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Old 11-19-2019, 07:28 AM
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Arrow Eye on Extremism - November 19, 2019

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

As of November 19, 2019:

The Wall Street Journal: Taliban Release Two Western Hostages In Exchange For Militants

“Two Western hostages, one American and one Australian, were freed by the Taliban on Tuesday after more than three years in captivity, Afghan officials and a person briefed by officials of the militant group said, in a prisoner exchange that could spur the resumption of negotiations to end the 18-year Afghan war. In return for the release of the American, Kevin King, and the Australian, Timothy Weeks, the Afghan government released three high-profile Taliban members who belong to its most feared faction, the Haqqani network. They include Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of the Taliban’s deputy leader and top military commander. The Taliban turned over Mr. King and Mr. Weeks in the southern Afghan province of Zabul, in the district of Naw Bahar, which is controlled by the insurgents, said the person, who is in regular communication with Taliban officials and whose information has proved reliable in the past. They were expected to be moved for medical treatment to a U.S. military hospital in Germany, where Mr. King’s family has traveled to meet him, the person added. Both men have been said to be in deteriorating health, particularly Mr. King. The Taliban said more than two years ago that Mr. King was suffering from “dangerous” heart and kidney problems. In a video, Mr. Weeks begged President Trump to save him: “If we stay here for much longer, we will be killed. I don’t want to die here.”

The New York Times: US Blacklists Companies, People For Supporting ISIS

“The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on four companies and two people operating in Syria, Turkey and Europe for providing financial and logistical support to ISIS. The targets were blacklisted under an executive order that imposes sanctions on terrorists and those who have provided assistance or support for terrorists, the US Treasury Department said, according to Reuters. Turkey-based Sahloul Money Exchange Company, Al-Sultan Money Transfer Company and ACL Ithalat Ihracat were targeted for providing financial and logistical support to ISIS, as were Turkish nationals Ismail Bayaltun and his brother Ahmet Bayaltun. The Afghanistan-based Nejaat Social Welfare Organization and two of its senior officials, Sayed Habib Ahmad Khan and Rohullah Wakil, was also targeted for supporting activities of the ISIS branch in Afghanistan. In a statement, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin characterized the move as a follow-up pressure tactic on the extremist group after a US special forces operation killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “Following the highly successful operation against al-Baghdadi, the Trump administration is resolved to completely destroy ISIS’s remaining network of terror cells,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, using an acronym for the group.”

The Washington Post: These Iraqi Militias Are Attacking Protesters And Getting Away With It. Here’s Why.

“Armed forces allied with the Iraqi government have used alarming levels of violence to suppress the country’s mass popular protests now entering their second month. The often-lethal tactics include firing military-grade tear gas directly at protesters’ heads and deploying snipers who shoot to kill, leading to a death toll exceeding 300. The Iraqi government has avoided identifying the groups that thus far have been operating under impunity. Clear evidence, however, has emerged of abuses and crimes conducted by anti-riot police, regular military units and militias, and parastatal groups that have direct but flexible connections to the state. Some of these militias make up part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and are allied with Iran. They are often mischaracterized as non-state actors, simple proxies of Iran or extensions of the Iraqi government. None of these descriptions is wholly true and results in a limited analytical understanding of such groups and their sources of strength. As an alternative, our recent research develops the emerging concept of hybrid actors, which draw power from states and help shape state agendas, while at the same time pursue autonomous agendas. They are hybrid because they run counter to the Western policymaker’s binary of state vs. non-state actors.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Threatens Action Against Protesters

“Iran’s top paramilitary force threatened to crack down on Iranians protesting a rise in fuel prices, as Tehran struggles to counter U.S. sanctions that are crippling the country’s economy and posing a risk to the government. As demonstrations persisted on Monday, the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it would “confront the continuation of any insecurity and actions disturbing the people’s peace and calm in a revolutionary and decisive way.” The unrest shows the widespread anger among Iranians whose savings have evaporated as unemployment soars and the currency collapses, posing a political risk for President Hassan Rouhani ahead of February parliamentary elections. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who oversees the Guard Corps, said on Sunday that the legislative, administrative and judiciary branches of government made the decision, which he supported. The statement showed how the crisis has forced the regime to put on a unified front.”

The New York Times: Mali Army Says 24 Soldiers, 17 Militants Killed In Attack On Northern Patrol

“Twenty-four Malian soldiers were killed and 29 wounded in an attack on an army patrol in northern Mali on Monday in which 17 militants were also killed, a spokesman for the army said. The West African country is still reeling from an attack on an army post that killed 54 in early November - one of the deadliest strikes against its military in recent memory, which underscored the increasing reach and sophistication of armed jihadist groups active in the wider region. The Malian patrol attacked on Monday was in Tabankort, Gao region, while on a joint operation with Niger against militants operating near the border. “During this attack, Malian forces suffered 24 deaths, 29 wounded as well as equipment damage. On the enemy's side, 17 were killed and a certain number captured,” army spokesman Diarran Kone said. The authorities have not named the assailants or identified which group they belonged to. From strongholds in Mali, groups with al Qaeda and Islamic State links have been able to fan out across the Sahel, destabilizing parts of Niger and Burkina Faso. Violence has surged this autumn with heavy military and civilian losses in Mali and Burkina Faso.”

