Eye on Extremism, May 15, 2017

Voice Of America: US-Backed Syrian Kurdish Fighters Advance On IS Stronghold

“Monitors say Kurdish-led Syrian forces, backed by a U.S.-led air coalition, are battling Islamic State extremists on the northern outskirts of Raqqa, the IS de facto capital seized by the militant group three years ago. The activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) advanced within four kilometers of Raqqa as fighting raged at several points north and east of the besieged city. An SDF spokesman, speaking Friday, said an anti-jihadist assault on the fortified northern city would most likely begin in the next several months.”

CNN: On The Frontline Of ISIS’ Last Stand In Iraq

“Flies buzz around the drying rivulets of blood seeping from the heads of two corpses draped over the hood of a Humvee. One of the bodies, partially charred, lies face down; by his chest is webbing where he had kept magazines for an automatic rifle. The other, with long matted hair, faces the Humvee’s bullet-pocked windshield. His ragged pants are pulled down around his knees, a piece of green and yellow electric wire loosely wound around his ankles. Two Iraqi soldiers step in front of the Humvee. Raising his phone, one takes a selfie of the two in front of their trophy. For a moment, they flash a smile. ‘They had pills in their pockets,’ one of the soldiers tells me. ‘That’s how they keep fighting.’”

Fox News: Bin Laden’s Son Poised To Become Al Qaeda Leader, Letters Seized In Raid Reportedly Reveal

“Usama bin Laden’s son reportedly seeks to avenge his father’s death and is poised to become the new leader of Al Qaeda. Personal letters seized in the raid that killed bin Laden show that his son, Hamza, is set on continuing his father’s legacy, Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent, told CBS News in an interview that will air Sunday. “He tells him that…he remembers ‘every look…every smile you gave me, every word you told me,’” Soufan said about bin Laden’s son. Soufan also told CBS News that Hamza wrote that he considers himself “to be forged in steel.” Soufan said that Hamza’s path to become the leader of the terrorist organization was created years ago when he was used as a propaganda tool in bin Laden’s videos. He was seen sometimes holding a gun. The agent added that he has even started to sound like his father.”

The New York Post: Meet The American Women Who Are Flocking To Join ISIS

“ISIS is recruiting an army of AK-47-brandishing women from the West who are just as bloodthirsty as the men they are marrying. Calling themselves ‘lionesses of Allah,’ they are thought to now number more than 600, and they’re bearing the next generation of terrorists, whom they call ‘cubs of the caliphate.’ Many of these women are true believers who trust that even with horrific gore and bloodshed, they are helping carry out the holy work of Allah in restoring the ancient Islamic caliphate, and that once it’s reestablished, all believers will live in peace and harmony under Islamic rule.”

Reuters: Jordanian Stabs Israeli Police Officer, Shot Dead: Police

“A Jordanian citizen stabbed and wounded an Israeli police officer who then shot him dead in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday, Israeli police said, the latest in a string of street attacks. Police spokeswoman Luba Simri said the officer was walking down a street when he was attacked by a 57-year-old Jordanian who had arrived in Israel for a visit a few days earlier. ‘The terrorist rushed toward him, whipped out a knife that he had in his possession, stormed him and began stabbing him. The police officer responded with determination and in a professional manner, managed to activate his weapon and neutralized him,’ Simri said.”

Daily Beast: This Doctor Saved a Thousand ISIS Slaves

“The Iraqi women who escaped from ISIS had their sights set on a new life in Germany. Where that was, they weren’t sure, but it was far away, they heard, and Dr. Mirza would take them there. His name was invoked all around the city of Duhok, in northern Iraq, from the dusty camps to the unfinished concrete houses where survivors had been sheltering since escaping bondage at the hands of ISIS fighters. None of the women—who were spirited to safety by smugglers or who daringly ran from their ISIS captors on their own—could explain how they were getting to Germany without money or passports, or who exactly Dr. Mirza even was. (“An important man,” one said. “A friend to the Yazidis,” said another.) The women were all Yazidis, members of the religious minority that had borne the brunt of the ISIS rampage in the summer of 2014, with the militants massacring thousands of men and taking thousands more women and children as slaves.”

