakistani capital overnight from her detention facility in southern Punjab, triggering expectations that her departure from the country could be imminent. The European Parliament has made an offer to protect Bibi and her family but for the moment she was still in Pakistan, according to two people close to her. They spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to endanger Bibi's life. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed later on Thursday that Bibi was still in Pakistan. Radical Islamists have been demanding Bibi's death as well as the death of the three Supreme Court judges who acquitted her last week.”

The Economic Times: Will Pakistan Ever Wipe Out Extremism?

“Pakistan’s new prime minister is finding it extremely difficult to tackle the impending challenge posed by Islamist hardliners. Immediately after his not-so-successful visit to China, Imran Khan needs to be seen restoring the government’s prestige and authority which seemed to have withered away when the enraged Islamist protesters made a mockery of the rule of law on the streets of Pakistan’s several cities. It has been reported by the government’s spin doctors that he means business. But reality is very different from rhetoric. Pakistan’s Supreme Court’s landmark decision to acquit Aasia Bibi, a Christian women accused of committing blasphemy, had led to violent protests across Pakistan. The situation became worse when protesters blocked major highways across the country and main urban centres in Pakistan. But instead of firmly dealing with protesters, the law enforcement agencies submitted meekly before the rampaging zealots, and the terms of submission are very humiliating.”


The National: Yemen's Pro-Government Forces Recapture Red Sea Mill From Houthis

“Yemen's pro-government forces backed by the Arab coalition recaptured the Red Sea mill and other factories on Tuesday as the Al Amalikah brigades advanced closer to rebel-held Hodeidah. The retaking of the mill, east of Hodeidah, from Houthi fighters marks a significant victory for the Yemeni military as it means taking control of one of the rebel group's food supplies. One Hodeidah resident told The National that Houthi fighters had shelled factories on Wednesday killing four workers and injuring more than eight. In September UN humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande said in a statement that the Red Sea mill had 45,000 metric tonnes of food inside. "Enough to feed 3.5 million people for a month," she said. "If the mills are damaged or disrupted, the human cost will be incalculable." The spokesman for the Al Amalikah brigades Colonel Mamoon Al Mahjami told The National that pro-Yemeni forces had been advancing steadily toward Hodeidah in a bid to create a noose around the city of 600,000 and force rebel fighters to surrender.”

Al Arabiya: Yemeni Government Warns Of Houthi Militias’ ‘Terrorist Intentions’

“The Houthis intentionally target civilians and have “terrorist intentions” in Hodeidah, Yemeni government spokesperson Rajeh Badi warned in a statement on Wednesday. Badi told the Yemeni news agency that the Houthi militias have a “terrorist agenda”, including the possibility of "blowing up" an oil tanker in Ras Isa. “The militias have schemed terrorist plans as a result of the huge losses they’ve endured. These plans include booby-trapping governmental buildings and national (facilities) like the Hodeidah Port. There are also terrorist intentions to target international navigation paths and global trade in Bab-el-Mandeb and South of the Red Sea, and to blow up the Safer oil tank at Ras Isa which contains around one million barrels of crude oil,” Badi said, noting that blowing up the latter may result in an environmental and economic disaster to Yemen and the region’s countries. He added that the militias deliberately place heavy weapons in populated residential neighborhoods and block main roads in Hodeidah thus affecting civilian movement and flow of humanitarian aid, adding that the Houthi militias intentionally target civilians. According to Badi, the joint forces command of the coalition continues to facilitate naval permits for the Hodeidah Port and continues to secure safe passages to and from Hodeidah. He noted that the Houthis will be legally responsible before the international community for their violations of international humanitarian laws and any terrorist activity they plan to carry out to weaken economic capabilities and infrastructure in Hodeidah and other governorates.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Houthi Leader Pleads With Deserters To Return

