Eye on Extremism, January 12, 2017

Reuters: Afghan Officials Probe Attacks As Death Toll Rises Past 50

“Afghan security officials began investigating Tuesday’s attacks in the capital Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar as the death toll climbed to over 50, including five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates. The Ministry of the Interior raised the death toll from the Kabul attack to 38, with 86 wounded, while 13 people were confirmed dead in Kandahar, where the diplomats were killed while on a visit to open an orphanage. The UAE ambassador and the provincial governor were also wounded in the attack, which killed several other officials including deputy governor Abdul Shamsi. President Ashraf Ghani spoke by telephone with Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, expressing condolences and stressing the need to redouble efforts to counter terrorism, a statement said.”

Voice Of America: Islamic State Tactics Degrading As Iraqis Take More Of Mosul

“Islamic State (IS) fighters have placed bombs on trucks and even tiny, flying drones to attack Iraqi forces battling to retake Mosul. But these battlefield tactics are becoming less frequent and less effective, a top U.S. commander in Iraq said Wednesday. Speaking to reporters via teleconference from Baghdad, Col. Brett Sylvia, who leads roughly 1,700 of the U.S. soldiers advising Iraqis in the Mosul fight, said U.S. forces have helped Iraqis bring down ‘almost a dozen’ IS-controlled drones used to gather intelligence and drop ‘little grenade’-like explosives on Iraqis. ‘They are very short-range, targeting those frontline troops from the Iraqis,’ he said, adding that the drones are often commercial ‘quadcopters’ that can be purchased online.”

Reuters: Bombed Mosul Bridge Still Lifeline For Long-Suffering Civilians

“The rubble of a bridge blown up by Islamic State in Mosul to block advancing Iraqi forces has become a lifeline for civilians as more and more of the northern city breaks loose from the grip of the ultra-hardline militants. Men and women, children and the elderly scramble down the banks of the Khosr River, a tributary of the Tigris some 30 metres wide and a metre deep which counter-terrorism forces crossed last week in a nighttime raid. Lumbering over ladders and pipes, civilians crawl onto the span of the bridge, which has collapsed into the murky water, and shimmy up the opposite bank along a dirt path.”

Associated Press: Activists: 6 Dead In Airstrike In Northern Syria

“Activists say an airstrike on a Syrian village near the once-contested city of Aleppo has killed six civilians, including at least three children. The Syrian Civil Defense search and rescue group, also known as the White Helmets, says rescue workers are pulling victims from the rubble of a home destroyed in a strike Thursday morning in the village of Babka, in the opposition-held countryside west of Aleppo. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says four of the victims were children. Fighting and airstrikes have continued across Syria despite a cease-fire between the government and rebels that came into effect on December 30. U.S.-led coalition forces have also stepped up raids against Qaida-linked militants in northwestern Syria.”

The New York Times: Assad Has Won In Syria. But Syria Hardly Exists.

“Now that forces supporting the Syrian government have completed the takeover of Aleppo, and Russia, Turkey and Iran have negotiated a tenuous cease-fire, it is more than likely that President Bashar al-Assad and the regime he oversees will continue to govern Syria, in one form or another. In an interview with French media published last week, Mr. Assad stated that Aleppo signaled a ‘tipping point in the course of the war’ and that the government is ‘on the way to victory.’ But if that is the case, what will Mr. Assad actually win?”

Daily Caller: ISIS Drowns A Man In Shampoo For Claiming The Group Is Dirty

“Members of the Islamic State drowned a man in shampoo for telling a radio host that he planned to drink a toast and ‘clean himself’ of the terrorist group’s filth. In an interview with a noted Mosul-based radio host, the recovering former ISIS member said he would ‘buy shampoo to clean himself’ of ISIS filth. In response, ISIS promised to track the man down and kill him ‘measure for measure,’ by drowning him in water mixed with shampoo. And, that is exactly what the group did.”

Associated Press: Turkey Bogged Down In Syria As It Realigns With Russia

“Nearly two months into the assault, Turkey has become bogged down in an unexpectedly bloody fight to retake the Islamic State group’s last stronghold in northern Syria. It has been forced to pour in troops, take the lead in the battle from its Syrian allies and reach out to Russia for aerial support. The fight for al-Bab underscores the precarious path Ankara is treading with its foray in to Syria, aimed against both IS militants and Syrian Kurdish fighters. The assault on the town had already driven a wedge between Turkey and the United States, and now the realignment toward Moscow — which supports the government in Syria’s civil war — further tests Ankara’s alliance both with Washington and with the Syrian opposition. The battle itself has proven grueling.”

