Eye on Extremism: September 6

ABC News: Deadly Suicide Blast Tears Through Afghan Sports Hall

“Twin bombings at a wrestling training center in a Shiite neighborhood of Afghanistan's capital on Wednesday killed at least 20 people, including two reporters, and wounded 70, Afghan officials said. Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said a suicide bomber struck at the center and then a car bomb went off nearby. Sediqullah Tawhidi, a senior member of the Afghan journalists federation, said a reporter and a cameraman working for Tolo TV were among those killed, and that another local TV reporter was wounded. No one immediately claimed the attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of the country's affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which has carried out a wave of deadly bombings against minority Shiites. The Sunni extremists of ISIS view Shiites as apostates deserving of death. ISIS last struck in the area, Dasht-e-Barchi, in December, with three back-to-back explosions that left more than 40 people dead. Gen. Daud Amin, the Kabul police chief, said at least seven police were among those wounded in the car bomb explosion. Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a roadside bomb killed a district police chief and another policeman in the northern Badghis province, according to Jamshid Shahabi, spokesman for the provincial governor. No one claimed the attack, but Shahabi said it was likely carried out by the Taliban, who are active in the province and frequently target security forces and government officials.”

NPR: Leaders Of Russia, Turkey, Iran Meet For Syria Peace Talks

“Rachel Martin talks to Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, about whether Russia's talks with Iran and Turkey on Friday will help prevent a full-scale attack on Idlib.”

Reuters: U.S. Designates Al Qaeda Affiliate In Mali As Terrorist Organization

“The U.S. State Department on Wednesday designated an al Qaeda affiliate in Mali, Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, as a foreign terrorist organization, cutting off its funding and blocking U.S. citizens from doing business with it. The group has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks and kidnappings since it was formed in March 2017, the department said in a statement. It said Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) was responsible for an attack in June 2017 at a resort popular with Western expatriates outside Mali’s capital, Bamako, as well as attacks on Malian troops, and coordinated attacks in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighboring Burkina Faso, in March this year. “Al-Qaeda and its affiliates like JNIM remain deadly threats to the United States and our allies. These designations are part of our continuing efforts to squeeze al-Qaeda’s finances, denying it the resources it needs to carry out attacks,” said Nathan Sales, the department’s coordinator for counterterrorism.”

Voice Of America: Saudis Intercept Houthi Missile; 26 Wounded By Shrapnel

“Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthis in the southern city of Najran, wounding 26 people with shrapnel, Saudi civil defense said Wednesday. The Houthi-run al-Masirah TV said on Twitter the group had hit a Saudi National Guard camp in the border city. The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis said the missile launched from Saada province had been detected at 20:08 (1708 GMT). The Iran-aligned Houthi militants, who control Yemen’s capital Sanaa and most of the west of the country, regularly fire missiles on southern Saudi Arabia and occasionally aim for higher-value targets, such as the capital Riyadh or facilities of state oil company Aramco. Most of the missiles have been intercepted by the Saudi military. At least 112 civilians have been killed in such attacks since 2015, according to the coalition. Saudi civil defense said two children were among the wounded in the latest missile interception. Eleven of the victims were taken to hospital for treatment. Saudi Arabia is leading a Western-backed alliance of Sunni Muslim Arab states trying to restore the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, ousted from the capital by the Houthis in 2015. U.N. mediator Martin Griffiths told reporters in Geneva that Yemen’s first round of peace talks in almost three years aims to build confidence between the warring sides.”

The Japan Times: Boston Police Captain’s Son Gets 20 Years For Islamic State-Inspired Terror Plot

“A Boston police captain’s son has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for plotting an Islamic-State group inspired attack on a university. Alexander Ciccolo (chih-KOH’-loh) was sentenced Wednesday in Springfield’s federal court. Ciccolo pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in May, a month before he was scheduled to go to trial. Ciccolo’s lawyers identified the school in court documents as New Mexico State University. Harold Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston office, called Ciccolo a “committed soldier” of the Islamic State group who wanted to kill innocent Americans. Ciccolo’s lawyers say the man had a troubled childhood and dealt with mental health and substance abuse issues. Boston police Capt. Robert Ciccolo tipped off the FBI after becoming concerned about his son’s violent rhetoric.”

United States

The Orlando Sentinel: Man Arrested After Making Al-Qaida Threat At Disney, Deputies Say

“Orange County deputies arrested a man after he told two employees at a Disney resort that he was sent by al-Qaida to “blow the place up,” according to an arrest affidavit. Deputies responded to Saratoga Springs Resort on July 21 after two employees greeting guests reported the comments. They identified the suspect as Gregory Lazarchick, 56, who was visiting from New Jersey, the affidavit said. The greeters told deputies they were asking guests about their days when he said he was having a bad day. He then said al-Qaida “sent me to blow the place up,” according to the affidavit. Lazarchick did not appear to be joking, the employees told deputies. Lazarchick admitted to saying something about al-Qaida but didn’t remember what exactly he said. He was remorseful and apologetic, deputies said. Deputies searched his room and didn’t find any bomb-making materials.”

