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Old 05-24-2019, 07:14 AM
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Arrow Eye on Extremism - May 24, 2019

Eye on Extremism
May 24, 2019
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May 24, 2019

NOTE: Eye on Extremism will not publish on Monday, May 27 in observance of Memorial Day.

CNN: US Military Targets ISIS-Somalia In Fifth Airstrike Since April

“The US targeted ISIS fighters in Somalia for the fifth time since mid-April, killing two terrorists in an airstrike Wednesday, US Africa Command said in a statement. “Our efforts to locate and eradicate ISIS leaders who control a range of activities -- from operations to financing and communications -- is hitting at the heart of the organization and disrupting their ability to continue their terrorist activities,” Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the director of intelligence of US Africa Command, said in a statement Thursday. The recent series of strikes against ISIS-Somalia have taken place in the Golis Mountains, located in the northern part of the country. US Africa Command said in April that a strike in the same area killed the organization's second in command. There have been 37 US airstrikes in Somalia so far this year, mostly targeting the al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab, compared to 47 strikes in all of 2018. The US estimates that ISIS-Somalia commands about 150 fighters, making it one of the smaller affiliates of the terror group. The Pentagon has about 500 to 600 personnel in Somalia, where they primarily advise local troops battling al-Shabaab.”

NBC News: U.S. Calls For Ceasefire As Heavy Fighting Hits Northwest Syria

“The United States on Wednesday called for a new ceasefire in Syria as rival forces clashed in the country's northwest, where the government is waging an offensive on the last big stretch of rebel-held territory. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched his assault late last month, saying rebels had breached an existing ceasefire, triggering a civilian exodus by bombarding Idlib and adjacent areas. The latest clashes mark the biggest escalation since last summer between Assad and his rebel enemies in Idlib province and a belt of territory around it. Washington late on Tuesday said it had seen signs that Assad may be using chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack, in the latest offensive and warned that it would respond "quickly and appropriately" if this were proven. Assad has denied such allegations throughout the war.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iran’s Allies Target Its Rivals, Risking Conflict

“As the Trump administration pressures Iran to cut support for what the U.S. sees as its armed proxies in the Middle East, some of those same militias are lashing out at Tehran’s adversaries, risking an escalation the Islamic Republic says it doesn’t want. From the Persian Gulf to Baghdad’s Green Zone and Saudi oil facilities, Iran’s rivals have been targeted in attacks in the past two weeks. The strikes have caused limited damage and no casualties. Iran has denied involvement in all of them. The attacks show how groups allied with Iran can heighten a conflict by provoking its rivals. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Iraqi officials in Baghdad this month that the U.S. would strike inside Iran to retaliate for any attack on its installations or personnel in Iraq, according to people briefed on official discussions. Baghdad relayed the message to pro-Iran militias in Iraq, these people said.”

CNN: FBI Has Seen Significant Rise In White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism In Recent Months

“The FBI has seen a significant rise in the number of white supremacist domestic terrorism cases in recent months, a senior FBI counterterrorism official said Thursday. The official said the FBI has been grappling with the rise of domestic threats while international terror threats have remained constant with the fall of the ISIS caliphate in Syria. The domestic terror cases generally include suspects involved in violence related to anti-government views, racial or religious bias, environmental extremism and abortion-related views. The FBI wouldn't provide specific numbers to quantify the increase of in the number of white supremacist domestic terrorism cases. Unlike international terrorism investigations, domestic terrorism cases pose thornier issues for the FBI because of First Amendment protections. The US doesn't have a domestic terrorism law and no government agency designates domestic groups as being terrorist organizations. That means many cases the FBI calls domestic terror-related end up with a variety of charges for violations of laws related to guns or even other state charges. In 2017, there were about 150 arrests on charges the FBI classifies as domestic terror, and about 120 in 2018. The official said the FBI is on course to match or exceed those numbers this fiscal year.”

