Eye on Extremism, May 3, 2017

Huffington Post: Abbas Meets Trump: No Deal Then No Dice

What with North Korea, Iran, and Syria on his plate President Trump seems to have valuable time to waste on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tomorrow. I was toying with the idea of rearranging my sock drawer rather than spending good time watching Abbas go through the charade championing himself as a man of peace. That he isn’t! Yet, I don’t begrudge President Trump meeting with Abbas to get a cut of his tattered jib. It may just yield a meeting full of platitudes about the need to reach a peace settlement — a pro-forma ticket that Mr. Trump has to punch as he and his intrepid Senior Adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, get their Middle East peace ducks lined up.

The Washington Post: Alarm Grows In Washington As Saudi Coalition Attack On Yemen Port Appears Imminent

“A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers urged Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday to reconsider his support for a seemingly imminent assault by a Saudi-led coalition on the crucial Yemeni port city of Hodeida. ‘In the face of Yemen’s senseless humanitarian tragedy, where 19 million people need emergency support, we are committed to using our Constitutional authority to assert greater oversight over U.S. involvement in the conflict and promote greater public debate regarding U.S. military participation in Yemen’s civil war, which has never been authorized by Congress,’ the legislators said in a letter.”

The New York Times: Islamic State Attack Kills Dozens Near Syria Refugee Camp

“Islamic State militants attacked a checkpoint on Tuesday used by refugees fleeing fighting in Syria and Iraq, killing more than three dozen people, according to local Kurdish militants and monitoring groups. It was one of the largest recent attacks in the area, Hasaka Province in northeastern Syria, by the Islamic State, which has been under pressure in its main urban centers of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. The attack took place near Al Hol refugee camp, which hosts nearly 17,000 people, most of them Iraqi refugees but also including displaced Syrians, according to the International Rescue Committee. The group said several children were among the dead and injured.”

The Daily Beast: How ISIS Maximizes the Terror From Its Killer Drones

“On January 23, the Islamic State (IS) released a trailer for an upcoming video from its Ninawa Province, something it only does for major releases, teasing what would become an unfolding media campaign. At the time, In late January, Iraqi and allied military forces were three months into their ongoing offensive to take back Mosul, the de facto capital of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq. But apart from its reported military operations, ISIS had yet to make any significant commentary on the largest symbolic and tactical threat it had ever faced—a strange streak of silence from such a media-rich organization.”

USA Today: Meet The Men Who Fought ISIS From Inside Mosul

“When Islamic State militants swept across northern Iraq in 2014, some civilians welcomed them, some fled and others resigned themselves to living under their rule. But a few rose up to fight. Members of these secret resistance groups, such as the ‘Mosul Battalions’ and ‘Mim’ factions, revealed to USA TODAY their efforts and details about the deaths of their members now that Iraqi forces are making slow but steady gains to oust the militants from Mosul, their last major stronghold in Iraq. From before the start of the Mosul offensive last year until the present day, Iraqi troops have relied on a civilian resistance to pave the way.”

Reuters: Iran To Continue Sending Military Advisers To Syria: Guards Commander

“Iran will provide military advisers to Syria for as long as necessary in support of President Bashar al Assad’s forces, a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards was quoted on Tuesday as saying. Iran has provided military support to Assad’s forces since at least 2012, but initially did not comment publicly on its role. But as the military support increased and Iranian casualties also rose, officials began to speak more openly. ‘The advisory help isn’t only in the field of planning but also on techniques and tactics,’ the Fars news agency quoted Mohammad Pakpour, head of the Revolutionary Guard ground forces, as saying. ‘And because of this the forces have to be present on the battlefield.’”

Reuters: Israeli Strikes Raise Stakes In Face-Off With Hezbollah

“Two Israeli air strikes against Hezbollah targets in Syria in recent weeks seem to mark a more openly assertive stance toward the group after years of shadow boxing, requiring careful calibration to avoid escalation into a war that neither wants. For most of the six-year-long conflict in Syria, Israel has stuck determinedly to the sidelines, not wanting to get sucked into the chaos unfolding to its northeast. While it is suspected of carrying out occasional attacks against minor targets, it has tended not to confirm or deny involvement.”

