Eye on Extremism: October 31, 2018

Bloomberg: Erdogan Threatens New Attack On U.S.-Backed Kurds In Syria

“Turkey threatened to expand a military assault on U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, risking a faceoff with American troops stationed there as frictions with Damascus grew over a brittle agreement. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would not let Islamic State “resurrect” itself in Syria, unmoved by the Pentagon’s warning that a Turkish military drive against the Kurds could hamper the U.S.-led fight against the jihadists. Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG militia a terrorist affiliate of separatists it’s battled at home for decades, and wants it to retreat from areas close to the Turkish border east of the Euphrates River and the town of Manbij on the western bank. As a possible precursor of a wider operation, the Turkish army shelled YPG positions west of the Kurdish stronghold of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, on Sunday. “We’re not going to stop there,” Erdogan said. “We will crush the terrorist network.” U.S. support for the YPG has been one of many points of contention straining Ankara’s ties with Washington in recent years. The Pentagon backed the militia as the most competent bulwark against Islamic State fighters in Syria, but Erdogan fears their territorial gains will embolden the aspirations of some Kurds to form an independent state that would also incorporate Kurdish areas in southeast Turkey.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iran’s European Hit Squads

“A few years ago, Facebook , Twitter and YouTube found themselves under withering criticism from governments around the world who said their platforms had become a haven for bad actors seeking to spread damaging propaganda. The problem then wasn’t Russian election meddling. It was Islamic State militants. Succumbing to pressure to deal with terrorist proselytizers online, and facing regulatory proposals in Europe, the internet giants implemented automated technologies to quickly scrub objectionable content and hired thousands of human content reviewers. Now, those companies are eager to discuss their successes. The Global Internet Forum on Countering Terrorism, a coalition launched last summer by Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp. , Twitter Inc. and YouTube Inc., convened a one-day summit earlier this month at one of Google’s corporate campuses in California to share their progress with smaller companies and security officials from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe.”

The Jerusalem Post: ‘ISIS Trying To Smuggle Drones From Europe For Global Attacks’

“Even though it has lost most of its territory, ISIS is trying to smuggle drones from Europe to perpetrate global attacks, said a report late Monday by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. On October 15, a report emerged saying that operatives of the security apparatus of the jihadi Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham raided an ISIS hideout north of Idlib, Syria. During the raid, they found a substantial volume of military equipment, including a drone ISIS had been using for collecting intelligence, said the report.  Finding that ISIS still has drone capabilities similar to drones it used in April 2017, and finding this only one month after Danish authorities detained two men from an ISIS network for purchasing drones in Europe, exposes the threat. The Meir Amit center said that Denmark’s detention of the two men along with finding the ISIS drone in Syria only two weeks ago proves that the organization is still making efforts to purchase drones to smuggle into Syria. An examination of the photo of the seized drone shows that it’s a Phantom 4 Advanced model. It is manufactured by the DJI Chinese technology company, a leading producer of drones used for civilian purposes. The intelligence center said that “it may be assumed that ISIS in the Idlib region and maybe in other regions in Syria and Iraq, possesses additional drones of this type.” In the past, international smuggling by the terrorist group has used 16 different companies in at least seven countries to smuggle weapons.”

The Washington Post: Afghan Helicopter Crash Kills At Least 20, Including Top Military Commander And Civilian Officials

“Nearly two dozen Afghans perished in the crash of a military helicopter Wednesday in western Farah province, including the deputy commander for the region and local politicians. Military spokesman Noor Ulhaq Khaliqi said two helicopters were flying together in the rugged Anar Dara district where the Taliban are active, but gave no other details, But Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yusuf said the insurgent group downed the helicopter in a “direct attack.” Among the dead were the head of the provincial council and the deputy commander of the army in the western region, according to Shah Mahmoud Nayemi, deputy head of Farah’s provincial council. He said the helicopter hit a mountain side. The head of election commission for the province was also killed. Najibullah Najib, another army spokesman in the region, said more than 20 people were on the helicopter at the time of the crash and he believed there were no survivors. The Defense Ministry in Kabul had no immediate comment. A number of army helicopters, including one in Farah, have crashed in recent months in Afghanistan. The helicopters are the major source of transportation of troops and supplies for these remote and volatile areas. The crash represents a major blow for the army. Most of army’s fleet of transportation helicopters of the army are aging machines from the Soviet era. The U.S. military which leads the war against the insurgents, has also provided the army some more modern combat helicopters.”

DW: Nigeria: Another Boko Haram In The Making?

“Deadly clashes between government troops and Shiite Muslims have raised fears that another conflict is about to get out of hand in Nigeria. Civil society is calling on the central government not to repeat past mistakes. President Muhammadu Buhari's government stands accused of abusing human rights and oppressing a minority group after clashes over the weekend and on Monday, in which scores of people were killed. Nigeria's main Shiite Muslim movement IMN said that troops shot and killed at least 27 of its members during a procession to the capital Abuja. These claims have not been independently verified. Violence broke out when soldiers at a military checkpoint prevented the procession from entering Abuja to mark Arbaeen which occurs forty days after the Day of Ashura,  a day of mourning for Shiites. In the past, the event has often ended in clashes owing to intervention by security forces. The march at the weekend was more than just a religious rite, since it was also meant to pressure authorities to release the Shiite cleric Ibrahim Zakzaky. The founder and leader of the Shiite Islamist Movement of Nigeria (IMN), has been in jail since December 2015. At the time, security forces killed more than 300 adherents of the movement in the so called Zaria massacre in Kaduna state.”

