Eye on Extremism, May 31, 2017

CNN: Kabul Explosion: 80 Killed In Blast Near Diplomatic Area In Afghanistan

“A huge explosion hit near the German Embassy in Kabul during rush hour Wednesday morning, killing at least 80 people and injuring 300 others close to a highly secure diplomatic area. Video from the scene showed a towering plume of black smoke and emergency vehicles speeding toward it. Soldiers in fatigues stood with guns drawn as sounds of screams, blaring sirens and traffic pierced the morning sky. Bystanders lifted an injured man from the back of a pickup as others hovered nearby, blood streaming down their faces. Mangled, burning cars stood nearby.”

Reuters: Syrian Rebels Say U.S., Allies Sending More Arms To Fend Off Iran Threat

“Syrian rebels say the United States and its allies are sending them more arms to try to fend off a new push into the southeast by Iran-backed militias aiming to open an overland supply route between Iraq and Syria. The stakes are high as Iran seeks to secure its influence from Tehran to Beirut in a ‘Shi’ite crescent’ of Iranian influence through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, where Sunni Arab states have lost out in power struggles with Iran. Tensions escalated in the southeastern region of Syria, known as the Badia, this month when government forces supported by Iraqi Shi’ite militias deployed in a challenge to rebels backed by President Bashar al-Assad’s enemies.”

Reuters: Car Bombs, Suicide Attack Kill 35 In Iraq, Hitting Ramadan Crowd

“Two car bombs and a suicide bomber killed at least 35 people in Baghdad and in a city to the west, and wounded more than 100 in Tuesday attacks targeting the late-night crowds typical of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, security sources said. Islamic State, the Sunni hardline group that controls parts of Iraq and Syria, claimed all three attacks in statements on its Amaq news agency. A car packed with explosives blew up near a popular ice cream shop in the commercial Karrada district, killing at least 13 people and wounding 40 just after midnight.”

Focus on the Media: CEP Senior Advisor Dr. Hany Farid discusses the failure of tech companies to control the proliferation of radicalizing extremist propaganda on their platforms. “They continue to ignore technology that could be used and doesn’t affect their business model in any significant way. In their own self-interest, they should be doing this and I am baffled by why they do not.”

CBS News: As Fighting Rages In Mosul’s Old City, American Doctors Help The Wounded

“A bulldozed mound of dirt and a short stretch of no man’s land is all that separates Iraqi forces from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants. As an Iraqi machine gunner opens fire, an armored personnel carrier rolls in to provide cover. It’s hard to tell if the troops were aiming at a specific target, or putting on a display for our benefit. But the response from ISIS was very real; A mortar was sent whizzing low over our heads and exploded in the rubble behind us. Near the Old City, whole neighborhoods are flattened. The sheer level of destruction is staggering and it goes on for miles and miles. But it is one tactic the Iraqi Army cannot afford to employ in the Old City if they want anything left of it.”

Fox News: ISIS-Linked Terrorists In Philippines Take Hundreds Of Hostages, Most Christian, Priest Says

“A Catholic priest who claims he’s been kidnapped alongside more than 240 hostages by fighters linked to the Islamic State in the Philippines appealed Tuesday to President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the vicious terror spree. In a video that surfaced on Facebook, Rev. Teresito “Chito” Suganob, vicar general of the Prelature of Marawi, pleaded to Duterte to consider the lives of the hostages, most of whom are Christian. He asked the president to stop the airstrikes and air attacks. In the past week, gunmen linked to Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who has pledged allegiance to ISIS, swept into Marawi City on the island of Mindanao, burning buildings, seizing Suganob and his worshippers and raising the black flag of the terror group.”

BBC News: Police In Germany ‘Foil Asylum Seeker Suicide Attack’

“German police have arrested a teenage asylum seeker suspected of planning a suicide attack in Berlin, Brandenburg state officials say. The suspect, 17, was arrested in the Uckermark district, Interior Minister Karl-Heinz Schröter announced. But Brandenburg police say they have not confirmed reports that the teen, who entered Germany in 2015, is Syrian and was definitely planning an attack. In December, a jihadist killed 12 people with a lorry in Berlin. That attack on a Christmas market by Anis Amri, a Tunisian, put security services under intense scrutiny because of the way in which the attacker, who was later shot dead by police in Italy, evaded their surveillance and crossed European borders undetected.”

