Eye on Extremism, August 5, 2016

Counter Extremism Project

Reuters: U.S. Strikes Easing Advance Against Islamic State In Sirte, Says Commander

“U.S. air strikes are easing the passage of Libyan forces as they seek to clear Islamic State from the militant group’s former North African stronghold of Sirte, a senior field commander said on Wednesday. Mohamed Darat said the first strikes, which took place on Monday, had helped Libyan brigades under his command secure the Dollar residential neighborhood by targeting militants who had been holding out on the district’s edge. Libya’s U.N.-backed government requested the strikes nearly three months into a campaign that had slowed due to heavy casualties from sniper fire, mines and mortars. Losing Sirte would be a huge blow for Islamic State, which took control of the city midway along Libya’s Mediterranean coastline last year. The group is already under pressure from U.S.-backed campaigns in Syria and Iraq.

Fox Business: Fmr. CIA Analyst On U.S. Airstrikes Against ISIS

“Former CIA analyst Tara Maller on the effectiveness of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS”

Independent: Isis ‘Captures 3,000 Civilians’ Trying To Escape Its Territory In Iraq

“Isis is feared to have captured up to 3,000 civilians fleeing the group’s territory in Iraq. The UN Refugee Agency said militants had killed at least 12 people, who had been moving from villages in al-Hawija district to seek safety in Kirkuk city on Thursday. A security source told the Iraqi News website they died when Isis fighters ‘fired openly’ on families as they tried to flee. They were believed to be trying to escape Isis-controlled territory by moving towards Kurdish Peshmerga forces who are attempting to drive militants out of the region. Hawija lies between the provinces of Kirkuk, Nineveh and Salahaddin has an estimated 400,000 inhabitants, many of whom have been displaced by the war.”

Fox News: Leader Of ISIS In Egypt’s Sinai Killed By Air Force, Sources Confirm

“The leader of the Islamic State’s operations in the volatile Sinai Peninsula and mastermind of the October 2015 attack on a Russian airliner in the region that left 224 dead has been killed by Egypt’s air force, intelligence sources told Fox News Thursday. ISIS Sinai leader Abu Dua al-Ansari was killed in Al Arish, the sources said. A post on the Facebook page of the military’s chief spokesman, Brig-Gen Mohammed Samir, said al-Ansari was killed in an operation guided by ‘accurate intelligence.’ He helped organize ISIS activities in the region including attacks against U.N. personnel in their Sinai base, investigators said.”

The New York Times: Israel Charges Palestinian Employee Of Aid Group With Funneling Funds To Hamas

“The Palestinian manager of the Gaza branch of World Vision, a major Christian aid organization, was charged by Israeli prosecutors on Thursday with infiltrating the charity on behalf of Hamas and funneling about $43 million in the group’s funds over the past six years to the military wing of the Islamist militant group. While neither the World Vision employee, Mohammad El Halabi, nor the aid group have had a chance to review the evidence and respond to specific charges, the allegations have cast a cloud over nongovernmental organizations in Gaza. By Thursday evening in Jerusalem, the Australian government announced the suspension of funding to World Vision’s projects in the Palestinian territories. Describing the allegations as ‘deeply troubling,’ Dave Sharma, the Australian ambassador to Israel, announced the suspension in a statement on Twitter, pending the outcome of an investigation by Australia’s foreign affairs department.”

CNN: Libya’s Chaos, Explained In Five Graphics

“Five short years ago, Libya was one of the wealthiest and most stable nations in Africa. The country had been led by Colonel Moammar Gadhafi for more than 40 years, since he seized power in a 1969 coup, and its six million citizens enjoyed the benefits of the country’s vast oil wealth. Then the Arab Spring took hold, Gadhafi was toppled and summarily executed, and things got a whole lot more complicated. After years of uncertainty and upheaval allowed ISIS militants to gain a foothold in the country, the U.S. has begun carrying out airstrikes to try and oust them. Fixing Libya is going to take more than a few raids as these five graphics explain.”

NPR: Who’s In Charge Of Boko Haram? Split Emerges As 2 Men Claim Leadership

Who’s leading Boko Haram? Cracks are forming at the highest levels of the Nigeria-based extremist group, as NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports. The Islamic State has officially named Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the militant group’s new leader and says he will pursue a different strategy — but the old leader, Abubakar Shekau, says he’s still in charge. The announcement comes after a major military campaign against Boko Haram that has rolled back the territory the group controls. Reuters reports that ‘Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler who took office last year, has made it a priority to defeat Boko Haram, which has tried to create a state adhering to strict sharia law in the northeast during a seven-year insurgency.’”