The Guardian: Iran Is Seeking ‘To Control Islamic World’, Says Saudi Arabian Prince

“Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince has said there is no space for dialogue with the Iran due to its ambitions “to control the Islamic world”. The rare and wide-ranging interview, which aired on multiple Saudi TV channels, offered a glimpse into how Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud views the kingdom’s top rival. It also laid bare the breadth of his portfolio and powers. The 31-year-old prince, who was named in 2015 by his father, King Salman, as an eventual heir to the throne, is Saudi Arabia’s defence minister, overseeing the war in Yemen against a rebel group aligned with Iran. He also oversees economic matters and is behind a bold programme to overhaul the Saudi economy.”

The Washington Post: Islamic State Suicide Car Bomb Targets NATO Convoy In Kabul, Kills 8 Civilians

“A suicide bomber rammed a car filled with explosives into an armored NATO convoy in the Afghan capital Wednesday morning, killing eight Afghan civilians and wounding 28 others, including three coalition soldiers, public health officials said. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred at rush hour on a crowded boulevard just a few hundred yards from the U.S. embassy and several Afghan government ministries. The group’s affiliated news agency claimed it had killed eight American troops, but officials of the U.S.-led NATO force here said none had been killed, and that all injuries to coalition troops were ‘non life-threatening.’”

Reuters: Islamic State Seeks To Impose Religious Rules In Egypt’s North Sinai

“One Monday in early April, Shaher Saeed was driving south of the city of Arish in Egypt’s North Sinai when he came upon a group of Islamic State militants who had stopped a truck carrying cigarettes. ‘I saw them forcing the driver from the vehicle and stripping the upper part of his clothing before tying him to the door of one of their cars,’ said Saeed, who lives in the area. ‘They hit him on the back more than 10 times, then burned all the cartons of cigarettes … They let him go after warning him not to trade cigarettes again.’ Interviews with residents of North Sinai and reviews of Islamic State videos suggest the group’s local affiliate, known as Sinai Province, is seeking to impose its hardline interpretation of Islam on the local populace for the first time.”

The Washington Post: Libya Has Become A Hub For Online Arms Trading, Report Says

“Since 2011, Libya has become a hot spot of illicit weapons sales, many of which occur through messaging applications and social media networks, according to a report released Tuesday. The report — which tracks more than 1,300 attempted online sales from 2014 to 2015 — was published by the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, and uses data collected and analyzed by the group Armament Research Services. Although its authors say that the data set is only a small fraction of illicit arms sales in Libya, the report highlights trends in the growing trade.”

Fox News: UK Politicians Slam Facebook Over Illegal Content

A U.K. Parliamentary committee has called foul on what it perceives to be a lack of action by social media companies to take down illegal content. In a report released Monday, the Home Affairs Committee states social media firms must ‘be held accountable for removing extremist and terrorist propaganda hosted on their networks.’ The report went on to state: ‘Social media companies currently face almost no penalties for failing to remove illegal content. We recommend that the Government consult on a system of escalating sanctions to include meaningful fines for social media companies…”

Premium Times: Many Boko Haram Leaders Killed In Air Raid – Official

“Many suspected leaders of Boko Haram may have been killed in a recent air strike carried out by Nigeria Air Force fighter jets on locations believed to be hideouts of the deadly insurgents, an official said. According to a statement issued from the Directorate of Public Relations and Information of the Nigeria Air Force, the strike took place on April 28 in a village called Mangosum in Borno State. The incident was not reported until Tuesday when the Director of Air Force Public Relations and Information, Olatokunbo Adesanya, an air commodore, mentioned it in a terse statement. Mr. Adesanya said the attack was effected following a NAF intelligence.”

United States

Voice Of America: Trump, Putin Agree To Increase Diplomatic Efforts To End Syria War

“U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone Tuesday, their first such conversation since Russia condemned a U.S. military attack against Syria last month in response to a nerve gas attack launched on civilians by Syrian forces. The two leaders discussed the civil war in Syria, as well as the situation with North Korea, according to the White House, which described the conversation as ‘a very good one.’ Kremlin officials, quoted by Russian media, termed the call ‘businesslike and constructive.’”

