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Old 01-28-2019, 12:23 PM
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Arrow Eye on Extremism: January 28, 2019

Eye on Extremism: January 28, 2019
RE: https://www.counterextremism.com/rou...anuary-28-2019

CBS News: ISIS Claims Responsibility For Deadly Bombings At Church In The Philippines

“The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility Sunday for a pair of bombings at a Catholic cathedral on a southern Philippine island that killed at least 20 people and wounded 81. The militant group's news agency Amaq took responsibility for the blasts, according to Reuters. Security officials say the first bomb went off in or near the Jolo cathedral during Sunday Mass, followed by a second blast outside the compound as government forces were responding to the attack. Jolo Island has long been troubled by the presence of Abu Sayyaf militants, who are blacklisted by the U.S. and the Philippines as a terrorist organization because of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. Images posted on social media showed the main road leading to the church sealed off by soldiers in armored personnel carriers, BBC News reports. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called the attack a “dastardly act” and said “we will use the full force of the law to bring to justice the perpetrators behind this incident.” Pope Francis, in Panama for World Youth Day, expressed “firmest reproach” for the twin bombings and called for those responsible to change their ways. He also prayed for the dead and wounded during his Sunday blessing.”

The New York Times: U.S. And Taliban Agree In Principle To Peace Framework, Envoy Says

“American and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to the framework of a peace deal in which the insurgents guarantee to prevent Afghan territory from being used by terrorists, and that could lead to a full pullout of American troops in return for a cease-fire and Taliban talks with the Afghan government, the chief United States negotiator said Monday. “We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” the American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, said in an interview with The New York Times in Kabul. “The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals.” He added: “We felt enough confidence that we said we need to get this fleshed out, and details need to be worked out.” After nine years of halting efforts to reach a peace deal with the Taliban, the draft framework, though preliminary, is the biggest tangible step toward ending a two-decade war that has cost tens of thousands of lives and profoundly changed American foreign policy.”

The Japan Times: Near Islamic State Holdout, U.S.-Backed Syrian Fighters Face Female Suicide Bombers

“Driving toward the front line of what remains of the Islamic State group’s self-declared caliphate in eastern Syria, U.S.-backed fighters pass huge craters from air strikes and buildings reduced to rubble. Backed by airstrikes of the U.S.-led coalition, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are battling to expel IS from a few hamlets in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. But cornered in a final remote pocket of territory near the Iraqi border, the jihadis are staging a fierce fightback, hiding in tunnels and deploying suicide bombers — including women. Listening to Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum, SDF fighters drive along a desert road toward a string of villages retaken in recent weeks from the jihadis. “The Islamic State has surrendered,” reads graffiti scrawled across the wall of a small house at the entrance to the deserted village of Shaafa. Nearby, a cart once used to sell fruit and vegetables lies abandoned. The armored car continues southward, to where the Kurdish-led SDF is battling to secure the last patch of the village of Baghouz from the jihadists. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights this week said the village had been retaken, but SDF commanders on the ground say some IS fighters still remain, and are fighting back hard.”

Reuters: Israel Strikes In Syria Could Prompt Strike On Tel Aviv: Hezbollah Leader

“The “axis of resistance” of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah could respond to Israeli strikes on Iran and Hezbollah in Syria with their own attack on Tel Aviv, Hezbollah’s leader said on Saturday. They were deliberating a response to escalating Israeli strikes and could change their approach “at any moment” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview with al-Mayadeen TV.”

Associated Press: Auschwitz Survivors Pay Homage As World Remembers Holocaust

“The world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday amid a revival of hate-inspired violence and signs that younger generations know less and less about the genocide of Jews, Roma and others by Nazi Germany during World War II. As survivors of Auschwitz marked the 74th anniversary of the notorious death camp’s liberation, a far-right activist who served time in prison for burning an effigy of a Jew placed a wreath there with about 50 other Polish nationalists to protest the official observances. Piotr Rybak said the group opposes the annual ceremony at Auschwitz to mark the camp’s liberation by the Soviet army, the event that gave rise to the international Jan. 27 remembrance. Rybak claimed it glorifies the 1 million Jewish victims killed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death complex and discounts the 70,000 Poles killed there. “It’s time to fight against Jewry and free Poland from them!” Rybak said as he marched to the site, according to a report by Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza on its website.”

The Guardian: Facebook Restricts Campaigners’ Ability To Check Ads For Political Transparency

“Facebook has restricted the ability of external political transparency campaigners to monitor adverts placed on the social network, in a move described as an “appalling look” by one of the organisations affected. WhoTargetsMe, a British group dedicated to scrutinising adverts on the social network, has said its activities have been severely restricted by recent changes made by the social network. The change has also hit a similar programme by the US investigative journalism site ProPublica, affecting both groups’ ability to collect data on why users are being targeted by political campaigners. The monitoring tools, which involve asking users to install a browser plug-in and collecting data on the adverts they see, has helped expose many of the advertising tactics used by politicians, making it harder for those who pay for negative adverts to escape scrutiny.”

United States

NBC News: Texan Captured In Syria Brought Back To U.S., Charged With Trying To Aid ISIS

“Warren Christopher Clark, a Texas man recently captured with ISIS fighters in Syria, has been brought back to the U.S. by law enforcement and faces charges of aiding ISIS. Clark was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a largely Kurdish militia, who transferred him to U.S. custody this week. He was escorted back to Houston by law enforcement and faces a charge of attempting to provide material support to ISIS. He arrived in Texas Thursday, and his indictment was unsealed Friday morning after his initial appearance in federal court in Houston. The charge of material support carries a possible penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. A former substitute teacher from Sugar Land, Texas, the 34-year-old is a Muslim convert who says he offered to work for ISIS teaching English but did not take up arms with the group. Clark and another American were caught alongside two other foreign militants from Pakistan and a fifth from Dublin, Ireland, according to the Kurdish-led SDF. The alleged cell was said to have been attempting to attack civilians as they fled former ISIS strongholds. After his capture, Clark was held in Kurdish custody for several weeks.”

The New York Times: They Created A Muslim Enclave In Upstate N.Y. Then Came The Online Conspiracies

“Deep in the dense woods near the Catskill Mountains, a settlement was started decades ago by Muslim families, many of them African-Americans from New York City, who were seeking to distance themselves from neighborhoods they saw as dangerous and laden with corrosive influences. Holy Islamberg was intended to be a refuge, a serene environment to pray and bring up children. In the years since, the enclave’s residents have forged relationships with state and local law enforcement, and made connections with their non-Muslim neighbors from nearby towns. They work alongside each other in medical clinics and offices. Their children are teammates in youth football and basketball games. But residents of Islamberg have found that there is no such thing as a safe haven in the internet age. Conspiracy theorists and anti-Muslim groups have sketched a false portrayal of the community as a hidden-away den of Islamic extremism. Last week, the police in Greece, N.Y., roughly 200 miles away, arrested four young people who are accused of amassing a stockpile of firearms and homemade bombs with plans to target the community.”

