Eye on Extremism, August 31, 2016

Counter Extremism Project

New Hampshire Public Radio: Blocking Terrorist Propaganda

“Hany Farid is the chair of Dartmouth’s Computer Science department and is a senior advisor to the Counter Extremism Project. He developed PhotoDNA a system used to detect child pornography online and stop it from spreading. Earlier this summer similar software was in development to flag terrorist propaganda online.”

International Business Times: Who Is Abu Mohammad al-Adnani? ISIS Spokesman Reportedly Killed In Syria

“The Counter Extremism Project lists Adnani as the leader of ISIS’s Emni group, a unit that orchestrates attacks outside of the Middle East. The U.S. State Department named him a terrorist in 2014 and later described him as ‘the main conduit for the dissemination of ISIL messages.’ ‘Adnani is much more than just the mouthpiece of this group,’ Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the New York Times earlier this month. ‘He is heavily involved in external operations. He is sort of the administrative ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ at the top of the pyramid.’”

The Daily Beast: ISIS Attack Dog Reportedly Dead

“Officially, the 39-year-old Taha Subhi Falaha, better known as Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, was spokesman for the so-called Islamic State: a vitriolic but compelling rhetorician for the caliphate whose imprecations — against America, the Shia, insufficiently pious Muslims and eventually al-Qaeda — earned him the nickname “attack dog.” Now he’s a dead one, according to the organization he served. In a statement, the ISIS propaganda agency Amaq said he was “martyred while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns in Aleppo,” in Syria.”

Reuters: U.S. Offers $3 Million Reward For Man It Gave Anti-Terror Training

“The United States on Tuesday offered a reward of up to $3 million for information about a former Tajik special operations colonel whom it trained in counter-terrorism before he joined the Islamic State militant group. The U.S. State Department announced the reward for Gulmurod Khalimov in a statement that made no mention of his training, which included attending five U.S.-funded courses in the United States and Tajikistan between 2003 and 2014, said a U.S. State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The statement described Khalimov as ‘a key leader’ of the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIL and ISIS, that has seized parts of Syria and Iran and staged or inspired attacks around the world.”

CNN: US General: ISIS Forces Defied Orders To Fight To The Death

“A top US general said Tuesday that ISIS fighters defied their leader’s orders to fight to the death in a recent battle, instead retreating to the north. Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, said that the refusal to follow orders occurred during the battle for the recently liberated town of Manbij, Syria. ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi told fighters in Manbij ‘to fight to the death’ and ‘they didn’t follow his direction,’ according to Votel, questioning how much command and control ISIS leadership has over its forces. Still, he said that ISIS, also know as ISIL, has a ‘strong network’ that relies on ‘guidance from centralized leadership.’”

Associated Press: IS Destruction Of Iraqi Base Could Hinder Mosul Operation

“The air base that Iraqi forces hope to use as a staging area to take Mosul back from the Islamic State group was almost completely destroyed by the retreating militants, raising new doubts over whether the long-awaited operation will begin this year. Iraqi forces seized the Qayara air base south of Mosul in July, in what U.S. and Iraqi officials said was a major step toward the eventual liberation of the country’s second largest city, which fell to IS in 2014. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on Mosul residents ‘to get ready for the liberation of their areas.’ But Iraqi army commanders stationed at the base say it will take months of reconstruction before it is ready to receive cargo planes and house the tens of thousands of troops needed for the march on Mosul. Their assessments call into question whether Iraq will be able to launch the operation this year, as the prime minister has repeatedly pledged.”

Reuters: Four Haqqani Commanders Killed In East Afghanistan: Officials

“U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan have killed four commanders of the Haqqani network, a militant group affiliated with the Taliban, as government forces try to retake a district captured by insurgents last week, Afghan officials said on Tuesday. Naqeeb Ahmad Atal, a spokesman for the governor of Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan, said 120 militants were also killed in the strikes in Jani Khil, a strategically located district at a crossroads on a major route into Pakistan. But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the report as ‘baseless’, saying the air strikes had killed only eight people. He said 48 members of the security forces had been killed in fighting in the district. Insurgents overran the center of Jani Khil late on Friday, a significant success after they had stepped up attacks across Afghanistan in recent weeks.”

