Eye on Extremism: October 10, 2018

Business Insider: A US Base In Syria Is A Huge Thorn In Russia And Iran's Side — But They Can't Do Much More Than Complain About It

“Russia and the Syrian government warned the US in early September that they planned to carry out counterterrorism operations near a key US garrison in southeastern Syria known as al-Tanf, where several hundred Marines have been stationed since at least 2016. But the US responded with a live-fire exercise, and the Russians backed down. In fact, the al-Tanf garrison has long drawn the ire of Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus — but all they've been able to do is complain about it. The Russian state-owned media outlet Sputnik quoted Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem as saying late last month that the US was "gathering the remnants of the Islamic State at this base in order to later send them wage war on the Syrian army." Late last year, Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov told Russia's Pravda that satellite and other surveillance data indicated "terrorist squads" were stationed at al-Tanf and that terrorists were "effectively training there." Iran's Press TV cited Gerasimov's quote in an article published this past June titled "US forces training terrorists at 19 camps inside Syria: Russian expert." Without any real evidence, US adversaries have lobbed many rhetorical attacks against the US forces accusing them of harboring or training terrorists at al-Tanf. Damascus and Russian state-owned media even claimed in June that the US was preparing a "false flag" chemical attack "identical to the kind that took place in Douma" at al-Tanf.”

The Guardian: Assad's Exhausted Army In Need Of Reinforcements As Idlib Battle Looms

“After seven long years, Bashar al-Assad has almost clinched victory in Syria. Just one province remains beyond his grasp, but as his Russian and Iranian allies step away from the last stages of the war they leave behind a Syrian army too weak to finish the job on its own. The regime has said a ceasefire deal in the last opposition stronghold of Idlib is a temporary measure to avoid civilian deaths. But facing the prospect of a major battle without the help of Russian airpower and Iranian-backed ground militias – both appear reluctant to commit to the final battle – the stakes are higher for Syria’s depleted and demoralised army than they have been in years. Casualties, desertions and draft dodging have taken a heavy toll. Unlike dozens of ceasefires violated by his forces in the past, Assad appears to need this one to work, at least until he is able to strengthen his depleted forces. The regime is so desperate for new recruits that this summer, as the final battle for Idlib loomed, the state changed the rules for passing university exams without first telling students, in an effort to drag male students into the armed forces.”

Radio Free Europe: Iranian Diplomat Extradited To Belgium To Face Charges In Bomb-Plot Case

“An Iranian diplomat who is the suspected mastermind of an attack that allegedly was planned on Iranians living in exile in France has been extradited from Germany to Belgium, security officials said. Previously identified as Assadollah Assadi by AFP, the 46-year-old diplomat based in Austria was arrested in the southern German state of Bavaria on July 1. He was extradited to Belgium on October 9 after a court in Bamberg approved an extradition request last week, police and prosecutorial officials said. Assadi will appear before a Belgian judge in charge of the case on October 10, the Federal Prosecutor's Office in Brussels told AFP. France announced last week it had frozen Assadi's assets for six months. Assadi is suspected of passing a device containing 500 grams of explosives to a couple living in Belgium who allegedly planned to use the explosives to carry out the terrorist attack. The planned attack allegedly targeted a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in the Paris suburb of Villepinte on June 30, which was attended by some 25,000 Iranians opposed to the government in Tehran.”

Fox News: New Al Qaeda Cell Forms In Burkina Faso, As Terror Group Cements Foothold In Africa

“While the exploits of ISIS may have splashed across more headlines in recent years, there is growing concern among U.S. officials that Al Qaeda (AQ) is the much more dangerous force in the Sahel region of Africa, where the group threatens American and other allied forces. AQ in September declared it had formed a “new cell” in Burkina Faso, according to intelligence sources from the region, after splitting from an AQ-affiliated group in Mali, the JNIM. "Now they are distinguishing themselves as separate,” noted one source. “From an organizational point, that is significant when it comes to Al Qaeda.” Several dozen cell members were said to have come into the region unarmed, the first few arriving several months ago to scope out hiding areas and attack plans. “They form the cell, then once they have a series of attacks and ‘wins,’ they make formal declarations so as to appear stronger,” the source said. Experts cautioned Burkina Faso is the “next foothold” for the group to plot and spearhead attacks on civilians, military and Western troops operating in an around a porous border region.”

Forbes: Can We Finally Stop Terrorists From Exploiting Social Media?