The Washington Post: A Stunning Case Of European Hypocrisy

“For sheer hypocrisy, it’s hard to match the European nations that are refusing responsibility for dozens of their nationals who became jihadist “foreign fighters” over the past five years and are now warehoused in makeshift prisons in northeastern Syria. U.S. officials say about 2,000 foreign fighters from more than 50 countries are among the roughly 10,000 captured Islamic State fighters held in several dozen ramshackle prisons in Syria. The detention facilities are run by the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, the Kurdish militia that partnered with a U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State. The other 8,000 captives are either Syrian or Iraqi fighters. The Pentagon and State Department have implored European nations to repatriate their nationals for trial and imprisonment, or at least pay the SDF to hold them temporarily. But so far, most European nations have refused. The SDF warns that it can’t imprison them indefinitely and doesn’t have laws that would allow formal prosecution in the Kurdish-controlled zone.”

BBC: Is Facebook Undermining Democracy In Africa?

“Facebook is under fire in Africa for undermining democracy, with critics saying the social media giant has allowed its platform to be weaponised for co-ordinated misinformation campaigns. The role of false news has taken centre stage in every single one of the continent's eight national polls this year - and last week Facebook said an Israel political consultancy was behind much of it. It banned Archimedes Group, which it said was responsible for a network of those masquerading as African nationals, and removed 265 Facebook and Instagram pages and groups involved in "co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour" mainly targeting Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia. Nanjira Sambuli, from the World Wide Web Foundation, says it has taken Facebook too long to pay attention to this problem in developing countries. "Democracies are at risk on this continent, and unfortunately, social media platforms are fast becoming the sites of aggravation," she told the BBC.”

United States

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Plans More Troops For Mideast, Eyes Quick Arms Sales To Allies There

“The Trump administration is planning to send several thousand additional troops to the Middle East and is moving toward a decision to rush billions of dollars in weapons to allies in the region, according to officials and people familiar with the plans. Top Pentagon leaders and White House officials meeting Thursday agreed to initially send up to 3,000 additional troops, with discussions under way for more to support submarines, planes, drones and anti-missile batteries. U.S. military officials overseeing operations in the Middle East had requested up to 13,000 additional troops, officials said. The 2,000 to 3,000 troops officials agreed to send are expected to be the first of what may be a larger deployment, the officials said.”

The Wall Street Journal: When Jihadists Come Back Home

“In 2015, Mohamed Elshinawy, a Maryland resident, considered joining Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria but decided to attack at home instead. Islamic State provided him with several thousand dollars, as well as instructions on how to build a peroxide bomb. But the FBI had been following the money transfer almost from the start, and the feds arrested Mr. Elshinawy before his plot was close to fruition. This made for a counterterrorism success story. But what if Mr. Elshinawy—or some of the hundreds of other Americans who wanted to join Islamic State—had joined with a foreign fighter who had come back from waging jihad in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan? Such returning jihadists, who often carry Western passports, could have offered him the experience to avoid detection, the skills to design a truly lethal attack, and the motivation and morale-boosting to warm up cold feet. Fortunately, Mr. Elshinawy didn’t have such help. Returning foreign fighters are force multipliers, lethal themselves but also capable of making would-be local killers far deadlier. Unless the U.S. maintains constant pressure, the returning jihadists could become the next chapter in the fight against global terrorism. The sheer number of returning jihadists threatens to start a new drumbeat of terrorism.”

NPR: FBI Stays On Watch As Terrorists Finish Prison Terms And Broader Threat Evolves

“The release of convicted terrorists after they complete prison sentences is “absolutely a concern,” a senior FBI counterterrorism official said — but he sought to assure the public that investigators work to assess those risks months before someone walks out of the gates. The remarks followed hours after the “American Taliban,” John Walker Lindh, exited a prison in Indiana after serving 17 years behind bars for providing support to the Taliban. Relatives of Johnny “Mike” Spann, a CIA operative who died in Afghanistan after questioning Lindh — and even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — have raised questions about whether Lindh has forsaken his ties to violent extremists. Nearly 18 years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a wave of defendants convicted of supporting terrorist groups or committing acts of violence is starting to leave prisons and jails. Lindh is perhaps the most high-profile example. At a briefing for reporters at FBI headquarters in Washington, the counterterrorism official — who asked not to be identified discussing the prospect of future threats — said special agents near the sites of prisons designated for terrorists in Colorado and Indiana have several options to follow up if needed.”