Miami Herald: Trump Warns Europeans Not To Try To Evade Iran Sanctions

“The Trump administration is closely eyeing efforts in Europe to set up an alternative money payment channel to ease doing business with Iran and avoid running afoul of sanctions the U.S. has levied on the Islamic republic. The White House is putting the Europeans on notice, saying that if they try to do an end-run around U.S. sanctions on Iran, they will be subject to stiff fines and penalties. Unfazed, the European Union is marching forward with the plan, which, if implemented, could further strain trans-Atlantic relations. A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said preparations for the alternative system were "at an advanced stage." "I hope that we can announce the launch very soon," Maja Kocijancic told reporters late last week in Brussels.”

BBC News: Minnesota Mosque Attack: 'White Rabbits' Militiamen Plead Guilty

“Two members of a militia group known as the White Rabbits have admitted bombing a mosque in Minnesota in 2017. Police say Michael McWhorter, 29, and Joe Morris, 23, wanted to scare Muslims into leaving the US. The pair, who admitted a number of charges, including a failed attack on an abortion clinic, face up to 35 years in prison following a plea arrangement. No-one was hurt in the attack on the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in a Minneapolis suburb. A third man, 47-year-old Michael Hari, who is the alleged founder of the White Rabbits, is in custody and awaiting trial. He was not party to the plea arrangement. Police say McWhorter confessed that the White Rabbits had wanted to “scare [Muslims] out of the country”, with the message “you're not welcome here”. According to the plea agreements, the men drove to the mosque, broke a window and threw a lit pipe bomb and gasoline mixture inside. It is unclear why the pair, from Illinois, attacked the mosque in Minnesota. The governor of Minnesota at the time, Mark Dayton, called the attack “a criminal act of terrorism”. Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota, told AFP news agency: “These militia groups have zeroed in on the Muslim community.”

Miami Herald: U.S. Considers Putting Cuba On Terror List Over Island’s Support Of Venezuela’s Maduro

“The Trump administration is considering returning Cuba to the list of countries that sponsor terrorism if its government and military continue to support Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, a source with knowledge of the deliberations told el Nuevo Herald. ”What Cubans are doing in Venezuela is unacceptable,” a senior administration official said. “And the United States is evaluating options to address that behavior.” The Obama administration removed Cuba from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism in 2015 — one of the island government’s demands for agreeing to reestablish diplomatic relations. But the Trump administration has increasingly highlighted Cuba’s role in Venezuela and threatened Havana with increased sanctions. The official said Cuban intelligence operatives in Venezuela have been a “fundamental” factor in the continued support of Maduro by senior Venezuelan armed forces officers.”

AL.com: Mobile Man Arrested For Making Terrorist Threats

“A Mobile man was arrested Saturday for making terrorist threats. Ladarius Cannon, 23, of Mobile, was arrested at the Lakeview Apartments at 6650 Cottage Hill Road, and booked into the Mobile Metro Jail on charges of terrorist threats, harassment communication, reckless endangerment, first-degree criminal mischief, and first-degree unlawful imprisonment. The Mobile Police Department’s SWAT team arrived to the apartment complex around 9:45 a.m. on a call of domestic violation, and Cannon had reportedly barricaded himself inside an apartment along with other family members. A short standoff with police ensured before Cannon was taken into custody without incident. No injuries were reported, and no further details were available.”

Syria

The Washington Post: The Once Vast ISIS ‘Caliphate’ Is Now Reduced To A Pair Of Villages In Syria

“A pair of dusty villages in the Syrian desert is all that remains of the vast expanse of territory the Islamic State once called its caliphate, and the complete territorial defeat of the militant group appears to be imminent, according to U.S. and Kurdish officials. A few hundred of the most die-hard Islamic State fighters are making their last stand in the villages of Marashida and Baghuz Fawqani on the banks of the Euphrates River, a few miles from the Iraqi border in southeastern Syria. With the Syrian army on the other side of the river, a group that once controlled an area the size of Britain is pinned down by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in a dot of land measuring six square miles. It is now only a matter of weeks or even days before the villages are overrun and the Islamic State’s vaunted state-building enterprise in Syria and Iraq is brought to an end, military officials say. The conclusion of the 4½ -year war will also add urgency to the question of when and how the United States will pull its forces out of Syria, as ordered by President Trump last month. He later said they would remain to finish the fight against the Islamic State, and still no date has been set for their withdrawal. Col. Sean Ryan, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, cautioned that the end of the war on the ground will not halt the threat posed by the Islamic State, which is trying to regroup as an insurgent force in many of the areas where it has lost control.”

Relief Web: Syria: Arrests, Torture By Armed Group

“As of October 2018, Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham had a fighting force of 12,000 to 15,000, one-third of them non-Syrian, according to the CSIS Transnational Threats Project. The group is led by Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, a Syrian who played a leading role in the creation and leadership of Jabhat al-Nusra. Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham apparently funds its activities primarily through taxes and tariffs on residents in areas under its control. It has also applied tariffs on incoming arms and other weaponry provided to other non-state armed actors, according to the Counter Extremism Project. The project also reported that the group receives donations from private individuals in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait, and has received millions of dollars for releasing prisoners through Qatar-mediated negotiations.”

Bloomberg: Assad Is Close to Victory But New Conflicts Are Bubbling Up in Syria

“Syria’s civil war may be drawing to a close, but the potential for new spasms of violence is bubbling as regional and international actors rethink longstanding strategies. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops has fanned much of the flames. While it would leave the field to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s Russian and Iranian allies, it has also emboldened Israel to advertise that it’s pummeling Iranian positions, practically taunting Tehran to respond. Some analysts warn of a confrontation between them that could spark a regional war also drawing in Lebanon and Iraq. At the same time, Islamist extremists have staged a mini-resurgence. They’ve targeted U.S. and Kurdish forces, and scored a surprise battleground victory in the last opposition bastion of Idlib, perhaps precipitating an offensive by Damascus and Russia. Meanwhile, a threatened Turkish onslaught could drive Syrian Kurds to seek support from Assad and his international partners.”

The National: ISIS: The Rise And Fall Of A Militant Group That Captivated And Repulsed The World

“ISIS once controlled territory comparable in size to England but now holds just 15 square kilometres, a spokesman for the US-backed militia fighting the extremists in northern Syria said this week. “The so-called caliphate is drawing its last breath,” Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said on Thursday. The final operation to defeat them will be over within a month, SDF officials predict. Declarations of victory by leaders in the global coalition against ISIS have followed earlier prominent victories in Mosul, Raqqa and the end of military operations in Iraq. But the statement by Mazloum Kobani, chief of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, was unique. “I believe that during the next month we will officially announce the end of the military presence on the ground of the so-called caliphate,” he told AFP. As ISIS gives up its last territory in Syria, its pretensions to ruling over a caliphate crumble, even as surviving members revert to insurgent style attacks across Iraq and Syria, and affiliates from Afghanistan to Africa plant the black flag to declare ISIS “provinces”. The final battle in Syria has not been the apocalyptic showdown with the West as prophesied by earlier ISIS propaganda.”

