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Arrow Eye on Extremism December 19, 2018

Eye on Extremism
December 19, 2018

The New York Times: Islamic State Kills 700 Prisoners In East Syria: Syrian Observatory

“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that Islamic State militants had executed nearly 700 prisoners in nearly two months in eastern Syria. The UK-based war monitoring group said the prisoners were among 1,350 civilians and fighters that Islamic State had been holding in territory near the Iraqi border. The jihadists control a shrinking strip of land east of the Syria's Euphrates River around the town of Hajin, which U.S.-backed forces entered this month. The Syrian Demoratic Forces (SDF), led by the Kurdish YPG militia, has battled Islamic State there for several months with the help of U.S. air power and special forces. SDF commander-in-chief Mazloum Kobani told Reuters last week that at least 5,000 IS fighters remain holed up in the enclave, including many foreigners who appear ready to fight to the death. Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate has crumbled after different offensives across Iraq and Syria, though its fighters still operate in the desert border region and mount attacks.”

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Citizen, Believed Executed In Syrian Prison, Heightens Fears For Others

“An American woman who died while in Syrian government custody is believed by aid groups and activists to have been executed, spurring concern for other U.S. citizens who may be detained by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The family of Layla Shweikani, a 26-year-old Illinois native who traveled to Syria to provide humanitarian relief to civilians affected by the country’s civil war, was notified last month by the Syrian government that she died in December 2016, supporters said. She had been detained by the regime since February 2016. Officials with the Syria Emergency Task Force, a U.S.-based group opposed to the Assad regime, along with other activists said they believe, based on local research, that Ms. Shweikani was executed Dec. 28, 2016, following a brief military court trial. Syria maintains a large and highly secretive prison system where Western officials and activists fear thousands have been executed. The Syrian government has denied these charges. “We are aware of reports of the death of a U.S. citizen in Syrian regime custody,” a State Department official said, declining to comment further.”

The Washington Post: AP Investigation: Children Fight On Front Lines Of Yemen War

“The number etched on the bracelet around Mohammed’s wrist gave the 13-year-old soldier comfort as missiles fired from enemy warplanes shook the earth beneath him. For two years Mohammed fought with Yemen’s Houthi rebels against a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States. He says he tortured and killed people and didn’t care whether he lived or died. But if he died, the bracelet would guarantee his body made it home. “When I become a martyr, they enter my number in the computer, retrieve my picture and my name, then print them with the name ‘Martyr’ underneath,” Mohammed said. It would be pasted to the lid of his coffin for return to his family. Mohammed was among 18 former child soldiers interviewed by The Associated Press who described the Houthis’ unrelenting efficiency when it comes to the recruitment, deployment and even battlefield deaths of boys as young as 10.”

The New York Times: As Facebook Raised A Privacy Wall, It Carved An Opening For Tech Giants

“For years, Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules, according to internal records and interviews. The special arrangements are detailed in hundreds of pages of Facebook documents obtained by The New York Times. The records, generated in 2017 by the company’s internal system for tracking partnerships, provide the most complete picture yet of the social network’s data-sharing practices. They also underscore how personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age, traded on a vast scale by some of the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley and beyond. The exchange was intended to benefit everyone. Pushing for explosive growth, Facebook got more users, lifting its advertising revenue. Partner companies acquired features to make their products more attractive. Facebook users connected with friends across different devices and websites. But Facebook also assumed extraordinary power over the personal information of its 2.2 billion users — control it has wielded with little transparency or outside oversight.”

Fox News: Arizona Man Gets 12 Years In Prison For Helping Student Join ISIS In Syria

“An Arizona man convicted of helping a New Yorker join the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Syria was sentenced to 12 years in prison Tuesday by a judge who said he was not the typical "true believer" terrorism defendant. Ahmed Mohammed el-Gammal, 48, a suburban Phoenix man who sold car parts, was sentenced by Judge Edgardo Ramos in Manhattan federal court. Ramos said the "consequences of Mr. el-Gammal's conduct were tragic indeed" because the 24-year-old student he helped reach Syria in 2015 was eventually killed in combat. The trial was the first ISIS-related prosecution to occur in Manhattan federal court. El-Gammal was convicted last year for helping Samy el-Goarany, who flew to Turkey in January 2015 and made his way to Syria. El-Gammal was arrested in August 2015, months before el-Goarany's brother was informed that el-Goarany, a Baruch College student, was killed fighting for ISIS. During el-Gammal's trial, defense lawyers argued that el-Goarany would have reached Syria anyway as he looked for meaning in life to erase his own feelings of inadequacy. They noted that others, including relatives, were unable to stop him from joining ISIS. When he spoke before the sentence was announced, el-Gammal told the judge that he is a "proud American.”

The Independent: Sub-Saharan Africa Becoming New Battleground Against Violent Extremism As Jihad ‘Goes South’

“Extremists are penetrating sub-Saharan Africa at an alarming rate, threatening states ill-prepared to deal with the resulting complex social and security challenge, western and African officials have said. Islamic radical groups, which include Isis, Al Qaeda affiliates and homegrown movements such as Boko Haram, threaten the continent – despite recent defeats at the hands of African armed forces. The encroachment poses unique challenges for policymakers and officials of shaky governments struggling with limited resources. “The extremists are inside the community – they provide public services where the state has failed,” said Bineta Diop, an official of the African Union. Speaking to The Independent last week at a conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, called Atlantic Dialogues, she added: “They bring water, sanitation, education. They provide opportunities to young people they don’t otherwise have. There is a need to address the basics elements of human security and not leave it to extremists.” African troops backed by western intelligence and security forces have beaten back Somalia’s militant al-Shabaab movement and have made strides against Boko Haram in Nigeria as well as similar groups in Mali. But in some ways, extremists have expanded their presence. Networks of Islamist militants now influence a vast area of Africa, drawing on contacts and resources from the Middle East and Europe, with radical groups exploiting ungoverned spaces throughout the continent.”