The Washington Post: Extremism Has Become A Business. Just Look At Gab

“Those of us trying to remain sane amid the rising din of digital-age politics must keep one thing always front-of-mind: Extremism has become a business. There seems to be more of it for the simple reason that people think they can make a buck from it. Media entrepreneurs of the 20th century amassed huge fortunes and great power by gathering the largest possible audiences. How? By finding happy mediums. Their 21st-century counterparts are more likely to follow a different path. They use the Internet to assemble passionate audiences, not always large; niche audiences whose intensity will motivate them to subscribe, to donate, to purchase, to obsess. Coded algorithms operate alongside social networks to steer each of us into communities of the like-minded. Digital entrepreneurs figure out what we crave and then give us more of it — whether it is recipes, college football, inspirational memes or some sexual kink. Andrew Torba’s business model involves people who really enjoy talking about killing Jews, among other topics. As his company explains it, Torba in 2016 spotted “a unique opportunity to carve a niche in a massively underserved and unrepresented market.” People who relished repugnant rants were being dumped from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. Torba’s new company, dubbed Gab AI, would allow their rants to flourish.”

United States

Reuters: Manhattan Subway Bomber Was Not Part Of Islamic State, Lawyer Says

“The man accused of detonating a bomb in a New York City subway passageway on behalf of Islamic State last December was a troubled individual who committed a serious crime but not a terrorist, his lawyer told jurors in a Manhattan federal courtroom on Tuesday. In her opening statement on the first day of Akayed Ullah's trial, Julia Gatto readily told jurors that they should find her client guilty of setting off the bomb, which did not kill anyone. However, she said they should acquit him of the charge that he supported Islamic State, which is designated a terrorist organisation by U.S. authorities. "This case is not about a foreign terrorist organisation planting an operative in our midst," Gatto said. "What this case is about is a deeply troubled, isolated young man who wanted to take his own life." Ullah, a 28-year-old immigrant from Bangladesh, was arrested last December after detonating a homemade bomb in a pedestrian tunnel connecting two subway lines and a bus terminal in midtown Manhattan. He has been charged with six criminal counts, which include using a weapon of mass destruction and providing material support to Islamic State. Gatto's statement came after Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebekah Donaleski laid out the prosecutors' case, telling the jury that Ullah's act was inspired by Islamic State propaganda he found online. Donaleski said Ullah built a bomb out of a pipe taken from a construction site where he worked as an electrician, using match heads and sugar as explosives and screws as shrapnel.”

CNN: How A Nazi-Sympathizing Cop Went To Jail For Aiding ISIS

“On July 28, 2016, FBI Special Agent John Sikorski received an encrypted message with a list of Google Play gift card codes. The total value of the gift cards was $245. Despite the modest sum, it was a big win many years in the making for the FBI's counterterrorism unit. Sikorski was working undercover, posing as an American named Mo who had joined ISIS in Syria. He had sent a message to terror suspect Nicholas Young, requesting gift cards to help fighters communicate with recruits via an encrypted app. After Young sent the Google Play codes, he was arrested and charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. It took six years and millions of dollars to prosecute Young, according to a court filing. Young, 38, was a Virginia-based Metro DC transit officer who converted to Islam after the death of his father sent him spiraling into depression. Agents participating in the case gave Young the code name Slow Decline.”

The Inquirer: ‘Jihad Jane’ Terrorist Known As ‘Theblackflag’ Gets 15-Year Sentence

“An al-Qaeda operative who recruited a Montgomery County woman known as "Jihad Jane" for a 2009 plot to assassinate a Swedish cartoonist was sentenced Tuesday by a federal judge in Philadelphia to 15 years in prison. Ali Charaf Damache, 53, pleaded guilty in July to conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, and agreed to the 15-year maximum prison term. On Tuesday, District Judge Petrese Tucker formally accepted the deal. Damache was indicted in 2011, and has been in custody in Philadelphia since his extradition from Spain last year. Damache, wrapped in a drab olive jumpsuit and wearing black-frame eyeglasses, told the judge that he believes in freedom and knows "it is never given on a silver plate." "I am strong believer in democracy," the Algerian-born Damache said. "And all that rubbish had said against me has no sense. I have never been to any country where I practiced for the jihad whatsoever.”

Reuters: Congressional Democrats Seek More Action On US Domestic Extremists

“Congressional Democrats on Monday called on U.S. law enforcement authorities to do more to track and prosecute far-right extremists after a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue and the mailing of bombs to critics of President Donald Trump. The government must do more to police “hate crimes and domestic terrorism” and prevent gun violence and the spread of white supremacist ideology, said New York Representative Jerrold Nadler and other House of Representatives Democrats in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte. Calling for an emergency hearing before the committee, Nadler and the other lawmakers wrote that the panel “is charged with confronting the causes of racial and religious violence, assessing the adequacy of federal hate crimes statutes, and protecting the civil liberties of all Americans.” But they did not propose specific new legislation. “It also falls to our committee to address gun violence in all its forms … It is our responsibility to respond to this madness, and to do so without delay.” The FBI said as recently as May that it was pursuing 1,000 investigations into “domestic terrorists.” But some critics have said that federal law enforcement agencies have not done enough. In the letter, the House Democrats praised the police responses to the incidents, but added that Congress should take action to make law enforcement’s work easier. The absence of a U.S. law specifically outlawing domestic terrorism has made it harder for investigators to track and analyze such crimes, said Josh Zive, outside counsel for the FBI Agents Association.”

CNN: Pipe Bomb Suspect Cesar Sayoc Planned 'Terrorist Attack' Since July, DOJ Says

“A man accused of sending pipe bombs to prominent Democrats had been planning to send the explosive devices for months, the Department of Justice says. In a letter sent Tuesday, Geoffrey S. Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the FBI searched suspect Cesar Sayoc's laptop and found documents containing the victims' addresses and return labels similar to those used on the intercepted packages. "Metadata from the electronic devices indicates that the defendant started planning the attack as early as July 2018," Berman wrote in a letter to Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres, who is presiding over Sayoc's case in Florida. A file created on July 26 includes the Sunrise, Florida address that Sayoc used as a return address on the packages and his cellphone showed he made searches as early as July 15 for the home address of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the document states. The suspect's laptop had another document that appeared to contain the return address labels used on the packages that he is accused of mailing as well as lists of the physical addresses of the recipients of those packages and other potential targets, according to the letter.”

