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Old 01-02-2019, 09:39 AM
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Arrow Eye on Extremism January 2, 2019

Eye on Extremism
January 2, 2019
RE: info@counterextremism.com

The Wall Street Journal: Powerful Antitank Missiles Put U.S. Forces In Middle East At Risk

“An upgraded class of high-powered weaponry has flooded the battlefields of the Middle East, threatening even the most sophisticated battle tanks and highlighting a gap in U.S. military preparedness. The weapons—antitank guided missiles, or ATGMs—were first developed decades ago, but recent years have brought advances in their technology, ease of use and availability on the battlefield, making them a fearsome and little-acknowledged threat to U.S. troops. The proliferation is largely the result of efforts of powers such as the U.S., Russia and Iran to arm and train proxy fighters, including by sending them antitank missiles along with other weaponry. A U.S. program begun in mid-2013 provided weapons including ATGM missiles to rebels fighting the Assad regime in Syria. President Trump later canceled the program, saying in a 2017 interview with The Wall Street Journal that it allowed weapons to fall into al Qaeda hands.”

The New York Times: Taliban Attacks In Northern Afghanistan Kill 27 Security Officers

“At least 27 members of security forces in northern Afghanistan were killed by the Taliban in a series of coordinated attacks on Tuesday, officials said, and dozens of others were wounded. The deadliest violence took place in Sar-i-Pul Province, where the Taliban attacked Afghan security forces in three areas, killing a total of 21 people, officials said. The officials did not provide a breakdown of casualties. Zabihullah Amani, the spokesman for the governor of Sar-i-Pul, said the Taliban had simultaneously attacked the center of Sayad District, security outposts along the highway linking Sar-i-Pul with Jowzjan, and a village with oil wells. “It was a very strong attack,” Mr. Amani said. “Two security outposts were captured by the Taliban; 25 members of security forces were also wounded during the clashes.” The Taliban’s main goal, he said, was to take control of the oil wells in the village of Qashqari. They did not succeed, he added. Insurgents attacked the center of Sayad from three directions, said Hayatullah Sayadi, the district governor, killing seven local police officers and wounding eight others. Reinforcements, including the police and intelligence chiefs of the province, were called in to help, but they too were ambushed by the Taliban.”

The Washington Post: If We Ease Pressure On The Islamic State, We Could Be Attacked Again

“We were both deeply involved in our nation’s fight against al-Qaeda and its early fight against the Islamic State, and we both believe it is imperative that President Trump remember what we consider to be the most important lesson of counterterrorism — the ability of a terrorist group to quickly regenerate if the pressure on it is reduced. The pattern is clear: If we do not keep the pressure on the Islamic State and other groups, we believe we will again face a threat to our homeland. We saw this pattern repeatedly during our careers — always with potentially devastating consequences. When the United States drove al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, the group went to prearranged safe houses in the urban areas of Pakistan, where it continued to conduct aggressive attack planning. Over the next year, the CIA, with the assistance of Pakistani intelligence, systematically captured many al-Qaeda members, including a number of the group’s senior leaders, and significantly reduced the group’s capabilities to attack us. The remnants of al-Qaeda then moved again, this time in 2003 to tribal areas of Pakistan — in a remote region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border where the Pakistani government has limited control, and where the group was no longer under pressure from the U.S. or Pakistani governments.”

The Washington Post: British Police Treating Stabbing Attack At Manchester Train Station As Terrorism

“Police in the northwestern English city of Manchester said Tuesday that a stabbing attack at the train station overnight is being treated as terrorism. On New Year’s Eve shortly before 9 p.m., a man wielding a knife attacked a couple in their 50s and a police officer at Manchester’s Victoria Station. Officers tackled the suspect, a 25-year-old man, who was arrested at the scene. The couple sustained “serious” injuries and are recovering in a hospital, police said. The officer stabbed in the shoulder while subduing the suspect was released from hospital Tuesday. Chief Constable Ian Hopkins commended the bravery of the four officers involved in stopping the attacker. “Last night we experienced a horrific attack on people out to simply enjoy the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Manchester,” he said in a statement. “We are treating this as a terrorist investigation which is being led by counterterrorism officers with support from Greater Manchester Police.”

The Washington Post: Fake-Porn Videos Are Being Weaponized To Harass And Humiliate Women: ‘Everybody Is A Potential Target’

“Airbrushing and Photoshop long ago opened photos to easy manipulation. Now, videos are becoming just as vulnerable to fakes that look deceptively real. Supercharged by powerful and widely available artificial-intelligence software developed by Google, these lifelike “deepfake” videos have quickly multiplied across the Internet, blurring the line between truth and lie. But the videos have also been weaponized disproportionately against women, representing a new and degrading means of humiliation, harassment and abuse. The fakes are explicitly detailed, posted on popular porn sites and increasingly challenging to detect. Google representatives said the company takes its ethical responsibility seriously, but that restrictions on its AI tools could end up limiting developers pushing the technology in a positive way. But Hany Farid, a Dartmouth College computer-science professor who specializes in examining manipulated photos and videos, said Google and other tech giants need “to get more serious about how weaponized this technology can be.” “If a biologist said, ‘Here’s a really cool virus; let’s see what happens when the public gets their hands on it,’ that would not be acceptable. And yet it’s what Silicon Valley does all the time,” he said. “It’s indicative of a very immature industry. We have to understand the harm and slow down on how we deploy technology like this.”

The New York Times: Facebook Data Scandals Stoke Criticism That A Privacy Watchdog Too Rarely Bites

“Last spring, soon after Facebook acknowledged that the data of tens of millions of its users had improperly been obtained by the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, a top enforcement official at the Federal Trade Commission drafted a memo about the prospect of disciplining the social network. Lawmakers, consumer advocates and even former commission officials were clamoring for tough action against Facebook, arguing that it had violated an earlier F.T.C. consent decree barring it from misleading users about how their information was shared. But the enforcement official, James A. Kohm, took a different view. In a previously undisclosed memo in March, Mr. Kohm — echoing Facebook’s own argument — cautioned that Facebook was not responsible for the consulting firm’s reported abuses. The social network seemed to have taken reasonable steps to address the problem, he wrote, according to someone who read the memo, and most likely had not broken its promises to the F.T.C.”

United States

Reuters: Pompeo Says Cooperation With Israel Over Syria And Iran To Continue

“U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the United States would continue to cooperate with Israel over Syria and in countering Iran in the Middle East, even as President Donald Trump plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as he met with Pompeo in the Brazilian capital that he planned to discuss how to intensify intelligence and operations cooperation in Syria and elsewhere to block Iranian “aggression.” In his first public comments on Trump’s decision, Pompeo said it “in no way changes anything that this administration is working on alongside Israel.” “The counter-ISIS campaign continues, our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continue and our commitment to Middle East stability and the protection of Israel continues in the same way it did before that decision was made,” he said.”