United States

USA Today: 10 Days, 4 Hate Crimes: The Parallel Paths Of 4 Angry Men Who Terrorized America

“In the span of 10 days before the midterm elections, Americans saw four terrifying new faces of hate crime. These were men whose festering ideological grievances were exacerbated by a mental illness or personality disorder. They were engaged with fellow haters on social media, but isolated from society. Their economic prospects were dim. For each, there was a point in life where they turned toward violence, and an incident that seems to have given them the final push. Their targets covered the waterfront of hate — Jews. African Americans. Women. Political opponents. And their cases crashed into the national consciousness in in a span of 240 hours. It started Oct. 24. Gregory Bush, 51, having failed to get into a black church outside Louisville, went to a Kroger. There, telling a bystander that “whites don’t shoot whites,’’ he killed two black shoppers in cold blood. Two days later, Cesar Sayoc, 56, was accused of mailing pipe bombs to a number of President Donald Trump’s political critics.”

Voice Of America: US Reconsidering 'Unfair' Issuance Of Study Visas To Iranian Officials’ Kids

“Washington is reconsidering its practice of letting hostile Iranian officials send their children to U.S. schools because it sees that as unfair to other Iranians, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook says. In an exclusive interview with VOA Persian at the State Department, Hook noted that most Iranians are barred from entering the U.S. because of their government’s perceived support of terrorism and other malign behaviors. Hook had first raised the prospect of revoking U.S. visas of students related to Iranian leaders in a video posted to the U.S. State Department’s Farsi Twitter account on December 11. In the video, Hook said the Trump administration was working on the issue in response to questions from Iranian Twitter users, but he added that he could not discuss internal policy deliberations.”

Newsweek: Video Captures California Man Detailing Plans For ISIS-Supported Terror Attacks That Would 'Redefine Terror'

“California man, who pleaded guilty to providing support to a terrorist organization, was caught on camera discussing plans for attacks that would "redefine terror." Amer Alhaggagi, 23, pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and identity theft in July. He admitted to creating Twitter, Facebook and Gmail accounts for people he believed were Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) supporters and to communicating with two of the people that asked him to set up their accounts. The FBI began investigating Alhaggagi in the summer of 2016 when agents flagged some of his conversations online, according to KTVU. An undercover investigation was launched and while having a conversation with an agent posing as a supporter he detailed some of his plans for the Bay Area of California that would “redefine terror." “I want to make it to the point where every American here thinks twice or three times before he leaves his home,” Alhaggagi said. “Like is it necessary for me to leave right now? That’s how I want them to be.”

Detroit Free Press: Police Seize 70 Firearms From Man Who Threatened To 'Shoot Up' Selfridge Base

“Michigan State Police have arrested a Harrison Township man who threatened to "shoot up" Selfridge Air National Guard Base — and had 70 firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his home. Roque Eugene Diegel, 53, had worked at the base until recently, police confirmed. He has been charged with one count of false report or threat of terrorism, a 20-year felony. "The motive behind the threats is currently unknown," police said in a tweet. State Police Lt. Calvin Hart said he could not comment on what prompted the alleged threats because of the ongoing investigation. Diegel is an airman assigned to the 127th Wing, according to a release Tuesday from the Wing's public affairs office. He is a master sergeant who started working at the base in 2002. He currently works as an air terminal craftsman with the 127th Logistics Readiness Squadron, according to the release. It also states that officials are cooperating with state and local law enforcement who are investigating the threats to shoot members at the base. Investigators were made aware of the suspect's threats to "shoot up" the base on Sunday, and shared information with uniform personnel. That led to Diegel's arrest in Harrison Township and a search of his residence. Inside, investigators recovered the firearms and ammunition.”


Middle East Monitor: More Than 560 Palestinians Tortured To Death In Syria Prisons

“Two Palestinian sisters from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus were tortured to death in Syrian regime prisons on Saturday, the Action Group for Palestinians in Syria said, noting that they had spent four years in prison before their death, Arab48 reported yesterday. They increase to 563 the number of Palestinian refugees tortured to death in Syrian regime prisons, the group said. While 1,711 Palestinian refugees are enduring difficult conditions in regime jails, in addition to the 12,000 who have been detained. The Action Group also reported that the Syrian regime security forces had arrested a number of the Palestinian refugees who voluntarily returned to Syria from Europe. According to the Action Group, 3,874 Palestinian refugees were killed in Syria over the past four years, including 200 who starved to death due to the lack of food and medicine in the Yarmouk refugee camp at the height of the fighting.

