Eye on Extremism, May 4, 2017

WTOP: The Hunt: Terrorists changing tactics: CEP Spokesperson Tara Maller joins host J.J. Green to discuss how and why terror groups like ISIS have recently shifted tactics and targets.

NPR: As ISIS Loses Ground, Returning Fighters Create A New Worry

“The Islamic State keeps losing ground. But defeat in the Middle East would not mean the end of ISIS. U.S. counterterrorism officials are already thinking about what’s likely to come next.”

New York Times: Iraqi Forces Open A Front In West Mosul, Trying To Squeeze ISIS

“Iraqi forces opened a front in western Mosul on Thursday in a major shift intended to accelerate an operation that had slowed to a crawl, leaving hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped on an urban battlefield. The attack began early Thursday as the Ninth Iraqi Army Division and Interior Ministry troops who had been pulled from another combat assignment started pushing into Mosul from the north, according to an Iraqi military statement. Iraq’s Counterterrorism Service has been clawing its way from the south, and the goal of the new operation is to force the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, to fight in multiple directions and collapse its defenses.”

CBS News: Iraqi Bears Witness To ISIS’ Brutal Rule By Secretly Painting

“After the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) swept into his town nearly three years ago, Mustafa al-Taee resolved to bear witness to the militants’ brutal rule by secretly painting what he had seen with his own eyes.  The result was a gallery of horrors: car bombs, dead children, an ISIS defector beheaded in a public square, a former police officer strung up by his legs for hours before being shot dead.  “They committed countless crimes and those crimes needed to be documented,” said the 58-year-old grandfather in his home in the northern town of Hamam al-Alil, near Mosul. “There were no journalists, no cameras.”

Voice Of America: Weeks After Massive US Bomb, IS Still On Air In Afghanistan

“Almost three weeks after the United States dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb in Eastern Afghanistan, the Islamic State group continues to show battlefield resilience as well as run its FM radio channel in the area. Earlier this week the Islamic State Khorasan Province, the IS chapter for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia, through its Middle East based news agency Amaq, claimed it wrested control of a volatile district from the Afghan Taliban in Nangarhar, the same province where the bomb was dropped. Provincial government spokesman Ataullah Khogyani confirmed a clash between ISKP and Taliban fighters.”

The New York Times: To Freeze Syria War, Russia Proposes Setting Up ‘De-escalation Zones’

“Russia is circulating a draft proposal to Syrian rebel groups and diplomats that envisions pausing the war in Syria through the creation of safe ‘de-escalation zones,’ with outside troops possibly acting as buffers between the antagonists. The draft proposal, shared with The New York Times on Wednesday by participants at Syria talks held in Astana, Kazakhstan, is one of the most detailed suggestions to emerge in recent months in the rocky negotiations to halt the war, now in its seventh year. The proposal would apply to Syrian government and rebel forces in the four main areas of the country where insurgents unaffiliated with the Islamic State still hold significant territory.”

Washington Free Beacon: Iran Using U.S. Cash To Fund Unprecedented, Massive Military Buildup

“Iran is using the billions in cash resources provided under the landmark nuclear deal to engage in an unprecedented military buildup meant to transform the Islamic Republic’s fighting force into an “offensive” juggernaut, according to a largely unreported announcement by Iranian military leaders that has sparked concern among U.S. national security insiders and sources on Capitol Hill. Iranian officials announced late last month that Iran’s defense budget had increased by 145 percent under President Hassan Rouhani and that the military is moving forward with a massive restructuring effort aimed at making it “a forward moving force,” according to regional reports.”

The Jerusalem Post: Stabbing Attack Thwarted At Tomb Of Patriarchs

“A suspected knifeman attempted to carry out a stabbing attack on Thursday near the holy site of the Tomb of Patriarchs in the old city of Hebron. Police have said that the assailant approached Border Police soldiers and then as he drew near, he started running towards them with a knife in hand, threatening to stab them. Border Police personnel at the scene shot the attacker, neutralizing him and preventing the attack. No fatalities have been reported. According to police, the 20-year-old assailant was injured and has been evacuated to receive medical care.”