The New York Times: Kim And Trump Back At Square 1: If U.S. Keeps Sanctions, North Will Keep Nuclear Program

“Nearly two years into his presidency and more than six months after his historic summit meeting with Kim Jong-un of North Korea, President Trump finds himself essentially back where he was at the beginning in achieving the ambitious goal of getting Mr. Kim to relinquish his nuclear arsenal. That was the essential message of Mr. Kim’s annual New Year’s televised speech, where he reiterated that international sanctions must be lifted before North Korea will give up a single weapon, dismantle a single missile site or stop producing nuclear material. The list of recent North Korean demands was a clear indicator of how the summit meeting in Singapore last June altered the optics of the relationship more than the reality. Those demands were very familiar from past confrontations: that all joint military training between the United States and South Korea be stopped, that American nuclear and military capability within easy reach of the North be withdrawn, and that a peace treaty ending the Korean War be completed.”

CNN: Trump Administration Attempts To Soothe Allies' Worries Over Syria Troop Withdrawal

“The State Department, Department of Defense and national security adviser John Bolton all issued public statements Friday that collectively outlined a road map for implementing President Donald Trump's decision to pull US troops out of Syria, a move the President has adamantly defended after more than a week of criticism and signs of conflict within the administration's highest levels. Over the course of just a few hours, both agencies and the White House national security adviser all released individual statements suggesting the administration is taking steps to initiate the complete withdrawal of 2,000 US troops from Syria despite a whirlwind of controversy. Trump's announcement more than a week ago blindsided allies in the region and sparked a controversy that culminated in the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis. While there is little evidence to suggest that the statements were coordinated, the flurry of activity amounted to a public push by the administration to present the image of a unified front amid indications that Trump ignored the advice of his top military and national security officials.”

NPR: White Supremacy Fuels Domestic Terrorism, Southern Poverty Law Center Says

“NOEL KING, HOST: In the United States, hate crimes have been on the rise. The FBI reported larger numbers in 2015, and then again in 2016 and a 17 percent jump in 2017. And while the numbers for this year aren't out yet, in many ways, it felt like a very violent year. Take the last week in October alone. A man in Kentucky killed two black people at a grocery store after he allegedly tried to charge a black church. He reportedly told one witness, whites don't kill whites. And in Pittsburgh, a shooter killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue. He was reportedly driven by anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant ideology. The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks extremist hate groups and acts of violence. The Center's Intelligence Project director Heidi Beirich told me it isn't just hate crimes broadly that are rising. In particular, acts of domestic terrorism fueled by white supremacy are growing. The Southern Poverty Law Center counted about one of those every month for the past year. And Beirich said this is a trend the SPLC has been tracking for a while.”

CBS News: Terror Threat Is "Getting Worse" Says Former Homeland Security Adviser

“Conditions that allowed foreign terrorist organizations like ISIS and al-Qaeda to seed and grow their ideologies persist across the Middle East, according to former White House counterterrorism chief Lisa Monaco. And although the U.S. has made meaningful strides in preventing attacks on its soil that originate overseas, Monaco warned that the risks of radicalization for potential domestic terrorists may be increasing. "The good news is that the threat as we saw it, post-9/11, of command-and-control, complex, foreign directed attacks is greatly diminished," said Monaco, who served from 2013 to 2017 as homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to President Barack Obama. She credited the work of multiple administrations over the past 17 years with preventing elaborate attacks and, more recently, in rolling back the territory once occupied by ISIS.”

Syria

Al Jazeera: Syria's Idlib Braces For Government Offensive

“The war between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces appears to be entering its final phase. Idlib province is the final remaining opposition enclave in Syria. As Assad tries to bring all of Syria under his control and the rebels vow to fight to the end, the people of Idlib - many already living in some of the most desperate conditions possible - are bracing themselves for an offensive that humanitarian workers worry could drive millions of refugees into Turkey and Europe.”

ABC News: Fighting Erupts Between Rival Insurgent Groups In Syria

“Clashes broke out between two powerful insurgent groups in northern Syria on Tuesday, leaving up to seven people dead in the most serious fighting in months in the last major rebel stronghold in the country. The al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham — Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee — and the Turkey-backed Nour el-Din el-Zinki group blamed each other for triggering the fighting in the northern province of Aleppo. Nour el-Din el-Zinki is part of a 15-member coalition known as the National Liberation Front that has clashed with extremists in the past. Other factions in the NLF have been sending reinforcement to rebel-held parts of Aleppo to back their allies against al-Qaida-linked gunmen raising fears that the fighting will escalate. According to activist collectives in northern Syria, both groups used heavy weapons, including tanks, in the fighting. The rebel-held area is mostly in the northwestern province of Idlib that has witnessed sporadic violence since a Russia and Turkey agreed on a truce in September that averted a government offensive on the area.”

The Hill: US Acknowledges Additional Civilian Deaths In Fight Against ISIS

“The U.S. military said in a monthly report on Sunday that it estimates at least 1,139 civilians were inadvertently killed in airstrikes over the last four years during the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an increase of 15 people since November. U.S. Central Command said in a statement that the military carried out 31,406 airstrikes between August 2014 and November 2018 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. The military said it determined three more incidents contained credible reports of civilian casualties, including a secondary explosion following the destruction of an explosives factory in Mosul, Iraq that killed 12 civilians in March 2017. Central Command said it makes an effort to ”minimize the impact of our operations on civilian populations and infrastructure” by vetting each target prior to an airstrike, and reviewing the area after the strike. The military said there are still 184 reports of civilian casualties being assessed. Airwars, a watchdog group that monitors civilian casualties from military operations in Iraq, Syria and Libya, had referred all three new confirmed instances of civilian casualties to the U.S. military. All three newly conceded Coalition casualty events - which between them killed at least 15 civilians in Iraq and Syria - were Airwars referrals. In total the US-led alliance has now admitted 1,139 deaths since the war against ISIS began in 2014.”

Associated Press: Iraqi Jets Strike IS In Syria After Assad’s Authorization

“The Iraqi military says its fighter jets struck an Islamic State position inside Syria, a day after the Syrian government authorized its neighbor to target the militants at will. Iraq’s Joint Operations Command says F-16s struck a two-story house Monday in Souseh, close to the border, that was being used as a meeting place for IS leaders. The Associated Press could not verify the number of casualties. Iraq has regularly coordinated with the U.S.-led coalition to strike IS positions inside Syria by air and artillery. On Sunday, Syrian President Bashar Assad formally invited Iraq to do so, reflecting the changing battlefield in Syria as the U.S. prepares to withdraw its forces.”

Iran

The Telegraph: Iran Hosts Taliban Peace Talks, Eyeing Opening After US Drawdown

“The Taliban discussed Afghanistan's "post-occupation situation" with Iran in their latest meeting, the group said Tuesday, as Tehran makes a more concerted and open push for peace ahead of a possible US drawdown. The remarks come after Iran confirmed Monday that the Taliban had visited Tehran for a second round of talks in just a few days that are aimed at ending the 17-year conflict. The Taliban delegation discussed with Iran "the post-occupation situation, restoration of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region", the militants said in a statement posted on social media and emailed to journalists. It signals a growing confidence among the Taliban for US troops to pull out of Afghanistan, after US officials last month told various media outlets that President Donald Trump had decided to slash the number of boots on the ground.”

