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Arrow Eye on Extremism / February 14, 2019

Eye on Extremism
February 14, 2019

February 14, 2019

Associated Press: US-Backed Syrian Forces Clearing IS Remnants From Villages

“U.S.-backed Syrian forces are clearing two villages in eastern Syria of remaining Islamic State militants who are hiding among the local population, and detaining others attempting to flee with the civilians, the U.S.-led coalition said Thursday. The clearance operations are taking place in the villages of Shajalah and Baghouz, near the border with Iraq, a coalition statement said, hours after scores of militants from the Islamic State group — including many foreign fighters — surrendered to U.S.-backed fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces on Wednesday night. The developments brought the Kurdish-led force closer to taking full control of the last remaining area controlled by the extremists, a Kurdish official and activists said. Çiyager Amed, an official with the Syrian Democratic Forces, confirmed that a number of IS fighters who had been holed up in the village of Baghouz gave themselves up, without giving numbers. He said most of those remaining were Iraqis and foreigners and that few civilians remained in the tiny sliver of land still in IS hands, although women and children are continuing to trickle out of the enclave.”

Voice Of America: Rights Group: IS Could Be Hiding Gold In E. Syria

“As Islamic State faces pressure in its final stronghold in Syria's Deir el-Zour province, the group could be hiding a mountain of gold it smuggled out of other Syrian provinces and neighboring Iraq, a rights group told VOA on Wednesday. Rami Abdulrahman, head of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), told VOA that it had confirmation from the ground that IS was holding 40 tons of gold bars in Syria. “These quantities of gold were held by the IS group since late 2017, specifically in its eastern Syrian pocket” of control, he added. Rami said his organization's “confirmed reports” indicated the gold, along with millions of dollars, was stockpiled in Deir el-Zour province. But it was unclear to SOHR whether the gold bars were buried in Baghouz village, hidden in tunnels on the Syria-Iraq border or hidden in areas recently captured by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). “This gold was stolen from the Central Bank of Mosul, from the economy in Syria that was under the control of IS, and from the selling of Syrian and Iraqi antiquities, like smuggled antiquities from Palmyra that were sold to smugglers and traders through Turkey,” Abdulrahman of SOHR said.”

CNN: Top US Admiral In Middle East Warns Of Growing Iranian Threat

“Iran is in possession of improved and dangerous weapons systems that give Tehran the ability to threaten some of the world's most important waterways, according to the top American admiral in the Middle East. “They have a growing capability in cruise missiles, they have a growing capability in ballistic missiles, they have a growing capability in unmanned surfaced systems, all these things that we watch that are offensive, and destabilizing in nature,” Vice Adm. James Malloy, the commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, told a small group of reporters in Bahrain on Wednesday. Unmanned surface systems, which can include explosive boats designed to target enemy vessels, have concerned US officials for some time, particularly after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels based in Yemen used such a boat to attack a vessel that belonged to Saudi Arabia. The US has accused Tehran of supplying the Houthis with these boats. Iran's military also possesses advanced sea mines, including acoustic and magnetic variants, a US defense official tells CNN, weapons that could pose major risks to maritime traffic. Additionally, Russia's sale of advanced air defense systems to Iran, including the S-300 missile system, has sparked growing concern that within five years the US will have to fundamentally change how it operates in the region's critical waterways, according to a senior US military official.”

NPR: 3 Syrian Ex-Intelligence Officials Arrested On Charges Of Torture

“Three alleged former Syrian secret service agents were arrested on Tuesday on charges of carrying out or aiding in crimes against humanity, including torture of anti-government activists, paving the way for what could result in the first criminal trials of senior members of President Bashar Assad's regime anywhere in the world. Two of the men, Anwar R., a 56-year-old senior member of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, and Eyad A., a 42-year-old member of a unit that purportedly arrested hundreds of activists, sought asylum in Germany and have been living there since 2012, according to the German Federal Prosecutor. German privacy law prohibits the publication of the men's surnames. The third man, arrested near Paris, was not identified. However, the Federal Prosecutor described him as a former employee of Anwar R. His arrest was coordinated as part of a joint investigation team between France and Germany.”

The New York Daily News: Man Who Allegedly Plotted Terrorist Attack Against July 4 Celebration In Cleveland Also Charged With Threatening President And His Family, Aiding Al Qaeda

“A man who allegedly planned a terrorist attack in Cleveland last July has additionally been charged with attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda, making threats against the President and his family, and lying to law enforcement, federal officials announced Wednesday.According to the U.S. Department of Justice Northern District of Ohio, Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts, who also goes by the names Abdur Raheem Rafeeq and Salah ad-Deen Osama Waleed, was indicted after he was picked up last July 1 for allegedly plotting to blow up a Fourth of July parade, targeting members of the military and their families. At the time, he was charged with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Those charges were modified Wednesday to specify al Qaeda was the intended recipient. “Pitts on June 15, 2018, did knowingly and willfully make a threat to kidnap and inflict bodily harm upon Donald J. Trump, specifically that he would ‘get’ the President by cutting off the President’s head and hands,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “Pitts on June 15, 2018 also knowingly and willfully made threats to kidnap and inflict bodily harm upon members of the President’s family, specifically that ‘…a better way to get, to get him is to kill his kids. Kill his daughter, son-in-law.’”

