Eye on Extremism, May 25, 2017

The New York Times: Hunt For Manchester Bombing Accomplices Extends To Libya

“The police accelerated their hunt Wednesday for co-plotters of the Manchester concert bombing, making at least a half-dozen arrests in Britain, searching for a possible clandestine bomb factory and extending the investigation to Libya, where two of the bomber’s relatives were detained. The developments indicated that the bomber, Salman Abedi, 22, was part of a wider and more sophisticated plot than was initially thought and that finding the bomb’s origins had now become a priority in a country still reeling from the terrorist attack, the worst in Britain in more than a decade.”

Associated Press: Father And Brother Of Alleged Bomber Detained In Libya

“The father and younger brother of the man who British police say bombed an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester have been detained in Libya, where anti-terror authorities said the brother confessed to knowing “all the details” of the attack plot. Hashim Abedi, the 18-year-old brother of alleged British-born bomber Salman Abedi, 22, was detained in Tripoli Tuesday night, a spokesman for a Libyan anti-terror force said Wednesday. The Special Deterrent force said in a statement on its Facebook page that Hashim Abedi had told investigators after his arrest that both he and his brother belonged to the Islamic State group.”

Fox Business News: CEP Spokesperson Tara Maller discusses the latest facts surrounding the perpetrator of the Manchester attack and his family.

Daily Mail: Manchester Terrorist Salman Abedi’s Own Mother And His Classmates ‘Warned Security Services He Was Dangerous And Supported Suicide Bombings’

“A US intelligence official, who claimed to have direct knowledge of the investigation, told NBC that Abedi had ties to al Qaeda and had received terrorist training abroad. In the last 12 months the terrorist had traveled to Libya and could have connections to several extremist groups. The news came as Abedi’s father, Ramadan, was detained by masked gunmen while recording TV interviews in Libya and his younger brother, Hashem, 20, was arrested in Tripoli on suspicion of having links to the ISIS. His mother, Samia Tabbal, 50, and father, an airport security officer, were both born in Tripoli but emigrated to London to flee the Gaddafi regime. They moved to the Whalley Range area of south Manchester where they have lived for at least a decade.”

Scientific American: When Hatred Goes Viral: Inside Social Media’s Efforts To Combat Terrorism

“Whether Google had turned a blind eye to such content is a matter of debate, primarily between the company and the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), a nonprofit nongovernmental organization formed in 2014 to monitor and report on the activities of terrorist groups and their supporters. More certain is the fact that on Google’s sprawling YouTube network there is no easy way to find and take down all or even most of the video that crosses the line from being merely provocative to a full-on call for violence and hatred. Social media sites including Facebook, Google and Twitter have for the past few years used Microsoft’s PhotoDNA software with some success to automatically identify still images they might want to remove—but there has been no comparable tool for video.”

NBC News: U.S. Fears New Threat From ISIS Drones

“U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that ISIS may use drones in terrorist attacks, according to congressional testimony on Tuesday. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the terrorist group has begun using ‘unmanned aerial vehicles,’ aka drones, for both surveillance and attacks. ‘In the past year, ISIS’s use of unmanned aerial systems (drones) for surveillance and delivery of explosives has increased, posing a new threat to civilian infrastructure and military installations.’ Stewart testified. Although the group has used drones on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, Stewart’s comments came during a discussion of the worldwide threat posed by ISIS and how it may expand, and soon after the terror group released a video highlighting its use of drones.”

Reuters: Syrian Army Says Senior Islamic State Militant Killed

“The Syrian army said on Wednesday it had killed Islamic State’s military commander in Syria during operations in the north of the country, where the Russian-backed government forces are seizing more territory back from the jihadist group. If confirmed, this would represent a major blow against Islamic State (IS) ahead of an attack which the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters – are expected to launch against the jihadists in their stronghold of Raqqa city. A Syrian military source told Reuters the IS commander, Abu Musab al-Masri, had been the group’s ‘minister of war’ for Syria. Syrian state media had earlier cited a military source as saying he was the organization’s ‘minister of war’, suggesting he was the overall IS military commander.”

Reuters: Thousands Flee Philippine City After Rebel Rampage Claimed By Islamic State

“Thousands of civilians fled fighting in the Philippines on Wednesday as troops tried to fend off Islamist militants who took over large parts of a city, capturing Christians, seizing and torching buildings and setting free scores of prisoners. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the rampage via its Amaq news agency, and President Rodrigo Duterte defended his decision to declare martial law on Mindanao, the Muslim-majority island where Marawi City is located, to prevent the spread of extremism in the impoverished region. The violence flared in Marawi on Tuesday afternoon after a botched raid by security forces on a hideout of the Maute, a militant group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.”

