Eye on Extremism, October 06, 2016

CNN: Two Brussels Police Officers Stabbed In Terror Attack, Prosecutor Says

“A man stabbed two police officers in the Brussels district of Schaerbeek on Wednesday in what officials say was a terror attack. A third police officer overpowered the suspect, identified only as Hicham D. The suspect was shot in the leg but his injury isn’t life-threatening, according to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office. The third officer was ‘slightly injured,’ according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office. ‘In the framework of the terrorist attack against two police officers in Schaerbeek, a house search was conducted today at the residence of the suspect Hicham D, situated in Schaerbeek, Avenue de la Reine,’ the statement said.”

Reuters: Islamic State Claims Responsibility For U.S. Soldier Killed In Afghanistan

“Islamic State claimed responsibility on Wednesday for an explosion that killed a U.S. service member in Afghanistan on Tuesday, the organization’s Amaq news agency said. The soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province while carrying out operations against the militant group, according to a statement by the U.S. military on Tuesday. The explosion killed three Afghan soldiers as well, Amaq said. Islamic State has attracted hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan to join its ranks, and holds some territory in Nangarhar. But it has not been able to expand its influence in Afghanistan beyond a few districts and the Taliban remain the dominant militant force there.”

BBC: Syria Conflict: Aid Convoy Attack Was Air Strike, UN Expert Says

“Analysis of satellite imagery taken after a deadly attack on an aid convoy in northern Syria last month shows that it was an air strike, a UN expert says. At least 18 people were killed when lorries unloading at a Syrian Arab Red Crescent warehouse in a rebel-held town outside Aleppo came under fire. The US believes Russian warplanes bombed the convoy. Russia, which backs Syria’s government, denies the charge. UN officials have said the incident could constitute a war crime. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has established an internal board of inquiry to investigate the attack, which he has denounced as ‘sickening, savage and apparently deliberate’. The attack came days after a US-led coalition strike in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, which killed at least 62 Syrian government soldiers.”

New York Times: Extremist Imam Tests F.B.I. And The Limits Of The Law

“For more than a decade, Suleiman Anwar Bengharsa has served as a Muslim cleric in Maryland, working as a prison chaplain and as an imam at mosques in Annapolis and outside Baltimore. He gave a two-week course in 2011 on Islamic teachings on marriage at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, where President Obama made a much-publicized visit this year. But in the last two years, Imam Bengharsa’s public pronouncements have taken a dark turn. On Facebook, he has openly endorsed the Islamic State, posted gruesome videos showing ISIS fighters beheading and burning alive their enemies and praised terrorist attacks overseas. The “Islamic Jurisprudence Center” website he set up last year has condemned American mosques as un-Islamic and declared that homosexual acts should be punished by death.”

Deutsche Welle: Afghan Troops Battle Taliban In Kunduz For Third Day

“Fighting between the Afghan army and Taliban continued for the third consecutive day in the northern city of Kunduz on Wednesday, forcing thousands of residents to flee. Kunduz’s provincial police chief, Gen. Qasim Jungalbagh, said that the Taliban launched a series of fresh attacks on Afghan forces early on Wednesday morning. ‘Once again insurgents attacked our forces from two different directions, and heavy battles are taking place to the south and east of the city,’ Jungalbagh said. US Special Forces and air support are backing Afghan ground troops. US military spokesman Charlie Cleveland described the fighting as ‘sporadic.’ He said that since Tuesday night, ‘US forces have conducted two engagements from the air to defend friendly forces.’”

Reuters: Israeli Aircraft Attack Hamas In Gaza After Rocket Hits Israeli Town

“Israeli aircraft attacked Palestinian militant targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, wounding at least one person, witnesses said, after a rocket fired from the enclave hit an Israeli border town. Israeli police said there were no casualties in the rocket strike on Sderot. But Israel has a declared policy of responding militarily to any attack from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Three Hamas training camps and a security complex were targeted in the air strikes and a passerby was hurt, witnesses said. The Israeli military blamed Hamas for the rocket. ‘Today’s (rocket) attack … is the direct result of Hamas’s terror agenda in the Gaza Strip that encourages deliberate attacks against Israeli civilians,’ spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said in a statement.”