The Washington Times: Islamic State Now Outdraws Al Qaeda In Drive For U.S., Western Recruits: Survey

“Despite its recent battlefield losses in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State has now surpassed al Qaeda in the race to recruit recruiting future jihadis from the U.S., Europe and elsewhere across the globe. The Islamic State’s ascendancy has had the most impact among American-based recruits, analysts with the RAND Corporation said in a new review released Tuesday. ISIS “has been more successful than its predecessor organization, al Qaeda, in drawing Americans to its cause,” analysts say. Focusing less on a possible terror recruit’s Islamic faith or their ties to the Middle East has allowed Islamic State to tap into a recruit pool all but untouched by the older al Qaeda. Islamic State converts are “more likely to be younger, less educated, and a U.S.-born citizen,” the survey found. RAND analysts also found a majority of new U.S. terror recruits are not of Middle East descent, but rather Caucasian or black. “The stereotype of a Muslim, Arab, immigrant male as the most vulnerable to extremism is not representative of many terrorist recruits today,” said lead author Heather Williams. The RAND review was based on a comprehensive examination of all known American citizens recruited into ISIS or al Qaeda since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The decline of al Qaeda’s position accelerated after founder Osama Bin Laden was killed in May 2011, after a Navy SEAL team raided his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.”


The New York Times: Hacked European Cables Reveal A World Of Anxiety About Trump, Russia And Iran

“Hackers infiltrated the European Union’s diplomatic communications network for years, downloading thousands of cables that reveal concerns about an unpredictable Trump administration and struggles to deal with Russia and China and the risk that Iran would revive its nuclear program. In one cable, European diplomats described a meeting between President Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, Finland, as “successful (at least for Putin).” Another cable, written after a July 16 meeting, relayed a detailed report and analysis of a discussion between European officials and President Xi Jinping of China, who was quoted comparing Mr. Trump’s “bullying” of Beijing to a “no-rules freestyle boxing match.” The techniques that the hackers deployed over a three-year period resembled those long used by an elite unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army. The cables were copied from the secure network and posted to an open internet site that the hackers set up in the course of their attack, according to Area 1, the firm that discovered the breach.”

The Guardian: Russia, Turkey And Iran Reach Agreement On Syria Committee

“The three self-appointed guarantors of the Syrian peace process – Russia, Turkey and Iran – have spurned efforts by the UN to change the composition of a committee due to write a new constitution for the country. The 150-strong committee, due to start work next year, could pave the way for UN-supervised elections and a possible peace process that would encourage millions of refugees to return to their homeland. The agreement on the committee’s formation was formally reached by the three countries on Tuesday in Geneva and the proposals passed to the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, for his endorsement and for consideration by the UN security council on Thursday. The Geneva agreement was signed off by the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and Iran’s Javad Zarif, underlining how the west has lost control of the Syrian crisis to the trio of countries in the so-called Astana Group.”

Gulf News: Iran Hackers Behind Attacks On Oil And Gas Companies In Gulf And Europe

“There is evidence that Iranian hackers are behind last week’s Shamoon cyber-attacks on oil and gas companies in the Gulf and Europe, industry experts said. Alister Shepherd, Middle East and Africa director for Mandiant at FireEye, told Gulf News that it is the same Shamoon malware which wreaked havoc a few years ago. In 2012, Shamoon crippled hard drives of tens of thousands of computers at Saudi Aramco and Qatar’s RasGas. An Iranian hacker group had claimed responsibility. “Our initial technical analysis reveals that there are links between the current variants and the previous variants and it is linked to Iranian nexus groups,” Shepherd said. The Italian oil and gas services company Saipem first reported that its servers in Italy, Middle East, India and Aberdeen have been hit by a cyber-attack on December 10. Dick O’brien, threat researcher at Symantec, said that Shamoon, which re-emerged after a gap of two years, is back in a more destructive form.”

NPR: Iran Has Had An Especially Bad 2018

“One of candidate Donald Trump's pledges during the 2016 election campaign was to get tougher on Iran. He slammed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as a lopsided giveaway to Tehran, and promised a return of American sanctions on Iran. President Trump has been true to his word, making 2018 a difficult year for Iran. Although other countries have stuck with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed with Iran, Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in May and announced that U.S. economic sanctions on Iran would return in two phases. Some of the most painful ones — targeting Iran's oil exports, its main economic lifeline — kicked back in last month. (They were less painful than they might have been, however: Washington granted waivers to eight countries, including China, India and Japan, the world's biggest importers of Iranian crude.) The European Union, one of the deal's signatories, vowed to create a mechanism to keep doing business with Iran despite the American sanctions, but so far it hasn't materialized.”

Wired: The Iran Hacks Cybersecurity Experts Feared May Be Here

“In May, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement, negotiated by the Obama Administration, designed to keep Iran from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. As part of that reversal, the Trump administration reimposed economic sanctions on Iran. From the start, the US actions stoked tensions and fear of Iranian retaliation in cyberspace. Now, some see signs that the pushback has arrived. Iranian state-sponsored hacking never stopped entirely; it has continually targeted neighbors in the Middle East, and often focused on the energy sector. But while concrete attribution remains elusive, a wave of recent digital attacks has led some security analysts to suggest that Iranian state-sponsored hackers may have ramped up their digital assaults against the US and Europe as well. "If you look at these groups, they’re not hacking for money, what they’re doing is very much nation state motivations," says Eric Chien, a fellow in Symantec's security technology and response division. "So if we continue to see some sort of geopolitical issues in the Middle East, you’re definitely going to see continued attacks.”


