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Old 01-04-2019, 09:16 AM
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Arrow Eye on Extremism January 4, 2019

Eye on Extremism - January 4, 2019
RE: info@counterextremism.com


The New York Times: U.S. Accuses Iran Of Using Space Launch As Cover For Missile Program

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran on Thursday against launching three spacecraft in the coming months, describing them as a cover for testing technology that is necessary to lob a warhead at the United States and other nations. His statement seemed intended to build a legal case for diplomatic, military or covert action against the Iranian missile program. It was surprising only because Iran has been launching modest space missions, mostly to deploy satellites, since 2005. Around the time that Mr. Pompeo issued the statement, a 12-year-old Iranian satellite that was launched by Russia was circling the globe, including in a path that took it close to New York. And Mr. Pompeo made no mention of the other country that, over the years, has aided Iran’s ballistic missile and space rocket program: North Korea, whose leader was praised by President Trump as recently as Wednesday for writing him a “beautiful letter.”

Associated Press: Navy SEAL To Plead Not Guilty To Murder Charge Of ISIS Teen

“A decorated Navy SEAL is facing charges of premediated murder and numerous other offenses in connection with the fatal stabbing of a teenage Islamic State prisoner under his care in Iraq in 2017, along with the shooting of unarmed Iraqi civilians. Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher plans to plead not guilty to all the charges Friday during an arraignment hearing at Naval Base San Diego, his attorney Phil Stackhouse said. The case stands out because of the seriousness of the allegations against an elite special warfare operator and the fact that the prosecution’s case includes the accounts of fellow Navy SEALs, an extremely tight-knit group even by military standards. Stackhouse said his client is being falsely accused by disgruntled SEALs who wanted to get rid of a demanding platoon leader. Gallagher was awarded the Bronze Star twice. Navy prosecutors have painted a picture of a highly trained fighter and medic going off the rails on his eighth deployment — indiscriminately shooting at Iraqi civilians — and stabbing to death a captured Islamic State fighter estimated to be 15 years old, and then posing with the corpse at his re-enlistment ceremony. If convicted, the 19-year Navy veteran faces life in prison.”

The Washington Post: Trump’s Syria Withdrawal Snatches Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

“Asked to describe U.S. policy toward Syria after President Trump’s sudden decision on Dec. 19 to withdraw U.S. troops from that country, several key officials use the same two words: “total chaos.” There’s another phrase that comes to mind in assessing Trump’s move: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. U.S.-backed forces were on the verge of eliminating the Islamic State in northeastern Syria when Trump made his surprise announcement, which went against the recommendations of all his senior diplomatic and military advisers. Trump did it anyway, for reasons that remain mysterious to some of his subordinates. The trigger was a Dec. 14 phone call from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. Trump had been briefed to warn the Turkish leader not to invade Syria, as he had been threatening to do. But Trump instead told Erdogan: “You know what? It’s yours. I’m leaving.”

ABC News: Nigerian Helicopter Crashes While Fighting Boko Haram

“A Nigerian Air Force helicopter crashed in combat, killing five crew members, as fighting raged against extremists for control of the strategic town of Baga in the northeast, the military said Thursday. The crash occurred Wednesday at Damasak in northern Borno state, according to a tweet by air force spokesman Ibikunle Daramola. Officials did not say what caused the crash. The military has been fighting to regain control of Baga, which the extremists seized last week. The town is a key base for a multinational force fighting the extremists. Many residents have fled to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri. The fighting for Baga has been intense, the chief of army training and operations, Maj. Gen. Lamidi Adeosun, told reporters. "It's a ding-dong situation but we are engaging them," he said last week. "We are not in total control but Boko Haram have not taken control of Baga, either." The base in Baga, close to the border with Chad, has weapons, ammunition and other equipment that are a key target for the extremists, who also overran the base in 2015. The Islamic State West Africa Province, an offshoot of the decade-old Boko Haram extremist group and the largest IS-linked extremist group in Africa, claimed to kill or wound "dozens" of soldiers in the latest attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group that monitors extremist communiques.”

