Eye on Extremism, May 17, 2016
Isis prohibits TV in Ramadan
“A blast at an outdoor market in the predominantly Shia northern district of al-Shaab killed 38 people and wounded 70, while a car bomb in the southern neighbourhood of al-Rasheed left six dead and another 21 injured. A lone female attacker set off an explosives vest at the same time as the planted car bomb was detonated in coordinated blasts, officials said.”
“Powerful blasts rocked a key gas field in central Syria on Monday, with a monitor saying they were caused by the Islamic State group blowing up pumping stations. The Shaer gas field — one of the biggest in the central province of Homs — has been the site of fierce fighting between IS jihadists and Syrian government loyalists. Abdel Rahman said IS was believed to have blown up several of Shaer’s pumping stations. He had no immediate word on casualties. The explosions reportedly even shook Palmyra, the ancient oasis city about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Shaer, according to reports posted on Twitter.”
“The US and other world powers have said they are ready to arm Libya’s UN-backed unity government to help it fight the self-styled Islamic State (IS) group. Speaking in Vienna, US Secretary of State John Kerry said world powers would back Libya in seeking exemption from a UN arms embargo. He said IS was a ‘new threat’ to Libya and it was ‘imperative’ it was stopped. Last month, the Libyan government warned that IS could seize most of the country if it was not halted soon. The requested arms embargo ‘exemption’ for Libya will need to be approved by the UN Sanctions Committee before it comes into force. But the Libyan government’s formal request for it signals that they have been given assurances that it would soon be approved. Libya remains a country where multiple administrations are still bickering over who is in charge. Armed groups in western Libya, reputed for their shifting allegiances, only loosely back the new government, and there is no clear chain of command.”
“A Trenton man police suspect of being a white supremacist faces numerous charges after authorities say they found a large cache of weapons and ammunition in the New Jersey Pinelands. Lacey police were in the area Sunday afternoon looking for trespassers and criminal activity when they came across a suspicious vehicle.”
“Once a safe haven for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, this tiny Turkish border town has now become a frontline in its war. So frequent is the rocket fire across what is in effect also NATO’s front line that residents know instinctively how long they have to take cover. The town has been hit by rockets from a patch of Syria controlled by Islamic State more than 70 times since January, killing 21 people including children, in what security officials say has gone from accidental spillover to deliberate targeting. Some houses have been reduced to rubble. Others, their rooms exposed to the open air where walls have collapsed, are still inhabited. Streets are largely deserted and schools are on an informal break as families refuse to send their children.”
“Despite pledges from President Obama and top U.S. officials to ‘accelerate’ the war against ISIS, the Pentagon admitted Monday that it had retaken only five percent of ISIS-held territory in Iraq in the past five months. President Obama announced at the Pentagon in December that 40% of ISIS-held territory in Iraq had been recaptured by Iraqi security forces backed by thousands of airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition, a number that officials repeated for five months. On Monday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said 45% of ISIS territory had been taken back in Iraq, or a modest 5% gain from December. Cook said 16–20% of ISIS-held territory had been taken from ISIS in Syria, a similar estimate given in January.”
“Terrorists are more likely to attack European countries as a result of a controversial deal to allow Turkish citizens to travel across the continent without visas, EU leaders have admitted. Foreign terrorists and organised criminals are ‘expected’ to seek Turkish passports to reach continental Europe ‘as soon as’ the visa waiver program comes into force, a European Commission report said. The disclosure came as Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, warned that the decision to give Turkey visa-free travel is ‘perverse’ and compared it to ‘storing gasoline next to the fire’. Sir Richard also said that the EU will face a ‘populist uprising’ if it fails to control migration.”
“With an estimated 25,000 troops officially based in Helmand, the government should have enough muscle to confront the Taliban. The problem is many of those troops don’t exist. Across Afghanistan, lists of troops and police officers are filled with fake names, or the names of men killed in the fighting, but not officially declared dead. Captain Wali and his men are in Babaji to fill the void of these ‘ghost soldiers’. A recent investigation by Helmand’s provincial council found that approximately 40% of enlisted troops did not exist. The authors of an analysis commissioned by the Afghan government — and obtained by the Guardian — said the share might be even higher.”
“The number of children used by Boko Haram as suicide bombers up tenfold over the past year, the United Nations humanitarian wing has reported, also warning that the group’s gunmen continue to carry out attacks on civilian and military targets despite the ramped up military operations in the Lake Chad Basin region. According to an update issued late last week by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), security remains volatile in many of the region’s conflict-affected areas, complicating aid access to those in need. Some three million people are already food insecure. Many more are expected to face hunger as the lean season progresses. Already in certain areas, the lean season has begun earlier than usual, while in others thousands of families are in need of immediate assistance. Given the onset of the lean season and rainy season, nutrition outcomes are expected to worsen and food prices will increase as roads become impassable.”