The Washington Post: Israel Says Hamas Hacked Facebook Accounts, Cellphones Of Army Recruits

“The Israeli military said Wednesday that its archenemy Hamas, the militant Palestinian Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, used a series of fake Facebook accounts to connect with young recruits in an attempt to gain access to sensitive army information. A senior intelligence officer, who could not be identified under Israeli army rules, told journalists that over the past few months, dozens of soldiers, mostly from combat units, were enticed into chatting with people they believed were young, attractive women in Israel and abroad. Using Facebook as the main medium to engage the soldiers in intimate conversations, those running the fake accounts encouraged the soldiers to download a ‘chat’ application to their cellphones.”

The Times: Islamic Extremists ‘Infiltrating Ranks Of French Police’

“Police and army chiefs in France have placed internal inspection teams on alert after new evidence warned that radical Islamists are seeking to infiltrate their ranks. The extent of concern was underlined yesterday by the publication of a book that revealed that at least 16 police officers have joined Islamic State. Où Sont Passés Nos Espions? (Where Have Our Spies Gone?), by Eric Pelletier and Christophe Dubois, also claimed that about a dozen former French soldiers had joined jihadist movements in Iraq and Syria.”

The Daily Beast: Germany To Ankle-Monior Jihad Suspects After Berlin Massacre

“Security services followed the Berlin terrorist Anis Amri for months. They knew he was a terror threat, they knew he was visiting Salafist mosques and they knew him under at least 14 aliases. But somehow, they just couldn’t find enough evidence to lock him up. So he travelled freely between Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia, as regional services got flummoxed over his whereabouts, and domestic spies eventually lost track of his cell phone. The next time anyone heard from Amri was when he raced a truck through the Berlin Christmas market, in a killing spree that murdered 12 people and injuring many others.”

Reuters: Islamic State Supporters Post Video Of German Hostage Believed Kidnapped

“Islamic State supporters posted a video on Wednesday showing an elderly German man believed to have been kidnapped by Filipino Islamist Abu Sayyaf rebels last November. The video shows the German man in an orange jumpsuit standing in a freshly dug grave as black-clad. Masked militants behind him held assault rifles and, speaking Arabic, threatened the German government in English while the Islamic State black flag stood in the background. ‘To the German government: it seems that you are not paying attention to our demands. Failure to pay the ransom will cause the beheading of this German citizen,’ one of the masked men can be heard saying. The German foreign ministry declined to comment on the video, saying it was its policy not to discuss cases involving Germans kidnapped abroad.”

Bloomberg: Russian Warship Hosts Libya’s Haftar As Putin Courts New Ally

“Khalifa Haftar toured Russia’s aircraft carrier anchored off the Libyan coast and held a video call with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the biggest sign yet of growing ties between the Kremlin and the eastern Libyan-based military commander. Haftar boarded the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov as it was relocating from Syrian waters to a home port in Russia, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday. The ship was anchored off Libya’s city of Tobruk, according to Irrish Syed, head of the foreign media department in the country’s east.”

United States

The New York Times: In Rocky Hearing, Rex Tillerson Tries To Separate From Trump

“Rex W. Tillerson on Wednesday told a Senate committee weighing his nomination as secretary of state that he would push back hard against President Vladimir V. Putin’s effort to expand Russian influence from Ukraine to Syria to cyberspace. But in a rocky all-day hearing, Mr. Tillerson also found himself on the defensive when it came to Exxon Mobil’s lobbying activities and his reluctance to declare that some dictators were violators of human rights. One especially skeptical Republican was Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, whose vote on the Foreign Relations Committee might well decide the fate of Mr. Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon.”

Daily Caller: Afghanistan ‘On The Brink’ Of Ruin As Hundreds Of US Marines Head Back

“The security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate ahead of the scheduled departure of hundreds of U.S. Marines to Helmand province in the spring. The situation has become so bad in the area the Marines are headed, one of Afghanistan’s most experienced Generals, GeneralAbdul Raziq, called for a Taliban ‘safe zone.’ The safe zone indicates ‘he doesn’t believe he can hold the line in the south in the medium to long term,’ according to Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Bill Roggio’s recent blog post in the Long War Journal.”