Channel News Asia: Far-Right 'Street Patrol' In German Town After Migrant Violence

“A German far-right group has launched a vigilante street patrol in a Bavarian town where four Afghan and Iranian asylum seekers allegedly attacked passers-by last weekend, local authorities said on Thursday (Jan 3). The mayor of Amberg, Michael Cerny, said he was "shocked" after the extremist NPD party posted photos online of four people wearing red protective vests to create "safe spaces", including outside a refugee centre. "I can understand the insecurity seen in some of the reactions of some Ambergers, but the hatred and the threats of violence from all over the country go way too far," Cerny told the local daily Mittelbayerische Zeitung. Police said they were investigating the reports, which included a group calling itself "Kraut/pol" accusing town authorities in an email of failing to protect the citizens of Amberg. Police last Saturday detained four men from Afghanistan and Iran, aged 17 to 19, who had allegedly drunkenly attacked passers-by at random. Twelve people aged 16 to 42 suffered mostly minor injuries, and a 17-year-old was treated for head wounds in hospital. The case revived a simmering debate over immigration, integration and crime that has flared since the mass influx of over one million asylum seekers from 2015.”

Yahoo Finance: A Simple, Yet Radical Solution To Solve Facebook's Problems

“Facebook’s problems are coming so fast and furious these days that the company’s biggest challenge is simply keeping track of it all. Between high-profile mega hacks, negligent sharing of data, and lawsuits, never mind investigations by governments all over the world, Facebook’s top executives are expending much of their time trying to stop the bleeding—many would say ineffectually—at the expense of running the business. Memo to Sheryl and Zuck: There’s a message in that disequilibrium. At this point it’s probably too much to ask those two—the company founder, cum CEO, cum controlling shareholder and his handpicked, right-hand person—to figure out how to fix Facebook. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg are too close to it and have too much faith in the righteousness of what they consider not merely a company, but a cause.”

United States

Fox News: Ohio Couple Who Allegedly Communicated With Dylann Roof Indicted On Terror-Related Charges

“An Ohio man and his girlfriend arrested last month in a terrorism investigation have been indicted on additional charges accusing them of obtaining guns and explosives for a domestic terror attack that was never carried out. Vincent Armstrong and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Lecron, both 23, of Toledo now face several conspiracy charges, including conspiracy to transport or receive an explosive with intent to kill or injure, federal prosecutors said Thursday. Investigators also said Lecron had been exchanging letters with Dylann Roof, a white supremacist sentenced to death in the killings of nine black worshippers in a racist attack at a South Carolina church. They also said the couple traveled to Colorado last August to see the site of the Columbine High School massacre, where two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher in 1999. Investigators in court documents have said the boyfriend and girlfriend had talked about taking part in violent attacks on public places and had bomb-making supplies and weapons inside their home, as The Toledo Blade reported. Armstrong originally was charged with making false statements while Lecron was charged with transporting explosives after investigators said she bought hundreds of screws and black powder.”

American Enterprise Institute: Humanitarian Assistance Has A Terrorism Problem. Can It Be Resolved?

“Humanitarian assistance had a tough year in 2018. Under the Trump administration, the United States — the world’s leading provider of foreign assistance — ended all funding to the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, even as it sought to increase its overall humanitarian assistance budget by 21 percent for FY 2019. Battles over humanitarian assistance also continued to play out in Syria, where many have decried the Assad regime’s refusal to provide consistent access for relief efforts. Others have accused humanitarian assistance initiatives of propping up the regime, even though opposition-controlled areas in Syria have also benefited from aid. That an array of political and military actors can leverage humanitarian assistance to their benefit poses a dilemma for humanitarian organizations and the governments that fund their work. But there is another equally pressing dilemma for the humanitarian assistance community to confront. The United States has directed more than $8.6 billion toward Syria-related humanitarian assistance.”

Smithsonian: This Map Shows Where In The World The U.S. Military Is Combatting Terrorism

“Less than a month after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, U.S. troops—with support from British, Canadian, French, German and Australian forces—invaded Afghanistan to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban. More than 17 years later, the Global War on Terrorism initiated by President George W. Bush is truly global, with Americans actively engaged in countering terrorism in 80 nations on six continents. This map is the most comprehensive depiction in civilian circles of U.S. military and government antiterrorist actions overseas in the past two years. To develop it, my colleagues and I at Brown University’s Costs of War Project at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, along with Smithsonian magazine, combed through U.S. and foreign government sources, published and unpublished reports, military websites and geographical databases; we contacted foreign embassies in the U.S. and the military’s United States Africa Command; and we conducted interviews with journalists, academics and others. We found that, contrary to what most Americans believe, the war on terror is not winding down—it has spread to more than 40 percent of the world’s countries.”

Syria

The Washington Post: I Was Special Envoy To Fight The Islamic State. Our Gains Are Now At Risk.