Reuters: U.S. General Told Turkey Of Concerns About Syria/Iraq Air Strikes

“The top U.S. military officer in Europe raised concerns about Turkish air strikes in Syria and Iraq during a meeting last week with Ankara’s chief of general staff in Turkey, a U.S. official said on Tuesday. General Curtis Scaparrotti told General Hulusi Akar last Friday that the strikes were not properly coordinated with the United States and its allies in their fight against Islamic States, a spokesman for U.S. European Command told Reuters.  U.S. military officials said last week that Turkey gave the U.S.-led coalition less than an hour of advance notice about the air strikes, an insufficient amount of time to ensure the safety of coalition forces on the ground.”

CNN: Ahead Of Likely Visit To Israel, Trump Still Eyeing Embassy Move

“President Donald Trump is still actively weighing moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a promise he made on the campaign trail, ahead of a likely visit to Israel at the end of this month. Vice President Mike Pence reiterated Trump’s commitment to the move during remarks at the White House Tuesday marking Israeli Independence Day, saying Trump was giving ‘serious consideration’ to relocating the embassy. While Israel has long pressed nations to move their embassies to Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital, nations have largely resisted taking the step out of fears it could undermine the peace process and lead to violence in the region.”

U.S. News & World Report: 2nd Guilty Plea For Man Who Voiced Support For Islamic State

“A Detroit man accused of amassing weapons and expressing support for the Islamic State group has pleaded guilty to a gun crime in a separate case. Sebastian Gregerson pleaded guilty Tuesday to using a straw buyer to purchase a gun at a Chantilly, Virginia, gun show in 2014. The plea comes weeks after Gregerson pleaded guilty to possessing unregistered destructive devices. He met an undercover FBI operative and traded a handgun for grenade parts. FBI agents say they found CDs with the name of cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki at Gregerson’s home. Al-Awlaki’s internet sermons called for a war against the United States. He was killed in Yemen in 2011.”

USA Today: FBI Translator Secretly Married Islamic State Leader

“A former FBI translator working in Detroit secretly flew to Syria three years ago where she married an Islamic State terrorist leader she was supposed to be investigating. Daniela Greene, a hired linguist with top-secret security clearance, was working as a translator for the Detroit FBI office in 2014 helping investigate a German citizen who was an ISIL leader in Syria, according to recently unsealed documents in the case. During the probe, Greene alerted the FBI to several online accounts and phone numbers that the wanted terrorist was using, authorities said. That included Skype accounts that later would be used against her.”

Syria

Reuters: Some 900 Jordanians Fight In Syria, Iraq; Recruitment Slumps: Senior Official

“Around 900 Jordanians are fighting for Islamic State and al-Qaeda-inspired groups in Syria and Iraq but recruitment numbers have fallen sharply to their lowest ever levels, a senior Jordanian official told Reuters on Tuesday. Those now fighting in Iraq and Syria mostly left Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally which borders the two countries, in the early years of the conflict between 2013 and 2014, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Numbers joining the ultra-hardline jihadist groups slumped in the last three years as an intelligence-led campaign helped Jordanian security forces nip plots in the bud and arrest radicalized youths who were planning to leave, he said.”

Turkey

Reuters: Turkey’s EU Dream Is Over, For Now, Top Official Says

“Turkey under President Tayyip Erdogan has turned its back on joining the European Union, at least for now, the bloc’s top official dealing with Ankara said, offering economic cooperation instead if both sides can restore friendly ties. After years of stalemate on Turkey’s bid to join the world’s biggest trading bloc, EU governments say the process is dead, citing Erdogan’s crackdown on dissidents, his ‘Nazi’ jibes at Germany and a referendum giving him sweeping new powers that a rights group says lack checks and balances. ‘Everybody’s clear that, currently at least, Turkey is moving away from a European perspective,’ European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who oversees EU membership bids, told Reuters.”

Afghanistan

Fox News: ‘MOAB’ Aftermath: Fox News Tours Site Where Afghanistan Bomb Was Dropped

“With lush sprawling green meadows and grazing cattle surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the scene could be any idyllic spring countryside. But look a little closer and the scorched trees signal something far from idyllic, the results of detonating the largest non-nuclear bomb the U.S has ever used in combat. Photos obtained by Fox News in Afghanistan taken less than two weeks after the strategically targeted explosion of the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb to destroy ISIS fighters and their underground tunnels in Eastern Afghanistan’s Achin district of Nanganhar province show just how devastating the munition is.”

