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Old 05-23-2019, 06:24 AM
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Arrow Eye on Extremism - May 23, 2019

Eye on Extremism
May 23, 2019
RE: info@counterextremism.com

May 23rd, 2019

NBC News: In Letter, 'American Taliban' John Walker Lindh Said ISIS 'Doing A Spectacular Job'

“John Walker Lindh, the American captured fighting with the Afghan Taliban two months after the 9/11 attacks, is set to be released from prison Thursday amid concerns among U.S. authorities that he remains a potentially violent Islamic extremist, current and former officials told NBC News. Underscoring those worries is Lindh's 2015 handwritten letter from prison to NBC's Los Angeles station KNBC —revealed for the first time Wednesday — in which he expressed support for ISIS, saying the terror group that beheaded Americans was “doing a spectacular job.” “The Islamic State is clearly very sincere and serious about fulfilling the long-neglected religious obligation to establish a caliphate through armed struggle, which is the only correct method,” Lindh wrote. Lindh expressed that sentiment—in response to a question from the station about whether ISIS represents Islam—after ISIS had beheaded Americans in well-publicized videos, including journalist James Foley in August 2014. It was his third of four letters in a series of correspondence with KNBC. He did not respond to a follow-up question asking him about ISIS violence, saying in his final letter that he would no longer respond to the reporter's inquiries.”

The Straits Times: Deadly Strike Hits A Market In Syria As Damascus Battles Islamist Militants

“Syrian government air strikes killed 15 civilians, 12 of them in a market, as fierce fighting raged for the north-west, which is controlled by Islamist militants, a monitoring group has said. Government forces battled to repel the militant counteroffensive around the town of Kafr Nabuda that has left more than 50 combatants dead in 24 hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday (May 22). The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance, led by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, controls a large part of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces. The region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal, but the government and its Russian ally have escalated their bombardment in recent weeks, seizing several towns on its southern flank. At least 12 people were killed and another 18 wounded when the warplanes hit the Islamist-held Idlib province town of Maarat al-Numan around midnight on Tuesday, the Observatory said. The market was crowded with people out and about after breaking the daytime fast observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan. The bombardment blew in the facades of surrounding buildings, and ripped through the flimsy frames and canvas of stalls in the market square, an AFP photographer reported.”

The Washington Post: Suicide Car Bomb Kills At Least 9 In Somalia’s Capital

“Islamic extremists exploded a suicide car bomb near the presidential palace in Somalia’s capital Wednesday, killing at least nine people, including former Foreign Minister Hussein Elabe Fahiye, who was an adviser to the current president. Capt. Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press that an additional 13 people were wounded and most of the casualties were soldiers. The Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the blast in Mogadishu, saying it targeted vehicles carrying government officials. The car bomb exploded at a security checkpoint near the presidential palace as soldiers were conducting security checks on vehicles on the main road. A white column of smoke rose over the seaside city as gunfire rang out and people scattered. The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab frequently carries out such blasts in the capital near the presidential compound and at hotels frequented by government officials and foreigners. “In the past I was wounded in this area, and again today my daughter has been killed in this attack which also destroyed my home. This is terrible,” witness Madey Ahmed told the AP. Amid the crumpled vehicles and tangled metal roofing, a small corps of yellow-vested workers carried bodies and began sweeping the dusty street.”

The Guardian: US Repatriates Family From Syrian Detention Camp For ISIS Suspects

“A US family have been removed from a Syrian detention centre for suspected members of Islamic State and returned to the US. The move could have implications for hundreds of children born to non-Syrians who have been in legal limbo since the disintegration of the terror group. The family of four were taken from al-Roj camp in the country’s north-east over the weekend, sources inside the camp have confirmed to the Guardian. They are believed to be US citizens of Cambodian ancestry and to include children born under Isis rule. Another American, Hoda Muthana, an alleged Isis propagandist, was left behind. The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, claimed there were no legal grounds for her to be repatriated. Washington has repeatedly urged countries whose citizens were detained in Syria during the collapse of the terror group to repatriate them from two overwhelmed detention centres in which more than 132,000 people are housed. The retort from European states has been that the US should first sort out its own affairs. While the total number of US citizens in detention remains unclear, the family of four represents a substantial number removed, which could increase pressure on other countries to repatriate their own citizens.”

Reuters: Suspected Indonesian Rioters 'Pledged Support' For Islamic State: Police

“Two men detained by Indonesian police for rioting this week were part of a group that had pledged support to the Islamic State militant group and intended to carry out jihad, or holy war, police said on Thursday. Two nights of rioting and clashes between protesters and police in the capital, Jakarta, followed the release of official election results which showed President Joko Widodo defeated his rival, Prabowo Subianto, in last month’s presidential race. ”They intended to carry out jihad during May 21 and 22 protests,” national police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal, said of the two, adding they belonged to a group called Garis, which had pledged support for Islamic State.”