Reuters: Islamic State Militants Developing Own Social Media Platform: Europol

“Islamic State militants are developing their own social media platform to avoid security crackdowns on their communications and propaganda, the head of the European Union’s police agency said on Wednesday. Europol Director Rob Wainwright said the new online platform had been uncovered during a 48-hour operation against Internet extremism last week. ‘Within that operation it was revealed IS was now developing its very own social media platform, its own part of the Internet to run its agenda,’ Wainwright told a security conference in London. ‘It does show that some members of Daesh (IS), at least, continue to innovate in this space.’”

NPR: German Defense Minister Launches Probe Into Far-Right Extremism In The Military

“We’re learning about a bizarre terrorist plot in Germany. Prosecutors say an army officer registered as an asylum seeker, hoping his planned attacks would be blamed on refugees. And media reports say the man actually had neo-Nazi sympathies and was linked to a secret extreme right group within the German armed forces. Germany’s defense minister is vowing to investigate fully. NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin. The far-reaching investigation comes after the recent arrest of a German army lieutenant who is accused of posing as a Syrian refugee and planning terror attacks. It’s one of 280 allegations of far-right extremism authorities are investigating in the military here.”

AFP: Boko Haram Leader Shekau ‘Injured In Air Strike’

“Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau has been injured and one of his deputies killed in an air strike in northeast Nigeria, civilian and security sources told AFP on Wednesday. Two Nigerian Air Force jets bombarded fighters who had gathered for prayers in Balla village, 40 kilometres from Damboa, on the edge of the Sambisa Forest, last Friday. “Shekau was wounded in the bombings and is believed to be receiving treatment near the Nigerian border with Cameroon around Kolofata,” said one source with contacts within Boko Haram. “His deputy, Abba Mustapha, alias Malam Abba, was killed in the attack along with another key lieutenant, Abubakar Gashua, alias Abu Aisha,” he added.”

United States

Voice Of America: Trump Sends Envoy To Russia-Sponsored Syrian Cease-Fire Talks

“Russia-sponsored Syrian cease-fire talks taking place Wednesday and Thursday in Astana, Kazakhstan will include a U.S. State Department envoy attending as an observer. The move was confirmed Tuesday in a White House statement that followed talks between President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Tuesday’s call, described by the White House as ‘a very good one,’ is believed to be the first direct contact between the two leaders since U.S. warships targeted a Syrian military airbase — used by both Syrian forces and their Russian allies — with dozens of cruise missiles on April 4.”

BBC News: US Photographer Captured Moment Of Her Death In Afghanistan

“A photo taken by a US Army camerawoman of the moment she and four Afghans were killed in an explosion has been released by the American military. Specialist Hilda Clayton, 22, and four Afghan National Army soldiers died when a mortar shell blew up during a training exercise on 2 July 2013. The US Army also released a photo by an Afghan whom Spc Clayton was training in photojournalism. He was among the dead. The accident happened in the eastern province of Laghman. Military Review magazine published the images. ‘Clayton’s death symbolises how female soldiers are increasingly exposed to hazardous situations in training and in combat on par with their male counterparts,’ the Army wrote in the edition.”

Deutsche Welle: US State Department Urges Vigilance On Travel To Europe

“The US State Department has warned Americans about traveling to Europe due to the ongoing risk of terrorism. The alert said US citizens ‘should always be alert’ as attacks could occur with ‘little to no warning.’ The US State Department highlighted recent attacks in France, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom that demonstrate that the self-styled ‘Islamic State,’ al Qaeda, and other groups ‘have the ability to plan and execute terrorist attacks in Europe.’ The four named countries have experienced terror incidents this spring, often carried out by lone attackers who were inspired by radical Islamist ideology. Most recently, the United Kingdom arrested individuals accused of plotting future acts or terror.”

