Eye on Extremism, May 9, 2017

Reuters: Civilians Complicate Final Phase Of Mosul Campaign: U.S. Commander

“The Islamic State fighters herded a group of civilians into a house in the city of Mosul and locked them inside as Iraqi forces advanced. Moments later, the militants entered through a window, lay low for a few minutes, then fired their weapons. The plan was simple. They would draw attention to the house by firing from the windows, then move to an adjacent building through a hole in the wall, in hope of goading coalition jets flying above to strike the house. What the militants did not realize was that U.S. advisers partnered with Iraqi troops were watching the whole thing on an aerial drone feed. No air strike was called – and the propaganda coup Islamic State would have reaped from the deaths of innocent people was averted.”

Newsweek: Iraq’s Powerful Interior Minister, Now Leading Fight Against ISIS, Was Held Twice By U.S. Forces After 2003

“The head of Iraq’s powerful interior ministry and the commander of the country’s militarized police, now at the forefront of the battle against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), was held twice by U.S. forces following the 2003 invasion, suspected of aiding the insurgency. Qasim al-Araji was arrested for the second time by American forces in Iraq in 2007 and held in the infamous Bucca prison for 23 months, the Associated Press reported. The charges against Araji,  commanding militia forces against the U.S. coalition in 2004 and then later smuggling explosives to aid Shiite forces fighting the U.S. three years later, were never substantiated.”

Reuters: Islamic State Says It Beheads Russian Officer In Syria: SITE

“Islamic State has issued a video showing the beheading of what it described as a Russian intelligence officer captured in Syria, the U.S.-based SITE monitoring website reported on Tuesday. The Russian Defence Ministry and the FSB security service were not immediately available for comment. The 12-minute Russian-language video, released on the day Russia celebrates the anniversary of the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany with military parades, showed the man dressed in a black jump suit kneeling in a desert scene and urging other Russian agents to surrender. ‘This idiot believed the promises of his state not to abandon him if he was captured,’ a narrator says in the recording, before a bearded man beheaded him with a knife.”

The Wall Street Journal: Taliban Broaden Their Reach in Villages Across Afghanistan

“The Taliban have expanded their military fight against Afghanistan’s government into a drive to govern villages across the country, deepening the formidable challenge U.S.-backed forces face in trying to uproot the insurgency. The insurgents, once focused on waging guerrilla war from strongholds in opium-rich provinces like Helmand, are now emerging in a swath of districts to fill a governance vacuum left.”

Associated Press: Egypt Says Kills 8 Brotherhood Members Before Terrorist Acts

“Egypt’s Interior Ministry says its forces have killed eight members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group ‘before carrying out terrorist acts.’ Is says in a Monday statement that the Brotherhood members fired on security forces when they were approached at an undisclosed date or location in the desert near the country’s southern border, drawing return fire that killed the men. The statement says the group’s leader, Helmy Muhareb, had been previously sentenced to death in absentia on terrorism charges and was a wanted fugitive in other cases.”

Bloomberg: Islamic State Dealt ‘Significant’ Blow After Afghanistan Raids

“An Afghan air strike that destroyed an Islamic State radio station and killed at least 34 militants added to the terrorist group’s setbacks after news that their leader in the country was killed two weeks ago. Situated in the eastern province of Nangarhar, the station was ‘spreading the group’s extremist messages and issuing threats’ to the locals and government workers, Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said in a statement on Monday.  The attack, which happened in the past 24 hours, followed news that Islamic State’s leader in Afghanistan, Abdul Hasib, was killed in a joint assault by Afghan and U.S. forces on April 27. Several high-ranking leaders of the group and 35 fighters were also killed, the U.S. military said in a statement on Sunday.”

The Times Of Israel: Army Seizes Knives, Nabs 13 Palestinians In West Bank

“Israeli security forces arrested 17 Palestinian suspects in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on Sunday night and early Monday morning, officials said. In Hebron, IDF soldiers also uncovered a cache of knives, knuckledusters and other assorted weaponry, the army said. Outside the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday night, residents clashed with police officers, following an attempted stabbing attack by a Palestinian girl earlier in the evening. During violent protest, residents fired ‘hives’ of fireworks — pyrotechnics laid out in a grid — at police officers, a police spokesperson said.”