“Four years ago, just before President Barack Obama appointed me as his special envoy to the coalition fighting the so-called Islamic State, I laid out a set of ideas for how to defeat and ultimately destroy the terrorist group. Because the Islamic State was a regional and global problem, posing an imminent threat to the United States, it was clear that its defeat would require an international coalition. I recommended that this coalition, once formed, be tasked with halting the terrorist group’s forward momentum, empowering indigenous forces to be the final and lasting agents of the Islamic State’s defeat, and coordinating much-needed stabilization efforts once the fighting had subsided. I believed then, and remained convinced after taking on the role of special envoy, that only through a comprehensive and multilateral approach could the Islamic State be truly eliminated from the world stage. Ultimately, the broad strategy executed by the Obama administration and largely continued by the Trump administration was a success — the Islamic State was halted in its tracks and was slowly but surely rolled back in Iraq and Syria.”

The National: Rebel Infighting In Northern Syria Intensifies As Clashes Spill Into Idlib

“Clashes on Wednesday intensified between the two largest rebel alliances in northern Syria, killing more than 80, including civilians and fighters. Battles between the Al Qaeda-linked Hay’at Tahrir Al Sham alliance and the Turkey-backed National Liberation Front in western Aleppo have spilled into adjacent provinces of Idlib and Hama, according to activists. The skirmishes mark one of the most severe cases of rebel infighting in Syria’s north since Hay’at Tahrir Al Sham launched a wide-scale offensive to seize most of Idlib province from rival rebel forces in 2017. They also effectively nullify an agreement reached between the Al Qaeda linked fighters and the rebels in October, during which both vowed to cease attacks. Rebel infighting has also doused tensions on frontlines near the Kurdish-held town of Manbij as rebel forces in the area redeploy further west to support the National Liberation Front in its fight against Al Qaeda-linked fighters.”

Voice Of America: Rebel Infighting Escalates In Northwest Syria

“Clashes among rival Syrian rebel factions have spread across northwest Syria, rebels and residents said Thursday, in the latest bout of tit-for-tat fighting between opponents of President Bashar al-Assad's rule. Infighting has long plagued Syria's armed opposition since the uprising against Assad began in 2011. Turf wars have helped the Syrian president, with his Iranian and Russian allies, recover much of the territory previously held by rebels. Tahrir al Sham, formerly affiliated with al-Qaida, had launched an attack Tuesday against towns in the western countryside of Aleppo held by Nour al Din Zinki, a member of the mainstream National Liberation Front (NLF), the rebels and residents told Reuters by telephone. The Islamist group, which Wednesday seized the town of Darat Izza, said it was retaliating for an ambush this week that killed five of its fighters. It blamed Nour al Din Zinki.”

Al Jazeera: US Intensifies Bombing In Syria After Trump Announced Withdrawal

“After President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of 2,000 troops from Syria last month, the US military ramped up its bombing campaign against territory still held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in the eastern part of the country, according to sources on the ground and photographs obtained in a joint investigation by Al Jazeera and The Intercept. The fiercest attacks in the past week occurred in Al Kashmah, a village on the Euphrates River near the border with Iraq, according to three sources in eastern Syria. Amid US air attacks and artillery fire by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), civilians and family members of ISIL fighters fled to villages to the south, the sources said. While Al Kashmah has not yet fallen, the only people remaining there are fighters representing what has become the front line of the war against ISIL in Deir Az Zor province. The ISIL fighters are clustered in villages along the Euphrates, from the border with Iraq to south of Hajin, a former ISIL stronghold that fell to the SDF, a Kurdish-led militia, in mid-December. There are about 50,000 to 60,000 people who remain in those areas, according to a civilian activist in Deir Az Zor who documents rights abuses and asked not to be named due to safety concerns.”

Reuters: Rebel Infighting Escalates In Northwest Syria

“Clashes among rival Syrian rebel factions have spread across northwest Syria, rebels and residents said on Thursday, in the latest bout of tit-for-tat fighting between opponents of President Bashar al Assad’s rule. Infighting has long plagued Syria’s armed opposition since the uprising against Assad began in 2011. Turf wars have helped the Syrian president, with his Iranian and Russian allies, recover much of the territory previously held by rebels. Tahrir al Sham, formerly affiliated to al Qaeda, had launched an attack on Tuesday against towns in the western countryside of Aleppo held by Nour al Din Zinki, a member of the mainstream National Liberation Front (NLF), the rebels and residents told Reuters by telephone. The Islamist group, which on Wednesday seized the town of Darat Izza, said it was retaliating for an ambush this week that killed five of its fighters. It blamed Nour al Din Zinki. Ideological differences divide hardline Islamist militants from nationalist groups in the Free Syrian Army that have gathered under the banner of the NLF, which has the backing of Syria’s neighbor Turkey.”