Syria

Fox News: Syrian Doctor Describes Latest Alleged Chemical Attack As US Mulls Response

“Just after 9 a.m Sunday, witnesses on the ground in the remote Syrian countryside near the border of Idlib province claimed they saw more than 40 rockets slash through the sky, along with three different-looking shells that landed in a thud of yellowish smoke. These were described as large cylinders that did not explode, yet produced a strong chemical smell. “On May 19, we received information about an attack using toxic gases in a fight between the Syrian military and ‘revolutionary’ military. I was informed to be ready. Four people came with red eyes, struggling to breathe, headaches,” Idlib-based Dr. Ahmad, who claims to have treated the wounded, told Fox News by phone Thursday. “We took off their clothes, put them in water, and gave them oxygen. They smelled of chlorine.” Doctors who supervised the treatment process recorded that the patients endured an array of other symptoms from severe coughing and watery eyes to wheezing and vomiting. The four alleged victims are said to be males under the age of 30. They were kept under observation most of the day, Dr. Ahmad claimed, and were discharged later that evening in a “generally good condition” around 9 hours after they were admitted.”

NPR: Misery Grows At Syrian Camp Holding ISIS Family Members

“In northeast Syria, an overcrowded detention camp is home to more than 73,000 people who lived in the former ISIS caliphate. Almost three-quarters of the al-Hol camp residents are children — born to Syrian, Iraqi and other foreign parents who flocked to the ISIS caliphate over the five years it ruled territory here. In recent visits to the camp, NPR was told of babies dying from malnutrition and disease, and found women collapsed by the side of the road. A woman moaning in pain sits on the pavement, too weak to pull herself up to a metal bench after undergoing kidney surgery at a hospital outside the camp earlier that day. There's no transportation to take her to her tent. Nearby, an Iraqi mother holds a baby with a skull fracture from a fall. “I wanted a scan to make sure she is all right, but they won't send me for one,” she says. Along a road in the camp, a woman dressed in an enveloping black niqab has collapsed. A group of women flags down a passing van, then gathers around and lifts her into the back seat. By mid-April, 200 children had either died on their way to the camp from the last ISIS stronghold of Baghouz, or shortly after arriving. Many died of malnutrition or hypothermia, and with shortages of medical facilities and infant formula for mothers who can't nurse, children's health in the camp remains precarious.”

The Washington Examiner: In Syria, US Fights ISIS, Tangles With Turkey, And Laments ‘What Victory Looks Like’

“As the United States considers sending up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East to counter Iran, the war in Syria grinds on, with reports of Bashar Assad's hapless army again resorting to chemical weapons to target civilians while thousands of ISIS fighters move back and forth across the border with Iraq with impunity. That’s the assessment of James Jeffrey, the Trump administration's point man on Syria, who testified yesterday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the eight-year-long war is “basically frozen,” with various efforts at securing a ceasefire all faltering. “We'll probably, if experience is any guide, see several other pathetic, sorry, and much-broken ceasefires that will eventually slow down the conflict. That, for us, is what victory looks like in this awful war,” Jeffrey said in a sobering appraisal. The destruction of the ISIS caliphate, while laudable, has not put an end to the terrorist group, which remains “quite active”in the Syrian territory beyond the reach of the U.S.-led coalition. “We're watching that very closely. We have a very active program of going after them wherever they are,” said Jeffrey.”

