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Old 03-15-2019, 07:30 AM
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Arrow Eye on Extremism March 15, 2019

Eye on Extremism
March 15, 2019

March 15, 2019
The New York Times: New Zealand Mosque Shootings Leave 49 Dead

“A gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, killing 49 people in an afternoon slaughter that in part was broadcast live online after the publication of a white supremacist manifesto. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, said that in addition to those killed, 20 were seriously injured, shaking a country with little history of mass shooting in what she called “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.” Some of the shootings were streamed on Facebook, a grim development in terrorism that raised questions about the ability of tech companies to block violent content. The police said three men and one woman were in custody. One of those in custody is Australian, said the country’s prime minister, Scott Morrison. New Zealand’s police commissioner, Mike Bush, said that a number of explosive devices were found in vehicles stopped by the police. The police warned residents of central Christchurch to stay indoors and asked mosques to close. “This is and will be one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” Ms. Ardern said at a news conference. “It is clear that this can only be described as a terrorist attack,” she added. Mr. Bush said a mosque on Deans Avenue near Hagley Park, in the center of the city, and a mosque on Linwood Avenue, about three miles away, were attacked.”

CNN: Facebook, YouTube And Twitter Struggle To Deal With New Zealand Shooting Video

“Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are struggling to halt the spread of horrific footage that appears to show a massacre at a mosque in New Zealand as it was taking place. One of the shooters appears to have livestreamed the attack on Facebook (FB). The disturbing video, which has not been verified by CNN, purportedly shows a gunman walking into a mosque and opening fire. Hours after the attack, however, copies of the gruesome video continued to appear on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, raising new questions about the companies' ability to manage harmful content on their platforms. "While Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter all say that they're cooperating and acting in the best interest of citizens to remove this content, they're actually not because they're allowing these videos to reappear all the time," said Lucinda Creighton, a senior adviser at the Counter Extremism Project, an international policy organization.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune: U.S. Navy Veteran Held In Iran Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison, Lawyers Say

“Lawyers representing the family of an American citizen from San Diego detained in Iran said Thursday that the Navy veteran has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and for disclosing private information by posting a photo on Instagram of a woman he was visiting. Michael White, 46, was detained in Mashhad, a religious city in eastern Iran, last July after traveling there to visit the woman. It was his third time visiting her in the Islamic Republic, said Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for his family. White is being held in Vakilabad Prison, which is known for its executions of drug traffickers. “The ‘inappropriate’ photo was of White sitting with a woman we think is his girlfriend,” said Mark Zaid, a lawyer representing White’s family. White is the first U.S. citizen arrested in Iran since President Trump took office. His sentencing could worsen already rocky relations with the United States.”

The New York Times: Rockets Fired On Tel Aviv From Gaza, And Israel Strikes Back

“Two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv from the Gaza Strip on Thursday — the first time since 2014 that rockets had reached the area — in an attack that led to retaliatory airstrikes by Israel hours later. Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system detected the incoming rockets around 9 p.m. and sounded alarms that were heard across metropolitan Tel Aviv on a rainy night. No injuries or damage were reported, but residents reported hearing loud blasts and the mayor ordered bomb shelters opened. The two militant Islamic factions with the capability of hitting Tel Aviv from Gaza, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, both quickly denied responsibility for the attack and said they had no intention of escalating violence with Israel. The Israeli military, in a statement posted to Twitter, said it believed Hamas was behind the attack. Early Friday, the Israeli military said that it had “started striking terror sites in Gaza” in response, but offered no details. The Palestinian newspaper Al Quds described the airstrikes by the Israel as a “series of raids” across the Gaza Strip, and it detailed multiple strikes on northwestern Gaza City.”

Arab News: Syria Death Toll More Than 370,000 In 8 Years Of War: Monitor

“Eight years of war in Syria have left more than 370,000 people dead including 112,000 civilians, a monitor said Friday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of sources across the country, said more than 21,000 children and 13,000 women were among the dead. The conflict flared after unprecedented anti-government protests in the southern city of Daraa on March 15, 2011. Demonstrations spread across Syria and were brutally suppressed by the regime, triggering a multi-front armed conflict that has drawn in foreign powers and militant groups. The Britain-based Observatory's last casualty toll on the Syrian conflict, issued in September, stood at more than 360,000 dead. Over 125,000 Syrian government soldiers and pro-regime fighters figured in the latest toll, the monitoring group said.”

