Eye on Extremism: September 4

Voice Of America: Trump Warns Syria, Russia, Iran Against Attacking Rebel-Held Idlib

“U.S. President Donald Trump warned Syria, Russia and Iran in a tweet on Monday against "making a grave humanitarian mistake" by attacking Syria's rebel-held Idlib province. "The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don't let that happen!" Trump tweeted Monday evening. Earlier Monday, Iran voiced support for an impending Syrian offensive to recapture the last remaining major opposition stronghold, saying the Idlib region in northwestern Syria should be cleared of "terrorists." Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif traveled to Damascus on Monday to meet with his Syrian counterpart as well as President Bashar al-Assad. Iranian media quoted Zarif saying Idlib should be put back under control of the Syrian people, and that reconstruction efforts in Syria and the return of refugees should go forward.”

Independent: ISIS Fighters In Afghanistan Are Communicating With UK Terror Cells, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson Says

“Isis fighters in Afghanistan are communicating with cells in the UK with the aim of potentially carrying out attacks, the government has claimed. Defence secretary Gavin Williamson gave the government’s first confirmation the Afghan wing of the Islamist group known as IS-Khorasan or IS-K poses a direct threat to the UK. A rival to both the Taliban and al Qaeda, Isis has gathered strength in the country in recent years. The US military estimates there are around 2,000 fighters allied to the group operating in the country, their numbers bolstered by militants fleeing Iraq and Syria. “What we see is a real threat posed by these groups to the UK and we’ve got to be acting as we are to ensure that we do not see future Manchester-style attacks,” Mr Williamson told Sky News during a visit to Afghanistan’s fourth largest city, Mazeer-i-Shareef, which sits around 270 miles north of the country’s capital, Kabul. “We consistently see terrorist groups operating here in Afghanistan, [and] evidence of their links back not just to the United Kingdom but to the whole of continental Europe.”

USA Today: 'A Tragic Loss': US Service Member Killed In Afghanistan, NATO Says

“NATO says an American has been killed in eastern Afghanistan while serving in the multinational mission the military alliance is leading. NATO said in a statement that a second U.S. service member was in stable condition after being wounded during Monday’s attack. U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller, who assumed command of NATO’s Resolute Support operation on Sunday, said the American who died had volunteered for duty in Afghanistan to protect his country. He was the sixth U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan so far this year. Miller called his death “a tragic loss for all who knew and all who will now never know him.” The commander added, “Our duty now is to honor him, care for his family and continue our mission.”

Euronews: Terrorists Are Misusing Cloud Services To Incite Violence. The EU Must Do More To Stop Them

“Barely a decade old, cloud computing has revolutionised the way individuals and companies host and access digital content from anywhere in the world. As they have with social media platforms and other online tools, terrorists and their supporters have been misusing cloud services as conduits to radicalisation and a means to incite supporters to commit acts of violence. However, despite increasing international recognition of the threat posed by terrorists’ use of the Internet in recent years, there is currently no government that has focused much attention on the way in which cloud services can be manipulated to the same ends. The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) is deeply concerned about the lacklustre response from Internet and social media companies to the continuing problem of online radicalisation. Only after a string of attacks rocked European capitals and cities, did the European Union (EU) begin to focus on ways to pressure tech companies to take the reality of online-inspired extremist violence seriously. Technology giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google have been rightly called out by governments to do more to take responsibility for the dangerous content hosted on their sites. With the EU preparing to launch new legislation on the mandatory flagging and removal of terrorist content next month, now is the perfect time for EU officials to consider the broader online environment and specifically address the terrorist content on cloud computing services.”

Haaretz: Iran Smuggling Weapons To Hezbollah Via Civilian Airline, Report Says

“An Iranian civilian airline is thought to have smuggled weapons into Lebanon for use by Hezbollah and Iranian weapons factories, Fox News reported on Monday, citing Western intelligence sources. The sources pointed to two Qeshm Fars Air flights from Tehran to Beirut that took unusual routes in the past two months. The first was a July 9 flight that stopped in Damascus passed over northern Lebanon, which intelligence sources told Fox carried components for producing precision weapons. The second was an August 2 flight that took a "slightly irregular route" north of Syria. "The Iranians are trying to come up with new ways and routes to smuggle weapons from Iran to its allies in the Middle East, testing and defying the West’s abilities to track them down," the report quoted a regional intelligence source as saying. Qeshm Fars Air is believed to be one of several supposedly civilian airlines that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps uses to smuggle weapons, according to the report.”

CBS News: Almost 50 Troops Killed In Boko Haram Raid On Army Post

“The death toll from a Boko Haram attack on a Nigerian army post on the border with Niger has risen to 48, military sources said on Monday. Scores of Boko Haram fighters in trucks stormed the base on Thursday in Zari village in northern Borno state and briefly seized it after a fierce battle. Boko Haram, which has been waging a deadly insurgency in Nigeria since 2009, has intensified attacks on military targets in recent months. At least 30 Nigerian soldiers were initially said to have been killed in Thursday's raid. "The casualty toll now stands at 48 with the recovery of 17 more bodies of soldiers in surrounding bushes in Zari by search and rescue teams," a military source who did not want to be named told AFP. "Search operations are still ongoing and more bodies are likely to be recovered." Another military source confirmed the new death toll. "So far (the) bodies of 48 troops have been recovered. Yesterday rescue teams found 17 bodies of fallen soldiers," he said, adding that they included two officers and 46 soldiers.”

Syria

The Financial Express: Islamic State Seeks Alternative Sources Of Finance: Russia

“The Islamic State is seeking alternative sources of finance after its revenues from the sale of oil and collection of taxes from the population in Syria and Iraq shrunk drastically, a senior Russian security official said Monday. Compared to financial receipts estimated at about $3 billion in 2014, now the IS only gets $200-300 million a year, according to Sergey Beseda, head of the intelligence information and international relations service at the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). “There is a tendency to invest previously earned funds in legal business in order to facilitate the regular receipt of finance for further activities,” RIA Novosti news agency quoted Beseda as saying at an international conference on countering illegal arms supplies in light of combating international terrorism. He added that after suffering losses in Syria and Iraq, the IS moved part of its militants to Afghanistan. The FSB forecast that the IS is likely to take over “certain drug trafficking channels” in order to improve its financial situation, TASS news agency quoted Beseda as saying at the conference. “There is a reorientation to less costly projects, social work has become more active and propaganda has spread through social networks, and the recruitment of militants also proceeds through social networks,” he said. Such a development could become a new global problem and force the international community to seek new methods of fighting terrorism, said Sergei Kozhetev, first deputy head of the Special Purpose Centre of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.”

