Eye on Extremism, September 23, 2016

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Counter Extremism Project

The New York Times: ‘In-Betweeners’ Are Part Of A Rich Recruiting Pool For Jihadists

A rich recruiting pool for Al Qaeda and the Islamic State includes what psychologists call ‘in-betweeners,’ young adults whose identities have not yet solidified. Their uncertainty makes them vulnerable, said J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist and clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego. ‘It allows the individual to attach his identity to something that is larger and inflates his sense of himself,’ he said. He has led many people down the jihadist path, and not just in English-speaking countries. The Counter Extremism Project, an advocacy group based in Washington, said Wednesday that it had counted 88 ‘extremists’ who had been influenced by Mr. Awlaki: 54 in the United States and 34 in Europe.

New York Times: ‘Keep An Eye On Him,’ Ahmad Khan Rahami’s Father Says He Told F.B.I.

“The father of the man accused of carrying out bombings last weekend in New York and New Jersey said that, two years ago, he warned federal agents explicitly about his son’s interest in terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and his fascination with jihadist music, poetry and videos. In a series of interviews with The New York Times on Wednesday and Thursday, Mohammad Rahami, whose son Ahmad Khan Rahami has been charged with using weapons of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use, recounted his interactions with the Federal Bureau of Investigation after he raised his concerns about his son.”

New York Live: Social Media Posts Suggest Bombing Suspects Family Had Jihadist Tendencies

“As federal authorities continue the investigation into Ahmad Khan Rahami, the suspect in the New York and New Jersey bombings, it’s becoming clear that he was inspired by extremists like al Qaeda and ISIS, according to writings he made in a notebook. But whether he had help from family members or they shared sympathetic views with him has not been disclosed by authorities yet. Still, journalists around the world are digging into social media profiles of his sister and brothers. And his wife, Asia Bibi Rahimi (an alternate spelling of Rahami), has cooperated with federal authorities. ABC News obtained a photo of Rahimi, who left the country in June for her native Pakistan, and reported that she voluntarily submitted to an interview with the FBI and authorities in the United Arab Emirates. NBC News reported Wednesday that U.S. law enforcement officials said she is on her way back to the U.S. and is in custody, but has not been arrested and is not considered a suspect. According to the report, she told investigators that she had no knowledge of her husband’s alleged bombing plans.”

BBC: Syria Conflict: Army Declares Offensive In Eastern Aleppo

“The Syrian military has announced a new offensive in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, where a quarter of a million people are living under siege. Jets pounded rebel positions in the city on Wednesday night as a week-old truce collapsed, reportedly killing at least 13 people. It is unclear whether the new offensive will involve ground troops. Talks between the US and Russia on reviving the collapsed ceasefire have broken up without progress in New York. Russia and the US support Syria’s government and opposition respectively. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said Washington could not be the only one trying to hold open the door to peace. The US wants Russia to press the Syrian government to ground its warplanes.”

Reuters: RPT-Abandoning Discretion, Iranians Proclaim Their Role In Syrian War

“Abandoning a long-standing reticence, Iranians are increasingly candid about their involvement in Syria’s war, and informal recruiters are now openly calling for volunteers to defend the Islamic Republic and fellow Shi’ites against Sunni militants. With public opinion swinging behind the cause, numbers of would-be fighters have soared far beyond what Tehran is prepared to deploy in Syria, according to former fighters who spoke to Reuters, and commanders quoted by Iranian media. Iran has been sending fighters to Syria since the early stages of the five-year war to support its ally, President Bashar al-Assad, in the struggle against Sunni rebels backed by Gulf Arab states and Western powers.”

Defense One: ISIS ‘Will Fight To The Death’ For Mosul, Says Top Peshmerga General

“When Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi army, and U.S.-led coalition forces move to liberate nearby Mosul, possibly within two weeks, Islamic State fighters will not abandon their prized city and quietly slink away as many in Washington have predicted, according to the Peshmerga’s top military officer. “They will fight to the death,” said Gen. Jamal Mohammad Omer, Kurdish military chief of staff, in an exclusive interview with Defense One in his office Thursday.”

BBC: US Confirms IS Used Chemical Rocket In Attack On Troops In Iraq

“A rocket launched by Islamic State militants at American troops based in Iraq did contain a mustard agent, the US military has confirmed. No-one was hurt in Tuesday’s attack on the Qayyarah air base near the IS stronghold of Mosul. Marine Gen Joseph Dunford, chairman of US joint chiefs of staff, said the group’s capability to deliver chemical weapons was rudimentary. But the attack, he added, was a ‘concerning development’. IS has long been suspected of making and using crude chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria, where it also controls territory. Gen Dunford told the US Senate armed services committee on Thursday that the rocket had contained a ‘sulphur-mustard blister agent’. Mustard agent in sufficient quantities can maim or kill by damaging skin, eyes and airways.”