The Washington Post: Afghan Official Says Any U.S. Deal With The Taliban Would ‘Dishonor’ American Troops As Relations Sink

“Relations between the Trump administration and the government of Afghanistan fell to a new low this week, as they exchanged public accusations of bad faith and exposed deep differences over U.S. negotiations with the Taliban. On a visit to Washington, Afghanistan’s national security adviser, Hamidullah Mohib, charged that any U.S. deal with the Taliban would “dishonor” American troops who have fought and died in the war. Afghan-born U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad was acting out of “personal ambition,” Mohib said, and seeking to “create a caretaker government, of which he will become viceroy.” In Kabul, U.S. Ambassador John R. Bass responded Thursday on Twitter that it was “Afghan corruption and misuse of equipment, funds and other support provided by the American people” that dishonored the troops. “So do any Afghans who put their personal or political interests ahead of the national interest,” Bass tweeted. In a sharply worded statement, the State Department said Mohib had been “summoned” to a meeting with U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale, who reminded him that “attacks on Ambassador Khalilzad are attacks on the Department and only serve to hinder the bilateral relationship and the peace process.”

United States

The Washington Post: Federal Prosecutors Bring Terror Charges Against Group Arrested In New Mexico Compound Case

“Federal prosecutors on Thursday brought terrorism and other serious charges against five people arrested last year on a New Mexico compound, alleging in a new indictment that the group was gathering weapons and training in their squalid quarters to kill FBI and military personnel. The superseding indictment significantly upgrades the charges against the five, who were arrested last year after they were discovered living with 11 children on the compound. Prosecutors say members of the group conspired to provide material support to terrorists, conspired to murder an officer of the United States and kidnapped a child who later died. “The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to provide material support in preparation for violent attacks against federal law enforcement officers and members of the military,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement announcing the charges. “Advancing beliefs through terror and violence has no place in America.” The case against Jany Leveille, 36; Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40; Hujrah Wahhaj, 38; Subhanah Wahhaj, 36; and Lucas Morton, 41; drew significant attention when the group was first arrested last year — in part because of the compound on which they lived and in part because officials suggested they were Muslim “extremists.”

France 24: Venezuela Accuses US Of 'Terrorist Attack' On Oil Facility

“Venezuelans resumed work Thursday after a weeklong hiatus forced by an unprecedented nationwide blackout, but President Nicolas Maduro's regime faced fresh problems including a "terrorist attack" on an oil facility. Three storage tanks at the Petro San Felix heavy oil processing plant in eastern Venezuela caught fire late Wednesday, Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo told state television. There were no reports of casualties. Quevedo blamed Guaido, the head of Venezuela's opposition-ruled congress and self-proclaimed interim president backed by 50 countries, accusing him of collusion with the United States. "There was a terrorist act that we denounce at an international level," Quevedo told the VTV network. On Twitter, the minister said Guaido and the opposition were "intensifying terrorist incursions" against the state-owned oil company PDVSA to impact Venezuela's vital crude exports. "Traitors!" he wrote, adding "the US has decided to rob Venezuela of its oil resources... (and) wants blood to flow." There was no immediate reaction from the United States, which this week ordered all its diplomats out of Venezuela. Oil accounts for 90 percent of Venezuela's export revenues. Production has long slid, crimped by years of underinvestment and mismanagement.”


The Wall Street Journal: Syrian, Russian Airstrikes Target Rebels In Last Stronghold

“Syrian government and Russian airstrikes on the last rebel stronghold in Syria have intensified in recent days, raising fears of a military offensive that the United Nations has long warned would cause a humanitarian disaster. Russia and Turkey reached an agreement in September to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib to forestall a Syrian regime offensive to recapture the northwest province. Idlib, and small rebel-controlled parts of neighboring provinces, is home to three million civilians, about half of them displaced from elsewhere in Syria, according to the U.N. It has described the province as the biggest refugee camp on earth. A military offensive by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad on Idlib, which it has vowed to retake, would increase already widespread humanitarian need in Syria. The continued attacks came as donor states pledged $6.97 billion at a conference in Brussels on Thursday to help Syrians living a razor-edge existence inside and outside the country, according to the U.N. It fell short of the $8.8 billion funding appeal.”

