Eye on Extremism, February 17, 2017

Reuters: Wailing, Anger At Sufi Shrine In Pakistan After Bomber Kills 77

“Wailing Sufi devotees thronged a blood-stained shrine in southern Pakistan on Friday, shouting at police a day after a suicide bomber killed at least 77 people in an attack claimed by a regional branch of Islamic State. The bombing of the famed Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sindh province was Pakistan’s deadliest attack in two years and capped a wave of violence this week that underlined the ongoing ability of militant groups like the Pakistani Taliban and Islamic State to cause havoc. An offshoot of the Middle East-based Islamic State said it was responsible for the bombing, the second major attack on a Sufi shrine in three months.”

Reuters: Baghdad Car Bomb Kills 51 As Islamic State Escalates Insurgency

“A car packed with explosives blew up on Thursday in southern Baghdad, killing at least 51 people and wounding 55, security and medical sources said, in the deadliest such attack in Iraq this year. Islamic State, which is on the defensive after losing control of eastern Mosul to a U.S.-backed Iraqi military offensive, claimed responsibility for the bombing in an online statement. As it cedes territory captured in a 2014 offensive across northern and western Iraq, the ultra-hardline group has stepped up insurgent strikes on government areas, particularly in the capital Baghdad. Security sources said the vehicle which blew up on Thursday was parked in a crowded street full of garages and used car dealers, in Hayy al-Shurta, a Shi’ite district in the southwest of the city. The death toll could climb further as many of the wounded are in critical condition, a doctor said.”

Voice Of America: Islamic State Calls On Supporters To Target Religious Scholars

“Islamic State propagandists have launched a coordinated online campaign accusing prominent Muslim clerics in the Arab world and the West of betrayal in an apparent bid to delegitimize them, especially in the eyes of younger Muslims. The terror group says the clerics are collaborating with Arab regimes and the international coalition opposed to IS and are urging supporters as a top priority to kill ‘the evil scholars.’ Some analysts suspect the terror group is casting around looking for traitors to explain the collapse of IS’s battlefield fortunes and to shape perceptions about the reasons for the fall of the terror group’s self-styled caliphate.”

CBS News: U.S. Not Ready To Collaborate Militarily With Russia, Pentagon Chief Jim Mattis Says

“The U.S. is not ready to collaborate militarily with Russia, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday, appearing to close the door for now on any effort to work more closely with Moscow in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in Syria. His blunt rejection came after Russian President Vladimir Putin called for increased intelligence cooperation with the U.S. and NATO, and it makes such coordination less likely at least in the near future. Mattis followed his dismissal with a sharp assessment of Russia’s alleged election meddling, saying there is “very little doubt that they have either interfered or they have attempted to interfere in a number of elections in the democracies.”

Reuters: In Mosul Orphanage, Islamic State Groomed Child Soldiers

“When the boys first arrived at the Islamic State training facility in eastern Mosul they would cry and ask about their parents, who went missing when the militants rampaged through northern Iraq in 2014. But as the weeks passed they appeared to absorb the group’s ultra-hardline ideology, according to a worker at the former orphanage where they were housed. The children, aged from three to 16 and mostly Shi’ite Muslims or minority Yazidis, began referring to their own families as apostates after they were schooled in Sunni Islam by the militant fighters, he said. The boys were separated from the girls and infants, undergoing indoctrination and training to become ‘cubs of the caliphate – a network of child informers and fighters used by the jihadists to support their military operations.’”

Forbes: Iran Irony: IRGC And State Firms Are Benefiting From JCPOA

“Those who raised the Iran deal flag, mainly in the United States and Europe, claimed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would boost trade and encourage foreign investment, enhancing Iran’s private sector and eventually downgrading the regime’s tight grip on the economy. This was back in 2015 when the P5+1 agreed to lift sanctions in return for having Iran’s nuclear program curbed. Now in early 2017, however, signs indicate the main winners in Iran are none other than state-owned companies. This means Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the terrorist-supporting Revolutionary Guards are enjoying JCPOA benefits.”

