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Old 12-26-2018, 06:40 AM
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Arrow Eye on Extremism December 26, 2018

Eye on Extremism
December 26, 2018
RE: info@counterextremism.com

December 26, 2018

The New York Times: Militants Storm Afghan Offices In Kabul, Killing Dozens

“Militants stormed Afghan government offices in Kabul on Monday after setting off a car bomb, and officials said at least 43 people were killed. The attack lasted at least five hours and shattered a period of relative calm in the Afghan capital, which over the years has been subjected to deadly and audacious assaults by militants opposed to the American-backed government. It also came less than a week after President Trump reportedly instructed the Pentagon to prepare for the withdrawal of about half the American military contingent deployed in Afghanistan, an abrupt shift in policy that caught Afghan officials by surprise. The attack began late in the afternoon as employees were leaving an area that houses offices belonging to the Afghan Ministry of Public Works and the administration dealing with pensions for the families of people killed and disabled in Afghanistan’s long war. Nearly six hours after the militants entered the compound, security officials said the fighting had stopped, though clearance operations were still happening. The officials said they had managed to rescue about 350 workers stuck inside. “Around 3 p.m., a car bomb exploded in front of the office of Martyrs and the Disabled, and following that some attackers entered the building,” said Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for the Kabul police, referring to the aid ministry.”

CNN: ISIS Claims Deadly Bombing In Iraq

“Three people were killed and 13 others wounded when a car bomb exploded in an outdoor market in the city of Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq on Tuesday, according to Iraqi military Brig. Gen. Abdul Jabbar al-Darraji. The wounded were immediately evacuated to local hospitals and Iraqi security forces are investigating the incident, al-Darraji said. ISIS claimed responsibility for the explosion, saying the car bomb targeted Shiites in the city, but the group did not provide any evidence to support the claim. The terrorist group captured Tal Afar in June 2014, but the city was seized by Iraqi troops in August 2017. However, ISIS is still able to stage deadly attacks in various parts of Iraq.”

The New York Times: Pentagon Considers Using Special Operations Forces To Continue Mission In Syria

“The Pentagon is considering using small teams of Special Operations forces to strike the Islamic State in Syria, one option for continuing an American military mission there despite President Trump’s order to withdraw troops from the country. The American commandos would be shifted to neighboring Iraq, where an estimated 5,000 United States forces are already deployed, and “surge” into Syria for specific raids, according to two military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The strike teams are one of several options — including continued airstrikes and resupplying allied Kurdish fighters with arms and equipment — in a new strategy for Syria that the Pentagon is developing as officials follow the order Mr. Trump gave on Wednesday for a military drawdown even as it tries to maintain pressure on the Islamic State.”

Voice Of America: Death Toll From Somalia Blasts Rises To 30

“Authorities in Somalia say the death toll from Saturday's double explosions near the presidential palace in Mogadishu has climbed to 30. Mukhtar Dhaga-cadde, the director of public relations of the Benadir regional administration, said another 54 people were wounded. Saturday's first explosion targeted a security check point near the national theater, the rear entrance of the presidential palace. The second blast occurred nearby. Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for both attacks. A prominent Somali journalist was among those killed in the first explosion. Awil Dahir Salad, who was working for London-based Universal TV was the anchor of a popular show “Dood Wadaag” Among those killed in the second explosion was a young man, Feisal Salad Samow, who survived the first bombing, but only to die in the second blast. Five minutes before the second blast, Samow posted his status on Facebook saying “Thank God, I passed through the site of the first explosion five minutes ago, and I Pray for the victims” but Samow was confirmed to have died in the second explosion. His Facebook message went viral throughout social media sites, where thousands of Somalis around the world have shown sympathy and sent their condolences. His close friend, Mahad Ahmed Hassan told VOA that Samow had already lost two of his family members to terrorist attacks in the past two years.”

Time: Fugitive Extremist Accused Of Organizing 2015 Charlie Hebdo Attack Charged With Terrorism

“French authorities handed preliminary terrorism charges Sunday to a fugitive extremist who is suspected of fighting U.S. forces in Iraq and helping to organize the 2015 shooting attack at satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people. Peter Cherif, who recently was arrested in the former French colony of Djibouti and expelled to France, was immediately taken into custody and charged upon his arrival Sunday at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, the Paris prosecutor’s office said. Cherif is accused of criminal association with a terrorist enterprise. France’s defense minister says he played an “important role in organizing” the Charlie Hebdo attack, though his specific actions were unclear. He embodies a generation of French Muslim youths who traveled to war zones from Afghanistan and Iraq to Yemen and Syria. Cherif traveled to Iraq in the early 2000s and was arrested in Fallujah in 2004 and held for 19 months by U.S. troops. Cherif, also known as Abu Hamza, later traveled to Yemen, where he was believed to have joined Al-Qaida’s fighters there. Until last week’s arrest in Djibouti, Cherif had been on the run from French authorities since 2011, when he disappeared just before a Paris court sentenced him to five years in prison on terrorism charges for fighting as an insurgent in Iraq.”

Business Insider: Expert Says It's Hard To Protect The Popular Tourist Area Of Morocco Where 2 Scandinavian Women Were Recently Killed — And It's Become Easier For ISIS To Operate There

“After two Scandinavian women were killed while hiking in Morocco, an expert on Islamist movements has said it's hard to protect tourist-heavy regions from ISIS. The four men suspected of killing Louisa Jespersen, 24, of Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, of Norway, in Morocco's High Atlas mountains pledged their allegiance to ISIS earlier in a recorded video, the country's general prosecutor said on Thursday. According to a report from the Counter Extremism Project, Moroccan security forces have disrupted a number of ISIS-linked cells since as early as 2014. The country has faced fewer terror attacks in the last 15 years than its North African neighbors Algeria, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Tunisia, the Counter Extremism Project said.”

United States

CNBC: Days Before He Resigned, US Envoy Brett McGurk Warned That ISIS Will Take Years To Defeat

“Just days before submitting his resignation, U.S. special envoy Brett McGurk, who heads the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State, said in an exclusive interview that putting an end to ISIS will be a long-term, multiyear effort. “We’re on track now over the coming months to defeat what used to be the physical space that ISIS controlled,” McGurk told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble. “That will not be the end of ISIS.” The conversation with McGurk took place on Dec. 15 at a security forum in Doha, Qatar. Just four days later, President Donald Trump would declare the Islamic State defeated and announce the withdrawal of all U.S. forces fighting ISIS from Syria. “Nobody is naive,” McGurk said less than a week before Trump’s decision. “The small clandestine cells, the individual terrorist attacks, will remain a threat for some time. That is why we have to remain together as a global coalition to keep the pressure on.” McGurk submitted his resignation on Friday, effective Dec. 31, a State Department official said on Saturday. A person familiar with the matter said McGurk quit because he objected to President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out U.S. troops from Syria, a decision followed by the resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis a day later.”