The Wall Street Journal: Syrian, Russian Airstrikes Target Rebels in Last Stronghold

“Syrian government and Russian airstrikes on the last rebel stronghold in Syria have intensified in recent days, raising fears of a military offensive that the United Nations has long warned would cause a humanitarian disaster. Russia and Turkey reached an agreement in September to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib to forestall a Syrian regime offensive to recapture the northwest province. Idlib, and small rebel-controlled parts of neighboring provinces, is home to three million civilians, about half of them displaced from elsewhere in Syria, according to the U.N. It has described the province as the biggest refugee camp on earth. A military offensive by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad on Idlib, which it has vowed to retake, would increase already widespread humanitarian need in Syria. The continued attacks came as donor states pledged $6.97 billion at a conference in Brussels on Thursday to help Syrians living a razor-edge existence inside and outside the country, according to the U.N. It fell short of the $8.8 billion funding appeal. The truce has largely held for months, but in early February daily rocket, artillery or cluster munition attacks on civilian populations resumed, killing more than 110 people, according to the White Helmets, a rescue group operating in opposition-held parts of Syria.”

Financial Times: Yazidi Hostages Traded To Criminals As ISIS Loses Ground

“Yazidi children and women abducted by Isis at the peak of its power are now being traded by criminal traffickers in Syria as the country’s eight-year civil war morphs into an era of violent lawlessness. Although the Syrian regime is claiming victory and Isis is close to losing its final scrap of territory, kidnap victims remained imprisoned in parts of northern Syria controlled by Turkish-backed rebels or jihadist militants, say families and would-be rescuers. The kidnap victims are from Iraq’s Yazidi minority — followers of an ancient monotheistic religion who Isis massacred and enslaved in 2014 in attacks the UN designated as a genocide. Now new captors are capitalising on Isis’s fall, taking control of victims who in some cases had been handed over by fleeing Isis fighters caught by other rebel groups. Captors are demanding up to $30,000 for each Yazidi’s release in a country where the average Iraqi earns $6,000 to $7,000 per year, according to the government. The post-Isis kidnap market reflects a breakdown of order in parts of Syria where control has shifted from opposition councils to armed groups harbouring criminal gangs. In areas controlled by President Bashar al-Assad criminality is also rampant.”

ABC News: IS Militants, Families Surrender After Offensive In Syria

“U.S.-backed Syrian fighters said Thursday a "large number" of Islamic State militants and their families are surrendering a day after intense fighting in the last speck of land the extremists still hold in eastern Syria. At the edge of Baghouz, the village where the militants are still holed up, men, women and children climbed a road that winds along a cliff overlooking what remains of a tent encampment, heading out. Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces said they searched the evacuees as they reached the front lines. Many of the people carried rolls of blankets and clothes but cast them aside as they made their way up the hill. Women carried babies as children slowly made their way up the rocky terrain. Most of the men appeared to be wounded, with many limping or walking with crutches, and they carried little aside from water bottles. Women were weighted down with duffel and plastic bags, and children holding onto their arms or to the black robes they wore. The sound of sporadic gunfire echoed off the cliff and U.S.-led coalition planes flew overhead. SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said after an intensive offensive Wednesday from multiple fronts, "a large number" of IS militants and their families "started to surrender" early Thursday.”


Middle East Monitor: Hezbollah’s Capabilities ‘Doubled,’ Says Iranian Official

“Lebanon’s Hezbollah capabilities have doubled more than 100 times, the head of the defence office for Iran’s Fikr Al-Islam movement, Abbas-Ali Farzandi, said yesterday. Speaking at a ceremony held in Iran’s south-western province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, he stressed that Hezbollah’s capabilities “have risen nowadays.” “The capabilities of Hezbollah have doubled 100 times more than it used to be during the time of the 33-day war which Israel launched on Lebanon in 2006,” Farzandi was quoted by Fars News Agency as saying. In July 2006, the Israeli occupation army launched major aggression against Lebanon – targeting Hezbollah – which lasted for 33 days and ended in August of the same year. Arab media had called the Israeli offence as “The Second Israeli war on Lebanon.”

DW: There Is 'No Light On The Horizon' In Iran

“From journalists to activists to everyday people, no one is safe from being detained under vague laws that criminalize most forms of expression in Iran. The situation is only getting worse, says Amnesty's Raha Bahreini. One year after Iranian political scientist Sadegh Zibakalam was honored with the DW Freedom of Speech Award, DW's Ole Tangen Jr. spoke with human rights lawyer and Amnesty International's researcher on Iran, Raha Bahreini, about the current situation in the country. DW: I found this quote from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year, in which he said: "In this country there is freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of choice. Then he continued, "However, freedom in the Islamic Republic, like in other parts of the world, has a framework." In light of that, I wonder how you would answer the question: Is there free speech in Iran?”