Reuters: Top U.S. General: Unwise To Share Intelligence With Russia On Syria

“The top U.S. general told Congress on Thursday it would be unwise to share intelligence with Russia and stressed that would not be one of the military’s missions if Washington and Moscow were to ever work together against Islamist militants in Syria. The United States and Russia clinched a ceasefire deal earlier this month that held out the possibility of joint targeting of militants after a cessation of hostilities and delivery of humanitarian aid. The text of one of several related documents, published on Thursday by the State Department, said both countries would ‘share intelligence and develop actionable targets for military action’ against the al Qaeda-linked group formerly known as Nusra Front.”

Haaretz: Terror Wave Unexpectedly Returns To Israel, Just In Time For The High Holy Days

“A year after the start of the terror wave and on the eve of the High Holidays, the attacks are back with a vengeance, exactly as predicted by military intelligence. If they continue, the already existing tension between the army and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will increase. His conduct nowadays is reminiscent of his behavior just before Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. While violence returned this week to the streets of East Jerusalem and the checkpoints of Hebron, the army’s general staff, regional commands and divisional headquarters were occupied with an extensive general staff war exercise. The exercise consisted of a scenario in the occupied territories: a violent outbreak on the West Bank rapidly deteriorates into a confrontation with Hamas in the Gaza Strip and from there to another front, with Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

The Wall Street Journal: More Ground Troops To Iraq

“Hillary Clinton was adamant this month that ‘we are not putting ground troops in Iraq ever again,’ telling NBC’s Matt Lauer ‘we’re going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops.’ Her foreign-policy team might want to finesse that whopper lest she embarrass herself by repeating it at Monday’s presidential debate. The Pentagon is now asking the White House for another 500 troops in advance of an offensive to retake Mosul from Islamic State, which conquered the city in June 2014. That is in addition to the nearly 6,000 U.S. military personnel already in Iraq. Some 4,400 are deployed on an ‘official’ basis, many in so-called advise-and-assist missions with the Iraqi army. Another 1,500 U.S. troops are there in other capacities but aren’t acknowledged by the Administration as part of the overall force.”

Boston Globe: R.I. Man Pleads Guilty To ISIS Conspiracy

“A Rhode Island man will serve at least 15 years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday to conspiring to support the terrorism organization ISIS, according to a plea agreement outlined in federal court in Boston. Nicholas Alexander Rovinski, 25, of Warwick, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to support ISIS and to committing acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, under an agreement he serve 15 to 22 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release. He had faced life in prison. US District Judge William G. Young set a sentencing hearing for March 23. Rovinski has been held without bail since his arrest in June 2015. Asked why he was pleading guilty, Rovinski told the judge, “I feel in the interest of myself and the people of the United States I should pay for my crimes.”

Reuters: Libyan Forces Say Foil Islamic State Car Bombings In Sirte

“Libyan forces said they foiled three attempted car bombings in renewed heavy fighting against Islamic State holdouts in the group’s former stronghold of Sirte on Thursday. Forces led by brigades from the western city of Misrata and supported since Aug. 1 by U.S. air strikes have surrounded militants in a gradually shrinking residential area in central Sirte after a four-month campaign. At least nine of the Misrata-led forces’ fighters were killed on Thursday and more than 40 wounded, Misrata hospital spokesman Akram Gliwan said. The forces said they had recovered the bodies of 10 Islamic State militants. Tanks positioned around the area still occupied by Islamic State launched a continuous barrage of fire, backed up by mortars and anti-aircraft guns, a Reuters witness said. Islamic State fighters responded with sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades.”

The New York Times: Boko Haram Rages In Nigeria, But The World’s Eyes Are Elsewhere

“The crisis spawned by Boko Haram has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to a relatively little-known city in Nigeria that has finally become safe enough for them to wait out an end to the awful, deadly war. With villagers from the countryside pouring in, it is almost as though the entire city, Maiduguri, has become a sprawling refugee camp. Tented government encampments dot the exurbs where people wait for bags of food to arrive. Once-quaint neighborhoods overflow with cardboard hovels filled with young children who are lucky to eat three meals a day. Squatters live in old university buildings or crammed inside homes with relatives or kind strangers. Old men sit along busy streets asking for money. At the massive Monday Market, women sell handfuls of fruit or jewelry, hoping to earn enough to pay for a meal.”