The Roanoke Times: Roanoke Man Accused Of Posting 'How-To' Video On Explosives To Fuel Terrorism

“A man living in Roanoke since the spring has been arrested and accused of posting an online video tutorial on how to make explosives, reportedly in support of the Islamic State group. Romeo Xavier Langhorne, 30, was taken into custody Friday and is being held at the Western Virginia Regional Jail. In a 51-page criminal complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Florida, an agent with the Northeast Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force accused Langhorne of “attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.” The complaint calls Langhorne “an ISIS supporter” who “has created and disseminated a video on how to make triacetone triperoxide, a deadly explosive.”Much of the criminal complaint is dedicated to communications, reportedly between Langhorne and someone working undercover for the FBI, who had been exchanging texts since February. The affidavit says the person working undercover created the video, “based on the ideas provided by Langhorne,” on how to manufacture explosives from components found in common household items. The complaint says Langhorne posted the video on Nov. 11 on the website BitChute, but the investigative team included in the video a formula “that would be likely to appear to Langhorne to be the formula for TATP but, in fact, would produce an inert product.”

United States

Reuters: U.S. To No Longer Waive Sanctions On Iranian Nuclear Site

“The United States said on Monday it will no longer waive sanctions related to Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant after Tehran resumed uranium enrichment at the underground site. “The right amount of uranium enrichment for the world’s largest state sponsor of terror is zero ... There is no legitimate reason for Iran to resume enrichment at this previously clandestine site,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters. The U.N. atomic watchdog and Iran itself said this month Tehran is again enriching uranium at the sensitive site, which Iran hid from U.N. non-proliferation inspectors until its exposure in 2009. While European countries have tried to salvage the 2015 nuclear nonproliferation agreement, Iran has increasingly distanced itself from the accord since the United States withdrew last year. The pact requires Iran to restrain its enrichment program in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions, and it called for Fordow to be converted into a nuclear, physics and technology center. Despite its withdrawal, the Trump administration has granted sanctions waivers that allowed foreign firms to do work in Iran that advanced non-proliferation. Those included Russia’s Rosatom at Fordow. Pompeo said the waivers will end on Dec. 15. The State Department had said last month that it renewed waivers for 90 days."

The Hill: Pompeo: US Ending Sanctions Waiver For Site Where Iran Resumed Uranium Enrichment

“The United States is ending a sanctions waiver for civil-nuclear work at a site where Iran recently announced it was enriching uranium, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday. “The United States will terminate the sanctions waiver related to the nuclear facility at Fordow effective Dec. 15, 2019,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “The right amount of uranium enrichment for the world’s largest state sponsor of terror is zero. Iran originally constructed Fordow as a fortified underground bunker to conduct secret uranium enrichment work, and there is no legitimate reason for Iran to resume enrichment at this previously clandestine site.” “Iran should reverse its activity there immediately,” he added. Pompeo’s announcement comes after Iran announced, and the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed, that it had resumed uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow site in its latest breach of the 2015 nuclear deal. The deal between Iran and other world powers allowed Fordow, a long-secret facility, to maintain centrifuges for research purposes, but banned enrichment activities there.”

The New York Times: Man Charged With Making Explosives Tutorial For Terrorists

“Authorities say a man who moved from Florida to Virginia earlier this year was trying to support the Islamic State terrorist group by posting a video online for making explosives. The Florida Times-Union reports that a federal judge in Jacksonville unsealed a criminal complaint and arrest warrant Friday after 30-year-old Romeo Xavier Langhorne was arrested in Virginia. He’s charged with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and faces up to 20 years in prison. The FBI says Langhorne began making the video in February, when he lived in St. Augustine. Investigators say he moved to Virginia in April and posted the tutorial video last Monday. Statements and images on Langhorne’s Facebook page first came to the attention of law enforcement in 2014. Court records didn’t list an attorney for Langhorne.”

The Washington Post: ISIS Killed Our Daughter. They Cannot Have The Last Word On U.S. Hostages.

“Nearly five years ago, the Islamic State tweeted that our daughter, Kayla Mueller, was dead. In the preceding two years, while the world had watched with shock and outrage at the Islamic State’s increasingly brutal and public actions, our family was being silently taunted by the era’s most notorious terrorist group. Kayla was a 24-year-old humanitarian aid worker in Aleppo, Syria, when she was kidnapped by the Islamic State in August 2013. During her captivity, Islamic State members wrote to us with impossible demands for Kayla’s release, eventually threatening her with violence and death. All the while, our family put its trust in the U.S. government to bring her home. Then, in February 2015, the Islamic State sent us photos of Kayla’s lifeless body, saying she had been killed in an airstrike by the U.S.-led military coalition. Islamic State members apparently assumed this information would prompt us to give up on Kayla. They could not have been more wrong. We didn’t want to allow the terrorist organization that brutalized our daughter to have the last word on Kayla’s life. We had many unanswered questions about what exactly happened to her, how and why she was killed, by whom, and where they may have buried her.”

Bloomberg: We Shouldn’t Strip U.S. Terrorists Of Citizenship

“U.S.-born Hoda Muthana should be in an American prison for joining Islamic State, the caliphate that terrorized, murdered and raped innocent civilians. Instead, she and her 2-year-old son are stuck in a refugee camp in Syria — because the U.S. government, relying on a technicality, has stripped her of her passport and told her that she and her son are not citizens. A federal judge has just held that government had the authority to do so. It’s hard to feel sympathy for Muthana. But the judge’s decisions, and the government’s before that, set a terrible precedent for others whom the government might try to strip of their citizenship in the future. A person who reasonably believes she was born a citizen, and has been issued a passport on that understanding by the government, should be treated as a citizen unless she has lied to get that passport in the first place. The backstory to the Muthana case starts with the fact that various European governments have been dealing with people who joined Islamic State by actively stripping them of their citizenship to stop them from coming home. Ordinarily, the U.S. government can’t do that. U.S. law doesn’t have provisions for taking away citizenship once it is conferred, except if it was obtained by fraud.”