Al Monitor: Trump Officials Warn More Iran Sanctions Are Coming

“Donald Trump administration officials today told US and foreign businesspeople that legal trade with Iran — already severely restricted by sanctions — is likely to constrict further as the first anniversary of the US exit from the 2015 nuclear deal approaches. At a meeting on “Sanctions: A Key Foreign Policy Tool” that filled an auditorium at the State Department, US officials asserted that sanctions on Iran were strategic in nature and aimed at “specific and narrow goals,” in the words of David Peyman, the deputy assistant secretary of state for counter threat finance and sanctions. But those goals, according to Peyman and Brian Hook, the department’s special representative for Iran, still require a 180-degree change in Iran’s regional and defense posture. While Hook said the list of 12 demands put forward by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last year is not “unrealistic,” Iran has shown no interest in coming back to the table as long as Washington remains out of the nuclear deal.”

The Washington Times: Iran-Backed Militias Work To Drive U.S. From Iraq

“The crisscrossing agendas facing Iraq — pressured by the U.S. and Iran while trying to set up a functioning government in Baghdad and preventing a revival of the Islamist terrorism that nearly broke the country apart — were on stark display during a nighttime skirmish this month. Soldiers from the Popular Mobilization Forces — largely Shiite Muslim militias strongly backed by Tehran — were traveling from Mosul to Kirkuk when Islamic State militants attacked their convoy near the disputed Iraqi-Kurdish city of Makhmour. Six died, and 31 people from the predominantly ethnic Turkmen unit were injured in the shooting. After the attack, forces near Makhmour asked the U.S.-led coalition to bomb Qarachokh mountain, where the Islamic State fighters hide in caves between Iraq and the autonomous Kurdistan Region’s military bases. The coalition bombed later that night, said Col. Srud Barzanji, who commands Kurdish peshmerga soldiers in Mulla Qarah, near Makhmour. Like many of Iraq’s Kurds, Col. Barzanji thinks the U.S. military should stay in the country to help fight the Islamic State, which is taking another look at its sanctuaries in Iraq as the last remnants of its “caliphate” in neighboring Syria fall to the U.S. and its allies.”


Xinhua: 9 IS Militants Killed In Airstrike In Northern Iraq

“Nine Islamic State (IS) militants were killed in an airstrike by Iraqi airforce and international coalition aircraft in Iraq's northern province of Kirkuk, the Iraqi military said. "Acting on intelligence reports, the Iraqi and coalition airforce bombarded an IS hideout in Wadi Abu Khanajir area in south of the provincial capital Kirkuk, some 250 km north of Baghdad," according to a statement by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC). The Iraqi forces searched the destroyed hideout and found nine IS militants killed inside, along with 20 cellphones connected to explosives, the statement added. The security situation in Iraq has been dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017. The IS remnants, however, have since melted in urban areas or resorted to deserts and rugged areas as safe havens, carrying out guerilla attacks from time to time against security forces and civilians.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Turkey Arrests 14 Foreign Nationals Who Crossed Syrian, Iraqi Border

“Some 14 foreign nationals with ties to the ISIS terrorist organization were captured Wednesday in Ankara in a campaign conducted by counter-terrorism and intelligence units. Simultaneously, a number of raids were carried out, leading to arrests and the confiscation of digital data and documents. According to security sources, preliminary investigations indicated that the detainees had entered Turkey illegally across the border with Syria and Iraq, and communicated with ISIS cells inside the country. The investigation also revealed that the detainees, whose nationalities were not revealed, were active in the ranks of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and will be deported to their countries, which is the procedure followed in Turkey when it comes ISIS supporters willing to join to the fight in Syria. In the same context, a Danish terrorist listed with a red notice on Interpol's most wanted list has been captured in northwestern Turkey's Bursa province, Anadolu Agency said Wednesday. The Counter-terrorism Branch of the Bursa Security Directorate and Intelligence Units arrested a terrorist woman identified as A.A.M., who had participated in ISIS activities in Syria and illegally crossed the border in Turkey. Reports said the terrorist was holding Danish citizenship and of Lebanese origin, and had been sought by the Interpol.”


The New York Times: A Taliban Leader, Eyeing U.S. Peace Deal, Speaks To Afghans’ Fears

“In a sign that the Taliban see a peace deal with the United States as imminent, one of their top leaders released a rare audio message on Thursday seeking to ease the concerns of the insurgency’s own fighters — and those of Afghans who fear that an agreement could let the Taliban return to power and roll back human rights. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a deputy Taliban leader who was recently freed from a Pakistani cell to lead the talks with the Americans in Qatar, said in the message that he was “very hopeful” that the discussions that ended Tuesday could help end a war that has dragged on for 18 years. “We had the kind of talks that have created the opportunity to resolve things and find a solution in the future,” Mullah Baradar said. His message was a window into the internal politics of the Taliban, who are stuck in a deadly stalemate with the Afghan security forces, despite essentially controlling more Afghan territory than at any time since 2001, when the American invasion ousted them from political power. But he provided few details of guarantees on human rights, or whether the Taliban would accept anything less than the return of their oppressive Islamic Emirate that was toppled. His call for his fighters to show humility was also unlikely to quell public concerns considering the Taliban’s history.”