Reuters: Use Of Air Power In Afghanistan Up Sharply As Trump Troop Decision Looms

“U.S. warplanes dropped more weapons on Afghanistan in April than in any other single month since 2012, according to new statistics, as military officials press U.S. President Donald Trump to send thousands more troops to the country. The escalation in the use of American air power was partly due to an effort by U.S. commanders to wipe out a nascent Islamic State presence before the group can establish more of a foothold in the county, a military spokesman said. The U.S. Air Force unleashed 460 bombs, missiles, or other ordnance last month in Afghanistan, more than double the 203 weapons dropped in March and more than seven times the quantity deployed in April last year. Trump has yet to announce a decision on proposals from his top military advisers calling for the United States and its coalition allies to send 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

United States

The Hill: US Unhindered By Russian No-Fly Zones In Syria

“Russian-declared no-fly zones in Syria are not restricting where the U.S.-led coalition flies its aircraft in targeting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighters, the U.S. general in charge of the air war against ISIS said Wednesday. ‘We don’t recognize any specific zone in itself that we preclude ourselves from operating in,’ said Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command. ‘Wherever the enemy’s at, wherever they present themselves, we are able to get after them.’ Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Harrigian said the U.S. doesn’t coordinate or seek permission from Russia in carrying out air attacks, including a strike last week on militia aligned with Syrian president Bashar Assad in southern Syria.”

The Hill: White House At Odds Over More Troops To Afghanistan: Report

“President Trump’s decision on whether to add thousands of U.S. troops to the fight in Afghanistan has been delayed thanks to an intense debate within the White House over the plan, The New York Times reported Wednesday. Trump, who will arrive at a NATO summit in Belgium on Thursday, was expected to make a decision on the additional troop deployment before the meeting. But officials told the Times the decision has been postponed, as Trump wants to assess what other NATO members are willing to contribute to the military effort before he makes any commitment. The U.S. spends about $3.1 billion per month in Afghanistan.”

Bloomberg: Trump’s Anti-Terrorism Call Resonates At NATO After Manchester Attack

“U.S. President Donald Trump’s demands to step up the fight against terrorism are set to resonate with his NATO partners when he visits the alliance headquarters for the first time on Thursday. A deadly bombing in the U.K. this week has given fresh urgency to his call for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to become more engaged in fighting global terrorism. France and Germany dropped their resistance to an upgrade of NATO’s role in the international coalition against Islamic State on the eve of the summit. Trump’s meeting with fellow NATO leaders in Brussels, a city he once called a ‘hellhole,’ will go a long way to determining the future strength of the trans-Atlantic alliance. While facing foot-dragging from countries including Italy and Germany to his calls to raise defense spending, he’s likely to find common ground on the shared threat posed by radical Islamist terrorism.”


Reuters: Syrian Force Urges Raqqa Jihadists To Surrender By End-May

“A U.S.-backed alliance of Syrian militias promised on Thursday that no harm would come to Islamic State fighters in Raqqa who turned themselves in by the end of the month, calling on them to lay down their arms ahead of an expected assault on the city. The Syrian Democratic Forces, which groups Kurdish and Arab fighters, has advanced to within a few kilometres (miles) of Raqqa city at the nearest point, in an offensive that got underway in November to encircle and capture the city. The SDF, which includes the powerful Kurdish YPG militia, said earlier this month it expects to launch the final assault on Raqqa in early summer. YPG and SDF officials had previously given April start dates for the assault, but these slipped.”

BBC News: Syria War: Air Strike Near Raqqa ‘Kills 16 Civilians’

“At least 16 civilians have been killed in a US-led coalition air strike near so-called Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, activists say. Women and children were among those who died overnight in the village of al-Baruda, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Anti-IS group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently said many were displaced residents of Homs province. The coalition said an assessment team was examining the reports. Its warplanes are conducting strikes against IS targets in support of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish militias that is preparing to launch an assault on Raqqa. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters are only 3km (2 miles) from the eastern edge of the city, which is de facto capital of the caliphate proclaimed by IS in 2014.”