International Business Times: Muslims In Egypt Want To Ban Burqas: Face Veil Not Part Of Islam, Lawmaker Says

“An Egyptian lawmaker is calling on the Egyptian parliament to ban niqabs and burqas because she claims full face veils are not a requirement of Islam and actually hail from Jewish tradition. Amina Nasir, who is also a Islamic philosophy professor at the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo, said the Quran calls for Muslim women to cover their hair but not their face, according to media reports Thursday. Egypt, a majority Muslim nation, has seen heated debate over women’s clothing in public in recent months. The Egyptian parliament debated a ban on full face veils in public places and government buildings in March and Cairo University banned lecturers from wearing the niqab earlier this year because the veils reportedly led to ‘poor communication’ during lectures. In Egypt’s October election, women will now be required to remove their niqabs to vote.”

 United States

The Washington Post: New York Bombing Suspect Was Flagged By Customs Officials At Least Twice

“The man accused of a bombing spree in New York and New Jersey was flagged by Customs and Border Protection officials for questioning at least twice over the last few years after returning from Pakistan, but in both cases they found no reason to deny him entry to the United States, law enforcement officials said. Ahmad Khan Rahami, who remains heavily sedated in a New Jersey hospital after a police shootout that resulted in his arrest on Monday, was one of thousands of such individuals traveling from high-risk countries who are flagged each year for ‘secondary’ questioning at the airport. Federal prosecutors this week charged Rahami with nine counts-–including using weapons of mass destruction and bombing a public place. He was flagged by CBP’s National Targeting Center even before he stepped on a flight, said a second senior law enforcement official.”

NBC News: New Video Shows Suspect Leaving Bomb In New York City, Passerby Kicking Bag

“Surveillance video released on Thursday shows the moment an alleged terror bomber left luggage with an explosive device inside on a New York City street Saturday, and one passerby who appears to kick a bag containing the device. The pressure cooker bomb inside the suitcase left on West 27th Street in Manhattan on Saturday did not explode, and was removed by two other people who made off with the luggage — but left the device, which was inside a plastic bag, behind. Another device allegedly left by suspect Ahmad Rahami on West 23rd Street did detonate, and wounded 31 people, officials say. The video shows unaware people pass by the device on the sidewalk before a woman called 911. One person appears to kick the bag as it is on the street before the 911 call is made, while another person nudges it.”

The Washington Post: U.S.-Backed Forces Control 70 Percent Of Afghanistan, U.S. Military Chief Says

“Local security forces control 70 percent of Afghanistan, a senior U.S. military official said on Thursday, suggesting that the Taliban and other militants hold almost a third of that nation after 15 years of U.S. and NATO efforts to secure it. Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Afghan security forces had taken more casualties ‘than we’re comfortable with’ and said they remained behind in what was required in key areas including air power, special operations and intelligence. The U.S. military did not immediately provide figures for how many Afghan soldiers and police have died as they battle a still-powerful Taliban.”

CNN: Obama Says Syria War ‘Haunts’ Him

“Syria’s prolonged and bloody civil war ‘haunts’ President Barack Obama, he told an interviewer this month, though he isn’t naming any specific policy change he believes could have stemmed the suffering there. Speaking with presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin for Vanity Fair, Obama said the grim situation in Syria ‘haunts me constantly. I would say of all the things that have happened during the course of my presidency, the knowledge that you have hundreds of thousands of people who have been killed, millions who have been displaced, (makes me) ask myself what might I have done differently along the course of the last five, six years,’ he said.”

Syria

NBC News: Assad Blames U.S. For Collapse Of Syria Cease-Fire, Denies Besieging Aleppo

“President Bashar al-Assad rejected U.S. accusations that Syrian or Russian planes struck an aid convoy in Aleppo or that his troops were preventing food from entering the city’s rebel-held neighborhoods, blaming the U.S. for the collapse of a cease-fire many had hoped would bring relief to the war-ravaged country. In an interview with The Associated Press in Damascus, Assad also said deadly U.S. airstrikes on Syrian troops last week were intentional — dismissing American officials’ statements that they were an accident. Assad said the U.S. lacked ‘the will’ to join forces with Russia in fighting extremists. Assad cut a confident figure during the interview — a sign of how his rule, which once seemed threatened by the rebellion, has been solidified by his forces’ military advances and by the air campaign of his ally Russia.”

CNN: On Syria, US And Russia Really Are In Parallel Universes

“John Kerry has said he feels like he is in a ‘parallel universe’ when he listens to Russia, given that the gap between what Moscow says has happened and the facts of reality have so often been mismatched in Syria. Kerry made these comments after US officials quickly blamed Russia for Monday’s attack on a humanitarian convoy on the outskirts of Aleppo. These accusations have not yet been confirmed, but the basis for them, according to US officials, was the siting of Russian planes above the convoy at the time of the attack. Russia gave a response that fits what has become a standard format, regardless of whether its denials are true or not.”

