Eye on Extremism, October 11, 2016

The Washington Post: Taliban Enters Capital Of Helmand Province After Weeks Of Fighting

“When Taliban fighters penetrated the capital of Helmand province for the first time Monday, killing at least 14 people in a suicide bombing and related attacks, it was their most successful assault to date on the strategic southern city and opium trade center, which the insurgents have been trying to capture for months. Government forces pushed them out after several hours, and officials declared the situation under control, but by then some panicked residents had fled the beleaguered city, and the psychological damage had been done. The Taliban had not raised their flag over Lashkar Gah, but they had come awfully close. Monday’s ground assault and bombing came two days after Gen. John W. Nicholson, the top U.S. and NATO military commander in Afghanistan, flew from Kabul to Lashkar Gah and promised worried local leaders that international forces would do everything possible to make sure the city does not collapse.”

Reuters: Exclusive-Russia Builds Up Forces In Syria, Reuters Data Analysis Shows

“Russia has built up its forces in Syria since a ceasefire collapsed in late September, sending in troops, planes and advanced missile systems, a Reuters analysis of publicly available tracking data shows. The data points to a doubling of supply runs by air and sea compared to the nearly two-week period preceding the truce. It appears to be Russia’s biggest military deployment to Syria since President Vladimir Putin said in March he would pull out some of his country’s forces. The increased manpower probably includes specialists to put into operation a newly delivered S-300 surface-to-air missile system, military analysts said. The S-300 system will improve Russia’s ability to control air space in Syria, where Moscow’s forces support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, and could be aimed at deterring tougher U.S. action, they said.”

The New York Times: ISIS Media Output Drops As Military Pressure Rises, Report Says

“The vaunted propaganda operations of the Islamic State, which helped lure more than 30,000 foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq, have dropped off drastically as the extremist group has come under military pressure, according to a study by terrorism researchers at West Point. In addition, the researchers found, there has been a striking shift away from publications and social media portraying a functioning state with competent bureaucrats, thriving businesses and happy citizens. The Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL, claims that it is building a new caliphate — or unified Muslim land — a claim that has become increasingly threadbare.”

Al Arabiya: ISIS Confirms Death Of Propaganda Chief

“ISIS on Monday confirmed the death of its propaganda chief, whom the Pentagon said was killed in a US-led air strike in Syria’s Raqqa province last month. An statement posted online by the militant group paid tribute to Wa’il Adil Hasan Salman al-Fayad, also known as Abu Mohammed al-Furqan. The statement just referred to him by his alias. It did not say when, where or how he had died. The Pentagon said last month that a US-led coalition air strike on Sept. 7 had killed al-Fayad. It said he was minister of information, overseeing ISIS propaganda, and a prominent member of its Senior Shura Council, or leadership group. ISIS’s statement referred to al-Fayad as head of its media arm. The air strike took place near Raqqa, ISIS de facto capital in northern Syria, and targeted al-Fayad while he was on a motorcycle outside his house, the Pentagon said.”

Fox News: ISIS Suffers Major Land Loss Ahead Of Planned Mosul Assault Report Finds

“U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and ground fighting have depleted the Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and Syria in a big way, reportedly by 16 percent over just 9 months, a new study has found. ISIS now controls only 25,000 square miles of land in the region, an area roughly the size of West Virginia, IHS Conflict Monitor reports. It marks a sharp reversal from the terror network’s massive land grab in 2014 and is down drastically from the reported 35,000 square miles controlled at the start of 2015.”

The Wall Street Journal: In Coastal Libya, Islamic State Prepared To Build A Nation

“In Libya, Islamic State was able to establish and run a state with tax-collection offices, police, courts and even an immigration office to support foreign recruits, a highly organized venture otherwise seen only in Iraq and Syria, where its leaders are based, U.S. officials say. With the Libyan government’s battle for Sirte all but won and militants holed up in a last redoubt by the shoreline, the extremists’ hopes to extend the caliphate to within some 350 miles of Europe have dimmed. Still, the document trove makes clear that Islamic State’s nation-building ambitions succeeded, however fleetingly, in Libya as they fell short with the group’s other affiliates from Nigeria to Yemen, said Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a researcher at the Middle East Forum, a U.S.-based think tank that focuses on radical groups.”