Middle East Monitor: Hezbollah: US Proposal For Syria ‘Meaningless’

“Hezbollah and Iran must leave Syria for a lasting solution to the conflict to be reached, the US has said according to the deputy secretary-general of Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Describing the conditions as “meaningless”, Naim Qassem said it must be the “victors” who place conditions, the US has been defeated in Syria and so cannot set conditions, he added. Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad are now in the stage of “successive victories for Syria and its axis. We have lifted this black cloud, victories will continue, and we will achieve more,” he continued.”

Reuters: Trump Warns Syria Not To 'Recklessly Attack' Idlib Province

“U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies Iran and Russia not to “recklessly attack” Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, warning that hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. “The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!” Trump wrote in a tweet. A source has told Reuters that Assad is preparing a phased offensive to regain Idlib. The northern province and surrounding areas are the last major enclave held by insurgents fighting Assad, who has been backed by both Russian and Iranian forces in Syria’s seven-year-old civil war. They are home to some three million civilians. Trump has sought better relations with Russia since taking office in 2017 but the United States has been unable to rein in Moscow’s military and diplomatic support for Assad.”

The New York Times: In Idlib, Final Offensive In Syrian War May Come At Horrific Cost

“On land, Syria’s government is mustering thousands of conscripts to bolster its depleted forces. At sea, a Russian naval flotilla is just offshore, ready to intervene with formidable firepower. In Idlib Province, millions of civilians are dreading what comes next. The warring sides in Syria’s long and merciless civil war are preparing for another brutal offensive, and this one may be the last. The looming assault on Idlib Province is the one the government in Damascus hopes will deliver the final military blow against the rebel fighters and their civilian supporters who rose up more than seven years ago demanding regime change. Where Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies see a chance to crush the remaining opposition, Western leaders warn of a humanitarian calamity in Idlib, where an estimated three million civilians live.”

The New York Times: The Death Blow Is Coming For Syrian Democracy

“The Syrian regime is determined to reconquer all of the territory it has lost. Aided by Russian bombers and Iranian troops, and emboldened by its success in terrorizing the populations of Ghouta and Daraa into submission, President Bashar al-Assad’s government is now preparing to attack Idlib, the last remaining province outside of his control. Idlib is home to some three million people, about half of them displaced, or forcibly evacuated, to the province from elsewhere. Many are crowded into unsanitary camps or sleeping in the open. In recent days, regime troops have massed on Idlib’s border and leaflets have been dropped on residential areas calling on Syrians to accept “reconciliation” or face the consequences. Meanwhile, Russia has been sending reinforcements to its naval base in Tartus. The Syrian troika — Russia, Iran and Turkey — designated Idlib a “de-escalation zone” last year. But what happens there next could potentially undermine the so-far mutually beneficial agreement among the three countries.”

Al Jazeera: Syria's War: Deadly Car Bomb Attack Hits Rebel-Held Azaz

“A car bomb attack in a rebel-held town near Syria's border with Turkey has killed at least one person and wounded several others, according to an opposition-affiliated TV station. Halab Today reported that the explosion occurred on Saturday in Azaz, a town located 32km north of the city of Aleppo. A video, posted on Twitter by Halab Today showed blood splattered streets and the wreckage of several vehicles with the sounds of sirens wailing in the background. Al Jazeera could not immediately verify the report. Khaled Khatib, a spokesman for the White Helmet rescue service, told the Anadolou news agency that "one person was killed and 17 others injured in the bombing". Photos and videos posted on Twitter of the explosion showed plumes of black smoke as people rushed to evacuate the wounded from the scene of the blast. No organisation has claimed responsibility for the attack.”

Eurasia Review: US Military Killed Indonesian Islamic State Leader Bahrun Naim In Syria

“The U.S. military killed Indonesian Islamic State leader Bahrun Naim in Syria in June, a Pentagon spokesman told BenarNews on Friday. The tech-savvy militant was a financier of terror networks in Indonesia and a master recruiter who convinced at least 100 of his countrymen to join the so-called caliphate and groomed women to become suicide bombers, according to Indonesian and U.S. officials and experts. “We have come to learn U.S. forces killed Bahrun Naim in Syria in June,” Lt. Col. Koné Faulkner, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Defense, told BenarNews. Faulkner provided details about the time and place of Naim’s death after Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu announced it earlier in the week. Reports of Naim’s death had circulated in regional media on at least three occasions over the past two years, sourced to online chatter and social media posts, but Indonesian police declined to confirm them, citing lack of proof. Confirmation of his death came in a letter from U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Ryamizard said. “I … expressed thanks for Mattis’ letter to me informing about the killing of terrorist figures Bahrun Naim and Abu Ghaida some time ago in a U.S. military operation,” said a transcript released by the Indonesian Defense Ministry of Ryamizard’s remarks prepared for delivery to senior Pentagon officials in Washington. Ryamizard said the information was passed along as a result of intelligence cooperation. “Once they were shot, Secretary Mattis sent a letter to me two weeks ago, reporting about those two leaders.”

Iran

Reuters: Iran Says It Plans To Boost Ballistic, Cruise Missile Capacity

“Iran plans to boost its ballistic and cruise missile capacity and acquire modern fighter planes and submarines, the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted a senior Defence Ministry official as saying on Saturday. News of the military development plans came a day after Iran dismissed a French call for negotiations on Tehran's future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen, following the U.S. pullout from Tehran's nuclear agreement with world powers. State media also reported the launch earlier this week of war games involving some 150,000 volunteer Basij militia members, who vowed to defend the Islamic state against "foreign threats" including its arch foe, the United States. Tehran is furious over U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the accord on Iran's nuclear program and re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Senior Iranian officials have warned the country will not yield easily to a renewed U.S. campaign to strangle Iran's vital oil exports. They say the country's missile program is solely for defense purposes and is not negotiable as demanded by the United States and European countries. "Increasing ballistic and cruise missile capacity ... and the acquisition of next-generation fighters and heavy and long-range vessels and submarines with various weapons capabilities are among the new plans of this ministry," said Mohammad Ahadi, deputy defense minister for international affairs, IRNA said.”

Haaretz: Convoy Of Iranian Forces Was Bombed Near U.S. Base In Syria, Report Says

“A convoy of Iranian forces was hit by air strikes near the U.S.' Al-Tanf base in Syria, as reported on Monday by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors victims of the fighting. According to the report, an Iranian citizen, four Syrians and three non-Syrian combatants were killed in the attack. Rami Abdel Rahman, the chairman of the Syrian organization, whose headquarters are in London, said that it was not known who was responsible for the attack. The AFT news agency turned to the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition asking whether it had bombed the convoy, but there was no response. The site of the strike is located near Syria's borders with Iraq and Jordan. The report of the attack came at a time when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was visiting Damascus for talks with senior Syrian officials, in advance of the battle for Idlib in the northwest of the country, which is considered the last major rebel enclave. It was the second time in a week that a senior Iranian official visited Syria.”