Reuters: Iranian Security Forces Clash With Students At Bus Crash Protest

“Security forces clashed with students in Iran on Monday in the third day of protests over a deadly bus crash, online videos showed, adding to officials’ fears that rising public unrest could threaten national security. President Hassan Rouhani has ordered an investigation into the accident at Tehran’s Azad University that killed 10 students last week. Students have protested over the aging transport fleet and lack of accountability from the authorities. A video on Twitter showed students at a campus in Tehran chanting slogans and demanding the resignation of the chairman of the university’s board of trustees, Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Tehran’s deputy governor, Abdolazim Rezaie, was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency that the protests were illegal as no permit had been issued for any gathering. He said the police had full control of the streets and no arrests had been made.”

Reuters: Iran's Revolutionary Guards Plan To Upgrade Speed Boats With Stealth Technology

“Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Monday they plan to upgrade their speed boats in the Gulf with radar-evading stealth technology and new missile launchers as tensions rise between Tehran and Washington in the vital oil shipping route. Ending a long absence of U.S. aircraft carriers in the region, the USS John C. Stennis entered the Gulf last week, and was shadowed by the Revolutionary Guards’ speed boats. There have been periodic confrontations between the Revolutionary Guards vessels and U.S. military in the Gulf, although the number of incidents has dropped in recent months. “We are trying to increase the agility of the Guards’ speed boats and equip them with stealth technology to facilitate their operations,” Alireza Tangsiri, the Revolutionary Guards’ navy chief, was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA. Tangsiri also said the speed boats will be equipped with new missiles, and their speed will reach 80 knots.”

Radio Free Europe: Six Iranian Men Found On English Beach As Rise In Channel Crossings Raises Fears

“Six Iranian men have been found on a beach in southeastern England after crossing the English Channel, the latest in a wave of migrants coming from France that has raised concern in both countries. The men made the trip in an inflatable boat with a rigid hull on December 30, landing in Kingsdown, according to the British Home Office. They were handed over to immigration authorities after receiving medical attention. More than 220 people have tried to enter England by crossing the English Channel since early last month. The increase in those attempting to make the crossing in small boats in seas that are often rough and filled with commercial vessels has raised concern that the dangerous crossings will end in tragedy.”

The Jerusalem Post: Iranian Cargo Plane Suspected Of Bringing Arms To Hezbollah Departs Tehran

“Fars Air Qeshm cargo 747 airliner left Tehran at 8 a.m. on Sunday and landed in Damascus at 10:30 a.m., returning to Tehran at 5 p.m. The 747 allegedly transported weapons to Hezbollah in September, according to a report from Fox News that was based on Western intelligence assessments. The aircraft also made suspicious flights in July and August to Damascus and Beirut. “The Iranians are trying to come up with new ways and routes to smuggle weapons from Iran to its allies in the Middle East,” a source told Fox News in September. Israel has warned about Hezbollah using areas in Beirut to store weapons. This same cargo plane made another suspicious trip on November 29 to Beirut. On December 25, it flew into Damascus and left by the evening, in a pattern that matches the one it flew on Sunday. Air strikes on December 25, which Russia and Syria blamed on Israel, struck west of Damascus soon after. According to observers online who track suspicious flights and military activity, the arrival of the flight coincided with activity by at least two other flights off the coast of Lebanon that were collecting intelligence.”

Iraq

NBC News: Iraqis Fear Defeated Islamic State Could Make A Comeback

“A little more than a year after Baghdad declared victory over the Islamic State group, many of its former supporters still walk the streets freely and Iraqis fear the militants might attempt a comeback. President Donald Trump made a surprise visit to Iraq Wednesday amid criticism of his decision to withdraw American troops from neighboring Syria, a move which prompted the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the coalition to defeat ISIS. Trump said that he had no plans to remove U.S. troops from Iraq but warned “the United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo previously assured Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi that the U.S. is still committed to supporting the fight against ISIS in the country. But the White House has also ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans for a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, officials told NBC News last week. Hana’a al-Nuaimi remembers the three years she couldn't leave her home in the ISIS-conquered Iraqi city of Mosul without covering her face. “Life now is much better than those dark days we lived under the ruling of ISIS,” she told NBC News. “We’re getting back to our normal lives, but very slowly.” ISIS seized Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, as well as one-third of the rest of the country before being toppled by an Iraqi military campaign that was backed by a U.S.-led coalition. Iraq announced the fight against ISIS was over on Dec. 9, 2017.”

Asharq Al-Awast: Iraqi Education Minister Resigns After Brother Appears In ISIS Video

“Newly appointed Iraqi Education Minister Shaymaa al-Hayali submitted her resignation Sunday to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi after it emerged that her brother had appeared in an ISIS promotional video. The video was widely circulated on social media, prompting the minister, who was appointed to her post last week, to hand in her resignation. Hayali was the Arabic Project bloc candidate, which is headed by Khamis Khanjar. The bloc is part of the Sunni national coalition that is allied with al-Binaa bloc of Hadi al-Ameri. In her resignation letter, she said: “I am foremost an Iraqi woman. I have never worked with any political party or bloc. I was nominated to my post because I am an academic at Mosul University.” loved ones,” she continued. The terrorists had seized the Nineveh province and forced people to work for them, she added. “Among them was my brother, whom ISIS forced to work for them before and after the province was liberated.” “It forced him, as it did to others, to declare his loyalty to the group,” she said. Hayali clarified, however, that he had never taken up arms or abetted the terrorists in fighting Iraqis. A member of the Arabic Project told Asharq Al-Awsat that Khanjar accused the rival Qarar bloc of plotting Hayali’s demise. They plotted this in order to gain the education portfolio given that there had been disputes over this ministry before Hayali’s appointment, he said on condition of anonymity.”

