Eye on Extremism, January 25, 2017

The New York Times: Iran, Russia And Turkey Agree To Enforce Syria Cease-Fire, But Don’t Explain How

“Two days of talks over the Syrian civil war concluded on Tuesday with an agreement by Iran, Russia and Turkey to enforce a fragile partial cease-fire. But neither the Syrian government nor the rebel fighters — who briefly met face to face for the first time in nearly six years of war — signed the agreement. While the three powers agreed to establish a mechanism to monitor and enforce the nearly month-old cease-fire, they did not say what the mechanism should look like, deferring that issue for now. The statement, at least on paper, brought Iran on board with recent new cooperation between Russia and Turkey, and it strengthened Turkey’s commitment to separating rebel groups it supports from jihadist groups.”

The Washington Post: Syria Deal Draws Iran Into Alliance With Russia And Turkey

“Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed Tuesday to the outlines of a plan to reinforce a cease-fire in Syria, establishing the three most significant allies of the protagonists in the conflict as guarantors to a peace process. The deal concluded two days of talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, that drew Iran into a burgeoning alliance with Russia and Turkey over ways to secure a settlement. It set broad but vague parameters for a cease-fire enforcement mechanism and committed the three countries to jointly fight the Islamic State and Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate. It will also provide a test of Russia’s new role as the lead power broker in efforts to secure a sustainable, long-term solution to the war.”

NBC News: Battle For Mosul: 750,000 Trapped In Western Half Of ISIS-Held Iraqi City

“American-backed forces in Iraq have been keen to champion their imminent capture of the eastern half of ISIS stronghold Mosul. But humanitarian groups warned Tuesday that there are still hundreds of thousands of people in the besieged area facing severe food, water, fuel and medical shortages. Around 750,000 people — larger than the population of Seattle — are currently in the western half of the Iraqi city, according to a joint statement by United Nations agencies and others.”

New York Times: On Mosul’s Front Lines: Advances In Battle, But Peril Abounds

“After three months of fighting, the battle to retake Mosul has entered a new chapter, but the Islamic State’s vast arsenal of car bombs and suicide vests is far from spent and most of the civilian population is still trapped. By Friday, the government forces had pushed the militants across the Tigris River, which divides the city. With a partial victory in sight, a small group of journalists were invited by the government to report from the besieged city. The mood among the troops was mostly celebratory: The Islamic State was on the run. But the fighting was far from over, and the danger still all too real. On the other side of the Tigris — just a few hundred yards away and home to 750,000 people — the militants were still in control.”

Reuters: Jihadists Battle Moderate Rebels In Northern Syria

“Heavy fighting erupted in northwestern Syria on Tuesday between a powerful jihadist organization and more moderate rebel groups, threatening to further weaken the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad in its biggest territorial stronghold. Rebel groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) banner, some of which attended peace talks in Kazakhstan, accused the jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham of launching a surprise attack on their positions. Fateh al-Sham, previously known as the Nusra Front, issued a statement which said it had been forced to act preemptively to ‘thwart conspiracies’ being hatched against it. The group accused rebels attending the Kazakhstan talks of conspiring against it, but did not refer to Tuesday’s fighting directly.”

Wall Street Journal: Somali Security Forces End Deadly Terrorist Siege In Mogadishu Hotel

“At least eight people were killed and 14 injured as Somali security forces ended a siege by extremist fighters who stormed a hotel in the capital, police said. Four al-Shabaab attackers were also killed in the attack on Dayah hotel, which is often frequented by government officials, said Col. Mohamoud Abdi, a senior Somali police officer. Survivors described chaotic scenes in which hotel residents hid themselves under beds and others jumped out of windows of the four-story building to escape the extremist attackers. “They kicked down room doors and at some point posed themselves as rescue teams by telling those inside to come out [only] to kill them,” said Hassan Nur, a traditional Somali elder who participated in the election of members of Somalia’s new parliament.”

Reuters: Israel Advises Citizens In Egypt’s Sinai To Leave, Cites Attack Risk

Israel on Tuesday advised its citizens in Egypt’s insurgency-hit Sinai peninsula to leave the region, warning of the threat of an imminent attack. Israeli holidaymakers are often warned of the risks they face in Sinai, which borders Israel, but the ‘Level 1’ alert issued by the anti-terrorism directorate is its most severe warning. It described the threat as ‘very high and concrete’.