Reuters: Austrian Court Rules Facebook Must Delete ‘Hate Postings’

“Facebook must remove postings deemed as hate speech, an Austrian court has ruled, in a legal victory for campaigners who want to force social media companies to combat online “trolling”. The case – brought by Austria’s Green party over insults to its leader – has international ramifications as the court ruled the postings must be deleted across the platform and not just in Austria, a point that had been left open in an initial ruling. The case comes as legislators around Europe are considering ways of forcing Facebook, Google, Twitter and others to rapidly remove hate speech or incitement to violence. Germany’s cabinet approved a plan last month to fine social networks up to 50 million euros ($55 million) if they fail to remove such postings quickly and the European Union is considering new EU-wide rules.”

NBC News: Nigeria’s Chibok Girls: Boko Haram Holds Thousands Of Other Abductees

“You’ve almost certainly heard of Nigeria’s Chibok Girls. The 276 female students received worldwide attention in April 2014 after they were kidnapped by Boko Haram, one of the world’s deadliest terrorist groups. On Sunday, the Nigerian government announced 82 of the girls had been released in exchange for five militant commanders — a move hailed by parents and officials, and reported across the international media. But in truth the Chibok Girls are a drop in the ocean. Human rights groups estimate thousands of men, women and children have been abducted by Boko Haram during the group’s eight-year insurgency.”

Cbcnews: Al-Shabaab Targets Officials In Somalia Blast That Kills At Least 8

“A suicide bomber rammed a car laden with explosives into a cafe in central Mogadishu on Monday, killing at least eight people in an attack claimed by the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab. Bursts of gunfire followed the attack, which targeted the Italian Coffee cafeteria, located near the passport office. A Reuters photographer saw corpses sprawled on the ground at the scene of the blast. Major Aden Ibrahim, a police official, told Reuters the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. Abdikadir Abdirahman, the director of AMIN ambulances, said his organisation had removed eight bodies from the scene and taken more than two dozen wounded to hospital.”

United States

The Washington Post: U.S. Poised To Expand Military Effort Against Taliban In Afghanistan

“President Trump’s most senior military and foreign policy advisers have proposed a major shift in strategy in Afghanistan that would effectively put the United States back on a war footing with the Taliban. The new plan, which still needs the approval of the president, calls for expanding the U.S. military role as part of a broader effort to push an increasingly confident and resurgent Taliban back to the negotiating table, U.S. officials said. The plan comes at the end of a sweeping policy review built around the president’s desire to reverse worsening security in Afghanistan and ‘start winning’ again, said one U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”

Reuters: U.S. Reviews Syria Safe Zones But Warns ‘Devil’s In The Details’

“U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday the United States would closely examine proposed de-escalation zones aimed at easing Syria’s civil war but warned ‘the devil’s in the details’ and that much needed to be worked out. The deal to create ‘de-escalation’ zones in the major areas of conflict in western Syria took effect on Saturday. The initiative was proposed by Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful ally, with the support of Turkey, which backs the opposition. Iran, Assad’s other major ally, also backed it. Political and armed opposition groups have rejected the proposal, saying Russia has been unwilling or unable to get Assad and his Iranian-backed militia allies to respect past ceasefires.”


Reuters: Syrian Peace Talks To Reconvene In Geneva On May 16: U.N.

“United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura said on Monday that he was reconvening peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition in Geneva on May 16. In a statement, de Mistura voiced hope that the agreement reached last week in Astana among Russia, Iran and Turkey to set up ‘de-escalation’ zones in Syria will be implemented in full ‘thus bringing about a significant de-escalation in violence, and helping shape an environment conducive to the political intra-Syrian talks in Geneva’. Syria’s foreign minister Walid al-Moualem said earlier on Monday that Damascus would abide by Russia’s plan for such zones if rebels also observed it, adding that the insurgents should help drive Islamist militants from opposition-controlled areas.”

ABC News: Police: Top Malaysian Islamic State Operative Dead In Syria

“Malaysia’s police chief said the country’s top Islamic State operative was killed in an attack in Syria last month. Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, 26, was believed to have been responsible for a grenade blast at a bar in a suburb outside Kuala Lumpur last June that injured eight people. It was the first attack in the country by the Islamic State militant group. Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar tweeted late Monday that intelligence had been obtained that Muhammad Wanndy died in an attack in Raqqa, Syria, on April 29. He didn’t give further details. Muhammad Wanndy, who was born in the southern state of Malacca, left for Syria with his wife in 2014. In March, the U.S. Treasury Department listed him under their list of global militants.”

