Eye on Extremism: September 23

The New York Times: Bus Bomb Kills 12 Iraqis Near Major Pilgrimage Site

“The Islamic State claimed responsibility on Saturday for the bombing of a minibus that killed 12 people near the entrance to a major Iraqi pilgrimage center. The attack was one of the most lethal since the fall of the Islamic State’s de facto capital at the end of 2017, according to the Iraqi Security Forces. It was also one of the few Islamic State attacks south of Baghdad since the group’s self-declared caliphate collapsed. It brought back memories of the period after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, when Shiite pilgrims were routinely targeted south of the capital as they traveled to shrines in the cities of Karbala and Najaf. The bomb, left on the minibus by a passenger, exploded at a checkpoint at one entrance to Karbala near midnight on Friday. It killed 12 people, wounded five and demolished the bus. The security forces said they had arrested a cell of three young men who were responsible. The three had lived in Jurf al-Sakhar, an area heavily used by the Islamic State during the period when it took over much of Iraq. When the group lost that territory, Sunnis were expelled, and most have not been allowed to return. Many have had a marginal existence since then, living in areas for displaced people. The three suspects were construction workers, officials said.”

The Wall Street Journal: Yemeni Rebels Warn Iran Plans Another Strike Soon

“Houthi militants in Yemen have warned foreign diplomats that Iran is preparing a follow-up strike to the missile and drone attack that crippled Saudi Arabia’s oil industry a week ago, people familiar with the matter said. Leaders of the group said they were raising the alarm about the possible new attack after they were pressed by Iran to play a role in it, these people said.  It couldn’t be determined how serious the threat was and Houthi claims have long been met with skepticism by Western officials. But Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have both received the information, according to people briefed on the warnings. Saudi Arabia has beefed up its security in response, according to people familiar with the moves. Saudi Arabian officials are concerned about an another attack on the oil industry or a strike on civilian airports, including the one in Riyadh, the capital. Mohammed Abdul Salam, the Houthi spokesman, denied Saturday that the group had delivered any warning to foreign diplomats about potential Iranian attacks. A spokesman for Iran’s U.N. mission in New York didn’t respond Saturday to requests for comment. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have accused the Houthi forces of falsely claiming to have carried out the Saudi attack to cover up the role Tehran allegedly played in orchestrating the sophisticated airstrike, an accusation that Iran and the Houthis have denied.”

Voice Of America: Al-Shabab Attack Kills 20 Somali Soldiers

“At least 20 Somali government soldiers were killed and 18 others were wounded when al-Shabab raided a military base south of Mogadishu, security sources told VOA Somali. The sources said militants detonated a suicide car bomb at the El-Salin military base followed by an infantry attack in the early hours of Sunday. The militants briefly took over the base, a regional official told VOA Somali. A spokesman for Somali special forces said the militants attacked the base “in large numbers.”  Mowlid Ahmed Hassan said the fighting lasted about 40 minutes, insisting the troops ‘defended” the base. He said reinforcements have been sent to the base. Hassan said the troops killed 13 militants, but declined to comment on the number of government soldiers killed in the attack. Somali troops seized the El-Salin base from al-Shabab on August 6. It was one of four bases in Lower Shabelle region recaptured following an offensive by the Somali military.”

The New York Times: A Year Later, Iran Finds Evaporating Sympathy At The U.N.

“When Iran’s president and foreign minister arrived in New York a year ago for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, they were riding high. At news conferences and in television appearances, they cast President Trump as an untrustworthy deal-breaker, and European leaders largely sided with the pair in a desperate effort to preserve the 2015 nuclear agreement after the United States renounced it. This year could not be more different. Suddenly, President Hassan Rouhani and his witty, often biting American-educated foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, are on the defensive. They are denying any Iranian involvement in the destruction of two major Saudi oil facilities, an assertion that even former Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the nuclear accord four years ago and has become its biggest defender, finds far-fetched. Iran, he said, was behind the attack “one way or the other.” 

The Washington Post: DHS: Domestic Terrorism, Particularly White-Supremacist Violence, As Big A Threat As ISIS, Al-Qaeda

“Domestic terrorism and mass attacks are as great a threat to the United States today as foreign terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security said in a new strategy report unveiled Friday. The strategy recognizes that foreign terrorist groups continue to plot against the United States but notes there has been a disturbing rise in attacks motivated by domestic terrorist ideologies — and that white supremacy is one of the most potent drivers. “In our modern age, the continuation of racially based violent extremism, particularly violent white supremacy, is an abhorrent affront to the nation,” acting homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a speech Friday in Washington, saying the trend “has no place in the United States of America, and it never will.” The report’s framework builds on a 2018 White House national counterterrorism strategy, describing the evolving threat and fleshing out DHS’s role in preventing terrorism and “targeted violence” — attacks that lack a clear political or ideological motivation.”

