Eye on Extremism: September 20

The New York Times: Fewer Attacks, But A More Complex Terrorist Threat In 2017, U.S. Says

“Foreign terrorist groups and their affiliates had a bad year in 2017 as the United States and other countries fought back against the Islamic State, but Al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias remain deadly threats, according to an annual government terrorism report that was released on Wednesday. There were 8,584 terrorist attacks around the world in 2017, a 23 percent decline from 2016, according to the State Department report. As a result, more than 18,700 people were killed, about a quarter of whom were the perpetrators themselves. That death toll represented a 27 percent drop from the previous year, the report said. Much of the reason for the decline was the improved security situation in Iraq, according to Ambassador Nathan Sales, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism. Still, more than half of all terrorist attacks worldwide took place in just five countries: Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Pakistan and the Philippines. And 70 percent of all deaths from terrorist attacks occurred in a different, if overlapping, set of five countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and Syria. The security situation in Afghanistan continued to worsen as a result of coordinated attacks by the Taliban, including the group’s affiliated Haqqani network, the report noted. Some of the attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan, a source of continuing irritation in relations between Washington and Islamabad.”

The Washington Post: Terrorism Is Down Worldwide, But State Department Says Iran Maintains ‘Near-Global Reach’

“The State Department released a report Wednesday identifying Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism with a “near-global reach” and accusing it of sending suspected operatives to the United States. The annual Country Reports on Terrorism for 2017 said Iran and the proxy groups it finances were responsible for attacks or attempted attacks in the Middle East, Europe, South America and Africa. “It brings to its terrorist activities the resources of a state,” Nathan Sales, the coordinator for counterterrorism, said in a call with reporters. “Iran uses terrorism as a tool of its statecraft,” he added. “It has no reservations about using that tool on any continent.” The Iranian mission to the United Nations issued a statement denying it supports terrorists and accused the United States of destabilizing the region. “Iran has fought ISIS, al-Qaeda, their various associate and affiliated terror groups and other terrorist groups in our region for decades,” the statement said. “The U.S., meanwhile, has destabilized the region at every turn by invading countries under false pretenses, supporting brutal invasions and occupations by its proxy states, and by supporting terrorists across the region.”

The Washington Post: Deputy To ISIS Leader Baghdadi Is Sentenced To Death By Iraqi Court

“A top aide to the leader of the Islamic State was sentenced to death by hanging by an Iraqi court Wednesday, becoming the highest-ranking member of the extremist group to be tried and sentenced in a court of law. Ismail al-Ithawi was part of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s inner circle and was responsible for religious edicts, finances and designing the educational curriculum for the Islamic State’s once-vast area of control across Iraq and Syria. He is also thought to be the group’s only operative in custody to have seen Baghdadi alive last year. Ithawi, who used the alias Abu Zaid al-Iraqi, was captured in a joint operation by Iraqi, U.S. and Turkish intelligence agencies in February and had been providing information to Iraqi authorities, including coordinates for airstrikes on targets in Syria, Iraqi officials said. His capture, along with four other important figures he helped authorities track down, was touted by President Trump in a tweet in May, and experts believed he could help authorities locate Baghdadi. Last month, Baghdadi released an audiotape, apparently intending to prove that he was still alive. Ithawi is the most prominent member of the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS and at its peak controlled one-third of Iraq, to have faced trial in Iraq and is among more than 300 Iraqis and foreigners, including women, to have been given death sentences.”

Middle East Eye: Iran Helping Hezbollah Build Arms Factories: U.S. Official

“The United States has evidence Iran is helping Hezbollah build missile production facilities in Lebanon, a senior official in Washington said Wednesday, though he did not offer proof. “They [Iran] were really able to develop a forward-deployed missile base in Lebanon and are trying to do so in Iraq,” U.S. Special Envoy to Iran Brian Hook said. Speaking at an event titled “Iran’s Missile Proliferation,” Hook cited Tehran’s ballistic force as the largest in the Middle East, with more than 10 systems “in its inventory.” One of the main concerns of Iran’s ballistic capabilities is its “enduring threat to our allies and partners, including Israel,” Hook said. Designated by the U.S. to lead the Iran Action Group, Hook is tasked with coordinating the State Department’s pressure campaign on Iran. Since taking office, the Trump administration has reversed a thaw in U.S.-Iran relations, withdrawing from a 2015 deal over nuclear activities and sanctions, and ratcheting up pressure over what it sees as Tehran’s malign activities in the Middle East. Also Wednesday, the State Department named Iran the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism, saying, “Iran and Hezbollah are emerging from the Syria conflict emboldened and with valuable battlefield experience.” Throughout his talk, Hook repeatedly discussed Iran’s alleged activities in Lebanon.”

NewsAmericas: U.S. Designates Two Caribbean Born Nationals ISIS Financiers

“The U.S. government on Wednesday designated two Caribbean nationals as financiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, (ISIS). The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, (OFAC) took the action against Syria-based, Trinidad-born, US citizen, Emraan Ali and Trinidad-based national, Eddie Aleong. The US action means that all property and interests in property of Ali and Aleong that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked. U.S. national are also prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. Ali, 51, was designated for acting for or on behalf of ISIS and is accused of being involved in money transfers from Trinidad and Tobago to Syria in support of ISIS.”