The Washington Post: U.S. And Russia Boost Dialogue About Syria Operations To Include Generals

“The U.S. military and Russia have stepped up their communication about operations over Syria to include dialogue between U.S. and Russian generals in the Middle East, said the top Air Force general in the region. Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, the commander of Air Forces Central Command, told reporters at the Pentagon that ‘deconfliction’ between the two countries has been boosted as the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State progresses in preparation for an assault on Raqqa, the de facto capital of the militant group. The talks are designed to prevent aerial accidents or clashes between aircraft.”


BBC News: Iraq Investigates Alleged Abuses By Mosul Troops

“Iraq has opened an inquiry into claims that its forces abused and killed civilians in the battle for Mosul against so-called Islamic State (IS). An interior ministry statement said it would take legal measures against anyone proven to have been ‘negligent’. It comes after Der Spiegel published an article by a photojournalist who was embedded with the ministry’s troops. Ali Arkady says he took pictures of detainees suspended from ceilings and that others were tortured and raped.”


Reuters: French Journalist Held By Turkey Begins Hunger Strike: Activist Group

“A French photographer detained two weeks ago by Turkish police while on assignment in the mainly Kurdish southeast has begun a hunger strike to protest against his detention, a press activism group said on Wednesday, citing his lawyer. Istanbul-based freelance journalist Mathias Depardon was taken into custody by police in Batman province on May 8 and has been held at a deportation center in the border province of Gaziantep, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a statement. Citing Depardon’s lawyer, RSF said he started the hunger strike on Sunday. ‘The ordeal to which Matthias Depardon is being subjected is unacceptable and has lasted for too long,’ said Johann Birr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.”


The Guardian: Australian Kidnapped In Yemen ‘Safe And Well’ After Negotiators Secure Release

“Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, says an Australian kidnapped in Yemen in October last year has been released and is ‘safe and well’. The Omani government said it had evacuated an Australian from Yemen on Wednesday following negotiations through tribal mediators. The foreign ministry did not name the man and it was not immediately clear if he was Craig McAllister, who was abducted in the rebel-held Yemeni capital of Sanaa in September. The ministry said only that it had acted at the request of the Australian authorities.”


Reuters: Egypt Puts Lawyer With Presidential Ambitions On Trial

“An Egyptian human rights lawyer and would-be presidential election candidate is to stand trial next week charged with offending public decency, his lawyer said on Wednesday. Khaled Ali, 45, was detained on Tuesday in what rights group Amnesty International said was part of a campaign of intimidation aimed at discouraging participation in the election, due to take place next summer. A prosecutor on Wednesday released Ali on bail and set his trial for May 29, Ali’s lawyer Malek Adly said. The charge he faces relates to a photograph in which he appears to make a rude hand gesture on the steps of a Cairo court house, according to Adly. Ali denies the authenticity of the photo.”

Reuters: Egypt Blocks 21 Websites, Including Al Jazeera: State News Agency

“Egypt has banned 21 websites, including the main website of Qatar-based al Jazeera television, for ‘supporting terrorism’, state news agency MENA and security sources said on Wednesday. Reuters tried to access five websites named by local Egyptian newspapers and broadcasters, including the Al Jazeera website, and found them all inaccessible. There was no immediate official comment available. An official from the National Telecom Regulatory Authority could not confirm or deny the news, but said: ‘So what if it is true? It should not be a problem.’”

Middle East

Voice Of America: Israel Alters Intelligence Sharing With US

“Israel says it has changed its intelligence-sharing protocols with the United States after President Donald Trump disclosed classified information to Russian diplomats earlier this month that had come from Israel, even though Tel Aviv had not assented to his handing it to another country. Israeli defense chief Avigdor Liberman told Army Radio on Wednesday, ‘I can confirm that we did a spot repair and that there’s unprecedented intelligence cooperation with the United States.’”


BBC News: Manchester Attack: The Libya-Jihad Connection

“As each hour passes we learn more about Salman Abedi. What we don’t know yet is his exact journey from Manchester-born boy to suicide bomber. The BBC has been told by a Muslim community worker that members of the public called the police anti-terrorism hotline about Abedi’s extreme and violent views several years ago. We don’t know how the police responded to these reported hotline calls – but we have also learnt that earlier this year, Abedi’s behaviour again raised concerns. According to our sources, he told local people about the value of dying for a cause. He also made hardline statements about suicide bombings and the conflict in Libya.”