“The United States and its allies conducted 14 strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Sunday, the coalition leading the operations said. In a statement released on Monday, the Combined Joint Task Force said six strikes near four cities in Syria struck three tactical units and a financial headquarters and destroyed a vehicle, a rocket rail and four fighting positions. In Iraq, eight strikes near five cities denied access to terrain, suppressed a mortar position and destroyed a bunker, an artillery piece and two vehicles, among other targets, the statement said.”
“The Iraqi Army does not need additional U.S. forces right now, top defense officials say. The U.S. currently has about 3,500 troops in Iraq, far below the latest White House’s latest authorization cap of 4,087, defense officials said. And the Iraqi Army has not yet tapped the additional military support that Defense Secretary Ash Carter offered to provide a month ago. Specifically, Carter said on April 18 that the U.S. would send AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to provide close-air support for Iraqi ground troops and expand the U.S. advise-and-assist mission for Iraqi units pushing toward the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul.”
“ISIS’ latest rampage in Iraq has killed over 115 people in just the past week. But there are signs the terror group is actually losing strength, said the U.S. special envoy for the global coalition against ISIS. ‘ISIS (is) returning to suicide bombings … it relies on suicide attacks for very spectacular headlines and it’s not hard to have a person strap on a suicide vest and walk into a market and blow himself up,’ special envoy Brett McGurk said. ‘Now this perverse caliphate is shrinking so they are very much on the defensive,’ he added. ‘Their territory is shrinking, and they are now doing these barbaric suicide attacks against the civilian populations.’”
“The United States on Monday said it will not oppose the ongoing political talks aimed at resolving conflicts between the Afghan government and the insurgent group Hezb-i-Islami led by former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. A Department of State official told VOA’s Afghan Service ‘the United States does not have any pre-conditions for supporting an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process.’ After months of talks, negotiators from the Afghanistan High Peace Council — an independent body set up by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani — and Hezb-i-Islami agreed on a draft peace agreement which, if approved by both parties, would put an end to the group’s longstanding war against Afghan and international forces.”
“One hundred years ago on Monday, Britain and France signed a secret agreement carving out ‘spheres of influence’ that ultimately created the modern Middle East. Yet no one was celebrating the anniversary as Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterparts from Europe, the Arab states and Iran began gathering in Vienna for the latest international effort to end the civil war in Syria. The effort is also supposed to usher in what is delicately called a ‘political transition’ that would ease out President Bashar al-Assad. At least that is the goal of the Western allies and the Arab states; the Iranians and Russians seem to have a different view.”
“At first glance, the whitewashed buildings that make up this sleepy little mountain village give the sense of a place firmly rooted in its ancient past. But closer inspection reveals a troubled recent history. That’s because Maaloula lies barely 34 miles (55 kilometers) from Syria’s capital, Damascus. In 2013, regime forces in the area were overrun by the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front. The local population understandably feared for their lives during the fighting, while important religious buildings such as the looming Greek Catholic monastery of St. Sergius, or Mar Sarkis, were badly damaged by heavy shelling. The destruction of valuable religious icons and artifacts in Syria is an all too familiar theme. Only recently did Syrian forces backed by Russian airstrikes recapture Palmyra from ISIS, months after the ancient city fell to the Islamic extremist group, state media reported.”
“The Obama administration’s failure to convince Moscow that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go is fueling European frustration at being sidelined in efforts to end the country’s five-year civil war, diplomats say.Some diplomats and analysts question whether the United States has misread Russia’s desire to keep Assad in power. ‘Many have consistently underestimated Russia’s determination to prevent this regime from falling,’ said Philip Gordon, a former National Security Council aide to U.S. President Barack Obama. ‘They’ve been pretty clear that they’re not prepared to let this happen.’”
“Iraq’s security forces have announced the start of an operation to retake control of Ar-Rutbah, a town in western Anbar province that links Islamic State-controlled areas there with the Jordanian and Syrian borders. Earlier this year, Islamic State lost control of a stretch of territory in eastern Syria and across the border near Sinjar, Iraq, interrupting what had been a line of control extending from Syria’s Deir Ezzor province to Mosul and areas further south in Iraq. Losing the far western link around Rutbah would leave only the Qaim area, also in Anbar province, as a solid line of Islamic State control between Syria and Iraq. That stretch is vastly important for the militant group since it runs through its de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria, and connects to a border crossing with Turkey that can be used to bring in supplies and fighters.”