The Wall Street Journal: EU Demands Facebook Update ‘Misleading’ Fine Print

“The European Union is ramping up pressure on Facebook Inc. FB 1.72% to better spell out to consumers how their data is being used or face sanctions in several countries. Věra Jourová, the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality,  on Thursday warned the U.S. tech firm that if it doesn’t change its “misleading terms of service” by the end of the year, that she will call on consumer-protection authorities in EU countries to impose sanctions. “I am becoming rather impatient. We have been in dialogue with Facebook almost two years,” Ms. Jourová said at a press conference. “I want to see not progress—that is not enough for me. I want to see results.” A spokesman for Facebook said it has made changes to its terms based on regulators. The company “will continue our close cooperation to understand any further concerns and make appropriate updates,” he said. At issue for Ms. Jourová was the clarity of Facebook’s terms of service. The company updated them in the spring, but Ms. Jourova said they remain insufficiently explicit about how the company monetizes users’ data. A spokeswoman for the EU’s executive arm said that directing users via hyperlinks to Facebook’s “data policy,” which gives some more detail on ad targeting, isn’t enough for consumers.”

United States

Voice Of America: US Official: Islamic State, Al-Qaida Determined And Adaptable

“U.S. counterterrorism officials say despite major strides in combating and regaining territory from terror groups like Islamic State and al-Qaida, the terror landscape has grown more complex. "ISIS, al-Qaida, and their affiliates have proven to be determined, resilient and adaptable," U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales said Wednesday, using an acronym for Islamic State. "They have adjusted to heightened counterterrorism pressure in Iraq, Syria, Somalia and elsewhere." Sales made the comments in a briefing to reporters on the release of the State Department's 2017 Country Reports on Terrorism, which found that IS and al-Qaida have become more dispersed, turning to the internet to inspire attacks by distant followers, making them less susceptible to conventional military action. The State Department report says as IS lost territory last year, it continued to shift away from a centralized command and encouraged its sympathizers around the world to use whatever weapons they have at hand against so-called "soft targets." The report says 2017 saw such attacks in Manchester, Barcelona, Sinai, Marawi, New York City and elsewhere.”

New York Daily News: Brooklyn Man Charged With Taking Terror Trip To Middle East To Enlist In ISIS

“A Brooklyn man was busted on federal charges after his plan to join ISIS forces in Syria fell through last summer, court documents revealed Wednesday. Rasheedul Mowla, 21, was nabbed by the FBI after his return to Kennedy Airport from a June 2017 trip to enlist with the global terrorist organization, according to court papers. Mowla “admitted that…(he) was willing to fire weapons against others on behalf of ISIS and planned to die on behalf of ISIS,” court papers indicated. The confession was recorded after Mowla waived his Miranda rights both orally and in writing. He was arraigned Wednesday morning in Brooklyn Federal Court and held without bail. A woman answering the phone at Mowla’s Brooklyn residence hung up on a reporter. A five-page affidavit in support of an arrest warrant charged Mowla with “providing, conspiring to provide and attempting to provide material support and resources” to ISIS. Mowla told authorities that he left New York for Saudi Arabia on or about June 1, 2017, claiming that he was traveling with friends to celebrate an Islamic religious holiday, said the affidavit from FBI agent Elizabeth Miller of the New York Joint Terrorist Task Force. The defendant, arrested after his Aug. 29, 2017, return trip, admitted the tale was a ruse and his intention was to slip into Syria and become a terrorist fighter.”

Syria

Bloomberg: Suddenly, Putin Is Playing Nice In Syria

“All of a sudden, President Vladimir Putin is a soft touch on Syria. First, he let President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey persuade him not to begin a huge attack on the Syrian opposition in Idlib. Then he defused a conflict with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel over a downed Russian military plane. Putin’s risk-taking has shaped the outcome of the Syrian war. But in this final stage of the conflict, he is facing powerful constraints on further muscular action. One of his biggest achievements in Syria has been to show that Russia can successfully ignore the U.S. in the Middle East, and set itself up as a fast-moving, resolute, go-to player. It turns out, however, that he can no longer assume U.S. passivity, and that means being careful with U.S. allies, too.”

Reuters: Hezbollah Leader Says Group Will Stay In Syria Until Further Notice

“The leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, a key Damascus ally, said on Wednesday his group would keep its military presence in Syria until further notice, commending a Russian-Turkish deal over Idlib as a step towards a broader political solution. But Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah indicated the number of fighters of the powerful Shi’ite group would be reduced as fronts across Syria become more quiet. “We will stay there (in Syria) even after the settlement in Idlib. Our presence there is linked to the need and the consent of the Syrian leadership,” he said in a televised address to hundreds of cheering followers in southern Beirut on the eve of the annual Ashura religious rally. “The quietness of the fronts and less number of threats.. will naturally affect the current numbers (of Hezbollah fighters),” he added. “Syria is heading to a great calm”. Ashura, the holiest day of the Shi’ite calendar, falls on Thursday. It commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, and is marked by large public processions. Hezbollah has provided vital support to Syria’s military in the seven-year war, helping it regain swathes of the country. “We will stay there until further notice,” Nasrallah said. Nasrallah commended the outcome of the Iranian, Russian and Turkish diplomacy to spare Idlib a military offensive that could have led to a catastrophic humanitarian situation.”