CNet: Facebook Used In Iranian Cyber-Spying Operation, US Indictment Says

“A former US Air Force intelligence officer allegedly worked with Iranian hackers who used Facebook and e-mail to try to trick her former colleagues into downloading malware that would track their computer activity. Monica Witt was charged with espionage after she provided national defense information to the Iranian government, the US Department of Justice said Wednesday. Witt, a US citizen, defected to Iran in 2013 and is still at large. An indictment made public on Wednesday detailed how Witt and Iranian hackers used fake Facebook accounts to target US counterintelligence officials after she re-entered Iran. The world's largest social network has been under pressure to do more to combat misinformation and continues to pull down fake accounts this year, including 783 pages, groups and accounts tied to Iran.”

United States

Fox News: Portland, Oregon, Pulls Out Of FBI Terrorism Task Force, Following San Francisco's Lead

“Over the objection of the city's police chief and mayor, Portland, Oregon's city council on Wednesday narrowly voted to stop cooperating with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), citing alleged surveillance of left-wing activists and arguing that the partnership between local officials and federal authorities was ultimately ineffective. Law enforcement officials said a similar decision by San Francisco officials in 2017 had endangered the public, and that the New York City Police Department's membership in the JTTF has directly helped foil numerous terrorists, including would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. Portland, a virulently left-wing city, has had a rocky relationship with the JTTF. The city joined the partnership in the 1990s, left shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and signed back up in 2015. The latest split with the JTTF was a narrow one, with Mayor Ted Wheeler -- who muttered late last year that he “can't wait” to leave his job -- and another commissioner voicing support for the law enforcement coalition. Portland's ironically named police chief, Danielle Outlaw, said the partnership ultimately benefited both thet city and the FBI, and repeatedly sought to downplay fears that local officials would share immigration information with the JTTF.”

The Guardian: Former US Air Force Officer Charged With Spying For Iran

“A former US air force intelligence officer who defected to Iran in 2013 has been charged with espionage, giving away the identity of a US agent and other secrets. Monica Witt, aged 39, was a cryptologist and a counter-intelligence investigator for the US air force for more than 10 years before working as an intelligence analyst for the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton for five months in 2008 and doing other private sector work. According to charges unsealed on Wednesday by the justice department, she defected to Iran in August 2013, taking with her details of US counter-intelligence agents she had worked with who were then targeted by Iranian hackers, four of whom are named in the indictment and charged alongside Witt. “It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country,” the assistant attorney general for national security, John Demers, said.”

USA Today: Pompeo In Poland: Middle East Peace Means 'Confronting Iran'

“Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday took the White House's aggressive anti-Iran message to a U.S.-sponsored meeting in Poland on peace and security in the Middle East. Pence used his address to the conference in Poland's capital Warsaw to demand that European countries withdraw from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that President Donald Trump's administration has already abandoned. He urged U.S. allies to back Washington's sanctions on Iran, re-imposed after Trump exited the 2015 accord last year. Long-standing U.S. allies in Europe favor staying in the deal and have sought ways to keep open trade and financial dealings with Iran. Disagreement over the issue is what partly led to Germany, France and other major U.S. allies not sending their top diplomats to the summit in Poland.”


The Wall Street Journal: Battle To Oust Islamic State Takes Toll On Syrian Civilians

“Thousands of civilians fleeing the U.S.-backed battle to oust Islamic State from the last territory it controls in Syria have had to run across minefields and ride in open-air trucks for hours in near-freezing temperature to find safety—in a camp with not enough tents. At least 35 children and newborns have died since early December, most from hypothermia, either en route or shortly after arriving at the camp, according to the United Nations. Officials affiliated with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and aid groups have accused each other of failing to adequately prepare for an anticipated civilian exodus. “The whole thing was predictable and preventable,” said Nadim Houry, direct of Human Rights Watch’s terrorism and counterterrorism program. “Babies died in their mother’s arms after they had supposedly arrived to safety.” Before the SDF began a push over the weekend to capture the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria, more than 20,000 civilians had been evacuated from the area in the preceding two months, according to the United Nations refugee agency. Hundreds are fleeing each day as the SDF closes in on what appears to be the final phase in a monthslong campaign.”

