Eye on Extremism: September 19

Associated Press: US Says Attack On Saudi Oil Site Was An Iranian ‘Act Of War’

“U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil installations an “act of war” against the kingdom by Iran, as the Saudis displayed missile and drone wreckage and cited other evidence they said shows the raid was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.” Iran, which has denied involvement in the attack, warned the U.S. it will retaliate immediately if it is targeted. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, said he is moving to increase financial sanctions on Tehran over the attack. He was noncommittal on whether he would order U.S. military retaliation. At a news conference, Saudi military spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki said the attack Saturday that did heavy damage to the heart of the Saudi oil industry was “launched from the north and was unquestionably sponsored by Iran.” Yemen is south of Saudi Arabia, while Iran and Iraq lie to the north.”

CBS News: American Airlines Mechanic Charged With Sabotaging Plane Accused Of Having ISIS Videos

“An American Airlines mechanic charged with sabotaging a plane is now accused of having ties to terrorists. According to prosecutors, Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani shared videos stored on his phone of ISIS murders. Family of Alani were in court as a federal judge deemed him a danger and a flight risk, citing new evidence of potential terrorist sympathies in denying the 60-year-old mechanic bail. On July 17th, Alani allegedly super glued styrofoam inside the nose of an American Airlines 737, interfering with the plane's navigation system, prompting an alert stopping pilots from taking off. At the time, 150 people were on board but no one was hurt. Alani said he was upset about stalled contract talks which had affected him financially. Alani is an Iraqi born naturalized U.S. citizen, who prosecutors now claim shared videos stored on his cell phone of ISIS murders, made statements wishing Allah would use “divine powers” to harm non-Muslims, had recently sent money to someone in Iraq and has a brother there, who may have ties to the Islamic State. Alani's lawyer said he didn't intentionally put people in danger, because the plane had backup systems. Alani passed regular background checks. So far, he has not been charged with any terror-related offenses.”

The New York Times: Taliban Blast Kills At Least 20 In Latest Spasm Of Violence In Afghanistan

“A Taliban truck bomb killed at least 20 people and injured 95 others when it exploded near a hospital in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, a provincial official said, with casualties expected to rise as rescuers searched the rubble from the blast. The Taliban, who have been carrying out nearly daily attacks since the collapse of peace talks with the United States this month, said the target was a nearby building housing the government’s intelligence department in Qalat, the capital of Zabul Province. “The bomb was huge and it was carried by a mini-truck,” said a senior Defense Ministry official in the capital, Kabul, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the news media. The militants wanted to target a training base for Afghanistan’s powerful National Directorate of Security, but parked the vehicle laden with explosives outside a hospital gate nearby, said another Defense Ministry official. Twenty bodies and 95 injured people have been taken from the blast site, said Haji Atta Jan Haqbayan, a member of the provincial council in Qalat. “The number of casualties may rise as rescue teams and people are still searching for bodies under the rubble,” he added. Several women, children, health workers and patients in the hospital were critically injured in the blast.”

The Wall Street Journal: Lebanon, Hezbollah And Iran’s Emerging Client State

“After Iran’s attack on a Saudi oil refinery last weekend, the U.S. sent a Navy destroyer as a show of support for allies. But the USS Ramage didn’t sail to the Arabian Peninsula. It docked, bizarrely, in the Port of Beirut, in Lebanon—a country dominated by Iran’s terrorist proxy, Hezbollah.  The U.S. continues to treat Lebanon as a friend, even as the difference between its government and Hezbollah has become hard to discern. Earlier this summer, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on Lebanon’s Jammal Trust Bank for facilitating Hezbollah transactions. Days later, Hezbollah fired missiles at Israel from territory it controls in southern Lebanon, with the government’s full support. Over three U.S. administrations, since George W. Bush ’s second term, the Washington consensus on Lebanon has gone something like this: The best way to deal with the Hezbollah challenge is to empower the pro-Western political bloc, strengthen state institutions, and shield the banking sector. That’s like fighting cancer with a placebo, and the disease has overtaken the patient. Although the Treasury described Jammal Trust as Hezbollah’s “bank of choice,” it’s hardly the only Lebanese bank infected with Hezbollah finance.”