Fox News: Palestinian Leader’s Party Calls Jerusalem Shooter A ‘Martyr’

“The gunman who killed two Israelis and wounded five during a shooting rampage in Jerusalem Sunday is now being hailed as a ‘martyr’ by the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Fatah party wrote on its Facebook page that ‘the one who carried out the operation today in Jerusalem is a pilgrim martyr, one of the most prominent people in Jerusalem and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, and a released prisoner,’ according to Israeli monitor group Palestinian Media Watch. A post on the Jerusalem branch of Fatah’s Facebook page also announced a general strike ‘in Jerusalem in memory of the souls of the martyrs of Palestine and this morning’s martyr,’ The Times of Israel reported, adding that the leader of the militant group Hamas called the killer’s parents on the phone to ‘congratulate’ him.”

Commentary: Acts Of War Cannot Go Ignored

“On Sunday night, as Americans were transfixed by the spectacle of the second presidential debate, events occurred off the coast of Yemen that remind us of the kind of challenges with which a president must contend. Two ballistic missiles were fired at a U.S. destroyer in international waters from the part of Yemen controlled by the Houthis, an Iranian-back militia. The missiles did not hit the USS Mason, although it’s unclear if they had some internal defect or whether the ship defended itself with its suite of missile-defense systems. U.S. warships do not routinely come under attack. When they do, it’s called an act of war. So someone has committed an act of war against the United States. The proximate culprit appears to be the Houthi movement, which is mad at America for backing an assault on it by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Just last week, an Emirati ship was destroyed off the same part of the Yemen coast. But the Houthis are hardly lone actors. They do not manufacture their own missiles. They get them from Iran. That suggests this could be seen as an act of war by Iran against the United States.”

CBS News: Syrian Nabbed In Alleged Bomb Plot, With Help Of Other Refugees

“A Syrian man who was granted asylum in Germany and is suspected of preparing a bomb attack at an unknown location was arrested early Monday following a nearly two-day manhunt, police said. Jaber Albakr, 22, was arrested in the eastern city of Leipzig, police in Saxony state said. Police were informed that fellow Syrians were holding Albakr at an apartment and ‘immediately went there and arrested him,’ Saxony police spokesman Tom Bernhardt said. Leipzig is around 50 miles from Chemnitz, the city where he had evaded authorities on Saturday after they allegedly found a volatile explosive in a dwelling there. Police aren’t giving further details ‘because we do not want to provoke any dangers for those persons who gave us the tip,’ Bernhardt added.”

BBC: Syria Conflict: France Wants Russia On War Crimes Charges

“French President Francois Hollande has suggested Russia could face war crimes charges over its bombardment of Syria’s second city Aleppo. Mr Hollande told French TV this could take place in the International Criminal Court (ICC). He also said he might refuse to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is due to visit France next week. Last week Russia vetoed a Franco-Spanish UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the bombing. Moscow has repeatedly denied attacking civilians, and said it targets terrorist groups in Syria. Mr Hollande’s call for Russia to be prosecuted came as Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said France was working to find a way for the ICC prosecutor to launch an investigation into attacks on rebel-held eastern Aleppo.”

New York Times: Nadia Murad, Yazidi Woman Who Survived ISIS Captivity, Wins Human Rights Prize

“Fighters for the Islamic State abducted a young Yazidi woman named Nadia Murad, her siblings and their mother from their village in northern Iraq more than two years ago. Barely in her 20s, Ms. Murad was separated from her family, beaten and sexually assaulted. Compared with thousands of other Yazidis, followers of a centuries-old religion whom the militant group considers heretical and has killed or enslaved by the thousands, she considers herself fortunate. She managed to escape, and eventually made her way to Germany.”

The New York Times: Women, Children And Razor Wire: Inside A Compound For Boko Haram Families

“Beyond the tall, concrete walls of a fortified compound, the authorities are holding a special group of detainees: the wives and children of Boko Haram commanders. Guards stand ready at the gate. Curls of razor wire line the walls. Civilian militia members with AK-47s hanging from their shoulders meander about. The 56 women and children held inside have been there for months, after being swept up by the Nigerian military during raids on Boko Haram strongholds. The state governor, who is operating the detention center, considers them all Boko Haram supporters.”