CBS News: Mattis Signs Order To Withdraw Troops From Syria

“After being overruled by the White House, outgoing Secretary of Defense James Mattis signed an order on Monday to commence the withdrawal of the roughly 2,000 American troops fighting ISIS in Syria, CBS News confirmed. Citing strong rifts with President Trump's foreign policy agenda and his treatment of historic U.S. allies, Mattis announced on Thursday that he would be leaving his post in February. Mr. Trump, however, said Sunday that the Pentagon chief would depart by Jan. 1 and be replaced by his deputy and longtime Boeing executive, Patrick Shanahan. The White House's abrupt decision to order the full departure of U.S. ground forces in Syria on Wednesday provoked a flurry of criticism from Republicans and Democrats. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, called it a "colossal" mistake, while Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said it was "a sign of American weakness.”

Syria

The Wall Street Journal: ‘They’re All Thieves’: Navigating Syria’s Checkpoint Shakedowns

“On a warm October morning, Mona al-Mukhlif set out with her life’s possessions for the city of Raqqa to live with her two children. Several roadside checkpoints later, not one-third of the way there, she was nearly out of money and stranded. “I’m stuck here until someone has pity on me,” said Ms. Mukhlif, who is 55, sitting on a rock by the side of the road surrounded by pots and pans, foam mattresses and a baby carriage. “They’re all thieves.” Syria’s nearly eight-year war has gutted the country’s economy. Inflation has soared and output has fallen. Factories and industrial zones have been reduced to rubble. Three-quarters of working age Syrians are either unemployed or inactive, the World Bank said last year. But roadside extortion is still booming. The business has become an enduring feature of Syria’s wartime economy, with pro-government soldiers and militias as well as antiregime rebels exploiting insecurity to justify their checkpoints, where bribe-taking and kidnapping are rife. The most lucrative ones—often taking advantage of the humanitarian need arising from a battle or siege—are sometimes referred to as millionaire checkpoints.”

Reuters: U.S.-Led Coalition Reports Recent Air Strikes On ISIS In Syria

“The U.S.-led coalition in Syria conducted air strikes last week that destroyed facilities used by Islamic State, the coalition said on Tuesday, less than a week after President Donald Trump declared victory over the militant group and said he would withdraw U.S. troops from the war-torn country. The coalition said its attacks during the week of Dec. 16-22, including air strikes and “coordinated fires,” had destroyed logistics facilities and staging areas used by Islamic State, damaged the group’s ability to finance its activities and “removed several hundred ISIS fighters from the battlefield.” “ISIS presents a very real threat to the long-term stability in this region and our mission remains the same, the enduring defeat of ISIS,” said UK Major General Christopher Ghika, the deputy commander of the coalition. ISIS is a commonly used acronym referring to Islamic State. That statement presents a contrast to Trump’s declaration last week that U.S. troops had succeeded in their mission to defeat Islamic State and were no longer needed in the country. News of the withdrawal drew immediate criticism from some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, who said that leaving would strengthen the hand of Russia and Iran, which both support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

The Wall Street Journal: Turkey Amasses Troops, Tanks On Syria Border As It Plans To Take Over ISIS Fight

“Turkey sent more troops and tanks to its border with Syria, state media reported, continuing to amass along Kurdish-held areas after President Trump said Ankara would take over the fight against Islamic State there. The president last week abruptly ordered a U.S. troop withdrawalfrom Syria, triggering concerns that the move could allow the extremist group to rebuild. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria.…and he is a man who can do it plus, Turkey is right “next door,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter late Sunday, using an acronym for the militant group. Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Mr. Erdogan, said on Monday that a U.S. military team will come to Turkey this week to coordinate the handover. A senior Trump administration official said on Sunday that the idea is for there to be close coordination between the U.S. and Turkish military. The chairman of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joe Dunford, has talked with his Turkish counterpart, the official said, adding that such consultations are expected to continue down the chain of command on each side. But despite an agreement that appears to repair fraying U.S.-Turkish ties, competing interests of other foreign powers in Syria threaten to upend the plan, as does Turkey’s ability and willingness to fully replace the U.S. mission.”

Xinhua: Kurdish-Led Forces Capture 262 IS Militants Trying To Flee Eastern Syria

“The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) rounded up 262 Islamic State (IS) militants who tried to flee among civilians out of their last stronghold in eastern Syria, a war monitor reported Tuesday. The civilians tipped off the SDF militia about the IS militants who were trying to leave the eastern bank of the Euphrates River in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zour Province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Around 5,500 civilians have fled the last IS bastion in the eastern Euphrates since the United States declared its decision to withdraw from Syria last week, the London-based watchdog said. The incident comes as the SDF is advancing against the IS in the eastern Euphrates, the Observatory added. The U.S.-backed SDF fighters launched an offensive against the IS in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zour in September, and has continued its anti-IS battles despite the threats of a Turkish campaign that would target the Kurdish militia. The SDF militants are regarded by Ankara as terrorists over their links with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the EU. The Observatory said the Turkish forces continue to send reinforcements to the frontline with the SDF near the Kurdish-controlled city of Manbij in the northern countryside of Aleppo.”

The Guardian: Arab League Set To Readmit Syria Eight Years After Expulsion

“Gulf nations are moving to readmit Syria into the Arab League, eight years after Damascus was expelled from the regional bloc over its brutal repression of peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad. At some point in the next year it is likely Assad will be welcomed on to a stage to once again take his place among the Arab world’s leaders, sources say. Shoulder to shoulder with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and Egypt’s latest autocrat, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the moment will mark the definitive death of the Arab spring, the hopes of the region’s popular revolutions crushed by the newest generation of Middle Eastern strongmen. Syria was thrown out of the Arab League in 2011 over its violent response to opposition dissent, a move that failed to stem the bloodshed that spiralled into civil war.”

NPR: 'We Will Curse Them As Traitors': Syrian Kurds React To U.S. Troop Withdrawal Plan

“The green landscape of rural northeastern Syria is home to wild ducks and donkeys, villagers tending cattle — and U.S. military bases housing 2,200 troops. American soldiers patrol the countryside in armored vehicles and hover overhead in Black Hawk helicopters. In the Kurdish-majority area known as Rojava, towns are bursting with Christmas decorations. Holiday lights adorn almost every main street in the city of Qamishli, whose diverse population includes many Christians, and shops are selling tinsel and plastic trees. But President Trump's sudden decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria has overshadowed most of this year's celebrations. Syrians who have made the U.S. troops feel welcome here say they are shocked and upset by the news. Some are calling it a "stab in the back." This is the part of Syria where U.S. troops have backed up local fighters in forcing ISIS out of nearly all the nearby cities and towns they once held. The Syrians — led by Kurdish fighters — have lost thousands in the fight, and some feel their sacrifices aren't being acknowledged or repaid.”