The Wall Street Journal: As Violence In Syria Again Soars, One Rebel-Held Neighborhood Relents

“Hundreds of rebels and their families began evacuating the opposition’s last redoubt in the Syrian city of Homs on Thursday, as regime and Russian warplanes pummeled Aleppo to the north in what antigovernment activists called the heaviest bombardment in months. The Homs evacuation came after more than three years of siege by regime forces, during which humanitarian aid agencies were routinely barred from delivering food and medical supplies. Some 300 rebels and their family members in Homs’s Waer neighborhood relented to what opponents of President Bashar al-Assad have termed his government’s ‘starve-or-submit’ tactics.”

Voice Of America: Diplomacy Falters As Syria Launches New Offensive

“Syria announced a fresh, major offensive against besieged rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Thursday, as foreign ministers met and failed again in New York to agree on any diplomatic plan to try to stop the war. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry emerged from the meeting, held in a Manhattan hotel, saying he was ‘frustrated,’ but that he did not want to close the door on the cease-fire plan for Syria he brokered earlier this month in Geneva with his Russian counterpart. ‘The United States will continue to pursue every avenue of progress that we can because it is the only way to stop the killing. It’s the only way to ease the suffering and it’s the only way to make possible the restoration of a united Syria,’ Kerry said. If the process fails, he warned, ‘this catastrophic situation is going to get even worse.’”

Turkey

Reuters: Eight Wounded As Rockets From Syria Pound Turkish Border Town

“Six children were among eight civilians wounded when three rockets fired from Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria hit a Turkish border town on Thursday, the Turkish military said. The attacks on Kilis were the first since Turkish-backed Syrian rebels swept into northern Syria last month to clear Sunni Islamist fighters from Turkey’s southern border. That operation, dubbed ‘Euphrates Shield’ by Turkey, was launched after months of attacks on Kilis reduced parts of the town to rubble. U.S.-led coalition forces carried out 20 air strikes against Islamic State targets in northern Syria on Thursday, ‘neutralizing’ 40 militants, the Turkish military said.”

Newsweek: Turkey’s Syria Intervention: A Sign Of Weakness Not Strength

“Last month, Turkey intervened directly in northern Syria, sending tanks and troops in support of Syrian rebels. Operation Euphrates Shield targeted the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) after the deadly Gaziantep suicide bombing but Ankara made little secret of its desire to simultaneously engage another enemy, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), Syria’s affiliate of the Turkish Kurdish separatists the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey has swiftly established a buffer zone free from both ISIS, the PYD and its allies. Yet, while some pro-government commentators in Turkey have claimed this intervention is a display of strength, Ankara finally flexing its muscles to achieve its objectives in the long-running civil war, the reverse is closer to the truth. This military action represents the failure of Turkey’s Syria policy.”

Reuters: Turkey Won’t Take Part In Raqqa Operation If Kurdish Militants Do – Erdogan Spox

“Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman on Thursday ruled out the possibility of Turkey joining an operation by coalition forces against Islamic State militants in Syria’s Raqqa if Kurdish fighters also take part. ‘Negotiations are still ongoing, there is nothing certain yet. Our principled stance is the same as it was with Manbij and Jarablus. It is out of the question for us to take part in an operation in which the PYD/YPG are present,’ Ibrahim Kalin told an interview on state run news channel TRT Haber. Turkey considers Kurdish YPG forces fighting in Syria as closely linked to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, and deems both groups terrorist organisations.”

The Wall Street Journal: Turkey’s Battle With Muslim Cleric Careens Through U.S. Classrooms

“A global proxy war between the president of Turkey and his No. 1 nemesis played out early this year in an otherwise routine public-school board meeting in Fremont, Calif. On the agenda during the January meeting was a pitch from the chief executive of a California charter-school chain, which had proposed opening an outpost in the Silicon Valley suburb. Also in attendance, and bearing a long list of objections, was a lawyer representing the Republic of Turkey. The attorney, from London-based Amsterdam & Partners LLP, ‘has been following us around lately’ trying to block the chain’s projects, Caprice Young, chief executive of Magnolia Public Schools, told the Fremont board. ‘He is a representative of the Turkish government who seems to believe that we are affiliated with a religious group with whom we are not affiliated.’”