AFP: North Korea Says ‘New Missile’ Can Carry Nuclear Warhead

“Leader Kim Jong-Un personally oversaw the test on Sunday, the official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said, and pictures by state media showed him gazing at the missile in a hangar before the launch. In others he gleefully clasped hands with officers and staff after the black missile — named as the Hwasong-12 — ascended into the sky in the dawn light, atop a column of fire. The isolated North is under multiple sets of United Nations sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes, which have triggered global alarm. The missile was launched on an unusually high trajectory, with KCNA saying it flew to an altitude of 2,111.5 kilometres and travelled 787 kilometres before coming down in the Sea of Japan (East Sea). That suggests a range of 4,500 kilometres (2,800 miles) or more if flown for maximum distance, analysts said.”

Daily Post: How Boko Haram Groomed Me To Kill – 14-Year-Old Suspected Suicide Bomber

“A 14-year-old suspected female suicide bomber (names withheld) has opened up on how Boko Haram groomed her to kill. The suicide bomber, in her confession to the Nigerian Army, said Boko Haram leaders chose her to detonate an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Maiduguri, Borno State, because she refused to get married to members in Sambisa. She was among three suspects arrested by the military when they allegedly went for a suicide mission at a military facility in Jakana, in Maiduguri. The suspect told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Maiduguri, yesterday, that she was sent on the mission to detonate the device because she refused marriage proposals from three Boko Haram terrorists. According to the suspect, she was abducted with her father, Usman, by Boko Haram insurgents in Gwoza, Borno, in 2013 and added that she and her father were running to Mandara mountain for safety when they were abducted.”

Wall Street Journal: Christians, In An Epochal Shift, Are Leaving The Middle East

“Like the Jews before them, Christians are fleeing the Middle East, emptying what was once one of the world’s most-diverse regions of its ancient religions. They’re being driven away not only by Islamic State, but by governments the U.S. counts as allies in the fight against extremism. When suicide bomb attacks ripped through two separate Palm Sunday services in Egypt last month, parishioners responded with rage at Islamic State, which claimed the blasts, and at Egyptian state security. Government forces assigned to the Mar Girgis church in Tanta, north of Cairo, neglected to fix a faulty metal detector at the entrance after church guards found a bomb on the grounds just a week before. The double bombing killed at least 45 people, and came despite promises from the Egyptian government to protect its Christian minority.”

Daily Mail: Only British Woman Fighting On The Front Line In Syria Is Ready To Die In The Battle To Capture ISIS’ Capital Raqqa

“A young British woman who left her home in Lancashire last March to fight ISIS on the Syrian front lines has said that she is ready to die in the fight to capture the terrorist stronghold Raaqa.  ‘I don’t want to die. I have too many ideas. But I kind of accept it,’ Kimberley Taylor told The Times. The 28-year-old decided to leave the UK after a friend’s village in northern Syria was ransacked by ISIS and she maintains that initial conviction that defeating ISIS is a cause worthy of her life.”

United States

The Hill: Trump Set For Tense Meeting With Turkey After ISIS Decision

“President Trump could be headed for a testy meeting with Turkey’s leader next week now that the United States has decided to arm a group of Kurdish fighters in Syria.  What could have been an opportunity for both leaders to make good on promises to mend relations was thrown into doubt when Trump approved a Pentagon plan to arm Kurdish fighters known as the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Turkey considers the YPG to be a terrorist group. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will come to Washington on Tuesday having vowed to persuade Trump to change his mind, putting the future of relations with a NATO ally on uncertain footing.”

Syria

Reuters: Syrian Army Sends Reinforcements Toward Border With Iraq: Rebels

“The Syrian army aided by Iranian-backed militias was moving troops to a desert region near its border with Iraq and Jordan just as U.S. backed rebels are consolidating control in an area from which Islamic State militants had recently pulled out, rebel sources and commanders said on Monday. They said their intelligence showed that hundreds of Syrian troops and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias with tanks and heavy equipment had moved in the last few days to the town of Sabaa Biyar, in a sparsely populated desert territory that goes all the way to the Jordanian and Iraqi border known as the Syrian Badia.”