The Defense Post: US Citizen ISIS Member Wants To Know Why He Can’t Go Home

“Lirim Sulejmani limped over a green steel threshold, his gnarled toes bare on the filthy concrete. An orange jumpsuit, inside-out, was draped over his emaciated shoulders. When the Kosovo-native was 23, he found refuge in the United States after fleeing a genocidal regime. Sixteen years later, he decided to join one. Sulejmani is one of hundreds of American citizens believed to have joined Islamic State in Iraq and Syria since 2014. But as the Trump administration transfers dozens of high-priority ISIS suspects from makeshift prisons across northeast Syria as U.S. troops levels draw down, he is beginning to fear he may have been left behind. Forced to fight Turkey’s invasion on their own after U.S. troops withdrew to the eastern oilfields, the Syrian Democratic Forces says it is scarcely able to supply and guard the jails. And the Syrian government, notorious for swift and blind executions of Islamists, has already sent troops into the northeast to fill the gap of withdrawing American forces. Now, though he insists he committed no crime, Sulejmani is beginning to fear for his future. Like most of the 5,000 suspected ISIS fighters crammed into the prison near Hasakah, he surrendered to the SDF during ISIS’s final stand at Baghuz, in eastern Syria near the Iraq border, in early 2019.”

Syria

The Jerusalem Post: Two Years Of Attacks From Syria, Increasing Escalation Show Iran's Entrenchment

“The rockets fired from Syria just before five in the morning come after almost two years of escalation on the Syrian front. This includes actual and attempted drone and rocket attacks. They began in the context of deepening Iranian entrenchment in Syria and have continued as the Syrian regime re-conquered southern Syria from the Syrian rebels in 2018 and as tensions between Israel and Iran have grown. They represent Iran's attempt to create a corridor of power across Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and to threaten Israel from areas near the Golan. Syrian state media said this morning that its air defenses were activated against an attack. Israel’ former chief of staff said in January 2019 that Israel had carried out more than 1,000 attacks on Iranian targets in Syria over the last several years. Syria does not say who fired the rockets at Israel but the IDF says that four rockets were detected.”

Al Monitor: IS Kills Priests In Syria As Turkish-Backed Fighters Express IS Sympathies

“Residents of Qamishli took part Nov. 12 in the funeral procession of the Rev. Hovsep Petoian and his father, the Rev. Hanna Petoian, of the Armenian Catholic Mar Youssef Church in the city of Qamishli near the border with Turkey. The priests were both shot dead Nov. 11 by the Islamic State (IS) as they headed from Hasakah to Deir ez-Zor to oversee the restoration of a church. The Armenian National Committee of America said it looked to President Donald Trump to publicly press Turkish President Erdogan for an answer regarding the IS murder of two Catholic Armenian priests in a region of Syria that has fallen increasingly under the control of Ankara’s allies. Mary Hagop, a woman in her 70s, fled Tell Abyad to Qamishli with her family last month after the Turkish army and the opposition National Army occupied her city during Operation Spring of Peace carried out by Ankara against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US ally in the war against IS. As she put flowers on the coffins of the priests, she told Al-Monitor that she rented a house in Qamishli after the Ahrar al-Sharqiya jihadi militia, which is fighting as part of the National Army, seized her house, her son's house and their shop.”

Iran

Fox News: Iran Continuing Construction On Army Base Along Iraq-Syria Border, Images Show

“Iran is continuing construction on an army base along the Iraq-Syria border, according to satellite images taken Sunday and obtained by Fox News. The Imam Ali base had been partially destroyed during airstrikes in early September. The new images, examined by analysts at ImageSat International (ISI), showed eight zones of construction or reconstruction. Each zone had hangers big enough to conceal trucks and large quantities of equipment. There also was a checkpoint on both sides of the compound with fortified walls around the complex. The news of reconstruction at this base came as thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets in several cities across the country, protesting the latest spike in fuel prices. Iranian security forces have killed at least 12 people, according to reports.”

The Intercept: A Secret Summit

“THEY WERE HARDLY kindred spirits. In fact, they stood on opposite sides of one of the world’s fiercest geopolitical divides. Yet in a secret effort at detente, two of the most formidable organizations in the Middle East held a previously undisclosed summit at a Turkish hotel to seek common ground at a time of sectarian war. The 2014 summit brought together the foreign military arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, known as the Quds Force, and the Muslim Brotherhood, a sprawling Islamist political movement with significant influence throughout the region. The Quds Force represents the world’s most powerful Shia-dominated nation, while the Muslim Brotherhood is a stateless but influential political and religious force in the Sunni Muslim world. The Trump administration designated the Revolutionary Guards a foreign terrorist organization in April, and the White House has reportedly been lobbying to add the Muslim Brotherhood to the list as well. The disclosure that two such polarizing organizations on either side of the Sunni-Shia divide held a summit is included in a leaked archive of secret Iranian intelligence reports obtained by The Intercept.”