Associated Press: Saudi Arabia Arrests 18 Islamic State Suspects

“The Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry says authorities have arrested 18 suspects belonging to the Islamic State group, including bomb makers. Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, a ministry spokesman, said in a statement Thursday that the suspects, including Yemenis, were arrested in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and two other cities. He added that the suspects had different roles, including logistical operations and recruitment, as well as providing shelter and financial support to the militants. Al-Turki said the suspects had experience in making explosives and suicide vests.”

The New York Times: Syrian Rebel Gets Life Sentence For Mass Killing Caught On Video

“A former Syrian rebel who took part in the mass killing of seven captured Syrian soldiers in 2012 was sentenced to life in prison in Sweden, where he had traveled and applied for asylum, officials announced on Thursday. The former rebel, Haisam Omar Sakhanh, 46, was arrested last March in Karlskoga, Sweden, and charged with a crime against international law. According to prosecutors, Mr. Sakhanh was among a group of rebels who took part in the killings of the soldiers, in Idlib Province in northwestern Syria, in 2012. A former rebel, horrified by the atrocities, provided a video of the killings to The New York Times, which revealed them in September 2013.”

Reuters: Turkish Military Says Almost Taken Control Of Syria’s Al-Bab

“Turkey’s military said on Friday it was close to taking the northern Syrian city of al-Bab from Islamic State, a victory that would deepen Turkish influence in an area where it has created a de facto buffer zone. Al-Bab, an Islamic State stronghold 30 km (20 miles) from the border, has been a key target in an offensive launched by Turkey last August to push the jihadists away from its frontier and prevent gains by a Kurdish militia also fighting them. Turkey believes a string of Islamic State gun and bomb attacks, including a mass shooting at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve, were planned from al-Bab and Raqqa, another jihadist stronghold in northern Syria.”

Reuters: New U.N. Team Aims To Bring Syria War Crimes To Court

“A new body is being set up at the United Nations in Geneva to prepare prosecutions of war crimes committed in Syria, U.N. officials and diplomats said on Thursday. The General Assembly voted to establish the mechanism in December and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due to name a judge or prosecutor as its head this month. ‘We expect to start very, very shortly with just a handful of people,’ a U.N. human rights official told Reuters. The team will ‘analyze information, organize and prepare files on the worst abuses that amount to international crimes – primarily war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide – and identify those responsible’, she said. While it would not be able to prosecute itself, the idea is to prepare files for future prosecution that states or the International Criminal Court in The Hague could use.”

Daily Beast: FBI: White Supremacist Says He Planned To Kill Jews ‘In The Spirit Of Dylann Roof’

“A white supremacist planned a terror attack “in the spirit of Dylann Roof” on a South Carolina synagogue, the FBI alleges. Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, 29, of Conway, South Carolina was arrested Wednesday for allegedly attempting to buy a gun from an undercover agent posing as a hitman for the Aryan Nations. McDowell is a convicted felon and legally prohibited from buying firearms. McDowell allegedly sought the weapon after spending the past month writing Facebook posts about murdering Jews and praising Roof, who was convicted of murdering nine black churchogers in Charleston in June 2016. According to an FBI affidavit filed Thursday, McDowell’s internet activity suggested that he set his sights on the Temple Emanu-El, a conservative synagogue in Myrtle Beach.”

Reuters: Multiple Suicide Bombing Targets Nigerian Refugees, Boko Haram Blamed

“Seven suspected Boko Haram militants blew themselves on the outskirts of a northeast Nigerian city on Friday, a local aid agency said, in an attack witnesses said targeted refugees preparing to return to their home villages. The bombing took place outside Maiduguri, the population center at the heart of a government campaign to eradicate the Islamist group, whose more than seven-year insurgency has killed 15,000 people and forced some two million from their homes. The Borno State Emergency Management Agency said eight members of a local militia, the civilian Joint Task Force, were wounded in the attack, which underscored Boko Haram’s ability to continue to operate despite the government’s insistence it has crushed the group.”