The Washington Post: Facebook, Google And Twitter Face Fresh Heat From Congress On Harmful Online Content

“Congressional lawmakers are drafting a bill to create a “national commission” at the Department of Homeland Security to study the ways that social media can be weaponized — and the effectiveness of tech giants’ efforts to protect users from harmful content online. The draft House bill obtained by The Washington Post is slated to be introduced and considered next week. If passed, the commission would be empowered — with the authority to hold hearings and issue subpoenas — to study the way social media companies police the Web and to recommend potential legislation. It also would create a federal social media task force to coordinate the government’s response to security issues. The effort reflects a growing push by members of Congress to combat online hate speech, disinformation and other harmful content online, including a hearing held Wednesday where Senate lawmakers questioned Facebook, Google and Twitter executives to probe whether their platforms have become conduits for real-world violence.”

Newstalk ZB (New Zealand): Facebook And Right Wing Extremism

"CEP Senior Director Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler discusses Facebook's plan to expand to Australia a program that targets right wing extremism on its platform. The program was begun last year in the U.S. Schindler said it was "astonishing" that it took the Christchurch mosque attacks for Facebook to recognize that right wing extremist content could lead to violence." 

United States

AL.com: Alabama Man Arrested In Terrorism Probe; Allegedly Said He Would Kill Soldier For ISIS

“An Alabama man has been apprehended as part of a yearslong terrorism probe in which the FBI says he told agents he would execute a U.S. soldier if ordered to do so by the Islamic State group. FBI agents took Nayef Qashou into custody Monday. He's charged with lying to the FBI and destroying records. In a newly unsealed affidavit, the FBI says Qashou arrived in the U.S. through Atlanta's airport in 2015, planning to study nursing at an Opelika, Alabama, community college. The FBI interviewed him more than a dozen times over the next four years. He used encrypted phone apps to communicate with suspected terrorists who told him he should carry out an attack in the United States, the FBI said. “Qashou would not tell interviewers exactly how he responded to the suggestion to conduct a U.S. attack,” FBI Special Agent Scott Sullivan wrote in the sworn affidavit. “He stated he essentially responded by saying the only way he could justify an attack is for it to be against U.S. Armed Forces personnel on U.S. soil.” The nature of the encrypted communication was to discuss attacks against U.S. forces, among other things, the affidavit states. FBI agents searched his home in Auburn, telling a judge they were looking for computer equipment and computer storage devices.”

Business Insider: A 22-Year-Old From Minneapolis Who Is Jailed In Syria Says ISIS Recruited Him On Twitter

“A 22-year-old from Minneapolis who is jailed in northern Syria says was recruited to join ISIS on Twitter when he was just 18 years old. Abdelhamid Al-Madioum, a naturalized US citizen, told CBS News his story from a prison run by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Al-Madioum said he entered ISIS territory in 2015, when he was 18. He had been contacted on Twitter, and started watching propaganda videos that claimed ISIS was helping Muslims. He said he saw ISIS terrorism as “fake news,” and wanted to become a doctor for the extremist group. “They gave me a blank check to buy whatever I wanted,” Al-Madioum said. “Here's the thing. People like me that see this, don't really believe the news.” Al-Madioum disappeared while on a family vacation in Morocco in 2015, according to court documents detailed by the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2017. His parents said he had been on his phone more than usual, and that he secretly booked a flight to Istanbul. From there, he made his way to Syria and joined the Islamic State. After failed attempts to reach their son, Al-Madioum's parents went to the US consulate and spoke to FBI agents about their son's disappearance. FBI agents found notes in his room that detailed his plans to leave the Islamic state.”

Newsweek: White Supremacy Is A Global Terror Threat: Report

“A new study by the Anti-Defamation League has found that white supremacy is being internationalized “like never before.” American white supremacists, the report finds, are connecting with European counterparts online and in person to create a cross-Atlantic force of bigotry and anti-Semitism. “As white supremacy grows and connects across borders, it has become essential to understand how followers are growing their networks and recruiting new members,” said Sharon Nazarian, ADL senior vice president for international affairs. “On both sides of the Atlantic, racist and xenophobic views are seeping into mainstream social discourse. This growing network of hate has emboldened white supremacists who see themselves as part of a global movement to 'save the white race.'“ As European and American white nationalists coordinate their messaging and activities, there has been a marked rise in hate crimes abroad and at home, according to the report. The cross-pollination of these ideas has led to a normalization of open hate crimes and a rise in hateful rhetoric in politics.”