The Economist: Afghans Worry About The Return Of Shia Fighters From Syria’s Civil War

“Alireza qanbari has still not told his parents the truth about what he did when he left Afghanistan for Iran. The 23-year-old is happy for his father to believe he worked as a labourer. In fact, he fought with an Afghan militia recruited by Iran to help prop up the government in Syria’s civil war. With the war now dying down, Afghan fighters are starting to come home. Just as the West agonises about the return of radicalised émigrés, many in Afghanistan worry about what the former fighters will do—and where their loyalties lie. At its height, the Fatemiyoun, as the Afghan militia was known, had as many as 20,000 fighters, largely from the Hazara ethnic minority. Most Hazaras are Shia Muslims, as are the ruling elite in both Iran and Syria. Long downtrodden, Hazaras were especially persecuted by the Sunni Muslims of the Taliban. More recently the Afghan branch of Islamic State has launched terror attacks on Hazara targets…”


Time: Israel Strikes Militants In Gaza Strip In Retaliation For Tel Aviv Attack

“Israeli warplanes on Friday struck some 100 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to a rare rocket attack on the Israeli metropolis of Tel Aviv. Rocket fire persisted throughout the morning, setting the stage for additional possible reprisals. The army said that its targets had included an office complex in Gaza City used to plan and command Hamas militant activities, an underground complex that served as Hamas’ main rocket-manufacturing site, and a center used for Hamas drone development. There were no reports of casualties. The late-night attack on Tel Aviv, Israel’s densely populated commercial and cultural capital, marked a dramatic escalation in hostilities. It was the first time the city had been targeted since a 2014 war between Israel and Gaza militants. Hamas denied responsibility for the initial rocket attack, saying it went against Palestinian interests. But after a preliminary investigation, Israel said it had concluded that the militant group was behind the attack. Following the Israeli airstrike, several additional rounds of rocket fire were launched into Israel. The military said several rockets were intercepted by its air defense systems, and there were no reports of injuries. The fighting broke out as Egyptian mediators were in Gaza trying to broker an expanded cease-fire deal between the bitter enemies.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Hezbollah's New Terror Project Mastermind: 'Worst Of The Worst' - Analysis

“Six years after senior Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq was released from an Iraqi prison for the murder of five American servicemen, he has resurfaced mere miles from Israel’s border on the Syrian Golan Heights as the mastermind of a new and dangerous Hezbollah terror network. According to the IDF, Daqduq is the leader of Hezbollah’s clandestine “Golan Project” – a terrorist network which the IDF believes is aiming to build up its capabilities to one day launch serious attacks against Israel such as rocket and infiltrations into communities on the Israel Golan Heights. The IDF claims that Hezbollah has established this network under the nose of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose troops alongside Hezbollah operatives reconquered the Syrian Golan Heights this summer seven years after they lost it to rebel groups. Both UN Peacekeepers and Russian military police have been deployed along the Golan Heights border.”


Xinhua: Nigeria Confirms 55 Boko Haram Militants Killed In Multilateral Operation

“Fifty-five Boko Haram militants were killed in the past two days following a joint operation by forces from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Niger, the Nigerian military said Thursday. Troops of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, which carried out the operation, also recovered high caliber ammunition in the Lake Chad basin, said Timothy Antigha, a Nigerian army officer who is also the chief spokesman for the multinational forces. The operation against the militants was carried out in Tumbun Rego, a major terrorists' hideout in Lake Chad, Antigha said. Tumbun Rego is a prominent island in Lake Chad, believed to harbor senior commanders of the Boko Haram group. Thirty-three bodies of the neutralized militants were recovered in Tumbun Rego, while 22 others were killed in a separate operation in Arege, a Nigerian border town known as another Boko Haram hideout near lake Chad. Antigha said the operation would be further intensified through raids, ambushes and fighting patrols to clear terrorists from their last stronghold in the Lake Chad basin. Last December, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and his colleagues of the Lake Chad Basin Commission renewed their commitment to ending the Boko Haram insurgency, declaring "a fight to finish.”