The New York Post: Wannabe ISIS Inmate Allegedly Told Prison Guard ‘I Hope You Die’ After Stabbing

“A Queens man awaiting sentencing for his failed attempts to join the Islamic State is facing new charges for gleefully stabbing a prison guard — and then praying for his jailor’s death. Ali Saleh was slapped Wednesday with new charges for allegedly knifing a correctional officer at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center on July 13, according to court filings and a law enforcement source. The unnamed guard told prosecutors that Saleh, smiling, allegedly said, “I hope you die” after he’d plunged the blade into the man’s body. The 25-year-old wannabe terrorist is now facing counts of possessing contraband in prison and assaulting a federal officer. His arraignment on the new charges is scheduled for Thursday. Saleh previously pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS after he was caught repeatedly trying to sneak into Syria. He faces up to 35 years behind bars when sentenced in connection with that case.”

ABC 7: Judge Throws Book At Terrorist Arrested Boarding Plane In Chicago

“ An Uzbekistan refugee who tried to set off on a martyrdom mission from O'Hare Airport, has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for aiding terrorists. Jamshid Muhtorov, 42, was convicted in June by a federal jury in Denver, Colorado-his hometown-of trying to smuggle smartphones and other electronic equipment to the Islamic Jihad Union. The IJU is a Pakistan-based group that opposes secular rule in Uzbekistan and seeks to install a government based on Islamic law. "Defending our country from terrorism is a core mission of the Department of Justice," United States Attorney Bob Troyer said in a statement. Troyer said that IJU has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. U.S. District Judge John Kane gave Muhtorov credit for the years he has been in custody since being arrested in Chicago in 2012. Once he completes his sentence, the convicted terrorist will be turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation proceedings. Muhtorov was grabbed by federal agents at O'Hare as he attempted to board a flight for Istanbul, Turkey, according to the original criminal complaint. The FBI had intercepted his communications with a known IJU operative. His attorney Warren Williamson argued at sentencing that his client should be released, having already served six years while awaiting trial and because the plot was never carried out. As the I-Team reported when Muhtorov was arrested, federal investigators learned that he wanted to die as a martyr in a holy war.”

Syria

The Washington Post: Before And After ISIS: Welcome To ‘Free’ Raqqa

“The woman covered her face as she turned around, looking behind her as she waited to buy bread in a small shop in Raqqa, Syria. It was July 2013, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Islamic State and the Free Syria Army both were present in the only major Syrian city captured, just a few weeks before, by the opposition. And yet, said Alice Martins, a photographer and frequent contributor to The Washington Post, there was already a sense that extremists of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, were slowly solidifying their presence in Raqqa. “At the time, it was still uncommon for women to dress in a more conservative manner, by covering their faces,” said Martins. “By January 2014, ISIS had taken full control of the city and began enforcing their strict dress code, which demanded women cover themselves entirely.” Three years later, as Martins returned to Raqqa just weeks after the city was liberated from ISIS, “a surprisingly significant number of women still dressed according to ISIS rules,” she told In Sight. “Locals claim most still simply did not feel safe and feared the militants could capture the city again at any time.” This is the story of Raqqa, a city destroyed during four years of occupation and the U.S.- and Kurdish-led military operation that freed it from the clutches of extremism. That story, told in the pages of The Washington Post over the last year, is now the subject of an exhibition — “Welcome to Free Raqqa!” at Visa pour l’Image, the world’s largest photojournalism festival, held each year, and for the past 30 years, in Perpignan, France.”

Iran

USA Today: Fears Rise In Iran As Currency Crash Causes Chaos

“Iran’s rial fell to a record low on Wednesday as worried residents of Tehran lined up outside beleaguered moneychangers, part of a staggering 140-percent drop in the currency’s value since America pulled out of the nuclear deal only four months ago. Those who went to work at the start of the Iranian week on Saturday saw their money shed a quarter of its value by the time they left the office Wednesday. Signs of the currency chaos can be seen everywhere in Tehran, where travel agents offer vacation prices only in hard currency and diapers have disappeared from store shelves – something acknowledged by the supreme leader. Many exchange shops in downtown Tehran simply turned off their electronic signs showing the current rate for the U.S. dollar, while some Iranians who wanted hard currency sought out informal money traders on street corners. Exchange shops that remained open offered 150,000 rials to the U.S. dollar. “Everyone’s just nervous,” said Mostafa Shahriar, 40, who was seeking dollars. There was no immediate acknowledgement of the drop on state media.”

