Eye on Extremism, February 03, 2017

Reuters: French Soldier Shoots, Wounds Machete-Wielding Attacker At Paris Louvre

“A French soldier shot and wounded a man armed with a machete and carrying two bags on his back on Friday as he tried to enter the Paris Louvre museum in what the government said appeared to have been a terrorist attack. The man shouted Allahu Akbar (God is greatest) and rushed at police and soldiers before being shot near the museum’s shopping mall, police said, adding a second person had also been detained after acting suspiciously. The attacker was alive but seriously wounded, the head of Paris police Michel Cadot told reporters at the scene, adding the bags he had been carrying contained no explosives.”

ABC News: ‘Actionable Intelligence’ In Qaeda Material Captured By U.S. Commandos In Yemen: Official

“Despite the loss of a seasoned Navy SEAL and civilians caught in crossfire between al-Qaeda and U.S. commandos, the weekend raid in Yemen seized ‘actionable intelligence’ on the terror group, officials said today. It was the first step in an aggressive action plan aimed at crippling Islamist extremists based in Yemen who have been fixated on attacking U.S. aviation since 2008, a counterterrorism official said. ‘I can confirm for you that based on initial indications valuable and actionable intelligence was taken in this operation,’ Pentagon spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis said Thursday.”

CNN: US Planning Additional Sanctions On Iran Following Missile Tests

“The White House is expected to impose additional sanctions on Iranian entities under existing executive orders that predate President Donald Trump, according to sources familiar with the move. The additional sanctions are in response to Iran’s ballistic missile test on Sunday. They are similar to actions taken by former President Barack Obama after Iran’s previous ballistic missile tests. In a letter to Trump Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators said, “Iranian leaders must feel sufficient pressure to cease deeply destabilizing activities, from sponsoring terrorist groups to continued testing of ballistic missiles.” “Full enforcement of existing sanctions and the imposition of additional sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program are necessary,” the letter said.”

NBC News: Analysis: Trump Turns Attention To Yemen, But Is Looking At Iran

“Yemen returned to the spotlight after a Navy SEAL was killed during a weekend operation targeting al Qaeda in the war-torn country. His death highlighted how the desperately poor country is a hot spot for militants. However, Yemen is also the front line of an ongoing proxy war between key U.S. ally Saudi Arabia and regional rival Iran — amid rising tensions between Tehran and the White House. On Wednesday, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn declared that Iran was being put ‘on notice’ — an apparent threat of retaliation for a recent ballistic missile test. Precisely what he was referring to was unclear, but a senior administration official said a number of options remained on the table.”

Reuters TV: Inside The Luxury Mosul Hotel That Housed ISIS Elite

Reuters: Syrian Army Says It Will Press On Against Islamic State Near Aleppo

“The Syrian army signaled on Thursday it would press on with operations against Islamic State northeast of Aleppo, in a veiled warning to Turkey which backs a separate military campaign in northern Syria. Syrian government forces have rapidly driven Islamic State back in the last two weeks, advancing to within 6 km (4 miles) of the city of al-Bab that the jihadists are fighting to hold. The army’s gains risk sparking a confrontation with Turkey, which has sent tanks and warplanes across the border to support Syrian insurgents who are trying to seize al-Bab in a separate offensive. Turkey’s offensive, launched last year, aims to drive both Islamic State and Syrian Kurdish fighters away from its borders, as Turkey sees both groups as a security threat.”

AP: Mattis Warns North Korea Against Any Attack Against The US Or Its Allies

“In an explicit warning to North Korea, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday said any use of nuclear weapons by the North on the United States or its allies would be met with what he called an “effective and overwhelming” response. U.S. defense secretaries have long offered assurances to South Korea and Japan that the American nuclear “umbrella” will protect them, but Mattis’s statement was perhaps more pointed than most. He made the remarks during an appearance with his South Korean counterpart, Defense Minister Han Min Koo. “North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons program, and engage in threatening rhetoric and behavior,” Mattis said with Han standing at his side and U.S. and South Korean flags at their backs.”