Syria

Reuters: Syrian Government Supports De-Escalation Zones: Foreign Ministry

“The Syrian government supports a Russian proposal to create four de-escalation zones intended to quell fighting in the country’s six-year-old civil war, Syrian state media reported the foreign ministry as having said on Wednesday.  Peace talks sponsored by Russia, Iran and Turkey are taking place in Kazakhstan this week, and Russia said it hoped to negotiate on Thursday the creation of four de-escalation zones in Syria. The Syrian armed opposition suspended its participation in the talks on Wednesday and demanded an end to government bombing of areas under its control.”

The Washington Post: The Russia-Turkey-U.S. Tussle To Save Syria Will Still Get Very Messy

“Russian President Vladimir Putin is pushing aggressively for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict — and he seems to have found common cause with Turkey and the United States, two countries that were firmly opposed to Russia’s Middle East agenda not too long ago. On Wednesday, Putin hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi. For more than half a decade, Erdogan has clamored loudly for the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a staunch Moscow ally whose regime has essentially subcontracted its bombing campaigns to the Russian air force. Just over a year ago, Putin was accusing Turkey of abetting the Islamic State, while Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet.”

Iraq

Reuters: Iraqi Army Advances On Islamic State’s Mosul Enclave From Northwest

“Iraq’s armed forces opened a new front against Islamic State in Mosul on Thursday, advancing on the militants’ enclave from the northwest, a military commander told Reuters. The army’s 9th Armoured Division and the Rapid Response units of the Interior Ministry were headed towards the city, he said. The attack would help the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) and Interior Ministry Federal Police troops who were painstakingly advancing from the south, he said. A U.S.-led international coalition is providing key air and ground support to the offensive on Mosul, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Iraq, which started in October.  The militants are now besieged in the northwestern corner of Mosul which includes the historic Old City centre and the Grand al-Nuri Mosque.”

Turkey

Reuters: Putin Says Russia’s Relations With Turkey Have Fully Recovered

“President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia’s relationship with Turkey had fully recovered after what he called a crisis caused by Ankara’s shooting down of a Russian warplane near the Syrian border in 2015. Russia retaliated against Turkey at the time with a slew of economic sanctions and Ankara later took measures which made life difficult for Moscow too. Speaking after holding talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea Russian resort of Sochi, Putin said relations were finally getting back to normal and that trade had stopped falling.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Wary Mood In Kabul As Notorious Former Warlord Set To Return

“Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is due to meet the Afghan president this week ahead of a return to politics, a remarkable turnaround for a leader widely reviled for his part in a civil war that killed thousands in the capital Kabul and razed much of the city. Hekmatyar, who was removed from the U.N. terrorism sanctions list only this year, made his first public appearance on Saturday since a 2016 peace deal, and he has since been in the eastern city of Jalalabad gathering support. His rehabilitation has been welcomed by the United States and President Ashraf Ghani, who see it as a possible precursor to broader peace with the dominant militant group, the Taliban.”

The New York Times: Suicide Bombing Of U.S. Military Convoy In Kabul Kills 8 Afghans

“At least eight Afghan civilians were killed and three American soldiers wounded on Wednesday when a suicide bomber attacked an American military convoy during the morning rush hour in Kabul, officials said. The explosion happened around the corner from one of the entrances of the heavily guarded United States Embassy at the center of the Afghan capital, as a convoy of American soldiers passed through. Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said eight Afghans were killed and 25 wounded in the car bombing.”