France 24: 2 Dead As Al-Shabab Claims Mortar Attack Near Somalia Palace

“Two civilians were killed in an al-Shabaab mortar attack outside Somalia’s presidential palace during a handover ceremony for the country’s new leader, police said Thursday, a sign of the enormous challenges facing the man who has promised his government will make security a priority. At least three mortars slammed into a nearby residential area during the ceremony for President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, Captain Mohamed Hussein said. The explosions could be heard near the end of the handover ceremony, startling those attending. The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi websites, cited al-Shabaab posts on Twitter that claimed responsibility for the attack.”

United States

Reuters: U.S.’ Tillerson Backs U.N.-Led Yemen Process, Wants Unfettered Aid

“U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday his country backed United Nations-led efforts to resolve the crisis in Yemen and called for unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid across the Gulf state. ‘The Secretary underscored the United States’ continued support for the UN-led process …and noted the urgent need for the unfettered delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout Yemen,’ Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. Tillerson earlier held his first meeting on Yemen with counterparts from Britain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.”

Reuters: Trump’s Pick For National Security Adviser Turns Down Offer: White House Official

“President Donald Trump’s choice for national security adviser, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, has turned down the offer, a senior White House official said on Thursday. Harward was offered the job after Michael Flynn was fired by Trump on Monday for misleading Vice President Mike Pence over his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. The White House official said Harward cited family and financial reasons for opting not to take the job. Harward is a senior executive at Lockheed Martin. Two sources familiar with the decision said Harward turned down the job in part because he wanted to bring in his own team.”

NBC News: Officials Could Present Trump With Proposal To Send More Troops To Syria

“Putting a number of conventional U.S. military forces into Syria is one of the options expected to be presented to President Donald Trump later this month as part of the effort to accelerate the defeat of ISIS, two senior U.S. defense officials told NBC News on Thursday. The troops would be sent in to serve as enablers, force protection and engineering advisers — similar to the way the United States has worked alongside the Iraqi Security Forces in Iraq. The numbers of additional troops would likely be hundreds, the officials said. The United States does already have conventional forces operating in Syria. However, under the Obama administration, the rules for how many troops are allowed in the country have been very specific and set by the White House. For example, the last increase allowed 203 more troops to operate in Syria.”

The New York Times: U.N. Envoy Says U.S. Still Backs Palestinian State

“Twenty-four hours after President Trump swatted away at a broad international consensus on how to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians, his United Nations envoy sought to assure the world on Thursday that his administration supports Palestinian statehood but wants a ‘thinking out of the box’ approach. ‘We absolutely support a two-state solution,’ the American ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, said in answer to a question after a United Nations Security Council meeting devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ‘But we are thinking out of the box as well, which is — what does it take to bring these two sides to the table, what do we need to have them agree on?’ she said.”

Syria

Reuters: As Talks Falter, Moscow Finds Brokering Syria Peace Trickier Than Waging War

“With its show of military force, Russia changed the tide of the Syrian civil war. It is finding the next phase — brokering an end to the fighting — a tougher proposition. A round of Syria peace talks sponsored by Russia ended on Thursday with no joint communique, usually the minimum outcome of any diplomatic negotiation, and saw opposing Syrian groups exchanging angry tirades at each other and the brokers. With no concrete progress to report, media representatives at the talks venue in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan, were so hungry for a scrap of news that at one point a crowd formed around an Arabic speaker who they thought was a participant in the talks. He turned out to be another journalist. Western diplomats, who say Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign of air strikes has worsened the conflict, have, in private, reacted to Russia’s tribulations as a peacemaker with variations on the phrase: ‘We told you so.’”

