Eye on Extremism, May 19, 2016

Counter Extremism Project

Fox News: Expert: ISIS Shifting Focus To Soft Targets In Iraq [Video]

“Insight from former CIA analyst Tara Maller, spokesperson for the Counter Extremism Project”

Fox News: US Drone Strike Reportedly Kills Senior Al Qaeda Leader In Afghanistan

“The United States military killed a senior Al Qaeda leader Tuesday in an airstrike in Afghanistan’s southern Zabul Province, the local website Tolo News reported, citing a statement from Afghan special forces. The Al Qaeda commander killed in the airstrike was identified by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense as Mullah Mohammad Ali. The U.S. military confirmed a strike took place in the same location yesterday, but would not say whether a senior Al Qaeda leader was killed. ‘We can confirm that U.S. Forces conducted a counter-terrorism strike in the Shah Joyi district, Zabul province, May 17. For operational security reasons, we do not discuss the details of counter-terrorism operations,’ said the statement from Operation Resolute Support, the name for the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan.”

NPR: New Report Details The Horrors Of Life Under ISIS In Sirte, Libya

“Crucifixions, executions, food shortages, forced prayer: These are features of life in the ISIS stronghold of Sirte, Libya, according to a new Human Rights Watch report. ISIS has controlled Sirte since last August. The central Mediterranean city is the hometown of Libya’s former dictator Moammar Gadhafi and the site of some of the final battles of Libya’s 2011 revolution. Human Rights Watch interviewed 45 residents of the city for its report, which paints a vivid picture of how ISIS controls every aspect of life, ‘down to the length of men’s trousers, the breadth and color of women’s gowns, and the instruction students receive in state schools.’ In its new report, Human Rights Watch says it documented 28 other killings by ISIS in the Sirte area between mid-February 2015 and mid-February 2016.”

CNN: U.S. Special Forces Take The Fight To ISIS In Libya

“U.S. Special Forces and surveillance flights are operating on the ground and over Libya as the West moves to boost security operations in the country to bolster Libya’s increasingly desperate fight against ISIS. Surveillance flights over the country’s 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) coast have been in operation from the remote Sicilian island of Pantelleria for over a year, and Special Forces have recently increased their presence on the ground. Witnesses and Libyan officials told CNN they are in evidence near the city of Misrata, with an estimated dozen soldiers operating out of a base near the city. The U.S. presence in Libya was acknowledged by Pentagon officials in the past few days, who admitted groups of Special Forces were ‘meeting a variety of Libyans.’ The teams are said to be in action around the capital Tripoli, as well as Misrata and the east of the country.”

Time: Exclusive: ISIS Bombed Us With Chemical Weapons, Iraqi Police Say

“A police report obtained by TIME says that rockets fired by Islamic State militants on May 8 landed in Bashir, just south of the city of Kirkuk, releasing toxic gasses. The report also lists the names of 46 people wounded in the attack. The attack is the most recent in a series of alleged chemical attacks by ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. The assault also illustrates the immense difficulty ahead for Iraq’s rival armed forces as they attempt to reclaim and hold territory previously occupied by ISIS. Backed by the United States armed forces, the Iraqi national army and rival Kurdish and Shiite armed groups are engaged in a slow and grinding war to reassert control over the vast chunks of Iraqi territory that fell to ISIS during the jihadists’ lighting advance across the country in 2014. Even though the jihadists are in retreat, they maintain the ability to stage brutal attacks on combatants and civilians alike.”

Reuters: Saudi Arabia Says Time May Be Coming For “Plan B” On Syria

“Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did not abide with efforts to establish a truce across Syria country, alternatives would need to be looked at. ‘We believe we should have moved to a “Plan B” a long time ago,’ Adel al-Jubeir told reporters after a meeting of foreign governments in Vienna. The choice about moving to an alternative plan, the choice about intensifying the military support (to the opposition) is entirely with the Bashar regime. If they do not respond to the treaties of the international community…then we will have to see what else can be done.’”