Foreign Affairs: The Real Terrorist Threat In America

“On 9/11, 19 Arab hijackers trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan killed almost 3,000 people in the United States in a matter of hours. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history and has indelibly shaped Americans’ understanding of security and terrorism ever since. Unfortunately, that understanding is increasingly out of step with reality. Jihadist organizations are no longer the main terrorist threat facing the country. Since 9/11, no foreign terrorist group has successfully conducted a deadly attack in the United States. The main terrorist problem in the United States today is one of individuals—usually with ready access to guns—radicalized by a diverse array of ideologies absorbed from the Internet. The multilayered domestic threat was made tragically clear last week. A series of package bombs was sent to former U.S. President Barack Obama, the financier and philanthropist George Soros, and other critics of President Donald Trump. A racially motivated shooting at a grocery store in Kentucky, which killed two people, appears to have originated as a plan to attack a black church. And on Saturday, 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue were shot and killed by a man with an extensive history of expressing anti-Semitic and anti-refugee views on social media. The recent attacks show that the most glaring terrorist threat facing the United States today is primarily domestic in nature.”


Radio Free Europe: Kyrgyz Man Arrested For Financially Supporting Terrorists In Syria

“A Kyrgyz man suspected of wiring some $100,000 to terrorist groups in Syria has been apprehended, authorities say. Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security (UKMK) said on October 31 that the 28-year-old man, whose name was not disclosed, was using another person's identity. According to the UKMK, the suspect was detained on October 14 and was charged with financially supporting terrorism, inciting religious discord, and forgery of documents. Kyrgyz authorities have said that some 500 men and women from Kyrgyzstan joined the Islamic State terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq in recent years.”

BBC News: Syria War: Aid Fails To Reach Civilians In Desert Camp

“A convoy carrying urgently-needed aid for 50,000 civilians stranded on the Syria-Jordan border has been postponed for security reasons, the UN says. Forty-five lorries were due to arrive on Saturday at the Rukban camp, which last received aid in January. Syria's army controls access to Rukban, which is near a US-backed rebel base. Jordan is also blocking aid deliveries. There have been reports of children dying due to poor sanitary conditions and a lack of healthcare at the camp. "The dire humanitarian situation cannot be allowed to continue," UN Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Mark Lowcock told the Security Council. "The UN is ready and willing to proceed with the convoy immediately." The Rukban camp has been called "one of the most desperate places in Syria". It a cluster of about 10,800 makeshift tents and mud huts in the country's remote eastern desert, just north of a raised sand barrier, or berm, where the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi borders converge.”

The American Interest: Russia’s Syria Problem

“Several recent publications and organizations have proclaimed victory for Russia and the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war. President Obama’s prediction back in the autumn of 2015 that the Russians would end up in a quagmire has been dismissed if not forgotten, associated as it now is with his Administration’s less-than-stellar record in dealing with the Syrian civil war. It’s true, after all, that Russia’s intervention has achieved its immediate military goals of preventing a victory by the Syrian opposition. It has not only maintained but expanded Russia’s strategic access to the Middle East and the wider Mediterranean zone. And in a region that favors the “strong horse,” the ruthless tactics in which Russia has participated along with the Assad regime and its Iranian proxies—for example in Aleppo last year—has burnished Russia’s reputation as stalwart protector of its clients and a bane to those who oppose them.”

Al Jazeera: Norwegian Diplomat To Be New UN Envoy To Syria

“United Nations (UN) chief Antonio Guterres has informed the Security Council that he wishes to appoint Norwegian diplomat Geir Pedersen as the next special envoy to war-torn Syria. "I am pleased to inform you of my intention to announce the appointment of Mr Geir O Pedersen as my Special Envoy for Syria," Guterres wrote in a letter seen by AFP news agency. "In taking this decision, I have consulted broadly, including with the government of the Syrian Arab Republic," the letter said. Diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity said Pedersen, currently Norway's ambassador to China, had the informal approval of the council's five permanent members - Russia, China, the United States, France and Britain. "Mr Pedersen will support the Syrian parties by facilitating an inclusive and credible political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people," the UN chief said in his letter. Pedersen will replace Staffan de Mistura, who announced earlier this month that he is leaving the position by November end.”


Financial Times: Denmark Accuses Iran Of Planning Attack Near Copenhagen

“Iranian intelligence planned an assassination attack in Denmark that was foiled in September, according to Danish security services. Anders Samuelsen, Denmark’s foreign minister, on Tuesday described the actions by Tehran as “totally unacceptable” and pledged a response from Copenhagen. Finn Borch Andersen, head of the Danish security and intelligence service, said: “It is, in short, a case of an Iranian intelligence unit that in our view has planned an attack in Denmark.” Bridges, rail services and ferries between Denmark and both Sweden and Germany were suddenly closed on September 28 while police searched for a Swedish-registered car and three people involved in what authorities described at the time as “a serious crime”. The targets of the planned attack were three Iranians living in Ringsted, a town about 60km south-west of Copenhagen, who are believed to belong to a separatist group Al-Ahvaziya, which is regarded by Tehran as a terrorist organisation. The main target was the leader of the Danish branch of Al-Ahvaziya, according to Danish intelligence. The claims by the Danish government come at a delicate time for European-Iranian relations, with EU countries looking to salvage the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran after US president Donald Trump abandoned it and imposed sanctions. Later on Tuesday Mr Samuelsen said he had recalled Denmark’s ambassador to Iran and that his government would lead the charge for new EU sanctions against Tehran.”