The Telegraph: Facebook Tech Chief Admits He Remains ‘Deeply Unsatisfied’ With Progress On Tackling Terror

“Facebook’s top engineer has admitted he remains “deeply unsatisfied” with the company’s progress on tackling terror and racist abuse. Mike Schroepfer, the dominant social network’s chief technology officer, admitted Facebook’s had failed to sufficiently turn the tide of online hate and said he wanted the online terror, racism and child abuse to be “crushed into the ground”. The comments come as Facebook comes under increased scrutiny over online safety. The company faces new laws targeting online harm the UK, while in the US senators grilled executives last week on online radicalisation. Founder Mark Zuckerberg also met President Donald Trump on Thursday to discuss progress.”

United States

The Washington Post: Charge Against Airline Mechanic Highlights ‘Insider Threat’

“The arrest of an airline mechanic suspected of being sympathetic with terrorists and charged with sabotaging a jetliner has renewed fear about the “insider threat” to aviation security. Despite security upgrades since the hijacking terror attacks of 2001, breaches including a gun-running operation at the nation’s biggest airport illustrate the possibility that a well-placed airline or airport employee could bring down a plane. “Should people be worried? Hell, yeah,” says Doron Pely, a former aviation security consultant in Israel. “This doesn’t require a suicide bomber. It requires access to an airframe, an aircraft and motivation.” Several experts interviewed for this story said it would be difficult if not impossible to stop every determined criminal or terrorist. They said steps that might beef up defenses against an insider attack — such as requiring aviation workers to go through security checkpoints just like passengers — could add costs and slow down work that goes on at airports. While there have been several cases in recent years of insiders using their special access to board planes without going through security — in one case, even steal a plane — they haven’t harmed passengers, and there hasn’t been clamoring for tougher security.”

The Washington Times: White Extremists Tap ISIS Playbook, Terror Experts Tell Congress

“Violent white supremacists’ tactics, narratives and radicalization process bear a striking similarity to those used by extremist jihadi groups, including the Islamic State, experts told Congress. While the sides are far apart ideologically, they both are using social media and online platforms to disseminate propaganda, radicalize vulnerable individuals and spur them to violence. Violent white supremacists “have used the same modern technologies ISIS has exploited to create their own global community, and they have down so with deadly consequences,” said Joshua Geltzer, who served as senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, testifying Friday before two House panels. Mr. Geltzer said both the Islamic State, better known by the acronym ISIS, and violent white nationalist groups are targeting vulnerable individuals with the false promise of joining something bigger than themselves. Now the Department of Homeland Security will study what both groups have in common as part of its strategy to prevent attacks from domestic and foreign terrorists. DHS on Friday announced its counterterrorism strategy, which includes evaluating a common baseline among threats to the country.”

Huff Post: DHS Warns Against Growing Threat Of White Supremacist Extremism Online

“The Department of Homeland Security is sounding the alarm on the growing danger of white supremacy across the country, warning of the internet’s ability to serve as a meeting space and a breeding ground for nationalist extremism.  In a 37-page report called the Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence released Friday, the department emphasized the ease at which potential domestic terrorists can network, drawing a parallel to foreign threats. “Similar to how ISIS inspired and connected with potential radical Islamist terrorists, white supremacist violent extremists connect with like-minded individuals online,” the report read. “In addition to mainstream social media platforms, white supremacist violent extremists use lesser-known sites like Gab, 8chan, and EndChan, as well as encrypted channels. Celebration of violence and conspiracy theories about the ‘ethnic replacement’ of whites as the majority ethnicity in various Western countries are prominent in their online circles.” The report comes less than two months after a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. The suspect later admitted to having targeted Mexicans, and is believed to have acted on a white supremacist manifesto shared on 8chan minutes before his rampage began.”

The Blaze: Minnesota Man Who Joined ISIS Says He Is Sorry, Wants To Come Home

“A Minnesota man who joined ISIS and was captured fighting in Syria says he is sorry for his actions and wants to come home, even if it means facing federal charges. Abdelhamid Al-Madioum grew up in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, and graduated from high school in suburban Minneapolis. According to WCCO-TV reporter Holly Williams, who found him in a prison in Northeastern Syria. According to United States authorities, Al-Madioum slipped away from his family while he was on vacation in Morocco and took a solo flight to Istanbul, where he then traveled to Iraq, where he joined up with ISIS. Al-Madioum says he was shown ISIS propaganda films via an ISIS twitter recruitment program where they promised to help refugees fleeing Syria. He claims, implausibly, that he joined ISIS for humanitarian reasons. “I will be very honest with you, I thought I was going to come and help people,” Al-Madioum told Williams. Since joining ISIS, Al-Madioum lost his arm and his wife in a U.S. drone strike, and his children have vanished. He was captured by Syrian forces and is currently being held in a Northeastern Syrian prison.  Al-Madioum's disappearance was first reported by local Minnesota media in 2017, and no one in the U.S. had heard from him until Williams' chance encounter.”