The Wall Street Journal: Yemen Suspends Peace Talks With Shiite Rebels

“The Yemeni foreign minister on Tuesday announced the suspension of peace talks held in Kuwait with Shiite rebels after weeks of no progress, saying the rebels refuse to accept the legitimacy of the country’s internationally-recognized president. Abdul-Malik al-Mekhlafi said in a televised news conference that the rebels, known as Houthis, are pushing for the formation of a new government that would give them a share of power. ‘The talks are a waste of time and only used to amass forces of the militias,’ he said. The Houthis seized the capital, San’a, in September 2014, forcing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to eventually escape to Saudi Arabia. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched an extensive air campaign and eventual ground invasion to retake cities under Houthis control in southern Yemen. However, the campaign has failed to force them out of the capital and northern region, which is the rebels’ stronghold.”

BBC: Chibok Girls: Kidnapped Schoolgirl Found In Nigeria

“One of the missing Chibok schoolgirls has been found in Nigeria, the first to be rescued since their capture two years ago. Amina Ali Nkeki was found carrying a baby by an army-backed vigilante group on Tuesday in the huge Sambisa Forest, close to the border with Cameroon. She was with a suspected member of the Boko Haram Islamist group. In all, 218 girls remain missing after their abduction from a secondary school in north-east Nigeria in April 2014. The girls were taken by militants from Boko Haram. Amina, now 19, was reportedly recognised by a civilian fighter of the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), a vigilante group set up to help fight Boko Haram, and briefly reunited with her mother.”

The Guardian: Google Allo: New Messaging App Is Latest To Fight FBI Over Encryption

“Google on Wednesday became the latest major technology company to join a standoff with the FBI over encryption. Google isn’t the first Silicon Valley giant to offer a messaging app with strong encryption. Apple’s iMessage system uses it by default, and Facebook’s WhatsApp turned end-to-end encryption on by default this spring. But Google’s timing is important. The release comes just months after Apple’s high-profile court battle with the US government over encryption built into its iPhones. The FBI had wanted Apple to rewrite the software on a phone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters to help it retrieve data. Apple refused, and the bureau said it eventually found another way into the phone. Following that showdown, it was unclear if the tech industry would double down on strong encryption or begin to soften its stance.”

United States

Reuters: Fewer Foreign Fighters Joining Islamic State — Pentagon

“The number of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria has decreased sharply in the past year to about 200 a month, a U.S. military official said on Tuesday. That is a drastic decline from about a year ago when between 1,500 and 2,000 foreign fighters were joining the group in Iraq and Syria each month, said Air Force Major General Peter Gersten, deputy commander for operations and intelligence for the U.S.-led coalition, during a news briefing. Earlier this month, the State Department said the number of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria was lower than at any time in the past two years. Syria has become the main global incubator for a new generation of militants as Islamic State recruited as many 31,000 foreign fighters in the past 18 months, according to a report published by a former British spy chief last year.”

Syria

Reuters: Syrian Air Raids Kill 13 People In Western Town — Monitoring Group

“Air raids carried out by Syrian government warplanes killed at least 13 people from one family in a town in the west of the country on Wednesday, a monitoring group said. The air strikes hit the town of Rastan in Homs province and were part of a heavy bombardment in the area, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Eight children were among those killed, it said. Government warplanes have targeted Rastan and other towns and villages under rebel control in the area, which lies midway between the government-held cities of Hama and Homs.”

The Washington Post: Despite Supposed Withdrawal, Russia Building Up New Base In Syria, Pentagon Says

“Despite pledging to withdraw the majority of its forces from Syria in March, the Russian military remains firmly entrenched throughout the country and is even continuing to expand in some areas, the Pentagon said Wednesday. Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State, told reporters Tuesday that Russian capabilities are ‘almost identical’ to what they were before President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that his country’s forces would soon be returning home. He added that the Pentagon was also monitoring Russia’s build-up of a forward operating base near the ancient city of Palmyra.”