The Times Of Israel: 3 Hurt In Suspected West Bank Car-Ramming Attack

“Three Israelis were lightly wounded when a Palestinian woman drove her vehicle into a police car and a guard post outside a West Bank settlement on Thursday in a suspected car-ramming attack, the army said. Two policemen and a civilian were lightly hurt and taken to the hospital for treatment, the army said, adding that the assailant was being treated and questioned at the scene. ‘At first we thought it was an accident, but from what I understand, she confessed [to it being deliberate],’ an army spokesperson told The Times of Israel.”

The New York Times: 9 Syrian Officials Are Accused Of Torture In Spanish Court

“International lawyers have filed a criminal complaint against nine Syrian security and intelligence officials in a Spanish court, accusing them of torture and other human rights violations. It is the first case specifically citing members of Syria’s government to be heard in a Western court. The names of the officials have not been made public, because prosecutors hope this will improve their chances of apprehending the officials outside Syria if arrest warrants are issued. The lawyers who filed the complaint on Wednesday said the defendants included senior officers who ran a torture center in Damascus, Syria’s capital, in 2013 and leaders of the Syrian intelligence and security services, who are part of President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle.”

Reuters: Iraq Faces Challenge Of Educating Mosul’s Displaced Children

“Yousef, 14, pushes a wheelbarrow through a sprawling camp in Iraq running errands for pennies, the only source of income for his family of 11. On a good day, he makes 2,000 dinars ($1.70) but if business is slow he scrambles to find leftover bread and food to sell to sheep owners in the crowded Khazer camp, near Mosul, home to Iraqis displaced by the fight against Islamic State. ‘Eleven people and I am the only one supporting them. My father is old,’ Yousef told Reuters, adding that he does some trips for as little as 250 dinars. Like millions of children in the country, Yousef’s hopes of an education ended when Islamic State swept through northern Iraq in 2014.”

Denver Post: Man Accused Of Shooting RTD Guard At Union Station Was Former Soldier Who Posted About Police, Islam

“A former soldier from Texas who made social media postings about police brutality, U.S. sovereignty and Islamic teachings is accused of fatally shooting an armed Regional Transportation District security officer in the head late Tuesday outside of Denver Union Station. Authorities say the attack appears to be both unprovoked and random, but they worried that the alleged shooter — 37-year-old Joshua Cummings — targeted the contract guard because of his uniform, which resembles that of Denver police. Witnesses told investigators that the suspect put a gun to the security officer’s neck and said, “Do as I tell you,” and then pulled the trigger. “We have concerns,” Denver police Cmdr. Barb Archer told reporters at a Wednesday morning news conference. “Was the officer a target because he was wearing a uniform?”

New York Times: Pointing To Trump, Groups Reject U.S. Aid To Fight Extremism

“Community groups in Michigan and Minnesota have decided to reject hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal aid to fight violent extremism because of what they call the Trump administration’s vilification of Muslims. Last month, the Department of Homeland Security, under the Obama administration, awarded $10 million in grants to more than two dozen community groups and cities for programs to counter recruitment efforts by terrorist and white supremacist groups. The group in Minnesota decided to reject the money after Trump administration officials were reported to be considering reshaping the program to target only Muslims. The effort, now known as Countering Violent Extremism, or C.V.E., would be renamed Countering Radical Islamic Extremism, Reuters reported on Thursday.”

Fox News: Iraq’s ‘Marsh Arabs’ Look To Restore Once-Lost Culture With Help From US Scientists

“For more than 6,000 years, the marshlands of southern Iraq played a major role in sustaining the agriculture, economies and livelihoods of those residing in the Fertile Crescent. Living in arched reed houses and relying on water buffalo along with rice, barley, wheat and pearl millet for sustenance, the inhabitants of these wetlands – the so-called Marsh Arabs – maintained for centuries a lifestyle that was both unique and separate from the rest of the Middle East. But things changed rapidly in 1992, when former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein – angered by claims that the Marsh Arabs were harboring defeated Shia rebels – decided to punish them by sending engineers to divert the Tigris and Euphrates rivers away from the marshes.”

United States

NPR: Yemen Aftermath: Trump’s First Military Raid Continues To Raise Questions

“Startled by the gunfire, the Dhahab family scrambled to take up its own weapons and defend its house. According to accounts by locals, this was the way the battle began with U.S. special operations forces and some of their allies, which would unfold over several hours on the ground — and end with an aerial bombardment. By dawn, one American sailor was dead and three other service members were injured. Locals say numerous civilians, including women and nine children, were among the Yemenis killed. The U.S. military has opened an investigation, and U.S. military officials tell NPR that civilians were indeed among the victims.”