NBC News: Department Of Homeland Security Strategy Adds White Supremacy To List Of Threats

“For the first time since it was formed after the 9/11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security is adding white supremacist violence to its list of priority threats in a revised counterterrorism strategy issued Friday. "The continuing menace of racially based violent extremism, particularly white supremacist extremism, is an abhorrent affront to our nation, the struggle and unity of its diverse population, and the core values of both our society and our department," said Kevin McAleenan, the acting Homeland secretary, in a speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington. DHS is stepping up its focus on what McAleenan called "targeted violence," in which an attacker selects the target in advance, driven by hate. Racism and anti-Semitism have fueled recent attacks on African-American churches, synagogues, and public places in California and Texas, he said. The shooting at the Walmart in El Paso hit DHS particularly hard. Six of the victims were family members of DHS employees. "The majority of our El Paso team, working to protect our nation, uphold the rule of law, and care for vulnerable migrants arriving at our border is Hispanic," he said.”

Syria

The Washington Post: From IS Camp, Syrian Family Returns Home To A Hostile City

“After two years on the run with the Islamic State group, Um Mahmoud just wanted to return home. When she finally made it to Raqqa with her daughters and grandchildren, she found her home partially burned but livable. She also found a hostile city reluctant to take her back. The 53-year-old seamstress had returned from al-Hol camp, where 73,000 people, most of them families of IS militants, have been kept since the territorial defeat of the group in March. But there is little trust in the returnees in Raqqa, which IS ruled with a brutal hand for years and which suffered massive devastation in the fight to drive it out. Um Mahmoud’s neighbors and relatives in Raqqa have shunned her. “No one asks about us,” said the mother of six. “Relatives are ... afraid of us.” Her return, in June, is part of an experiment by the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led administration that runs northeastern Syria — an attempt to bring reconciliation to Raqqa after the upheaval that tore apart its social fabric. City administrators have allowed the return of nearly 700 families from al-Hol. The camp includes some 30,000 Syrians, mostly women and children, along with tens of thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of foreigners. Most of those foreigners’ home countries have refused to take them back.”

The Jerusalem Post: U.S. Hoping Its Security Gamble With Turkey In Syria Will Pay Off

“Two months after Ankara threatened to launch an operation into northern Syria, where US forces are present, the US and Turkey seem to be working closely on a “security mechanism” that supposedly seeks to fulfill Turkey’s concerns about Syria. On Saturday, the sixth aerial overflight by the US and Turkey took place in eastern Syria. Under the “security mechanism” that was announced in August, the US and Turkey work together with military to military teams in Turkey that coordinate these flights and other issues in northern Syria. US Maj.-Gen. Eric T. Hill, commander of the anti-ISIS campaign, said these overflights were important for “all involved.” The problem for the US is that it has limited forces on the ground in eastern Syria, and is trying to simultaneously balance several challenges. First, it wants to continue the mission to defeat ISIS. This has been successful because of the partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces, a group that includes Kurds and others in eastern Syria that the US has helped train, assist and advise during the war on ISIS. The SDF liberated Raqqa in 2017, and in the spring of 2019 ISIS was finally defeated in its last stronghold near the Euphrates River. But ISIS sleeper cells remain a threat.”

Haaretz: Israel Blames Iran For Explosives-Laden Drone Captured By Syria Near Israeli Border

“An explosives-laden drone captured by Syrian authorities was not Israeli and was likely Iranian, the Israeli military's Arabic-language spokesman said Saturday. "Today we see proof that [the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force leader] Qassem Soleimani does whatever he wants in Syria and certainly doesn't tell the Assad regime," said the Israel Defense Forces' Avichay Adraee. According to Adraee, the drone's location was in the area from which the Quds Force attempted to launch a drone attack on Israeli targets last month. Syria's state news agency said earlier Saturday that authorities had captured and dismantled a drone rigged with cluster bombs near the border with the Golan Heights. The drone, SANA said, was intercepted by Syria's aerial defense system in the Hermon region, in northern Quneitra.”

Iran

The Wall Street Journal: Why Trump Is Winning On Iran

“Delicacy forbids resorting to the suggestion that comes to mind in response to an Arab academic declaiming in the pages of the New York Times against Donald Trump ’s restraint with respect to Iran’s military provocations. “Trump, in his response to Iran, is even worse than Obama,’’ Abdulkhaleq Abdulla told the paper, which described him as “a prominent political scientist in the United Arab Emirates.” He went on: “Now an Arab Gulf strategic partner has been massively attacked by Iran—which was provoked by Trump, not by us—and we hear Americans saying to us, you need to defend yourselves! It is an utter failure and utter disappointment in this administration.” The Trump sanctions are having their desired effect, weakening the Iranian regime and indicating why its regional machinations are ultimately leading toward a dead end. This is already serving Arab interests incidentally. If there is some regional blowback, such as the drone and cruise-missile attack on a Saudi oil facility, in the spirit of burden-sharing let the Saudis take the steps necessary to repay or repel such attacks if they wish.”

Associated Press: UK Says Iran Responsible For Attack On Saudi Oil Facilities

“Britain has concluded that Iran was responsible for attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday. He said the U.K. would consider taking part in a U.S.-led military effort to bolster the Gulf kingdom’s defenses, while Iran’s president announced plans for a rival Iranian-led security coalition. The U.K. Conservative prime minister also said the he would work with allies to “de-escalate” Middle East tensions that have soared since the Sept. 14 attack on the world’s largest oil processor and an oil field. Britain had previously held back from attributing blame for the drone and missile attack. Saudi Arabia and the United States say Iran was responsible, something Tehran denies. Johnson told reporters flying with him late Sunday to New York for the U.N. General Assembly that now “the U.K. is attributing responsibility with a very high degree of probability to Iran” for the attack by drones and cruise missiles.”