Newsweek: ISIS In Europe: ‘Complete Connect’ Between Jihadi And Criminal Circles Across Continent

“There is now a ‘complete connect’ between jihadi circles in Europe, some that were behind attacks claimed by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), and criminal networks on the continent, according to the author of a new report that profiles the criminal past of European jihadis to be published Tuesday. The report, written by the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ISCR) and entitled Criminal Pasts, Terrorist Futures, profiles 79 European jihadis who progressed from petty or violent crime to hardened jihadism on the continent or the Middle East. It finds that criminal and extremist groups recruit from the same social pools, resulting in the transfer of skills and an environment that suit those susceptible to violence and experienced at averting law enforcement agencies.”

United States

Fox News: Pentagon To Crack Down On US Taxpayer-Funded ‘Ghost Soldiers’ In Afghanistan

“The Department of Defense has pledged to closely monitor Afghan active-duty security forces so that U.S. taxpayer money is not squandered on so-called ‘ghost’ soldiers, Stars and Stripes reported. In a letter released Friday to the Pentagon, the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, said it was concerned about ‘significant gaps between the assigned force strength of the (Afghan National Defense and Security Forces) and the actual number of personnel serving.’ The letter, obtained by FoxNews.com, cites reports indicating discrepancies between the assigned force strength of the ANDSF and the actual number of personnel serving.”

Associated Press: Missiles Fired From Rebel-Held Yemen Land Near Us Destroyer

“Two missiles fired from rebel-held territory in Yemen landed near an American destroyer in the Red Sea, the U.S. Navy said Monday, the second such launch targeting ships in the crucial international waterway in recent days. The missile launches Sunday came as a ballistic missile fired from Yemen apparently targeted a Saudi air base near the Muslim holy city of Mecca, the deepest strike yet into the kingdom by Shiite rebels and their allies. Yemen’s Shiite rebels known as Houthis and their allies offered no reason for the launches, though they came after a Saudi-led airstrike targeting a funeral in Yemen’s capital killed over 140 people and wounded 525 on Saturday.”

Iraq

Fox News: ISIS Suffers Major Land Loss Ahead Of Planned Mosul Assault Report Finds

“U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and ground fighting have depleted the Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and Syria in a big way, reportedly by 16 percent over just 9 months, a new study has found. ISIS now controls only 25,000 square miles of land in the region, an area roughly the size of West Virginia, IHS Conflict Monitor reports. It marks a sharp reversal from the terror network’s massive land grab in 2014 and is down drastically from the reported 35,000 square miles controlled at the start of 2015. Analysts said one of the biggest blows against ISIS came when Turkey, a stalwart ally of the U.S., entered Syria at the end of August, capturing the strategically important border town of Jarablus.”

Turkey

Reuters: Turkish Military Says Killed 417 Kurdish Militants Since August

“Turkish security forces have killed 417 Kurdish fighters since late August, helping disrupt the militants’ attack plans in the build-up to winter, the army said on Monday. The announcement came a day after suspected Kurdish militants set off a truck bomb, killing 15 people at a military checkpoint in Hakkari province, a region bordering Iran and Iraq that has borne the brunt of the conflict with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Earlier reports had put the death count from one of the southeast region’s deadliest recent attacks at 18. There has not yet been a claim of responsibility for the bombing — the PKK usually issues such statements more than a day after an event. A two-year ceasefire with the PKK collapsed in July last year, adding to the turmoil in a region already struggling with the civil war in neighbouring Syria and the rise of Islamic State there and in Iraq.”

Deutsche Welle: Russia, Turkey Sign Gas Pipeline Deal, Talk Syria

“Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday took steps to reconcile differences following a severe deterioration of relations between the two countries earlier this year. Putin arrived in Istanbul for the World Energy Congress, his first visit to the country since Turkey downed a Russian jet along the Syrian border last November, triggering a crisis. Turkey apologized for the jet incident in June, leading to a gradual improvement in relations and Moscow clawing back damaging sanctions on the Turkish economy. In a sign Moscow and Ankara remain capable of compartmentalizing political differences in pursuit of economic deals, the two sides on Monday signed an inter-governmental agreement to build the stalled TurkStream gas pipeline under the Black Sea to Turkey.”