Voice Of America: Turkey Exerts New Influence In Syria

“More than five years of relentless war have fragmented Syria like a jigsaw puzzle. The task of reassembling the pieces increasingly seems to rest not with Western policymakers, Gulf princes or Iranian ayatollahs but with Russia and now Turkey, some diplomatic observers say. Ankara’s Operation Euphrates Shield – a military intervention launched August 24, just weeks after a botched military coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – potentially could be the biggest game changer in the Syrian conflict since Moscow’s military entered the fray a year ago. Most analysts and rebel commanders credit Russia with saving the regime of its longtime ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, from defeat by opposition groups in his country.”

Afghanistan

CNN: Afghanistan Signs Peace Deal With Faction Led By Warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

“After months of delays, Afghan government negotiators signed a peace deal Thursday with an insurgent faction led by one of the country’s most notorious warlords. The deal was signed at a ceremony attended by negotiators, the President’s national security adviser, and representatives of the Hezb-i-Islami faction of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Afghan and US officials applauded the agreement, but a prominent human rights organization strongly criticized the deal. In a statement, the US Embassy called Thursday’s accord ‘a step in bringing the conflict in Afghanistan to a peaceful end.’ That sentiment was echoed by Afghanistan’s chief executive — who is in a shaky power-sharing agreement with the country’s President.”

Radio Free Europe: ‘Butcher Of Kabul’ Returns As Afghanistan’s New Hope For Peace

“Hundreds of rockets raining down on the city every day. The sound of gunfire crackling through deserted streets. Mangled bodies littering roads controlled by warring factions.  That was Kabul during the devastating civil war of the 1990s — a conflict that pitted mujahedin factions against each other, killed some 100,000 people, and left most of the city in ruins. Two decades on, one of the chief protagonists of the internecine 1992-96 war is returning to the city whose residents dubbed him the “Butcher of Kabul,” a nickname he earned for launching rocket attacks that killed thousands of civilians in residential neighborhoods.”

Egypt

BBC: Egypt Migrant Boat Capsize: Hundreds Feared Dead

“Survivors from a boat which capsized off the Egyptian coast on Wednesday have told the BBC that hundreds of people may have drowned. The boat was carrying between 450 and 600 migrants when it capsized eight miles (12km) off the coast, they say. The numbers have not been confirmed. Authorities say they have rescued 163 people and recovered 51 bodies so far off the port city of Rosetta. Four crew members have been arrested, Egyptian officials said. They are suspected of involuntary manslaughter and human trafficking, judicial officials were reported as saying. The incident came after the EU’s border agency warned that increasing numbers of Europe-bound migrants are using Egypt as a departure point.”

Middle East

Newsweek: Palestinian Celebration Of Munich Olympic Massacre Shows They Are Not Ready For Peace

“The 2016 Olympics remembered the 11 Israeli athletes massacred by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich games, but the Palestinian Authority (PA) is praising the atrocity. The International Olympic Committee erected a memorial in Rio to the slain Israeli sportsmen and honored them at the closing ceremony. Yet on September 5, the anniversary of that horrific event, the official website of Fatah, the organization headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, hailed the outrage as an ‘heroic operation’ and ‘one of the most important actions in modern history.’ The Munich Massacre took place on September 5, 1972, when members of Black September, a Palestinian terrorist group closely allied with al-Fatah, infiltrated the Olympic village with explosives and automatic weapons. They took 11 Israeli athletes hostage, brutally beat and tortured them,while shooting two of them to death. The rest they killed with gunfire and grenades when German forces attempted a rescue. A German policeman was also murdered.”

The Washington Post: New Attacks Against Israelis Show Palestinians Have Lost Hope, Some Say

“When the violence began last fall, the stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks happened almost daily. Since Oct. 1, 2015, 36 Israelis, as well as two American citizens and an Eritrean, and more than 230 Palestinians have been killed. They say it is not organized by a terrorist group, as in the past, but is spurred by incitement in the mainstream and social media, copycat attacks, personal distress, or maybe the desire to be a martyr or die a hero for the Palestinian cause. Palestinians say the attacks are a natural reaction to a situation of hopelessness fostered by the growth of Israeli settlements on land they want for a future state, a rightward shift in government policies and ineffective Palestinian leadership.”

Associated Press: Israel Increases Interrogations Of Gazan Travelers

“For the past four years, Gaza hairdresser Safa al-Masri has obtained a travel permit from Israel to visit her relatives in the West Bank. But this year, when she applied for a permit to attend her sister’s wedding, she received a different answer: Come in for questioning by Israeli security agents or be barred from traveling. Al-Masri is among a growing number of people who have been ordered to submit to Israeli interrogations in order to receive a coveted travel permit to exit the blockaded Gaza Strip. While Israel defends the practice as a necessary security measure; critics say it exploits the weak and endangers those being questioned by placing them under the suspicion of the territory’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers. According to statistics compiled by Gisha, an Israeli advocacy group that pushes for freedom of movement for Gaza’s 1.8 million residents, 1,211 Gazans were summoned to the Erez border crossing for Israeli security interrogations during the first half of the year.”

