Eye on Extremism, October12, 2016

The New York Times: Pentagon Confronts A New Threat From ISIS: Exploding Drones

“In the last month, the Islamic State has tried to use small drones to launch attacks at least two other times, prompting American commanders in Iraq to issue a warning to forces fighting the group to treat any type of small flying aircraft as a potential explosive device. The Islamic State has used surveillance drones on the battlefield for some time, but the attacks — all targeting Iraqi troops — have highlighted its success in adapting readily accessible technology into a potentially effective new weapon. American advisers say drones could be deployed against coalition forces by the terrorist group in the battle in Mosul. For some American military analysts and drone experts, the episodes confirmed their view that the Pentagon — which is still struggling to come up with ways to bring down drones — was slow to anticipate that militants would turn drones into weapons.”

The Daily Beast: Deadly Waters Off Yemen Threaten U.S. Ships

“The waters off Yemen are becoming a killing field for ships, and while the U.S. Navy is reasonably prepared to confront the escalating danger, America’s allies in the civil war-torn Middle Eastern country might not be. On the evening of Oct. 9, forces aligned with Ansar Allah—aka the Houthis, Yemen’s Iran-backed Shia political movement—fired two cruise missiles toward the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Mason and the amphibious ship Ponce while the two vessels were sailing in international waters north of the Bab el-Mandeb strait. Ponce functions as a sort of floating base for mine-hunting helicopters and other U.S. forces. Mason’s job is to protect more-vulnerable vessels such as Ponce. U.S and allied ships patrol the waters around Yemen in order to prevent illicit arms from flowing into the troubled country.”

NBC News: Pentagon Vows to Retaliate for Missile Attack on USS Mason Near Yemen

The Pentagon vowed Tuesday to deliver payback to whoever fired a pair of missiles at a U.S. Navy destroyer off the coast of Yemen. ‘We are going to find out who did it and take action accordingly,’ said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman. ‘Anybody who puts U.S. Navy ships at risk does so at their own peril.’ The missiles, which were fired around 7 p.m. (noon ET) Sunday as the USS Mason was conducting routine operations in international waters near the strait of Bab el-Mandeb, missed their target. Two other Navy ships — the USS Nitze and the USS Ponce — were also operating in the area. Davis declined to say who they suspect fired the missiles, but noted that they were fired from territory in the hands of Shiite rebels known as Houthis who are backed by Iran and are fighting the government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.”

BBC: Syria Conflict: Heavy Air Strikes Resume On Aleppo

“Russian planes have resumed air strikes on rebel-held districts in the city of Aleppo, in what activists say is the heaviest bombardment in days. At least 25 people are reported to have died, including children. The bombardment follows a temporary lull called by the Syrian government, partly to allow civilians to leave rebel areas in the east of the city. It has come under intense aerial attack since a ceasefire brokered by the US and Russia collapsed last month. The air strikes came as Russian President Vladimir Putin cancelled a planned visit to France. He had been due to meet French President Francois Hollande later this month but pulled out after Paris said talks would be confined to Syria, French presidential sources said. On Monday, Mr Hollande suggested Russian officials could face war crimes charges over the bombardment of Aleppo.”

Reuters: As Offensive Nears, Islamic State Rigs Mosul With Bombs

“Islamic State militants have placed booby traps across the city of Mosul, dug tunnels and recruited children as spies in anticipation of an offensive to dislodge the jihadists from their Iraqi stronghold, Iraqis and U.S. officials said. Mosul, home to up to 1.5 million people, has been the headquarters of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in northern Iraq since 2014 and the militants are making complex preparations to prevent Iraqi security forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, taking it back. The battle for the city, expected later this month, will help shape the future of Iraq and the legacy of U.S. President Barack Obama. Even if Islamic State is driven out, there is a real danger of sectarian strife, especially if civilian casualties are high in a mainly Sunni city wary of the Shi-ite led Iraqi government and the Shi’ite militias it depends on.”