The Washington Post: Hundreds Streaming Out Of Last ISIS Stronghold As Extremists Face Military Defeat

“Hundreds of people have trudged out of the Islamic State’s last stronghold since Tuesday, surrendering to U.S.-backed forces before their final assault to capture the only village still in the militants’ hands. Some of the Islamic State’s most die-hard fighters are pinned down in Baghouz, a remote hamlet nestled on a bend of the Euphrates River close to the Iraqi border. There is only one path out of what they once called the caliphate, snaking through the green grass and flowers of eastern Syria. No longer spanning an area the size of Britain, their territory is now visible in its entirety from hills that surround it, covering no more than a square mile. After three days of fighting, the combat quieted — with a lull in artillery fire and U.S. airstrikes — as the U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces gave the village’s remaining inhabitants a chance to flee or give themselves up. More than 1,200 people had accepted the offer since Tuesday, American aid workers said, walking miles in the darkness toward the SDF militia fighters on the other side of a hill — and on to an uncertain future. Among those departing the village were defeated foot soldiers of the Islamic State. “Last night looked like a major break,” said Dave Eubank of the Free Burma Rangers, a Christian group that specializes in delivering aid in war zones.”

Arab News: Hundreds Flee As Ferocious Battle In Syria’s Daesh Holdout Enters 5th Day

“The ferocious battle for Daesh’s last bastion in eastern Syria entered its fifth day on Wednesday, as exhausted families left the ever-shrinking scrap of land where holdout militants have been boxed in by Kurdish-led forces. Hundreds fled day and night from Baghouz, near the enclave where diehard Daesh militants are making their last stand, as plumes of grey smoke billowed into the sky over the flat, desolate town. After a pause of more than a week to allow out civilians, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) declared a final push to retake the pocket of land from the extremists on Saturday, aided by the warplanes and artillery of a US-led coalition. SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said on Tuesday that 600 civilians had fled the combat zone overnight and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said another 350 made it out that day. The SDF have built up a pair of sand embankments on a scrubby plateau overlooking Baghouz. Most of the neighborhoods visible along the hazy horizon are under their control, but the southernmost parts of the small town — from which sounds of a firefight can be heard — are still held by Daesh. Suddenly, black dots appeared on the dirt road that snakes across the plain from the ruins of the town.”


The New York Times: Iran Suicide Bombing Kills 27 Revolutionary Guards

“A suicide bomber killed at least 27 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and wounded 13 on a bus in a restive region of southeast Iran on Wednesday, Iranian media reported. It was among the deadliest attacks in Iran in years. The Revolutionary Guards, an elite Iranian paramilitary force, quickly blamed the United States for the assault, which came during the week that Iran’s leaders have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which overthrew the American-backed shah in 1979. The Revolutionary Guards did not explain precisely how the Americans could have been involved in the attack. But Iranian officials suggested it was more than coincidental that it happened as the Trump administration was hosting an anti-Iran-themed meeting in Poland that included delegations from Iran’s regional adversaries, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Dispatches by the official Islamic Republic News Agency and the Fars News Agency said the victims had been traveling between the cities of Zahedan and Khash near the Pakistan border, a haven for militant separatist groups and drug smugglers. There were conflicting accounts of the casualties, which often happens in Iran immediately after calamities.”

Jerusalem Post: Iran, Hezbollah Setting Up Observation Posts Along Golan Border - Report

“Foreign publications reported that Hezbollah fighters and Iranian forces set up a network of observation posts just a few kilometers away from the Golan Heights border fence to keep track of IDF forces in the area, according to Walla! news. If Hezbollah did conduct this activity in the area, it would contradict Russia's promise that foreign forces would keep their distance from the border. The reports claim that the observation posts were destroyed in the recent IDF attack on Quneitra.”

The New York Times: Iran’s 40 Years Of Darkness

“From its beginning 40 years ago this week, the Islamic Republic of Iran has enjoyed the generous benefit of the doubt from credulous observers in the West. History hasn’t been kind to their sympathy. “The depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false,” wrote Princeton’s Richard Falk of the Ayatollah Khomeini in an op-ed for The Times on Feb. 16, 1979. “Having created a new model of popular revolution based, for the most part, on nonviolent tactics, Iran may yet provide us with a desperately-needed model of humane governance for a third-world country.” A decade later, after a reign of unbridled terror that culminated with the infamous fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the 1988 mass murder of thousands of political prisoners, including children, there was another false dawn. Several, in fact.”


The Washington Post: In Heart Of Baghdad, IS War Museum Honors Fallen Militiamen

“A few steps from Baghdad’s cultural heart and its famous book market on al-Mutanabi Street lies the Iraqi capital’s latest tourist attraction: a war museum glorifying the sacrifices of thousands of mainly Shiite militiamen who died fighting the Islamic State group. The museum is meant to honor the fallen but it also underscores the Iran-backed militias’ growing clout in the country. Their political and military might soared after they helped the government defeat IS — so much so that they are now accused by some of seeking to build a parallel state within Iraq. Housed inside Baghdad’s historic, Ottoman-era al-Qishla building, the museum displays rocket launchers, drones and cannons from the four-year fight with IS. Visitors can browse through the war booty and other memorabilia from the front lines, as well as personal belongings fighters left behind on battlefields across the country. “I feel the spirits of the martyrs floating around this space. I feel that Iraq exists because of them. ... They are the pulse of Iraq,” said 55-year-old teacher Umm Hassanin al-Oukeily on a visit to the museum this week. The mainly Shiite militias — known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or “Hashed al-Shaabi” in Arabic — emerged following a call in June 2014 by Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, for volunteers to fight against IS.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Commander Says U.S.-Islamic State Border Talks “Failed”