Iraq

Agence France Presse: Eight Civilians Killed In Iraq Islamic State 'Attacks'

“Suspected Islamic State group extremists have killed eight people and wounded four others in two attacks in northern Iraq, security officials said on Monday. The extremist group has stepped up its attacks since the release of a purported new audio message late last month from IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. On Monday “seven civilians were killed when extremists fired on houses in the village of Albu Shaher”, 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of Kirkuk, a multi-ethnic city north of Baghdad, a security services official said. A police officer was wounded in that attack, which also saw extremists raid a currency exchange office and steal $20,000 before fleeing, he added. Eight killed in car bomb attack on Iraqi checkpoint Late on Sunday, a man was shot dead and three others were wounded outside a mosque north of Baghdad. The attack took place in the village of Khanouka near Ash-Sharqat, one of the last areas retaken by government forces from IS last year, 100 kilometres north of the capital, a police officer said. “The man, aged 80, had just finished praying (and was leaving the mosque) when the extremists opened fire at him,” the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either of the attacks.”

The New York Times: Iraq’s Forgotten Casualties: Children Orphaned In Battle With ISIS

“When he was 8 years old, Muhammad says, he watched as fighters from the Islamic State dragged his father from their house in Mosul and shot him dead on the street. “I was crying and screaming to leave him alone, to leave my house,” said Muhammad, who is now 10. “But they didn’t listen.” After the militants seized his mother, Muhammad and his two younger brothers and sister ended up in a camp for displaced people and finally, this spring, at the city’s orphanage. They are among the tens of thousands of Iraqi children who lost their parents under the brutality of the Islamic State and the prolonged battles to wrest Iraqi territory from its rule. But unlike the government soldiers who fought those battles, who are honored with memorials in almost every town, these children are at risk of being forgotten casualties of the war. The Iraqi state has few resources for these victims, and the country’s ravaged communities, still scrambling to rebuild basic services like health care and electricity, are too overwhelmed to handle the orphans’ needs.”

WTOP: Baghdadi’s ‘Last Ditch’ Effort To Save ISIS

“After almost a year of silence, on Aug. 22, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released a 55-minute-long audio message admitting the group had been conquered, but telling his followers to keep fighting. U.S. military officials are confident — but not certain — that the voice on the message is that of Baghdadi. “We do believe that could possibly be him, although we have not got a confirmation on that,” Army Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told WTOP from Baghdad. “But we’ve always said from the get go that we still believe that he is alive somewhere.” But Ryan noted there was something different about this message. “The message he put out is not typical of what he normally puts out,” Ryan said. “He did mention that they have been defeated, and I think he is just trying to rally up the very hardened ideologists to stick around claiming there’s gonna be better things.” But Baghdadi, Ryan believes, has been weakened and discredited by his absence. “He hasn’t been heard from in the last 11 months and hasn’t been seen for around three years, so that’s not the sign of a strong leader,” Ryan said. He said Baghdadi’s appearance now is “one last ditch attempt” to stop the organization from completely imploding.”

Agence France Presse: Suicide Bomber Kills 2 Iraq Policemen: Security Official

“A suicide bomber has killed two Iraqi policemen near a former bastion of the Islamic State group, days after IS claimed a similar attack near Syria's border, a security official said Friday. On Thursday morning a "suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest drove a booby-trapped car into a federal police checkpoint" near Hawija, north of Baghdad, one official said. "Two policemen were killed and a third one wounded," in the attack, the official added. Hawija is one of the last IS holdouts retaken by government troops a year ago and has long been a bastion of radical Sunni Muslim groups. On Wednesday an IS suicide bomber blew a vehicle at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the Iraq border town of Al-Qaim, near the Syrian frontier, another of the last towns in Iraq to be recaptured from IS. Also on Thursday, three members of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force, which played a key role in fighting IS, were wounded in a blast near Hawija, another security official said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Thursday's attacks but IS said it was behind Wednesday's suicide bombing. In a purported new audio message released last week, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on his followers to "not give up the jihad against their enemy". According to Hisham al-Hashemi, an expert on radical Islamist groups, about 2,000 IS jihadists are still active in Iraq, which declared victory over the jihadists in December last year.”

The Atlantic: ISIS Never Went Away In Iraq

“On August 31, 2010, President Barack Obama declared an end to the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, turning the page on American military involvement in the country that began with the invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein from power. Eight years later, attacks this week in Anbar province and Kirkuk, attributed to isis, show just how difficult it is to stabilize a country that has seen little stability since then—and not for want of trying. isis is supposed to have gone away. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi declared “final victory” over the group last December after his troops, allied with Kurdish fighters and Shia militia, and supported by U.S. airstrikes and military advisers, pushed the insurgents out of Iraq’s cities. At the peak of their powers in 2014, isis had controlled a vast swath of territory across the Iraq-Syria border. U.S. military officials say isis has now been driven out of 98 percent of the territory it once controlled. But the group has reappeared in central Iraq, carrying out attacks in what The Washington Post described as “chillingly reminiscent of the kind of tactics that characterized the … insurgency in the years before 2014.”

Afghanistan

Time: U.S. Forces Say They Have Killed The Leader Of ISIS In Afghanistan

“U.S. forces have killed the self-proclaimed leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) branch in Afghanistan, according to a statement posted Sunday by the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. During an Aug. 25 strike on Nangarhar province near the Pakistan border, U.S. forces said they targeted and killed Abu Saad Orakzai. He is the third leader of the Islamic State–Khorasan group to have been killed by U.S. forces since July 2016, according to the statement. “America and her allies are in Afghanistan to maintain pressure on the networked, trans-regional terrorists attempting to plot, resource and direct attacks from here,” said U.S. Army Gen.Scott Miller, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. “This is only part of the coalition’s work towards and Afghan security solution, but it is a vital part.” Miller took over the post from Army Gen. John Nicholson on Sunday. Orakzai, also known as Abu Saad Erhabi, was the emir of the Islamic State–Khorasan, the ISIS affiliate operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was believed to have led a force of 2,000 fighters, according to the Times. The National Directorate of Security in Kabul had previously reported that Orakzai was among 10 people killed in a ground and air operation by Afghan and foreign forces.”