The Straits Times: Children Of Russian ISIS Fighters Return Home From Iraq

“Thirty Russian children whose mothers are in prison in Iraq for belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have arrived in Moscow from Baghdad, the Russian authorities said. The fathers of the children, aged three to 10, are believed to have been killed in combat during Iraq's three-year war against the militants, a Russian diplomatic source said before the plane departed on Sunday. “The plane of the Russian emergency situations ministry has landed,” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said on his Telegram account on Sunday, adding that it had touched down at Moscow's Zhukovsky airport. Mr Kadyrov said the children's arrival was “undeniable proof of the rigorous fulfilment of the mission set out by Russian President Vladimir Putin to save the women and children in Syria and Iraq”. “If we do not bring them home, they will become the target of the special services of other countries,” he added. The children were taken to hospital on arrival for “thorough examinations”, the press service of Russia's health ministry said according to Russia's Interfax news agency. Mr Kadyrov posted a video clip of the children's departure from Baghdad on popular Russian network VKontakte, adding that 24 of them were from Russia's Dagestan republic and another three were from Chechnya. Several thousand Russians travelled to join the ISIS militants in their once sprawling “caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq, according to estimates from the Russian security services. Some took their families with them.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraq Sentenced Over 600 Foreigners For Links With Islamic State In 2018

“In 2018, Iraq handed down various sentences to more than 600 foreigners, including minors and women, for belonging to the Islamic State (IS) group, the country’s judiciary revealed on Monday. Iraq declared victory against the jihadist group in December 2017 after a three-year-long fight to liberate large swaths of its territory taken over by IS in 2014. Since then, security forces in Iraq have arrested nearly 20,000 people suspected of having links to the terrorist group. “616 men and women accused of belonging to Da’esh [IS] have been put on trial” in 2018 and sentenced under Iraq’s anti-terrorism law, judicial spokesperson Abdel-Sattar Bayraqdar said on Monday. The breakdown consists of 466 women, 42 men, and 108 minors, Bayraqdar added. He did not offer any details regarding their sentences. Under Iraq’s anti-terrorism law, courts can issue verdicts, including death sentences, against anyone found guilty of belonging to the jihadist group, including non-combatants. In April alone, Iraqi courts issued death sentences for more than 300 suspects linked to IS, and over 300 more were sentenced to life in prison, which is equivalent to 20 years in the country, sources told AFP. Most of the women sentenced over links to the jihadist group were from neighboring Turkey and countries of the former Soviet Union.”

Iraqi News: Security Forces Destroy Four Islamic State Tunnels, Trench In Salahuddin

“The Iraqi army destroyed on Tuesday four tunnels and a trench that were used by Islamic State militants in Makhoul Mount in Salahuddin province. In a statement, a copy of which was obtained by Mawazin News website, the Military Intelligence Directorate said that its troops, backed by jet fighters, found during a security operation in Makhoul Mount, north of Salahuddin, four tunnels and a 30-meter trench that were used by Islamic State militants. The troops found a huge amount of rocket launchers, explosive materials, weapons and ammunition inside the tunnels, added the statement. Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of military operations against Islamic State in Iraq on December 9, 2017 three years after the militant group captured about a third of Iraq’s territory. On July 10 that year, the former premier had formally declared victory over Islamic State extremists in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold.The jihadist group had seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, when it proclaimed a “caliphate” and imposed its rule over some 10 million people.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: C.I.A.’S Afghan Forces Leave A Trail Of Abuse And Anger

“Razo Khan woke up suddenly to the sight of assault rifles pointed at his face, and demands that he get out of bed and onto the floor. Within minutes, the armed raiders had separated the men from the women and children. Then the shooting started. As Mr. Khan was driven away for questioning, he watched his home go up in flames. Within were the bodies of two of his brothers and of his sister-in-law Khanzari, who was shot three times in the head. Villagers who rushed to the home found the burned body of her 3-year-old daughter, Marina, in a corner of a torched bedroom. The men who raided the family’s home that March night, in the district of Nader Shah Kot, were members of an Afghan strike force trained and overseen by the Central Intelligence Agency in a parallel mission to the United States military’s, but with looser rules of engagement.”

Associated Press: Afghan Special Forces Fight IS; Taliban Kill 15 Policemen

“Afghan special forces launched a new offensive against the Islamic State group in eastern Nangarhar province, killing 27 militants, officials said Tuesday. Meanwhile, Taliban attacks in northern Afghanistan killed 15 members of the country’s security forces. According to provincial council member Ajmal Omar, the special forces, backed by helicopter gunships, targeted IS in Achin district of Nangarhar on Monday. The province has been an IS stronghold and the site where the militant group’s regional branch first emerged a few years ago. The militants’ media arm, the Aamaq news agency, claimed IS repulsed a joint Afghan-U.S. operation in the area. Omar, who could not confirm whether U.S. troops took part in the operation, said two local IS leaders, Sediq Yar and Syed Omar, were among those killed. The remoteness of the area makes it impossible to independently investigate conflicting reports. In the north, the Taliban launched two blistering attacks on police outposts in Sar-e-Pul province on Monday night, killing 15 policemen and wounding 21, the latest in near-daily assaults by the insurgents against Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces. Fierce gunbattles raged for several hours in Sayyad district and outside Sar-e-Pul, the provincial capital. In the attack on the outskirts of the city, heavy artillery fire by Afghan forces trying to repel the Taliban sent local residents fleeing for safety, said provincial council chief Mohammad Noor Rahmani.”

Reuters: Taliban Dismiss Afghanistan's Peace Talks Offer

“The Taliban have rejected Kabul’s offer of talks next month in Saudi Arabia where the militants, fighting to restore strict Islamic law in Afghanistan, will meet U.S. officials to further peace efforts, a Taliban leader said on Sunday. Representatives from the Taliban, the United States and regional countries met this month in the United Arab Emirates for talks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan. But the Taliban have refused to hold formal talks with the Western-backed Afghan government. “We will meet the U.S. officials in Saudi Arabia in January next year and we will start our talks that remained incomplete in Abu Dhabi,” a member of the Taliban’s decision-making Leadership Council told Reuters. “However, we have made it clear to all the stakeholders that we will not talk to the Afghan government.” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also said the leaders of the group would not talk to the Afghan government. The militants have insisted on first reaching an agreement with the United States, which the group sees as the main force in Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001. Diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict have intensified after Taliban representatives started meeting U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad this year. Officials from the warring sides have met at least three times to discuss the withdrawal of international forces and a ceasefire in 2019. But the United States has insisted that any final settlement must be led by the Afghans.”

Pakistan

News 18: Masked Men Storm Into Jamia Masjid In Srinagar, Wave ISIS Flags

“A group of youngsters, carrying ISIS flags, forcibly entered the historic Jamia Masjid and created a ruckus, evoking condemnation from the mosque's management committee and the separatists. The incident occurred after the congregational Friday prayers when most of the people had left the mosque, officials said, adding that the youngsters were later chased away by those present there. The video of the incident went viral on the social media on Saturday. The officials said moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who delivered the Friday sermon at the mosque, had also left before the incident took place. “A group of youngsters, wearing masks, forced their entry into the mosque and rushed to the pulpit where the Mirwaiz delivers the sermon. One of them stood atop the pulpit and shouted slogans. They were carrying ISIS flags,” said an official. The youngsters were subsequently chased away by those present there, he added. The managing committee of the mosque — the Anjuman Auqaf Jama Masjid— has condemned the incident. “A group of masked boys entered the mosque and rushed to the pulpit. One of them stood atop the pulpit with his shoes on, screaming slogans and creating a ruckus. In the meantime, his associates videotaped it and the video has been put on the social media.”