Reuters: Syrian Government Force, Hezbollah Allies Seize Town Near Damascus — Monitors

“Syrian government forces and allies including Lebanese Hezbollah fighters seized a strategic town southeast of Damascus from insurgents on Thursday, a monitoring group said. After heavy fighting in an assault by the government side, rebels were being driven out of the town of Deir al-Asafir in the Syrian capital’s Eastern Ghouta suburbs, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The town’s capture closed off a pocket of insurgent control in Eastern Ghouta, and could pave the way for further government advances in the region that has long been held by a number of rebel groups, Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said. Hezbollah fighters played a key role in the assault, he said, which took place near to where the group’s top military commander in Syria was recently killed by what it said was rebel shellfire. Hundreds of families were fleeing the area because of the intensity of the fighting, the Observatory said.”

Iraq

BBC: IS Conflict: Iraq Forces Retake Remote Western Town Of Rutba

“Iraqi government forces have regained control of a remote western town from the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says. Mr Abadi announced that counter-terrorism troops, backed by tribesmen and US-led coalition air strikes, had raised the Iraqi flag in central Rutba. Coalition spokesman Col Steve Warren said the small town, on the road to Jordan, had ‘outsized strategic value’. Some 200 militants who were based there put up little resistance, he added. The town, which is also near a key IS-controlled border crossing with Syria, was used by militants to stage operations further north and east in Iraq. The recapture of Rutba, 360km (225 miles) west of the capital Baghdad, is the latest victory for Iraqi government forces in the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar.”

Turkey

Reuters: Explosives That Killed 16 In Turkey Had Been Intended For Suicide Attack: Presidency

“Explosives that detonated in a village in southeastern Turkey last week, killing 16 people, had been intended for use in a suicide bombing in a city, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Wednesday. A truck carrying more than 15 tonnes of explosives blew up in a village near the city of Diyarbakir last Thursday. Kurdish militants were believed to have been transporting the explosives, security sources have said.”

Reuters: ‘Partial Improvement’ In Turkish Border Town Targeted By Islamic State: Spokesman

“The security situation in the Turkish border town of Kilis has improved partially, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Wednesday, after months of rocket fire from Syria killed 21 people there so far this year. Islamic State has repeatedly targeted Kilis, which hosts a large Syrian refugee population, since January, but no attacks have been reported in recent weeks. Kalin was speaking at a news conference.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Afghanistan Signs Draft Accord With Militant Leader

“Afghanistan signed a draft agreement with the Hezb-e-Islami militant group on Wednesday that the government hopes could lead to a full peace accord with one of the most notorious warlords in the insurgency. Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is a veteran of decades of Afghan war and rights groups have accused his group of widespread abuses, particularly during the civil war of the early 1990s, when he briefly served as prime minister. The United States has also linked the group to al Qaeda and the Taliban, and put Hekmatyar on its designated terrorist list. Hezb-e-Islami has played only a minor role in the Taliban-led insurgency in recent years and the deal is unlikely to have any immediate practical impact on security.”

Voice Of America: Afghanistan Disappointed In 4-Way Talks About Taliban

“Afghanistan is showing its anger at Pakistan by downgrading its representation to the international group trying to arrange peace talks with the Taliban. Kabul says Pakistan needs to honor its commitments to take action against militant groups operating from Pakistan. The groups include the Afghan Taliban and the lethal Haqqani network that Afghanistan and the United States say operate out of Pakistan to launch violent attacks in Afghanistan. ‘Any future QCG meetings with Pakistan will be held on the ambassador level,’ Dawa Khan Menapal, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s deputy spokesperson said. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, led his country’s delegation at Wednesday’s meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG). The delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai at previous meetings.”