Fox News: Iran Minister Criticizes Trump For Focusing On Iran At UN

“Iran's foreign minister sharply criticized President Donald Trump Wednesday for abusing the U.S. presidency of the Security Council this month by holding a meeting on Iran's international activities during the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. in late September. Mohammad Javad Zarif was responding in a tweet to U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley's announcement Tuesday that Trump will chair a meeting to address "violations of international law and general instability Iran sows throughout the entire Middle East region." She accused Iran of supporting terrorism and destabilizing activities in Lebanon, Yemen and Syria. Zarif tweeted that Trump "plans to abuse presidency of SC to divert a session — item devoted to Palestine for 70 yrs — to blame Iran for horrors US & clients have unleashed across M.E. (Middle East)." He also accused Trump of violating a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution, number 2231, that endorsed the Iran nuclear deal. The president withdrew the United States from the nuclear accord between Iran and six major powers in May.”

Radio Liberty: HRW: Iran's 'Most Reputable Rights Defenders Are Now In Jail'

“With four more Iranian human rights defenders arrested in Tehran since August 31, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the country’s authorities have "ramped up" their crackdown against activists. "The most reputable rights defenders, who have stepped up to be the messenger for millions of Iranians' discontent, are now in jail," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, said in a statement on September 5. The New York-based watchdog called on the authorities to immediately release the jailed human rights defenders, saying they appear to have been arrested "solely for peaceful dissent." On August 31, human rights lawyer Mohammad Najafi posted on Facebook that two other lawyers, Farokh Forouzan and Payam Derafshan, were arrested after attending a gathering at the house of another imprisoned lawyer. Derafshan represented prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been detained since June. Her husband, Reza Khandan, was arrested on September 4 after he refused to appear for an interrogation.”

The Daily Caller: Iranian Terrorists Are Targeting Opponents On American Soil

“U.S. authorities recently indicted two individuals for acting on behalf of the Iranian regime and collecting intelligence information about the main Iranian opposition Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK). The MEK, long supported by members of Congress, a stellar list of former U.S. officials, western parliamentarians and international rights activists, is engaged in a decades-long struggle for the establishment of a secular, democratic and non-nuclear representative government in Iran. It is the first time that the mullahs are brazenly pursuing intelligence operations with the ultimate goal of identifying and assassinating opponents in the United States. But why now? As popular uprisings in Iran reach critical mass, Tehran finds itself in a do-or-die situation and wants to desperately survive by attacking its most serious alternative. The MEK has been identified as an existential threat to the regime in Tehran. The political coalition that it is a part of, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), is led by a woman, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, and represents a powerful democratic alternative to a decaying tyranny loathed by the people. In 1988, finding itself in a similarly precarious position, the regime launched a massacre of political prisoners, killing more than 30,000 MEK sympathizers. Today, Tehran’s intelligence service conducts a vast propaganda campaign intended to demonize the MEK as a means to dry up international and local support. Tech giants Google and Twitter closed down some of these types of accounts last week.”

Iraq

BBC: Finally Released After Four Years Of Captivity Under Islamic State

“The Yazidis of Sinjar in Northern Iraq have been persecuted by so-called Islamic State.  Ghazal's family raised thousands of dollars to get her and her children released, and they have been welcomed back into the community.”

Iraqi News: Sixteen Islamic State Members Arrested In Operation, South Of Mosul

“Sixteen Islamic State members were arrested in a security operation in south of Mosul, the Nineveh Operations Command said on Wednesday. Speaking to BasNews, Mostafa al-Jabouri, spokesperson for the command, said “security troops carried out an operation in the islands of al-Bu seif village, south of Mosul.” The operations, according to Jabouri, “resulted in arresting 16 members of Islamic State dormant cells. They were possessing weapons, which were confiscated and taken to the command headquarters.” The militants “were taken to the headquarters for investigations ahead of standing trials,” Jabouri added. On Monday, the military intelligence announced arresting one of the militant group’s funders in northwest of Mosul. On the same day, the Interior Ministry said eight militants were arrested in an operation in west of the city. Islamic State continues to launch sporadic attacks across Iraq against troops. Security reports indicate that the militant group still poses threat against stability in the country. The group still has dormant cells, through which it carries out attacks, across Iraq like it used to do before 2014. Thousands of Islamic State militants as well as Iraqi civilians were killed since the government campaign, backed by paramilitary troops and the coalition was launched in October 2016.”

Turkey

Business Day: Rebels Hope Ally Turkey Can Limit Syrian Attack

“Syrian rebels bracing for battle in northwest Syria are pinning their hopes on ally Turkey to intervene with Russia and prevent an all-out Syrian government offensive that could deal a final blow to their seven-year-long uprising. President Bashar al-Assad has massed his army and allied forces on the front lines in the northwest and on Tuesday Russian planes joined his bombardment of rebels there, the prelude to a possible assault. The fate of the insurgent stronghold in and around Idlib province now seems to rest on a summit meeting to be held in Tehran on Friday between the leaders of Assad’s supporters — Russia and Iran — and the rebels’ ally Turkey. "We realise the extent of vengeance and massacres that will befall us if they get our heads. They will slaughter us. The coming battle is to be or not to be," said Mustafa Sejari, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander preparing for the offensive. Backed by Russian air power, Assad has in recent years taken back one rebel enclave after another. Idlib and its surroundings are now the only significant area where they remain in armed opposition to Damascus. Rebels backed by Turkey also hold an adjacent zone in Syria along the border between the two countries where Ankara has helped them set up a local administration. But they have not fought Assad from there.”