Voice Of America: Suspected Al-Shabab Attack Kills Six In Kenya

“Armed attackers believed to be members of al-Shabab have attacked a residential housing area in the Kenya town of Mandera near the border with Somalia. Governor of Mandera County Ali Roba confirmed the attack on Twitter. He said six people were killed, and one other person was seriously injured. “We grieve with our families,” he said, adding “sadly 6 lives are too many to lose.” Roba confirmed that security forces responded to the attack and were able to rescue 27 people, including the injured person, from the housing area. A resident in the town says the housing area that was attacked belongs to Kenya’s ministry of public works. The tenants are either government workers or contractors working on controversial border fences, says the resident who requested anonymity.”

Reuters: Baghdad Bridles At Turkey’s Military Presence, Warns Of ‘Regional War’

“Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has warned Turkey that it risks triggering a regional war by keeping troops in Iraq, as each summoned the other’s ambassador in a growing row. Relations between the two regional powers are already broadly strained by the Syrian civil war and the rise of the Islamic State militant group. Turkey’s parliament voted last week to extend its military presence in Iraq for a further year to take on what it called ‘terrorist organisations’ – a likely reference to Kurdish rebels as well as Islamic State. Iraq’s parliament responded on Tuesday night by condemning the vote and calling for Turkey to pull its estimated 2,000 troops out of areas across northern Iraq.”

The Guardian: Islamic Militant Groups’ Recruits Likely To Be Well Educated, Study Finds

“Recruits to Islamic militant groups are likely to be well educated and relatively wealthy, with those aspiring to be suicide bombers among the best off, a study by the World Bank has found. The research, based on internal records from the Islamic State group, will reinforce the growing conclusion among specialists that there is no obvious link between poverty or educational levels and radicalisation. The data, leaked by a disaffected former member of Isis in March, includes basic information on 3,803 foreign recruits from all over the Islamic world and Europe who joined the organisation between early 2013 and late 2014, when the flow of volunteers to the organisation reached a peak.”

PBS Newshour: The Controversial Force Joining The Fight Against ISIS

“Militia groups, made up mostly of Shia fighters, and many backed by Iran, have become instrumental in the battle to drive ISIS from Iraq. But their presence on the battlefield makes them a controversial force, one with which the United States has deadly familiarity. These young men are holding the line on a remote hilltop north of Tikrit. They fire at any movement across the oil fields on the horizon, where ISIS snipers are dug in. Conditions are rudimentary. Each fighter has little with him beyond his gun.

United States

Fox News: Maryland Imam Praises ISIS Beheadings

“A Muslim cleric in Maryland, who has openly endorsed the Islamic State terror group and funded at least one Muslim convert who was arrested for buying illegal explosives, has not been charged or arrested because, according to authorities, he hasn’t broken any laws. Suleiman Anwar Bengharsa, an imam at mosques in Annapolis and outside Baltimore who also serves as a prison chaplain, has posted gruesome videos showing Islamic State fighters, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, beheading and burning alive their enemies and praised terrorist attacks overseas, The New York Times reports. The FBI filed an affidavit in federal court saying that the 59-year-old imam gave $1,300 to a 29-year-old Muslim covert, identified as Sebastian Gregerson, in Detroit in June 2015, and the man used it to buy firearms and grenades.”


Reuters:  Blast Kills At Least 16 Turkish-Backed Rebels In Northern Syria – Monitors

“A bomb blast in northern Syria near the border with Turkey killed at least 16 Turkish-backed rebel fighters and wounded others on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Two witnesses in the area separately told Reuters the blast killed at least 20 people and wounded many more. The British-based Observatory said it was not clear if the blast near the Atmeh border crossing was from a suicide attack or a bomb placed in the area. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. It targeted rebels who have been backed by Ankara in its operation against both Islamic State and Kurdish militants further to the northeast, along a separate stretch of border.”

