Eye on Extremism: September 11

The New York Times: Last ISIS Redoubt Under Attack In Syria

“The last vestige of Islamic State territory in Syria came under attack, as members of an American-backed coalition said Tuesday that they had begun a final push to oust the militants from Hajin, the remaining sliver of territory under the group’s control in the region where it was born. The assault is the final chapter of a war that began more than four years ago after the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, seized enormous tracts of land in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate. The Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led militia that has been fighting the Islamic State in Syria with the United States and its allies, said in a statement that its forces had launched an offensive on the area from four sides on Monday evening. The caliphate put the Islamic State on the map both physically and politically, filling its coffers and swelling its ranks both there and abroad, where adherents committed attacks in its name. Even if it is defeated in Hajin, however, the Islamic State is likely to remain a powerful terrorist force.”

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Holds Talks With U.K., France On Possible Syria Strikes

“The U.S. is working with France and the U.K. on plans for a coordinated military strike in Syria if the regime uses chemical weapons in an expected offensive against the country’s last major rebel haven, President Trump’s national security adviser said. John Bolton warned Monday that a new attack by the Western allies would be much stronger than the two airstrikes launched in April 2017 and April 2018 after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was accused of using chemical weapons that killed scores of civilians in the past 17 months. “We’ve been in consultation with the British and the French, who joined us in the second strike, and they also agree that another use of chemical weapons will result in a much stronger response,” Mr. Bolton said after giving a speech in Washington. The coordinated planning comes as the U.S. and its allies are trying to stave off a Syrian offensive in the country’s northwest, where more than 3 million civilians and as many as 70,000 militants are bracing for an attack.”

USA Today: On Anniversary Of Sept. 11 Attacks, Terrorists Readying To Attack Again: 9/11 Commissioners

“It might be tempting to think we have turned the tide on terrorism. After all, the Islamic State is on the run in Iraq and Syria, and terrorist attacks are on the decline globally for the third consecutive year. But that would be a grave mistake. Violent extremists are regrouping and will strike again. The 9/11 Commission, which we chaired 14 years ago, recommended three core goals for U.S. policy: Attack terrorists and their organizations, protect against and prepare for attacks, and prevent the continued growth of Islamist terrorism. The United States has effectively carried out the first two elements of this strategy but made little headway on the third. Until we do, the scourge of terrorism will continue to plague us. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, terrorism has grown and spread. There were 10,900 terrorist attacks worldwide in 2017, more than five times the number in 2001. Violent extremist groups have gained footholds in 19 countries across the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, a region along the Sahara Desert stretching across North Africa. They target fragile states, where poor governance and failed economies leave large segments of society disaffected and susceptible to extremist influence.”

The Washington Post: Why A Far-Right Party With White Supremacist Roots Is On The Rise — In Sweden

On Sunday, voters went to the polls in Sweden. The result confirmed what the polls had forecast: a record high for the national populist Sweden Democrats, a party rooted in white supremacism that wants to reduce the number of immigrants and refugees and hold a referendum on membership in the European Union. As the last votes are being counted, the party has surpassed 17 percent, its highest vote share on record. This was accompanied by sharp losses for the two big mainstream parties as Sweden’s party system fragments. Since the 1970s, the center-left Social Democrats and the center-right Moderates have regularly won more than 60 percent of the vote. That has dropped to 48 percent as a number of smaller parties, including the radical left, gained support. Nonetheless, the center-left has recorded its lowest vote share in more than a century. None of this was supposed to happen in Sweden — a stable democracy with a reputation for liberalism. But the ascent of the Sweden Democrats mirrors what is happening in other European nations, including the rise of the Alternative for Germany, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and the U.K. Independence Party and then Brexit in the United Kingdom. So what exactly is happening in Sweden? Here is the story.”

Forbes: More Than 1 In 4 Americans Have Deleted Facebook, Survey Reveals

“Following the Cambridge Analytica data-sharing scandal, Americans - especially young adults between 18 and 29 - have significantly cut back the time they spent on Facebook, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Pew found that 26% of respondents deleted the Facebook app from their cellphone, while just over half of Facebook users ages 18 and older (54%) said they have adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months. In addition, 42% said they have taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more. All told, some 74% of Facebook users said they have taken at least one of these three actions in the past year. Young users are turning away from Facebook. The findings come from a survey of U.S. adults conducted May 29-June 11, following revelations that the former consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had collected data on tens of millions of Facebook users without their knowledge. However, age made a huge difference in the survey's results as younger Facebook users were more likely than older users to have recently adjusted their privacy settings and deleted the Facebook app from their phone.”

United States

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Administration To Close Palestine Liberation Organization Office In Washington

“The Trump administration is expected to announce Monday that it will close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington, administration officials said Sunday night, widening a U.S. campaign of pressure amid stalled Middle East peace efforts. “The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel,” national security adviser John Bolton planned to say in a speech he is scheduled to deliver Monday, according a draft of his prepared remarks reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” he is planning to add. Senior Palestinian officials strongly condemned the Trump administration decision and described it as a “reckless escalation.” Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian representative to Washington, said that the State Department informed the Palestine Liberation Organization of the U.S. decision to shutter its Washington office in a move that he said is part of the Trump administration’s efforts to begin enacting its so-called “deal of the century.”