BBC: More Armed Police Set To Protect London, Say Met Chief And Mayor

“More armed police are to be seen on patrol in London, Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan have said. Sir Bernard announced the move to reassure the public and deter attackers following terrorist attacks in Europe. The Met has already said the number of armed officers will go up in London by 600 to 2,800. And a further 900 armed officers are planned to be in operation for the rest of England and Wales. But Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said it may take two years to fully train the 1,500 recruits planned nationally.”

NBC News: Injured Man Dies Three Weeks After France Truck Attack, Bringing Toll To 85

“A man who lost his wife and son in a truck attack in French Riviera city of Nice three weeks ago died Thursday from injuries he suffered in the rampage — bringing the death toll to 85, authorities said. Pierre Hattermann’s wife Francoise and son were killed in the attack, and his 14-year-old daughter is still in hospital, according to French newspaper Nice Matin and other media. Tunisian-born Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel barreled a 19-ton truck into the crowd celebrating France’s Bastille Day on the seafront promenade on July 14. He was shot dead by police. French President Francois Hollande called it a clear act of terrorism, but it has not been established that Bouhlel was tied to any terrorist group. Franc’es interior minister said it Bouhlel wasn’t on any jihadi lists but it appears he was radicalized quickly. Five people suspected of being accomplices were later arrested in Nice.”

The Wall Street Journal: Terrorist Suspects In Europe Got Welfare Benefits While Plotting Attacks

“Belgian financial investigators looking into recent terror plots have discovered a disturbing trend: Some of the suspects were collecting welfare benefits until shortly before they carried out their attacks. At least five of the alleged plotters in the Paris and Brussels terror attacks partly financed themselves with payments from Belgium’s generous social-welfare system, authorities have concluded. In total they received more than €50,000, or about $56,000 at today’s rate. The main surviving Paris suspect, Salah Abdeslam, collected unemployment benefits until three weeks before the November attacks — €19,000 in all, according to people familiar with the case. At the time, he was manager and part-owner of a bar, which Belgian officials say should have made him ineligible.”

United States

PBS News Hour: Obama Appears At Pentagon To Discuss Strategy For Countering ISIS

“The chaos in Libya after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi created a vacuum, filled in part by the Islamic State. Now the United States is stepping up pressure on the group’s stronghold there with new attacks launched this week. President Obama visited the Pentagon today to confer with his military leadership about the battle against the Islamic State. He had this to say about the newest U.S. military front in that fight in Libya. At the request of Libya’s government of national accord, we are conducting strikes in support of government-aligned forces as they fight to retake Sirte from ISIL, and we will continue to support the government’s efforts to secure their country.”

Reuters: U.S. Designates Pakistan’s Jamaat-Ur-Ahrar A ‘Terrorist Group’

“The United States has added the Pakistani militant group Jamaat-ur-Ahrar to its list of global terrorists, triggering sanctions against a faction that has staged multiple attacks on civilians, religious minorities and soldiers. Jamaat-ur-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for at least five major attacks in Pakistan since December, including the Easter Sunday bombing in a public park that killed 70 people in the city of Lahore. The group is a splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban movement that has also declared loyalty to Islamic State’s leadership in the Middle East. It also claimed responsibility for the killing of two Pakistani employees of the U.S. Consulate in the northwestern city of Peshawar in March.”

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Not Persuaded to Extradite Imam Over Turkey Coup

“U.S. officials don’t expect to extradite an imam Turkey blames for masterminding a failed coup because they aren’t convinced by the evidence Ankara has presented and are troubled by threatening public statements from Turkish officials, according to people familiar with the discussions. U.S. and Turkish officials have privately discussed scenarios under which Fethullah Gulen might be extradited, but American authorities have yet to be persuaded there is a valid case for extradition, these people said. Mr. Gulen, who lives in rural Pennsylvania, has denied playing any role in the plot to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The more Turkish officials, including the president and prime minister, talk publicly about Mr. Gulen’s alleged role in the coup and demand his immediate transfer, the less likely such a transfer becomes, the people said.”

The Wall Street Journal: Barack Obama Says Islamic State Is Losing Ground Militarily, Turning More To Terrorism

“President Barack Obama said Thursday that the Islamic State militant group has shifted tactics from seeking new territory to using terrorist attacks outside its strongholds in Iraq and Syria after losing ground militarily there to the U.S.-led coalition. Mr. Obama, speaking after a briefing on the campaign against Islamic State at the Pentagon, said the group is relying on small-scale terrorist attacks to generate ‘the kind of fear and concern that elevates their profile.’ He said the shift is also a threat to the U.S. Mr. Obama defended his strategy — which backs local ground forces and militias fighting the extremist group with U.S. airstrikes and other military assistance — by outlining how the tactics have rolled back the extremist group’s territory in Iraq and Syria, while stemming its flow of foreign fighters and cash.”


