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Old 01-31-2019, 09:38 AM
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Arrow Eye on Extremism January 31, 2019

Eye on Extremism / January 31, 2019
RE: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#in...cHQSqFJkZGjDfh

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Asks Western Allies To Help Form Buffer Zone In Northern Syria

“The U.S. wants to assemble a coalition of Western nations to create and potentially enforce a new buffer zone in northern Syria, U.S. officials said, but none have yet agreed to the proposal, which includes a promise of American military assistance. The difficulty in getting allies on board with the plan, details of which hadn’t previously been disclosed, is the latest challenge administration officials face as they search for a way to satisfy President Trump’s withdrawal order and avoid potentially adverse effects of a pullout, including an Islamic State rebound or a war between Turkish forces and Kurdish fighters. The administration hopes to persuade allies including the U.K., France and Australia to take responsibility for northern Syria, both to address Turkish concerns about Kurdish separatists in Syria while keeping Turkey’s forces away from U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters who have been battling Islamic State. Turkey, which has vowed to create its own safe zone, has objected to the idea. Mr. Trump, citing success against Islamic State in Syria, ordered the more-than-2,000 American forces out of Syria in December, a move Republicans and Democrats criticized as premature.”

The Wall Street Journal: Islamic State Enlists Women As Covert Operatives In Survival Bid

“Five kilograms of flour, a laptop and instant noodles were among the items Suzanne was asked to procure from a market in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul. If the task appears mundane, its purpose wasn’t: Suzanne was shopping for Islamic State. “I knew it was wrong, but need compelled me,” she said. The 40-year-old Iraqi mother from Mosul was detained two months ago and is now awaiting trial for aiding and abetting Islamic State. The chief judge at the court where she is being tried asked that Suzanne’s surname be withheld to protect her identity. Iraqi security officials said there are many women like Suzanne serving as couriers for Islamic State, distributing funds and purchasing supplies for militants who have reverted to insurgency after being driven from all the territory they once controlled. In some cases, women have been caught stashing weapons or transporting homemade bombs. Their missions in Iraq provide critical sustenance to an insurgency forced underground and seeking to regain traction. In neighboring Syria, the militants are mounting a last stand in a dwindling patch of territory, in the dying days of their self-proclaimed caliphate.”

CNN: Philippines Vows To 'Destroy' Islamist Extremism. Here's Why That Won't Be So Easy

“Less than two years after victory was declared over ISIS-aligned militants in Marawi, the threat of extremism has returned to the southern Philippines. In response, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to hit resurgent militants hard, but his order to "destroy" the ISIS-linked group thought to be responsible for the bombing of a church on Sunday may prove to be harder than anticipated. Speaking to CNN, Darlene Cayabyab, director of operations and research for the Counter Extremism Project, says there are "sensitivities" that the ethnic Moro people have concerning Filipinos from other parts of the country, and which can easily hinder military operations. "These Moro folks have long felt occupied -- you will have some difficulty with cooperation and collaboration, and winning the hearts and minds of people," she said. "Decades -- if not centuries -- of grievances have led to an acceptance of jihad.”

Middle East Forum: Yusuf Al Qaradawi, The Muslim Brotherhood And Qatar

“Despite international criticism, the small peninsula state of Qatar has long played an outside role in harboring Islamists, including violent jihadists -- whether the political leadership of Hamas, or the "unofficial Embassy" of the Afghan Taliban. The recent decision by several Arab States to designate a number of Qatari-hosted Islamists as terrorist entities has once again raised the issue of Qatari's support for both violent and non-violent Islamists. And perhaps no individual sheltered by Qatar is as notorious or influential as the nonagenarian cleric Yusuf Al Qaradawi. Who is Yusuf Al Qaradawi? Yusuf Al Qaradawi is a Qatar-based cleric, Al-Azhar University-trained Islamic jurist and a prolific writer and scholar. Born in Egypt in 1926, Qaradawi was an early member of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was even imprisoned by Gamal Abdel-Nasser as part of a crackdown following the Brotherhood's involvement in an alleged assassination attempt.[1] Egyptian hostility to the Brotherhood and its clerics led to Qaradawi's long-term exile in Qatar, where he now lives as a personal guest and spiritual mentor to the Qatari Emir.”