Reuters: Russia Questions Report Blaming Syrian Government For Gas Attacks

“Russia questioned on Tuesday a report by the United Nations and a global chemical weapons watchdog that blamed Syrian government forces for two chlorine gas attacks, saying the U.N. Security Council could not use the conclusions to impose sanctions. A year-long U.N. and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inquiry, unanimously authorized by the 15-member Security Council, also found that Islamic State militants used sulfur mustard gas. The U.N. Security Council began talks on Tuesday on how to respond to the inquiry. When asked if he thought the report was enough to impose sanctions on Syria, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said: ‘Frankly, I don’t, but we continue to analyze the report.’”

Newsweek: Meet the Western Fighters Battling ISIS With Syria’s Kurds

“That Syrian war, now in its sixth year, has attracted more foreign fighters than any other conflict in modern history — surpassing the Soviet-Afghan conflict in the 1980s, which is thought to have drawn some 20,000 foreigners. Governments around the world continue to grapple with how to prevent their citizens from joining the conflict — and what to do with them when they come home. Their primary concern is what to do with returning jihadis, who may pose a threat to national security. They have generally paid less attention to the volunteers who have taken up arms on behalf of the Syrian Kurds, a stateless people in a semi-autonomous region known locally as Rojava, or ‘the West.’ The Kurdish fighters are battling to protect Rojava from ISIS, but they also dream of forging a free, democratic and independent Kurdish state in northern Syria.”

ABC News: American Hostage Of Taliban Appears In New Video

“A Pennsylvania woman held by the Taliban since 2012 appeared in a new video posted online today, looking dazed but healthy with her Canadian husband and saying their captors will kill the couple if the Afghanistan government doesn’t stop executing militant prisoners. The 2 1/2-minute video with Caitlan Coleman, 30, of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, 33, is the first glimpse of the couple since 2014, when her parents released two short video clips of them speaking in captivity. Dressed in a black dress and head covering, with her left hand holding what appears to be an earpiece to the side of her face, Coleman speaks directly to her parents and says she knows it is ‘terrifying and horrifying’ for them to hear that she might be executed herself. A counterterrorism analyst studying the video said Coleman and Boyle appeared ‘out of it.’ Near the end of her short statement, as she asks for their help, the video camera light illuminating the couple switches off suddenly.”

United States

Voice Of America: India, US To Intensify Intelligence Sharing On Terrorism

“The United States and India announced on Tuesday they are strengthening cooperation on fighting terrorism. The two democracies will intensify intelligence sharing and specifically ‘work for the early operationalization of an agreement on exchanging information on known or suspected terrorists,’ India’s external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, told reporters in New Delhi. The governments also agreed on a ‘joint cyber framework to reduce cybercrime,’ according to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Overall, ministers and officials of India and the United States are touting a significantly expanded strategic and economic relationship, which Kerry said ‘couldn’t come at a more important moment.’”

BBC: Syria War: US Welcomes Pause In Turkish-Kurdish Clashes

“The US has welcomed a pause in fighting between Turkish and Kurdish forces in northern Syria, urging them to focus on fighting so-called Islamic State (IS). A US military spokesman described the lull as ‘a loose agreement’ which he hoped would solidify. Kurdish sources say a ceasefire is in place but a Turkish-backed Syrian rebel commander rejected the term. Turkish forces have been attacking Kurdish fighters since crossing the border last week. Turkey is alarmed by the growing power of Kurdish forces, which have proved to be strong allies of the US-led coalition fighting IS.