Arab News: Hate Preacher Al-Qaradawi Gets ‘Best Seat In House’ At Qatar Emir’s Banquet

“Yusuf Al-Qaradawi — who is known for his extreme views, including justifying suicide bombings and attacks on Jews — was pictured at the iftar reception hosted by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the current emir of Qatar. Despite such hate speech, Al-Qaradawi continues to be based in Qatar, where he is given a platform by the government, said a member of the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), a non-profit organization that combats extremist groups. “Yusuf Al-Qaradawi remains a vociferous purveyor of Islamist propaganda and bigotry. Rather than condemn his vile rhetoric, the Qatari government continues to provide Al-Qaradawi with a platform and hold him in a place of esteem,” Josh Lipowsky, senior research analyst at the CEP, told Arab News.”

United States

The New York Post: New Jersey Man Arrested For Plotting Terror Attack At Trump Tower

“A New Jersey man was arrested Wednesday on terror-related charges for allegedly seeking to provide material support to Hamas, and discussing the bombing of Trump Tower and the Israeli consulate in Manhattan, according to federal officials. Jonathan Xie, 20, of Basking Ridge, is charged with two counts of attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, two counts of making false statements, and one count of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce. He is scheduled to appear Wednesday afternoon before US Magistrate Judge Mark Falk in Newark federal court. Xie also is accused of lying on his application to join the US Army and of making threats against pro-Israel groups, officials said. According to federal documents, Xie appeared in an Instagram Live video in April wearing a black ski mask and claiming that he was against Zionism and the neo-liberal establishment. When asked by someone in the video if he would go to Gaza and join Hamas, Xie replied, “Yes, if I could find a way.” Later in the video, he displayed a Hamas flag and brandished a handgun. “I’m gonna go to the [expletive] pro-Israel march and I’m going to shoot everybody,” he said, according to the complaint.”

Fox News: Pentagon Weighs Requesting Several Thousand More Troops In Mideast Amid Iran Tensions: Official

“The Pentagon is slated to request several thousand more U.S. troops be deployed to the Middle East amid escalating tensions with Iran, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News on Wednesday. No decision has been made, and it was not clear if the White House would give its blessing. The deployment could also include Patriot missile batteries and naval ships. Tensions between Washington and Tehran came to a head after President Trump ordered warships and bombers to the Middle East earlier this month to counter unspecified threats to U.S. interests. In addition, all non-essential U.S. staff at the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Iraq were ordered to leave following a surprise visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”

CNN: 'American Taliban' To Be Released From Prison, A Key Case For Questions About Radicals Re-Entering Society

“John Walker Lindh, the so-called “American Taliban” whose capture in Afghanistan riveted a country in the early days after the September 11 attacks, is set to be released from prison this week. After serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence, Lindh, the first US-born detainee in the war on terror, on Thursday will walk out of a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, and join the small, but growing, group of Americans convicted of terror-related charges attempting to re-enter into society. Lindh's plans after release are not publicly known, but some are already calling for an investigation into his time in prison -- where he is said in two US government reports to have made pro-ISIS and other extremist statements -- that could send him back into detention. Reports of Lindh's maintained radicalization, detailed in two 2017 official counterterrorism assessments, are also driving questions about the efforts of the US government to rehabilitate former sympathizers like him, who are expected to complete prison sentences in waves in the coming years. Raised in the suburbs north of San Francisco, Lindh took an interest in Islam at a young age, converting to the religion at 16 and moving to the Middle East to learn Arabic after finishing high school.”

ABC News: CIA Officer's Father To Trump: Please Stop Release Of John Walker Lindh Aka 'American Taliban'

“Johnny Spann visited his son this week in Section 34 of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where America's first fallen hero after 9/11 in the war in Afghanistan rests forever, with a commanding view of the Pentagon and Washington's other monuments. And there at the grave, the still-grieving father, now 70, told his son, CIA paramilitary officer Johnny "Mike" Spann, how sorry he is that the "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh is getting out of prison Thursday -- an apparently unrepentant extremist, according to leaked government reports and informed sources who spoke with ABC News this week. "You know every time I go there, I have to tell him that I love him, I'm proud of him," the elder Spann, from Winfield, Alabama, told ABC News. "I hate to have to apologize to him, because I feel like that we failed him, but that's what I'll have to do.”

Syria

The New York Times: U.S. Yet To Find Evidence Of New Chemical Weapons Attack In Syria

“The United States has found no evidence so far that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have begun again using chemical weapons in Syria’s continuing civil war, the top American diplomat for Syria said on Wednesday, a day after the State Department warned of an “alleged chlorine attack” in the country’s northwest. The diplomat, James F. Jeffrey, the special representative for Syria and a veteran Foreign Service officer, said during a congressional hearing that the Syrian military had been carrying out bombings in the area around Idlib, the last rebel stronghold, that “have been indiscriminate and very vicious.” “We’re watching this very closely — also the reports of chemical weapons use,” he said. “So far we cannot confirm it, but we are watching it.” Mr. Jeffrey’s testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee appeared to be a carefully worded recalibration of a State Department announcement the previous day on Mr. Assad’s suspected use of chemical weapons. That earlier statement, made by the department’s new spokeswoman, Morgan Ortagus, said there had been an “alleged chlorine attack” on Sunday in the Idlib area. “Unfortunately, we continue to see signs that the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons,” Ms. Ortagus said in the statement.”