Voice Of America: US Military Attacks Al-Shabab For Third Time This Week

“The U.S. military has carried out three airstrikes against al-Shabab militants in Somalia in less than a week, continuing a rapid pace that could triple last year's record-setting strike numbers. According to U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the latest strike killed three militants near Malayle in the Lower Juba region on Wednesday. The "collective self-defense airstrike" targeted militants who were shooting at Somali National Security Forces on patrol, AFRICOM said. U.S. service members were not on the ground. The strike came a day after an airstrike killed two al-Shabab militants in the vicinity of Huley in the Lower Shabelle region. And on Monday, another U.S. military strike in Lower Shabelle region — this one near Dara Salaam — killed eight militants who had attacked Somali National Army soldiers and U.S. troops who were advising their Somali partners. No U.S. service members were harmed in the attack, AFRICOM spokesman Air Force Col. Chris Karns told VOA. AFRICOM has carried out 28 airstrikes against al-Shabab in the first 11 weeks of 2019. Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the U.S. military is now on pace to nearly triple last year's record number of airstrikes against al-Shabab.”

Xinhua: 16 Al-Shabab Militants Killed In Southern Somalia

“Somali National Army (SNA) and local forces backed by international partners killed 16 al-Shabab militants in an operation in the country's southern region on Wednesday, officials said on Thursday. Abdi Nur Ibrahim, Jubaland spokesman for security told journalists that an offensive was carried out by SNA and Jubaland forces along with foreign partners in an area between Bar Sanguni and Jamame in Somalia's southern Lower Juba region. Local residents said that the two warring sides exchanged huge gunfire. "Heavily armed forces attacked al-Shabab militants in the town, both engaged fierce fighting," Dubad Ga'al, a resident told Xinhua by phone. Meanwhile, on Wednesday afternoon, Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) operating under African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) killed three al-Shabab militants and captured one in a gunfight in Somali border town of Bura Hache. Paul Njuguna, KDF spokesman, said the incident took place at about 2 p.m. as soldiers patrolled the area in the northern region. Somali security forces backed by AMISOM ousted al-Shabab from the capital Mogadishu in August 2011, but the terror group is still in control of several areas in southern Somalia and capable of conducting attacks."


The North Africa Post: Morocco Dismantles 6-Member Terror Cell

“The Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), or Morocco’s FBI, as it is called, dismantled, this Thursday, a six-member terrorist cell in the cities of Sidi Bennour, El Jadida, Mohammedia and Marrakech, in an operation that is part of continued efforts to foil terrorist threats linked to the Islamic State group. The cell is composed of 6 individuals aged between 27 and 40 years and includes an ex-inmate who had been indicted under the anti-terrorist law. He had links with active elements in ISIS branch in Libya, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Thorough security surveillance enabled to reveal the suspects’ allegiance to ISIS, and their adherence the destructive agenda of the terrorist organization, as well as their plans to conduct terror operations in the Kingdom, the Ministry said. The arrestees were remanded in custody as part of the investigation conducted under the supervision of the competent prosecutor, the statement pointed out.”

North Korea

Associated Press: NKorean Official: Kim Rethinking US Talks, Launch Moratorium

“North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will soon decide whether to continue diplomatic talks and maintain his moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests, a senior North Korean official said Friday, adding that the U.S. threw away a golden opportunity at the recent summit between their leaders. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, addressing a meeting of diplomats and foreign media, including The Associated Press, in Pyongyang said the North was deeply disappointed by the failure of the two sides to reach any agreements at the Hanoi summit between Kim and President Donald Trump. She said Pyongyang now has no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the United States takes measures that are commensurate to the changes it has taken — such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests — and changes its “political calculation.”


Fox News: US Ambassador Condemns Convicted Palestinian Terrorist's Speech In Germany

“The U.S. ambassador to Germany has condemned the presence of a convicted Palestinian terrorist who entered Germany in order to deliver a talk on Friday. Rasmea Odeh is set to speak in Berlin on Friday about “Palestinian women in the liberation struggle.” The event is organized by a reportedly “anti-Semitic alliance of BDS.” BDS is an abbreviation for the Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment campaign targeting the Jewish state. As a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an E.U. and U.S.-classified terrorist organization, Odeh was responsible for a 1969 bombing that killed two students – Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe – in a Jerusalem supermarket. Ambassador Richard Grenell told Fox News Thursday: “The rise of anti-Semitism around the world is very troubling. Some people plant the seeds of anti-Semitism while others water it and help it grow. Offering a public speaking role to a Palestinian terrorist convicted of murder, terrorism and immigration fraud legitimizes anti-Semitism at a time when we should be condemning it." He added: “I join the chorus of others who have raised their voices in Berlin standing against anti-Semitism no matter where it’s found.” Odeh participated in a second bombing at the British Consulate.”