The Washington Post: Iran’s Regime Faces A Backlash At Home And Next Door

“On Monday, Iran remained an offline nation. A startling weekend of protests gripped the country after its theocratic regime issued an edict Friday cutting fuel subsidies and raising the cost of gasoline. The measures incensed many ordinary Iranians, who have for months felt the bite of U.S.-imposed sanctions on the country’s enfeebled economy. The dramatic scenes of unrest prompted Iranian authorities to effectively switch off the Internet. Protests and demonstrations took place in some 100 cities and towns in Iran, an astonishing development that comes on the heels of mass protests elsewhere in the Middle East. At least 100 banks and 57 shops were set on fire, and about 1,000 people were arrested, noted the semiofficial Fars News Agency. Despite the clampdown on social media, videos circulated of protesters chanting angry slogans at the regime, setting fire to tires and abandoning their vehicles on highways to block roads. Clashes with security forces and pro-regime militias led to at least 12 deaths, though local activists indicated that number is probably closer to 40. On state television on Sunday, the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described those who engaged in violent demonstrations as “thugs” backed by Iran’s foreign enemies. On Monday, a statement from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, a dominant paramilitary organization that controls swaths of the state, said that continued disturbances would be met by “decisive” action, a grim warning of a potentially more brutal crackdown to come.”

Iraq

CNN: Counting AK47s And Learning Trigonometry For Snipers. How Children Were Taught Math Under ISIS

“Two floors beneath the headquarters of Iraqi Military Intelligence, at the end of a red-carpeted corridor, two doors swing open to reveal a museum of cold, calculated and deliberate horror. This is no celebration of the darkest chapter in Iraq's recent bloody history -- rather it is a warning of how dangerously efficient were those who dreamed of establishing a “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria. It's a stomach-heaving experience to recall how they wiped the history in a swath of this nation by destroying any trace of non-Islamic culture in the areas they controlled, blowing up ancient buildings and archeological sites dating back millennia. The staggering brutality of ISIS, what the terrorists called the “management of savagery,” was meticulously recorded and posted on the internet to morbidly fascinate the world and ensure absolute obedience in the regions under its control. ISIS's reach was massive -- they covered a territory the size of the United Kingdom with up to 12 million people in it -- but it's the small things in the museum, the Nazi-like obsession with records, files, and documentation, that send the visitor reeling. Primary school books teach arithmetic by counting AK-47s. Trigonometry is explained in the context of a sniper working out the range to his human target.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Russia Repatriates 32 Children Of ISIS Members From Iraq

“Russia said it has repatriated another 32 children of members of the ISIS terror group from Iraq. Russia’s state TV on Tuesday showed footage of the children arriving at Zhukovsky airport outside Moscow. It said the children aged between one and nine will undergo extensive medical check-ups before relatives take them home. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the children had been held in asylum centers in Iraq or in prisons with their mothers. Their arrival represents the fourth group of Russian children to be repatriated from Iraq, the Associated Press reported. The Foreign Ministry said a total of 122 children have been brought home. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that over 4,000 Russian citizens and some 5,000 citizens of other ex-Soviet nations have joined the ISIS in Syria and Iraq.”

Turkey

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Blacklists Four Turkish Companies For Aiding ISIS

“The U.S. on Monday blacklisted four companies based in Turkey that the Treasury Department said were providing financial and logistical support for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The alleged activities of the companies operating in Turkey, including two currency-exchange houses, underscore the concerns among Western intelligence and security experts that Ankara hasn’t done enough to counter Islamic State and other terror organizations operating within its borders. The move follows the death last month of the ideological leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a U.S.-led raid as well as the president’s decision to pull U.S. forces out of northern Syria—a decision critics said risked empowering the internationally designated terror group. The companies sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury include Alsultan Kuyumculuk , which operates as a currency exchange, gold and diamond seller and import-export business, and Acl İthalat İhracat İsmail Bayaltun, a money-transfer company. Neither company could be reached for comment. Although President Trump has fostered an amicable relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, many current and former U.S. national security officials have expressed grave concerns about a slew of Turkish policies they say threaten U.S. security and Western interests.”

Afghanistan

USA Today: Bombs, Missiles Falling At Record Pace In Long-Running Afghanistan War

“As American ground forces in Afghanistan shrink, U.S. and allied warplanes are dropping bombs and firing missiles at insurgent targets at a record pace in the 18-year-long war. The spike in firepower coincides with a Trump administration policy, dating to 2016, that gives military commanders greater authority to attack Taliban and Islamic State militants in Afghanistan. "The logic is that the Taliban may be more likely to agree to a peace deal acceptable to the United States and the Afghan government if the Taliban believe they can’t win the war in Afghanistan," said Seth Jones, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former adviser to the special operations commander in Afghanistan. "Consequently, airstrikes and ground operations are a way to raise the costs for the Taliban of continuing to fight," he said. But negotiations with insurgents have broken off.”

The New York Times: Two Western Hostages Are Freed In Afghanistan In Deal With Taliban

“The Taliban on Tuesday freed two Westerners they had held for more than three years in exchange for the release of three senior insurgent leaders, officials said, in a deal that officials hoped could pave the way for Afghan peace talks with the Taliban. The Westerners were released to American forces by the Taliban, and included an American, Kevin C. King, 63, and an Australian, Timothy J. Weeks, 50, teachers at the American University in Kabul who were abducted in 2016. The key figure being returned to the Taliban is Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of the Taliban’s military operations leader and a leading fund-raiser and propagandist before he was captured in 2014. The exchange was brokered, in part, by the American peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, who had earlier negotiated a tentative agreement with the Taliban that would have included terms of an American troop withdrawal. But those talks were abruptly aborted by President Trump in September. Now, the prisoner exchange could be a step toward restarting talks between the United States and the Taliban, who have said they will stand by the terms negotiated with Mr. Khalilzad. In announcing that he was willing to free the senior Taliban figures, President Ashraf Ghani said last week that the exchange was intended to “facilitate direct peace negotiations” between the Afghan government and the Taliban.”

