Eye on Extremism: September 5

Associated Press: Taliban Suicide Bombing Kills 10 Near US Embassy In Kabul

“A Taliban suicide car bomb rocked Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 10 civilians in a busy diplomatic area that includes the U.S. Embassy — the second such attack this week that underscored Afghan government warnings that a preliminary U.S.-Taliban deal on ending America’s longest war was moving dangerously quickly. “Peace with a group that is still killing innocent people is meaningless,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement. Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said another 42 people were wounded and 12 vehicles destroyed in the explosion. Hours later, the Taliban set off a car bomb outside an Afghan military base in a neighboring province, killing four civilians. The Taliban said that in the Kabul attack, they targeted vehicles of “foreigners” as they tried to enter the heavily guarded Shashdarak area where Afghan national security authorities have offices. The NATO Resolute Support mission is nearby, and British soldiers were at the scene, retrieving what appeared to be the remains of a NATO vehicle. Neither the NATO mission nor the British high commission commented on the attack.”

The New York Times: Judge Rules Terrorism Watchlist Violates Constitutional Rights

“A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that a federal government database that compiles people deemed to be “known or suspected terrorists” violates the rights of American citizens who are on the watchlist, calling into question the constitutionality of a major tool the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security use for screening potential terrorism suspects. Being on the watchlist can restrict people from traveling or entering the country, subject them to greater scrutiny at airports and by the police, and deny them government benefits and contracts. In a 32-page opinion, Judge Anthony J. Trenga of United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia said the standard for inclusion in the database was too vague. “The court concludes that the risk of erroneous deprivation of plaintiffs’ travel-related and reputational liberty interests is high, and the currently existing procedural safeguards are not sufficient to address that risk,” Judge Trenga wrote. As of 2017, about 1.2 million people were on the watchlist, which is maintained by the F.B.I.’s Terrorist Screening Center.”

The Wall Street Journal: ‘So What’s His Kill Count?’: The Toxic Online World Where Mass Shooters Thrive

“Less than two weeks after a gunman killed more than 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand, law-enforcement officials found a disturbing piece of graffiti outside a San Diego County mosque that had been set on fire. “For Brenton Tarrant -t./pol/,” it read. The cryptic message, which paid homage to the alleged New Zealand shooter and a dark corner of the internet where such shootings are celebrated, foreshadowed a string of violence. In April, one month after the graffiti appeared, John Earnest, the man who police say vandalized the mosque, allegedly attacked a nearby synagogue, leaving one person dead. Then, in August, a shooting in an El Paso Walmart killed 22. One week later, a Norwegian man allegedly opened fire at an Oslo mosque. The trio of suspects don’t appear ever to have met, but they all idolized Mr. Tarrant and were part of a hate-filled online community that is emerging as an important front in law-enforcement efforts to ward off future attacks.”

Reuters: U.S. Blacklists 'Oil For Terror' Ship Network As It Raises Pressure On IRGC

“The United States on Wednesday blacklisted an “oil for terror” network of firms, ships and individuals allegedly directed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for supplying Syria with oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars in breach of U.S. sanctions. Washington also issued a new international shipping advisory about IRGC’s use of “deceptive practices” to violate U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil sales and warned that those doing business with blacklisted entities “are now exposed to U.S. sanctions,” said State Department official Brian Hook, who oversees Iran policy. Hook also announced that the United States would offer a reward of up to $15 million for information that disrupts the financial operations of the IRGC and its elite foreign paramilitary and espionage arm, the Quds Force. The steps intensified a U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign aimed at eliminating Iran’s oil exports, its main source of income. It will likely intensify tensions that erupted with President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last year from a multilateral accord designed to stop Tehran from producing nuclear weapons. Iran has been gradually reducing its compliance with the 2015 agreement in a bid to pressure European countries to compensate it for the severe damage done to its economy by multiple rounds of U.S. sanctions.”

POLITICO Pro: 6 Ways Websites Could Lose Their Legal Immunity

“Major tech companies formed the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism in 2017 to coordinate the removal of terrorist content. They more recently signed onto the Christchurch Call, a voluntary pledge to eradicate extremist content. But industry critics argue those efforts fall short. Some say Section 230 must be amended to ensure the platforms make every possible effort to stop the trend. “Ideally, additional regulation would not be necessary," said David Ibsen, executive director of the Counter Extremism Project. "But given the tech industry’s track record, it is clear that companies will only take comprehensive action when forced to do so by regulators.”

