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Old 12-27-2018, 07:04 AM
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Arrow Eye on Extremism December 27, 2018

Eye on Extremism
December 27, 2018
RE: info@counterextremism.com

The Japan Times: Israeli Army Says It Destroyed Another Hezbollah Tunnel On Lebanon Border

“The Israeli military on Wednesday destroyed another cross-border tunnel it says was built by Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, sending a loud explosion throughout the volatile area. Israel this month announced the discovery of the tunnels, which it says were part of a Hezbollah plot to sneak across the border and carry out attacks in Israel. Israel has so far uncovered five tunnels in an open-ended operation to destroy the entire network. At least two tunnels have been destroyed. The army released a video of Wednesday’s activity. It shows an officer shouting across the border and warning residents of the Lebanese village of Ayta ash Shab that they are in danger and to stand far away. The video then shows a countdown before a soldier pushes a button, and aerial footage of a powerful explosion. The army has not said how many tunnels have been destroyed so far. But it says its forces can work at more than one location simultaneously and that all activity is taking place in Israeli territory.”

Task & Purpose: Iraq To The Future: ISIS Is Reportedly Biding Its Time Ahead Of A Bloody Iraqi Comeback

“President Donald Trump may believe the U.S. military has soundly defeated ISIS in Syria, but a new report suggests that the terror group is simply biding its time in its home country of Iraq ahead of a deadly resurgence. According to a new analysis by in Jane’s Intelligence Review, ISIS is “exploiting the chaotic and unresolved security situation” in Iraq to reconstitute itself, regaining a territorial foothold in the country’s northern Qara Chokh mountains despite the loss of its primary stronghold in Mosul just over a year ago. “[ISIS] is exploiting remote, often sparsely populated areas in which it can establish a physical and logistical infrastructure to offer shelter and food for its fighters,” explains Dr. Jonathan Spyer in Jane’s.

Asharq Al-Awsat: Exclusive – Refugees From Syria’s Hajin: ISIS Used Us As Human Shields

“Saadoun, a man in his 50s, recalled how he fled Syria’s town of Hajin in the eastern Deir Ezzour province to escape the ISIS terrorist group. Along with his family, they escaped after they were used as human shields by the terrorists. The ordeal took ten days. The family, along with others forced to flee ISIS, had to make a treacherous trek on foot in the desert, which has been dotted by landmines, to reach the al-Hol camp, some 40 kilometers east of al-Hasakeh city. Saadoun did not disclose his last name for fear of reprisals against his relatives still in Hajin. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that he does not know what has happened to them. He explained that when the battle to expel ISIS from Deir Ezzour reached Hajin, “the terrorists forced us to leave and head towards the neighboring al-Soussa town.” When he and his family realized that the battle was impending, they chose to flee.”

The Washington Post: Israeli Official Confirms Syria Airstrikes As Russia Objects

“An Israeli security official on Wednesday confirmed responsibility for overnight airstrikes in Syria, saying the air force had hit a series of targets involved in Iranian arms transfers to the Hezbollah militant group. Russia had criticized the airstrike, saying it endangered civilian flights. The comments highlighted the increasingly tense relations between Israel and Russia, which have grown strained since the September downing of a Russian plane by Syrian forces responding to another Israeli raid. The Israeli official said the air force had attacked several Iranian targets in three main locations late Tuesday and early Wednesday. He said the targets were primarily storage and logistics facilities used by archenemy Iran to ship weapons to Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Lebanese group that fought Israel in a 2006 war. The Israeli official said it was Syrian air defenses that endangered the civilian planes, by firing 30 missiles in response to the airstrike. He also claimed that Iranian forces are operating less than 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the Israeli border, contrary to Russian assurances.”

The New York Times: Syria Faces Brittle Future, Dominated By Russia And Iran

“Turkey is threatening to invade Syria to eradicate Kurdish fighters. Syrian forces are rolling toward territory the Americans will soon abandon. Israel is bombing Iran-backed militias deep inside Syria. And Russia could soon move to crush the last vestige of the Syrian anti-government insurgency. The Syria that the United States military is vacating on President Trump’s orders is a Balkanized version of the country that plunged into a calamitous civil war nearly eight years ago. Now, with the American troop withdrawal and the demise of the insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad, Iran and Russia will be even freer to flex their power in Syria. “Welcome to the post-American Middle East,” Richard N. Haass, a longtime diplomat and president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.”