The Washington Post: U.S. Military Says Battle With Taliban Killed 33 Civilians In Afghanistan

“An investigation into a November firefight between Taliban insurgents and joint U.S. and Afghan forces has concluded that 33 civilians were killed in the operation, the U.S. military said on Thursday. The battle took place in northern Kunduz province, and two U.S. soldiers and three Afghan troops were also killed. The operation, in Boz Kandahari village, targeted Taliban leaders the U.S. military said were responsible for deadly incursions in the area, including a brazen assault on the provincial capital in October. The insurgents briefly captured the city’s central neighborhoods, in a stunning display of strength.”

Syria

Reuters: Syrian Official Says Deal Reached To Fix Damascus Water Supply

“A Syrian provincial governor said on Wednesday the government and rebels had agreed on a plan to repair damage to a spring in the Wadi Barada area that supplies water to the capital, state television reported. The report could not be immediately confirmed with rebel fighters. The local media office for activists in rebel-held Wadi Barada, where the spring is located, denied any agreement had been reached between rebels and the government. The spring was knocked out of service in late December, reducing water supplies to the 70 percent of residents of Damascus and surrounding areas that it serves. The government and rebel groups in Wadi Barada, a mountainous valley about 20 km (10 miles) northwest of Damascus, agreed for technicians to enter the damaged spring facility, state television said.”

Reuters: Russia Says Changing Make-Up Of Syria Strike Force: Agencies

“The Russian Defence Ministry said on Thursday it had started changing the make-up of its strike force in Syria as part of a previously announced partial drawdown, Russian news agencies reported. The ministry was cited as saying that the first six SU-24 bombers had already been withdrawn, but that four SU-25 ground attack aircraft had flown out to Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Latakia province as part of a planned rotation. It said further aircraft would be withdrawn along with military personnel stationed at the base. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a ceasefire in Syria in late December and said Russia would pull back some of its forces in Syria, where its military intervention has turned the tide in favor of President Bashar al-Assad.”

Iraq

Reuters: Iraqi Forces Make Fresh Gains In Southeast Mosul: Military Statement

“Iraqi forces drove back Islamic State militants in southeastern Mosul on Thursday, making gains in an area where advances have been particularly tough, the military said in a statement. Rapid response units from Iraq’s federal police advanced in the Sumer district, which lies on the eastern bank of the Tigris river, and also in neighboring Sahiroun, the statement reported by state television said. Forces have pressed forward much more slowly in that area than units in the east and northeast, who have taken control of a number of neighborhoods in the past week. The army’s elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), has spearheaded advances in eastern Mosul.”

Turkey

Associated Press: Kurdish Militants Claim Car Bomb Attack In Turkey’s Izmir

“Kurdish militants have claimed responsibility for last week’s car bombing attack that killed a policeman and a courthouse employee in western Turkey. The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, or TAK, says that two members of its ‘revenge team’ died in the Jan. 5 Izmir attack, according to a news agency close to Kurdish militants. Firat News Agency, quoting a statement by the group Wednesday, identified the attackers as ‘comrades’ Mustafa Coban and Enes Yildirim, aged 29 and 25 respectively. TAK threatened ‘new acts of revenge’ against the ‘fascist’ Turkish state, which is fighting Kurdish rebels in the southeast. The two assailants were shot dead after they detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at a roadblock and engaged in a shootout with police. Turkish authorities consider TAK to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.”

The Jerusalem Post: Israel-Turkey Pipeline Hangs On Cyprus Peace Talks

“Israel hopes to market its natural gas to Turkey, and via Turkey to the EU, but this aim may hang on the outcome of the potentially historic Cypriot peace negotiations currently underway in Geneva. Since an undersea gas pipeline from Israel’s Leviathan natural gas field to Turkey requires crossing Cyprus’s economic exclusion zone, failure to reach an agreement could force Israel to return to an older plan of marketing its natural gas via Egypt. However, in the new energy and geopolitical realities of the region that emerged in 2016, Israel’s selection of Egypt as its major export option could result in the Russia’s rise as a central player in Eastern Mediterranean energy.”

The Washington Post: Turkish Foreign Minister: Turkey Deserves Better From The United States

“America’s friends and allies are watching closely to gauge how America will reposition itself globally once President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20. And for good reason. Our collective security is being overwhelmed by many unconventional, complex and grave threats. Left unchecked, these threats, such as the rise in terrorism and violent extremism and also mass illegal migration, have the potential to destabilize the transatlantic community as a whole. On New Year’s Eve, Istanbul was once again targeted by the savagery that is terrorism. Tragically, 39 innocents perished while welcoming 2017.”