BBC: Turkey Blocks Web Drives After Email Leak

“Access to online storage systems, including DropBox, GitHub and Microsoft OneDrive, was blocked in Turkey on Saturday. The Turkish government imposed the blocks after a hacktivist group leaked emails it said it had stolen from the nation’s energy minister. The Redhack group had threatened to publish the information unless left-wing dissidents were released. In total, more than 57,000 emails were put online by the group. News about the block was broken by the Turkey Blocks digital rights group, which monitors net censorship in the county. It said that Google’s Drive storage service had also initially been included in the list of sites blocked but this block had been lifted soon after. The blocks stayed in place on the other web companies until late on Saturday as links to the email cache were removed.”

Afghanistan

BBC: Taliban Fighters Push Into Helmand Capital Lashkar Gah

“The Afghan Taliban have launched a major assault on the strategically important city of Lashkar Gah. The city of 200,000 people is the capital of Helmand province, parts of which have been seized back by the militant group. The new assault is their most concerted push yet into the city, in the south of the country. At least 14 people were killed by a suicide bomber in Lashkar Gah on Monday. including 10 police officers. The city was the scene of heavy fighting between the Taliban and Nato-led forces before their withdrawal in 2014.”

Voice Of America: 14 Killed In Suicide Car Bombing In Afghanistan

“A suicide car bomber killed more than 14 people, mostly police officers, and wounded many more in an embattled key provincial capital in southern Afghanistan, hours after Taliban insurgents staged a major assault and forced their way into the city. The bomber reportedly rammed an explosives-packed vehicle into a police base in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, the largest of all 34 Afghan provinces. Local police officials say they expect the death toll to rise. The bombing occurred shortly after Taliban insurgents assaulted Lashkar Gah from different sides, fighting their way into the city they have kept under siege for weeks.”

Saudi Arabia

The Wall Street Journal: Saudi Arabia To Investigate Yemen Funeral Bombing

“With its military campaign in Yemen under renewed international scrutiny, Saudi Arabia said it ‘regretted’ a strike on a funeral that killed 142 mourners but stopped short of accepting responsibility for the attack. In a letter from its United Nations mission to the U.N. Security Council on Sunday, the kingdom promised to release the results of an investigation into Saturday’s airstrike, which Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels blamed on the Saudi-led coalition fighting to unseat them. Saudi Arabia ‘reaffirmed that it will continue to ensure that all possible measures are taken to protect all civilians and civilian objects in Yemen, as well as necessary corrective and appropriate measures to ensure accountability,’ according to a statement published Monday by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: After Deadly Terror Attack, Minister Denies Security ‘Screw-Up’

“Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Monday defended Israel’s security establishment against claims it should have thwarted the deadly terror attack in Jerusalem a day earlier that left two people dead and another five injured. ‘People should look at the broader picture,’ he told Army Radio, noting the recent decrease in the number of Palestinian attacks carried out during the year-long spate of violence. Levana Malihi, 60, and police officer Yosef Kirma, 29, were both killed on Sunday morning when a 39-year-old Palestinian man opened fire on civilians and police officers near a light rail stop at Ammunition Hill.”

Libya

Reuters: Libyan Forces Push Into Last Islamic State Area In Sirte

“Libyan pro-government forces are advancing into the last area controlled by Islamic State in the coastal city of Sirte, surrounding the militants after a five-month campaign backed by U.S. air strikes, military officials say. At least eight pro-government fighters were killed over the weekend as their forces pushed into the 600 block, an area in central Sirte, with snipers and boobytraps posing the main obstacles to their advance, the officials said. A Reuters reporter on the ground said forces advanced across two streets on Sunday, but were facing resistance and discovering explosive devices in many buildings. Islamic State took over Sirte a year ago, exploiting the chaos and violence that have dogged Libya since the overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 in order to carve out a new base, far from its main territory in Iraq and Syria.”