CBC News: A Look Back At The Year Facebook's Dark Side Came To Light

“It's been a pivotal year for tech, as more information has come to light about the dark side of the tools billions of people use on a daily basis. And perhaps no company better epitomizes the current relationship between consumers and the world of tech than Facebook. For the social media giant, 2018 has brought a scandal after scandal. The company can't seem to get through a month without yet another scandal breaking, said Philip Mai, the director of business and communications of the Social Media Lab in Ryerson's University's Ted Rogers School of Management. "Facebook unwittingly allowed the Trump campaign to collect and misuse the personal data on millions of Americans," explains Mai. "It failed to recognize the severity and impact of Russia's disinformation campaigns, and ignored the fact that their platform was being used to stoke religious and ethnic violence in developing nations as well as extremism and white supremacy in the west.”

United States

The Hill: Trump Defends Decision To Leave Syria During Visit To Iraq

“President Trump defended his decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria during his surprise visit to a U.S. military base in Iraq on Wednesday. Trump, giving remarks at the Al Asad Air Base, disputed reports that he announced the drawdown in Syria without prior warning. "You know, the way it was reported was like I just pulled out," Trump said, according to a White House transcript of his remarks. "I didn't just pull out. I've been talking about it for a year and a half." "I said, 'Let's get out of Syria. Let's bring our young people home,'" he continued. Trump claimed that he made numerous requests with officials to pull troops out over the 18 months. Trump last week announced that the more than 2,000 U.S. soldiers in Syria would be returning home soon. The decision prompted backlash from both Republicans and some Democrats, who argued that withdrawing from Syria would leave a power vacuum for Iran and Russia, two prominent backers of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Trump has claimed that Turkey will continue to fight ISIS in the region, the U.S.'s stated purpose for its presence.”

The Express: ISIS Returns: Trump Quitting Syria To Create 'Power Vacuum' Fuelling Iran-Israel War

“ISIS could exploit the "power vacuum" Donald Trump will create withdrawing US troops in Syria to regain power in the region while Iran and Israel come to blow over control of southern Syria, former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind warned. Donald Trump announced last week on Twitter US troops deployed to Syria will be returning home after nearly four years of providing support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting to bring the Assad Government down. United States allies have warned the Islamic State (ISIS) could exploit the withdrawal of American troops to regain control over the areas they lost to the US-led coalition in Syria. Sir Malcolm Rifkind also suggested the US retreat could fuel further conflict between arch-enemies Iran and Israel over control of southern Syria.”

Syria

Newsweek: U.S.-Led Coalition Has Been Fighting Hundreds Of ISIS Militants In Syria Despite Trump Claiming Group Was Defeated

“Less than a week after President Donald Trump announced his intent to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, claiming that the Islamic State militant group had been defeated, the American-led coalition fighting the group revealed it "removed" hundreds of ISIS fighters in the war-torn Middle Eastern country. On Tuesday, the coalition announced it had carried out "precision airstrikes and coordinated fires to make further progress in the fight against ISIS” between December 16 and 22. According to a statement by the Operation Inherent Resolve task force, it has “removed several hundred ISIS fighters from the battlefield.” In addition, the coalition said it destroyed logistics facilities and staging areas used by ISIS. The attacks have “severely degraded” ISIS's ability to maneuver in the area and delivered a “significant blow” to the organization's efforts to fund “terrorist activities.” “Coalition partner forces continue to advance through the last remaining stronghold ISIS has in the region, rooting out the fighting positions of ISIS fighters,” the statement concluded. U.K. Army Major General Christopher Ghika, deputy commander of the coalition, said in the statement: “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.”

The Epoch Times: US-Led Coalition Continues Air Strikes Against ISIS In Syria

“The U.S.-led coalition in Syria continued to conduct air strikes against the ISIS terrorist group, American officials said Dec. 25, about a week after President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from the war-torn country. From Dec. 16 to Dec. 22, the coalition said it conducted multiple strikes, including “precision air strikes” and “coordinated fires,” that successfully destroyed logistics facilities and staging areas used by ISIS in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, and “removed several hundred ISIS fighters from the battlefield.” The attacks also damaged the group’s ability to fund its activities by targeting “several ISIS financial centers and capabilities in Susah and As Shafah.” The coalition partner forces said they would continue to advance and dig out the positions of ISIS fighters, describing the war zone as the “last remaining stronghold ISIS has in the region.” “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,” the deputy commander of the coalition, UK Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, said in a statement. The continued air support contrasts with initial reports last week that said the United States would likely end its air campaign against ISIS when the troops exit.”