“Social media has a terrorism problem. From Twitter’s infamous 2015 proclamation that it would never censor a terrorist to Facebook’s long delay in adopting signature-based content blacklisting, social media has become a critical inadvertent ally in helping terror organizations throughout the globe recruit, communicate and promote. The platforms themselves have been slow to respond, initially rejecting calls to remove terrorists from their walled gardens, before reversing and aggressively embracing the idea of purging violent users. However, for all their public discourse, the platforms have taken little concrete action, reflecting both the economic realities that they have little incentive to invest in content moderation and the real-world complication that deleting terrorist content requires understanding context, not blindly deleting any post with a given keyword. Over the past few years the major social platforms have rapidly evolved from defending free speech at all costs towards recognizing that the public and policymakers do not take kindly to their systems being used to help encourage, support and direct violence. Towards that end, most platforms have centralized on a two-pronged approach to countering terroristic use of their tools: human review and automated blacklisting of content that has been previously deleted by a human reviewer.”

United States

Newsweek: Neo-Nazi Man Convicted For Domestic Terrorism In Amtrak Train Attack Marched In Charlottesville Rally

“Taylor Wilson of St. Charles, Missouri, was sentenced to 14 years in prison by a federal judge in Nebraska on Friday. The 26-year-old pleaded guilty to domestic terrorism charges stemming from his armed attack of an Amtrak train last year in Nebraska. Wilson is also a card-carrying neo-Nazi who was caught on camera at the white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, an event that turned deadly after James Alex Fields allegedly drove his car into a group of counterprotesters. In multiple pictures and videos posted online, Wilson can be seen holding a shield, fighting with counterprotesters and standing next to Fields during the rally. A few months later, in October 2017, an Amtrak train traveling through Nebraska after beginning its journey in California was brought to a halt. Armed with a .380 caliber handgun, Wilson hijacked the train after entering a “secured engine compartment of the train” that was off-limits to unauthorized personnel.”

The Economic Times: US Adviser On Afghanistan Holds Talks With Pakistan

“U.S. adviser on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad held talks in Islamabad on Tuesday with Pakistan's foreign secretary, the foreign office said, days after visiting Kabul to try to restart talks with the Taliban for an end to the 17-year Afghan war. The appointment last month of Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, highlighted the U.S. administration's fresh efforts to convince Taliban leaders to participate in the Afghan peace process, despite a surge in the group's attacks.  Khalilzad met President Ashraf Ghani in the Afghan capital on Sunday to discuss possible peace talks with the Taliban, who have repeatedly rejected negotiation offers and called for a boycott of an Afghan general election set for October 20.  Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua received Khalilzad and the two led "delegation-level talks", with security, defence, and diplomatic officials from both countries attending, foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said on social network Twitter. Pakistan's cooperation in the peace process is believed to be key to its success. The country's powerful military is believed to have kept close ties to the Afghan Taliban since using it to blunt Indian influence in the region in the 1990s. U.S. officials have accused Pakistan of providing safe haven to Taliban militants in its border regions with Afghanistan and using them as an arm of its foreign policy.”

Syria

The Washington Post: Syria Offers Amnesty To Military Deserters, But Exiles Are Cautious

“The Syrian government said Tuesday that it would grant amnesty to civilian men who have been avoiding military conscription, framing the move as a way to encourage refugees to return to a war-battered homeland. Syria’s seven-year conflict has created the largest refugee crisis since World War II, and young men routinely cite fear of the draft as a key reason not to go back home. According to Tuesday’s decree, deserters inside Syria will have four months to take advantage of the amnesty and turn themselves in to authorities, while deserters outside the country will have six months. No guarantees were provided. Although some of the provisions were not new, government officials stressed that their significance lay in the timing, coming as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military, backed by Russia and Iran, has recaptured all but one of the country’s provinces from rebel forces. “The difference now is that the war is getting to an end and many Syrian young men will not be so afraid of joining the army now,” said Elia Samman, an adviser to the country’s Reconciliation Ministry. But it was unclear how much the announcement would boost the government’s case for returns. Many exiles eyed the decree with mistrust, and international monitors urged caution. Reports from areas recently retaken by pro-government forces indicate that draft dodgers are still being targeted for arrest. In previous years, similar decrees have failed to prevent such arrests.”

Hurriyet Daily News: War And Drought Produce Syria’s Smallest Wheat Crop In 30 Years: UN

“Syria’s wheat crop this year was the smallest in three decades as war and drought cut production by around 30 percent, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said on Oct. 9. Output of 1.2 million tons in 2018 was the lowest since 1989 and compared with a pre-crisis average of 4.1 million tons a year, FAO said. That puts pressure on the government as flat bread is a subsidised staple for Syrians, who have suffered under a conflict estimated to have killed several hundred thousand people and forced millions to flee their homes. The slump in wheat production this year occurred despite better access to agricultural land due to an improved security situation. Infrastructure has been badly damaged after years of war combined with drought hitting bread-producing regions. Of the total wheat produced, government state grain buyer Hoboob is estimated to have purchased only 250,000 tons.”