Syria

USA Today: Here’s Why U.S. Allies Are Fighting Each Other In Syria

“In the battle against the Islamic State, however, the U.S. has cobbled together an unlikely array of proxies and partners to tackle the group. U.S. fighter jets take off from an airbase in Turkey to bomb Islamic State strongholds in Syria and Iraq — and to provide air support for the very Kurdish fighters that Turkey is now targeting. Washington and Moscow are talking about cooperating and sharing intelligence to better target the Islamic State. But even when faced with an enemy as loathed as the Islamic State, not everyone can get along. Although they share an enemy, Syria’s Kurds and Ankara dislike each other almost as much. Turkey claims that the YPG in Syria is part of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the U.S.”

The Washington Post: In Potential Blow To Propaganda Power, Islamic State Reports Death Of Senior Leader In Syria

“The Islamic State reported the death of its chief spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, on Tuesday, potentially signaling the loss of a senior militant who has steered the group’s campaign to bring violent operations to the West. The Pentagon said that Adnani, a Syrian national among the militant group’s most experienced and well-connected figures, had been the target of an airstrike near the Syrian city of al-Bab, but officials said it was too early to be certain he had been killed. If confirmed, Adnani’s death would damage the Islamic State in two areas that have made the terrorist organization particularly dangerous: its sophisticated use of social media to reach a global audience and its willingness to employ the crudest forms of violence in scattered plots outside Iraq and Syria.”

Iraq

Reuters: Iraq On Track To Retake Mosul This Year, U.S. General Says

“Iraq is on track to meet its objective of retaking the city of Mosul from Islamic State later this year, should Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi choose to go forward as planned, the head of the U.S. military’s Central Command said on Tuesday. ‘It’s the prime minister’s objective to have that done by the end of the year,’ General Joseph Votel, who oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East, told a news conference. ‘My assessment is that we can meet the … prime minister’s objectives, if that’s what he chooses to do.’ Two years since Islamic State seized wide swathes of northern and western Iraq, Votel said momentum had firmly shifted against the militant group as it loses territory in its self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’.”

Associated Press: IS Buried Thousands In 72 Mass Graves, AP Finds

“In exclusive interviews, photos and research, The Associated Press has documented and mapped 72 of the mass graves, the most comprehensive survey so far, with many more expected to be uncovered as the Islamic State group’s territory shrinks. In Syria, AP has obtained locations for 17 mass graves, including one with the bodies of hundreds of members of a single tribe all but exterminated when IS extremists took over their region. For at least 16 of the Iraqi graves, most in territory too dangerous to excavate, officials do not even guess the number of dead. In others, the estimates are based on memories of traumatized survivors, Islamic State propaganda and what can be gleaned from a cursory look at the earth. Still, even the known numbers of victims buried are staggering — from 5,200 to more than 15,00.”

Turkey

Reuters: Turkey’s Post-Coup Purges Shake Higher Education

“With the summer holiday almost over, computer science student Hande Tekiner should be gearing up for a year of cram sessions and late-night homework. Instead, she may have nowhere to return to, as her university was shut after Turkey’s failed coup. Authorities have closed 15 universities and around 1,000 secondary schools linked to Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric blamed for the July 15 attempted putsch. Gulen has denied involvement in the plot and condemned it. The closures have left about 200,000 students in Turkey in academic limbo, wondering if they can continue their studies and worried about the black mark of a Gulen school on their college record. Tens of thousands of academics and school teachers have also been purged, deepening concern about curtailment of academic freedom and free speech.”

Reuters: Senior European Lawmaker Urges Dialogue With Turkey As Talks Restart

“The senior European lawmaker for foreign affairs said on Tuesday the European Union might have ‘underestimated’ the gravity of Turkey’s failed coup and must pursue dialogue with Ankara to preserve an agreement on halting the flow of migrants to Europe. The EU condemned the coup, but it has also criticized the ensuing crackdown by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Tens of thousands have been arrested or sacked in Turkey for their alleged support for Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the Turkish government accuses of masterminding the coup. Turkey in turn has accused the EU of indifference to the coup and said it might abandon an agreement with the EU to curtail the flow of migrants from the Middle East and Africa through Turkey into Europe. It has also demanded that Gulen, who lives in the United States, be extradited to Turkey.”