Yemen

Newsweek: Kidnapped Indian Priest Alive In Yemen, Government Negotiating Release: Reports

“An Indian priest kidnapped in Yemen is safe in the war-torn country and New Delhi is in the last stages of negotiating his release, according to a government minister. Four gunmen had reportedly attacked a Catholic nursing home overseen by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity organization in March in the southern port city of Aden, where they kidnapped Uzhunnalil and killed 16 people, including four nuns. Media reports had claimed that the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) was behind the attack but no organization claimed responsibility.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Israel Navy Preparing For Hamas, Hezbollah Rocket And Missile Threats

“The navy is in the midst of intensive preparations to deal with a growing rocket and missile threat posed by Hamas and Hezbollah, a senior IDF officer revealed on Wednesday. Preparations include the installation of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’ C-Dome system, a sea-based version of the Iron Dome anti-rocket battery, on missile ships. A successful trial of the C-Dome occurred in February, the source said, when the defense system shot down three barrages of simulated Grad rockets fired by the IDF at a navy ship. All incoming threats were shot down, according to the source.”

The Times of Israel: 3 Indicted For Harboring Stabber After Jerusalem Attack

“Three residents of the Old City of Jerusalem were indicted over allegations that they had helped a Palestinian stabber evade capture by security forces earlier in May, police said Wednesday. Muhannad Muhtaseb, 20, stabbed a man in the back on a main street in the Old City on the night of May 2, injuring his elderly victim moderately. The attacker then fled from the scene resulting in a massive manhunt. Muhtaseb was eventually arrested the same night of his attack, the Israel Police said in a statement. Muhtaseb managed to evade police for hours after his attack due to the help of the three locals, police said.”

Newsweek: Palestinian President Warns Peace Failure Will ‘Bring ISIS’ To Israel And West Bank

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that the continued failure to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians will see the rise of support for radical jihadi groups in Israel and the West Bank. The Palestinian leader was holding a meeting with a group of politicians from Israel’s Meretz political party in the West Bank city of Ramallah when he warned about the threat of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front penetrating the Middle East region affected sporadically by overspill from the Syrian conflict. ‘If we don’t revive the peace process, the violence and radicalism from Syria will come here,’ Abbas said, one of the participants in the meeting told Israeli newspaper Haaretz. ‘The Islamic State and the Al-Nusra Front will reach Israel and the West Bank.’”

Libya

Reuters: Libya Forces Say Pushing Back Islamic State Fighters

“Forces loyal to Libya’s U.N.-backed unity government pushed Islamic State fighters back towards their stronghold of Sirte on Wednesday but lost more than 30 men, including seven killed in a car bombing, officials said. In a televised statement from the streets of Abu Grain, military spokesman Mohamed al-Gasri said the forces had ‘liberated’ the small town and two nearby villages after heavy fighting. Western powers are counting on the new government to unify Libya’s political and armed factions to take on Islamic State. The government arrived in Tripoli in late March and is still trying to establish its authority. Islamic State gained control over Sirte last year and has built up its most important base outside Syria and Iraq in the Libyan coastal city. However, it has struggled to hold on to territory elsewhere in Libya.”

Nigeria

The New York Times: Victims Of Boko Haram, And Now Shunned By Their Communities

“In northeastern Nigeria, the years of suffering under Boko Haram have upended the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, stealing something — or everything — from countless families. Now, a deep suspicion is raging against anyone who has lived alongside the group — even girls who were held hostage, repeatedly raped and left to raise infants fathered by their tormentors. Much of the anger stems from fear. Boko Haram has used dozens of women and girls — many not even in their teens — as suicide bombers in recent months, killing hundreds of people in attacks on places like markets and schools. Girls have even been sent to blow themselves up in a camp like this one.”

The New York Times: Can Boko Haram Be Defeated?