Al Jazeera: Taliban Commanders 'Land In Qatar' As Part Of Prisoner Swap Move

“Three Taliban commanders have been released by the Afghan government as part of a prisoner swap involving two Western hostages, sources have told Al Jazeera. The sources said on Tuesday that the men, including senior Taliban leader Anas Haqqani, had landed in Qatar, which hosts the group's political office at the request of the United States. In exchange, two university professors identified as US citizen Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks were reportedly released later on Tuesday. The pair have been held by the Taliban for three years. “The two professors are safely freed and are being taken care of now,” an Afghan official told Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity. Representatives of the Afghan government and the US embassy in Kabul were yet to comment on the reported swap. The developments come after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a week ago that Haqqani - whose older brother is the deputy Taliban leader and head of the Haqqani Network - a Taliban affiliate, and the two other commanders would be freed. At the time, Ghani said the decision was made after consultations with the US and was aimed at “facilitating face-to-face negotiations directly with the Taliban”, who have, until now, refused to engage with what they call an illegitimate, US-backed “puppet” government.”

Xinhua: 14 Militants Killed In N. Afghan Airstrike

“Fourteen Taliban militants, including a militants' divisional commander, were killed in an airstrike in Afghanistan's northern Kunduz province, local police said Tuesday. The sortie was launched by Afghan Air Force late on Monday against a hideout belonging to Taliban militants in Qarluq, an area in Archi district of Kunduz, resulting in the death of 14 militants, provincial police said in a statement. Those among the killed militants was Ezatullah, known as Hamza, one of the outfit key local commanders and two of his close subordinates, according to the statement. The slain militants have been involved in a series of anti-government activities leading to the destruction of the district office building, military compound and other public facilities in the turbulent district, the statement added. The Afghan security forces have recently beefed up security operations against the Taliban militants who have been attempting to take territory and consolidate their positions in the countryside ahead of winter. The militant group has not made a comment on the report so far.”

Yemen

The Guardian: Yemen's Houthi Rebels Hijack Towboat With Apparent Saudi Link

“Yemen’s Houthi rebels have hijacked a boat towing a South Korean drilling rig, a Riyadh-led coalition has said, with a global shipping tracker calling it a Saudi-flagged vessel. Sunday’s incident in the Red Sea follows a lull in Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia as one Riyadh official said the kingdom had established an “open channel” with the Iran-backed rebels. “On Sunday, during the sailing of the tugboat Rabigh-3 in the southern Red Sea, it was hijacked and subjected to armed robbery by terrorist elements affiliated to the Houthi militia,” the coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said. “The boat was towing a [marine rig] owned by a South Korean company,” Maliki said in a statement posted on the official Saudi press agency. The statement did not say which country the vessel belonged to or how many crew members were onboard. Maliki did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment. Yemen’s prime minister, Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, tweeted that a “Korean ship and two accompanying boats” had been seized by the rebels, condemning the move as a “dangerous escalation”. According to the tracking website Marine Traffic, Rabigh-3’s home port is in the western Saudi city of Jeddah and it sails under the kingdom’s flag.”

Lebanon

Associated Press: Protesters Force Postponement Of Lebanese Parliament Session

“Thousands of protesters rallying against the Lebanese political elite blocked roads in central Beirut on Tuesday, preventing lawmakers from reaching the parliament and forcing the postponement of a legislative session. The session had been scheduled even though the country is still without a Cabinet following the prime minister’s resignation amid unprecedented demonstrations that have gripped Lebanon since mid-October. The protesters scuffled with riot police as they closed all roads leading to the parliament building in Beirut. When one legislator headed toward the building and could not reach it and turned back, his bodyguards opened fire in the air to clear the way. No one was hurt in the shooting. The protesters are questioning the constitutionality of a parliament session in the absence of a government. An earlier session last Tuesday was postponed amid the protests. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his government on Oct. 29 in response to the protests, which erupted over proposed new taxes but have since snowballed into calls for the government to resign and for the entire political elite that has ruled Lebanon since the end of its 1975-90 civil war to step aside.”

San Francisco Chronicle: Hezbollah Feels Political Heat Of Protest Movement In Lebanon

“Young men chanting “people want to bring down the regime” gathered outside the office of Lebanese legislator Mohammed Raad, the powerful head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc. A man grabbed a metal rod and swung it at the sign bearing Raad’s name, knocking it out of place as others cheered. It was a rare scene in the southern market town of Nabatiyeh, a Hezbollah stronghold. The protests engulfing Lebanon have united many across sectarian lines and shattered taboos, with some taking aim at leaders from their own sects, illustrating a new, unfamiliar challenge posed to the militant group. Iran-backed Hezbollah built a reputation among supporters as a champion of the poor and a defender of Lebanon against Israel’s much more powerful military. It and its Shiite ally, the Amal party, have enjoyed overwhelming backing among the Shiite community since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, making them a political powerhouse that, along with allies, has dominated recent governments.”

