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Old 07-19-2019, 07:37 AM
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Arrow Eye on Extremism - July 19, 2019

Eye on Extremism
July 19, 2019
RE: info@counterextremism.com

As of July 19, 2019:


The New York Times: Argentina Designates Hezbollah Terrorist Group On 25th Anniversary Of Bombing

“Argentina designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization on Thursday and ordered a freeze on the financial assets of the group, which has been blamed for two terrorist attacks in the country. The move coincided with the 25th anniversary of one of those attacks, the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, which killed 85 people and wounded more than 300 in one of the deadliest anti-Semitic crimes since World War II. The terrorist designation of Hezbollah, a political and military group supported by Iran, came a day before a whirlwind visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He will participate in a regional counterterrorism conference in Buenos Aires and also take part in a commemoration of the victims of the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association community center. Mr. Pompeo’s trip comes at a time when “the U.S.-Iran policy has been isolated in Europe and found little support among traditional partners, so the State Department is looking for unusual allies to tighten the screws on Iran,” said Benjamin Gedan, an Argentina expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.”

CNN: First On CNN: US Transports Alleged American ISIS Fighter Back From Syria To Face Trial

“The US has transported an American citizen who is alleged to have been an ISIS fighter back to American soil from Syria in order to face trial for his alleged involvement with the terror group, according to two US officials familiar with the matter. The officials said he had been previously held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a group of Kurdish-led anti-ISIS fighters that are currently holding over 2,000 foreign ISIS fighters from over 50 countries. The US military helped facilitate the transfer. “The Department of Defense assisted in the movement of a US national from Syria to the United States. He was previously held by Syrian Democratic Forces as a suspected member of ISIS,” a Pentagon spokesperson later confirmed to CNN. “He was transferred to the US for prosecution. As a matter of policy, DOD does not discuss matters of litigation; so for further details, please contact the Department of Justice,” the spokesperson added. The Department of State referred CNN to the Department of Justice, which declined to comment. The number of foreigners in detention increased sharply following the capture of ISIS' last area of territorial control in Baghouz, Syria in late March. US officials told CNN in April that they were investigating reports that some of those detainees were US citizens.”

NPR: Brother Of Suicide Bomber In Manchester Concert Attack Faces Murder Charges

“The brother of the suicide bomber who killed nearly two dozen people after an Ariana Grande concert in 2017 appeared in a London court on Thursday to face charges that he helped carry out the attack in Manchester, England. Hashem Abedi, who was extradited from Libya this week, said through his lawyer that he was not involved in the attack. The 22-year-old wore glasses and a gray shirt and spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and British nationality, according to media reports. Abedi's older brother, Salman Abedi, detonated the device that wreaked havoc in Manchester on May 22, 2017. The bomb detonated between a train station and the concert venue as fans — including thousands of children and young people — were leaving the arena. Salman Abedi died in the blast. During Thursday's hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court, the names of all 22 people killed in the bombing were read aloud. Hashem Abedi has been charged with murdering those 22 people, as well as attempted murder and conspiracy to cause an explosion. Prosecutors say he played a key role in the attack: buying chemicals for the bomb, making detonator tubes and helping purchase a car to hold the materials, according to the BBC.”

The Washington Post: Explosion Outside Kabul University Kills 6, Wounds 27

“A powerful bomb exploded outside the gates of Kabul University in the Afghan capital on Friday, killing at least six people and wounding 27, according to police and health officials. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest to target Kabul. Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group often stage large-scale bombings in the city, targeting Afghan forces, government officials and minority Shiites. The early morning blast also set two vehicles ablaze although it wasn’t clear if the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber or a remotely detonated bomb, said Kabul police spokesman Ferdous Faramarz. The casualty tolls were released by the Health Ministry spokesman, Dr. Wahidullah Mayar, who tweeted that “6 people have been martyred & 27 more wounded, as a result of today’s explosion in Kabul. All the wounded patients were evacuated to our hospitals and have been receiving the required treatment.” The university compound houses several hostels where many students stay over the summer, attending classes and conducting research. The university is co-educational. Though Friday is the start of the weekend in Afghanistan, Massoud, an economics professor at the university who like many Afghans uses only one name, said that several lawyers were taking their exams to become judges when the explosion occurred.”