Rudaw: Kurdistan Counter-Terror Forces Break Up ISIS Finance Cell

“Kurdistan Region’s counter-terror directorate arrested eight ISIS suspects, breaking up a financial network of the militant group, the department announced on Tuesday. Counter-terror forces carried out a series of raids on October 6 in coordination with the international coalition against ISIS and with judicial approval, read the statement. In the operation, there were able to “arrest a big network of ISIS financial resources who worked in Iraq and Syria,” they stated. The force did not disclose the location of the raids, but published body-cam video of the operation.”

Iran

Reuters: Iran Is New Transit Point For Somali Charcoal In Illicit Trade Taxed By Militants: U.N. Report

“Criminal networks are using Iran as a transit point for illicit Somali charcoal exports that earn Islamist militants al Shabaab millions of dollars annually in tax, U.N. sanctions monitors said in a report seen by Reuters. In the unpublished annual report to the U.N. Security Council, the monitors add that domestic revenue generation by al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab “is more geographically diversified and systematic” than that of Somalia’s federal government. The report says that since March the main destination for shipments - using fake country of origin certificates from Comoros, Ivory Coast and Ghana - has been ports in Iran, where the charcoal is packaged into white bags labeled “Product of Iran”. “The bags were then reloaded onto smaller, Iran-flagged dhows (boats), and exported to Port Al Hamriya, Dubai, UAE, using certificates of origin falsely indicating the ‘country of manufacture’ of the charcoal as Iran,” the monitors wrote. Iran became a transit point for the shipments — which breach a U.N. ban on Somali charcoal exports — after Oman tightened its customs procedures, said the report. The monitors, who track compliance with U.N. sanctions on Somalia and Eritrea, said Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) did not “substantively engage” when the monitors raised concerns about the transshipment of Somali charcoal.”

Iraq

Reuters: Iraq Repairs Ajil Oilfield Torched By Islamic State - Minister

“Iraq has finished repairing the Ajil oilfield which had been torched by Islamic State militants, Oil Minister Jabar al-Luiabi said on Tuesday, adding that the asset was now producing 7,000 barrels per day (bpd). Ajil will be pumping 17,000 bpd by the year-end, Luiabi said in a statement, and had already been producing up to 100 million cubic feet of gas daily after the completition of earlier repairs. Iraq declared victory in December over Islamic State. The militants torched the field, located near Tikrit, in 2015.”

Iraqi News: Islamic State Attacks SDF, Leaving Casualties, East Of Syria: Source

“Islamic State members have carried out an attack against the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, east of Syria, leaving casualties among the two sides. Speaking to BasNews, a media source from SDF said “Islamic State members sneaked through trees to target our locations using weapons in al-Bagoz village in the eastern side of Deir az-Zour, however, our troops found about them, which triggered confrontations, leaving some militants killed.” Moreover, “the artillery of the U.S. Coalition took part in the confrontations, along with the troops, targeting the militants in its last pocket.” According to the source, “Coalition jets carried out four airstrikes against the militants locations, leaving six of them killed.” In related news, the source added that “Islamic State started appointing military emirs in its last bastion, after many members were killed and fled that battles.” In September, each of the Coalition and SDF announced the launch of operations, east of Euphrates. SDF controls 28 percent of the Syrian lands, becoming the second controller of lands, after the regime forces, which control around 60 percent.”

Turkey

Voice Of America: Turkey 'Saber-Rattling' On US-Backed Militia In Syria

“Turkey is threatening to eradicate the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in Syria. But such a move would put it on a collision course with the United States, which backs the Syrian Kurdish group as a key ally in the war against Islamic State and curtailing Iran's influence. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey's army will sweep the YPG from its border. Ankara claims the militia is linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, (PKK), which is waging a decades-long insurgency for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey. In an address to parliament last week, Erdogan vowed the destruction of the YPG, and slammed Washington for its armed support of the group. "The United States has sent nearly 19,000 trucks [loaded with arms] to the YPG and PYD [Democratic Union Party] in northern Syria," Erdogan said. "Who will they use these arms against? We demanded to buy weapons from you, and you rejected [that]. However, you are giving those arms to terrorist groups." The YPG, with U.S. military backing, seized control of a broad swath of Syrian territory that runs east of Syria's Euphrates River to the Iraqi frontier. The region borders Turkey, and Ankara claims YPG control of this territory is an intolerable security threat. Turkey's forces have been steadily building up a presence close to strategic YPG towns. Its hardening rhetoric coincides with the U.S. indicating it will remain in Syria after IS is defeated.”