Middle East

The Wall Street Journal: In Golan Heights, Israel Intercepts Rockets From Syria

“Israel’s military said four rockets were fired from Syria toward the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights early Tuesday, ratcheting up tensions in Israel’s north just days after a shaky cease-fire ended fighting with Iran-backed militants in Gaza that had raised concerns of a wider conflict in the country’s south. The rockets were intercepted by Israel’s air-defense systems and caused no harm to Israeli communities, Israel’s military said. For more than a year, Israel has conducted an air campaign in Syria that it has recently expanded into Iraq and Lebanon. It is aimed at stopping what Israel says are Iranian efforts to entrench itself militarily and move weapons to allied groups in the region. Israel has alleged Iran maintains military bases in Syria and Israeli officials have recently warned that Tehran is planning to launch attacks against it from Syria. Iran says its military presence in Syria is part of what it describes as an axis of resistance against Israel, and is meant to deter attacks on Iran. It couldn’t be determined if Tuesday’s rocket attack was preplanned or in response to explosions heard—according to Syria’s state-run SANA news agency—near the Damascus airport around the same time. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement Tuesday morning that “fierce explosions” took place in the Damascus region at dawn, after Israeli aircraft fired five rockets at sites located west and southwest of the Syrian capital. The statement said the organization had no reports yet of casualties. Iranian and Hezbollah forces operate in the areas of the strikes, the group said.”

The New York Times: Israel Intercepts Four Rockets Launched From Syria

“Four rockets were launched from Syria toward the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights at dawn on Tuesday, setting off air-raid sirens but causing no harm, according to the Israeli military. The military said that the incoming fire was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system and that it appeared no rockets had fallen on the Israeli-controlled side of the line. It was not immediately clear if the rocket fire from Syria was meant as a surprise attack or came in response to Israeli activity across its northern frontier. Around the same time as the rocket launches, Sana, the official Syrian news agency, reported that explosions were heard in the vicinity of the Damascus airport. An Israeli military spokeswoman had no comment on the report from Syria.”

The National: Qatar's Silence On Iran's Ship Attacks ‘Devastating At All Levels'

“A western intelligence report showing Qatar knew of Iranian plans to attack four ships off the coast of the UAE could have “devastating” legal implications for Doha, an international relations expert said. Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of the London consultancy Cornerstone Global Associates, also told The National the intelligence report, which detailed how Qatar failed to warn its western allies of the May attack, showed Doha was “clearly not a trusted ally” of the West. “The intelligence is very serious and has very serious implications for Qatar,” Mr Nuseibeh said. “It could not have come at a worse time for Qatar, after a serious of allegations of Qatar’s associations with extremists around the world. "If proven, those allegations could have devastating legal implications against Qatar on all political, economic and military levels." The report, Fox News, detailed how the international wing of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force, targeted two Saudi tankers, a Norwegian tanker and a UAE vessel near the port of Fujairah on May 12. The attack came amid rising tension between the US and Iran over American sanctions seeking to block Iranian oil exports. “Elements of civilian government of Iran, as well as the state of Qatar, were aware of the IRGC’s activities,” the report said. French and British politicians have raised alarm over Qatar’s failure to alert its western allies.”

Egypt

Asharq Al-Awsat: Egypt Sentences Libyan Terrorist To Death For Killing 11 Policemen

“An Egyptian military court sentenced a Libyan man to death after being convicted alongside others of a terrorist operation, which killed 11 policemen, and the deadly attack at the Al-Wahat highway in 2017. The court ordered the death sentence for Mohamed al-Mesmary, the Egyptian army spokesperson Tamer al-Rifai said in a statement. The court also issued prison sentences to 32 defendants, while 20 others were acquitted. It accused the defendants of committing several crimes, including forming the terrorist al-Fatah extremist group in Libya. They were charged with killing 11 security forces members in Wahat, taking some hostage and seizing their weapons and ammunition. The main defendant is Mesmary, a Libyan who received training from now dead Egyptian terrorist Imadeddine Ahmed. He participated in attacks against the police officers in the Bahariya Oasis and the abduction of Captain Mohammed al-Haies. Investigations revealed that Mesmary was trained to use machine guns and make bombs in camps inside Libyan territories. He also established a training camp in the al-Wahat desert area, joining several terrorists to carry out operations against churches and state institutions.”

Libya

The New York Times: U.S. Drone Strikes Stymie ISIS In Southern Libya

“A recent flurry of American airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in southern Libya has seriously disrupted the terrorist group’s efforts to reorganize and carry out attacks in one of its most important hubs outside the Middle East, military and counterterrorism officials say. Over 10 days in late September, four strikes killed 43 militants — or about one-third of the group’s estimated 150 fighters in Libya — including some important commanders and recruiters, according to officials at the headquarters of the Pentagon’s Africa Command. The strikes, which other officials said were carried out by Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drones based in neighboring Niger, came as the Islamic State had increased recruiting and attacks in recent months in the largely ungoverned spaces of southwest Libya. Several new camps of fighters had emerged in that area, prompting the first American strikes against ISIS in Libya this year. “The most critical, enduring weakness for both ISIS Libya and A.Q.I.M. is recruitment,” Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the command’s director of intelligence, said in an interview, referring to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which is active in Libya.”