The Times Of Israel: Border Police Say They Thwarted Hebron Stabbing

“A 17-year-old Palestinian was detained in Hebron Tuesday after being caught with a large kitchen knife in her bag. The girl attempted to resist security forces and had to be fought to submission. Border Police said they believed the teen intended to carry out a stabbing attack against officers or against Jewish worshipers in the nearby Tomb of the Patriarchs. Earlier Tuesday prosecutors said they would file indictments against two East Jerusalem teenagers who were arrested by police last week near a guard post in the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood with a backpack full of firebombs and ingredients to make more, police said.”

Deutsche Welle: Could Balkan Nations Become The New Hotbeds Of Islamist Extremism?

“At last week’s OSCE meeting in Vienna, official statements from Bosnian and Albanian representatives seemed to confirm that the trend for Balkan jihadis to join the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS) and other radical networks in Syria and Iraq has died down. Estimates of the number of Balkan jihadis that joined IS vary, from one thousand to several thousand militants, but hardly any Balkan fighters have left the region for Middle Eastern battlefields in the past two years. Regardless of this success, a small but significant domestic radical presence in Balkan nations, aided by returning IS fighters, is proving an even bigger headache for some western capitals and experts.”

Daily Beast: Separated As Slaves By ISIS, Reunited As Refugees

“The young sisters-in-law never imagined Islamic State militants could penetrate their remote village in the brown plains of northwestern Iraq. Though an extremist’s truck bomb had devastated it years before, soldiers had since guarded their tight-knit community and assured them there was nothing to fear. So neither Hadiya Khalaf Rasho, the doe-eyed baby of her family, then just 17, nor her older brother’s wife, Amsha Ali Alyas, a local beauty two years her senior, panicked when they heard gunfire in the distance one summer night. It wasn’t until the following morning, Aug. 3, 2014, when their sense of security abruptly shattered. Alyas remembers the hysterical warnings from neighbors that the soldiers had fled and ISIS militants were advancing on their village. Rasho remembers futilely trying to outrun the extremists by foot.”

United States

Reuters: U.S. Starts Providing Weapons To Syrian Kurds

“The United States said on Tuesday it started distributing arms to Syrian Kurdish militia battling to help retake the city of Raqqa from Islamic State, moving ahead with a war plan that has angered NATO ally Turkey. Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said the Kurdish fighters received small arms and vehicles from the U.S. military. He believed the arms were distributed earlier on Tuesday. Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the distribution of the arms had started in the past 24 hours, based on authority given by President Donald Trump earlier this month.”

Voice Of America: State Dept. Defends Trump For Not Publicly Mentioning Human Rights In Saudi Arabia

“A senior State Department official has defended President Donald Trump at an on-camera briefing for not mentioning human rights during his recent speech in Saudi Arabia. On Tuesday, a reporter asked Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones what he would say to critics who say the president’s speech on countering terrorism in Riyadh basically gave Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region a ‘free pass’ on human rights abuses. Jones said human rights continues to be part of the U.S. dialogue with Saudi Arabia and all the other countries in the region.”

The Hill: Flynn’s Lobbying Firm Produced An Unfinished, Pro-Turkey Documentary: Report

“Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s consulting firm produced an unfinished documentary last fall to boost Turkey’s image following a failed military coup the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The film was produced by the Flynn Intel Group as part of the lobbying efforts of a Turkish businessman. While unfinished and not yet made public, the film reportedly involves a scene with Flynn’s business partner BiJan Kian and the head of Turkish military intelligence meeting in a hotel room. The work done on the documentary by Flynn’s firm reportedly took place while Flynn was campaigning on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump.”

The Hill: Virginia Man Who Joined Islamic State To Start Trial Tuesday

“A Virginia man who travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State is set to appear in federal court in Alexandria, Va. on Tuesday to face trial for providing material support to a terrorist organization, The Associated Press reported. Mohamad Khweis, 27, grew up in northern Virginia and worked as a bus driver in the region before leaving the U.S. in 2015. After traveling through Europe, Khweis arrived in Turkey and, from there, was taken to Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital of ISIS.  From Raqqa, Khweis was set to Mosul, Iraq, but found life in the Islamic State difficult and ultimately tried escaping the militant group several times. Eventually, Khweis was able to make his way to a Kurdish military checkpoint, where he was arrested.”

Bloomberg: If Trump Wants To Fight Iran, He’ll Soon Get The Chance In Syria

“Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in eastern Syria is surrounded by some of the world’s strongest military powers. Their forces are advancing on several fronts. The battlefield odds aren’t even close. That’s why the commanders of those armies — in Washington, Moscow and Tehran, as well as Damascus and Ankara — are looking beyond the coming showdown with the jihadists. When they’re killed or driven out, who’ll take over? It’s an especially sharp dilemma for President Donald Trump. Because for the second time this century, the U.S. risks defeating one Middle Eastern enemy only to see another one, Iran, emerge as the big winner.”