The New York Times: Regulators Fine Google $170 Million For Violating Children’s Privacy On YouTube

“Google agreed on Wednesday to pay a record $170 million fine and make changes to protect children’s privacy on YouTube, as regulators said the video site had knowingly and illegally harvested personal information from children and used it to profit by targeting them with ads. Critics denounced the agreement, dismissing the fine as paltry and the required changes as inadequate for protecting children’s privacy. The penalty and changes were part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and New York’s attorney general, which had accused YouTube of violating the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. Regulators said that YouTube, which is owned by Google, had illegally gathered children’s data — including identification codes used to track web browsing over time — without their parents’ consent.”

United States

CNN: NRA Rips San Francisco Board Of Supervisors After Being Labeled A 'Domestic Terrorist Organization'

“The National Rifle Association on Wednesday ripped the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for declaring the NRA a “domestic terrorist organization,” calling the vote “worthless and disgusting.” The resolution, which passed unanimously Tuesday night, claims the NRA “promotes extremist positions,” “spreads propaganda” to deceive the American public about gun violence, incites gun owners to “acts of violence” and “has armed those individuals who would and have committed acts of terrorism.” NRA spokeswoman Amy Hunter called the resolution a “worthless and disgusting 'soundbite remedy' to the violence epidemic gripping our nation.” “This is a reckless assault on a law-abiding organization, its members, and the freedoms they all stand for,” Hunter said in a statement to CNN. The resolution is a largely symbolic one. It calls for the city and county to “take every reasonable step to limit” San Francisco's “financial and contractual relationships” with vendors who do business with the NRA. But the resolution does not, for example, carry the law enforcement implications of designation as a foreign terrorist organization. Despite the rise in cases that law enforcement describes as domestic terror-related, there is no federal charge for “domestic terrorism.”

CBS News: ACLU Pushes House Judiciary To Oppose Bill Criminalizing Domestic Terrorism

“The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday urged ranking members of the House Judiciary Committee to oppose a bill that targets white supremacist groups by criminalizing domestic terrorism. The ACLU said the bill would unnecessarily expand authorities used by the Trump administration to target and discriminate against the very communities Congress hopes to protect. “People of color and other marginalized communities have long been targeted under domestic terrorism authorities for unfair and discriminatory surveillance, investigations, and prosecutions,” the civil rights group said in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, and Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking Republican member. Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, introduced the bill on Aug. 16 amid a growing number of mass shootings in America. Patrick Boland, Schiff's spokesman, said late Tuesday there are reasonable and valid concerns about such statutes potentially being abused, but that the responsible solution is not to refuse to take vital legislative action. “In the wake of El Paso and other horrific attacks, it is imperative that prosecutors and investigators be given the tools necessary to combat violent domestic terrorism — particularly white nationalist terrorism — vigorously, and on equal terms with its international counterpart,” Boland said.”

The Houston Chronicle: New Orleans Court Tackles ‘Extravagant’ Ruling In Houston ISIS Case

“The matter before three federal judges Wednesday in a stately Louisiana courtroom came down to a simple question — did an iconoclastic federal trial judge in Houston properly sentence a 24-year-old Spring man when he gave him exponentially less prison time than more than 100 other U.S. defendants convicted of supporting ISIS overseas. The unusual appeal by the Justice Department highlights the frustration the government has with jurists across the country who tend to disregard the sentencing recommendations of prosecutors in the wake of a 2005 ruling that freed them to exercise more discretion. A prosecutor from the national security division in Washington told the cavernous and mostly empty 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel that Judge Lynn N. Hughes committed a grave injustice when he sentenced Asher Abid Khan last year to 18 months in prison after the young man admitted he and a friend plotted to join the jihadist struggle in Syria in the early days of the caliphate. Hughes rejected the idea of tacking on a massive terrorism enhancement that would have put the sentence in sync with the average range of nine to 15 years, according to data collected by the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.”