Associated Press: Thousands Back Home In North Syria After Russia-Turkey Deal

“Thousands of people who were recently displaced by violence in northwest Syria have returned home following a Russia-Turkey deal that averted a government offensive on the last major rebel stronghold, Syrian opposition activists said Wednesday. The United Nations said that in the first 12 days of September, over 38,000 people were internally displaced by an intense government aerial bombing campaign in Idlib and neighboring provinces. Most of them headed toward the border with Turkey, packing already overcrowded camps there, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. It said over 4,500 are estimated to have spontaneously returned to their homes shortly afterward when government bombardment stopped. Syria explosion kills 69, including 17 children The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that some 7,000 people have returned to their towns and villages since Monday when Russia and Turkey announced the deal. Syria-based opposition activist Yazan Mohammed said the flow of people back to their homes started days before Monday's deal was announced between Russia and Turkey as residents were expecting it. The demilitarized zone will be established by Oct. 15 and be 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) deep, with troops from Russia and NATO-member Turkey conducting coordinated patrols.”

Iran

Reuters: U.S. Seeking To Negotiate A Treaty With Iran

“The United States is seeking to negotiate a treaty with Iran to include Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its regional behavior, the U.S. special envoy for Iran said on Wednesday ahead of U.N. meetings in New York next week. Iran has rejected U.S. attempts to hold high-level talks since President Donald Trump tore up a nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers earlier this year. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed a dozen demands in May that he said could make up a new agreement, although Hook’s reference to a treaty, which would have to be approved by the U.S. Senate, appears to be a new focus. “The new deal that we hope to be able to sign with Iran, and it will not be a personal agreement between two governments like the last one, we seek a treaty,” envoy Brian Hook told an audience at the Hudson Institute think tank. Among Pompeo’s demands was the release of Americans jailed by Tehran, an end to its nuclear and missile programs and for Iran to withdraw its forces and end financial support for sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.”

The Guardian: Foreign Office Warns Dual Nationals Not To Go To Iran

“The British Foreign Office has warned all UK/Iranian dual nationals not to travel to Iran unless they have an urgent reason to do so. The advice reflects the frustration of the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, at the way in which the Iranians are treating dual-national consular cases, including the imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. It is unprecedented for the Foreign Office to provide specific travel advice for a particular group of British people, but Tehran refuses to deal with the UK over such cases, saying it does not recognise the concept of dual nationals and regards the individuals solely as Iranian. Hunt has tried to make the Zaghari-Ratcliffe case a priority in his short time as foreign secretary and was encouraged when she was allowed out last month for three days on a temporary reprieve. However, she was soon sent back to prison by the Iranian judiciary. Hunt has been pressing for her case to be reviewed, but clearly feels he is not making progress.”

Middle East Eye: Iran Consulate In Flames: How Basra Fire Fanned Speculation In Tehran

“The crowd of rioters, silhouetted against the flame-consumed buildings, raised their arms in celebration. Some waved Iraqi flags, while others wrapped cloth around their faces to disguise their appearance. Fire poured from the doorways and window frames of the cluster of buildings which had, until hours earlier, housed the Iranian consulate in Basra, Iraq's second biggest city. Mercifully, no one was inside as all staff had left the building before the attack. But the destruction of the diplomatic mission has sparked debate in Tehran, as politicians, media and analysts speculate on who was behind it, with motives stretching from the Baathist Party to Washington to claims of sex tourism in a holy city. Iran: Aim was to poison relationship The streets of southern Iran became a focal point for protests during the long hot summer of 2018, as residents demonstrated against corruption and cuts in essential services, including water supplies. The Iranian diplomatic mission in Basra was not the only buildings attacked on 7 September: other targets included local government offices and the headquarters of pro-Iranian political parties. But none carried the international symbolism of the consulate. Relations between Iran and Iraq have improved since the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, which lasted eight years and resulted in the deaths of more than one million people.”

Associated Press: US Tags Iran Anew As Top Terror Sponsor, Global Attacks Fall

“Iran remains the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, the Trump administration said Wednesday in an annual report that also highlighted another drop in terrorist attacks worldwide. The State Department's annual survey of global terrorism accused Iran of intensifying numerous conflicts and trying to undermine governments throughout the Middle East and beyond. Iran's "terrorist affiliates and proxies," the report said, "demonstrated a near-global terrorist reach." The number of worldwide terrorist attacks dropped by 23 percent last year compared with 2016, according to the report, a change largely due to gains against the Islamic State group in Iraq. The number also had declined in 2016 over the previous year. The report comes as the Trump administration is toughening its stance against Iran. President Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark nuclear accord with Iran earlier this year and has begun to dismantle sanctions relief granted under the 2015 deal. Re-imposing sanctions is one part of a larger effort by the U.S. to cut Iran off from funds used to support proxy forces and support other "malign activity" in the region, including terrorism, according to Trump administration officials. "Iran uses terrorism as a tool of its state craft, it has no reservations about using that tool on any continent," Ambassador Nathan Sales, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, told journalists Wednesday.”