Iraqi News: Iraqi Forces Hunt For Islamic State Militants In Diyala

“A wide-scale military operation was launched Tuesday in Diyala to track down Islamic State remnants, the province’s police spokesman was quoted as saying. A joint Iraqi force, backed by jet fighters, started a military operation to pursue remnants of the Islamic State group in seven villages on the border between Diyala and Salahuddin provinces, Baghdad Today news website quoted Diyala police spokesman Col. Ghaleb al-Attia as saying in a statement. “The operation is meant to put an end to the terrorist activities of IS cells in these vital areas,” the spokesman added. In January 2015, Iraqi forces announced liberation of Diyala province from Islamic State extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014. The province has seen months of fighting between Iraqi troops and IS militants especially in the Jalawla and Saadiyah areas in the province’s north and areas near the town of Muqdadiyah. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraq: 3 Female ISIS Members Arrested In Salah Al-Din Province

“Iraqi security forces' information center announced Monday the arrest of three female ISIS members in Salah al-Sin province (179 km north Baghdad), according to the DPA. “A force from the National Security Service in Salah al-Din province was able to arrest three female convicts in Huwaija district, against which legal warrants have been issued for their belonging to ISIS terrorist gangs,” the center said. It explained that the arrest operation was conducted due to intelligence information, pointing out that they were handed over to competent authorities to take the necessary legal procedures.”


Al Monitor: How Does Turkey's Threatened Syria Invasion Play Elsewhere?

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Dec. 17 ratcheted up his oft-repeated threat to launch a new military operation in Syria by adding the words “at any moment.” Erdogan also claims US President Donald Trump “gave a positive response” to starting the operation, though US special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey said the United States is united in its opposition and the Pentagon warned Ankara against any military move. So, even as Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed Dec. 18 on a committee to craft a Syrian constitution, it's quite likely that Ankara is indeed planning a military campaign east of the Euphrates aimed at weakening Kurdish militants. Counterintuitively, it could benefit both Russia and the United States. Turkey’s leadership has long been eyeing the possibility of a military campaign in the area where US-led international forces are deployed, though Erdogan has specifically said he will not target US troops. Erdogan reaffirmed his intentions to fight Kurdish “terrorists” to appeal to his domestic audience and demonstrate the continuity of his foreign policy.”


The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Envoy, Taliban Discuss Peace, While Afghan Government Is Sidelined

“While U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad held talks with a high-level Taliban delegation in one hotel in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, representatives of the Afghan government stewed in another, waiting for a summons to hold indirect talks with the Taliban officials. By late evening, the government officials were still waiting, said a person attending the latest round of discussions aimed at paving the way for a negotiated settlement of the 17-year Afghan war. The rebuff underscored the daunting obstacles that could thwart Mr. Khalilzad’s hopes for reaching a peace deal before April 20, when the Kabul government plans to hold presidential elections. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid had warned that no meetings between the Taliban and the Afghan government would occur during the two-day gathering in the Emirati capital. “Major issues will only be discussed with the American side.” He repeated the warning on Tuesday, hours after the presidential palace in Kabul announced in a tweet that President Ashraf Ghani’s recently appointed chief negotiator, Abdul Salam Rahimi, had arrived in Abu Dhabi. A meeting with Mr. Khalilzad was to be followed by an indirect, mediated dialogue between the government and Taliban representatives, in preparation for face-to-face talks, the palace’s tweet said. “No chance,” the Taliban spokesman replied. The cold shoulder to the Afghan government wasn’t a complete surprise.”

Long War Journal: Taliban Commander Admits Thousands Of Foreign Fighters Are Embedded Within Group

“In a startling admission, a senior leader in the Afghan Taliban told NBC News that “thousands” of foreign fighters are currently embedded in the group in Afghanistan. The admission is astonishing as the Taliban has attempted to obscure its relationship with al Qaeda, even though it slips up every now and then. FDD’s Long War Journal has maintained for the last eight years that US military and intelligence estimates of between 50 to 100 al Qaeda in Afghanistan (later modified to 200) have been woefully low. The Taliban leader, who has not been named, admitted this to NBC News as the group was conducting negotiations with the US in Qatar. From the report: A senior Afghan Taliban commander who is also a member of the group’s leadership council told NBC News that there were around 2,000 to 3,000 non-Afghan fighters in their midst, mostly from China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Tunisia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. “We are Muslims and according to our religion … we cannot deny shelter to someone if he or she comes to trouble,” said the commander, who recently attended three days of talks with Khalilzad in Qatar. “None of the foreign militants would be allowed to take up arms and use this soil against any country in the world.” Thousands of Pakistanis are also thought to be fighting as members of the Taliban. It is unclear why the Taliban leader felt the urge to admit that thousands of foreign fighters are fighting alongside his group.”


The New York Times: Kashmiri Teenagers Are Dying To Protect Militants

“It was well past midnight in the village of Balsoo when Numan Ashraf Bhat’s phone lit up with an urgent WhatsApp message: “Umar surrounded by forces.” Umar Majid Ganai, one of the area’s most wanted militants, had built a loyal youth following in Kashmir, a Himalayan region disputed between India and Pakistan where violence has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Numan, a gangly 16-year-old, was one of his most enthusiastic supporters — all of the photos downloaded on his phone were of Mr. Ganai. So when Numan learned last month that Mr. Ganai was holed up in a tiny hamlet, Indian security forces closing in, he jumped on his motorbike and sped through the biting cold to reach the house where several militants were trapped. Hundreds of Kashmiri civilians had already gathered. They were forming a protective ring to block Indian officers from advancing, part of a new and often fatal development in the decades-long struggle over Kashmir. Violence is rising again in the region, where India has presided over a bloody campaign to hunt down those fighting a quixotic battle for independence. This year, according to police officials in Kashmir, Indian security forces have killed over 240 militants, the highest annual toll in more than a decade. But along with the combatants’ deaths has come a new set of casualties: those of civilians who try to defend them. Gone are the days when the sight of an armored vehicle was enough to send entire villages into hiding.”