Reuters: U.N. Hopeful Of Humanitarian Pause In Aleppo Fighting

“The United Nations said on Thursday that intensive diplomacy was going on to try to agree a humanitarian pause in the fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo, and it hoped to see an agreement for a comprehensive humanitarian plan in the next few days. The battle for eastern Aleppo, pitting besieged rebels against Syrian, Russian and Iranian-backed forces, has erupted amid a diplomatic vacuum and no sign of a breakthrough in a U.S.-Russian efforts for a deal to unlock a new round of peace talks. ‘There is still time, we cannot give up hope. Bear with us and I think in next few days there might be some movement,’ U.N. Deputy Special Envoy for Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy told reporters in Geneva.”

Radio Free Europe: Syria Group Wants To Trade Bodies Of Five Russian Helicopter Crew Members

“Syrian group said on August 4 that it has the bodies of five people killed when a Russian helicopter was shot down and is demanding the release of prisoners in exchange for the bodies. The Russian military helicopter was shot down in opposition-held territory in Syria’s Idlib Province on August 1, killing all five people onboard. It was the biggest officially acknowledged loss of life for Russian forces since they started operations in Syria in September 2015. The demand for the exchange was signed off by a group calling itself the General Foundation for Prisoners’ Affairs. It wanted the release of prisoners held in Syrian government jails and by Damascus’s Lebanese Shi’ite ally Hizballah in Lebanon. The group did not name the prisoners it wanted to be released or say how many it wanted.”

The Wall Street Journal: Fallout From Turkey Coup Leaves Syria Rebels In The Lurch

“Some of the most intense fighting in the five-year Syrian war erupted after last month’s failed Turkish coup — and it is probably no coincidence. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was an early and indispensable backer of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad ’s regime. Since 2011, Turkey served as a rear base and supplier for a variety of Syrian rebel groups, including those on the Islamist fringe. That support is now under threat. Many of the top Turkish military and intelligence officials involved in programs to assist the rebellion, including the commander of Turkey’s 2nd Army responsible for borders with Syria and Iraq, have been detained for alleged involvement in the July 15 putsch.”


Reuters: German Minister Sees `No Basis’ For Talks With Turkey After Failed Coup

“Turkey and Germany’s relationship — essential to curbing mass migration to Europe — has grown so bad the two countries have virtually ‘no basis’ for talks, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Thursday. Germany has serious concern about mass arrests carried out by Turkish officials after a thwarted coup last month, Steinmeier said. At the same time, Turkey feels Germany has not taken the July 15 coup attempt seriously, and its government is angered by German media reports suggesting it was orchestrated by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Relations between Germany and Turkey have been tense for months following a June 2 vote by the German parliament to brand the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces as genocide, a move sharply criticised by Erdogan and other Turkish officials.”

The Wall Street Journal: In Europe, Some Contemplate A New Kind Of Relationship With Turkey

“When Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said this week it was time for the European Union to reconsider membership talks with Turkey, he set off a diplomatic firestorm. ‘Austrian PM calls our accession negotiations a ‘diplomatic fiction.’ Actually what is fiction is a democracy where far-right prevails,’ Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omar Celik said in one of a series of outraged tweets Thursday — referring to Austria’s October redo of a tight presidential race in which the right-wing Freedom Party’s candidate now leads. Yet Mr. Kern’s remarks echo a growing view in Europe that after 11 years of tortuously slow membership talks, the negotiations have become a diplomatic sideshow whose main purpose is to avoid a fight over shutting them down. Nor is the frustration a one-way street. Turkish officials argue that many EU capitals have long opposed Turkish membership but just wouldn’t admit it.”


BBC: Afghanistan’s Taliban Attack Foreign Tourist Convoy

“Militants have attacked a convoy of foreign tourists in west Afghanistan, injuring six and their Afghan driver. The group of a dozen travellers was being escorted by Afghan army personnel to Herat city when it was ambushed, Afghan officials told the BBC. The tourists comprised eight Britons, three US citizens and one German. Some reportedly had light injuries and were being treated in hospital. A spokesman for the Taliban said it had carried out the attack. Afghanistan’s main roads are notoriously dangerous, with militant attacks and kidnappings frequent, many of them carried out by the Taliban.”