Associated Press: US: About 200 Civilians Mistakenly Killed In Iraq, Syria

“The U.S. military has concluded that 11 civilians were inadvertently killed in airstrikes in Iraq and Syria that targeted Islamic State militants and equipment late last year. That brings the total number of innocent civilians killed since the U.S. began striking IS to almost 200. U.S. Central Command says four reports of possible civilian deaths were found to be credible. One strike one was near Raqqa, Syria, in December, and three were in Mosul, Iraq, in October and December. Seven reports were found to be not credible, and 10 reports are still being reviewed. Independent monitoring groups and activists have repeatedly said that coalition and other airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians.”

Reuters: Trump Discusses Safe Zones In Syria With Jordan’s King: White House

“U.S. President Donald Trump discussed with Jordan’s King Abdullah the possibility of establishing safe zones in Syria, the White House said on Thursday. Trump met with King Abdullah briefly in Washington on Thursday morning, the White House said in a statement. Trump said last week he would establish safe zones in Syria for refugees fleeing violence in the war-torn country.”

USA Today: U.S. Eases Restrictions On Cyber-Security Sales To Russian Spy Agency

“The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday eased economic sanctions on Russia, allowing some cyber-security transactions with the Russian Federal Security Service accused of meddling in the U.S. electoral process. Some Russian officials applauded the move as signaling a thaw in relations with Washington. But several members of Congress decried the move as pandering to Russia and its hacking attempts. The Trump administration, meanwhile, denied any easing of sanctions, describing the changes as routine tweaking of complicated policy. The move by Treasury makes changes to sanctions initially imposed by President Obama in April 2015 and strengthened again in December, in reaction to alleged ‘malicious cyber-enabled activities’ by Russia’s security service, known as the FSB, in the U.S. electoral process.”

Iraq

Associated Press: US-Led Coalition Trains Mosul Police, Plans For IS-Free Iraq

“The U.S.-led coalition is planning for the day when Iraq will be free of the Islamic State group, ramping up training of a future Mosul police force – even as the battle for the rest of the city is briefly on hold. Sometime during the lull, significant numbers of the security forces are expected to move into villages scattered across on the plains of Ninevah province around Mosul and also into parts of the city retaken from IS over the past three months. The Iraqi military declared Mosul’s eastern half ‘fully liberated’ in January and is now preparing to battle for the city’s western sector – likely to be a much tougher fight in a dense and overcrowded urban environment.”

Turkey

Reuters: Turkey To Meet Syrian Opposition, Rebel Groups In Ankara On Friday: Sources

“Turkey’s foreign ministry undersecretary will hold talks with representatives of the Syrian opposition in Ankara on Friday, ministry sources said, ahead of U.N.-sponsored peace talks on Syria scheduled for later this month. The Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee, the main opposition umbrella group in Syria, along with other groups which took part in peace talks in Kazakhstan last month, will be among those attending, the foreign ministry sources said. The next round of U.N.-backed peace talks on Syria has been scheduled for Feb. 20, diplomats said on Tuesday, about two weeks later than originally planned.”

Reuters: Turkish Foreign Minister Warns Of Greek ‘Provocations’

“Turkey has accused Greece of provocative actions and warned there could be ‘no going back’ if tensions were allowed to escalate, a newspaper said on Thursday, underscoring strains from territorial disputes and Athens’ failure to hand over Turkish soldiers who fled after an abortive coup. Tensions between the NATO allies rose when a Greek court last week blocked the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers Ankara accuses of involvement in July’s failed coup. The move angered Turkey, which said relations with Greece would be reviewed. On Wednesday, Greece reported mass incursions by Turkish military aircraft over the central and southern Aegean, which Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos called ‘cowboy antics’.”