Stockholm Center For Freedom: Erdoğan Says Turkey Will Not Fulfill ‘Unlawful Requests’ In Pastor Brunson Case

“Turkey cannot fulfill “unlawful requests” regarding American pastor Andrew Brunson’s ongoing case, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday, Reuters reported, citing the pro-government Hürriyet newspaper. The case of Brunson, currently standing trial in Turkey, lies at the heart of a diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Washington that has prompted a crash of the Turkish lira. Brunson is under house arrest after being kept in pre-trial detention in an İzmir prison for almost two years on terrorism and espionage charges. Speaking to reporters on board his plane returning from a visit to Kyrgyzstan, Erdoğan said Turkey observed the rule of law and that the United States would not be able to make progress in the case by using threats, according to Hürriyet. Meanwhile, Berkant Karakaya, the Turkish prosecutor responsible for drafting Brunson’s indictment, has been transferred from the terrorism bureau to cybercrimes, according to a report by online news outlet Artı Gerçek on Tuesday. Prosecutors accuse Brunson of activities on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as the Gülen movement, which is alleged by the Turkish government to have orchestrated a failed coup in 2016, an accusation strongly denied by the movement. Among the outlandish claims in the indictment is the allegation that Brunson helped plan incidents in June 2013 that grew from a small environmental demonstration over the fate of Gezi Park in central İstanbul into nationwide protests.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: Twin Bombings in Afghanistan Hit Shiite Enclave

“Two bomb blasts just minutes apart tore through a mainly Shiite Muslim neighborhood in the Afghan capital on Wednesday, killing at least 20 people and wounding 60 others and reviving fears of a growing sectarian conflict in a country already racked with violence. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the apparently coordinated bombings in western Kabul’s Dashte Barchi neighborhood. But suspicion fell immediately on the extremist Sunni Muslim fighters of Islamic State’s local affiliate, which has carried out attacks regularly in the enclave, which is dominated by minority Shiites of the ethnic Hazara community. The Taliban, the country’s largest and most powerful insurgency, denied involvement in the attacks. It issued the denial in a WhatsApp message. In Wednesday’s first attack, a man entered a wrestling club as a match was under way and detonated an explosives vest hidden under his clothes, Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said.”

The Wall Street Journal: Mike Pompeo Taps Top Envoy For Afghan Peace

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as the top envoy for Afghan peace on Tuesday, tapping a foreign-policy veteran who has been involved in the conflict for decades. Mr. Pompeo, speaking en route to Pakistan, declined to specify a title for the role, but said Mr. Khalilzad will “be the State Department’s lead person” for peace talks. Mr. Khalilzad has been involved on the U.S. foreign-policy scene in Afghanistan at virtually every major inflection point since the Soviet invasion during the 1980s, when he served as an adviser to the State Department. He had a prominent role in the Bush administration during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, working on the team that helped established a new government during the Bonn Conference that year after the Taliban were ousted from power.”

The New York Times: Bombings Target Afghan Wrestling Match And Those Who Rushed To The Scene

“A suicide bomber detonated his explosives during a wrestling match in the Afghan capital on Wednesday, and as emergency medical workers and journalists rushed to the scene, a second, much larger explosion went off, killing at least 20 people in total, officials said. Two journalists were among those killed and four others were among the scores wounded in the second blast, Afghan news organizations said. ToloNews, the country’s most prominent news channel, identified the dead as members of its staff — a correspondent and a cameraman who were reporting live on national television when the second blast went off. The two bombings injured at least 70, said Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry. Mr. Rahimi said the second blast had been caused by explosives packed into a vehicle, and he added that the toll might change. A similar double bombing on April 30, in which a second explosion went off among journalists covering the carnage of the first blast, killed nine reporters and photographers. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the explosions on Wednesday, according to its Amaq news agency, continuing a pattern of attacking soft targets in the western part of the capital, Kabul, where Afghans from the Shiite minority live. The group has attacked schools, mosques and training centers in the area. In the last such attack, at least 48 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a packed university preparatory course.”