Voice Of America: Islamic State 'Not Growing' In Afghanistan, Nicholson Says

“The Islamic State terror group is losing its grip on parts of Afghanistan, slowly succumbing to pressure from U.S. and Afghan forces, the outgoing commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said Saturday. General John Nicholson rejected the notion that IS-Khorsasan, also known as ISIS-K or IS-K, has been able to meaningfully expand its presence following a concerted effort to wipe it out, which began last year. That effort included use of the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal. "ISIS-K is not growing," said Nicholson, who hands over command of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan on Sunday to Lieutenant General Austin Miller. "They have been able to replenish a portion of their losses by recruiting from other violent extremist organizations," he added in an email statement to VOA. "Despite this recruiting, they are losing fighters and losing ground." Recent estimates from U.S. counterterrorism officials put the number of IS-Khorasan fighters at more than 1,000, even after the defeat last month of IS-K in northern Jowzjan province, where 250 fighters surrendered along with their commander.More recently, on August 26, the Afghan government announced the death of the IS-Khorasan emir, Abdu Saad Erhabi, along with his nine commanders in a U.S. airstrike, calling it a "major blow" to the terror group. Staying power But U.S. defense and intelligence officials have been cautious of predicting the group's demise, noting that IS-Khorasan, like IS in Iraq and Syria, has been resilient.”

Associated Press: Afghan Official Says Roadside Bomb Kills 5 Police In East

“Afghanistan's Islamic State affiliate detonated a roadside bomb in eastern Nangarhar province killing five border police and wounding four others, a statement issued Friday by the insurgent group said. The vehicle carrying the officers struck the mine in Achin District on Thursday, police officer Qais Saifi told The Associated Press. Even before the IS issued its statement claiming responsibility, Safi had suspected the group, saying it regularly plants roadside bombs to target Afghan officials and security forces. IS has a strong presence in Nangarhar, where Afghan and U.S. support troops have targeted their outposts. Known as the IS in Khorasan province, an ancient name for large swaths of Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia, the insurgent group has carried out a number of blistering attacks in recent months in Afghanistan. It was an Islamic state bomber who walked into the middle of a group of high school students earlier this month while they took their university entrance exam in the capital Kabul, killing 34. The dead were all under 20 years old and mostly Shiite Muslims. The IS affiliate has warned Afghanistan's minority Shiites that they are targets.”

Associated Press: US General Assumes NATO Command In Afghanistan

“U.S. Army Gen. Austin Scott Miller assumed command of the 41-nation NATO mission in Afghanistan in a handover ceremony on Sunday. Miller took over from Gen. John Nicholson, who held the post for more than two years, at a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Kabul attended by senior Afghan officials and foreign ambassadors. The handover comes as Afghan forces are struggling to contain a resurgent Taliban and an increasingly powerful Islamic State affiliate. The Taliban control several districts across Afghanistan, and both groups have launched a relentless wave of attacks in recent months. "The world recognizes Afghanistan cannot be a safe haven for terrorism, the world recognizes that we cannot fail. I know this has been a long fight, and it has been generations for us, for the Afghan people," said Miller, who most recently led the Joint Special Operations Command. Nicholson called on the Taliban to accept the government's offer of a cease-fire and renewed peace negotiations, saying "you don't need to keep killing your fellow Afghans." The nearly 17-year-old NATO mission began with the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks.”

CNN: After 17 Years Of War, Taliban Field Commanders Signal Openness To Peace Talks

“Faced with a resurgent ISIS threat and emboldened by recent gains on the battlefield, two senior Taliban field commanders suggested they are open to peace talks with the Afghan government after 17 years of war. The highly unusual conciliatory words come as Pentagon officials and new US leadership in Afghanistan also focus on seeking peace with the Taliban, switching their military efforts to destroying ISIS' Afghan franchise, the so-called Islamic State in Khorasan (ISIS-K). “ISIS-K is seen as the most dangerous potential threat to US and other Western security evolving in Afghanistan. US defense department officials said that while the Taliban continued to be a source of instability, it was unlikely to pose any kind of international danger. "It's ISIS and al Qaeda we should be going after," said one US officer, who did not want to be named. There is a strong view in the US' defense and intelligence departments that its forces should not pull out of Afghanistan until the threat from ISIS has been eliminated -- and a fear that the entire Afghan operation, involving about 15,000 US troops and costing an estimated $45 billion this year, risked being shut down on a whim by the Trump administration. "We're one tweet away from Trump saying, 'That's it -- it's over,' and that would be very dangerous for the US.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Unhappy With Co-Operation Against The Taliban, Pentagon Cancels $300 Million In Aid To Pakistan

“The Pentagon says it’s taken final steps to cancel $300 million in planned aid to Pakistan. The move earlier this summer reflects the Trump administration’s dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s commitment to assisting the U.S. strategy for pressuring the Taliban, whose leaders use Pakistan as a sanctuary. Pentagon officials say a request was submitted to Congress this summer for authorization to use the $300 million for other purposes. The request has not yet been approved. The move was first reported by Reuters. A Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Kone Faulkner, said Sunday the request to Congress was made in June or July and was “due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of” the U.S. strategy for bringing the Afghan conflict to a political solution. The Pentagon announced in January that it was suspending aid, known as coalition support funds, to Pakistan, and subsequently the Congress cancelled $500 million in such aid. But the Pentagon did not take final steps on the $300 million until this summer.“The Pentagon says it’s taken final steps to cancel $300 million in planned aid to Pakistan. The move earlier this summer reflects the Trump administration’s dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s commitment to assisting the U.S. strategy for pressuring the Taliban, whose leaders use Pakistan as a sanctuary. Pentagon officials say a request was submitted to Congress this summer for authorization to use the $300 million for other purposes. The request has not yet been approved. The move was first reported by Reuters. A Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Kone Faulkner, said Sunday the request to Congress was made in June or July and was “due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of” the U.S. strategy for bringing the Afghan conflict to a political solution. The Pentagon announced in January that it was suspending aid, known as coalition support funds, to Pakistan, and subsequently the Congress cancelled $500 million in such aid. But the Pentagon did not take final steps on the $300 million until this summer.”

Saudi Arabia

Arab News: Houthis And Hezbollah ‘Trafficking Drugs To Fund Military Operations’

“Houthi militias have been trafficking drugs, which the Yemeni security forces with the support of the coalition have been fighting to stop,” said Col. Turki Al-Maliki, spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition at a press conference in Riyadh on Monday. The spokesman accused the Houthis of being drug traffickers in cooperation with the Lebanese Hezbollah group. Al-Maliki said that coalition forces were helping Yemen’s legitimate security forces to counter the Houthi drug trade. He added that many drug shipments had been seized and that some of the seized shipments had the slogan “Beirut Youth Council.” “This explains the relationship between Hezbollah and the Houthi militias in an effort to find sources of funding for military operations,” he said.”

Yemen

Asharq Al-Awsat: Yemen: Hundreds Of Houthis Killed, Injured In Saada

“Yemen’s National Army forces have made further advances at the Marran front of Saada governorate, the main stronghold of Houthi militias, as part of preparations for its full liberation. A military source said that during the clashes, about 400 Houthis were killed and injured in Marran. Military website “SeptemberNet” reported that in the past two days, militants have launched five attacks to retrieve strategic sites which they had lost during previous battles. SeptemberNet quoted a military source in Orouba third brigade as saying that, backed by the Coalition to Support the Legitimacy, the brigade foiled all Houthi attacks in Razih, Marran, and Ghafra, as well as assaults from Dhamar and Bani Matar, leaving about 400 insurgents dead and injured. Local sources in Harf Sufyan, in Amran district, confirmed that the Army’s artillery and Coalition fighters will continue to target any reinforcements sent to the coup militia in Marran.”