Haaretz: Israeli Army Attacks Hamas Position In Gaza After Gunfire At Soldiers

“An IDF tank attacked and destroyed a Hamas position in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening, the IDF spokesperson said. A statement said the attack was launched in response to gunfire earlier at IDF forces in the southern part of Gaza. Gunshots were also heard in the Metulla area along the northern border with Lebanon, and forces were scrambled to the area. The IDF is checking whether the gunshots were fired intentionally at the IDF from Lebanon. Last week the IDF attacked a Hamas position in southern Gaza, in response to shooting at an IDF force working near the border fence. The IDF spokesperson said there were no IDF casualties in the shooting, but a military vehicle was damaged.”

Associated Press: Official: Taliban Launch Nearly 19,000 Attacks In 10 Months

“An Afghan Defense Ministry official says the Taliban have launched nearly 19,000 attacks throughout the country in the last 10 months. By comparison the Afghan National Security Forces carried out roughly 700 counter-insurgency operations during the same period. Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said Tuesday he didn’t have a comparative figure from the previous year, ‘but this year it was much worse for the number of attacks by the Taliban.’ While fighting traditionally eases during the winter months, observers say the attacks this year have continued at a steady pace.”

International Business Times: Moscow Says US Withdrawal From Afghanistan Could Be Disastrous

“Russian foreign ministry on Tuesday, (24 January) said that any attempt by the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan could make the situation in the south Asian country worse, Reuters reported citing Interfax news agency. ‘As far as I know, Trump does not currently have any intentions to withdraw, which is logical, because if in the current environment he decides to withdraw the contingent, then everything will collapse,’ Zamir Kabulov, special representative to the Russian president on Afghanistan said to Interfax. The ministry added that they have not spoken to US President Donald Trump on this issue. On Monday, (23 January) Taliban published an open letter to Trump on their web page, which is verified by the SITE Intelligence Group, saying that ‘The responsibility to bring to an end this war rests on your shoulders.’”

Wired: Can You Turn A Terrorist Back Into A Citizen?

“Yusuf snuck out of school after first period and walked two blocks to Dar al-Farooq Como, a plain brick mosque on 17th Avenue. A friend picked him up in a Volkswagen Jetta and took him to a light-rail station. There Yusuf caught a train to the airport: He was set to depart for Turkey that afternoon, with layovers in New York and Moscow. Once he touched down in Istanbul, he planned to head to the city’s famed Blue Mosque and use his iPhone’s MagicJack app to call a phone number that he’d been given by another friend, Abdirahman Daud. Yusuf didn’t know who would answer, but Daud had assured him this person would guide him into Syria and help him become a soldier for the so-called Islamic State, better known in the West as ISIS.”

The Guardian: Why The Government’s Claim To Have Defeated Boko Haram Was A Serious Error

“The current government have confronted the threat of Boko Haram with a resolve that the last government never did. Until the final months of their term, the last administration was alarmingly dismissive of the threat that Boko Haram posed. Under their watch, Boko Haram became the deadly occupying force that a more alert, responsive government wouldn’t have allowed them to be. President Buhari’s administration has not repeated those mistakes but has needlessly fashioned their own. They have pursued dealing with the threat of Boko Haram more aggressively. Since his term began, there has been continual success in reducing the terrorist group’s capability across Northern Nigeria.”

United States

Deutsche Welle: Trump Reaches Out To Egypt Ruler El-Sissi On Security

“Egyptians took to social media on Tuesday to react to the news that their president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi had spoken with his US counterpart, Donald Trump, the day before. Twitter users displayed mixed reactions to the phone call. Some were proud of el-Sissi and his pledge to fight terrorism alongside Trump and restore economic ties with the United States. Others mocked the notion or expressed suspicion about Trump’s intentions. ‘President el-Sissi told Trump today that we’ve been fighting a war for 40 months by ourselves,’ Amna Ismael wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. ‘God willing we will be victorious. Long live Egypt and long live the Egyptian people.’”

Reuters: Trump Expected To Order Temporary Ban On Refugees

“U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign executive orders starting on Wednesday that include a temporary ban on most refugees and a suspension of visas for citizens of Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries, say congressional aides and immigration experts briefed on the matter. Trump, who tweeted that a ‘big day’ was planned on national security on Wednesday, is expected to ban for several months the entry of refugees into the United States, except for religious minorities escaping persecution, until more aggressive vetting is in place. Another order will block visas being issued to anyone from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, said the aides and experts, who asked not to be identified.”

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Told Afghan Leader He Would Consider Troop Increase

“U.S. President Donald Trump told Afghanistan’s president in a call in December that he would consider sending more American troops, Afghan officials said, in a step to halt the deterioration in the country’s security. Afghan officials say Mr. Trump—at the time president-elect—and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani talked about the security situation and relations with Pakistan and Mr. Trump asked if the Afghan leader needed more U.S. troops. ‘President-elect Donald J. Trump said he would certainly continue to support Afghanistan security forces and will consider a proposal for more troops after an assessment,’ according to one Afghan official briefed on the call.”