The National Interest: Nuclear Terrorism Remains A Threat That America Should Remain Vigilant Against

“Just in time for the annual appearance of cherry blossoms, fifty-two heads of state will come to Washington to discuss nuclear security. The fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit, launched by President Barack Obama in 2010, will take stock of the progress made in securing vulnerable nuclear material over the last six years. Thanks to the summit process, nuclear security, which was previously relegated to small groups of mainly Western bureaucrats and nuclear nerds, has become a prominent issue on the international stage. Major media outlets cover it, governments around the world have been forced to learn about it and greater understanding exists of why protecting nuclear material is critical to international security. Despite the buzz that these regular meetings of heads of states have generated, many states around the world and their citizens still do not consider nuclear security a relevant concern. The message the Nuclear Security Summit is promoting—that nuclear or high-risk radiological material might end up in the wrong hands and used in a bomb—just doesn’t resonate.”

The Washington Examiner: The Pentagon Is Taking On ISIS 'Clandestine Insurgency'

“The remnants of the Islamic State have returned to the group's insurgent roots since the destruction of its land caliphate earlier this year, but it may be regrouping to make another land grab, the Pentagon says.  The terrorist group has been operating in a “clandestine” fashion since losing the last of its territory in Iraq and Syria, said Chris Maier, director of the Pentagon's Defeat-ISIS Task Force, in a Wednesday press briefing. ”They established control over large swaths of territory. We see no indication that that intention or desire has gone away,” Maier told the Washington Examiner. “The reason we use 'clandestine insurgency' is because we think this is a calculated effort on their part to stay below the radar screen, re-gather strength, and then potentially attempt to establish a caliphate or something more down the road.”  He described the group as having a “shadow” of its former military, economic, and political strength but added it's clear ISIS survivors are attempting to “seep back into some of the areas where they've lost the ability to control or govern.” Maier did not say exactly how many ISIS forces remain but estimated there are thousands between Iraq and Syria.”

The Washington Post: How Trump Can Punish Iran, Without Starting A War

“President Trump is reportedly looking for a way to respond to Iran’s brazen attack on Saudi Arabia that would be proportional but not drag the United States into a new war. The best place for such a response would be in Syria, where Iran’s military and its proxies are committing war crimes and where Iran’s regional aggression needs to be stopped anyway. The president and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) got into a public dispute on Twitter Tuesday over the administration’s Iran policy and a potential U.S. response to last weekend’s drone and missile attack on Saudi oil facilities, which U.S. officials believe was perpetrated by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Trump’s June decision to abort a strike inside Iran following the downing of a U.S. drone was “clearly seen by the Iranian regime as a sign of weakness,” according to Graham, who added that “the goal should be to restore deterrence against Iranian aggression which has clearly been lost.”

The New York Times: Trump Weighs Retaliation Against Iran And Names National Security Adviser

“In the space of seven minutes on an airport tarmac on Wednesday, President Trump captured the thorny decision he faces as he once again straddles the edge of war and peace. One moment, he threatened to order “the ultimate option” of a strike on Iran in retaliation for attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. The next he ruminated about what a mistake it had been for the United States to get entangled in Middle East wars and welcomed Iran’s president to visit. To help sort through the alternatives, Mr. Trump on Wednesday named a hawkish new national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, the State Department’s chief hostage negotiator. But as Mr. Trump spoke with reporters, shouting to be heard over the roar of Air Force One engines, Mr. Trump sounded like a commander in chief searching for a way to be tough without pulling the trigger.”


Voice Of America: Concerns Mount Over Makeshift Prisons For Islamic State Fighters

“Efforts to secure prisons holding thousands of captured Islamic State fighters appear to be on the verge of crumbling, a development that could help strengthen the terror group's efforts to re-emerge in Syria and Iraq. For months, officials have said the prisons, run by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, were “good enough” to hold the fighters, many of whom were captured following the fall of Baghuz, the terror group's last Syrian stronghold, in March. But as efforts to repatriate IS foreign fighters to their countries of origin have stalled, and as thousands more wait to face some sort of justice, fears are growing that the prisons may be reaching a breaking point.   “There are not prisons controlled by forces in northeast Syria that can house 10,000 ISIS fighters,” Chris Maier, director of the Pentagon's Defeat IS Task Force, told reporters Wednesday, using another acronym for the terror group. ”This is not sustainable over time,” he added, noting that the United States’ anti-IS coalition partners ”share that assessment.” Many of the prisons are buildings, like schools, that were quickly converted into detention facilities as the U.S. and coalition forces rolled back the last of the terror group's territory in Syria.”