Afghanistan

Fox News: Afghanistan’s ‘Ghost Soldiers’ Take Scary Toll On US Taxpayers, Says Watchdog

“The U.S. government is paying the salaries of ‘tens of thousands’ of non-existent Afghan soldiers, police, teachers and civil servants, a top Pentagon official said Wednesday in reporting on the scale and variety of misspent U.S. money. John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), said the salaries of ‘ghost soldiers’ is just one of many ways Americans’ money is wasted in Afghanistan – all for rather modest gains. His comments summarize a SIGAR report that aims to help inform the new Congress and administration of the most pressing reconstruction challenges in 2017 and beyond. Sopko’s message was one American leaders have heard before.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Arab Israeli Arrested For Facebook Post Urging Car-Ramming Attacks

“A man from the predominantly Bedouin southern city of Rahat has been arrested for posting a video on his Facebook page that called for people to carry out car-ramming attacks, police said in a statement Wednesday. The video featured footage from Sunday’s terror attack, in which an East Jerusalem man drove his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers, backed up and ran over them again, killing four and injuring dozens. In the background of the video a voice, speaking in Arabic, encouraged people to carry out similar attacks.”

Associated Press: Israeli Official: Cooperation Strong With Egypt

“An Israeli defense official on Wednesday confirmed that the country has developed a new policy in recent years to allow Egypt to quickly beef up its forces in the volatile Sinai peninsula as part of a shared struggle against Islamic militants. The official spoke days after Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh el-Sissi said there are about 25,000 Egyptian troops operating in Sinai. It was the first time an Egyptian leader has commented on the number of troops battling militants there. His comments, made Monday night in a telephone call to a live TV talk show, underlined the depth of his commitment to the fight against militants, but also reflected the immense challenges Egypt faces.”

The Times Of Israel: New Charges For NGO Official Accused Of Aiding Hamas

“Israel on Wednesday announced new charges against the Gaza head of a major US-based NGO accused of diverting millions of dollars in aid to Hamas. Mohammed al-Halabi, the Gaza director of Christian humanitarian charity World Vision, is alleged to have funneled aid money to the terror group that runs the Gaza Strip. He is due in court again in the southern city of Beersheba on Thursday. On Wednesday an updated charge sheet was published with two additional charges, including ‘aiding and abetting the enemy in a time of war’ and ‘passing information to the enemy.’”

The Jerusalem Post: Israel Moves To Revoke Residency Status Of Jerusalem Truck Terrorist’s Family

“The Interior Ministry has initiated plans to revoke the residential status of 12 family members of the east Jerusalem terrorist Fadi al-Qanbar, 28, who murdered four soldiers and wounded 17 others during Sunday’s truck-ramming attack in Armon Hanatziv. Additionally, Qanbar’s Jabl Mukaber home is scheduled to be demolished. The soldiers killed were cadet Shir Hajaj, 22, of Ma’aleh Adumim; cadet Erez Orbach, 20, of Alon Shvut; cadet Shira Tzur, 20, of Haifa; and Lt. Yael Yekutiel, 20, of Givatayim – all of whom were buried on Mount Herzl earlier this week. Prior to carrying out the attack with a flatbed truck adjacent to the Haas Promenade in Armon Hanatziv, Qanbar, a married father of four, reportedly posted multiple comments on his Facebook page praising ISIS.”

United Kingdom

BBC: Basis For Air Strikes On Jihadists To Be Set Out

“The UK’s chief legal adviser is to set out – for the first time – the government’s basis for military strikes against terror suspects abroad. Attorney General Jeremy Wright will say in a speech later that it is vital that international law adapts to respond to modern threats. In September 2015, David Cameron revealed that an RAF drone had killed two British jihadists in Syria. Mr Wright will say the frontline in conflict has ‘irretrievably altered’. He will stress it is essential that the UK has the right to deploy lethal force in self-defence, and will argue the law must keep up with ‘changing times’. Technology ‘has made it easier’ for terrorists to carry out attacks, he will say.”

BBC: Asda Worker Ryan Counsell ‘Downloaded Terrorism Guide’

“A supermarket worker downloaded a terrorism guide in preparation for joining extremists, a court heard. Ryan Counsell, 28, denies four charges, including trying to join an Islamic terrorist group in the Philippines. Woolwich Crown Court heard the e-book suggested using a fake beard or moustache as a disguise and playing console games like Call of Duty. It also advised against going Paintballing ‘because they write down the names of every Muslim who goes’. Counsell, who worked at the Hyson Green branch of Asda, in Nottingham, used annual leave to travel to remote parts of South-East Asia, prosecutors said.”