The Washington Post: Syria’s Once-Teeming Prison Cells Being Emptied By Mass Murder

“As Syria’s government consolidates control after years of civil war, President Bashar al-Assad’s army is doubling down on executions of political prisoners, with military judges accelerating the pace they issue death sentences, according to survivors of the country’s most notorious prison. In interviews, more than two dozen Syrians recently released from the Sednaya military prison in Damascus described a government campaign to clear the decks of political detainees. The former inmates said prisoners are being transferred from jails across Syria to join death-row detainees in Sednaya’s basement and then be executed in pre-dawn hangings. Yet despite these transfers, the population of Sednaya’s once-packed cells — which at their peak held an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 inmates — has dwindled largely because of the unyielding executions, and at least one section of the prison is almost entirely empty, the former detainees said.”

The National: Extremism Must Not Be Allowed To Take Hold Again In The Region

“As the US announced its plan to withdraw 2,000 troops from Syria, US-backed troops were fighting ISIS militants trying to recapture Hajin in the east of the country – just further proof, if any were needed, that Donald Trump’s premature exit comes while the extremists still pose a serious threat. Indeed, as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said, the withdrawal could lead to a resurgence of ISIS and give “terrorism the momentum to recover and conduct a terrorist campaign in the region”. It is into this volatile breach that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stepped, declaring he will lead the fight against the remaining ISIS fighters in Syria. As a member of the 79-nation Global Coalition, Turkey does indeed carry some responsibility for countering and dismantling ISIS’s ambitions. But it has not always proven itself capable of rising to the task. Its laissez-faire attitude to monitoring border cities enabled thousands of fighters to cross with ease into Syria before a clampdown in 2015 – too little, too late. But it is the Kurds whose fate really hangs in the balance, not the extremists who united nations in a co-opted battle against hatred and a poisonous ideology. Until now, it has only been a US presence that prevented Turkey from an all-out assault on Kurdish-led opposition groups. Ankara has long sought to weaken their positions and now has carte blanche to target factions it blames for leading a separatist movement.”

Iran

The National: US Aircraft Carrier Trailed By Iranian Boats As It Enters Arabian Gulf

“Iran's Revolutionary Guard launched war games near the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, a day after its boats shadowed the US aircraft carrier John C Stennis through the strategic waterway. State TV said the annual war games dubbed "The Great Prophet" would see Guard forces use combat helicopters and drones around Qeshm Island at the mouth of the strait. About 30 Revolutionary Guard boats trailed the US John C Stennis and its strike force on Friday as it sailed through the strait into the Arabian Gulf. Guards speedboats fired rockets but a US Navy spokeswoman said they were pointed away from US vessels. "We believe it was part of their naval exercise," said Lt Chloe Morgan, a spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet. Iran's Fars news agency tweeted footage of the Guard vessels trailing the carrier.”

Reuters: Iran Says U.S. Presence In Syria Was A Mistake From The Start

“Iran said that the U.S. military presence in Syria had been “a mistake, illogical and a source of tension”, in Tehran’s first reaction to President Donald Trump’s planned pull-out. Trump has begun what will be a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, saying on Wednesday they had succeeded in their mission to defeat Islamic State and were no longer needed in the country. “From the start, the entry and presence of American forces in the region has been a mistake, illogical and a source of tension, and a main cause of instability,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state media on Saturday. Trump said in a tweet on Thursday that “Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy” about the planned U.S. withdrawal.”

The Wall Street Journal: As Economy Withers, Iran Imposes Harsh Crackdown On Fraud

“As its economy buckles, Iran is zealously cracking down on financial fraud. Central to its efforts is a fast-track fraud court approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in August that has sentenced dozens of people, including some 50 men this month, to up to 20 years for paying bribes, embezzlement and damaging the economy. In November, authorities executed two men accused of smuggling foreign currency and manipulating the gold-coin market, the Iranian judiciary’s news service reported. Officials arrested local Toyota and Renault executives on unspecified fraud charges and a Chinese car importer accused of failing to deliver purchased cars. And this year they have arrested hundreds of foreign-exchange dealers for black-market dealing, the judiciary said. On Saturday, a man was executed after his conviction on charges of bank and commercial fraud related to the road-tar trade. Precise numbers of the penalties are difficult to assess due to the opacity of Iran’s justice system and a lack of regular updates from officials.”

The New York Times: British-Iranian Scholar Returns Home After Detention

“A prominent British-Iranian scholar detained in Iran since April has returned to Britain, according to an advocacy organization he helped found. The scholar, Abbas Edalat, a professor of computer science and mathematics at Imperial College London, was taken into custody by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on April 15 while in Tehran to visit family and attend an academic workshop. He is a founder of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran. The group said in a statement on Saturday that Mr. Edalat had come home earlier in the week. It did not specify the reasons for his detention or release but suggested that the Iranian authorities had concluded they may have erred in holding him. “It increasingly appears, as we had suspected, that his detention in spring in Iran was a case of misinformation and misunderstanding by the Iranian security apparatus,” the group said.”

Iraq

Reuters: Christmas Revived In A Village Devastated By Islamic State

“The one family still living in a Christian village devastated by Islamic State is working to revive Christmas traditions that have brought at least a few of its people home for the holiday. Tel Nasri was one of dozens of Assyrian Christian villages in northern Syria targeted by the jihadist group when it was near the peak of its power. They blew up its 80-year-old church on an Easter Sunday and abducted hundreds of people. Kurdish forces and local fighters seized the village a few months later, in May 2015, but nobody has returned. “I was born and raised in Tel Nasri, I’m still here and I’m staying,” said Sargon Slio, 51, a farmer who stayed on with only his brother and two cousins. Before the fighting, the village was home to nearly 1,000 people, he said. Some 265 Assyrians were kidnapped from Tel Nasri, Slio said, and on their release, like the rest of the villagers, they fled. “There used to be hundreds of people celebrating. You’d see dancing and hear singing. Everyone decorated the houses and Christmas trees,” Slio said. “Now we are four people.” His mother, Zekta Benjamin, 73, has returned from Belgium for Christmas - the second time since she left in 2015. Another relative has come from Australia. ”I miss a lot the life of the village and my neighbors and relatives and everything in this place,” said the mother of 11, most of whom now are in Europe and the United States.”