The Defense Post: Pentagon Official: Makeshift Jails For Captured ISIS Adherents In Syria ‘Not Sustainable’

“A U.S. Defense Department official said the long-term detainment of tens of thousands Islamic State fighters and their families in makeshift prisons in northeast Syria is unsustainable and that the United States aims to move detainees to more secure facilities. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday, September 18, director of the Defeat-ISIS Task Force Christopher Maier said the U.S. continues to train and supply the Syrian Democratic Forces to guard ISIS prison facilities, and is talking “daily” with Coalition allies about repatriating foreign ISIS fighters back to their home countries. Tens of thousands of ISIS fighters and their families were captured in Syria by the SDF, an alliance of militias led by the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian People’s Protection Units (YPG), and supported by the U.S.-led international Coalition to defeat ISIS. The SDF oversee a number of prisons and camps throughout the country’s northeast. The largest, al-Hol, holds some 80,000 people, mostly women and children, including roughly 10,000 foreign nationals, according to Human Rights Watch.”

Haaretz: Report: Drones Attacked Ammunition Facilities Of Iran-Backed Militia On Iraq-Syria Border

“Drones attacked a company of Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces fighters Wednesday evening in Syria near the border with Iraq, Iraqi sources reported. Sky News in Arabic cited an Iraqi security source sa saying that five people were killed in the attack, and nine more were wounded. The attack targeted militias that were operating near the Syrian city of Al Bukamal, the source said. Following the attack, the troops dispersed to avoid further assaults on them, the source added; they also moved ammunition to hidden places to make it more difficult to strike them from the air. This is the second time this week that sites run by Shi'ite militias are attacked in this area. Overnight Monday, there were reports in Iraq of a strike on weapon storage facilities run by militias affiliated with Iran. Iraq's Afaq TV attributed the attack to Israel, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 10 Iran-backed fighters died.”

Reuters: U.N. Security Council To Vote On Rival Calls For Truce In Syria's Idlib

“The United Nations Security Council is due to vote on Thursday on rival draft resolutions that call for a truce in northwest Syria after Russia and China put forward their own text in response to a proposal by Kuwait, Germany and Belgium. Syria’s northwest corner, including the Idlib region, is the last major chunk of territory still in rebel hands after more than eight years of war. In that time Russia has vetoed a dozen draft Security Council resolutions to protect its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Experts from the council’s 15 members have met three times to negotiate on the latest text drafted by Kuwait, Germany and Belgium last month. A resolution needs nine votes and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States to pass. Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia wanted language to be included in the resolution that would exempt from the truce military offensives against armed groups blacklisted by the Security Council.”


The Wall Street Journal: Iran’s Whip Hand

“President Trump announced Wednesday that the U.S. will impose new sanctions on Iran, and later in the day proposed an international coalition at the United Nations to shape a response. Neither of these initiatives is likely to deter Iran from further attacks, as its leaders conclude that Mr. Trump has no desire for a tougher response. Saudi Arabia on Wednesday unveiled evidence that it said proved the weekend attacks came from Iran. This adds to U.S. public claims made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and more hesitant speculation by Mr. Trump. The latest reports say the attacks may have included cruise missiles fired from Iran territory, which means the mullahs don’t feel the need anymore to hide through proxy militias. The escalating attacks on oil production and tankers are clearly aimed at pressuring Mr. Trump to drop his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. In particular, Iran wants sanctions lifted on its oil exports, which are its main source of financing. Rising oil prices that might trigger a recession could cause Europeans to ignore U.S. sanctions and buy Iranian oil.”

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Steers Clear Of War Footing Toward Iran

“The White House is pushing to build an international coalition to exert pressure on Iran through the United Nations as its chief response to the attack on Saudi oil facilities, an approach consistent with President Trump’s aversion to military intervention, but also reflecting limits on his retaliatory options. Within about 18 hours of 17 missile strikes on Saudi Arabia oil facilities on Saturday, the Trump administration pinned the blame squarely on Iran, which has denied carrying out the attacks. A day later, after an emergency meeting at the White House with his inner circle, Mr. Trump declared the U.S. “locked and loaded” and ready to respond. But Mr. Trump’s assertive reaction was peppered with qualifiers—the U.S. intelligence still needed verification, he didn’t know what Riyadh knew, or how Saudi officials wanted to proceed. Since then, the emphasis has been on building a case with allies and others on Iran’s responsibility for the attacks and on signaling that sanctions on Iran will be stiffened.”