Reuters: Syrian Army Regains Control Of Airport In Northern Syria From Islamic State

“The Syrian army has taken full control of a small airbase in the eastern Aleppo countryside that had been held by Islamic State, helped by heavy aerial bombing by Russian and Syrian airforces, pro-state media and an army source said on Saturday. The al-Jarrah airport is located in the hardline militants’ remaining enclave in eastern Aleppo countryside, a region where they have mostly lost control to competing forces ranging from the Syrian army, U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces to Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels. The airport was briefly stormed by the army’s elite forces last March, but the militants repelled that attack on the base they had held since 2014.”

Fox News: The Latest: Syria Military Says It Seized Damascus Suburb

“Syrian State TV is reporting that the military has captured from rebel fighters a major suburb on the eastern edge of Damascus. The opposition Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says rebels remain in control of parts of the Qaboun neighborhood, which along with Barzeh and Jobar, formed an arc from the northern to the eastern edge of Damascus. The Syrian media report says the military recaptured Qaboun Saturday, as the evacuation of adjacent besieged rebel-held neighborhoods was underway.”

Iraq

Reuters: Iraqi Forces Attack Islamic State In Mosul As Battle Approaches Endgame

“U.S.-backed Iraqi forces pushed deeper into the last pocket of Mosul controlled by Islamic State militants on Sunday as the battle for the city approaches an end after seven months of gruelling urban combat. The militants have now been dislodged from all but a handful of districts in the western half of Mosul including the Old City, where Islamic State is expected to make its last stand, taking advantage of narrow streets and its dense population. Brigadier General Yahya Rasoul said the area controlled by Islamic State was no more than 9 percent of west Mosul, which is bisected by the River Tigris.”

Turkey

Reuters: China’s Xi Calls For Greater Counter-Terrorism Cooperation With Turkey

“Chinese President Xi Jinping has told his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan that the two should deepen counter-terrorism cooperation, amid Chinese concern about ethnic Uighurs from its Xinjiang region fighting with militants in the Middle East. Uighurs are a largely Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority from China’s western Xinjiang region. Hundreds, possibly thousands, keen to escape unrest in Xinjiang, have traveled clandestinely via Southeast Asia to Turkey, where many see themselves as sharing religious and cultural ties. Beijing says some Uighurs then end up fighting with Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria. Meeting on the sidelines of a summit about China’s new Silk Road plan, Xi told Erdogan that developing strategic cooperation was in the interests of both countries, China’s foreign ministry said late on Saturday.”

Afghanistan

The Daily Caller: NATO Says More Troops Needed To Stop Taliban In Afghanistan

“As Canada debates its role in a major battle in the Afghanistan war, NATO is desperately seeking to bolster its forces in the still divided country to fight a revitalized Taliban, the National Post reports. NATO will officially request re-deployment on May 25 when the alliance meets in Brussels for its annual summit. Both President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be present. The request for a bolstered military presence comes from alliance commanders in Aghanistan who say the Afghan forces are unable to cope with a Taliban threat that is growing stronger. At least several thousand more NATO soldiers will be required to meet that increased threat, said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who estimated that the Taliban now has hegemony of 40 percent of the country.”

Saudi Arabia

The Times Of Israel: US, Saudi Arabia In ‘Final Stages’ Of Negotiating $300 Billon Arms Deal

“The United States and Saudi Arabia are said to be in the ‘final stages’ of negotiating a series of arms deals ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh next weekend. A senior White House official told Reuters over the weekend that the arms package totaling over $300 billion was designed to boost Riyadh’s defense capabilities while maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East. ‘We are in the final stages of a series of deals,’ the unnamed official told the agency Friday. ‘It’s good for the American economy but it will also be good in terms of building a capability that is appropriate for the challenges of the region.’”

Egypt

Associated Press: Egyptian Judges Defy New Law On Judiciary Appointments

“Judges from one of the Egyptian judiciary’s three main branches voted Saturday to defy a newly adopted and widely disputed law giving the president a degree of control over the judiciary, nominating as head of their branch a judge who ruled against a government decision to surrender two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. State Council judges, who rule on disputes with the government, voted overwhelmingly to put forward judge Yahya Dakroury, their most senior, as their nominee to head their branch. The move clashes with the new law that stipulates that each judiciary branch nominate three of its seven most senior judges to the president to choose one to head each of the three branches.”