The New York Times: Bosnia Accuses Croatia Of Plot To Brand It A Terrorist Haven

“The delicate relations between two former Yugoslav republics took a bitter and bizarre turn on Thursday as Bosnia and Herzegovina’s security minister accused Croatia of concocting a plot intended to falsely paint Bosnia as a terrorist hotbed. The security minister, Dragan Mektic, accused Croatia’s intelligence service of trying to coerce a Bosnian citizen into transporting weapons and explosives to a mosque inside Bosnia. If the weapons were then discovered, Mr. Mektic said in an interview with The New York Times, the cache could be portrayed as part of a terrorist plot. Top Croatian officials called the allegations groundless, saying they were an effort to damage ties between the two countries. The dispute comes as Muslim-majority Bosnia has accused Croatia for about a year of interfering in its internal affairs. It has said that Croatia is trying to wrest increased political influence for the Croatian ethnic group in Bosnia. Croatia’s ultimate hope, some in Bosnia have alleged, is the formation of a separate Croatian entity within Bosnia. Bosnia’s accusations of a plot to tarnish its reputation were first reported on Wednesday by a Bosnian investigative outlet, Zurnal. The publication said that a Bosnian man who lives in the European Union was intercepted when crossing the Croatian border by the country’s Security and Intelligence Agency.”

Radio Free Europe: Russia Says Two Alleged Is Militants Killed In Stavropol Region

“Russian authorities say two alleged militants from the so-called Islamic State (IS) extremist group have been killed in the country's southern Stavropol region that borders the mainly Muslim-populated North Caucasus. Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee (NAK) said on March 14 that the armed suspects were killed in a shoot-out overnight in the region's Shpak district near the village of Balki. According to the NAK, the two gunmen were natives of the Volgograd region and had arrived in the Stavropol region with plans to carry out a series of terrorist attacks. The NAK also said that the two men were shot dead after they refused police orders to stop a car they were traveling in and, instead, opened fire on the police. Islamic militants in Russia's North Caucasus region, and sometimes in adjacent areas, have mounted frequent attacks on police, moderate Muslims, and local officials. Some militants there have posted videos online in which they have sworn allegiance to the IS. Russian authorities have estimated that some 2,000 Russian citizens have fought alongside IS militants in Syria.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Australia PM Says Won't Risk Lives Returning ISIS Members

“Australia's prime minister said on Thursday he won't put officials in danger by retrieving extremists from the Middle East after an Australian ISIS widow asked to bring her children home from a Syrian refugee camp. Prime Minister Scott Morrison's response came after the Australian Broadcasting Corp. interviewed the woman in one of the refugee camps in northern Syria where she has lived with her toddler son and malnourished 6-month-old daughter since they fled the Syrian village of Baghouz where ISIS has been making its last stand. ABC said the 24-year-old woman refused to confirm her identity and wore a veil during the interview, but it identified her Thursday as Zehra Duman. The woman said her daughter needs hospital treatment and she wanted to bring her back to Australia. Morrison said Australians who take their families to war zones to fight with ISIS had to take responsibility for their actions. "I'm not going to put any Australian at risk to try to extract people from those situations," he told reporters. Opposition leader Bill Shorten, whom opinion polls suggest will likely be prime minister after the May elections, said his party would work constructively with the government on repatriating Australian children from Syria without "political point-scoring.”

Southeast Asia

Voice Of America: US Warns China’s Detention Of Uighurs To Counter Terrorism Will Backfire

“A senior U.S. official has rejected China’s claim that the mass internment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang region is part of a counter-terrorism program and says it will backfire. The United States co-hosted an event on the sidelines of the U.N. Human Rights Council to put the spotlight on the dire situation of Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities. The United Nations says China is arbitrarily detaining more than one million Uighurs and other ethnic Muslims in so-called re-education camps in Xinjiang Province. Human Rights activists say they are subjected to torture and brainwashing. Adrian Zenz, an independent researcher who focuses on China’s ethnic policy, says China is interning ethnic minorities, separating families and sending children to state-run orphanages to maintain ideological control over them. “All-in-all the Chinese State’s present attempt to eradicate independent and free expressions of distinct ethnic and religious identities in Xinjiang is nothing less than a systematic campaign of cultural genocide and should be treated as such,” said Zenz. China denies these charges. It says the de-radicalization of Uighurs in the camps is intended to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism from gaining hold.”