The New York Times: Syria Rejects U.N. Monitoring Role In ‘De-Escalation Zones’

“The Syrian government said on Monday that the ‘de-escalation zones’ negotiated by Russia, Iran and Turkey, which took effect this weekend, could not be monitored by others, including the United Nations. The declaration, made by Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem at a news conference in Damascus, Syria, added to uncertainty over how to ensure compliance with the agreement, which theoretically halts hostilities in four regions of the country. ‘We do not accept a role for the United Nations or international forces to monitor the agreement,’ Mr. Moallem told reporters. Should there be violations, he said, ‘the Syrian Army will be prepared to respond in a decisive manner.’”


The Washington Post: After Killing Militant Commander, Afghan Forces Push Deeper Into Islamic State Territory

“Seeking to capitalize on the death of a top Islamic State commander, Afghan forces have surged through districts in eastern Afghanistan long held by the radical Islamist group as warplanes have pounded militant hideouts in the past week, officials said Monday. The offensive in Nangahar province is targeting Islamic State fighters at a time when their numbers are down and their leadership is in disarray after a U.S.-Afghan commando raid in late April killed the group’s senior regional leader, Abdul Hasib. It also underscores the intensifying focus on Nangahar, where on April 13 the U.S. military dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on a complex of caves and tunnels used by the Islamic State, reportedly killing 36 militants. Nangahar, on the border with Pakistan, is a main route for militant fighters and supplies.”

The Guardian: Taliban Teachers: How Militants Are Infiltrating Afghan Schools

“Then Afghan teachers are lobbied to give good marks to mediocre students, the pressure does not necessarily come from disgruntled parents. Often it comes from the Taliban. In areas of eastern Afghanistan, militants intimidate teachers to let older boys who fight with the Taliban pass exams despite lacklustre performances, according to education experts working in the region. They say insurgents also pressure teachers not to record the absence of students who spend much of their time on the frontline. Not all teachers need coercing. Some are themselves active members of the Taliban, swapping chalk for Kalashnikovs after completing the day’s lessons. They take their salary from the Afghan government, whose armed forces they then fight on the battlefield.”


Reuters: Kidnapped Indian Priest In Yemen Pleads For Help In Video

“An Indian priest kidnapped after an attack on a care home in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden last year has appealed for help in a video recording carried by a Yemeni news website. Father Tom Uzhunnalil was abducted in March 2016 when four gunmen posing as relatives of one of the residents at the home burst inside, killing four Indian nuns, two Yemeni female staff members, eight elderly residents and a guard. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack and the motive for the incident was unclear, but President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has called it an act of terrorism. ‘They are treating me well to the extent they are able,’ the white-bearded Uzhunnalil said, speaking slowly in English.”

Saudi Arabia

Associated Press: Iran Warns Saudi Prince For Bringing ‘Battle’ To Iran Remark

 “Iran’s defense minister on Monday lashed back at Saudi Arabia, slamming the kingdom’s deputy crown prince over belligerent comments last week that underscored the deep rivalries between the Sunni and Shiite power. In a wide-ranging interview, Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman said there was no space for dialogue with rival Iran due to its Shiite ambitions ‘to control the Islamic world.’ Framing the tensions with Iran in sectarian terms, the prince said the Saudis would not sit and wait for war but would ‘work so that it becomes a battle for them in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.’”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Palestinian Teen, In Israel On Peace Visit, Charged For Tel Aviv Stabbing

“A Palestinian teenager was charged with terrorism and four counts of attempted murder on Monday for carrying out a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv last month. According to the indictment filed in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, Imag Agbar, 18, from Nablus, confessed to going on a stabbing spree with wire-cutters in the lobby of the Leonardo Beach hotel on April 23. Four people, including a man in his 70s and a woman in her 50s, were hospitalized with light injuries as a result of the attack. The indictment says that Agbar told investigators that he decided ‘to kill Jews because they are Jews, with the intent of either dying or being arrested…[in order] to turn into a martyr or hero.’”

The Jerusalem Post: Palestinian Family Sues Israel For Failing To Prevent Deadly Arson Attack

“Family members of the July 2015 Duma terror attack victims on Monday filed an NIS 15 million civil wrongful death damages claim against the government, claiming it negligently failed to prevent the attack. The firebombing of a home in the West Bank Palestinian village of Duma took the lives of a Palestinian toddler and his parents. The family of the victims claims that the government’s failure to evacuate the outpost from where the terror attack allegedly arose and other illegal outposts, and to arrest and restrain Jewish extremists who had been attacking or inciting against Palestinians, makes it legally responsible for the incident and obligated to pay damages.”