Reuters: Where Do The Kurds Fit Into Syria's War?

“The future of Kurdish-led areas of northern and eastern Syria has been thrown into doubt by President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops who have helped to secure the region. Amounting to about one quarter of Syria, the area is the largest chunk of territory still outside the control of President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran. Trump said on Wednesday the United States would withdraw slowly “over a period of time” and would protect the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters as Washington withdraws troops, but without giving a timetable. Syrian Kurdish leaders fear Turkey will use the withdrawal as an opportunity to launch an assault. As a result, they are in contact with Moscow and Damascus in the hope of agreeing arrangements to protect the region from Turkey while also aiming to safeguard their political gains. The main Syrian Kurdish faction, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), began to establish a foothold in the north early in the war as government forces withdrew to put down the anti-Assad uprising elsewhere. An affiliated militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), secured the region. Early in the conflict, their control was concentrated in three predominantly Kurdish regions home to roughly 2 million Kurds. Kurdish-led governing bodies were set up.”

Iran

Times Of Israel: Pompeo On Tehran Rockets: US ‘Won’t Stand By’ As Iran Threatens Global Security

“US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran on Thursday that its planned launch of three rockets as part of its space program constituted “defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231,” a July 2015 endorsement by the Security Council of the Iran nuclear deal. The three space launch vehicles, Pompeo said in a statement released by the State Department, “incorporate technology that is virtually identical to that used in ballistic missiles, including in intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). “An ICBM with a range of 10,000km could reach the United States.” Pompeo warned the US “will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime’s destructive policies place international stability and security at risk.” He raised the specter of further sanctions, saying, “We advise the regime to reconsider these provocative launches and cease all activities related to ballistic missiles in order to avoid deeper economic and diplomatic isolation. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later responded that Iran’s actions were “NOT in violation of Res 2231. The US is in material breach of same, & as such it is in no position to lecture anyone on it.”

Reuters: Iran To Send Warships To The Atlantic, Closer To U.S. Waters

“The Iranian navy will send warships to deploy in the Atlantic from March, a top commander said on Friday, as the Islamic Republic seeks to increase the operating range of its naval forces to the backyard of the United States, its arch foe. Iran sees the presence of U.S. aircraft carriers in the Gulf as a security concern and its navy has sought to counter that by showing the flag near American waters. A flotilla will leave for the Atlantic early in the Iranian new year, starting from March, Iran’s naval deputy commander said. “The Atlantic Ocean is far and the operation of the Iranian naval flotilla might take five months,” Rear-Admiral Touraj Hassani was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA. He said Sahand, a newly-built destroyer, would be one of the warships. Sahand has a flight deck for helicopters and Iran says it is equipped with anti-aircraft and anti-ship guns, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles and has electronic warfare capabilities.”

The Guardian: Zaghari-Ratcliffe To Go On Hunger Strike In Iranian Jail

“Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British woman imprisoned in Tehran on espionage charges, is to go on hunger strike in protest against being denied access to medical care. The British-Iranian dual national is asking for access to a doctor. She announced the hunger strike from Tehran’s Evin prison in a joint letter with a fellow prisoner, the human rights activist Narges Mohammadi. The women said they have planned an initial three-day hunger strike, which will be extended until their demands are met. In a letter published by the Tehran-based charity Defenders of Human Rights Centre, Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she and Mohammadi were banned from accessing medical care. “In protest to this illegal, inhuman and unlawful behaviour, and to express our concerns for our health and survival at this denial of specialist treatment, despite taking daily medicines, we will go on hunger strike from 14.01.2019 to 16.01.2019,” the letter said.”

Al Arabiya: Iran’s Schizophrenia Heats Up The Debate

“As the leadership in Tehran prepares to mark the 40th anniversary of the Khomeinist revolution, a growing number of Iranians are wondering whether the time has come for their country to close that chapter and resume its historic path as a nation-state. The need for Iran to move beyond the Khomeinist revolution was the theme of a seminar last month at Westminster University in London where the return of Iran as a nation-state was highlighted as an urgent need for regional peace and stability. It was also noted that, compared to other 20th century revolutions, the Khomeinist revolution could be considered a failure across the board. Forty years after its inception, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia had turned a backward pre-industrial country into one of the world’s two superpowers sending the first man into space and that after defeating Nazi Germany in the biggest war in human history. At the same time, the Soviet regime had succeeded in “exporting” its ideology and socio-political system to more than dozen countries accounting for almost a third of humanity.”