Pakistan

Voice Of America: Pompeo Holds Talks In Pakistan On Resetting Troubled Ties

“U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held meetings Wednesday with leaders of Pakistan’s newly elected government, where the two sides agreed to make efforts to reset troubled bilateral relations to jointly push peace in Afghanistan. The relationship between Washington and Islamabad, officially allies in fighting terrorism, has plunged to its lowest point in the past year over allegations Pakistan has covertly enabled the Taliban insurgency to sustain the conflict in the neighboring country. Pompeo, also accompanied by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford, held delegation-level talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. The U.S. delegation later held separate meetings with Prime Minister Imran Khan and General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Pakistan military chief. The top American diplomat sounded cautiously optimistic about the outcome of his meetings.  "We talked about their new government, the opportunity to reset the relationship between our two countries across a broad spectrum — economic, business, and commercial,” Pompeo told reporters at the end of his meetings. The discussions, however, appeared to have focused mainly on the crisis in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s “important role” to help end it. “We all know that we need to try and develop a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan, which benefits certainly Afghanistan, but also the United States and Pakistan,” Pompeo said. “And I’m hopeful that the foundation that we laid today will set the conditions for continued success as we start to move forward,” Pompeo told reporters before departing for neighboring India.”

Yemen

Saudi Gazette: Houthis Insist Negotiators’ Flight To Be Used For Transporting Injured Hezbollah Men

“A delegation comprising 12 negotiators, representing the legitimate government in Yemen, left Riyadh for Geneva on Wednesday to attend the United Nations-sponsored new round of peace talks slated for Thursday. However, sources in Geneva said that the Houthi delegation would not reach Geneva on time because of their new conditions for attending the talks. “Houthis’ demand is that their negotiators’ flight shall be allowed to carry the injured Iranian and Hezbollah men on board with a stopover in Oman to facilitate their treatment before the delegation resumes its flight to Geneva,” the sources said, adding that Houthis made the condition after their consultation with the Iranian and Hezbollah officials with a plot to hamper the revival of talks. A source at the office of the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths noted that the two sides did not have a face-to-face talks except on the opening session. The first round of talks held in Kuwait failed to broker an agreement between the two warring parties. The talks, overseen by Griffiths, are aimed at charting a path towards reviving formal UN-backed negotiations.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Jordan Court Sentences Islamic State Member To 20 Years

“A Jordanian court has sentenced an alleged Islamic State group member to 20 years of hard labor for a 2016 attack on security forces, an AFP correspondent at the trial said. The 25-year-old was charged with acquiring automatic weapons along with his two brothers and turning their house in Ma’an, 210 kilometers (130 miles) south of Amman, into a bomb factory. The brothers booby-trapped the house then raised black IS flags on a roundabout and on the minaret of a mosque in the town to attract the attention of security forces, the charge sheet read. They also raised an IS flag on a pickup truck which they drove around town, shooting in the air, it said. “When the accused saw a vehicle belonging to security services they opened fire, wounding those inside,” the charges said. Officials said they then returned to their house, leaving the pickup outside to attract attention. ecurity forces arrived, triggering a shootout which wounded several security personnel and killed two of the brothers. The third was able to blow up the house before being arrested. Jordanian courts regularly try suspected jihadists, usually linked to IS.Jordan is part of the US-led military coalition against IS and has carried out air strikes targeting the extremist group. It also hosts coalition troops on its territory. The kingdom was hit by several attacks in 2016, including an IS suicide attack in June that killed seven guards near the border with Syria. Islamist stronghold Ma’an has a bloody and rebellious past dating back to the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I.”

Egypt

Voice Of America: US Releases Aid To Egypt Amid Human Rights Concerns

“The Trump administration is justifying the release of hundreds of millions of dollars in additional military aid to Egypt, citing the country's progress over the last year in counterterrorism efforts and some improvements in its human rights record. A State Department official told VOA the United States has worked closely with the Egyptian government over the last year to further strengthen bilateral ties in support of common security and counterterrorism goals. "The secretary signed the national security waiver that allows for the obligation of an additional $195 million in FY 2017 Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Egypt, as well as the certification that allows for the obligation of $1 billion in FY 2018 FMF for Egypt," the official told VOA on Tuesday. "We continue to support Egypt in combating terrorism and in encouraging steps toward inclusive economic growth and good governance," the State Department official added. The announcement follows the administration's decision in July to release another $195 million in military aid for fiscal year 2016 to Cairo, which had been previously withheld over allegations of human rights violations by Egypt's government.”

Libya

Stratfor: France And Italy Each Go Their Own Way On Libya

“There's much that France and Italy agree on when it comes to Libya: Both want to stabilize the country so it doesn't become a haven for terrorism or a staging ground for African migrants, and both wish to prevent its two squabbling governments from fighting each other. But try as they might, the two countries just can't get onto the same page. Paris and Rome back opposite sides in the conflict, and they have two very different views on what should happen next. After bringing together Libya's main players for a conference in May, Paris persuaded the various factions to hold elections on Dec. 10. Rome, in contrast, has no wish for any elections this year and is planning to hold its own conference on the future of Libya in October. The divergence stems in part from the countries' different goals and areas of interest in Libya, and as long as Paris and Rome offer alternative paths for mediation of the North African conflict, the prospects for success appear bleak.”