Qatar

Bloomberg: U.A.E. Minister Says He Expects Rift With Qatar To Continue

“A diplomatic rift between Qatar and several Gulf states that’s lasted a year and a half is likely to continue in the new year, said Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirate’s minister of state for foreign affairs. "In my estimation, the boycott of Qatar will continue in 2019 because it’s linked to necessary changes in Doha’s destructive tendencies," Gargash said in a Twitter post. "Qatar will continue to fail to combat the action taken against them, despite its excessive cost." He added that he expects to see "breakthroughs in the crisis" in Yemen, where the U.A.E. is participating in a Saudi-led coalition that’s waging war against the country’s Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic, economic and transport ties with Qatar in summer 2017, accusing the tiny Gulf peninsula of interfering in their domestic affairs and supporting terrorism. Qatar has vehemently denied the allegations but the rift has festered, marring investor perception of the Gulf as a predictable safe haven in a tumultuous region.”

Yemen

The New York Post: US Citizens Sue Hezbollah Over Trauma Caused By Missiles

“A group of 22 U.S. citizens is suing Hezbollah in Brooklyn Federal Court for the harm the terror group caused by lobbing rocket and missile attacks at northern Israel while they were living there in 2006. The group simultaneously filed a lawsuit against Bank Saderat Iran and Bank Saderat in the same court Monday, accusing the banks of providing Hezbollah with the material support to carry out the attacks. The plaintiffs include sisters Chana Liba and Malka Kumer, who were 5 and 6 and living with their family in the city of Safed during the strikes in the summer of 2006, and have experienced psychological and emotional trauma as a result, the suit charges. Another plaintiff, Chayim Kumer, had a nervous breakdown as a result of the attacks, according to the court documents. The plaintiffs are suing both Hezbollah and Bank Saderat Iran for $50 million in compensatory damages, as well as unspecified punitive damages.”

Fox News: UN Calls Out Yemen's Houthi Rebels Over Peace Gestures

“The United Nations cast doubt Sunday on claims by Yemen's Shiite rebels to have withdrawn from the Red Sea port of Hodeida, saying such steps can only be credible if all other parties can verify them. Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said the rebels, known as Houthis, also failed to honor an agreement to open a "humanitarian" corridor between Hodeida and the capital, Sanaa, to deliver assistance. Both cities are under rebel control. He said retired Dutch Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert, who heads a U.N. team of monitors in Hodeida, has expressed his "disappointment at their missed opportunity to build confidence between the parties" in a meeting with rebel representatives about their failure to open the corridor. The confidence-building measures agreed in Sweden this month, which include an exchange of prisoners, could pave the way for a political settlement of Yemen's 4-year-old war, which pits the Iran-aligned Houthis against the government and a Saudi-led coalition.”

Globe And Mail: UN Says Yemen Food Aid Being Stolen In Houthi-Run Areas

Middle East

Foreign Policy: The New Face Of Terrorism In 2019

“The way Westerners think about Islamist terrorism has grown dangerously outdated. For decades, officials have focused on attacks launched by Middle Easterners. Today, however, the real threat increasingly comes from further east. In the former Soviet states and beyond, militants who once harbored mostly local grievances are turning their attention to the West. They will be the menace to watch in 2019. The threat posed by Middle Eastern terrorists has been shrinking for some time. Even during the war against the Islamic State, Russian speakers from former Soviet countries were already committing many of the major attacks in the West. Those included relatively simple lone-wolf events, such as the 2017 truck strikes on pedestrians in New York and Stockholm—both conducted by Uzbeks—but also more complicated operations, such as the 2016 suicide bombing of Istanbul’s airport—which was allegedly organized by a Russian national—and the 2017 attack on a nightclub in the same city, led by an Uzbek.”

The Jerusalem Post: Lethality Intact, ISIS Builds On Global Threat

“Deir-ez-Zor Province, SYRIA — The Islamic State remains highly active in northeastern Syria despite recent claims by US President Donald Trump that the Islamist terror group has been defeated, according to local commanders fighting on the ground. "ISIS has hundreds of fighters around Hajin and along the Euphrates...and these are the most dedicated, the most experienced of the ISIS fighters in Syria, " Havel Ronnie, a top commander in Deir-ez-Zor province explains. He adds, "And among the locals tribes and villages ISIS also has many more active supporters as well.” The jihadist group’s presence in Syria has been severely diminished since they were driven out of Raqqa, their de-facto capital, in late 2017 by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a predominantly Kurdish and Arab alliance fighting for a secular democratic state. Following the SDF victory there, the coalition then launched operation "Jazira storm" in mid-2018 against the terrorist group – aimed at liberating Hajin, Susah, and other ISIS controlled villages along the Euphrates in eastern Syria.”

Egypt

CNN: Egypt Security Forces Kill 40 Suspected Terrorists In Raids - Report

“Egyptian security forces killed 40 alleged terrorists in raids in the Giza and North Sinai regions early Saturday, state media reported, a day after four people were killed when a roadside bomb struck a tourist bus in Giza. Egypt's Interior Ministry said the raids, conducted at dawn Saturday, targeted three suspected hideouts of terrorists who were planning hostile acts during the Christmas holidays, according to the state-run Al-Ahram online newspaper. Ammunition, firearms and improvised explosive devices were recovered in significant numbers, Al-Ahram said, citing a ministry statement. The raids were ordered "as a continuation of the ministry's efforts in chasing terrorist elements involved in the implementation of hostile operations seeking to destabilize the country's security," the statement said. "Information was available to the national security sector about the preparation and planning of a series of terrorist attacks targeting state institutions, especially economy, tourism industry, armed forces, police and Christian houses of worship." Three Vietnamese tourists and an Egyptian tour guide were killed and at least 11 people were injured in the attack Friday in a central tourist area of Giza, near Cairo, where the pyramids are located. The improvised explosive device was hidden near a wall on El-Maryoutiya Street in Giza's Haram district and went off as the bus went by, authorities said. No one has claimed responsibility. Vietnam's Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Pham Binh Minh, said he was "deeply saddened" by the attack.”

Egypt Today: Terrorism Is Dying In Egypt: SIS

“On Sunday, the State Information Service (SIS) published a report documenting the Egyptian government’s continued efforts to confront terrorism in the country over the last few years in general and during 2018 in particular. The report reveals that the overall number of attacks against civilian targets declined in 2018; and that terrorism is receding and approaching its ultimate deafeat in Egypt. The SIS report explains in details the progress of Operation Sinai 2018 and the preemptive strikes to weaken the terrorists and foild their attempts. Moreover, the report shows that the number of terrorist attacks declined in 2018, with 8 weal atacks vis a vis 222 attacks in 2014. Here is the full report as published by the SIS: Changes and shifts we have documented are as follows: 1. The terrorists’ plan to create an atmosphere of fear, panic and social strife between Egyptians has failed. The terrorist attacks have backfired against the terrorists as it has attracted positive confrontation from the populace. Among examples of the popular reaction are, the people’s solidarity with the families of the victims of Al Rawda mosque massacre and the residents of Helwan confronting and actually subduing of the armed terrorist who attacked the Mar Mina Church; this highlights the ordinary citizen’s willingness to fearlessly confront and fight terrorism.”