CBS News: FBI Director Christopher Wray: "Today's Terrorism Threat Is Everywhere, Coast To Coast"

“FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed for the first time that the bureau has made "about 120" terrorism-related arrests in the last year alone. "We had about 1,000 investigations into just these homegrown violent extremists. That's out of about 5,000 terrorism investigations," Wray told "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell. The first portion of their multi-part interview airs Tuesday. It's been 17 years since 9/11, the deadliest terror attack on American soil. "We're safer," Wray told O'Donnell, but he acknowledged the terror threats have "evolved" to present new challenges. He said the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force receives "about 15,000" tips a year, which works out to "basically 40 tips a day, two tips an hour." He also said the FBI has thwarted numerous potential terror attacks even in the last year or so, citing threats to the San Francisco pier, a shopping mall in Miami, crowds at a Fourth of July celebration in Cleveland and in Minnesota, where a female college student was "recruiting classmates to join al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab.”

Syria

The New York Times: Where Death Comes From The Sky

“President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and his Russian allies have escalated aerial bombing of Idlib in northwest Syria, the last rebel-held province in Syria. A major offensive to capture Idlib, where three million people live, is expected. Idlib has been the refuge for large numbers of Syrians who were displaced from towns and cities captured by Mr. Assad’s forces. There will be no Idlib after Idlib. The regime and its Russian backers have displayed utter disregard for the catastrophic number of civilian deaths that an all-out attack would cause. On Syrian State TV, a propagandist for the Assad regime likened the solution for Idlib to the processing of garbage: “You collect trash, separate it, recycle what can be recycled and bury the rest in the ground.” We spoke to three people from different parts of Idlib about life in a war zone: Yasser, 33, construction worker, Khan Shaykhun. I wake up and watch the news. We talk relentlessly about Idlib’s fate. People think Russia is going to attack no matter what.”

Middle East Eye: US-Backed Force Launches Assault On Islamic State-Held Town In East Syria

“US-backed fighters have launched an assault against a dwindling pocket of territory held by the Islamic State group (IS) in eastern Syria, a commander and a UK-based monitoring group said. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, have been closing in for months on the town of Hajin in eastern Deir Ezzor province. On Monday, they began an offensive for the IS-held town itself, the AFP news agency reported. An SDF commander said the assault, relying heavily on artillery and US-led coalition air strikes, had killed at least 15 IS fighters. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group said the death toll was at least 17. "Our forces today began attacking the last bastions of Daesh (IS) in Hajin, with intense artillery and air support," said the SDF commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The clashes will be fierce in Hajin because Daesh has reinforced their positions, but we will take control of it," the commander told AFP. The Observatory said the SDF had been amassing fighters and equipment and beefing up their positions for weeks ahead of the attack. "The operation to end Daesh's presence in this pocket began today, with the heaviest air strikes, artillery fire, and ground attacks in months by the SDF and the coalition," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. He said the SDF had broken into Hajin from its northwestern edge and taken control of part of the area, while opening a humanitarian corridor to allow residents to flee.”

Foreign Policy: U.S. Ramps Up Threats Of Military Action Against Syria’s Assad

“The United States is threatening to attack Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for a third time should it use chemical weapons in an assault on the northwestern province of Idlib, marking a significant shift in strategy after months of indications that the United States would soon pull out of the conflict. In the most explicit warning to date, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, said Monday that the United States and its British and French allies had agreed that another use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would trigger a significant escalation, compared to previous airstrikes. “We’ve tried to convey the message in recent days that if there’s a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger,” Bolton said after a policy speech in Washington.Bolton’s comments come on the heels of the revelation that the Defense Department is drawing up options for possible military action against Assad as Russian and Syrian airstrikes began pummeling the last remaining rebel stronghold in the country. The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if the attacks continue. Idlib and its surrounding area are home to some 3 million people, including more than a million civilians displaced from other parts of Syria. Trump “has been clear on the consequences for the use of chemical weapons,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Saturday.”

Iran

The New York Times: U.N. Presses Iran To Free Princeton Scholar

“A United Nations rights panel has issued a strongly worded opinion calling on Iran to immediately release an American scholar imprisoned two years ago while doing historical research that the Iranian authorities had approved. The opinion, by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, said the scholar, Xiyue Wang, a graduate student at Princeton University, had been wrongly accused of espionage, secretly tried and imprisoned. “The Working Group requests the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Wang without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms,” stated the opinion, dated Aug. 23. The United Nations has not publicly released the opinion but Princeton University posted a summary of the findings on its website, along with a plea from Princeton officials and Mr. Wang’s wife for his release.”