Nigeria

Premium Times: Boko Haram: Nigeria To Repatriate 56,000 IDPs From Niger – NEMA

“The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said on Wednesday that it had concluded plans to repatriate 56,000 Borno Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), from Difa, Niger Republic. The Northeast Zonal Coordinator of NEMA, Bashir Garga, disclosed this during a humanitarian and development coordination forum organized by the agency in Maiduguri. Mr Garga said that the IDPs were those who escaped Boko Haram onslaught in the last seven years in Mobbar and Abadam Local Government Areas of Borno. He said that all arrangements had been made with the government of Niger to ensure that they were brought back to Nigeria. “There were serious concerns on insecurity in some of the liberated local government areas. NEMA is working with the security agencies toward ensuring that the liberated LGAs are safe and habitable to the returnees. “But much still needs to be done. So we are urging the humanitarian organisations to give attention to developing the liberated communities. “This is because some of the IDPs, after going back home, return to where they were because their homes are not habitable.”

Reuters: Suspected Boko Haram Militants Kidnap At Least 10 People In Northeast Nigeria

“Suspected Boko Haram militants have kidnapped between 10 and 20 people, a family member of one of those abducted, a senator and two military sources said on Wednesday. The people were aboard a bus from Maiduguri, the city worst hit by Boko Haram, traveling to the town of Gwoza around 100 km(60 miles) away in the east of Borno state, near the border with Cameroon, late on Tuesday. Boko Haram “attacked commercial vehicles and abducted some civilians - over 10 men and women were abducted”, said one of the military sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. Other sources gave the number taken at around 20. The abduction calls into question government and military statements that stability and security are returning to the northeast in the conflict with Islamist insurgents Boko Haram, which dates back to 2009. President Muhammadu Buhari is now seeking a second term in February 2019 elections, campaigning in part on his administration’s successes in the northeast. A police spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. Isa Musa said his uncle was among those kidnapped. “He was in the bus with some other passengers, men and women, about 20 of them, when the incident occurred,” he said. A second military source said Boko Haram stopped three vehicles on the road. “One of the vehicles is a commercial passenger bus with about 20 passengers,” they said. “The terrorists fired shots and took away some of the passengers. Women were among (them) and one of our soldiers was killed in the attack.”

Somalia

Al Jazeera: Lost Warrior: Leaving Al-Shabab

“When he was just three years old, Mohammed's parents sent him away from Somalia, which was in the midst of a civil war. He was eight years old when he eventually arrived in England. "I was just like any other kid from the UK," he reflects."I had friends, I played football, I hung around in the streets. But I grew up without my parents." Then, as a teenager, he got into trouble with the police and was sentenced to two years in prison. "In those two years, I began to change. I became religious. I was looking for a sense of belonging," Mohammed explains. Having never received British citizenship, Mohammed was deported upon his release from prison. He was 19 when he landed back in Somalia - and into the arms of al-Shabab. "At first, I thought al-Shabab were the good guys," he says."They befriended me. They gave me a way to re-establish my life in Africa." Mohammed says he never carried a gun or killed anyone, but when he saw civilians dying in bomb attacks, his view of al-Shabab changed.”

Africa

The Guardian: Mali Peace Deal Jeopardised By Armed Groups Linked To Terrorism, UN Warns

“Armed groups in Mali are undermining a peace agreement signed with the government three years ago because of their links to drug smuggling, human trafficking and terrorism, according to a UN report. Despite $286m (£220m) spent implementing the agreement between June 2015 and June 2018, the humanitarian situation in Mali remains “grave, precarious, dire and volatile”, driven by terrorism and organised crime, the security council committee found. The level of need in the arid west African country, one of the poorest in the world, is higher now than at any point since the beginning of the security crisis in 2012, with 5.2 million people requiring humanitarian assistance, up from 3.8 million in 2017. Unusually, the panel named individual members of the signatory armed groups and splinter groups whom the experts says are involved in attacks against Malian security and armed forces, and in organised crime.”

North Korea

The New York Times: Kim Jong-un Says He Wants Denuclearization Before Trump’s Current Term Ends

“Offering an olive branch to President Trump, Kim Jong-un told a South Korean envoy that he wanted to denuclearize North Korea before Mr. Trump’s current term ends in early 2021, the envoy said on Thursday. Expressing frustration over what he called Washington’s failure to negotiate in good faith, Mr. Kim told the envoy, Chung Eui-yong, that he still had confidence in Mr. Trump. He said he had never spoken badly of the American leader, even to his closest aides, since the two met in Singapore on June 12, according to Mr. Chung. The president responded on Twitter early Thursday, expressing appreciation for Mr. Kim’s “unwavering faith in President Trump.” He added, “We will get it done together!” Mr. Chung was sent by President Moon Jae-in of South Korea to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, on Wednesday in hopes of reviving the stalled talks between the North and the United States over how to denuclearize North Korea. Mr. Moon plans to go to Pyongyang on Sept. 18 to meet with Mr. Kim and discuss improving the Koreas’ relationship, including potential economic cooperation.”