The New York Post: Trio Sentenced To Death For Beheading Backpackers In ISIS-Inspired Slayings

“Three jihadists were sentenced to death in Morocco for butchering two female Scandinavian backpackers in an ISIS-inspired execution. Ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud, Younes Ouaziyad and Rachid Afatti were convicted of terror charges Thursday in the trial over the grisly slaughterings back in December. Maren Ueland, 28, and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, were fatally wounded Dec. 17 in a tent on a Christmas camping trip near Mount Toubkal, one of Morocco’s highest peaks. Prosecutors allege that Ejjoud, 25, and Ouaziyad, 27, beheaded the hikers while Afatti, 33, recorded the slayings on his phone. All three men pledged allegiance to ISIS in a video before the murders. The trio was sentenced along with 20 other accomplices who received jail terms ranging from five to 30 years. Khalid El Fataoui, the lawyer for Vesterager’s family, said he was “100 percent satisfied” with the verdicts. The death sentences will be the first in Morocco since 1993 when the country introduced a moratorium on capital punishment, the BBC reported.”

NBC News: Right-Wing Extremism Is A Growing Worry In Germany After Series Of Attacks

“Andreas Hollstein says he receives at least two death threats a month by mail or by phone. Though they are scary, they don’t compare to the night 18 months ago when a man approached the major of Altena, in the west of Germany, at a kebab shop. The man asked if he was the mayor and said, “You let me die of thirst and let 200 refugees into Altena,” Hollstein recalled at the time. Then the man plunged a knife into Hollstein's neck. Hollstein, who ended up with a 6-inch gash, had became nationally known during the refugee crisis for welcoming migrants to his city. Authorities believed there was a political motive behind the attack and arrested a suspect. Since then, Hollstein has been outspoken about the need to tackle right-wing extremism in Germany. Yet last month another politician who spoke out in defense of migrants, Walter Lübcke, was fatally shot in the head on the terrace of his home. A man with far-right views was arrested and confessed, though he later recanted. Lübcke's death reignited a debate about whether Germany, long praised for confronting the ghosts of its extremist past, is in fact doing enough to combat far-right groups in the 21st century.”

United States

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Navy Flotilla Encounters Iran In Strait Of Hormuz

“Immediately after entering the Strait of Hormuz at 7 a.m. local time on Thursday, a group of six U.S. Navy ships had a series of tense encounters with the Iranian military, culminating in the downing of an Iranian drone. The incident came after the group of six ships led by this sea-to-land assault vessel headed into waters where the U.S. and the U.K. have blamed Iran for attacking or harassing commercial vessels. Iran downed an American spy drone over the Persian Gulf last month and, on Thursday, seized a foreign vessel it accused of smuggling. An unarmed Iranian navy Bell 212 helicopter flew alongside the Boxer, yards away from the deck, before it was chased away by a U.S. helicopter. The commander of the Boxer, Capt. Ronald Dowdell, called the engagement “surreal.” The convoy swept past the speed boats without incident but was followed by the larger Iranian military vessel, which came as close as 500 yards to the Boxer—the distance the U.S. navy allows before verbally communicating to a ship not to come any closer.”

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Military Returns To Saudi Arabia In Response To Iran

“The Pentagon is sending hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia as part of a buildup to counter potential threats from Iran and its allies, U.S. officials said, marking a U.S. return to the kingdom after its 2003 withdrawal. U.S. forces will again be stationed at the Prince Sultan Air Base, which had been closed to the American military since the fall of Baghdad following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, officials and experts said. The move comes amid a standoff between the Trump administration and Congress over arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries, and U.S. support for the Saudi-led war effort in Yemen, and represents a new demonstration of Washington’s strategic interest in Riyadh. The military already has begun to deploy more than 500 U.S. service members to Prince Sultan Air Base, about 150 kilometers southwest of Riyadh, officials said. Saudi officials didn’t respond to requests for comment. Officials from U.S. Central Command, which overseas the Middle East, declined to comment. The deployment comes after Iran said it had seized a tanker in the region and the U.S. on Thursday said it downed a drone that came too close to an American warship.”

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Says U.S. Ship Downed Iranian Drone In Strait Of Hormuz

“President Trump said the U.S. Navy downed an Iranian drone that was flying too close to a U.S. warship in the Strait of Hormuz, hours after Iranian forces said they had seized a foreign tanker, the latest in a series of incidents that have ratcheted up tensions in a vital oil shipping route. Mr. Trump said the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, took defensive action against the drone, which he said was “threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew” in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow channel leading into the Persian Gulf through which a third of the world’s seaborne oil is transported. The drone was “immediately destroyed,” Mr. Trump said. The president called the approach by the drone the latest “of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters.” Defense officials wouldn’t say how the drone was downed, but one official said it was an electronic measure. The U.S. Marine Corps within the last year has begun to deploy a system that can detect drones and jam the signal that connects them to their remotely located pilots, forcing them to crash.”