Newsweek: As Isis’s Caliphate Crumbles, Jihadist Tactics Are Evolving

“Today, the battle of Mosul, Round Two, looms. The United States, the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga fighters are preparing an offensive to retake the city, likely to begin by the end of October. And ISIS, undeniably, is now weakened, its caliphate vastly reduced in size. The Iraqi government, backed by U.S. airpower and special operations forces, has methodically retaken cities in Iraq’s Sunni heartland that had fallen to ISIS: Tikrit, Fallujah, Ramadi and, soon, most analysts believe, Mosul. ISIS today controls nearly 50 percent less territory in Iraq than it did two years ago. The flow of foreign fighters going there has dwindled, and ISIS now conscripts locals for $50 a month—but it has fallen three months behind, former fighters say, in paying even that amount.”

The Jerusalem Post: Israel Thwarts Hamas Suicide Bombing Plot On Bus In Jerusalem

“Israeli security authorities announced Tuesday morning that they have arrested a Hamas operative who planned a number of terror attacks in the Jerusalem area, including a suicide bombing on a bus in the capital’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood. Muhammad Fuaz Ibrahim Julani, of the Shuafat refugee camp on the outskirts of Jerusalem, was arrested last month while planning the attack at the behest of his Hamas handlers in the Gaza Strip, according to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). The investigation of Julani revealed that he had discussed a number of potential attacks with his handlers, including a shooting attack at the Hizme checkpoint, a bombing at a store in Jerusalem he had formerly worked at, and bombing attacks at high profile sites in Jerusalem that would cause mass casualties, such as the Central Bus Station and the Malha Mall.”

USA Today: Sparks Fly Between Turkey, Iraq As Battle Looms To Oust ISIL From Mosul

“The leaders of Turkey and Iraq exchanged sharp words as they prepare for a military operation to oust Islamic State militants from the terror group’s last major redoubt in Iraq. The latest salvo came from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in response to a demand from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that Turkey withdraw its troops from Iraq, where they’ve been training a multi-ethnic force to participate in the looming battle. ‘You are not my interlocutor. You are not at my level. You are not my equivalent. You are not of the same quality as me,’ Erdogan said, referring to al-Abadi in a speech to Muslim religious leaders from the Balkans and Central Asia. ‘Your screaming and shouting in Iraq is of no importance to us. You should know that we will go our own way,’ Erdogan said, according to the Associated Press.”

Reuters: Turkey Says Kurdish Militants Enter New ‘Heinous’ Phase, Targeting Ruling Party

“Kurdish militants claimed responsibility for the assassination of two officials in Turkey’s southeast and the country’s prime minister said the insurgency had entered a new ‘heinous’ phase in targeting the AK Party founded by President Tayyip Erdogan. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) said it had shot dead Deryan Aktert, AKP head in the city of Diyarbakir’s Dicle district, in his office on Monday for his cooperation with the state in fighting the PKK, an organization listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. On Sunday, assailants killed Aydin Mustu, the AK Party’s deputy leader in the Ozalp district of Van, a city 350 km (215 miles) east of Diyarbakir.”

The Washington Post: The Thin Line Between Europe’s Criminals And Militants

“When Danish police officers shot a suspected drug dealer earlier this fall in Copenhagen, they assumed the investigation would lead to organized crime. But soon after, the Islamic State claimed the 25-year-old had been a ‘soldier of the Caliphate.’ That wording has been frequently used by the group in recent months, including after the Orlando attack on a gay club in June. It remains deeply unclear whether the Islamic State has direct links to such attackers or merely piggybacks off their acts in efforts to claim a wider reach. Experts tracking militant trends, though, are digging deeper. Criminals turning into terrorism suspects is becoming an increasingly common pattern in Europe, according to a new report released Tuesday by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR) at King’s College London.”

United States

CNN: US Urges Calm As Turkey-Iraq Tensions Risk ISIS Fight

“US officials are urging calm between Turkey and Iraq to keep the flaring tensions between the two key American allies from jeopardizing the fight against ISIS. The flap over the presence of Turkish troops in northern Iraq, which the government in Baghdad objects to because the forces are there without its permission, could undermine recent gains in the fight against the terror group and disrupt the upcoming effort to retake Mosul. ‘It is imperative for all parties to coordinate closely over the coming days and weeks to ensure unity of effort in defeating Daesh and to provide for the lasting security of the Iraqi people,’ State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement issued Tuesday, using another name for ISIS. Kirby however did not mention Turkey by name saying he was addressing ‘the role that international forces will play in the Iraqi operation to liberate Mosul.’”