Syria

Reuters: Foreign Powers Back Syria Truce Deal, War Erupts Among Rebels

“Russia and regional powers Turkey and Iran backed a shaky truce between Syria’s warring parties on Tuesday and agreed to monitor its compliance, but on the ground rebels faced continued fighting on two fronts which could undermine the deal. After two days of deliberations in Astana, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said the powers had agreed in a final communique to establish a system ‘to observe and ensure full compliance with the ceasefire, prevent any provocations and determine all modalities of the ceasefire.’ While welcoming the text, the Syrian government’s chief negotiator Bashar Ja’afari said an offensive against rebels west of Damascus would carry on. Rebels say it is a major violation of the ceasefire agreed on Dec. 30.”

Associated Press: The Latest: Syria Government Says Astana Talks Boosted Truce

“Syria’s government says Russia- and Turkey-led talks in Kazakhstan have succeeded in consolidating a nearly month-long cease-fire in the war- ravaged country. Bashar al-Ja’afari, Syria’s U.N. ambassador who headed the government delegation to the talks in Astana, says the government has done all it can to ‘remove obstacles’ facing the gathering. He told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday that the talks succeeded in consolidating the cease-fire for ‘a specific period of time.’ He did not elaborate. He added that this paves the way for more dialogue among Syrians in the future.”

Iraq

Associated Press: Group: Iraq Executes 31 For Alleged Role In 2014 Massacre

“A human rights watchdog says Iraq has executed 31 men for their alleged role in the 2014 mass killing of hundreds of Iraqi army cadets by the Islamic State group. Amnesty International said in a statement Tuesday night that the executions took place on Friday, citing local officials in Salahuddin province, where the bodies transferred to be collected by their families. The London-based watchdog said the execution ‘is further proof of the Iraqi authority’s blatant disregard for human rights and misguided use of the death penalty in the name of security.’”

Reuters: U.N. ‘Racing’ To Prepare Aid For Civilians Ahead Of Battle For West Mosul

“The United Nations said on Tuesday it is ‘racing against the clock’ to prepare emergency aid for hundreds of thousands of endangered civilians in Mosul with an Iraqi army offensive looming to oust Islamic State from the western half of the city. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed on Tuesday that government forces had taken complete control of eastern Mosul, 100 days after the start of the U.S.-backed campaign to retake Iraq’s second largest city from Islamic State (IS) insurgents who seized it in 2014. U.N. officials estimate 750,000 people remain in Mosul west of the Tigris River that flows through the last remaining major urban center held by Islamic State in Iraq, after a series of government counter-offensives in the country’s north and west.”

Voice Of America: Iraq: East Mosul Free Of IS Control

“The Iraqi government says its security forces have taken complete control of eastern Mosul from the Islamic State group, more than 100 days after the fight for Mosul began in October. IS fighters are now pushed into west Mosul and have lost control all five bridges crossing the Tigris River, Mosul University and the Nineveh Ruins. ‘This is a monumental achievement for not only the Iraqi security forces and sovereign government of Iraq, but all Iraqi people,’ said Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the commanding general of the international counter-IS coalition in Iraq. Townsend added that the fight for western Mosul will likely ‘be even tougher than the eastern side.’”

Turkey

Reuters: Hundreds Of Police Trained By Turkey Start Work In Northern Syria

“A new Syrian police force trained and equipped by Turkey started work in a rebel-held border town on Tuesday, a sign of deepening Turkish influence in northern Syria, where it has helped drive out Islamic State militants in recent months. Casually referred to as the ‘Free Police’, in reference to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) alliance of moderate rebel groups which Turkey backed in its campaign against Islamic State along the Turkish border, many of the first 450 recruits are former rebel fighters. The new, armed security force is made up of regular police and special forces, who wear distinctive light blue berets. They are Syrians, but received five weeks of training in Turkey. Some wore a Turkish flag patch on their uniforms at the inauguration ceremony on Tuesday.”

Afghanistan

The Guardian: Afghanistan Orders Arrest Of Vice-President’s Guards Amid Rape Claims

“Afghanistan’s attorney general has ordered the arrest of nine of the vice-president’s bodyguards after a rival politician alleged he was raped and tortured. The warrants were issued after Abdul Rashid Dostum and his bodyguards ignored three summons for questioning over accusations that they beat the victim in public and held him for five days while the guards sodomised him with a rifle. The case could be a pivotal test for the Afghan government’s ability to break a decades-old culture of impunity and hold high-ranking officials accountable. President Ashraf Ghani has promised to work to deliver justice. But his shaky administration partly rests on powerful commanders with pasts chequered by human rights abuses, who could respond to pressure with confrontation.”