The Wall Street Journal: Bags Of Cash And A Bomb Plot: Inside A Covert Iranian Operation In Europe

“On a sunny day in late June, an Iranian émigré named Amir Saadouni met on the terrace of a Luxembourg cafe with an Iranian intelligence agent known to him only as Daniel, who for years had paid him to spy on a France-based group that opposes the regime in Tehran. Gathering information “isn’t enough for us,” Daniel said, according to people familiar with the matter. They said the agent gave Mr. Saadouni and his wife an explosive device to set off at an annual conference organized by the group, where Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer, was due to speak on June 30. European security services, acting in part on a tip provided by Israeli intelligence, were watching, officials said. Belgian authorities said they stopped Mr. Saadouni and his wife on their way to the conference outside Paris, and found a device that contained half a kilogram of TATP, a powerful explosive. German police arrested the intelligence agent a few miles from the border with Austria, where he was stationed as a diplomat at the Iranian embassy and would have enjoyed immunity from prosecution, officials said.”

Associated Press: Officials Thwarted Iranian Assassination Plot In Denmark

“A police operation last month that briefly cut off Copenhagen from the rest of Denmark stemmed from an alleged Iranian plot to kill an opposition activist, the head of Denmark’s intelligence agency said Tuesday while announcing a suspect’s arrest. A Norwegian citizen of Iranian descent was arrested Oct. 21 on suspicion of helping an unspecified Iranian intelligence service “to act in Denmark” and of alleged involvement in the assassination plot, Danish security service chief Finn Borch Andersen said. The suspect has denied wrongdoing and is being held in pre-trial custody until Nov. 8, Borch Andersen said. He did not name the Norwegian. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said in a statement that Tehran “strongly denied” the allegations, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. Borch Andersen said Denmark is working on the case “with a series of partners” in Europe, but stopped short of saying who they are. Intelligence agencies in Sweden and Norway cooperated with the arrest, he said.”

France 24: Denmark Recalls Ambassador To Iran Over Foiled Attack

“Denmark is recalling its ambassador to Iran and will push for fresh EU-wide sanctions against Iran following a suspected attempted attack by an Iranian intelligence service on Danish soil, Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said on Tuesday. "I have decided to recall Denmark's ambassador in Tehran for consultations... Denmark can in no way accept that people with ties to Iran's intelligence service plot attacks against people in Denmark," Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen told reporters. Earlier on Tuesday, Copenhagen said it suspected an Iranian intelligence service of plotting to assassinate the leader of the Danish branch of an ethnic Arab separatist movement in Iran. A Norwegian citizen of Iranian background was arrested in Sweden on October 21 in connection with the plot and extradited to Denmark, Swedish security police said.”

Asharq Al Awsat: Israel Struck Iranian Targets After Russia Plane Downing

“Israel has attacked targets in Syria since the downing of a Russian intelligence plane in September, a high-ranking Israeli official has said, adding that coordination with Moscow continued as it did before the incident. “It’s not true that Israel stopped striking targets inside Syria,” the official was quoted as saying on Monday night. “The Israeli air force hit targets in Syria in the aftermath of the downing of the Russian plane off the Syrian city of Latakia last month,” he said. Fifteen Russian airmen were killed on September 17 when the Ilyushin 20 airplane was mistakenly shot down by Syria's air defenses soon after an Israeli strike near the coastal Syrian city of Latakia.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time that Israel was “determined to halt Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and the attempts ... to transfer to (Iranian-backed) Hezbollah, lethal weaponry (to be used) against Israel.”  Fox news said recently that American and western intelligence sources believe Iran has been increasing its shipments of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, deliveries that now include Global Positioning System (GPS) components to make previously unguided rockets into precision guided-missiles, increasing the threat to Israel. The report said a Boeing 747 jet has touched down in Syria’s capital Damascus before continuing on to Beirut, according to the flight tracker software.”


Al Monitor: Iraqi Border City Eyes IS Advance Amid Dust Storms

“Severe dust storms have facilitated advances by the Islamic State (IS) in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border in recent days, putting the largest Iraqi city alongside it at risk. Otherworldly shades of red, orange and sandy yellow were an intermittent backdrop for days across most of western Anbar, with very low visibility rendering airstrikes and other coalition activities against the terrorist group still in control of Hejin across the border in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province difficult. IS has retaken the entire Syrian side of the Baghouz area and the town of Soussa in recent days, Al-Monitor was told by security sources working near the border on Oct. 29. US airstrikes in the past month in and near the town of Hejin have hit targets with reportedly large numbers of civilians in them, including mosques, possibly indicating a significant shift from long-standing counterinsurgency doctrines and tighter targeting rules. On the Iraqi side of the border, al-Qaim remains calm but wary as IS pushes uncomfortably close. Some IS rockets strayed into the Iraqi side of the Baghouz area from Syrian territory in early October, Al-Monitor was told by an officer when visiting the border fence there on Oct. 16. This correspondent was able to spot positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the other side at that time, but they have since pulled out, the officer added in a WhatsApp conversation on Oct. 29.”

Al Jazeera: Iraq Looks To Snuff Out ISIL Remnants In Remote Anbar Province

“The vast Anbar desert stretches across almost a third of Iraq, 138,000 square-kilometres of no man's land to the country's west. Here, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) sleeper cells use the remote area's mountain ranges, valleys and caves to plan and launch their attacks from. The Iraqi military and US-led coalition are hesitant to give exact numbers but estimate that a few hundred fighters clustered in groups as small as two are all that remains of the group. In remote parts, ISIL fighters have stopped their aggressive tactics of killing and abducting locals. Instead, a few fighters will show up from time to time to seek food and supplies. This is not an easy area for the authorities to search and monitor. The rugged terrain makes manning checkpoints and surveillance posts extremely challenging, as does the vastness of the area; the Iraq-Syria border alone stretches about 612 kilometres. Iraqi forces say they are doing all they can to prevent these areas from becoming safe havens for ISIL.”