The National: Brother Of Houthis' Top Leader Believed Dead After Air Strike

“The brother of top Houthi leader AbdulMalik Al Houthi was reportedly killed in an Arab coalition air strike in Hodeidah on Friday. Abdulkhalik Al Houthi, himself a high-ranking Houthi commander and the Arab coalition’s sixth most wanted target, was said by local media to have been killed before dawn in a strike in the Bajil district of Hodeidah. The National couldn’t independently confirm the reports but several military sources in the country said they believed the information to be accurate. Abdulkhalik, whose nom de guerre among the Houthi was Abu Anas, is the youngest brother of the top Houthi leader. He was reportedly born in January 1984 in Marran district in the northern Saada province of Yemen. He led fighting in northern Yemen in 2013 and later was involved in the Houthi takeover of the capital Sanaa. In 2014, the United Nations designated Abdulkhalik for sanctions alongside his brother.”

Al Arabiya: Iranian Army Experts, Hezbollah Fighters Killed In Battle With Yemeni Army

“A number of Houthi leaders, Iranian experts, and Hezbollah fighters have been killed during battles in the last two days against the Yemeni army in the Marran district in Saada, according to a Yemeni military source. Marran has been the site of serious battles for a week amid an operation launched by the Yemeni army against the Houthi militia. Informed sources said that militia leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi had urgently called upon a number of frontline seniors to Marran, to defend the area. Dozens of Houthi militias were killed at the Marran frontline in recent days. A military leader said that the Yemeni army pledged to regain military control over the area, in which the Houthi leader resides, very soon.”

CNN: Saudi-Led Coalition Admits 'Mistakes' Made In Deadly Bus Attack In Yemen

“The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen acknowledges "mistakes" were made in last month's deadly airstrike on a school bus in northern Yemen, the Saudi Press Agency said Saturday. The attack killed 51 people, including 40 children, according to the Houthi-held Health Ministry. The coalition cited "mistakes in compliance to the rules of engagement." The children had been on a field trip to a graveyard for rebels, one of the few green spaces left in Yemen's Saada governorate. In a statement, the command issued "regret over the mistakes, extends its sympathies and solidarity to the families of the victims." It issued its conclusions after reviewing the findings of an assessment team. "The Joint Forces Command will, as soon as the official findings are received, undertake legal proceedings to hold the ones who committed mistakes accountable according to the rules and regulations related to such cases," the coalition said. It added that it will "continue to revise and enhance its rules of engagement according to operational lessons learned, in a manner that guarantees non-recurrence of such incidents." CNN established that the bomb that hit the school bus on August 9 and killed dozens of children was US-made and had been sold to Saudi Arabia as part of a State Department-sanctioned arms deal.”

The National: Yemeni Forces Rack Up Success Against Extremists Despite Attacks

“Special Yemeni forces have driven Al Qaeda from most of its strongholds in southern Yemen and killed or captured dozens of its leaders, but the terrorist group still poses a threat through sleeper cells, local commanders say. This week, an attack by Al Qaeda militants killed five soldiers of the Security Belt forces and injured four others at a checkpoint in Ahwar district of Abyan. The UAE-trained and supported Security Belt and elite forces have since 2016 been battling Al Qaeda and ISIL in Abyan, Shabwa and Hadramawt provinces in southern Yemen. A Security Belt commander in Abyan told The National that its forces had paid a high price in the battle against Al Qaeda as well as ISIS, which took advantage of the continuing civil war to establish itself in Yemen. Dozens of soldiers were killed in military operations and Al Qaeda sleeper cells continued to stage ambushes, said the commander, who asked not to be named. “The Security Belt forces along with the elite forces in Shabwa and Hadramawt have scored big victories against terrorist groups in the southern provinces, which have long been havens for Al Qaeda and ISIL,” said AbdulAziz Badas, a journalist in Abyan who works for the Security Belt. "In a year and half the Security Belt forces were able to drive Al Qaeda and ISIL out of Abyan, which was considered the main stronghold for them over the past 10 years. Military operations by the Yemeni army under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh failed to drive Al Qaeda out," Mr Badas said.”

Middle East

NPR: Taliban Announce: Founder Of Much-Feared Haqqani Network Dies At 72

“Rumors have circulated for years regarding the death of Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the militant Haqqani network, who had close ties to the Taliban and al-Qaida. Haqqani hadn't been heard from in years, and in 2015 reports of his death were widespread. Those earlier reports were never confirmed. The Taliban on Tuesday released a statement announcing that Haqqani had died after a long illness at the age of 72. As reported by multiple news organizations, the Taliban statement read: "Just as he endured great hardships for the religion of Allah during his youth and health, he also endured long illness during his later years." Haqqani died Monday inside Afghanistan, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.”

Libya

The New York Times: A Facebook War: Libyans Battle On The Streets And On Screens

“When a new bout of fighting between rival militias engulfed the Libyan capital in recent days, badly shaking the fragile United Nations-backed government, some combatants picked up rifles and rocket launchers and headed into the streets. Others logged on to Facebook. As rockets rained on parts of Tripoli, hitting a hotel popular with foreigners and forcing the airport to close, and 400 prisoners escaped from a jail, a parallel battle unfolded online. On their Facebook pages, rival groups issued boasts, taunts and chilling threats — one vowing to “purify” Libya of its opponents. Some “keyboard warriors,” as Facebook partisans are known in Libya, posted fake news or hateful comments. Others offered battlefield guidance. On one discussion page on Thursday, a user posted maps and coordinates to help target her side’s bombs at a rival’s air base.”

DW: Libya Imposes State Of Emergency In Tripoli

“Scores of people have been killed in ongoing clashes between rival militias vying for power. About 400 prisoners managed to escape from their detention facility by forcing the facility's doors open during the fighting. Libya's UN-backed government declared a state of emergency in Tripoli on Sunday after days of fighting left at least 39 people dead and dozens more injured. "Due to the danger of the current situation and for the sake of the public interest, the presidential council declares the state of emergency in the capital, Tripoli, and its suburbs to protect and secure civilians, public and private possessions and vital institutions," it said in a statement. The government also called for militias to end the violence and respect a UN-brokered cease-fire. Ongoing clashes between warring groups broke out in the suburbs south of Tripoli on Monday. According to the health ministry, some 100 people have been wounded in the unrest. Amidst the fighting, more than 400 prisoners managed to breakout of the Ain Zara prison. Prison guards were unable to prevent the prisoners from forcing the facility's doors open, according to a judiciary official. Vying for power Armed militias have been battling for control of the Libyan capital since the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Jihadist groups, such as the so-called "Islamic State," have also exploited the political turmoil and lawlessness to gain a foothold in the North African country. Libya is governed by rival authorities — the internationally recognized government operates from Tripoli in the west, while the other is based in the eastern city of Tobruk.”