Iran

Asharq Al-Awsat: French Report: US Sanctions Choke Off Iran’s Aid To Hezbollah

“A French newspaper has found that crippling US sanctions on Iran have choked off Tehran’s financial support to Hezbollah, one of the country’s most important proxies in the Middle East. Le Figaro’s report entitled, “Hezbollah put on diet due to the fall of Iranian aid”, emphasized that Iran has cut its transfers to the Lebanese group by half, reducing the salaries of party members. The report quoted a Hezbollah media worker as saying that the salaries were cut by two thirds, and that the party had to reduce compensation to the families of “martyrs.” According to the report, wages paid to Hezbollah fighters returning from Syria (formerly ranging between $600 and $1,200) have fallen by 50 percent, while salaries of soldiers fully dedicated to the fighting will be also reduced. A well-informed diplomatic source quoted by Le Figaro said that Hezbollah, “which has long benefited from its relations with Iran, has been subjected to austerity measures and no longer enjoys any benefits.” “Six months ago, cash transfers from Tehran to Beirut airport through Iranian airlines were estimated at $70-80 million per month, according to US and French figures; but these payments have now dropped by around 50 percent,” according to the French source.”

Fox News: Iran Building New Crossing On Syria Border That Would Let It Smuggle Weapons, Oil, Experts Say

“New satellite images indicate Iran is building a border crossing at the Syrian-Iraqi border, which would open up a coveted land route from Iran to Lebanon, according to Western intelligence sources. The images, obtained exclusively by Fox News and captured earlier this week, show a new construction in the Albukamal Al-Qaim crossing. The area is under the control of Pro-Iranian Shiite militias. Last summer, Iran increased its presence in the area. According to analysts for ISI, which captures satellite data, the existing border crossing is still closed and destroyed, and the Iranians have put a lot of effort and resources into building the new one. Photos obtained by Fox News showed an Iraqi army base near the deserted post.”

The Washington Examiner: Iran Top Military Chief Issues Threat: ‘Our Hands Are On The Trigger’

“Iran’s highest-ranking military official offered a stark warning after reports emerged that the U.S. is considering deploying 10,000 troops to the Middle East. “The enemies should know that the Iranian military will not waste even a single moment monitoring the enemies' schemes and adventurism,” said Chief of Staff to the Iranian Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri in a statement Thursday, according to Iran’s state-run news service. “Our hands are on the trigger and we are firmly prepared to annihilate any aggressor and greedy eyes against the Islamic Iran,” he said. The U.S. is considering sending an additional 10,000 troops to the region, according to Wednesday reports, as tensions between the two countries continue to rise.”

Associated Press: Iran’s Foreign Minister In Pakistan Amid Tensions With US

“Iran’s foreign minister was in Pakistan on Friday, a critically timed visit amid a simmering crisis between Tehran and Washington and ahead of next week’s emergency Arab League meeting called by Saudi Arabia over regional tensions. The purpose of the visit by Mohammad Javad Zarif, who held talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and also Prime Minister Imran Khan, was not made public. But there has been speculation that Iran is looking to Islamabad and its close relationship with Riyadh to help de-escalate the situation. Ahead of Zarif’s arrival, Pakistan’s foreign ministry called on “all sides to show restraint, as any miscalculated move, can transmute into a large-scale conflict.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: French Report: US Sanctions Choke Off Iran’s Aid To Hezbollah

“A French newspaper has found that crippling US sanctions on Iran have choked off Tehran’s financial support to Hezbollah, one of the country’s most important proxies in the Middle East. Le Figaro’s report entitled, “Hezbollah put on diet due to the fall of Iranian aid”, emphasized that Iran has cut its transfers to the Lebanese group by half, reducing the salaries of party members. The report quoted a Hezbollah media worker as saying that the salaries were cut by two thirds, and that the party had to reduce compensation to the families of “martyrs.” According to the report, wages paid to Hezbollah fighters returning from Syria (formerly ranging between $600 and $1,200) have fallen by 50 percent, while salaries of soldiers fully dedicated to the fighting will be also reduced.”