“The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has lost almost half of the territory that it once held in Iraq after it swept across the country in June 2014, according to the Pentagon spokesman. The U.S. Department of Defense had originally estimated that ISIS had lost some 40 percent of the territory that it had wrestled from the Iraqi government and around 10 percent of its territory in Syria. But these estimates have now increased in past weeks, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said on Monday. The radical Islamists have suffered a number of defeats in the country, being hemmed in by Kurdish forces north of Mosul and Iraqi forces south of Iraq’s second city, while Iraqi coalition forces defeated the group in the western city of Anbar in December. The U.S.-led coalition’s air strike campaign, launched in August 2014, continues to hamper the group’s plans to capture further territory in Iraq and have aided their defeats in the territory it had held.”
“Turkey went on high alert Monday after intelligence officials warned of possible imminent Islamic State bombing attacks as Turks prepare to celebrate a national holiday. According to a report in the Habertürk newspaper, Turkish intelligence sent a confidential warning to police departments asking them to take additional security and safety measures. IS is planning to attack the mausoleum of the founder of secular Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, on Thursday when youth sports activities are held marking Ataturk’s campaign against occupiers in 1919, the newspaper said. Turkish media reported that at least 10 IS fighters have crossed into Turkey from Syria and are in the Gaziantep area — a hotbed of IS activity. IS has claimed responsibility in recent months for several attacks in Turkey’s big cities that have killed dozens and injured hundreds.”
“Afghan authorities put Kabul under widespread security lockdown Monday after thousands of protesters joined rallies to demand better electrical services, marking another challenge for the Western-backed government. The sweeping response to the mostly peaceful demonstration underscored the fears of unrest spreading in the capital as President Ashraf Ghani’s government struggles on multiple fronts, including battling the Taliban insurgency and seeking to pull Afghanistan out of an economic free fall. The protest also pointed to the hardships in several parts of the country that have left many Afghans frustrated with Ghani’s government, a key partner of the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan.”
“Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is not very relevant now, although some Taliban have pledged allegiance to ISIS. As a result, ISIS has established a presence in eastern Afghanistan. ISIS refers to Afghanistan as the Khorasan Province. This is a name which Arabs used in the 7th century before invading the region and bringing Islam to what is now Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban admit that it was a mistake to harbor OBL and Al Qaeda in 1996. Had they (the Taliban) not done so, they would not have been subjected to the wrath and fury of the American forces. Consequently, they would still be in power in Afghanistan today.”
“Islamic State efforts to exploit chaos may have brought Saudi-backed forces and Iran-allied Houthis tentatively closer at peace talks in Yemen’s civil war, but a deal seems unlikely in time to avert collapse into armed, feuding statelets. Ferocious conflict along Yemen’s northern border between Saudi Arabia and Iran-allied Ansurallah, a Shi’ite Muslim revival movement also called the Houthis, defied two previous attempts to seal a peace. But a truce this year and prisoner exchanges mean hopes for a third round of talks are higher. The threat from an emerging common enemy may be galvanizing their efforts. Islamic State appears to be behind a dizzying uptick in suicide attacks and al Qaeda fighters continue to hold sway over broad swathes of the country that abuts Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter.”
“Mr. Mubarak’s legal limbo is a reflection of the curious place he occupies in Egyptian public life, five years after the heady protests that ended his long rule. Many Egyptians still despise him as the totemic symbol of the rampant cronyism and repression that plagued Egypt for decades. His incarceration is one of the last remaining victories for the leaders of the 2011 protests, many of whom are now languishing in Mr. Sisi’s jails. But others have started to look back on Mr. Mubarak’s rule with a twinge of bitter nostalgia, as a time of relative freedom compared with the harsh authoritarianism of Mr. Sisi’s rule.”
“A Palestinian man stabbed and slightly wounded a Jewish youth near the Old City’s Damascus Gate in east Jerusalem on Monday morning, before being overpowered and arrested by Border Police officers after a short pursuit on foot. The attacker, described by police as a resident of the West Bank in his 20s, was taken for questioning by the special investigation branch of the Jerusalem Police, Aharoni said. The victim, described as a haredi youth, was slightly wounded. He was treated by paramedics at the scene before being taken to Sha’arei Zedek Medical Center for further treatment.”
“Major world powers convening in Vienna on Monday said they were prepared to lift a UN arms embargo on Libya’s new unity government to help it secure control over the chaotic North African oil state. The West and Libya’s neighbors hope a new UN-backed government will be able to dislodge the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS) and prevent an influx of migrants from crossing the sea to Europe. ‘The key question is whether Libya remains a place where terrorism, criminal human smuggling and instability continues to expand, or if we are able, together with the government of national unity, to recover stability,’ said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, summing up the issues ahead of a meeting of top diplomats from 21 countries.”