Fox News: One Small Battle Could Lead To Massive Strategic Loss In Afghanistan

“About an hour after the sun rose on Friday, some 200 Afghan soldiers – two companies belonging to the 5th Battalion, 7th Brigade of the Afghan Border Police – holding court in Zibak District of Badakhshan Province in the far northeastern corner of Afghanistan were barraged from all four sides by an estimated 1,500 terrorists. ‘They suddenly just surrounded us,’ commanding officer Colonel Mohammad Nader told Fox News on Tuesday, adding that his 5th Battalion generally operates out of Kunduz, but a few months ago deployed to Badakhshan to offer support as insurgency there swelled.  Such surprise assaults are hardly unusual, but this one seemingly small battle in a long war could prove to be a major strategic loss for U.S-backed Afghanistan.”

Saudi Arabia

Reuters: Saudi Land Push In Yemen Would Cause Heavy Casualties: Top Prince

“Saudi Arabia could launch a land offensive in Yemen to crush its Iranian-aligned Houthi enemies but the cost in casualties would be heavy on both sides, the kingdom’s powerful deputy crown prince said on Tuesday. Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is Saudi defence minister, also said in a nationally-televised interview that Riyadh’s decision to mount a military campaign to end Houthi control of swathes of Yemen in 2015 was necessary to restore the country’s internationally-recognized government. He added that Riyadh was unable to hold a dialogue with its arch-rival Iran because of what he called the Islamic Republic’s extremist ideology.”

The New York Times: Dialogue With Iran Is Impossible, Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister Says

“Saudi Arabia’s powerful deputy crown prince slammed the door Tuesday on the prospect of dialogue with Iran, the kingdom’s regional rival, accusing it of following an ‘extremist ideology’ and seeking to take over the Muslim world. The prince, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, who is second in line to the throne and serves as defense minister, said Saudi Arabia would fight what he called Iran’s efforts to extend its influence. ‘We are a primary target for the Iranian regime,’ Prince Mohammed said, accusing Iran of seeking to take over Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia. ‘We won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia. Instead, we’ll work so that the battle is for them in Iran.’”

Middle East

Haaretz: Jewish Israeli Believed Trying To Stab Soldier Shot Dead Near Jerusalem

“A Jewish Israeli man was shot and killed at a checkpoint outside Jerusalem on Tuesday. Police said the man, 19, was running toward a soldier with a knife in his hand, and apparently sought to commit ‘suicide by soldier.’ The man was shot by a civilian security guard stationed at the checkpoint, who feared he was attempting to carry out a stabbing attack. Nobody else was hurt. The incident occurred at about 3:45 P.M. at the Hizma Checkpoint, located at the northeast entrance to Jerusalem from the West Bank. Soldiers and security guards at the checkpoint said the man approached from the Israeli side and began running toward a female soldier while holding something suspicious in his hand.”

Libya

Associated Press: Libyan Premier, Rival General In UAE For ‘Mediation’ Talks

“The prime minister of Libya’s U.N.-backed government and a powerful rival general met Tuesday in the United Arab Emirates in the latest effort to resolve the country’s long-running conflict. Libya’s armed forces posted an image on Facebook showing Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter standing next to Prime Minister Fayez Serraj after taking part in surprise talks in Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s oil-rich capital. The two men met ‘a short while ago in Abu Dhabi after Arab and international mediation,’ a short caption for the photo said, without elaborating. Libya TV said the two men agreed on holding presidential and parliamentary elections next year, but it’s unclear how such a vote would be held in the fractured country.”

United Kingdom

BBC: ‘Cufflink Terrorist’ Samata Ullah Jailed For Eight Years

“A man who used a James Bond-style USB cufflink to store extremist data has been jailed for eight years. Samata Ullah, 34, of Cardiff, admitted being a member of so-called Islamic State, as well as terrorist training, preparing terrorist acts and possessing articles for terrorist purposes. The Old Bailey in London was told Ullah was ‘a new and dangerous breed of terrorist’ and a cyber-terrorist. He must also remain on licence for five years after release. The court heard how Ullah created a ‘one-stop shop’ for terrorists from his bedroom, offering a range of guidance on how to stay one step ahead of police and security services.”