Iraq

Kurdistan 24: 150 Kurdish ISIS Militants Who Surrendered To Kurdistan Region Authorities Are In Prison: Official

“At least 150 Kurds who joined the so-called Islamic State are detained in prisons in the autonomous Kurdish region, a representative of the Kurdistan Region’s ministry of religious affairs said on Thursday. According to Mariwan Naqshbandi, a representative of the Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, nearly 500 Kurdish individuals from the Kurdistan Region joined the Islamic State. When the terror group emerged in mid-2014, many across the world and the Middle East, including Kurdish citizens, joined the group. As the self-proclaimed caliphate crumbled, several of these Kurdish fighters were killed, with a majority of the remaining ones turning themselves over to Kurdish authorities over the past few years. “After two years, the recruitment of Kurds slowly faded away as data shows that 350 of them were killed,” Naqshbandi noted. “As for the rest of the 150 Kurdish radicals that were not killed, they have surrendered to the Kurdistan Region’s security authorities, and are dealt with according to the law.” When the Islamic State suffered a military defeat in Baghouz and the rest of Syria, no Kurds were found among the nearly 900 fighters who were arrested and sent back to Iraq. Of the 500 Kurdish insurgents, only 20 remain missing, Naqshbandi said.”

Turkey

The Wall Street Journal: Turkish Military, Defying U.S., Trains To Use Russian Missile Defense

“Turkey’s armed forces have begun training to use a Russian missile-defense system that it purchased despite U.S. warnings, deepening a rift between the two NATO allies. Turkey is scheduled to receive the Russian-made S-400 system in July and its military is training to operate it, a senior Turkish government official said in Washington on Wednesday. U.S. officials have said the S-400 system is incompatible with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s air defenses and urged Turkey, a NATO member, to cancel its order. Turkish leaders said the purchase has already been made, but left open the possibility of buying additional systems from the U.S. or elsewhere. Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said this month that he had asked defense contractors involved in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to prepare plans to relocate production work from Turkey. The Pentagon said in April that it was suspending delivery to Turkey of equipment for its F-35s, which are made by Lockheed Martin Corp. , because of its purchase of the S-400 system.”

Afghanistan

Xinhua: Over 20 Militants Killed In Afghan Military Operations Within 24 Hours

“Afghan forces' crackdowns against the armed opposition groups have killed at least 21 anti-government militants including five fighters of the Islamic State (IS) over the past 24 hours in the militancy-battered Afghanistan, officials said Thursday. In the latest operations, government forces, pounded the hideouts of the IS group in Nurgal district of eastern Kunar province on Thursday killing five armed insurgents, said an army statement. The statement said security forces would continue to chase insurgents in the country. Government forces also targeted a hideout of the Taliban outfit in Charbolak district of northern Balkh province late Wednesday night killing two militants including Taliban group commander Qari Hamidullah on the spot and wounding three others, army spokesman in the northern region Mohammad Hanif Rezai said. The government forces operations from the ground and air have killed 14 Taliban fighters in northern Takhar, eastern Wardak and Paktia provinces over the past 24 hours, officials said. Meanwhile, Zabihullah Majahid, who claims to speak for the Taliban outfit, in contact with media has disputed the claim and in counter-claim insisted that the armed group's fighters had inflicted huge casualties on government forces over the period.”

Pakistan

Reuters: Indian Forces Kill Leader Of Al Qaeda Affiliate In Kashmir: Police

“Indian forces have killed the leader of an al Qaeda affiliated militant group in Kashmir, police said on Friday, triggering protests in parts of the disputed region. Zakir Rashid Bhat, 25, was trapped by security forces in a three-storey house in southern Kashmir late on Thursday, said a senior police officer, adding that the house was set ablaze during the operation. “As we were clearing debris from the house, he tried to get up. Our troops fired at him and he was killed,” said the officer, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to media. For decades, separatists have fought an armed conflict against Indian rule in Kashmir, with the majority of them wanting independence for the Himalayan region, or to join New Delhi’s arch rival Pakistan. India has stepped up an offensive against militants in the Muslim-majority region since a suicide attack in February killed 40 Indian troopers in Kashmir and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Pakistan denies giving material support to militants in Kashmir but says it provides moral and diplomatic backing for the self-determination of Kashmiri people. Protests by supporters of Bhat broke out in parts of Kashmir on Thursday and there were reports of demonstrations early on Friday, the police officer said.”

