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Arrow Eye on Extremism / March 27, 2019

Eye on Extremism
March 27, 2019

The Wall Street Journal: Islamic State Leader Goes Low-Tech to Evade Capture

“Despite the fall of Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains at large, having for years evaded a massive manhunt by America’s military and intelligence agencies. The 47-year-old jihadist, whose call to arms drew thousands of Muslims from around the world to battlefields in Syria and Iraq, is believed to be hiding in a remote stretch of desert that straddles the border between the two countries, according to Iraqi security officials. To elude capture, Mr. Baghdadi, who has a $25 million bounty on his head, has gone low tech, Iraqi officials say, shunning trackable communications devices, moving in a single vehicle to avoid attention and trusting only a small circle of close aides. “He doesn’t use a mobile phone or a computer,” said Saeed al-Jayashi, an Iraqi security expert with ties to the government. “He uses only human beings like his aides to convey orders and instructions. Therefore, it is very difficult to track him.” It has also made it difficult for Mr. Baghdadi to stay involved in Islamic State’s day-to-day operations. So his capture or death would be unlikely to deal a mortal blow. Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, cautions against attaching too much importance to him or other individuals.”

Reuters: Islamic State Claims Deadly Attack On Kurdish Forces In North Syria

“Islamic State said on Tuesday it had launched a deadly attack on Kurdish forces in northern Syria overnight, the first such claim by the group since U.S.-backed forces proclaimed the capture of its last territory in Syria last week. A spokesman for the U.S.-backed militia that controls Manbij said a terrorist attack on a checkpoint at the city’s entrance killed seven fighters on duty. A U.S. official said all the casualties were among members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Islamic State said in a statement that “caliphate soldiers attacked a checkpoint of the apostate PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party)” west of Manbij using machine guns and killed nine fighters. Some 30 km (20 miles) from the Turkish border, Manbij has been a flashpoint in the Syrian conflict and occupies a critical spot, near the junction of three separate blocks of territory that form the spheres of Russian, Turkish and U.S. influence. It was seized in 2016 from Islamic State by Syrian militia allied to the SDF, a militia force spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG and which controls roughly a quarter of Syria.”

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Targets ‘Vast Network’ Evading Iran Sanctions

“The U.S. blacklisted members of what officials said was a “vast network” operating in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates that helped Iran exchange over $1 billion in currency to finance Iranian military operations throughout the region. The Treasury Department said on Tuesday that more than two dozen sanctioned currency-exchange houses, trading companies and officials helped Iran’s military exchange Iranian rials into euros and U.S. dollars. The U.S. sanctions highlight a financing strategy that intelligence analysts say is being widely employed to help Iran counter the Trump administration’s pressure campaign against Tehran. Washington’s economywide sanctions against Iran have battered Iran’s economy and put the government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the defensive as the U.S. tries to strong-arm Tehran into signing a new nuclear and security deal.”

Reuters: In U.S. Pursuit Of Peace Talks, Perilous Rift Opens With Afghan Leader

“Washington’s relationship with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appears increasingly at risk of permanent damage, the consequence of a U.S. policy shift that has so far excluded his government from talks with the Taliban and of his own determination to retain power and manage peace efforts himself. The feud threatens to undermine the already narrow chances for a peace accord that President Donald Trump hopes would end America’s longest war. Current and former U.S. officials tell Reuters they believe Ghani is positioning himself to perhaps be a spoiler in still-fragile negotiations, angry that the Afghan government has been kept out of talks and worried about the implications for his presidency. But from Ghani’s perspective, the negotiations themselves, led by U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, feel like a personal betrayal and a capitulation by the United States that could return the Taliban to power, Afghan officials say.”

Bloomberg: Facebook To Fight Belgian Ban On Tracking Users (And Even Non-Users)

“Facebook Inc. is attacking a Belgian court order forcing it to stop tracking local users’ surfing habits, including those of millions who aren’t signed up to the social network. The U.S. tech giant will come face to face with the Belgian data protection authority in a Brussels appeals court for a two-day hearing starting on Wednesday. The company will challenge the 2018 court order and the threat of a daily fine of 250,000 euros ($281,625) should it fail to comply. Armed with new powers since the introduction of stronger European Union data protection rules, Belgium’s privacy watchdog argues Facebook “still violates the fundamental rights of millions of residents of Belgium.” The Brussels Court of First Instance in February 2018 ruled that Facebook doesn’t provide people with enough information about how and why it collects data on their web use, or what it does with the information.”

USA Today: US Tech Giants Targeted In European Parliament Online Copyright Bill

“European Union lawmakers approved a copyright directive Tuesday intended to give writers and artists more protection of their creative rights and incomes. But outspoken critics say the contentious measure could have major implications for U.S. tech companies and could censor anyone who posts on the internet. The European Parliament voted 348-274 to pass the online copyright bill, with 36 abstentions. Opponents argued the legislation, which had been in the works for three years, would stifle freedom and creativity online. The EU's member countries gave the measure preliminary approval in February and have final reviews set for next month. The directive largely updates existing copyright law. If enacted, companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google parent company Alphabet likely would have to pay European artists more and do more to keep work that appears online from being used without permission.”