Afghanistan

Khaama Press: Ghani Responds To Taliban Threats For Attacking Elections

“President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has said that the ‘enemy propaganda’ would not create barriers on the way of the Afghan people to participate in the elections, emphasizing that the elections would be secured in a proper way. He made the remarks during a meeting of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces organized in Presidential Palace on Tuesday. This comes as the Taliban group had earlier warned that the group would carry out attacks against the election targets, claiming that elections are a conspiracy of the West and the U.S. In the meantime, the Office of the President, ARG Palace, in a statement said the security and defense officials presented their reports regarding the possible threats, security precautions considered for voting centers, and delivery of the electoral materials to the provinces. President Ghani said elections is a national and democratic process and emphasized that ensuring the security of the elections is vital and that the Afghan armed forces would ensure security during the election campaigns and voting.”

BBC: Afghanistan Candidate, 32, Among Eight Killed In Helmand Attack

“A young Afghan parliamentary candidate was among eight people killed in a suicide attack in the southern province of Helmand, officials say. The bomber blew himself up inside Salem Mohammad Achakzai's office in Lashkar Gah city. Eleven others were injured. It was the second suicide blast targeting a parliamentary candidate during the campaign for the 20 October election. Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group have urged a boycott of the vote. No group has, however, said it carried out the latest bombing, which President Ashraf Ghani has blamed on "terrorists", news agency AFP reports. Helmand has long been a stronghold for the Taliban, who were removed from power in a US-led invasion in 2001. Omar Zwak, the Helmand provincial governor's spokesman, said the attack happened inside the Achakzai campaign office at 14:30 local time (10:00 GMT). Achakzai, 32, was a local businessman and a first-time candidate campaigning on a platform for "positive change". His death takes the number of candidates killed in targeted attacks to six, AFP reports.”

MENAFN: 38 Taliban Killed In Jawzjan, Faryab Clashes

“Thirty-eight Taliban militants and six police personnel have been killed during separate incidents of violence in northern Jawzjan and Faryab provinces, officials said Monday. Jawzjan police chief Brig. Gen. Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani told Pajhwok Afghan News the insurgents stormed security posts from several directions in Qush Tepa district late Sunday night shortly after 8pm. In the ensuing clashes that lasted until 4am Monday morning, 23 Taliban fighters were killed and 13 others wounded, the police chief said. Six policemen were also killed and another 20 wounded in the gun-battle. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the attack that he claimed resulted in the killing of 13 policemen. He said another 20 policemen were wounded and their two check-points captured. In Faryab, airstrikes killed at least 19 Taliban militants and wounded three others in Shiren Tagab and Khwaja Subzpush districts of the province. The governor€™s spokesman, Abdul Karim Yurush, told Pajhwok the airstrikes preempted planned attacks by the rebels on security posts in the two districts.”

Yemen

Gulf News: Attack Kills 15 Al Houthis In Their Stronghold

“The Yemeni army, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, has killed at least 15 militiamen from the Iran-allied Al Houthi extremists in a surprise attack in their stronghold in the north, a field source said on Tuesday. The attack targeted Al Houthi positions in the district of Baqim north of the province of Saada near the Saudi border, the source told September Net linked to the Yemeni Defence Ministry. Jets from the coalition, which has been fighting Al Houthis since 2015, mounted several strikes in support of the ground attack, the report added. Government forces seized arms depot in the Monday attack, the source added. Coalition jets meanwhile bombarded and destroyed weaponry and missile depots belonging to Al Houthis in Saada’s district of Majz, field sources reported.”

Arab News: Denying Iran’s Role In Yemen Muddles Peace Process

“The Iran Action Group, which was created by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in August, released its findings in a 45-page report last month. Amid the many issues that the paper examined, Iran’s activities in the Middle East came under intense scrutiny, including its role in arming and supporting the Houthi militia in Yemen. The report marks one of the first times in recent years that the US administration has compiled evidence pointing to the destructive role of Iran in Yemen’s economic, social, regional, and humanitarian fronts. However, despite the increasing evidence of involvement by the Iranian regime, skepticism of Iran’s support still permeates among Western policy experts. This resistance to understanding the linkages between the Houthis and Iran further muddies the waters surrounding the true nature of Yemen’s war, as well as the necessary policy solutions for peace.”