The New York Times: World Crises Push Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Off U.N. Center Stage

“They took the stage, one after the other, two aging actors in a long-running drama that has begun to lose its audience. As the Israeli and Palestinian leaders recited their lines in the grand hall of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, many in the orchestra seats recognized the script. ‘Heinous crimes,’ charged Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. ‘Historic catastrophe.’ ‘Fanaticism,’ countered Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. ‘Inhumanity.’ Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu have been at this for so long that between them they have addressed the world body 19 times, every year cajoling, lecturing, warning and guilt-tripping the international community into seeing their side of the bloody struggle between their two peoples. Their speeches are filled with grievance and bristling with resentment, as they summon the ghosts of history from hundreds and even thousands of years ago to make their case.”

BBC: Israel’s Netanyahu Asks Palestinian President To Address Parliament

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has invited Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to address Israel’s parliament. Mr Netanyahu said that in exchange he would gladly accept any invitation to speak to the Palestinian parliament. He made the comments at the UN General Assembly, calling on Mr Abbas to work for peace, instead of ‘stoking hatred’. Mr Abbas earlier called on the UN to declare 2017 as the year in which ‘Israel’s occupation’ came to an end. ‘In June 2017 half a century of this abhorrent Israeli occupation will have passed.’ Mr Abbas said. He urged the UN to ‘enhance Palestinian legal and political status’ as it pushed for ‘full membership in international organisations’. Palestine is not a full UN member state, though it has observer status.”

Haaretz: Newly Launched Israeli Spy Satellite Transmits Back First Photographs

“Ofek 11, the Israeli spy satellite that recently took off to a rocky start, transmitted back its first photographs on Thursday.  The Defense Ministry said on Thursday that the satellite will provide operational and intelligence information to the defense establishment, but was reluctant to clarify whether these will be as was originally planned. ‘We don’t tend to speak of the condition of Defense Ministry satellites, for better or worse,’ said Amnon Harari, the head of the Defense Ministry’s space administration. The photographs received from the satellite are ‘exceptional’ and as were initially expected by the defense establishment, he added.”

Libya

Associated Press: Italian Team Arrives In Libya To Investigate Kidnappings

“Libyan officials say a team of five Italian investigators has arrived in a town near the Algerian border where two Italians and a Canadian were abducted at gunpoint earlier this week. Hassan Osman Eissa of the Ghat municipal council says the team met local authorities Thursday, adding that the kidnappings were not, to his knowledge, the work of al-Qaida as some reports stated, but rather ‘a local group of outlaws.’ Libyan authorities say they are searching the area after the foreigners were kidnapped Monday off a nearby highway in Libya’s southwestern desert.”

The Washington Post: Factions In Libya Urged To Unite As The Country Exports Oil For The First Time Since 2014

“Diplomats meeting here said revenue from Libyan oil, which has begun to flow again, should be used to support a new unity government and ‘strengthen Libya’s economy for the benefit of all Libyans.’ The country remains riven by rival authorities claiming power, an array of powerful militias and militants with the Islamic State’s strongest affiliate, but a fragile new government, which emerged from United Nations-brokered talks, is backed by the United States and its allies. Diplomats from 22 countries and four international organizations said in a communique Thursday that the various factions in the country should stop their infighting and unite to restore governance and face the terrorist threat in Libya.”

Nigeria

U.S. News & World Report: Nigeria Seeks U.N. Help to Get Back Chibok Girls

“Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the U.N. to mediate negotiations between the government and Boko Haram regarding the more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls still missing after being abducted by the extremist group over two years ago. Presidential adviser Femi Adesina said in a statement Thursday that the request – made a day earlier by Buhari to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York – is a ‘show of commitment.’ In 2014, 276 girls were abducted from a village in Borno state in northeastern Nigeria. Some escaped, while Boko Haram alleges others have since been killed in government airstrikes. The Nigerian government has disputed that allegation.”

United Kingdom

BBC: Military Police Probe Afghanistan Abuse Claims

“An independent policing unit set up to investigate alleged war crimes by British troops in Afghanistan has received around 600 complaints. The Ministry of Defence said 150 people had made claims of ill-treatment place between 2005 and 2013. Recent investigations into the conduct of British armed forces have largely focused on actions in Iraq. The MoD said any ‘credible claims’ of criminal activity should be investigated. Members of the Royal Military Police are looking into the allegations as part of Operation Northmoor. An MoD spokesman said: ‘Our armed forces are rightly held to the highest standards and, whilst rare, where there are credible claims of criminal behaviour, we should investigate them.’”