United States

The New York Times: Graffiti Citing New Zealand Attack Is Found After Mosque Fire in California

“Seven Muslim worshipers gathered on Saturday night for an overnight spiritual retreat at the Islamic Center mosque in Escondido, Calif., about a week after dozens of Muslims were massacred thousands of miles away in New Zealand. Shortly before dawn prayers on Sunday, someone noticed a fire outside the building, the police said. One person called 911. Someone rushed to put out the flames using a fire extinguisher. An outside wall was scorched but not badly damaged, and no one was injured. Still, harm was done: There was anti-Muslim graffiti referring to the New Zealand attack. On Tuesday, an Escondido Police Department official, Lt. Chris Lick, said in a phone interview that the fire had been set with an accelerant. But there were no suspects, he said, and investigators were examining video surveillance “from anywhere we could get it.” The department, which announced in a statement on Sunday that the fire was being investigated as arson and a hate crime, is working with the F.B.I., the San Diego Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on the case. The suspected arson in Escondido, a city about 30 miles north of San Diego, targeted a place of worship for hundreds of Muslims in the area.”

The New York Times: This New Generation Of Weapons Could Mean More Covert Airstrikes Around The World

“On March 10, The New York Times reported that under the Trump administration the American military had drastically increased airstrikes in Somalia against the Shabab, an insurgent group affiliated with Al Qaeda, even as it scaled back counterterrorism operations in other parts of the world. In recent years, Africa Command has acknowledged using unmanned MQ-9 Reaper drones, which are mainly armed with Hellfire missiles and 500-pound guided bombs. But as far back as November 2017, the Pentagon deployed Air Force variants of C-130 Hercules cargo planes with dispensers called common launch tubes, or C.L.T.s, to launch a new kind of guided weapon at Somali targets, according to a report released by Amnesty International on March 20. While Africa Command would not confirm to The Times its use of ground-attack aircraft in the region, Amnesty International found photographs of an American airstrike site that showed the remains of a GBU-69 Small Glide Munition, a bomb that can be dropped only using a C.L.T., which in this instance was fitted to an AC-130 gunship.”

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Officials Walk Out Of Meeting At Presidential Palace In Kabul

“U.S. officials walked out of a meeting here that was attended by the top defense aide of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in the latest sign of fraying ties between Washington and Kabul over negotiations with the Taliban to end the 18-year Afghan war. The gathering Monday at the presidential palace of ambassadors of North Atlantic Treaty Organization members was convened to discuss the Afghan peace process, now entering a crucial stage as U.S. and Taliban negotiators prepare for another round of talks in the Gulf state of Qatar. When American officials spotted the aide, national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib, they left the room, sources briefed on the meeting said. The snub came after comments by Mr. Mohib earlier this month in Washington in which he criticized the Trump administration’s chief negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, for purportedly keeping the Afghan government in the dark about developments in the talks, which constitute the most concerted attempt to date to reach a political settlement of the conflict.”

ABC News: How A Change In Law Could Lead To More Arrests Of Domestic Terrorists

“In 2011, when federal counterterrorism officials held meetings about foreign terrorism with various local police departments across the country, they received pushback from police on the ground who wanted to focus on domestic terrorism instead. “It wasn't uncommon for the police chiefs to raise concerns about violent sovereign citizens or domestic extremist groups, because at that point they were dealing with crime and violence from those groups more often than that of Islamic extremists,” said John Cohen, who worked at that time as the principal deputy counterterrorism coordinator at the Department of Homeland Security and acted as the departmental lead on countering violent extremism. “They were having violent confrontations with anti-government militia extremists, white supremacy propaganda on college campuses, an emergence of hate crimes of people who were targeting minarets and Jewish people and Muslims,” Cohen said. Cohen, who has since left DHS and is now an ABC News contributor, said the local police chiefs would say domestic extremist groups were “more of a pressing problem.” The response from federal counterterrorism officials, according to Cohen, was, “'Well, that's not really something we’re focused on.'“

The Post And Courier: Plotting terrorism would become a state crime in SC under bill approved by House

“Supporting terrorism would become a state crime under legislation approved Tuesday by the S.C. House, which its backers say could have kept a Ladson man who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State locked up years before he pleaded guilty to a federal charge. If it had been a state law in 2015, then-York high school student Zakaryia Abdel Abdin could have been charged with something more than illegal gun possession when an arrest revealed a plot to rob a gun store and attack military bases. Potentially, there would have been no need for the FBI to keep tabs on Abdin and eventually arrest him at the Charleston airport in April 2017 as he was boarding a flight to join the terrorist group, said House Speaker Pro Tem Tommy Pope, R-York. While terrorism is a state crime, plotting to commit terrorism is not, and federal authorities didn’t want to pursue a case against the juvenile in 2015, said the former solicitor for York and Union counties. “So when the smoke cleared, very little was actually done. He was detained briefly in the juvenile system,” Pope said. Abdin, now 20, was paroled in 2016 over the objections of local law enforcement. In January 2017, when the restrictions on his release ended, Abdin started buying guns and training in combat tactics at Charleston-area shooting ranges.”