Europe

The Wall Street Journal: A Swedish Shake-Up

“Now it may be Sweden’s turn. Voters head to the polls for a national election on Sunday, and as in nearly every other recent European election the polls suggest that Swedes are set to rebel against mainstream parties, especially on immigration. As usual in Swedish elections, the top vote-getter is expected to be the center-left Social Democrats of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. But polls currently peg the party’s support at about 25%, down from the roughly 30% in recent elections. The bigger race is for second place, between the mainstream center-right Moderate party and the heretofore fringe Sweden Democrats. Both currently enjoy between 15% and 20% support in the polls. This means the Sweden Democrats are peeling voters away from both mainstream parties and are on track for their best-ever result. Sweden’s complicated parliamentary-seat math may still allow the Moderates to form a ruling coalition, but it would be a weak government, and the fringe party could play spoiler on specific legislation.”

The New York Times: How The Far Right Conquered Sweden

“To understand why Sweden, a bastion of social democracy, might end up with a far-right party in government after national elections on Sunday, you need to take a walk with Ahmed Abdirahman. An American-educated Somali immigrant who works as a policy analyst at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Abdirahman grew up and now lives in the suburb of Rinkeby-Tensta, where some 90 percent of residents have a foreign background, roughly 80 percent live on welfare or earn low incomes and 42 percent are under age 25. It is a violent place: Sixteen people were killed there in 2016, mostly in drug-related conflicts, an unheard-of number in this typically peaceful country. As we walk along one of its main streets at 7 p.m., shopkeepers pull down the metal shutters in front of their windows, while young masked men on scooters start speeding through the streets. A police helicopter hovers overhead. The segregation and violence of Rinkeby-Tensta, and the likelihood that the far-right, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party will win the most votes in this weekend’s national elections, are both the result of the country’s long-running unwillingness to deal with the realities of its immigration crisis.”

Technology

The Wall Street Journal: Justice Department To Examine Whether Social-Media Giants Are ‘Intentionally Stifling’ Some Viewpoints

“Even as top executives at Facebook and Twitter attempted to fend off questions from senators about election interference on their platforms, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he plans to gather state attorneys general this month to examine what the Justice Department called the intentional “stifling” of voices on social media. The department announced the plan as Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Jack Dorsey were wrapping up testimony Wednesday morning on efforts to deter foreign trolls and bots ahead of this year’s midterm contests. Mr. Dorsey later appeared alone in front of the House Commerce Committee, where he faced a barrage of questions about alleged anticonservative bias over how Twitter enforces its rules. At both hearings, lawmakers quizzed tech executives about how their sites work, what they are doing to bolster their defenses against foreign disruption and what regulation the companies might consider. The questions sharpened the focus on the chasm between current U.S. regulations of global internet companies and the far-reaching capabilities the platforms boast in shaping American news diets and overall discourse.”

Bloomberg: Google’s Empty Chair Ratchets Up Pressure From Congress

“Google, faced with what may be the most intense political scrutiny in the company’s 20-year history, decided to pass on a chance to defend itself in Congress. A U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee panel was convened Wednesday morning, the latest in a series of high-profile hearings on state-sponsored election meddling involving the largest technology platforms. Senior executives from Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. sat before the senators next to an empty chair marked "Google." The biggest unit of $837 billion Alphabet Inc. opted to bear the blowback of a vacant seat rather than send its reclusive founder, Larry Page, or his handpicked successor, Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai. The session was meant to focus on the decisionmakers following a grilling last fall of the tech companies’ lawyers. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg accepted the Senate’s invitation to testify. Since the hearing was focused on the vulnerabilities of social media, those two executives were bracing for a bulk of the questions. Still, Google refused to send Page, who now runs Alphabet, or Pichai, whom the Senate said it would accept. The panel rebuffed Google’s offer to send its legal and policy chief Kent Walker. Google’s decision could damage the company’s standing in Congress, where it has enjoyed strong bipartisan support for years as a good corporate citizen.”

The Verge: More People Are Taking Facebook Breaks And Deleting The App From Their Phones

“The Facebook exodus among young people is real, and disenchantment with the leading social media platform is extending to older users, too. According to new data from Pew Research Center that sampled US Facebook users aged 18 and up, 4 in 10 (42 percent) of those surveyed have taken a break from the social network for “several weeks or more” in the last year; a quarter of respondents said they’ve deleted the mobile app entirely from their smartphones. Pew’s survey was conducted between May 29th and June 11th, so the burnout and frustrations stemming from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal were still fresh in the minds of users. But it’s an alarming sign that shows people have a bad taste in their mouths from Facebook after months hearing about privacy mishaps, election meddling, misinformation campaigns, and questionable moderation practices. Today, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is testifying before Congress regarding how foreign countries are wielding technology platforms to sow discord and unrest in the United States.”