“An Iraqi commander announced on Wednesday the failure of negotiation talks between the U.S. and Islamic State, under which the extremist group was asked to withdraw from the Iraqi-Syrian border in return for a safe exit for the families of its militants. Iraqi website Almaalomah quoted Commander of the Western Axis of the Popular Mobilization Forces Qassem Moselh as saying that the American and Syrian Democratic Forces failed to reach a deal with Islamic State to withdraw from the Syrian cities of Hajin and Baghur on the joint border with Iraq. “The talks kicked off two weeks ago but collapsed after the U.S. asked the IS militants to surrender and give themselves up in return for ensuring a safe haven for their families and allowing food supplies into these areas,” the commander added. The U.S.-led international coalition warplanes intensified their airstrikes against IS hotbeds on the Iraqi—Syrian border following the collapse of talks, he further said. The U.S. military said Tuesday it struck a mosque in the small town of Baghouz that had allegedly been used as an Islamic State control center. The air raid was launched in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.”


Radio Free Europe: Taliban Says Will Meet U.S. Negotiators In Pakistan

“Taliban negotiators say they will meet U.S. representatives in Pakistan on February 18 as part of ongoing Afghan peace talks, although a State Department official said the U.S. team had not yet received an invitation to the talks. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on February 13 said the meeting would take place in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, a week before the two sides are scheduled to hold negotiations in Qatar on February 25. “While we have noted the Taliban's public announcement, we have not received a formal invitation to any talks,” a State Department spokesperson said. Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said his side would also meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to hold “comprehensive discussions about Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.” As an Afghan neighbor and military power in the region, Islamabad would likely play a key role in any eventual settlement, and some 1.5 million Afghan refugees live in Pakistan. Talks between U.S. officials -- including Zalmay Khalilzad, the special peace envoy for Afghanistan -- have intensified in recent months. Khalilzad and Taliban envoys have both said progress has been made, but U.S. officials caution that much work needs to be done before an agreement can be finalized.”


Reuters: Twelve Children Injured In Blast At School In Kashmir

“At least 12 students were injured in an explosion at a school in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday, police said, though the cause of the blast was not immediately clear. The Indian part of Kashmir, a Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan, has been plagued by separatist violence for years, with clashes between security forces and militants killing more than 100 civilians over the past year. But witnesses did not report any clash before the blast in a 10th-grade classroom at the Falai-e-Millat private school, just south of the state capital, Srinagar. ”We were studying and all of a sudden there was an explosion and we ran out and I saw my legs bleeding,” Faisal Ahmad, 16, told Reuters. Police were investigating, a spokesman said. A 13-year-old boy was killed and one injured in Kashmir last week after finding unexploded ordinance after a clash.”

News 18: US Urges Its Citizens To Reconsider Travelling To Pakistan Due To Terrorism

“The US has urged its citizens to reconsider their travel to Pakistan mainly due to terrorism and risks to civil aviation operating within or near the country. The Federal Aviation Administration, in a notice issued on Wednesday, said that terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Pakistan. “Reconsider travel to Pakistan due to terrorism,” the State Department said in a latest travel advisory. It asked Americans not to travel to Balochistan province and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, including the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), due to terrorism, and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir area due to terrorism and the potential for armed conflict. Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Pakistan, it said, adding that terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting transportation hubs, markets, shopping malls, military installations, airports, universities, tourist locations, schools, hospitals, places of worship and government facilities. Noting that terrorist attacks continue to happen across Pakistan, with most occurring in Balochistan and KPK, including the former FATA, the State Department said large-scale terrorist attacks have resulted in hundreds of casualties over the last several years.”


The Wall Street Journal: House Votes To Withdraw U.S. From War In Yemen

“The House of Representatives passed a war-powers resolution directing the removal of U.S. armed forces involved in the conflict in Yemen, putting pressure on the GOP-controlled Senate and raising the specter of a veto by President Trump. The resolution states that Congress hasn’t authorized military involvement in Yemen, where the U.S. is backing a Saudi-led coalition in a conflict against Iran-allied Houthi militants. A handful of Republicans joined Democrats in passing the resolution by a 248-177 vote, with one member voting present. The resolution is similar to one that passed the Senate in December, but it will need to go before the Senate again before heading to Mr. Trump’s desk because that earlier measure expired when the new session of Congress began Jan. 3. Some House Democrats crossed party lines to support GOP-authored language stating the U.S. is authorized to continue intelligence operations with any nation—leaving open the door for at least some coordination with Saudi Arabia. The U.S. role in Yemen has come into sharper focus on Capitol Hill since Saudi operatives killed the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October.”