Iraqi News: Three Iraqis Wounded As Two Bomb Blasts Rock Diyala

“Three Iraqi people, including a policeman, were wounded Wednesday in two separate bomb attacks in northeastern Diyala, a security source from the province was quoted as saying. Speaking to Baghdad Today website, the source said that two civilians were wounded when a bomb exploded on an agricultural road on the outskirts of Jalawla, 70 km northeast of Baqubah. “Another bomb attack targeted a police patrol near Khanaqin city, 100 km northeast of Baqubah, leaving a policeman injured,” the source further said. He added that the injured were moved to hospital for treatment and security forces launched a probe into the two attacks. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State (IS) militant group, in most cases, is responsible for attacks targeting crowded areas, including markets, cafes and mosques across Iraq. A total of 75 Iraqi civilians were killed, while 179 others were injured due to acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in Iraq in September 2018, according to casualty figures by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Baghdad came on top of the worst affected Governorate, with 101 civilian casualties (31 killed, 70 injured), followed by Anbar (15 killed and 37 injured).”

Reuters: Islamic State Claims Responsibility For Attack On Shi'ites In Iraq

“Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims in Iraq on Tuesday, the Sunni Islamist militant group’s news agency Amaq reported. The roadside bomb killed three pilgrims as they walked to a holy site near the northeastern Iraqi city of Khanaqin.”


The New York Times: Pakistani Court Acquits Christian Woman in Capital Blasphemy Case

“She has been isolated on death row for eight years after an accusation with little evidence that she had spoken against the Prophet Muhammad. A prominent governor who spoke out in her defense was killed by his own bodyguard, and mobs have rallied against the suggestion that leniency might be in order. But for the first time since her arrest in 2009, Asia Bibi, the Christian Pakistani woman whose blasphemy conviction the following year rallied international condemnation of a law that has inspired violence again and again, is free. Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday fully acquitted her and ordered her “released forthwith,” in an exceptionally rare ruling against a blasphemy verdict. The ruling, by a three-member bench of the court, was announced by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar. “This is a landmark verdict,” said Omar Waraich, the deputy South Asia director at Amnesty International. “Despite her protest of innocence, and despite the lack of evidence against her, this case was used to rouse angry mobs, justify the assassinations of two senior officials, and intimidate the Pakistani state into capitulation. Justice has finally prevailed.”

Voice Of America: US: Pakistan Should Continue Ban On Terror-Linked Charity Groups

“Washington is criticizing Pakistan for ending a ban on two Islamic charity organizations the United States has designated as terrorist groups. The expiration of the ban on Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) runs counter to Pakistan's commitment to work with global terror watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a U.S. official told VOA. "The United States is deeply concerned that this development will jeopardize Pakistan's ability to meet its commitments under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1267 to freeze and prevent the raising and moving of funds belonging to or associated with U.N.-designated terrorist groups," according to a U.S. State Department spokesman. Washington is urging Pakistan to pass legislation that formally proscribes JuD and FIF. Last week, Pakistan admitted that JuD and FIF, headed by Islamist cleric Hafiz Saeed, are no longer banned after the expiration of a presidential ordinance that blacklisted them under a U.N. resolution. Raja Khalid Mehmood Khan, Pakistan's deputy attorney general, said Thursday during a court hearing in Islamabad that the presidential ordinance that blacklisted JuD and FIF has not been renewed by the government or ratified into law.”


The National: Arab Coalition To Send 10,000 Troops To Liberate Hodeidah From Houthis

“The Arab coalition in Yemen on Tuesday deployed 10,000 additional troops to the rebel held port of Hodeidah, ahead of a new offensive, Yemeni government officials told The National. "Preparations and military endeavours are underway to put an end to people's misery that are caused by the Houthi rebels," Hamza Ali Kamali, member of the Yemeni government delegation to Geneva, told The National. Military operations have been renewed during the last two days in the vital port city aiming to push back the rebels, but they still hold parts of Hodeidah and the capital Sanaa. "We have received military equipment from the legitimate forces and the Arab coalition to start a new offensive in the Hodeidah front and the Yemen west coast to regain the port," Mr Al Kamali said. Millions of civilians are on the brink of famine as aid agencies are struggling to find a way to ensure relief reaches those in need especially in Houthi held areas, despite assistance from the UAE and Saudi Arabia.”

Associated Press: US Group Denounces Houthi Militia’s Prosecution Of Baha’is

“The US commission on international religious freedom has denounced Yemen’s Houthi militia for charging 24 Baha’is, including women and a teenager, with espionage. Tenzin Dorjee, chair of the USCIRF, says “this persecution ... is unconscionable and must stop immediately.” The USCIRF’s statement Monday says a court in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, which is controlled by the Houthi militia, charged the Baha’is on Sep. 15 with apostasy and espionage, charges which carry the death penalty. Dorjee urged for “the unconditional release and dropping of all charges” against Baha’is in Yemen. The Houthis, who have occupied northern Yemen since 2014, have waged an all-out campaign against all political and religious opponents, holding thousands in detention. Minority Baha’is observe a monotheistic religion founded in the 1860s by Baha’u’llah, a Persian nobleman considered their prophet.”

The National: Terrorist And Insurgents Inserted On Yemen Payrolls, Britain Warns

“Alistair Burt, the British foreign office minister for the Middle East, has warned that efforts to stabilise Yemen are being complicated by the deliberate inclusion of "insurgents and terrorists" on lists of public sector salaries. Efforts to pay civil servants and other government employees is a top priority for mediators and humanitarian organisations seeking to increase money in the economy and stave off food shortages and the country's descent into near starvation. Donor countries have sought to provide funds to both the Yemen government and the Houthi-run ministries in Sanaa so that public servants can draw salaries. "There is a new and added complication in speaking to the UN over the weekend – not everybody on the list is necessarily all they seem. "There are those on the lists who may be insurgents and who may be terrorists and nobody is going to hand over taxpayers money to just pay salaries to these people. This is a new complication done by those who seek to abuse these lists." Mr Burt also dismissed suggestions that a UN Security Council resolution should be passed that demands a ceasefire in the Yemen conflict. Speaking to parliament, Mr Burt said he was guided by the need to provide maximum support for the efforts of Martin Griffiths, the UN Secretary General's special envoy, who is attempting to restart negotiations with the Houthi rebels. "The best way to use the United Nations Security Council is to support the role of UN special envoy Martin Griffiths," he said.”