“Leader of Yemen's Houthi militias Abdulmalik al-Houthi called Wednesday on his supporters who had fled Yemeni battlefronts to rejoin the ranks of the insurgents. In a speech in which he looked rather confused, al-Houthi called for general mobilization against an operation launched by the Saudi-led Arab Coalition in Yemen's Red Sea port city of Hodeidah. "I call upon all free men … to head to the fronts to defend the port city," he said in a speech aired by the Houthi-run Al Masirah satellite TV channel. "It is a big battlefield stretching 2,000 km along the Red Sea coast," he said. His speech made no reference about any desire for peace. For its part, the Yemeni government warned from Houthi plots to bomb government buildings and national institutions like the Port of Hodeidah, and terrorist plans of targeting international maritime trade navigation at Bab al-Mandab and the south of the Red Sea, and bombing Safer Oil Tank at Ras Isa Port, which contains nearly a million barrel of crude oil and can cause environment and economic catastrophe to Yemen and the regional countries. Government spokesperson Rajeh Badi said Houthis have placed heavy weapons in populated areas and damaged highways to hamper the delivery of humanitarian aid. On Wednesday, pro-government forces said they had made further advances on Hodeidah after fierce battles that have killed nearly 200 fighters in the past week.”


Reuters: Lebanon's Hezbollah Won't Yield In Government Formation Dispute: Report

“The Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah will not give way in a dispute over Sunni Muslim representation in a new unity government, the pro-Hezbollah al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Wednesday, signaling no quick end to the standoff. Separately, a senior political source close to Hezbollah told Reuters it was up to President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, to resolve the problem because neither Hezbollah nor Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri could give ground. Six months since a parliamentary election, the row over Sunni representation is seen as the final hurdle to the formation of a new government. Posts in the 30-seat cabinet are parceled out along sectarian lines. Lebanon is in dire need of a government able to make economic reforms that are seen as more pressing than ever. The country is wrestling with the world’s third largest public debt as a proportion of the economy and stagnant growth.”

Daily Star: Hezbollah: No Compromise On Sunni MPs’ Representation

“Despite growing criticism of its role in the Cabinet formation process, Hezbollah does not appear to be willing to compromise over its support for a demand by independent Sunni lawmakers for representation, the last remaining hurdle to the formation, senior party officials said Wednesday. “From the very beginning, we have supported the independent Sunni MPs in their demand to be represented in the new government. These MPs have a weighty representation and have the right to be represented in the government under the criterion used in the formation of a national unity Cabinet,” caretaker Youth and Sports Minister Mohammad Fneish, one two Hezbollah ministers in the outgoing Cabinet, told The Daily Star. “We support these MPs’ right to be represented in the new Cabinet,” he said. Asked how the problem of the six so-called independent Sunni MPs not affiliated with the Future Movement would eventually be resolved in order to clear the way for the Cabinet formation, which has been deadlocked for nearly six months, Fneish said: “The solution to this problem lies with the prime minister-designate in understanding with the president.”


Al Arabiya: Egypt Sentences Eight ISIS Extremists To Death Over Attack

“An Egyptian military court sentenced eight members of ISIS extremist group to death on Wednesday for a deadly attack against the army in 2016, several regime sources told AFP. The court in Ismailia in the country’s northeast also sentenced 32 people to life imprisonment- a term of 25 years under Egyptian law- while two others were given 15 years. Two defendants were acquitted, a military source said. The eight who were sentenced to death were not present in court, a judicial source told AFP without elaborating. The accused were tried for “the killing of several soldiers and the attack on a checkpoint and an army vehicle” in 2016, the military source said, without giving further details. All were identified as members of the Egyptian branch of ISIS, which has led an insurgency in North Sinai and carried out several attacks across the country.”