India

Reuters: Terror-Accused Hindu Hardliner From Modi's Party Wins Seat In India Election

“A Hindu ascetic accused of plotting a bomb attack on Muslims in India defeated an opposition strongman by a big margin on Thursday as her ruling Hindu nationalist party won a massive victory in the country’s general election. Pragya Thakur, contesting from the central city of Bhopal for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is the first person accused of terrorism to be fielded by a major political group in India. Latest Election Commission data showed she had received 69 percent more votes than her opponent, Digvijaya Singh, a two-term chief minister of Madhya Pradesh state and a senior member of the main opposition Congress party. Final results are likely to come later in the day, but two TV stations said she had won, spooking many Muslims. “This will be a victory of religion,” Thakur, clad in her usual saffron, told reporters. The 49-year-old - described as a pious nationalist, fiery orator and champion of women’s rights by her family members - stoked a controversy this month by calling the killer of India’s independence hero, Mohandas Gandhi, a patriot. Modi said he would never be able to forgive her for the remark.”

Yemen

Asharq Al-Awsat: Houthis Lead Coercive Recruitment Campaign Against African Refugees

“Grappling with grave losses that struck its fighter ranks recently, Houthi militias revamped their foreign recruitment program, employing coercion as a tactic to get African mercenaries and youth to fight on their side. Houthis, in the last two weeks, have been running an extensive recruitment campaign, local sources in Sanaa, a stronghold for the group, told Asharq Al-Awsat, saying African youth were forcibly drafted into training camps after militia commanders failed to gain the support of nearby tribes. Sources unveiled that Houthis have been saturating their ranks with hired African mercenaries, fighting for a paid rate ranging from $80 to $100. Houthi supervisors specialized in recruitment operations and who are popular among African refugees, according to same sources, have been assigned with militarizing refugees and the sorting and categorizing of new recruits according to previous combat experiences.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Saudi Arabia Urges Int’l Community To Take Firm Stand Against Houthis

“Saudi Arabia has called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities by taking a firm stand against the Iran-backed terrorist Houthi militias after targeting vital populated areas in the Kingdom with ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. Such attacks are a flagrant violation of international and humanitarian law and relevant Security Council resolutions, said Acting Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Dr. Khaled Manzlawiy. Making the Kingdom's speech at a Security Council session on "Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict", Manzlawiy said Riyadh is constantly urging the international community to adopt a unified and comprehensive approach to protect and distance civilians from armed conflicts.”

Nigeria

Xinhua: Nigeria Nabs Boko Haram Logistics Supplier

“Nigeria on Thursday confirmed the arrest of a 24-year-old man who specialized in giving logistics support to the Boko Haram terror group in the country's northeast region. The suspect, named Aliyu Muhammed, was nabbed on April 25, following intelligence report gathered by the security agency, according to Ibrahim Abdullahi, head of the Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in the northern state of Borno. Muhammed was on his way to supply some materials to Boko Haram when he was nabbed by security agents. Abdullahi told Xinhua that the suspect and his accomplices played different roles in perpetrating various attacks on public buildings, religious centers, and market places in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, and its environ. Muhammed, who claimed to be an autorickshaw driver in the Maiduguri metropolis, said he was recruited by Boko Haram six months ago. On April 7, almost three weeks before his arrest, five people were confirmed killed and 45 others were wounded following a twin suicide attack on Muna community, on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram where the suspect operated. Nigeria's northeast region has been a stronghold of the extremist group Boko Haram.”