Marine Corps Times: The Neo-Nazi Boot: Inside One Marine’s Descent Into Extremism

“The former Marine junior ROTC cadet and North Carolinian was interested in communism and antifa before he joined a neo-Nazi organization known as Atomwaffen Division — an organization described by some as a terror group. His ideology has drifted across a spectrum of contradictions from antifa — a group whose name stems from “anti-fascists” and is known to use violence against those it deems fascist or supremacist — to a hate group prepping for a race war and the collapse of the U.S. government. Marine Lance Cpl. Vasillios G. Pistolis ultimately was booted from Corps mid-summer 2018 for his ties to a hate group. But, his ability to enlist in the Corps highlights a challenge to the military recruiters armed with few tools from records checks to interviews to keep supremacists out of the ranks. An investigation into his hate group ties by Naval Criminal Investigative Service — obtained by Marine Corps Times through a government records request — reads like a psychological evaluation into extremist thought and behavior, detailing his own path to radicalization and views on various hate groups. In June 2018, Pistolis was sentenced before a military court to 28 days confinement, reduction in rank to E-1 and forfeiture of two-thirds pay for one month.”


The New York Times: ISIS Weakened, Finds New Bombers: Cows Wearing Explosive Vests

“The Islamic State has been reluctant to use humans to carry bombs because of the group’s reduced numbers, so it has tried out a new tactic: Bovine suicide bombers. Residents of Al Islah, Iraq, on Saturday said they had witnessed “a strange” sight: two cows harnessed to explosive vests roving the northern side of the village, according to Col. Ghalib Al-Atyia, the spokesman for the police commander in Diyala Province. The animals wandered into the outskirts of the community, and when they seemed close to houses, the bombs were detonated remotely, killing the cows, and damaging nearby houses, but not harming any people, Colonel Al-Atyia said. In the colonel’s assessment, the attack signaled that the Islamic State, whose ranks were sharply reduced by the group’s four-year fight against Iraqi security forces backed by American special forces, was resorting to unconventional methods since they lacked manpower. Still, using cows to deliver bombs is an odd strategy in Iraq, where the animals are prized both for meat and milk. A cow can easily cost $1,200 or more, and no one in the area could remember ever seeing a cow sent to its death in such a way, said several witnesses.”

Fox News: Syrian Civil War Has Damaged More Than 120 Churches, Report Finds

“As many as 124 churches have been damaged or targeted by military forces on all sides of Syria's civil war, which has stretched on for more than eight years, according to a new report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR). The report's timeline of incidents involving Syrian government forces, opposition forces and extremist militants, including the Islamic State (ISIS), extended from March 2011 to September 2019. The researchers found 75 reported attacks involved forces supporting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, 33 involved armed opposition forces, 12 involved ISIS or other Islamic extremist groups and four incidents involved other fighting groups. “Assad has made Syria unsafe for all Syrians, including Christians, and he must be held accountable for his actions," said Erica Hanichak, a government relations director at Americans for a Free Syria.”


Reuters: No Trade Mechanism Until Iran Passes Terrorism Financing Laws: French Diplomat

“A European trade mechanism to barter humanitarian and food goods with Iran will not work until Tehran sets up a mirror company and meets international standards against money-laundering and terrorism financing, a French diplomatic source said. Britain, France and Germany, parties to a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran along with the United States, China and Russia, are determined to show they can compensate for last year’s U.S. withdrawal, salvage trade promised to Iran under the accord and still prevent Tehran from developing nuclear bomb capability.  French President Emmanuel Macron has led those efforts and is trying to clinch a $15 billion credit line that would offset tough U.S. sanctions that have strangled Iran’s oil exports, but that requires getting some backing from Washington. In addition to that the Europeans have attempted for more than a year to set up the Instex trade mechanism, but it is still not operational. It would initially only deal with food and medical trade not Iran’s principal export - crude oil.”

The New York Times: U.S. Imposes Sanctions On Iranian Shipping Network

“The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on an elaborate shipping network that Iran uses to sell oil, and unveiled a $15 million reward to anyone with information that disrupts the scheme, stepping up its effort to exert pressure on the Iranian economy. The sanctions were the latest in a flurry of actions taken by the United States in recent days to further isolate Iran in hopes that it will return to the bargaining table to renegotiate an international agreement over its nuclear program. President Trump withdrew from the 2015 agreement in May 2018 and reinstated sanctions to limit Iranian oil sales, raising tensions with countries in Europe and Asia that have become reliant on Iran for energy. The Treasury Department placed sanctions on 26 individuals and “entities” affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, which the United States said has shipped approximately $500 million worth of Iranian oil in the last year. The sanctions freeze any assets held in the United States of those affiliated with the shipping network and prohibit them from doing business with Americans. The action also identifies 11 ships, placing anyone who owns or operates them on a Treasury list and exposing any port that lets them in, or firms that fuel or offload them, to future sanctions.”