Turkey

U.S. News & World Report: Turkey, Iraq Will Deepen Cooperation In Fight Against Terrorism, Erdogan Says

“Turkey and Iraq will deepen their cooperation in the fight against terrorism, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday. Erdogan was speaking at a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih. Turkey has said it would take over the fight against Islamic State following the U.S. decision to pull out of Syria. Ankara also carries out regular air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) bases in northern Iraq.”

Afghanistan

Arab News: Taliban Threat Looms Over Oil Reservoirs In Afghan Province

“Clashes between Taliban militants and government forces have somewhat come to a halt near oil reservoirs in Afghanistan’s northern Sar-e-Pul province. The Taliban still poses a threat in the area, provincial officials said on Thursday. More than 20 government security forces lost their lives when scores of heavily armed Taliban fighters staged a series of attacks on two oil wells in the province. No government reinforcements have arrived despite promises by Kabul to flush out Taliban combatants entrenched near the area, local officials said. “Reservoirs, vehicles and equipment worth millions of dollars are under threat,” Zabihullah Amani, a spokesman for the province’s governor, told Arab News. “The reservoirs remain with us, but the Taliban are able to launch more attacks.” Both Mohammad Noor Rahmani, provincial chief council, and Amani said they did not know the reason for the government’s inaction against the Taliban’s growing presence in the province. “While there has been no fighting since the Taliban attack, they can come at any moment and pose a continuous threat to oil facilities and resources in the area,” Rahmani told Arab News. An Afghan and Chinese firm used to exploit oil reserves in the wells until six months ago, but stopped after the government objected.”

Radio Free Europe: At Least 11 Afghan Police Officers Killed In Taliban Attacks

“Afghan officials say at least 11 police officers were killed after Taliban militants attacked two security checkpoints in the country's north. The attacks occurred on the outskirts of Pul-e Khumri, the capital of Baghlan Province, late on January 2. Baghlan Governor Abdulhai Nemati said the two checkpoints were destroyed in the hours-long clashes that lasted until early on January 3. The attack also wounded two other police officers, said Safdar Mooseni, the head of the provincial council. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The Taliban controls or contests nearly half of Afghanistan, where it is waging a deadly insurgency against the Western-backed Kabul government and government security forces. The attacks came amid reports of a possible drawdown in the estimated 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan currently leading a NATO effort to train and advise local troops.”

Foreign Policy Journal: Should The US Make Peace With The Taliban?

“President Trump seems to have realized that the most logical path to peace in Afghanistan lies in negotiating an agreement with the Taliban. Since taking office, President Donald Trump’s approach to the war in Afghanistan has been to keeps his cards close to his chest and not disclose troop movements, numbers, or any timetable for withdrawal. But two years later, it appears the Trump administration has finally realized that military victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan is unlikely. The Trump administration has ordered the military to start withdrawing roughly 7,000 troops from Afghanistan in the coming months, two defense officials said, marking an abrupt shift in the 17-year-old war there. Signs now point to Trump pulling all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan before the 2020 election season, according to NBC News. The war effort may be remembered as a tremendous waste of lives and money. The U.S. has spent $15.5 billion in Afghanistan over 11 years, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, who adds that that figure is probably “only a portion.” Despite all these sacrifices—including the loss of more than 33,000 civilian and combatant lives—the Taliban are stronger than ever.”

Yemen

The Guardian: Yemen: Houthi Rebels' Food Aid Theft Only Tip Of Iceberg, Officials Say

“The theft of food aid in Yemen by Houthi rebels might be only the tip of the iceberg, officials believe, as questions multiply over international relief efforts in the famine-ravaged country. It has emerged that aid officials have been aware for months that armed groups – most prominently Houthi rebels in the capital, Sana’a – have been diverting food aid into the key areas they control, including by manipulating data in malnutrition surveys used by the UN. Officials concede that difficulties with access to many areas in Yemen under Houthi control, and aid agencies’ reliance on Houthi officials to collect much of the hunger data, have left them vulnerable to falsification. Houthi officials have vociferously denied the allegations of food theft in Sana’a, disclosed on Monday. Aid workers who spoke to the Guardian anonymously in December detailed similar concerns about food diversion.”