Kurdistan 24: US Syria Withdrawal Affects EU States' Rulings On Female ISIS Members, Children

“A recent pair of European court rulings demonstrate the wide-ranging effects of the planned US withdraw of troops from Syria. A Dutch court referenced the withdrawal as a significant factor on Wednesday in a decision to expedite the return of six female Dutch citizens accused of membership in the Islamic State and their children, now in the custody of Syrian Kurdish forces. The judge’s decision stated that, if US support drops for the Kurdish forces, the balance of power could shift to the detriment of Kurds and therefore also negatively affect the women and children held by them. “The court in Rotterdam has been quite clear about what it expects from the prosecutor and the Dutch minister of justice,” lawyer André Seebregts, who represents five of the six women, told Kurdistan 24. He added, that the situation has become increasingly dire, ever since US President Donald Trump stated on Dec. 19 that he would pull US troops from Syria. “That means that the Kurds who currently hold that region will probably not be able to hold on,” the lawyer said. On Dec. 26, a court in Belgium used similar reasoning as it ordered the state to bring back six Belgian children, citing the present “emergency situation.”

National Post: Canadian Man 'Waged Jihad With His Voice And Weapon' For ISIL, Terror Group Confirms

“An Islamic State-linked media outlet confirmed one of their fighters captured in Syria is a Canadian man who “waged jihad with his voice and weapon” as the narrator of the terror group’s news and propaganda. A poster praising the man as a “hero,” was published Sunday by the Al-Muhajireen Foundation, an outlet with known links to ISIL, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors terrorist communications. The notice features a photograph identical to a man who identified himself as Mohammad Abdullah Mohammad, a Canadian from Toronto who was captured on Jan. 13, during a firefight with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-supported coalition of militias. At the time, the SDF released a video of their captive speaking in fluent English about his time with the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS. In it, he says he came from Canada in 2013. A man caught fighting with the Islamic State during a firefight with the Kurdish forces in eastern Syria Sunday says he’s a Canadian from Toronto named Mohammad Abdullah Mohammad.On Wednesday, the Kurdish forces released a video of him speaking in English about his time with the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: ISIS Resumes Counter Attacks East Of Euphrates

“ISIS has renewed its counter offensive by the eastern banks of the Euphrates River through its remaining suicide attackers. The latest round of bombings has left 34 ISIS members and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters dead. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented the death of 19 ISIS terrorists and four more suicide bombers. At least 11 SDF fighters were killed in the attacks. The latest figures bring the total ISIS casualties killed in air strikes and fighting to 1,273, while the SDF lost 669 members since September 10. The Observatory documented 401 civilian deaths, including 144 children and 86 women from Syria. They were killed in bombardment of an ISIS pocket. In addition, the Observatory monitored the entry of 35 truck transporting people from ISIS-held regions to safety. Even more trucks are expected in the future given US-led coalition strikes on the area. It noted that bombardment overnight Saturday was the fiercest in some two weeks. It also said that since December, some 30,600 people had fled ISIS pockets. The terrorist group has meanwhile executed more than 713 captives, who were arrested on various charges, added the Observatory.”

The National: Inside An ISIS Religion Camp: How I Survived The Grip Of Terror

“I am a media activist in Deir Ezzor. When the uprising in Syria first started in 2011, I went to live in neighbourhoods controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and started working with the rebels. Nearly three years later, when fighting erupted between the FSA and ISIS in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, I turned my lens towards the violations that militants were committing against the FSA. I started to document the battles between the FSA and ISIS. I visited battlefronts and started to shuffle between the towns which were starting to fall in the hands of the militant organisation. Friends and people I loved were shot by ISIS. I saw dead bodies. The war was intense and ISIS was fighting ferociously. Even when ISIS took over most of Deir Ezzor in 2014, I continued to work as a media activist in secret despite the risks and threats involved. I escaped death several times. I survived several ISIS raids and checkpoints. But I always feared that my mobile phone would be confiscated. My phone was my death sentence. It contained all the reports I was filing against the group. In order to avoid suspicion, I registered in one of the Al Tawbat institutes, a doctrinal camp set up by militants for those who wanted to ‘repent’ and pledge allegiance to the group.”

The Independent: The Western World May No Longer Underestimate ISIS, But We've Failed To Learn The Most Important Lessons From Its Rise And Fall

“It is always pleasing for authors to find out that they have readers in far flung places. It was therefore surprising but gratifying to see a picture of a battered copy of a French translation of a book I wrote called The Jihadis Return abandoned by Isis fighters, along with suicide vests and homemade explosive devices, as they retreat from their last enclaves in Deir ez-Zor province in eastern Syria. The book was written in 2014 when Isis was at the height of its success after capturing Mosul, and was sweeping through western Iraq and eastern Syria. I described the Isis victories and tried to explain how the movement had apparently emerged from nowhere to shock the world by establishing the Islamic State, an entity which at its height ruled 8 million people and stretched from the the outskirts of Baghdad to the Mediterranean. A picture of the book, Le Retour des Djihadistes, was tweeted by Quentin Sommerville, the intrepid BBC Middle East correspondent, who is travelling through the deserts of Deir ez-Zor and reporting what may be the last pitched battles fought by Isis. The book had presumably belonged a French-speaking Isis fighter: many Isis volunteers came from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, as well as from France itself, and may now be trapped in this corner of Syria.”

Iran

Time: Israel And Iran Are Waging A Secret War In Syria. Here’s How It Finally Went Public

“The video shows a skier in a blue jacket slaloming down a slope before the camera pans upward, an ominous score playing in the background. “This is what families skiing on Mount Hermon in northern Israel saw when they looked up,” reads the on-screen caption on a 37-second clip the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) posted to Twitter Monday, as two vapor trails cut across a dusky sky. “An Iranian rocket fired towards them from Syrian soil.” Captured on a snowboarder’s camera on Jan. 20, the video of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system apparently intercepting a surface-to-surface rocket fired into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, an elevated plateau in southwestern Syria, was posted shortly after Israel carried out a series of retaliatory air strikes against Iranian targets in the country. Those targets included what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called ”Iranian warehouses containing Iranian weapons” at Damascus International Airport, and a line of Syrian military air defense batteries, including some Russian-made installations. The Israeli air strikes killed 21 people, according to a monitor, among them 12 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, six Syrian fighters, and three non-Syrian nationals.”