Xinhua: Roadside Bomb Kills 3 UAE-Backed Yemeni Security Personnel

“Three security personnel of the Yemeni government forces were killed and several others injured in a roadside bomb blast in the southern province of Abyan on Wednesday, a security official told Xinhua. The local security source who preferred to be unnamed said that a roadside bomb struck a security vehicle in Mahfed town of Abyan province, leaving three soldiers killed and several others wounded at the scene. He said that the deadly incident targeted the newly-recruited Yemeni troops backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while conducting a routine patrol in the area. Without providing more details, the Abyan-based official said that additional security forces arrived in the area just a few hours following the incident. He blamed members linked to terrorist organizations, referring to the militants of Yemen-based al-Qaida branch, for the attack. The Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) network mostly operating in eastern and southern provinces, has been responsible for many high-profile attacks against security forces in the country. Provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, former main strongholds of AQAP, have been also the scene of sporadic attacks or heavy clashes between UAE-backed security forces and al-Qaida militants from time to time.”


Egypt Today: Qatar Still Deceiving Int'l Community, African Gov'ts, Supports Terrorism

“The tiny Gulf emirate of Qatar has been falsely alleging more contribution in the international counter-terrorism efforts. On Dec. 27, the Qatari Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that it had donated 24 Storm armored personnel carriers (APC) to the Armed Forces of Mali. The MoD said the vehicles were airlifted to Mali aboard several Boeing C-17 transport aircraft the day before and would be used for security operations in Mali and the four other G5 Sahel countries. The G5 of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania last year created a military task force to root out jihadist violence. Moreover, on Jan. 17, Doha announced donating 68 armored vehicles to Somalia, a step which was preserved as Doha seeking more influence in the country.”


Reuters: U.S.-Libya Forces Raid Al Qaeda Site In Libyan City Of Ubari -Libyan Official

“Joint U.S.-Libyan forces raided an al Qaeda site in the Libyan city of Ubari on Wednesday, according to a statement by a Libyan official. The spokesperson for Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the Presidency Council of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord of Libya, said in a statement late on Wednesday that a site with a number of al Qaeda members in Ubari was “raided” but gave no details. “This joint work between the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord and the US Government coincided with the meeting of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Minister Mohamed Sayala at the Global Coalition To Defeat Islamic State meeting last week”, spokesperson Mohamed El Sallak said in the statement. The U.S. Africa Command, which is responsible for American forces in that area, could not immediately be reached for comment.”


Reuters: Islamic State Says Attacked Nigerian Governor's Convoy

“Islamic State claimed responsibility on Wednesday for an attack on the convoy of a state governor who was headed to a rally in northeastern Nigeria ahead of Saturday’s presidential election. The group said in a statement on its Amaq news agency that 42 people were killed in Tuesday’s attack on Borno state’s governor. Official sources told Reuters earlier on Wednesday between three and 10 people were killed, and that some of them may have been beheaded. Boko Haram has waged a decade-long insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast which has killed around 30,000 people and forced about 2 million to leave their homes. Islamic State West Africa Province, which split from Boko Haram in 2016, has carried out a series of attack on military targets in the last few months. Security sources said earlier on Wednesday the gunmen opened fire at the motorcade transporting Borno’s state governor Kashim Shettima on his way from state capital Maiduguri to the market town of Gamboru for a rally. Two security sources said three people died. A government and a separate security source said as many as 10 people were killed. Some of those killed may have been beheaded, they said. There was no indication of how Shettima, a government politician, was affected by the attack.”

Pulse Nigeria: Nigerian Army Troops Kill 11 Boko Haram Terrorists In Adamawa

“Troops of the Nigerian Army killed 11 members of terrorist group, Boko Haram, during a gun battle in Madagali, Adamawa State on Tuesday, February 12, 2019. Troops of 143 Battalion, 28 Task Force Brigade, Sector 1 Operation Lafiya Dole neutralised the terrorists when they staged an attack on troops' position. One member of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) was killed and one soldier was injured during the encounter. In a statement signed by Sector 1's Deputy Director of Public Relations, Colonel Ado Isa, the terrorists had attacked troops with five gun trucks, armoured personnel carrier (APC) and vehicle-borne IED, but were repelled by superior fire power from troops. “During the encounter, the troops successfully repelled the attack and went on hot pursuit with heavy fire and momentum,” he said. Equipment recovered from the terrorists include one gun truck mounted with anti-aircraft gun, one rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) tube, one unexploded ordnance RPG bomb, 12 AK-47 rifles, 6 AK-47 rifle magazines, 60 rounds of 12.77 mm ammunition, 5 X 36 hand grenades, two FN rifles and one Techno Phone. One gun truck, one AA gun, one vehicle-borne IED belonging to the terrorists were also destroyed.”

Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram: Again, Insurgents Invade Madagali Communities, Kill Scores

“Suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked four communities in Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State on Tuesday evening, killing a yet-to-be-confirmed number of people. The insurgents hit Madagali, Gulak, Magar and Shuwa communities, killing and destroying properties before they were overpowered by soldiers who killed some of them and forced the rest to run to surrounding mountains. The latest attack on Madagali came as the 3rd in nine days, following an attack on February 4 when three residents lost their lives, and another on February 11 when a village head and a soldier were killed. The Tuesday incident forced many residents out of Madagali, including one Ruth Gauje, who fled to a relative in the state capital, Yola. Ruth, who spoke to our correspondent on Wednesday evening, said at least, one person died in Shuwa where she ran from. “They killed Friday, a popular young man in our place,” she said. She also said a community leader in Madagali identified as Bulama and several other people died in the town. Some other sources, however, said most of the invading insurgents were killed, unlike when they first launched attack on the Madagali LGA on February 4 and 11.”

CBS News: What Happened To The Girls Kidnapped By Boko Haram

“Their story went viral and captivated the world: 276 schoolgirls kidnapped from their school in Nigeria and taken into the forest by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. They endured beatings, bombing attacks and had to eat grass to thwart starvation. Three years after their kidnapping, the Nigerian government was able to free 103 of them. They are traumatized from their ordeal, but undaunted in their pursuit of the education that made them targets for their captors in 2014. Lesley Stahl gains rare access to some of the young women at their school for a 60 Minutes report to be broadcast Sunday, February 17 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. They are now in their 20s and, once again, can sing together the Christian songs they grew up with but could never sing above a whisper in captivity. Rebecca, one of the “Chibok Girls,” so named for their hometown, tells Stahl, “[Boko Haram said] if you didn't convert to Islam you wouldn't get home alive.” Stahl visited a group of the women in a special boarding school they attend to continue their studies in preparation for college and receive much-needed help from therapist Somiari Demm. The process of balancing learning with healing is a delicate one.”


All Africa: Somalia: Al-Shabaab Ambushes Army Convoy Outside Somali Capital

“Al-Shabaab said its fighters launched an ambush attack on Somali military convoy travelling on the outskirts of Mogadishu on Tuesday. Heavy battle flared up following the surprise assault between Somali forces and the militants that raged on for several minutes, according to the sources. The army convoy came under attack at Jazeera area, along the coastal road connecting Mogadishu to Lower Shabelle region, south of Somalia. There was no immediate reports of casualties as both sides remained silent on the incident which was the latest in a series of attack on the main highway in recent months. Several senior Somali military were killed in roadside bombs in the area, which claimed by Al Shabaab, the Al-Qaeda-linked militant group in the country.”

The Guardian: Life In The Shadow Of Al-Shabaab: 'If I Don't Call, My Mother Thinks I'm Dead'

“Once every other month, journalist Hassan Dahir, 28, leaves his hostel in central Mogadishu under the cover of darkness to visit his mother in Yaqshid district, north-east of the capital. He will spend the night with her and return to his rented room before dawn. For the past eight years, Dahir has had to sneak such night time visits to his family for fear of al-Shabaab, who he says have already killed at least five of his close friends. The city has become so dangerous for Dahir that he could not even attend his younger brother’s funeral last month. “He was killed in the Bakara market end of last month by unknown gunmen. I really wanted to join my family during the burial but they advised me not go to the site. Al-Shabaab had in the past targeted journalists who went to this cemetery,” says Dahir. Such is the life of not only journalists but also aid workers, government employees and youth leaders working in Mogadishu. Faced with constant risk of violence and targeted killings, many are forced to leave their childhood neighbourhoods and settle in the city centre and around the “green zone” area near the airport, which is deemed safer. “The number of journalists who were killed here is uncountable. I have lost five close friends and I think my time is yet to come,” Dahir says. “There is nowhere to escape, the best you can do is to hide within the town and stay vigilant.”

United Kingdom

The Guardian: London Schoolgirl Who Fled To Join ISIS Wants To Return To UK

“An east London schoolgirl who left the UK in 2015 to join Islamic State has been tracked down in Syria where she said has no regrets about joining the group, but now wants to come home as she is nine months pregnant. Shamima Begum, 19, said she fled the jihadists’ last remaining enclave in Baghuz, eastern Syria, as she was tired of life on a battlefield and feared for her unborn child after her two other children died. “I was weak,” she told the Times from the al-Hawl refugee camp in north-eastern Syria. “I could not endure the suffering and hardship that staying on the battlefield involved. But I was also frightened that the child I am about to give birth to would die like my other children if I stayed on. So I fled the caliphate. Now all I want to do is come home to Britain.” She and two of her fellow Bethnal Green academy pupils, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, made headlines when they flew from Gatwick to Turkey in February 2015, then entered Syria. Begum and Abase were both 15, while Sultana was 16. They had told their parents they were simply going out for the day. The Guardian understands the Begum family believe the woman identified in the Syrian camp is Shamima. Begum told the Times she initially settled in Raqqa where she married a Dutch convert after three weeks.”