Iraq

Iraqi News: 15 Islamic State Militants Killed In Joint Operation, West Of Anbar

“Five Islamic State members were killed in a joint operation, west of Anbar, the Iraqi Interior Minister said on Wednesday. In a statement, the ministry’s Security Media Center, said “the Jazeera Operations Command, in collaboration with the U.S.-led Coalition troops, managed to kill 15 militants inside a cave, northeast of Akashat region.” The cave, according to the center, “included explosive belts and weapons for the militants.” On Sunday, two Islamic State members were arrested as they were planning for attacking governmental institutions, east of Ramadi city. On Friday, security sources were quoted saying that two Islamic State members were arrested, as they were planning to form a terrorist cell, south of Fallujah. Last week, security forces reportedly arrested two Islamic State members in an operation that targeted Nezal and Jubail districts in Fallujah. Weapons and fake ID cards were found in their possession. Islamic State continues to launch sporadic attacks across Iraq against troops. Security reports indicate that the militant group still poses threat against stability in the country. The group still has dormant cells, through which it carries out attacks, across Iraq like it used to do before 2014. Thousands of Islamic State militants as well as Iraqi civilians were killed since the government campaign, backed by paramilitary troops and the coalition was launched in October 2016.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: The Mafia That Threatens Afghanistan

“Afghanistan will hold two crucial elections in the next seven months: a parliamentary vote in October and a presidential election in April. The outcomes could help sustain a steady course for the teenage democracy, and jockeying is under way among political factions. But a rise in organized political violence threatens to taint the elections and derail the nation’s progress toward stable governance. More than at any time since the Taliban was ousted in 2001, rampant criminality has returned to the heart of Afghanistan’s politics. Kabul is overrun with mafia-style networks that control the national drug trade and bring violence to the streets with armed robberies and factional warfare. The crime wave has seriously debilitated political stability and internal security, as each criminal syndicate attempts to use the government to protect its business and ensure its longevity. Many Afghan politicians and strongmen engage in or support these organized criminal activities. Drug smuggling, land grabbing, extortion, illegal mining, kidnapping, revenue theft, torture and arbitrary detention all take place under the protection of the strongmen who serve in government. Some prominent political groups also retain private militias. Controlling territory with an armed presence allows parties to distribute spoils to their supporters and actively intimidate their opponents.”

The New York Times: ‘A Wrestler Never Dies,’ Afghans Say. After Bombing, Their Stories Live

“There is a saying here: “A wrestler never dies.” It’s a commentary on how the sport’s champions hold a special place in Afghan hearts, and over the years, no place has produced more winners than the Maiwand Wrestling Club in Kabul. On Sept. 5, an Islamic State suicide bomber looking for Shiites to kill burst in and took the lives of as many as 30 people at the club. But as the adage suggests, the wrestlers’ stories will outlive death. On the club’s CCTV monitors that day, Gula Reza Ahmadi, a 20-year-old wrestler, saw a young man get out of a car, take a last drag on a cigarette and walk up to the gym’s front door. A security guard, Mujtaba Sakhizada, 18, asked to see the visitor’s membership card. The man reached into his gym bag as if to get it and pulled out a pistol instead. Mr. Ahmadi immediately shouted an alarm across the crowded gym floor as the attacker shot the guard in the forehead. “Suicider!” he yelled. In Afghanistan, “suicide bomber” now has its own one-word term. Maalim Abbas sprang to action. An accomplished wrestler in his youth, the 52-year-old Mr. Abbas was a coach now; his name means “Teacher Abbas.” He was close to the steel-plated entry door when he heard Mr. Ahmadi’s warning shout and the gunshot.”

Deccan Herald: Suspected IS Terrorist Held On Arrival From Kabul

“A Malayali youth, suspected to be an Islamic State (IS) terrorist, was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) when he landed in the national capital after he was deported from Kabul, officials said on Wednesday. Nashidul Hamzafar (26), native of Kalpetta in Wayanad district, was taken into custody on Tuesday. He was detained by Afghan security agencies last year on charges of illegally entering the country to join his associates in the IS. His case is part of a criminal conspiracy hatched by other accused from Kasaragod of Kerala and their associates since 2015 with the intention of joining and furthering the objectives of the IS. Fourteen others from Kasaragod district had left India or their work places in West Asia between mid-May and early-July 2016 before travelling to Afghanistan where they joined the IS.”

Khaama Press: Afghan Intelligence Forces Detain 8 Key Members Of The Taliban And ISIS Khurasan

“The Afghan Intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS) forces have arrested 8 key members of the Taliban and ISIS Khurasan group in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. Provincial governor’s spokesman Ataullah Khogyani quoted in a statement of the provincial government said the NDS forces have also confiscated some weapons, munitions, and explosives from the detained individuals. Khogyani further added that the militants were killed during the separate operations over the course of past one week. According to Khogyani, the ISIS Khurasan and Taliban group members have been arrested from Jalalabad city, Bati Kot, Behsud, Khogyani, and Rod districts. The detained militants hail from Kunar and Nangarhar provinces and have confessed to their crimes, Khogyani said, adding that the suspects have been referred to the judiciary institutions for the trial. Khogyani also added that the Afghan forces have stepped up efforts to improve the security of the province and emphasized that the national defense and security forces are fully capable of responding to the attacks and threats of the militant groups. Thsi comes as numerous other militants have been arrested during the similar operations in eastern Nangarhar province in the past.”