The Wall Street Journal: U.S., Saudis Look For Iran Link In Weapon Systems

“Weapons experts are inspecting GPS systems recovered from the Sept. 14 missile and drone strike on Saudi Arabian oil facilities for evidence that could reveal their origin and flight path, people familiar with the investigation said. Officials in Riyadh and Washington have blamed Iran for the attacks and are searching for “smoking gun” evidence. They say they can’t galvanize world support for their view unless they can draw a clear link back to Tehran, which has denied any role in the attacks. The GPS systems could allow investigators to trace the drones and missiles back to their runways and launchers, which Saudi and American officials believe were in Iran. Inspectors from around the world—including the U.S., France and the United Nations—are scrutinizing pieces of the weapons from the attacks, which temporarily knocked out half of Saudi oil production and rattled the global economy.”

The Times Of Israel: Nasrallah Warns Iran Will ‘Destroy’ Saudi Arabia If It Attacks

“Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned Saudi Arabia Friday that Iran would destroy it if it started a war in the region. “Don’t gamble on a war with Iran,” the terror group’s leader said in a speech broadcast on Lebanon’s Al-Manar television. “It will destroy you. Your house is made of glass as is your economy.” Iran’s foreign minister warned Thursday that any attack on his country over a drone and missile strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry would result in “all-out war,” further pushing up tensions across the Persian Gulf. Nasrallah also said that a decision to “confront” Israeli drones in Lebanon has “led to a decrease in the number of violations of Lebanese airspace.” He said Hezbollah rejected any attempt by Israel to create “new rules of engagement, and we have the right to continue to address the drones.”

The New York Times: The Urgent Search For A Cyber Silver Bullet Against Iran

“After spending billions of dollars to assemble the world’s most potent arsenal of cyberweapons and plant them in networks around the world, United States Cyber Command — and the new era of warfighting it has come to represent — may face a critical test in the coming weeks. President Trump is considering a range of options to punish Iran for this month’s attack on Saudi oil facilities, and has toughened sanctions on Iran and ordered the deployment of additional troops to the region. But a second cyberstrike — after one launched against Iran just three months ago — has emerged as the most appealing course of action for Mr. Trump, who is reluctant to widen the conflict in a region he has said the United States should leave, according to senior American officials. But even as the Pentagon considers specific targets — an attempt to shut down Iran’s oil fields and refineries has been one of the “proportionate responses” under review — a broader debate is taking place inside and outside the administration over whether a cyberattack alone will be enough to alter Iran’s calculations, and what kind of retaliation a particularly damaging cyberstrike might provoke.”

Al Jazeera: US Sanctions Iran's Central Bank In Wake Of Aramco Attacks

“The United States Department of the Treasury on Friday slapped sanctions on Iran's central bank and its sovereign wealth fund, ratcheting up the pressure on Tehran nearly a week after attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure that Riyadh and Washington have blamed on Iran. Speaking at a White House press conference alongside visiting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, US President Donald Trump described Friday's action as the "highest level of sanctions". Trump has said he wants a peaceful solution to the conflict following the weekend oil attacks, which the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has described as an "act of war". Iran has denied any involvement in the September 14 attacks on Saudi state oil giant Saudi Aramco, which shook global oil markets and ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran. On Friday, Saudi officials took reporters to inspect the damaged facilities.”

The New York Times: Iran Says British Tanker Is Free To Go After 2 Months Of Detention

“A British-flagged tanker that Iran seized in July is now free to leave, Tehran said on Monday, more than a month after the British authorities released an Iranian tanker that had been detained off Gibraltar. The news offered a rare hint of easing tensions for Iran, at a time when the country has been in an escalating cycle of confrontation with its Persian Gulf neighbors and with the United States, including the shooting down of drones, the seizure of tankers and, most recently, an attack on major oil installations in Saudi Arabia. Officials of the United States and Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief rival in the region, have blamed Tehran for the Sept. 14 attack on oil facilities in the kingdom, raising the prospect of retaliatory strikes and even war. But so far, the only apparent action they have taken against Tehran is a tightening of economic sanctions.”

Iraq

Iraqi News: Iraqi Security Forces Kill Islamic State Suicide Bomber In Baghdad

“Iraqi security forces have killed an Islamic State suicide bomber in al-Tarmia district, north of Baghdad. According to a statement by the Baghdad Operations Command, the suicide bomber was wearing an explosive belt and carrying grenades. He was gunned down in al Ghozailia district in Baghdad, the statement read. Violence in the country has surged further with the emergence of Islamic State extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014. The surge in violence between armed groups and government forces has resulted in over five million internally displaced persons across Iraq and left more than 11 million in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.”