Libya

Xinhua: UN Commends Release Of Libyan Hostages Kidnapped By IS Militants

“The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) on Tuesday praised release of Libyan hostages kidnapped by the Islamic State (IS) militants in southern Libya. "UNSMIL welcomes the release of 20 Libyans reportedly kidnapped by IS from Fug'ha and Tazirbu," the mission said in a statement. "This is another strong example that Libyans, when they join forces, can defeat terrorism and overcome the challenges as well as ordeals facing their country," the statement said. According to spokesman of the eastern-based Libyan army Ahmad al-Mesmari, the army had launched an attack on IS militants in southern Libya and freed hostages detained by the terrorists. "In a qualitative operation, army units eliminated IS militants and freed the hostages of Fug'ha and Tazirbu in Ghadwa area, 70 km south of Sabha city," al-Mesmari said in his official Facebook page. IS militants in November carried out separate attacks against the police station and a number of government buildings in Tazirbu, killing eight people, injuring more than 15 others and taking dozens of hostages. In October, the militants attacked the central town of Fug'ha in the Jufra District, some 650 km southeast of the capital Tripoli, killing five people and taking several hostages.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: Boko Haram Seizes 6 Borno Towns​

“Despite denials by the Nigerian military, Boko Haram fighters seized Baga, Doron-Baga, Kross Kawwa, Bunduran, Kekeno and Kukawa towns of Borno State after three days of fierce battles from Wednesday to Friday last week, Daily Trust learnt from impeccable military and political sources in Maiduguri yesterday.All six towns are major population centres in Kukawa local government area of northern Borno. There are currently no Nigerian or Multinational forces in the areas, Daily Trust learnt from multiple sources last night. The insurgents, driving in a convoy of more than ten fighter vehicles, used the main road from Kros Kawwa to launch coordinated attacks on Wednesday last week, December 26. They overrun the Multinational ‎forces’ headquarters, a naval fighting base and a Marine Police base in some of the attacked areas, the sources said. The insurgents first attacked a base of the multinational forces located in Mile Four (an area outside Baga town) at about 4pm and the military responded. Fighting took place till midnight after which the insurgents took control of the military base while our soldiers retreated. Commander of the multinational force, whose name was given as Brigadier General Hassan, was said to have escaped at night to a police base in Baga town alongside some of his men. The following day, Thursday, the Nigerian military deployed fighter jets between 6 to 7am, bombing the multinational forces base hoping to prevent Boko Haram from carting away weapons in case they didn’t do that the previous night.”

Somalia

Voice Of America: At Least 8 Government Soldiers, 14 Militants Killed In Fighting

“Fighting between Somali regional troops and al-Shabab militants Saturday left at least 22 people dead, witnesses and officials said.The fighting in South Western Somalia started after heavily armed al-Shabab militants tried to overrun a military base in the Bay region. A Somali government official told VOA Somali that the soldiers engaged in a fierce battle for more than six hours with the militants, who attacked the base from four directions. "They attacked us from four directions with the aim of running over our base at around 7 a.m. local time, after five hours of fierce battle we finally warded them off and forced them to flee," said Col. Osman Nurow. Nurow said government army forces sent from a nearby Baidoa town to reinforce the base immediately joined the battle, killing at least 14 militants. Newly elected regional president Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed, also known as Lafta Gareen, said the regional forces lost eight soldiers in the battle. Multiple independent witnesses contacted by VOA confirmed the government claim, saying they saw the bodies of at least 14 militants. Goof Gaduud, a village 30km from Baidoa town of Bay region has often been a battleground for al Shabaab militants and government soldiers. For the past two years, hardly a month has passed without militants attacking the base, which was briefly occupied and destroyed several times."

Africa

The Washington Post: Morocco: Terror Charges Brought In Nordic Tourists’ Deaths

“Moroccan prosecutors have filed preliminary terrorism charges against 15 people who are suspected of links to the killing of two Scandinavian women in the Atlas Mountains. Morocco’s public prosecutor said in a statement that the charges include forming a gang to prepare and commit terrorist acts and premeditated murder. Three of the suspects faced additional charges for allegedly urging the others to commit acts of terrorism. The women, one from Denmark and one from Norway, were found dead in a remote mountain region on Dec. 17. Authorities have described the slayings as an alleged attack by followers of the Islamic State group. The 15 suspects were referred on Sunday to an investigating judge who handles terror-related cases. More suspects are expected to be charged in the coming days.”

The Guardian: Mali Attack: 37 Civilians Killed In Armed Raid On Village

“Armed men killed 37 Fulani civilians on Tuesday in central Mali, where ethnic violence cost hundreds of lives last year, the government has said. Violence between Fulani and rival communities has compounded an already dire security situation in Mali’s semi-arid and desert regions, which are used as a base by jihadist groups with ties to al-Qaida and Islamic State. The government said the attackers, who were dressed as traditional Donzo hunters, had raided the village of Koulogon in the central Mopti region and that some of the victims were children. Moulage Guindo, the mayor of Bankass, the nearest town, said the attack occurred at around the time of the first call to prayer of the new year and targeted the Fulani part of Koulogon. He said another part of Koulogon less than half a mile away was mostly inhabited by Dogon, an ethnic group to which the Donzos are linked. Mali has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely allied Islamists took over its north in 2012, prompting French forces to intervene to push them back the following year. Islamists have since regained a foothold in the north and centre, tapping into ethnic rivalries to recruit new members.”

Reuters: Burkina Faso Declares State Of Emergency In North Following Attacks

“Burkina Faso has declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces, a government spokesman said on Monday, as Islamist groups intensify attacks in areas bordering Mali. Security has deteriorated in the West African country as jihadists seek to increase their influence across the poorly policed scrublands of the Sahel region just south of the Sahara Desert. Burkinabe authorities are facing security problems from “the diffuse, cross-border nature of the terrorist threat”, government spokesman Remy Fulgance Dandjinou said following a special meeting of the cabinet. Last week, ten gendarmes were killed in an attack near the Malian border claimed by Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), an umbrella group for al Qaeda-linked militants in the Sahara. JNIM claimed responsibility for other attacks this year, including one in the capital Ouagadougou in March that killed about eight security agents and wounded dozens of others.”

United Kingdom

The Independent: Far Right ‘Not A Working-Class Movement Anymore’ As Groups Prey On Terror Fears And Brexit

“The far right “is not a working-class movement anymore”, a former neo-Nazi has said as groups capitalise on public concern over terrorism, grooming gangs and Brexit. Nigel Bromage told The Independent that sentiments once associated with street movements like the English Defence League (EDL) are being spread to a wider audience by groups targeting middle-class students and professionals. Mr Bromage, who mentors people as part of the government’s Prevent programme and runs a counter-extremism charity, has seen a change in the background of people seeking help in the past six months. “This isn’t a working-class movement anymore,” he added. “We’ve seen a rise in people coming from middle-class backgrounds. “They are well-educated, attended college or university and they’ve got involved in the right wing online mostly.”