Fox News: Iran Says Its Ballistic Missile Program Non-Negotiable, Will Continue To Build

“The Iranian regime said on Tuesday that it’s not interested in having talks with the U.S. and Europe concerning their ballistic missile program, but said that it won’t work increasing the missiles’ range – only the precision. Iran’s military capabilities have long been under scrutiny, with U.S. and European countries trying to crackdown on the development of the weapons program. The Trump administration withdrew last year from the nuclear accord and imposed harsh economic sanctions, claiming that the deal, struck under the Obama administration, didn’t curb the regime’s ballistic missiles, according to Reuters. European countries like France, meanwhile, raised questions recently over the missiles, saying that sanctions on Iran can be enacted if there was no progress made over the weapon program. But Iran fired back saying their weapons program is off limits. “The enemies say Iran’s missile power should be eliminated, but we have repeatedly said our missile capabilities are not negotiable,” said Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami, according to Tasnim news agency, Reuters reported.”

The Wall Street Journal: Don’t Rush Into Afghan Peace

“The Trump administration has reportedly offered to withdraw forces from Afghanistan if the Taliban stops fighting and opens negotiations with the government. If the Taliban assents, the result won’t be a peace agreement, only an agreement to enter a peace negotiation. Yet given that the U.S. has sought such talks since 2010, even this limited step would represent no mean achievement. Whether it leads to an enduring peace will depend on many factors, including American endurance. If the U.S. withdraws its forces once negotiation begins, the talks will collapse and the war will resume. Likewise if the U.S. leaves after an agreement is reached but before it is implemented. Only if the U.S., its allies and the rest of the international community remain engaged through the implementation of whatever agreement emerges will there be a better than even chance of an enduring peace.”

United States

TC Palm: Fort Pierce Man Sentenced After Threatening Mass Murder In Support Of Islamic State

“A Fort Pierce man was sentenced to 18 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to making threats related to the Islamic State group. Charlton LaChase, 28, pleaded guilty to two counts of transmitting threats through interstate or foreign commerce Tuesday, according to a U.S. Justice Department news release. LaChase also will be supervised for three years after his release from prison, the news release states. LaChase sent text messages professing his support for IS and threatening to commit mass murder, the release states. Records show after officials searched LaChase's Facebook account, they found he had tried to purchase guns multiple times and threatened to kill politicians. Records show after LaChase found out he was under investigation by the FBI, he disposed of his cellphone.”

The New York Times: To Slow U.S. Exit, Afghan Leader Offers Trump a Cost Reduction

“Unnerved by fears of a rushed American deal with Taliban insurgents, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan sent a letter on Tuesday to President Trump offering him reduced costs for keeping United States troops in the country. The letter, confirmed by three officials and described by one who had seen its contents, is among the strongest signs yet that Mr. Ghani is worried about the consequences of an abrupt American withdrawal from an intractable war that has lasted nearly two decades. Mr. Ghani has made no secret of his concern about a hasty American exit by an increasingly impatient Mr. Trump, fearing it could unravel the fragile Afghan state and lead to a renaissance in power by the Taliban, which have been steadily gaining territory. The Afghan leader’s anxiety has punctuated the contrast between the political backdrop in Afghanistan and the circumstances of the American pullout from the other conflict that arose after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — the American-led war in Iraq.”