Nigeria

Pulse Nigeria: Troops Overcome Another Ambush By Boko Haram Terrorist In Dikwa

“The Nigerian Army says its troops have overcome another ambush by the Boko Haram terrorist in Dikwa Local Government Area of Borno. The Nigerian Army Operations Media Coordinator, Col. Aminu Iliyasu, disclosed this in a statement on Monday in Abuja.Iliyasu said that the encounter took place on Monday when troops of 153 Task Force Battalion deployed at New Marte embarked on fighting patrol to Dikwa to hunt and destroy remnants of the insurgents. According to him, the troops encountered an ambush staged against them by some remnants of the criminal Boko Haram insurgents along the patrol route at Ala Village, 7 km away from New Marte. “The ambush was reinforced with a crudely prepared Improvised Explosive Device planted by them against the troops. “In a rare display of boldness, resilience and faithful service to their fatherland, the troops, turned around the initial setback and dealt a devastating blow on the criminals. “Having so clearly asserted their superiority in the ensuing firefight, the criminal insurgents were forced to flee in disarray.” “The gallant troops then embarked on a relentless pursuit of the scampering insurgents who abandoned some of their fighting equipment in utter confusion,” he said.”

Sahara Reporters: Survivors Of Boko Haram Attacks Adopt New Strategy To Rebuild Communities, Restore Hope

“Survivors of armed conflicts in Northern Nigeria especially Boko Haram attacks have invented local savings initiative for economic recovery in a bid to restore hope in their communities. The survivors, who had formed groups of 25 persons (50 percent women) have leveraged on a European Union's £11m supported program to build a new lease of life. The EU had in the aftermath of Boko Haram and other violent conflicts launched 14 key self-help components in Adamawa and Kebbi states to help affected families build resilience against hunger and poverty. In Adamawa State for instance, over 25,000 households have benefited from the initiative by creating local savings and loan scheme known Village Savings and Loan (VSL) scheme. Besides the VSL, the livestock transfer component has lifted 2870 poor families out of poverty. Under the scheme, a household receives a goat and afterward transfer its offspring to another beneficiary on the down-line. In the same vein, the villagers also operate food loan scheme and so far 350 food reserve/grain banks have been constructed. Through these components, they contribute into a weekly savings box and so far the clusters have saved over N1m each, besides unrecovered loans.”

United Kingdom

The National: Briton In Court Over Syria Terrorist Charges

“A 26-year-old Briton appeared in court on Monday over a Syria-related terrorist offence after he was deported by Turkey. Mamun Rashid, from east London, was arrested by police at Heathrow Airport on Thursday. The arrest came after Turkey said it would deport alleged foreign ISIS members who were held in its prisons or parts of Syria it controlled following its military push into Kurdish-held regions. Mr Rashid confirmed his identity and British nationality in court on Monday but did not enter a plea to the charge of preparing terrorist acts. He was remanded in custody by a London magistrate and will appear in court again next month.”

Germany

The Guardian: Neo-Nazi Terror Group Threatened ‘To Find And Harm’ US Activist In Germany

“An US activist in Germany who was targeted by the neo-Nazi terror group Atomwaffen Division (AWD) has told the Guardian German police were last year warned by US authorities of “a specific threat to find me and do me harm”. The activist, who moved to Germany in part because of the threats she was receiving from the far right in the US, was told last November that German Federal Criminal Police had been warned by US federal authorities about an AWD member who had traveled to Germany with the possible intention of harming her. She was also advised to take security precautions, including delisting her address from official government records, and to exercise vigilance when walking at night. The activist, whose name is being withheld due to safety concerns, has been a consistent and vocal critic of the far right, and has participated in prominent anti-fascist demonstrations. She showed the Guardian Twitter direct messages sent by German police last November, asking her to call them about the threat. German magazine Der Spiegel, who first reported on the transnational warning, confirmed the activist’s account with German authorities. The activist believes the person who triggered international concerns was allowed to enter the country.”

Australia

The Guardian: Accused Far-Right Terrorist Says How-To Massacre Document Was 'Satire'

“A man accused of plotting terror attacks in Melbourne says his how-to document referring to “building destruction” and a “massacre” was intended to be a Monty Python-esque satire. Phillip Galea has also described himself as a self-taught electrical engineer, but insists he has never used his scientific knowledge to harm anyone. The 35-year-old expressed the sentiments while being questioned by his lawyer in his trial in the supreme court of Victoria on Tuesday. Galea has been accused of plotting attacks on Melbourne anarchist and socialist groups between August 2015 and 2016 to “eliminate the leaders of the left”. He was also allegedly working on a terror how-to document he called the “Patriot’s Cookbook”, prosecutors say. But Galea – who was associated with the far-right group Reclaim Australia – insists he was making a “satirical document” for people to enjoy, inspired by another “hilarious” parody book. “I intended it to be taken as a joke,” he said. “I’d intended to include disclaimers every couple of pages which would be taking the piss out of the content ... taking the piss out of everyone and everything.” Asked by his lawyer Felicity Gerry QC whether the comedy was a similar style to that of the Monty Python group, Galea said it was. “The same sort of humour, yes.”

Europe

The Telegraph: Russian Mercenaries 'Beat And Beheaded Syrian Man' In Leaked Video

“A video has emerged purporting to show Russian mercenaries torturing and beheading a Syrian army deserter, in what is thought to be rare footage of Moscow's shadowy paramilitary outfit operating in Syria. The video, which dates to 2017 but was only released in full on Russian social media site VK last week, appears to show Russian-speaking fighters striking the man with a sledgehammer before decapitating him and lynching his body. It came to the attention of online sleuths who used open-source intelligence to geolocate the footage to al-Shaer oil fields in Homs, central Syria, which was under Russian and Syrian government control at the time of the attack. Russia has been fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since it intervened in the war in 2015. The Syrian army, depleted by mass defections and casualties, had been struggling before Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, decided to support the regime with air cover and troops on the ground. The video is understood to have been posted last week on a private VK account linked to Russian security contractors called Wagner Group.”