Somalia

Stars And Stripes: Strike Kills Two Militants As US-Backed Forces Push Into ISIS Territory In Somalia

“The U.S. military said it killed two Islamic State fighters Wednesday in Somalia, where there has been an uptick in airstrikes against the militant group in the past month. In recent years, nearly all of U.S. Africa Command airstrikes in Somalia have been directed against al-Shabab, a homegrown terrorist group linked to al-Qaida that has waged a decadelong battle against country’s weak central government. But ISIS-Somalia, which has been a small but persistent presence over the past three years, is becoming a more frequent target. AFRICOM has launched five airstrikes in the past month against the group, which some analysts estimate has a force strength of about 200. AFRICOM is targeting ISIS elements in Somalia “to limit and disrupt freedom of movement in the area and to eliminate leaders of the organization,” the command said. “Our efforts to locate and eradicate ISIS leaders who control a range of activities — from operations to financing and communications — is hitting at the heart of the organization and disrupting their ability to continue their terrorist activities,” said Rear Adm. Heidi K. Berg, AFRICOM’s director of intelligence, in a statement Thursday. The most recent airstrike occurred in Somalia’s Golis mountains, AFRICOM said.”

Africa

Reuters: Rwanda Rebel Spokesman Pleads Guilty To Terrorism Offences

“Rebel official Callixte Nsabimana pleaded guilty in a Rwandan court on Thursday to charges of terrorism, murder and hostage-taking in part of a violent campaign to oust long-ruling President Paul Kagame. Nsabimana, known by his alias Sankara, is spokesman for the Forces for National Liberation (FLN), which has carried out a number deadly attacks in Rwanda in recent years, including attacks on villages and buses. FLN is the military arm of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) political party which opposes Kagame. A total of 16 charges were read out by the prosecution. They included formation of an irregular armed group, committing terrorist acts and spreading false information. ”I plead guilty of all charges and ask forgiveness from people who were affected by the attacks and also from the president of Rwanda,” Nsabimana said in the courtroom in the capital Kigali. Last December the FLN claimed responsibility for an attack on passenger buses in the Nyungwe Forest National Park, close to the border with Burundi. Two people were killed and eight wounded. In March, it claimed to control large parts of the forest.”

North Korea

Associated Press: NKorea Says Talks Won’t Resume Unless US Changes Position

“North Korea said Friday that nuclear negotiations with the United States will never resume unless the Trump administration moves away from what Pyongyang described as unilateral demands for disarmament. The statement by an unnamed North Korean foreign ministry spokesman published in state media was the country’s latest expression of displeasure over the stalled negotiations as it continues to press Washington to soften its stance on enforcing sanctions against the North’s crippled economy. It came as President Donald Trump prepares to travel to Japan this weekend for a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in which the North Korean nuclear issue will likely be high on the agenda. In the statement carried by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, the North Korean spokesman accused the U.S. of deliberately causing February’s collapse of talks between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with unilateral and impossible demands.”

United Kingdom

The Guardian: ISIS Suspect Told Parents He Wanted To Behead Schoolfriend, Court Hears

“The parents of a Muslim convert suspected of joining Islamic State sent or attempted to send him money despite him telling them he wanted to behead a former schoolfriend who had joined the army, a jury has heard. John Letts and Sally Lane challenged their son Jack Letts after he responded to a Facebook post by Linus Doubtfire in 2015, the Old Bailey heard. Doubtfire had posted a picture of a group of soldiers upon his completion of a commando artillery course, to which Jack had responded: “I would love to perform a martyrdom operation in this scene.” The jury heard that when the parents questioned him after his post, Jack said: “I admit it was wrong if I seemed like I was joking. I genuinely believe attacking the British army is a very praiseworthy action … I would happily kill each and every one of Linus Unit personally.” The court was told that Jack continued: “This message is for you, Mum and Tyler [his younger brother], I honestly want to cut Linus [sic] head off. I hope he finds himself lost in Baji or Fallujah one day and sees me whilst I’m armed and I’ll put six bullets in his head.” His mother responded by asking for proof it was him writing the messages about beheading, the jury heard.”