The Independent: The Former Neo-Nazis And Islamists Fighting Extremism In The UK

“I wanted to change the world, I wanted to find an alternative to the problems I saw,” recalls Hadiya Masieh. Surrounded by photos of her children, the 40-year-old remembers how she was drawn into the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir and its call for a caliphate. After being attracted to the organisation’s ideals as a teenager, she became a full-time member and recruiter, marching and leafleting to spread its message of fundamental conflict between Islam and the west. But the 7/7 bombings that left 52 victims dead in London in 2005 was a wake-up call, showing where the Islamist ideology she had devoted herself to could lead. “It’s not that the group was violent, but young people go in with the idea of creating peace and hope and a better life and it gets turned into something else,” Ms Masieh told The Independent. “They get used by these political groups for their own agenda.” She has spent more than a decade working to counter the ideas she once followed, as part of a growing army of former extremists trying to turn the tide against a surge of radicalisation on all fronts. Police have warned that Britain may be struck by further terror attacks following the atrocities that left 36 victims dead in 2017, and with plots becoming less sophisticated and quicker to mount there are fears that not all can be stopped.”

France

The Jerusalem Post: French, Niger Troops Kill Islamist Militants In Joint Operation

“French and Nigerien troops killed around 15 Islamist militants in a joint air and ground operation in southwest Niger on Dec. 27, France's armed forces and defense ministry said on Sunday. The air raid and ground assault took place near Tongo Tongo, a village close to the border with Mali and some 175 kilometers (109 miles) north of Niamey. Tongo Tongo was where, in October 2017, militants killed four US soldiers and four local soldiers in an ambush on their joint patrol. Islamist militants in Niger are part of a regional insurgency in the poor, sparsely populated deserts of West Africa's Sahel. In 2017, five countries - Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania - backed by France, launched a taskforce, the G5 Sahel, in order to combat the insurgents. France operates in the region through its regional Barkhane force. During the operation the force recovered 20 motorbikes and a stash of weapons including several machine guns during the operation, the French military said in a statement.”

Germany

Reuters: German Police Arrest Syrian Man Dutch Suspect Of Attack Plot

“German police said they arrested a 26-year-old Syrian man on Saturday who is wanted in the Netherlands on suspicion of preparing to commit a terrorist attack there. The man was arrested in the western town of Mainz, the criminal police office in the western state of Rheinland-Palatinate said in a statement, adding that they were in close contact with Dutch police. “The arrest is based on an extradition request from the Dutch justice authorities, according to whom the detainee is suspected of being involved in preparing to commit a terrorist attack in the Netherlands,” the statement read. The detainee would appear before a magistrate in Mainz on Sunday, the police said, adding that the higher regional court in Koblenz would have to decide whether he could be extradited.”

The Jerusalem Post: German Female Isis Member Lets 5-Year-Old 'Slave' Die, Faces Charges

“A 27-year old German citizen member of the Islamic State faced war crimes charges for letting a five-year-old “slave” girl die of thirst in Mosul, the British newspaper Guardian reported. Identified as Jennifer W, she first left Germany in 2014 and traveled to Iraq via Turkey and Syria, where she joined ISIS. She was reportedly working as a morality police, patrolling the city parks of Falluja and Mosul. She and her husband purchased the child as a household “slave” in Mosul, German prosecutors reported. “After the girl fell ill and wet her mattress, the husband of the accused chained her up outside as punishment and let the child die of thirst in the scorching heat,” they said in a statement. “The accused allowed her husband to do so and did nothing to save the girl.” Jennifer W was arrested at the German embassy in Ankara, Turkey, when trying to renew her identity papers and extradited to Germany in 2016. When she attempted to fled to Syria earlier this year, the German police arrested her. She could face a life sentence if found guilty.”

Europe

Voice Of America: 5 Arrested In Suspected Dutch Terror Attack Plots

“Dutch and German police on Saturday arrested five people suspected of preparing a terrorist act in the Netherlands. Dutch police said in a statement that four suspects were detained in Rotterdam and officers searched multiple locations. The statement said the investigation would continue to determine the nature and scale of the alleged threat. It provided no details. In neighboring Germany, police announced the arrest of a Syrian man suspected of involvement in preparations for a terror attack in the Netherlands. Police said the 26-year-old was arrested Saturday in the western city of Mainz following an extradition request from the Netherlands. They didn't name him. A statement from police said the suspect has neither an official residence nor a criminal record in Germany. The apartment where he was found was searched. German police said they couldn't give further details, which they said are a matter for the police in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, who are leading the investigation.”

Australia

Reuters: Australia's Bid To Strip Islamic State Recruiter's Citizenship Hits Snag

“Australia’s attempt to strip citizenship from an alleged recruiter for Islamic State has been thrown into doubt after Fiji reportedly said he was not one of its citizens. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said on Saturday that the country was much safer after the government revoked Neil Prakash’s Australian citizenship. Canberra believes Prakash — who is wanted over an alleged plot to behead a Melbourne police officer — is a dual national as his father was Fijian. A person with such dual status can be stripped of their Australian citizenship if they engage in terrorism-related conduct, and Islamic State was declared a terrorist organization in 2016 for this purpose. The government cannot revoke single Australian citizenship as that would leave a person stateless. However, Fiji’s Immigration Department director Nemani Vuniwaqa said Prakash was not one of its citizens, the Fiji Sun newspaper reported on Tuesday. “Neil Prakash has not been or is a Fijian citizen. He was born in Australia and has acquired Australian citizenship since birth,” he was quoted as saying. “The Department has searched the Immigration system and confirms that he has not entered the country nor applied for citizenship since birth.” If Prakash does not hold dual status, the way could potentially be opened for a legal challenge against the Australian government as he may be legally entitled to retain his citizenship. The Home Affairs Department on Tuesday was unable to officially confirm whether or not Prakash was a Fijian citizen.”

Japan

CNBC: Vehicle Ploughs Into New Year’s Crowd In Tokyo, Injures Eight People

“At least eight people were injured, one seriously, when a vehicle ploughed into crowds celebrating New Year’s Day in Tokyo early on Tuesday. A police spokesman said the driver had been detained and national broadcaster NHK said the man had been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. He was identified as Kazuhiro Kusakabe, 21, from Osaka, a major city about 400 km (250 miles) southwest Tokyo, NHK said. NHK said the suspect had initially described the incident as an “act of terror” but later said the attack was in retaliation for capital punishment. The incident happened shortly after midnight local time on Monday in the popular tourist area of Harajuku, near Meiji Shrine, in central Tokyo. “I can’t believe it, this is a place I’m familiar with, so it’s very shocking,” said Tatsuhiro Yaegashi, a 27-year-old worker in the area. The street was closed to vehicles at the time of the incident to accommodate the large number of pedestrians making their way to the shrine for New Year’s prayers. TV pictures of the scene on Tuesday showed a grey colored light vehicle used in the attack, positioned across the street. The front of the vehicle was badly damaged and dozens of police and rescue officials were at the scene. The suspect fled from the scene and assaulted a passerby before he was captured 20 minutes later, NHK said. About 20 liters of kerosene were found in the vehicle.”