Syria

The Straits Times: In Syria Desert, Hundreds Flee Crumbling ISIS Holdout

“Red-and-white scarves tied around their eyes, men suspected of belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group sit in the back of a pickup truck in the desert of eastern Syria. US-backed forces have singled them out from hundreds of men fleeing what remains of the extremist group's dwindling bastion on the border with Iraq. Backed by US-led coalition air strikes, the Syrian Democratic Forces, a grouping of Kurdish and Arab fighters, have advanced against the militants, squeezing them into a tiny patch east of the Euphrates River. The fighting and air strikes have led more than 36,000 people to flee since the start of December, including more than 3,100 suspected militant fighters. On Wednesday (Jan 30), more than 300 men arrived near Omar oil field, where the Kurdish-led SDF separated them into two groups: civilians and suspected militants. The alleged fighters are blindfolded, ushered into the truck and ferried off for questioning by the SDF. Inside the tent, a few hundred men vetted as civilians sit, some wearing their traditional red-and-white scarfs on their heads. Most of them sporting the long beard that was compulsory under ISIS rule, they wait to be trucked to a camp for the displaced in Kurdish-held territory further north.”

The Hill: Trump Pushes Back On Intel Chiefs: ISIS ‘Will Soon Be Destroyed’

“President Trump in a series of early morning tweets on Wednesday pushed back on warnings from his own top intelligence officials about the stark threats still posed by ISIS, saying the "caliphate will soon be destroyed.” “When I became President, ISIS was out of control in Syria & running rampant. Since then tremendous progress made, especially over last 5 weeks. Caliphate will soon be destroyed, unthinkable two years ago,” the president said. The comments come a day after the country’s top intelligence officials testified in front of Congress and presented a report analyzing the threats facing the nation. While Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel said the U.S. had made significant gains against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the report says that alleviating pressure on the terrorist organization could allow it to regroup. “The group will exploit any reduction in [counterterrorism] pressure to strengthen its clandestine presence and accelerate rebuilding key capabilities, such as media production and external operations,” the report states. The report also warned that ISIS is still likely to try to attack the United States. “ISIS very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States,” it said.”

The Washington Post: Why Winning And Losing Are Irrelevant In Syria And Afghanistan

“President Trump is already pulling U.S. troops out of Syria and is likely to pull them out of Afghanistan, too, assuming that a tentative peace deal with the Taliban is finalized. Although Trump initially claimed that the United States had won in Syria, the real impetus for both moves is a widespread sense, shared by Trump supporters and critics alike, that not only aren’t we winning, but that also we can’t possibly win these “forever wars,” no matter how long we stay. “There is virtually no possibility of a military victory over the Taliban and little chance of leaving behind a self-sustaining democracy,” wrote strategist and travel writer Robert D. Kaplan in the New York Times. Veteran diplomats Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky, meanwhile, wrote for NPR that “ISIS isn’t Germany or Japan, where the U.S. and its allies broke those regimes’ will to fight, destroyed all their war-making capacity, eradicated their fascist state ideologies and helped reshape a new environment for two democratic countries. For the U.S. to achieve that goal in Syria is mission impossible.” I have enormous respect for these writers, but their observations, while true, are also irrelevant.”

Military Times: Al-Qaida’s Advance In Northern Syria Threatens Fragile Truce

“It only took a few days for al-Qaida-linked militants to seize more than two dozen towns and villages in northern Syria from rival insurgents earlier this month, cementing their control over an area the size of neighboring Lebanon. The advance by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or the Levant Liberation Committee, was the most serious blow yet to a September cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey that averted a major government offensive in Idlib province, the last main stronghold of the Syrian opposition. It highlighted the growing threat posed by al-Qaida at a time when its rival, the Islamic State group, is on the verge of defeat and the U.S. is preparing to withdraw its 2,000 troops from Syria. Although HTS has formally severed ties with al-Qaida, experts say it is still closely linked to the global network founded by Osama bin Laden and could use its base in Syria to launch attacks in the West. Trump administration claims of progress in talks with the Taliban have sparked fears even among the president’s allies that his impatience with the war in Afghanistan will lead him to withdraw troops too soon, leaving the country at risk of returning to the same volatile condition that prompted the invasion in the first place.”