Iran

Radio Free Europe: Tehran Held Talks With Afghan Taliban, Say Iranian Media

“Iran has been holding talks with the Afghan Taliban with the knowledge of the Afghan government, Iranian media quoted a top Iranian security official as saying. The news comes just days after the militant group attended reconciliation talks with a U.S. peace envoy in Abu Dhabi. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, made the announcement during a visit to Kabul on December 26, according to the Fars and Tasnim news agencies. According to IRNA, Shamkhani said the talks between Iran and the Taliban were held "to help curb the security problems in Afghanistan." "The Afghan government has been informed of the communications and talks carried out with the Taliban, and this process will continue," Shamkhani added. The reports provided no details on where and when the meetings took place. Shamkhani said that "cooperation between [Iran and Afghanistan] will certainly help in fixing Afghanistan's security issues of today." Abas Aslani, a Tasnim reporter, tweeted that it was the first time talks had been officially confirmed between Iran and the Taliban. The announcement follows reconciliation talks last week between the United States and Taliban officials in the United Arab Emirates.”

The Guardian: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Spends 40th Birthday In Iranian Jail

“Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is spending her 40th birthday in prison in Iran after Tehran ignored fresh calls for her to be released. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national from Hampstead, north London, has been held in Iran since April 2016, accused of seeking to overthrow the Iranian regime. The authorities in Tehran failed to respond to an appeal by her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, and others, for her release on Boxing Day, her 40th birthday. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport and later sentenced to five years in jail for spying, a charge she vehemently denies. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, has been unable to persuade Tehran to release her. In a video message this week, Richard Ratcliffe pointed out that Friday 28 December would be his wife’s 1,000th day in prison. Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, covering Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s home area, urged the government to do more to end the imprisonment and the family’s suffering.”

The New York Times: Iran’s Economic Crisis Drags Down The Middle Class Almost Overnight

“Less than a year ago, he was running a thriving computer accessories business, driving a new car and renting a comfortable two-bedroom apartment in the center of Tehran. But last month, Kaveh Taymouri found himself riding a rusty motorcycle on his hourlong commute to his family’s new lodgings, a 485-square-foot apartment in one of the city’s worst neighborhoods, next to its sprawling cemetery. When he arrived home one recent night at 10:30 from his new job at an arcade, there was no food on the stove. The sandwich he had for lunch would have to do. Nevertheless, his wife and former business partner, Reihaneh, said she thought his mood was improving. “At least he has stopped screaming in his sleep,” she said. Before their “downfall,” as they call it, the Taymouris were the model middle-class Iranian family, prosperous college-educated business owners who made enough money to save for a down payment on their own home. Now, they are a model for a different sort: the millions of middle-class Iranians who almost overnight have seen their lives shrink, dragged down by economic forces beyond their control.”

Iraq

CNSNews: Pro-Iran Militia Leader In Iraq Warns Trump: Pull Out Troops Or We’ll ‘Eject Them By Other Means’

“President Trump’s unannounced visit Wednesday to U.S. forces in Iraq brought a veiled threat from the leader of an Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia – remove the troops or face the type of bloodshed they confronted before their previous withdrawal, in 2011. Complaining that Trump’s visit to the Al Asad Airbase in Anbar province violated diplomatic norms, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) leader Qais al-Khazali said on Twitter the Iraqi parliament would respond by voting to expel the American troops stationed there. “And if they do not leave,” he added, “we have the experience and the ability to eject them by other means, familiar to your forces when they were humiliated in 2011.” AAH is one of two main IRGC Qods Force-backed Iraqi militias which U.S. military commanders accuses of responsibility for numerous deadly attacks on their forces during the Iraq war.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: ISIS Resumes Attacks In Northern, Western Iraq