Eurasia Review: Al Qaeda’s Resurgence In Syria: A New Caliphate? – Analysis

“Almost twenty years on from the September 11 attacks, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliates have seized control of Idlib, a province located in north-east Syria, in a series of dramatic advances in recent months and established the prototype of a caliphate over an estimated three million people. Since the beginning of the year, Al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the dominant jihadist alliance in the region, has extended administrative control through its self-proclaimed “Salvation Government” to more than two dozen towns and villages in northern Syria after forcing out rival rebel groups. These advances are the latest blow to a September 2018 cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey for Idlib, the last major stronghold of a coterie of rebel and jihadist factions trying to overthrow Syrian leader Bashar Assad for the past seven years.”

BBC: Syria Group Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham And Al-Qaeda Legacy

“Who are Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the most powerful group in the last province held by rebels in Syria? The ongoing government offensive against the last rebel-held areas in northern Syria has once again put the spotlight on the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the dominant faction in Idlib Province. Although HTS, formerly known as Nusra Front, continues to pursue a jihadist agenda, it formally split from al-Qaeda in 2016, prompting harsh criticism from al-Qaeda leadership and defections by al-Qaeda loyalists. Al-Qaeda appears to have given up on HTS returning to the fold. A new group called Hurras al-Din which emerged last year is widely believed to be al-Qaeda's new branch in Syria. Despite this, the UN and a number of countries continue to consider HTS as an al-Qaeda affiliate and to frequently use its former name, Nusra Front.”

The Washington Examiner: Trump Envoy: ISIS ‘Quite Active’ In Assad-Controlled Syria

“Islamic State terrorists are “quite active” in the Syrian territory beyond the reach of the U.S.-led coalition that dismantled the self-proclaimed caliphate, a key U.S. diplomat said Wednesday. “In the rest of the country, we see ISIS quite active,” James Jeffrey, the State Department special representative for Syria, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. That insight, offered shortly after Jeffrey reiterated the U.S.-led coalition had delivered “a final defeat” to ISIS as a land-holding institution, showed a persistent threat of international terrorism emanating from a civil war that has raged since 2011. It also pointed to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s difficulty in controlling territory, even in the territory where Russian and Iranian military support has allowed him to defeat most of the rebel opposition. “We have seen very little capability of the Assad regime to defeat ISIS, militarily,” Jeffrey said. “And Assad's policies to his own population are the main accelerant to recruiting for ISIS throughout that country.” Those criticisms of Assad dovetailed with congressional warnings that President Trump should not withdraw U.S. forces from Syria. The president surprised his national security team and allies in December by ordering an abrupt drawdown of the roughly 2,000 U.S. special forces operators in the country at the time.”

Iran

The Washington Post: Faced With Relentless American Pressure, Iran Starts To Hit Back

“Iran has made a dramatic shift in how it confronts the United States, abandoning a policy of restraint in recent weeks for a series of offensive actions aimed at pushing the White House to rethink its efforts at isolating Tehran, say diplomats and analysts. With the Trump administration tightening economic sanctions and intensifying military pressure, Iran is now seeking to highlight the costs it could also impose on the United States — for instance, by disrupting the world’s oil supply — without taking actions likely to trigger an all-out war. When four ships were damaged in the Persian Gulf last week, including two Saudi tankers and an Emirati one, U.S. and Arab officials said they suspected Iran had ordered the sabotage. A Lebanese newspaper supportive of Iran’s ally Hezbollah boasted that the attacks were a message from Tehran delivered via “UAE and Saudi mailboxes. And after a Katyusha rocket landed within a mile of the vast U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad on Sunday, suspicion immediately turned to Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. Senior Iraqi officials warned Iran against using their territory to target the United States and its interests. Iranian leaders condemned those incidents and denied responsibility.”

The National Interest: Iran Has Amassed The Largest Ballistic Missile Force In The Middle East

“Deterring regional adversaries from threatening Iran is the primary reason Tehran has amassed the largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East. The missile program actually began under the Shah, but it was accelerated during the Iran-Iraq War in order to threaten Saddam Hussein with strikes deep in Iraqi territory. Since then, Iran has worked with countries like Libya, North Korea and China in order to develop a large and diverse arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles that form one part of its three-leg deterrent strategy. With Iran now using missiles in conflict, it’s worth taking a closer look at the weapons in its arsenal."