The New York Times: What Was Iran Hiding In Turquz Abad?

“Reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency don’t usually make for riveting reading, so you may have missed last Friday’s latest, soporifically headlined “Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015).” Don’t be fooled. Buried in the report are two oblique sentences hinting at a mystery about which you may soon hear a great deal. “Ongoing interactions between the Agency and Iran relating to Iran’s implementation of its Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol require full and timely cooperation by Iran,” the report says. “The Agency continues to pursue this objective with Iran.” That’s an exquisite way of saying that Iran is stonewalling the agency. The question is, over what? Last September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly that Iran had a “secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program.” Those amounts added up to an estimated 300 tons of stuff, including about 30 pounds of radioactive material. He then urged I.A.E.A. chief Yukiya Amano to “inspect this atomic warehouse immediately.”

Radio Farda: Young Female Football Fan In Iran Sets Herself On Fire To Protest Jail

“A young woman who set herself on fire on September 1 outside the public prosecutor’s office in Tehran is among football-starved Iranian women detained outside Iran's main sports arena, Azadi stadium. "The 29-year-old is suffering from third-degree burns, and currently under life support," says the CEO/president of Motahari Emergency and Burns hospital in the Iranian capital city. Meanwhile, the state-run news agency, Rokna, cited the sister of the victim, as saying, "They detained my sister on March 12, 2019, when she tried to enter Azadi Stadium, and watch Tehran's Esteqlal soccer club home match against the United Arab Emirates' Al Ain, FC." According to Rokna, security forces arrested the woman who has bipolar disorder and is under treatment. The security agents took the woman, whose name has not been released, to the infamous Qarchak prison, in Varamin south of Tehran.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iran Threatens Further Nuclear Breach

“Iran warned it would take further steps to breach the 2015 nuclear accord later this week, heaping more pressure on European countries scrambling to provide Tehran with relief from U.S. economic sanctions and avert the deal’s collapse. France is leading efforts on a possible $15 billion economic lifeline for Tehran in return for its full compliance with the multilateral nuclear accord. Iran began to break some deal limits in July as it pushed back against sanctions that the U.S. imposed on it after pulling out of the deal last year. Europe is also seeking to tamp down hostilities following a series of attacks and ship seizures in the Persian Gulf region that have brought Iran to the edge of conflict with the U.S. and its allies. Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and a key player in the country’s nuclear negotiations, cast doubt Wednesday on the prospect of the Europeans reaching an agreement by Iran’s Sept. 7 deadline, and said their failure to do so would prompt Tehran to scale back its commitments under the nuclear deal, or JCPOA, in the coming days.”


Iraqi News: Iraqi Security Forces Apprehend Islamic State Militant In Diyala

“Iraqi security forces arrested on Wednesday an Islamic State member during a security operation in the northeastern province of Diyala, the Interior Ministry said. “Acting on intelligence information, a security force from Diyala intelligence and counter-terrorism directorate arrested an Islamic State militant, who served as a member of the so-called Diyala province in the terrorist group,” Maj. Gen. Saad Maan, the ministry spokesman, said in a press statement. The suspect confessed to carrying out several terrorist attacks against civilians, as well as providing aid supplies for the Islamic State militants, the spokesman added. In January 2015, Iraqi forces announced liberation of Diyala province from Islamic State extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014. The province has seen months of fighting between Iraqi troops and IS militants especially in the Jalawla and Saadiyah areas in the province’s north and areas near the town of Muqdadiyah.”


Associated Press: Turkey Threatens To Open Gates For Syria Refugees To Go West

“Turkey’s president on Thursday threatened to “open the gates” and allow a flood of Syrian refugees to leave Turkey for Western countries unless a so-called “safe zone” is established inside Syria soon in negotiations with the Americans. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a speech to his ruling party officials, lamented what he described as Turkey being left to shoulder the burden of Syrian refugees alone. Turkey is determined to create the safe zone inside Syria, along its border with the war-torn country, and was ready to do it alone before the end of the month if there is no agreement with the United States. “We will be forced to open the gates. We cannot be forced to handle the burden alone,” Erdogan said, reiterating Turkey’s annoyance that past proposals for the creation of the safe zone — envisioned as a place where refugees could be re-settled — has been ignored by Western nations.”