Al Arabiya: Kurdistan Regional Government Hands Over 1,400 ISIS Detainees To Iraqi Govt

“After forming a joint judicial committee, Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) handed over about 1,400 detainees belonging to ISIS to the federal government in preparation for the extradition of more. Dindar Zebari, the KRG coordinator for international advocacy said in a press release that Erbil has begun handing over detainees to Baghdad, adding that they were mostly from the governorates of Anbar, Saladin, Diyala and al-Hawija. Zebari stated that the joint committee was formed with the federal government to tackle this issue, adding that all the detained individuals were investigated, but no court ruling was carried out against them by the KRG’s judiciary. Zebari said that the KRG’s processes with the arrests are clear, indicating that the investigations are based on evidence, in addition to confessions by the accused, unlike what the Human Rights Watch reported, which is that the arrests are based on forced confessions, not hard evidence. In a report published on Sunday, the Human Rights Watch said that Arab detainees serving their sentences in the Kurdistan region for their connection to ISIS face the risk of re-arrest after their release if they try to reunite with their families in areas controlled by Baghdad.”

Kurdistan 24: Coalition Warplanes Strike Islamic State Positions Near Kifri, Tooz: Source

“A Peshmerga source on Tuesday said US-led coalition warplanes struck Islamic State (IS) positions in areas between the provinces of Diyala and Salahuddin. The bombardments took place near a village on the borders of the two districts of Tooz and Kifri – part of Salahuddin and Diyala provinces, respectively, the source, stationed in Kifri, told Kurdistan 24. They could not confirm the number of casualties in the attacks. Other targets of the shelling were areas which coalition warplanes had struck earlier in December and killed 11 IS militants. Despite the liberation of IS-held territories, the extremist group is reorganizing and taking advantage of ongoing instability to refocus its insurgent campaign against the Iraqi government. The group’s attacks, kidnappings, ambushes, and use of explosives considerably increased in the country since the end of 2017, when Iraq declared final victory against IS. The insurgency intensified after the attack and military takeover by Iraqi forces and Shia militias over Kirkuk and other disputed territories in October of last year, driving out the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Since then, there has been a substantial security vacuum as a result of the lack of military and security cooperation between Erbil and Baghdad.”

Kurdistan 24: Islamic State Kidnaps 19 People In Two Separate Attacks Outside Kirkuk

“Members of the Islamic State (IS) stormed into several villages on the outskirts of Iraq’s disputed province of Kirkuk, kidnapping at least 19 people, a local security source said on Tuesday. This is the latest move by the jihadist group in southern and southwestern villages of the oil-rich province, areas where officials and residents have been warning that the group’s activities are on the rise. On Monday evening, IS militants broke into the villages of al-Mubadad and Zuba’ Jadida on the outskirts of the town of Rashad and kidnapped about 16 people, the security source told Kurdistan 24 on condition of anonymity. Among the abductees is the new head of the Zuba’ Jadida village, he said. IS often targets local leaders known as mukhtars, accusing them of collaborating with security forces and other Iraqi authorities. Following the abduction, the jihadist group in an online statement claimed responsibility for the attacks in the area, part of the Sunni-majority city of Hawija. A local resident stated that similar abductions took place in the area last week, but local police stations said that they had not been notified. Another source said that most of those kidnapped were taken to “Zaghitun Valley,” a vast area that Iraqi forces announced had been cleared from IS sleeper cells earlier in the year. According to witnesses, IS fighters also attacked the village of Jinklau in the vicinity of Daquq district, kidnapping three ethnically Kurdish residents.”

Turkey

The Wall Street Journal: For Turkey, U.S. Exit From Syria Is An Opportunity—And A Risk

“President Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops from east Syria, transferring the region to Turkish military control, goes beyond the wildest expectations of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. For Mr. Erdogan, this may also turn into an example of the need to be careful what you wish for. Turkey, which was angling to seize from U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces a much more modest swath of land along its southern frontier, could now become the pivotal power in Syria, establishing a protectorate over a vast and oil-rich territory. Already, Mr. Erdogan is seeing his ambitions for regional leadership validated by the White House, as Turkey turns from the target of frequent American criticism (and even economic sanctions) to an indispensable partner in Syria and beyond. Mr. Trump even accepted an invitation from Mr. Erdogan to visit Turkey in 2019. “It will be a game-changer for the region if the U.S. and Turkey were to start working as partners with each other,” said Hassan Hassan, a Syria specialist at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington. “If the U.S. wants to do something about Iran, it needs a partner in the Middle East—and this partner is Turkey, not Saudi Arabia.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: Death Toll Rises To 43 In Attack On Two Afghan Ministries

“The death toll from an attack Monday on two government office buildings by heavily armed men rose to 43 people, Public Health Ministry officials said Tuesday. Scores of government workers were trapped inside their offices in a densely populated area of the Afghancapital during a 10-hour firefight, punctuated by a series of blasts, and government troops did not manage to kill the last assailant until just before dawn Tuesday. “The toll may go up as we are still evacuating casualties,” Public Health Ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh said. Scores of people were wounded in the attack. Majroh said most of the victims were employees of the Public Works Ministry and the Ministry for Martyrs and Disabled Persons, which provides services to thousands of war veterans and others affected by conflict. Among the dead were 11 women who worked in those facilities. No armed group has asserted responsibility for the attack, the first major violent assault in the capital since last month, when a terrorist bomber killed more than 50 people who had gathered in a hotel to celebrate the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. Taliban insurgents denied any involvement in the Monday attack. “What is the justification for targeting civilian offices and killing people who are helping the disabled and martyrs’ families?” shouted a man named Shamsullah, who lives near that ministry.”

The New York Times: To Curb Taliban, Afghan President Replaces Security Chiefs

“At a critical stage of Afghanistan’s long war, President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday appointed two staunch anti-Taliban veterans to head the country’s army and police forces, a major shake-up of the security leadership. Mr. Ghani chose Assadullah Khalid as the minister of defense and Amrullah Saleh as the minister of interior. Both men, close allies of the United States military, are former spy chiefs who have been vocal critics of Mr. Ghani’s politics and what they have described as his government’s mismanagement of the war. The decision comes at a time when the Afghan army and police have been dying in record numbers in the face of a resurgent Taliban and as President Trump reportedly plans to cut in half the number of American troops advising and assisting the Afghan forces. The United States is also urgently pushing for a negotiated peace with the Taliban, and the Afghan government — which has felt marginalized in the process — is eager to show that it can sustain military pressure, strengthening its hand in any talks. It is a delicate moment politically as well as militarily. Mr. Ghani is running for re-election next spring and the maneuvering for that race is already in full swing. Fatullah Qaisari, a member of the defense committee of the Afghan Parliament, said the expertise of the president’s two new appointees could be used to to ensure the Taliban do not further their gains ahead of any peace talks.”