Iraq

Reuters: Iraq Weighs Captives' Rights Against Fear Of New Islamic State

“Iraqi farmer Shaker Salih says he feared Islamic State, but feared its defeat even more. His problem is persuading people to believe that he did not support the jihadists. When Iraqi forces drove Islamic State from his home town in Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad, Salih left with the Sunni Muslim extremist group, known to its detractors as Daesh. He then stayed as long he could in its shrinking, self-declared caliphate. ”We thought militias would kill us for living under Daesh, so we fled,” said Salih, 49, referring to Shi’ite Muslim paramilitaries that helped defeat IS. “That’s why we stayed with Daesh. We were used to them and knew what to do to survive.” He now lives in the sprawling, guarded al-Hol displacement camp across the border in Syria, where among 70,000 fellow Iraqis, Syrians and others, there are thousands of die-hard IS supporters. Some are passengers in his car, which he uses as a taxi to make a living by charging one dollar a trip. “If God allows, the caliphate will return,” one Syrian woman at the camp, who gave her name as Fatima, told Reuters. Iraq is preparing to bring home its citizens from al-Hol, who number more than 30,000.”

Foreign Policy: Iraq Brings The Islamic State To Justice

“In the coming weeks, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces may hand over up to 28,000 people suspected of belonging to the Islamic State to the Iraqi authorities for prosecution. The suspects are likely to include thousands of foreign fighters from at least 50 different countries. Awaiting them will be a process that, although fairly efficient, has often ended with the death penalty—a fact that presents a challenge to the United Nations, which has sent an investigative team to assist the local judiciary in the investigation and prosecution of some of these crimes. The trials of Islamic State defendants in Iraq began well before the official end of the group’s reign of terror in 2017. In 2015, dozens were charged, convicted, and later executed as terrorists for their role in a 2014 massacre of Iraqi Army cadets at Camp Speicher near Tikrit. The following year, a series of U.N. reports concluded that the Islamic State may have committed acts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity against the Yazidi minority group. Demands from national and international nongovernmental organizations for a U.N.-backed international tribunal to prosecute suspects followed.”

Voice Of America: IS Militants Target Kurdish Farmers In Disputed Iraqi Territories

“In a bid to extort revenues from local farmers during the harvest season, Islamic State (IS) militants are threatening to set fire to thousands of acres of wheat fields in territories disputed between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan region, according to local officials. The militants, hiding mostly in caves and mountains of a large territory between the Iraqi forces and Kurdish peshmerga, pour into small towns and villages at night and ask local residents to pay a religious tax known as zakat or find their crops destroyed the next day, peshmerga Maj. Gen. Ziryan Shex Wasani told VOA. “IS fighters have told farmers and workers to give them 15% of their harvest revenues or their wheat fields and hay will be set to fire,” said Wasani, adding that hundreds of acres of land have already been set ablaze in Makhmour town, 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Irbil governorate. Wasani said IS is taking advantage of the security gap created by the lack of cooperation between the Iraqi forces and Kurdish peshmerga in the disputed areas. The vast disputed territories, consisting of Kirkuk and parts of Nineveh, Saladin and Diyala provinces, have been a point of contention between the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for decades as both sides claim ownership over them.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Intelligence Arrest Senior Islamic State Leader In Anbar

“Iraqi military intelligence services arrested on Wednesday a senior Islamic State leader in the western province of Anbar. The Iraqi Military Intelligence Directorate, in a statement, said that its troops “arrested Abu Anas al-Samarei, the military adviser of an Islamic State commander, who was responsible for collecting weapons from citizens, who serve in the Iraqi security apparatus.” Samarei, according to the statement, was arrested during a military operation in Annah district of Anbar. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in Iraq 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. IS declared a self-styled “caliphate” in a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014. A government campaign, backed by a U.S.-led international coalition and paramilitary forces, was launched in 2016 to retake IS-held regions, managing to retake all havens, most notably the city of Mosul, the group’s previously proclaimed capital.”

Al Monitor: Iraqi Tribes Seek To Heal Enduring Wounds Of IS Legacy

“The supposedly defeated Islamic State (IS) remains at the center of a circle of violence and retribution in areas of Iraq. Iraqi parliamentary speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi is calling for community reconciliation to settle tribal and regional conflicts in Salahuddin and other provinces caused by differing attitudes toward IS. While some tribes battled against the extremist Sunni organization — which invaded western parts of Iraq in 2014 — others supported the organization, and their members even joined its ranks. Such diverging positions have generated a tribal and social divide, leading to murder and acts of revenge that go back for months and continue to plague the area. A few examples include: In September, groups launched campaigns to deport families of IS members in southern Ninevah province after an IS attack targeted civilians and an official of the Tribal Mobilization Forces (Hashd al-Ashairi) and his family. According to reports, on March 16, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and Tribal Mobilization Forces conducted campaigns to remove IS families from their houses. On May 6, unidentified people bombed a house owned by the family of an IS member in the center of Heet city in Anbar province.”