Al Arabiya: 20 Houthi Militiamen Killed In Yemen’s Baqim, Including Two Commanders

“Two of Houthi militia commanders were killed during clashes with Yemeni army forces in the Baqim district, north of Saada. According to a local news site, a field source confirmed that Houthi Commander Abdullah Yousif Hussein Thawra, was killed during a Yemeni forces attack on the militias’ locations behind the al-Udaida Mountains, northwest of the center of the Baqim district. The source added that Thawra is one of the militias’ top commanders and headsin various battlefronts in Saada, and received training in Iran. Another field source stated that the second Houthi commander, Abu Ali al-Nawari, was killed during the same attack by the army’s forces behind the al-Udaida Mountains. The source added that Nawari was appointed by the Houthis 10 days ago as the commander of the so-called “quick intervention forces” in the Baqim front. On Monday, the army launched a surprise attack on the Houthi militia’s locations, behind al-Udaida Mountains northwest of the Baqim district, during which the militias suffered several losses in militiamen and armed vehicles. Media sources said that the Yemeni army was able to capture a Houthi sniper from the battalion of the special guards of the militias’ leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi during a battle to liberate Ramdan battle, behind al-Udaida Mountains in Baqim. The source added that 18 other militiamen were killed by Arab Coalition air raids along with the Houthi sniper in this battle.”

Al Arabiya: Two Yemenis Sentenced To Death By Houthis Following ‘Sham’ Trials

“Houthi militias in Yemen continue to hand out death sentences against their opponents following what can only be described as sham trials. A Yemeni Criminal Court under the pro-Iranian militias in Sanaa sentenced two Yemeni citizens to death on charges of communicating with the Coalition, which is backing the legitimate government in the war-torn country. Yahya Hani Mohammed Thabet al-Areeqi and Ali Abdulellah Ali al-Hashidi were sentenced to death on charges leveled against them by a representative of the Houthis. The charges against them was that of communicating with Coalition countries and joining the ranks of the legitimate forces. Executing civilians Earlier, the court issued similar sentences, executing three civilians for “communicating” with a foreign country. The sentences were issued after sham trials presided by a Houthi militia prosecutor accused Jamal Abdullah Nasser, Ali Saleh Abdulrab Ahmed al-Obeidi and Murad Hussein Saleh al-Obeidi, of “trying to attract people and send them to Marib to join the national army and to disclose information about military sites with the aim of bombing them.”

Qatar

The Guardian: Asian Town, Qatar's Mall For Migrants: 'You Can't Ignore The Racial Undertones'

“At first glance, it is like any other entertainment complex in Qatar: a giant shopping mall, a multiplex cinema and an amphitheatre for musical shows. But there are no high-end boutiques, no women … and no Qataris. Welcome to Asian Town, an entertainment and shopping venue in the heart of the largest labour camp in Qatar, on the outskirts of the capital, Doha. Each day, thousands of young men gather here from the workers’ dormitories that stretch out into the desert for miles around, to enjoy mutton curries, Bollywood films or just a sanctuary from the searing heat. “When I came here in 2008, there was nothing but construction on all sides. After work we used to sit in the camps not knowing what to do,” said Dan Bersamin, a 35-year-old plumber from the Philippines. “Now Asian Town has given us some entertainment.”

Egypt

Asharq Al Awsat: 10 Militants Killed In Shootout With Egyptian Forces In Arish

“Ten militants were killed during a shootout between Egyptian forces and extremists in el-Arish city in northern Sinai, the interior ministry said in a statement. The shootout took place on a deserted farm used by the militants as a hideout. It did not say when the battle took place. The military launched a sweeping operation in February focused on the Sinai in eastern Egypt aimed at wiping out terrorists, including an ISIS affiliate. According to official figures, a total of more than 350 suspected terrorists and at least 30 soldiers have been killed in the Sinai 2018 campaign. Security sources said last week that local ISIS leader Abu Hamza al-Maqdisi had been killed in an air raid on the Sinai. The group confirmed his death.”

Somalia

Reuters: Somalia's Al Shabaab Executes Five Men Accused Of Spying

“Somalia's al Shabaab Islamists on Tuesday shot five men in a public execution, including a Somali British citizen accused of spying, a sign of the insurgents' control of southern swathes of the country, even as authorities step up efforts to combat them. Al Shabaab's grip on the Horn of Africa nation has been weakening since it was pushed out of the capital by African Union peacekeepers in 2011, but the government and the U.S. military are beefing up an offensive against it. "Five of them were publicly shot to death this afternoon after they admitted espionage before the court," said Mohamed Abu Abdalla, al Shabaab's governor for the Jubba regions. "Awale Ahmed Mohamed, 32 spied for MI6 and he came from Britain to Somalia to establish Islamic State," he told Reuters late on Tuesday. Three of the men spied for the United States and helped guide drones to carry out strikes in Somalia, while a fourth spied for the Somali government, he added. The government did not return telephone calls from Reuters to seek comment. The U.S. drones often carry out strikes against the Somali militants, with the U.S. military saying it killed one militant in an air strike in southern Somalia over the weekend. Al Shabaab is trying to overthrow Somalia's weak, U.N.-backed government and impose a strict form of Islamic law. The country has been torn apart by civil war since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a dictator before turning on each other.”