“An ‘alarming’ number of illegal schools operating across the country could be putting hundreds of children at risk of ‘extremism and radicalisation.’ School regulators Ofsted have said they are ‘deeply alarmed’ by the number of suspected illegal school they’ve uncovered since January alone — with new cases being brought to their attention each week. The schools operate completely outside of Ofsted inspection rules, meaning they are free to operate exactly how they like, without any outside body regulating how and what children are being taught. In the last five months, Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw warned inspectors have identified up to 100 unregistred schools.”
“French authorities are investigating an Islamic State militant group (ISIS) propaganda video that shows two French-speaking children and claims that they participated in the executions of prisoners. A French judicial source told AFP news agency on Monday that Paris prosecutors have opened an inquiry into the 14-minute video, entitled ‘In my father’s footsteps,’ which shows the two children participating in weapons training, shooting at pictures of Vladimir Putin, Francois Hollande and Barack Obama, and the study of radical Islam. ‘Their identities have not been established at this stage and their nationality has not been confirmed,’ the source with knowledge of the inquiry told the news agency. The source added that French intelligence and counter-extremism authorities are carrying out the investigation.”
“‘The threat is alive and current. Another attempted attack is almost certain.’ For months, E.U. officials have faced criticism for failing to prevent the Paris and Brussels attacks, with many intelligence experts blaming the lack of information sharing. Away from the debate and out of the spotlight, the E.U’s law-enforcement agency Europol has quietly tried to piece together the terror threats, working out of its sleek, modern headquarters in the small Dutch capital of The Hague. Wainwright’s assessment is sobering, including that ‘several hundred’ battle-trained European jihadists are likely plotting further major attacks, and that his agency is supporting some 50 ongoing terrorist investigations.”
Arabic Language Clips
ISIS issued a new decision yesterday banning people from watching television ahead of Ramadan in the cities, towns and rural areas in the eastern Aleppo region, which is under the terror group’s control. ISIS’s statement, which was disseminated by many media activists in Aleppo, read “TV is prohibited ahead of Ramadan to allow full-time worship to Allah during the holy month of Ramadan.” It is noteworthy that ISIS controls a vast geographical area in the Aleppo province. Several days ago, ISIS issued a decision prohibiting TV-watching inside the houses in Deir ez-Zor. The violator could face a fine of up to 25,000 Syrian pounds ($114), in addition to confiscation of the TV set and imprisonment of the owner of the house.
Three months after the launch of a campaign to close all offices of the Muslim Brotherhood Group, which the Jordanian government has outlawed, the authorities closed on Sunday the group’s historical headquarters, which was originally inaugurated by King Abdullah I, the founding father of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The group described this move as being directed against the legacy of “Jordanians prior to the Brotherhood.” Authorities explained the closure of the headquarters by alleging it had been opened just recently by members of the Group. Amman Governor Khaled Abu Zaid stated that the closure came in accordance with Jordanian law, which regards the group as unlicensed. He noted that in recent days the authorities detected activity inside the headquarters, prompting its closure.
In December of last year, Muslim Brotherhood gangs started surfacing abroad. Their aim was to collect dollars from Egyptian expatriates at high rates in a bid to deprive Egypt of hard currency, raise the dollar exchange rate and result in a hike in prices of all commodities. This was the Muslim Brotherhood’s scheme to destabilize Egypt. At that time, some Egyptian circles came right out and rejected this information, claiming that it is a nonexistent conspiracy theory and that the Brotherhood is not as powerful as it is made out to be. However, more than five months later, the truth is out. Not only is the Brotherhood a partner in this scheme, but there are gangs associated with foreign intelligence agencies which seek to harm the Egyptian economy. Egyptian security forces have recently identified gangs smuggling thousands of pounds abroad.
Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court, headed by Judge Abdel Fattah Abu El-Leil, decided to postpone the appeal filed by the Ministers of Education and Justice, on the ruling to cancel the appropriation of funds owned by Brotherhood-affiliated “Oasis Language School.” The next session is scheduled for June 20th.
Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam attempted, in comments published Monday, to allay fears stemming from a new US law targeting the financial resources of Hezbollah. This comes after the Shiite group criticized the Central Bank of Lebanon for agreeing to such controls, which it described as part of the war being waged against it. In his statement Tammam cautioned against exploiting this issue for political posturing. The American law, which was approved in December 2015, threatens to prevent international funding for Hezbollah and imposes sanctions on anyone providing funding to Hezbollah. The law has sparked an unprecedented dispute between Hezbollah and the Central Bank. Note that the banking sector in Lebanon contributes about 6 percent to the GDP.
Source: The Conter Extremism Project