Reuters: Aleppo Will Eventually Fall, But Syrian War Will Go On

“It may take weeks or months, but Aleppo is likely to fall to Syrian government forces backed by Russian air power and the most lethal bombardment in nearly six years of war. Capturing the strategically important city, an economic and trading center which is key to controlling Syria’s northwest, would be an important military triumph for President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies. It would be a crippling setback for the Western-backed Syrian rebels who, without quick reinforcements from their foreign backers, look set to be bombed out of their stronghold. But the fall of Aleppo will not mean an end to the war, military and political analysts say. Instead it is likely to give way to a long-term Sunni guerrilla insurgency in which the remaining moderate rebel groups, backed by the West and the West’s regional allies, are driven into the arms of militant jihadis.”


Reuters: Turkish Troops Clash With Islamic State In Syria

“Turkey’s army said it clashed with Islamic State over the border in Syria, leaving one soldier and 23 militants dead, as Ankara stepped up an operation to clear insurgents from the frontier region. Three other Turkish soldiers were wounded in the battle near the Syrian village of Ziyara over the past 24 hours, part of Ankara’s ‘Euphrates Shield’ offensive, the military added on Wednesday. A Syrian rebel commander taking part in the ‘Euphrates Shield’ operation told Reuters that Islamic State had fought furiously during a battle for the village of Turkman Bareh, which was captured by rebels this week. The commander said Islamic State had drafted in reinforcements to the area, not far from Dabiq, a village with symbolic importance to the militants since it is cited in the Koran as the scene of an apocalyptic battle.”

Reuters: Turkey Detains 55 Military, Intelligence Personnel Over Attempted Coup: Media

“Turkey detained 55 military and intelligence agency personnel on Wednesday over suspected links with U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and his network, accused by Ankara of orchestrating a failed coup in July, media reports said. In the latest of a stream of raids targeting those suspected of ties to the putsch, police carried out operations in 31 provinces after prosecutors issued detention warrants for a total of 101 suspects, state-run Anadolu Agency reported. On July 15, a rogue faction within the military staged an attempted coup in which more than 240 people were killed. Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, denies government accusations he was behind the action.”


The Wall Street Journal: Afghan Forces Battle Taliban

“Taliban insurgents and government forces fought in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz for a third day on Wednesday, as the president and other government officials secured billions of dollars in international aid for the increasingly unstable country. After launching a lightning offensive on Kunduz and planting the Islamist movement’s flag in the main square on Monday, Taliban fighters surrounded key government compounds and were firing heavy weapons from nearby buildings, residents said. Residents of the nation’s fourth-largest city also accused Afghan and coalition officials of playing down the crisis, saying a large number of Taliban militants remained in Kunduz and control of the city was still being contested.”

BBC: Afghanistan Aid: Donors Promise $15.2bn In Brussels

“International donors have pledged $15.2bn (€13.5bn ; £11.9bn) in aid to help Afghanistan until 2020. Over 70 countries attended the talks in Brussels, hosted by the EU. Closing the meeting, European Commissioner for International Development Neven Mimica called the sum ‘a remarkable, impressive amount’. ‘Now is not the time to reduce our ambition or our investment in the people of Afghanistan,’ he added. The amount pledged is only slightly less than the $4bn a year that the international community promised at the last Afghanistan conference in Tokyo in 2012.”


BBC: Yemen Conflict: UAE Says Houthis Attacked Civilian Ship

“The United Arab Emirates says Houthi rebels in Yemen attacked a civilian ship in the Red Sea over the weekend. The high-speed catamaran, carrying aid, wounded Yemenis and passengers, was passing through the Bab al-Mandab strait when it came under fire, a foreign ministry statement said. It denounced the incident as ‘an act of terrorism’. The UAE is part of a coalition that has fought the Houthis and imposed a naval blockade on Yemen since March 2015. The United Nations estimates that at least 3,800 civilians have been killed and 6,700 others injured in the fighting, while three million others have been displaced.”