Saudi Arabia

The Washington Post: Saudi King Said To Calm Tensions Between Yemen And UAE

“Saudi Arabia’s King Salman had to step in recently to calm tensions between President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the United Arab Emirates, Yemeni officials said Wednesday. Hadi had accused the Emiratis, who are supporting him in Yemen with troops against Shiite rebels known as Houthis, of meddling in sovereign affairs, especially in the southern city of Aden where they had allegedly encouraged some locals to reject government orders, they said. Salman’s meeting with Hadi last weekend in Riyadh had been unplanned, but came just days after Hadi fired Minister of State Hani Bin Braik and Aden Gov. Aidarous al-Zubaidi in what was the latest chapter in the stand-off between Hadi and the UAE.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Israelis Warned To Avoid Tunisia Due To Danger Of Attacks

“Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Wednesday warned Israelis against traveling to Tunisia over concerns that jihadist terrorists may try to attack the visitors or Jewish targets in the North African country. In a statement the CBT said that, following a situation assessment, ‘it was decided to further reiterate the severe travel advisory for Tunisia.’ The warning was issued ahead of an annual pilgrimage that draws hundreds of Tunisian Jews and visitors from Israel to the island of Djerba, where they celebrate at an ancient synagogue believed to be the oldest in Africa.”

Haaretz: Alleged Stabbing Attack Attempted Against Israeli Forces In Hebron, Police Say

“A Palestinian man allegedly attempted to carry out an attack on Israeli security forces near the city of Hebron in the West Bank on Thursday, Israeli Border Police said. No Israelis were hurt in the incident. According to a spokesperson for the Border Police, the man arrived at a checkpoint near the Cave of the Patriarchs and drew a knife before being shot by forces at the scene. Palestinian identified the alleged assailant as 20-year-old Palestinian from Hebron. On Tuesday, a Jewish Israeli man was shot and killed at a checkpoint outside Jerusalem. Police said the man, 19, was running toward a soldier with a knife in his hand, and apparently sought to commit ‘suicide by soldier.’”

CBS News: Israel Lashes Out Over “Systematic Harassment” At U.N.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will withhold $1 million in payments to the United Nations following a resolution adopted by its cultural agency that he says diminishes Jewish ties to Jerusalem. Netanyahu called the UNESCO resolution ‘absurd’ and said the agency’s ‘systematic harassment’ of Israel had a price. Speaking at a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Netanyahu says Israel will not sit idly by as a U.N. organization tries to negate its sovereignty in Jerusalem. The UNESCO resolution criticized Israeli excavations in east Jerusalem as a violation of international law. Israel has long complained about bias at U.N. forums, feeling outnumbered by Arab nations and their supporters.”

Libya

BBC News: Talks Between Rival Libya Factions ‘Make Some Progress’

“Talks between the two largest factions in war-torn Libya have made progress in reaching a deal to resolve the country’s political and economic crises, government officials say. They have agreed on joint efforts to fight extremism and boost the economy. But initial optimism that the two sides may be able to reach a comprehensive agreement was dashed on Wednesday when each issued separate statements. Libya has been beset by chaos since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. UN-backed government leader Fayez Sarraj has been meeting his rival Khalifa Haftar this week in the United Arab Emirates.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Over 3,000 Terror Tip-Offs To Police In Two Months

“Police received over 3,000 tip-offs by the public about possible terrorist activity in the last two months. The National Police Chiefs’ Council said a significant number of calls had been made after the Westminster attack. It said that despite most of the information being false alarms, some of the calls had resulted in further action that might have been missed. A spokeswoman for the council said the increased public response ‘had been really heartening’. Speaking at a conference in London, the NPCC’s lead for protective security said authorities had also received 300 referrals about extremist material online. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D’Orsi said: ‘The increased response from the general public and from professionals whose job it is to keep people safe within crowded places, has been really heartening.’”

Germany

ABC News: German Defense Minister Under Fire Over Far-Right Soldier

“The arrest of a German army officer suspected of plotting a far-right attack is putting fresh pressure on the country’s defense minister, already under fire over a series of abuse cases within Germany’s armed forces. Canceling a planned trip to the United States, Ursula von der Leyen dashed to the French town of Illkirch on Wednesday to visit the barracks where the 28-year-old lieutenant was stationed as part of a Franco-German brigade until his arrest last week. Prosecutors say the man, identified only as Franco A. due to German privacy laws, allegedly planned to carry out an attack. He had previously come to the attention of superiors for expressing far-right views in a 2014 dissertation written as part of his officer’s training, but was let off with a warning.”