Pacific Standard: Does The American Military Have A Problem With Far-Right Extremism?

“Last month, a Coast Guard officer was arrested after an investigation discovered he was stockpiling weapons and preparing to attack politicians in Washington, D.C. The story of his arrest reignited a national debate about how American law enforcement approaches far-right domestic terrorism. But it also highlights a more specific link, publicly acknowledged by the Department of Homeland Security in 2009, between far-right domestic terrorism and United States military personnel and veterans. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the DHS, the agencies responsible for gathering information on and investigating domestic terror groups, once had task forces focused specifically on far-right-wing terrorism. In 2009 the DHS released a report on right-wing terrorism that highlighted the threat of far-right groups recruiting veterans to their extremist causes. Conservative politicians and media outlets jumped on the report, decrying it as an unfair assessment of both conservative groups and disrespectful toward American veterans. The backlash was so severe that the then head of the DHS, Janet Napolitano, publicly apologized for the report and dismantled the team responsible for tracking far-right threats Despite the outrage, the connection between far-right terror and the American military has a long history.”


The Washington Times: Top U.S. General: Islamic State Still A Threat Despite Losses

“Although Islamic State’s “caliphate” has been eradicated in Syria, it remains a threat in the region and beyond, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told lawmakers Tuesday. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. Joseph Dunford warned that while the Islamic State has been “been cleared on the ground in Syria,” it “maintains a global capability.” On Friday, the White House declared that the Islamic State’s territorial caliphate in Syria, where the terrorist group once controlled 8 million people, has been 100 percent wiped out. Gen. Dunford’s comments come as the first public confirmation from a Pentagon official backing President Trump’s claim of the terror group’s final defeat in Syria. On Saturday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a statement, “while this is a critical milestone in the fight against ISIS, we understand our work is far from complete.” Mr. Trump has set in motion plans to withdraw the bulk of American troops from Syria over the next several months, with plans to leave a small 400 to 600-man force to oversee “stability operations.”

Arab News: Daesh Militants Kill 7 US-Backed Fighters In Syria: Commanders

“Daesh militants killed seven US-backed fighters in the northern Syrian city of Manbij, its military council said on Tuesday, days after the group’s “caliphate” was declared defeated. Daesh has claimed the Manbij attack. Manbij is a former Daesh stronghold that is now ruled by a military council affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US-backed Kurdish-led alliance which declared victory over Daesh in its last redoubt in eastern Syria on Saturday. At around midnight (2200 GMT) on Monday, gunmen opened fire at fighters manning a checkpoint at the entrance to the city, killing seven, the council said. “The caliphate’s soldiers attacked a checkpoint ... west of Manbij city last night,” said a statement published on the group’s social media channels.Council spokesman Sherfan Darwish earlier said it could be a revenge attack by Daesh sleeper cells.”After the victory over IS, we have entered the phase of sleeper cells,” Darwish said. “These sleeper cells are being activated and carrying out attacks but we will foil their operations.”

Iraqi News: U.S.-Backed SDF Captures 22 Islamic State Terrorists In Syria’s Baghuz

“The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) arrested on Tuesday 22 Islamic State militants, including three Iraqis, in the Syrian town of Baghuz, an Iraqi security source said. Speaking to Baghdad Today news website, the source said that the Kurdish-led forces raided several Islamic State tunnels in al-Mozarea region in al-Baghuz after receiving information on the presence of a number of terrorists there. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that the forces managed to arrest 22 IS terrorists during the operation, including three Iraqis. The SDF alliance on Saturday announced the defeat of the Islamic State group in Syria and raised victory flags in Baghuz, the last stronghold of the jihadist group. The White House released a statement, in which U.S. President Donald Trump described IS’s loss of territory as “evidence of its false narrative”, adding: “They have lost all prestige and power.”

Middle East Monitor: SDF: 6,500 Foreign Children Of Daesh Fighters In Syria Camp

“Some 6,500 foreign children linked to the so-called Daesh are being held in Al-Hawl refugee camp, a Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) official said yesterday, as the challenges the country faces post-Daesh come to the fore. More than 9,000 foreigners are believed to be among the 72,000 refugees that have fled the last Daesh stronghold east of the Euphrates in recent months. However, Luqman Ahmi said the figure was from a week ago, before the tent city of Al-Baghouz fell, where hardcore fighters had been holed up along with thousands of other civilians in recent weeks. The situation in the camp is known to be dire; over 100 children have already died due to harsh conditions, with some 12 people dying in one night last week. Footage has shown thousands of new arrivals forced to sleep in the open, despite the bitter cold and dozens requiring urgent hospitalisation. Aid agencies have said they are struggling to provide medical care and shelter for refugees, while water supplies were being stretched thin in the camp. Earlier this month charities said that more than 400 children were being treated for moderate acute malnutrition in the camp.”