Xinhua: 3 IS Militants Killed In Anti-IS Operation In Central Iraq

“The Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), backed by the U.S.-led coalition aircraft, on Saturday carried out a large-scale operation in the central Salahudin province, killing three Islamic State (IS) militants and destroying several hideouts. The CTS operation was conducted in the mountains of Makhoul and Khanouga and the areas between the towns of Baiji and al-Shirqat in the northern part of the province, Mohammed al-Bazi from the provincial police told Xinhua. During the operation, the CTS troops killed three IS militants and destroyed dozens of IS tunnels and hideouts, as well as seizing different weapons and ammunition, al-Bazi said. Iraqi security forces repeatedly carried out operations to clear rugged and mountainous areas in eastern and northern parts of Salahudin province, but the vast areas and hard terrain have made it difficult for them to completely clear the area of the extremist militants. The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017. IS remnants, however, have since melted in urban areas or resorted to deserts and rugged areas as safe havens, carrying out frequent hit-and-run attacks against security forces and civilians.”

Kurdistan24: Military Announces Discovery Of ISIS Drone On An Island In An Iraqi Lake

“Iraqi security forces announced on Friday that they had discovered and confiscated an Islamic State drone on an island in a lake in Diyala province. According to a statement released by the Iraqi Security Media Cell, joint forces from Iraqi intelligence services, local security, and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) "found a drone belonging to the ISIS terrorist gangs hidden on an island in Hamrin Lake during a raid on hideouts of the terrorist organization."  Iraq's military provided no additional details. The accuracy of the statement could not be confirmed, nor do the photographs released with it conclusively show a working unmanned aerial vehicle that is connected to Islamic State militants. On Sept. 10, the US-led coalition dropped over 36,000 kilograms of bombs on Islamic State positions on an island in an Iraqi river, the US-led coalition spokesperson said on Tuesday, adding that it was done “to disrupt Daesh [Islamic State] the ability to hide in the thick vegetation.”

Turkey

The New York Post: Why Isn’t The Media Covering Turkish President Erdogan’s Ties To ISIS

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pitched his tent at New York’s glitzy Peninsula Hotel this week, where he will be dining (but not wining) American Muslim leaders on the sidelines of UN meetings. During his 2017 New York visit, Erdogan met with then-freshman U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). This past July, state-run media chiefs called on Turks around the world to donate to her re-election campaign, which is illegal if they are not U.S. citizens or green-card holders. But what should disturb Americans most about Erdogan is not his efforts to influence Congress, his abysmal record as a jailer of journalists, his genocidal war against the Kurds, or even the $100 million mosque he has constructed in Lanham, Maryland. It’s Erdogan’s commitment to global jihad, and specifically, to ISIS terrorists. Since 2012, the Turkish intelligence service, MIT, under Erdogan’s direction, has been providing resources and material assistance to ISIS, while Turkish Customs officials turned a blind eye to ISIS recruits flowing across Turkey’s borders into Syria and Iraq. Scores of ISIS fighters captured by pro-U.S. Kurdish forces in northern Syria showed Turkish exit stamps on their passports, and otherwise boasted of the direct assistance they had received from Turkish authorities. “Turkish intelligence knows everything,” one captured ISIS fighter told his Kurdish captors recently.”

Afghanistan

Al Jazeera: Afghanistan Hospital Attack Death Toll Soars To 39

“The death toll in a Taliban suicide attack near a hospital in southern Zabul province has gone up to 39, Afghan officials said on Friday. At least 95 others have been wounded in the car bomb explosion that the armed group said targeted a nearby government intelligence department building in Qalat, the capital of Zabul province. A senior defence ministry official in Kabul said the fighters wanted to target a training base for the country's powerful security agency the National Directorate of Security (NDS), but parked the explosives-laden vehicle outside a hospital gate nearby. Residents, many of whom had come to see their sick family members, used shawls and blankets to carry the wounded inside the destroyed hospital building, while authorities scrambled to take the worst of the wounded to hospitals in nearby Kandahar. Haji Atta Jan Haqbayan, a member of the provincial council in Qalat, said 20 bodies and 95 wounded had been evacuated from the blast site. Haqbayan said the wall of the NDS building was damaged. He couldn't say whether any personnel were among the casualties. “The number of casualties may rise as rescue teams and people are still searching the bodies under the rubble,” he said.”

Reuters: Afghanistan's Taliban Meets Chinese Government In Beijing

“A Taliban delegation met China’s special representative for Afghanistan in Beijing on Sunday to discuss the group’s peace talks with the United States, a spokesman for the Islamist insurgency said.  The meeting comes after U.S. President Donald Trump’s eleventh-hour cancellation earlier this month of the negotiations between his country and the Taliban, which many had hoped would pave the way to a broader peace deal with the Afghan government and ending a 17-year war.  The Taliban’s nine-member delegation traveled to Beijing and met Deng Xijun, China’s special representative for Afghanistan, said Suhail Shaheen, the Afghan group’s spokesman in Qatar, on his official Twitter account.  Qatar was where the Taliban and the United States held peace talks over the past year.  “The Chinese special representative said the U.S.-Taliban deal is a good framework for the peaceful solution of the Afghan issue and they support it,” Shaheen wrote.  Mullah Baradar, the Taliban delegation’s leader, said they had held a dialogue and reached a “comprehensive deal”, Shaheen tweeted.”