Reuters: Turkish, Coalition Jets Strike Islamic State, 47 ‘Neutralized’: Turkish Army

“The Turkish military said on Friday its warplanes and jets from the U.S.-led coalition have carried out air strikes near Syria’s al-Bab, a town held by Islamic State and besieged by Turkey-backed Syrian rebels for almost two months. A total of 47 Islamic State militants were ‘neutralized’ in clashes and air strikes in the past 24 hours, the military said in a statement, adding that buildings, defense posts, shelters and an ammunition depot were destroyed in raids.”

Deutsche Welle: Syrian Army, Turkey Risk Clashes Around IS-Held Al-Bab

“Syrian government forces are advancing in the northern Aleppo countryside toward al-Bab, raising the specter of a clash with the Turkish military and Ankara-backed Syrian rebels who have for weeks struggled to dislodge the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS) from the strategic town. Fighting in and around al-Bab is some of the most complex in Syria’s multi-sided war. To the north, west and east, a Turkish military and allied rebel pincer movement has been slowed by heavy IS resistance, including street battles, snipers and suicide bombings. Further to the east around Manbij, Turkish-backed forces have also clashed with US-backed Syrian rebels dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia. Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organization tied to Kurdish rebels in Turkey and has vowed to root out it out of Manbij once al-Bab is captured.”

Reuters: Merkel Urges Turkey’s Erdogan To Uphold Freedoms, Allow Dissent

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the importance of freedom of opinion in talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday, during a visit meant to help improve frayed ties between the two NATO allies. In her first trip to Ankara since a failed military coup in Turkey last July, Merkel, said she had agreed with Erdogan on the need for closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Germany and Turkey have been at odds over Ankara’s crackdown on dissidents since the abortive July 15 coup, as well as its allegations – rejected by Berlin – that Germany is harboring Kurdish and far-leftist militants.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Afghan Provincial Governor Confident US Marines Will Help Contain Taliban

“The United States is readying a group of roughly 300 Marines to deploy to Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province this spring to assist local forces retake several districts lost to the Taliban during the past year and defend the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, seen as the gateway to the rest of the country. The city has come under repeated Taliban offensive in recent months, but Afghan forces have been able to prevent the fall of Lashkar Gah. Helmand, the largest poppy-growing Afghan province, has been the scene of intense fighting throughout 2016. Clashes are ongoing in parts of the province, particularly in and around a key district center, Sangin. Wednesday, missiles fired by Taliban insurgents landed in the center of Lashkar Gah, killing a civilian and wounding several others.”

Egypt

Deutsche Welle: Egypt’s Opposition Challenges Government In Court

“Led by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and four of the country’s best-known dissident lawyers, the opposition group on Wednesday filed a case against Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi at the State Council seeking an injunction on the so-called assembly law, which has been used by the government to underpin the arrest and imprisonment of thousands of Egyptian demonstrators. Sissi’s government has jailed more than 40,000 people since it came to power in a military coup in July 2013. The government has been criticized for its extensive use of extrajudicial killings, torture and crackdowns on civil rights organizations.”

Libya

BBC: Migrant Crisis: EU Summit Seeks Action-Plan With Libya

“European Union leaders are to meet in Malta to discuss how to stem the influx of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East. The summit comes after Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni said he had reached a deal with Libya on how to stop migrants from setting sail for Europe. He pledged more funds and training to Libya to tackle people smugglers. Hundreds of thousands of migrants each year try to reach Europe. Many of them drown while crossing the Mediterranean. On Thursday, Italy’s coastguard said more than 1,750 migrants had been rescued in the Mediterranean within 24 hours. Since the fall of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has lacked any effective central government and security has been in the hands of various local factions. People smugglers have found it easy to operate in the country.”

United Kingdom

BBC: Nottingham Asda Worker Guilty Of Terrorist Charges

“An Asda worker has been found guilty of trying to join a Islamist terrorist group in the Philippines. Ryan Counsell, 28, a Muslim convert from Nottingham, had denied four charges, including having possession of an al-Qaeda bomb-making guide. He planned to join Philippines-based terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, which is affiliated with so-called Islamic State (IS), Woolwich Crown Court heard. He did not show any emotion as the jury returned its verdict. He also said he downloaded IS videos, some of which showed beheadings, so he could analyse and write articles about them out of a ‘business interest’. However, at Counsell’s home in Forest Fields, police also discovered an article about how to make a bomb.”

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