Al Jazeera: Syrians Protest As Hezbollah Urges Resistance Over US Golan Move

“Thousands of Syrians have staged protests across different cities against US President Donald Trump's formal recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, a move that has sparked global concern and a call for “resistance” from Lebanon's Hezbollah. Men and women carrying Syrian and Palestinian flags and banners reading “Golan is Syrian” marched through the southern city of Sweida in Syria on Tuesday, according to state-run SANA news agency, as Imad Sara, the country's information minister, called for a “strong response” and at a rally in Damascus. Protests also took place in southern Deraa, about 20 kilometres from the Golan Heights, and in northern Aleppo, as well as Homs and Hama in the country's centre. “We are here to condemn Trump's Golan decision,” said Mohammad Shaaban, a protester in Aleppo. “The Golan is Arab and Syrian whether they like it or not.” Trump's move on Monday made the US the first country to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan, which was captured from Syria in a 1967 war and regarded by the rest of the international community as occupied territory. Syria has called the move “blatant aggression.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Tunnels, Foreign Fighters, Suicide Bombers Complicate Baghouz Battle

“Fighters recall the last moments of the battle that lasted for weeks after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced last Saturday seizing ISIS' last bastion in Baghouz following six months of a wide attack that started in Sep. in 2018 in Deir Ezzor. Judy Kubani, a Kurdish fighter from Ayn al-Arab (Kobani) along the border with Turkey, said that the battle in Baghouz was different than the rest because those who remained were foreigners having a wide experience in fighting, and they took shelter in tunnels. Kubani added that SDF, backed by the US-led international coalition, was continuously slowing down the battle to avoid the loss of civilians used as human shield by ISIS. He stressed that they had to be cautious because hundreds of civilians were obliged to stay with the group. Raha, from Women's Protection Units, recounted how she and her fellows were involved in a six-hour battle. “They launched a sudden attack and I was in an advanced point. We were besieged. My fellow was shot, we helped her but she bled too much. We decided to fight until the end. After hours, our fellows succeeded in defying the attack.” According to Mizer, 26 from Raqqa, three of his brothers who are SDF members fought ISIS until the end.”

The National: Consensus Must Be Found On ISIS Returnees, Says Coalition General

“The international community must agree on how to bring ISIS fighters to justice after SDF forces captured their last enclave of Baghouz, a senior commander says. Maj Gen Christopher Ghika, deputy commander of the combined joint task force, said in Baghdad that his organisation and the global coalition fighting ISIS were trying to find fighters responsible for crimes against the Iraqis and Syrians. “There is a specific strand of work on foreign terrorist fighters that seeks to identify those most responsible and their whereabouts if they are in custody,” Gen Ghika said on Tuesday. “We need to come to an international consensus on how we deal with those who are responsible for the horrendous crimes of the past five years.” US-backed Syrian Defence Forces drove the last ISIS fighters from Baghouz on Saturday, declaring a total of 110,000 square kilometres of territory had been freed from the extremist group. The task force says more than 60,000 ISIS extremists and their relatives had surrendered or fled from Baghouz over the past month. Gen Ghika praised the forces for a “really excellent job” in separating fighters from non-combatants.”

USA Today: Celebrate The Fall Of The ISIS Caliphate, But Remain Vigilant

“The last malignant cells of a terror caliphate that once sprawled from Syria to the gates of Baghdad were vanquished over the weekend. But like any cancer that can re-emerge in the absence of therapeutic vigilance, the Islamic State is only now in remission. The destruction, after five years, of a movement that once controlled an area of Syria and Iraq about the size of Maine is a victory for civilization over barbarity. Both the Obama and Trump administrations can take credit. President Barack Obama, whose withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq created a vacuum for the Islamic State to fill, launched the multinational anti-ISIS campaign, and President Donald Trump continued and accelerated it. The American military, armed with hard-earned lessons from long and costly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, was the architect of this success. A U.S.-led air campaign — joined by Britain, France, Jordan and other allies — carried out thousands of airstrikes. On the ground, U.S. special forces assisted Iraqi security troops and Kurdish fighters in liberating Iraq's second largest city of Mosul in 2017. American forces also embedded with Syrian Arab and Kurdish gunmen who captured the Islamic State capital of Raqqa in Syria that same year.”

USA Today: ISIS Is Defeated. Bring America’s Troops Home.

“Now that the Islamic State has been defeated, it’s time for President Donald Trump to make good on his promise to withdraw from Syria. There are admittedly some good reasons to keep a very small U.S. presence, not least the prevention of ISIS’ return. But the big risks outweigh any possible benefits. For one thing, neither Russia nor Iran, and certainly not Syria, want ISIS to return, so America’s dirty work can be outsourced to others. For another, the defeat of ISIS heralds the eventual total victory of Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, and he — more to the point, his Russian and Iranian allies — won’t tolerate an American presence in his country, however small. Is a continuing U.S. presence in Syria worth a direct clash with Russia, Syria or Iran — possibly even all three — when the return of ISIS is unlikely anyway? Moreover, it’s becoming clear that Russia and Iran have diverging visions of what Syria’s future will look like, and neither wants to play second fiddle. American forces would therefore provide this unholy alliance with a common enemy and keep it together longer than it should. America has a commitment to Israel, of course, but Israel is more than capable of handling itself.”