Germany

The Jerusalem Post: Police Search For Berlin Attacker Who Attempted To Set Ablaze A Pro-Israel Activist

“Berlin police forces are currently searching after a man who attempted to set an Israel flag ablaze on Monday during a Memorial Day event commemorating Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. The woman who was holding the flag and very nearly escaped the attack is a German-Israeli pro-Israel activist. The latter, who wishes not reveal her identity because she wants to continue freely with her pro-Israel activism, contacted the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday and said that she filed a criminal complaint. She asserted that the assailant sought to cause her ‘dangerous bodily harm.’”

France

Deutsche Welle: France Anti-Terrorism Raids Lead To 5 Arrests

“Anti-terrorism squads arrested five people across France on Tuesday, just days before the second round of the presidential election. The raids took place in towns near the cities of Rouen and Lille in northern France, and in Roanne in the central part of the country. The suspects are between 18 and 24 years old. Weapons were also seized during the raids, including pistols and machine guns, a source told the Agence France-Presse. The guns belonged to a man close to one of the suspects, who legally owned the weapons.”

Terror Financing

Almuraqeb Aliraqi: Iraq: Terrorists Released In Exchange For Large Sums Of Money

“It is no longer a secret that deals involving the release of terrorists are being finalized behind the scenes. Today, however, terrorists are being released publicly and out in the open, despite the threat they pose to security in Anbar, Baghdad and the rest of Iraq’s provinces. Anbar Provincial Council member Naim al-Ka’oud acknowledged the release of terrorists in exchange for large sums of money in several areas of the province. “Large-scale transactions are taking place to release terrorists in exchange for large sums of money paid to officers in charge of counter-terror operations in various parts of Anbar Province,” he was quoted as saying. “The central government is called upon to conduct an urgent investigation and to forward the cases of involved officers to the judiciary and try them by law,” said the Anbar provincial council member.”

Counter Terrorism

Middle East Online: Jordan: Anti-Terror Measures Shrink Recruitment Of Jihadists

“The number of Jordanians recruited by militant groups to fight in Syria and Iraq has fallen to its lowest level in the current conflict. This comes on the heels of tightening counter-terrorism and surveillance laws, a senior Jordanian official said on Tuesday. He added that nearly 900 Jordanians are currently fighting in the ranks of the Islamic State and other groups inspired by the ideology of Al-Qaeda. The official stressed that the number of militants who joined terror groups has declined in the past three years. This was helped by the crackdown led by Jordanian Intelligence and security forces against terror plots. This campaign included the arrest of youth who became extremist and plotted to leave the kingdom {to join militant groups}. In addition, since 2014 Jordan has imposed tougher jail sentences on those involved in militant activity. However, the official claimed that Jordanian authorities have avoided imposing the harshest punitive measures, fearing they could turn militant sympathizers or new recruits into radical fundamentalists.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Sada Al-Balad: Egyptian Parliament Member Calls For Developing Villages Most In Need With Muslim Brotherhood Funds

“Egyptian MP Abdelhamed Kamal stated that the call by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to collect one Egyptian pound from each employee for the benefit of poor villages is a positive step. He added: “Those poor villages in Egypt should be the first to be developed with the money of tax evaders, seized Muslim Brotherhood funds, and confiscated funds belonging to corrupt individuals and to wealthy businessmen.”

Hamas

Arabyoum: Source Accuses Hamas Leaders Of Profiting From Rafah Tunnels

“Dr. Samir Ghattas, member of Egypt’s House of Representatives, claimed that Hamas leaders are in charge of the tunnels on the Palestinian side of Rafah, reaping huge amounts of money. In an interview on Alhayat Elyoum (Life Today) TV show, Ghattas added that the tunnels in Rafah are being used to smuggle weapons to the terrorists in Sinai under the supervision of Hamas leaders.”

Houthi

Ababiil.Net: Houthi Raises Gasoline And Diesel Prices

“Houthis plan to impose new prices of gasoline and diesel in areas under their control. A document circulated through social media websites showed the new prices the Houthis intend to impose on citizens. The price of a liter of car gasoline will rise to 250 riyals ($1) while diesel will rise to 240 riyals ($ 0.96). The price of 20 liters of gasoline is due to rise to 5,000 riyals ($20) and the diesel price to 4800 riyals ($19.2). The measure comes at a time when particularly difficult conditions are being experienced by Yemenis as a result of the ongoing war and the delay in paying salaries for the sixth month in a row.”

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