“The ISIS terrorist group has kicked off a series of attacks in western and northwestern regions of Iraq, revealed security and political sources. Examples of these attacks, were the car bombing in Tal Afar on Tuesday that left two people dead and the kidnapping of 14 civilians in Kirkuk also on Tuesday. The developments have taken place a year since former Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s announcement that ISIS has been defeated in Iraq. An informed political source told Asharq Al-Awsat that prior to the arrival of ISIS, corruption among the military was rife in these regions. This would eventually pave the way for ISIS’ onslaught. After the liberation, however, the regions became embroiled in a struggle for power among forces that emerged victorious in the May parliamentary elections, the source said on condition of anonymity. Each of the victors alone wants to assume power, he went on to say. This dispute is being played out in parliament and government whereby the Sunni camp has been split into two: the Islah and Binaa blocs. The rivalry between them is demonstrated in the differences over ministerial portfolios. The dispute could later seep into the provinces and state agencies, he added. This rivalry could ultimately be exploited by ISIS, he warned.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: Afghan Official Raises Prospect Of Postponing April Presidential Vote

“Afghanistan’s presidential elections will be postponed, an election official in Kabul suggested Wednesday, a move that could jeopardize the incumbent president’s reelection hopes while likely easing efforts to reach a negotiated settlement of the 17-year war. Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi, spokesman for the Independent Elections Commission, said delaying the scheduled April 20 balloting was under discussion, citing the need to address unspecified “technical issues” and to “build capacity” for election workers. Mr. Ibrabimi said the date for a rescheduled vote would be announced on Thursday. The postponement signs come little more than two months after a controversial parliamentary ballot, which officials and experts in the Afghan capital privately have described as the country’s most poorly administered election since the U.S. invaded in 2001 and forced the Taliban from power.”

Gulf News Asia: US Offers Safety, Job Security To Taliban

“The US is offering Taliban militants a safety network that job opportunities to persuade the insurgents to join the Afghan peace process. As world powers, including the US and Russia, expedite efforts to encourage the Taliban to join the Afghan peace process, the US Defence Department has outlined a plan for rehabilitating the rebels in a new Afghanistan, the Dawn newspaper reported on Thursday. “Although some members of the Taliban may be weary of fighting and ready to lay down their weapons, they will only rejoin society if they believe their safety and the safety of their families are guaranteed, and if they have an opportunity to earn enough money to provide for their families,” a Pentagon report was quoted as saying. The Pentagon, however, noted that while local leaders are developing programmes that may offer a path to peace on a small scale, “the Afghan government has not developed a national reintegration programme”. While the Donald Trump-led US administration appears keen to start withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan, the Pentagon advocates maintaining enough troops in the country to force the Taliban to join peace talks. In the past, the US and its allies have used military force to drive the Taliban towards “a durable and inclusive political settlement”. Increased military pressure on the Taliban and international calls for peace appear to be driving the Taliban to negotiations, the Pentagon report said.”

Pakistan

Greater Kashmir: Pak Claims It Foiled Al-Qaeda Attack At Christmas Ceremony

“Pakistani authorities on Wednesday claimed to have foiled a terrorist attack at a Christmas ceremony in Punjab province and arrested four al-Qaeda terrorists. According to the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), it got a credible information that four terrorists belonging to al-Qaeda were present near Francis Abad, Sheikhupura road Gujranwala, some 80-km from Lahore. "They were planning to attack a Christmas function in Gujranwala city on December 25," a CTD spokesman said in a statement on Wednesday. A CTD team along with police raided their hideout and arrested the four terrorists identified as Muhammad Tua Seen, Muhammad Junaid, Muneer Ahmed and Taaj Muhammad Shah. "The terrorists have made important disclosures regarding other plans of the al-Qaeda in Pakistan. Raids are being conducted to arrest their accomplices," the spokesman said. Explosive material and ammunition have been recovered from them. They have been shifted to an undisclosed location for further investigation. The CTD recently arrested a member of the al-Qaeda from Lahore.”