Iran

Radio Free Europe: U.S. Counterterror Envoy Travels To Europe To Discuss 'Iran-Backed Terrorism'

“The U.S. State Department says its coordinator for counterterrorism is traveling to the three Scandinavian countries this week to discuss matters including “Iran-backed terrorism” in Europe. The State Department announced Ambassador Nathan Sales’ trips to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway in a January 29 statement, saying that Iran “remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.” “In recent years the regime has directed or backed terrorist plotting in France, Denmark, The Netherlands, Albania, and elsewhere,” it added. Earlier this month, the European Union approved fresh sanctions on Iran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals, accusing them of attempting -- or carrying out -- attacks against Iranian government opponents on Danish, Dutch, and French soil. Tehran denied the claim, saying the accusations were aimed at damaging relations between Iran and the EU. The Dutch government this year accused Iran of likely involvement in the killings of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in 2015 and 2017. Both were opponents of the Iranian regime.”

Iraq

The National: Russia Vows To Help Iraq Battle Terrorism After US Withdrawal From Syria

“Russia pledged on Wednesday to support Iraq in fighting ISIS and to re-establish security ties between the two states, especially as the US plans to withdraw troops from Syria. Baghdad declared victory against ISIS in December 2017. The group seized a third of the country in nearly three years ago, but since losing the majority of its caliphate, the group has maintained sleeper cells and resorted to guerrilla tactics. “We are interested in actively helping you tackle this challenge. Let us discuss all these matters,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Al Hakim on Wednesday. The Russian official stressed the importance of re-establishing security in Iraq. He expressed hope that a planned US pullout from Syria will not be used to expand Washington’s influence elsewhere in the region. "We expect that US military presence in Iraq will meet its stated goals, namely, to fight terrorism and help the government to stabilise the situation, and not to somehow solve the geopolitical tasks in the region that are unilaterally pursued by Washington,” Mr Lavrov said during a press conference in Moscow. Russia is aiming to boost ties with Iraq to challenge American influence in the country.”

Turkey

Al Jazeera: Turkey Frees US Consulate Staff Convicted Of Terror Charge

“A Turkish court has convicted an employee of a US consulate for "aiding a terrorist organisation", but released him on time served, Turkish state-run media reported. Turkey's Anadolu Agency said the court in the southeastern province of Mardin sentenced Turkish national Hamza Ulucay to four years and six months in prison on Wednesday. Ulucay, who worked for the US consulate in the southern province of Adana as an interpreter, was detained in February 2017. He was freed on Wednesday, taking into account the time already served, but the court banned him from leaving the country. Anadolu said that during his trial Ulucay sought acquittal. The US's charge d'affaires in Turkey, Jeffrey Hovenier, and consul-general in Ankara, Alejandro Hoot Baez, were present at the trial, Anadolu said. Turkish courts had followed the same suit with Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor who was sentenced to three years in prison on terrorism charges but released last October after two years in prison. He denied the charges. Brunson's detention caused a diplomatic crisis between Washington and Ankara, as the two countries hit each other with economic sanctions before Brunson was freed. Ulucay was one of two US diplomatic mission employees imprisoned in Turkey.”

Voice Of America: Turkey Warns It's Ready For Strike Against Syrian YPG

“Turkey claims its military preparations for a cross-border operation into Syria against a Kurdish militia are complete. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar made the announcement Tuesday. "When the time comes, the necessary actions will be taken both in Manbij and east of the Euphrates," Akar said during a visit to a military facility in Turkey's Central Anatolian province of Eskisehir. In the past month, Turkish forces have been massing along the Syrian border for a military strike against the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG. Ankara considers the YPG as terrorists linked to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. Akar's announcement will ramp up pressure on Washington, which is calling for restraint. The YPG was an ally in the U.S. war against the Islamic State.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: Peace With The Taliban? Trump Warned Of Afghan Pullout Risks