Turkey

Al Arabiya: Seven Turkish Journalists Jailed For ‘Terrorist Propaganda’

“A Turkish court has handed multiple jail terms for editors and journalists from the now-defunct pro-Kurd daily Ozgur Gundem on charges of spreading “terrorist propaganda”. Seven people, including the newspaper’s editors-in-chief Eren Keskin and Huseyin Aykol, were given sentences ranging from 15 to 45 months in prison, the paper said on its Twitter account. A total of 24 people from the newspaper appeared for Tuesday’s hearing, but only seven were convicted of “disseminating terrorist propaganda,” according to the P24 press freedom website. The newspaper was accused of running propaganda in favor of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. It was permanently shut in August 2016 following an attempted coup by opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “I don’t believe I have committed a crime. I don’t believe the expression of thought is a crime. I request my acquittal,” Keskin told the court. At least 146 journalists are currently imprisoned in Turkey, according to P24, most detained under the state of emergency imposed after the attempted coup.”

Al Jazeera: Turkey-Backed Fighters Join Forces With HTS Rebels In Idlib

“Turkey-backed rebels poured fighters onto the front line in northeastern Syria, joining forces with a rival armed group to beat back government troops from a town they had recaptured earlier this month. Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) seized the town of Kfar Nabuda in Idlib province on Tuesday with the help of the National Liberation Front (NLF), a conglomeration of rebel groups supported by Ankara. The town had been retaken by the Syrian government in its recent assault. More than 80 combatants were killed in the battle for the town, according to the UK-based war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Mostafa Maarati - spokesman of the Al-Ezzah Army, which took part in the Kfar Nabuda operation and is part of the NLF - said it assisted HTS to protect rebel-held territory from President Bashar al-Assad's forces, a "common enemy". "The liberation operation had been planned in a mutual operation room that includes all the groups on the ground," Maarati told Al Jazeera. "They coordinated the use of anti-armour missiles and other weapons.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: Afghan Official: Taliban Bombs Kill 2 Police, 2 Civilians

“A confrontation between Afghan forces and Taliban fighters Wednesday in eastern Ghazni province left two members of the security forces and two civilian passers-by dead, provincial officials said. The Taliban were driving in a stolen Humvee packed with explosives that detonated as the police fired warning shots to get the suspicious vehicle to stop. The incident took place in the city of Ghazni, the provincial capital. Arif Noori, the provincial governor’s spokesman, said officials had received intelligence reports that the Taliban were preparing to stage such an attack. Noori said four Taliban were also killed in the incident. Hospital chief Baz Mohammad Hemat said 10 civilians and five police were wounded in the explosion. Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack in Ghazni. The Taliban carry out near-daily attacks on Afghan forces, and despite ongoing peace talks with the U.S., the insurgent group refuses to stop fighting until U.S. and NATO troops withdraw from the country. In August last year, the insurgents overran parts of Ghazni, leading to days of intense fighting before they were driven out. Ghazni was the only one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces in which parliamentary elections did not take place in October.”

The Washington Examiner: Senator: Taliban ‘Momentum’ Complicating US Peace Talks

“Taliban momentum on the battlefield and divisions within Afghanistan’s central government are complicating negotiations over a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, key lawmakers say. ”There's real concern there about the Taliban continuing to gain operational space,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican who sits on the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, told the Washington Examiner. “That, I think, combined with some of the instability in the Afghan national government is concerning.” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s team has presented an optimistic outlook in recent days after a diplomatic clash with President Trump’s administration in March. One of his top advisers faulted Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. diplomat leading the negotiations with the Taliban, for leaving Kabul ignorant about the high-stakes talks. U.S. lawmakers are more pessimistic, though the State Department touted “slow and steady progress” in the negotiations. “I think that the ambassador has done an amazing job at bringing the parties to the table that many in the U.S. government probably thought would never be able to get to the table,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters Wednesday.”

Pakistan

The New Yorker: In Kashmir, Indian Democracy Loses Ground To Millennial Militancy

“In the village of Dogripora, the first weekend of May began with a militant’s funeral and ended with a historic election. Dogripora lies in the district of Pulwama, in southern Kashmir, and, on Friday, May 3rd, thousands of people assembled to mourn Muhammad Lateef Dar, a young local man, known as Lateef Tiger, who had gone into the hills to join a separatist insurgency that has lasted thirty years and still threatens to spark war between India and Pakistan. Earlier that day, Lateef was trapped and killed by Indian soldiers in the neighboring district of Shopian. Mourners packed a field the size of a soccer pitch. Women wore pastel and paisley head scarves; men wore mostly pherans, woollen tunics in shades of gray. Many sat on top of a brick wall or wedged themselves in the high branches of poplars to behold the new shaheed, or martyr. As mourners chanted, young men clambered onto the cot that carried the corpse, stroked its face, and smeared its blood on their cheeks. Periodically, the cot was raised and rotated to offer the crowd a view of Lateef. His body was wrapped in blankets, his head bandaged down to the upper lip. “God is great,” the crowd called out. Further back, a young man with a pompadour was incensed. “Look at him!” he said. “They’ve cut off his face!”