Saudi Arabia

The Jerusalem Post: Saudi Arabia Unblocks Online Access To ‘The Jerusalem Post’

“After years without reliable verification, a Saudi Arabian journalist confirmed on Monday that Saudis can now access The Jerusalem Post online from inside the Kingdom. A reader in Saudi Arabia also wrote on Twitter on Monday that he can now access the site from there on his mobile device. It is unclear when the Kingdom stopped censoring JPost.com, but it apparently blocked access to the site beginning in May 2013. The Post features extensive coverage of Saudi Arabia and its role in the Middle East peace process. ‘Traffic in the Kingdom actually went back up in summer of 2014,’ Ilan Yogev, the Post’s content collaboration manager said on Wednesday, adding he has not seen any change to suggest that something is different in recent months.”


Reuters: More Than 11,000 Migrants Rescued Off Libya This Week

“More than 5,000 migrants were saved on Tuesday and Wednesday off the Libyan coast and 28 bodies recovered, bringing the total number of people rescued this week to more than 11,000, Italy’s coast guard said. More than 20 people were reported to have suffocated in the hold of one overloaded fishing boat, bringing the total death toll for Monday and Tuesday to 50. Italian officials said three women saved on Monday had given birth over the past 24 hours on a coast guard vessel that was bringing some 1,000 refugees to Sicily. The women and their three children were all reported to be in good health.”

Reuters: Civilians Killed By Shelling In Libya’s Benghazi: Hospital Official

“At least three civilians died and 12 were injured when shells landed in a residential area of the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday, a hospital official said. For more than two years, forces loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar have been fighting Islamists and other opponents in Benghazi, with civilians sometimes caught in the crossfire. Haftar’s forces have made significant gains in recent months but have not been able to secure some areas. They launch regular air strikes against groups holding out in pockets of the city. Fadel al-Hassi, a spokesman for special forces loyal to Haftar, said the shelling had come from a position occupied by ‘terrorist groups’ without giving further details.”

United Kingdom

The Daily Caller: UK Urged To Ban Press From Revealing Terrorists Are Muslim

“A European human rights body is pressuring the United Kingdom to regulate the press so its reporting on terrorist attacks doesn’t emphasize the Muslim identities and motivations of many terrorists. The request comes from a lengthy report published by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), a monitoring body created by the Council of Europe. The report accuses British newspapers of fueling anti-Muslim bigotry partly through their coverage of Islamic terror attacks. The solution, it says, is for the U.K. to regulate the press more strictly so that reporters can’t publish such material.”


NPR: Germany Drops Investigation Against Comic Whose Poem Insulted Turkey’s Leader

“German prosecutors have dropped a controversial investigation of a comedian who read a lewd poem on German television mocking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, citing a lack of evidence. As we reported at the time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel drew widespread criticism from free speech advocates when she allowed the investigation against Jan Boehmermann to move forward in April, at Turkey’s request. Germany has a little-used law that criminalizes insulting foreign heads of state. The controversy actually began because of a completely different video clip mocking Erdogan. That music video, released on the German comedy program Extra3, prompted Turkey to summon the German ambassador.”


Reuters: France Makes New Push For Aleppo Ceasefire

“France is to launch a new push for United Nations backing for a ceasefire in Syria that would allow aid into the city of Aleppo after some of the heaviest bombing of the war. As diplomatic efforts resumed, the Syrian military said army commanders had decided to scale back air strikes and shelling in Aleppo to alleviate the humanitarian situation there. It said civilians in rebel-held eastern Aleppo were being used as human shields and a reduced level of bombardment would allow people to leave for safer areas. Intense Syrian and Russian bombing of rebel-held areas of the northern city of Aleppo followed the collapse last month of a ceasefire brokered by Moscow and Washington, which backs some rebel groups. The United States broke off talks with Russia on Monday, accusing it of breaking its commitments.”