Reuters: France Tells Iran New Sanctions Loom If Missile Talks Fail

“France is ready to impose further sanctions on Iran if no progress is made in talks over its ballistic missile program, the French foreign minister said on Friday. Jean-Yves Le Drian, who this week reiterated support for a European-backed system to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran and circumvent U.S. sanctions, said France wanted to see Tehran rein in its missile activity. “We are ready, if the talks don’t yield results, to apply sanctions firmly, and they know it,” Le Drian told reporters. In response, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi “reiterated that any new sanctions by European countries would lead to a re-evaluation by Iran of its interactions with those countries”, the state news agency IRNA reported. “Iran’s missile capability is not negotiable, and this has been brought to the attention of the French side during the ongoing political dialogue between Iran and France,” Qasemi added. A U.N. Security Council resolution enshrined Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States in which Tehran curbed its uranium enrichment program in exchange for an end to international sanctions. The resolution says Iran is “called upon” to refrain for up to eight years from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons.”

Reuters: EU Agency Says Iran Likely To Step Up Cyber Espionage

“Iran is likely to expand its cyber espionage activities as its relations with Western powers worsen, the European Union digital security agency said on Monday. Iranian hackers are behind several cyber attacks and online disinformation campaigns in recent years as the country tries to strengthen its clout in the Middle East and beyond, a Reuters Special Report published in November found. This month the European Union imposed its first sanctions on Iran since world powers agreed a 2015 nuclear deal with Teheran, in a reaction to Iran’s ballistic missile tests and assassination plots on European soil. “Newly imposed sanctions on Iran are likely to push the country to intensify state-sponsored cyber threat activities in pursuit of its geopolitical and strategic objectives at a regional level,” the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) said in a report.”

The New York Times: ‘Individual Plaintiff’ Brought Case Against Imprisoned Navy Veteran, Iran Says

“The mystery over the incarceration of a Navy veteran in Iran last July deepened on Friday, when an Iranian prosecutor said that the case had been based on an “individual plaintiff” and that the prisoner might face security-related charges. The veteran, Michael R. White of Imperial Beach, Calif., is the first American to be imprisoned in Iran since the Trump administration took office two years ago. His arrest raised the number of American prisoners in Iran to at least four, and has added an irritant to the already poor relations between the countries. The prosecutor, Gholamali Sadeqi, in the northeast Iranian city of Mashhad, was quoted in a brief report by Iran’s Mehr news agency as saying “there is an individual plaintiff in the case,” but he did not provide details.”

The National: Iran Sentences Journalist To Five Years In Prison Over Corruption Report

“The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Iran to stop persecuting journalists for their work after Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced Yashar Soltani to five years for his coverage of Tehran land deals. Mr Soltani, the editor-in-chief of Memari News, was investigating corruption in municipal real estate sales in the Iranian capital. He revealed that the mayor's office in Tehran illegally sold public land to political allies at discounted rates. He was charged with "spreading lies in order to disturb public opinion, gathering classified information with the intent to harm national security, [and] defamation and threats against a government contractor," his lawyer, Seyed Sadeq Kashani, told the semi-official Iranian Students' News Agency. He was arrested after Tehran’s mayor and the municipal council chairman filed a lawsuit against him, according to CPJ. He appeared three times in court from September 2016 before being handed a verdict on January 23.”

Iraq

Iraqi News: Interior Ministry: Six Islamic State Militants Apprehended In Mosul

“The Iraqi Interior Ministry said on Sunday that six Islamic State militants were arrested Sunday in Mosul city. “The terrorists were arrested in Rajm Hadid and al-Nahrawan districts in the western side of Mosul,” Baghdad Today website quoted the ministry’s spokesman Maj. Gen. Saad Maan as saying in a statement. The spokesman added that the terrorists were fighting among the group’s ranks during its capture of Mosul city. Between June 2014 and December 2017, Islamic State seized large areas of Iraq and led a campaign of widespread violence and systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law – acts that amounted to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possible genocide. The Islamic State group in 2014 declared the establishment of an Islamic “caliphate” from Mosul city. Later on, the group has become notorious for its brutality, including mass killings, abductions and beheadings, prompting the U.S. to lead an international coalition to destroy it. Iraq declared victory over Islamic State in December 2017 with the help of a US-led alliance, having retaken all the territory captured by the extremists in 2014 and 2015.”

Iraqi News: Islamic State Kills Two Iraqis, Kidnaps Another In Iraq’s Anbar

“Islamic State militants killed on Monday two Iraqis and kidnapped another in Haditha district, west of Anbar, a well-placed municipal official said. “Iraqi farmers were gathering desert truffles from the valley of Al Wozeyh, 30 km west of Haditha, when they were attacked by Islamic State militants,” Khaled Salman, the head of Haditha municipal council, told Al Sumaria News. “The militants killed two of the farmers and kidnapped another,” Salman noted, adding that security forces started a search operation for the kidnapped civilian. Salman advised Haditha farmers to be cautious when they go to collect truffles from the desert of Anbar, where Islamic State militants are scattered. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq. IS declared a self-styled “caliphate” in a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014. A government campaign, backed by a U.S.-led international coalition and paramilitary forces, was launched in 2016 to retake IS-held regions, managing to retake all havens, most notably the city of Mosul, the group’s previously proclaimed capital.”

Kurdistan 24: ISIS Attack In Iraq’s Disputed Khanaqin City Injures Five Security, Policemen

“Islamic State militants late Saturday night launched an attack on a security checkpoint on the outskirt of the city of Khanaqin, injuring a number of security members, a police source asserted on Sunday. The attack took place at the Malak Sha checkpoint, also known as the Bakhtyari checkpoint, located at the southwestern entrance of Khanaqin in Diyala province, the police source told Kurdistan 24 on condition of anonymity. “Three security forces members and two policemen were wounded in the attack,” the source added. The attack has sparked fear and panic among the people of Khanaqin as clashes occurred near the city and could be heard for over an hour by civilians, the source stressed. Over the past few months, Islamic State militants have carried out insurgency attacks in villages far from the city, but have now gotten closer and closer to Khanaqin’s center, according to Jaafar Mustafa, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) office in the city. “In January alone, Da’esh [ISIS] carried out over 20 attacks in the region, and this is the second attack near Khanaqin in the last two days,” Mustafa said as he addressed local news outlets.”