Reuters: East Libyan Forces Launch Assault In Benghazi, 12 Killed

“East Libyan forces pushed on Monday into two districts of Benghazi where they still face resistance, losing at least 12 men in clashes and mine blasts, according to a medical official. From early morning, roads into the Sabri and Souq al-Hout districts were closed and the sound of heavy weapons and flights overhead by military aircraft could be heard in the area. The self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), led by eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar, has been fighting for three years to take control of Benghazi from Islamists and other opponents. Earlier this year it secured districts in the south-west of the city after a long siege, but some of the LNA’s opponents escaped to join fighters in Sabri and Souq al-Hout, to the north.”

Reuters: Hundreds Of Migrants Feared Dead In Mediterranean Over Weekend: Survivors

“More than 200 migrants are feared to have died in the Mediterranean over the weekend, according to testimony from survivors, and several bodies, including that of an infant, have washed up on a Libyan beach. About 7,500 people have been rescued off the coast of Libya since Thursday, the Italian and Libyan coastguards said. Two groups of survivors told the organizations that hundreds drowned when their rubber boats began to deflate before rescuers arrived. More than 60 are feared dead and three bodies were recovered on Saturday, survivors brought to Sicily on Sunday told Italian coastguards. The boat left Libya carrying about 120, they said.”


The New York Times: President Buhari’s Prolonged Absences Put Nigeria On Edge

“Nigeria’s ailing president, Muhammadu Buhari, had been seen in public so rarely that some Nigerians were convinced he was dead. Some of his supporters have called on him to step down, at least until his health improves. His wife recently defended him, posting on Twitter that the president’s condition was ‘not as bad as it’s being perceived.’ As the worries grew, Mr. Buhari desperately needed a victory to show that he was still in control, securely at the helm. Over the weekend he got one: Dozens of the nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped three years ago by Boko Haram were released, by far the biggest break in a case that shocked the nation and the world.”


USA Today: Germany Searches All Military Barracks For Nazi Material

“Germany ordered searches of all army barracks for Nazi memorabilia after finding startling pieces amid growing suspicion of extremism within the military. Two discoveries over the weekend could lead to more Nazi material being found during the searches that will end May 16, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said. ‘More will be revealed, that goes without question. I’m giving everyone fair warning that we will not back down,’ Von der Leyen said Sunday on the political talk show Anne Will. ‘We’re not through the worst just yet.’”

Deutsche Welle: Brother Of Convicted ‘IS’ Supporter Safia Goes On Trial In Germany

“The trial began Monday of an 18-year-old accused of attempting to murder ‘infidels’ by throwing two Molotov cocktails into the entrance of a shopping mall. Both devices failed to ignite, and no one was injured in the attack. The man, identified only as Saleh S. in line with German laws to protect the privacy of defendants, has been in psychiatric custody since December. Authorities say the teenager had hoped to ‘spread fear and terror in the population.’ Prosecutors allege that he traveled to Syria twice to fight alongside extremists. They say that the second time he took his then-15-year-old sister, Safia, to Turkey, where she met with members of the ‘Islamic State.’ Less than a month after the girl’s return, she had been arrested by German police, allegedly for carrying out orders given by IS.”


Deutsche Welle: Amid Evolving Threats, Europol Strengthens Fight Against Terrorism

“‘The threats Europe face do not stop at national borders. Fragmentation makes us all collectively more vulnerable,’ said Europol Director Rob Wainwright and EU Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos in a jointly-authored article published Friday. Over the past year, the EU’s law enforcement coordination agency, Europol , has pushed for increased cooperation between the bloc’s member states in a bid to curb the rising threat of terrorism on European soil. Last week, as a new regulation to modernize Europol’s ability to tackle criminal and terrorist threats came into effect, the EU agency announced it had coordinated an operation that assessed more than 2,000 online items of extremist content hosted across 52 platforms.”

RT: Italian Police Seize 37 Tons Of Drugs Designed For ISIS In Libya

“Police in the northern Italian city of Genoa have intercepted a huge drug shipment bound for Libya. Tons of psychotropic medications, destined for Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL), were seized in cooperation with the Italian customs office. The shipment contained 37.5 tons of tramadol – a synthetic opioid used in treating pain and also actively used across the Middle East as a narcotic substance. The haul also included Captagon, known as the ‘fighter drug’ – an amphetamine-containing substance used by jihadists in several Middle Eastern war zones to enhance battle performance, the Italian La Repubblica newspaper reported citing investigators.”