The National: Yemen's Houthi Rebels Are Undermining Hodeidah Ceasefire, Security Council Warned

“Houthi rebels violated the UN-brokered ceasefire in Hodeidah more than 200 times in less than two weeks since it went into effect and do not show signs of preparing to abide by the truce, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have told the Security Council. The rebels killed 23 coalition forces and wounded 163 in 268 attacks between December 18 and December 30, according to a detailed list submitted by the permanent UN representatives of the theree countries to the Council president on December 31, along with a letter calling for international pressure on the Houthis to cease hostilities that threaten the peace process. The rebel attacks in and around the port city ranged from sniper fire and artillery barrages to the launching of medium range ballistic missiles in attacks lasting up to an hour. “The missile strikes in particular show that this vast number of violations cannot be attributed of individual ill-disciplined Houthi fighters, but that these actions are part of a deliberate strategy of provocation … designed to undermine the Stockholm Agreement,” the letter said.”

Saudi Arabia

Al Arabiya: Saudi Ambassador To US: Houthis Daily Violation Of Children's Rights Must End

“Saudi Prince Khalid bin Salman posted a series of tweets on Thursday discussing Houthis’ recruitment of children in Yemen. In his first tweet, he posted four pictures of children looking as young as five years old, some dressed in military clothing and others seemingly chanting. The prince also discussed the cases of children who were saved by KSRelief, describing them as “shocked by the horrors of war, where they find themselves between death and gunfire, and bodily remains.” Condemning the international community and media’s unfortunate ignoring of the Houthis’ daily violation of children’s rights, Prince Khalid said that child recruitment must end once and for all.”

Lebanon

Press TV: Lebanese Security Forces Bust Daesh Terrorist Network During New Year Holidays

“Lebanese security forces have arrested a group of people affiliated with the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in neighboring Syria, who planned to carry out a series of deadly attacks in Lebanon. “As a result of intensive efforts made by the General Security Directorate in various Lebanese regions during New Year holidays to guarantee public security, government forces have managed to disband a cell linked to [the] Daesh terrorist group,” the Army Command Center said in a statement. It added that the Daesh sleeper cell consisted of four Syrian nationals, who were operating in Mount Lebanon and North provinces. “They were in direct contact with leaders from the terrorist group. The four Syrians were sent to judicial bodies for investigations and further legal procedures,” the statement pointed out. On November 17, 2018, Lebanese security forces arrested a group of Syrians that had formed a network to conduct terror missions. “They were tasked with monitoring [the] Lebanese Army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) centers in southern Lebanon in order to collect information on military personnel and equipment ... and their methods of operation,” Lebanon’s General Security Directorate said in a statement at the time.”

Egypt

Times Of Israel: Egyptian President Confirms Israel Helping Fight Sinai Jihadists

“Egypt’s president has confirmed that Israel is helping Egyptian troops battle jihadists in the restive Sinai Peninsula. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi told CBS News that cooperation between Cairo and Jerusalem was tighter than it had ever been, in comments published late Thursday. “That is correct…We have a wide range of cooperation with the Israelis,” he told the US news outlet when asked if the military coordination between the countries was closer than it had ever been. The comments came during an interview with the channel’s “60 Minutes” program that is slated to air Sunday evening. According to CBS, Sissi has demanded that the interview be pulped, apparently over questions about human rights abuses and the deaths of protesters, but the channel has insisted it will be shown nonetheless. In February, The New York Times reported that Israel was covertly carrying out a full-blown aerial campaign against Islamic State targets in Sinai, with Sissi’s blessing. The Israeli aircraft are reportedly often unmarked and sometimes use indirect routes in a bid to cover up the origin of the strikes. Israel and Egypt have never confirmed the existence of the campaign.”

Somalia

News 24: US Airstrike In Somalia Kills 10 Al-Shabaab Extremists

“The US military says it has carried out an airstrike in Somalia that killed 10 members of the al-Shaabab extremist group. The US Africa Command statement says the airstrike occurred on Wednesday near Dheerow Sanle to "diminish al-Shabab's freedom of movement and to increase pressure on the terrorist network." The statement says no civilians were injured or killed. This is the first reported US airstrike of the year in Somalia. The US carried out at least 47 such strikes last year in the Horn of Africa nation. The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab continues to control large parts of the country's southern and central regions and carry out deadly bombings against high-profile targets in the capital, Mogadishu. The US has sharply increased the number of airstrikes since President Donald Trump took office.”