Townhall: Rubio Grills Facebook And Twitter Heads On Handling Of Authoritarian Regimes Asking Them To Quell Dissent

“Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) questioned Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg Wednesday about the way the social media giants handle requests from authoritarian regimes that aim to stifle dissent. "What we're asking you to do, and I think what you've agreed to do, is to use the powers that you have within your platforms to crack down on certain users who are hostile actors, who are using disinformation or misinformation or hate speech for the purposes of sowing discord or interfering in our internal affairs,” Sen. Rubio began, “and that's a positive." However, he then pointed out a potential issue with that crackdown when it comes to dealing with authoritarian regimes. "What happens when an authoritarian regime asks you to do that, because their definition of disinformation or misinformation could actually be the truth?” he asked. “Their discord, or what they define as discord, could be things like defending human rights." Sandberg emphasized in reply that "we support these principles around the world," and pointed out that Facebook does not turn over information about dissenters to hostile governments, including in China. Rubio went on to cite specific instances of governments attempting to use social media to target dissenters, including Pakistan’s request that over 1,000 accounts be blocked over Muslim blasphemy complaints.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Dostor: Egyptian Security Forces Caught Muslim Brotherhood-Affiliated Cell Red-Handed While Filming Fake Videos

“In coordination with Major-General Khaled Shalabi, Security Director of the Fayoum Governorate, a police team headed by Brigadier Haitham Atta, the Director of the Criminal Investigation Department in Fayoum, succeeded in capturing a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated cell {red-handed} while filming bogus videos intended to defame the Egyptian regime. The 5-member cell, including a fugitive who had previously been sentenced to 15 years in prison on terrorist charges, was shooting fabricated films about extremely remote, poverty-stricken areas of Egypt with the aim of depicting a negative image of the country. In addition, the suspects raised donations to finance the outlawed group and its activities. It's noteworthy that the security forces seized advanced cameras and other film-making devices that were at the disposal of the defendants.”

Elwatan: Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Misused Teachers' Union Funds

“The head of the Teachers' Union in Egypt, Khalaf Al-Zanaty, said that the money deposited in the Teachers' Union's bank account could have contributed greatly to the payment of teachers' pensions. However, the ex-Muslim Brotherhood-dominated board seized these funds without considering the crisis it could cause. They also did not look for alternative solutions to the Union's financial hardships. This action by the Brotherhood destabilized the union's financial solvency, Al-Zanaty stressed. The Brotherhood exploited most of the union's resources on one item, i.e. on salaries, without considering other needs such as pensions and other services, he claimed.”

Hamas

24: Gazan Family Accuses Hamas Government Of Taking Its Land

“It appears that the Hamas government in Gaza is intending to seize a disputed privately-owned piece of land to erect a new police station there. The Hamas authorities are planning to build the new Sheikh Radwan Police Station on a disputed private land in Gaza, even though the relevant court has banned the quarrelling parties from using this land until a final verdict is issued, according to a local family who claims ownership of the lot. Via its Facebook pages, the Abu Shehada family posted graphic evidence and photographs that prove its ownership of the lot in question. The family accused the Hamas government of using different ruses to embezzle public and private properties, avowing that their own "dangerous" case must become a matter of public opinion.”

Houthi

Bald News: Houthi Group Prohibits The Work Of Currency Exchange And Money Transfer Companies

“Banking sources confirmed that the Houthis prevented 13 currency exchange and money transfer companies from working and withdrew their licenses, on the pretext of non-compliance with the instructions of the Houthi leaders. The sources said, "Houthi leaders forced the Association of Yemeni Exchange Companies to issue a circular to prevent dealing with the said companies." The Houthis launched a campaign for tight controls on money transfer activities between the Yemeni governorates in a move aimed at extorting currency exchange and money transfer companies. The Houthis are forcing these companies to pay for what they call the "war effort", arguing that they are acting contrary to the Houthis' orders. Sources in Yemen stress these are just pretexts for continued looting and forcing currency exchange companies to pay royalties.”

Al Shabaab Movement

Alsomal: Al Shabaab Kidnaps Some 70 Tribal Elders For Refusing To Cooperate With It

“The head of the state of Galmudug in Central Somalia, Ahmed Duale Gele Haaf, stated that the al Shabaab Movement had kidnapped about 70 tribal sheikhs from areas in his state and transported them to the town of Elbur, the movement's main base in the central provinces of Somalia. He lamented the Somali government's preoccupation with what he called "the destruction of the regional states" at a time when the Somali people are suffering from attacks by al Shabaab movement. In the past few months, the Galmudug province has seen growing disputes between the local population and al-Shabaab militants over the movement's demand to recruit their sons into its ranks. These disputes resulted in clashes between al Shabaab militants and locals near the town of Harardhere in Mudug province.”