The National: UK Prepares No-Go Zones For Extremists

“Britons who join the ranks of ISIS face up to ten years in prison under a new law aimed at creating global no-go zones for extremists. More than 900 Britons have travelled to Syria but authorities have struggled to convict returning fighters because of the difficulty of securing evidence. The new law is designed to deter extremists from travelling to designated warzones and to prosecute them on their return if they flout the law. The new legislation – which was signed into law on Tuesday - comes as Britain seeks to outsource the trials of two of its most notorious extremists - Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh – who are accused of being part of the ISIS assassination squad. They have been implicated in the murders of three US and two British citizens but UK prosecutors said they were unlikely to secure a successful conviction because of their treatment while being held in custody. The men, who have been stripped of their British nationality, are currently being held by western-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria but could go on trial as early as the summer in the United States, according to media reports. The new law makes it illegal for a UK national or resident to enter or remain in an area designated by the government and then agreed by parliament.”


The Independent: High-Ranking Syria Intelligence Official Arrested In Germany On Charges Of Torture

“Two former members of Syria’s secret police have been arrested in Germany on suspicion of torturing anti-government activists early in the country’s uprising. The men were arrested in Berlin and the southwestern state of Rhineland-Palatinate on Tuesday, according to prosecutors. They had been living in Germany since 2012. Anwar R, 56, was described as a high-ranking member of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate, and is accused of responsibility for the torture of detainees at the al-Khatib detention facility in Damascus between 2011 and 2012. Forty-two-year-old Eyad A is accused of being part of a unit that brought detainees to the infamous prison. The arrests could pave the way for the first criminal trials of senior members of Bashar al-Assad’s regime anywhere in the world, and would represent a significant milestone in efforts to hold the government accountable for well-documented crimes against humanity.”


Fox News: Albania Police Arrest Kosovar For Terror Groups Membership

“Albanian police say a Kosovo citizen has been arrested on suspicion of participating in terror groups. A statement Wednesday said that the 32-year-old suspect, identified as F.D., was arrested while trying to leave Albania with a false Macedonian passport at the Vlore port. The statement said that Kosovo police had issued an international arrest warrant accusing the suspect of organization and participation in terror groups, without giving details. Kosovo authorities claim no citizens have joined extremist groups in Syria and Iraq in the past three years or so. About 160 Kosovo citizens are still with the groups there.”

Southeast Asia

The Straits Times: Parliament: Work Ongoing To Boost Anti-Terror Measures For Public Transport

“The possibility of a terrorist attack against Singapore's public transport facilities cannot be discounted, with the terrorism threat still pertinent. Therefore, the authorities have been working to customise specific security measures for public transport based on the current threat level. Work to increase security awareness and strengthen emergency preparedness in the community is also ongoing, Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary said in Parliament yesterday. “Public transport facilities are attractive targets for terrorist elements due to their vulnerability and potential for mass casualties,” said Dr Janil, noting that there have been attacks against commuters and subway trains globally in the last two years. He was replying to questions by Mr Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC). Mr Yong had asked about the threat level for public transport facilities, in the light of the Terrorism Threat Assessment Report released last month. The report said the terrorism threat in Singapore remains high as more radicalised individuals here are uncovered and terror groups continue to make their presence felt globally. Mr Yong asked if the Land Transport Authority (LTA) would consider increasing public education efforts to better prepare transport workers and commuters on what to do in case of a security incident in a public transport facility.”

The New York Times: Indonesia’s Next Election Is in April. The Islamists Have Already Won

“When Joko Widodo, the incumbent president of Indonesia, last year chose Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate for the general election this April, it became clear that Indonesian politics is now backed into a corner. Mr. Ma’ruf is an Islamic cleric and scholar, and Mr. Joko was perhaps hoping to dampen attacks from conservative and radical Islamic groups that have called him anti-Islam (even though he is Muslim himself). Instead, he has built a Trojan horse for his opponents outside the walls of his own city. The presidential race, in which Mr. Joko is again facing Prabowo Subianto, a ex-army general and former son-in-law of the dictator Suharto, looks like a replay of the 2014 contest. Back then, Mr. Joko won by a small margin, on a platform promising a grand maritime strategy for Indonesia and to revitalize the economy partly through major infrastructure projects. This year, it seems, the decisive issue will be the candidates’ professed commitment to Islam. Mr. Joko and Mr. Prabowo are scheduled to meet for their second debate on Feb. 17, and the agenda will focus on natural resources, infrastructure and the environment. But soon enough, the main issue of this election — religion — will return to the fore.”