The Jerusalem Post: U.S. Places Sanctions On Int'l Network Involved In Iran Nuclear Program

“The United States imposed sanctions on Thursday on five people and an international network of companies the U.S. Treasury said are involved in the procurement of materials for Iran's nuclear program. They are the first punitive steps by Washington since Tehran announced earlier this month it would increase its levels of enriched uranium that can be used for bomb fuel. Tehran announced on July 1 that it had amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, marking its first major step beyond the terms of the pact since the United States withdrew more than a year ago. “Treasury is taking action to shut down an Iranian nuclear procurement network that leverages Chinese- and Belgium-based front companies to acquire critical nuclear materials and benefit the regime's malign ambitions," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "Iran cannot claim benign intent on the world stage while it purchases and stockpiled products for centrifuges," he added.”

CBS Pittsburgh: Suspect In Pittsburgh Church Bomb Plot Indicted On Terrorism Charges

“The man suspected of plotting a bomb attack on a Pittsburgh church has been indicted on federal terrorism charges. Mustafa Alowemer, 21, is accused of planning to bomb the Legacy International Worship Center on the North Side. U.S. Attorney Scott Brady says a federal grand jury has now returned a three-count indictment against Alowemer. The indictment charges him with one count of attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIS, and two counts of distributing information relating to an explosive, destructive device or weapon of mass destruction. Alowemer is currently being held in federal custody. He is a refugee from Syria and was living in the city’s Northview Heights section until his arrest. He had recently graduated from Brashear High School. At a hearing last month at Pittsburgh’s federal courthouse, Alowemer was held for trial. U.S. Attorney Soo Song told the judge that Alowemer slowly fine-tuned his plan of attack. She said he wrote his intentions online, and then handwrote those plans, including a 10-point guide where he placed X’s and checkmarks as he worked through the list.”

The Hill: Treasury Department Bureaucrats Risk Jumpstarting Islamic State Resurgence

“It has now been 21 months since Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. Special Forces and U.S. air support, moved into Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State. Earlier this month, I spoke at a Rojava Centre for Strategic Studies conference in Amudeh, Syria, exploring the Islamic State’s enablers, after which I had the opportunity to visit Raqqa as the local administration’s guest. To enter Raqqa is to be overwhelmed by destruction. Thousands of former residents remain in tents at a camp alongside the road outside Ayn Issa. Most would like to return to their homes just 45 minutes’ drive away, but Raqqa remains largely destroyed. Driving into town requires passing the shells of apartment buildings stretching miles. Local authorities have given a face lift to Naim Square, where the Islamic State executed prisoners and mounted their heads, and rebranded it Freedom Square. The buildings facing the square, however, remain bombed out. There are signs of life in the center of town: wedding dresses, children’s toys, and sweets sold in shops surrounded by rubble. Children played soccer in a stadium once used as the Islamic State’s chief prison. Graffiti on the stadium wall cursed the Islamic State and expressed love for Taylor Swift.”

The National: Is The US Facing A Growing Terror Threat – From Canada?

“While much has been made of the apparent security threat emanating from beyond America’s southern border by the White House and elsewhere, recent events show that it may actually be Canada that presents a greater terror concern to US soil. During the first six months of 2018, six foreign individuals listed on the Terrorist Screening Database were stopped while attempting to enter the country from Mexico, according to US government officials. At the Canadian border? Forty-one people. And while more than 16,000 patrol agents are deployed at the Mexican border, with thousands more on the way, just 2,097 monitor the Canadian frontier, which spans 8,900 kilometres – more than the distance from London to Sri Lanka. In January, news website Politico reported that as many as 200 US border patrol positions on the Canadian border went unfilled. Since 2015, four residents of Canada have been charged with carrying out or conspiring in terror-related attacks on US soil. In 2015, a Tunisian citizen living in Montreal and a Palestinian from Toronto were sentenced to life in prison for plotting to derail a passenger train travelling between Ontario and New York.”