TOLO News: Taliban Gains $1.5b From Drugs, Mines Annually: Report

“A report by the BBC shows that Taliban annually earns more than $1.5 billion from drug dealing, illegal mining, collecting electricity bills and financial support from a number of countries. The report said that this year Taliban’s financial resources and the money they get from these resources have increased against previous years. According to the report, from 2015 onwards, it was mostly estimated that Taliban yearly were earning around $400 million. ”This war is a war from outside. Today, you know, that the militants are supported from many sources such as drugs, drug smugglings, access to customs and support from different countries,” said Dadullah Qane, deputy head of the National United Party of Afghanistan. The report says Taliban yearly earns from $100 million to $400 million from drugs and taxes; $50 million from mines extractions and $500 million from Iran, Pakistan, Russia and gulf countries which are the biggest supporters of Taliban. A number of military affairs analysts said the intelligence and investigative departments have failed to detect the income sources of the Taliban and prevent the group from receiving the money. ”If this is correct, then it means that fighting the Taliban will become difficult for the countries,” said Hussain Talash, a political affairs analyst. “Our intelligence and investigative departments are very weak. They cannot detect the weaponry and financial resources of the Taliban,” said Miagul Khalid, a military affairs analyst.”

CBC News: Aid Agencies Under Threat In Afghanistan As Taliban Attempts To Tax Them

“The Taliban in Afghanistan are becoming what one think-tank calls a “government in waiting,” taxing individuals in the provinces and extending a kind of regulatory jurisdiction over medical clinics and other public institutions. Now they are attempting to tax and control the activities of NGOs, including international aid agencies, such as those removing mines in the Afghan countryside. A July report sponsored by the Overseas Development Institute details the group's evolution from an insurgency that attacked and disrupted services to what it calls “a government in waiting.” It says the Taliban are collecting electricity revenues in at least seven provinces and cites its influence in the health, education and justice sectors. The Taliban have their own tax collectors, demanding the zakat that requires Muslims to donate a portion their income to the poor. They also collect Oshr — or a percentage of crops or profit from farmers, workers or businesses. The report says that: “Taliban taxes are not arbitrary, although they do vary and are open to negotiation. They are designed to make the Taliban look like a state.” While taxes on individuals, including ones who work on aid projects, have been regularly collected for some time, the Taliban appear to be turning to international funding as a new revenue stream, going after aid projects.”

Yemen

Arab News: Houthis Committed More Than 138 Violations Since Cease-Fire Deal

“The Iranian-backed Houthi militia has committed more than 138 violations since a cease-fire agreement, said Arab coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki. Addressing a weekly press conference in Riyadh on Monday, he said the Houthis are blocking entry of aid ships to Yemen’s Saleef port near Hodeidah. A cease-fire between Yemen’s warring parties went into effect on Dec. 13 in the strategic port city of Hodeidah. The cease-fire was reached in Stockholm after a round of UN-sponsored talks — the first direct talks in more than two years between representatives of Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Houthis. The besieged rebel-held port city is an entry point for 70 percent of foreign humanitarian aid into the country, according to the UN, which has described Hodeidah as a “lifeline” for Yemen’s war-ravaged population.”

Saudi Arabia

The Wall Street Journal: The Saudis Want Peace In Yemen

“The Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen made critical compromises in peace talks this month, agreeing to retreat from the key city of Hodeidah and release a stranglehold that has blocked aid from reaching millions. Now the hard part: ensuring the Houthis live by their commitments. I found renewed hope in the scenes of amity between representatives of Yemen’s legitimate government and the Houthis. The two sides, locked in conflict since the Houthis’ violent coup in 2014, sat down for eight days of negotiation at a castle near Stockholm. They shook hands, smiled, broke bread. Most significant, they struck agreements that could dramatically improve the lives of Yemenis, and advance peace, security and stability. Hodeidah is a key part of the puzzle. Under United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths’ deal, the Houthis are to pull back from the port and city, restoring the government’s authority. The U.N. will play a leading role in the port to improve the flow of aid to Yemeni civilians. The Houthis will have a harder time exploiting Hodeidah to smuggle arms, abuse aid workers, extort civilians, and divert humanitarian assistance.”

Qatar

Conservative Review: Democrat Congressmen Take Clandestine Weekend Trip To Qatar

“Several Democrat members of Congress flew to Doha, Qatar, over the weekend to attend the annual Doha Forum and meet with members of the Qatari regime. But if you’re a constituent or observer, it’s as if the trip never happened. Conservative Review has found that Democrat Reps. Donald Norcross (N.J.), Dan Kildee (Mich.), Jim Hines (Conn.), Dr. Ami Bera (Calif.), Brendan Boyle (Penn.), and Andre Carson (Ind.) all attended the weekend’s Doha Forum. This information was only found thanks to Qatari state media and a single Twitter post by Ben Smith, the editor of BuzzFeed, which was a sponsor for the Doha Forum. In addition to the Democrat representatives, the Doha forum was populated by a disturbing number of radical activists and the leaders of terror-tied countries. The Security Studies Group wrote a short piece on who I found attended the Doha Forum. Speakers included Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, an ISIS-tied Turkish official, and a radical anti-Semitic Columbia University professor, to name a few.”

Lebanon

Newsweek: Hezbollah Leaders Targeted, Reportedly Hit In Israeli Airstrike, U.S. Official Says

“Several leaders of Hezbollah have reportedly been hit by an Israeli airstrike on the Syrian capital of Damascus. The information was given to Newsweek from a Department of Defense source with access to the information from Israeli senior military officers with direct knowledge of the attack. Israel's air strike was conducted minutes after the leaders boarded a plane bound for Iran. Several Iranian ammunition supply points were also a target of the bombing, the source said. The supply points contained valuable, GPS-guided ammunition from 2017, some of the best available to the Iranian army and Hezbollah. Syrian military confirmed via Syrian state media that an arms depot was hit in the attack and that three soldiers were wounded, Reuters reports. “Our air defenses confronted hostile missiles launched by Israeli war planes from above the Lebanese territories and downed most of them before reaching their targets,” the military source said. However, Israeli military did not confirm any air raids had taken place, instead saying that the country's response was a defensive maneuver. “An aerial defense system was activated against an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” a military spokesperson said in a statement reported by The Associated Press. However, the U.S. official who spoke to Newsweek said that Israel initiated the attack. The attack comes six days after President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw 2,000 troops from Syria.”