Africa

The Standard: Suspected Al-Shabaab Attackers Kill Two Teachers In Mandera

“Suspected Al-Shabaab attackers shot dead two teachers at the Arabia Boys Secondary, Lafey Sub County Mandera County. Police said the militants struck at about 1 am Wednesday and first hurled explosives before opening fire. The gang targeted a teachers’ house that had two teachers setting it on fire and killed them. “Suspected Alshabab terrorists threw an explosive device at a teacher’s house that had two teachers setting off a fire that sadly killed the two teachers,” said Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet. He added Police Reservists guarding the school engaged the attackers who then fled as more reinforcements were mobilised. “All other teachers and students are safe and no other part of the school was affected. The hunt for the attackers is ongoing.”

Canada

Global News: Islamic State ‘I Just Want To Go Back’: Canadian ISIS Fighter Captured In Northern Syria Speaks Out

“In an exclusive Global News series, Stewart Bell reports from Iraq and Syria on the aftermath of the war against the so-called Islamic State. In Part 2, Global interviews a Canadian ISIS member currently being held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Muhammed Ali sat on the couch in the prison commander’s office, still wearing the T-shirt and sweatpants he had on four months ago when he was captured by Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria. Four years ago, the Canadian was a defiant voice of the so-called Islamic State, using his social media accounts to spread beheading photos, threats and incitement messages to an English-speaking audience. But now he looked defeated. “I’m just tired of everything,” he told Global News, which interviewed him last weekend at a facility run by the Syrian Defence Forces. SDF is composed of U.S.-backed fighters who control the country’s northeast.”

United Kingdom

The Independent: ISIS Supporters 'Frustrated' At Being Stopped From Travelling To Syria May Attack UK Instead, Terror Police Chief Warns

“Frustrated” Isis supporters who are prevented from travelling to the group’s territories abroad may launch terror attacks in Britain instead, the head of national counterterror policing has warned. Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu said that before last year’s attacks security services believed that fighters returning from abroad presented the biggest threat. “It wasn’t – the threat was already here – and there are still plenty of aspirant or frustrated travellers who now have nowhere to go,” he told the National Security Summit in London. “Many come from a generation who feel disenfranchised – often those from isolated minority communities in the UK.” Two of the London Bridge attackers had wanted to travel to Syria before they started plotting the atrocity, with Khuram Butt dissuaded by his family and Youssef Zaghba being prevented from leaving an airport in Italy as he told police he “wanted to be a terrorist.”

The Evening Standard: British IS Fighters Can Return To UK From Syria Even If They Cannot Be Prosecuted, Says Security Minister

“British Islamic State fighters who have taken part in the conflict in Syria will be accepted back into this country even if they cannot be prosecuted, the Government’s security minister said today.  Ben Wallace said it was his “number-one preference” to see Britons from IS face justice in a court, and this country would accept any who were either sent here or returned voluntarily. But he warned there were “clear legal challenges”, both in securing the return of Britons currently held by Kurdish forces in Syria and in obtaining enough evidence to prosecute some of them. Nine British IS fighters are being held in Syria by rebel forces. In a speech at the National Security Summit in London, Mr Wallace denied claims that Britain was refusing to take them back if legal obstacles, including human rights protections and the absence of an extradition treaty, could be overcome.”

The Guardian: UK Has No Legal Obligations Towards ISIS Suspects, Court Told

“The Isis terrorist suspect and former British citizen El Shafee Elsheikh has no enforceable rights under human rights legislation or common law in the UK, the high court has heard. Elsheikh, who is facing extradition to the US, where he could be sentenced to death, has been “assessed” to be a Sudanese citizen, Sir James Eadie QC, for the Home Office, told the court on Tuesday. Elsheikh, who was stripped of his British citizenship in 2014, is being held by Syrian democratic forces in Syria, Eadie said. “[He] chose to go to Syria. He is suspected of involvement in the beheading of British, American and Japanese [hostages].” Eadie said: “The seriousness of the crimes is at the apex of the seriousness of crimes. For that reason there’s the most powerful interest in the investigation of these crimes and the trial of those involved.” Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, who both were raised in Britain, are alleged to have been part of an Isis terrorism cell, some of whom were known as “the Beatles”, which is thought to have carried out 27 beheadings of US and UK citizens in Isis-held territory. Those killed included the British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines and the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. The pair were captured in February by Syrian Kurdish fighters, prompting behind-the-scenes negotiations between the UK and the US governments over where they should be prosecuted.”