Syria

Voice of America: Sources: Iran to Bankroll Pro-Government Militia Fighters in Syria

“The Syrian government has asked Iran to take over the supervision and payroll of thousands of Shi’ite militiamen fighting alongside Russian and Syrian troops in support of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a government source and a news report. The pro-opposition Syrian news website Zaman Al Wasel reported that it obtained a Syrian defense ministry document saying the Assad regime has approved a plan to give Iran responsibility for paying foreign fighters – mostly Shi’ites of varying nationalities. Shi’ite fighters mostly are paid in cash from Iran, the Syrian government and coffers of the Lebanese-based, pro-Iranian Hezbollah, according to analysts.”

Reuters: Russia’s Putin Says Certain Syria’s Assad Didn’t Use Chemical Weapons

“Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed on Tuesday any suggestion that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces were behind a chemical attack that killed scores of people in Idlib province in April. ‘According to our information, there is no proof that chemical weapons were used by Assad. We are convinced that he didn’t do it,’ Putin told daily newspaper Le Figaro in an interview. The remarks came a day after new French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country’s intelligence services in April blamed Assad for the Idlib attack, said the use of chemical weapons in Syria was a red line for Paris and would result in reprisals.”

CNN: Russian Cruise Missiles Hit ISIS Targets Near Palmyra

“Cruise missiles launched by the Russian Navy hit a number of ISIS targets in Palmyra, Syria, Wednesday, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. The strikes reportedly targeted militant ISIS ‘shelters’ east of the ancient city, which housed heavy equipment and militant troops transferred from ISIS’ de facto capital Raqqa. ‘The Admiral Essen frigate and Krasnodar submarine of the Russian Navy conducted strikes by four Kalibr cruise missiles on objects of the ISIS terrorist grouping near Palmyra from the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea,’ the Ministry statement said. ‘All targets have been hit.’”

CBS News: Abuse, Mismanagement Allegations Shadow Gains Made Against ISIS

“As the U.S.-led coalition ratchets up military operations in Syria ahead of a long awaited assault on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group’s de facto capital Raqqa, the legacy of an Iraqi train-and-equip program, though it has had some success, is also marked by allegations of abuse and $1 billion in unaccounted for weapons — highlighting the perils of empowering local forces in the fight against ISIS. Weapons, training and airstrikes provided by the U.S.-led coalition have propelled ground forces in both Iraq and Syria, allowing Iraq’s military, Iraqi Kurdish fighters and Syrian Kurdish fighters to retake some 21,235 square miles of territory from the extremists in the nearly three-year long fight. However, many in both Iraq and Syria are concerned about how the forces made powerful by the coalition will leverage their influence and arms once ISIS has been vanquished.”

Iraq

Newsweek: War In Iraq: Iran Allies Battle Isis To Secure Border With Syria And Unite Forces

“Iran-backed militias in Iraq have advanced against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) on the nation’s border with Syria, where the units hope to link up with a parallel anti-ISIS offensive run by the Syrian army and its allies. Armed groups under the umbrella of the majority-Shiite Muslim Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), also called Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, have strategically pushed westward, battling the remains of ISIS’ self-proclaimed Sunni caliphate along the Syrian border. The militias are part of an alliance that includes the Iraqi military, Kurdish forces and a U.S.-led coalition currently battling ISIS in its final Iraqi stronghold of Mosul. As partner forces engage the remnants of ISIS’ control in Mosul, the PMF have successfully cut ISIS off outside the city and on Monday retook a number of villages on the Syrian border, Reuters reported.”

 The New York Times: ISIS Blasts Kill Dozens At Family Gatherings, This Time In Iraq

“The details are eerily familiar: a family outing, a suicide bomber, more than a dozen people — many of them children — killed in an attack later claimed by the Islamic State. An explosion early Tuesday at an ice cream parlor in Baghdad shared many of the same heart-wrenching characteristics of last week’s attack at an arena in Manchester, England. And that was just the start of the violence on Tuesday in a city where these kinds of terrorist attacks have actually been on the decline this year. First, the Islamic State targeted the popular Al Faqma shop in the central Karrada neighborhood of Baghdad, where families had gathered to celebrate iftar and break their daylong fast during the holy month of Ramadan.”