Somalia

Reuters: Al Shabaab Car Bomb Kills At Least Six In Central Mogadishu

“At least six people were killed when a suicide car bomb struck a local government office in central Mogadishu on Sunday, destroying the building and a Quranic school opposite. Islamist militant group Al Shabaab said it was behind the attack on Hawlwadag district office, which also blew off the roof of a mosque and damaged houses nearby. At least six people had been killed, including soldiers, civilians and the suicide bomber, and a dozen injured, according to police officer Mohamed Hussein. The school was open but at the time of the blast most children were away from the building on a break. Earlier the director of the Amin ambulance service told Reuters that at least 14 people had been injured, including 6 children. A Reuters journalist on the scene saw a human hand and blood stains in the rubble as people searched for survivors. Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, said the group had carried out the attack.”

Africa

Reuters: 70 States Pledge US$2 Billion To Help Four Countries Around Lake Chad

“Donor countries pledged US$2.17 billion to the drought-stricken area around Lake Chad on Monday, after a United Nations official warned that many millions in the African region still urgently needed help. At a conference in Berlin attended by more than 70 states, international organisations and non-governmental organisations, donors pledged this sum would be made available “over coming years”, according to a German foreign ministry statement. It would be supplemented by US$467 million in cheap credits from development banks, the ministry added. A famine was averted in the region last year largely thanks to international aid, but millions of people in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon were still in dire need of help, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told reporters. “The crisis is not over. There are still 10 million people who need life-saving help,” he said. “A quarter of the people we are trying to reach are displaced from their homes and the only means of staying alive they have is what is provided by humanitarian organisations.” Germany, a leading destination for migrants including from Africa, pledged an extra 100 million euros (US$116 million) for humanitarian aid in the region up to 2020. This was on top of 40 million euros in funding for stabilisation and conflict prevention efforts, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. His government has promised to help African nations improve conditions to keep people from embarking on dangerous journeys in the hope of reaching Europe.”

The New York Times: After Deadly Raid, Pentagon Weighs Withdrawing Almost All Commandos From Niger

“The Pentagon is considering withdrawing nearly all American commandos from Niger in the wake of a deadly October ambush that killed four United States soldiers. Three Defense Department officials said the plans, if approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, would also close military outposts in Tunisia, Cameroon, Libya and Kenya, as well as seven of the eight American elite counterterrorism units operating in Africa. The shift in forces is part of the Pentagon’s defense strategy to focus on threats from China and Russia. But they represent a more severe cut of Special Operations forces in Africa than initially expected, leaving a lasting, robust military presence primarily in Somalia and Nigeria. The proposal does not say that any additional troops would return to Africa even as Special Operations units gradually draw down. Officials said that could reverse progress that has been made against Al Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates, while diminishing alliances across Africa as both Russia and China move to increase their influence. With the reassignment of the counterterrorism teams, American troops could also lose the ability to partner with local forces who act as surrogates to help track and hunt down insurgents. It could also strip those local forces of some of the more advanced American gear they are given when teamed up with American troops. The military’s Special Operations Command is authorized to spend up to $100 million annually to support partner forces around the world under the program that the counterterrorism teams fall under, known as 127e.”

CGTN: Morocco, U.S. Reaffirm Commitment To Fight Terrorism

“Morocco and the United States are committed to fight terrorism, U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales said Thursday in Rabat. “The commitment shared by the government of Morocco and the United States to fight and defeat terrorists is at the heart of a strong Moroccan-American partnership,” Sales said at a press briefing following talks with Morocco’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita. “Terrorist groups like the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaida continue to threaten and unite us in our determination to fight this scourge,” he stressed. Deeming talks with Bourita as “productive”, the U.S. official also expressed the willingness of his country to further strengthen bilateral cooperation. He also hailed the “excellent” cooperation and alliance between the two countries to fight terrorism, particularly in the framework of Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), co-chaired by Morocco and the Netherlands. The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss the co-led initiative on improving capabilities for detecting and interdicting terrorist travel through enhanced terrorist screening and information sharing, he noted. This new initiative, which is scheduled to be launched in September, will address potential weaknesses or gaps in states’ capacities to develop watchlists and share information for screening purposes in accordance with the U.S.-drafted UN Security Council Resolution 2396.”

United Kingdom

The Times Of Israel: Islamic State Follower Jailed For At Least 30 Years For Plot To Kill Theresa May

“A supporter of the Islamic State group who plotted to kill British Prime Minister Theresa May has been sentenced to at least 30 years in prison. Naa’imur Zakariyah Rahman was convicted last month of planning to bomb the entry gates to the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street and then attack May with a knife or gun when she emerged. The 21-year-old was arrested in November after collecting a backpack he believed was stuffed with explosives. He thought he was getting it from IS adherents, but had been talking to undercover police. Judge Charles Haddon-Cave sentenced Rahman Friday to life with no chance of parole for 30 years. The judge said Rahman was “a very dangerous individual” and it was hard to predict whether he would ever be de-radicalized.”

France

Reuters: Iran Rejects French Call For Further Negotiations

“Iran’s foreign ministry on Friday dismissed a French call for more negotiations with Tehran over the international nuclear accord and said some of France’s partners are “bullying and excessive,” a seeming reference to the United States. There was no need for the 2015 agreement between Iran and six world powers to be renegotiated, foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). “In the conditions when all of Iran’s efforts with other world powers is nullified through the bullying and excessive demands of some of the partners of the French foreign minister and their own inability ... there is no reason, need, reliability or trust for negotiations on issues that are non-negotiable,” Qassemi said. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that, following the U.S. pullout from the agreement, Tehran should be ready to negotiate on its future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen. “French and international officials know well that Iran’s regional policy is in pursuit of peace and regional and international security and combating terrorism and extremism,” Qassemi said. The agreement, reached after years of painstaking negotiations, limited Iran’s nuclear development programs in exchange for an easing of sanctions. Western powers had been concerned that Tehran was building towards nuclear weapons, although the Islamic Republic maintained the program was for peace purposes. U.S. President Donald Trump backed out of the agreement in May, throwing its survival into doubt. Paris and Tehran have already locked horns this week.”