Turkey

Bloomberg: Turkey Must Withdraw Forces Before Activating Treaty, Syria Says

“Turkey must withdraw its forces from Syria before the two countries can agree to revive a bilateral security treaty that Russia is pushing for, state-run Syria news agency reported Saturday. Reactivating the 21-year-old treaty would require Turkey to “restore the situation on the border between the two countries and for the Turkish regime to commit to the agreement and end its support, financing and arming of terrorists and to withdraw its military forces,” Sana cited a source at the Syrian foreign ministry as saying. Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested that the treaty, which was signed between Syria and Turkey in 1998, should be reinstated, indirectly pressing Ankara to restore ties with embattled President Bashar Al Assad. Reviving the accord would lend legitimacy to Assad’s regime, according to Nihat Ali Ozcan, an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey. Turkey broke off ties with Syria soon after the eight-year long Syrian war broke out and has built up a significant military presence on the border. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday his country expects a safe zone in northern Syria to deter Kurdish fighters once U.S. forces pull out from the area and “will not wait indefinitely for promises to be kept.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: U.S., Taliban Show Optimism In Afghan Peace Talks

“U.S. and Taliban negotiators expressed optimism about the prospects for a negotiated settlement of the 17-year Afghan war after six days of face-to-face talks in Qatar, but they cautioned about the challenges that lay ahead. In the most intensive talks since formal discussions resumed last July, U.S. negotiators agreed on a full withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, and the Taliban pledged that Afghan soil wouldn’t be used for attacks against the U.S. or other countries, a person briefed by a Taliban participant in the talks said. Progress was so swift that many participants expected the unveiling of a peace deal on Saturday. But questions remain over the definition of a full withdrawal, the time needed for redeployment and whether equipment would be included in the pullout. The outstanding issues were referred to technical specialists to investigate before agreement on a withdrawal timetable and final deal, the person said. Also, no agreement was reached on a cease-fire, one of the main demands of Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. peace envoy to Afghanistan. The Taliban insist on keeping their weapons until the implementation of the entire accord and because of the lack of a mechanism to monitor potential truce violations, the person said.”

The New York Times: Airstrikes In Taliban Area Kill 29 Afghans Despite Peace Talks

“Local Afghan officials are blaming the American military for two airstrikes that killed 29 people this week, most of them women and children, in heavy fighting in southern Helmand Province, even as American diplomats negotiated possible peace terms with the Taliban. The reaction followed a familiar pattern in the long history of disputed airstrikes in Afghanistan, with the American military denying that the second airstrike even occurred, while confirming that the first was under investigation. The United Nations called the civilian casualty reports “credible.” In Doha, Qatar, where the American peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was in the fifth day of peace negotiations on Friday, Taliban negotiators accused the American military of stepping up airstrikes to pressure them to make a deal. “Killing innocent people, with their women and children, is a great concern to us,” said a senior member of the Taliban reached by telephone in Pakistan. “We raised the issue with Khalilzad.” The official said deadly tactics would not work. “The more they kill, the more our blood will turn hot,” he said. The official, who was briefed on the talks but not present, spoke on condition of anonymity as part of a longstanding policy to not be named by the news media.”

The New York Times: Afghan Women Fear Peace With Taliban May Mean War On Them

“When Rahima Jami heard that the Americans and the Taliban were close to a peace deal, she thought about her feet. Ms. Jami is now a lawmaker in the Afghan Parliament, but back in 1996, when Taliban insurgents took power, she was a headmistress — until she was forced out of her job and told she could leave her home only in an ankle-length burqa. One hot day at the market, her feet were showing, so the religious police beat them with a horse whip until she could barely stand. Horror stories at the hands of enforcers from the Taliban’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice are a staple for any educated Afghan woman over age 25 or so. Now those women have a new horror story: the possibility that American troops will leave Afghanistan as part of a peace deal with the Taliban. Six days of talks ended Saturday with a promise they would soon resume, bringing the parties closer to a deal than at any time in the 17 years since the Taliban were ousted from power. The mere possibility of concrete progress on peace inspired a wave of enthusiasm and hope among many Afghans on all sides that four decades of nearly continuous war could actually end. Among many women, though, the hopes raised by a possible end to the fighting are mixed with an undeniable feeling of dread.”

The Washington Post: Accidental Blast Kills 5 In Afghan District Held By Taliban

“Afghan officials say an accidental explosion killed four insurgents and a civilian near a sporting event in an area controlled by the Taliban. Maj. Hanif Rezaie, an army spokesman, says one of the fighters killed in the northern Baghlan province was a local commander. A provincial official says another 20 people, including Taliban fighters and civilians who had gathered to watch a volleyball match, were wounded. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a female university student was killed when a sticky bomb attached to a vehicle was detonated, according to the office of the provincial governor of Nangarhar province. The Taliban hold sway over nearly half of Afghanistan.”

The National Interest: Afghanistan’s Impossible Task: Talking And Fighting While Holding Elections

“It has been an eventful month or so for the Afghanistan war. President Donald Trump indicated in mid-December that he may soon order a drawdown of U.S. forces there. Talks between the United States and the Taliban talks gained momentum only to reach an impasse in mid-January. The deadlock, it appears, has since been overcome. Around the same time the candidate filing period for Afghanistan’s presidential elections came to a close, marking the official start of the campaign season. Amid all this, the war continues unabated, with Afghan lives, sadly, being lost at or near record levels. The July presidential elections—set to take place as the United States seeks to fast-track an exit from Afghanistan, and as the Kabul government loses territory to the Taliban—may end up being an exercise in sadomasochistic political correctness. If a negotiated settlement to the war is a priority, and the aim is to facilitate talks between the Taliban and Kabul, then a legitimate, stable Afghan government would be a prerequisite. But Afghanistan’s history to this date indicates that elections are not an effective way of producing legitimate and stable central government there. To the contrary, every election in Afghanistan has pushed the country into a major political crisis, due to large-scale rigging.”

Yemen

Asharq Al-Awsat: Houthis To Face International Pressure For Dodging Implementation Of Stockholm Agreement

“United Nation Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths will kickstart the new round of peace efforts in the region in Sanaa, where he is scheduled to advise Houthi leaders against breaking the UN-brokered Stockholm agreement, the latest breakthrough in long-stalled Yemeni peace talks. This will be the Griffiths’ third visit to Sanaa this month, in an effort aimed at convincing Houthis to agree to fully hand over the key port city of Hodeidah, as stipulated by the Stockholm agreement. Retreating and turning over the control of the strategic city comes as part of confidence-building measures between Yemeni warring parties. Griffiths’ visit to Sanaa follows "strongly worded” remarks by the Yemeni foreign ministry against Houthi intransigence, as well-informed sources said international assurances were given to Yemeni Foreign Minister Khalid al-Yamani. International diplomats vowed to place pressure on Houthis to withdraw from Hodeidah and its ports. UN chief António Guterres had promised during a meeting in New York last Friday not to let down Yemenis with whom he shares a special relationship from his days serving as a high commissioner for refugees, Al Yamani confirmed in a tweet.”

Arab News: Two Killed, Several Injured As Houthis Bomb Civilian House In Hodeidah

“Two residents were killed and several others injured when a house was bombed twice by the Houthi militia in Al-Sab’a Al-Olya village, south of Heis district in Hodeidah. One woman was killed and two of her children were seriously injured during the first bomb attack on the house, UAE state news agency WAM reported. Minutes later, the same house was hit by a second bomb, killing a man, who had hurried to rescue and evacuate the victims of the first attack, according to a military source from the Yemeni Resistance. On Sunday, Yemen’s army liberated new areas in Haydan province, west of Saada, following fierce clashes with the Houthi militia, Saudi state-news agency SPA reported. “Army units belonging to the Arabiya brigades led by Brigadier General Abdul Karim al-Sudai have retaken control of the mountains of Natheerah, Al-Safiya, Tax, Al-Aish, Al-Sawah, Wadi Al-Safiya, Wadi Khalb and Kubar Maran during the battles over the past few days,” a Yemeni military source said in a statement on the Ministry of Defense’s official site September Net.”