Associated Press: 2 Islamic State Suspects Arrested In Spain, 1 In Morocco

“Spain’s Interior Ministry says police in Spain and Morocco have arrested three suspected members of the Islamic State group. A ministry statement Monday said the three worked to recruit Islamic State followers and spread propaganda and encouraged jihadi attacks via the internet. It said they had ties with senior IS members in Syria and Iraq and planned to travel to the zone to fight. The ministry said two Moroccans were arrested in the northeastern Spanish towns of Salou and Badalona and a third cell member was arrested in the northern Moroccan port city of Tangier.”

Counter Terrorism

Elnahar News: Yemen: Counter-Terrorism Team In Aden Arrests Sellers Of Weapons And Ammunition

“The counter-terrorism team in Aden Governorate raided the arms market in the Sheikh Othman city district, arresting sellers of weapons, ammunition and military supplies. The operation comes after the commander of Yemen’s Counter-Terrorism Unit, Yusran Almaktary, received specific orders from the Chief of Aden’s police force, General Shallal Ali Shayae, to take control of the weapons market in the Sheikh Othman district.”


All4syria: ISIS Exploits Captive Women For Profit

“ISIS exploits female prisoners, whom its calls “Sabaya”, to coax its militants to continue fighting in its ranks, and to obtain additional revenues. “Abu Qassem,” a civilian fleeing from one of Deir al-Zour’s neighborhood, which are under ISIS control, recounted how the terror organization treats female prisoners and bestows them as ‘gifts’ to entice its militants to continue fighting in its ranks. He also explained how the leaders of the organization use these women to recruit more militants. He was quoted as saying, “There are places dedicated to the Sabaya where they are sold and purchased in slave-market style, reminiscent of the pre-Islamic era. Furthermore, there are so-called ‘guest houses’ where the ‘hire’ of Sabaya for the night and return by day is offered.”

Ashnona: Iraqi Forces Reclaim Antiquities About To Be Smuggled By ISIS

“The Iraqi Deputy Tourism and Antiquities Minister, Qais Hussein Rashid, said the archaeological sites in the province of Nineveh suffered heavy losses. This is due to the criminal practices of ISIS gangs, including bombings {of historic sites}. He added that the security forces found 120 ancient artifacts and handed them over to the Iraqi National Museum. Rashid asserted that the findings were going to be smuggled through tunnels dug by ISIS terrorists under the mosque of the Prophet Yunus in the city of Mosul, with the original aim of locating the palace of Assyrian King, Esarhaddon. Rashid noted that the criminal gangs used the method of selling antiquities to finance their terrorist operations, emphasizing that the number of antiquities stolen from the Mosul Museum amounted to 128 pieces.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Parlmany: Egypt: Draft Law Focuses On The Management Of Muslim Brotherhood-Owned Funds And Assets

“Egyptian MP Mustafa Bakri submitted a bill to Dr. Ali Abdul Aal, Speaker of the Parliament, concerning the establishment and organization of the National Committee for Management of Funds and Assets Belonging to Terrorist Entities and Individuals. On the top of the list are assets belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. 65 MPs signed the draft law, meaning more than 10% of the overall number of deputies {which is the prerequisite for submitting such a draft law}. The draft law stipulates that the chairmanship of this committee will be granted to the Egyptian Attorney General. Bakri claimed that this bill will revoke the Prime Minister’s decisions No. 1141 of 2013, No. 950 of 2014 and the Justice Minister’s decision No. 7995 of 2013 on the establishment of the Brotherhood Asset Freeze Committee. The law, if adopted, will cancel any provision that contravenes the provisions of this law.”


Kabtnnywoz: Houthi Group Opens Camps To Recruit And Train Women

“Yemen’s Houthi militia announced the opening of several new camps designed for female recruits’ military training. This comes after many Yemenis {refusing to fight in the ranks of the Houthis} have fled. After recruiting children {without their parent’s knowledge} and dispatching them to battlefields in the various Yemeni governorates. Observers quoting sources in Yemen claimed that the Houthi militias are overseeing the new training camps, which are being erected in some of the residential areas in Sana’a.”


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