Yemen

Middle East Monitor: Yemen’s Houthis Attack Saudi Arabia’s Najran Airport Again

“Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi group said today it had carried out another drone attack on Najran airport in south-western Saudi Arabia near the Yemeni border. “Houthis’ Qasef K2 combat drones hit Saudi Arabia’s Najran Regional Airport for the second time in 24 hours,” a military source told the group’s Lebanon-based Al-Masirah. The source added that the airstrike was targeting a hanger at the airport containing warplanes. The group stressed that the raid was “successful,” pointing out that the warplanes it targeted were being used in “attacking innocent civilians.” There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia or the Saudi-led coalition.”

The Jerusalem Post: Iran Newspaper: Houthis Are Capable Of Reducing Saudi Oil Exports To Zero

“The Iran-backed Houthis intend to expand attacks on Saudi Arabia to "no fewer than 300 military and other vital targets in Saudi Arabia" and are "capable of reducing Saudi oil exports to zero," wrote Sa'dollah Zarei in an editorial in Iran's Kayhan newspaper, according to MEMRI. Hossein Shariatmadari, the hard-line editor-in-chief of Kayhan, also serves as the representative of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni, according to the New York Times. The editorial also claimed that the Houthis' attack drones can "launch a war against Riyadh, because the distance between the two cities is no greater than 230 and 390 kilometers." The editorial did not go as far as claiming that Iran was behind the attack.”

Lebanon

The Jerusalem Post: UN Whitewashes Hezbollah

“This week, United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis wrote that he met with Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem. In shocking and concerning comments, Kubis also said that he was grateful to the Hezbollah leader for “substantive” comments and for giving him a copy of his book. The UN coordinator said the book was “necessary reading.” Hezbollah, a terrorist organization that has fired rockets at Israeli civilians and conducted terrorist attacks around the world, was legitimized in its meeting with the UN. The IDF revealed tunnels built by Hezbollah last year extending into Israel, a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. Israel has provided information to the UN and UNIFIL in Lebanon about the tunnels. Responding to the Kubis-Hezbollah meeting, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said “We are shocked and disappointed by this meeting.” He noted that one doesn’t need to read Qassem’s book to understand Hezbollah’s threat to Israel and the region. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon slammed the meeting. “The role of the UN representative is to promote a stable and secure region, and not to meet with leaders of a terrorist organization and to glorify incitement against the State of Israel,” he said.”

Middle East

Today: Kin Terrorism: A New Weapon For The Islamic State

“An educated and rich family was involved in the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka. Two of the eight suicide bombers, Ilham Ibrahim and Ishaf Ibrahim were brothers, and sons of a wealthy spice merchant, Muhammad Ibrahim. Ilham’s wife, Fatima Fazla, who was also part of the terror network, blew herself up when police raided her house, killing her unborn child and two sons. In March this year, a similar trend was seen in Indonesia when counter-terror police detained pro-Islamic State (IS) bomb-maker Abu Hamzah. When police raided his house to arrest his wife, Solimah, who assisted him in the bomb-making, she blew herself up along with her two-year-old son. The trend of kin or familial terrorism first gained momentum in 2015 and since then, it has been IS’ weapon of choice for overseas recruitment and terrorist operations. Take for instance the Paris attacks in November 2015 involving Salah Abdeslam and his brother Brahim.”

Egypt

Fox News: Egypt Refers 6 Death Sentences To Religious Authority

“An Egyptian court has referred the case of six alleged Muslim Brotherhood members convicted of terrorism to the Grand Mufti, Egypt's top religious authority, for a non-binding opinion on their execution. The Cairo Criminal Court said Wednesday the six were found guilty of killing three people, including a policeman, among other charges. The case includes a total of 70 defendants. The verdict can be appealed, and the judge can rule independently of the Grand Mufti. The Brotherhood won a series of free elections after Egypt's 2011 uprising. A Brotherhood figure, Mohammed Morsi, was elected president in 2012, but was overthrown by the military a year later amid mass protests against his divisive rule. The group is now branded a terrorist organization.”

Nigeria

Reuters: Islamic State West Africa Claims Killing And Execution Of 29 Nigerian Soldiers

“Islamic State’s West Africa branch claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a raid in Nigeria two days earlier in which it said 20 soldiers had been killed, and released a video purporting to show the execution of nine other Nigerian soldiers. A security source and a humanitarian worker, both requesting anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to media, said insurgents struck the northeastern town of Gubio in Borno state on Monday evening, in vehicles mounted with heavy machine guns and on motorbikes. The insurgents and soldiers exchanged fire for more than an hour before the army withdrew, said the humanitarian worker, who counted the corpses of more than 15 soldiers. A Nigerian military spokesman said he would send a comment on the Islamic State claim, but at the time of writing had not. Nigeria has said the insurgency, and its rival Boko Haram, are on the back foot, as the sides engage in a battle of propaganda to show who has the upper hand in the decade-long conflict.”