The New York Post: Iraqi Anger At Iran Is An Opportunity For America

“With Baghdad’s politics back in chaos, America needs to up the battle against Iran’s influence over Iraq. Last week angry protesters torched the Iranian consulate in Basra, the southern city in the heart of Iraq’s oil country. The protesters, mostly young Shiites, were angry over increasingly contaminated water. Related illnesses have recently hospitalized 30,000 people. Yet Basra’s water problem is but a symptom of Iraq’s succession of hapless governments. Iran and Turkey have built dams on the Tigris River, Basra’s main water source, and also diverted water to aid their own farmers. Meanwhile, Baghdad and local governments have failed to maintain, let alone renew, water infrastructure (or adequately fulfill any other civil task, for that matter.) Mostly, anger is directed at those who run things, and Iran controls Iraqi militias and top politicians — especially in Basra, where posters of Ayatollah Khomeini hang everywhere. So the Iranian consulate was a natural target for protests.”

Jerusalem Post: Iran Ordered To Pay $104.7 Mln Over 1996 U.S. Truck Bomb Attack

“A federal judge in Washington, D.C. on Monday ordered Iran to pay $104.7 million to victims of a June 1996 truck bombing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia that killed 19 US military personnel, though it is unclear when and how the plaintiffs might collect. Chief Judge Beryl Howell entered a default judgment against Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which did not defend against claims over their alleged roles in the attack, which sheared off the front of the Khobar Towers complex. Iran's permanent mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Howell said 15 service members who were at the complex when it was bombed could recover for assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The judge also said 24 relatives could recover for emotional distress from seeing how the bombing affected their loved ones. Howell rejected punitive damages, saying US law did not allow them for attacks occurring before 2008. The lawsuit sought damages under the so-called terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.”

Time: Iran's Nuclear Chief Warns Of An Atomic Program Stronger Than Ever

“Iran’s nuclear chief told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he hopes the atomic deal between Tehran and world powers survives, but warns the program will be in a stronger position than ever if not. Ali Akbar Salehi also told the AP in an exclusive interview Tuesday in Tehran that the “consequences will be harsh” if there are any new attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear scientists. A string of bombings, blamed on Israel, targeted a number of scientists beginning in 2010 at the height of Western concerns over Iran’s program. Salehi also said that President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw America from the 2015 accord “puts him on the loser’s side” of history. He added: “That deal could have paved the way for building the trust and the confidence that we had lost.” Salehi’s comments come after Trump decided to pull the U.S. from the deal in May. The 2015 accord, struck under President Barack Obama’s administration, saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.”

CNBC: US Issues Fresh Warning To Airlines About Using Iranian Airspace

“The United States has issued a fresh warning to airlines to exercise caution when operating in Iran's airspace, citing concerns over military activity including an unnamed U.S. civil operator being intercepted by fighter jets in December 2017. The updated guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration to U.S. operators, issued on Sunday at the expiry of the prior year's advisory, said there were also military activities emanating from or transiting through Iran's airspace associated with the conflict in Syria. Tensions ramped up between Iran and the United States after President Donald Trump pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran in May and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic last month. Flight Service Bureau, which provides safety information on airspace to airlines, said "without seeming alarmist", the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and Iran must be taken into account when planning flights in Iran's airspace.”

Middle East Monitor: Official: Iran Ready To Support Syria, Houthis Militarily If Asked

“A senior advisor to the Iranian Supreme leader on military industries affairs, Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan said his country is ready to support the Syrian government and Yemen’s Houthi rebels if they asked for Tehran’s support. “The Yemenis are defending themselves, and they will get any help for that, from anywhere. Naturally, anyone who wants to support them will support them, but to say that the Houthis have no right to receive support from anyone, would be unfair” Dehqan said in an interview with Russia Today news agency. “We in Iran will help the Yemenis if they want it. o? Why not? They are an oppressed people being subjected to aggression and have nothing. The Americans believe the Yemenis should raise their hands in surrender and salute Saudi Arabia, and then they will be a good people” he added. General Dehqan has also expressed Tehran’s readiness to support Syria militarily to remove US troops from its territory, “if Damascus requested it.”

Middle East Monitor: Official: Iran Ready To Support Syria, Houthis Militarily If Asked

“A senior advisor to the Iranian Supreme leader on military industries affairs, Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan said his country is ready to support the Syrian government and Yemen’s Houthi rebels if they asked for Tehran’s support. “The Yemenis are defending themselves, and they will get any help for that, from anywhere. Naturally, anyone who wants to support them will support them, but to say that the Houthis have no right to receive support from anyone, would be unfair” Dehqan said in an interview with Russia Today news agency. “We in Iran will help the Yemenis if they want it. o? Why not? They are an oppressed people being subjected to aggression and have nothing. The Americans believe the Yemenis should raise their hands in surrender and salute Saudi Arabia, and then they will be a good people” he added. General Dehqan has also expressed Tehran’s readiness to support Syria militarily to remove US troops from its territory, “if Damascus requested it.”