The New York Times: Europe Makes Deal To Send Afghans Home, Where War Awaits Them

“The European Union and Afghanistan announced a deal on Wednesday that would send tens of thousands of Afghan migrants who had reached Europe back home to an increasingly hazardous war zone. The agreement is the most specific effort yet by Europe to divert or reverse a wave of hundreds of thousands of migrants from war-torn countries including Afghanistan and Syria. But unlike a major agreement with Turkey this year to have that country host more Syrian refugees, the new deal as worded would forcibly send Afghans whose asylum applications were rejected directly back to an intensifying war that has taken a severe toll on civilian life — seemingly at odds with international conventions on refugees.”

Combating the Financing of Terrorism

APA: Azerbaijan Introduces New Rules For Contending With The Financing Of Terrorism

“Azerbaijan intends to introduce new regulations for an immediate freeze on all assets implicated in the financing of terrorism. The Azeri National Council issued a statement saying that it seeks to add a new section, entitled “40-4”, to the Code of Civil Procedures. The section will introduce special measures enabling the authorities to freeze assets in their efforts to combat the financing of terrorism. By a judicial order, there will be an immediate freeze, whether the assets belong to individuals or legal entities. A statement by the National Council indicated that it had decided to review the new rules on October 14th.”

Elmihwar: Drug Trafficking – Chief Source Of Terror Financing In Algeria

“A confidential report prepared by the Spanish Center for Intelligence and Security Consulting revealed that the principal source of funding for terrorist groups in Algeria derives from proceeds of drug trafficking across the Maghreb and Spain. The report claimed that this region has turned into a major drug trafficking route to Europe through which operations of jihadi groups are funded, especially for terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Boko Haram in Nigeria. The report emphasized that North African gangs not only finance terrorist organizations, but work also in the opposite direction, i.e. smuggling foreign militants from the south of Spain to the Maghreb, with the ultimate goal of moving them across the eastern border into Algeria.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Mogaz News: Egyptian Court Renewed Detention Of CTA’s Employees For Their Membership In The Muslim Brotherhood

“Convened in Al-Abbasiya neighborhood, the North Cairo Court extended the detention of several employees of Cairo’s Central Traffic Department (CTA) by an additional 45 days on charges of belonging to a terrorist group. The relevant security forces caught the suspects “red-handed” receiving bribes from citizens in exchange for facilitating the process of applying for, and obtaining, certain documents. Preliminary investigations showed that the employees involved belong to the Muslim Brotherhood group and that they were inciting the public to protest against the state’s different institutions.”


Al-Masdar: Saudi Arabia: Financial Chief Of Hamas Briefly Investigated

“Various Palestinian and Arab sources disclosed the brief detention Hamas’ financial chief, Nizar Awadallah. He was detained by Saudi authorities in Jeddah airport last Saturday, as he was attempting to leave the kingdom for the Gaza Strip after performing Hajj. The sources noted that Awadallah was detained and interrogated in the airport for several hours by officers belonging to Saudi Intelligence. The interrogation took place on the backdrop of his affiliation with previously detained Palestinian and Arab businessmen residing in the country. The businessmen were detained in the past by Saudi Arabia on charges of transferring funds to Hamas and running economic projects in the Gulf states on behalf of this Palestinian movement.”


Yemen Akhbar: Al-Houthi Militia Continues To Obtain Money By Force

“The Al-Houthi militia continued its extensive “fundraising campaigns” and imposition of taxes and fees on traders and citizens by the use of force in the Yemeni governorates of Sanaa, Saada, Ibb, Dhamar, Al Hudaydah, Hajjah and Mahaweet, under the pretext of supporting the Central Bank of Yemen. Local residents reported that the Al-Houthi militia is not only collecting the money by itself but has also formed women’s committees in Saada city. These committees have spread into the different neighborhoods to collect fees and donations in support of the Central Bank.”

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