All Africa: Nigeria: Boko Haram Expands Terror Outside Nigeria

“The Boko Haram terror group is carrying out more attacks outside Nigeria in its violent bid to establish as Islamic state in West Africa. More attacks have been recorded in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger since the beginning of the year. In 2019, only half of violent activities associated with Boko Haram factions have been in Nigeria. The Armed Conflict Location and Events Dataset (ACLED) stated that the expansion of the violent activities into neighboring countries, and the types of violence it is engaging in, allude to a resilient and resourceful insurgency. It warned the increasing violence associated with Boko Haram had dire implications for the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin and stabilisation efforts in the region. “So far in 2019, nearly half of all violent events involving the group have occurred outside of Nigeria - a proportion that is unusually high for the group,” ACLED stated. The think-tank noted that Boko Haram's geographic pattern of activity in 2019 thus far resembles 2016, when almost 48 percent of the group's activities were outside of Nigeria. Since emerging in Borno State in northeast Nigeria in 2009, the vast majority of Boko Haram's violent activities have been concentrated in the country.”

Africa

Asharq Al-Awsat: Tunisia: 3 Suspects Sentenced To Jail For Aiding Terrorist Family Member

“A Tunisian court on Tuesday convicted three female suspects who are the relatives of the perpetrator of a terror attack in the country’s southeastern city of Ben Guerdane. The three convicts are the mother, wife and cousin and face charges of aiding the attacker. Taking into consideration case realities and the defendants aiding investigations, the court ruling sentenced the mother to two years in jail whilst it gave each of the wife and cousin six months. According to the case, the mother received a call from her son confirming that he was stuck in the Tunisian desert and that he was in need of help. The mother, in turn, informed the wife and cousin of the call. All three then drove to the desert in search of the terrorist, who appears to have been abandoned by comrades and first disappeared during the fierce 2016 clashes between security forces and terror networks in Ben Guerdane, which lies on the border with neighboring Libya. During interrogation, the defendants denied having anything to do with the terrorist’s actions or even adopting extremist ideology. They confirmed that they were not aware of their affiliation with the terrorist organizations and that they sought assisting them while under the impression that they went to work in neighboring Libya to earn an honest living.”

United Kingdom

The Guardian: Manchester Arena Attack: City Remembers Victims Two Years On

“The 22 victims of the Manchester Arena attack have been remembered two years on. Hundreds of people gathered to observe a minute’s silence in St Ann’s Square, where thousands of floral tributes were placed after the bombing on 22 May 2017. Inside St Ann’s church, survivors and the bereaved attended a private service of remembrance. Adam Lawler, who lost his best friend, Olivia Campbell-Hardy, in the attack, told reporters he still suffered from post-traumatic stress and struggled to come to terms with what happened “You are fine some days but other days you are struggling and can’t even get out of bed and those are the worst days,” said Lawler, who was injured in the bombing. On social media, the singer Ariana Grande led the tributes, posting a bee emoji – the worker bee is a symbol of Manchester – on Instagram. It was after her show that the suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a device in the arena foyer, killing himself and 22 others. Grande organised and performed at the One Love concert in June 2017 to raise money for an emergency fund launched after the attack, and she has regularly spoken about the atrocity. Dan Hett, whose brother Martyn was killed in the attack, said he would be attending a memorial.”

The National: Parents Accused Of Funding Terrorism Over Son’s Syria Trip

“The parents of a teenager who travelled to join ISIS in Syria have gone on trial accused of funding terrorism after ignoring warnings and sending him hundreds of pounds, a court heard. Jack Letts, a Muslim convert, left his home in Oxford in 2014 at the age of 18 to travel to the Middle East despite concerns that he had been radicalised at a local mosque. His mother, Sally Lane, bought him a return flight to Jordan despite confiding to a friend that Jack had told her that he was going to fight in Syria, London’s Old Bailey was told. When he missed his flight home, his father John Letts emailed his son to say: “It’s weird you so far away but hey, you are on a grand adventure.” The Old Bailey court in London had heard that Mr Letts had received an email from a student in Kuwait before he headed to Syria warning of concerns about the company he was keeping there. The pair are accused of trying to send him more than £1,700 in 2015-16 despite suspecting that he had joined ISIS. The couple deny three counts of funding terrorism. The case continues.”

France

The Washington Post: Group Of Yazidi Women Victims Of IS Get New Life In France

“France is taking in a new group of Yazidis including women victimized by the Islamic State group and their children. The families, a total of 130, were arriving Wednesday night in Toulouse, from Irbil, Iraq for resettlement around France. A group of 16 Yazidi women and their children arrived in December, helped by the International Organization for Migration. During a rampage through Iraq’s Sinjar region in 2014, the Islamic State group captured thousands of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority and forced them into sexual slavery, while massacring men. Many remain missing to this day. Last month, the spiritual council for Iraq’s Yazidi community said it won’t embrace the children of women and girls raped by Islamic State group men, days after saying it would accept “all survivors.”