The Diplomat: Kashmir’s Teenage Militants

“Two teenagers — Mudasir Rashid Parray, 14, and Saqib Bilal Sheikh, 16 — went missing from their native village Hajin, some 50 kilometers north of Srinagar in Indian Kashmir on August 31. According to reports, Bilal’s mother had sent him to run an errand at the market but he did not return. Instead, somewhere between his home and the market, he met Mudasir. “Both the boys decided to go somewhere and scaled the fence of a playground to reach the nearby highway where a bike was waiting for them,” Asim Aijaz, Bilal’s maternal uncle told The Diplomat. Fast forward a few months. On December 9, hundreds of people participated in their funeral procession. They were killed along with another Pakistani militant in an 18-hour-long gun battle with Indian security forces on the outskirts of the summer capital, Srinagar. Mudasir was the youngest militant killed in the three decade-old armed conflict in Kashmir that has consumed nearly half a million lives so far, including 80,000 militants. Since July 2016, the situation has taken a turn for the worse with the killing of Burhan Wani, a charismatic young militant commander. Wani’s killing renewed the trend of local youth joining the militant ranks, a trend which had slowed considerably in the intervening years since early 2000s, when relative normalcy had returned to Kashmir.”

Xinhua: Pakistan To Launch Anti-Terrorism Campaign In March Next Year: Minister

“The Pakistani government on Wednesday announced to launch a wide-ranging comprehensive operation to counter-terrorism and target killing across the country in March next year. Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi told media that the government has decided to launch the National Action Plan, a comprehensive action plan to crack down on terrorism and to supplement the ongoing anti-terrorist offensive. The announcement came after the targeted killing of former parliamentarian and senior politician Syed Ali Raza Abidi who was shot dead by unknown assailants outside his house in Karachi. The attack at Abidi is the fourth terrorist attack in Karachi during last one month, which has raised serious concerns over the country's achievements against the terrorism. The minister said the political and military leadership and key security agencies would sit together to take decisions to bring betterment to the country's national security plan. The minister said the government will also revive the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), the country's national organization established to gather intelligence and disseminate and coordinate between all relevant stakeholders to counter terrorism and extremism.”

Yemen

The National: Houthi Mine Threat Stops Displaced Yemenis Returning Home

“Displaced Yemenis returning to recently liberated parts of Hodeidah say that departing Houthi fighters left behind landmines, which have killed civilians and rendered entire districts unsafe. Houthi rebels have controlled the critical port city on Yemen’s Red Sea coast since 2015. Pro-government forces have been poised to retake the city since June, but amid fears of a humanitarian catastrophe, major military operations have been postponed to give diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict a chance. Recent clashes have seen pro-government forces advance into southern districts of the district, but according to the terms of a UN-brokered ceasefire reached in Sweden earlier this month, both Houthi and pro-government forces are to withdraw from the city. However, even if the two sides adhere to the terms of the ceasefire, displaced Hodeidah residents say that the lingering threat of landmines will stop many returning home.”

Saudi Arabia

Asharq Al-Awsat: Saudi Arabia Calls For Updating Religious Rhetoric To Combat Terrorism

“The need to use modernized religious rhetoric to combat extremism was addressed during a seminar at the 33rd Janadriyah cultural festival. Aide to the royal court Sheikh Saad al-Shathri stressed during the event that terrorism and terror groups abuse and manipulate religious texts to serve their malicious purposes. Moreover, terrorists take advantage of susceptible people, such as those suffering from an identity crisis or psychological problems, in order to advance their agendas. Youths are most vulnerable to extremist groups, he warned. He therefore, explained that rhetoric addressed to the youth must be in line with the modern times, while still retaining core values. Analyzing terror cases starts by studying terrorist leaders by resorting to religious scholars, said Shathri. He stressed that terrorists should not be given any room to develop and expand their agendas. Imam of the Great Mosque of Makkah Dr. Abdulrahman al-Sudais stated that updating religious rhetoric should take place when the current one leans towards extremism. He acknowledged that religious rhetoric changes as times changes. Modernizing the rhetoric should make Islamic Sharia accessible throughout the world, by focusing on ethics and moderation. The rhetoric should be based on fixed texts and learned scholars. They must emphasize tolerance and accommodating for the current age and different societies, said Sudais.”