The Wall Street Journal: Iran Moves To Cement Its Influence In Syria

“In Islamic State’s former eastern Syrian stronghold, the Islamic Republic of Iran is parlaying its military and economic might into a lasting foothold. On the heels of an Iranian military intervention that has helped bring President Bashar al-Assad to the edge of victory in Syria’s eight-year-long war, Tehran is moving to cement its long-term influence in Syria by cultivating goodwill and winning converts to the Shiite Muslim sect. To Syrians battered by war, Iran is offering cash, food, Iranian ID cards, public services and free education. “The goal is to re-create the Persian empire,” said Muneer al-Khalaf, a member of the City Council of Raqqa, Islamic State’s once de facto capital. Iran’s hearts-and-minds campaign undermines efforts by the U.S., Israel and Arab states to roll back Tehran’s influence and force it out of Syria. It also comes as President Trump plans to shrink the U.S. military footprint in the country—currently more than 2,000 troops—after the battle to eliminate Islamic State-held territory was declared over on Saturday. U.S. officials said they aren’t abandoning efforts to check Iran’s activities in Syria.”

Ynet: Iran's Rouhani, Hezbollah’s Nasrallah Urge Regional Unity After US Move On Golan Heights

“Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that regional countries must unite to fight against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel, in a phone call with Iraq's prime minister on Tuesday. "The excessive demands of the Zionist regime and the wrong decisions of Washington necessitate closer cooperation among regional countries," Rouhani was quoted as saying by the state broadcaster IRIB in a phone call with Iraq's Adel Abdul Mahdi. Rouhani said developments in the Golan Heights were "very dangerous for regional security.” Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, and a key Damascus ally, said the move was evidence of US "disdain and disregard" for the Arab and Muslim world and of international law. "This absolute supporter of Israel cannot be a sponsor of the peace process and here he is today dealing a deadly blow to the so-called peace process," Nasrallah said in a televised speech.”

Bloomberg: U.S. Sanctions Two Dozen People, Entities Over Ties To Iran

“The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned 25 individuals and entities it accused of transferring more than $1 billion dollars and euros to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and Iran’s defense ministry. Some of the people and entities obtained millions of dollars worth of vehicles for the defense ministry, the Treasury Department said in a statement Tuesday. The Treasury said the penalties expose “an extensive sanctions evasion network established by the Iranian regime, which it increasingly relies on as the United States’ maximum pressure campaign severely constricts the regime’s sources of revenue.” Those sanctioned included Ansar Bank Brokerage Company, the Treasury said. “This once again exposes to the international community the dangerous risks of operating in an Iranian economy that is deliberately opaque,” Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker said in a statement.”


Iraqi News: U.S. Envoy Says Whereabouts Of Islamic State Leader Baghdadi Unknown

“U.S. envoy for Syria Jim Jeffrey has said that the whereabouts of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are unknown. Speaking to a briefing at the State Department, Jeffrey said the U.S.-led coalition fight against Islamic State in Syria is not over, despite the terrorist group’s loss of its last territorial stronghold in the Arab country over the weekend. “This is not the end of the fight against ISIS (an acronym for the Islamic State terror group). That will go on, but it will be a different kind of fight,” The New York Times quoted Jeffrey as telling reporters. “ISIS has lost much of its capability to project terrorist power and to have a recruiting base in an area that it controls. So it’s a very, very important development,” he added. He said most of the prisoners captured by the U.S.-based Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were Iraqis and Syrians. Those, he said, would be returned to their communities for “deradicalization”, reintegration, and in some cases, punishment. He dismissed reports that the U.S.-coalition was considering an international tribunal to try the prisoners. “We’re not looking at that right now,” he said.”

The Washington Examiner: Put ISIS fighters on trial in Iraq

“The Syrian Democratic Forces, a rebel collective that has fought alongside western special forces to retake ISIS-held territory in Syria, is detaining thousands of ISIS fighters. But they have a problem: few nations want to repatriate those fighters for trial. So, the SDF are calling on the international community to establish a tribunal that would put detained ISIS fighters on trial. Here's a better idea: the international community should support the Iraqi government in putting those ISIS fighters on trial. This would solve two problems at once. First off, it would negate the need for ISIS fighters to be sent home. Very few nations want to accept that responsibility. They view ISIS fighters as traitors, and they have legitimate concerns that repatriation would result in new terrorist attacks on their soil. It's also hypocritical for the Trump administration to call on nations to repatriate their citizens in ISIS, while simultaneously refusing to do the same thing. In contrast, trying ISIS fighters in Iraq would be popular with that government. Especially if Iraq was compensated for the cost of detaining ISIS fighters. The measure of public anger in Iraq against ISIS offers Iraqi political leaders great incentive here. Indeed, Iraq has already prosecuted some ISIS fighters detained on Syrian soil.”