Nigeria

The New York Times: Hunting Big Game Or Boko Haram, ‘You Kill It Or It Kills You’

“Mr. Bukar and dozens of members of a century-old hunting association have trained their weapons on Boko Haram, the Islamist militants who have shot, kidnapped and burned their way through villages on an eight-year campaign of murder and destruction across the region. Nigeria has marshaled huge battalions of soldiers to carry out a sweeping operation to attack and kill the insurgents, who have since retreated to remote forest hideouts. Fed up with Boko Haram’s mayhem, civilians have formed vigilante groups to join the fight. Enter Mr. Bukar and the Hunters/Vigilante Association in Borno State, the epicenter of Nigeria’s battle with Boko Haram.”

Germany

NBC News: German Military Faces Overhaul In Wake Of Far-Right Scandals

“The case of two German soldiers accused of plotting terrorist attacks — and even creating a false identity so they could blame a non-existent refugee — has resurfaced awkward questions about the country’s Nazi legacy. The government has promised to reform its armed forces amid a growing series of scandals showing links between members serving in the Bundeswehr and the far-right. The crackdown includes all military facilities being searched after Nazi-era helmets, pistols and military decorations were reportedly discovered in a display case at a barracks. Memorabilia from the Wehrmacht, the army which served Adolf Hitler, along with Nazi symbols are banned by the military.”

France

BBC News: President Macron: Does He Have What It Takes To Reform France?

“Emmanuel Macron’s achievements in this presidential election should not be underestimated. He has become France’s youngest president ever, and the world’s youngest democratic head of state. This is an astounding accomplishment for someone who was unknown five years ago and has never held elected office before. Despite the rise in social conservatism and extremism in France, he successfully ran on an open-border, pro-trade platform to defeat far-right Eurosceptic Marine Le Pen. It’s one thing to get elected, but another to reform a country that has resisted any major economic change over the past 40 years. When Great Britain was showing the way to economic reform in the 1980s and the 1990s with Thatcherism and Blairism, France was looking backwards.”

ABC News: Extremism, Jobs, Europe _ Challenges Facing France’s Macron

“With more than 230 people killed in extremist attacks since 2015, Macron needs to prove he has a robust plan to protect the French from terrorism. The former banker launched his presidential campaign with a plan to tackle extremist attacks by obliging internet companies to release encrypted messages. But Le Pen tried to paint him as weak and inexperienced on security issues while she promoted her plans to expel individuals on the security-threat list and stamp out Islamic extremism.”

Europe

Reuters: Italy Expels Tunisian Connected To Berlin Market Attacker

“Italy has expelled a Tunisian citizen suspected of having been in contact with the man who killed 12 people by driving a truck through a Christmas market in Berlin last year, the interior ministry said on Saturday. The 36 year-old had been living on the southern island of Sicily, where Berlin attacker Anis Amri spent time in jail and a deportation center, the ministry said in a statement. He gave Amri a telephone and the two stayed in contact after the latter moved to Germany. Amri returned to Italy after the Dec. 19 attack, and was shot dead by Milan police. Investigators tapped the telephone of the other Tunisian and discovered he had been in contact with extremist suspects and was planning to cross illegally to France, the ministry said.”

Reuters: Italy Rescues 484 Migrants In Mediterranean, Finds 7 Bodies

“May 14 Rescuers saved 484 migrants from boats in the Mediterranean on Saturday and found the bodies of seven men who had died in the attempt to get to Europe, Italy’s coast guard said. More than 45,000 people have reached Italy by boat from North Africa this year, a more than 40 percent increase on the same period of 2016, and 1,222 people are known to have died on the route, according to the International Organisation for Migration. The migrants were rescued from four separate rubber boats by the Italian coast guard and navy, an aid group and two private vessels, the coast guard said in a statement. The coast guard gave no further details. Most sea-borne migrants to Italy are originally from Sub-Saharan Africa or Bangladesh, and pay Libya-based smugglers to organise their passage.”

Deutsche Welle: Germany, Italy Float EU Mission To Stop Migrants In Southern Libya

“German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and his Italian counterpart Marco Minniti want a joint EU mission to patrol Libya’s lawless southern border with Niger to stop migrants from reaching Europe, the German weekly newspaper ‘Welt am Sonntag’ reported on Sunday, citing a letter the ministers sent to the European Commission. ‘The first months of this year have shown that our efforts up to this point have been insufficient. We must prevent hundreds of thousands of people who are in the hands of smugglers from risking their lives in Libya and the Mediterranean,’ the ministers wrote in a letter to the EU’s executive.”