The National: Lebanese Government Talks Hit Snag Over Sunni Representation

“Just as Saad Hariri looked set to form Lebanon’s next government, a last-minute demand from Hezbollah has stalled the tortuous process once again. After nearly six months of delays, largely over a battle between the Christian Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri had found a compromise. At the beginning of the week, officials sounded upbeat that a final agreement would be announced within days. But within hours of LF leader Samir Geagea announcing that he accepted a compromise in the share of seats given to each of the Christian parties, essentially conceding ground to the FPM which was founded by President Michel Aoun, Hezbollah posed a new conundrum for Mr Hariri. The powerful militia-cum-political force is insisting that one of its Sunni allies be made a minister to reflect the result of an election in which Mr Hariri lost more than a third of his seats, some of them to Sunni allies of Hezbollah. While he lost MPs, Mr Hariri had done better in May’s election than many pollsters expected given the shift in vote law to proportional representation by district rather than the old winner takes all system. "Our view is that their demand is just and we stand by them," senior Hezbollah official Hussein Khalil said in televised comments after meeting with the group's Sunni allies. "I believe the problem of the representation of the independent Sunni MPs is not bigger than the problems that were solved," he said. The demand puts Mr Hariri in a tough position. As head of the Future Movement, the largest majority Sunni party, his rhetoric and position places him as the political leader of his sect. But with more non-Future Movement Sunni MPs now in parliament and Mr Hariri facing off strong competition from rival Sunni politicians in key districts – including the country’s second city of Tripoli – Mr Hariri’s mantel as the sectarian leader is slipping.”

Middle East

Associated Press: Taliban: 5 Freed From US Military Prison Now In Qatar Office

“Five members of the Afghan Taliban who were freed from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for captured U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have joined the insurgent group’s political office in Qatar, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. They will now be among Taliban representatives negotiating for peace in Afghanistan, a sign some negotiators in Kabul say indicates the Taliban’s desire for a peace pact. Others fear the five, all of whom were close to the insurgent group’s founder and hard-line leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, bring with them the same ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam that characterized the group’s five-year rule that ended in 2001 with the U.S.-led invasion. “The Taliban are bringing back their old generation, which means the Taliban have not changed their thinking or their leadership,” said Haroun Mir, a political analyst in the Afghan capital. “What we are more worried about is if tomorrow the Taliban say ‘we are ready to negotiate,’ who will represent Kabul? That is the big challenge because the government is so divided, not just ideologically but on ethnic lines.” Efforts to find a peaceful end to Afghanistan’s protracted war have accelerated since Washington appointed Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad as envoy to find a peaceful end to America’s longest war, which has already cost the U.S. more than $900 billion. But Mohammed Ismail Qasimyar, a member of a government peace council, warned Washington against negotiating peace terms with the Taliban, saying Khalilzad’s only job is to set the stage for direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, something the insurgents have so far refused calling the government a U.S. puppet.”


Reuters: IS Claims Responsibility For Attack In Libya

“The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack on the desert oasis town of al-Foqha south of Jufra late on Sunday. In the attack which lasted for several hours, at least four people were killed and 10 others kidnapped by armed militants. The insurgents also set local government and security offices on fire. Ahmed Mismari, spokesman for the Libya National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar, which controls much of eastern Libya, said the attack had probably come as revenge because some town youths had helped catch a local Islamic State leader this month. Further details of that incident were not immediately available. The town lies in an area marked by poor security deep in the desert where Islamic State withdrew after losing its stronghold Sirte on the central coast in December 2016.”


The Punch: We’ve Decimated Boko Haram, FG Insists

“The Federal Government has insisted that Nigerian troops have succeeded in decimating the capacity of the Boko Haram terrorist group to carry out spectacular attacks. This, the Federal Government said, was without prejudice to the fact that the group carried out occasional attacks on soft targets in the North-East. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said this at a media briefing in Abuja, on Tuesday. He also described news on social media that the welfare of troops in the frontline was so poor that soldiers were begging for food as “fake news.” Mohammed urged Nigerians to appreciate and understand the nature of the Boko Haram insurgency, which grew from a local terrorist group into an international group attracting funding and support from similar groups across the globe. He noted that the group now received funding and support from foreign terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Al-Qaeda and similar other groups across the globe. The minister said, “When the government says it has decapitated Boko Haram, what government means is that a time was, when even this capital city  – Abuja – was not immune from attacks by Boko Haram. “You are all living witnesses to the attack on the United Nations Headquarters, the Nigeria Police headquarters, the ThisDay Newspapers, Nyanya Park twice; but since 2015, all that has become history.” He further explained that when the Muhammadu Buhari–led administration took over in 2015, 20 out of the 27 local government areas in Borno State alone were under the effective control of Boko Haram, including four local government areas in Adamawa State.”


Sahara Reporters: We’ve Decimated Boko Haram, FG Insists

“This, the Federal Government said, was without prejudice to the fact that the group carried out occasional attacks on soft targets in the North-East. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said this at a media briefing in Abuja, on Tuesday. He also described news on social media that the welfare of troops in the frontline was so poor that soldiers were begging for food as “fake news.” Mohammed urged Nigerians to appreciate and understand the nature of the Boko Haram insurgency, which grew from a local terrorist group into an international group attracting funding and support from similar groups across the globe. He noted that the group now received funding and support from foreign terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Al-Qaeda and similar other groups across the globe. The minister said, “When the government says it has decapitated Boko Haram, what government means is that a time was when even this capital city  – Abuja – was not immune from attacks by Boko Haram.”