South China Morning Post: As 20 Malaysians Remain In Syria’s Crumbling Islamic State Caliphate, Others Are Seeking To Return Home

“As what remains of the self-proclaimed Islamic State caliphate in Syria crumbles under a sustained final assault by US-backed forces, an estimated 20 Malaysians are still holed up among the rubble, according to one fellow national who has fled the fighting. Lidia, 29, scrambled out of IS territory last month together with her two sons aged two and four, as bombs started falling around her home in Mayadin in the eastern province of Deir-ez-Zor. The Malay-Muslim laboratory technician, who can also speak Mandarin, contacted her father, a Johor-based businessman, via text message on February 19 asking him to help her return home. In a phone interview, he said his daughter was now in a Kurdish-controlled camp in al-Hol, in the northeastern province of Hasakah. “According to my daughter, there are at least 20 Malaysians who are still in the [caliphate] where fighting is taking place,” the man, who declined to be named, said on Wednesday. On Tuesday, an official from the Syrian Democratic Forces group that is spearheading the offensive, Mustafa Bali, posted on Twitter that 3,000 IS members had surrendered. “Lidia herself left because IS told her to go. She paid someone US$500 to secure her safe passage out of IS territory to al-Hol camp.”

The Straits Times: Bombs Found In Indonesian Militant's Home

“Indonesian police have found 300kg of explosives and more than 15 bombs in the houses of an arrested terrorist and his accomplice in northern Sumatra. The materials - which included a land mine, pipe bomb and vest bomb - were mostly found in the Sibolga home of local militant cell ring leader Husain alias Abu Hamzah, 30, whose wife blew herself up at the house with her two-year-old child early on Wednesday as their house was besieged by police. One of the four land-mine bombs planted around the house yard went off on Tuesday, injuring a police officer, according to police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo. "Husain had a sophisticated plan... He has high skills of bomb making. We found various types of switching: (to detonate the bombs by) movement, step-on, and remote device," Brigadier-General Dedi told a media briefing yesterday morning. He did not elaborate on how the land-mine bomb was activated. "The amount of explosives is quite high, meaning this required big enough financing. Our investigation is zooming in on who their financiers are," Brig-Gen Dedi added.”

New Zealand

Bloomberg: Terrorist Attacks On Two New Zealand Mosques Leave 49 Dead

“New Zealand suffered its worst mass shooting of modern times, with 49 people dead and more than 20 seriously injured after a terrorist attack at two mosques in the South Island city of Christchurch. A man in his late 20s has been charged with murder and should appear in a local court tomorrow morning, Police Commissioner Mike Bush told a news conference late on Friday. Three other armed people were apprehended but police are unsure of their possible involvement and are still working through events, he said. Describing the attacks as well-planned terrorist acts, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand had suffered one of its darkest days. She said the perpetrators held extremist views “that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world.”


Bloomberg: Facebook, YouTube Blindsided By Mosque Shooter's Live Video

“Social media platforms including Facebook Inc. are facing harsher scrutiny after a shooter accused of killing 49 people in two mosques in New Zealand appeared to livestream the murders over the internet. While platforms including Twitter and YouTube said they moved fast to remove the content, users reported it was still widely available hours after being first uploaded to the alleged shooter’s Facebook account. The video, which shows a first-person view of the killings in Christchurch, New Zealand, was readily accessible during and after the attack — as was the suspect’s hate-filled manifesto. Facebook, YouTube and other social-media platforms are struggling to scrub offensive content from sites that generate billions of dollars in revenue from advertisers. In the U.S., those sites also have been criticized for spreading political misinformation, with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg being called before Congress.”

The New York Times: Facebook’s Biblically Bad Week

“Exactly when did Facebook become the Job of internet companies? Just like the beleaguered biblical character who endured woe after woe at God’s behest, this social media giant finds itself repeatedly hit by bad news. The difference is that Job was blameless while Facebook has brought many of these disasters upon itself. The biggest recent blow was a report on Wednesday that federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York were conducting a criminal investigation into deals Facebook had made with other companies that gave them access to data, allegedly without the consent of users. Other calamities within the last week alone include a report from the British government accusing Facebook and other companies of hindering consumer choice and stifling innovation and calling for strong regulation; Facebook managing to look as if it was trying to block Senator Elizabeth Warren’s attempt to advertise her plan to break up big tech companies like Facebook on Facebook; its services, including the popular Instagram app, going down around the globe, and on Thursday, the announced departures of Chris Cox, Facebook’s powerful chief product officer, and Chris Daniels, the boss of WhatsApp — a giant neon sign that the company is in pain.”

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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