USA Today: Mosul Dam Risks Devastating Failure As Iraq Government Keeps Stalling

 “Iraq’s massive Mosul Dam risks devastating failure without additional urgent repairs as the government keeps stalling over how to proceed with the critical reconstruction after this year. A rupture of the 370-foot-high structure would put 4 million people at risk by sending  floodwaters racing more than 200 miles downstream as far as the capital of Baghdad, engulfing villages, destroying farms and causing up to $20 billion in economic damages, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates. The Iraqi government has delayed a decision on whether to renew  a contract with an Italian engineering firm managed by the Corps of Engineers when it expires after this year. It may try to make the critical repairs itself to save money at a time when it is feeling a cash squeeze because of the cost of the war to expel the Islamic State from the country.”

Turkey

Reuters: Still Not Possible To Open Incirlik Base To Germany: Turkey Minister

“Turkey’s foreign minister said on Tuesday it is not possible to allow German lawmakers to visit troops stationed at Turkey’s Incirlik air base now, although Ankara might reconsider if it saw ‘positive steps’ from Berlin. Mevlut Cavusoglu also said the issue would be discussed with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who is due to visit Turkey on Monday. Ties between the NATO allies deteriorated sharply in the run-up to Turkey’s April 16 referendum that handed President Tayyip Erdogan stronger presidential powers. Turkey has prevented German lawmakers from visiting the roughly 250 troops stationed at Incirlik as part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, saying that Berlin needs to improve its attitude first.”

The Guardian: Turkey Presses Afghanistan To Hand Over Control Of Gülenist Schools

“Afghan authorities have drafted a deal giving the Turkish government control of more than a dozen schools in Afghanistan affiliated with the exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen. Western and Afghan officials believe the agreement is part of a bargain allowing Afghanistan’s vice-president, Abdul Rashid Dostum, who has been accused of abducting and torturing a political rival, to seek exile in Turkey. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, claims Gülen masterminded a coup attempt last year.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Polish, Afghan Forces Free 11 Hostages From Taliban

“Polish and Afghan special forces, backed by U.S. air power, freed 11 people who had been taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Poland’s Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said on Tuesday. The hostages included two soldiers, four police officers and five civilians, all of them Afghan nationals who had been held captive for four months in a prison in a village controlled by the Taliban, Macierewicz told a news conference in Warsaw. ‘These people were beaten, tortured, treated terribly for four months,’ he said. He said the action was a ‘great success,’ and showed that the Afghan forces are well trained and able to ‘combat terrorists.’”

Reuters: Huge Bomb Blast Kills Dozens, Wounds Hundreds In Afghan Capital

“A powerful bomb exploded in the morning rush hour in the center of the Afghan capital on Wednesday, killing or wounding hundreds of people and sending clouds of black smoke into the sky above the presidential palace and foreign embassies. The explosion, one of the deadliest in Kabul and coming at the start of the holy month of Ramadan, occurred close to the fortified entrance to the German embassy on a road usually choked with traffic at that time of day, said Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for Kabul police. ‘It was a car bomb near the German embassy, but there are several other important compounds and offices near there too. It is hard to say what the exact target is,’ Mujahid told Reuters.”

Reuters: Gunmen Kill Aide Of Afghan Insurgent Hekmatyar, Who Made Peace With Kabul

“Gunmen in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday gunned down the former secretary to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Afghan warlord turned insurgent who signed a peace deal with the government in Kabul, officials said. Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami party identified the slain man as Mohammad Fareed and blamed ‘elements against peace’ for the killing. Fareed was returning home from a mosque in the Taj Abad area of Peshawar when the gunmen opened fire, Peshawar police officer Shaid Ahmad said. ‘He died in the spot and the assailants made their good escape on motorcycles,’ the officer told Reuters.”

Egypt

Associated Press: Egypt Removes Local Security Chief After Christians Attacked

“Egypt removed the security chief of a province south of Cairo where Islamic State militants last week killed 29 Christians traveling to a remote monastery in the desert, an acknowledgment of the lapses by authorities in dealing with the attack. According to an Interior Ministry statement late on Monday, Maj-Gen. Faisal Dewidar was transferred from his post and was assigned the position of deputy director of the security forces. It is not clear if the position is in Minya. Dewidar’s transfer was ratified as part of a wider reshuffle in the police that included 13 other Interior Ministry officials who were removed from their posts and appointed elsewhere.”

Libya

Reuters: As Many As 30 Migrants From Libya Feared Dead As Mediterranean Toll Tops 1,700: U.N.