Lebanon

Al Jazeera: Israel Destroys 'Hezbollah Cross-Border Tunnel'

“The Israeli army says it has destroyed another cross-border tunnel, which it claims was built by the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah. A video released by the Israelis on Wednesday showed an officer shouting across the border and warning residents of the Lebanese village of Ayta ash-Shab that they were in danger and to stand far away. The video then shows a countdown before a soldier pushes a button and aerial footage of a powerful explosion. Israel announced the discovery of the tunnels - five in total - earlier in December. It said Hezbollah planned to use these tunnels in the event of a war to conduct attacks in Israel. The Israelis have not specified the number of tunnels destroyed so far. The Lebanese armed group has not commented on the discovery. On December 17, the UN's Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said the tunnels violated a ceasefire agreement that ended the 2006 war. "These [tunnels] constitute violations of the UN Security Council Resolution 1701," the peacekeeping force said in a statement at the time, referring to the agreement that ended the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah. Lebanese authorities have vowed to abide by the ceasefire terms with Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri saying the Lebanese army would conduct patrols to deal "with any flaw in the implementation" of the truce.”

Israel

Ynetnews: Israeli Official Confirms Syria Airstrikes, Says Iran Was The Target

“After Moscow criticized Israeli 'provocative' strikes on Syria, Jerusalem claims targets were primarily storage and logistics facilities used by Iran to ship weapons to the Hezbollah terror group. An Israeli security official on Wednesday confirmed responsibility for overnight Tuesday's airstrikes in Syria, saying the air force had hit a series of targets involved in Iranian arms transfers to the Hezbollah terror group. Russia had criticized the airstrike, saying it endangered civilian flights. The comments highlighted the increasingly tense relations between Israel and Russia, which have grown strained since the September downing of a Russian plane by Syrian forces responding to another Israeli raid.”

Libya

ABC News: Islamic State Claims Attack On Libya's Foreign Ministry

“The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at Libya's Foreign Ministry in Tripoli that killed at least three people. In a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency Wednesday, IS says three fighters infiltrated the area and fired on Foreign Ministry workers. Libyan officials say a suicide bomber targeted the entrance to the ministry and another was shot dead by guards before he could detonate his explosives. Libya's Health Ministry says the Tuesday attack wounded 10 other people. Libya was plunged into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Moammar Gadhafi, allowing IS and other extremist groups to gain a foothold.”

Times Of Israel: Libya’s Chaos Continues To Feed Jihadist Threat By Islamic State

“Two years after the Islamic State group lost the Libyan city of Sirte — its last stronghold in the country — the jihadists continue to launch attacks, including in the heart of the capital, profiting from government weakness and general chaos. The last attack claimed by IS targeted Tripoli’s foreign ministry on Tuesday, killing three and causing major damage to one of the capital’s supposedly most secure buildings. It followed two similar attacks, one in September against the headquarters of the national oil company that killed two and another that hit the electoral commission in Tripoli in May, when 14 were slain. “IS has proved that it is capable of maneuvering and of hitting strongly, two years after the loss of its stronghold in Sirte,” said Libyan political analyst Jalal al-Fitouri. Its capabilities persist despite “the hunting down (of its fighters) in the Libyan desert by Libyan armed groups and the US military, which has launched numerous strikes against IS in the south,” he said. IS has “benefited from divisions” in the aftermath of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime falling in 2011, Fitouri noted. Libya is divided between several rival entities, chief among them an internationally recognized Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli and a parallel administration in the east loyal to strongman Khalifa Hiftar.”

Nigeria

News 24: 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 spokesperson Colonel 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.”

United Kingdom

Forbes: Forget Gatwick, Why The Deadliest Terrorist Threat From Drones Is Not At Our Airports

“At a half-day closed session with one of the UK’s leading Premier League soccer clubs earlier this year, the stadium's security director told the room “there are two things that terrify us: a large vehicle driven at speed at thousands of fans as they head home after a match, and, of course, drones.” The floor to ceiling windows of the meeting room, high in the stands, looked down on a vast, empty stadium with the immaculate playing field far below. The meeting had covered every aspect of security, from cyber and the dark web to player safety and hooliganism. Inevitably, terrorism was high on the agenda. Looking out at that open space where 50,000 plus people gather 25 plus times a year, the threat from drones did not require elaboration. Sporting events are open air, mass gatherings. As are music concerts and festivals. The English Premier League averages around 40,000 fans per game. American Football in the US is higher, with an average of 75,000 people at each of the 256 games. The numbers attending a large music festival, such as Glastonbury or Coachella or Donauinselfest, can be many times more. Although international terrorism always targets headlines, Al Qaeda’s tentacled network and 'spectacularization' have been traded for Islamic State’s ruthless theater of evil and affiliated radicalization. Planning has given way to opportunism.”