The Washington Post: Pakistan Takes Steps To Avoid Terror Finance Blacklist

“Pakistani officials say the government has approved fresh measures to avoid being blacklisted by an international group that monitors money laundering and terror financing. Three officials say the measures adopted Tuesday would prevent suspected militants from operating bank accounts and illegally transferring money by air, land and sea. They spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the decision with reporters. The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force placed Pakistan on a “grey list” earlier this year but gave it time to take action before a further downgrade. Pakistan fears the listing could deter foreign investors and hinder its access to international markets as it grapples with a fiscal crisis. Pakistan is set to submit a compliance report to the FATF the first week of January.”

The Nation: Will Take War Against, Terrorism, Extremism To Logical Conclusion, Says Qureshi

“Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that we are committed to taking the war against extremism and terrorism to its logical conclusion. He expressed these views while addressing the participants of National Security and War Course at National Defence University (NDU). During his address, he also highlighted the cardinals of Pakistan’s foreign policy, challenges as well as opportunities. He said that the government is working to achieve the strategic objectives of Pakistan’s foreign policy. While safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state we are maintaining credible national security capabilities to deter aggression. We are also working on promoting economic stability through inclusive growth, integrating with major regional initiatives and global economy, pursuing friendly and cooperative relations with all countries particularly with major powers and all immediate neighbours. "Pakistan seeks a just durable and a peacefully negotiated solution of the Kashmir dispute, that would turn Pakistan’s geostrategic location into a geo-strategic asset," he stated. The minister said this will project the rightful image of Pakistan, cultural ethos and state policies, pursuing economic prosperity and growth through multifaceted partnerships and welfare of Pakistani diaspora abroad.”


Times Of Israel: US Registers ‘Deep Concerns’ Over Hezbollah’s Growing Sway In Lebanon

“The United States is worried about the growing influence of the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon, a State Department official said Tuesday, as Lebanese politicians signaled they were nearing completion of forming a new government. “We continue to have deep concerns regarding Hezbollah’s growing political power inside Lebanon,” the unnamed official told Reuters. “We are concerned about the efforts of Hezbollah’s political allies that provide it with top cover and a veneer of legitimacy,” the official added. In parliamentary elections in May, the first in Lebanon in nine years, Shiite Hezbollah and its allies won more than 70 of 128 seats in parliament, dealing a blow to the Western-backed Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The sides have since been at odds over the makeup of a new government, with Hezbollah pushing for a cabinet post for one of its Sunni partners, in a demand rejected by Hariri. As part of a compromise deal, the cabinet position will not go to the Hezbollah-aligned Sunnis themselves but rather a representative for them, according to Reuters. In exchange, Hariri will recognize their status as an independent Sunni political grouping.”

The Jerusalem Post: IDF: Hezbollah Closing Off Attack Tunnels

“Hezbollah terrorists have worked to close off some of their cross-border attack tunnels after the IDF uncovered four of them, the military said on Tuesday. A video the IDF released shows that inside one of the four tunnels there appears to be a “visible attempt to block the tunnel, which appears to have been carried out by the terrorist organization Hezbollah during the past few days,” the IDF said. While the military did not disclose the location of the tunnel, it stated that its effort to expose and neutralize terrorist tunnels is continuing as planned and information on this operation is being shared with the heads of all local authorities in the North. The military also said that none of the discovered tunnels constitutes a threat to residents of Israel. Once Israel exposes the tunnels, they are filled with explosives to prevent their use by Hezbollah ahead of their destruction. The release of the video documentation came a day after the military allowed CNN’s Ian Lee to drop a camera several meters into a tunnel “large enough for an NBA player to stand in,” complete with ventilation shafts and lights. In the video released by the IDF on Tuesday and filmed by a small robot, there were visible additions of concrete reinforcement walls. This was different to the construction of the other tunnels uncovered so far. “From the moment the terrorist tunnels are exposed, IDF soldiers are working on learning about them through various means, including photography and research capabilities,” the IDF said.”

Middle East

The Washington Times: Islamic State Now Outdraws Al Qaeda In Drive For U.S., Western Recruits: Survey

“Despite its recent battlefield losses in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State has now surpassed al Qaeda in the race to recruit recruiting future jihadis from the U.S., Europe and elsewhere across the globe. The Islamic State’s ascendancy has had the most impact among American-based recruits, analysts with the RAND Corporation said in a new review released Tuesday. ISIS “has been more successful than its predecessor organization, al Qaeda, in drawing Americans to its cause,” analysts say. Focusing less on a possible terror recruit’s Islamic faith or their ties to the Middle East has allowed Islamic State to tap into a recruit pool all but untouched by the older al Qaeda. Islamic State converts are “more likely to be younger, less educated, and a U.S.-born citizen,” the survey found. RAND analysts also found a majority of new U.S. terror recruits are not of Middle East descent, but rather Caucasian or black.”