Iraq

The Washington Post: Fiery Protests In Basra Extinguish Hope For Iraq’s Pro-U.S. Prime Minister

“Violent protests in this oil-producing city have dealt a fateful political blow to pro-American Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, all but ending his bid for a second term as both allies and opponents blame him for the unrest. Abadi visited Basra on Monday after a week of demonstrations left at least 15 people dead and government offices, political party headquarters and the Iranian consulate in sooty ruins. He discovered that a fragile calm had returned to the city over the weekend — but that his own political future had at the same time become much more uncertain. The protesters had fixed their frustrations on Iraq’s entire political class, chanting slogans aimed at both the government and the parties and militias aligned with Iran. But Abadi’s challengers for the post of prime minister have outmaneuvered him, seizing on the public anger to cast him as an impossible choice. The United States, which had cultivated few alternatives to Abadi’s leadership, now finds itself with little influence over the shape of Iraq’s new government, analysts said. On Monday, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, said in a statement that the crisis in Basra underlined the need for a fresh approach to the myriad problems Iraq faces and that he would not support anyone for the prime minister’s post who has already served in a leadership position.”

Arab News: Al-Qaeda Now In Daesh’s Shadow, But Its Ideology Still Resonates

“The dramatic 9/11 attacks on the US made Al-Qaeda a household name as a dreaded terrorist group capable of undertaking the most daring and complex assaults against difficult targets. Now, 17 years later, Al-Qaeda – despite suffering near-fatal blows – has survived, albeit with reduced strength and appeal. As an older and more mature militant organization when compared with the more brutal Daesh, Al-Qaeda always had a better chance of survival in the long run. Daesh’s defeats in Iraq and Syria may already be prompting the leftover elements from its ranks to consider associating with Al-Qaeda to continue their extremist journey. In fact, there have been reports that some Daesh cadres have quietly joined Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan. There is no doubt that Al-Qaeda was the pioneer of global extremism. It inspired thousands of Muslims to take part in the Afghan war against the Soviet occupying forces in the 1980s.”

The National: Iraq Does Not Have Capacity To Rebuild After ISIS, Culture Minister Says

“Devastated by a war with ISIS that ruined its cities and left millions homeless, Iraq does not have the capacity to rebuild without major support from the international community, the country’s culture minister Fariyaad Rawandizi told The National on Monday. A Unesco conference held on Monday in Paris, which focused on reconstructing the northern city of Mosul, was attended by dozens of potential donors. Numerous Iraqi cities were reduced to rubble in the three-year occupation by ISIS and the ensuing battles to wrestle them back. “This conference aims to implement the initiative of rebuilding Mosul; this is very important because we cannot do this by ourselves, we don’t have the capacity,” Mr Rawandizi told The National. The size of the destruction in Mosul and especially in archaeological sites was huge, he said. “It needs national and international co-operation between Iraq and Unesco and other organisations to rebuild archaeological sites,” the minister said. More than 40,000 houses have been destroyed and around 700,000 people have been displaced, according to UN estimates, in addition to the damage to religious, governmental and medical buildings, museums and libraries that need restoration. “We are in need of financial international support,” Mr Rawandouzi said, adding he expects that Mosul will need $2 billion (Dh7.35bn) in reconstruction aid to unblock streets and rebuild homes. Mosul has a unique role to play in the rebuilding of Iraq, he said. “The city is a living symbol for the identity of Iraqis; the city is very rich in heritage and was not only known as a centre of trade but as a heartland for the culture and civilisation, not only in the Middle East but also in the world.”

The Washington Post: How Violent Protests In Iraq Could Escalate

“In scenes that appeared to mirror the explosion of protests across southern Iraq in July, government headquarters and the offices of many of Iraq’s most powerful political parties and militias have been attacked and set ablaze by protesters in the oil-rich southern province of Basra. The Iranian Consulate in Basra was ransacked and burned Friday. As a fractured Shiite Islamist bloc continues to wrangle over power months after national elections in May, its core constituency in the Shiite south is in open revolt. I’ve been monitoring protest activity and other security incidents in the region for the past year, mapping the ebbs and flows of civil unrest that have become a systemic feature of Iraq’s dysfunctional politics. This time, however, protests have been more Basra-centric. In contrast to what occurred in July, there have been only small and sporadic protests in nearby provinces. Within Basra, however, things are even more chaotic than before. During the most intense two-week period of unrest in July, I recorded 46 protest incidents in Basra province, 15 of which were in the city of Basra. By contrast, in the first week of September alone, there have been 75 protests across the province, with 43 of these occurring in the provincial capital. This is an alarming pattern of escalating civil disorder. Moreover, protesters have hit a wider range of targets this time. Within the city, demonstrations occurred at about 30 locations.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Justice Ministry: Death Sentences Against 7 Islamic State Members Carried Out

“The Iraqi Justice Ministry has announced carrying out death sentences against seven convicts over involvement in terrorism. In a statement by the ministry on Monday, the ministry said the sentence was carried out “after legal measures were taken and a presidential decree was issued.” The convicts, according to Haidar al-Zamli, the minister, “belonged to Islamic State.” In August, the Nineveh Criminal Court sentenced an Islamic State member to death over involvement in killing security personnel in the province. Two Islamic State members were sentenced, earlier, to death and a third militant to life over carrying out terrorist operations and attacking security troops. The Central Criminal Court in Baghdad sentenced five persons to death over links with the Islamic State militant group. Many Islamic State members were detained during liberation battles that freed cities, which were recaptured by the militant group in 2014. The Nineveh court sentenced, in July, an Islamic State member, known as al-Muhajir, to death, while the Criminal Court in Baghdad sentenced two militants to life. In December, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced gaining control on all the territories that were captured by Islamic State, since 2014. However, Security reports indicate that the militant group still poses threat against stability in the country. The group still has dormant cells, through which it carries out attacks, across Iraq like it used to do before 2014.”