“Last December, Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria, declared that ‘technically we have won the war’ against Boko Haram, the insurgent group that has been terrorizing the country for seven years. Mr. Buhari’s comments came after the military dislodged Boko Haram from territory it had seized in 2014 and 2015. But five months later, it’s clear that the president’s pronouncement of victory was premature. Today, Boko Haram is no longer occupying large parts of Nigeria. Instead, it has morphed into a group of well-organized bandits. The military’s successes changed Boko Haram’s threat, but didn’t eliminate it. In fact, vanquishing the group may be a quixotic goal. But there are concrete ways Nigeria can minimize the menace posed by the militants. Boko Haram is unrecognizable from the proselytizing group it was 15 years ago, and from the semi-guerrilla army it was two years ago. With its fighters frequently being killed by the military, Boko Haram has resorted to mass kidnapping and extortion to replenish its ranks.”

United Kingdom

BBC: Would-Be IS Bride Jailed At Sheffield Crown Court For Terror Tweets

“A woman who said she wanted to marry ‘Jihadi John’ has been jailed for four years and six months for sharing so-called Islamic State propaganda. Zafreen Khadam, 32, was found guilty of 10 counts of disseminating terrorist publications after a trial at Sheffield Crown Court. She shared links to execution videos and terrorist magazines online under usernames such as PrincessKuffar. Prosecutors said Khadam, of Vincent Road, Sheffield, had ‘glorified’ IS. Barrister Simon Davis told jurors Khadam at one stage described Kuwaiti-born Mohammed Emwazi — nicknamed Jihadi John — as ‘kind of scary’ but said she ‘would marry him’. He told the court she set up 14 Twitter accounts and used Whatsapp to share videos, including one showing the beheading of Kurdish fighters and another of a Jordanian pilot being burned alive.”

CNN: The Queen Talks Extremism And Prison Reform In Britain’s Parliament

“Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II took a member of parliament hostage in her palace today before speaking in parliament to deliver the annual Queen’s Speech. If the 90-year-old monarch returns home in one piece, her hostage will be freed. It is just one of many centuries-old traditions surrounding the event to mark the start of the parliamentary year, in which Her Majesty delivers a speech written by the government, outlining its agenda. On extremism, the Conservatives want to give authorities power to close premises being used for extremists purposes, which could include mosques, and to gag those spreading hate speech, including broadcasters and other media disseminating extremist content.”

Germany

Independent: Erdogan Poem: Court Bans German Comedian Jan Böhmermann From Repeating Controversial Verses

“A German comedian has been banned from repeating parts of a controversial poem he wrote about the Turkish President. Jan Böhmermann’s poem about Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already threatened a diplomatic row between Ankara and Berlin and resulted in calls for him to be prosecuted. On Tuesday, the Hamburg state court granted Mr Erdogan an injunction allowing excerpts of the satirical poem not to be repeated. The court found it crossed the line between satirical criticism and pure abuse, but that six lines, including those on freedom of speech, were within the bounds of what is legally admissible.”

Deutsche Welle: Germany-US To Share More Counter-Terrorism Data

“German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson agreed Tuesday to reinforce their partnership in the fight against Islamist terrorism. At a press conference following their talks in Washington, the German minister said the two countries wanted to share more information, counter Islamist extremist propaganda online, and exchange data about refugees who may be planning attacks. ‘Terrorism is a threat to all of us. Therefore what we have to do …is to be steadfast and to cooperate internationally,’ de Maiziere said. The US has demanded a more intensive exchange of data following the Brussels attacks in March and the Paris attacks last November.”

Europe

CNBC News: Terror Forces Travel Industry To Overhaul Vacation Destinations

“The travel sector has had to ‘completely remix’ its vacation destinations following security problems and threats of terrorism, one of Europe’s biggest tour operators has told CNBC. The tourism industry has been badly hit by factors such as security and terrorism over recent years. Destinations such as Egypt and Turkey have lost enormous amounts of visitors, who are choosing to go to places such as Spain and the Caribbean instead. Continental Europe has also not been spared from loss of tourism following terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels in the past year.”