The New York Times: Afghans Push Back On U.S. Deal With Taliban, Fearing Too Few Assurances

“The Afghan government is pushing back against American diplomats on the eve of a troop withdrawal deal with the Taliban, concerned that the proposed agreement does not include enough assurances that the insurgents will abide by their promises after American troops leave entirely, Afghan officials say. Zalmay Khalilzad, the American special envoy who has finalized “in principle” a deal with the Taliban after nearly a year of negotiations, has met with President Ashraf Ghani and his senior officials in Kabul at least four times over the past couple days to try to get them onboard with the deal that is about to be announced, officials say. That deal includes a timetable for the withdrawal of the remaining American and coalition troops that Western officials say could be about 16 months long, in return for assurances that the Taliban will break from international terrorist groups and start direct negotiations with Afghan officials over the political future of the country. But senior officials involved in the discussions with the Americans said that the Afghan government is worried that, as worded, the troop withdrawal agreement in no way seems conditioned on progress in the coming Afghan negotiations with the Taliban.”

Reuters: Afghan Government Has Concerns About U.S.-Taliban Peace Deal

“The Afghan government has concerns about the draft peace agreement reached between U.S. and Taliban negotiators and wants further clarification, President Ashraf Ghani’s main spokesman said on Wednesday.  The deal, which would see around 5,000 U.S. troops withdrawn and five bases closed in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on America, was presented to Ghani this week by the special U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.  However, with the Taliban stepping up attacks in the capital Kabul and provincial centers across the country, the agreement has faced scepticism from several sides, including a number of former U.S. officials and politicians.  “The Afghan government is also concerned and we, therefore, would like further clarity on this document to completely analyze its dangers and negative consequences and avoid the dangers,” Ghani’s spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, wrote on Twitter.  Many officials in the Afghan government, which has been shut out of the talks by the Taliban’s refusal to talk to what they consider a foreign-imposed “puppet” regime, have been deeply concerned a deal will give too much and allow the Taliban back into power.”

AEI: The Afghanistan War Is Over, And Pakistan Has Won

“The US war in Afghanistan is winding down, and Pakistan has won. The basic outline of the agreement negotiated by US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is nothing new: The United States withdraws its forces in exchange for a Taliban pledge not to associate with terrorism or allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe-haven for terror groups. There problems with the agreement are many. Proponents of diplomacy with the Taliban often say that wars can only end through diplomacy. “You don’t make peace with your friends. You have to be willing to engage with your enemies if you expect to create a situation that ends an insurgency,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained. But the agreement outlined by Khalilzad is little different from that which Clinton administration officials struck with the Taliban in the years prior to 9/11: At the time, the Taliban promised to foreswear terrorism and quarantine Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. The subsequent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington underscored their insincerity. Perhaps the Taliban have changed, but not necessarily for the better, as the uptick in attacks throughout Khalilzad’s negotiations show. In many ways, President Donald Trump and Khalilzad seem to have embraced the John Kerry school of diplomacy, in which desperation for a deal substitutes for bringing leverage to bear and credibly convincing adversaries that failure to bargain will mean for them a far worse fate.”


The Washington Post: India Names Leaders Of 2 Pakistan-Based Groups As Terrorists

“India officially declared on Wednesday that the leaders of two Pakistan-based militant groups are terrorists under a new law. The Home Ministry named Masood Azhar, chief of Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, as terrorists under the amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act. Azhar’s name has already been placed by the United Nations on a sanctions blacklist after his group claimed responsibility for a February suicide attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian soldiers and took India and Pakistan close to war. The United Nations in May imposed a travel ban and freeze on Azhar’s assets as well as an arms embargo. Saeed, an anti-India cleric, runs a charity in Pakistan known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa. The charity is widely believed to serve as a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group blamed for attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166 people. The new law empowers the government to designate an individual as a terrorist if he is found committing, preparing for, promoting or involved in an act of terror. The designation can lead to their arrest, a freezing of assets and a ban on leaving the country.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Arab Coalition: Houthi Ballistic Missile Crashes In Yemen

“The Saudi-led Arab coalition announced on Wednesday that the Iran-backed Houthi militias fired a ballistic missile that later crashed in Yemen. Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said the militias fired the rocket from residential areas in the in Shar district in the Saada province. The projectile crashed in al-Safraa region, also in Saada, he added. Maliki accused the Houthis of persistently violating international humanitarian law by firing ballistic missiles that crash arbitrarily in residential areas, threatening the lives of innocent lives in Yemen. The coalition will continue to take firm deterrent measures to neutralize and destroy the Houthis’ ballistic capabilities to protect the Yemeni people and regional and international security, he vowed.”