China

The New York Times: China’s Gulag For Muslims

“One of the darkest episodes of the 20th century was the gulag — the Soviet system of forced labor camps where dissidents were imprisoned in terrible conditions, often to perish. The camps were established by Lenin, expanded by Stalin and finally exposed to the world by the great Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, with his 1973 masterpiece, “The Gulag Archipelago.” “Thin strands of human lives stretch from island to island of Archipelago,” he wrote, and “it is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold, and if thirst and hunger don’t claw at your insides.” Today, Russia’s gulags are long gone, as is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that operated them. But now another dictatorship, ruled by another Communist Party, is operating a new chain of prisons that evoke memory of the gulags — more modern, more high-tech, but no less enslaving.”

Southeast Asia

The Japan Times: Islamic State Affiliate Suspected As Shopping Mall Bomb Kills Two In Restive South Philippines

“Two people were killed and around 35 others wounded Monday after a bomb went off outside a shopping mall in the southern Philippine city of Cotabato, police said. The explosion prompted officers to search the mall, leading to the discovery of another suspected bomb which they destroyed, said local police spokesman Chief Inspector Rowell Zafra. A female street vendor and one man were killed, while many of the wounded were shoppers buying goods for traditional New Year festivities. Three of the wounded were in critical condition, officials said. Scattered debris including items sold for New Year celebrations such as horns made from cardboard and plastic, gifts and a bloody slipper lay at the mall’s entrance where the bombing took place. Windows of surrounding buildings were shattered by the blast, eyewitnesses said. Investigators could not immediately say what kind of bomb was used or name any suspects. However, local army commander Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana told ABS-CBN television that an individual was seen carrying a box that he left in front of the mall. It exploded a few seconds later. Sobejana said the bomb had the signature of a “Daesh group,” referring to local Islamist extremists who have declared allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group. He said the military had some “leads” in the incident but did not elaborate.”

Technology

NBC News: Facebook's 2018 Timeline: Scandals, Hearings And Security Bugs

“Few tech companies have endured a year like Facebook did in 2018. Certainly the social network hadn't. While questions about Facebook's handling of user data had been a topic of conversation among privacy advocates for years, the company endured what seemed like a different scandal each week. And for all of them, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder, chief executive and public face of the company, was pushed for answers. Zuckerberg, who is also chairman of the company's board of directors, exercises near-total control of the company that has made him one of the richest people in the world. Facebook's brutal year can be seen in part through that net worth. Using data from Bloomberg's "Billionaires Index," we've included charts showing Zuckerberg's net worth alongside a timeline of some of Facebook's biggest issues of 2018.”

Huffington Post: Mark Zuckerberg Says Facebook Can’t Stop All Election Interference

“Wrapping up Facebook’s worst year yet, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg admitted that he has no fix for the hate speech and election interference plaguing his company. In a celebratory New Year’s post on the platform last week, the social media giant said his personal goals of 2018 had been focused on “preventing election interference, stopping the spread of hate speech and misinformation, making sure people have control of their information, and ensuring our services improve people’s well-being,” adding that progress had been made. Running through a list of security advances and investments to safeguard the site – which has fallen under the scrutiny of the federal government as it threatens to regulate it – Zuckerberg revealed that he didn’t have all the answers. “That doesn’t mean we’ll catch every bad actor or piece of bad content, or that people won’t find more examples of past mistakes before we improved our systems,” he said in the statement, changing his tone after noting the positives. “For some of these issues, like election interference or harmful speech, the problems can never fully be solved.”

ISIS

Buratha News Agency: Iraq: Four Tunnels And A Trench Built By ISIS Detonated

“The Directorate of Military Intelligence in Iraq announced on Tuesday the destruction of four tunnels and a trench belonging to ISIS in the mountains of Makhoul, in Saladin province. A statement by the Directorate said that intelligence and counterterrorism forces raided ISIS's hideouts in the Makhoul mountain range and uncovered four tunnels and a 30-meter-deep trench. A total of 23 ammonium nitrate containers and 36 explosive devices were also seized. The statement added that "two containers of C4, an RPG-7 launcher, five rocket launchers, two sniper riflescopes, three pistol silencers, mobile devices, detonator, blankets, food and dry supplies were seized.”

Muslim Brotherhood

The Seventh Day: Muslim Brotherhood Accused Of Infiltrating "Ansar Alsonna" Charity In Egypt

“Sheikh Adel El Sayed, former Da'wah (Call to Islam) and Media Manager in "Ansar Alsonna Almohamadia", one of Egypt's largest charitable associations, harshly criticized the various Da'wah associations operating under the {broad} umbrella of the Ansar Alsonna Almohamadia. These associations have deviated from the correct path of the Ansar Alsonna Almohamadia, according to the Sheikh. He also disclosed that the banned Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated nearly all of the 300 branches of this charity. Apart from five branches, all of the other 300 Ansar Alsonna Almohamadia branches were receiving funding from an Arab heritage foundation sponsored by the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh El Sayed claimed. He added that the banned Islamist group has long targeted {for infiltration} the Ansar Alsonna Almohamadia association, which was established two years prior to the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood, and, regrettably it has succeeded in doing so.”

Hezbollah
Orient Net: Hezbollah's Revenues From The Drug Industry And Trade

“According to Lebanese journalist Fatma Othman, "The profits from the drug trade, especially in Captagon pills, are one of the most important resources filling Hezbollah's coffers. This trade finances Hezbollah's treasury with more than 70% of its revenues. Othman added: "The most important drug trafficker belonging to Hezbollah was Hashim al-Moussawi, the brother of the Hezbollah deputy in the Bekaa (Hussein al-Moussawi), in addition to his other brother and some Hezbollah associates, such as Zueiter and others." On his part, Lebanon's military expert, Lt. Col. Ahmad Al-Attar, explained that the trade in Captagon pills alone "generates more than $50 million a month for Hezbollah's and Assad's coffers. This trade is linked to names and companies affiliated with Hezbollah scattered throughout the countries of the region, as well as the Arabian Gulf, Iran, Latin America and Africa.”

Houthi
Almashhad Alaraby: Internal Houthi Disputes And Conflicts Over Money

“A Houthi official in the province of Hajjah was seriously wounded and his brother was killed in an assassination attempt carried out by other Houthi militants, amid disputes between their leaders. According to local sources, the Houthi militants tried to liquidate the Houthi leader, who had been appointed by the group as its representative in the province of Hajjah. This came amid differences over the collection of funds from the leading merchants in the markets of the province. The sources claimed that the Houthi leader suffered a serious injury while his brother, who was accompanying him, was killed after being subjected to a barrage of bullets in an ambush by militants on the road between the Mabin Directorate and the Hajjah province. Hajjah has seen internal disputes and conflicts between two wings of the Houthis over influence, spoils, and positions in Sana'a. These rival factions are led by Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the so-called Political Council of the Houthis, and Mohammed al-Houthi.”
__________________
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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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