Turkey

Reuters: Turkey Warns Attack On Syria's Idlib Would Cause Humanitarian Disaster

“A Syrian government offensive in the country’s northern region of Idlib would cause humanitarian and security risks for Turkey, Europe and beyond, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday in an article in the Wall Street Journal. Last week, Russian and Syrian warplanes resumed their bombing campaign in Idlib, the last rebel enclave in Syria, after weeks of quiet, in an apparent prelude to a full-scale offensive. Erdogan failed to secure a pledge for a ceasefire from Russia and Iran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s main backers, at a trilateral summit in Tehran. In the newspaper article, Erdogan called on the international community to take action, and warned that “the entire world stands to pay the price” otherwise. “All members of the international community must understand their responsibilities as the assault on Idlib looms. The consequences of inaction are immense,” Erdogan said. “A regime assault would also create serious humanitarian and security risks for Turkey, the rest of Europe and beyond.”

Agence France Presse: Turkey Court Jails Six For Life Over 2016 Ankara Bombing

“Six men were handed multiple life sentences by a court in Ankara Monday over a 2016 bomb attack in the Turkish capital targeting soldiers, which left 29 dead and was claimed by Kurdish rebels. The state-run Anadolu news agency said the suspects were each given 29 aggravated life sentences for "deliberately killing" those who died in the bombing, which also injured dozens and was among a spate of deadly attacks to rock Turkey that year. The men, who are among 68 people on trial for the attack, were also given a further life sentence each for "destroying the state's unity and country's integrity". They also received an additional 1,185 years in prison for the attempted murder of 75 people and transporting explosives. Such jail sentences, which have replaced the death penalty in Turkey, carry harsher conditions than normal life sentences. The suicide car bomb attack on a military convoy on February 17, 2016 was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), who have been linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). It followed the collapse of a two-year ceasefire with the PKK, blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies, in the summer of 2015. PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. Among the dozens of other suspects on trial in Ankara over the February 2016 attack, two were sentenced to nine years in prison for being members of an armed terrorist organisation. Two other suspects were acquitted while dozens of other suspects saw their cases transferred to other courts, the agency reported.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Afghan Taliban Prepare For New Peace Talks With U.S.: Sources

“The Taliban are preparing to send a delegation for further talks with U.S. officials about ending the conflict in Afghanistan, two officials involved with the process said on Tuesday, adding that the meeting could address a possible prisoner swap. The two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Taliban leaders were meeting to discuss the makeup of the three- or four-person delegation and the subjects to be discussed. They said the Taliban would like to discuss an exchange of prisoners and could hold another meeting soon if the United States showed seriousness in talks by releasing prisoners. “This meeting will determine the future talks and we would see if the U.S. is serious and sincere in negotiation,” one of the officials involved said. “We would hand over a list of prisoners languishing in jails across Afghanistan. If they set free our prisoners then we would meet again for another great cause.” If confirmed, the meeting would follow an earlier round of talks in Doha in July, where Taliban officials met Alice Wells, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia at the U.S. State Department. The Taliban delegation at the planned upcoming meeting would be led by the head of the group’s Qatar-based political office, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, the officials said. However they said the high command was planning to replace Stanakzai, who has been serving as interim head, with a new permanent head of the Qatar office. “You may know Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai was deputed in the Qatar office on acting charge basis.”

Associated Press: Taliban Attacks Security Forces In Northern Afghanistan, Killing At Least 52

“Taliban insurgents launched separate attacks on Afghan security forces in the country's north, killing at least 52, provincial officials said Monday. Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of the provincial council in Kunduz province, said that at least 13 security forces were killed and 15 others wounded in an attack on a checkpoint they were manning in Dashti Archi district. The firefight began late Sunday and continued into Monday morning. Meanwhile in Jawzjan province, provincial police Chief Gen. Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani said the Taliban attacked Khamyab district from different sides, forcing Afghan forces to withdraw from the district headquarters to avoid civilian casualties. "There was intense fighting and we didn't want civilian houses destroyed, or any civilian casualties," said Jawzjani. He said that at least eight policemen were killed and three other police were wounded. Seven Taliban were killed and eight were wounded during the gun battle, he added. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the group for the attacks in Kunduz and Jawzjan provinces. The Taliban also killed another 14 local Afghan policemen and pro-government militiamen in the Dara Suf district of Samangan province, provincial spokesperson Sediq Azizi said, adding that six others were also wounded. Azizi added that three Taliban fighters were killed and four others wounded during the Monday morning battle.”