“Trump administration claims of progress in talks with the Taliban have sparked fears even among the president’s allies that his impatience with the war in Afghanistan will lead him to withdraw troops too soon, leaving the country at risk of returning to the same volatile condition that prompted the invasion in the first place. Discussions between a U.S. envoy and the Taliban are advancing weeks after the administration said it wanted to begin drawing down troops in Afghanistan. That has prompted some critics to note that President Donald Trump is telegraphing a withdrawal — the same thing he accused President Barack Obama of doing by saying he wanted to end the American combat mission in 2014. “It’s an effort to put lipstick on what will be a U.S. withdrawal,” said Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to Kabul under Obama. A negotiated settlement to America’s longest war poses a dilemma for Trump. He has often declared he wants to end lengthy overseas military entanglements, something he made clear in December by declaring the Islamic State group defeated in Syria and announcing he was pulling 2,000 American troops from that country over the objections of his top foreign policy advisers.”

Associated Press: Report: Afghan Forces Still Shrinking, Security Gaps Growing

“As the Trump administration pushes for peace in Afghanistan, a new U.S. watchdog report says Afghan security forces are shrinking, gaps in security are growing, and the Taliban are largely holding their own despite a surge in American bombing. These trends reflect what U.S. military officials call a stalemated war, more than 17 years after U.S. forces invaded following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Gauges of battlefield momentum have changed little over the past year, according to a watchdog agency known as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. In a report to Congress on Thursday, it said the Afghan government controls or influences 54 percent of districts, down from 56 percent a year earlier, and the Taliban’s share slipped from 14 percent to 12 percent. Contested territory increased from 30 percent to 34 percent. The Pentagon insists that military pressure on the Taliban is mounting. Last year the U.S. vastly increased its use of air power in support of Afghan forces. According to U.S. Central Command data, U.S. aircraft dropped 6,823 bombs in the first 11 months of 2018. That compares with 4,361 bombs dropped in all of 2017.”

U.S. News & World Report: Taliban Say They Are Not Looking To Rule Afghanistan Alone

“The Taliban said Wednesday they are not seeking a "monopoly on power" in a future administration in Afghanistan but are looking for ways to co-exist with Afghan institutions — the most conciliatory statement to date from the militants. The Taliban, who now control almost half the country and carry out near-daily attacks mainly targeting Afghan security forces, issued the statement amid intensified U.S.-led talks to resolve the long-running Afghanistan war. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad reported this week that there had been "agreements in principle" toward a framework for peace with the Taliban. The statement Wednesday by Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen appears aimed at easing fears among those worried about any agreement that includes the Taliban. Its unusually conciliatory tone also could offer Khalilzad greater leverage as he seeks to rally Afghanistan's leadership behind his peace efforts. In an exclusive audio message to The Associated Press, Shaheen asserted that the Taliban want to live alongside their countrymen "in an inclusive Afghan world." "After the end of the occupation, Afghans should forget their past and tolerate one another and start life like brothers.”

Xinhua: 21 Militants Surrender In E. Afghanistan

“A total of 21 anti-government militants including 20 Taliban and one Islamic State (IS) fighter have given up fighting in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, a statement from the provincial government said on Thursday. According to the statement, 20 Taliban fighters in Ghani Khil, Mohmandara, Khogiani and Achin districts handed over weapons to local authorities in provincial capital Jalalabad on Wednesday. A militant loyal to the IS group who was active in Haska Mina district also handed over his weapon to local authorities, the statement added. Neither Taliban outfit nor the IS group has made comment.”