Africa

Morocco World News: Algeria Shuts Border To Syrian Refugees, Invokes Terrorism Threat

“The Algerian government has responded to international criticism for expelling Syrian migrants, citing concerns over terrorism. Al Jazeera quoted Hassen Kacimi, the head of the migration department at the interior ministry, as saying that the 50 migrants Algeria expelled to Niger last week were suspected to have a terrorist background. Algeria had previously claimed the Syrians were irregular migrants. Defending Algeria’s policy, Kacimi told Reuters, “We have hosted 50,000 Syrians in the past few years for humanitarian reasons. But we cannot accept members of armed groups fleeing from Syria when it comes to our security.” He added: “This is a criminal network and we must be very vigilant not to allow them to enter into Algeria.” In November, Anwar Al Bouni of the Syrian Center of Studies and Legal Research took to Facebook to denounce Algeria’s treatment of Syrians. Al Bouni accused the country of being insensitive to tSyrian refugeeshe plight of Syrians, likening Algeria’s attitude to the racial profiling of Arabs by an Arab state. He wrote that Syrian refugees were “stuck in an Arab country.” According to the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), Algiers expelled 50 “desperate and distressed” mostly Syrian refugees on December 25 and 26.”

United Kingdom

Daily Mail: 'I Spit At This Country': British Muslim Convert Scoped Out Oxford Street And Madame Tussauds For Terror Attacks After Going To Anjem Choudary Rallies

“A British-born Muslim convert said 'I spit at Britain' in an ISIS allegiance video as he plotted to slaughter shoppers in a 'ram attack' outside Oxford Street's Disney store.Lewis Ludlow, a former Royal Mail worker from the upmarket Kent town of Rochester, became radicalised after converting to Islam and attending the poppy-burning rallies of hate preacher Anjem Choudary. The 27-year-old then tried to join a new ISIS group in the Philippines, but was stopped from travelling and so began hatching plans for an attack in London.He plotted a vehicle attack on Oxford Street or Madame Tussauds while, at the same time, meeting officials from the deradicalisation programme Prevent. The convert had been offered three different courses of deradicalisation since he first came to the group's attention in 2008, but repeatedly failed to show up. Investigators then found a torn-up letter setting out his vehicle attack plot, and a video in which he said: 'I pledge allegiance to Islamic State and it's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi... I want nothing from Britain and I spit at this country.' An investigation revealed he was preparing to drive a van into shoppers on Oxford Street or near tourist hotspot Madame Tussauds.”

The Guardian: Oxford Street Terror Plotter Tells Court MI5 Tried To Recruit Him

“A Muslim convert has told how he rebuffed MI5 advances but played along with authorities trying to deradicalise him as he plotted a terror attack on Oxford Street. Lewis Ludlow, 27, of Rochester, Kent, a former Royal Mail worker, said he was filled with “animosity and hatred” when he swore allegiance to Islamic State, the Old Bailey heard. All the while, he appeared to engage with the Prevent deradicalisation programme, having had 16 meetings and a phonecall with officers over the six months before his arrest last April. One of the meetings was on the same day that Ludlow had carried out reconnaissance of targets around the capital, taking photographs of Oxford Street and Madame Tussauds. Ludlow had planned to kill up to 100 people in a “ram attack” after being stopped by police at Heathrow airport in February 2018 as he attempted to board a flight to the Philippines. The defendant, who called himself “the Eagle” and “the Ghost”, had bought a phone under a false name and wrote down his attack plans, which were later found ripped up in a bin in his home. He pleaded guilty last year to plotting an attack in the UK and giving money to Isis in the Philippines and appeared at the Old Bailey on Thursday to be sentenced.”

France

The Guardian: Wife Of Jihadist Charged With Terrorist Crimes In France

“The wife of one of France’s most notorious jihadists, Peter Cherif, has been charged and provisionally detained, days after her husband was returned to prison after seven years on the run. Soulef A, who was arrested along with Cherif in Djibouti in mid-December, has been charged with criminal association with terrorists and financing a terrorist enterprise and held pending a hearing on 7 January. Cherif, 36, who was returned to France in late December and detained, is considered a potential source of valuable information by western intelligence agencies. French authorities have been seeking him since he disappeared in 2011 on the final day of his trial in Paris for fighting in Iraq alongside Al-Qaida in 2004. He appeared before a French judge on 27 December and was issued with a new charge of terrorist conspiracy before returning to prison to serve the five-year sentence from his original trial. He was close to the brothers who massacred staff on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015. In the same year, Cherif, also known as Abou Hamza, was placed on the US blacklist of foreign terrorists. Investigators opened a new probe in 2017 into his activities in Yemen, where he joined the senior ranks of the local branch of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).”