Reuters: Britain Ramps Up Humanitarian Aid In Iraq Ahead Of Mosul Offensive

“Britain said on Thursday it will give 40 million pounds ($52.26 million) in humanitarian aid to Iraq, anticipating a wave of displaced people as government forces prepare to recapture the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State. The advance on Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city which fell in 2014 to the militant group, could begin as soon as next month. The United Nations says the Mosul offensive risks triggering a major humanitarian crisis, with one million or more people potentially fleeing the city. ‘New UK support will put in place critical stocks and supplies for basic life support such as food, shelter, sanitation facilities, and protection assistance ahead of Mosul military operations,’ said Britain’s international development secretary, Priti Patel, in a statement.”

The Guardian: UK Failing On Many Human Rights Measures, Report Claims

“The UK has failed to meet many human rights recommendations made by the United Nations and should do more to prevent prison overcrowding, tackle hate crimes and restrict stop and search powers, a coalition of 175 civil society organisations claims. Their report, coordinated by the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) and submitted to the UN in Geneva on Thursday, also accuses the government of damaging international standards by threatening to scrap the Human Rights Act. Repeal of the act would be a ‘denigration of international human rights law’, the submission asserts. ‘The UK’s retrogressive debates are already negatively influencing other countries. There is increasing concern that the UK’s political rhetoric will, if not checked, threaten the coherence and credibility of the post-second world war human rights settlement.’”

RT: London Mayor Sadiq Khan Says Terrorist Attacks ‘Part & Parcel’ Of Big City Life

“Londoners should be prepared for terrorist attacks as they are ‘part and parcel’ of living in a major city, Mayor Sadiq Khan has said. Khan was in New York meeting Mayor Bill de Blasio after the city was the target of two bombings – neither of which caused fatalities. ‘It is a reality I’m afraid that London, New York, other major cities around the world have got to be prepared for these sorts of things,’ Khan told the London Evening Standard. ‘That means being vigilant, having a police force that is in touch with communities, it means the security services being ready, but it also means exchanging ideas and best practice.’ Terrorist attacks, Khan added, are ‘part and parcel of living in a big city.’”

BBC: Man Arrested On Terror Charges In Cardiff Street

“A 33-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of terror charges in Cardiff. Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service Counter Terrorism Command detained the man in a street in the city on Thursday afternoon. He is being questioned on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of terrorist acts under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Two properties in the city are also being searched. Police said the arrest was pre-planned and was as a result of an investigation by the MPS Counter Terrorism Command supported by the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit. There was police activity in the Grangetown and Riverside areas of Cardiff on Thursday afternoon but Metropolitan Police refused to confirm if it was linked to the arrest. The BBC understands the arrest is related to alleged Islamist terrorism.”

The Guardian: Number Of Terrorist Prisoners In UK Jails Hits Record High

“The number of terrorist prisoners held in British jails has reached a new peak of 152 – 50 higher than five years ago, according to the latest set of quarterly Home Office figures. The record number of terrorist prisoners follows the Acheson review, which warned of complacency and growing Islamic extremism in jails, and the decision to push ahead with specialist high-security units to separate the most subversive inmates. The latest statistics show that 125 of the 152 prisoners, or 84%, have been convicted for terror or terrorism-related offences. The remaining 27 prisoners are on remand awaiting trial.”

Germany

Daily Caller: Nearly Two-Thirds Of Germans Fear ‘Islamisation’ Of Their Homeland

“Nearly two-thirds of Germans fear the ‘Islamisation’ of their homeland, and fear the flood of refugees coming into the country will bring crime and terrorism, according to a new poll. A whopping 57 percent of Germans polled said the rise of Islam worries them, as hundreds of thousands of refugees continue streaming into the country from the Middle East and Africa. The poll was commissioned by the evangelical news agency Idea. Additionally, nearly 60 percent also said they fear refugees will bring crime and terrorism to Germany, including a whopping 9 out of 10 Jews polled. Only a third of those polled said they are not concerned about the potential rise of Islam. Women were more likely to express fear (61 percent of respondents), although more than half the men surveyed also expressed fear.”

Deutsche Welle: German Defense Minister Labels Fight Against ‘IS’ In Iraq A Success

“German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has labeled the fight against the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS) in Iraq a success. ‘[IS] has suffered a significant defeat and is being pushed back into the Mosul area,’ von der Leyen said during a stop-off in Amman, Jordan, en route to Baghdad. ‘It shows that our strategy to arm and train local forces, so that they can fight for the freedom of their home country, was the correct path,’ she said. The Defense Minister is on her way to Iraq to hold talks with Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish representatives in the capital Baghdad on Thursday. The discussion will focus on the ongoing fight Islamist militants.”