The New York Times: They Are Thriving After Years Of Persecution But Fear A Taliban Deal

“Daoud Naji was a student in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif during a massacre of members of his ethnic Hazara minority in 1998. He remembers digging tunnels to hide terrified families during a Taliban killing spree that left as many as 2,000 civilians dead. Mr. Naji, now 45 and a leader of a Hazara political movement, fears more mass killings if peace talks between the United States and the Taliban produce a deal that brings the insurgents back into government. He and many other Hazaras worry that the negotiations will deliver oppression rather than peace. Persecuted for more than a century, Hazaras have carved out a thriving urban enclave in west Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, since the Taliban government was overthrown by an American-led coalition in 2001. But they say peace talks have put those gains at risk, especially with Hazaras already bloodied by persistent attacks from Taliban insurgents and Islamic State suicide bombers. Some Hazaras describe a sort of living death — mourning the loss of loved ones killed by the Taliban or the Islamic State while forever bracing for the next blow even as peace talks proceed.”

Al Arabiya: US Envoy On Afghan Peace Heads Back To The Region

“The US envoy seeking a peace deal with the Taliban to end 17 years of war is heading back to the region for a new round of talks, the State Department said Tuesday. Zalmay Khalilzad will head to Afghanistan as well as neighboring Pakistan during the trip that began Monday and is scheduled to run through April 10. The State Department did not confirm he would hold fresh talks with the Taliban but said he would stop in Qatar, the usual location for negotiations with the militants. Khalilzad’s trip is “part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that brings all Afghan parties together in inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations,” the State Department said. The emphasis on negotiations among Afghans comes as the Taliban refuses to sit down for talks with the internationally recognized government of President Ashraf Ghani, despite US appeals. Tensions over the issue recently led to Ghani’s national security adviser telling reporters in Washington that Khalilzad had not been transparent and accusing the US envoy, who was born in Afghanistan, of harboring personal ambitions in his native country. As Khalilzad headed back, the US ambassador to Kabul, John Bass, also emphasized the role of Afghans.”

Xinhua: 4 Militants Killed In Clash In Southern Afghanistan's Uruzgan Province

“At least four militants were killed and three others injured in a clash in Chora district of southern Afghanistan's Uruzgan province on Tuesday, said a statement issued by the army on Wednesday. The clash, according to the brief statement, flared up in Popalzai village of Chora district on Tuesday afternoon, during which four insurgents were killed and three others injured. Taliban militants haven't commented.”


The Washington Post: From Scholar To Militant: Why More Young Kashmiris Are Joining An Insurgency Against India

“He was the kind of professor students adored, always ready to help with books, advice or small loans. His colleagues in the sociology department found him reliable and ambitious, a scholar whose research on consumerism might propel him to a post elsewhere in India. So it was out of character when Mohammad Rafi Bhat failed to attend a faculty meeting at the University of Kashmir one Friday afternoon last year. His family, too, had no idea where he was. Two days later, when his colleagues turned on their televisions, their concern turned to shock: Bhat was dead, having joined a group of anti-India militants who were killed in a confrontation with security personnel. Bhat’s brief transition from academia to insurgency was part of a troubling trend. Growing numbers of young Kashmiris turned to militancy in 2018, according to official figures, giving new energy to an armed struggle that as recently as a few years ago appeared to be diminishing. Some of the recruits, like Bhat, are highly educated and have promising careers ahead of them; others are high school dropouts from rural villages. But each one embraced violence, drawn to a three-decade insurgency against Indian rule in its portion of Kashmir, the Himalayan region claimed by India and Pakistan.”


The National: Yemen: UAE-Backed Forces Launch Military Operation To Track Down Al Qaeda

“Elite troops supported by Emirati forces have begun a campaign to track down Al Qaeda militants in mountain hideouts in the Shabwa province of southern Yemen. The campaign, called White Mountains, complements a mission in which troops were sent to the three Shabwa districts of Nesab, Markha and Khourah in April 2018. “Fierce clashes flared between our forces and Al Qaeda militants in the district of Khoura, lasting for about three hours," Col Mohammed Al Bouhar, commander of the Shabwa force, told The National. "It ended as our forces took control over their main base in the area that was used as training base." There were no casualties reported but the extremists from the base fled towards the province of Al Bayda, Col Al Bouhar said.”


The Times Of Israel: Hezbollah Head And Hamas Deputy Chief Said To Meet Over Gaza Tensions

“Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri reportedly met on Monday amid increased tensions between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah and Hamas are both Iranian-backed terror groups. Nasrallah and Arouri discussed “the Zionist aggression against the Gaza Strip,” “bilateral cooperation” and “coordinating positions regarding various developments,” according to a report from Al-Aqsa TV. Several pro-Hezbollah news sites also reported the meeting took place, without providing additional details. The Al-Aqsa TV report did not say where the Nasrallah and Arouri met. In November 2017, the two met in Lebanon, where Nasrallah is believed to be in hiding. Hezbollah is directly supported by Iran and Hamas’s armed wing also enjoys a level of backing from the Islamic Republic. The meeting came as tensions around the Gaza Strip spiraled following a rocket fired from Gaza early Monday that hit a home north of Tel Aviv, injuring seven people, and intense Israeli bombardments in retaliation. It also occurred as the US recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is claimed by Syria, an ally of Hezbollah.”