Europe

The Wall Street Journal: Bomb Explosion In Athens Fuels Fear Of New Generation Of Terror

“Two people were injured after a bomb exploded outside a church in central Athens on Thursday, fueling concerns of a resurgence of urban-guerrilla violence in Greece. The growing number of recent attacks has sparked fears of the emergence of a new generation of terrorist groups rooted in far-left organizations that target the conservative establishment. Thursday’s blast occurred just after 7 a.m. local time outside an Orthodox Church in the upscale neighborhood of Kolonaki, before it was due to open for service. A police officer and the church caretaker were wounded and rushed to hospital, the officials said. There was no warning call to authorities or claim of responsibility. “The church caretaker spotted a box outside the entrance of the church, moved it and called the police,” a police official said. “It exploded a few minutes later when the police arrived; the blast was not powerful.” The two were slightly injured and were receiving treatment at local hospitals, officials said. Earlier this month a powerful bomb exploded outside a big Greek media group, in what officials called an attack on free speech and democracy. In mid-November, a bomb was placed outside the house of senior Greek judge in central Athens. No one was wounded as there were warning calls for the attacks. Last year, former Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was wounded and hospitalized for several weeks after he opened a letter bomb while riding in his car.”

Reuters: Belgian Judge Orders Repatriation Of Six Children Of Islamic State Militants: Belga

“A Belgian judge has ordered the government to repatriate six children of Islamic State (IS) militants and their mothers who have been detained in a camp in Kurdish-controlled Syria, the national news agency Belga said on Wednesday. Tatiana Wielandt, 26, and Bouchra Abouallal, 25, both Belgian citizens, and their children have been held in the Al-Hol camp in since the defeat of IS in nearly all territory it once held in Syria and Iraq. Belga quoted the court ruling as ordering the Brussels government to take all necessary and possible measures to ensure the six children and their mothers can return to Belgium. It must do so within 40 days after being notified of the decision or pay a daily penalty of 5,000 euros for each child, up to a maximum 1 million euros, newspaper De Tijd said. The Belgian government can appeal the ruling. No comment was available from the court on Wednesday due to a public holiday. A lawyer for the two women was not immediately available for comment. A spokesman for the foreign ministry said it would “analyze the situation together” with the justice and interior ministries. Hundreds of European citizens, many of them babies, are being kept by U.S.-backed Kurdish militias in three camps since IS was ousted last year from almost all the large swathes of territory it seized in 2014-15, according to Kurdish sources.”

Financial Times: Russia Warns Of Risk To Global Anti-Terrorism Efforts

“Western states’ refusal to deepen collaboration with Russia on anti-terrorism issues threatens global efforts to combat extremists, Moscow’s top diplomat for international anti-terror co-operation has warned. A collapse in western relations with Russia over the past few years has meant that progress on anti-terror collaboration is “frozen,” Ilya Rogachev, director of the Department for New Challenges and Threats at Russia’s foreign ministry said, which was hampering efforts to exchange information. “This is how ideology and politics have been used in the field of anti-terrorism, and that is wrong . . . it has direct damage on societies, citizens and people,” he added. “There is no logic in this action.” Russia’s role as the key military actor in Syria and the closest major ally to the regime of Bashar al-Assad has put it in proximity to terror groups that have participated in the country’s civil war. Some of the perpetrators of the major terror attacks in Paris and Brussels in recent years had fought in Syria. “Our intelligence agencies know the names of everyone who travelled to Syria to fight,” Mr Rogachev said. “Everyone agrees that terrorism is a global threat and should be addressed by joining efforts.” Advocates of better relations between Moscow and the west often cite military and anti-terror co-operation — particularly relating to Syria — as an achievable goal, and a starting point from which to build more complex areas of collaboration.”