Associated Press: The Latest: Russia Says Group Formed To Preserve Syria Truce

“A leader of the Russian delegation at Syrian talks in Kazakhstan says an agreement has been reached to form a permanent contact group of Russia, Turkey and Iran to ‘preserve and strengthen the cessation of hostilities.’ Sergei Vershinin made the statement Thursday after talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, attended by Russia, Turkey and Iran, as well as the Syrian government and Syrian rebels. The meeting is intended to pave the way for the revival of broader peace talks in Geneva next week. Sergei Afanasyev, of the Russian military’s General Staff, said the parties agreed on an ‘exchange mechanism for forcibly held people, primarily women and children,’ without elaborating.”

Iraq

Reuters: After Mosul, Jihadist Threat To Iraq Will Grow: Kurdish Intelligence Official

“If Islamic State is driven from its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, it will switch tactics to wage an insurgency from mountains and deserts, a top Kurdish intelligence official has told Reuters. Lahur Talabany, a senior figure in Kurdistan’s counter-terrorism efforts, also expressed concerns that another group similar to the Sunni Muslim Islamic State could emerge to menace Iraq again if political leaders fail to secure reconciliation between sects. ‘Mosul will get taken … I think it is the asymmetric warfare that we need to be worried about,’ he said. ‘Our jobs will become much more difficult. The army will take a rest a little, but it will be the job of security forces that will become more difficult.’”

Fox News: ISIS Bombings Kill Dozens In Iraq And Pakistan

“The Islamic State terror network claimed responsibility for two bombings that each killed dozens of people Thursday — one at a shrine in Pakistan and one at an auto dealership in Iraq. The suicide bomber at the world-famous shrine in southern Pakistan killed at least 75 people and wounding more than 200 others, according to health officials. They said the dead included 20 women and nine children. Also Thursday, a car bomb exploded in Baghdad’s southwestern al-Bayaa neighborhood shortly before sunset, killing at least 55 people and wounding more than 60 others, according to Iraq’s Interior Ministry. It was the third blast to hit the Iraqi capital in three days, the BBC reported.”

Turkey

Reuters: Turkey Steps Up Scrutiny On Muslim Migrants From Russia

“Turkey has increased scrutiny of Russian-speaking Muslim communities in the past few months following a series of attacks blamed on Islamic State, a concrete example of the renewed relationship between the two countries. Turkish police have raided the homes of Russian-speaking immigrants in Istanbul, detained many and expelled others, according to interviews with Russian Muslims living in the city. At least some of those targeted by Turkish authorities are known to be sympathetic to radical Islamist movements. The security activity indicates that Russia and Turkey are sharing intelligence, part of a newly-forged alliance that has also seen Moscow and Ankara work together on a peace deal for Syria.”

Pakistan

CBS News: Pakistan Allegedly Takes “Revenge” On ISIS For 80 Lives

“A senior Pakistani government official said Friday that the death toll from a massive ISIS suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine in the country’s had risen to 80, as the Pakistani military purportedly followed through on its threat to seek “revenge” against the militants in a neighboring country. The police commissioner in Hyderabad, the nearest large city to the town of Sehwan where the shrine was attacked, said a total of 250 people were wounded in the explosion. It also threatened to drive a deeper wedge between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Islamabad quickly lashed out at Kabul, saying the bombing was masterminded from across the border, in militant sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Underscoring tensions, Pakistan fired a blistering round of artillery shells into Afghan territory and shut down the Torkham border crossing, a key commercial artery between the two neighbors.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: Roadside Bomb Kills 12 In Afghanistan’s Paktika Province

“An Afghan official says at least 12 civilians were killed and three others wounded when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the eastern Paktika province. Elias Wahdat, the provincial governor, said Thursday that the blast took place in the Urgun district at around 11 a.m. ‘The blast was very powerful,’ said Wahdat, noting that it killed all 12 passengers aboard the vehicle and wounded three others. Wahdat added that seven of those killed were madrassa (religious school) students, and that the roadside bomb was planted by the Taliban. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents often use roadside mines to target convoys carrying security forces across the country.”