Foreign Policy: Hezbollah Readies For Next War Against Israel

“Hilal stretched his legs in a plastic chair on the veranda outside his house, close to a Hezbollah military base in Hermel, Lebanon. Even in late summer, the night air here has a crisp edge to it, and stars dot the sky above the rust-red hills that separate the country from neighboring Syria. But despite his posture, Hilal, who like other Hezbollah fighters interviewed by Foreign Policy asked that his name be changed, was anything but relaxed. An ivory-handled revolver shimmered on his hip. He pointed to where the hills crest into the horizon not far from his home. “Can you see all those mountains?” he asked. “All of this area is full of missiles. They are all under preparation. Every day, we bring in and deploy them. We have received instructions not to wait for orders [to fire]. At any minute, or any bullet, the guys will not wait.” Hilal, a missile operator, is one of several Hezbollah fighters in eastern Bekaa Valley who told Foreign Policy during a recent reporting trip that they are preparing for the possibility of the first major outbreak of war with Israel in 13 years. This follows the recent decision by a newly aggressive Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to breach an unspoken agreement not to hit Hezbollah in its home country.”

DW: Hezbollah-Israel Tension Heightens Fear Of Conflict

“Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has openly threatened Israel with attacks as the group has increased its military might. Two weeks before Israeli parliamentary elections, the risk of war is growing. The threat to Israel was delivered in no uncertain terms: "Attacks against Lebanon will threaten all your soldiers and settlements," said Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah in a video posted on Monday. The head of the Lebanese Shiite militia also said the group could carry out attacks "deep inside Israel" in retaliation to any further offensives. Nasrallah said that the "red lines" on the border drawn by Israel no longer existed. The video came shortly after a statement from Jerusalem: Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz requested his German counterpart, Heiko Mass, warn Lebanon that the entire country "will be struck and badly damaged," if Hezbollah aggression did not cease. Katz's statement came as a response to Sunday's events: Israel claimed that the militia fired several anti-tank missiles at Israeli Defense Force (IDF) vehicles. The IDF then attacked Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.”

Haaretz: Lebanon Pays The Price For A Burden Called Hezbollah

“Shortly before the Israeli attacks on Hezbollah, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it was levying economic sanctions against Lebanon’s Jammal Trust Bank. In this case, the term “sanctions” does not elucidate the extent of absolute damage this will cause the bank. The American administration demanded of Lebanon that it close the bank, freeze its deposits and prevent it from paying any debts. The governor of Lebanon’s central bank, Riad Salameh, quickly moved to carry out the order. He announced a freeze on the bank’s operations and handed over accounts management to the central bank until a solution could be found. Salameh made an assurance that “all legitimate deposits compliant with Lebanese laws and the Central Bank’s circulars are insured upon maturity.” In other words, his representatives would have to confirm with the U.S. Treasury Department which account owners are legitimate and which aren’t, thus allowing the American administration unprecedented access to the Lebanese financial institution.”

Middle East

Foreign Policy: Al Qaeda Is Ready To Attack You Again

“Eighteen years have passed since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and al Qaeda is worse for the wear. The terrorist organization looks remarkably different today than the group that killed thousands of U.S. citizens on American soil. Intensive counterterrorism pressure in Afghanistan and Pakistan has left behind an aging and increasingly disconnected central leadership. The emergence of the Islamic State as a peer competitor, meanwhile, has left al Qaeda with a brand that, at times, has struggled to compete for global jihadist primacy. With the group’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in bad health and isolated, most likely somewhere in Pakistan, and Hamza bin Laden, who may have been next in line, recently reported killed, al Qaeda’s most dedicated members seem to understand that its best chance to remain relevant is through its ongoing presence in Syria. To capitalize on the opportunities that the Syrian civil war has presented to al Qaeda, the group began moving significant assets from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Levant in September 2014. This shift in the center of the group’s gravity constitutes a major change and one with implications still not fully understood by counterterrorism officials worldwide.”