Saudi Arabia

Bloomberg: Saudi Arabia Says It Will Work With Trump To Contain Iran

“Saudi Arabia will work with the Trump administration to contain Iran while strengthening ties with the U.S., Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said. President Donald Trump has ‘spoken about containing Iran and its ability to cause mischief, and making sure that Iran abides to the agreement that was signed,’ al-Jubeir said at a news conference in Riyadh on Tuesday, referring to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal with world powers. ‘This is exactly our position.’ Trump has vowed to dismantle or renegotiate the accord that lifted international sanctions on Iran last year, unlocking its oil exports. Such a move would be welcomed by Saudi Arabia, which opposed the agreement and has cut diplomatic relations with Iran, its chief rival in the Middle East.”

Egypt

Associated Press: Rights Group Faults Egypt For Listing 1,500 On Terror List

“An international rights group says an Egyptian court’s decision to place more than 1,500 citizens on a terrorism watch list without trial or even prior notification is a ‘mockery of due process.’ Last week a court drew up the list of 1,538 names, including a soccer star, businessmen and journalists, accusing them of providing financial or logistical aid to the Muslim Brotherhood, which won a series of elections after Egypt’s 2011 uprising but is now branded a terrorist group. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Tuesday that ‘dumping hundreds of people onto a list of alleged terrorists, with serious ramifications for their freedom and livelihood, and without even telling them, makes a mockery of due process.’”

The Guardian: A Year On, Giulio Regeni Death Casts Shadow Over Italy-Egypt Relations

“Paz Zárate remembers the last conversation she had with Giulio Regeni, the 28-year-old doctoral student from Cambridge who disappeared from a street in Cairo one year ago on Wednesday. He was feeling happy in life and in love, and fulfilled by the research he was doing. ‘He felt valued. He was trying to help other people study and pay forward what he considered to be his great luck,’ she recalled. After Regeni’s bruised and tortured body was found in a ditch on the side of the road nine days later it was Zárate and other close friends who started the international campaign to demand answers. It is a campaign that has had profound consequences for the relationship between Egypt and Italy, which recalled its ambassador to Cairo in frustration at the lack of cooperation in its investigation of Regeni’s death.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: West Bank Palestinian Charged With Planning Jerusalem Stabbing

“The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday indicted an 18-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank on terrorism charges for an alleged plan to carry out a stabbing attack on Israeli civilians or security forces in the capital last week. Mahmoud Ayyad, a resident of the Deheishe refugee camp near Bethlehem, was charged with conspiracy to commit a terror attack and entering Israel illegally. According to the indictment, Ayyad set out from his Bethlehem-area home on January 15, intending to stab Israeli police officers, soldiers or ultra-Orthodox Jews near the Old City’s Damascus Gate.”

The Jerusalem Post: New Challenges From Israel’s East And North

“With the emergence of Iranian hegemony from Afghanistan to Beirut, Israel’s security and intelligence establishment is watching not only threats from Gaza and Lebanon, but also other areas of potential instability, including locations that have been quiet for years; the Golan Heights and Jordan. The rise of Iran and the collapse of Syria have unnerved Sunni and Druse populations across the region, including those in Jordan and the Golan. They know that the United States and international bodies have acquiesced in the greatest ethnic cleansing of the 21st century, the removal of hundreds of thousands of Sunnis from Syria and Iraq.”

Nigeria

The Daily Beast: Boko Haram Suicide Squads Include Little Boys, Girls, And Now Babies

“What we call Boko Haram is a fractured, brutal, and deeply cynical collection of killers supposedly waging a religious war against the government of Nigeria. But as the government’s military offensive continues to deprive them of territory, these would-be holy warriors have resorted to the use of women and children, even infants, as part of their suicide-bombing avant-garde. And at the same time they have targeted public health programs, trying to stop campaigns to vaccinate children, and thus putting many tens of thousands at risk. All this is done in the name of what they call Islam. But this has become a war on innocents.”

Germany

Associated Press: Germany Arrests 2 Brothers Suspected Of Extremism

“German authorities have arrested two German-Moroccan brothers suspected of being members of the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front extremist groups. Federal prosecutors said the two men, who were only identified as 25-year-old Rachid B. and 24-year-old Khalid B. in line with German privacy laws, were arrested Tuesday near the western city of Bonn. Prosecutors alleged both men traveled to Syria in 2013, where they trained in military camps. Rachid B. initially joined al-Nusra and is accused of kidnapping and holding an alleged spy. He later joined IS and participated in several battles.”