Reuters: Turkish Tank Hit Near Syria’s Jarablus, Three Soldiers Wounded: Military

“Three Turkish soldiers were wounded on Tuesday after their tank came under fire west of the Syrian border town of Jarablus, where Syrian rebels backed by Turkish forces drove out Islamic State militants last week. Operations against militants in the area were continuing, the Turkish military said in a statement, without specifying who had fired on the tank. Turkey’s military incursion into Syria, launched last Wednesday, is targeting both Islamic State militants and Kurdish militia fighters.”

Reuters: Turkey Detains More Journalists In Coup Round-Up: Report

“Turkish authorities detained an editor at the prominent Hurriyet newspaper in the latest round-up of journalists and others accused of links to last month’s failed coup, Hurriyet’s English-language publication said on Tuesday. It said Dincer Gokce, a Hurriyet editor, was detained with nine others after the Istanbul prosecutor issued detention warrants for 35 people in a probe into backers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey says masterminded the putsch. Gulen has denied involvement and condemned the rebellion on July 15, in which a group of soldiers commandeered tanks and jets to attack government buildings but were stopped by a groundswell of opposition from civilians and loyalist forces. Hurriyet, one of Turkey’s top-selling newspapers, said several of the 35 warrants were for journalists, but did not say how many. At least 18 of those listed were abroad, it added.”

Voice Of America: Questions Arise About Turkey’s Operation Inside Syria

“Turkish forces started their cross-border military operation in Syria a week ago without an exit strategy, analysts say, and that may adversely affect U.S. efforts against Islamic State extremists in the region. Gonul Tol, the Middle East Institute’s program director for Turkey, told VOA that the Turkish military incursion complicates Washington’s fight against Islamic State. The Pentagon and the White House have declared that Turkey’s military movements are ‘unacceptable’ in parts of Syria where Islamic State is not active. ‘We have called upon Turkey to stay focused on the fight against IS and not to engage Syrian Democratic Forces,’ Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday.”

Yemen

Voice Of America: UN Says Yemen War Has Killed 10,000 People

“The United Nations on Tuesday dramatically raised its estimate of the number of people killed in Yemen during the past 18 months to 10,000 as the ongoing fighting continues to put millions of Yemenis in need of humanitarian aid. U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick told reporters the figure could be even higher. Before Tuesday, U.N. officials had been saying at least 6,000 people had died in the conflict involving Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi. In addition to the civil war, which also includes an air campaign led by Saudi Arabia in support of the government, Yemen has also been dealing with attacks by militants, including a bombing Monday in the southern port city of Aden.”

Saudi Arabia

The Jerusalem Post: In Saudi Arabia, Signs Of An Effort To Break The Israel Taboo

“Saudi state-run media appears to be softening its reporting on Israel, running unprecedented columns floating the prospect of direct relations, quoting Israeli officials and filling its newsholes with fewer negative stories on Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians. The public shift — from outlets such as al-Arabiya and Riyadh newspaper, among other local or state-owned outlets — reflects secret, undert he-table contact between the Arab kingdom and the Jewish state that has been a work in progress for years. But media movement marks a new phase in t hat diplomatic process, according to some experts on the kingdom, who see signs of a monarchy effort to prepare Saudi society for debate that had previously been off limits.”

Egypt

Voice Of America: Egyptian Lawmakers Approve Law Governing Church Construction

“Egypt’s parliament approved on Tuesday a long-awaited law that governs building and renovating churches, an issue that has led in the past to attacks on members the country’s Christian minority by Muslim militants. Egyptian Christians make up about a tenth of the country’s 90 million people and are the Middle East’s largest Christian community. They have long complained of discrimination in the majority-Muslim country. The new law empowers provincial governors to approve church building and renovation permits, previously the domain of security services. Church officials see it as a step in the right direction, but human rights advocates and some Christian members of Parliament said it was prejudiced.”