The Guardian: Why No Deal On EU Security Would Spell Danger

“Today, like tomorrow and the day after, UK police will receive, on average, the location of 78 persons of interest – terror suspects, wanted criminals or missing children – whom they have been hoping to catch travelling through mainland Europe. These individuals are found by a vast, ingenious database that few have heard of, but which is considered invaluable by all who use it. The Schengen Information System (SIS) is now, say Europe’s law enforcement officials, one of the basic security building blocks keeping Britain safe.”

ISIS

Hamrin News: Theft Of ISIS Funds In The Province Of Nineveh

“According to a local source in the Iraqi province of Nineveh, ISIS’s official in charge of the group’s Finance House and three of his aides fled to an unknown destination in possession of millions of dollars. The same source claimed that ISIS mobilized its militants in Tal Afar to pursue them. The source, who asked not to be named, was quoted as saying, “The official in charge of the Finance House in the district of Tal Afar, in the western part of Nineveh {province}, nicknamed Abu al-Baraa Al Qahtani, disappeared with three of his assistants in possession of millions of dollars.” The source noted that “these funds are {supposed to pay} the salaries of the group’s militants in the so-called Nineveh province.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Veto: Ex-Jihadi Accuses Acting Brotherhood Leader Of Robbing One Billion Egyptian Pounds From The Group’s Coffers

“Sheikh Nabil Naim, former leader of the Islamic Jihadist movement in Egypt, said, “The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mahmoud Ezzat, seized one billion Egyptian pounds ($55 million) from funds meant to support Muslim Brotherhood prisoners.” He lamented that, because the state does not have a clear strategy to counter terrorism, it has left college students as easy prey to terrorist groups. Naim, in his interview with TV host Eman el Hossary on “Masaa’ DMC” show, urged the state to show greater interest in the youth’s education. He asserted that terror groups recruit naive youth, who are exploited for the war effort and later discarded. Naim urged the state to launch a national enterprise that youth will be inclined to support.”

Dostor: Egypt: Terrorist Cell Targeting Security Installations In Suez Dismantled

“Investigations by the National Security Service in Suez uncovered a plot to target police stations and security checkpoints on desert roads in the governorate. National security agents arrested two persons in a village in the governorate’s rural district, suspected of tracking police sites and monitoring security checkpoints. After their arrest and interrogation, security forces found in the suspects’ possessions bank transfers from Muslim Brotherhood leaders outside Egypt and details concerning police installations. The suspects admitted using explosives to detonate a security center and checkpoints, in retaliation for operations by police and army forces. They admitted having received funds from Brotherhood fugitive leaders in return for carrying out terrorist schemes.”

Elwatan News: UAE Researcher: Illegal Money Collection By The Brotherhood

“Dr. Ateeq Jaka Al Mansouri, an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at UAE University (UAEU), noted that an Asian Brotherhood member is closer to a UAE Brotherhood member than to his fellow countrymen. He pointed out that illegal fundraising and political ties abroad were the mainstays of the Brotherhood’s secret organization. Al Mansouri added that at one time, the leaders of the group in Egypt called for carrying arms and preparing to fight anyone who does not answer the call to revive the Islamic Caliphate.”

Hezbollah

Lebanon Debate: Joint International Resolutions To Disable Hezbollah’s Commercial And Financial Activities

“Informed sources revealed the most prominent aspects of the resolutions and discussions that took place in Washington, D.C. on May 4th-5th, attended by some 20 countries from Europe, South America and the Arabian Gulf including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. The discussions focused on the ways to make a joint international effort to address the commercial and financial activities of Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The sources disclosed that the delegations discussed the threat posed to Lebanon’s financial and civil institutions by the financial activities of Hezbollah. They also discussed the ways in which the militia conducts its financial activity, be it through the Lebanese or international banking system. The sources added that one of the decisions reached regarded the urgent need to start acting immediately against charities outside Lebanon, which transfer large sums of money to Hezbollah.”

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