Reuters: Number Of Wounded People In Tunis Suicide Bombing Rises To 15

“A woman blew herself up in the centre of the Tunisian capital on Monday, wounding 15 people including 10 police officers in an explosion that breaks a period of calm after dozens died in militant attacks three years ago. Witnesses said the blast happened on Tunis’s central Habib Bourguiba Avenue. Hundreds of police cordoned off an area near the landmark Municipal Theatre and the French embassy, while ambulances evacuated the wounded. “I was in front of the theatre and heard a huge explosion,” Mohamed Ekbal bin Rajib told Reuters. Security has improved since authorities imposed a state of emergency in November 2015 after attacks on tourist targets that scared off holidaymakers and investors, worsening an economic crisis caused by a chronic deficit. “We thought we had eliminated terrorism but we hope that terrorism will not bring us down, especially with the bad political climate in Tunisia now,” President Beji Caid Essebsi said. Shops were closed on the busy avenue that was the scene of protests that toppled long-serving leader Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali at the start of the 2011 “Arab Spring”. The bomber, aged 30, had no known militant background, the interior ministry said. Local media gave her name as Mouna. “The woman left her city three days ago and told her family that she was going to the capital to look for work”, said Walid Hkima an official in interior ministry. She had a university degree in English and was from the coastal governorate of Mahdia, he said.”


Presna Latina: Terrorists Of Islamic State Arrested In Russia

“The Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested today six members of a cell of the terrorist movement Islamic State (IS) in the Russian republic of Tatarstan, who planned violent actions. At the moment of seizing weapons in a hideout at the city of Naberezhnie Chelni, one of the arrested was caught red-handed. Security forces also arrested another 11 persons who were influenced by the terrorists. During the raid, firearms, ammunition, extremist literature and symbols of IS were seized. The operation of the FSB was carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior and the National Guard. Since the beginning of this year, Russian security has aborted at least 15 terrorist attempts. Last Friday, the FSB deactivated an underground cell of the IS that prepared actions of high impact in this capital. According to the FSB press service, six members of an underground cell of IS, arrested in the Moscow province, planned to attack with machineguns and home-made bombs in downtown places of the city. In the raids carried out in homes of the detainees were found many firearms, homemade bombs and blueprints to prepare them, communication media, reports on how to carry out terrorist actions and money. Previously, the FSB reported it had arrested in the western enclave of Kaliningrad nine persons in charge of recruiting future members of IS.”

Southeast Asia

ABS-CBN: Rehabilitation Of War-Torn Marawi Breaks Ground

“After months of delay, the multibillion-peso rehabilitation of the worst-hit area in war-torn Marawi City broke ground Tuesday, as officials promised to revitalize the city devastated by a 5-month battle between government troops and terrorists last year. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte commended the interagency Task Force Bangon Marawi "for developing and implementing a comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery program, in consultation with Muslim leaders, towards the rebuilding of a peaceful and prosperous Islamic city of Marawi that we all aspire.” Rehabilitation of ground zero is estimated to cost P16 billion to P17 billion out of the roughly P72-billion price tag of rebuilding the entire city. Duterte was supposed to be at Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony but had to "attend to equally important issues and affairs of the nation," Panelo said. The ceremony had been rescheduled from Oct. 17, when the President was also not available. Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra said the groundbreaking for the rehabilitation of the so-called “ground zero,” which includes 24 of the city’s 96 barangays, puts and end to “our excruciating wait for developments regarding efforts to rebuild our city.” “We are all aware that this has not been an easy task for all of us to handle. We had to wait for the national government to give its go signal. We all had to work with budgetary, time and other constraints,” Gandamra said in a speech at Marawi City’s Rizal Park.”


Vice News: We Posed As 100 Senators To Run Ads On Facebook. Facebook Approved All Of Them

“One of Facebook’s major efforts to add transparency to political advertisements is a required “Paid for by” disclosure at the top of each ad supposedly telling users who is paying for political ads that show up in their news feeds. But on the eve of the 2018 midterm elections, a VICE News investigation found the “Paid for by” feature is easily manipulated and appears to allow anyone to lie about who is paying for a political ad, or to pose as someone paying for the ad. To test it, VICE News applied to buy fake ads on behalf of all 100 sitting U.S. senators, including ads “Paid for by” by Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer. Facebook’s approvals were bipartisan: All 100 sailed through the system, indicating that just about anyone can buy an ad identified as “Paid for by” by a major U.S. politician. What’s more, all of these approvals were granted to be shared from pages for fake political groups such as “Cookies for Political Transparency” and “Ninja Turtles PAC.” VICE News did not buy any Facebook ads as part of the test; rather, we received approval to include "Paid for by" disclosures for potential ads.”

The Verge: Facebook’s Growth Continues To Slow Down

“The era of Facebook’s nonstop growth has long since come to an end. Although the company is far from the point at which it might start to shrink, its growth in the US and Canada, as well as Europe, has stopped entirely and appears to occasionally decline. In its 2018 third quarter earnings report out today, the social network confirmed that the number of daily active users in US and Canada has remained flat at 185 million, while the number of European users has slipped from 279 million to 278 million. The latter may be a direct result of recent European privacy regulations, namely GDPR, which initially caused Facebook to lose 1 million monthly active users after it went into effect in May. Overall, the company continues to grow thanks to international expansion, adding 9 percent year over year to its daily active user base for a total of 1.47 billion people. The total number of monthly active users grew 10 percent from this time a year ago, to 2.27 billion people.”