Tolo News: 16 Taliban Killed In Kandahar Clash

“Kandahar Police Chief Gen. Abdul Raziq said Wednesday that at least 16 armed Taliban were killed and 14 others wounded in a clash on Tuesday night in Shorabak district. According to Raziq, the Taliban attacked the 5th battalion border forces in on Tuesday night and the clash lasted till 04:00 am Wednesday. In this attack two border force members wounded. On the other hand a security source said that during the clash at least four border soldiers were killed and five others were wounded. Taliban has not yet commented.”

Pakistan

The Indian Express: Pakistan Militants Continue Terror Attacks In India: US Terrorism Report

“The Trump administration on Wednesday praised India for its significant counter-terrorism actions and said Pakistan-based militant groups continued their terror attacks in the country. In its annual ‘Country Report on Terrorism’, as mandated by the Congress, the State Department said the Indian leadership expressed resolve to prevent terrorist attacks domestically and to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism, in cooperation with the US and other like-minded countries. The parts of India seriously impacted by terrorism in 2017 included Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast Indian states, and parts of central India in which Maoists remain active, it said. “India continued to experience attacks, including by Pakistan-based terrorist organisations as well as tribal and Maoist insurgents. Indian authorities blamed Pakistan for cross-border attacks in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” the report said.  India, the report said, continued to apply sustained pressure to detect, disrupt and degrade terror operations within its borders. Over the course of 2017, India sought to deepen counter-terrorism cooperation and information sharing with the US, including through the first-ever Designations Dialogue held in Delhi in December, it said. In the same year, India and the US pledged to strengthen cooperation against terrorist threats from groups, including Al-Qaida, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and D-Company, it said.”

Yemen

Xinhua: Yemen's Government Forces Abort Houthi Attack Killing 18 Rebels

“Forces loyal to Yemen's internationally-backed government aborted an attack launched by the Houthi group in the country's central province of al-Bayda on Wednesday, killing at least 18 rebels. According to a brief statement released by Media Center of the armed forces, the Houthis attempted to sneak into a military site manned by government forces in Malajem area of al-Bayda province. But the government forces engaged in armed confrontations with the Houthis and managed to repulse the attack that resulted in killing 18 rebels, the statement said. The statement said also that mid-level commanders of the Iranian-backed Houthi group were among the killed militants during the fighting with government forces in al-Bayda province. The impoverished Arab country has been locked into a civil war since the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels overran much of the country militarily and seized all northern provinces, including capital Sanaa, in 2014. Saudi Arabia with other Arab countries intervened militarily and began pounding the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa in March 2015 in response to an official public request from Hadi to protect Yemen and roll back Iran's influence.”

Egypt Today: Houthi Shell Strikes Dhahran, Yemen

“Mohammed Abdel Rahim al-Assami, the spokesman of the Directorate of Civil Defense in Asir, declared that a Houthi shell struck Dhahran on Tuesday, September 18. The shell was coming from Yemen’s direction and fell on a small village in southern Dhahran; it resulted in some losses without resulting in any injuries or deaths, according to the spokesperson. Assami also revealed that the Directorate of Civil Defense in Asir received a notification that the shell caused damages to a mosque, a house, and an agricultural well. Up until now, the Houthi movement has not claimed responsibility for the attack. This came after Saudi’s interception of Houthi’s armed ballistic missile towards Saudi Aramco oil refinery on September 14, 2018.  Saudi Arabia faced numerous attacks from the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, especially after its leadership of the Arabian alliance in Yemen in 2015 to back the internationally recognized government, in response to a request from President of the Republic of Yemen Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.”

Saudi Arabia

Arab News: US Highlights Saudi Arabia’s Key Role In Global Fight Against Terrorism

“The US State Department has praised Saudi Arabia for its efforts to combat terrorism, describing the Kingdom as an active and key member in the global coalition to defeat Daesh. “Saudi Arabia has continued to maintain a strong anti-terrorism relationship with the United States and has supported the strengthening of bilateral cooperation between the two countries,” the State Department noted in its annual report on the global state of terrorism. It also highlighted the joint strategic vision between the two countries and a number of new initiatives to counter terrorist messages and disrupt the financing of terrorism launched last year during US president Donald-Trump’s visit to the Kingdom. The report said Saudi Arabia has implemented systems to follow UN Security Council sanctions on groups and individuals linked to Daesh and Al Qaeda, and has expanded existing counterterrorism programs and projects to rehabilitate terrorist fighters who leave extremist groups. It has also adopted laws to counter the financing of terrorist groups. The State Department pointed out that the Kingdom has achieved a high level of accuracy in its counterterrorism operations, and has carried out a number of arrests and disrupted active terrorist cells throughout the country.”