CNN: Trump To Announce Iran Sanctions Within 48 Hours

“What to know about the Saudi oil facilities attack: What happened: President Trump has ordered new sanctions on Iran. Trump has not definitely stated that Iran was behind the Saudi oil attacks, but others in his administration have pinned blame on Tehran. Key question left unanswered: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the attacks an “act of war” Wednesday but did not promise a military response, or provide intelligence that shows the attack was launched from inside Iran. About the attacks: It knocked out almost half of Saudi Arabia's oil capacity. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said the Kingdom would aim to ramp up oil and gas production as fast as possible.”


Associated Press: Germany Extends Anti-Islamic State Mission In Iraq By 1 Year

“Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet has approved extending Germany’s military participation in an international coalition against the Islamic State group. Merkel spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said Wednesday the Cabinet extended the Bundeswehr’s training of local Iraqi forces until Oct. 31, 2020. A shorter extension that expires on March 31 was applied to the use of Germany’s Jordan-based Tornado reconnaissance aircraft and also the use of German refueling aircraft for anti-Islamic State missions. Demmer says the international coalition’s work has been “bearing fruit” with the extremist group’s widespread defeat in Iraq. She says the extension of Germany’s  commitment is aimed at ensuring those gains are not eroded. The mission caps German military participation at 700 troops.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Security Forces Seize ISIS Hideout, Arrest Terrorist In Kirkuk

“Iraqi Ministry of Interior announced on Wednesday apprehending a hideout belonging to the Islamic State group, south of Kirkuk, while arrested a terrorist who was hiding inside the hideout, and found detonators and explosive devices inside the hideout. The ministry’s Spokesman Major General Saad Maan said in a press statement that the detachments of the Federal Police based on the confessions of one of the arrested defendants, managed to seize a hideout of the ISIS terrorist group in Wadi al-Shay, where one of terrorists was arrested, while hiding inside the hideout. Maan added that three explosive devices, a booby-trapped gas cylinder, a 120-mm grenade, a rocket launcher, two bombs, 50-meter-long detonating wires, a detonating fuse and five detonators were found inside the hideout. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq. IS declared a self-styled “caliphate” in a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014. A government campaign, backed by a U.S.-led international coalition and paramilitary forces, was launched in 2016 to retake IS-held regions, managing to retake all havens, most notably the city of Mosul, the group’s previously proclaimed capital.”


The New York Times: Trump Must Restart The Taliban Talk

“President Trump calling off the talks with Taliban insurgents on Sept. 7 has, at least for now, quashed hopes of imminent agreement between the United States and the Taliban. The two sides had appeared to be on the brink of a deal that might have paved the way for talks among the insurgents, the Afghan government and other Afghan power brokers. The agreement could have been Afghanistan’s first significant step toward peace in a generation. In his tweets calling off the talks, Mr. Trump cited the death of an American soldier as evidence that the Taliban were not negotiating in good faith. The insurgents’ strikes in towns and cities exact a high civilian toll. Though they claim otherwise, they are pursuing a brutal war of attrition, hoping to grind down morale among Afghan troops and to show they can outlast the American military. Even so, Mr. Trump’s reason to end talks makes no sense: The United States shares responsibility for increased violence. An intensification in American bombing raids — the United States flew more raids in 2018 than during any previous years of the war and is on track to do the same in 2019 — and offensives by Afghan forces have occurred in parallel. While Taliban attacks on urban centers remain more visible, the attacks by American and Afghan government forces on rural Afghanistan, which have caused enormous suffering, remain largely hidden.”

Bloomberg: Rushed Afghan Deal Could Aid Terror Groups, U.S. Watchdog Says

“A rushed peace deal in Afghanistan could leave millions of unemployed men at risk of being recruited by terrorist groups and criminal gangs, according to a Pentagon watchdog who’s been tracking the war 18 years after the U.S. invaded to oust the Taliban. Any effort to reach a peace deal between the government in Kabul and the Taliban must include a plan to reintegrate fighters into civilian life after decades of war, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, said in a report published late Wednesday. “It is reasonable to assume that millions of unemployed young men will remain at risk for recruitment by criminal groups and terrorist organizations,” according to Inspector General John Sopko. “For lasting peace, various state-aligned, non-state, and illegal armed groups must also demobilize and transition to civilian life. Not including those groups could deter the Taliban from demobilizing and reintegrating.” Talks between the U.S. and the Taliban broke done earlier this month when Donald Trump canceled secret meetings with Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland.”