Pakistan

South China Morning Post: Nine Killed, 20 Injured After Militants Attack Pakistan Police Station With Grenades And Guns In Balochistan, The Country’s Poorest Region

“A shoot-out between police and armed gunmen killed nine people and injured 20 others in southwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, said police.Top of Form Bottom of FormThe firefight occurred after three gunmen entered police offices in the province of Balochistan, Loralai district, and threw hand grenades. “Senior police officials were busy selecting candidates for different categories of civilian jobs when these terrorists entered the compound and hurled hand grenades,” said Balochistan police chief Mohsin Butt. “Police officials opened fire on them killing one of the terrorists.” The two remaining gunmen went into hiding in the building and later blew themselves up. Three of those killed were policemen and six were civilian staff members, while twenty people were injured in the crossfire, Butt said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest and poorest region, which borders Afghanistan and Iran and is rife with ethnic, sectarian and separatist insurgencies. Its residents have long complained that it does not receive a fair share of the profits made from its mineral wealth. Baloch separatist groups and Islamist militants have attacked security forces in the province in the past.”

Saudi Arabia

Daily Mail: ISIS Call For Terror Attack On Mariah Carey Concert In Saudi Arabia Tomorrow Night

“Islamic State terrorists have urged fanatical followers to bomb a Mariah Carey concert in Saudi Arabia in their latest campaign of online hate. The pop superstar, 48, is performing in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Thursday night as part of the nation's first international golf tournament, according to Arab News and radicals have been urged to stop the event which is seen to extremists as un-Islamic. Images circulating on social media have suggested ISIS terrorists want the concert to be targeted. Badly edited images of an Islamic State flag on a promotional poster were shared by concerned supporters after being found online. Fans have urged Mariah to cancel her performance. In the last week of September a pro-Islamic State (ISIS) media group called Al-Abd Al-Faqir Media released images of a western style concert being attacked. The image features a jihadist wearing a white T-shirt and jeans, holding a grenade in his right hand. 'We have prepared for you what never crossed your mind, for our goal is to horrify you and terrorize you and harm you,' it states.”

Middle East

Jerusalem Post: 16-Year Old Terrorist Killed After Attempting To Stab Guard Near Jerusalem

“A teenage female terrorist was killed after attempting to stab security forces at the Za’ayem checkpoint near Ma’aleh Adumim on the outskirts of Jerusalem on Wednesday morning, according to a police spokesperson. The teenager, 16, lived in Ramallah and was in 11th grade. The terrorist approached the checkpoint with a knife and tried to stab one of the security guards. The guards opened fire and the suspect was killed. The security guards were not injured. The police commander of the Jerusalem district, Maj.-Gen. Yoram Halevi, assessed the situation on the ground and heightened security in the area. “The rapid response and the operational determination of the security forces at the checkpoint undoubtedly prevented injury to the security forces and led to the rapid neutralization of the terrorist,” Halevi said. “Israel Police will continue to provide protection and security for residents of the capital and visitors.” A week and a half ago, a Palestinian terrorist attempted to stab a soldier near an army base in the Samaria region near Nablus and was killed by another IDF soldier.”

Africa

Star Tribune: Kenya Says New Zealander Arrested In Crackdown On Extremism

“Kenya's interior minister says a man with two New Zealand passports is among 10 people arrested over suspected links with extremism. Fred Matiangi said Thursday the suspects were detained in a crackdown earlier this week on alleged extremists at the Dadaab refugee camp, which hosts at least 200,000 Somali refugees. The crackdown follows an attack, claimed by al-Shabab extremists from neighboring Somalia, earlier this month on a hotel complex in Nairobi. Authorities have said 21 people were killed. The crackdown is not directly linked to that attack. Kenya has experienced several attacks by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab since 2011. The extremist group has vowed retribution on Kenya for sending troops to Somalia. Kenya is part of an African Union mission bolstering Somalia's fragile government from al-Shabab's insurgency.”