France

International Business Times: French Authorities On Alert Over Fears Isis Members Seeking To Infiltrate Their Ranks

“The police and army in France have been placed on alert after new evidence emerged that radical Islamists are seeking to infiltrate their ranks. The Times reported that police and army chiefs have placed internal inspection teams on alert. The concerns were further underlined on Monday (10 January) following the publication of a book called Ou Sont Passes Nos Espions (Where Have Our Spies Gone), which claims that at least 16 police officers have joined the Islamic State (Isis).

Europe

The New York Times: Spain Dismisses Terror And Hate Crime Case Against Puppeteers

“A Spanish judge has dismissed a case against two puppeteers almost a year after they were detained for staging a show that was deemed to glorify terrorism and promote hatred. The arrest of the puppeteers, Raúl García Pérez and Alfonso Lázaro de la Fuente, in February 2016 set off a political controversy and was seen a bellwether for whether Europe’s fight against terrorism was also threatening basic rights of protest and free speech. The ruling by Judge José María Escribano Lacleriga in Madrid was dated Jan. 5 but not made public until Wednesday. He decided that the evidence was insufficient, dismissing the final charges.”

Financing of Terrorism

Mansheet: Saudi Arabia: 13,100 Complaints On Terror Financing And Money Laundering

“Saudi Arabia’s Financial Intelligence Unit (SAFIU) has received 13,100 complaints from its inception up until the end of 2016. SAFIU published an official report detailing the issues it handled and indicating that money laundering-related cases topped its list, followed by terror financing. SAFIU revealed that the number of complaints regarding financing and supporting terrorism which eventually ended in judicial rulings came to 975. However, it did not divulge the specific sums of money involved in these cases. A total of 232 citizens and residents submitted complaints about money laundering and terrorist financing. Various governmental agencies submitted a total of 1,541 complaints. The other complaints were filed by financial entities and institutions as well as companies.”

The Seventh Day: Official: GCC Efforts Against Terror Financing Continue Locally And Internationally

“Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Dr. Abdullatif al-Ziani, explained that GCC’s efforts to combat terrorism are continuing at the local, regional and international levels. He went on to say that the membership of GCC countries in the international coalition against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is the best proof of their efforts in this area. According to al-Ziani, terrorism is a great challenge for GCC countries which seek to combat and eliminate extremist groups and dry up their financing sources, since terror poses a threat to security, stability and territorial integrity.”

ISIS

Elnahar News: Iraqi Kurdistan: Tighter Controls Due To “ISIS Banknotes”

“Security agencies in Iraqi Kurdistan have imposed tight controls on markets to prevent the use of corrupted Iraqi banknotes, which are believed to originate from ISIS-controlled areas. Syamand Mouloud, Head of the Currency Trading Council in Erbil, disclosed that the Central Bank of the Kurdistan Region, has cautioned currency traders not to deal with patchy or torn banknotes, because banks will not accept them. According to currency dealers in Erbil, these banknotes originate from the {ISIS-controlled} city of Mosul, and security services are trying to trace their transfer routes into the Kurdistan markets.”

Hamas

Amad: Hamas Urges Unlicensed Money Changers To Straighten Out Their Legal Status

“On Wednesday, the Hamas-controlled Ministry of the Economy in the Gaza Strip called on unlicensed money exchange offices to approach the ministry, in accordance with the law, in order to correct their legal status and register legally. The ministry declared in a statement that money changers have 10 days to settle their status, so as to avoid being in violation of the law. It is noteworthy that, at the end of last year, Hamas’s Ministry of Economy moved to establish a department to oversee the activities of currency exchange offices in the Gaza Strip. This is considered to be a new addition to the structure of the Economy Ministry {in existence} since the inception of the Palestinian Authority.”

Houthi

Marib Press: Houthis Open Local Bank Accounts In Violation Of Constitution

“Officials and employees of the Central Bank’s Sana’a branch disclosed the worsening situation and spread of corruption over the past four months. This situation stems from Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s decision to move the headquarters and management of the Bank’s operations to Aden. According to employees, the Bank has become a tool in the hands of black market merchants and “is drowning” in corruption. Employees claim that the {Central} Bank is “being obliterated” after being {basically} disabled by the Houthis. The militant group forced ministries and state institutions to open accounts outside the Central Bank, specifically in CAC Bank, a government-owned bank fully controlled by the Houthis, headquartered in Sana’a. In addition, many government agencies have opened private accounts in local banks in violation of the Constitution and a law which prohibits opening accounts without the consent of the Ministry of Finance.”

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