Reuters: Yemen's Houthis Threaten To Attack United Arab Emirates Targets

“Yemen’s Houthi group said on Wednesday it had identified dozens of sites in the United Arab Emirates as possible targets, in an attempt to underscore its military clout following a weekend attack it claims to have carried out on Saudi oil facilities.  “To the Emirati regime we say only one operation (of ours) would cost you dearly,” Yahya Saria, the military spokesman for the Iran-aligned movement, said in a televised speech. ”Today and for the first time we announce that we have dozens of targets within our range in the UAE, some are in Abu Dhabi and can be attacked at any time.” He said the Houthis have new drones, powered by “normal and jet engines” that can reach targets deep in Saudi Arabia. In Riyadh, Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said the attack could not have come from Yemen, adding the Houthi movement was “covering up” for Iran. The UAE is a leading partner in a Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to restore Hadi’s government after it was toppled by the Houthis in late 2014. Saria said the attacks were launched from three locations. Qassef 3 drones were launched from one site, Samad 3 drones from a second and new jet powered drones from a third, he said.”

The National Interest: Yemen's Houthi Rebels Have Missiles That Could Sink A Navy Warship

“Yemen's Houthi rebels, who have been at war with a Saudi-Emirati coalition since 2015, claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks on two Saudi Aramco facilities on Sept. 14, 2019. The attacks apparently involved either cruise missiles or far-flying drones firing small guided munitions. Thanks in part to support from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Houthis possess both types of weapons. The Houthis also have produced an array of land-attack ballistic missiles. The militants reportedly have converted old Soviet- and North Korean-made Scud rockets, which once belonged to the Yemeni military, into longer-range “Burkan” ballistic missiles. Similar efforts resulted in an arsenal of anti-ship weapons. In 2015 and 2016 the Houthis repeatedly targeted ships sailing near Yemen. At the peak of the shipping war in October 2016, Houthi forces fired fired two cruise missiles toward the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Mason and the amphibious ship Ponce while the two vessels were sailing in international waters north of the Mandeb Strait.”

Saudi Arabia

The New York Post: Saudi Arabia Vows To Prove Iran Backed ‘Terrorist Attack’ On Oil Facilities

“Saudi Arabia on Wednesday said it would reveal evidence showing Iran was behind the attack on its oil facilities as Tehran threatened to retaliate “immediately” if any action is taken against it. The Saudi Defense Ministry said it would present “material evidence and Iranian weapons proving the Iranian regime’s involvement in the terrorist attack.” Iran reiterated that it played no part in the strikes on the Abqaiq refinery and the Khurais oil fields on Saturday that knocked out half of Saudi’s oil production ​as it aired the threat of retaliation. “If any action takes place against Iran, the action will be faced by Iran’s answer immediately,” ​state-run news agency ​IRNA quoted ​a note sent to Swiss diplomats. The development comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman​ in Jeddah to coordinate efforts against “Iranian aggression,” the US Mission to the United Arab Emirates said. ​ The prince, in a phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said the attack posed “a real test of global will” to counter subversive acts that threaten international stability.”

The Wall Street Journal: U.S., Saudi Military Forces Failed To Detect Attack On Oil Facilities

“U.S. and Saudi military forces and their elaborate air-defense systems failed to detect the launch of airstrikes aimed at Saudi Arabian oil facilities, allowing dozens of drones and missiles to hit their targets, U.S. officials said. Saudi and U.S. focus had been largely on the kingdom’s southern border with Yemen, where Riyadh has been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen’s civil war, the officials said. The attacks, however, originated from Iranian territory in the northern Persian Gulf, people familiar with the investigation into the strikes said. As Saudi officials review information coming in from the U.S., Kuwait and their own investigators, they are increasingly confident that drones and missiles launched near Iran’s southern border with Iraq flew low to the ground on their way to slamming into the heart of the Saudi oil industry early Saturday.”

Fox News: Saudi Oil Attacks An 'Act Of War' By Iran, Not Yemen Rebels, Pompeo Claims

“U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday doubled down on accusations Iran is responsible for the weekend bombing on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, telling reporters that the strike was “an act of war.” Pompeo, speaking from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, added that even if the "fraudulent claims" of responsibility by the Yemen Houthi rebels were true, "it doesn't change the fingerprints of the  [Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] as having put at risk the global energy supply." His comments come hours after President Trump tweeted that he had ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to “substantially increase sanctions” on Iran, amid escalating tensions between the two countries. Earlier this week, Trump said it was "looking like" Iran was responsible for the bombing but did not publically accuse Tehran of the attack.”