Lebanon

ABC News: Hezbollah Leader Warns Israel Over Attacks In Syria

“The head of the militant Hezbollah group in Lebanon warned Israel late Saturday over its continued attacks in Syria, saying a miscalculation could drag the region into a war. Hassan Nasrallah made the comment during a wide-ranging interview that lasted more than three hours with the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV station. Nasrallah said Iran, Syria and Hezbollah could “at any moment” decide to deal differently with Israel's actions in Syria and hinted that Tel Aviv might be a target. Addressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he said: “Be cautious. Don't continue what you are doing in Syria. Don't miscalculate and don't drag the region into a war or a major confrontation.” Nasrallah said circumstances in the region have changed as Iran and its allies, including his group, expand their influence in the region. This means any war can be on more than one front, Nasrallah warned. Israel has recently increased its attacks on suspected Iranian military targets in Syria, confirming such targeting in a shift from its longstanding policy of playing down or not commenting on its military activities in the war-torn country.”

The National Interest: Hezbollah's Finances Are Its Achilles' Heel

“On January 10, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo maintained that the U.S. administration won't accept Hezbollah’s major presence in Lebanon as the status quo. Speaking from Cairo, where he delivered his speech ”A Force for Good: America Reinvigorated in the Middle East,” Pompeo criticized the way Obama handled the Iranian-backed militant group, stressing that the current administration is targeting both Iran and Hezbollah at the same time. Indeed, since taking office in January 2017, Trump imposed several sets of sanctions on both Iran and Hezbollah, Tehran’s most powerful and one of its oldest allies in the region. Although the Shia Lebanon-based group has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department since 1997, the financial and military activities of the group have kept growing in a steady way. In October 2018, the United States designated five groups, including the Hezbollah as a “top transnational organized crime threats.” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions affirmed that disrupting and dismantling activities of these groups is a priority for President Trump and his administration.”

Middle East

Joyonline: "Worry" As AU Report Reveals Terrorism Killed 614 In First 15 Days Of 2019

“A key unit of the Peace and Security Department of the AU Commission has revealed that a total of 614 terrorism-related deaths were recorded in Africa between January 1 to 15, 2019. The African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) in its bi-weekly ‘Africa Terrorism Bulletin’ said “out of the 614 terrorism-related deaths, 190 were killed by direct terrorist attacks whereas 424 were killed during counter-terrorism operations by security forces. The Sahel region recorded 90% of the terrorism-related deaths.” The five countries most affected by the incidence of terrorism in the first 15 days of this year were Burkina Faso (Ghana’s neighbour to the north), Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, and Somalia. “The incidences of terrorist attacks across Africa at the end of 2018 especially in December and in January 2019 have become a source of worry to many stakeholders. The Horn of Africa, the Lake Chad Basin, the Maghreb, the Sahelo-Sahara and the Central Africa regions are currently the most affected.”

Egypt

Reuters: Islamic State Says It Attacked Soldiers, Captured Christian In Sinai

“Islamic State carried out an attack on Egyptian security forces in Sinai a week ago and captured a Christian criminal research expert, the militant group said. The man was involved in the government’s campaign against militants, the group said in its weekly newspaper al-Naba, published on Thursday. It gave no further details. The attack took place on Jan. 18, west of al-Arish, the capital of the North Sinai province, the group said. One Egyptian officer was killed and two soldiers injured, it said, adding several Egyptian soldiers had been killed or wounded in the past week. Two security sources in northern Sinai confirmed the incident, saying three security personnel were killed. The Christian man was riding a bus when he was captured, they said. On Tuesday, the military said Egyptian security forces had killed 59 militants in the Sinai peninsula recently and had lost seven of their own men. The figures covered the “last period”, the military said without specifying dates or locations of operations. It did not give the identity of suspects or their affiliation. Egypt’s military says several hundred militants have been killed since it launched a major campaign in February last year to defeat militants linked to Islamic State in Sinai.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Egypt Says 2 Local Terrorist Commanders Killed In N. Sinai

“Egypt announced Sunday that its military has killed several suspected militants, including two local commanders, in northern Sinai as it continues its operation against terrorists in the peninsula. Several terrorists were killed in an air strike on a militant outpost, confirmed the military spokesman on his official Facebook page. He stressed that the armed forces will continue their efforts to eliminate terrorism in northern Sinai and bolster security efforts to develop the peninsula. The army has been battling a long-running insurgency in the northern Sinai. The fighting intensified after the ouster in 2013 of President Mohammed Morsi, of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The military launched in February 2018 a comprehensive operation to eliminate terrorism from northern Sinai.”

Daily News Egypt: Egypt Continues Fighting Terrorist Threats In 2019, As Militants Alter Tactics, Targets

“During 2018, Egypt observed a decline in terrorist attacks compared to the last four years, as recent researches showed, however the danger is still ever present, as militant groups in North Sinai are updating their tactics and targets to seize state efforts’ pillars. Almost a year ago, the Egyptian armed forces launched a massive military operation named ‘Sinai 2018’ aimed to combat terrorism, insurgency, and criminal elements in central and north Sinai, the Nile Delta region, and the Western Desert. The operation involved the army, navy, air force, border patrol and the police. Through 30 statements till the moment, the army declared that hundreds of suspected terrorists were killed or arrested, and large amounts of ammunition and heavy weapons were confiscated, as well as hundreds of explosive devices were defused. The military also announced the thwarting of dozens of “aggressive” attacks targeting its officers and military camps, security checkpoints, as well as civilians. Meanwhile, the foreign ministry also stated the killing and arrest of suspect militants in different fire exchanges and raids across the country, affirming the prevention of dozens of planned aggressive attacks from taking place.”

Nigeria

Channel NewsAsia: Islamic State Says It Killed 30 Nigerian Soldiers - Amaq

“Islamic State said it killed 30 Nigerian soldiers in an attack on Saturday in the country's northeastern Borno state, a claim disputed by the Nigerian Army. A Nigerian Army spokesman said an attack on troops by insurgents in the Borno village of Logomani was repelled on Saturday and eight soldiers were hurt, none with life-threatening injuries. In a statement issued through its news agency Amaq, Islamic State on Sunday claimed responsibility for the attack on a village it referred to as Lomani. Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), which split from Islamist group Boko Haram in 2016, has carried out a number of attacks in northeast Nigeria in the last few months. Borno is the state worst hit by Islamist insurgents whose attacks on Nigerian military bases in the last few months have made security a key campaign issue ahead of the country's presidential election on Feb. 16. “Only eight of our troops were wounded, out of which four have since been evacuated ... while the other four are receiving treatment,” said the army spokesman.”