International Business Times: Yemen Peace Efforts Flounder As Security Council Fails To Agree On Support For UN Envoy

“Attempts by the United Nations to put an end to the 17-month-long civil war in Yemen seem to have hit a road block with the Security Council failing to agree on a statement that supports the UN special envoy to Yemen. The council members, including Britain, wanted to include a statement that criticises the rebels, which the UN ambassador to Russia, Vitaly Churkin, said was an unacceptable demand. With the clock ticking for the Arab world’s poorest nation to sign a UN-brokered peace deal, which requires the backing of Shia Muslim rebels, failure to reach a consensus has a dealt a blow to the peace efforts. Yemen’s internationally recognised government announced accepting a proposed peace agreement on Sunday (31 July) with a pre-condition that the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the forces loyal to the former president sign the deal by 7 August.”

Reuters: Exclusive: U.N. Report On Yemen Says Houthis Used Human Shields, Islamic State Got Cash

“Yemen’s Houthi rebels used civilians as human shields, Islamic State militants in the country received an influx of cash and al Qaeda has improved its roadside bombs, according to a confidential report by United Nations experts monitoring sanctions on Yemen. The 105-page report to the U.N. Security Council, seen by Reuters on Thursday, also said a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia had violated international humanitarian law by bombing a civilian home in Al-Mahala village in May, and the monitors were investigating three other cases in which civilians were bombed. The midterm report covered the past six months. The experts noted that they have been unable to travel to the Arabian Peninsula country so they gathered information remotely.”

Saudi Arabia

Reuters: Saudi Investigation Largely Defends Deadly Air Strikes In Yemen

“An investigation by a Saudi-led coalition presented on Thursday largely defended a series of deadly coalition air strikes on markets, clinics and a wedding in Yemen, citing the presence of armed militiamen at the sites. Results of the probe, presented at a news conference in Riyadh, found that one of eight alleged mass-casualty air attacks in the second half of 2015 that it reviewed involved incomplete intelligence that led to civilian casualties. Rights groups and witnesses told Reuters at the time of the incidents from Yemen’s mountain north to coastal south said air attacks had together killed hundreds of civilians.”


Reuters: In Egypt, An Italian Student’s Research Stirred Suspicion Before He Died

“Regeni’s body was found on the side of the Cairo-Alexandria highway on Feb. 3 by passengers on a bus that had broken down, according to a police source. Egyptian forensics officials said the body showed signs of torture, including cigarette burns and beatings. Regeni’s mother, Paola, later told Italy’s parliament that her son’s injuries were so bad she identified him only by the tip of his nose. Egyptian human rights groups said the torture suggested Egyptian security services had killed the student, allegations those services and the government have strongly denied. It remains unclear who killed Regeni or why. But piecing together his activity in the months leading up to his death, it is apparent that two factors put the student at risk: his passionate interest in political and economic issues and his belief that Egypt needed change.”

Middle East

The Wall Street Journal: Israel Alleges Millions In Christian Aid Diverted To Hamas

“Israel said it arrested an employee of international Christian charity World Vision for allegedly siphoning off tens of millions of dollars in aid destined for projects in the Gaza Strip and giving it to Islamist movement Hamas. Prosecutors on Thursday charged Mohammed El-Halabi, director of the Gaza branch of World Vision, with funding Hamas with up to $7.2 million a year over more than five years. He was detained June 15 at a crossing into the Palestinian enclave. A lawyer for Mr. Halabi couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Mr. Halabi took advantage of his position to divert World Vision’s resources ‘from the needy to the benefit of Hamas’ terrorist and military activities,’ Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.”

Haaretz: ISIS Plans Attack On U.S. Air Bases, Israeli Intel Firm Says

“An Israeli cyber intelligence company claims it has hacked ISIS communications and learned about the group’s plans to attack U.S. air bases in Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Intsights, which is run by former Israel Defense Forces intelligence officers and based in Herzliya, said Wednesday it had hacked the forum on which ISIS operatives publish terror attack plans, Channel 10 reported. According to Intsights, ISIS uploads potential targets to the forum, hosted through the Telegram encrypted messaging app. Some targets listed there, such as the church in Normandy, France where a priest was murdered on July 26, have been attacked after appearing on the site.”


The Guardian: Isis Tries To Impose New Leader On Boko Haram In Nigeria

“Two of the purported leaders of Boko Haram are apparently pitted against each other in a power struggle within Islamic State’s west African affiliate. Isis announced on Tuesday that the group that has ravaged northern Nigeria for the past seven years had a new leader — Abu Musab al-Barnawi. An Isis magazine carried an interview with him and said he was previously a Boko Haram spokesman. However an audio message apparently recorded by Abubakar Shekau, the long-time leader of Boko Haram, who has appeared in many of its videos, was released on Thursday denying al-Barnawi’s claim.”