The Telegraph: Libya Shelves Plans For December Elections As Fighting Between Rival Militias Intensifies

“The United Nations and Western powers have given up hope that Libya will hold elections in the immediate future, focusing on reconciliation first among rival factions locked in a cycle of conflict, diplomats and other sources said. In May, France had persuaded major players in the North African country to verbally agree to elections on Dec. 10 as a way of ending repeated rounds of bloodshed between competing factions that emerged after a 2011 Nato-backed uprising. But weeks of fighting between rival militias in the capital Tripoli and deadlock between rump parliaments in Tripoli and the east has made that goal unrealistic, Western officials argue. Shelving the plans for presidential and parliamentary elections is the latest setback for Western powers that helped topple Muammar Gaddafi seven years ago before stepping back and seeing hopes for a democratic transition crumble.”


Premium Times: One Soldier Killed, 16 Missing In Separate Boko Haram Attacks On Nigerian Forces

“Two attacks on Nigerian soldiers attached to Multinational Joint Task Force between November 5 and 6 left at least one soldier killed and 16 others missing, military sources told PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday. At least five soldiers were also wounded during the attack on a military camp in Kukawa village on November 5 and an improvised explosive device that went off on a moving military truck in Mallam Fatori on November 6. Both communities are in the northern fringes of Borno State, near the border with Niger Republic. In the November 5 attack, the Boko Haram insurgents tried to overrun a military checkpoint manned by 101 Special Forces and 157 Battalion with five gun trucks around 5:40 p.m. They managed to dislodge the troops and burned two armoured personnel carriers that were already in disrepair, and made away with one anti-aircraft gun and one light machine gun, military sources said. The sources said the Boko Haram terrorists then proceeded to an abandoned secondary school nearby, where the MNJTF soldiers had been using as their base, and burned its administrative office and kitchen down.”

News 24: Gunmen Abduct Four Catholic Priests In Nigeria: State Official

“Gunmen have abducted four Catholic priests in southern Nigeria, a local state official told AFP Wednesday. The kidnapping happened on Tuesday at a border community between Edo and Delta States in the south, said Andrew Aniamaka, a spokesperson for Delta State. "They were abducted on their way to Ekpoma, Edo state, from Delta for an event," he added, saying police and local security were hunting for the gunmen. A source at the Warri Catholic diocese in Delta State confirmed the incident, which comes less than three weeks after five Catholic nuns were kidnapped in Delta State. The nuns were released two weeks later, and a suspect was in custody, said Aniamaka. He would not say if a ransom had been paid. Several sources confirm that the nuns had been returning from a burial ceremony in the southeast Nigeria when they were abducted by gunmen who opened fire on their vehicles, injuring two other nuns.”


Eyewitness News: Combating The Problem Of Online Radicalisation In Africa

“The growth of the internet and the spread of mobile phones have increased social media use in Africa. Though the increased use of information and communication technology can support social, political and economic development, it may also expose people to the radicalising influence of violent extremist groups. Social media can equip terrorists with an operational tool to enlist, train, and communicate with their followers and potential recruits. Much of the debate over the role of online activities in the radicalisation process has been focused on Western countries. Less is known about online behaviours in Africa and the extent to which African national governmental strategies are addressing this issue. To this end, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) commissioned RAND Europe to explore social media use and online radicalisation in Africa as part of its ‘Regional Project on Preventing and Responding to Violent Extremism in Africa.”


Middle East Monitor: Russia Says Al-Qaeda, Daesh May Merge

“There are signs of an “imminent merge” between Al-Qaeda and Daesh, the Director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, Alexander Bortnikov, warned yesterday. The success of the Syrian government forces backed by Russian warplanes and the US-led international coalition, has buried Daesh endeavours to establish a false Islamic state in the Middle East,” Bortnikov said at the opening of the 17th meeting of the of the heads of the country’s special services, security agencies and law enforcement bodies held in the Russian capital of Moscow. Daesh militants, Bortnikov added, have been smoked out of most of their bases in populated localities suffering heavy losses. “They [Daesh] are looking for new opportunities, avenues and methods to continue their murderous activities.” The Russian official pointed out that Al-Qaeda and Daesh “could unite their potentials,” warning of what he described as “negative consequences” that might result from that merge.”