Germany

Fair Observer: Tracking German Neo-Nazism Through Music

“German neo-Nazi bands attempt to appeal more broadly to an audience that is opposed to the government’s position on asylum seekers. Plato once wrote, in an argument postulating the banning of music, that “any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole State.” While an extreme position to adopt in its own right, the philosopher’s prediction about the interconnectivity of politics and music is not without its merits, least of all when it comes to Germany and some of its most radical citizens. Perhaps most infamous of all is the case of 19th-century composer Richard Wagner and his anti-Semitic views that inspired Adolf Hitler’s decision to venerate Wagner and his music during the Third Reich era. While the literal tone of racially implicated music has significantly changed in postwar Germany — far fewer trombones and far more distortion of the vocal cords — its existence has endured. In the last three decades, National Socialist black metal and white-power bands have staged concerts that aim to blend entertainment with indoctrination, specifically with radical-right ideologies on race, religion and national identity.”

Australia

The Guardian: There’s No Excuse For Justifying The Racist Attitudes That Plague Australia

“2018 had a lot of moments of hope despite the rising tones of white supremacy in Australia and abroad. The Liberal party voted in favour of Pauline Hanson’s “It’s OK to be white” motion (and no, it wasn’t an “administrative error”), but quickly backtracked when media started to point out the connections of that slogan to white supremacist groups. Just that in itself was significant in many ways. Australia doesn’t really like to acknowledge our white supremacy outside of Nazis, skinheads or the KKK, and even then there’s still plenty of media people who will call them “far-right activists” or even just “concerned citizens”. So to acknowledge that our governing party voted in favour of a white supremacist slogan was a pretty big deal for those of us who watch how Australian media all too readily ignore overtones of white supremacy.”

News Australia: The New Extremist Threat In Australia: Right-Wing Groups Who Have ASIO’s Attention

“Right-wing groups promising to unleash a Cronulla-style race riot on Melbourne this weekend are on the national intelligence agency’s radar, with growing fears of the threat posed by a new breed of homegrown extremists. Community tension is at boiling point in the Victorian capital, with a number of so-called ‘patriots' planning at meet at St Kilda Beach on Saturday to protest African gang violence. Neil Erikson, a controversial far-right figure who has been convicted for inciting serious contempt against Muslims, is behind the rally, which police say they are watching closely. He is supported by convicted criminal Blair Cottrell, who runs the United Patriots Front and an underground fight club for men, and once called for a picture of Adolf Hitler to be hung in every Australian classroom. In a message released on Wednesday, Cottrell launched an attack on the government and media, which he said were working together like “a Communist state”. “Perhaps diversity isn’t our greatest strength — perhaps all it’s actually doing is dividing and destabilising our society,” the tradesman and bodybuilder said. “I’ll be uniting with Australian workers … on St Kilda Beach and every Australian patriot I know will be there with me. Rise without fear.”

Southeast Asia

The Straits Times: Death Of Singaporean, 3 Other Militants 'May Have Led To Mindanao Bombing'

“A Singaporean Islamic militant was killed in clashes in December that intelligence officials here believe may have led to a deadly bombing in the war-torn southern Philippine island of Mindanao. A senior military official identified the Singaporean as Abu Hud Zain. It was not clear whether this was his real name or just an alias. Investigators had yet to recover his passport or any documents to confirm his identity, according to the official, who asked not to be named because of the nature of the information he was sharing. Zain was killed in covert operations by security forces in Mamasapano town, in Maguindanao province, on Dec 22. He died with an Indonesian, Abdulrahid Ruhmisanti, and Filipino brothers Salamuddin and Mohammad Hassan. This happened about a week before a bomb went off in front of a shopping mall in Cotabato city on Monday (Dec 31), killing two and wounding dozens. Major-General Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the 6th Infantry Division, told reporters the attack was probably a retaliation for the deaths of the four militants. Zain was said to be part of the Muhajireen Wal-Ansar, also known as the Maguindanao Daulah Islamiyah, a faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) under the firebrand preacher Esmael Abdulmalik, also known as Abu Turaife.”

Technology

The Wall Street Journal: Facebook Begins New Year In Fixer-Upper Mode

“One year ago Friday, Mark Zuckerbergset his sights on “fixing” Facebook Inc. That remains very much a work in progress. At the top of the 2019 to-do list: find a balance between the social-media giant’s deeply held drive for growth and its heightened commitment to improving safety and security across its many platforms. Those tensions were evident—and unresolved—inside Facebook throughout much of last year, say current and former employees. In one instance, an effort to decrease political polarization on the platform raised concerns from Mr. Zuckerberg and other executives about whether it would work and if it could reduce user engagement, which was starting to flag on Facebook’s namesake service, people familiar with the discussions say. The specific project was shelved in early September, although Facebook says its antipolarization efforts continue.”
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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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