Associated Press: US, EU Express Concern After Nigeria Chief Justice Suspended

“The United States, Britain and the European Union expressed concern on Saturday after Nigeria’s president suspended the country’s chief justice three weeks before the presidential election, with the U.S. warning it could “cast a pall” over the vote in Africa’s most populous nation. President Muhammadu Buhari set off an uproar on Friday by announcing the suspension, citing corruption allegations. The chief justice would play a key role in any legal challenge to the election in which Buhari seeks a second term. The U.S. said Buhari acted “without the support of the legislative branch” and noted widespread criticism in Nigeria that the move was unconstitutional. It urged authorities to quickly resolve the crisis that could undermine the credibility of the Feb. 16 vote. At stake is a country that is Africa’s largest oil producer, with a population of some 190 million and multiple security challenges, including the decade-old Boko Haram extremist insurgency. Buhari’s election in 2015 was a rare peaceful transfer of power. Britain said that “we are compelled to observe that the timing of this action, so close to national elections, gives cause for concern. It risks affecting both domestic and international perceptions on the credibility of the forthcoming elections.”

Somalia

Voice Of America: AFRICOM To Resume Announcing Somalia Airstrike Death Tolls

“U.S. Africa Command, which oversees U.S. military operations on the continent, will again release the number of enemy fighters killed and damage information caused from its airstrikes, after briefly saying it would no longer do so. "We will continue to report results of strikes, although we are working on refining our messaging to place less emphasis on the number of militants killed and place more context on how these strikes are helping our Somali partners achieve their strategic security objectives," AFRICOM spokesman John Manley told VOA Friday. The U.S. military announced Thursday it had carried out two new airstrikes in Somalia against the al-Shabab extremist group the day before but did not provide details on fighters killed or damage done to enemy weapons or positions. A U.S. Africa Command spokesman referred VOA and other outlets to the Somali government to obtain that information.”

Africa

The Washington Post: Explosion Near Cinema Hits Weeks After Deadly Kenya Attack

“An explosive device went off outside a cinema in a busy part of Kenya’s capital Saturday and injured two people, police said. One of those injured in the explosion in Nairobi was a handcart pusher who received a small piece of luggage from an individual who later fled. The other was a newspaper vendor, said Philip Ndolo, police commander in charge of Nairobi. A manhunt was underway for the unidentified person reported to have deposited the luggage in a cart, Ndolo said. Detectives think the luggage contained an improvised explosive device that went off, a police officer at the scene told The Associated Press. The officer spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. The Kenya Red Cross said it sent emergency teams to the scene, which was sealed off by law enforcement officers. The explosion happened two days after the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi issued a security alert reminding the public about “the continued need for sustained vigilance in public spaces such as shopping malls, hotels, and places of worship.” Kenya is recovering from a Jan. 15 attack in which gunmen stormed a hotel complex and killed 21 people.”

The Washington Post: 2 UN Peacekeepers Killed In Attack In Central Mali

“Two Sri Lankan peacekeepers with the United Nations force in Mali were killed Friday after their convoy struck an explosive device in the central Mopti region, the U.N. said. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman said six Sri Lankan peacekeepers were injured in the blast near the town of Douentza. A peacekeeper from Burkina Faso was injured in a separate attack using an improvised explosive device against another U.N. mission convoy near Douentza on Thursday, deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said. No one has claimed responsibility for the Friday attack, but it is similar to others by extremist groups linked to al-Qaida which have increased activities in the Mopti region. Secretary-General Guterres and the U.N. Security Council condemned the attack in the strongest terms. The Security Council called it an act of terrorism and urged Mali’s government to swiftly investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice. Council members underlined that “attacks targeting peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law” and said those responsible can face U.N. sanctions. The council also expressed concern about “the security situation in Mali and the transnational dimension of the terrorist threat in the Sahel region,” which the Mopti region is part of.”

Gulf News: 10 Dead In Burkina Faso 'Terrorist Attack'

“Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: Ten people were killed Sunday in northern Burkina Faso in a “terrorist attack”, according to a security source and a local elected official. “Around 10 armed individuals in the morning carried out a terrorist attack in the village of Sikire,” which left “10 dead and two seriously wounded,” a security source said. Sikire is in the Sahel region and is frequently a target of extremist attacks. According to a local official in Arbinda, about 20 kilometres away, contacted by phone from Ouagadougou, “the assailants armed with Kalashnikovs made several tours of the village opening fire on the inhabitants.” “They ransacked and set fire to shops and other businesses and took motorbikes,” added the official who requested anonymity. He said the inhabitants had stayed holed up in the homes “in panic over these attacks which have been increasing in the area,” he said. On January 10, 12 people were killed in attack in Gasseliki, a village around 30 kilometres south of Arbinda. Burkina Faso lies in the heart of the vast Sahel region, which is struggling with a bloody Islamist insurgency. The region turned into a hotbed of violent extremism and lawlessness after chaos engulfed Libya in 2011.”

The Independent: From Al-Shabaab To Boko Haram: We Ignore African Terror At Our Peril

“After fleeing al-Shabaab in Somalia, the two men hid for a month in the Lacta forests on the Kenya borderlands. There were other defectors there, some living off the land, others using their guns to rob villages and travellers. All of them were fearful of the vengeful fighters they had left behind and, also, the retribution of state forces. Both the men are of Somali background. One, Yasir, grew up in Germany and lived briefly in Britain. The other, Tawfiq, was born and raised in Kenya. Both had gone to Somalia following the call of jihad; both claim to have become disillusioned; both say they are seeking a new life away from violence. The accounts they give, in a meeting at a small town in Kenya, are at times contradictory and evasive. But a lot of what they say appears, after cross-checking with other sources, to be true. And their deep apprehension about the uncertainties and dangers which lie ahead seem to be genuine.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: The Enduring Appeal Of Violent Jihad

“The Islamic State group (IS) has lost its short-lived caliphate in the Middle East, with hundreds - possibly thousands - of would-be international jihadists stuck in limbo, and tempted to return home despite fears of arrest and imprisonment. Yet the scourge of violent jihad - where extremists attack those they perceive to be enemies of Islam - has not gone away. The hotel attack in Nairobi two weeks ago by the al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group al-Shabab was an uncomfortable reminder. Large swathes of north-west Africa are now vulnerable to attack by marauding jihadists. Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan remain ideal refuges for jihadists. So just what is the enduring appeal of violent jihad for certain people around the world? The decision to leave behind a normal, law-abiding life, often abandoning family and loved ones to embark on what is frequently a short, dangerous career is a personal one. Jihadist recruiters will play on the notion of victimhood, sacrifice and rallying to a higher cause in the name of religion. For nearly 20 years now the internet has been awash with gruesome propaganda videos, some portraying the collective suffering of Muslims in various parts of the world, others depicting revenge attacks and punishments inflicted on perceived enemies.”