Egypt

News 24: Egypt Says Its Security Forces Killed 14 Militants In Sinai

“Egypt says its security forces have killed 14 militants in separate shootouts in the city of el-Arish in the turbulent north of the Sinai Peninsula. A Sunday statement said eight militants were killed when security forces stormed the hideout of a “terrorist cell” in a remote part of el-Arish. The forces later gave chase to six more militants who fled the scene, killing all of them in a shootout. The statement did not say when the shooting happened or provide other details. Egypt has for years been battling Islamic militants in northern Sinai. The militants grew more deadly and their attacks more frequent after the 2013 ouster of an Islamist president. However, an all-out campaign by the military this year has brought to a halt high-profile attacks by the militants.”

Egypt Today: 4 Hasm Elements Detained Over Planning Terror Attacks In Christmas

“The State Security Prosecution ordered the detention of four individuals of Hasm terrorist movement for 15 days upon investigations over charges of planning to commit hostile acts in conjunction with the New Year's celebrations and the Copts' feasts. The Interior Ministry stated on Thursday that information was received by the Egyptian security forces regarding a movement by Hasm, as a Muslim Brotherhood’s right arm, to carry out several attacks against tourist facilities, public buildings, Armed Forces and police during Christmas celebrations. Security forces arrested the terrorist elements at a hideout in Salam City, Cairo. Accordingly, a number of checkpoints were put in place to ensure the fugitives are caught, including Muslim Brotherhood member Ibrahim Reda Ibrahim Metwaly Khedr, who was found and killed on site after he opened fire on security forces. Upon searching, security forces found in his possession a false identity card, a 9-mm gun, a significant number of bullets, an explosive device, and materials and tools that are used to create explosive devices. Also, a number of terrorists have taken refuge in an apartment in Salam City. When security forces raided the apartment, they found four Muslim Brotherhood fugitives, including Salah el-Din Hamed Moussa Manaa Mugawer, Amr Ayman Mohamed Aly, Mohamed Gamal Mohamed Aly Mostafa, and Sayed Mahmoud Abdel-Ghany Abdel-Meguid.”

Libya

New York Post: Suspected ISIS Militants Carry Out Deadly Attack In Libya

“Three suspected ISIS militants stormed the Libyan foreign ministry in the capital of Tripoli on Tuesday, killing at least three people – including a prominent militia leader — and wounding 21 others, according to reports. The suicide bombers first detonated a car bomb and then rushed into the building, where one blew himself up on the second floor and another was killed when a suitcase he was carrying exploded, said special forces spokesman Tarak al-Dawass. The third assailant, who was unarmed and wearing a bulletproof vest, was gunned down by security forces outside, Dawass added. A source from the Revolutionary Brigade, one of the strongest armed groups in the capital, told Reuters that its spokesman, Abdulrahman Mazoughi, died in the attack. Foreign Minister Tahar Siala said senior diplomat Ibrahim al-Shaibi, who headed a department in his ministry, also was killed. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which bore the hallmarks of ISIS. The United Nations in Libya condemned the “cowardly terrorist” attack. “Terrorism will not triumph over the Libyans’ decision to move forward toward building their state and renouncing violence,” Ghassan Salamé, the UN special envoy to Libya, said in a statement. “We will work with the Libyan people to prevent terrorist groups from turning Libya into a haven or an arena for their crimes,” he added. Siala called for a partial lifting of the UN arms embargo on Libya to help authorities counter militant groups.”

News 24: Remains Of Christians Killed By ISIS Uncovered In Libya

“The remains of 34 Ethiopian Christians killed by the Islamic State group in 2015 have been found in a mass grave, a branch of the interior ministry said on Monday.ISIS jihadists published a video in April 2015 showing the execution of at least 28 men, described as Ethiopian Christians. An official said on Monday their bodies have been discovered near Sirte, the jihadists' former stronghold until they were ousted from the coastal city in December 2016 by forces loyal to Libya's UN-backed government. Taha Hadid, spokesperson for the Sirte protection force, told AFP that the bodies of 34 Ethiopians were discovered on Sunday at a farm near the city. “According to the prosecutor general's office, these remains belong to the Ethiopians executed” by the Islamic State group, he added. The mass grave was discovered through confessions made by ISIS members captured during the battle to retake Sirte, according to the organised crime department in Misrata to the west of Sirte. “The bodies will be repatriated to Ethiopia once the national and international legal procedures are completed,” the department said in a statement posted on Facebook. The remains of 21 Coptic Christians killed by ISIS in February 2015 were found last year near Sirte, all but one Egyptians, but their bodies were only returned home in May 2018.”

Nigeria

News24: Boko Haram Mastermind Of Deadly Nigeria Blasts Arrested: Police

“A top Boko Haram leader accused of organising deadly twin blasts in the Nigerian capital Abuja that killed 18 people has been arrested, police said Friday. A police statement said Umar Abdulmalik and seven other jihadists were arrested, without giving details. Forty-one people were also injured in the October 2, 2015 blasts which simultaneously ripped through the suburbs of Kuje and Nyanya outlying the federal capital. The explosions happened near a police station in Kuje and at a bus stop in Nyanya. Kuje, near Abuja's airport, is 40km west of the city centre and seat of government. Its prison at the time held dozens of Boko Haram prisoners captured by troops.”

The Washington Post: Nigeria Says 14 Military, Police Killed In Boko Haram Ambush

“Nigeria’s military says 14 military and police personnel have been killed in an ambush by Boko Haram extremists. An army statement says the security forces were on escort duty when they were attacked on Monday just outside Damaturu town in Yobe state in the north of the country. The statement signed by army spokesman Col. Onyema Nwachukwu says efforts to pursue and “eliminate” the Boko Haram extremists are ongoing. Nigeria’s military has been fighting Boko Haram’s Islamic insurgency for nearly a decade. The continued threat is a major issue for President Muhammadu Buhari as he seeks a second term in February’s election. After a recent series of deadly attacks on Nigeria’s military, Buhari and others have warned that the extremists have begun using drones to as part of a resurgence.”