ABC News: ISIS Propaganda Declined After Military Pressure, West Point Report Says

“ISIS appears to be struggling to produce the same volume of online propaganda as in days past thanks in large part to a sustained military assault by the anti-ISIS coalition, according to a new report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. The comprehensive report from the academic center at the United States Military Academy (USMA), Communication Breakdown: Unraveling the Islamic State’s Media Efforts, says at its peak in August 2015 the terror group posted 700 items from its official media outlets, but persistent military pressure has shrunk that number to just 200 a year later. The report also notes that ISIS is producing far fewer messages about its successful governance and the promise of a happy-life within it’s so called ‘caliphate,’ instead posting more messages about it’s deadly battles.”


Reuters: Russian Jets Resume Heavy Bombing Of Eastern Aleppo: Rebels, Monitor

“Russian jets resumed heavy bombing of rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Tuesday after several days of relative calm, a rebel official and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said. Air strikes mostly hit the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood, Zakaria Malhifji of the Aleppo-based Fastaqim rebel group told Reuters. ‘There is renewed bombardment and it is heavy,’ he said. The Observatory said the death toll from bombing in Bustan al-Qasr, Fardous and other neighborhoods rose to at least 25, with scores of wounded. At least 50 civilians were killed by strikes on the rebel-held part of the city and nearby villages controlled by insurgents, residents and rescue workers said. In Bustan al Qasr, residents said, the strikes hit a medical center and a children’s playground.”

Reuters: Hezbollah Sees More Conflict In Syria And Rising Regional Tension

“The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said on Tuesday the Middle East was in a phase of escalating tension and there appeared to be no prospect of a political solution to the war in Syria. ‘The regional scene is currently one of tension and escalation, and it does not appear that there are paths for negotiations or solutions’, he said in a rare live televised speech before thousands of supporters in Beirut. Speaking about Syria, where the Iran-backed group is fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Nasrallah said ‘the theater was open to more tension, escalation and confrontation’. However, large sections of his more than hour-long address, marking Shi’ite Islam’s annual Ashura commemorations, were spent attacking Sunni power Saudi Arabia, the main regional rival of Iran, mostly over its military campaign in Yemen.”

Associated Press: Airstrikes In Syria’s Aleppo And Shelling In South Kill 20

“Airstrikes on rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo killed at least 14 people Tuesday, while the shelling of a government-held neighborhood in southern Syria hit a school, killing at least six, including children, opposition activists and state media said. Syria’s official news agency SANA also reported rare shelling of neighborhoods in the capital, Damascus, including several mortar shells fired by opposition groups based on the edge of the city that landed in the residential Qasaa district and close to the Umayyad Mosque, wounding an unspecified number of people. Fighting on a number of fronts across the country has intensified in recent weeks following the collapse of a U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire. The northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest and its former commercial center, has seen particularly fierce fighting, as pro-government forces try to capture neighborhoods in besieged opposition-held parts of the city.”

CNN: Powerful Images Of Wounded Syrian Girl Go Viral

“It’s another haunting picture of a wounded child from Syria. This one has also gone viral on social media. The video and images were posted online by a pro-opposition activist group, Talbiseh Media Center. It shows an 8-year-old girl in a medical facility, her hair and body covered with dust. There’s blood tricking down her forehead, her nose. She looks confused and scared and keeps calling out for her father. Off camera, a man talks to her, asking for her name. ‘Aya’ she replies, crying. ‘Where were you when this happened?’ the questioner asks. ‘At home but the roof fell on us,’ she replies, looking around for her father. ‘Oh Daddy… Daddy, come,’ she cries. Hospital staff and volunteers try to clean her up and attend to her wounds, as she continues to sob.”