The Defense Post: Dead Or Alive: Are Malaysia ISIS Militants Among Philippines Foreign Fighter Fatalities?

“A year after the battle for Marawi, the Philippines has not solved many of the issues concerning foreign fighters it claims were killed in the five-month conflict with Islamic State-affiliated groups in the southern city. The Defense Post reported in October that the Armed Forces of the Philippines had issued a presentation slide to a terrorism expert that showed the military had identified 32 foreign fighters among militants killed in Marawi, the first such list issued by the Philippine military. At least two of those killed appeared to be children. The AFP listed Malaysian militant Dr. Mahmud Ahmad as one of the foreign fighters killed, but the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), the Malaysian agency responsible for security in the east coast of the Borneo state of Sabah – which shares maritime borders with the southern Philippines – still lists the former academic as one of 16 men wanted for trans-border crimes including terrorism. Also on the list is Amin Baco, a seasoned Malaysian militant from Sabah. The Philippine authorities said he was killed in October 2017 near the end of the Marawi battle, but Moro National Liberation front leader Yusop Jikiri later said he had escaped the battle zone and gone into hiding, a claim the Philippine military said they would investigate.”

United Kingdom

The National: UK Opposition Invited Extremist Speaker For Anti-Racism Event

“Britain’s opposition Labour party has come under fire for inviting an extremist Islamist preacher to speak alongside two of its MPs at an anti-racism event. Shakeel Begg – who a judge ruled in 2016 was an “extremist Islamist speaker who espouses extremist Islamic positions” – was invited for the event to “oppose Islamophobia and anti-Semitism”. The event was organised by a London branch of the main opposition party and featured as guest speakers two local MPs, Janet Daby and Vicky Foxcroft, as well as Mr Begg, according to advanced advertising for the event on social media. Neither Ms Foxcroft nor Mr Begg responded to requests for comment about their planned appearances at Tuesday evening’s event. “Janet Daby MP was not present at this meeting,” her office said in statement on Thursday. “At one time…. a Member of Parliament could have been trusted to possess the judgement and the authority to break that circle of radicalisation,” said David Toube, director of policy at anti-extremism group Quilliam, in a blog. “She would have known that it is just wrong to ally with extremists in order to fight extremism. No longer.”


The Republic: German-Algerian Man Indicted For Spreading IS Propaganda

“German prosecutors have indicted a 33-year-old man for supporting a foreign terrorist organization over allegations he spread Islamic State propaganda and helped militants communicate using online messaging services. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that German-Algerian dual national Samir K. used aliases to create accounts on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Telegram and with email providers. K., whose surname wasn’t released due to German privacy rules, then shared the login details with four IS militants from Germany who were in Syria and Iraq, so they could communicate secretly with other members of the group. Prosecutors say the suspect also created a “media center” that spread IS propaganda — including beheading videos — to a German-speaking audience, and encouraged people to support and join the group.”


The Washington Post: For Social Media Companies, The War Has Just Begun

“That might as well have been the mantra of technology companies ahead of these midterm elections. They were routed by disinformation-disseminating enemies both foreign and domestic two years ago — but 2018, they pledged, would be different. It was time to move out from their defensive positions and mount a sortie. So who won? The answer is your favorite Facebook relationship status: It’s complicated. Plumb the depths of any platform today, or even skim the surface, and things look grim. Every day, it seems, another story appears detailing a newly discovered network of automated accounts. They’re boosting what looks like an image of violent participants in that infamous immigration caravan President Trump keeps harping on — but turns out to be a photograph of Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli tanks . . . in 1987. They’re telling Democrats where and when to vote — but they’re saying the machines are broken, or the lines are long, or that votes for candidates with a “D” next to their name must be cast on Wednesday. And on the eve of the election, Facebook identified an alleged Russian interference operation on its platform that led to the removal of 115 accounts.”