News 24: Gunmen Kill 17 In Nigeria Village Attack: Witnesses, Police

“Gunmen at the weekend killed 17 people in the latest attack on villages in northern Nigeria's Zamfara state, witnesses and police said on Monday. The assault came just days after 25 people were killed in similar raids on two villages in the region. Gunmen on motorcycles stormed Magami village in the Maradun district area of the state on Saturday, shooting indiscriminately as residents fled. “After the attack, we collected 17 dead bodies which we buried,” Magami resident Kasimu Bello told AFP. “The gunmen entered the village on several motorcycles, shooting people as they tried to flee,” he said.Another resident Umaru Bawa confirmed the attack, saying “the bandits pursued people like chickens and shot them dead as they ran into the bush.” Zamfara state police spokesperson Mohammed Shehu said his operatives would arrest and “bring to justice the perpetrators of this dastardly act”.He also vowed to end the rampant armed attacks in the state. On Wednesday, 25 people were killed when gunmen raided two villages in Birnin Magaji district of the state. Farming and herding communities in Zamfara have for years been wracked by cattle rustling and kidnapping for ransom, prompting villagers to form vigilante gangs as a protection force. However the villagers too are accused of carrying out extra-judicial killings of suspected bandits, leading to tit-for-tat violence.”

Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram Attacks Nigerian Troops In Kukareta Village Yobe

“Boko Haram insurgents, Monday evening attacked a military base in Kukareta village, under Damaturu local government area, Yobe state. Yobe State Commisioner of Police, Sunmonu Adeyemi Abdulmaliki confirmed the attacked, adding that details were still sketchy. A resident of the village, Isah Bakari Yerima who fled into bush for his safety told DAILY POST via phone conversation that, “the insurgents came in and went straight to a military formation located in the village. “There was a gun duel at the formation. We also saw a tick smoke from our hiding place.”As I gathered, the insurgents also went to the village’s clinic and later on set the facility ablaze.”The attack on the town has forced many locals into nearby bushes for safety. As I am talking to you, we are still in the nearby bushes, no one has dared to return to his house yet.” Kukareta village, which is 25 kilometers away from Damaturu, the Yobe state capital has suffered series of attacks at the peak of Boko Haram insurgency. As of the time of filing this report, there is no official statement from the military authority confirming the attack.”

Africa

Al Jazeera: Morocco: Suspects In Tourists' Killing Were 'Acting Alone'

“Authorities in Morocco believe four suspects involved in the killing of two Scandinavian female tourists in the Atlas Mountains were acting on their own initiative, despite having recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, Daesh, also known as ISIS) group, an official said on Sunday.Boubker Sabik, a spokesman for the Moroccan security and domestic intelligence services, also said the arrest of nine more people in various Moroccan cities over suspected links to the killers had foiled a “terror plot”. The two tourists - Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, of Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, of Norway, were found dead early on Monday of last week with knife wounds to the neck near the village of Imlil, on a route to Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak and a popular hiking and trekking destination. Sabik said on the state 2M TV channel that the four suspects, aged between 25 and 33 years, had headed to the Imlil area intent on committing a crime but without selecting their target in advance. They had pledged allegiance to ISIL in a video made on Friday before the bodies were found, but without agreeing on this in advance with any foreign entity. The suspects acted alone according to Sabik, describing them as “lone wolves”. “The crime was not coordinated with the Islamic State,” he said.”

News 24: Cameroon English-Speaking Separatists Attack Town, Kidnap 15

“A regional governor in Cameroon says armed English-speaking separatists attacked a French-speaking town, killing one person, kidnapping 15 others and burning 86 homes in the country's restive North West region. Governor Augustine Awah Fonka said the attack on Sunday and Monday was the second on the town of Bangourain. Abdouramann Njowir, a resident, said the attackers called the recent release of nearly 300 suspected separatists who had been jailed for almost a year without trial “a provocation.” He said the separatists shouted for the release of their leader, who remains in prison and may face the death penalty. Cameroon's English-speaking separatists have been protesting what they call discrimination and marginalisation by the French-speaking majority since 2016. Their protests were initially peaceful, but some separatists have begun waging a violent campaign.”

United Kingdom

The Times: Al-Qaeda Terror Group Returns To Target Airliners And Airports

“Al-Qaeda is resurgent and seeking to carry out new terrorist atrocities against airliners and airports, the security minister Ben Wallace warned last night. The terrorist group behind the 9/11 attacks in 2001 poses a growing threat that is keeping ministers “awake at night”, he told The Sunday Times. Wallace said intelligence had revealed that al Qaeda was developing technology to bring down passenger jets. Whitehall officials say that could include miniaturised bombs. Islamists have also plotted to use drones packed with explosives to blow up key targets. The disclosures will hasten the security crackdown under way at airports following three days of chaos at Gatwick which was brought to a standstill by rogue drone operators.”

France

The Washington Post: France Vows Support For Fighting Extremists In Africa

“France’s president is confirming his support for anti-extremist forces in Africa, amid growing international concern about the chaos in Libya. Speaking on a visit to Chad, Emmanuel Macron insisted that France will make no cuts to its military despite domestic budget tightening. He said the “threat is constant and changing” and requires robust military spending. He said France would spend hundreds of millions of euros in aid for programs to improve economies in central Africa and prevent Islamic extremists from “gaining ground.” Macron reaffirmed French backing for a group of African anti-extremist forces and met with French soldiers deployed in the Sahel region with Operation Barkhane, France’s largest overseas military mission. Macron also held talks with Chad’s President Idriss Deby, U.S. military advisers and a delegation of Chadian women.”

Germany

Deustche Welle: German Police Find 'Islamic State' Flag After Suspected Attack On Berlin Railway Track

“German police said on Tuesday they had recovered a flag of the “Islamic State” (IS) group and a text in Arabic close to a railway track in Berlin where an overhead power cable was found to be damaged on Sunday. Investigators are trying to ascertain if the propaganda objects were linked to the damage caused to the overhead contact wire. They are also examining if the perpetrators had any political motives. “Since the beginning of the investigation, several pieces of evidence have been secured,” police said, adding that investigators found a torn steel cable and the damaged overhead contact wire at the train track on Sunday. Germany's train operator informed the police of the damage. The incident caused a temporary disruption in local train services in the German capital. It remains unclear if there is any connection between the incident in Berlin and a similar case on a railway line between the southern German cities of Nuremberg and Munich where unknown suspects tried to damage or even derail a high-speed train with a steel cable in October.”

Europe

The Washington Post: Man Dead Following Knife Attack In Polish Shopping Center

“Polish media are reporting that a man has died after being stabbed during the screening of a children’s movie in a shopping center. The all-news station TVN24 reported that the attack took place Sunday in the northwestern Polish city of Szczecin, when the perpetrator stabbed two men, both around 30. Joanna Biranowska-Sochalska, a spokeswoman for police in Szczecin, said one of the two died Monday. TVN24 showed video footage of the attacker being arrested by police, his legs bound with chains. He still faces questioning and authorities have not yet said what his motive might have been.”