Reuters: Two French Soldiers Badly Wounded By Drone In Iraq

“Two French soldiers were badly wounded in Iraq and two Peshmerga fighters were killed by a booby trapped drone sent by a group related to the Islamic State, Le Monde reported on Tuesday. In what could be the first report of an attack by Islamic State militants on French special forces using a drone, the device was intercepted while flying and exploded after landing on the ground, the paper said. Le Monde said the attack happened on Oct. 2. It was not clear whether the device was remotely detonated or if it carried a timed bomb. The two French soldiers were immediately repatriated to receive medical treatment in France. One of them ‘is between life and death,’ Le Monde wrote. Other French soldiers were also lightly wounded by the explosion but Le Monde did not give precise numbers.”


Reuters: Turkey Has Right To Combat Threats In Syria And Iraq: Erdogan

“President Tayyip Erdogan warned Iraq’s prime minister he should ‘know his limits’ after he criticized Turkey’s military presence there and said the Turkish army, shaken by a failed coup bid, had not lost so much standing as to take orders from him. NATO member Turkey shares a 1,200 km (750-mile) border with Syria and Iraq and faces threats from Islamic State militants in both. But it is concerned that international efforts to destroy radical Islamists will leave new dangers in their wake. The Turkish army, its senior ranks purged following a failed military attempt to overthrow Erdogan in July, launched an incursion into Syria in August to push back Islamic State and prevent U.S.-backed Kurdish militia fighters from seizing territory. Ankara is wary of Washington’s support for what it sees as a hostile Syrian Kurdish force.”


Reuters: Gunman Kills 14 At Shrine In Afghan Capital, Police Say

“At least 14 people were killed on Tuesday when a gunman in a police uniform opened fire on worshippers gathered at a shrine in the Afghan capital of Kabul for a Shi’ite holy day, officials said. Thirteen civilians and one police officer died and 36 people were wounded, said Ministry of Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqqi. Ministry of Public Health officials said at least 43 people had been injured in the incident and had been taken to hospitals in the city for treatment. The attack began just before 8 p.m. (3:30 p.m. GMT), police said, with witnesses reporting an explosion followed by gunfire. ‘People were gathered inside the shrine for worshiping when the attackers arrived, first they shot the policemen at the gate of the shrine and then they entered the compound,’ said Sardar Hedayat.”


The Times Of Israel: Russia To Hold Military Drills In Egypt This Month

“Russia and Egypt will hold joint military drills involving airborne troops on Egyptian soil for the first time this month, the Russian defence ministry said Tuesday. ‘The joint Russian-Egyptian drills will happen in mid-October 2016 on the territory of Egypt,’ it said, without specifying their start date. The drills, called ‘Protectors of Friendship-2016’, will include 500 troops, 15 planes and helicopters and 10 military hardware units, the ministry said, describing the exercises as ‘anti-terrorist’. ‘The airborne delivery by parachute of several Russian airborne troops’ сombat vehicles to the desert climate of Egypt will occur for the first time in history,’ the ministry said.”


Associated Press: Libya Government Forces Launch New Push On IS In Sirte

“Forces loyal to Libya’s United Nations-brokered government are advancing cautiously on the remaining pockets of Islamic State group fighters holding out in the coastal city of Sirte. The Tuesday push comes after months of intense fighting in Sirte between government forces and IS fighters, who gained a foothold in the country following the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Pro-government fighter Mohamed Abdulla says the troops are ‘making progress every day,’ but needed better care for their wounded. The United States has been supporting the fight against IS with airstrikes. Efforts to unite the deeply divided country were dealt a major blow last August when the country’s parliament, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, rejected the Tripoli-based government following a no confidence vote.”


Newsweek: Nigerian State Government ‘Acting Like Boko Haram,’ Says Shiite Spokesman

“The spokesman of a Nigerian Shiite group says that the state government in Kaduna, northern Nigeria, is acting like Boko Haram after outlawing the group. The Kaduna state government declared on Friday that the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN)— the country’s main Shiite movement—was an ‘unlawful society’ and that members of the group would be arrested and prosecuted. Members of the IMN, an Iranian-inspired movement led by Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, clashed with the Nigerian army in December 2015 in the city of Zaria. A commission of inquiry found that at least 347 members of the group were killed in the clashes, although the sect had previously claimed hundreds of its members remained missing. Zakzaky was arrested during the clashes and has been detained without charge for the past 10 months.”