Syria

The Jerusalem Post: Moscow Sends Troops To Front Lines In Syria- Report

“Russia has reportedly dispatched special forces to the front line of an ongoing Syrian regime offensive in the northwestern province of Idlib, the last major bastion controlled by rebels, mainly from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaida-linked group. In response, the Russian Defense Ministry on Thursday released a statement categorically denying the claim. If true, however, it would mark the first time that Moscow has deployed ground troops to partake in the three-month-long assault, which has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of people and displaced an estimated 300,000, thereby raising fears of another humanitarian crisis. The offensive has also angered Turkey, which maintains a strong military presence on the Syrian side of a shared border through its National Liberation Front proxy. Turkey occupies numerous strongholds in northern Syria, where it sent its troops as a bulwark against Syrian-Kurds combatting President Bashar al-Assad’s loyalists. Ankara sees those fighters as allies of the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, which has been waging an insurgency within Turkey in an effort to secure autonomy.”

The Jerusalem Post: Jihadists Rape, Stone Christian Woman To Death In Syria

“Islamic terrorists from the Jihadist organization Jabhat al-Nusra stoned to death an Armenian Christian woman living in the Syrian province of Idlib. Christian and human rights groups reported over the last week that the 60-year-old Suzan Der Kirkour was found dead outside of her village, al-Yaqoubiyeh. According to the website of International Christian Concern (ICC), “An autopsy revealed that Suzan was tortured and repeatedly raped over an estimated period of nine hours. She was then stoned to death.” The French Christian humanitarian organization SOS Chrétien’s d’Orient, wrote that “cruel was her ordeal. The reality is just as much… (a) virgin at sixty, she died under the repeated assaults of the jihadists of al-Nusra.” “The autopsy reveals that Suzan had been subjected to repeated rape since the afternoon of Monday (the 8th) until early Tuesday morning, only hours before her discovery. As a martyr, she is joined in heaven by thousands of Christian brothers, who died in the arena of barbarism,” SOS Chrétien’s d’Orient added.”

Iran

CNBC: The F-35 Has Already Freaked Out Iran And Changed Everything In The Middle East

“No conversation about the world’s massive political and economic changes since 2015 is complete without mentioning the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, developed by Lockheed Martin. That became even clearer this week thanks to a somewhat cheeky statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in response to Iran’s provocative moves in the Persian Gulf and other threats from Tehran. Standing in front of an F-35 jet parked at an Israeli Air Force base, Netanyahu barely held back a smile as he said that Israel can reach Iran, but Iran cannot reach Israel. He didn’t add the words “undetected by radar,” but it was surely implied. To understand why that soundbite with the visual backdrop was more than just bluster, you have trace the F-35′s incredible history in the Middle East over the past four years.”

The New York Times: Gibraltar Extends Detention Of Iranian Tanker To August 15

“Gibraltar's supreme court has granted a 30-day extension to allow authorities there to continue to detain the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 until Aug. 15. The vessel was seized earlier this month by British Royal Marines off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory on suspicion of violating sanctions against Syria. "At a private meeting of the Supreme Court on an application by the Attorney General, the Court has extended the period of detention of the vessel, Grace 1, for a further 30 days and has set a new hearing for 15 August 2019," the Gibraltar government said on Friday. The issue has stoked tension in the Gulf and Britain last week said it had fended off Iranian ships that tried to block a British tanker in the region. However, both sides have said they do not want the situation to escalate. British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said Britain would facilitate the release of the Grace 1 if Iran gave guarantees that the tanker would not go to Syria, once the issue had followed due process in Gibraltar's courts.”

Iraq

Xinhua: 8 IS Militants Killed, 4 Wounded In Anti-IS Attacks In Iraq

“A total of eight Islamic State (IS) militants were killed on Thursday in an airstrike by the U.S.-led international coalition aircraft in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh and an ambush by security forces in the eastern Diyala province. In the northern Nineveh province, the U.S.-led coalition aircraft acted on intelligence reports from Nineveh's Operations Command and carried out an airstrike on an IS hideout in al-Baaj area near the border with Syria, a statement by the media office of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) said. The airstrike resulted in the killing of six IS militants and the destruction of the hideout, the statement said. Separately in Diyala, a joint force from the Iraqi army and paramilitary Hashd Shaabi members killed two IS militants and wounded four others in an ambush between at a rural area near the city of Jalawla, 135 km northeast of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, the JOC said in a separate statement. Despite repeated military operations in Diyala, some IS militants are still hiding in some rugged areas near the border with Iran, and in the sprawling areas extending from the western part of the province to the Himreen mountain range in the northern part of the province.”