ABC News: High Security In Barcelona Following US Terror Warning

“Security is high in Barcelona following a U.S. warning of the risk of a terror attack during the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The security alert, posted online and sent to U.S. citizens in Spain's second-largest city, recommends exercising “heightened caution” around buses and public transport in the Las Ramblas area. Barcelona's downtown boulevard, beloved by tourists and residents, was targeted last year during an attack claimed by Islamic State militants that killed 14 people. The regional Mossos d'Esquadra police declined to comment Monday directly on the alleged threat, saying only that security had been heightened “as part of a previously arranged anti-terrorist vigilance for the Christmas period.” Spain's Interior Ministry said the level of anti-terror alert in the country remained at the second-highest level, unchanged since 2015.”

Australia

9 News Australia: Increasing Number Of Australians Fighting For Islamic State

“They are the Australians who have traded their lives down under for a life of battle and terror, joining the Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East. And now it has been revealed an increasing number of our citizens are flying to Iraq and Syria to fight for extremist groups. News Corp reports the AFP has issued 27 arrest warrants for Australian terror suspects fighting for IS in the Middle East, with seven issued since January. Further disturbing statistics reveal around 230 Australians have travelled to Syria or Iraq to fight with or support extremist groups involved in the conflict. It's a deadly business, with close to 100 Australians losing their life while fighting under the ISIS flag. It has led to increased concerns the foreign fighters will return to our country and use what they've learned in the Middle East to plot mass terror attacks on home soil. Since 2014, there have been 15 foiled terror plots and seven successful attacks carried out in Australia. In a recent interview with A Current Affair, RMIT global affairs expert Professor Joe Siracusa warned we've been “very lucky” that the attackers had been “lone wolves” using unsophisticated weapons. “We're about to face people who are probably a lot brighter,” he told the program. “There's probably at least 60 people who will be coming back from Syria, from the civil war, and the people who will come back will have more information and expertise about ammunition, about bombs.”

Technology

Digital Journal: Op-Ed: A Look Back At The Year Of The Facebook Scandals

Facebook has not had a good year, and least from the perspective of its users and the public at large. Crowning this was the involvement with Cambridge Analytica, but there have been other data privacy issues too. Facebook remains the biggest social media site on the planet; however, a series of issues reported during 2018 have rocked public trust and raised issues about the power of technology companies in general and social media providers in particular. These issues relate to how your data is used. We take a look at some of the main scandals that have affected Facebook during 2018. In March 2018, it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of millions of Facebook users without their consent for political purposes. The New York Times reported that dataset has included information on 50 million Facebook users. This issue forced, as Digital Journal reported, Facebook to send a notification to 2.2 billion users called "Protecting Your Information". The message contained a link that allows users of the world's biggest social network site to check apps they have used and what information they have, most likely inadvertently, shared with these apps.”

USA Today: 'Happier Without Facebook': Users Who Deleted The Social Network Say They're Not Looking Back

“We heard from many of you: You are not only ready to delete Facebook, but you've already done it, and are very happy you did. Despite all the hack attacks, issues with personal data getting shared with companies and other entities, and all the apologies, I'm not quitting Facebook and I didn't think most of you would either. The positives of the social network outweigh the negative, at least for me – and many of you. But sporting the hashtag "FacebookFreeJanuary," Jeff Johnson of New Jersey says he just quit, and he won't come back until February, encouraging others to join him as a way to lobby Facebook into changing its ways. "There has to be some consequence that Facebook actually takes notice of," he says. Advertisers and the markets care about daily active users and monthly active users, so if Facebook's usage base takes a dip, perhaps there will be real changes, he says.”

Terrorist Financing

Shorouk News: Egypt: Curtain Falls On 'Foreign Financing' Case Involving Terrorist Financing

“The Cairo Criminal Court recently acquitted all of the suspects implicated in one of the most controversial cases in Egypt, both domestically and internationally, referred to as the "Foreign Financing" case. It's noteworthy that in 2013, an Egyptian court sentenced 43 people, foreign nationals included, in connection with this case, on charges of illegal financing of Egyptian NGOs and suspicions of terrorist financing. Yet, the Court of Appeal later sent the case back for re-trial and, subsequently, the Cairo Criminal Court overturned the previous {conviction} ruling. The newly issued acquittal verdict, in fact, lets the curtain fall on one of the cases spurring the greatest international interest in recent years. The case has drawn immense international attention, as well as criticism, for two main reasons. Firstly, some of the defendants were foreign employees of well-known global NGOs. Secondly, the NGOs, which were accused of unlawful operations and illicit foreign financing, claimed that the Egyptian authorities had been well aware of their activities.”

ISIS
Elfagr: Iraq: ISIS abducts 20 civilians

“According to Iraqi media sources, ISIS kidnapped today and yesterday around 20 civilians in the provinces of Kirkuk and Saladin. Alsumaria News quoted a security source in Kirkuk as saying that ISIS militants kidnapped 13 civilians from the village of Al-Mubadad, in addition to the chief of al Dabaa al Jadidah in the Rashad area south of Kirkuk. The source, who asked not to be identified, disclosed that ISIS taken the abductees to Wadi Zeghaiton. On Monday evening, a security source reported that ISIS militants attacked a village in Tuz Khurmatu east of Saladin and kidnapped four {more} people. Meanwhile, the Kurdistan 24 channel quoted eyewitnesses as saying that ISIS militants had kidnapped three people in the village of Jinklao in the vicinity of the town of Daquq.”

Houthi
Almashhad Alaraby: Houthi Disputes Over Tax Revenues

“Sources said on Tuesday that disputes among Houthi leaders in Sana'a intensified after Houthi forces detained senior commissioner, Radwan al-Moayad, at the direction of Hisham al-Shami, head of the Houthis' Tax Authority, amid disputes over tax revenue shares. According to reliable sources at the Authority, al-Muayyad is being held in a Houthi jail. Other sources claim that al-Shami enjoys the support of Chairman of the so-called Supreme Revolutionary Committee, Muhammad Ali al-Houthi. Meanwhile, al-Muayyad is backed by the head of the revolutionary council, Mehdi al-Mashat. All of these figures are seeking quick financial gains by utilizing those funds for the construction of towers and commercial centers. According to unofficial statistics, the monthly revenues of the Tax Authority in Sana'a exceed YR 31 billion ($124 million). Economists and tax officials believe that {the coffers of} the Authority are being systematically robbed by the Houthi militants, who are funneling the revenues to private projects, while Yemeni employees are denied even their most basic rights, such as salaries and allowances.”
__________________
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O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

"IN GOD WE TRUST"
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