Voice Of America: Egypt Says Police Kill 9 Suspected Militants In Cairo

“Egypt on Wednesday said police have killed nine suspected members of a militant group with links to the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in two separate Cairo shootouts, while a rights lawyer said prosecutors have ordered a prominent leftist activist to remain in custody pending an investigation into charges that include joining the Muslim Brotherhood. The Interior Ministry said in a statement the alleged militants were members of the Revolution Brigade, a breakaway faction of the Muslim Brotherhood group that has targeted security forces in militant attacks. It said the exchanges of fire took place as police were trying to arrest them at their alleged hideouts in the northeastern Obour district and the southern May 15th City suburb. The ministry, which oversees police forces, said the dead included a militant leader accused of killing a top military officer, Brig-Gen. Adel Ragai, commander of the army’s 9th armored division, who was gunned down in Oct. 2016 near his home in Obour. The suspected militant leader was also allegedly behind an attack on a checkpoint in August that year in the northern Nile delta province of Menoufia, the statement said.”


Xinhua: 2 Killed, 4 Injured In Central Mogadishu Car Bombing

“At least two people were killed and four others injured on Wednesday evening in a car bomb blast in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, police and witnesses said. A police officer who declined to be named told Xinhua that a car parked near a new restaurant along the city's Maka Al-Mukarama road exploded and caused casualties and damage. "We can confirm that two people were killed in the blast and four others injured. The death toll may rise as many people were inside the restaurant," the officer said. He added that security forces arrived at the area and were conducting investigations. Unconfirmed reports indicated the blast was targeting a Member of Parliament who was in the vicinity. Eyewitnesses said the blast caused shockwaves in the area. "I heard a big bang and the whole area was shaking. I saw people lying on the ground, some were screaming for help," Asma Jama, an eyewitness, told Xinhua.”


Xinhua: Cameroon Army Kills 10 Boko Haram Militants In Repelled Attack

“Ten militants of terror group Boko Haram were killed when Cameroonian troops repelled a coordinated attack launched in the country's Far North region, military sources said on Wednesday. Weapons used by the terror group were also seized during the attacks that took place on Tuesday in Manawadji, a locality in the region. “The terrorists came to attack the locality but were unaware of the presence of the army. The troops ambushed them and killed seven on the spot. A gun battle started and lasted for over three hours. Three others were killed in the process,” a senior military officer who asked not to be named told Xinhua. There have been no reports on casualties on the side of government forces. On Saturday, at least five Cameroonian soldiers were killed by the militants in a fight in Soueram, another locality in the Far North region according to the army. More than 2,000 people have been killed since Boko Haram launched attacks in the Far North since 2014, according to security reports.”


Yahoo News: Norway Mosque Shooter Who Killed Sister Had Racist Motive: Police

“A Norwegian man accused of killing his step-sister before opening fire in a mosque near Oslo in August had racist motives, police said Tuesday, confirming he shot her because of her Chinese origin. Philip Manshaus, 22, was arrested after opening fire in the Al-Noor mosque in an affluent Oslo suburb on August 10 before he was overpowered by a 65-year-old man. Just three worshippers were in the mosque at the time, and there were no serious injuries. The body of his 17-year-old step-sister was later found in their home. Adopted by his father's girlfriend, Johanne Zhangjia Ihle-Hansen, was killed by four bullets, police said in a statement. Manshaus' explanation and technical evidence, including the lack of a struggle, "support the version that she was killed because of what the attacker considers as race, because she was of Asian origin," police official Pal-Fredrik Hjort Kraby told TV2.”


PBS News: Facebook Still Auto-Generates Islamic State And Al-Qaida Pages

“In the face of criticism that Facebook is not doing enough to combat extremist messaging, the company likes to say that its automated systems remove the vast majority of prohibited content glorifying the Islamic State group and al-Qaida before it’s reported. But a whistleblower’s complaint shows that Facebook itself has inadvertently provided the two extremist groups with a networking and recruitment tool by producing dozens of pages in their names. The social networking company appears to have made little progress on the issue in the four months since The Associated Press detailed how pages that Facebook auto-generates for businesses are aiding Middle East extremists and white supremacists in the United States. On Wednesday, U.S. senators on the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will be questioning representatives from social media companies, including Monika Bickert, who heads Facebooks efforts to stem extremist messaging. The new details come from an update of a complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission that the National Whistleblower Center plans to file this week.”