Associated Press: Egypt’s New Law On Churches Angers Christian Critics

“Egypt’s lawmakers on Tuesday passed the country’s first law spelling out the rules for building a church, a step Christians have long hoped would free up construction that was often blocked by authorities. But angry critics in the community say the law will only enshrine the restrictions. Church building has for decades been one of the most sensitive sectarian issues in Egypt, where 10 percent of the population of 90 million are Christians but where Muslim hardliners sharply oppose anything they see as undermining what they call the country’s ‘Islamic character.’ Local authorities often refuse to give building permits for new churches, fearing protests by Muslim ultraconservatives. Faced with refusals, Christians turned to building illegally or setting up churches in other buildings, which in many cases prompted riots and attacks by ultraconservatives. In contrast, building a mosque faces few restrictions.”

Middle East

The New York Times: Aid Group’s Gaza Branch Manager, Accused Of Diverting Funds To Hamas, Is Arraigned

“The Palestinian manager of the Gaza branch of World Vision, accused by Israel of funneling millions of agency dollars to benefit Hamas, was arraigned on Tuesday at a hearing that was closed to the public. The decision to close the hearing came despite calls for an open trial from Kevin Jenkins, the president of World Vision, a major Christian aid organization. Lea Tsemel, the lawyer for the branch manager, Mohammad El Halabi, said that while closed hearings were not uncommon in cases like this, the proceedings against Mr. Halabi were taking place amid unusual secrecy. Ms. Tsemel said Israeli judicial officials typically concealed some evidence in trials involving security. But in Mr. Halabi’s case, all procedures and all evidence will be shielded from the public, Ms. Tsemel said.”

Libya

Reuters: Libya Navy Thought Migrant Rescuers Were Smugglers, Fired Warning Shots: Spokesman

“A Libyan navy boat fired warning shots at a search and rescue vessel operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) earlier this month because it thought it was involved in smuggling, a spokesman said on Tuesday. MSF says the Bourbon Argos, which has long been conducting rescue missions for migrants trying to cross from Libya to Europe, was fired on and boarded by unidentified assailants on Aug. 17. It said some of the shots hit the boat, which was patrolling about 24 nautical miles off the Libyan coast, and that armed men spent about 50 minutes aboard as the crew sheltered in a safe area. There were no migrants on the boat that day, MSF said. Libyan navy spokesman Ayoub Qassem said the navy patrol boat had taken action after the Bourbon Argos failed to respond to calls and tried to change its route.”

United Kingdom

International Business Times: UK Counter Terror Experts To Issue Guidelines Warning Priests Of Possible Normandy-Style Attack

“Counter-terror experts have issued guidelines to British clergymen, warning of an attack similar to the Islamic State (Isis) killing of a catholic priest in Normandy, according to reports on Tuesday (30 August). The advice issued to priests includes increased security in places of worship and not wearing dog collars in public. The counter-terror advice is to be ‘urgently’ issued to churches up and down the country following the murder of Catholic priest Jacques Hamel. The 85-year-old had his throat slit by two IS (Daesh) inspired jihadists whilst leading mass in the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray. Although no specific threat has been identified so-called ‘soft targets’ like churches, synagogues and other places of worship are feared to be the next target for a jihadi attack. Many have already beefed-up security with some Jewish schools employing round-the-clock security.”

Germany

Reuters: Merkel Admits Mistakes Made In Germany, EU With Refugee Crisis

“Germany and other European Union countries turned a blind eye to the refugee crisis building on its external borders for too long, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a German newspaper interview to be published on Wednesday. Merkel, who has faced criticism in Germany for launching her policies of welcoming refugees a year ago, also told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that Germany and the EU will need patience and endurance in dealing with migration of people to Europe. Her conservative party is expected to take a beating in two regional elections next month in part due to her refugee policies. She said Germany, which has taken in most of the more than 1 million refugees from the Middle East and Asia who arrived in the EU in the past year, had let Spain and other EU border countries deal with the refugees on their own.”