Germany

Times Of Israel: German Police Arrest 3 Suspected Of Extremist Bomb Plot

“German authorities arrested three suspected Islamic extremists Wednesday on allegations they were planning a bombing attack, and searched properties in three states in connection with their investigation. Federal prosecutors said Iraqis Shahin F. and Hersh F., both 23, and Rauf S., 36, were taken into custody in an early morning raid by a police SWAT team in the area of Dithmarschen, near the border with Denmark. In addition, searches were carried out of other residences in northern and southwestern Germany of people linked to the three main suspects but not currently to the bomb plot. The two younger men are suspected of preparing a bomb attack and violating weapons laws, and Rauf S. is alleged to have aided them. Their last names were not given in line with German privacy laws. The men appear to have been in the early stages of planning, and had not yet built a functioning bomb nor decided upon a target for attack, prosecutors said in a statement. Prosecutors allege Shahin F. and Hersch F. decided in late 2018 to “carry out an attack motivated by Islamic extremism in Germany.” There are indications that they sympathized with Islamic State, but a direct link to the extremist group or others is currently under investigation.”

Europe

Irish Examiner: New Laws To Target Irish Terror Fighters

“The Government is introducing offences to stop Irish people travelling abroad to fight for terrorist groups, such as Islamic State and other jihadist militants. The Department of Justice has begun to draft legislation which will impose possible significant prison terms in a bid to combat foreign terrorist fighters. Belarus-born and naturalised Irish citizen Alexandr Rusmatovich Bekmirzaev was detained by Kurdish troops in Syria this month, accused, along with four other foreigners, of fighting with IS. Official figures estimate around 30 Irish citizens have gone to fight with militant groups in Syria and Iraq. While the number is small, the ratio per head of population (seven per 1m) is higher than Spain (three per 1m) and similar to Germany (nine per 1m), though significantly lower than France (26 per 1m), Belgium (42 per 1m), and Sweden (31 per 1m). Garda sources have pointed out that many of the Irish fighters joined military factions fighting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad or IS. Gardaí have said one of their policies is to engage with those they know are going out, but that their legal powers are limited. What has happened to the 30-odd that went out is not yet clear, but some five are thought to have been killed.”

Latin America

Arab News: Extremist Groups Well Placed To Exploit Venezuela’s Troubles

“As the Trump administration continues to support Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido over President Nicolas Maduro because of an apparently fraudulent presidential election, the impact of the crisis on the country itself is becoming apparent. Civil disorder, which has been building for months, is occurring in various parts of Venezuela and tens of thousands of refugees are entering neighboring countries. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Security Adviser John Bolton announced sweeping sanctions aimed at weakening Maduro’s grip on the oil-rich country by freezing state-owned oil company PDVSA’s assets and prohibiting US companies and citizens from conducting business with it. More than 100 individuals, entities and aircraft have been designated as blocked property. But there is a bigger picture. As the bifurcating world looks upon Venezuela’s immediate future, there are other factors that contribute to the unstable political landscape of the northern cone of Latin America, which also includes Colombia, Suriname and Guyana. Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) is also clustered into this geographical area, as are the Netherlands Antilles.”

Technology

The New York Times: Maybe Only Tim Cook Can Fix Facebook’s Privacy Problem

“It’s nowhere in his job description, but Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has recently taken a moonlight gig as Facebook’s privacy watchdog. On Wednesday, Mr. Cook and his lieutenants took aim at Facebook for violating Apple’s rules with a research app that allowed Facebook to snoop on users’ online activity. Facebook promoted the app through an Apple program that gives trusted developers the ability to install apps for testing without going through the App Store’s normal approval process. Apple responded by cutting off Facebook’s access to apps and updates that it was working on internally, causing chaos among the company’s software engineers. The move is the clearest sign yet that the cold war between Facebook and Apple over data use and privacy is heating up. Mr. Cook, who has called privacy a “fundamental human right” and taken Facebook and Google to task for the misuse of user data in the past, could effectively become a technology regulator of last resort — using the power of Apple’s iOS operating system as a cudgel to force software companies to respect user privacy and play by the rules, or risk losing access to millions of iPhone users.”