The New York Times: A Young Life Ends After 4 Steps On Video, And Afghans Can’t Stop Watching

“At first, the man was just walking across the street. Then he was running for his life. He managed four steps before the blast from the car bomb caught him. Since then, the last few seconds of Akbar Fazelyar’s life, captured on video during a Taliban attack on Sept. 5, have become one of the most scrutinized moments in Afghanistan, slowed down and watched frame by frame on countless mobile phones and computer screens. Though violent deaths are appallingly common in this country, Afghans have been seized with fascination and dread by the clip’s reminder of how little separates life from death. In the United States, the Taliban attack in Kabul, the Afghan capital, was noted because President Trump cited it, along with the death of American and NATO soldiers in the blast, as the reason for calling off negotiations with the insurgents. In Kabul, it was another painful example of how any corner of the capital — wedding halls, mosques, tuition centers — could suddenly become a battlefield, and of how seemingly everyday decisions could have momentous consequences, bringing disparate lives together at their end. Alongside the 11 others who lost their lives in the attack that day, what had brought Mr. Fazelyar to his death?”

Radio Free Europe: Afghan Officials: Taliban Suffers Heavy Casualties In Several Provinces

“Afghan authorities say Taliban militants have suffered heavy casualties in the latest security operations in several provinces across the country. A Taliban commander and six other militants were killed in clashes in Parwan Province north of the capital, Kabul, provincial police chief Muhammad Mahfooz Walizada said on September 22. Walizada identified the Taliban commander as Mullah Qudus. He said the militants were killed in an operation near the provincial capital, Charikar, late on September 21. Military officials in Ghazni Province said at least 16 Taliban fighters were killed and more than 25 others wounded in overnight operations in Muqur, Rashidan, and Waghaz districts.  A Taliban shadow district chief was killed in the northern district of Zari in Balkh Province, Afghan officials said in a statement.  Mawlawi Gul Ahmad and other eight other Taliban militants were killed in clashes late on September 21, the statement added. It said the clashes began after a group of militants led by Gul Ahmad attacked security forces deployed in the area. The troops, backed by air strikes, repelled the assault, the statement said. Two pro-government militia fighters were also killed and four soldiers were wounded in the clashes.”

The Guardian: ‘Voting Means You’re Crazy’: Violence And Fraud Overshadow Afghanistan Poll

“Afghanistan must choose a new president this week, but every election over the last decade has been riddled with fraud and marred by violence, and fears are growing that the poll on may be the worst yet. It comes as the war is raging with unprecedented intensity. Last week alone, dozens were killed when the Taliban flattened a hospital in an attack in the south, and a US drone strike hit a group harvesting pine nuts in the east. And looming over the poll is the future of controversial US efforts to negotiate a troop withdrawal with the Taliban, suspended after a tweet by President Donald Trump but not entirely dead. Whoever wins the presidential poll will be in charge of trying to extend any deal to cover Afghan security forces, and negotiate first a ceasefire and then some form of shared government that does not sign away all the gains in democracy and women’s rights of the last two decades.The insurgents have vowed to target the election, and there have already been attacks on a campaign rally and one of the vice-presidential candidates.The tempo of their assaults means many people have already decided to stay away from polling stations in fear for their lives. “Voting when there is such a bad situation means you are crazy. And I am not crazy,” said Qasim Walizada, a 29-year-old taxi driver from western Kabul.”

Task&Purpose: US Official Claims ISIS Fighters Were Hiding Among Afghan Civilians During Deadly Drone Strike

“A senior U.S. defense official in Afghanistan's capital city Kabul on Friday said Islamic State fighters were hiding among pine nut harvesters when a U.S. drone strike in eastern Afghanistan killed at least 32 people. The attack occurred in early hours of Thursday in Wazir Tangi area of Nangarhar province, causing high civilian casualties. Provincial Afghan officials on Friday said 32 men and children were killed and more than 40 were injured in the strike. U.S. officials said the drone strike was conducted solely to target IS fighters in a densely forested area that is not inhabited by locals but offers a high yield of pine nuts to villagers residing on the edge of the forest. "There were IS (fighters) there, but it appears during harvest season the locals cut deals with the IS fighters to act as harvesters," said a senior U.S. official who is privy to the counter-terrorism operations conducted by American forces in Afghanistan.”

Saudi Arabia

The Washington Post: UN Welcomes Houthi Move To Halt Attacks On Saudi Arabia

“The U.N. envoy for Yemen says the Houthi rebels’ initiative to halt attacks on Saudi Arabia “could send a powerful message of the will to end the war” in Yemen. Martin Griffiths’ comments Saturday came hours after the Houthi announcement, and a week after the rebels claimed a strike that crippled a key oil facility in Saudi Arabia. Griffiths called for “taking advantage of this opportunity and moving forward with all necessary steps to reduce violence, military escalation and unhelpful rhetoric.” Saudi Arabia has led a military coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen since 2015. That conflict has killed tens of thousands of people. The U.S. and the Saudis blamed the Sept. 14 attack on Iran, which backs the Houthi rebels. Tehran denies any responsibility.”