Turkey

Al Jazeera: Turkey Bombs Kurdish Region In Iraq After Diplomat Killed

“Turkey on Thursday launched an air attack on the Kurdish region in northern Iraq in response to the killing of a Turkish diplomat in the region, the country's defence minister said. The Turkish vice consul to Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region was shot dead on Wednesday in the local capital Erbil. Police sources said two other people were also killed. There was no claim of responsibility for the shooting, but many Iraqi experts have pointed to the probability that the Turkish separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Ankara considers a “terrorist” group, was behind the attack. “Following the evil attack in Erbil, we have launched the most comprehensive air operation on Qandil and dealt a heavy blow to the (PKK) terror organisation,” Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement. Targets such as “armaments positions, lodgings, shelters and caves belonging to terrorists” were destroyed. “Our fight against terror will continue with increasing determination until the last terrorist is neutralised and the blood of our martyrs will be avenged,” he added. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which now leads the regional government, enjoys good political and trade relations with Turkey.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: Taliban To Talk To Swedish NGO After Afghan Clinic Closures

“The Taliban said they would hold talks Thursday with representatives of a Swedish non-profit group after threats by the insurgents forced the organization to close 42 clinics it runs in eastern Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Taliban fighters in southern Kandahar province attacked police headquarters, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens more, officials said. The closures of the facilities run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan in Taliban-controlled areas of Maidan Wardak province are expected to affect almost 6,000 people. The clinics in government controlled parts of the province remain open. The closures came after Afghan forces last week raided a clinic run by the NGO, in pursuit of the Taliban. Two staffers died in the raid. On Wednesday, Sonny Mansson, the group’s director, told The Associated Press that the Taliban threatened the NGO’s staff by saying that if they do not close the facilities, “it would have consequences for themselves and their families.” The talks are meant “to resolve the situation” in Maidan Wardak province, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, though he offered no details on where and how the meeting would take place.”

Reuters: 12 Killed, Scores Wounded In Afghanistan Taliban Car Bombing

“Twelve people were killed and more than 80 wounded when Taliban fighters detonated two car bombs at a gate outside police headquarters in the Afghan city of Kandahar on Thursday, police and medical officials and the Taliban said. After the blasts, militant gunman opened fire from nearby positions and members of the security forces were battling them, said Tadeen Khan, the southern city’s chief of police. The attackers targeted the police force’s counter-narcotics wing, Khan said. Eyewitnesses said that following the first explosion, three back-to-back explosions were heard and the gunfight was still going on. Police cordoned off the area as passers-by fled. Those killed were both policemen and civilians, said Bahir Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, giving the death toll. A doctor on duty in Kandahar provincial hospital said 83 wounded people had been taken to the hospital, most of them civilians. The Taliban said in a statement their fighters had detonated car bombs and clashes were continuing as some fighters had entered the police offices. Kandahar was the former seat of the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until they were ousted by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001.”

Voice Of America: Taliban Raid Afghan Provincial Police Headquarters

“Taliban insurgents assaulted a provincial police headquarters Thursday in southern Afghanistan, killing at least 12 people and wounding more than 60 others. Officials said multiple heavily armed men wearing suicide vests stormed the well-guarded building in the center of Kandahar about 5 p.m. local time. The attack began with a suicide bomber detonating an explosives-packed vehicle at the main entrance to police headquarters. A large number of civilians were said to be among the casualties because the security installation is near residential areas. The siege was ongoing six hours later, according to residents and insurgent officials. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the violence, saying they had killed and injured dozens of security forces, though insurgent claims are often inflated. “Kandahar police headquarters initially came under a tactical bomb blast that enabled several martyrdom-seeking mujahedeen [holy warriors], equipped with heavy and light weapons, to enter the compound and launched [the] operation inside the [police] headquarters,” the group asserted in a statement. This was the second deadly Taliban assault on government forces in as many days.”

Gulf Times: 14 Taliban Militants Killed In Security Operations In Afghanistan

“Fourteen Taliban militants were killed in separate security operations by Afghan and coalition forces in Ghazni and central Logar provinces in central and eastern Afghanistan. The 203rd Thunder Corps in a statement said the Afghan artillery units conducted strikes against Taliban positions in Nogha area of Ghazni city. The statement further added that the artillery strikes killed four Taliban militants and wounded three others. Furthermore, the Afghan Air Force conducted airstrikes in Rawza area of Ghazni city killing four Taliban militants, Afghan (Khaama Press) Agency reported. The 203rd Thunder Corps also added that the Afghan forces killed three Taliban militants and wounded two others in Khwaja Omari district of Ghazni. Meanwhile, the US forces conducted airstrike in Azra district of Logar which killed three Taliban militants.”