Pakistan

Voice Of America: Pakistan Army Chief Confirms Death Sentences For 13 Taliban

“Pakistan's army chief has confirmed death sentences for 13 "hardcore terrorists" after military courts found them guilty of carrying out attacks that killed 202 people including 151 civilians. In a statement Monday, the military says Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa also approved prison terms for seven convicts involved in acts of terrorism, including the destruction of educational institutions. It added that the 13 convicted Pakistani Taliban had killed 151 civilians and 51 security forces attacks in recent years that also saw 249 others wounded. The trials are closed to the public but defendants are allowed to hire lawyers. After a 2014 attack on a school in Peshawar that killed more than 150 people, mostly students, Pakistan resumed military trials for militants and lifted a moratorium on the death penalty.”

Yemen

Arab News: This Is No Time To Appease Yemen’s Houthi Rebels

“The UN-brokered Yemen peace talks, which were scheduled to start last Thursday, never materialized because the Houthi representatives did not show up. There is nothing new about failed UN meetings or a breakdown in mediation efforts, but this failure was played out in slow motion over three days on television screens for all to see.  UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths had invited the Yemeni government, as well as representatives of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, the G-19 nations most interested in the Yemen conflict, Yemeni civil society representatives, journalists and international and regional organizations. The representatives of the international community and the internationally recognized government of Yemen waited in vain as a UN plane was parked at Sanaa airport ready to fly the Houthi delegation to Geneva, but the Houthis kept raising new demands to be immediately met or else they would not leave Sanaa.”

Xinhua: Yemen's Houthi Rebels Claim To Have Fired Ballistic Missile At Saudi Military Camp

“Yemen's Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile toward a military camp in the Saudi Arabian southern border region of Asir on Monday, said the Houthis in a brief statement carried by the group-controlled Saba news agency. "The Rocketry forces fired Badr-1 ballistic missile at Mustahdath military camp in the Saudi province of Dhahran al-Janoub in Asir region," the statement said without giving further details. There were no immediate comments from the Saudi-led coalition on the Houthi attack. The Monday night attack, which came two days after Geneva UN-hosted peace talks between the Yemeni warring parties collapsed, was the seventh of the Houthi long-range ballistic missile attacks on Saudi border cities in a week. On Tuesday, the Houthis said they fired four ballistic missiles at the facilities of Saudi oil giant Aramco in the border city of Jizan. The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV said two missiles fired Tuesday from Yemen were intercepted and destroyed over Jizan, but gave no details about the other missiles. Saudi Arabia has been targeted by such attacks for the last three years since the beginning of the war in Yemen and most of them targeted the border cities and were destroyed without causing any damages. The coalition has been accusing Iran of supplying the Houthis with weapons and missiles to hinder attempts to reach political solutions in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab military coalition that has intervened in the Yemeni war since 2015 to support the Yemeni elected government of exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The war has so far killed more than 10,000 Yemenis, mostly civilians, and displaced about three million others.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Houthis In Yemen Intensify Sectarian Campaigns To Recruit New Members

“The Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen exploited the occasion of the Islamic new year, which falls on Tuesday, to launch sectarian campaigns to recruit new members. The move was prompted by growing concerns among the militias over their mounting losses on the battlefield. Informed sources in the Hajjah province told Asharq Al-Awsat that Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, one of the militias’ top officials, had arrived in the Abs district in Hajjah to mobilize people to support Houthi ranks in the Hard and Hiran regions where they are suffering heavy losses. He met with some 20 elders and tribal leaders from Abs, urging them to encourage their relatives to join the fight and counter the advance of the legitimate forces on the district. The forces are marching steadily on Abs and have reached its northern edges. Mohammed al-Houthi pledged to the gatherers that he will grant them weapons and funds to join the militia ranks, while also warning them of the dangers of not showing loyalty to the group, revealed the sources. He claimed that they will suffer reprisals from the legitimate forces should the people allow them to liberate the Abs district.”

The National: Al Qaeda Commander Killed By US Drone Strike In Yemen

“An Al Qaeda militant killed by a suspected United States drone strike in southern Yemen on Sunday reportedly once served as the right-hand man of the terror group’s former leader in the country who died in a drone strike in 2016. A missile believed to have been fired by an American drone killed four members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) in a mountainous area in the Ahwar district of Abyan province, a security source said. Among them was a top field commander named Ali Shanna, whose nom de guerre was Sameh Al Marmi, the officer told The National. He was believed to have been the right-hand man of Jalal Baleedi, Aqap’s top commander in Yemen before he was killed in 2016 by a US drone strike. "They were killed in the tribal area of Khabar Al Marakisha,” the officer told The National, speaking on condition of anonymity. Aqap has long had a presence in Abyan, with fighters seizing control of most of the province and declaring the region an “Al Qaeda emirate” in 2011. Government forces later retook control of major centres, but the militants survived in remote areas, returning in 2016 to seize provincial towns. Since forces loyal to President Adrabu Mansur Hadi withdrew from Abyan in 2016, UAE-backed separatist Southern Movement forces have been fighting Aqap alone. Last year they launched a major operation targeting militant hideouts in the mountains of Abyan. "The UAE-backed Southern security belt forces have inflicted crushing blows on the terrorists, but some tribes still shelter Aqap sleeper cells in Ahwar and Al Mahfed in Abyan,” the source said. “But we’re tracking them down.”