Middle East

Fox News: Netanyahu: US, Israel Have ‘Grand Mission’ To Confront Iran Threat

“Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News’ ‘Hannity’ Thursday night that his country and the United States have a ‘grand mission’ to confront the threat of a nuclear Iran. Netanyahu, who met President Donald Trump at the White House Wednesday, told host Sean Hannity that Tehran’s aggressive rhetoric toward Israel is meant to mask their intentions against the U.S. ‘They want to have [intercontinental ballistic missiles] that can reach your country. That’s what they’re working on right now. Remember, you’re the Great Satan [to them],’ Netanyahu said. ‘They believe that they’re destined to govern the world. Anybody that doesn’t agree with them, they’ll be able to subjugate or kill, and they’re working on the means to achieve that.’”

The Times Of Israel: Top Minister Says ‘All Of Lebanon Will Be Struck’ If Hezbollah Attacks Israel

“Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz calls for sanctions against the Hezbollah terrorist organization and threatens attacks against Lebanese infrastructure, after the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah released a message threatening to attack Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor and ammonia tank in Haifa. ‘The days of the Second Lebanon War, when Israel declines to target Lebanon’s infrastructure, are over. If Nasrallah dares to shoot at the Israeli home front or at national infrastructures, all of Lebanon will be struck,’ says Katz, who chairs the security cabinet while Netanyahu is visiting the US. ‘Nasrallah,’ he added, ‘is a proxy and stooge of Iran, and is willing in [Iran’s] service to allow all of Lebanon to be destroyed.’”

Libya

Deutsche Welle: Libya Requests NATO Assistance To Bolster Security Institutions

“Libya formally requested the help of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to help strengthen Libyan security institutions, according to NATO head Jens Stoltenberg. Stoltenberg told reporters on Thursday that the alliance was looking into exactly what could be done to help the war-stricken nation, which has been in turmoil since the 2011 toppling of leader Moammar Gadhafi. Following the civil war and the ensuing power vacuum competing governments and militias vied for power. ‘Libya needs that framework to be able to develop the forces and stabilize the country,’ Stoltenberg said, though he did not detail when that effort might start or what it might entail. The country’s United Nations-backed government requested the ‘advice and expertise in the field of defense and security institution building.’”

Nigeria

Fox News: Boko Haram Shoots At Military Helicopter, Wounds Airman

“Nigeria’s air force says Boko Haram Islamic extremists fired repeatedly at a military helicopter on a humanitarian mission in the northeast and wounded one airman. A statement Thursday from Group Capt. Ayodele Famuyiwa says an Mi-17 helicopter carrying medical personnel from Maiduguri city to treat refugees in the Gwoza area came under fire on Wednesday. The statement says the pilot was able to continue the flight, and the attack did not interrupt a two-day medical outreach program. Boko Haram in 2014 shot down a Nigerian Air Force fighter jet and beheaded its pilot. A multinational force last year drove Boko Haram out of towns and villages in northeast Nigeria but isolated attacks and suicide bombings continue.”

Germany

The Daily Beast: To Grab Attention, Germany’s Far Right Now Flirts With Hitler

“The right-wing populist Alternative for Deutschland party may be slipping in the polls right now, but that sure doesn’t keep them out of the headlines. Last summer, young Elena Roon, previously lauded as the one of the party’s hopeful prospects, posted a picture of Adolf Hitler on WhatsApp with the caption ‘Missing since 1945. Adolf, please get in touch! Germany needs you! The German people.’ Roon, who is the AfD’s parliamentary candidate in Nüremberg, had previously made a name for herself with the anti-refugee initiative ‘Sichere Heimat’ (secure homeland).”

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