Pakistan

Council On Foreign Relations: Pakistan, Terrorism, And Meeting Trump

“Yesterday news broke that Pakistani police had arrested Hafiz Saeed, founder of the UN- and U.S.-designated terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The United States government holds this terrorist group responsible for the November 2008 Mumbai, India terrorist attacks. Saeed himself has been under UN and U.S. individual terrorism designations for years. Arrest of a notorious designated terrorist sounds, on the face of it, like a good step for troubled, terrorism-addled Pakistan. The problem is that the whole world has seen this before, because Saeed has been on the catch-and-release carousel for years now. It’s hard to see this latest arrest as anything other than a tactical move, given Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Washington, DC next week. The publicly available information about Saeed and his organization, the long-banned LeT, is now voluminous. ProPublica’s Sebastian Rotella authored an extensive series about the Mumbai attacks, in which the LeT’s role features prominently. U.S. citizen David Headley pleaded guilty in 2010 for his role aiding the Mumbai attacks, and the transcripts of his trial and legal proceedings implicate the LeT. Based on an Indian government request, Interpol sent out a red notice for Saeed all the way back in 2009.”

Middle East

The Daily Beast: As Iran-U.S. Tensions Rise, Hezbollah Readies For War With Israel

“The tranquil winding roads of Lebanon’s mountainous interior are far from the tense waters of the Persian Gulf where President Donald Trump says America came within 10 minutes of war with Iran a few weeks ago. And where, he said on Thursday, the U.S. shot down an Iranian drone. But if fighting ever does begin, these hills and valleys near the border with Israel will quickly be on the front lines. And according to Hezbollah commanders, that moment could be coming soon. When Trump talked of war, he meant a shooting war in the conventional sense. But for Iran and its allies, it’s Trump’s economic war with its suffocating sanctions that is bringing the region to the brink of armed conflict. The targets of Trump’s weaponized dollar increasingly see resorting to military engagements as the only response left. Here in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s commanders are close allies and clients of Iran—and they are targeted by U.S. sanctions as well. They warn that if the pressure continues these rugged hills where the Party of God fought bloody guerrilla campaigns to end 15 years of Israeli occupation in 2000 and repel an Israeli invasion in 2006 could erupt once again.”

Egypt

Al Jazeera: Two Killed In Suicide Bombing In Egypt's North Sinai

“A suicide bomber killed two people in Egypt's restive North Sinai region on Thursday, a day after four headless bodies were found there. The victims of the bombing were a civilian and a member of the security forces, security and medical sources said. The bomber was shot before he reached a military checkpoint, his intended target, but his explosive belt detonated and killed the soldier and civilian, an Egyptian military spokesman said in a statement. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq website, saying five members of the security forces were killed or wounded. Multiple armed groups, some linked to ISIL, are active in the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt's army launched a major operation there in February last year. Thursday's bombing took place at a car park in the town of Sheikh Zuweid, near the border with the Gaza Strip. Separately, two security sources said four headless bodies were found in an empty street in the North Sinai town of Bir al-Abd on Wednesday. Their families reported that the four men, aged 23 to 51, had been kidnapped. Fighters stopped several cars before taking five people away and forcing them to lie down on the ground, a security source and three residents said.”

Nigeria

Al Jazeera: Six Nigerian Soldiers Killed In Borno State Ambush

“Six soldiers have been killed in an ambush by rebel fighters in northeast Nigeria's Borno state, two military sources told the AFP news agency on Thursday. Heavily armed fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group opened fire on a patrol vehicle on Wednesday near Jakana, 30km from the state capital Maiduguri, killing all the soldiers on board. “We lost all six soldiers in the ambush, including a colonel,” said the first of two military sources, who both spoke on condition of anonymity. The soldiers were on their way to Maiduguri from Damaturu, the capital of neighbouring Yobe state, when the rebels attacked them around 16:20 GMT, said the source. “The gun truck the soldiers were driving in was destroyed,” the second source said. Following the ambush, the fighters attacked a military base just outside Jakana in seven trucks fitted with machine guns, engaging troops in an hour-long battle, the sources said. The attack was repelled by soldiers at the base, with ISWAP fighters abandoning weapons and one vehicle as they fled. The attacks came hours after a military chief in the northeast warned “terrorists” in the region to disarm or be destroyed. Major-General Abdulmalik Bulama Biu told reporters in Maiduguri that rebel fighters should lay down their arms “or prepare for a fierce encounter with me.”