Southeast Asia

CNN: Philippines Church Bombing Town On Lockdown As ISIS Threat Reemerges

“The southern Philippines city of Jolo is on lockdown after a deadly double bombing Sunday, as the authorities try to ensure security and investigate the attack that killed at least 20. The bombing -- which was claimed by ISIS -- has raised fears of an increase in separatist violence in the country's restive Mindanao region, following a referendum last week in which an overwhelming majority of voters backed self-rule. Bombs exploded at the Jolo Catholic Cathedral during Sunday mass, officials said, killing 20 and injuring at least 81 people, including 14 soldiers and two police officers. The first device went off inside the cathedral and the second targeted nearby soldiers who rushed to help the victims of the first explosion, a military spokesman said.”

Technology

The Guardian: Facebook Restricts Campaigners’ Ability To Check Ads For Political Transparency

“Facebook has restricted the ability of external political transparency campaigners to monitor adverts placed on the social network, in a move described as an “appalling look” by one of the organisations affected. WhoTargetsMe, a British group dedicated to scrutinising adverts on the social network, has said its activities have been severely restricted by recent changes made by the social network. The change has also hit a similar programme by the US investigative journalism site ProPublica, affecting both groups’ ability to collect data on why users are being targeted by political campaigners. The monitoring tools, which involve asking users to install a browser plug-in and collecting data on the adverts they see, has helped expose many of the advertising tactics used by politicians, making it harder for those who pay for negative adverts to escape scrutiny.”

The Guardian: YouTube Vows To Recommend Fewer Conspiracy Theory Videos

“YouTube will recommend fewer videos that “could misinform users in harmful ways”, the company announced on Friday, in a shift for a platform that has faced criticism for amplifying conspiracy theories and extremism. The change concerns YouTube’s recommendations feature, which automatically creates a playlist of videos for users to watch next. The recommendations are the result of complex and opaque algorithms designed to capture a user’s interest, but they have become a locus of criticism when YouTube directs people to potentially harmful and false content that they would not have otherwise sought out. The company did not provide a clear definition of what it considers to be harmful misinformation, but said that some examples were “videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the Earth is flat, or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11”. The changes will also affect “borderline content”, or videos that come close to violating the company’s rules for content without technically crossing the line.”

Fox News: Worried That Google, Facebook And Amazon Don’t Respect Your Privacy? Wait Until They Do This

“With unending revelations of privacy-related data abuses by Silicon Valley’s largest and farthest reaching companies – even Apple CEO Tim Cook is calling for reform – we must acknowledge there is far more at stake than simply individual privacy and data. Big Tech’s immoral and unethical behavior regarding your privacy will be a mere annoyance when compared to their ungoverned and reckless forays into artificial intelligence. The troubling reality is that there is a deeply disconcerting lack of transparency and accountability as extremely wealthy, powerful, self-interested people – looking no further than adding many more billions of dollars to their personal balance sheets – are making decisions that will affect a great many of us. More disturbing still is the fact that in many cases they are envisioning a future that most Americans do not desire and for which we remain woefully unprepared. Here is only one example: A 2016 Obama White House report estimated that 83 percent of all jobs that pay under $20 an hour can be, and likely will be, automated. A 2013 study by the University of Oxford showed that nearly 50 percent of all U.S. employment is automatable.”

Terror Financing

Buratha News: Iraq: Publication Of Consolidated List Of Individuals And Entities Financing Terrorism

“The committee in charge of freezing terrorist funds under the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers announced on Saturday (January 26th) the consolidated list of names of individuals and entities financing terrorism. It consists of 73 pages published {originally} by the UN Security Council on its official website. The committee stated: "Among the names on the list are the terrorist Najmuddin Faraj, known as Mullah Krekar; the head of the so-called head of the Association of Muslim Scholars Muthanna Harith al Dari; the leader of al-Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri; the leader of ISIS Ibrahim Awad al-Samarrai, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the spokesman for this terrorist organization Abu Muhammad al-Adnani.”

Baghdad Post: Iraq: Pro-Iranian Militias Accused Of Stealing And Smuggling Oil

“Politicians, writers and activists {in Iraq} launched a violent {verbal} attack on al-Hashd al-Shaabi factions, accusing them of stealing and smuggling oil, which constitutes a public mockery of Iraq's sovereignty and of tampering with its capabilities. In addition, these {Iran-affiliated} Shiite armed groups loot public and private properties, especially in the areas liberated from ISIS's grip. According to Iraqi activists, these groups are responsible for the abduction of thousands of innocent people whose fate is still unknown. Iraqi parliament deputy Hassan al-Alawi, through his Facebook account, wrote: "Nineveh is being robbed in broad daylight! Between 70 to 100 oil tankers are stolen daily from the fields of al-Qayyarah and smuggled to neighboring countries. This is with the knowledge of the security and administrative services in the province of Nineveh. Worse than that, the administrative authorities use municipal vehicles along 10 km to facilitate the traffic of the oil robbers.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Almesryoon: Egypt: Request To Designate Muslim Brotherhood-Affiliated Journalists On Terror Lists

“Tarek Mahmoud, an Egyptian lawyer, submitted a memo to the Public Prosecutor, requesting to designate some of the Muslim Brotherhood's media figures, who are living abroad, on the terror lists based on "Decree no. 8 of 2015 on Terrorist Entities." The lawyer explained that these fugitive journalists work for Turkey-based media channels of the banned Islamist group, channels that are funded by Qatar. These media outlets support terrorism by regularly inciting against the Egyptian state and its institutions, Mahmoud went on to say. Some of these prominent Muslim Brotherhood's media figures earn astronomical monthly salaries ranging between $40,000 and $80,000 solely for tarnishing the image of Egypt, according to Mahmoud.”

Seventh Day: Experts: Muslim Brotherhood Organizes Conferences Abroad In Return For Payment

“Fugitive Muslim Brotherhood's leaders organize conferences and shell entities abroad, particularly in Istanbul, Turkey. These senior figures of the outlawed Islamic group have even competed with each other over arranging such events in numerous Turkish hotels. These "provocative" gatherings are actually planned by certain countries hostile to Egypt, rather than by the Muslim Brotherhood's top officials themselves, experts noted. They added that these countries send the necessary funds and support to the organizers. Hisham Al-Najjar, a researcher of Islamic movements, stated that leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood obtain funds from foreign countries and, in return, they serve these countries' agenda, including the recruitment and mobilization of Jihadists for supporting and fulfilling their schemes in the region.”

Houthi

Alsahwa: Houthis Set Up Customs Checkpoints To Raise Funds

“The Houthi militants have set up checkpoints in areas near some of the liberated Yemeni governorates. Local sources in the Governorate of Al-Bayda reported that the Iran-backed militia stop dozens of oil and gas tankers arriving {daily} via the Marib road, with the aim of collecting customs fees. The rebels, who got used to seizing public properties, have now decided to set up checkpoints in order to collect illegal customs fees from passing trucks and cars, the sources added.”
__________________
Boats

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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