Terrorist Financing

Almesryoon: Egypt: Terrorists Employ Advanced Communication Devices And Technologies

“General Mohammed Nour El-Din, former Egyptian Assistant Minister of Interior, stated that the terrorists, like outsiders, have been dwelling in remote desert areas in Egypt, far away from the urban centers, ever since arriving from Libya. These militants employ advanced satellite-based communication devices and technologies similar to the those used by the security agencies in Egypt, the expert disclosed. General Nour El-Din went on to say that {having access to} this sophisticated technology suggests that terrorists continue to enjoy a significant volume of funding. The sources of these funds, both domestic and foreign, originate from terror-sponsoring countries. The extremists use these advanced communication technologies to obtain information, to communicate with others, and to locate targets for potential attacks, the former Egyptian Assistant Interior Minister added. General Nour El-Din noted that dates are the mainstay of the terrorists hiding in the desert, since this {abundant} fruit almost never spoils and requires no refrigeration.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Tahdeeth Net: Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood Accused Of Smuggling Nearly $5 Million To Houthi Rebels

“A new scandal unmasks the suspicious ties between the Yemeni Congregation for Reform Party, frequently called Al-Islah Party {the Muslim Brotherhood branch in Yemen}, and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. A high-ranking local official in Ma'rib revealed that the source of the large sum of money, which was detected and confiscated by the security forces on Wednesday, was the Central Bank of Yemen. The same source accused the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood, which controls the Central Bank, of smuggling these funds to the Houthi militants. It's noteworthy that the Yemeni security forces foiled an earlier attempt to transport a hefty sum of money, estimated at $2.61 million and SR 9 million {$2.4 million}), at a local checkpoint. The money was reportedly enroute to the Houthis in Sana'a.”


Orient Net: Hezbollah Steps Up Recruitment Activities In Southern Syria  

“Informed sources said that Hezbollah recently began efforts in the southern region {of Syria} to recruit young people, especially those of compulsory conscription age. The sources disclosed that the Lebanese militia began its activities in the villages of Quneitra and Deraa about three months ago, with the imposition of settlement and reconciliation agreements by the Assad regime. The sources noted that Hezbollah pledged to pay volunteers wages as high as 150k Syrian pounds ($290) per month. They added that the Shiite militia seeks to recruit the largest number of young people, with the aim of forming cells in each and every village located in the Deraa and Quneitra regions.”


Yemen Akhbar: Houthi Group Forces Citizens To Sign Up Or Pay Up

“Houthi militants are forcing citizens in the Yemeni capital Sana'a to send their children to the Hodeidah front or pay {a large fine} as part of the "war effort." Citizens said Houthi supervisors and heads of districts have been mobilizing young men and high-school students in Sana'a to join the battle in Hodeidah, threatening that anyone refusing to do so must pay a penalty of SY100,000 ($400). The citizens stressed that their economic situation and harsh life-circumstances have forced some youth to join the ranks of the Houthis because they could not afford to pay this large sum. The citizens of Sana'a also pointed out that these actions and compulsory recruitment or, alternatively, paying the "war-effort" tax are being practiced by the Houthis in several other provinces controlled by them.”

Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)

Erem News: New Iraqi Government Equalizes Salaries Of PMF With Those Of Police And Army

“The newly formed Iraqi government, presided over by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, decided to equalize the salaries of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militants with those of the Iraqi governmental forces (police and army). An official statement issued by the Media Directorate of the PMF reported that following a meeting with PMF's financial officials, the cabinet decided unanimously to equalize the salaries of the PMF with those of the army and Interior Ministry's forces. On his part, Ahmad Al Asadi, former spokesman of the PMF, stated that the cabinet decided to allot ID 197,850,000,000 ($166 million) for the sake of the PMF's militants. This sum will be disbursed via the emergency budget, Al Asadi explained.”