The Jerusalem Post: Intelligence Center: ‘New Hamas Ingenuity Leading Terror Wave’

“The recent increase in terrorism in the West Bank can be attributed to a combination of new resourcefulness by Hamas and a weaker commitment to security cooperation by the Palestinian Authority, says an intelligence center report. According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, “Hamas’s successful establishing and handling a terrorist squad (or squads), especially in the region around Ramallah” is one of the key factors behind the latest wave. Although the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) by its own count has stopped around 480 terror attacks in 2018, questions have been raised about why more attacks are now getting through. While the Meir Amit Center report says Hamas has broadly in recent years failed to boost the volume of attacks from the West Bank, it also said “the possible involvement of an established squad (or squads)” by Hamas “may increase the quantity and quality of the attacks and the daring of the terrorist operatives.” Implied in the report is that Hamas’s establishment of a new operational cell, after many past failed attempts, showed it was being more resourceful and had outwitted or managed to keep its attack plans off the radar screen of Israeli intelligence. Next, the intelligence center report said another key reason for the wave was “the persistent weakening of the PA and the decrease in the level of security coordination with Israel.”


Africa News: Nigeria Villagers Inspect Ruins After Boko Haram Attack

“Residents of Zabar mari, an agricultural village near the Nigerian town of Maiduguri inspected damages after an attack by Boko Haram. At least four farmers were shot and their bodies were burned. The jihadist group has intensified its attacks on farmers in recent months, accusing them of passing information to the military. We've been afraid for more than five months now. Almost every week, we lose loved ones. We certainly can't stop farming because it's the only way we can survive According to a local rice farmer, Hassan Muhammad, everything was reduced to ashes. “Yesterday, at 6 p.m., they (victims) found them in the bush, shot them dead and burned their bodies. They also went into a rice field and set fire to it ,” he said. Insurgents invaded rice fields in the village, 10 kilometres from Maiduguri, on Sunday and shot dead four people, who were protecting the crops from potential thieves. “We’ve been afraid for more than five months now. Almost every week, we lose loved ones. We certainly can’t stop farming because it’s the only way we can survive,“Garba Kyari said. Last month, Islamist insurgents killed nine farmers and kidnapped twelve others in the village of Mammanti, near Maiduguri. Boko Haram split into two factions. The one loyal to the movement’s historical leader, Abubakar Shekau, is known to target civilians, including in village attacks and suicide bombings.”

News 24: Nigerian Soldier Killed In Latest Boko Haram Attack

“Boko Haram jihadists killed one soldier and injured another in an attack on a military base in Nigeria's northeast Borno state, the latest attack in the region, military sources said on Tuesday. Jihadists in four trucks fitted with anti-aircraft guns stormed the base in Mairari village close to the garrison town of Monguno on Monday briefly seizing it, said the sources who asked not to be identified. One source said "soldiers were dislodged from the base and some military equipment damaged" in the attack. "One soldier was killed, one wounded and others missing in action. Search ongoing to recover the missing ones," he added. The base was recaptured after reinforcements arrived from Monguno, 10km away. On Monday, a Boko Haram faction loyal to long-time leader Abubakar Shekau released pictures of an attack on a village near the Borno state capital Maiduguri, according to SITE intelligence which monitors jihadist activities. The village was burned down, sending residents fleeing into the city. The military said Monday troops repelled the attack in which a soldier and four insurgents were killed. Boko Haram jihadists have recently intensified attacks on military bases in the northeast, killing scores of troops. More than 27 000 people have died since the start of the insurgency in the remote northeast in 2009 and 1.8 million have been made homeless.”

United Kingdom

Toronto Sun: ISIS Vows UK Carnage During Christmas Season

“The butchers of ISIS are vowing to turn the streets of Britain into rivers of blood in their latest propaganda effort. ISIS has now posted a chilling photo showing a murdered Santa Claus lying dead in the street. Standing over him is a balaclava-clad jihadist. And across the bottom is the heartless message: “O pigs of the cross, the day is near when your carnage will be gifts for your children.” One expert fears that the death cult is deadly serious about unleashing Christmas carnage. Rita Katz, director of the international terrorism study group Site Intel, said that Islamic State is spreading fear. “[By] using Christmas symbols like Santa Claus and depicting streets in England, IS-aligned groups [are] warning of attacks,” she told The UK Sun. The warning comes hot on the heels of the Christmas market massacre in the French city of Strasbourg. Five people died in the attack before the terrorist was killed by cops. A man suspected of supplying the gun that was used in the shooting attack was handed preliminary terror charges yesterday, said a judicial official close to the investigation. He is suspected of providing the weapon Cherif Chekatt used in his Dec. 11 market attack, a police source said. Chekatt, 29, died in a shootout with cops after four days on the run. In the days before the latest outrage in France, chatter was rampant on messaging platforms used by ISIS members and their supporters.”

BBC News: Teenager Sudesh Amman Jailed For Online Terror Videos

“A college student who shared an al-Qaeda magazine in a family WhatsApp group has been jailed after admitting 13 terror offences. Sudesh Amman, 18, from Harrow, told his siblings in a message "the Islamic State is here to stay". The Old Bailey heard Amman also possessed bomb-making manuals and a document called Bloody Brazilian Knife Fightin' Techniques. He was jailed for three years and four months by Judge Mark Lucraft QC. The Whatsapp group - entitled La Familia - included images of Amman's younger siblings in poses reminiscent of so-called Islamic State supporters - such as one finger salutes and wielding weaponry, the court heard. In messages with one family member, Amman suggested that as Yazidi women were slaves the Quran made it permissible to rape them.”