Europe

Belfast Telegraph: Why A Stagnating Stormont Is Allowing Dangerous Extremist Ideologies To Fester

“Today, rabble-rousers in Northern Ireland have an array of modern tools with which they can spread their extremist ideology. Research by the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has revealed that, in the online world, the spread of violent, hate-driven ideology happens relentlessly and around the clock and that tech companies are unwilling to meaningfully address the problem without pressure from government and law enforcement agencies. Generation Identity, for instance, has held a protest roughly every two months in Belfast since last August and has been growing its online following in the region. Far-Right activists in eastern Europe have been targeting British social media, promoting groups like Britain First, who caused a stir with their Belfast rally last year that led to the arrest of two of their leaders. Governments around the world are cracking down on tech companies who see themselves as outside the laws governing behaviour in the "real" world. Northern Ireland needs to follow suit, to tell these companies that they cannot profit from providing a platform for extremists looking to resurrect the violence of the past.”

Reuters: Amsterdam Stabbing Suspect Had 'Terrorist' Motive, Officials Say

“An Afghan man shot by police at Amsterdam's central station on Friday after stabbing two American tourists had a "terrorist" motive, city officials said on Saturday. The suspect, who was identified as a 19-year-old Afghan with a German residence permit, was questioned on Saturday in hospital where he was being treated for gunshot wounds to his lower body. "First statements made by the suspect indicate he had a terrorist motive," Amsterdam city council said in a statement. German police searched the man's house at the request of their Dutch colleagues and seized several data carriers, the authorities said. The suspect, who is being held in solitary confinement, will be brought before a judge on Monday to decide whether he should remain in custody. The two people injured in the incident were U.S. citizens, the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands said in a statement on Saturday. Ambassador Pete Hoekstra said the pair were tourists visiting the city. They remained in hospital on Saturday with serious injuries, local police said. Earlier this week, Dutch police arrested a 26-year-old man suspected of threatening to attack far-right politician Geert Wilders over his plan to hold a contest of cartoons depicting Islam's Prophet Mohammad. Wilders on Thursday cancelled the contest citing security risks, as thousands of people in Pakistan marched in protest of his plan, while the Taliban in Afghanistan called for attacks on Dutch troops serving in the country.”

The Washington Times: Dutch Politician Geert Wilders Cancels Muhammad Cartoon Contest, Citing 'Islamic Violence'

“Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician notorious for his criticism of Islam, has canceled a contest inviting participants to submit cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, he said Thursday. “To avoid the risk of victims of Islamic violence, I have decided to not let the cartoon contest go ahead,” Mr. Wilders, 54, said in a written statement. Previously scheduled to take place in November at the offices of Mr. Wilders‘ Party for Freedom within the Dutch parliament building, the proposed contest was widely panned on account of Islam forbidding physical depictions of the prophet, cartoons included, drawing ire from critics in the Netherlands and abroad. Dutch police arrested a man on Tuesday this week accused of plotting to kill Mr. Wilders over the contest, and thousands of demonstrators participated in a massive protest held Wednesday in Pakistan, home to roughly 11 percent of the planet’s Muslims. Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a Muslim cleric involved in the demonstration, said protesters would “stay on the streets until either the publication of blasphemous cartoons in the Netherlands is stopped or the government immediately ends diplomatic ties with the Dutch,” Pakistani media reported.”

Australia

9 News: Boy, 16, Found With Bayonet And Note Pledging Allegiance To Islamic State Guilty Of Planning A Terror Attack

“One of two teenagers arrested with bayonets in Sydney’s south-west has been found guilty of planning a terror attack. The boy did not react as the unanimous verdict was delivered after four days of deliberations. The jury is still deliberating on a verdict for his co-accused who also can’t be identified. They were aged just 16 when they were arrested at a Bankstown prayer hall in 2016, shortly after the bayonets were bought. Although the Crown couldn’t say when they boys planned to carry out the attack and on whom, they alleged they were in possession of a half-written note pledging allegiance to Islamic State. They also tendered CCTV of the friends buying two other knives almost a week earlier and images downloaded to their phones.”

Southeast Asia

The Philippine Star: 1 Killed, 15 Wounded In Another Blast In Sultan Kudarat

“One person was killed while at least 15 others were wounded when an improvised explosive device went off near a department store in Isulan last night. The bombing occurred at past 7 p.m., about five hours after President Duterte left for an official visit to Israel yesterday afternoon. Investigators were still trying to establish if the attack was related to the explosion last Tuesday night in Barangay Kalawagin in this capital town of Sultan Kudarat, home to mixed Muslim, Christian and Lumad residents. Police and military authorities blamed the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in last week’s bombing incident. The BIFF, operating in the fashion of the Islamic State, has been trying to sabotage the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, authorities said. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government are bound by two peace compacts – the 2013 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and a similar one in 2014. Both agreements oblige both sides to cooperate in maintaining law and order in Mindanao.”

China

The Wall Street Journal: China’s Muslim Crackdown Extends To Those Living Abroad

“China’s mass detention campaign against Muslims in its far west is targeting people who have moved overseas, with Chinese authorities investigating whether members of the Uighur ethnic group are involved in any antigovernment activities. For more than a year, security officials have told Uighurs living abroad to provide documentation of their overseas activities and to spy and inform on other Uighurs, most of whom are Muslim, according to interviews and chat records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Other expatriate Uighurs have had their passport renewals denied and instead were offered one-way travel documents to try to force them to return to China. In many cases, these Uighurs said, authorities are leveraging the government’s detention program, threatening to throw family members still in Xinjiang into the centers, where the U.S. State Department estimates hundreds of thousands have been detained.”

Technology

The New York Times: Fringe Figures Find Refuge In Facebook’s Private Groups

“Much of the empire built by Alex Jones, the Infowars founder and social media shock jock, vanished this summer when Facebook suspended Mr. Jones for 30 days and took down four of his pages for repeatedly violating its rules against bullying and hate speech. YouTube, Apple and other companies also took action against Mr. Jones. But a private Infowars Facebook group with more than 110,000 members, which had survived the crackdown, remained a hive of activity. In Mr. Jones’s absence, the group continued to fill with news stories, Infowars videos and rants about social media censorship. Users also posted the sort of content — hateful attacks against Muslims, transgender people and other vulnerable groups — that got Mr. Jones suspended. And last week, when Mr. Jones’s suspension expired, he returned to the group triumphantly. “My 30-day Facebook ban is up!” Mr. Jones announced.”

BBC News: Extremists Exploiting Small Social Media Websites, Experts Warn

“More needs to be done to stop small social media websites being exploited by extremists, experts have said. The likes of Facebook and Twitter have responded to calls to remove extremist content over the last 18 months. And some smaller social media sites have joined a scheme where information is shared to enable blocking content. But a major conference in Swansea, featuring key figures involved in tackling violent extremism, heard too many small sites were being "swamped". Adam Hadley, director of Tech Against Terrorism, an initiative launched by the United Nations' Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), wants politicians around the world to work together. "Despite what newspaper headlines may say, a lot of propaganda and terrorists content exists on small platforms that no-one has ever heard of," he said.”