Middle East

BBC: Where Is The Islamic State Group Still Active Around The World?

“After months of fighting, the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) has finally lost Baghuz, a village in eastern Syria that came to represent the final chapter in its self-styled caliphate. While this is a major blow, the loss of the small enclave near the Iraqi border does not spell the end of IS as a militant group capable of mounting deadly attacks worldwide. IS and its affiliates continue to be active in various countries, claiming attacks on a daily basis through the group's online propaganda outlets. Data collected by BBC Monitoring shows that despite having lost most of its territory in Syria and Iraq at the end of 2017, IS said it was behind 3,670 attacks worldwide last year - an average of 11 attacks per day - and 502 attacks in the first two months of 2019, while Baghuz was under siege. The jihadist group commonly steps up its attacks in response to offensives against it, either in the area under siege or elsewhere to divert attention or resources away from there. Although Iraq and Syria continue to account for the lion's share of IS attack claims, Afghanistan, Somalia, the Philippines, Nigeria and Egypt's Sinai peninsula also feature regularly.”

Fox News: Israel, Palestinian Militants Trade Fire As 'Truce' Appears To Unravel

“The Israeli army on Tuesday bombed several targets in the Gaza Strip as Palestinian militants responded with a new barrage of late-night rocket fire, demonstrating that a truce with Hamas rulers showed signs of unraveling. Tuesday night’s airstrikes came in response to a lone rocket attack. The military said it hit a Hamas military compound and a weapons manufacturing warehouse in southern Gaza. Militants responded by firing another rocket. Israel said both projectiles landed harmlessly in open areas. The violence, less than two weeks before Israel holds national elections, is likely to become a major theme in the final stretch of a tight reelection campaign for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who indicated the election would not deter him from acting. Netanyahu cut short a visit to the U.S. and rushed back to Israel on Tuesday to deal with the crisis. After meeting with Netanyahu, Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, ordered an additional troop buildup along the border. Netanyahu had been scheduled to give a speech in Washington to the AIPAC pro-Israel lobbying group. Instead, he addressed the group by satellite, telling them that over the past 24 hours Israel had pounded militant sites in Gaza on a scale not seen since a 2014 war with Hamas.”


Arab News: Egypt Puts 145 People On Terrorism List: Judicial Source

“An Egyptian court upheld Tuesday a decision to put 145 people, including staunch Muslim Brotherhood supporters, on the country’s “terrorism list,” a judicial source said. The Court of Cassation rejected appeals against a ruling passed by a lower court in June last year. The defendants were accused of training militants and plotting violence in the country, the source said. The list includes senior Brotherhood figures, many of whom fled Egypt following the military ouster of Islamist president Muhammad Mursi in 2013. The Brotherhood was designated a “terrorist organization” months after Mursi’s overthrow. Turkey-based TV hosts Moataz Matar and Mohamed Nasser, who both work for pro-Muslim Brotherhood channels, are among those on the list. Matar has recently been in the crosshairs of the state after initiating online calls for protests against President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Hundreds have been added to Egypt’s terrorism list in recent years including Mursi himself.”


The Washington Post: Bomb In Somalia’s Capital Kills 1, Injures Another

“A bomb exploded in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on Tuesday killing one person and wounding another. The blast from a bomb planted in a private luxury car exploded in Mogadishu’s Hodan district, killing the driver and injuring a nearby pedestrian, said police Col. Ahmed Abdi. There was no immediate claim for the bombing, the latest in a string of attacks often claimed by the Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, who are linked to al-Qaida and are fighting to topple the western-backed government protected by African Union forces.”


Reuters: Death toll from attack on Mali herders rises to 157

“The death toll from Saturday’s attack by unknown gunmen on villagers in central Mali has risen to 157, a government spokesman said on Tuesday, confirming it as one of the worst recent atrocities in a country beset by ethnic violence. The attack took place as a U.N. Security Council mission was visiting the West African gold-producing country to seek solutions to violence that has killed hundreds of civilians last year and is spreading across West Africa’s Sahel region. An official from a nearby town said on Saturday that armed men, dressed as traditional Donzo hunters, attacked villages populated by rival Fulani herders, many of whom they suspect of harboring Islamist extremists - charges the Fulani deny. The attack came less than a week after a deadly assault by jihadists on an army post killed at least 23 soldiers, also in Mali’s central region. That attack was claimed by an al Qaeda affiliate. ”The official death toll is 157,” said government spokesman Amadou Kotia. Officials on Saturday said that about 134 had been killed, though they expected that number to rise. Jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have exploited ethnic rivalries such as those between Fulani and Donzo in Mali and its neighbors Burkina Faso and Niger in recent years to boost recruitment and render vast swathes of territory virtually ungovernable.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Extremism Is Global Education Fight, Says Blair