France

The New York Post: Yazidi Women Who Were Victims Of ISIS Get New Life In France

“France is taking in a new group of Yazidis including women victimized by the Islamic State group and their children. The families, a total of 130, were arriving Wednesday night in Toulouse, from Irbil, Iraq for resettlement around France. A group of 16 Yazidi women and their children arrived in December, helped by the International Organization for Migration. During a rampage through Iraq’s Sinjar region in 2014, the Islamic State group captured thousands of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority and forced them into sexual slavery, while massacring men. Many remain missing to this day. Last month, the spiritual council for Iraq’s Yazidi community said it won’t embrace the children of women and girls raped by Islamic State group men, days after saying it would accept “all survivors.”

Europe

The Washington Post: Netherlands Wants Tribunal To Try Some Islamic State Members

“The Netherlands called Thursday for the establishment of a tribunal to prosecute members of the Islamic State extremist group responsible for “mass atrocity crimes.” Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok made the proposal at a U.N. Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in conflict, saying there must be accountability and an end to impunity for violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws. He said Islamic State fighters responsible for mass atrocities should be prosecuted, preferably in the region, and if feasible by “an ad hoc or hybrid international criminal tribunal.” “I am fully aware of the complex obstacles on our road towards this goal,” Blok said. “But we have to keep in mind: Justice is a prerequisite of lasting peace and security.” He said the Netherlands will organize a ministerial meeting on the prosecution of fighters from IS, which is also known as ISIL, on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the General Assembly in September. “I invite Security Council members and others to join us on this road towards justice,” Blok said. The Islamic State group’s self-declared “caliphate” that once spanned a third of both Iraq and Syria has been defeated on the battleground but its fighters are now staging insurgent attacks.”

Southeast Asia

The Straits Times: Arrested Malaysian Militants Tested Bombs In Kedah

“The authorities are continuing the search for the stash of two militant expert bomb makers arrested in Kedah recently, who had managed to conduct tests on their home-made explosives. Intelligence sources told The Star that Malaysians Muhammad Syazani Mahzan and Muhamad Nuurul Amin Azizan managed to produce the explosives, believed to be Triacetone triperoxide (TATP), and even tested this near their homes in Kuala Muda, a town located in the northern Malaysian state. “Authorities have strong indications that the duo have managed to test their weapons. It is fortunate that the militants were caught before they could use the explosives on their targets,” a source said. The authorities also believe that the two suspects had hidden various materials and chemicals to make bombs, including TATP. Produced by mixing acetone and hydrogen peroxide, TATP is a high-impact explosive that can be easily manufactured with readily accessible reagents and is extremely difficult to detect. “It can destroy and kill anything or anyone within a 25m to 50m radius,” a source said. ”TATP is usually fitted into a pipe bomb, which can be detonated remotely via a safety fuse. It is commonly used by terrorists in Thailand and Indonesia.”

Technology

CNBC: Facebook Reportedly Considered Backing Out Of Political Ad Sales, But Zuckerberg Vetoed It

“Top Facebook officials considered putting an end to political advertising on the platform once they learned Russian actors used the site to try to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. CEO Mark Zuckerberg ultimately chose to keep running political ads, a former employee told the Journal. Facebook is now making changes to how it approaches political ad sales as it prepares for the 2020 presidential race. The company has stopped paying commission for political ad sales, Facebook’s global elections public policy director Katie Harbath told the Journal, reducing pressure on sales staff to push for more spending in that area. While Facebook staffers may help campaigns register to buy ads or assist in a customer service capacity, the ad-buying process is now largely self-serve, the Journal reported. A Facebook spokesperson pointed to Harbath’s comments to the Journal.”
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