The Guardian: UK Couple Who Named Baby After Hitler Jailed For Terror Group Membership

“A neo-Nazi couple who named their baby son after Adolf Hitler and made their home a “shrine to extreme racism” have been jailed for membership of a terrorist group. Adam Thomas was pictured cradling his son while wearing the hooded robes of the Ku Klux Klan. His partner, Claudia Patatas, believed “all Jews must be put to death”, a trial at Birmingham crown court heard. The pair had a long history of violent racist beliefs, said the judge, Melbourne Inman QC, and both had claimed they were “willing to murder a mixed-race child” to further their neo-Nazi agenda. “These are not idle words,” the judge said. “The vile regime you and Thomas worship, and which you wish to impose on this country, did – and would do – exactly that.” Thomas, 22, and Patatas, 38, cried and held hands in the dock as they were jailed for six years and six months, and five years respectively. The couple, from Banbury in Oxfordshire, were last week found guilty of being members of the far-right organisation National Action, which was banned in 2016. Their friend Darren Fletcher, who admitted National Action membership before the trial, was jailed for five years for the same offence. In all, six people were sentenced on Tuesday for being members of the group, which the judge described as having horrific goals.”


CNN: Sweden Success Proves Houthis Will Only Respond To Force

“This week the government of Yemen and Houthi rebels made the most significant advance yet in the quest for peace in Yemen, which was torn apart by the 2015 Houthi coup. They agreed to a ceasefire in the strategically important port city of Hodeidah, through which the vast majority of the country's imports and aid flow. The truce concluded seven days of constructive talks in the town of Rimbo, Sweden, which have rightly been heralded as a positive sign that we are entering the beginning of the end of this terrible conflict. For many, the very fact that the talks took place came as a surprise. The Houthis have ducked every meaningful attempt by the UN to negotiate, most recently in Geneva where they waited until the government was sitting around the table before pulling out. Others claimed the talks would not have happened if the US Senate had not actively engaged with the issue. The truth is, for the Yemeni government this latest victory was the culmination of a year-long peace process which began December 6, 2017, a year to the day before the Houthi delegation landed in Stockholm.”

The Washington Post: How To Fight Anti-Semitism’s Resurgence In Europe

“Anti-Semitism is sometimes compared to a virus. While we can’t eliminate it, we at least know how to keep it under control. But what if we’re wrong? What if, like a virus, anti-Semitism has developed a new strain, unresponsive to all the traditional treatments? The European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights' (FRA) new report on discrimination and hate crimes against Jews in the E.U. is deeply disturbing. Anti-Semitism is “pervasive” and "has become disturbingly normalized,” it says. “The persistence and prevalence of antisemitism hinder people’s ability to live openly Jewish lives.” FRA polled more than 16,000 Jews in 12 E.U. countries this year. More than a third of those polled say they have considered emigrating. The first FRA survey, six years ago, surprised many, who imagined Jews were comfortable and secure in a prosperous and modern Europe. Instead, it revealed high levels of anxiety, Jews fearful of encountering anti-Semitic harassment or attacks, and 1 in 3 deciding not to wear any identifiable Jewish symbol in public. Since then, international organizations and national leaders have issued declarations and virtually every European capital has hosted a conference on anti-Semitism.”

Morocco World News: Spanish Police Arrest Algerian For Possible ISIS Ties

“Spanish national police officers arrested an Algerian man on Monday for allegedly being a member of ISIS, in Vitoria (northern Spain), according to the Spanish Ministry of the Interior. The arrested Algerian also sought to promote the return of terrorist fighters to Europe and to collaborate with terrorists in Syria’s conflict zones, the statement added. The Algerian national who is president of a cultural association was arrested in the city of Vitoria, northern Spain, during a police operation with the support of the Spanish intelligence services and Europol. He planned to set up a school for indoctrinating children into terrorism, according to the same source. The man was receiving unemployment benefits and resources from a business, says the statement, adding that the investigation revealed that he intended to use his income for people he indoctrinated. According to ABC, he had a history of violence, having assaulted two police officers, which he was arrested for initially.”

Southeast Asia

Deutsche Welle: Islamist Threat Lingers In Philippines Despite Marawi Victory

“Abdul, his young face hidden by a headscarf, stares into the camera as he contemplates his shattered dream. He has lost dozens of friends. His family has been displaced. "Our original plan was limited to attacking the military camp in Marawi and expelling the soldiers from the city," he tells DW. The homegrown jihadi leaders who laid siege to Marawi under the banner of the "Islamic State" (IS) had convinced Abdul and his fellow fighters that the Philippine government would then withdraw. "They told us we would get what we had always wanted: an Islamic state here in Marawi.” More than a year after the heaviest urban fighting in the Philippines since World War II, the historic center of Marawi, the country's largest Muslim city on the southern island of Mindanao, remains sealed off. Systematic air raids, heavy artillery fire and merciless house-to-house combat turned the area into a bombed-out ghost town with skeletal buildings that evoke the war-ravaged ruins of Aleppo, Raqqa and Mosul in the Middle East. Just over 5 percent of the Filipino population is Muslim; the vast majority are Roman Catholics. More than 90 percent of all Muslims — about 6 million people — live on Mindanao and the smaller neighboring islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi Tawi. But even here, they are in the minority.”