“Extremism should be treat Four and a half years ago, French toddler Jana set off on a family holiday to Morocco -- but her jihadist father instead spirited her to Syria, where he joined the Islamic State group. Now devoted uncle Mustafa Tarbouni is on the ground and desperately trying to secure the seven-year-old's release from a cramped displaced camp in the war-torn country's northeast, where he believes the little girl is stuck with thousands of jihadist wives and their children. “The call that I make here -- 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the camp -- is that the French government finally intervenes and brings Jana” back home, the 49-year-old said, on the steps of a government office in Syria's semi-autonomous Kurdish region. Jana has more than doubled in age since she was ripped away from her family aged just three, but Tarbouni is hoping a birthmark at the top of her thigh will help confirm her identity. Thumbing through a voluminous file, he displays endless pictures of the smiling little girl -- one clearly displaying the birthmark. “I have all the necessary documents -- the identity card, the passport receipt, birth certificate, all the photos -- to prove the identity of this child,” he told AFP. Jana was last seen in eastern Syria in January, he said, but he can't disclose how he knows.”


The New York Times: How To Win The Fight Over Europe’s ‘Refugee Crisis’

“The European Parliament elections are just two months away. The big question is how Europe’s alliance of far-right populists will fare. Their strategy is clear. In a speech in July, Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary and a figurehead of the far right, belligerently declared that “the time has come for the European elections to be about a great, important, common European issue: the issue of immigration, and the future related to it.” The right wing is organized and confident. Mr. Orban concluded, “We believe we are that future.” Is Mr. Orban correct? The conventional wisdom in Europe these days says that the far right has peaked. This view is based largely on the idea that the “refugee crisis” is over. If the populist surge was fueled by a real problem in 2015, when over a million refugees and migrants entered Europe, there is no such problem today.”

El Pais: How A Spanish Neo-Nazi Became An International ‘Hero’ Of The Far Right

“On November 11, 2007, Josué Estébanez killed a 16-year-old left-wing activist named Carlos Palomino on a Metro train in Madrid. More than a decade later, Estébanez has become a cult figure for white supremacists across the world, including Brenton Tarrant, the terrorist who killed 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand. Tarrant had written Estébanez’s name on his rifle magazine, along with the names of far-right figures responsible for mass murders in other countries. In English- and Spanish-language forums, on underground websites and social media sites, Estébanez is revered as an “idol,” with users from the Netherlands, Ukraine and Australia paying their “respects” to the neo-Nazi. Estébanez’s fame largely stems from the fact that there is a four-minute 20-second video of his crime. Security cameras show how the then-25-year-old former soldier pulled out a 25-centimeter knife when he saw a group of left-wing activists waiting to board at the next platform. Estébanez was on his way to an anti-immigration demonstration organized by the far-right group National Democracy (DN). Palomino and his friends were planning to join the counter-demonstration.”

Vice: How Sweden Deals With Returning Isis Fighters

“What do you actually pack for war?” The first time I met Firat* he was sitting on the floor of a Stockholm apartment, in September of 2018, packing his bags for what he hoped would be the final battle against ISIS in Syria. Into his bag went his military uniform, coffee and some snus. Also, his camera, mementos from friends who have died in battle and, finally, ear protectors. “I've already lost the hearing in my right ear,” he said. “I have to wear ear protectors now so I don't fuck up the other one.” In his role as a combat medic, Firat has been fighting against ISIS in Syria for the past three years, as a volunteer for the Kurdish anti-jihadist militia People's Defence Unit (YPG), whose work is supported by airstrikes from the US-led coalition. “I had to take a short break because of an injury,” he said. Last week, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US government announced that Syria has been completely liberated from ISIS control. But back in late 2018, Firat was still needed to do his part. “This is what saves lives; not war,” he said, pointing at one of his bags. In it were bandages, tourniquets and medication. “I would not call myself a doctor or a nurse or anything like that, because I'm not,” he explained. “But you best believe that I'll save your life if you lose your foot or get shot.”


Iran Focus: The Hezbollah-Venezuela Relationship

“The Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group could have its illicit activities in Venezuela disrupted due to the ongoing political and humanitarian crises besieging the country, according to some analysts. For years, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro maintained a close relationship with Hezbollah and Iran, which empowered Hezbollah in terms of both money and influence. Now, the group can raise money through illicit means and funnel it through financial hubs in Central and South America. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “People don’t recognize that Hezbollah has active cells — the Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America. We have an obligation to take down that risk for America.” However, US sanctions on Venezuela, as well as increasing sanctions on Hezbollah and Iran are leaving many to speculate that Hezbollah may not be able to survive in the country much longer. In recent months, the US named Hezbollah as one of the top five transnational criminal organizations in Latin America, held a conference to discuss the threats posed by Hezbollah, and levied sanctions against several key Hezbollah figures.”

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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