France

Voice Of America: Paris Mosque Pulls Out Of State-Sponsored Muslim Foundation

“The influential Paris Grand Mosque has announced it is pulling out of a new, state-sponsored Muslim foundation, criticizing ‘interference’ in how Islam is exercised at a time of simmering tensions and divisions surrounding France’s second-largest faith. The mosque, which represents about one-tenth of France’s 2,500 mosques and Muslim associations, called on other Muslim groups to do the same and ‘reject all attempts of stewardship,’ by French authorities, even as critics suggested its move was motivated by other factors. Officially launched in December, the Foundation for Islam of France aims to focus on cultural and educational issues, with a separate body overseeing areas like training imams and financing mosques.”

ISIS

Elmonzar: Salaries Of Mosul Employees Paid Following Liberation From ISIS

“An Iraqi official announced on Tuesday that the Baghdad government transferred $4 million to the Directorate of Municipalities in the Province of Nineveh. This sum is earmarked for salaries of the state-employees from eastern Mosul areas, most of which were liberated from ISIS’s control. Nineveh’s Municipalities Directorate chief, Abdul Qader Ahmed, said that “these funds will be spent on the salaries of 700 employees working in the municipalities of the liberated areas.” Ahmed added that “the Iraqi government froze the salaries of employees in eastern Mosul for 19 months after ISIS gained control of the city.”

Hezbollah

Al-Ain: Trump Associate: Administration To Call For Halt Of Money Supply To Hezbollah

“Tom Harb, a confidant of the new US administration and a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump during his election campaign, stated that the new American leader has two options, both bitter for the Iranian regime. The first is to cancel the nuclear deal {completely}, and the second is to introduce amendments to the deal. According to Harb, Trump thinks the nuclear deal only served Iran’s interests, while giving nothing in return to the international community or its neighboring Arab states. Harb stressed that these states suffered greatly from Tehran’s interference in their internal affairs, especially Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Harb, Chair of the Middle East American Coalition for Democracy, added that the US administration’s proposal to amend the nuclear deal with Iran will demand ending the supply of arms and money to Shiite terrorist organizations such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthis, as well as Shi’ite militants from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran fighting in Syria on the side of the {Assad} regime.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Gulfeyes: Egypt: Removal Of Ex-Soccer Player’s Name From Terror List Suspected Of Muslim Brotherhood Membership

“Judge Adel el Shorbagy, First Deputy of Egypt’s Court of Cassation, disclosed why the name of ex-Egyptian soccer Mohammed Abu Treika has been removed from the terror list. According to el Shorbagy, the law gives Abu Treika the right to file an appeal before the Court of Cassation within 60 days. Now, the ex-star is awaiting scheduling to hear his case. The judge dismissed rumors concerning a {supposed} request by the Attorney General to delete the name of the ex-Egyptian legend from the terror list. Previously, the Cairo Criminal Court decided to include Abu Treika on the terror list, as per case No. 653 for the year 2014. This was based on requests submitted by the Muslim Brotherhood Asset Freeze Committee.”

Elfagr: Muslim Brotherhood Youth Accuse Veterans Of Blocking Funding For TV Channels

“The Muslim Brotherhood continues to embarrass itself by exposing the schism between the “old generation” and its “youth members”. The youth accuse veteran leaders of preventing payment of salaries to employees in TV channels affiliated with the young faction. Old-guard leaders explained that the group is facing a financial crisis, a claim dismissed by the youth. According to young leaders, TV channel employees have not received their paychecks for several months. In addition, the old leadership refused to back a conference in Malaysia organized by the young leaders. The Malaysia conference, entitled “The Role of Youth in Countering Extremism,” was attended by Brotherhood members from Middle East countries, including Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. In the aftermath of the event, the group’s leaders expressed anger at what they described as huge overspending on participants’ accommodations and travel costs.”

Alborsa News: Egypt: Seizure Of Two Brotherhood-Affiliated Entities Annulled

“The Egyptian Court of Administrative Justice, headed by Judge Ismail Bakhit, Vice President of the State Council, decided on Tuesday to overturn the decision by the Muslim Brotherhood Asset Freeze Committee to seize “Al Huda Islamic Company” and “Manaber El Nour Charitable Association”. The Court ruled that the lawsuits had not produced enough evidence for {justifying the} inclusion of the names of officials in these two entities on the list of terrorists. The court added that the {original} decision on the appropriation of funds of these individuals was an attack on their property and a violation of their constitutional and legal rights. It stressed that the committee had issued its decisions without sufficient legal foundation.”

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