Qatar

The National: Qatari Tribe Holds Sit-In At UN HQ To Protest Doha 'crimes'

“One of Qatar's biggest tribes held a sit-in protest outside the United Nations headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday to denounce the crimes of Doha, where officials have revoked their citizenship and security forces have tortured members of the tribe. The group staged the sit-in protest in front of the Broken Chair sculpture opposite the United Nations Palace in Geneva. The tribe called on the international community to take a decisive stand on the Tamim regime, whom, they claim, have violated a number of international conventions and treaties through its racist policies against the Al-Ghufran tribe, Emirati news agency Wam reported. The group urged the UN to investigate Qatar for its actions against the tribe. “Our issue with the Qatar regime is purely humanitarian and not political, this is why we came here to present our case and our demands to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Our demands are clear: The Qatar regime should be held accountable for the crimes that it has committed against us and other Qataris, and the restoration of our rights,” Hamad Khaled Al-Marri, a member of the tribe, who took part in the stand, stated.”

Middle East

Foreign Policy: Time For Peace Talks With ISIS And Al Qaeda?

“After almost 17 years of focusing on the threat from terrorists, the U.S. defense community has, under President Donald Trump, set its sights back on powerful states. But that might be myopic; terrorism committed by jihadi groups or inspired by jihadi propaganda remains a potent threat. If anything, the future is likely to bring more conflicts that combine transnational terrorism and civil war, more collaboration between jihadis and local non-jihadi rebels, and more splintering and diffusion within the jihadi universe—not less. It will be impossible to eradicate terrorism through military force, as the United States should have already learned all too well, but feasible alternatives for the management or containment of the threat are in short supply. It might therefore be timely to consider negotiations. The United States is prepared to back talks with the Afghan Taliban. It is worth considering whether the same spirit of accommodation—or, more accurately, resignation—could be extended to other groups associated with al Qaeda or even the Islamic State.”

The Hill: State Department Warns Islamic State, Al Qaeda Have Adapted After 'Major Strides' By US

“The State Department on Wednesday warned that terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) have "adjusted" their methods and adapted after major territorial gains made by U.S.-aligned forces in the Middle East. Reuters reports that in its annual report this week, the State Department warned that long-established terrorist groups that have battled U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria have gone underground and adopted further clandestine methods to hide their activity amid U.S. ground success. Terrorist groups have become “more dispersed and clandestine,” the report asserts, adding that the groups have worked to make “themselves less susceptible to conventional military action.” ISIS, al Qaeda, and affiliated groups have “proven to be resilient, determined and adaptable, and they have adjusted to heightened counterterrorism pressure in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere,” the report continues.”

Nigeria

Vanguard: Boko Haram Kills Nine, Burns Villagers In Borno

“Nine people were killed and nine others injured when Boko Haram fighters raided two villages in northeast Nigeria, the civilian militia said on Thursday. Jihadists in pickup trucks attacked Kalari Abdiye and nearby Amarwa, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Borno state capital Maiduguri, on Wednesday evening. “The gunmen, who were obviously Boko Haram fighters, killed nine people and injured nine more in the attacks,” Ibrahim Liman, from the Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF) told AFP. “They attacked the villages around 8:30 pm (1930 GMT) when it was raining and people were indoors.” Frightened residents rushed out of their homes but when they did so they were shot “indicriminately”, said another CJTF leader, Babakura Kolo. “The two villages were completely burnt by the attackers,” he added, giving a similar toll.”

Reuters: Nigerian Military Struggles Against Islamic State In West Africa - Sources

“Islamist militants have killed hundreds of soldiers in attacks in northeastern Nigeria in recent weeks, security and military sources say, forcing a turnaround in the course of an insurgency which the government has frequently claimed to have vanquished. The fatigued, ill-equipped government troops have reached a breaking point, they said. The setback in the war against Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) and the Boko Haram insurgency from which it split in 2016 comes as President Muhammadu Buhari seeks a second term in elections next February. Buhari came to power in 2015 on a promise to defeat Boko Haram, and security has once again emerged as the main campaign issue. In the past three weeks, according to military and security sources, ISWA killed 48 soldiers at a military base and, in a separate attack, left 32 dead in Gudumbali - a town to which thousands of refugees were ordered to return in June. “The situation in the northeast is deteriorating,” said one security source, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They are running out of weapons, ammo and basic equipment. They are exhausted.” Now, ISWA is winning almost all its battles with the military, security sources said. That marks a contrast with the situation in early 2015 when the Nigerian army, backed by troops from neighbouring countries, pushed Boko Haram off a swathe of land that the insurgents controlled.”