United Kingdom

CNN: British Authorities Warn Of ‘Damage’ To Investigation From Leaks

“Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham says he has contacted the US Ambassador to the UK over the leaks to the media from the investigation into Monday’s terrorist attack. ‘It’s not acceptable to me that here there is a live investigation taking place and we cannot have information being put in the public domain that’s not in the direct control of British police and security service,’ Burnham told the BBC Wednesday. ‘To have information put in the public domain before it was put there by people here is just wrong.’ Twenty-two people were killed in Monday’s attack at the Manchester Arena, when a 22-year-old man detonated an explosive device shortly after an Ariana Grande concert.”

CNN: Manchester Attack: Police Move In On Arena Bomber’s ‘Network’

“A flurry of raids and arrests on Wednesday took aim at a terror network associated with the former university student who conducted the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester days after returning from Libya, officials say. Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old British-born national of Libyan descent, has been identified by police as the suicide bomber in the Manchester Arena attack Monday night.”

Newsweek: Who Is Hashem Abedi? Manchester Bomber’s Brother Confessed To Isis Membership, Libyan Force Claims

“The brother of the suicide brother who killed 22 people at a concert in Manchester Monday night has been arrested in Tripoli and confessed to being a member of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), a Libyan militia force claimed Wednesday. After initially stating that Hashem Abedi had been arrested on suspicion of links to ISIS, the local counter-terrorism force, known as Rada, said that the 20-year-old had confessed to involvement with the group. A photo of Abedi was also released. On Tuesday, Salman Abedi was named as the suicide bomber who detonated a device just moments after a concert featuring American pop star Ariana Grande at Manchester Arena. Salman Abedi, who was born and raised in Manchester to Libyan parents, is believed to have been in Libya prior to the attack.”


Associated Press: Germany Detain 9 Men, 4 Tied To Violent Extremism

“Police in Berlin have raided six sites across the German capital and detained nine people, some with links to Islamic extremism. In a statement Wednesday, police said the men were wanted on suspicion of organized drug dealing. Police said arrest warrants existed for three of those detained and a fourth person was due to appear before a judge Wednesday. Authorities consider the four to be ‘part of the Islamist spectrum willing to use violence.’”


Reuters: France, Germany To Agree To NATO Role Against Islamic State: Diplomats

“France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to play a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said. The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda.”


Reuters: Indonesian President Urges Calm After Islamic State-Linked Jakarta Attacks

“Indonesia’s president urged people to remain calm on Thursday, a day after suspected suicide bombers killed three police officers at a Jakarta bus terminal in an attack that authorities believe is highly likely to be linked to the Islamic State group. Six police officers and six civilians were also wounded in the twin blasts that were detonated five minutes apart by the two suspected attackers in the Indonesian capital late on Wednesday evening, police said. The attack was the deadliest in Indonesia since January 2016, when eight people were killed, four of them attackers, after suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the capital. ‘We must continue to keep calm (and) keep cool. Because … we Muslims are preparing to enter the month of Ramadan for fasting,’ President Joko Widodo said in a statement.”


CNN: Duterte Says He May Expand Martial Law ‘Throughout The Country’ In Fight Against ISIS

“Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said his martial law declaration for the country’s restive south could be expanded ‘throughout the country’ in order to combat the rise of ISIS. ‘If I think that the ISIS has already taken foothold also in Luzon and terrorism is not really far behind, I might declare martial law throughout the country to protect the people,’ said the President, at a news conference in Manila, Wednesday. ‘I had to declare martial law in the Mindanao group of islands,’ said Duterte, who cut short a visit to Russia to come home to deal with the violence. ‘It is our constitutional duty to enforce the law and provide security.’”

NPR: After Botched Raid, Philippines Tries To Reclaim A City Under Siege

“Newly arrived from Moscow, just hours after cutting short his diplomatic visit to Russia, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stepped behind a lectern to explain his decision to declare martial law in the southern island of Mindanao. With his right hand raised, Duterte made a stark pledge. ‘If I think you should die, you will die. If you fight us, you will die. If there’s an open defiance, you will die. And if it means many people dying, so be it,’ Duterte said at the news conference Wednesday. ‘That’s how it is.’ As he spoke in Manila, members of the military gathered on the outskirts of Marawi, one of Mindanao’s largest cities.”