Southeast Asia

The Straits Times: India Busts ISIS-Inspired Militant Group

“India's anti-terror agency on Wednesday (Dec 26) said it had busted a local militant cell inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group that was planning to carry out bombings and target prominent political figures. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) said 10 members of an obscure militant group "Harkat ul Harb-e-Islam" were arrested in multi-city raids and a further six suspects were being questioned over their alleged links with the outfit. NIA spokesman Alok Mittal said arms and ammunition were recovered from the raids over 17 locations, including in the capital New Delhi, as the group prepped for striking several targets ahead of the high-profile Republic Day national event on Jan 26. "They were at an advanced stage of carrying out a series of blasts," Mr Mittal told reporters at a press conference in New Delhi. "They wanted to explode remote-controlled bombs and even conduct fidayeen (suicide) attacks." Mr Mittal said the group had attempted to make suicide vests and developed a homemade rocket launcher, adding that the unknown mastermind of the module was based abroad. One of the accused is an engineer, he said. The authorities have previously claimed to have foiled similar ISIS-inspired cells but there is no evidence of the militant group's presence in the country.”

Technology

The Verge: The Verge 2018 Tech Report Card: Facebook

“For Facebook, the year kicked off with the promise of a fresh start. “My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote, referring to the hate speech, foreign interference, and concerns over smartphone addiction that had defined the company’s previous year. “We won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools. If we’re successful this year then we’ll end 2018 on a much better trajectory.” Nearly 12 months later, the company has taken several important steps to curb the worst behavior that takes place on the platform. The US midterm elections, which tested Facebook’s ability to defend against foreign intrusions, passed largely without incident — an important milestone on the company’s quest to rebuild trust after the 2016 presidential election.”

Terrorist Financing

Al-Ain: The African Continent's Resources Are A New Source Of Funding For Terrorist Groups

“The Observatory for Monitoring Takfiri Fatwas and Extremist Ideologies at Egypt's Dar al-Ifta warned of the spread of terrorism inside the African continent via successive terrorist attacks. It pointed to the attempts of terrorist groups to relocate to African countries, seeking to exploit sectarian and tribal conflicts in some areas. The Observatory confirmed in an official statement that the resources of the African continent represent a new source of funding for these armed groups, which lost most of their financial resources in areas like Syria and Iraq, where they had hoped to exploit arms and drug trafficking. On Wednesday, the Observatory praised the latest victories of Iraqi and Syrian forces in the war against ISIS, which have been won during the past few months. It stressed the necessity of devoting concerted efforts and coordination to preserve the gains of counter terrorism in Syrian and Iraqi cities, in addition to drying up the sources that had been financing and arming these terrorist groups.”

Counter Terrorism

Shems FM: Tunisia: A Terrorist Cell Dismantled In Sfax

“A security source told the correspondent of the "Shems FM" radio station in Sfax, Tunisia's second largest city, that a terrorist cell was recently captured in the vicinity of El Mahres. The police arrested the five members of this cell, who were holed up inside a house, the same source added. During the security crackdown, raw materials used in the manufacture of explosives as well as a quantity of ammo nitrate were seized, the security source added.”

Al-Qaeda

Alarab: Al-Qaeda - ISIS Rivalry Heats Up Over Territory And Funding In Somalia

“In the last three years, Somalia has become a declared battlefield between Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda's Somalia-based affiliate, and ISIS militants. As far as the real reason for this intensifying rivalry is concerned, analysts unanimously attribute it, first and foremost, to the need for controlling territories, funding resources and maintaining logistical support. Ahmed Nour, a Somali political analyst, noted that the existing conflict between Al-Qaeda and ISIS in Somalia is, in fact, a copy of the ongoing battle between these two terrorist organizations in different parts of the world, particularly in Iraq and Syria. The essence of this fierce rivalry is basically over the control of land and funding sources, the expert explained. Nour went on to say that ISIS's imposition of royalties on Somali business people strengthens the theory that the clash between these two bitter rivals is financial rather than ideological.”

Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps
Baladi-News: Iran Cuts Half Of The IRGC's Budget

“The share of the Ministry of Defense, the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Basij militias in the new Iranian general fiscal budget was cut drastically compared with last year. The budget bill, which was presented by President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday, slashed the financial allowances of these three military entities by half. Addressing the parliament, Rouhani stated that the new budget bill is intended to escape the impacts of the "tyrannical" US sanctions against his country. Commenting on this issue, Ayham Ahmad, a political researcher, said that Iran's presence in Syria, at least militarily, will end in 2019 because of the American sanctions and the fierce power struggle currently going on in Syria. Iran no longer has the capabilities or the resources necessary to weather that conflict, the expert explained.”
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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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