The New York Times: Boko Haram Leader Speaks On Youtube, Deepening Signs Of Split

“A new voice recording described by security experts as coming from the longtime leader of Boko Haram deepened speculation about a fracture in the militant group, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and has terrorized Nigeria and its neighbors for years. In the 10-minute recording uploaded to YouTube Wednesday night, the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, referred to what appeared to be a split in Boko Haram over whether Muslims who live among nonbelievers are good Muslims whose lives deserve to be spared. Taken together, the Islamic State publication and Mr. Shekau’s recording suggest he is leading a Boko Haram faction bent on indiscriminate killing, while Mr. Barnawi is leading a group that might be more willing to show mercy to Muslims.”

United Kingdom

Sputnik News: Some 84% Of UK Nationals Expect Terrorist Attacks In Country — Pol

“According to the YouGov poll, only 8 percent of the UK public think an attack is unlikely. The authors of the survey note that the perceived threat of terrorism in the United Kingdom has increased steadily over the last six years. At least 43 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with government’s efforts to combat Islamic extremism, while 32 percent consider that the authorities are doing as much as needed, according to the poll. The survey comes after a wave of terrorist attacks shook a number of European cities in the past several months, including in Germany, France and Belgium.”

The Wall Street Journal: No Indication Of Terrorism In London Stabbing, Police Say

“U.K. police said there was no evidence that a 19-year-old man who killed an American woman from Florida and injured five other people in a stabbing attack in central London had been radicalized or motivated by terrorism. The man, a Norwegian of Somali origin, remained in custody Thursday after being arrested on suspicion of murder in the Russell Square attack late Wednesday. Based on interviews with him and his family, police said they believed mental health was the main factor in the assault. Mr. Rowley said police believed that the stabbing was a spontaneous attack and that the victims were chosen at random. The suspect, who wasn’t named, hasn’t been charged. A spokesman for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said he had moved to the U.K. in 2002.”


RT: Terrorism Wave In Germany Forces Berlin To Plan Broad Range Of Civil Defense Measures

“Against the backdrop of terrorist attacks that rocked Europe — and Germany in particular — in recent months, the German government is set on updating the system of national civil defense for the first time in some 20 years, Bild reported on Thursday. Citing excerpts from the 69-page draft version of the new document which is expected to be adopted by ministers on August 24, the newspaper reports the proposed changes cover a variety of spheres, from increasing vaccine and basic supplies storage to stocking up on chemical protective suits to be distributed among the population in case of emergency. Other issues covered in the excerpts published by Bild include protection of cultural property and self-protection capabilities of the population, like keeping a fully-stocked first-aid and medicine kit.”


CNBC: Armed French Military Winched On To Ferries To Ward Off Terrorism

“Armed French servicemen are being dropped by helicopter on to ferries in the English Channel in a bid to prevent terrorist attacks. Sea marshals carrying guns are arriving by helicopter as French-flagged vessels leave English territorial waters on their way to France. The first patrol took place Monday, when three French sea marshals arrived on the Brittany Ferries vessel Mont St Michel by helicopter. They then proceeded to patrol the bridge and passenger areas of the vessel. Speaking to CNBC Thursday, a spokesperson for Brittany Ferries said the dramatic boarding of ships in mid-journey was due to maritime law.”


Reuters: Cyprus To Deport Austrian With ‘Terror’ Links: Official

“Cyprus will deport a ‘radicalized’ Austrian man suspected of being a security risk by Interpol, authorities said on Thursday. The 28-year-old man was detained on Wednesday at a checkpoint in the capital Nicosia in an area straddling a ceasefire line dividing the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. The man, whom police sources said was traveling alone, was crossing from the Turkish to the Greek side when he was stopped by Greek Cypriot police for a routine passport check. ‘His name was on a list of suspects for terrorism,’ said Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou, who said the man had been ‘radicalize’. The man would be deported to Austria, Nicolaou said. Poland’s Interpol branch had the man on a suspect list.”

RT: ISIS Wants ‘Loads Of Attacks In England, Germany & France,’ Jailed Jihadist Says

“A former Islamic State jihadist, German-born Harry Sarfo, has revealed that the terrorist group is actively seeking volunteers in Germany and the UK to carry out ‘loads of attacks at the same time in England, Germany and France.’ Members of the far-reaching Islamic State’s (IS, formerly ISIS) intelligence service, called Emni in Arabic, allegedly told Sarfo they were first and foremost interested in waging terrorism across the globe. In an interview with the New York Times, Sarfo, who is currently serving a three-year term on terrorism charges at a maximum security prison near Bremen, recalled what one masked commander once told him.”

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