Arab News: Hezbollah Should Not Be Allowed To Benefit From Venezuela Crisis

“US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that Hezbollah “has active cells” in Venezuela, adding that it and Iran are “impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America. We have an obligation to take down that risk for America.” Some observers dismissed Pompeo’s remarks as an escalation in the war of words between the US and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro — rhetoric without basis in reality. In 2017, when Pompeo was still CIA director, he also warned that Iran and Hezbollah’s growing presence in Venezuela posed a serious threat to the US. In February of that year, the US sanctioned Venezuela’s then-Vice President Tareck El-Aissami for his links with Hezbollah and drug trafficking. El-Aissami has been Venezuela’s Minister of Industries and National Production since June last year. He had served previously as minister of the interior and justice from 2008 to 2012, governor of Aragua from 2012 to 2017, and vice president of Venezuela from 2017 to 2018, when he was sanctioned.”


The Asia Foundation: Philippines: The Black Flag Flies On Facebook

“The first news that militants had taken to the streets of the Islamic City of Marawi on May 23, 2017, came from Facebook. Pictures of masked men carrying assault rifles and waving the black flag of the Islamic State were swirling across social media well before Philippine and international news channels picked up the story. By the time the military and the media had begun to respond, Marawi’s residents were already streaming out of the city by the tens of thousands to seek refuge from the violence. The fact that news of the siege spread first on Facebook isn’t surprising. Over 60 million Filipinos have access to the internet; of those, 97 percent are on Facebook. For many, Facebook is the internet, a circumstance encouraged by local telecoms that offer free access to the social media site without the need for a paid data plan.”

Counter Extremism

Dostor: Official: Al-Azhar's Observatory For Foreign Languages Is A Powerful Weapon In Combating Extremism

“Dr. Mohammed Abdul Fadil, Director of the Egyptian Al-Azhar University's Observatory for Foreign Languages, described his organization as a powerful weapon in combating the terrorism and extremism promoted by radical groups. Al-Azhar's Foreign Language Observatory hires dozens of researchers to respond to terrorists' claims in 12 languages. Additionally, this entity runs a special unit for African affairs, consisting of nine researchers. This unit, which runs a web page in the Swahili language, monitors extremist and anti-Islam ideologies online as well as efforts by terrorists to recruit women, Dr. Fadil explained. Al-Azhar's Foreign Language Observatory also makes public the acts of the Boko Haram militant group, according to the Egyptian official.”

Terrorist Financing

The Baghdad Post: Iraq: Funds Of A Currency-Exchange Bureau And Of Two Persons Suspected Of Terrorist Financing Frozen

“The Iraqi Terrorist Funds Freezing Committee issued a new decision Wednesday {yesterday} to freeze the funds of an Irbil-based currency-exchange company and of two individuals, on terrorist financing suspicions. The Committee stated that this decision is in effect as of the date of issue. It also issued a sweeping statement to all governmental, regulatory and monetary institutions to undertake all necessary procedures against the said money-exchange bureau and the two individuals. The Committee noted that its decision will be published via the official gazette and the website of the Iraqi Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Office.”


Buratha New Agency: ISIS Holds 40 Tons Of Gold

“The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, confirmed that there will be a valuable catch in the hands of the international coalition and the "Syrian Democratic Forces" after conquering the last pockets of ISIS east of the Euphrates. "About 40 tons of gold are in the hands of ISIS," Abdel Rahman said in a press statement. "They were stolen from Iraq and Syria and collected from all areas controlled by the organization," he noted. According to Abdel Rahman, "part of the gold was refined in Turkish territory and was returned to Syria." He pointed out that "we are talking about riches that match the wealth of nations … Our only fear is that these funds will go to the international coalition and not be restored to the Syrian and Iraqi people and that the coalition will obscure this matter.”


Erem News: Houthis Raise Taxes On Traders By 400%

“The decision by the Houthis to impose a 400% increase in taxes on merchants has doubled the prices of food, clothing, electrical appliances, electronics and other {essential} items. A member of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the capital said that the Houthis began to apply the sales tax and raise the taxes collected by more than 400%, unconcerned by the deteriorating economic situation of the commercial sector in areas under their control. The businessman, who refused to reveal his identity for security reasons, added that tax charges for previous years quadrupled, and the merchants were forced to pay them all at once, or face the closure of their shop or imprisonment.”


Sama News: Analysts: Hamas' Current Financial Crisis Is Unprecedented

“The financial crisis facing the Gaza-based Hamas Palestinian Islamist organization has deteriorated severely recently, which has forced it to make tough decisions. The radical group was obliged to shut down some of its associations and to merge others. For the first time, Hamas was compelled to cut the salaries of its political and military personnel, analysts said. The monetary crisis of the terror organization isn't new, but lately it has reached a quite delicate, difficult and unprecedented level, the experts warned. The financial troubles of Hamas have worsened to the extent that they surfaced publicly, the experts added. The movement closed some of its major media outlets and is considering shutting down even more of these outlets.”

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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