Europe

Radio Praha: Czech Counterintelligence Helps Uncover Hezbollah Hacking Scheme

“A network of Hezbollah hackers used old tricks on social media to hack into mobile devices across the world. Posing as attractive girls on Facebook, they would contact users and start chatting. After steering the conversation to increasingly sensual topics, the profiles would then ask the user to install a ‘more private and secure application‘. According to the counterintelligence service’s press release, some impassioned users, mostly men, would comply and install the app. Unaware that it gave hackers access to their sensitive information, including contacts, photographs, calls, text messages, GPS data and the option to secretely record the owner via the mobile device. The hacking attacks through servers placed in the Czech Republic, the wider EU and the US, originated from the middle east. They were aimed at various regions across the world including Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East itself. The head of the BIS, Michal Koudelka, stated thathis organisation played an important role in identifying and uncovering the system that the hackers used. Furthermore, he stated that intelligence gathered by the agency, played a direct role in the eventual takedown of the Hezbollah hacking network. Miroslav Mareš, who is professor of international politics at Masaryk University in Brno, says that Czech intelligence has a history of cooperation against Hezbollah threats and can be seen as a European flagship in this sphere.”

Balkan Insight: Serbian MP Under Police Protection After ISIS Threats

“The Serbian authorities have put MP Muamer Zukorlic under police protection after he received several threats from Islamists on social networks, the Bosniak party leader said on Tuesday. “They target those who are a threat to them. And for sure I am an impediment, not for the reason that I lead the Islamic community, but because I interpret Islam in a way that does not suit them [ISIS],” Zukorlic told Prva Television. Serbian media reported that ISIS accused Zukorlic of "betraying Islam because he became a politician, and an MP in the Serbian parliament, in this way accepting the infidel’s system". The Serbian media reports did not say which social media account the threat originated from. Zukorlic said that he presents a “moderate and non-violent and non-radical” version of Islam, and warned that radicals are exploiting social discontent to recruit people. “Extremist ideologies use the state of the country, and then unrealistic things are promised, and then Islamic spirituality is used as bait. People are religious and want faith. People are thirsty and want water, so if you do not give them clean, they are forced to drink dirty,” he said. Zukorlic is the leader of Justice and Reconciliation, a minority Bosniak party in Serbia's Bosniak-majority Sandzak region.”

Technology

Politico: Nationalize Facebook

“In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg solemnly pledged to safeguard user data. “And if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.” Last month, when 50 million accounts were hacked, Zuckerberg failed his own test. Curiously, talks of curtailing the hallowed privilege are gone from his public remarks. Nevertheless, the current situation is untenable. It’s time to start talking about nationalizing Facebook and platforms like it. Social networks have become part of our critical infrastructure. The data they contain have been used to influence elections. Targeted advertisements have created virtual social bubbles that beguile us into consuming news reinforcing — rather than challenging — our biases, contributing to a polarized political climate. And yet we know that social networks also have enormous potential as tools for civic engagement, social cohesion and direct democracy. During the Arab Spring, young people challenged censorship and authority by communicating through social media to bypass crackdowns on freedom of expression.

The New York Times: Soldiers In Facebook’s War On Fake News Are Feeling Overrun

“The fictional news stories pop up on Facebook faster than Paterno Esmaquel II and his co-workers can stamp them out. Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, debated a Catholic bishop over using violence to stop illegal drugs — and won. Pope Francis called Mr. Duterte “a blessing.” Prince Harry and his new wife, Meghan Markle, praised him, too. None were true. False news is so established and severe in the Philippines that one Facebook executive calls it “patient zero” in the global misinformation epidemic. To fight back in this country, the Silicon Valley social media giant has turned to Mr. Esmaquel and others who work for Rappler, an online news start-up with experience tackling fake stories on Facebook. While Rappler’s fact checkers work closely with Facebook to investigate and report their findings, they believe the company could do much more."