Reuters: Smugglers Made $5–6 Billion Off Migrants To Europe In 2015: Interpol

“People smugglers made over $5 billion from the wave of migration into southern Europe last year, a report by international crime-fighting agencies Interpol and Europol said on Tuesday. Nine out of 10 migrants and refugees entering the European Union in 2015 relied on ‘facilitation services’, mainly loose networks of criminals along the routes, and the proportion was likely to be even higher this year, the report said. About 1 million migrants entered the EU in 2015. Most paid 3,000–6,000 euros ($3,400-$6,800), so the average turnover was likely between $5 billion and $6 billion, the report said. To launder the money and integrate it into the legitimate economy, couriers carried large amounts of cash over borders, and smugglers ran their proceeds through car dealerships, grocery stores, restaurants or transport companies. The main organizers came from the same countries as the migrants, but often had EU residence permits or passports.”

Arabic Language Clips

Muslim Brotherhood

Albawabh News: Resumption Of The Trial Of 21 Defendants, Including (Adviser) Of Muslim Brotherhood Finance Minister In The (Special) Committees Of Giza

The North Cairo Criminal Court opened the trial Wednesday of 21 defendants, including Abdullah Shehata, adviser to Egypt’s former finance minister during the rule of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, in the case of the Brotherhood’s “Special Committees” in Giza. The Public Prosecution indicted them on several charges, including establishing an unlawful group in Giza Governorate, calling to disable the provisions of the Egyptian Constitution and laws, preventing state institutions and public authorities from performing their work, assaulting the personal freedoms of citizens, and harming national unity and social order. They are also accused of supplying the Brotherhood group with weapons, ammunition and explosives, in addition to funds necessary to carry out their objectives.

Al-Qaeda

Asharq Al-Awsat: Dens Of Al-Qaeda Terror In Mukalla Reveal The Huge Abundance Of Arms Held By The Organization, Including Tanks And Missiles

The campaign carried out by the Arab Coalition and Yemeni government forces to purge the city of Mukalla of al-Qaeda militants led to the discovery of a huge cache of heavy weapons, ammunition and powerful explosive materials. These weapons were hidden in government buildings. This indicates that “al-Qaeda” was planning to expand dramatically in Yemen and declare its statehood in the Arabian Peninsula. A reliable source within the Arab Coalition Forces confirmed that the latest campaign uncovered huge quantities of weapons hidden in several government buildings in Mukalla, including in the Department of Customs, Republican Palace, al Dhaba Seaport, a local hotel and the Governor’s residence.

Hezbollah

Ayloul: Central Bank Of Lebanon Demands Imposing US Sanctions On Hezbollah

The Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salameh, who is currently abroad, announced that he is scheduled to hold a series of meetings in European capitals to convey to banking agencies the commitment of the Lebanese government, as well as its banks, to international laws and rules of conduct. This commitment is primarily in the sphere of combating money laundering, terror financing and tax evasion. Salameh is also expected to continue to discuss, during this tour, the details of the US law against Hezbollah’s financial sources including mechanisms applied in Lebanon for this purpose. This law, which was approved last December, undertakes to prevent international funding for Hezbollah by imposing sanctions on any individual who provides any funding for the Shiite group. Salameh said in a statement, “We are aware of media statements related to the law in the United States known as the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act. [I wish to confirm] that the Central Bank is dealing with this law.”

Houthi

Yemen-24: This Is What Was Done By The Houthi Militia In The Capital To Restore The Value Of The Riyal

The Yemeni riyal is expected to recover today after a significant decline against the US dollar during the past few weeks. A private source in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa asserted that Houthi militia have acted against money changers in the capital, blaming them for the recent rise in the dollar rate. The Houthis have taken such action amid growing popular discontent resulting from the drastic depreciation of the riyal, which has doubled the prices of oil derivatives and food products.

Source: Counter Extremism Project

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