Germany

Associated Press: Senior German Diplomat In Tehran For Nuclear Deal Talks

“A senior German diplomat headed Thursday to Tehran to press Iran to continue to respect the landmark nuclear deal, despite the unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. and increasing pressure from Washington. Tensions have soared in the Mideast recently as the White House earlier this month sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region over a still-unexplained threat it perceived from Iran. In Berlin, the Foreign Ministry said Political Director Jens Ploetner was to hold talks with Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi on Thursday to try salvage the nuclear deal signed in 2015 in Vienna. The accord has steadily unraveled since the Trump administration pulled America out of the deal, re-imposed and escalated U.S. sanctions on Tehran last year.”

Europe

Reuters: Swiss Propose House Arrest, Including For Teenagers, To Curb Extremism

“The Swiss government on Wednesday proposed new laws aimed at preventing extremist violence and forcing people including children deemed a threat to be registered with authorities, with house arrest a last resort in some cases. The measures, due now to be considered by Switzerland’s parliament, are part of an evolving national action plan against violent extremism introduced in 2017. Though Switzerland has, so far, been spared deadly Islamist militant attacks that hit Germany, France and Belgium in recent years, it is wary and has been tracking hundreds of suspected extremist threats under a national jihad monitoring program. Federal Police Director Nicoletta della Valle told a news conference in Bern she expects “a few dozen people” could be affected by the expanded measures, should they be enacted. Such individuals, according to the legislation, could be made to report their whereabouts to police stations. Their passports could be confiscated, to prevent travel abroad, and they could be slapped with no-contact orders. People slated for deportation who are deemed threats would be incarcerated, while Swiss police would get new powers to covertly track suspected threats via electronic media.”

Associated Press: Fascist Symbols And Rhetoric On Rise In Italian EU Vote

“A banner emblazoned with the words “Honor to Mussolini,” unfurled just steps from the Milan piazza where the fascist dictator’s body was hung upside down after his 1945 execution. One-armed salutes and fascist slogans shouted at protests. Italy’s right-wing interior minister skipping commemorations for the 74th anniversary of the country’s liberation from Nazi occupation. Fascist symbols, rhetoric and salutes — long a public taboo — have made their way out of the hooligan sections of soccer stadiums and into Italian streets in the run-up to this week’s European Parliament elections. The leader of the right-wing party leading in the Italian polls, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, has faced criticism for perceived complacency toward neo-fascist extremists in his bid to see his once regionally based League party finish No. 1 in Italy, and perhaps Europe, when Italians vote Sunday.”

Southeast Asia

The Wall Street Journal: Protests Of Indonesian Election Results Turn Deadly

“Authorities blocked social media and arrested hundreds of rioters on Wednesday as they struggled to contain deadly protests against a vote count confirming the re-election of President Joko Widodo, whose challenger called the results fraudulent. Six people died in predawn riots, and police late into the evening were still contending with rioters throwing fireworks, rocks and Molotov cocktails. Supporters of former Gen. Prabowo Subianto have vowed to oppose results of the April 17 ballot, which were finalized Tuesday and showed that voters in this Southeast Asian nation of more than 260 million people elected Mr. Widodo by a wide margin. Mr. Subianto has said he would challenge the results in court and urged his supporters to refrain from violence.”

Venezuela

The Wall Street Journal: Match Words With Actions In Venezuela, Mr. President

“President Trump has stood firmly on the side of the Venezuelan people. He correctly declared Juan Guaidó the legitimate leader and Nicolás Maduro an impostor, urged Venezuelans to resist the Maduro regime, and promised that America stands with them. The Trump administration has done a terrific job building a regional and global coalition against Mr. Maduro. The Organization of American States has come out firmly in support of Mr. Guaidó. In a Feb. 18 Miami speech, Mr. Trump declared that he will stand against socialism and for democracy throughout the Western Hemisphere. Now is the time to follow through on that promise. The situation in Venezuela has become a humanitarian crisis, with citizens literally starving. The turmoil in Venezuela is destabilizing the region and creating a nightmare for its neighbors, which are forced to deal with the mass exodus of Venezuelans fleeing oppression.”

Technology

Newsweek: Instant Messaging App Suggested Money Bag Emoji When Users Typed 'Jew'

“The desktop version of popular messaging application Telegram reportedly contained an error that suggested money emojis when users clicked on the word "Jew." The Telegram support team did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It was not immediately clear what language the application was in when the error was discovered. Still, Telegram has its own murky history of being exploited by nefarious actors. According to the Counter Extremism Project—a non-profit NGO—some terrorists have used the secure app to help “recruit new members, fundraise, incite to violence, and even coordinate… activity.”
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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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