The New York Times: Does Facebook Really Know How Many Fake Accounts It Has

“Facebook sells advertisers on its access to real people — 2.32 billion of them, a network that exceeds the populations of North America, South America and Africa combined. But do that many people really use Facebook? The answer lies partly in how many of the accounts are fake. The Silicon Valley company defines fake accounts as profiles that are either designed to break its rules, for example by spammers or scammers impersonating others, or that are misclassified, such as someone setting up a Facebook profile instead of a Facebook page for a business. Yet the number of Facebook accounts that fit those descriptions is less clear. While the company discloses its estimates of fake accounts, its figures have fluctuated and are confusing. Even Facebook admits its understanding of the numbers is tenuous. “Duplicate and false accounts are very difficult to measure at our scale,” it said in a securities filing in October, and the actual numbers “may vary significantly from our estimates.”

Terrorist Financing

Copts-United: Morocco Arrests A French-Algerian National On Suspicion Of Terrorist Financing

“The Moroccan national security forces recently arrested a French national of Algerian origin, against whom an earlier arrest warrant had been issued by the French authorities. France accused the man of financing terrorism, establishing a criminal gang and glorifying terrorist acts. The suspect was arrested at the King Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca on the 22nd of the current month, according to an official statement.”

ISIS

Sputnik: Iraq: Arrest Of A Cell That Finances ISIS Families

“On Wednesday (January 30), the Iraqi security services arrested a terrorist cell, which included a woman who was financing the families of ISIS in Kirkuk province, north of Baghdad. Spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, Major General Saad Maan, said in a statement that the detachments of the Directorate of Intelligence and Counterterrorism of Kirkuk, in cooperation with the Federal Intelligence and Investigation Agency affiliated with the ministry, arrested several suspected terrorists. Maan confirmed that the arrest took place after they were spotted in Yayci district, in the village of Bajwan located in Dibis subdistrict, which is about 45 km northwest of the city of Kirkuk.”

Hamas

Alblaad: Hamas Seeks Funding Via Cryptocurrency

“The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian terror group Hamas, recently urged its supporters across the world to send it funds via the Bitcoin virtual currency. Via a message posted on social media, Abu Obeida, the spokesperson of the Al Qassam Brigades, demanded financial support of the Gaza-based movement through the Bitcoin digital currency, which indicates that the group is encountering financing hurdles, according to analysts. It's noteworthy that the media spokesman of the armed wing of Hamas refrained from conveying {details regarding} the exact mechanism for sending the cryptocurrency to the terror organization, which obtains funds from diversified sources, including Iran, according to the movement's officials.”

Hezbollah

Imlebanon: Lebanon: Employees At Hezbollah's Entities Complain Of Their Slashed Salaries

“The past whisperings that the Lebanese Hezbollah organization has been suffering from an acute financial crisis have recently surfaced publicly. Dozens of workers employed by the various entities and associations of the Shiite group complained about significant cuts in their salaries in the past month. Employees of Hezbollah's social, educational, health and even media entities complained about cutting their pay by up to 60% in recent months. These wage cuts sparked anger among hundreds of people who have no other income source apart from the salary paid by the terror group. It's worth mentioning that Hezbollah was lately forced to implement tough austerity measures in the wake of its designation as a terrorist organization by several countries.”

Houthi

Aden News: Houthis Seize Assets Of Yemen's Largest Telecom Company

“The Houthis have seized the assets and properties of SabaFon, Yemen's largest mobile phone company, under the pretext of "past tax debts owed by the company." A Houthi-affiliated court in Sana'a has ordered, following a request by the tax department headed by a Houthi leader, to seize SabaFon's movable and immovable properties, its revenues and assets in banks, companies and agents. According to the seizure order, the tax authority is demanding the payment of back taxes worth YR2.114 billion ($ 8.576 million). The Houthis' extortion activities have recently intensified. Militants have also imposed fees under various banners to be paid by banks on a regular basis, and have imposed on local banks double taxation on their profits.”
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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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