Germany

CNN: Syrian Refugee Detained In Germany For Alleged Attack Plan

“A Syrian refugee detained by police in Germany had links to the ISIS militant group and was planning a bomb attack ‘with Islamist motives,’ German officials said Monday. German police discovered 1.5 kg of extremely dangerous explosives in a flat in Chemnitz before detaining 22-year-old Jaber al-Bakr in Leipzig on Sunday, ending a manhunt that lasted almost two days, the German general prosecutor said. A specific target was as yet unknown, he said. Al-Bakr was captured after two other Syrian men tied him up in their apartment in Leipzig and alerted police. Al-Bakr had met the men at Leipzig’s train station on Saturday, Michaelis said, and asked if he could stay with them. The men took in the stranger but realized on Saturday night through social media that he was wanted by police. They tied al-Bakr to their sofa and alerted the police via social media, asking them to come detain him.”

France

Sputnik News: Russia, France’s Joint Mission: ‘To Stop Syrian Bloodshed’

“Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said that Russia continues preparations for an upcoming visit of President Putin to Paris on October 19, which is set to focus on the ongoing Syrian conflict and the situation in Ukraine; meanwhile the French foreign minister has confirmed that the two countries have a common goal: to end the Syrian massacre. Russia continues preparations for an upcoming visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Paris, and there is no official information on him not meeting French President Francois Hollande, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday. The comment comes in response to the remark of the French president which has been perceived by some in the media as his ‘uncertainty’ over the personal meeting with Vladimir Putin.”

Combating The Financing Of Terrorism

Turaif News: Saudi Arabia: Financial Rewards For Blowing The Whistle On Terror Financing Offenses

“In a move to increase the involvement of workers outside Saudi financial institutions in tracking terrorist financing crimes and money laundering operations, informed sources claimed that the relevant authorities have approved the granting of financial rewards to whistleblowers for this type of offence. The sources did not disclose the mechanism for granting such rewards or their values, but did confirm that these rewards will be directed to parties not employed in financial and business institutions or professions, nor in non-profit organizations. This is in order to address questionable transactions and to motivate individuals to report them. According to the sources, the rationale behind this move is to dry up the sources of these {illicit} activities and uproot them by sophisticated ways and means, in line with technological developments and methods of modern communication.”

ISIS

Kululiraq: Mosul: ISIS Collects Iraqi Currency From City Residents

“ISIS has adopted a new approach to getting its hands on the money of residents in the city of Mosul. It is being done this time under the pretext of replacing the Iraqi currency with new currency featuring the printed banner of ISIS. A source from within Mosul was quoted as saying, “Members of the terrorist organization collect money from the people of Mosul under the pretext of replacing it with currency with ISIS’s banner printed on it.” The source added, “ISIS terrorists removed the Iraqi currency from the market in Mosul and gave residents receipts for the sums of money taken from them, promising to replace it with the new ISIS currency.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Albawabh News: Muslim Brotherhood Exploits Official Website To Cover Financial Losses

“The Muslim Brotherhood is exploiting the group’s official website “Ikhwanonline” commercially in an attempt to cover the financial losses it has incurred. The site now offers paid advertising space. Those who want to publish on the site are asked to leave their phone number as a means of future contact. This is a new move by the group, which had always managed to obtain foreign funding without needing to use its website commercially. There has been news recently that the veteran leadership of the group neglected to deliver the {regular} monthly assistance to the youth faction, as punishment for what it considers a serious revolt against it.”

Infirad: Egypt: Lawsuit Demanding Removal Of Ayman Nour From Membership In The Bar Association Due To Ties With The Muslim Brotherhood

“The Second Circuit of the Egyptian Supreme Administrative Court at the State Council, headed by Judge and Deputy Chairman of the State Council Club, Councilor Sami Abdel-Hamid, forwarded a lawsuit filed against Ayman Nour to the State Commissioners Authority, demanding removal of Nour’s membership in the Bar Association. The lawsuit was filed by Dr. Samir Sabry, The Commissioners Authority is scheduled to review the case on November 13th. Sabry claimed that Ayman Nour serves as an instrument of the Muslim Brotherhood to incite violence. Hence, he added, it is natural that Nour was {guilty of} transferring funds to this group secretly. Sabry noted that there are persons who travel to Turkey to meet with Ayman Nour, including suspicious figures who played inciting roles, and are still acting against the nation. According to the lawsuit, Nour took advantage of his position as Chairman of the Al-Sharq TV, broadcasting out of Turkey, to use this Brotherhood channel to incite against Egypt.”

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