Deutsche Welle: German Authorities At Loggerheads With DITIB Despite Cologne Radicalization Tip-Off

“Following the arrest of a 16-year-old Syrian refugee in Cologne on Tuesday, investigators have found that the crucial piece of evidence leading to the special counterterrorism operation came from a member of the Turkish-German Islamic Association (DITIB). Founded in 1984, the group has around 900 mosque congregations across Germany and represents some 70 percent of the country’s Muslims. DITIB has long been an important point of contact for German authorities. Dr. Marwan Abou-Taam, an expert in international terrorism, domestic safety and Salafism, told DW that it’s this bond of trust, which has developed over many years between German authorities and Islamic associations, that can be useful in cases such as that of the Syrian refugee in Cologne. The teenager was taken into custody on suspicion of links to the self-styled ‘Islamic State’ (IS) group.”

France

BBC: French-American Honoured For Helping Stop Train Attack

“A French-American man who helped stop a heavily armed gunman on a train in France in 2015 has received the country’s highest honour. Mark Moogalian and five other passengers overpowered the suspect, Moroccan national Ayoub El-Khazzani. Mr Moogalian was shot in the neck during the struggle on the high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris. The Legion d’honneur was given by President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace. When a French passenger tried to enter a toilet on the train, he encountered the gunman and tried to overpower him. Seeing the struggle, Mr Moogalian tried to intervene but was hit by a bullet. Three other Americans – off-duty military servicemen Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler – then overpowered the attacker.”

The Washington Times: French Muslims See Widening Social Divide In Wake Of Terror Attacks

“As many as 6 million Muslims are living in France, and the government has long been criticized for failing to integrate them into the nation’s rigorously secular society. The result is what authorities fear is a growing cohort of alienated Muslim youths open the lure of propaganda from the Islamic State and other extremist groups. In interviews with The Washington Times, French officials and several moderate Muslims worried aloud that the situation has been made worse by harsh government crackdowns in the wake of the Nice massacre and the even deadlier attack in November in which Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in the heart of Paris. Undercover French police prowl the streets of major cities, and authorities have carried out more than 4,000 home raids since November under a ‘state of emergency’ decree allowing searches without court warrants.”

Europe

The New York Times: Discord Over Snooping Muted By Security Fears

“In July 2013, a month after former C.I.A. contractor Edward Snowden shocked the world with his revelations of a massive United States surveillance program, a top French government minister took the stage at the American Embassy’s Fourth of July party here to gently scold his hosts for spying on friends. On the same day, the French newspaper Le Monde broke a story about what it called France’s own Big Brother surveillance program. The article revealed ‘two excellent reasons’ why France’s reaction to Mr. Snowden’s disclosures had been relatively muted. ‘Paris was already informed,’ the paper wrote. ‘And it does the same thing.’ Much has changed since June 2013, when the Snowden revelations unleashed a global debate about how to balance the right to privacy with the need for national security. That debate is still alive but its parameters have changed, particularly in Europe, where public opinion has shifted in reaction to recurrent terrorist attacks on the Continent.”

BBC: EU Advised To Drop Hamas And Tamil Tigers From Terror List

“The EU may have to remove Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and the Sri Lankan separatist Tamil Tigers from its list of terrorist organisations, a top European Court adviser has said. The Court ruled in 2014 they should be taken off the list on technical grounds, not as a reassessment of their classification as a terrorist group. The Council of the EU, which represents all 28 governments, launched an appeal. Now the European Court adviser has recommended the appeal be rejected. The opinion of the adviser, known as the Advocate General, is not final but is generally followed when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivers its judgement. The EU’s terrorist list was drawn up after the 11 September attacks on the US in 2001, to enable the bloc to freeze a group’s financial assets and improve the way police and justice officials co-operated.”

Technology

Fortune: How Facebook Is Revamping Its Fight To End Online Hate Speech

“Facebook is amping up its own anti-hate speech campaign this week after launching the program earlier this year, the company announced Wednesday. The tech titan’s Online Civil Courage Initiative (OCCI) has been working with at least 84 activist groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Germany, France, and the UK since January. Now Facebook FB 0.11% wants to expand its OCCI network to more regions throughout the world, providing more anti-hate activist groups with ad credits, marketing resources, and strategic support to empower their members to fight back against racist trolls and violent extremist rhetoric on the internet.”

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