Counter Terrorism

Alarab: Morocco Warns Of The Danger Of “Lone Wolves”

“Moroccan intelligence warned of the danger of “lone wolves” seeking to execute terrorist attacks in Europe in response to the decline of the influence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “The biggest threat is the integration of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in the Sahel region,” said Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) Chief, Abdelhak Khayyam. He stressed that the greatest danger is that the two organizations would develop mechanisms to serve more than “lone wolves” by deploying them in sensitive locations in Arab countries and other parts of the world. Spanish Judge Ismail Moreno, an expert on terrorism, pointed out that the means of combating terrorism include the need to counter the funding sources of terrorist cells and eliminate the conditions that allow extremist groups access to potential recruits.”


Almasry Alyoum: Sale Of Human Organs A Leading Source Of ISIS Funding

“It is thought that killing victims by the sword is a “merciful” act because it decapitates them swiftly. But in practice this is the best way for the terror group to keep all organs intact, from kidneys to liver and heart, in order to sell them in good condition. The organs are usually transferred to specialized hospitals in Mosul, Iraq, and to a hospital in the southern rural area of Al-Hasakah. There, specialists and surgeons from foreign countries, who work in complete isolation from local doctors, remove the organs from the bodies. Then, ISIS sells them to a global organ-trafficking mafia that uses international mediators via Turkey. After removal of the organs, the victims’ bodies are buried in mass graves without notifying their families. The sale of human organs is not the main source of funding for ISIS’s Finance House. However, it is important to highlight this fact, since it stands in contravention to all fundamental human and religious values. Note that the sale of oil is {still} at the top of ISIS’s revenues, and smuggling of antiquities to international markets is in second place.”

Muslim Brotherhood

24: Financial documents belonging to Muslim Brotherhood found in Egypt’s desert

“Security sources have revealed that Egypt’s National Security Services have identified several sites belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood in Sinai, the New Valley, Red Sea, Assiut, Qena and Suez. These sites are used as headquarters for the activities of the Brotherhood’s “Qualitative Committees”, including training in the use of firearms and manufacture of explosive devices. Security forces found detailed maps at some of these sites revealing the locations of vital installations and state institutions. Documents found there also exposed the alleged involvement of prominent figures in leading banking positions in several Egyptian and foreign banks. It is suspected these figures were instrumental in facilitating procedures allowing the expenditure of millions of dollars received in circuitous ways from abroad. Security forces seized documents which included bank receipts under names not previously known as members of the group, but as people loyal to it. The funds were transferred periodically from Switzerland, London and France in batches. The sums were transferred to more than one beneficiary to make it harder to monitor the transfers and not to raise suspicion. It turns out that the main source of these funds is Turkey. Money was wired from there to foreign banks and then on to Egypt. The seized documents indicate that the estimated total sums transferred in this way amount to 6 billion pounds ($ 333 million).”

7Day News: Egypt: Reported rejection of the government’s appeal against cancellation of the seizure of funds owned by Brotherhood-affiliated Abu Treika

“Former Egyptian soccer star Mohammed Abu Treika received good news on Tuesday from the Supreme Administrative Court’s State Commissioners Authority. This comes after the Authority submitted its report on the challenge filed by the government concerning Administrative Court’s ruling to cancel the seizure of his funds. The original seizure decision was issued by the Brotherhood Asset Freeze Committee. According to media sources, the State Commissioner’s Authority, an advisory body of the Supreme Administrative Court, recommended in its report to reject the appeal by the government. The report suggested that the decision to seize the funds of the ex-player, who is currently working as an analyst on the Qatari sports channel “Bein Sport”, is “an attack on the right of ownership.” It noted that seizing his money came without support of the law.”


Khaleej Online: A Leader In Hezbollah Is The Top Official In Charge Of The Yemeni File

“Nasser Akhdar, according to assurances by a Yemeni source, is the top official in charge of the Yemeni file. He is also considered a pivotal figure with regard to {the organization’s} links with Iran. Those in charge of Yemeni affairs in Tehran share information and decisions with Akhdar, while the Iranian embassy in Sana’a and Yemeni senior consultants present studies and proposals to the Iranian side. According to the source, this system makes decisions to support Yemeni organizations, determine salaries of tribal elders, religious figures and activists. It also decides on the media policy, and updates it based on developments in the field. Those handling Yemeni affairs on behalf of Tehran also plan popular events inside Yemen. Akhdar, known as Abu Mustafa, is the Secretary-General of the Federation of Islamic Radio and Television, an Iranian organization that manages all Shiite media in Iran and the Arab world. He also directs the Tehran-funded Al-Sahat TV channel, which broadcasts from Lebanon as well as Almasirah TV channel, the mouthpiece of the Houthi militia.”


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