Naija News: Nigerian / Cameroon Soldiers Battle Boko Haram Terrorists In Joint Attack

“A joint troop of of 21 Special Armoured Brigade deployed in Operation LAFIYA DOLE, with the troops of the Cameroonian Defence Forces have killed five Boko Haram terrorists in the border villages of Yabiri Kote and Bula Dadobe of Bama Local Government Area Borno State. The joint operations, nicknamed: “Operation RAINBOW 15” which was conducted from Saturday 15 – Sunday 16 September 2018, came on the heels of the discovery of makeshift bases, established by the terrorists in Yabiri Kote and Bula Dadode from where they launched attacks on villages in Cameroon and Nigeria. Some of the items recovered from the terrorists are: 3 AK 47 rifles, two Improvised Explosive Device ( IED) Shells, one primed Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Belt, two motorcycles, eight bicycles, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Vest, one Boko Haram flag. The trans-border operations have successfully cleared the insurgents from the general area of Kote Kura. Members of the general public are advised to report any suspicious movements or activities to the law enforcement agents for prompt action.”

North Korea

The Wall Street Journal: Moon Shot In Korea

“The good news from Pyongyang is that North Korea’s dictator says he still wants to give up his nuclear weapons. But Kim Jong Un’s summit Wednesday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the third this year, brought no significant progress toward that goal, notwithstanding the bonhomie. Kim did pledge to dismantle a missile-test range, but he told Donald Trump the same thing in Singapore in June. This time, though, he will allow international experts to watch. The North Koreans are experts at selling the same horse twice, and it’s disappointing that a minor addition to an already symbolic concession is being hailed as a breakthrough when it was the only concrete result of the summit. Some observers are excited that Kim dangled the possibility of dismantling his Yongbyon nuclear facility, which includes a reactor and centrifuges to produce material for warheads. But the North promised to do that during the Bush Administration and reneged.”

Russia

Reuters: Russia Says Taliban Ready To Attend Afghan Peace Talks In Moscow - RIA

“Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday the Taliban was prepared to attend multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, RIA news agency reported. Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister is expected to visit Moscow on Thursday to discuss the dates of the talks, the Afghan embassy was cited as saying earlier.”

United Kingdom

Little India: UK Counter-Terrorism Unit Raids Properties Over ‘Extremist Activities’ In India

“Sikh Federation UK protested against the raids carried out by the West Midlands Police Counter Terrorism Unit in connection with allegations of extremist activity in India and fraud offences. Counter-terrorism officers of the West Midlands Police raided some addresses in the United Kingdom on Sept. 18 during investigations into allegations of “extremist activities” and fraud offences in India. Although the West Midlands Police Counter Terrorism Unit did not release detailed information about the raids, a Sikh organization expressed doubts over the intentions behind the searches, and termed it an attempt to target Sikh activists. The West Midlands Police tweeted that the addresses raided are located in Coventry, Leicester and Birmingham. “Detectives are searching a number of properties as part of a West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit (WMCTU) investigation. The residential addresses in Coventry, Leicester and Birmingham are being searched today (Tuesday 18 September) by WMCTU with the support of East Midlands Special Operations Unit – Special Branch (EMSOU-SB),” the police said in an official statement. “The searches are in connection with allegations of extremist activity in India and fraud offences.”

France

Reuters: France Holds Off On Iran Envoy Nomination After Paris Bomb Plot

“France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris last June, French officials said on Wednesday. An Iranian diplomat based in Austria and three other people were arrested on suspicion of plotting the attack on a meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Iran has said it had nothing to do with the plot, which it called a “false flag” operation staged by figures within the opposition group itself. The incident has hit relations just as France and its European partners are seeking to salvage a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers. France’s ambassador to Iran departed in the summer. Iran has also yet to replace its departed ambassador to Paris. “We have a charge d’affaires today in Tehran and there is a high-level dialogue between French and Iranian authorities,” said a French presidential source.”

Associated Press: France To Create A Memorial Museum For Victims Of Terrorism

“French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to create a memorial museum to honor the victims of terrorism. Macron, speaking Wednesday at a ceremony organized by victims' associations, said a committee will immediately start working on the project. Macron also announced more financial aid to survivors and relatives of terror attacks, especially to allow them to pay for travel and legal expenses when attending a trial abroad. Macron said a national day of commemoration will be formally designated to pay tribute to terrorism victims. The date has not been decided yet but a report requested by the government suggested March 11, which is the European Remembrance Day for Victims of Terrorism. France has been the target of multiple deadly terrorist attacks in recent years.”

Technology

Forbes: Bitcoin Use By Islamic State Could Be Over By October -- Here's Why

“Just like cold, hard cash, the anonymity of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies have attracted criminals and terrorists to the digital tokens over recent years. That could soon all be over after the president of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Marshall Billingslea, said the group will likely agree in October to a series of standards that will close the anti-money laundering gaps around the world. These gaps allow bitcoin companies and cryptocurrency exchanges to move the virtual tokens across borders and into anonymous wallets. “It is essential that we establish a global set of standards that are applied in a uniform manner,” Billingslea, speaking in Paris, said earlier today. The FATF said it is now close to establishing a worldwide set of standards to apply to bitcoin and virtual currencies, which would make it far more difficult for criminals and terrorist organizations such as Islamic State, to use the digital tokens. Currently, regulators’ attitudes to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, as well as the blockchain technology that underpins them, vary wildly around the world. In Asia, South Korea and China have cracked down on their bitcoin and cryptocurrency industries while in Europe France, Switzerland, Malta, and Gibraltar want to outline rules to tempt bitcoin businesses. The U.S. continues to keep bitcoin and cryptocurrencies at arm's length.”