Sahara Reporters: Army Commander, 20 Soldiers Killed By Boko Haram In Yobe

“An army commander and at least 20 soldiers have been killed in an ambush by Boko Haram insurgents in Yobe State, TheCable reports. The troops were ambushed on their way from Borogozo in Yobe where the headquarters of the army’s 29 task force brigade to Benisheikh in Yobe, where they have a forward operating base (FOB). A military source in sector 2 headquarters of operation Lafiya Dole told TheCable that the incident happened around 6pm on Wednesday. “They were on their way to Benisheikh when they ran into the enemy. The commander of that brigade, a colonel, and about 20 soldiers were killed,” he said. Reinforcement was reportedly sent to the town and it was confirmed that the brigade commander had been killed. Among the bodies reportedly identified was that of a captain and four soldiers. Their bodies have since been moved to the 7 division hospital in Maiduguri, Borno state capital. Sources said one of the soldiers who escaped the ambush has returned to the base in Benisheikh. In June, at least 28 soldiers were reportedly killed while the insurgents ransacked a military base in Gajiram, Nganzai local government area of Borno. Musa Sagir, army spokesman, had not responded to a text message sent by TheCable as of the time this report was filed.”

Africa

Morocco World News: Moroccan Al Qaeda Leader Added To US Global Terrorist List

“Ali Maychou holds a leadership role with Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), a West-African militant jihadist group designated by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) in September 2018. JNIM was formed by a merger of three existing terrorist organizations in 2017. At the time of its creation, the group pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, the Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden. According to a press release by the US Department of State, Maychou has held a leadership role with JNIM since its inception. He claimed responsibility for an attack on a military camp that housed Malian Armed Forces in Gao, Mali, and has had a role in operational activities of JNIM. On July 16, the US Department of State listed Maychou as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. The department also designated Malien Bah Ag Moussa for his involvement with JNIM. The designation imposes sanctions on “foreign persons determined to have committed, or pose a serious risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.”

The New York Times: 3 Sentenced To Death For Killing Scandinavian Hikers In Morocco

“Three men accused of the murder of two Scandinavian hikers in the Atlas Mountains last year have been sentenced to death, an antiterrorism court in Morocco decided on Thursday. Maren Ueland, 28, of Norway and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, of Denmark, were discovered dead at their campsite in a remote part of the Atlas Mountains in December 2018 with wounds to their necks. The incident was labeled by Moroccan authorities as a terror attack after some of the men involved pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The men were tried under an antiterrorism law and were the main defendants in a case that put two dozen suspects on trial over the women’s deaths last year. Following a seven-month trial, Abdessamad Al Joud, Younes Ouziad and Rachid Afati were sentenced to death, while a fourth man, Abderahman Khayali, was handed a life sentence, according to Moroccan state television.”

United Kingdom

The Conversation: How Far-Right Groups Use Britain’s Extremism Definition To Argue They Aren’t Extremist

“The government’s definition of extremism is so unfit for purpose that far-right groups with clearly dangerous ideology are using it to “prove” that they are not extremist. I’ve written about this in a new study published by the Commission for Countering Extremism as part of a wider set of research aimed at improving understanding about far-right extremism in Britain. The government defines extremism as the: Vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs … calls for the death of members of our armed forces (are also) extremist. My own research on the definition looks at how it was used by groups such as National Action, which gained notoriety in December 2016 when it became the first far-right group in the UK to be proscribed, or banned under terrorism legislation. This made it a criminal offence to be a member of the group, organise meetings and wear clothing or symbols linked to it. National Action was a youth-focused group that adhered to an extremely traditional interpretation of National Socialism. Routinely glorifying Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, the group spoke about the need to undertake a “white jihad” as a means of establishing a “white homeland” in the UK."

Germany

The National: German Police Raid Apartments At Centre Of Suspected ISIS Plot

“In a series of dawn raids on Thursday, German police searched apartments linked to a ring of suspected extremists inspired by ISIS, detaining six people. The German newspaper Bild reported the raids on the addresses in Dueren and Cologne, western Germany. It said knives and baseball bats, 20 mobile phones, a number of external hard drives and three laptops were seized. Police in Cologne said they launched the raids against the alleged terrorists because of suspicions they were planning an attack and in hope of gaining concrete evidence of a plot. Cologne police chief Uwe Jacob said he was “confident that we will soon be able to substantiate our threat assessment”. The security forces took action when the principal suspect, a German-Lebanese Muslim convert known as Wael C, 30, who had made a number of attempts to join ISIS, moved into the Dueren apartment with another extremist, according to the Associated Press. This second man, identified as Timo R, was also known to have sworn allegiance to ISIS. Wael C, originally from Berlin, worked as a temporary imam at the now-banned Fussilet 33 Mosque Association. The organisation, a known focal point for extremists, was closed by Germany’s interior ministry over its links to ISIS.”