Voice Of America: Facebook, Twitter, Google Detail Efforts Against Online Extremism To Lawmakers

“In a hearing Wednesday to examine the spread of extremism online and the effectiveness of measures taken to prevent violent content, leaders from Facebook, Twitter and Google faced tough questions from U.S. lawmakers, accentuating the positive steps taken, while acknowledging the work remaining. Policy representatives from the social media giants told members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that their companies had made significant progress in curbing bigotry and extremist content on their platforms. Senators suggested the companies could do much more, however, as part of their “digital responsibility” to prevent terrorists and extremists from using the internet to encourage violence. “No matter how great the benefits to society these platforms provide, it is important to consider how they can be used for evil at home and abroad,” Sen. Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, said in an opening statement, citing incidents in which white nationalists and Islamic State sympathizers used social media to radicalize and post their crimes. The role of social media companies has come under scrutiny in recent months in the aftermath of assorted high-profile mass shootings that were posted online.”

The Hill: House Democrat Urges Trump To Address Online Extremism At UN

“Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) is urging President Trump to address the issue of online extremism at the United Nations General Assembly this month, according to a letter provided exclusively to The Hill. The New York Democrat, who heads the House Homeland Security Committee's counterterrorism panel, said the president and the United Nations should push the social media companies to invest in their efforts to stop extremist content from spreading. “I know you share my concerns that terrorists are using social media to spread their ideologies across the world, to recruit future terrorists, to find funding, and to plan and disseminate terrorist attacks,” Rose wrote in the letter to Trump. In the wake of the El Paso, Texas, shooting last month, which left 22 dead and dozens injured, the White House has been honing in on the issue of online radicalization while Democrats have pushed for new gun control legislation. In the letter, Rose said the top social media companies could stave off the spread of extremist content by building out the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), a 2017 initiative by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube aimed at curbing the spread of Islamic terrorist content online.”

The Wall Street Journal: Zuckerberg Heads To Capitol Hill To Push His Version Of Internet Regulation

“Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg will travel to Capitol Hill on Thursday to pitch his vision for moderate internet regulation and seek to placate lawmakers who are weighing tougher moves. “Mark will be in Washington, D.C. to meet with policy makers and talk about future internet regulation,” a company spokeswoman said. “There are no public events planned.” In the wake of a series of disclosures about Facebook business practices, lawmakers have been considering stringent new regulation of internet platforms in areas such as user privacy and content moderation. No action appears imminent on any of the measures. But one idea that has gained attention is placing new limits on the sweeping legal immunity that platforms enjoy for harms caused by their users. Mr. Zuckerberg was expected to meet with at least one lawmaker, Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), who has advocated such an approach.”

NewstalkZB: Facebook Using Real Firearms Footage To Develop Auto-Blocking AI

"Facebook has been using real-life first-person shooter video footage to develop artificial intelligence that can more effectively auto-block the type of video that was livestreamed on March 15. Facebook has been widely criticised over the way it failed to stop the spread of the March 15 footage, which was uploaded 1.5 million times over 24 hours. CEP Senior Director Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler discusses Facebook's reactive plans to tackle right wing extremism on its platform."

CNBC: Here’s Why Regulators Are So Worried About Facebook’s Digital Currency

“Policymakers around the world have upped the pressure on libra, the digital currency being introduced by Facebook, amid concerns it could heavily disrupt the global financial system. On Tuesday, European Central Bank board member Benoit Coeure warned that virtual currencies like libra “could challenge the supremacy of the U.S. dollar.” Coeure’s comment appeared to echo a concern from President Donald Trump, who earlier this year said libra would have “little standing or dependability” and that the “only one real currency” in the U.S. is the dollar. It appears to be a running theme from a number of regulators and lawmakers, who worry libra would compete with government currencies. That’s because Facebook is such an influential platform, with more than 2.4 billion monthly active users as of July 2019. And the companies it’s partnering with in a Switzerland-based consortium known as the Libra Association include giants like Uber, Visa and Vodafone.”

The Irish Times: Zuckerberg In Washington As Scrutiny Grows Over Facebook Privacy

“Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is visiting Washington as the company confronts growing scrutiny over its privacy and marketplace practices. Mr Zuckerberg will “meet with policy makers and talk about future internet regulation,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement. Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat and the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, and other senators had dinner with Mr Zuckerberg in Washington, Rachel Cohen, a Warner spokeswoman, said in a statement released Wednesday night. “The participants had a discussion touching on multiple issues, including the role and responsibility of social media platforms in protecting our democracy, and what steps Congress should take to defend our elections, protect consumer data, and encourage competition in the social media space,” Ms Cohen said.”