Egypt

Reuters: Egypt Says 11 Suspected Militants Killed In Sinai

“Egyptian security forces killed 11 suspected militants in an exchange of fire in the North Sinai town of al-Arish, the official MENA state news agency reported on Monday. The clash occurred after security forces tried to apprehend a group of militants at an abandoned petrol station who were planning “terrorist operations”, the report said. Those killed included “two of the most dangerous terrorist elements”, the report said, naming them as Mohamed Ibrahim Jabr Shaheen and Jumaa Iyad Marshoud. Police seized guns and cartridges during the clash, it said. MENA did not say when the clash took place or give other details about the suspects, and mentioned no casualties among security forces. Separately, two security officers were killed and four others injured when an armored vehicle exploded on Sunday night in the border town of Sheikh Zuweid, security sources told Reuters. Egyptian troops, backed by police, have since February been conducting a major operation against Islamist militants. Egypt has been fighting an insurgency led by Islamic State and concentrated in the Sinai Peninsula since the Egyptian military overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013.”

Libya

The Telegraph: Two Killed In Suspected Islamic State Suicide Bombing Of Libya Oil Company Headquarters

“At least two people were killed when suspected Islamic State suicide bombers attacked the headquarters of Libya's state oil company.  Several gunmen entered the offices of the Libyan National Oil company in Tripoli and opened fire on staff and security guards on Monday, the country's UN-backed government said. At least one large explosion rocked the facility during the attack, starting a fire that spread through the office block in central Tripoli. The attackers were killed by security guards and government security forces who stormed the building. "The building was heavily damaged due to the fire. Smoke is everywhere," Mustafa  Sanallah, the head of the Libyan National Oil Company, told a local television channel.  "The gunmen attacked the lower floors with random shooting and explosions. It's a very violent attack." He said a number of people had been killed by did not give further details.  he country's health ministry said two people were killed and 10 wounded. Ahmed Ben Salem, a spokesman for the Deterrence Force, a militia that operates as Tripoli's police force, said the remains of two "suicide bombers" were found inside the building. Earlier officials said six gunmen were involved in the attack.  The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) described the incident as a "cowardly terrorist attack", The Tripoli-based government said in a statement that security forces had "efficiently" dealt with the incident, "saving all employees and killing the terrorists.”

Nigeria

Independent Online: 13 Members Of Vigilante Group 'Boko Haram' Jailed By Limpopo Court

“Thirteen members of a vigilante group convicted of murder and contravening the  Riotous Assemblies Act have been sentenced by the  Polokwane High Court. The group, known as Boko Haram, had  been terrorising communities of Dan and Lusaka villages, both just outside Tzaneen as well surrounding areas.  The group on Monday received sentences ranging from 6 years to 10 years for various crimes. Sipho Shabangu, 32, was sentenced to an effective 10 years imprisonment without the option of a fine for the murder of 27-year-old Joel Nkgapele, who he hacked to death with an axe near a tavern in February 2017. Shabangu's fellow mates each received 6-year imprisonment without the option of a fine for contravening the Rioters Assemblies Act. Welcoming the sentences handed down was Limpopo police commissioner Lieutenant General Nneke Ledwaba, who  hailed the excellent performance by the provincial detectives and the crime intelligence unit. "We hope that these jail terms will serve as a deterrent to those who are still perpetrating this type of heinous acts", Ledwaba said.”

Somalia

Voice Of America: Are Somali Troops Prepared To Lead The War Against Al-Shabab?

“As the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) prepares to implement the planned phased withdrawal of more than 21,000 troops fighting militant groups, including al-Shabab and the Islamic State in Somalia, some experts are concerned that the country may not be prepared to take on the task in the face of growing political divisions and lack of military equipment and training. As part of the first phase, AMISOM plans to withdraw about 1,000 troops by February 2019. The process of handing over responsibility of some forward-operating bases to the Somali national army has already begun. The plan is to gradually withdraw all AMISOM troops from the country and hand over the lead security responsibility to local government forces. The transition would occur based on the conditions on the ground and the preparedness of the Somali National Security Forces (SNFS), according to officials at AMISOM. Assessment urged At a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, in late August, the military operations coordinating committee of the AMISOM urged its commanders to conduct an operational readiness assessment of the Somali national army. But some experts charge that the timelines are hard to follow and that it would take a longer process for AMISOM to withdraw from Somalia. “I will be surprised if these timelines are held,” Omar Mahmood, a Somali analyst with the South Africa-based Institute of Security Studies Africa, told VOA. “I think it’s going to be a much longer process than what people are really thinking about right now,” he added.”