“Migrants rescued from a rubber boat that left Libya last week said as many as 30 people were trampled or drowned during their voyage as this year’s Mediterranean death toll climbed to more than 1,700, the U.N. said on Tuesday. They arrived in Pozzallo, Italy, on Monday and said their boat lost its motor and took on water hours after leaving Libya.  Some fell in the sea and drowned and others were trampled during the panic, including a small child, leaving between 20 and 30 dead. Two bodies were recovered.  Migrant arrivals by sea to Italy are up about a third this year to roughly 60,000, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has recorded more than 1,700 dead or missing. More than 50 bodies have been brought to Italy over the past few days and dozens more are feared dead, the agency said.”

Nigeria

The Washington Post: The Untold Story Of How Africa’s Poor Are Rescuing People From Famine

“The old man’s house had become a camp for the displaced. In the back yard, groups of women boiled water for rice. Small children skittered across the dirt, running into the bedroom, where they careened around the long, skinny legs of Elijah Karama. ‘Because of the conditions, they are mine to take care of,’ said Karama, 57, more tired than proud. By conditions, he meant Boko Haram’s destruction of vast areas of northeastern Nigeria, and the hunger crisis that has followed. This city of about 1 million has absorbed an additional 1 million people who fled the Islamist militants who burned their villages and kidnapped hundreds of children.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Manchester Attack: Abedi ‘Not Known’ To Prevent Scheme

“Manchester suicide attacker Salman Abedi was not known to the government’s Prevent scheme, police have said. Ian Hopkins, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, told BBC Radio Manchester the bomber was arrested for minor offences in 2012. Prevent aims to deradicalise young people or prevent others from being radicalised. MI5 has launched an inquiry into how it dealt with warnings from the public about Abedi. Two people who knew Abedi while he was a college student made separate calls to an anti-terrorism hotline to warn police about his extremist views. A total of 16 people have been arrested in connection with last Monday’s attack, with 11 still in custody.”

BBC News: Internment: Could It Help Fight Terrorism?

“In the wake of the Manchester suicide bomb attack a former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has called for the reintroduction of internment camps. With security services revealing there are 3,000 people engaged in plots in the UK and as many as 23,000 who have appeared on the radar of counter-terror agencies, Tarique Ghaffur – in charge during the 7/7 bombings – wrote in the Mail on Sunday that ‘a proper national debate’ should take place. But what would such a policy entail?”

Germany

The Daily Caller: Migrants Confess Murders They Didn’t Commit To Delay Deportations From Germany

“Migrants in Germany are increasingly confessing involvement in serious crimes, including murder, in their home countries to avoid deportation, according to a new report. ‘Primarily male’ persons from Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and Libya are confessing to murders as a last resort. People from these countries have slim chances of being granted protection in Germany unless they risk torture or the death penalty upon returning home. ‘The number of these investigations has increased significantly,’ said Nadja Nielsen, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office in the city of Frankfurt, according to Austrian daily OE24.”

France

Newsweek: This Is How France Helps Kill Its Own Citizens Fighting For ISIS

“French intelligence has provided Iraqi forces with information to assist in the location and killing of French citizens in the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), an investigation has reportedly found. Citing both French and Iraqi officials close to the alleged operation, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that France had provided Iraqi security forces with at least 30 faces and names of French citizens who were believed to have joined and fought for ISIS. The goal was to exterminate the individuals before they could return home, where they could potentially stage attacks on civilians in France and other European countries.”

Philippines

Reuters: Ominous Signs Of An Asian Hub For Islamic State In The Philippines

“Dozens of foreign jihadis have fought side-by-side with Islamic State sympathizers against security forces in the southern Philippines over the past week, evidence that the restive region is fast becoming an Asian hub for the ultra-radical group. A Philippines intelligence source said that of the 400-500 marauding fighters who overran Marawi City on the island of Mindanao last Tuesday, as many as 40 had recently come from overseas, including from countries in the Middle East. The source said they included Indonesians, Malaysians, at least one Pakistani, a Saudi, a Chechen, a Yemeni, an Indian, a Moroccan and one man with a Turkish passport.”

Fox News: Priest Kidnapped By ISIS In Philippines, Issues Video Pleading For His Life And Hundreds Of Others

“While ISIS continues to flex its muscles worldwide, new attention is being focused on ongoing battles between government forces and ISIS-linked militants in the Philippines. An apparent hostage video has just emerged from there – one week after the violence began – showing a Catholic priest pleading for his life, and the lives of what may be hundreds of others. Colleagues of Father Teresito Suganob have confirmed his identity after watching the video that recently hit the internet. ‘We want to live another day, we want to live another month,’ Suganob says in a message to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.”

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