BBC: Facebook Accused Posted 'Islamic State' Terror Video And Links

“A civil engineer accused of glorifying terrorism posted a link to a video showing captured soldiers being beaten to death, a court has heard. Abdulrahman Alcharbati is accused of making 70 Facebook posts promoting a "wealth of Islamic State material". Appearing at Newcastle Crown Court, the 32-year-old denies six counts of sharing terrorist material. Alcharbati, of Westholme Gardens, Benwell, Newcastle, also denies possessing a bomb-making manual. The jury was shown a video that Alcharbati posted showing captured Syrian soldiers being beaten to death by a mob. Another video posted by the Syrian-born defendant, showed the aftermath and "celebrations" after a suicide bombing, the hearing heard. Prosecutor Dan Pawson-Pounds said: "This is not about who is right or wrong in the conflict in Syria, it is about glorifying and inciting acts of terrorism. "The Crown say he was well aware of the contents of those videos and knew exactly what he was doing by posting them." The trial continues.”

ISIS

Orient Net: ISIS Appoints New Leaders For The Eastern Deir Ez-Zor Regions

“Local news networks report that ISIS has appointed new military leaders in the eastern Deir ez-Zor regions, at a time when fighting between the terror group and QSD continues as part of a military operation launched by the latter. The operation, supported by the International Coalition, commenced several weeks ago with the aim of seizing control of ISIS's last strongholds in the region. The appointments {of ISIS's military leaders} come after several ISIS officers were killed during the recent fighting, in addition to the failure of others on the battlefield. Abdul Rahman al-Khader, a media activist from Deir ez-Zor, said, "There are a large number of former ISIS militants who recently joined the QSD forces. They worked to provide security cover for their comrades who took off their Afghan uniforms and remained in villages under QSD's control." The activist pointed out that "the situation of the former ISIS militants was settled in exchange for large sums of money, with assurances by ISIS military leaders that they would not be harmed. In addition, ISIS leaders alert their former comrades before any raid on QSD forces.”

Almustaqbal: ISIS Financing Cell Dismantled In The Kurdistan Iraq Region

“The Counter-Terrorism General Directorate of the Kurdistan Iraq region announced Tuesday the capture of a "large" ISIS financing cell. In an official statement, the Directorate revealed that the said financial network was uncovered following a series of raids that were carried out on October 6th by local security forces, in coordination with the International Coalition against ISIS. The (spokesman of the} Directorate further noted that these raids, which resulted in the arrest of the ISIS financing cell, which used to operate in both Syria and Iraq, were conducted after obtaining the necessary judicial approval.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Shorouk News: Egypt: Renewed Detention Of Three Suspects In The 'Muslim Brotherhood Financing' Case

“Cairo Criminal Court decided to renew the detention of three suspects for 45 days pending investigation, in connection with what is commonly referred to as the "Muslim Brotherhood Financing" case. The suspects are being held on charges of joining a terrorist organization, leading an illegal group, supporting a terrorist group with foreign funding, financing and supporting terrorism in Egypt, attempting to topple the regime, inciting violence against police, army and judiciary, creating chaos, inciting demonstrations, targeting public institutions, jeopardizing public safety and aiding in the purchase of weapons and explosives for terrorist operations.”

Elbashayer Online: Muslim Brotherhood's Political Arm In Yemen Accused Of Robbing Yemenis' Wealth

“The "Alaan" {Now} program, which is aired on the Egyptian "eXtra news" television channel, uncovered an alleged plot by the Yemeni Congregation for Reform Party, commonly called the Al-Islah Party, the Muslim Brotherhood's branch in Yemen, in cooperation with the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The plot was aimed at toppling the Yemeni state and spreading corruption and intimidation in Aden and in the territories controlled by the internationally recognized Yemeni government. Local media outlets accused the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing in Yemen of robbing the wealth of the Yemeni people. The embezzlement practices reportedly included YR 1 billion ($4 million) in medical aid provided by the Saudi-led coalition, 671,000 food kits contributed by the {Saudi} King Salman Humanitarian Aid & Relief Centre (KSRelief) in Taiz, YR 3 billion ($12 million) in Saudi military support that was allocated to liberate Taiz. Additionally, military leaders of Al-Islah Party removed YR 100 million ($400,000) from the safes of the Al-Yabani Exchange Company. As a result, more than 10 million Yemenis are being left to cope with acute starvation by the end of 2018, the reports pointed out.”

Houthi

Yemen Akhbar: Houthi Group Sells International Relief Assistance To Fill Its Coffers And Starve The Yemeni People

“A new clip aired by Sky News Arabia shows Houthi militants looting international humanitarian aid and selling it on the black market instead of distributing it to the people of Yemen, who are facing a devastating crisis, especially in the capital, Sana'a. The militants have exploited the infiltration of their leaders into international and local organizations by forging signatures on disbursements for the needy and diverting the aid to which they are entitled to the black market, in order to fill their coffers. The Iranian-backed Houthi group is using police cars to transport the looted aid and sell it through its agents on main streets in central Sana'a. The aid is also being used to recruit poor families to the ranks of the Houthis.”