The Atlantic: The 'War On Terror' Still Grows In Somalia

“On August 29, U.S. forces carried out their 21st confirmed airstrike in Somalia this year. The short U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) press release announcing the strike on al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda linked insurgency that has sought to implement a hardline Islamic state in Somalia, resembled those that had come before it: It specified neither the kind of aircraft used, the exact location of the strike, nor the identities of those killed. As with past press statements, this one also claimed that no civilians were killed or injured in the strike. Though America's drone war in Somalia has been shrouded in secrecy, in the last year and a half the number of American airstrikes in Somalia have notably increased. According to multiple foreign analysts, Somali officials, and several al-Shabaab defectors, these strikes have become one of the most effective tools in confronting the group. The air campaign has hindered al-Shabaab’s ability to communicate, sown widespread mistrust among its members, and restricted its leaders’ mobility. The noticeable uptick in strikes in Somalia came after President Trump approved policy changes ending the limitation on drone strikes imposed by the Obama administration. In March 2017, Trump designated parts of Somalia an “area of active hostilities,” temporarily bringing them under less-restrictive targeting rules.”

United Kingdom

Press Times Of India: UK Court Opens Inquest Into ISIS Parliament Terror Attack

“A UK court on Monday opened an inquest into the killings in the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed terrorist attack near the Parliament complex in London in March last year. Four people were run down and killed as 52-year-old Khalid Masood drove a car into them on Westminster Bridge in London before banging into the side of the Palace of Westminster and then stepping out to stab a policeman to death at the gates of the Parliament on March 22, 2017. The inquest, led by Chief Coroner Judge Mark Lucraft, at the Old Bailey court in London is expected to last up to five weeks. A separate inquest into the death of Masood shot dead by plain-clothed armed officers at the Parliament gates will take place shortly after. "The lives of many were torn apart by 82 seconds of high and terrible drama," Judge Lucraft said at the start of the proceedings on Monday, when the court observed a minute's silence in memory of those who died. Families and friends of the five people killed in the attack – Police Constable (PC) Keith Palmer, 48, Aysha Frade, 44, Leslie Rhodes, 75, Andreea Cristea, 31, and Kurt Cochran, 54 – read out tributes to their loved ones, so-called “pen portraits” at the start of the inquest. Tributes have been paid to PC Keith Palmer, who the inquest was told worked diligently to make London safer.”

Europe

Agence France Presse: Hariri Murder Trial Enters Final Phase

“The trial of four Hezbollah suspects in the assassination of Lebanese ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri enters the final stretch Tuesday with closing arguments in the long-running case. Hariri's son Saad, Lebanon's premier-designate, is expected to attend the special UN-backed court in the Netherlands as prosecutors and defence lawyers make their final statements. But the defendants themselves will be absent, as they have been throughout a extraordinary trial which seeks to bring to justice those behind the huge suicide truck bombing in Beirut that killed Hariri in 2005. Hezbollah has refused to turn over the four indicted men -- Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi, Assad Sabra and Hassan Habib Merhi -- for the trial which began in January 2014. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is unique in international law as it can try suspects in absentia, as well as for its ability to try accused perpetrators of an individual terrorist attack. Questions remain about whether their absence affects the court's credibility -- and the relevance of the trial to a Lebanon and to a Middle East that has been transformed in the 13 years since the attack. - Pivotal moment - The tribunal said that two weeks of closing arguments will start with the prosecution on Tuesday presenting "a summary of the case they presented in court since 2014". Legal representatives for the victims of the attack, which killed 21 people besides billionaire Hariri and injured 226, will follow suit, followed by the defence.”

China

Middle East Eye: China Thinks Islam Is A Disease, And Muslim Leaders Don’t Care

“Authorities in China have embarked on a large-scale and systematic campaign against the country’s Muslim minority, sending a staggering one million Uighurs to internment camps. People showing any adherence to Islam in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region - praying, fasting, abstaining from alcohol or pork, growing a long beard, or wearing Islamic clothing - have been detained by authorities and treated as though they suffer from a mental illness. Taken from their homes to re-education camps, the detainees have been forced to comply with Communist Party propaganda, which includes singing party anthems and slogans and attending daily brainwashing sessions. If they fail to submit, detainees are subjected to torture, including sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and physical violence. Held without charge Treated as “enemies of the state” solely because of their religious identity, the detainees are held without charge and often without access to legal representation, human rights activists say. Yet, while the treatment of Uighur Muslims is shocking, it has failed to cause a global outpouring of sympathy or anger. In 2014, authorities began using “transformation through education” to deal with Uighur Muslims amid concerns of “extremist” or “separatist” elements in the community, including reports of a few hundred Uighurs travelling to Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State.”

Technology

The New York Times: Silicon Valley Needs Regulation

“These are polarized times. Yet for business leaders across the political spectrum, there is one area of troubling consensus: a contempt for government’s ability to regulate effectively. This includes my own cohort of Silicon Valley professionals. A recent Stanford study involving nearly 700 “elite technology entrepreneurs” found that the large majority favor Democratic positions on higher taxes, social services, trade and immigration over President Trump’s culture war provocations and nativist foreign policy. Yet the same study found that these tech elites are on board with a central objective of the Trump administration: an aggressive rollback of regulation across virtually every domain of federal oversight, including the environment, public health, consumer protection and net neutrality. As both a chief executive and a citizen, I believe the ideology behind this agenda gambles with the foundation of our prosperity. The Silicon Valley flavor of this ideology holds that success in business flows from intelligence and hard work. It seems preposterous that fumbling bureaucrats could understand what we do, let alone presume to limit our freedom of action.”