Global News: Alleged ISIS Supporter To Be Released After Federal Court Rejects Appeal

“An alleged ISIS supporter was expected to be freed in British Columbia after the Federal Court dismissed the government’s attempt to keep him in custody while it tries to deport him. Although Othman Ayed Hamdan has been deemed a danger to the security of Canada, on Tuesday the court upheld an Immigration and Refugee Board decision ordering his release. “Considering all of past the circumstances, and the mitigation of danger looking forward, I find that the member’s decision to release Mr. Hamdan was reasonable,” the court ruled. The Jordanian citizen has been ordered out of Canada for security reasons, but remains in the country as he argues he would be at risk if he is returned to the Middle East.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Several Extremists Killed, Four Civilians Kidnapped In Sinai

“Four extremists were killed and four citizens kidnapped in Sinai province, where security forces continue to carry out operations to target terrorist elements loyal to ISIS, according to tribal and security sources. There were conflicting reports on the number of citizens kidnapped by the gunmen. While the German press agency, dpa, quoted a security source as saying that unidentified gunmen blocked the international road of Arish-Qantara and kidnapped six civilians, the Sinai Tribes Union said the number of abductees stood at four, indicating that ISIS carried out the operation. Tribal sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that masked gunmen attacked a house in Masfag village, northeast of Sinai, and kidnapped a man, two of his sons, and his son-in-law. The abductees are members of al-Dawaghrah tribe, as confirmed by tribe member Engineer Sami Hawari to Asharq Al-Awsat. The gunmen took Musa Hamdan Abu Mrihail, two of his sons, Islam and Jaber, as well as his brother-in-law Sabah Asbih, and stole Asbih’s car. Two weeks ago, the Egyptian Interior Ministry announced 11 terrorists were killed in a fire exchange with security forces in al-Obour area of el-Arish.”


Sahara Reporters: Two Feared Dead As Boko Haram Attacks Borno Village

“At least two civilians have been killed while some houses were torched after Boko Haram terrorists invaded Nganzai area of Borno State on Wednesday. The attackers entered Gajiram, headquarters of Nganzai local council area, about 5:00pm, burning part of the Divisional Police Headquarters and a telecommunications mast in the process. According to a local vigilante source, hundreds of civilians are currently hiding inside the forest while food items were looted by the hoodlums. He added that apart from the two persons killed, three military and a police vehicles were also said to have been taken away by the insurgents. It would be recalled that in less than two months, Gajiram had been attacked on three occasions.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Tunisia Security Task Forces Kill Three Terror Leaders

“Tunisia’s interior ministry released the identities of three terrorists that security forces had killed in a raid on Sept. 2 in the country’s central west province of Kasserine. According to DNA profiling, two of the terrorists were Algerian nationals that were wanted for criminal activity both in Tunisia and Algeria, whilst the third was a Tunisian national. The Tunisian national was identified as Salah al Qasimi, a wanted fugitive since 2013. Qasimi is believed to have been the head of the Wargha terror cell, which has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. He is also is wanted for supervising field training for members of the Aqbat Bin Nafi terrorist offshoot. The boot camps included looting activity whereby members seized food, blankets and money at night from people living in remote rural areas. Qasimi's good knowledge of mountain trails helped him in planning and mounted such night raids. It is worth noting that the Sept.2 successful security ambush took down the three terrorist leaders in a shootout which also killed a local public security officer. During this pre-emptive security operation, Kalashnikov-branded machine guns were seized and several explosive belts were dismantled.”


The Washington Post: Why Germany — And Europe — Can’t Afford To Accommodate The Radical Right

“This past weekend, elections in two states in eastern Germany, Brandenburg and Saxony, saw the populist radical-right party Alternative for Germany surge ahead, though it fell short of wins. Its success has revived an old German — and, indeed, European — debate on how best to counter the rise of the radical right. Former leader of the Christian Social Union Franz-Josef Strauss once said that in Germany, “No legitimate political party can be right of the CSU.” This claim, which became the mantra of postwar German politics, was based on the idea that if the alliance between the CSU and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union positioned themselves enough to the right, they would be able to win the far-right share of the electorate and forestall the rise of a radical-right party. With the emergence of the AfD as a successful challenger to the right-of-the-Union parties, many commentators, analysts and politicians have thus blamed the CDU/CSU, and especially Merkel, for not following through on Strauss’s words. In their eyes, if the CDU/CSU had only been more conservative on questions of minority rights, gender equality and immigration, it could have obstructed the AfD at the outset.”