Southeast Asia

Reuters: Indonesia Police Link Suicide Bombing To Islamic State-Inspired Group

“Indonesian anti-terrorism officers shot dead two suspected bomb makers during a raid on the weekend and arrested more than a dozen as authorities linked a suicide bombing last week to an Islamic State-inspired network, police said on Monday. A 24-year-old student blew himself up outside a police station in the city of Medan in North Sumatra province last Wednesday, killing himself and wounding six people. Police had initially declared the attacker to be a “lone wolf”, but a national police spokesman said on Monday the student along with 22 other suspects in the area had links to the Islamic State-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD). JAD has been blamed for a series of attacks in recent years and was banned in Indonesia last year for “conducting terrorism” and being affiliated with foreign militants. “(The network in) North Sumatra has direct links to JAD,” police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said in a statement, adding that a leader of the group had been arrested.”Their main target is the police,” Prasetyo said in comments broadcast on television. Of the 23 suspects, two suspected bomb-makers were shot dead on Saturday while resisting arrest, while one officer was wounded during the raid, said Prasetyo. Bomb-making material was seized, he said.”

Associated Press: Indonesia Arrests 43 People Following Suicide Attack

“Indonesian police said Monday that they have arrested 43 suspected militants believed to have links to last week’s suicide attack at a busy police station in the country’s third-largest city. National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said those arrested are suspected members of a local affiliate of the Islamic State group known as the Jama’ah Anshorut Daulah. He said police seized explosives, guns, knives, arrows and jihadi documents from the suspects. The arrests were made in seven provinces and include the group’s leader, Prasetyo said at a news conference in the capital, Jakarta. The Nov. 13 suicide bombing involving a lone attacker in Medan wounded six people. Among the suspects arrested in the raids were 20 members of JAD who have attended military-style jihadi training in North Sumatra’s Mount Sibayak, Prasetyo said. Police on Saturday killed two suspected militants in a shootout in North Sumatra province’s Hamparan Perak village. Police said they believe the two were the bombmakers in the Medan attack. A day later, four suspects surrendered to authorities, Prasetyo said. JAD has been implicated in numerous attacks in Indonesia over the past two years and was designated a terror organization by the U.S. in 2017.”

Technology

The Wall Street Journal: FTC Says Several Tech Antitrust Probes Are Under Way

“The Federal Trade Commission is pursuing several antitrust investigations into online platforms, the agency said, suggesting a broader review of the technology sector than previously known. FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said Monday that in addition to the agency’s probe of Facebook Inc., which that company has disclosed, the agency has “multiple other investigations going on with major platforms.” The FTC has interviewed sellers on Amazon.com Inc.’s online marketplace, according to some of the sellers who have spoken with the agency. Amazon hasn’t disclosed being notified of a formal FTC probe and didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The FTC enforces U.S. antitrust laws along with the Justice Department and state attorneys general. Those entities are also investigating whether large tech firms are abusing their market power. Facebook and Alphabet Inc., owner of Google, are the subject of both state and DOJ probes, according to the companies and regulators’ public statements. The companies have said they are cooperating with investigators and that they acquired their market positions legally—by making products benefiting consumers.”

The New York Times: Silicon Valley’s Biggest Foe Is Getting Even Tougher

“Margrethe Vestager spent the past five years developing a well-earned reputation as the world’s top tech industry watchdog. From her perch overseeing Europe’s competition rules, she fined Google more than $9 billion for breaking antitrust laws, and forced Apple to pay about $14.5 billion for dodging taxes. Now she says that work, which made her a hero among tech critics, did not go far enough. The biggest tech companies continue to test the limits of antitrust laws, behave unethically and push back against government intervention, she said. But she said the public’s growing skepticism about technology has given her an opportunity for a tougher approach. “In the last five years,” Ms. Vestager said in an extended interview, “some of the darker sides of digital technologies have become visible.” So Ms. Vestager, a 51-year-old former Danish lawmaker, is doubling down. She has signed on for a rare second five-year term as the head of the European Commission’s antitrust division, and assumed expanded responsibility over digital policy across the 28-nation bloc.”

The Telegraph: Isil Terrorists Hack Ordinary People's Dormant Twitter Accounts To Promote Jihad

“ISIL supporters are hacking into people’s dormant Twitter accounts to hijack them to promote jihad and celebrate their dead leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. They are circumventing email and identity checks by taking over accounts that range from individuals’ in the UK and across the world to a local cricket club in Australia. The posts celebrate Isil killings, battles and individual jihadists as well as Al-Baghdadi, often posted against a backdrop of Isil iconography on flags or posters. Typical is one with images of armed Isil fighters which declares: “With God almighty, soldiers in the caliphate targeted officers in a prison, using a pistol, and which led him to perish, thanks be to God.” Others feature armed soldiers digging graves, preparing fortifications and marching to the frontline with Arabic script urging people to join the jihad. The hacking has been uncovered by Eric Feinberg, founder of the Global Intellectual Property Enforcement Center who has developed technology to detect communications of terrorists in Arabic and other languages and thus trace material that might be missed by the platforms. “This is a hacking of dormant accounts to spread propaganda via hashtagging ‘dog whistle’ words like #Afghanistan #Iraq and # alBaghdadi in Arabic,” said Mr Feinberg.”
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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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