Reuters: Facebook's Definition Of Terrorism Helps States Mute Dissent - UN Expert

“A UN human rights expert urged Facebook on Monday to narrow its "sweeping" definition of terrorism to stop governments arbitrarily blocking legitimate opposition groups and dissenting voices. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin wrote to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg saying Facebook wrongly treats all non-state groups that use violence in pursuit of any goals as terrorist entities. "The use of such a sweeping definition is particularly worrying in light of a number of governments seeking to stigmatise diverse forms of dissent and opposition (whether peaceful or violent) as terrorism," wrote Ní Aoláin, UN special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism. Facebook's policy did not take account of rebel armed groups that comply with international humanitarian law, the letter said. She did not give examples, but governments facing armed opposition, such as in Syria, frequently label all their opponents as terrorists, even if other countries do not agree. A Facebook spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment. Ní Aoláin commended "the important role Facebook plays in offsetting terrorist activity online", but said it must not unduly interfere in the human rights of its users, and should ensure there is a way to challenge wrong decisions.”

Forbes: How Criminals And Terrorists Use Cryptocurrency: And How To Stop It

“Last November, I was doing research for a new report on the prevalence of terrorism on the Darknet, and came across an al-Qaeda linked organization by the name of al-Sadaqah (which means voluntary giving in Arabic). The group were using Facebook and Telegram to campaign for bitcoin funding. That month, a donation of BTC0.075 ($685 at the time) was sent by an unknown individual to the organization's advertised bitcoin address. Shortly afterwards, the funds (which rose to $803 overnight) were forwarded onto another address. This group is still active on Twitter. There is no doubt that digital currencies provide benefits to individuals, financial organizations, governments, and public sector institutions by facilitating better access to financial products, aiding financial empowerment, and reducing the risks of corruption and fraud. But one of the significant risks associated with digital currencies is the ability of criminals and terrorists to use these new technologies for their own benefit. While there is still no indication that digital currencies have been adopted by any terrorist organization on an institutional level, cases where terrorists have used digital currencies highlight a distinct possibility that risks could develop in the future. I will briefly illustrate why this is the case below.”

Counter Terrorism

Addustour: Amman Group For Future Dialogues Launches Initiative Aimed At Countering Terrorism By Strengthening Imams' Status

“The Amman Group for Future Dialogues announced the launch of an initiative designed to strengthen the status and role of imams {Muslim religious leaders} in the society, with the {ultimate} aim of effectively countering terrorism. Bilal Hassan At-Tal, Director of the aforementioned Amman Group, noted that this initiative, which was carefully prepared by his organization's  counter-extremism staff, is meant to "prepare the imams ideologically and behaviorally in accordance with moderate, present-day Islam." The new program aims to turn the imams into social leaders and instructors, rather than just {religious} preachers, so they can convey the true message of Islam, At-Tal explained. To this end, the imams' salaries will be increased substantially so that their wages, and those of teachers, will be the highest in the state-employee sector. The initiative will do whatever it takes to enable the imams to perform their jobs properly, including the amendment of relevant legislation, the Director of the Amman Group for Future Dialogues stressed.”

Emaratyah: Expert: Military Means Alone Cannot Uproot Terrorism  

“Sameh Eid, a dissident Muslim Brotherhood leader and independent researcher on Islamic movements, said that the various entities of the Egyptian state, particularly the army and the police, have attained major achievements in their fight against extremism and terrorism. As a result, the number of attacks carried out by terrorists in Egypt has dropped appreciably. Nonetheless, military means alone are not enough to wipe out terrorism permanently and completely, the expert reiterated. Eradicating terrorism necessitates joint comprehensive efforts, be they ideological, cultural, religious, educational and others, by all state institutions. Eid stressed the importance of uprooting terrorist ideology through intellectual opposition in light of the recent spread of radical Salafist ideology among Egyptian young people. This extremist ideology will ultimately drive them to adopt the dogma of ISIS and to join it or similar militant groups, the researcher warned.”

ISIS

Alkhaleej: Jordan: ISIS's 17-Member Cell Targeted Offices Of Intelligence Agency And TV Channel

“Earlier this week, Jordan's State Security Court completed its hearing of the prosecution's witnesses in the case known as the ISIS-affiliated "17-member terrorist cell." The 17 ISIS-linked suspects face charges of plotting to simultaneously attack the building of the Intelligence Agency in northern Ruseifa, the Ro'ya TV station, the American Embassy in Amman, a church and a mosque. It's noteworthy that earlier this year the Jordanian General Intelligence Department announced that it had foiled a terrorist plot last November by a terrorist cell affiliated with ISIS. The general prosecutor accuses the defendants of plotting terrorist assaults, promoting the ideology of a terrorist group, selling and possessing weapons and providing financial support for terrorist acts.”

Hezbollah

Bald News: An Expert On The Role Of Hezbollah In Yemen

“Yemeni sources confirmed the death of Lebanese militia leader Tarek Haidara, nicknamed "Abu Haidara", who was killed in a coalition airstrike in the province of Saada, Yemen. The slaying of Abu Haidara exposed the role of Hassan Nasrallah's Hezbollah militias in backing the Houthi group. This also confirms intelligence reports of the involvement of Iran's army in the Yemen war and in executing the scheme of the Revolutionary Guards in this Arab state. On his part, Yemeni researcher Mahmoud al-Taher said that Hezbollah has dispatched experts to launch rockets from Yemen ever since the Houthis took control of certain regions there. On the role of Hezbollah in Yemen, al-Taher claimed that Hezbollah experts are assigned to train Houthi militants on the manufacture and launch of ballistic missiles, intelligence operations, and the manufacture of mines. With regard to the deployment of Hezbollah men in Yemen, the researcher explained that the so-called 'experts' are located in the Houthis' stronghold in Saada, as well as in the capital Sana'a, Hodeidah, Amran, and the west coast of Yemen.”

Houthi

Albayan: The Houthis' Looting Has Devastated Yemen's Economy

“While the city of Aden witnessed popular protests over the collapse of the Yemeni riyal against the dollar, the Houthis continued looting the remaining funds in the areas under their control. Recently they decided to close 12 currency exchange companies, and seven others are under {imminent} threat of closure. The war provoked by the Houthis has led to the tragic situation experienced by millions of Yemenis today. The militants have looted cash reserves from the Central Bank, estimated at $5.5 billion, and stopped the payment of salaries to public employees. In addition, they have directed all state revenues from taxes, customs duties and others for the benefit of the so-called "war effort". All these actions have brought the Yemeni economy to the brink, with the local currency falling to the lowest level in Yemen's history. The Houthis have not only plundered the Central Bank and confiscated state revenues, but their leaders have monopolized the oil derivatives trade, manipulated its prices and managed a black market that has earned them billions of dollars.”