Deutsche Welle: German IS Fighter Faces Torture And Murder Terrorism Charges In Düsseldorf Court

“A fighter from the self-styled “Islamic State” (IS) group stood trial in Düsseldorf on Wednesday facing serious charges of committing war crimes, in addition to murder. This is the second time that the 29-year-old has stood trial for terror-related offenses, but his earlier trial and conviction was on the lesser charge of membership of a terrorist organization, for which he received a four and a half years in prison. Identified as Nils D., he appeared at the Düsselsdorf high court where he was accused of torturing prisoners as a member of Islamic State in the town of Manbij in Syria. According to a representative for the Federal Prosecutor, three victims died as a result of the torture. In addition, the prosecution said that he was a member of a group of IS fighters who worked inside a prison in Syria in 2014. The prison specifically contained defectors and deserters from IS. The defendant declined to comment on any of the charges brought against him. The defendant, who hails from the western German town of Dinslaken, was also a member of the ”Lohberger Brigade,” which supports IS in Syria, in his hometown. Initially he was arrested on his return from Syria to Germany in 2015. He confessed to working for the IS ”secret police,” which aim to intimidate the local population and arrest “deserters.”


Reuters: Kosovo Convictions For Planned Terror Attacks On Orthodox Churches

“A court in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, convicted four people on September 4 for planning terrorist attacks on international peacekeepers, Orthodox churches, and night clubs as well as abroad in France and Belgium. They were handed prison terms ranging from one to 10 years. Two others were ordered to serve shorter terms for failing to inform authorities of the conspiracy. In October, the four were charged with planning attacks on NATO troops and bombings of discos and churches in enclaves with high concentrations of ethnic Serbs. A majority of Kosovo’s population of 1.8 million people are ethnic Albanian Muslims, with around 120,000 Serbs living mostly in the north. Two Belgian nationals, Bujar Behrami and Gramos Shabani, both aged 26, were arrested in September. Resim Kastrati, 26, and Edona Haliti, 25, were arrested in June. Some 300 Kosovars have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq, according to AFP.”


Bloomberg: YouTube Will Rely On Spotty AI To Comply With FTC Settlement

“YouTube will stop selling personalized ads on videos aimed at children as part of a regulatory settlement on Wednesday. But the company’s plan relies on technology that has struggled to make nuanced decisions in the past. The Google unit will use artificial intelligence to identify which videos are aimed at kids, then cut those clips off from targeted ads. It’s a plan politicians and consumers have heard before. YouTube has used AI for years to find and take down unwanted content including pornography, terrorist propaganda and extreme violence. Other tech companies, such as Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc., have said AI is the answer to their problems too, from online harassment to election meddling by foreign states. Google is one of the most accomplished AI companies, but with so much online content, the technology sometimes falls short, as it did when thousands of videos of the March terrorist attack on a New Zealand mosque were uploaded to YouTube. AI isn’t the first line of defense. YouTube is also asking video creators to self-report if their content is aimed at kids. But creators rely heavily on ad revenue, so they may have little incentive to tell YouTube when their clips are for kids.”

Forbes: Unsecured Facebook Server Leaks Data Of 419 Million Users

“Earlier this year, Facebook quietly confirmed that millions of unencrypted Instagram passwords had been stored in plain text online. Since then, Facebook has been on a less than successful privacy public relations crusade, with an off-Facebook privacy tool found to be not quite what it seems, and the revelation that a "technical flaw" allowed children using the Messenger Kids app to participate in group chats with strangers but without parental permission. The latest blow to the new privacy-friendly Facebook facade came just last night as news of a data leak exposing the phone numbers linked to 419 million user accounts broke. This security SNAFU really couldn't have come at a worse time for Facebook, as is evidenced by the efforts to minimize the number of phone numbers concerned. Here's everything that's known so far. How did Facebook leak more than 400 million user phone numbers? A Facebook server containing databases that, in total, detailed the phone numbers of 419 million users, linked to their Facebook account IDs, was found to be unprotected by any password. This meant that anyone looking for such things could find, and access, those databases.”