Europe

The Washington Post: Swedes Can’t Give Residence Permit To Terror Attack Victim

“Sweden’s justice minister says a Ukrainian woman who lost her leg in the deadly Stockholm terror attack cannot be granted a permanent residence permit out of compassion. Morgan Johansson said Thursday such a permit can’t be given to Iryna Zamanova because “clemency only applies to criminal cases, not residence permits.” Zamanova, a tourist, got a temporary permit after the April 7, 2017, attack to give evidence in the trial of Rakhmat Akilov, who drove a stolen truck into a crowd in Stockholm. Akilov was given a life sentence in June 2018. She then applied for a permanent permit, which was turned down by authorities who said she can’t provide for herself in Sweden and medical care is available in Ukraine. Zamanova then sought the government’s clemency."

Foreign Policy: Is Italy Immune From Terrorism?

“Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini recently delivered a stark warning: Such was the scale of migration into Italy, he argued, that “Islamic terrorist infiltration is no longer a risk—it has become a certainty.” Although the vast majority of asylum-seekers in Italy are not security threats, the case of Alagie Touray, a Gambian asylum-seeker arrested in southern Italy in April 2018 on suspicions that he was planning an attack, helped lay the groundwork for Salvini’s case. It also made it easier to justify Italy’s decision to prevent ships containing migrants from docking at Italian ports. What has gone unsaid, however, is that Italy seems to have largely dodged the carnage Islamist terrorists have afflicted on some of its neighbors. Certainly, Italians have previously suffered at the hands of terrorists. Italy had a very active jihadi scenecentered on Milan in the 1990s, leading the U.S. Treasury Department to describe a mosque there as “the main al Qaeda station house in Europe.” In November 2003, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s group carried out a truck bombing on an Italian military police headquarters in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Nineteen Italians were killed. And Islamists have threatened to strike the Vatican.”

The National: Irish Prime Minister Wants ISIS Member And Child To Return Home

“Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar wants to bring home a former Irish army soldier turned ISIS member and her two-year-old child who is stuck in a Syrian displacement camp. But Mr Varadkar warned that returning 37-year-old Lisa Smith was fraught with complications and said he would not risk the safety of Irish officials. Ms Smith on Thursday told a reporter she thought it was possible she would not be allowed to return to Ireland because of her military background. Thousands of foreign ISIS members remain stranded in overcrowded, dingy camps after the capture of the terror group’s territory in Syria and Iraq. Repatriating citizens from the region is fraught with risk and many western governments are refusing to do so amid security risks. “I want her child to be able to come home. I would never separate a mother and child, so yes, I want her to come home,” Mr Varadkar told RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster. “We do have to bear in mind that where she is now is a war zone, it is a conflict zone. We don’t want to put any of our personnel, whether military or diplomatic, at risk,” he said. Ms Smith has insisted in interviews she has never taken part in violence and rejected claims she had helped train young girls to be fighters. But Mr Varadkar said she would likely face a police investigation if she did return.”

Latin America

Reuters: Argentina Brands Hezbollah Terrorist Organization, Freezes Assets

“Argentinian authorities designated Hezbollah, which it blames for two attacks on its soil, a terrorist organization on Thursday and ordered the freezing of the Lebanese Islamist group’s assets in the country. The announcement coincided with a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as Argentina marks the 25th anniversary of the deadly bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in which 85 people died. Argentina blames Iran and Hezbollah for the attack. Both deny any responsibility. Argentina also blames Hezbollah for an attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 that killed 29 people. The Argentine government’s Financial Information Unit, ordered the freezing of assets of members of Hezbollah and the organization a day after the country created a new list for people and entities linked to terrorism. The designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group was the first by any Latin American country. “At present, Hezbollah continues to represent a current threat to security and the integrity of the economic and financial order of the Argentine Republic,” the unit said in a statement. There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah on the move.”
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O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

"IN GOD WE TRUST"
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