Middle East

The National: UAE Urges Qatar To Stop Rhetoric Of Hatred

“The United Arab Emirates, UAE, has urged Qatar to stop programmes that promote hate rhetoric and incitement of hatred in its local media, saying the trend threatens the security of countries in the region, including Qatar itself. While delivering the UAE statement before the forty-second regular session of the Human Rights Council held in Geneva to discuss the Universal Periodic Review, UPR, of Qatar, Amira Al Amri of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said the UAE had taken note of conclusions made by the UPR team of experts and urged Qatar once again to pay proper attention and care to 92 recommendations, including those presented by the UAE, regarding unlawful practices by Qatar in harbouring and supporting terrorist groups. The UAE considers these acts as a violation of human rights, she added.”

Egypt

ABC News: Egyptian Officials Say Police Kill 15 Militants In Sinai

“Egyptian security forces say police have killed 15 suspected militants in a shootout in the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula. They say the shootout took place on Sunday when police raided the militants' hideout west of the Mediterranean city of el-Arish. Security officials say they found weapons and explosive materials in the hideout, and the bodies were taken to a nearby hospital for identification. Separately, they say six security forces were wounded when an explosive device hit their vehicle in the nearby town Sheikh Zuweid. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. Egypt has battled an insurgency led by an Islamic State affiliate for years in the Sinai Peninsula that has occasionally spilled over to the mainland.”

Egypt Today: Security Forces Raid A Terrorist Hideout

“Egyptian security forces successfully raided a terrorist hideout at Matariya neighborhood in eastern Cairo, said Interior Ministry’s statement on Saturday. Security troops linked to the National Security sector carried out on Saturday a daring raid on a terrorist hideout where weapons and arm fires intended to be used against the public were kept. What were found to be elements of the terrorist Hasm group, exchanged fire with the raiding security troops. A terrorist suspect named Amr Ahmed Mahmoud Abu al Hassan was killed on the exchange of fire, and two National Security officers wounded, according to the Interior Ministry statement. The confiscated weapons included several firearms with their clips and bullets, RPG with several explosive warheads, explosives, electrical circuits used for bombs, and multiple bullet-proof jackets. State Security Prosecution is carrying out investigation on the matter.”

Nigeria

Reuters: Targeting Militants, Nigeria To Require ID Cards In The Northeast

“Nigeria will require anyone moving through three northeastern states to carry identification cards in an effort to root out members of Boko Haram and Islamic State, the army said on Sunday. The new requirement follows credible information that members of the two militant groups were hiding among civilians in the towns and villages of the states, an army statement said. The army said it would “strictly check” the identification cards of those moving or passing through the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. Those found without identification would “attract further scrutiny and comprehensive investigation to determine his or her activities with the insurgents or otherwise”, it said. Last week, the army forced non-profit Action Against Hunger to close its office in the region, accusing it of aiding groups such as Boko Haram and Islamic State by providing members with food and medicine. The decade-long insurgency led by Islamist militant group Boko Haram has killed some 30,000 people and forced more than 2 million to flee their homes. Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) split from Boko Haram in 2016.”

Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram: Govt Hires 200 Special Hunters To Fight Terrorists In Borno

“Worried by the increasing Boko Haram attacks on Gubio town and its environs, the Caretaker Chairman of Gubio Local Government Area of Borno State, Hon Zanna Modu, has hired the services of 200 special hunters from some parts of Adamawa, Gombe, Katsina and other states in Northern Nigeria to complement effort of the military and other security agencies and nip the crisis in the bud. Modu also said five patrol Hilux vehicles were newly procured and would be handed over to these special set of hunters who are to work hand in hand with the security agencies and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF). This was disclosed on Sunday by the Chairman while interacting with some journalists on the modalities put in place to end incessant attacks. Gubio is about 100km drive and North from Maiduguri, the state capital which has been witnessing series of attacks and destruction of properties in the last one month. Modu said, the measure to hire these special squad of hunters who are to be deployed for three months period is to ensure peace and resilience of fleeing residents return back to their communities. Recall that the renewed attacks by insurgents, which led to the abduction of one member of Civilian Joint Task Force and killing of one of its Commanders, have rendered hundreds displaced, with some taking refuge in Maiduguri Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp.”

Somalia

Reuters: Somalia’s Al Shabaab Raid Military Base, Loot Weapons

“Fighters belonging to Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab stormed an army base near the capital Mogadishu on Sunday, looted it for weapons and then withdrew, a military source, residents and the group told Reuters.  The assault began when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into the base in El Salini, 60 kilometres (37 miles) southwest of Mogadishu, at around 5:30 am local time, al Shabaab said.  A local elder, Ahmed Cali, told Reuters he had been woken by the sound of a huge blast followed by gunfire. He said that later al Shabaab fighters were seen leaving the base, some in trucks loaded with ammunition.  A major in the Somali military who didn’t want to be named said the military has sustained some casualties, without giving details. He said the army had received reinforcements and was back in control of the base.  Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the assault and said they had killed 23 soldiers.  “A mujahid driving a suicide car bomb first hit the base and then armed mujahideen stormed the base, we killed 23 military soldiers,” said Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman.  He added the fighters had taken military vehicles and weapons from the base, including anti-aircraft guns.”