Quartz: Social Media “Likes” Build Communities Online—But That Goes For Extremists, Too

“There are few things that emulate the instantaneous feedback of a Facebook thumbs up, a Twitter like, or a Reddit upvote. They’re the digital equivalent of a gold star on your homework, a pat on the back, or a room full of applauding fans, but they arrive much more quickly and consistently than in-person affirmation. Those little hits of affirmation bring us fleeting joy, and incentivize us to use social media day after day. But those incentives drive the darker sides of social media, too. Just as “likes” on our dog photos makes us feel supported and appreciated, “likes” in online extremist communities can normalize radical beliefs and cement a community of extremists. Twitter seems to understand the outsize influence of likes on their platform. Amid rumors that it might remove the heart-shaped “like” button from their site, it cited the desire to “incentivize healthy conversations.” Likes build rapport among strangers, which can blossom into online communities—a dangerous tool when wielded by extremists. Of course, one platform removing the ability to “like” something is no panacea for bad behavior online. But it could be a key step towards dismantling the echo chambers that foment extremism, something Twitter has struggled with (pdf) since its founding.”

Bloomberg: Fortress Facebook Is Suddenly Vulnerable

“To say it’s been tough to be a bull of late in this stock market would be an understatement. The S&P 500 Index sits on the cusp of a correction, with the gauge dropping 9.88 percent from its all-time high in late September through Monday before rebounding 1.57 percent on Tuesday. Not only is the Federal Reserve not backing away from its plan to continue raising interest rates, but corporate earnings growth is poised to slow along with the economy, the trade wars aren’t going away and the midterm elections may leave the business-friendly Republican party without control of the House. Yes, things are bleak, but thank god for Gandalf. That’s a nickname given to JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s all-world analyst Marko Kolanovic, whose timely calls have allowed him to dominate Institutional Investor’s annual rankings of top strategists for a decade or so. Stocks managed to rise on Tuesday as Kolanovic issued what amounted to a pep talk of a research note, talking up the possibility that the October “rolling bear market” turns into a “rolling squeeze higher” into the end of the year. Of the reasons cited, perhaps the most credible is the notion of a surge in corporate stock buybacks after earnings season.”

Terror Financing 

Arabyoum: The Financing Of "Lone Wolf" Operations

“The terrorist attack that took place on Bourguiba Street, in the heart of the Tunisian capital, aroused renewed interest in surveilling the movements of these groups, described by security and counter terror experts as "lone wolves." This interest is spurred by several causes, especially since this modus operandi has become popular among terrorists in Europe and in other regions. Note that the defeats incurred by ISIS have all but rendered terror cells of this kind incapable of communicating with their leaders. According to a European intelligence report released a few months ago, these cells have no funding or use only small-scale funding; hence, they rely on planning terrorist operations at the lowest possible cost. They use cheap, primitive devices and explosives that can be made from materials purchased in ordinary stores. They also use the Internet to manufacture explosives or explosive devices, even explosive belts.”


Baghdad Post: Documents: ISIS Bribed Iraqi Officials

“Hisham al-Hashemi, an expert on affairs of Islamic groups, unveiled official documents belonging to ISIS, via his Twitter account, proving that the organization had paid certain corrupt Iraqi prison officials to liberate some of its prisoners. A document issued by the Prisoners 'Affairs and Martyrs' Affairs Authority in the {ISIS} so-called "Nineveh Province" shows a request for the release of an ISIS member named Muthanna Abdul Jabbar Ismail, who was incarcerated in Sousa Prison, in exchange for $5000. The document claimed the release had been agreed upon with an official at the Iraqi Justice Ministry. Another document sent by the so-called Diyala Province revealed a demand to release 16 ISIS militants, before standing trial, in exchange for a payment of $7,400 to several officers, associates and lawyers. Commenting on the matter, the Iraqi political analyst, Sanad al-Shammari, said that according to the evidence and {supporting} documents, the government should beware of further betrayals that could destabilize the security of the Western provinces, similar to what happened in 2014. He indicated that the role of the judiciary and the public prosecution necessitates hunting down the persons named in the documents and interrogating them.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Shorouk News: Egyptian Court Rejects Appeals Filed By Persons Suspected Of Muslim Brotherhood Financing

“The Urgent Matters Court of Cairo recently rejected appeals filed by nearly 20 persons suspected of financing the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The defendants had appealed to overturn previous rulings to appropriate their funds and assets and have them transferred to the State Treasury. It's noteworthy that the court continues to review appeals filed by 1,589 similar suspects. The defendants contested the decisions to seize their funds through their lawyers, who presented the necessary documents from the South Cairo Court showing that their clients had been placed on the terror lists.”

Al-Ain: Expert: Seizure Of Muslim Brotherhood Funds Has Impacted Its Activities Significantly

“Tharwat El-Kherbawy, a former Muslim Brotherhood member and present-day researcher on Islamic groups, asserted that funds are the "blood pump" that enables the banned Muslim Brotherhood to function and operate. Therefore, the seizure of the group's funds has undoubtedly had significant impacts on the scale of the terrorist attacks perpetrated by the outlawed Islamist group, since these assaults are fueled by the group's money. Additionally, the decisions to appropriate the Muslim Brotherhood's funds have exacerbated the current leadership disputes and internal rifts, El-Kherbawy noted. The researcher went on to say that the orders to confiscate the money and assets of the Muslim Brotherhood constitute a major blow to its plots to ignite and divide the region.”


24: Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood Forces Facilitate Arms Shipments To The Houthis

“The Ma'rib Military Police announced that it had foiled an attempt on Monday to smuggle a shipment of weapons to the Iran-backed Houthi militants on the road between Sana'a and Ma'rib. Yemeni media sources reported that the arms-trafficking activities for the benefit of the rebels in that area are nothing new. These illicit practices are being conducted with the support of the forces of the Muslim Brotherhood, which are deployed in Seiyun city and in the Hadramout Valley, the sources disclosed. They also mentioned that the weapons-smuggling operations are being carried out across the borders with Oman and throughout the Yemeni territories, which are controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood's branch in Yemen.”