France

Reuters: Macron, Le Pen Clash On Euro, Terrorism, In French Pre-Election TV Showdown

“Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron clashed over their vision of France’s future, the euro and ways of fighting terrorism in an ill-tempered televised debate on Wednesday before Sunday’s run-off vote for the presidency. The two went into the debate with opinion polls showing Macron, 39, with a strong lead of 20 percentage points over the National Front’s Le Pen, 48, in what is widely seen as France’s most important election in decades. For Le Pen, the two-and-a-half hour debate, watched by millions, was a last major chance to persuade voters of the merits of her program which includes cracking down on illegal immigration, ditching the euro single currency and holding a referendum on EU membership.”

Terror Financing

Sout Alomma: Egypt: Most Terrorist Attacks Carried Out With Stolen Vehicles

“The security forces affiliated with the Egyptian Ministry of Interior face the specter of terrorist cells that use stolen cars. The most recent example was the terrorist attack in Nasr City on Tuesday, which resulted in the death of two army officers, a police officer and the injury of five other security personnel. It turns out that most of the terrorist operations committed in Egypt since the June 30th Revolution have been carried out using stolen cars. A security source claimed that the real reason for the use of stolen cars by terrorist groups is to keep security forces away from perpetrators for as long as possible. For security forces, it is difficult to identify the cars and reach their original owners because terrorists change their identifiable features and remove their original license plates.”

Counter Terrorism

Gulf 365: Saudi Official: Kingdom Tackles Terrorism And Is Determined To Root It Out

“While attending the 56th annual conference of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) in Kenya, Saudi Justice Ministry Undersecretary Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al-Omairah said: “The Kingdom, which is one of the countries most targeted by terrorism, has been subjected to more than 100 terrorist operations since 1992. It is combating terrorism in a variety of ways and is determined to root out this phenomenon. It has enacted regulations to prevent its support and financing.”

ISIS

Alarab-News: Iraqi Parliament Member: Huge Financial Transfers To ISIS

“On Wednesday, a member of Iraq’s Parliamentary Finance Committee, Rahim al-Darraji, disclosed the {ongoing} transfer of ‘billions of dollars’ to the Islamic State. He claimed these funds are being obtained from money laundering and {various investment} projects. Al-Darraji asserted in his statement that “the mechanisms of overseeing money transfers and money laundering {transactions} are still deficient in terms of holding accountable those we consider conspirators against the country.” He added that “anyone who delivers money to terrorists should be tried for treason in Iraq. {Sadly} inside the Iraqi state there are individuals who are working in support of the terrorist Islamic State organization.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Elwatan: Egypt: Appeals By Three Brotherhood-Affiliated Companies Denied

“The Muslim Brotherhood Asset Freeze Committee rejected three grievances filed by Egyptian Group for Import & Export, Professional Group for Import & Export and Afaq Group of Companies, all of which appealed the confiscation of their funds. Judicial sources disclosed that the Committee backed its previous decisions to appropriate their funds. The Committee received the three grievances accompanied by documents which the companies believe prove they are not affiliated with the Brotherhood.”

Houthi

Yemen News Gate: Yemen: Houthis’ Request To Exempt 7,000 Cars From Customs Dismissed

“The Yemeni Council of Representatives, whose term has already expired, refused to exempt 7,000 cars from customs duties, as requested by the Houthis. Parliament members pointed out that the application for exemption submitted by the Minister of Interior is in contravention to the law, further claiming that its justifications “are unrealistic and illogical.” Deputies belonging to the party of ousted President Ali Saleh asserted that it was unacceptable for the government to exempt these cars from customs duties while failing to pay salaries {of state employees}. A document circulated in the media revealed that the Houthis have seized 7000 vehicles belonging to ministries and government institutions since taking power on September 21st, 2014. They merely wanted them free of charge from the Customs Authority.”

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