The Verge: Facebook Gave Spotify And Netflix Access To Users’ Private Messages

“What to make of the New York Times’ latest story about Facebook’s broad data-sharing agreements? The story, which draws on internal documents describing the company’s partnerships, reports on previously undisclosed aspects of business partnerships with companies including Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Spotify, and Netflix. In some cases, companies had access to data years after it was supposed to have been cut off. Here’s how the story is framed by reporters Gabriel J.X. Dance, Michael LaForgia, and Nicholas Confessore: The documents, as well as interviews with about 50 former employees of Facebook and its corporate partners, reveal that Facebook allowed certain companies access to data despite those protections. They also raise questions about whether Facebook ran afoul of a 2011 consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission that barred the social network from sharing user data without explicit permission. In all, the deals described in the documents benefited more than 150 companies — most of them tech businesses, including online retailers and entertainment sites, but also automakers and media organizations. Their applications sought the data of hundreds of millions of people a month, the records show. The deals, the oldest of which date to 2010, were all active in 2017. Some were still in effect this year.”

Forbes: Amnesty International Report States The Obvious: Twitter Is Often A Horrible Place For Women

“Human rights NGO Amnesty International and international artificial intelligence company Element AI released a report today on all the Twitter harassment women endured in 2017, and their combined human-machine findings are pretty much what you would expect. Women get harassed a lot, with black women at an alarmingly higher rate. (Incidentally, all things women have been saying for years.) The “shocking” report found that an abusive or problematic tweet was sent to a woman every 30 seconds and 84% of the time, that abusive tweet mentioned a black woman. Women of color were “disproportionately targeted,” wrote the study’s authors and it didn’t matter where they fell on the political spectrum, even Breitbart journalists were targeted. “[We] have the data to back up what women have long been telling us – that Twitter is a place where racism, misogyny and homophobia are allowed to flourish basically unchecked,” said Milena Marin, the Senior Advisor for Tactical Research at Amnesty International, in a release on the findings.”

Techcrunch: Facebook Purges More ‘Bad Actors’ In Myanmar But It Still Won’t Commit To A Local Office

“As Facebook continues to grasp the severity of the situation in Myanmar, where the UN has concluded that its social network plays “determining role” in inciting genocide, the U.S. tech giant has completed a third sweep in recent months to remove bad actors from its platform. Facebook said late Tuesday U.S. time that it has removed a total of 135 Facebook accounts, 425 Pages, 17 Groups and an additional 15 Instagram accounts with this latest piece of action. Facebook has around 20 million users in Myanmar — that’s nearly all of the country’s internet users and nearly 40 percent of the population — and it gave some stats on the reach that it has now nullified: Approximately 2.5 million people followed at least one of these Facebook Pages, Approximately 6,400 people belonged to at least one of these Facebook Groups, Approximately 1,300 people followed at least one these Instagram accounts. Its previous removals impacted some high-profile individuals including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and the military-owned Myawady television network were removed from the social network following “evidence [that they] committed or enabled serious human rights abuses in the country.”

Counter Extremism

Dostor: Lecture Titled "Enlightening Minds And Countering Extremism" Presented In Ismailia, Egypt

“The Ismailia branch of Egypt's General Authority for Cultural Places recently organized diverse activities within its counter-extremism and terrorism program. A lecture entitled "Enlightening Minds and Countering Extremism" was among them. In his lecture, Shadi El-Mallah, an esteemed Egyptian poet, noted that the issue of combating extremism and terrorism remains the public's top priority due to its detrimental impact on the minds of youngsters. The present era has witnessed major developments in the counter-extremism and anti-terrorism policies adopted by the state and its agencies, El-Mallah said. He explained that these developments are not restricted to security aspects alone but also to cultural and intellectual aspects, as exemplified by the "educational enlightenment convoys" that are fighting the spread of radical ideologies among youth in remote areas of Egypt.”


Elmihwar: Algeria Uncovers Criminal Networks Specializing In Human Trafficking Ultimately For Funding ISIS

“The Algerian security agencies recently discovered that criminal networks operating in Morocco, Libya and Algeria had managed to smuggle more than 120 Maghrebian immigrants from their countries of origin to Libya via Algeria and, subsequently, to Europe via Italy. The money paid by these illegal immigrants, who enter Libya across the desert border with Algeria, was used to finance the militant groups operating in Libya, primarily ISIS. The money, estimated at €2000 per immigrant, which was raised by these criminal networks, was then channeled to ISIS. The network members communicated with each other via WhatsApp and Facebook, which are under comparatively less surveillance by the authorities.”

Gulf 365: ISIS Seeks New Funding Sources That Don't Require Large Tracts Of Land

“ISIS keeps trying to make a comeback. To this end, the terror group has launched new organizations such as "White Flags," Ansar al-Bukhari and Ansar al-Furqan. It has also been trying to find new sources of funding that do not need large tracts of land. Note that the terror organization still has many strongholds around the world, in Libya, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the Observatory of Takfiri Fatwas and Extremist Views of the Egyptian Dar al-Ifta, ISIS is not only creating new organizations and looking for new funding sources but is also using guerrilla methods and sleeper cells to carry out terrorist operations, in order to regain control over liberated areas in Iraq. These methods have resulted in a high occurrence of violent attacks and bombings in Iraqi cities.”

Makan: Hamas Directs Funds To Form More Terror Cells In The West Bank

“A Palestinian official said that the Palestinian Authority's security services have rounded up, in the last several days, around ten Hamas activists on suspicion of perpetrating terrorist activities. "They have nothing to do with the recent attacks {on Israelis}," the official asserted. The official pointed out that Hamas is directing additional funds to form {more} cells in the West Bank, thanks to the Qatari money flowing into the Gaza Strip under the banner of salary payments to its government employees there. The official said the Palestinian Authority was not interested in "chaos" in the West Bank but rather its aim was the same as that of Israel, i.e. to prevent Hamas from creating it.”

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.

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