World Economic Forum: What We Can Learn From ISIS About Using The Internet To Counter Terrorism

“In 2014, Areeb Majeed, a young man from Kalyan, Maharashtra, attempted with three others to travel to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State. His pro-Isis radicalisation happened online, via social media. A woman from Philippines named Karen Aisha Hamidon allegedly played a crucial role by flirting with Areeb, and designed a bizarre concoction of sex, jihad and the Promised Land to push him to undertake the journey. The fame of the so-called Islamic State (Isis), which has gained worldwide attention as the most brutal Islamist terror group of our times, would not have been possible without the internet and the reach of broadband connectivity, even in bombed-out cities and towns. The fact that Isis managed to take over the front pages of major global news outlets was by design. The terror group needed mass media to tell a story the same way mass media needed Isis’s technologically savvy outreach to sell their story to us. The successful weaponisation of the internet by Isis, using slickly produced videos, glossy magazines et cetera has added a new dimension to the global war on terror; one that is still in the infant stages of being processed into the narratives of the modern-day counter-terrorism approach.”

Counter-Terrorism

Asharq Alawsat: New European Steps Aimed At Making It Harder For Extremists To Finance Their Activities

“European Union institutions have taken a new step in the fight against terror financing. This came after European Parliament members, during their meetings in Strasbourg, agreed on new measures to combat the financing of terrorism by countering money laundering and tightening cash flow controls. The European Parliament said the measures included two laws that would make it harder for extremists and criminals to finance their activities. These new laws fill the lacuna in existing money-laundering rules and make it easier for authorities to detect and block suspicious financial flows. On his part, Fernando Lopez of the Civil Liberties Committee said that terrorist groups are always looking for new ways to fund their activities and avoid the authorities' controls. But the new rules will make things harder for them. "We have updated the powers available to the authorities while constantly protecting the basic rights of citizens," he stressed.”

Kifache: Morocco: A Cell That Finances Its Terrorist Activities With Drug And Ransom Money Dismantled

“The Moroccan authorities have apprehended 12 suspects belonging to a terrorist and criminal network operating in Tangier and Casablanca. The arrest included individuals with criminal records and former detainees charged in cases of terrorism and extremism. The brother of one of those captured had been a fighter in the ranks of ISIS in Syria and-Iraq. A joint communiqué of the Directorate-General of National Security and the Directorate-General for Territorial Surveillance (DGST) indicated that investigations have resulted in the monitoring of a strong linkage between this terrorist network and other criminal plots. It added that militants belonging to it had been implicated in the execution of a range of criminal activities associated with the promotion of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The involvement of the network, it added, has also been manifested in kidnappings and ransom payments using white weapons, tear gas canisters, bottles of incendiary materials and vehicles with fake license plates.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Dostor: Investments Of Muslim Brotherhood's International Arm Estimated  

“Recently published reports estimated at $180 billion the investments of the Muslim Brotherhood's international arm in nearly 48 countries across the globe. Through its Al Taqwa Bank, the Muslim Brotherhood was able to own funds, companies and branches in many countries of the world. This occurred until the aforementioned financial institution was shut down by the US and the UN for allegedly financing Al-Qaeda following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Nonetheless, the blacklisted Islamist group was able to absorb the adverse impacts of this major blow by resorting to worldwide collaborators. The group exploited these contacts to disguise its investments under their names and activities, particularly in safe-haven states. As the group used transient companies to conduct its varied business activities, it also hired specialized "law firms" that supplied the necessary legal protections for such operations. This mechanism enabled the Muslim Brotherhood to convert illegal business practices into thriving economic entities, which are able to smoothly and freely operate in the sectors of real estate, security markets, currencies, minerals and others.”

Veto Gate: Saudi Researcher: Muslim Brotherhood Excels In Manipulating Funds Illegally

“Sami Al-Othman, a Saudi research writer on radical Islamic movements, urged the Arab and Muslim world to dry up the funding sources of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Othman stressed that the banned Islamist group excels in manipulating funds by numerous illegal methods and ruses. The prominent Saudi media figure commended Egypt for its recently undertaken measures against the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly with regard to seizing its companies, properties and charities.”

Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)

Albayan: Popular Mobilization Forces Oblige Iraqis To Fight Alongside The Houthis, For Money

“The Spokesman of the Arab Tribes Coalition in Nineveh, Sheikh Muzahim Al-Hewitt, disclosed that clandestine offices belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have been coercing Arab Sunni youth in Diyala and Nineveh to choose one of two options; either join their ranks and fight alongside their allies in Yemen {the Houthi rebels} in return for payment, or disgrace their names and the names of their families with ISIS links, in case they decide to turn down the first option. Al-Hewitt went on to say that the Iran-backed Shiite militia offers each newly enlisted youngster a one-time $9,000 cash payment, in addition to a fixed monthly salary. The tribal leader further noted that an investigation has been launched to ascertain the funding sources of this initiative, particularly since Iran is unlikely to finance it due to its deteriorating economic state. Al-Hewitt pointed out that the main income sources of the PMF are collecting royalties/taxes from citizens and stealing from merchants.”