Africa

Reuters: Ethiopia Says It Detains Suspected Islamist Militants Planning Attacks

“Ethiopia said on Saturday it had arrested an unspecified number of Islamist militant members of the Somali group al Shabaab and Islamic State who were planning to carry out attacks in the country on various targets including hotels.  Some of those arrested were carrying out intelligence work including photographing potential targets, the National Intelligence Security Services (NISS) said in a statement read out on state-affiliated broadcaster Fana.  “The group was ... preparing to attack hotels, religious festivities gathering places and public areas in Addis Ababa,” NISS said.  Ethiopian intelligence coordinated with neighboring Djibouti to detain the suspects including their leader, Muhammed Abdulahi, NISS said.  Those detained, NISS said, were arrested in the capital Addis Ababa, Oromia and Ethiopia’s Somali region.  Al Shabaab has been fighting for years to topple Somalia’s central government, which the African Union-mandated peacekeeping force AMISOM helps to defend. The militants have carried out numerous attacks in Somalia on military and civilian targets, and it has also conducted attacks abroad including in Kenya.”

Technology

The Wall Street Journal: Snap Detailed Facebook’s Aggressive Tactics In ‘Project Voldemort’ Dossier

“Facebook Inc. for most of the past decade was Silicon Valley’s 800-pound gorilla, squashing rivals, ripping off their best ideas or buying them outright as it cemented its dominance of social media. Now the knives are coming out. A number of Facebook’s current and former competitors are talking about the company’s hardball tactics to investigators from the Federal Trade Commission, as part of its broader antitrust investigation into the social-media giant’s business practices, according to people familiar with the matter. One of them is Snap Inc.,where the legal team for years kept a dossier of the ways Facebook was trying to thwart competition from the buzzy upstart, according to people familiar with the matter. The title of the documents: Project Voldemort.”

The New York Times: Facebook’s Suspension Of ‘Tens Of Thousands’ Of Apps Reveals Wider Privacy Issues

“Facebook said on Friday that it had suspended tens of thousands of apps for improperly sucking up users’ personal information and other transgressions, a tacit admission that the scale of its data privacy issues was far larger than it had previously acknowledged. The social network said in a blog post that an investigation it began in March 2018 — following revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a British consultancy, had retrieved and used people’s Facebook information without their permission — had resulted in the suspension of “tens of thousands” of apps that were associated with about 400 developers. That was far bigger than the last number that Facebook had disclosed of 400 app suspensions in August 2018. The extent of how many apps Facebook had cut off was revealed in court filings that were unsealed later on Friday by a state court in Boston, as part of an investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general into the technology company. The documents showed that Facebook had suspended 69,000 apps. Of those, the majority were terminated because the developers did not cooperate with Facebook’s investigation; 10,000 were flagged for potentially misappropriating personal data from Facebook users.”

TechCrunch: Meet Facebook's Latest Fake

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a 35-year-old billionaire who keeps refusing to sit in front of international parliamentarians to answer questions about his ad business’ impact on democracy and human rights around the world, has a new piece of accountability theatre to sell you: An “Oversight Board“. Not of Facebook’s business itself. Though you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s what Facebook’s blog post is trumpeting, with the grand claim that it’s “Establishing Structure and Governance for an Independent Oversight Board”. Referred to during the seeding stage last year, when Zuckerberg gave select face-time to podcast and TV hosts he felt comfortable would spread his conceptual gospel with a straight face, as a sort of ‘Supreme Court of Facebook’, this supplementary content decision-making body has since been outfitted in the company’s customary (for difficult topics) bloodless ‘Facebookese’ (see also “inauthentic behavior”; its choice euphemism for fake activity on its platform).”

NBC News: Six Months After Christchurch Shootings, Videos Of Attack Are Still On Facebook

“Facebook is still hosting video footage of the New Zealand mosque shootings six months after the tragedy despite the social network’s repeated pledges to clamp down on terrorist content. NBC News has seen more than a dozen videos on Facebook that were taken from the livestream recorded by the accused gunman, Brenton Tarrant, 28, and broadcast on the social network as the attack was carried out at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15. They show a first-person view of Tarrant using an assault weapon to mow down dozens of worshippers in two mosques. The attacks left 51 people dead. Many of the clips, which include edited sections and screen recordings of the original footage, have been on the platform since the week of the incident. Some of the videos have been automatically covered by Facebook with a warning saying they feature “violent or graphic content,” but they have not been deleted. “It’s literally the same footage,” said Eric Feinberg, an internet security researcher and founder of Gipec, a cyberintelligence company that discovered the videos. “The guy walks in with the music, the gun, the angle of the gun, the same shots. What are they doing with their technology?”