United Kingdom

BBC: Police At Doncaster Mcauley School After ‘Terror Threats’

“Counter-terrorism police are being stationed at a school in Doncaster after ‘threatening social media posts’. Officers were called to McAuley Catholic High School on Cantley Lane on Monday, and remained there on Tuesday. Police said ‘potentially unauthorised and malicious posts’ had been made on a social media account. Supt Neil Thomas said: ‘Uniformed officers will be carrying out patrols at the school.’ A team of specially-trained officers was present and would remain over the coming days, Supt Thomas said. He said there was no intelligence to suggest it was necessary to keep children off school. The matter was being investigated by the North East Counter Terrorism Unit, which is working to establish the origin of the posts.”

Associated Press: UK Report Warns Of Criminals Becoming Terrorists

“The lines between terrorism and criminality are becoming blurred as an increasing number of former criminals join the Islamic State group and create a ‘gangster jihad,’ according to a British report released Tuesday. Nearly 60 percent of European jihadists studied by researchers had been jailed previously, in essence creating a ‘super-gang,’ said the report from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence at King’s College London. Once recruited by IS, these people easily transition to committing violence for a different cause, making the group different from other Islamist organizations such as al-Qaida, which often radicalized students, intellectuals or other previously non-violent individuals to carry out its violent aims, the report said. ‘They are the perfect fit,’ Peter Neumann, the center’s director, said of the criminals bolstering the Islamic State group’s ranks.”


Reuters: Syrian Suspect In Germany ‘Had Ties To Islamic State’

“A 22-year-old Syrian refugee arrested in Germany on Monday had ties to Islamic State, Germany’s spy chief said on Tuesday, but intelligence sources said there was no evidence he was receiving orders from the militant group. Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the domestic intelligence agency, told German broadcaster ZDF that the arrest of suspect Jaber Albakr had probably prevented an imminent attack. ‘We succeeded in preventing a terrorist attack just minutes before midnight,’ he said. Police had been hunting for the suspect since he evaded them during a raid on Saturday. Die Welt newspaper, citing investigative sources, reported late on Tuesday that Albakr had spent several months in Turkey this year, leaving in the spring and returning to Germany only in late August.”

USA Today: Syrian Refugee Terror Attack Averted In Germany — By Refugees

“A Syrian refugee accused of planning a terrorist attack here was on the run for nearly two days until his capture — by fellow Syrian refugees. Jaber al-Bakr’s apartment in the eastern city of Chemnitz was raided Saturday by special forces because authorities feared he was on the verge of launching a bomb attack. During the police operation in a busy residential area, he escaped. Now, new details have emerged about the circumstances that led to the apprehension early Monday of al-Bakr, a 22-year-old asylum seeker who investigators believe may have links to the Islamic State and been planning to detonate a bomb at one of Berlin’s airports.”


The Wall Street Journal: Russia’s Vladimir Putin Cancels Paris Trip Amid Differences Over Syria

“Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday canceled plans to travel to Paris next week, amid heightened tensions between Moscow and the West over the conflict in Syria. French President François Hollande said after the cancellation that he had demanded any meeting with Mr. Putin in Paris be devoted solely to the situation in Syria, where some Western officials have said Russia’s involvement in the bombing of the northern city of Aleppo could amount to war crimes. The Russian leader instead decided to postpone the trip, he said. ‘I consider it necessary to have a dialogue with Russia,’ Mr. Hollande told the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. ‘However, this dialogue must be firm and honest, otherwise it has no purpose and it’s a sham.’”


Voice Of America: West Rattled Over Russian Missiles On NATO Border

“Russia’s deployment of nuclear-capable missiles its enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea is a ‘wake-up call’ for the West of the current dangers, according to analysts. Germany warns the tensions between Moscow and the West are more dangerous than during the Cold War. Russia’s Iskander missiles have a range of around 500 kilometers, and their deployment in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, has rattled the West. The dramatic reaction of the West about Iskander [missiles] now is that it is just a wake-up call, it is just a very clear message. It is that ice-cold bucket of water that says, ‘Wake up, you are not living in a safe world,’ said Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military analyst at London’s Royal United Services Institute. Moscow says the deployment is part of a regular military exercise.”


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