France

RT: ‘No Questions Asked’: Frenchman Returning From Syria Exposes ‘Porous’ Border Control

“Despite a string terrorist attacks across France and increased numbers of ISIS fighters returning home from the battlefields, it could take potential terrorists mere minutes to cross the French border using E-passport gates at the airports, a French journalist told RT. Damien Rieu captured his brief experience crossing the French border at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport earlier this month. Filming the ease of entering the Schengen Zone, a gatehouse to 26 European countries that have abolished passport and any other type of border controls, Rieu said that his experience took less than three minutes. Posting the video, Rieu said that he was ‘amazed’ how quickly he was allowed to enter France using his biometric passport, considering that he has just returned from Syria, a breeding ground for jihadists, whose fervent followers have continued to carry out atrocities in France for over a year.”

Financing of Terrorism

Alminbare News: Tunisia: Businessmen Finance Terrorist Cell In Sousse

“The interrogation of suspected members of the Sousse terrorist cell, led by Saber Ragoubi, yielded significant confessions regarding the logistical and material support provided by businessmen for these groups, by inciting [cell members] to travel to Syria and delivering funds for this purpose. The confessions indicated that a person identified only as “N. K.”, son of a prominent businessman from Sousse, used to drive his “Hammer” vehicle to a mosque in the Hammam-Sousse district, where he urged suspected members of the Sousse cell to go to Syria to “wage jihad” and expressed his willingness to cover all of their travel expenses. Meanwhile, another detainee admitted that an owner of an aluminum factory located in one of Sousse’s industrial zones incited cell members to go to Syria. He vowed to cover the expenses of one takfiri militant, who eventually was killed in Syria.”

ISIS

Alsumaria News: Iraq: ISIS Leader Flees With $300,000

“Al-Hashd al-Sha’abi leader, Jabbar al-Maamouri, announced on Tuesday that a Saudi leader in the ISIS organization fled from Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk province, in possession of some $300,000. Al-Maamouri was quoted as saying: “The ISIS leader, Abu Jihad al-Saudi, fled from Hawija to an unknown destination in possession of about $300,000 which he obtained through extortion of {local} families.”

Muslim Brotherhood

The Seventh Day: Egyptian Official: Declaration Of War By Muslim Brotherhood To Block The IMF Loan

“Moataz Mohammed Mahmoud, Chairman of the Egyptian Parliamentary Housing Committee, claimed that the rumors disseminated by the Muslim Brotherhood Brigades abroad, whether directed towards the Chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or global newspapers and radio stations, aim to shake confidence in the Egyptian economy. He predicted, however, that these efforts will end in abject failure and will not achieve their goals. The Chairman of the Housing Committee stressed that the Brotherhood has declared open war on Egypt. The proof is in what security agencies have recently intercepted — the dispatch of e-mails by the group to senior officials at the International Monetary Fund in an attempt to influence them not to disburse the first installment of their $12 billion loan to Egypt.”

Dot Emirates: Muslim Brotherhood Plot To Harm Egypt’s Economy

“Targeting the economy means targeting the other pillars of the state. The economic dimension constitutes a clear and powerful factor in all political, social and security aspects. Thus, the Muslim Brotherhood identified the economy as the target to strike after the group’s downfall in several countries. By weakening {Egypt’s} economy the group wants citizens to come out against the regime and incite chaos. From time to time, the Brotherhood’s schemes to harm the economy are exposed; the latest is the announcement by the Revolutionary Council, the political front of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group in Turkey. This Council issued a provocative statement against the Egyptian state, calling for a number of measures to harm the nation’s economy. The scheme, formulated by the Muslim Brotherhood to harm the Egyptian economy, includes five elements.”

Houthi

Yemen-24: Largest Looting Operation In Yemen’s History Carried Out By The Houthis

“Najeeb Ghallab, a political analyst in Yemen, stated that the biggest looting operation in the history of the country was carried out by Houthi militia. He claimed that immediately after their coup, the Houthis stole 400 billion Yemeni riyals ($1.860 billion) from the Central Bank. The government had printed this amount to cover the needs of the country, but did not expend even one riyal. Ghallab added that this “information is known” and, though it is not a secret, it was well-hidden. The analyst stressed that this vast sum is being manipulated through a complex network run by professional mafia.”